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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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  #1  
Old 11-12-2013, 06:22 AM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Summary of engine cranks but won't start threads (gas air spark compression timing)

I've seen a few threads lately where the engine won't start, and, I noticed there wasn't a good thread in the bestlinks yet for the starting point for noobs.

To be sure, there are PLENTY of threads on specific starting problems (related to gas, air, spark, compression & timing), and even more on electrical problems (related to the battery, alternator, ignition switch, fuel pump, EWS system, buses, etc.) all of which would cause an engine to not start - but - there wasn't a good canonical thread for where the clueless should start when the engine cranks, but doesn't catch.

Since I don't have the problem myself, I'm not going to WRITE that canonical thread, but, the least I can do is begin to cross reference to THIS thread how OTHERS solved the problem.

I'll start with an E39-only Title-only search for keywords like "car won't start" with at least a dozen replies, and the ones with the most replies here, separated into those that have the engine cranking and the inevitable set where the engine won't crank (which is a different problem altogether):

CRANKS but won't start:
Does not even crank:
Note: I'm not going to concentrate on those threads where the engine won't crank, but, I list them here because others may initially be confused about the difference.
Over time, I'll append recent 'car won't start' threads, particularly the ones where the engine cranks, but won't catch, so that the newbies have a good place to start.
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Last edited by bluebee; 11-12-2013 at 06:48 AM.
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  #2  
Old 11-12-2013, 06:39 AM
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WIP work in progress ... PLEASE IMPROVE!

If an engine turns over but won't catch, the goal is to list the likely causes here, so that the newbies have a starting point diagnostic tree.
As usual, I'll embarrass myself my making a first pass (please improve).

Here are some of the common culprits if the engine cranks, but won't start:
  1. Gas
    • See: How does the E39 fuel injection FI system work (1) & the location of the K96 FPR fuel pump relay (1) & the location of the fuel system pressure test Schrader valve for the I6 (1) and V8 (1) (2) (3) & a quick test for fuel pump operation (1) (2) & what are the most often recommended fuel pump & fuel filter brands (1) (2) & a DIY for replacing the fuel filter (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) & a DIY for replacing the fuel pump (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) & how to service your BMW E39 fuel injectors (1) & how to replace the 7.52X3.52mm and 9.2X2.8mm fuel injector o-rings (1) & cleaning the fuel gauge sensor (1) (2) & replacing the fuel sensor (1) & resolving blown fuses due to a stuck fuel filler door solenoid (1)
  2. Air
    • See: How to locate all the vacuum hoses in the E39 engine bay (1)
    • See: How to DIY replace the engine air filter (1) & a DIY for a K&N retrofit (1) but read this about the flaws in the K & N method before deciding on any engine filter retrofit (1) (2).
  3. Spark
    • See: How to test a BMW ignition coil (1) (2)
  4. Compression
    • See: How to test compression on a BMW E39 V8 engine (1) and on the I6 engine (1)
  5. Timing
    • See: How to replace the timing chain tensioner and rail guide on the I6 (1) & on the M62 (1) & on the M62TU (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)
Note: If the engine won't even crank, that's a different issue than what I'm trying to flesh out for this thread:
  1. Charging system (e.g., battery & alternator)
  2. Starting system (e.g., starter & solenoid)
    • See: - Where is the starter motor located (1) & an M52 starter motor DIY (1) (2) & the BMW TIS (1) and an E38 740iL starter motor DIY (1) (2) & how to remove the M52 starter motor without removing the intake manifold (1) (2) & what special tools are needed (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) & where is the starter motor relay (1) (2)
  3. Electrical system (e.g., ignition switch & alarm system & fuses)
    • See: Signs of a failing ignition switch (1) (2) or ring antenna (1) & the BMW TIS for when the ignition switch spins but does not engage (1) & rebuilding a failed ignition switch (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) & what to do if your steering wheel & key cylinder locks in place (1) (2) & the BMW training on the EWS alarm drive away protection system (pdf)
    • See: One user's attempt to locate, describe, and photograph all fuses and relays in the BMW E39 with a picture of every fuse & relay (1)
Note: If the engine runs roughly, that's also a wholly different issue:
  1. Misfires & Vacuum Leaks:
    • See: - How to diagnose a BMW E39 engine misfire (1) & a cold-engine intermittent misfire (1)
  2. Rough idle & CEL codes:
    • What to tell newbies who ask why their SES/CEL light is on but who don't have DTC scan codes or why they have a misfire or stumbling, hesitation, rough idle, etc., but who don't post codes from an OBD scanner with their question (1)
WIP work in progress ... PLEASE IMPROVE!
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Last edited by bluebee; 11-12-2013 at 06:55 AM.
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  #3  
Old 11-12-2013, 07:24 AM
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Fudman Fudman is offline
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A good thread concept and this could be very helpful. I have always subscribed to the gas, air and spark triad for starting issues. I recommend starting with the simple things and the most common causes. Then once eliminated, pursue other possible causes.

While bad timing can prevent starting, this is a rare cause. For timing, there is spark timing and valve timing. These things don't typically change or fail suddenly. I am not sure timing plays a major role unless you did something to change the timing (e.g. a single Vanos seal replacement w/out locking the cams or in the old days, rotate your distributor cap).

Compression shouldn't be a major factor in starting since compression is typically related to ring or valve condition (assuming valve timing is correct). These things don't suddenly fail or degrade like spark, fuel or air. As the valves or rings wear, you will get degraded engine performance but the engine should still start.

In most cases, I recommend starting with electrical as this appears to be the most common cause for starting problems. For instance, a weak battery will allow the car to turn over but it may not start. Same with a loose battery connection.
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  #4  
Old 11-12-2013, 02:59 PM
teklord69 teklord69 is offline
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My car is still dead. Bought new relay, fuel pump, and battery. Still cranks but no start. Tested Fuel pressure at rail and got 45 psi when key is in position 2.. Pressure holds at that psi.
Fuel filter is less than a year old. There is fuel in tank. Tried cranking with gas pedal on floor but I dont think its flooded. Bought new plugs..that didn't help.
Sprayed starting fluid and car started a bit..so spark is ok. So I got air, spark, and fuel pressure.. Why won't the car start? The only thing I need to check is the fuses
under the hood.. Otherwise, what can the cause be??
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  #5  
Old 11-12-2013, 03:11 PM
teklord69 teklord69 is offline
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Thanks for doing this Bluebee..I didn't realize how many "cranks but no start" issues affecting E39's until I did searching..More so on E46.
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  #6  
Old 11-12-2013, 04:32 PM
Burning2nd Burning2nd is online now
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All of these problems are aproched the same way..
on every make and model
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Old 11-12-2013, 09:45 PM
teklord69 teklord69 is offline
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I want to check the fuses under here..How do I get this cap off without breaking anything?
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  #8  
Old 11-14-2013, 06:43 AM
Crutzy Crutzy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Burning2nd View Post
All of these problems are aproched the same way..
on every make and model
What is that approach?
(I think that's why this thread was opened.)
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  #9  
Old 11-15-2013, 10:04 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by teklord69 View Post
I want to check the fuses under here..How do I get this cap off without breaking anything?
I think you put a screwdriver in that slot on the left side ...as explained here:
- One user's attempt to locate, describe, and photograph all fuses and relays in the BMW E39 with a picture of every fuse & relay (1)
Quote:
Originally Posted by pleiades View Post
You remove the fuse holder cover by sticking a comparably sized flat-head screwdriver tip into that small slot on one corner and pushing with that and with your fingers to slide the cover toward the other end, in the direction of the firewall. Some people might prefer to do this with the holder still clipped into place in the e-box bracket.

On my car, the fuse holder is fully populated but the fuse closest to the slotted corner is apparently a spare because there are no connectors underneath for it to plug into.

Going on memory here but once the cover is off, the upper part of the fuse holder lifts out with the fuses. They fall out fairly easily after that.

BTW, when you do get the cover off, would you kindly identify which is fuse EF1 versus EF5? I've been trying to get someone to identify which is which for about six months now ...
Quote:

EF1 = 30A, MAF, Cam sensor #1, DME, T-Stat, Evap emission valve (some say it's 30A - DME, Injectors, SMG Hydraulic unit)
EF2 = 30A, Fuel injectors, Both Vanos solenoids, Cam sensor #2, SAS pump electrical valve (some say it's 30A - DME, Idle control valve, Fuel tank ventilation valve, Fuel pump)
EF3 = 20A, Cam sensors, MAF, Crank Sensor, Heated O2 sensors (some say it's 30A, others say 25A - E-box fan, Transmission RPM sensor, CPS, MAF sensor, Fuel pump relay, SAP relay, A/C Compressor relay, Fuel tank leakage diagnostic module, SMG selector lever)
EF4 = 30A, DME (some say it's 30A - Oxygen sensors and oxygen sensor heater circuits)
EF5 = 30A, Unloader relay, power to coils (some say it's 30A - Fuel injector relay)
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Last edited by bluebee; 11-15-2013 at 10:07 PM.
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  #10  
Old 12-20-2013, 06:15 AM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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.
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Last edited by bluebee; 12-20-2013 at 06:18 AM.
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  #11  
Old 12-20-2013, 08:05 PM
teklord69 teklord69 is offline
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Lesson learned..if EWS is not sync'ed then the car will either start AND cranks or start but no crank.
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  #12  
Old 01-16-2014, 08:35 PM
Brad DeLoye Brad DeLoye is offline
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huh? when i unhook my ews no crank. when i plug it back in there is crank... when i take the ews out and bridge pin 1 and 3 there is crank. when i take out the bridge wire from pin 1 and pin 3 there is no crank
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  #13  
Old 02-06-2014, 10:50 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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See also this thread opened today:
E39 (1997 - 2003) > My BMW E39 Series crank but would't start
Quote:
Originally Posted by telewestauto View Post
It all started yesterday. got to the car to go out and all i have was a click, click click when i tried starting the engine. then i thought it was a low battery problem, i took a battery from my other car and fixed it in the E39 which eventually started the engine. then while the E39 was still running i removed the battery and placed the original battery and drove out to work.

2mins drive the engine went off, tried to start again but all i got was the click, click sound. changed the battery again but this time the engine just crank without stating.

the is fuel in the car, fuel pump is pumping fuel to the engine area. my mechanic has replace the crank sensor because he said the ignition wasn't shocking (whatever that means)

please help.
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  #14  
Old 02-16-2014, 02:23 PM
josemedeiros007 josemedeiros007 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
I think you put a screwdriver in that slot on the left side ...as explained here:
- One user's attempt to locate, describe, and photograph all fuses and relays in the BMW E39 with a picture of every fuse & relay (1)


BTW, when you do get the cover off, would you kindly identify which is fuse EF1 versus EF5? I've been trying to get someone to identify which is which for about six months now ...
Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
I used pleiades' answer in this post today:
> E39 (1997 - 2003) > Summary of engine cranks but won't start threads (gas air spark compression timing)



Note: It would be nice if someone can confirm which end is EF1 and which end is EF5?
I have a newbie dump backyard mechanic question, how do I get the DME fuse block cover off with out breaking it? There is a clip, and it looks like I broke it when I used a screw driver to unlatch it, but I still can't take off my cover, is it holding the fuse block into a socket?

Last night my 1998 BMW E39 528i started, ran rough and then died, I started it again, and it barely started and died, now it cranks over and doesn't appear to even try start at all so I am hoping it's just a fuse or a relay and not the fuel pump. Earlier that day, and all week it was running fine, and not even missing after cleaning the grounds last week.

My 15 amp fuse for the fuel pump in the trunk is not burnt, and has power but the car all of sudden won't start. I also have no computer trouble shooting codes using my Peak Research reader. I'll jack up the car and verify if the fuel pump is pumping gas by disconnecting the filter, but I can't seem to hear it running.

I am stranded in San Luis Obispo, so any help would be very much appreciated.

The unemployed IT guy!
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http://www.linkedin.com/in/josemedeiros
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  #15  
Old 03-29-2014, 02:24 PM
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For the cross record, this was opened by someone today:
> E39 (1997 - 2003) > 2003 530i e39 will not start


Quote:
Originally Posted by VOY530i View Post
My car cranks but will not start
It was sitting for few weeks and I wanted to move it in to garage for a winter. Tried to start and came very close to running but it didn't.
Changed crank shaft position sensor already- not starting.
Looks like it's getting gas -little valve on top of engine is squirting when pressed,plus spark plugs are wet when removed (Dried and checked twice).
Removed rear seat and can hear fuel pump humming when turning the key.
I think it's not getting the spark
Can anyone help what to do at this point ???
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