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About this Wiki

The E39 Wiki should be used as a tool to help all E39 owners. The greatest feature of the Wiki is that anyone with an account on Bimmerfest has the ability to edit it. See something incorrect or notice something missing (there's a lot missing!)? Simply click on the edit link to the right of any section. Please respect the contributions made by other members and PLEASE don't sabotage this page.

The E46 Wiki has a LOT of information, and the I6 engines are largely shared with the E39. If the answer to your question is not here, look over there.

The E39 Best Links wiki post is under development here BMW_E39_bestlinks

Model Summary

Each BMW body style is assigned a two digit number preceded by "E". The "E" stands for "Entwicklung", the German word for development. The BMW E39 automobile platform was the basis for BMW 5 Series between 1995 to 2004. It was the successor of the BMW E34 in 1995, and was phased-out by the E60 platform in 2004. Sales to Germany and the United Kingdom began in 1995, and by 1996 sales to the remaining entities of Europe and the rest of the world had commenced. A mid-life update appeared in 2001, featuring minute detail changes. At launch, the base model was the 520i, which developed 112 kilowatts (150 hp) in the pre-update models, and 126 kilowatts (170 hp) in later models. An M5 variant was introduced in 1998, with a 5.0 litre S62 V8 engine. All models but the M5 were available as either a sedan (car) or a Station wagon|touring wagon.

Introduced in Europe in 1995, the complete vehicle redesign draws heavily from the E38 7 Series in body construction and electronic technology. The mid-level BMW sedan showed evolutionary styling changes rather than a dramatic redesign. Initially offered only as a sedan, the wheelbase grew by 68 millimetres (2.7 in) and overall length by 55 millimetres (2.2 in) over the E34. In the US, the new 5 Series came in two forms; the 528i and 540i. The 528i is equipped with the 2.8 litre M52 in-line six carried over from the 1996 E36 328i and the 540i equipped with the 4.4 litre M62 V8. Both engines were upgraded over the prior 5 Series generation. The 2.8 litre dual overhead camshaft six-cylinder engine made 141 kilowatts (190 hp), versus 210 kilowatts (282 hp) for the 4.4 litre dual overhead camshaft, all-aluminum V8. A ZF five-speed manual transmission without overdrive was standard on the 528i, with an optional A4S 310 R four-speed automatic transmission. The 540i, in contrast, could have either a Getrag six-speed manual or a new five-speed A5S 560Z automatic transmission with adaptive transmission control. Standard equipment on both models included dual front and side airbags, Anti-lock braking system, traction control system, power steering, and air conditioning.

Available Models

The E39 is the body style for the following models:

Model Engine Displacement (cc) Bore/Stroke (mm) Comp. Ratio Fuel System Power (kW/bhp) Torque (Nm/ft-lb) 0-62mph man 0-62mph auto Produced Where Sold (If not in all markets)
520i I-6 24V 1991 80/66 1:11.0 Multiport Fuel Injection 110/150 @6250RPM 190/140 @3500RPM 10.2sec 11.5sec 1996-2000 Non-US
520i I-6 24V 2171 80/72 1:10.7 Multiport Fuel Injection 125/168 @6100RPM 210/150 @3500RPM 9.1sec 10.2sec 2000-2003 Non-US
523i I-6 24V 2496 84/75 1:10.5 Multiport Fuel Injection 125/168 @5500RPM 245/181 @3500RPM 8.5sec 9.6sec 1995-2000 Non-US
525i I-6 24V 2494 84/75 1:10.5 Multiport Fuel Injection 141/189 @6000RPM 245/181 @3500RPM 8.1sec 8.9sec 2000-2003
528i I-6 24V 2793 84/84 1:10.2 Multiport Fuel Injection 14w/190 @5500RPM 280/210 @3500RPM 7.5sec 8.8sec 1995-2000
530i I-6 24V 2979 84/89.6 1:10.2 Multiport Fuel Injection 170/228 @5900RPM 300/220 @3500RPM 7.1sec 7.6sec 2000-2003
535i V8 32V 3498 84/78.9 1:10 Multiport Fuel Injection 180/241 @5800RPM 345/254 @3500RPM 6.9sec 7.6 1996-2003 Non-US
540i V8 32V 4398 92/82.7 1:10 Multiport Fuel Injection 210/282 @5400RPM 440/320 @3600RPM 6.2sec 6.4 1996-2003
M5 V8 32V 4941 94/89 1:11 Multiport Fuel Injection 294/394 @6600RPM 500/370 @3800RPM 5.3sec N/A 1998-2003
520d I-4 16V 1951 88/84 1:19 Common rail turbodiesel 100/134 @4000 280/210 @1750RPM 10.6sec N/A 2000-2003 Some European countries
525d I-6 24V 2497 80/82.8 1:17.5 Common rail turbodiesel 120/161 @4000 350/260 @2000RPM 8.9sec 9.1 2000-2003 Some European countries
525td I-6 12V 2498 80/82.8 1:22.0 Indirect injection turbodiesel 185/114 @4800 230/170 @1900RPM 11.9sec N/A 1997-2000 Europe
525tds I-6 12V 2497 80/82.8 1:22.0 Indirect injection turbodiesel 105/141 @4000 280/210 @2200RPM 10.4sec 11.0 1996-2000 Europe
530d I-6 24V 2926 84/88 1:18.0 Common rail turbodiesel 135/181 @4000 390/290 @1750RPM 8.0sec 8.4 1998-2000 Europe
530d I-6 24V 2926 84/88 1:18.0 Common rail turbodiesel 142/193 @4000 410/302 @1750RPM 7.8sec 8.0 2000-2003 Europe

VIN decode

Enter your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) at these websites for information on the model, engine, gearbox, production date and options of a particular vehicle:,

Owner's manual

Owner's manuals are available from these websites:, (bottom of the page),

Tailgate Badges

  • i – "Injection" - Fuel injected petrol engine
  • d - Diesel engine (not sold in North American market)
  • A - Automatic transmission
  • t - Touring (wagon)
  • P - "Protection" - Enhanced security vehicle fitted with bullet-resistant glass with polycarbonate skins (to retain glass splinters in the event of damage from projectiles), aramid armor in the doors and bulkheads as well as Michelin run-flat tires that can take a round and still keep the car on the road. Rear windows are fixed.

Engine- Mechanical

Oil and filter change

The traditional method for changing the oil is "gravity draining" (cnn thread), however a vacuum extraction method can also be used (cn90 thread, Bluebee thread)

For choosing which oil to use, BMW recommends "LL-01 Approved" (aioros thread) for the E39. There is a wide variety of oils used by owners, and the topic is the subject of much debate (bluebee thread, jnyost thread).

Oil pressure and level

Low oil pressure can cause engine damage.

Discussion about causes of low oil pressure: toofast02 thread

Discussions about oil consumption: morrisroad thread, poolman thread


Although the E39 shows a yellow "oil can" warning light when the level is low, the level can also be checked with the dipstick (dcolangelo thread).

The tube from the CCV to the dipstick can become clogged (blueebee thread).

Discussion about dipstick calibration: fudman thread

Oil level sensor

Replacement procedure: TKC thread,, Westech thread

Oil filter housings

The gasket at the bottom of the oil filter housing is a common cause of oil leaks.

Replacement procedure: cn90 thread, bowmang thread, BMWtips, ElwoodBlues thread

Valve cover gasket

The valve cover gasket is a common source of oil leaks.

M52 procedure: Pelicanparts, Millertimebmw video

M54 procedure: mkodama thread

M62 procedure: ArbysNight thread, Scotmm thread, stas thread

Oil pan gasket

This gasket, along with the oil filter housing and valve cover gasket, can cause oil leaks (nyclad thread. The official procedure for the M52/M54 involves dropping the subframe, however it is possible to avoid this by cutting the new gasket into pieces (mudbone thread) or RTV sealant (trickstar thread).

M52 replacement procedure: bluebee post

M62 replacement procedure: zerodfx post

Head gasket

Replacement procedure: Jackcat559 thread

Crank case ventilation valve (CCV)

The CCV (sometimes called "positive crankcase valve" or "oil separator valve") commonly causes poor running (through vacuum leaks) and oil leaks (bluebee thread, RDL thread). The valve itself can fail (jfive96 thread), the associated hoses can leak and the dipstick tube can become clogged (blueebee thread).

There is a special "insulated" CCV to prevent failures in cold weather due to condensation freezing (kjet540 post).

M52 procedure: cn90 thread, jfive96 thread, aioros thread

M54 procedure: Jason5driver thread, fudman thread,

M62 procedure: Cerber thread, vicent page

Discussion about testing the CCV: bluebee thread

It is possible to replace the CCV with an oil catch can (eparayno thread).

Timing chain tensioner and guide rails

A failed timing chain tensioner can cause a rattling noise on startup. If the timing chain slips due to failure of the tensioner or guide rail, this could result in extensive engine damage. The issue seems to mainly affect M62 engines.

M54 replacement procedure: doru thread

M62 replacement procedure: ElJefe125 thread, concrete donkey thread, gary@GAS thread, blackBMWs thread


M54 removal procedure: Jackcat559 thread

Engine mounts

M57 replacement procedure: philthompson thread

M62TU replacement procedure: blackBMWs thread


VANOS is a type of variable valve timing, which advances and retards the camshaft. Single-VANOS (exhaust camshaft only) is used on the M52 (non-TU) and M62TU engines. Dual-VANOS (intake and exhaust camshafts) is used on the M52TU, M54 and S62 engines. It has been claimed that the seals in the VANOS unit on M52 and M54 engines fail within 20,000 miles, due to incorrect materials used in the seals. This causes (according to Beisan Systems, who sells replacement seals) rough idle, stalling and loss of power.

Many users recommend upgrading to seals made from Viton, such as those sold by Beisan Systems (bluebee thread). Rattling sounds can be caused by failed VANOS bearings, which can be replaced. Refurbished VANOS units, containing new seals and bearings, can be purchased from Dr Vanos (Fudman post) for the six cylinder single-VANOS (Dr Vanos) and dual-VANOS (Dr Vanos, Pelican Parts) engines.

BMW does not provide the VANOS seals separately. It sells rebuilt VANOS units for ~$500. New rebuilt VANOS units are supplied with the same o-rings and have been found to significantly fail in 20k miles (32k kilometers), according to Beisan Systems, who is the sole marketer and manufacturer of replacement VANOS seals.

Discussion of VANOS operation and faults: bluebee thread 1, shalyndavis23 thread, bluebee thread 2, 16valex thread

M52 (non-TU) seal replacement procedure: Beisan Systems

M52 (non-TU) bearing replacement procedure: Beisan Systems

M52TU / M54 seal replacement procedure: Beisan Systems

M52TU / M54 bearing replacement procedure: Beisan Systems

M62TU seals replacement procedure: Beisan Systems, Nervous thread, Edwin post

Valley Pan gaskets

On the M62 engine, the valley pan gaskets can leak coolant.

Replacement procedure:, magnum post, scottmm post,

Valley pan discussion: fulltone74 thread, 16hr_Day thread, dbaze540 thread, 540iman thread

Compression test

Discussion about test results for M54 (champaign777 thread) and M62 (flug540 thread).

Engine- Electrical

Spark plugs

M54: Plug selection (bluebee post), replacement procedure (crdiscoverer thread, bluebee thread) and tip for accessing rear spark plug (sixpot_simon post).

Coil packs

Over time, the coil pack on each spark plug ("coil on plug") can fail (jieg thread). This leads to rough running (since the engine is running on one less cylinder) and often triggers a specific ignition coil fault code.

Camshaft Position Sensor (CPS)

A faulty CPS can cause a lack of power, stalling and hard starting.

M54 procedure: Bluebee post, RichieE46 thread

M62 procedure: jamesdc4 post, magnum post, BMWtips

Crankshaft Position Sensor (CKP)

M52/M54 location: barneyhyphen thread

M62 replacement procedure: zapperjoe thread

Cruise control actuator

M62 replacement procedure: MontanaRob thread


A faulty alternator causes flat batteries. Alternators can often be rebuilt (cn90 thread, airos thread,

On an air-cool alternator, the air duct should be cleaned of debris such as leaves (cn90 thread, Neversaynever thread).

E39s were fitted with 90 Amp, 120 Amp or 140 Amp alternator. The type of alternator fitted to a car can be identified from the sticker (bluebee thread). However, the M62TU uses a water-cooled alternator (verite thread), and often auto-electricians are not willing to rebuild it. However it is possibly to DIY rebuild this alternator (RocketSurgeon thread).

M52 replacement procedure: flybot thread

M54 replacement procedure: jotscan post,, bluebee post

M62TU replacement procedure: blackBMWs thread, bofessional thread

Battery testing and maintenance

A failing battery can cause many strange problems with the car. Before disconnecting the battery, some people prefer to wait until the car has gone into "sleep" mode (dvsgene thread), however some people consider this unnecessary.

Battery test: Bluebee thread

Replacement procedure: jamesdc4 thread

Topping up the distilled water: BMWdiy

Battery drain

A common cause of flat batteries is current drain, however first test the battery to ensure that it is not simply that the battery is too old. Common causes of current drain are a faulty FSU (bluescholars thread), the car is not going into sleep mode (check if light indicating gear on shift lever is out after 20 min without opening doors), the CD changer constantly cycling disks after the car is turned off, or the DICE modules.

Measuring current drain: delfletcher thread, StreetDragster thread

Fuses and relays

Function of each fuse and relay: bluebee thread 1, bluebee thread 2

Failure of the fuel filler door locking solonoid can cause the fuse for the rear door locks to blow (kiwijochen thread).

Rain sensor

Replacement procedure: eaglecomm post, Wade_Dwyer thread

Retrofit procedure: davidf procedure

Earth/ground straps

Poor connections on these straps, including the one located under the cabin air filter (djt5150 thread), can cause various electrical problems.

Cooling system

Warning: the temperature gauge on the dash is heavily buffered and may not show that the engine is overheating until it is too late (edjack post, 1BadE39 post, Waveho post, 540iman thread). Therefore, as soon as the needle moves beyond halfway, turn off the engine to minimise damage.

The coolant temperature can be checked in realtime using the OBC "secret menu" (5th_gear thread).

System overhaul

Many components of the cooling system have a finite lifespan (cn90 thread, bluebee thread). Failure of these components can lead to engine damage through overheating.

BMW specifies unique tools for the cooling fan and alternator removal, however other options are available (bluebee thread).

M52 procedure: CNN-090 thread, CNN-090 post, bluebee post

Discussion of date stamps on cooling components: speedgoat thread


A cooling system which is not properly bled can suffer sporadic rises in temperature or loss of cabin heat. The BMW TIS has some specific notes about bleeding the cooling system (NNY528i thread). Some people prefer to replace the plastic bleed screws with brass screws (Mack thread).

Bleeding procedure: cn90 thread, edjack post, jamesdc4 post,

M54 drain plug location: bluebee thread

The recommended coolant is sold by BMW dealerships, however some owners prefer to use other coolants (agouraM5 thread, official BMW information)

Fan clutch

Installation requires the fan to be held stationary while the nut is being tightened.

A failed fan clutch or fan can lead to the fan exploding, causing significant damage to parts and panels nearby (Schitzo thread, cdb3113 thread, DinanBimmer thread).

Removal discussion: mosearch thread

Installation procedure: bluebee post, cn90 post, bluebee thread,

Fan shroud

Removal procedure:, bluebee post

Radiator hoses

Upper hose removal: bluebee thread


Replacement procedure:,

O-ring replacement discussion: bluebee thread

Operating temperature discussion: bluebee thread


The plastic components - especially near hose connections (bluebee thread) - are a common failure, so some people use an all-aluminium radiator instead. A coolant level sensor is only present on cars with the High OBC (cambrian123456 thread).

Replacement procedure: Ohmess thread,

Coolant level sensor discussion: bluebee thread

Expansion tank replacement procedure:, bluebee thread

Outlet temperature sensor replacement procedure:

Radiator cap and system pressure

Some people believe that the high pressure of the BMW cooling system contributes to failures, and therefore install a lower pressure radiator cap (540IA_750IL thread). A waterless cooling system has also been used (chiefwej thread).

Water pump

Discussion of replacement options: bluebee thread

Replacement procedure:

Auxiliary fan

This electric fan operates on low speed when the air-conditioning is used. It also operates at medium and high speed as required to assist in cooling the engine. Failure of the fan itself or fuse #75 (cnn post) are common causes for the fan to not operate correctly. For 1997-1998 models (cn90 post), a replacement fan motor is available (PENER thread 1).

Fan replacement procedure: sleekBMW thread, PENER thread 2

Drive belts

The drive belts (also called serpentine belts) provide power to ancillaries such as power the water pump, alternator, air-conditioning compressor and power steering pump. The belts can crack as they age, eventually leading to failure (which can cause the engine to overhead since the water pump stops working). Special tools to hold the rotating parts in place can be either purchased, created or improvised (bluebee thread).

M54 replacement procedure: bluebee post

M62 replacement procedure: ArbysNight thread


The thermostat opens when necessary to route coolant through the radiator, so that the engine is cooled. A failed thermostat can cause an engine to run cold, or (much worse) overheat. A supplier of thermostat upgrades claims that the electronic map-controlled can cause cooling system failures (Zionsville).

M62 replacement procedure: joshs540i thread

Fuel and intake

Vacuum leaks

Vacuum leaks are a common cause of poor idle and the P0171 error code. They can be caused by Vacuum leaks the intake elbow, CCV, DISA and their associated hoses (bluebee post, poolman thread).

Location of vacuum hoses: bluebee thread 1, bluebee thread 2

Location of intake gaskets: bluebee thread 3

Intake elbow

Also called "intake boot".

M54 replacement procedure: bimmerfiver thread

Idle control valve (ICV)

The ICV can become clogged, leading to poor idle and acceleration.

M54 cleaning procedure: csw8331 thread

M62 cleaning procedure: John540i6 thread

DISA valve

This valve allows different length intake runners to be used, increasing torque at low revs (artisthand post). DISA failure can be caused by the valve becoming clogged, the pin becoming loose (teklord69 thread 1), the plastic cracking, a failed O-ring (brickwhite thread) or the diaphragm rupturing (uncmozo thread, dakarm thread).

If a part of the DISA- especially the pin- wears loose and is ingested into the engine, catastrophic damage can occur (ForcedFirebird post). An aftermarket DISA valve, which removes the possibility of a worn pin being ingested into the engine, is available (Gary@GAS thread).

Replacement procedure: SolidJake thread, teklord69 post 2, Shires thread

DISA autopsy: teklord69 thread 3

Discussion about diagnosing DISA failure: bluebee thread

Fuel filter

Autopsy of used fuel filters: Nervous thread

M52 replacement procedure: Jamaican71 thread

M54 replacement proceudre: morrisroad thread, casacujo thread, econobox post

Fuel tank vent hose

The smell of fuel in the car can be caused by a fault with the fuel tank vent hose (Chillebeam thread).

Fuel level sensor

A faulty fuel level reading is commonly due to a failed sensor.

Replacement procedure: jamz thread, phid_bombadier thread

Discussion about repairing fuel pumps: Pistonbroke thread

Fuel pump

A faulty fuel pump can cause trouble starting, loss of power and stalling (redbull713 thread, agarch92 thread).

Replacement procedure: GOKOOLJAPAN thread, jamz thread, vetaldj thread

Relay location: bluebee thread

Valve for testing fuel pressure: luvdriven540i thread, redbull713 thread

Fuel gauge sending unit

A dirty sending unit can cause the fuel gauge to read incorrectly (lsfeder thread

Mass Airflow Sensor (MAF)

A faulty MAF can cause rough idle and poor fuel consumption. Over time, the sensor can become dirty and requires cleaning.

Note that a MAF error code can also be caused by a problem elsewhere in the engine (eg CCV, intake leak).

M54 cleaning procedure: Bluebee thread, KrisL thread, seemyad thread

M62 cleaning procedure: jamesdc4 thread, sdmike thread

Fuel injectors

Leaking seals can cause leanness and fuel leaks (doru thread).

Engine failsafe error

On the M62 engine, an "engine failsafe" error can be cause by the throttle body (540_M-sport thread, 540VIspeed thread) and the DME fuse (Oscswa thread)

Gas cap

A loose gas cap can cause a Check Engine Light (IH8DMV thread).

Throttle position sensor (TPS)

Discussion about faults: mylo thread, JimLev post


Oxygen sensors

A faulty oxygen sensor can cause poor fuel economy. The sensor can be tested (Edwin thread).

Tools required for M54 oxygen sensor replacement: Bluebee thread

Procedure for M62 oxygen sensor replacement: BMWtips

Secondary Air Pump (SAP)

Part of the Secondary Air System (SAS), problems with the SAP can cause fault codes or thumping sounds (16valex thread). The failure can be the pump itself (cn90 thread), the valve (cn 90 thread) or the vacuum hoses connected to it (fudman thread). The pump and valve can be rebuilt (cnn thread).

Heat shield

Repair procedure for rattling heatshield: cn90 post

Catalytic convertor

Discussion about catalytic convertor problems: coelacanth thread, mtnAVman thread

The Japanese cars have a warning message "SLOW! CAT. OVERHEAT" for when the catalytic convertor is overheating due to a rich mixture (edjack post).


Transmission applications

Automatic transmissions (taligentx pdf, MatWiz thread)

  • GM A4S-270R: 4-speed, used with M52 engine
  • GM A5S-360R: 5-speed, used with M52 engine
  • GM A5S-390R: 5-speed, used with M54 engine
  • ZF 5HP19: 5-speed, used with M54 engine (gtxragtop thread)
  • ZF 5HP24: 5-speed, used with M62 engine
  • ZF 5HP30: 5-speed, used with M62 engine

Manual transmissions (Qsilver7 post)

  • ZF 5SD-320Z: 5-speed, used with M52 and M54 engine
  • Getrag 5SD-250G: 5-speed, used with M54 engine
  • ZF/Getrag S6S 420G: 6-speed, used with M62 engine

Transmission fluid replacement

Despite BMW's claim that the transmission oil is a "lifetime" fluid, it has been found that the oil becomes contaminated over time, and therefore requires replacement. The type of oil needed is indicated by the colour of the label on the transmission sump (MatWiz thread, Bluebee thread, hungdynasty post).

For the ZF 5HP19, several brands offer fluids conforming to the Esso ATF LT 71141 specifications (fudman thread).

GM A4S-270R fluid flush procedure: jvcajita thread

GM A5S-390R fluid flush procedure: Jason5 thread

ZF 5HP19 fluid flush procedure: TorqueWrench thread, riro424 thread

ZF 5HP24 fluid flush procedure: vicent page

Manual transmission fluid flush procedure: CNN thread

Clutch replacement

Procedure for M52/M54: aa240sx thread, David_Levine pdf

Tools for M62 clutch replacement: DavidPorter thread

Clutch Delay Valve (CDV)

Most manual transmission cars (except M5) include a CDV to prevent clutch abuse. However, many people find it hard to drive smoothly with the CDV installed. The CDV can be either modified (Zeckhausen) or removed (CN90 thread, BMWtips).

Differential oil

There are several opinions regarding what is the best diff oil to use (Bluebee thread).

Diff oil change procedure: cn90 post, riro424 thread, Jackcat559 thread, BMWtips

Transmission mounts

M57 replacement procedure: philthompson thread

M62 replacement procedure: BlackBMWs thread


Discussion about U-joint repair: bartelbe thread

Discussion about guibo and centre bearing: Ebonix thread 1, Ebonix thread 2

Transmission cooler

Discussion about oil leaks: dannisieze39 thread

Suspension and Steering

Front Wheel Bearings

Growling/humming noises from the front wheels are often caused by worn out front wheel bearings.

Front wheel bearing replacement procedure: CN90 thread, Zeckhausen, thesteve thread)

Front struts

In the front struts, the shock absorber also forms part of the suspension geometry (unlike the rear suspension). Therefore, the front strut also holds the wheel in place and creates the up/down axis for the wheel movement. Poor braking and shudder during braking can be caused by failed front shock absorbers(MatWiz post, ahspao thread).

Discussion of worn shock absorber symptoms and replacement options: Bluebee thread

M52 front suspension overhaul procedure: cn90 thread

Front strut replacement: Beisan page

Rear shocks

Worn out rear shocks can cause noises over bumps, poor ride and poor handling.

Replacement procedure: Beisan page

Air springs

Cracked rubber can cause the air springs to leak.

Replacement procedure for rear air springs on Touring: MLue1 thread, mpribanic thread

Rear ball joints

Worn out rear swing-arm ball joints can cause vibration, squeaking, poor handling and uneven tire wear. Ball joints on M52/M54 cars can be removed with commonly available tools (cambrian123456 thread, however M62 cars require a special tool to be purchased (z0lt3c thread, mark@EAC thread) or made (chip740iL post).

Replacement procedure: Besian Systems, ArbysNight thread

Steering link and tie-rods

The six-cylinder cars use a rack-and-pinion steering system, while the V8 cars use a recirculating ball system.

M52/M54 replacement procedure: MatWiz thread

M62 replacement procedure: cdb3113 thread, Al's540i thread, Edwin post

Steering rack/box

The six-cylinder cars use a rack-and-pinion system (aka "steering rack"), while the V8 cars use a recirculating ball system (aka "steering box"). The

M52/M54 replacement procedure: iDrift thread

M52/M54 rebuild discussion: champaign777 thread

Thrust arm bushings

A failed thrust arm bushing is a common cause of vibration at 50-60 mph (Beisan Systems).

M52 replacement procedure: easyover thread, cn90 thread

M54 replacement procedure: champaign thread

M62 replacement procedure: hotswimmer thread

Other possible causes of vibration: ztom thread, Rami2001 thread

Power steering fluid leaks

Power steering fluid leaking from the reservoir or hose can drip into the alternator, possibly causing damage (bluebee thread). Common sources of leaks are the hose, hose clamp, reservoir cap seal and vent hole in the reservoir cap (firemanory thread).

M62 hose replacement procedure:, jrpastore thread, edwin thread

Discussion of hose and clamp replacement: NC530i-2003 thread

Discussion of reservoir cap: bluebee thread, Rjim thread

Power steering fluid flush

If the power steering fluid is cloudy, it should be replaced with new fluid. There is also a filter in the reservoir which eventually requires cleaning or replacement (bluebee thread, jimlev post).

The fluid BMW specifies for the power steering is Dexron III ATF. However, this is no longer available, so Dexron IV is used (bluebee thread, bimmerfest pdf).

Fluid flush procedure: riro424 thread, kknotsail thread, edjack post, starless thread, paulcalif post (for E38)

Power steering pump brackets

M62 discussion about failures: bluebee thread

Rear sway bar

The sway bar reduces body roll in cornering. The thicker M5 rear sway bar can be used to reduce body roll and understeer.

M54 replacement procedure: Jackcat559 thread

Wheel alignment

Discussion about wheel alignment: bluebee thread 1, HeyYo thread,bluebee thread 2

Rear wheel alignment procedure: cn90 thread


Brake pad and rotor replacement

Procedure: Bluebee thread, Ronin009 thread, PJB post, BMWtips

Discussion about machining rotors: stigst3r thread

It is recommended that "bedding in" be performed for new brake pads (Zeckhausen).

Rotors can be machined if they are above the minimum thickness (bluebee thread). If rotors are less than the minimum thickness, they should be replaced.

Anti-seize lubricant called "BMW Never seez" (part number 83-23-9-407-830) should be used where the rotor touches the rub and wheel (bluebee thread).


Traditionally, this is done with a second person pumping the brake pedal (pigeon post, Zeckhausen, Pelicanparts). Another method is pressurised bleeding (cn90 thread,

For the choice of brake fluid, BMW recommends "low viscosity" DOT4 (bluebee thread,

ABS module and wheel speed sensors

Early E39 models use Active Stability Control (ASC), while later models use a more advanced version- Dynamic Stability Control (DSC).

The "trifecta" of DSC, ABS and brake warning lights on the dash is commonly caused by failure of a rear wheel speed sensor or the ABS module. Wheel speed sensors can be tested (Bluebee post, Quick99si thread, 540iman thread). In some cases, the ABS module can be repaired (cn90 thread, 540iMan thread), however it is not always successful (regardless of whether the repair is DIY or professional).

If the ABS module is replaced, the steering angle sensor needs to be recalibrated (bluebee post).

The speedo takes its input from the left-rear wheel speed sensor (Qsilver7 post).

Replacement procedure for ABS module: BlackBMWs thread

Replacement procedure for wheel speed sensor: jamesdc4 thread, b2ke thread, readyandwilling thread

Discussion on DIY repair for ABS module: 540iman thread

Brake pressure switch pinout: Bluebee post

Steering angle sensor

Repair procedure: rdc8118 thread

Parking brake (handbrake)

Overhaul procedure: cnn thread


Secret/hidden OBC menu

Once you have identified whether you have the High or Low OBC (bluebee thread), you can unlock the "secret menu" to obtain information about the vehicle. This menu also allows you to calibrate the fuel consumption (L/100km or mpg) readout (Brandon 540/6m thread).

Low OBC procedure: jamesdc4 post, E39_source video

High OBC procedure: Qsilver7 post, jamesdc4 thread

Dashboard/MID pixels

Missing pixels on the dash and MID display is often caused by problems with the ribbon cable. Some owners prefer to replace the MID with an aftermarket multimedia system.

Repair options discussion: bluebee thread, neversaynever thread 1, neversaynever thread 2, visionbmw7 post, 540iman thread

MID removal procedure:, cn90 thread

MID test mode procedure: RDL post

Wiring diagrams

Wiring diagrams: PDF

Trunk wiring harness

Chafing of the wiring harness in the trunk is a common cause of problems with rear lights and can cause other mysterious electrical problems (bluebee thread).

Lighting Control Module (LCM)

Failure of the LCM can cause a variety of lighting problems. The chip inside the LCM can be replaced (cn90 thread). Later models have the LCM III version, which is harder to repair (doru thread).

Replacement procedure: mario788 thread

Rear lights

Diagnosing rear light problems: bmwMobiletech thread

Replacement procedure for centre brake light: bluebee thread

Ignition Switch

Failure of the ignition switch can cause all kinds of symptoms (QSilver7 thread, nyclad thread, racerock thread). A test for a faulty switch is the passenger sunvisor light (maher528 post, ProV1 thread).

Replacement procedure: DavidC post, synenergy52 thread

Rebuild procedure: cal45fan thread

A broken lock cylinder can cause the ignition key to spin freely (JackNCokeGus thread, SNARF thread).

Licence plate light bulb

Replacement procedure: bluebee post

Alarm and EWS (immobiliser)

The alarm is part of the EWS system. Random alarm activation can be caused by a failing battery (Qsilver7 post, jamesdc4 thread) or hood switch (Touring_Dude post, jamesdc4 thread). After the limit of 10 keys are programmed, no more keys can be programmed (Jimmys_530i post).

Siren replacement procedure: BMWtips

EWS overview: bimmerfest pdf


The keys perform 3 functions: immobiliser (EWS), keyless entry (FZV) and alarm (DWA) ([1]).

Procedure for replacing rubber buttons in square key: QSilver7 thread

Procedure for charging key batteries: traviss351 thread

Programming new keys: htownbimmer05 thread, Qsilver7 post, Alex540 thread

Deactivating stolen/lost keys: Qsilver7 post

Replacing battery in diamond key: BMW_525i-Noob thread

Replacing battery in square key: alfonso12 thread, Billy_Hopkins thread

Discussion of options when keys are locked in car: vetaldj thread

If the remote central locking buttons don't work, the car can be manually unlocked with a key (vetaldj thread). If the car's flat battery prevents the central locking from working, an external battery can be used to power the system (cn90 post).

Coding software

With the right software and cable, users can adjust electronic settings such as autolocking of doors (bluebee thread, Newbie528 thread) and rain-sensing wipers (rdl thread).

Carsoft, INPA and DIS are commonly used for coding. The following forum contains a lot of information on coding:


External door handle replacement

Procedure: TIPenta thread

Trunk lock actuator

A failed trunk lock actuator prevents the trunk (also known as "boot") from closing (MNsport528i thread).

Replacement procedure: BMWtips

Trunk strut

Sedan replacement procedure: cn90 thread

Touring replacement procedure: xpcgamer thread

Water in rear footwell

The common cause of water in the rear footwell is the door vapour barrier (russelltickle thread). Another possible cause is a blocked door drain (bimmerfiver thread).

Vapour barrier repair procedure: speedchase thread, bimmerfiver thread, stilljester photos

Water in trunk boot

Discussion about clogged drains: HeavyJ thread

Hood adjustment

Discussion about hood adjustment: JCGinMA thread

Hood release (bonnet release) cable

How to open the hood when the cable is broken: 528inOttawa thread

Cable replacement procedure: cn90 thread, Edwin post, larina thread

Door seals

Upper seal replacement procedure: davegraham page

Door jamb seal discussion: Bluebee thread

Window trim

Replacement procedure:

B-pillar trim

Replacement procedure: porksoda thread

Windshield trim

The rubber trim cracks over time (Agent99 thread).

Replacement procedure: blackBMWs thread

Headlight adjusters

The OEM headlight adjusters are made from PBT, which over time becomes brittle over time and breaks. This results in the headlights pointing downwards or moving around. There are many options to repair/replace them (Bluebee thread). Replacement plastic adjusters are available (Ebay, Odometergears), or replacement metal adjusters, or you can make your own adjusters (raf0419 thread). Headlights on 2002+ cars require a different technique for disassembly (jamesdc4 thread).

Replacement procedure: findog thread, jdjg thread, roderick thread, BMWtips, gmindas video, Gary McKee video, MegaBusterBlaster video

The headlight levelling sensor is located in the front suspension (bccwu thread).

Cloudy headlights

Heat and moisture can lead to a cloudy headlight lens (Edgy36-39 thread). Also, over time the outer surface of the lens can become dulled, which can be fixed by polishing (gonzilla thread) or sanding (540IForMe thread).

The headlights are not sealed, they have drain tubes (Edgys36-39 thread).

Sunroof water leaks

Problems with the sunroof drains can cause water leaks in the cabin (j_patterson thread, komato3 thread, pleiades thread

Roundel (BMW trunk and hood badges)

Paint can flake off from the emblem over time. The rear badge is slightly smaller than the front (cn90 thread).

Replacement procedure: bluebee thread, ILVSMOG thread


Warning: when working around airbags or seat occupancy sensors, disconnect the battery first to avoid triggering the airbag light (TemporarySanity thread).

Cup holders

These are very fragile, therefore they commonly break. When broken they are unable to be closed.

Replacement procedure: Bluebee thread, doc540 thread


Cracks may appear in the woodgrain trim over time, especially on the CD player cover (Fudman thread).

Interior trim removal procedure: bagman thread

Internal door handle replacement

Procedure: BMWtips

Steering wheels

Cars before 03/99 have a single stage airbag. Cars after 03/99 have a dual stage airbag. Therefore a replacement steering wheel must be in the correct date range for the airbag to function.

If the steering wheel lock jams, it can be unlocked by drilling the underside of the steering column (kevinI34 thread).

Steering wheel replacement: BMWDIY, Q thread, Orzan4ik video.

Front armrest

Some drivers have found the American front armrest with plastic cradle to be uncomfortable for their elbow, and have replaced it with the European armrest which does not have the cradle. There are several types of European armrest available (jmhunter thread, shaftdrive post).

Replacement procedure: jackcat559 thread, BMWtips, 540i6

Door panel removal

Procedure: BMWtips, Bavsound

Seat belt

The front seatbelt spacer can cause a clicking or rattling noise (BMWknight thread, BMWDIY).

Front belt replacement procedure: cn90 thread, e39dream thread

Front pretensioner replacement procedure: cn90 thread

Front Window Regulators

Stuck front windows are often caused by the regulator failing (RookieBMW thread).

Re-installation procedure: MatWiz thread, 82bmw633 thread, jamesdc4 thread, yaofeng post

Other tips: bluebee thread 1, G.P.Burdell thread, bluebee thread 2

Rear window regulator

The regulator is a common cause of power windows not working. You can either replace the regulator (BMWtips), buy a repair kit (LanceM thread) or use JB Weld (Roderick post).

Phantom window opening

All of the windows are opened when the unlock button on the key is held down (Reeds540 thread). Another possibility is a faulty GM5 module (ycoppin thread).

Front seat control module

The control module and wiring can become damaged by the movement of the seat. This causes faults in the seat movement and steering wheel reach adjustment (shockler thread, mmoghbelli thread, Al's540i thread)

Replacement procedure: bluebee thread

Switch repair proceudre: NoTempoLimit thread


Warning sticker removal: jamesdc4 thread

Sunvisor autopsy: pudl thread

Seat Twist

Seat cables often fall out, causing the seat to twist (ElwoodBlues thread).

Seat removal: cn90 thread

Repair procedure: MMMM_ERT thread, jallen thread

Heated seats

There are reports of fires caused by heated seat malfunctions (Quest_908 thread, ProRaven thread, Zdawg thread

Discussion about diagnosing and repairing heated seat problems: midnitemyst thread, visionman post


There are various products to clean dirty headliner (pleiades thread). Sagging headliner can be re-glued (kgorczyn thread, dotcommunist post).

Replacement procedure: DavidC post

Airbag warning light

Failure of the occupancy sensor is a common cause of an airbag warning light. The belt buckle can also cause the warning light (ztom thread). Resetting the airbag light requires special equipment (mattmartindrift post).

Replacement procedure: Sarasota post, itsstock post


The latch can fail, making the glovebox unable to be opened (Paul_Astrike thread).

Removal procedure: wilbura thread

Cigarette lighter

A faulty cigarette lighter is often caused by a blown fuse, but a faulty socket can also be the culprit (559eddie559 thread, fudman thread).

Instrument cluster

Discussion about faulty cluster lights: Mobius528 thread

Rear parcel shelf

Removal of the rear parcel shelf may be required for some repairs to the rear suspension (Reuvers thread, nfs021 thread, joelselman thread, FurryOne thread).

Climate control

Final Stage Unit (FSU)

A common cause of erratic climate control behaviour is the FSU (also known as "blower resistor"). It has also been known to drain the battery, by running the fan when the car is switched off (Bluebee post). The FSU can be tested (cn90 thread, Bluebee thread). One mode of FSU failure is ageing resin on the circuit board, which can be repaired (Kraft thread).

Some cars also have a rear FSU (ZeroDfx thread).

Replacement procedure: Bluebee post,, Elvis530i thread

Airconditioning smells

Mould in the airconditioning system is the common cause of "gym sock" smells in the cabin (TGray5 thread). Also, the cabin air filters require frequent replacement (bluebee thread, cnn thread).

Cabin air filter replacement procedure: bluebee thread, cn90 thread

Discussion of cabin air filter brands: jbalenzano thread, doru thread

Ambient Temperature Sensor

This sensor often damaged by parking curbs, due to its location. When the sensor is faulty, it reads as -40°F (-40°C).

Replacement procedure: jamesdc4 thread

Relocation of sensor to a safer location: cnn post

Automated Recirculated Air (AUC) mode

When the climate control recirculation mode is set to auto ("A"), the AUC sensor is used to determine whether fresh or recirculated air is used (Qsilver7 post).

Airconditioning fan

A noisy interior fan may be fixed by cleaning and lubricating it (frostone209 thread).

Centre vent

It is common for this vent to crack in the top-left corner (ncmallard78 thread).

Replacement procedure: porksoda thread

IHKA button

It is common for the climate control temperature adjustment buttons to crack.

Repair procedure: violinARC

Beep alerts

A single beep is a warning that ice is likely, due to the outdoor temperature. A triple beep is the hourly alarm (jamiblack thread).

Milage tamper dot

A dot in the dash display indicates an error with the mileage calculation (bluebee thread), therefore the mileage data may have been tampered with.

Airconditioning compressor

A faulty or loose compressor can cause rattling sounds from the engine bay (flug540 thread).

Heater control valve

Failure of this valve can cause problems with the climate control, a flat battery (manualshifter thread) or a loss of coolant (Martel13 thread).


CD changer "no discs"

A "no discs" error is commonly caused by a faulty CD changer (bigjaggs thread, Neils528iM5 thread, forest540BG thread). In some cases, the problem can be fixed by dismantling and cleaning the changer (bem-ster thread).

AM radio reception

Repair procedure: cnn thread

Aux connection

BMW procedure for adding aux cable: Bimmerfest PDF, PDF

User procedure for adding aux cable: severe530i post

Head unit

Removal procedure: gray1g thread, ludongtan thread, bobthedog01 thread


Jump starting

Procedure: Ustad thread

Technical Information System (TIS)

The official BMW information provided to dealerships. It contains repair procedures and other technical information.

Raising/jacking the car

BMW specifies 4 jacking points- 2 on each side of the car. Some models- possibly excluding the 528i and 540i- also have a jacking point on the engine crossmember (see 2nd picture on BMWtips). Some people also use the differential as a jacking point, while others prefer to use ramps (discussed on page 2 of Neversaynever thread).

M52/M54 jacking procedure: BMWtips, sjjjones1 thread, jamesdc4 thread, Pelicanparts (for E36)

Jack pads (wind noise)

Missing jack pads (also known as "support lifting platform") can cause wind noise (blueebee thread, Qsilver7 post, jstover thread) and difficulties using the BMW jack.

OBD fault codes

Scanning the fault codes is recommended as a starting point for many problems. Fault code(s) will be stored when the Check Engine Light (CEL- an orange light on the dashboard) is lit. However, there are also many fault codes which do not cause the CEL to be lit. Scan tools- some of which also can reset service lights- are available from a range of suppliers (bluebee thread).

Fault code translation: Bluebee thread,,

Wiper blades

A non-standard design is used, which is often unavailable at local parts stores (bluebee thread, ViolinARC thread).

Windshield washer jets

Adjustment procedure: FIA thread

Windshield washer reservoir

Reservoir leak repair procedure: cn90 thread, Jamaican71 thread

The grommet in the reservoir can cause leaks (shabbaman thread).

Windshield washer hose

Problems with the hoses can cause a water leak and reduced effectiveness of the washer jets.

Replacement procedure: jamesdc4 thread

Parking Distance Control (PDC)

Front and rear acoustic parking sensors were available on the E39. The kit was also sold as a retrofit (

Discussion about PDC faults: Mfive41 thread, PliSsk thread, Wiggi post

Replacement procedure: Edwin post

Wheels and tires

Wheel fitment specifications: iceman4169 thread

Tire Pressure Monitoring System (RDC / TPMS)

An option on euro-spec E39s (Dackleone post)

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