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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),

Available Options

Tailgate Badges

  • 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.
  • d - Diesel. Not applicable to North American E39s
  • e – eta (fuel efficient engines w/lots of low torque vs the higher reving more HP "i" engines used during the same time period or model production run) Not applicable to the E39
  • A - Automatic
  • t - Touring (hatchback)
  • s – Sport. Not applicable to the E39
  • i – injection. Applies to virtually all BMWs
  • c/C – Convertible or Coupe. Not applicable to the E39
  • x – all-wheel drive. See X-Drive Not applicable to the E39



It has been claimed that the seals in the VANOS unit on I6 engines fail within 20,000 miles, due to incorrect materials used in the seals. This, according to Beisan Systems, who sells replacement seals, causes rough idle, stalling, and loss of power.

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.

Some discussion surrounding the effectiveness of replacing these seals has taken place on the forums. It appears that many of the parts replaced at the same time as the seals could also be the cause of various issues. Responsible diagnosis of these parts is key to determining the correct solution.

Beisan Systems has performed dynamometer and fuel consumption tests, which were inconsistent. Many owners have commented that cold idle has improved.

Cooling System

The E39 cooling and belt drive system is comprised largely of plastic. These parts will begin failing around 80-100k miles, and , it is much better to do an ENTIRE Cooling system overhaul. A leak or minor overheating is the beginning of a series of problems. Other items (like fan clutch, fan blade, radiator) will soon follow. It makes perfect sense to do the whole system. It saves you money and headache down the road.

Under no circumstances should you ever operate the vehicle if the temperature gauge goes past the 12 o'clock mark! Stop immediately and get a tow, unless you do not object to replacing your engine (or car).

Zionsville on map-controlled thermostats

E39 (on M52TU, M54, M62 engines) has a map-controlled thermostat In conventional cooling systems a wax element (this is the mechanical thermostat) keeps the coolant temperature close to about 90 °C. This control method ensures that the motor does not overheat even under extreme conditions, such as very high vehicle speeds, very high ambient temperatures and heavy loads. However, in normal conditions a petrol engine can generally be operated at 110 °C without danger. This high temperature improves tribological conditions in the motor, which in turn reduce friction losses, fuel consumption and exhaust emissions. An electronic map-controlled thermostat can satisfy such variable requirements, because it can adapt the coolant temperature to the motor's operating conditions within broader limits. With the motor at partial load it maintains the coolant temperature at a consistently high level; at full load, high engine speeds or high outside temperatures it reduces the temperature and thus ensures performance characteristics which match these conditions.

So, with a mechanical thermostat, when the coolant reaches a certain temperature, it opens. The map-controlled thermostat is "variable" based on input from the engine computer. It runs the engines hot (which is why the radiators also fail) for emissions. However, when the electronic thermostat fails, it continues to run the engines hot with no way of opening up "at full load, high engine speeds or high outside temperatures." This might be satisfactory if the driver were alerted to the fact that the thermostat had failed. A trouble code is set in the engine computer, which can be read with a diagnostic tool, but nothing appears on the instrument cluster. So, a failed thermostat can take the engine with it.


  • Many people have trouble removing the Fan Clutch Nut. Spray the nut with PB Blaster daily for two-three days before starting.
  • Replacing bleeder screws with brass is helpful, but it is very important to be extremely light when torquing them or they will strip the threads in the hose.
  • There is no coolant level sensor if you do not have a 20-character text display (high OBC cluster) in your instrument cluster. Check it regularly! Sporadic rises in temperature or loss of cabin heat indicates either air in the system or low coolant.
  • Use water based lubricant (local sex shop) on any o-rings in the cooling system.
  • Fan clutch nut installation with rawhide (If you have a friend, get them to hold the fan above the car and tighten from underneath. That's what I didBmwn00b13-109765)
  • Non-destructive hose removal
  • Coolant Temperature Sensor o-ring replacement

Common Mishaps

Cooling system DIYs

Modifying the cooling system


Best Cooling System Threads

Instrument Cluster and MID Pixels

The instrument cluster pixels and MID pixels fail line by line due to a poorly designed press-fit pink connection tape which lifts up over time. Failure will most likely not occur on both parts at the same time, though it's possible.

Cluster informational threads

MID information threads

V8 Valley Pan Gaskets

The V8 valley pan gaskets often leak coolant. Bad design for V8 valley pan gaskets that allow coolant to "disappear" - need to correct by using the newer designed valley pan gasket. When it leaks (and it will on ALL M62 engines built prior to 2003), the coolant runs through weep holes in the back of the engine, down through the bell housing area and drips off the bottom of the bell. Pretty sure there is nothing in the bell housing that can leak coolant. Take the engine cover off and look at the back of the engine on the top. If you see a pool of blue/green goo, that's the valley pan leaking. If you pay for this repair it's a few hundred in parts and about $1000 or more in labor.

Jack Pads

Poorly designed plastic jack pads (aka "Support Lifting Platform", often fall off the underside of the frame due to poor latch design causing jack failures & wind noise. The replacement jack pads are designed not to fall off. The standard BMW "widow maker" jack does not work properly or remotely safely without the jack pads

BMW Roundel Paint

Poorly painted BMW hood & trunk emblem (badge, logo, decal, hood ornament) roundels wash away, over time, necessitating replacement.


Power Steering

The power steering reservoir is often constantly wet due to a worn o-ring in the power steering reservoir cap. Usually observed by slow dropping of the fluid level and an impossible-to-keep-clean reservoir.

In addition, the OEM power steering hose clamps are practically guaranteed to leak fluid over the alternator, often said to cause premature alternator failure. Usually observed by more rapid (though still slow) dropping of fluid, and wet hoses and possibly dripping onto alternator.

Wood Trim

The highly varnished natural wood trim spontaneously cracks on almost every E39, most likely due to temperature and humidity variations.

Power Seat

Whenever working with the seats or anything connected to the airbag system, ALWAYS ensure the battery has been disconnected for 20-30 minutes, otherwise the airbag light will illuminate.

Twisted Seat

Seat cables often fall out causing the seat to twist.

Windshield Washer Reservoir Pump

The windshield reservoirs prone to leaking due to an ill-fitting pump o-ring gasket.

DISA Valve

The DISA valve flap breaks, sometimes with parts sucked into the intake manifold.

Coding Car Functions

This isn't so much a problem as much as it is a basic complaint that it needlessly takes about $100 at the dealer to modify basic user settings, e.g., automatic door-lock settings.

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)

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

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, 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

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

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).

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

Fuses and relays

Function of each fuse and relay: Bluebee thread

Cooling system

System overhaul

Many components of the cooling system have a finite lifespan. Failure of these components can lead to engine damage through overheating.

M52 procedure: CNN090 post


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

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 are common causes for the fan to not operate correctly. For 1997-1998 models (cn90 post), a replacement fan motor is available (PENER thread).

Fan replacement procedure: sleekBMW thread

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.

M62 replacement procedure: joshs540i thread

Fan shroud

To access many of the cooling system components, it is necessary to remove the fan shroud.

M54 procedure:

Fuel and intake

Intake elbow

Also called "intake boot". Vacuum leaks due to this part can cause poor idle.

M54 replacement procedure: bimmerfiver thread

Idle control valve (ICV)

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

M54 procedure: csw8331 thread

M62 procedure: John540i6 thread

Fuel filter

M52 replacement procedure: Jamaican71 thread

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

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


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


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).

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

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

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

Rear ball joints

Worn out rear swing-arm ball joints can cause vibration, squeaking, poor handling and uneven tire wear. To remove the ball joints, a special tool is required (z0lt3c thread), or you can make your own (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").

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.

M52 replacement procedure: easyover thread M62 replacement procedure: hotswimmer thread

Power steering hoses

M62 replacement procedure:, jrpastore thread, edwin 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


Brake pad and rotor replacement

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

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


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

ABS module and wheel speed sensors

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

Parking brake (handbrake)

Overhaul procedure: cnn thread


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).

Replacement procedure: mario788 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

Licence plate light bulb

Replacement procedure: bluebee post

Alarm System

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).

Siren replacement procedure: BMWtips

Deactivating stolen/lost keys: Qsilver7 post

EWS overview: pdf


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

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

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

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).


Cup holders

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

Replacement procedure: Bluebee thread, doc540 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.

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

Other tips: Bluebee thread, G.P.Burdell thread

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).

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

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).

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

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


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)

OBD fault codes

Scanning the fault codes is recommended as a starting point for many problems.

Fault code translation: Bluebee thread,,

Wiper blades

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

Parts FAQ


Here's the real answers to what seem to be the FAQ's.

Rotor sizes (in mm)

Minimum Acceptable Thickness for reuse

Maximum Allowable Runout

  • Is it allowed to machine (turn) BMW rotors?
Yes, there is an actual BMW procedure in the TIS describing how to machine the rotors. You can machine them down to the minimum thickness if you need to. You do however, need to ensure that both sides are evenly machined and the appropiate runout and surface finish specifications are maintained.
  • Should you machine your BMW rotors?
Generally speaking, BMW rotors are cheap enough where it does not make economic sense to turn them. Plus, replacing them guarantees you will have a rotor with the correct runout and surface finish criteria.
  • When do you have to replace your rotors?
When they are below the specified minimum thickness.
  • What if my rotors are at, but not below the minimum thickness?
Then you can use them again, but only for one more set of pads, assuming you are using OEM pads or pads with equal or less rotor wear than the OEM pads.
  • What's the theory behind the minimum thickness criteria?
When BMW selected the pads and designed the rotor thickness, it was not done randomly. The expected range of rotor and pad wear is known and designed on purpose.
Your pads have a wear sensor which goes off when you have 3mm or less pad material. It is a safe assumption that the pad wear sensor is designed to go off before you wear your rotors down so thin that they are hazardous. So the deduction from this is that the wear rate of rotors with OEM pads is 1.6mm or less per set of pads. Which in turn means the absolute safety limit of rotor thickness is probably about 18.8mm front and 15.8mm rear (for 323/325/328 - add 3mm for 330). To put it another way, the BMW rotors and pads are designed in such a way that if you reuse the rotors at minimum thickness, your pad wear sensor will go off before your rotors get too thin.
  • So do should I replace the rotors everytime I replace the pads?
Assuming they are at or above the minimum thickness for reuse and are otherwise within spec, it's up to you to strike the best balance of tradeoffs between performance and money. It is an absolute certainty that you will get better braking performance out of new rotors than reused rotors. But depending upon the condition of the rotors, the difference in performance may be slight.
The one thing you do NOT want to do however, is reuse rotors with a non-OEM brake pad of unknown wear rate. By doing so, you run a very serious risk of having a higher rotor wear rate than was intended by design. As a result, your rotors may become dangerously thin and even fail before the pad wear sensor goes off.

Approved Fluids

There is much discussion about what fluids should be put into a BMW. Please do not edit this list unless you are certain that something is incorrect! This doesn't mean "My friend Jack is an engineer at such and such and says that Synthetic is useless."

Engine Oil

New BMWs (After 1997) require synthetic. As far as weight, only certain production dates of M3's and M5's require the use of Castrol TWS 10w-60.

The Factory BMW Synth 5w-30 is a version of Castrol TXT Softect sold overseas. A few important things about the BMW oil a) it is a Group III hydrocracked oil which cannot be called synthetic in Europe, b) it is a heavy 30 weight (30 weight can run from 9.3-12.5cst@100c, the BMW oil is about 12.2cst), c) it is a ACEA A3 oil which means that it is approved for longer change intervals and has a HTHS (High Temperature High Shear) measured at 150c of greater than 3.5.

In the US, the only Group IV PAO Synthetics that are available are 1) Mobil 1, 2) Amsoil (but not the Xl-7500), 3) Royal Purple, and 4) German Castrol 0w-30 (it has the red label and says on the back, "Made in Germany"). Redline is a Group V PolyEster based oil. All other Castrol, Quaker State, Pennzoil, Valvoline "synthetics" are a Group III hydrocracked oil. It is debated how much better Group IV base oils are than group III, but generally they are considered better.

When looking for oil for any BMW that does not require Castrol TWS 10w-60, you want to purchase an oil that has either/both of the following ratings, a) ACEA A3, or b) BMW LL-98 or LL-01.

Note that Mobil 1 0w-30, 5w-30, and 10w-30 are NOT ACEA A3 or BMW LL approved oils. This is because they all are thin 30 weight oils (approximately 9.8-10 CST@ 100c) and have HTHS of approximately 3.1. German Castrol 0w-30 and Mobil 1 0w-40 are A3 rated and BMW LL-01 approved. For 99% of climates and users 0w-30, 0w-40 or 5w-40 is the appropriate grade. There are some 0w-30 and 5w-30 oils (like the BMW 5w-30 and German Castrol 0w-30) that are forumlated on the heavier end of the 30 weight scale and are accordingly rated A3. These oils will work well also. LOOK FOR THAT ACEA A3 rating. If the oil doesn't have it, pass on it.

Some people seem confused about how oil thickness is measured. The first number (0W, 5w, 10w, 15w, etc) is a measurement of how thick the oil is at tempuratures of -35c- -20c (depends on the grade). The lower this first number the thinner the oil is at LOW tempuratures. The second number (30, 40, 50) refers to oil thickness at 100c (operating tempurature). 30 weight can be from 9.3-12.5 cst, 40 weight from 12.6-16.2 cst, 50 weight from 16.3-22cst (approximate). So you can have two oils, one called a 5w-30 (i.e. bmw oil) another 0w-40 (Mobil 1) that are very similar thicknesses at operating tempurature. Compare this to Mobil 1 Xw-30 which is close to a 20 weight oil at 100c, and German Castrol 0w-30 which is close to a 40 weight oil at 100c. For more information here is a link with exact numbers

BMW's recommended interval of 12,000-15,000 miles is too long. Used oil analysis has shown the BMW oil is generally depleted at 10,000 miles. Running it longer results in excess wear. It is highly recommended that you change your oil once between each BMW recommended interval (approx 7000-7500 miles). If you want to run your oil the BMW recommended interval, I would suggest that you use German Castrol 0w-30, Mobil 1 0w-40, or Amsoil 5w-40 and change the oil filter at 7500 miles. I would encourage a full oil change at 7500 if you want your engine to last.

If you want to spend a few hours learning about oil, go to but its like a different language.... so which one do you suggest if you were going to change your oil?

Unless you have an M3 or M5, in the following order:

1) German Castrol Syntec 0w-30, 2) Mobil 1 0w-40, and 3) BMW 5w-30

If you can't find the German Castrol 0w-40 (sold only in 1L bottles), the Mobil 1 0w-40 is a great oil. Can't find either of these, then go to your dealer and get the BMW 5w-30.

The Mobil 1 0w-40 is a great oil, widely available (Walmart, Checker, Kragen, Autozone), and moderately priced. It is factory fill in Mercedes AMG, Porsche, and Aston Martin.


Use of BMW-LL04 oils in the E39 is not recommended. LL04 does not supersede LL01; it is for certain engines (primarily Diesels)

BMW - LL01
  • Mobil 1 0-40
  • Castrol Syntec 0-30 European
  • Pentospeed 0W30
  • Total 0W30
  • Liqui-Moly 5W30
  • Shell Helix Ultra 5W-40
BMW - LL98
  • Liqui-Moly 5W40
  • Pentohigh 5W30
  • Total 5W40
BMW - Motorsport
  • Total 10W50
  • Castrol TWS 10W60

Automatic Transmission Fluid

ESSO LT71141 is a bit expensive ($18+/qt) so I considered using ATF alternatives. My previous research indicated that Valvoline Maxlife ATF was an acceptable alternative to ESSO LT71141. Several forum members had used it with success. When I checked on the Valvoline website, their spec sheet no longer recommends use in BMWs. A little more checking (a comparison between the old spec sheet and their current one) revealed that Maxlife has been changed. Further research into ATF alternatives identified Mobil 1 synthetic as an acceptable substitute. However, their current spec sheet does not identify Mobil 1 as an alternative for ESSO LT71141. Royal Purple is another ATF that has been mentioned as an alternative to ESSO but there is less feedback on its use.

Castrol Multivehicle ATF is currently LT71141 compatible (as of Sep 2011) and is the low cost ($6/qt) alternative to ESSO LT 71141 ATF.

Manual Transmission Fluid

There are several different spesifications to the manual gearboxes. The choice of oil is as follows: Orange sticker on the side of the gearbox, near filler plug with "ATF Oil" should use Transmax Dex III Multivehicle / ATF Dex II Multivehicle. Green sticker "Special Oil" should use Casio Transmax Z. Yellow sticker with "MTF-LT-1" should use Transmax Z. Yellow sticker with "MTF-LT-2" will have oiltype specified in handbook. Manual transmissions without sticker should use Syntrans Transaxle 75W-90 / Manual MP 80W Source: Castrol

Differential Fluid

Power Steering Fluid

The reservoir under the hood labelled ATF is, in fact, the power steering reservoir. Cross reference the Common Issues section. Fluid should be an DEXRON IV product. GM no longer certifies DEXRON III fluids

Brake Fluid

Bentley manuals specify "low viscosity" DOT4 brake fluid.

Anti-Seize Lubricant

Bentley manuals specify BMW anti-seize lubricant called "Never seez", BMW part number 83-23-9-407-830 to cover the rotor face (where the wheel touches the rotor); and if you replace the rotor, this paste goes on the flange of the hub where it touches the inside of the rotor (again, where the lug holes are).


The latest Mercedes-Benz Specifications for Service Products lists 45 approved coolant products made around the world, from South Africa to Korea, but non are available in the U.S. or Canada! The only approved antifreeze that Americans and Canadians can buy is MBUSA's part number 000 989 08 25. While most U.S. antifreeze meets corrosion protection levels specified by Mercedes-Benz, its pH is unsatisfactory. Fresh domestic antifreeze has a pH in the 9.5 to 10 range, which is extremely basic. According to Mercedes-Benz, the allowable pH range of the coolant _mixture_ is 6.5 to 8.5. MBUSA's antifreeze has a measured pH of 7.5 to 7.8, which, when mixed with water, drops to 7 to 7.5. The buffering (pH maintenance chemistry) of MBUSA antifreeze is excellent, so the coolant mixture remains neutral, neither acidic nor basic, throughout its service life. Domestic coolant mixtures remain very basic, starting with a pH of 10 or higher and slowly absorbing acids, dropping to 8.5 to 9.0 during normal life." "In our experience, ""radiators with plastic header tanks last far longer and have far fewer broken upper hose necks if factory antifreeze is used."" Look at radiators with broken necks, and you'll clearly see where overly basic coolant has eaten away the plastic, which has become embrittled. Most failed necks that we see are actually crumbly. We have found much longer radiator life in cars using MBUSA coolant exclusively." <ref name="Star Magazine">Stu Ritter, Technical Editor, Star Magazine, July/August 2001, pp. 74-76.</ref>

Thus, according to Mercedes-Benz, a huge component of the cooling system failures is the extremely basic (high pH) coolant we are putting in our engines. Be careful!

  • Aral Antifreeze Extra
  • BP Anti-Frost X 2270-A
  • BP Napgel C 2270-1
  • Castrol Anti-Freeze NF
  • Caltex CX Engine Coolant
  • DEA Kuhlerfrostschutz
  • Elf Antifreeze Special
  • Fina Termidor
  • Glyco Star
  • Glyco Shell
  • Glysantin Protect Plus
  • Gusofrost LV 505
  • Mobil Frostschutz 600
  • Havoline AFC BD04
  • Total Multiprotect
  • Veedol Antifreeze NF
  • OMV Kuhlerfroschutz<ref name="Coolant TIS">BMW TIS as posted on</ref>


There is much discussion about the benefits of various tyres.

Winter Tyres
  • Nokian Hakkapellita (studded or studless)
  • Michelin X-Ice
  • Bridgstone Blizzaks (studless)
Summer Tyres

Vredestein Ultrac Sessanta

Track/Performance Tyres

Audio and Navigation

Wiring diagram

Wiring diagram

Acronyms and Terms

  • CEL - Check Engine Light
  • ICV - Idle Control Valve
  • ABS - Anti Lock Braking System
  • MAF - Mass Air Flow Sensor
  • VC - Valve Cover
  • Indy - Independent BMW specialist
  • DIY - Do-it-yourself
  • PM - Preventive Maintenance
  • PDC - Park Distance Control
  • CPS - Camshaft Position Sensor or Crankshaft position Sensor (two diff sensors & you have both)
  • ASC - Automatic Stability Control (in early models)
  • DSC - Dynamic Stability Control (in all 540s as of 1998 (?), all models after 2001)
  • CCV - Crankcase vent or (incorrectly) Clutch Control Valve (should be CDV)
  • CDV - Clutch Delay Valve. Prevents dumping of the clutch but also prevents smooth shifts
  • VANOS - Variable Nockenwellen Steuerung. VANOS varies the timing of the valves by moving the position of the camshafts in relation to the drive gear. This movement varies from 6 degrees of advanced to 6 degrees of retarded camshaft timing
  • FSU/FSR - Final Stage Resistor for the HVAC. Controls fan speed.
  • TPMS = Tire Pressure Monitoring System
  • ACS = AC Schnitzer, the tuning company
  • SS = stainless steel, as in Braided SS Brake Lines
  • ZF = Sahnradfabrik (gear factory) Friedrichshafen AG, manufacturer of steering & transmissions
  • GMIII = General module III (as in GM III Interchangability)
  • M Technic = an options package (as in M technic Emblem)
  • Sirius = a satellite-radio provider (as in Sirius Receiver Pinout..)
  • Shadowline = matte black (SA339) or high-gloss black (SA760) trim option
  • G-power = a German tuner (as in Who sells G-Power?)
  • Dinan = a California-based tuning compoany (as in Home made CAI (Possibly better then Dinan)
  • Celis = Central lighting systems, a trademark of Hella (as in OEM Celis Tail Light retrofit)
  • WTB = Want to buy (as in WTB xenon passenger headlight)
  • HVAC = heating, ventilation, and air conditioning
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