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E39 (1997 - 2003)
The BMW 5-Series (E39 chassis) was introduced in the United States as a 1997 model year car and lasted until the 2004 when the E60 chassis was released. The United States saw several variations including the 525i, 528i, 530i and 540i. -- View the E39 Wiki

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Old 03-23-2013, 02:39 AM
Hoagy Hoagy is offline
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Location: UK
Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 4
Mein Auto: E39 523i
Thumbs up E39 not getting hot and milky residue:

Hi Guys
Having spent hours on here reading various posts about tne dreaded milky residue, engines not reaching operating temperature, I hope sharing my own experience may help someone.

I bought a 2000 E39 recently and despite it being warm as toast and the temperature guage at 12 o.clock when I bought it, It soon became appent that there was a problem. I go to work at 2am at -2 degrees and the temperature guage would not get out of the blue. on top of that When I looked at the filler cap there was a reasonable amount of milky residue. My wallet was pretty scared as most of the threads I have read pointed towadrs head gasket where mily residue is mentioned. I cleaned the oil filler cap and the residue that was lurking underneath and monitored it for a few days and very little reappeared. I had also read that the thermostat would be most likely to cause underheating but other sensors could affect things as well. As it was diue for an oil service I booked it in with a friends garage and bought a thermostat and metal housing from ebay for 37 inc postage. and hoped for the best.

When the oil was changed it stank of petrol indicating the fuel mixture was rich, other than that was pretty black, but not lots of gunge. The themostat appeared seized when removed so my hopes grew. With the new thermostat installed. the cooling system refilled and nice clean oil flowing through the engine, I started it up and waited. Slowly the temperature guage crept up and out of the blue. It seemed to hesitate at the next line for a while, and then soared manificently to 12 o'clock. The relief was immense. For the oil service and thermostat replacement, labour etc,about 160.

One interesting thing. The garage diagnostic machine was being used on another vehicle so the mechanic reset the service light from the plug under the bonnet using a wire in one or the terminals (terminal 7 I believe) and earthing it to the car. As well as the service light being reset, the airbag light (been on since I bought it) went out too.

Thank you to all the knowlegeable Bimmer enthusiasts who take the time to post their experiences to queries and problems experienced by the less knowledgeable of us and I hopet here may be something here that will help someone else.
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Old 03-23-2013, 04:38 AM
HTK12 HTK12 is offline
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Location: Finland
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 1,228
Mein Auto: E39 540i
Are you sure your car is now running at correct temperature? That temp gauge is buffered, meaning that it will be at 12 o'clock way before the engine is at operating temperature. You can unlock your cluster and check the coolant temperature. What brand thermostat did you buy?
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Old 03-23-2013, 05:30 AM
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Fudman Fudman is offline
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Location: Sudbury, MA
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 6,825
Mein Auto: '02 530i Sport auto
How long is your commute? If it's a short drive (less than 10 miles), that combined with driving a "cold"engine may be the cause of your issue. The more commonly used name for that milky white substance under the oil fill cap is "mayo". That mayo is due to condensation of oil vapors. It also contributes to a failing CCV. I would monitor oil consumption (since you recently did the oil change). High oil consumption and smokey exhaust are common indicators of failing a CCV. This is a very common e39 problem.
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Old 03-23-2013, 08:06 AM
Hoagy Hoagy is offline
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Location: UK
Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 4
Mein Auto: E39 523i
My commute is around 16 miles to work. The car now reaches 12 o'clock after 5miles or so. (daytime 6 degees) The heater now gets hot where as before the thermostat was changed even on 32 degrees it was warm at best. The car doesn't appear to use oil or water. I was told that as the car was not heating properly the natural moisture in the air will cause the milky stuff as not enough heat to vapourise. (mayo) The smell of petrol in the oil was due to the low keeping the choke on I suspect. temperaturehere seem to be alot of temperatures on the diagnostic tool i have. ranging from 110 - 140 degrees but the heater works well enough. Not sure if the replacement thermostat and housing was Wahler or Behr, but the mechanic said good quality, perfect fit

Airbag light is still out. Might be a good tip to try the way my service light was reset.

Obc not working. fuses seem to be ok. I am told that the Obc button should click when pushed? Mine makes a dull sound... New stalk required?

Apologies for all the typo's in first thread got brain in gear now.
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