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. If you see something incorrect or notice something missing, simply click on the edit link to the right of any section. Please respect the contributions made by other members.
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, have a look over there. Also, check out the E39 "Best Links" thread and wiki.
The E39 was produced from 1995 to 2004. It was the successor of the E34, and was replaced by the E60. Sales to Germany and the United Kingdom began in 1995, and by 1996 sales to the rest of the world had commenced. The design draws heavily from the E38 7-Series in body construction, v8 engines and electronic technology. Also, many elements (including the 6 cylinder engines) are shared with the E46 3-series.
In the US, the E39 was launched with the 528i and 540i models. The 528i uses the 2.8 litre M52 inline six cylinder engine from the E36 328i, and the 540i uses with the 4.4 litre M62 V8, shared with the E38 740i. In addition to these models, Europe and some other markets received the 520i (2.0L M52), 523i (2.5L M52) and 535i (3.5L M62) petrol models. The diesel models also initially offered these other markets were the 525td (2.5L M51 turbodiesel inline six) and 525tds (525td engine with intercooler).
The M5 variant was introduced in 1998, using the 4.9 litre S62 V8 engine. The M5 is only available as a sedan.
The V8 models were upgraded in September 1998 to the M62TU engine, which features single vanos and electronic throttle. Similarly, the six-cylinder petrol engines were upgraded to the M52TU engine in September 1998. Also in September 1998, the touring body style was released and stability control was upgraded from ASC to DSC.
The major update ("LCI") appeared in September 2000 for the 2001 model year. The major changes are:
- 525i (M54) replaced 523i (M52TU)
- 530i (M54) replaced 528i (M52TU)
- 520d was introduced, using the M47 four-cylinder turbodiesel.
- 525d (M57) replaced 525td (M51)
- 525tds (M51) was discontinued
- 530d (M57) had a slight increase in power
- V8 engines were unchanged
- All models received "angel eye" headlights, LED tail-lights, widescreen navigation and various detail changes.
In 2003, the limited edition 540i M-sport model was produced.
|Model||Engine||Displacement (cc)||Bore/Stroke (mm)||Comp. ratio||Power (kW/bhp)||Torque (Nm/ft-lb)||0-62mph (manual)||Years||Where sold|
|520i||M52||1991||80/66||11.0||110/150 @6250RPM||190/140 @4200RPM||10.2sec||1996-1998||Non-US|
|M54||2171||80/72||10.7||125/168 @6100RPM||210/150 @3500RPM||9.1sec||2000-2003|
|523i||M52||2496||84/75||10.5||125/168 @5500RPM||245/181 @3950RPM||8.5sec||1995-1998||Non-US|
|525i||M54||2494||84/75||10.5||141/189 @6000RPM||245/181 @3500RPM||8.1sec||2000-2003||Worldwide|
|528i||M52||2793||84/84||10.2||142/190 @5500RPM||280/210 @3950RPM||7.5sec||1995-1998||Worldwide|
|530i||M54||2979||84/89.6||10.2||170/228 @5900RPM||300/220 @3500RPM||7.1sec||2000-2003||Worldwide|
|535i||M62||3498||84/78.9||10.0||173/235 @5700RPM||320/236 @3300RPM||6.9sec||1996-1998||Non-US|
|M62TU||180/241 @5800RPM||345/254 @3500RPM||1998-2003|
|540i||M62||4398||92/82.7||10.0||210/282 @5400RPM||440/320 @3900RPM||6.2sec||1996-1998||Worldwide|
|M62TU||218/282 @5400RPM||440/320 @3600RPM||1996-2003|
|M5||S62||4941||94/89||11.0||294/394 @6600RPM||500/370 @3800RPM||5.3sec||1998-2003||Worldwide|
|Model||Engine||Displacement (cc)||Bore/stroke (mm)||Comp. Ratio||Power (kW/bhp)||Torque (Nm/ft-lb)||0-62mph (manual)||Years||Where sold|
|520d||M47||1951||88/84||19.0||100/134 @4000||280/210 @1750RPM||10.6sec||2000-2003||Some European countries|
|525td||M51||2497||80/82.8||22.0||114/185 @4800||230/170 @1900RPM||11.9sec||1997-2000||Europe|
|525tds||105/141 @4000||280/210 @2200RPM||10.4sec|
|525d||M57||17.5||120/161 @4000||350/260 @2000RPM||8.9sec||2000-2003||Some European countries|
|530d||2926||84/88||18.0||135/181 @4000||390/290 @1750RPM||8.0sec||1998-2000||Europe|
|142/193 @4000||410/302 @1750RPM||7.8sec||2000-2003|
Differences between engines
Early 6-cylinder petrol models use the M52 (non-TU) engine. The M52TU has many differences to the M52, such as Dual Vanos and electronic throttle (with mechanical backup). In 2000, the M52TU was replaced by the M54. The M54 engine is very similar to the M52TU, with only a few changes such as fully electronic throttle, a non-return fuel system and an electronic thermostat.
Early v8 models use the M62 engine. The later M62TU has several differences to the M62, including the addition of Single Vanos, electronic throttle and a water-cooled alternator.
The E39 generally follows the traditional BMW model naming convention. The first number represents the platform (5 Series), the second is the engine capacity (litres times 10) and the letter is the engine type. "Individual" models have interior and exterior colours that are not available in the standard model range.
Engine types are as follows:
- i - Petrol engine (historically, the letter i means "electronic fuel injection")
- d / td / tds - Turbodiesel engine
Therefore a 525tds has a 2.5 litre turbodiesel engine, and a 535i has a 3.5 litre petrol engine.
Exceptions to the naming convention are:
- 520i models after September 2000 have a 2.2 litre engine
- 523i models use a 2.5 litre engine
- 540i models use a 4.4 litre engine
Oil and filter change
Like most cars, the typical method of removing old engine oil is by removing the sump plug ("gravity draining"). Some people like to use an extraction pump (cnn thread) or "vacuum extraction" (cn90 thread, Bluebee thread) instead.
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, brandon002 post).
The oil service indicator (SI) light can be reset without any tools (mr-fix video).
Low engine oil pressure can cause engine damage. The red "oil can" warning light on the dash indicates that oil pressure is low, therefore running the engine may cause damaged. Rattle at start-up (often assumed to be due to Vanos) can be caused by a faulty check valve in the oil pump or oil filter housing (Burning2nd post).
Discussion about causes of low oil pressure: toofast02 thread
Oil level and oil consumption
As opposed to the red "oil can" light (see above), the yellow "oil can" warning light merely indicates that the oil level is one quart low (fudman post), which does not present an immediate risk. To accurately measure the oil level, the dipstick should be used (dcolangelo thread).
In E39 petrol engines, it is common to need a 0.5 litre top-up of oil between oil changes (brandon002 post), which is possibly due to CCV problems (vavet5308 thread). The BMW dealership information (TIS) states that up to 0.7 litres per 1000 km is normal consumption. Excessive oil consumption is likely due to an oil leak or oil burning, and should be investigated (Energizedmortal post).
Discussion about dipstick calibration: fudman thread
Oil filter housing: The gasket at the bottom of the oil filter housing is a common cause of oil leaks.
Freeze plug: The freeze plug (also known as Welch plug) is also a possible cause of oil leaks (cn90 post- see second half of past).
Oil pan gasket: The oil pan gasket is a potential source of oil leaks, however in many cases the leak has actually been caused by the oil filter housing gasket (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
Valve cover gasket: A common source of oil leaks. Leaks can be caused by poor sealant, cracking and occasionally a warped valve cover (sixpot_simon thread).
A failed head gasket can cause the coolant, exhaust gasses and/or engine oil to mix.
Replacement procedure: Jackcat559 thread
Crank case ventilation valve (CCV)
A failed CCV (sometimes called "positive crankcase valve" or "oil separator valve") is a common cause of poor running (due to vacuum leaks) or high oil consumption (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). Some people have replaced the CCV with an oil catch can (eparayno thread). Replacing the CCV is a large job, and easier to do with the intake manifold removed (BavarianE31 thread).
The tube from the CCV to the dipstick can become clogged (blueebee thread).
There is a special "insulated" CCV to prevent failures in cold weather due to condensation freezing (kjet540 post).
Timing chain tensioner and guide rails
A failed timing chain tensioner can cause a rattling noise, initially on startup and then constantly as the problem gets worse. If the timing chain slips due to failure of the tensioner or guide rail, this could result in extensive engine damage. Timing guide rail failures are more common on v8 engines, particularly after 150,000 miles (Mkjs thread, edjack post). The M62TU timing chain system is different to the M62, however both versions have experienced failures (Mkjs post).
M54 replacement procedure: doru thread
M54 removal procedure: Jackcat559 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.
The seals used by BMW seem to have a limited lifespan, and once they fail the VANOS does not function correctly. This can cause rough idle, stalling and loss of power (ca2014mp2 post). The VANOS can be tested using DIS (TheHockeytowner thread). 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, and there are kits available to rebuild the VANOS unit using new bearings.
As an alternative to using a kit to replace the seals and/or bearings in a VANOS unit, refurbished VANOS units can be purchased from Dr Vanos (Fudman post). BMW does not provide the VANOS seals separately. It sells rebuilt VANOS units for ~$500. According to Beisan Systems (who sell the aftermarket Viton seals), BMW's rebuilt VANOS units are supplied with the same o-rings and have been found to fail in 20,000 miles.
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
M52TU / M54 VANOS replacement procedure: Pelican Parts (eg installing a new or refurbished VANOS unit)
Valley Pan gaskets
On the M62 engine, the valley pan gaskets can leak coolant. If the gasket has failed, coolant build-up may be visible in a recess of the valley pan ().
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 (). Fault codes are a valuable clue to diagnosis, but often should not be taken literally. For example, there are many possible causes of a MAF fault code other than a fault with the MAF itself.
The E39 uses OBD version 2 (OBD2). Early E39s have the round port under the bonnet, late E39s have the rectangular plug in the cabin, and some E39s have both plugs. For cars with both plugs, the rectangular plug can only report engine and transmission information, however by jumpering certain wires the rectangular plug can communicate report information from all modules ().
General OBD2 information: NAPA pdf
OBD live data
Some OBD readers can provide realtime readouts of engine conditions, which is similar to the Secret Menu, but more includes more detailed information such as fuel trims and oxygen sensor readings. This information can be helpful when troubleshooting engine problems.
OBD live data reference values: TheAngryBear thread
Fuel trims (LTFT and STFT)
The Long Term Fuel Trim (LTFT) and Short Term Fuel Trim (STFT) indicate whether the engine is increasing or reducing the amount of fuel used, to compensate for something. Reading these trims can provide helpful troubleshooting information.
Engine failsafe error
An "engine failsafe" error means the engine is running in "limp home" mode. Examples of causes of engine failsafe errors are the throttle body (540_M-sport thread, 540VIspeed thread), DME fuse (Oscswa thread) and battery connection (cgill22 post), however there are many possible causes so it is best to start by checking for OBD fault codes.
The official specification is for spark plugs should be replaced every 100,000 miles (Bluebee post) or when showing signs of wear; however some people prefer to change them more often, eg every 50,000 miles (cn90 post). Using the correct spark plug means the gap size is already correctly set; the gaps are not meant to be adjusted on the spark plugs used by E39s (Ryan M post). Checking the condition of the spark plugs ("reading the plugs") gives useful information about how that cylinder is running (ngksparkplugs.com, procarcare.com, onallcylinders.com).
The specified spark plugs are:
- M52: Bosch F8LDCR
- M52TU: Bosch FGR7DQP or NGK BKR6EQUP
- M54: Bosch FGR7DQP or NGK BKR6EQUP
- M62 until 7/97: Bosch F7LDCR or NGK BKR6EK
- M62 from 7/97: Bosch F9LDCR
- M62TU: Bosch FGR7DQP or NGK BKR6EQUP
Discussion about using single prong NGK Iridium plugs: cn90 post,
All E39 petrol engines use an ignition coil located above each spark plug ("coil on plug"). Lifespan of ignition coils vary greatly, but failures become more common at higher mileage (jieg thread). This can lead to rough idle and a lack of power (Andlloyd thread) and sometimes triggers a misfire fault code for the cylinder.
To troubleshoot a single faulty ignition coil that is producing an error code, start by swapping the coils between cylinders and seeing if the error code changes cylinders. Coils can also be tested using an oscilloscope (Jase007 post).
A worn "spark plug boot" is sometimes the cause of ignition faults (540 M-sport post). A replacement spark plug boot is much cheaper than the whole ignition coil assembly.
Discussion about quality of various brands: NY_98_528i thread
Camshaft Position Sensor (CPS)
A faulty CPS can cause a lack of power, stalling and hard starting (Poolman thread). Failures of the CPS is common problem (Edjack post). Often a faulty CPS will not cause a fault code. It is recommended that a genuine BMW/VDO part is used (ca2014mp2 post).
Crankshaft Position Sensor (CKP)
Failures of crankshaft position sensors seem to be rare, however in one reported case it resulted in stalling, hard starting and the Crankshaft Sensor fault code being triggered (Girtho thread).
M52/M54 location: barneyhyphen thread
M62 replacement procedure: zapperjoe thread
Cruise control actuator
On engines with a mechanical throttle, a broken cruise control actuator can be a cause of cruise control problems.
Repair procedure: MontanaRob thread
A faulty alternator means the battery is not charging properly, therefore it will cause flat batteries. A properly functioning alternator will measure 14.4 volts while idling at full electrical load (Burning2nd post).
Instead of replacing the alternator, it can often be rebuilt (cn90 thread, airos thread, oichan.org). 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: M54 Alternator DIY Video
Battery testing and maintenance
A failing battery can cause many strange problems with the car, therefore it is often worth checking the battery voltage as a first step. 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. A normal cranking speed does not necessarily indicate that the battery is fine (sixpot_simon thread).
Battery test: Bluebee thread
Replacement procedure: jamesdc4 thread
Topping up the distilled water: BMWdiy
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 navigation system.
Fuses and relays
Failure of the fuel filler door locking solonoid can cause the fuse for the rear door locks to blow (kiwijochen thread).
Poor connections on these straps, including the one located under the cabin air filter (djt5150 thread), can cause various electrical problems.
Ground locations: JimLev post
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). A coolant level sensor is only present on cars with the High OBC (cambrian123456 thread). The manual method of checking coolant level is using the float in the expansion tank.
Discussion about date stamps on cooling components: speedgoat thread
Discussion about quality of various brands: drewdane 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).
M54 drain plug location: bluebee thread
Removal of the fan shroud (and fan) is often required to work on components at the front of the engine.
BMW recommends special tools for the cooling fan and alternator removal, however other methods are possible (bluebee thread).
Removal discussion: mosearch thread
The thermostat regulates the coolant temperature by routing coolant through the radiator when required. A failed thermostat can cause an engine to run cold, or (much worse) overheat.
The E39 uses an electronic thermostat, which causes the engine to run hotter or colder based on engine load. A supplier of non-electronic E39 thermostats claims that the electronic map-controlled can cause cooling system failures (zionsvilleautosport.com).
M52 replacement procedure: bmwtips.com
O-ring replacement discussion: bluebee thread
Operating temperature discussion: bluebee thread
Radiator and expansion tank
The plastic parts within the radiator and expansion tank are common causes of leaks as the parts age (bluebee thread). Some people use an all-aluminium radiator instead of the OEM part.
When removing radiator hoses, the plastic clips are fragile and should be leveraged apart using minimal force (bluebee post).
Coolant level sensor discussion: bluebee thread
Outlet temperature sensor replacement procedure: pelicanparts.com
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). The lower pressure cap does not affect normal operation, since the system spressure is below 1.4 bar anyway at normal operating temperatures (Gary@GAS post, JimLev post). The difference is that, if the engine overheats, the system vents pressure earlier.
A few people have used a waterless cooling system (chiefwej thread).
Temperature gauge on dash
The temperature gauge is not linear and the 12 o'clock position seems to cover a large range of temperatures (windsmith post, sixpot_simon thread). There are reports of a warning bell sound when the engine is overheating (540iman thread).
The temperature gauge can be recoded to show a more linear reading, to give more warning of overheating (Mr.Philadelphia thread).
Discussion of replacement options: bluebee thread
Replacement procedure: pelicanparts.com
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).
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
Fuel and intake
Vacuum leaks are one of the most common cause of engine problems (ca2014mp2 post). Symptoms vary, however they can include poor idle, a P0171 error code, lack of power and other symptoms. Sources of vacuum leaks include the intake elbow, CCV, DISA and their associated hoses (poolman thread,Bluebee thread 1, 2, 3).
Common methods of troubleshooting vacuum leaks are:
- Reading the fuel trims (see fuel trims section)
- Spraying carburettor cleaner around the intake hoses while listening for a change in idle speed (Gmak2012 post, Helmet75 post, ca2014mp2 post)
- The "oil cap bag test" (Bluebee post).
- Measuring inlet vacuum, using the port at the rear of the intake. For the M54 engine, a reading of 18+ inches of water (with the airconditioning off) indicates healthy intake vacuum (F1Jim64 post).
- A smoke test (ca2014mp2 post, Johnstern post). Some people claim this is the definitive test for vacuum leaks, however it requires a smoke machine. Check for leaks at the brake booster, secondary air system and exhaust (ca2014mp2 thread).
Also called "intake boot".
Idle control valve (ICV)
A faulty ICV can cause poor idle and stalling. The valve can become clogged with carbon deposits or have electrical problems. Note that the resistance specification published in the Bentley manual for six-cylinder engines is incorrect (www.bentleypublishers.com, Brian328is thread)
M52TU/M54 cleaning procedure: csw8331 thread
M62 cleaning procedure: John540i6 thread
This valve allows different length intake runners to be used, increasing torque at low revs. The main risk with the DISA is that worn parts can become loose (teklord69 thread 1) and get ingested into the engine, causing catastrophic damage to occur (ForcedFirebird post). An aftermarket DISA valve which is redesigned to remove the possibility of a worn pin being ingested into the engine, is available (Gary@GAS thread).
Other possible DISA problems failure can be caused by the valve becoming clogged, the plastic cracking, a failed O-ring (brickwhite thread) or the diaphragm rupturing (uncmozo thread, dakarm thread). A failed DISA valve can cause a rattling sound (Bimmer Zeit video).
Failed DISA autopsy: teklord69 thread 3
Discussion about diagnosing DISA failure: bluebee thread
A clogged fuel filter can cause trouble starting, loss of power and stalling (the same symptoms as a faulty fuel pump).
For 6-cylinder cars, the M54 fuel filter is different to the M52 filter, due to the addition of a pressure regulator (cn90post).
Autopsy of used fuel filters: Nervous thread
Discussion about fuel filters: dalekressin thread
Fuel pump & fuel pressure regulator
A lack of fuel pressure can cause trouble starting, loss of power and stalling (redbull713 thread, agarch92 thread, cwp01 thread). A faulty fuel pump is a common cause, however, lack of fuel pressure can also be caused by a faulty Fuel Pressure Regulator (FPR) or fuel filter.
Relay location: bluebee thread
Discussion about low fuel pressure and error code 1250: JEREMYZ thread
Fuel level sensor
A faulty fuel level reading is commonly due to a failed fuel level sensor (also called "fuel gauge sending unit"). After replacing the sensor, it is necessary to run Test 21 to reset the dash gauge (QSilver7 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).
Mass Airflow Sensor (MAF)
A faulty MAF can cause rough idle and poor fuel consumption. Note that a MAF error code can also be caused by a problem elsewhere in the engine (eg CCV, intake leak). Over time, the sensor can become dirty and requires cleaning.
Typically, a faulty MAF will cause the engine to run rich. However, poor performance due to running very lean has also been observed as a result of a faulty MAF (F1Jim64 post). In this case, no MAF error code was present.
A test for MAF accuracy is the fuel consumption readout (which can be accessed using the Secret Menu). Note that the test should be conducted with the aircon off (F1Jim64 post 1), auaq thread, F1Jim64 post 2).
Leaking seals can cause leanness or fuel leaks (doru thread).
A loose gas cap can cause a Check Engine Light (IH8DMV thread).
Throttle position sensor (TPS)
Oxygen sensors (O2 sensors)
Tools required for M54 oxygen sensor replacement: Bluebee thread
Procedure for M62 oxygen sensor replacement: BMWtips
Secondary Air System
Problems with the Secondary Air Pump (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).
Secondary Air System troubleshooting and repair: vtxpower thread
Repair procedure for rattling heatshield: cn90 post
If a catalytic converter ("cat") has failed, it will increase exhaust emissions. A clogged cat increase exhaust back-pressure, causing loss of power and perhaps other symptoms. Sometimes a faulty O2 sensor is incorrectly diagnosed as a faulty cat (Schnell5 post).
Discussion about replacement cats: mtnAVman thread
Japanese E39s have a warning message "SLOW! CAT. OVERHEAT" for when the catalytic convertor is overheating due to a rich mixture (edjack post).
- 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 (USA 525i)
- 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).
Discussion about flushing very old auto transmission fluid: toothless02 thread
GM A4S-270R fluid flush procedure: jvcajita thread
GM A5S-390R fluid flush procedure: Jason5 thread
ZF 5HP24 fluid flush procedure: vicent page
Manual transmission fluid flush procedure: CNN thread
Trans Failsafe Prog
This warning light indicates that the automatic transmission has gone into "limp home" mode, which uses only 3rd gear. Possible causes include: low battery voltage (flyboyy thread, Mystic66 thread, 1lemone39 thread), a wet sensor (fudman post) or electrical problems unrelated to the transmission (e39dream post). Mechanical failure of the gearbox occurs is less likely, but also a possibility (ak_inshok thread).
Torque converter slip
An internal seal within the torque converter can fail, causing a "Excessive torque convertor slip" error code (gtxragtop post).
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. To disable the CDV, it can either be modified (Zeckhausen) or removed (CN90 thread, BMWtips).
Discussion about diff oil types and brands: Bluebee thread
M57 replacement procedure: philthompson thread
M62 replacement procedure: BlackBMWs thread
Discussion about U-joint repair: bartelbe thread
Guibo, CSB and CV refresh: cn90 thread
Discussion about oil leaks: dannisieze39 thread
Transmission conversion (auto to manual)
Swapping an E39 from auto to manual is more complicated than older or simpler cars, due to the electronic configuration (coding) work required. However, several people have successfully converted an E39 from automatic to manual (zer0vette thread, Chigga thread,geargrinder thread).
Suspension and Steering
In the front struts, the shock absorber (also known as "damper") forms part of the suspension geometry, unlike the rear suspension. Poor braking and shudder during braking can be caused by failed front shock absorbers (, ).
Discussion of worn shock absorber symptoms and replacement options: Bluebee thread
M52 front suspension overhaul procedure: cn90 thread
Front strut replacement: Beisan page
Rear shock absorbers
Worn out rear shock absorbers can cause noises over bumps, poor ride and poor handling.
Air springs (Touring only)
Touring models with Self Levelling Suspension use air springs in the rear suspension (front suspension is the same as sedans). Cracked rubber can cause the air springs to leak.
There are various aftermarket rear suspension kits for touring models, which either retain the air springs or replace them with coil springs ()
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 (), however M62 cars require a special tool to be purchased (, ) or custom made ().
Steering rack / steering 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").
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 ().
M62 replacement procedure: hotswimmer thread
Front Wheel Bearings
Growling/humming noises from the front wheels are often caused by worn out front wheel bearings.
Video DIY replacement procedure: BIMMERZEIT
Power steering fluid leaks
Power steering fluid leaking from the reservoir or hose can drip into the alternator, possibly causing damage ().
Common sources of leaks are the hose, hose clamp, reservoir cap o-ring and vent hole in the reservoir cap (, ). Some people fill the reservoir cap vent hole with a Q-tip to prevent fluid leaking through the hole (). Often a leak at the top of the hose can be fixed by cutting off a small length of hose at the top and replacing the clamp with a hose clamp ().
Power steering fluid flush
Power steering pump brackets
M62 owners have reported power steering pump mounts spontaneously failing ().
Failure of the power steering pump mount can disable the water pump, so the engine should be shut off quickly, before it overheats.
Rear sway bar
The sway bar (called "stabilizer" in the BMW schematics) reduces body roll in cornering.
M52/M54 replacement procedure: Jackcat559 thread
Wheel alignment affects handling and tyre wear. The BMW alignment specification requires weights to be added to the car during alignment measurements, but some people believe the correct alignment can be obtained without the weights ().
Rear wheel alignment procedure: cn90 thread
Free play in rear suspension
Discussion about worn wheel bearings, bushings, ball joints and tie rods: rdl thread
Brake pad and rotor replacement
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).
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 (Defblade post, cn90 thread, 540iMan thread, niffel thread), however the repair is not always successful (even by professionals).
ABS Code 88 Precharge pump E39 DIY video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZB0eMvXyqVs
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
Brake pressure switch pinout: Bluebee post
Steering angle sensor
Replacing the steering angle sensor or the ABS unit may require steering sensor calibration. This can be done using Tool32 (AmericanJambo thread) or INPA (BMW-North post). It is also suggested that the calibration can be done without any tools (Burning2nd post).
Repair procedure: rdc8118 thread
Parking brake (handbrake)
Overhaul procedure: cnn thread
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).
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.
MID test mode procedure: RDL post
Wiring diagrams: elektroda.pl 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)
Replacement procedure: mario788 thread
Diagnosing rear light problems: bmwMobiletech thread
Replacement procedure for centre brake light: bluebee thread
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).
Rebuild procedure: cal45fan 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
Replacement keys can be had cheaper than from a dealership through several means. Certain individuals can code generic eBay keys to your EWS module but this requires removing and mailing the EWS module in your car to the individual. (RocketSurgeon is well known for this procedure)
You can also get a replacement 'valet key' from the dealership for around $60 and glue its immobilizer transponder chip into an ebay key and it will function like a fully functional key that can start the car, but the key still must be cut by a locksmith that can cut so called 'high security' keys, usually for around $25 (Thread describing the valet key procedure)
The keys perform 3 functions: immobiliser (EWS), keyless entry (FZV) and alarm (DWA) ().
Keys contain a chip, which must be specifically programmed for each car. However, there are some third-party key suppliers who are able to provide a fully-functioning programmed key cheaper than the dealerships (nariusb thread, ambishop post, sixpot_simon post, AskoR post). The EWS has 10 "slots" where keys can be programmed, however it is suggested that a new key can be programmed to replace an old key (AskoR post).
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).
Having multiple transponder chips within one key will prevent you from starting the car, presumably because the chips interfere with eachother as they communicate with the EWS (RocketSurgeon Post)
Earlier e39s /(up to 09/1997 production date) can use EWS emulators but this ceased once they switched to a rolling code EWS-DME (RocketSurgeon Post)
A possible way to disable the EWS system is to somehow attach an immobilizer transponder chip to the EWS antenna ring around the ignition column, then store the antenna and chip somewhere within the dashboard (RocketSurgeon Post)
Procedure for replacing rubber buttons in square key: QSilver7 thread
Procedure for charging key batteries: traviss351 thread
Deactivating stolen/lost keys: Qsilver7 post
Replacing battery in diamond key: BMW_525i-Noob thread
Discussion of options when keys are locked in car: vetaldj thread
Retrofit procedure: davidf procedure
Carsoft, INPA and DIS are commonly used for coding. The following forum contains a lot of information on coding: http://www.bimmerforums.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?233
PA Soft installation for windows 7: NumbaOneNewb thread
Door lock actuators are a common failure, causing a single door to be unable to lock or unlock.
Actuator replacement procedure: fudman thread
How to open a door that won't unlock: cabinetman2 post
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
Sedan replacement procedure: cn90 thread
Touring replacement procedure: xpcgamer thread
Water in rear footwell
Water in trunk boot
Discussion about clogged drains: HeavyJ thread
Discussion about hood adjustment: JCGinMA thread
Hood release (bonnet release) cable
How to open the hood when the cable is broken: 528inOttawa thread
Upper seal replacement procedure: davegraham page
Door jamb seal discussion: Bluebee thread
Replacement procedure: 540i6.com
Replacement procedure: porksoda thread
The rubber trim cracks over time (Agent99 thread).
Replacement procedure: blackBMWs thread
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).
The headlight levelling sensor is located in the front suspension (bccwu thread).
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
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).
Rear bumper bar
Removal procedure: pelicanparts.com
Warning: when working around airbags or seat occupancy sensors, disconnect the battery first to avoid triggering the airbag light (TemporarySanity thread).
These are very fragile, therefore they commonly break. When broken they are unable to be closed.
Installation Video: DIY Video YouTube
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
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).
Takata airbag recall
The airbag for the sports steering wheel on 2002-2003 cars is part of the Takata airbag safety recall: Blubee thread
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).
Door panel removal
Front pre-tensioner replacement procedure: cn90 thread
Front Window Regulators
Stuck front windows are often caused by the regulator failing (RookieBMW thread).
Rear window regulator
Phantom window opening
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
On the front seats, the cables which control the movement of the seat often fall out. This causes the seats to twist (ElwoodBlues thread).
Seat removal: cn90 thread
Rear seat removal
For sedans, the seat base is removed by pulling it upwards at the front. The seat back is removed with two bolts in the bottom corners, then lifted upwards to release it from the two mounting tabs at the top (Bavsound video, Bimmer Zeit video, Beisan website).
The mounting bolts are slightly different for fold down rear seats (Pelicanparts website- see Figure 28).
For integrated child seats, there may be additional clips to remove (Black5 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).
The latch can fail, making the glovebox unable to be opened (Paul_Astrike thread).
Removal procedure: wilbura thread
Discussion about faulty cluster lights: Mobius528 thread
Discussion about removing stalk: 528iAut thread
Rear parcel shelf
Sources of rattles
Unfortunately, there are many potential sources of rattles in a car's interior. Some documented causes for the E39 are
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).
A noisy interior fan may be fixed by cleaning and lubricating it (frostone209 thread).
Evaporator condensation (water on ground/interior)
Condensation from the aircon condenser can cause water to drip below the car (JHuang94 thread). This is not the sign of a fault, however make sure not to confuse leaking coolant for water.
If the evaporator drains are faulty, this water may enter the cabin (Scriss 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).
It is common for this vent to crack in the top-left corner (ncmallard78 thread).
Replacement procedure: porksoda thread
It is common for the climate control temperature adjustment buttons to crack.
Repair procedure: violinARC
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.
A faulty or loose compressor can cause rattling sounds from the engine bay (flug540 thread).
Heater control valve
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
For other cars, retrofitting of the BMW aux cable also requires stereo to be replaced with one from after 09/2002 without navigation. (Brandon002 post).
Other options for listening to audio from mp3 players etc include tape to aux cable adaptors, FM transmitters and aftermarket stereo replacements.
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).
Jack pads (wind noise)
Windshield washer and headlight washer
Some E39s have the "intensive wash" option, which uses a separate reservoir and pump. The Touring models include a washer for the rear window.
Leaks from the reservoirs can be caused by the grommet (shabbaman thread). Problems with the hoses can cause a water leak and reduced effectiveness of the washer jets. Blocked jets can cause reduced effectiveness.
Discussion about intensive wash and Touring rear window wash: Kel thread
Adjustment procedure for washer jets: FIA thread
Hose 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 (bmwtips.com).
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)
Replacing a broken engine
The E39's large amount of integration between the electronics of the engine and the rest of the car ("body electronics") means that replacing engines is more complicated than on older cars.
Also, the immobiliser system (EWS- described here) requires the several components to be synchronised. Some of these components are unable to be re-programmed or reprogramming requires expensive equipment. The components which need to be synchronised are: DME, EWS control unit and the electronic chip inside the ignition key. The easiest method to maintain synchonisation is to send the new DME, EWS and the car key to a specialist for re-coding (MichaelK5990 thread, 766jack thread). Having the existing key re-coded avoids the need to replace all the locks in the car. Another option is use the DME from your old engine on your new engine.
Even matched EWS components can need re-syncing (HTK12 post).
Replacement with identical engine
Using a replacement engine of the exact same specification (same family, same capacity, same vanos configuration) enables the old engine's electronics to be used with the new engine (Barracuz post). This avoids the complications involved with modifying the EWS system.
Alternative sources for replacement engines:
- M52: E36, E38 (pre September 1998 only) or Z3 (pre September 1998) (rich0000 thread)
- M52TU: E46, E38 (post September 1998 only), Z3 (post September 1998)
- M54: E46, Z3 (3.0L only), Z4 (pre September 2006), E53. Note: the E60 and E83 models also used the M54 engine, however they started production after the E39 was discontinued, therefore there may be changes which are incompatible with the E39
- M62: E38 (pre September 1998 only), E31 (4.4L only)
- M62TU: E38 (post September 1998 only), E53 (pre July 2003 only)
Note that coding is required when installing an engine from an automatic car into a manual car, and potentially vice-versa.
Replacement with same engine family, but different engine specification
This section described engine swaps within the same family (eg M52, M54, M60 or M62). Although the M52 and M54 engines are similar in many ways (similarly, the M60 has many similarities with the M62), unfortunately the small differences may cause big problems for an engine conversion (bmwnorcal thread). Therefore, it is often much more straightforward to use a replacement engine from the same family. Nonetheless, there are still challenges when remaining in the same engine family. Therefore, in addition to the issues noted above, the following issues should be considered.
Capacity changes require a change of engine tuning to operate at its full potential. It is possible to get the new tune coded into your old DME (poolman post), thus avoiding EWS modifications. Also, it may be possible to 'virginize' a DME so that a new tune can be used (geargrinder post). Note that sometimes the ancilleries are different for each engine capacity, for example the maf, intake, airbox are different between the M54B25 and M54B30 (Jimmys530i post).
Changing the vanos configuration (eg replacing a single vanos engine with a dual vanos engine) is considered not a practical option (Jimmys530i post, Burning2nd post), since it would require extensive modification to the cars electronics. For example, replacing an M62 with an M62TU would require extensive modifications (JimLev post).
Engine swaps for power increase
"Anything is possible, the question is if it is worth your time and money. I have seen someone swap an engine out of a 2006 M3 into a 1989 M3. Was it really cool and fast? Yes. Was it really worth spending almost $20k for it? No. For that kind of money he could have built up an impressive euro S50 and blown away his current setup" (Jimmys530i).
E39 engines- 6 cyl
The issues discussed above in Replacing a broken engine all apply, plus added complications due to differences in how the car is configured for each engine.
BMW M54 replacement of M52: Gary@GAS build thread
BMW M54 replacement of M52TU: raymond3080 build thread (note that this build retrofitted the M52TU intake onto the M54 engine), flashmeow build thread (similarly, this build used the M52TU DME on the M54 engine),Irogers80 build thread, discussion thread, discussion thread As some of the above builds show, the M54 engine can run on an M52TU DME, which avoids many of the electronic complications. However, the M54 engine will not be running optimally in this state.
BMW M52 replacement of M54: rmb213 discussion thread
BMW M52TU replacement of M54: discussion thread
E39 engines- V8
The issues discussed above in Replacing a broken engine all apply, plus added complications due to differences in how the car is configured for each engine.
For 6 cylinder owners, it will probably be cheaper to trade in your car and buy a V8 E39 than to do a V8 engine swap on a 6 cylinder car (discussion thread), discussion thread, http://www.bimmerforums.com/forum/showthread.php?1235812-Swapping-540i-engine-into-528i discussion thread], discussion thread, Barracuz post). An alternative is installing a supercharger on the 6 cylinder engine.
BMW M62TU replacement of M62: Theoretically, this swap is similar to M54 replacement of M52TU (see above).
Nissan RB26 discussion: Mda185 post