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E34 (1989 - 1995)

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  #1  
Old 03-16-2020, 03:35 PM
Bimmurph Bimmurph is offline
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Looking for advice on reviving a '95 540i

Hi all. I've got a fun project in the works! (And as a 25-year-old w/ limited experience working on cars...I would love some advice)

About a year and a half ago, I was gifted a 1995 540i by a man named Bill, whom I met through a mechanic friend of mine. The car had been sitting, unused in a garage, and Bill wanted to see it go to someone who would be able to enjoy it.

So here's the deal, after 18 months, I've finally got the car parked behind my house and a little bit of extra cash to spend on fixing it up!

Mechanically, here's where we stand. The car was supposedly in good, working condition when it was parked in Bill's garage. Right after I got the car, I had a trusted shop change the oil, add some fresh fuel, and start the engine. They said it was running on 3 of 8 cylinders after doing a simple "unplug the ignition coil" test.

I'm about to restart where the shop left off, aka do another oil change and add fresh fuel. Once I've done that, I'll do a compression test to make sure nothing internally is broken. If it passes the compression test, I'll start the process of elimination to figure out what needs to be replaced (plugs, coils, injectors, etc.)

Anyone have any additional suggestions as to what I should do to bring this 540 back to its former glory?!?
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  #2  
Old 03-16-2020, 08:11 PM
Mr._Graybeard Mr._Graybeard is offline
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New plugs and air/fuel filters is a good place to start (assuming you got a new oil filter already).

Google BMW and "stomp test." You'll turn up several descriptions and videos on how to read any stored error codes the engine management system may have recorded.

These engines are very sensitive to vacuum leaks. Leaks will make the engine run rough and misfire. I like to measure manifold pressure with a vacuum gauge to see if the engine is sucking unmetered air somewhere.

One of the sticky threads at the top of this subforum directory is titled "Joey's E34 bible." You'll find a lot of helpful information there.

Two questions for you: what is the build date of your car? (It should be printed on a sticker on the driver's side door jamb.) Also, does your car have an automatic transmission?
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Old 03-17-2020, 07:08 AM
Bimmurph Bimmurph is offline
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Thanks! I've been reading Joey's E34 bible a lot in the last few days. I've been learning a lot!

Door jamb says the build date is July 1994, and it has an automatic transmission.
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Old 03-17-2020, 07:45 AM
Mr._Graybeard Mr._Graybeard is offline
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Then you most likely have a "black label" 5hp30 automatic and EWS I antitheft protection with a DWA module. On the plus side, EWS I seems less troublesome than the EWS II system that went into BMWs after 1/1/1995. On the minus side, the early 5hp30 was kind of a work in progress, particularly with the gradual-release torque converter.
You don't list the mileage, but if it's over 100K I'd recommmend doing a couple "drain and fills" of trans fluid. Inspect the stuff you drain to see if it's dyed red. If it is, it's been changed from the original "lifetime" fluid (a good thing). Any dexron III fluid will be a good replacement. I like to add a bottle of Lubegard for its high friction-modifier content -- it reduces torque converter chatter in my car.

At over 150K miles you might think about doing a valve body rebuild. There are some plastic check balls inside it that can erode and cause the trans to grenade. If you ever feel like the car is holding the brakes on while you're trying to accelerate forward, stop driving the car immediately and service the valve body

Since you know the former owner and his mechanic you may be able to learn some of the car's service history. It's good stuff to know. They need attention, but when they get it they'll run forever. My 540i just turned 292K miles and it runs like a champ.
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  #5  
Old 03-17-2020, 12:30 PM
Bimmurph Bimmurph is offline
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I will definitely keep all that in mind. I'll check the trans fluid and change it out with most of the other fluids if it appears to never have been changed.

Two other quick questions that ran to the front of my mind:
1) The car has a 1/4 tank of fuel in it that was left in it from about 18 months ago when the car was in the shop after I received it. Should I go ahead and remove that fuel from the tank, or would I be able to get away with adding a few gallons of premium and some additive?

2) Do you recommend any other precautionary steps to take before carrying out a compression test, other than the obvious (ie, fresh oil, and remove ignition and fuel fuses)?
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  #6  
Old 03-17-2020, 03:19 PM
Mr._Graybeard Mr._Graybeard is offline
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Eighteen month old fuel isn't ideal, but I'd take a shot at diluting it with some fresh gas and giving it a go. I wouldn't worry about an additive -- gasoline has detergents in it already. If the gas has ethanol in it, it'll suck up any water that might have condensed in the tank.

I doubt the compression test will tell you much. Again, the first thing I'd look for is vacuum leaks. A gross vacuum leak would cause a very rough running engine.
Look at the cover on the back of the intake. There should be three vacuum ports -- one will have a hose leading to the fuel pressure regulator, and the other two should be plugged. Make sure the plugs are in place. If one of them is cracked or knocked off, the engine will run like crap. Next I'd examine the intake boot closely. They're thin and can get brittle over time.

If that all looks good, borrow a vacuum gauge on loan from AutoZone or someplace similar. Measure manifold pressure using one of those vacuum ports on the intake plate. My smooth-running V8 reads 17 in/hg at idle.

Thinking again about compression, though -- some of the early M60 engines with Nikasil cylinder linings developed low compression because high-sulfur fuel pitted the cylinder walls. This is a long-dormant issue as the EPA banned high-sulfur fuels long ago, but BMW did replace a lot of M60 short blocks because of it.
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  #7  
Old 03-18-2020, 08:03 AM
Mr._Graybeard Mr._Graybeard is offline
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BTW, I see you getting advice on bimmerforums too. Nothing wrong with that, but I notice talk about a 6-speed conversion. Everybody wants a 6-speed, but a Dinan chip in that 5hp30 control module will wake that automatic up. My car pulls to 6 grand in sport mode with the Dinan tranny chip. It's a much better performance boost than an engine management chip for the M60, IMO.

I don't think Dinan offers the chip anymore (can't hurt to ask them, of course), but I see them pop up on ebay from time to time. As with anything eBay, you'll need to perform due diligence while shopping. Be wary of counterfeits.
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  #8  
Old 03-18-2020, 02:45 PM
Bimmurph Bimmurph is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr._Graybeard View Post
Eighteen month old fuel isn't ideal, but I'd take a shot at diluting it with some fresh gas and giving it a go. I wouldn't worry about an additive -- gasoline has detergents in it already. If the gas has ethanol in it, it'll suck up any water that might have condensed in the tank.

I doubt the compression test will tell you much. Again, the first thing I'd look for is vacuum leaks. A gross vacuum leak would cause a very rough running engine.
Look at the cover on the back of the intake. There should be three vacuum ports -- one will have a hose leading to the fuel pressure regulator, and the other two should be plugged. Make sure the plugs are in place. If one of them is cracked or knocked off, the engine will run like crap. Next I'd examine the intake boot closely. They're thin and can get brittle over time.

If that all looks good, borrow a vacuum gauge on loan from AutoZone or someplace similar. Measure manifold pressure using one of those vacuum ports on the intake plate. My smooth-running V8 reads 17 in/hg at idle.

Thinking again about compression, though -- some of the early M60 engines with Nikasil cylinder linings developed low compression because high-sulfur fuel pitted the cylinder walls. This is a long-dormant issue as the EPA banned high-sulfur fuels long ago, but BMW did replace a lot of M60 short blocks because of it.
Checked the vacuum ports at the back of the intake manifold. Line to the fuel pressure reg looks good and the plug in its twin on the opposite side of the manifold looks good. I found what looks to be the third plug (looks slightly different than the other plug?) and it doesn't look to be in as good of health. Picture attached.
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  #9  
Old 03-18-2020, 03:01 PM
Mr._Graybeard Mr._Graybeard is offline
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The visible half looks cracked -- I wonder what the bottom half looks like.

You can replace those plugs with aftermarket caps from AutoZone or NAPA, cheap.


did you do a stomp test for error codes? First thing I'd do. You don't even have to start the engine.
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Old 03-18-2020, 05:05 PM
Bimmurph Bimmurph is offline
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Bottom half was waaaaaaay worse (pictured below). Really big crack, so I'm sure this wasn't doing the engine any favors. Couldn't find a replacement for this at Napa or Advance, so I'm going to check with an import parts shop to see if they've got it.

I did a stomp test, but it didn't seem to be working properly. I think I was following all the proper instructions as described in Bimmerfest instructions on the stomp test, but I could only get the check engine light to start blinking on one of my attempts. When it started blinking on the one successful attempt, the only error code that came up was 1. I took a video of me attempting the stomp test, and I can send you the link if you want to check my work.
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  #11  
Old 03-18-2020, 06:14 PM
Mr._Graybeard Mr._Graybeard is offline
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Yeah, that would have sucked some wind. Did that L-shaped fitting come out of the plate easily? Sometimes the grommets that hold those fittings get brittle as well, and can leak air too.

Re the code, try this: Press the accelerator to the floor and hold it for at least 10 seconds. After that you should get 1444, meaning "no codes." With a clear slate maybe some new codes will pop up.

I think that tear in the vacuum cap could have leaned out your fuel mixture considerably. Misfires could have resulted. Obviously I'm not looking over your shoulder, but that's my impression.

Those back plates (crankcase vent plates, or CCV) are a weak point as well. You may end up replacing it.
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Old 03-18-2020, 06:57 PM
Bimmurph Bimmurph is offline
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The L-shaped fitting did come out quite easily. I didn't have to put much effort in to pull it out. Do you think that is a sign that the CCV is worth replacing?

Also, I'll give your stomp test suggestions a try tomorrow and report back.
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Old 03-18-2020, 07:41 PM
Mr._Graybeard Mr._Graybeard is offline
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One long flash after the stomp test means the ECU is done listing codes. It's officially 1000. It's a good sign that you're getting a response from your stomping -- a lot of people struggle with that.

Here's a link to a list of BMW's OBD1 codes. https://www.bimmerforums.com/forum/s...ruction-Manual
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Old 03-18-2020, 08:17 PM
Bimmurph Bimmurph is offline
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Thanks for passing that along. Tomorrow I plan to get a new cap for that L-shaped fitting, add some fresh fuel to the tank, and borrow a vacuum gauge to check the pressure in the intake. After, I'll re-do the stomp test to see if any new codes pop up.
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Old 03-19-2020, 08:07 AM
Mr._Graybeard Mr._Graybeard is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bimmurph View Post
The L-shaped fitting did come out quite easily. I didn't have to put much effort in to pull it out. Do you think that is a sign that the CCV is worth replacing?

Also, I'll give your stomp test suggestions a try tomorrow and report back.
Theoretically you could just replace the grommet, but you really should remove the plate to make sure you don't leave any pieces of the grommet behind in the intake. By the time it's all said and done, you're just better off pulling the intake and replacing the plate because you don't want to go back there again if you don't have to.

On another note, the intake manifold gaskets on these engines are known to harden and leak air. Many people roll this all up into one job, replacing the CCV plate (use OE BMW) intake manifold gaskets and profile gaskets for the CCV plate and throttle body. It's also a good time to check the valley pan under the intake for coolant leaks.

While everything is apart if you're resealing the valley pan, some owners choose to replace knock sensors if their casings are cracked (they always are). I chose not to because they seemed to work and the parts added up to 4x $50 for questionable benefit. I've never had a problem with them in the 200K+ miles I've owned the car.

If you're tinkering with the cooling system and you don't know the service history, most BMWs from this era need regular service, most notably a fresh water pump every 60k-80k miles. The water pump on this car is a particular joy to replace -- it has six or seven bolts of varying length, including one behind the crank pulley. You really should pull the radiator to get decent access, and the rads are known to be prone to sudden failure after 100K, so there's no point in putting the old one back. While you have all this stuff apart, it might be a good time to replace the voltage regulator on the back of the alternator, which is stuffed into a tight space under the oil filter housing. Another of those "while you're there" jobs. Not critical, but good pre-emptive practice.

Another thing to check for is leaks in the power steering system. The return hose often weeps at the reservoir, an easy fix. Tougher ones are the two short hoses connecting the cooler (you can spot them under the brake booster) and the pressure hose from the pump to the steering box. You'll have to jack the engine up to get at that one, which is OK because the leak probably will have destroyed the driver's side engine mount, which you'll have to replace.

One goofy thing about the automatic trans in this car: unlike most cars that run lines to an ATF cooler in the radiator, this trans has an oil cooler attached to it and coolant lines running from the back of the engine. These hoses can go ignored and fail. I had one let go while I was driving on the track at Road America in Elkhart Lake. Ruined my day.

The hose segments are clamped to hard lines with swaged fittings that have to be cut off. Your best bet is to just replace the hose segments and leave the fittings on the hard lines alone. If you try to remove them, you may find that galvanic corrosion has seized them to the cooler, and you'll likely strip the threads (ask me how I know). A new cooler is like $700 if you can find one.

You'll have to drop the cooler off the transmission to get at the hoses, possibly with the car on a lift. Beyond the need to get the car off the ground, it's not that big of a job.

So there you have everything I've learned about the M60 over 15 years of ownership. I see that someone at BF mentioned the oil pan bolts, a good thing to check when you do your next oil change.

I've done all these jobs with fairly basic tools, and I'm just a shadetree hack. Of course you don't have to tackle them all at once, but it's good to know the weak points of an old V8 BMW before you get too committed.
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Old 03-19-2020, 03:31 PM
Bimmurph Bimmurph is offline
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I'll put all those jobs in the queue. A: because they probably need to be done, and B: because I'm looking to learn as much as I can about working on cars with this project, so the more work I can do, the better.

Also, I got a couple good things done on the car today! Added some fresh fuel to the system, ordered a new cap for that L-shaped fitting, did an unsuccessful stomp test, an intake vacuum test, and did an "unplug the ignition coil to see which cylinders are firing" test.

Here are my findings from those tests.
-Stop test: Still got nothing from the stomp test. Also discovered that the check engine light is not coming on while the car is running, which is confusing me. I have an OBD-II scanner handy. Can I buy one of those funky adapters that will allow it to connect to this car, or do OBD-I and OBD-II cars speak completely different languages?

-Intake vacuum test: Check out the pictures attached, but the gauge was reading about what is expected? About 20 in/hg. I detached the vacuum hose from the fuel pressure regulator to get the reading for the test. I also have a video of the test, which includes idle and a couple revs of the engine. I'd be more than happy to upload it to YouTube and post the link.

-Unplug ignition coil test: I know I'm down a few cylinders, so it was sometimes a little difficult to tell which of the cylinders were firing. There were a couple that were easy to tell that the cylinder was firing, in that I would unplug the coil and RPMs would slow down. However, there were some where I couldn't really tell if the RPMs dropped at all when I unplugged the coil. The change in RPM was not as immediate as the others.

On another note, I noticed some strange chalk-like substance residing on the top of the engine, close to the ignition coils. Check out the other pictures attached which show what I'm talking about. I also photographed one of the coil boots, which definitely looks like it could use a replacement. *I do know that this engine spent a considerable amount of time with its plastic covers removed. Do you think that could be the culprit of this chalk-like substance?
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  #17  
Old 03-19-2020, 04:57 PM
Mr._Graybeard Mr._Graybeard is offline
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White deposits suggest coolant, but there's no way coolant should find its way into those valve covers. The coil boot appears to have a rust stain at the bottom in addition to that white deposit. I wonder if someone might have left the hood open in a rainstorm or something. Water around the plugs might have cooked some of the coils. You can replace just the boots, BTW, but I'd be suspicious of the coil attached to that plug boot.

You might try swapping the coils between cylinders and see if the misfires follow the coils around the engine. This reminds me of yet another famous M60 problem, leaky valve cover gaskets. Oil can seep past the gasket into the spark plug holes and cause misfires. Always replace all the round rubber washers around each valve cover nut when changing a valve cover gasket. You have to buy the washers separately from the gasket.

I don't know if you've chosen a part supplier, but FCP Euro is very good. I've also used AutohausAZ, RM European and BMA Parts, among others. They're all competitively priced and waive shipping fees if your order is big enough. Turner Motorsport and ECM are a couple other jobbers. If I need a single part quickly I sometimes go with them.

Vacuum looks more like 16-17 than 20, but that's still pretty good. I can't quite get a good read on the needle because I think the camera is angled slightly. Regardless, I think your intake must be pretty tight to get that reading at idle.
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Old 03-22-2020, 03:05 PM
Bimmurph Bimmurph is offline
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You were very likely right about water getting down in there. Look at the photos of all coils when I pulled them out!! I know that the plastic covers for the engine were sitting off for a while, so I wouldn't be too surprised if that had something to do with the misfires.

I used a shop vac to blow some of that white stuff and debris away from the valve cover and spark plug holes. I've still got some of that white stuff hanging around near the spark plug holes. Would it be advisable to gently clean it up with a pipe cleaner and blow out the remains with the shop vac before I remove the rest of the spark plugs?

I removed one spark plug (picture attached) and it looks like it could use a change.
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Old 03-22-2020, 03:14 PM
Bimmurph Bimmurph is offline
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Also, just a small amount of oil visible on top of the valve cover. But I will likely do the job, considering that the parts are pretty inexpensive and I am looking to use this car to get some mechanical experience.
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Old 03-22-2020, 04:51 PM
Mr._Graybeard Mr._Graybeard is offline
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The valve covers are made of a magnesium alloy, so you're likely looking at magnesium oxide deposits on the plug boots. Keep an eye out for any deep pitting in the plug wells. If they're too bad you might have to replace them.

Here's a pretty good thread on refurbing some tired valve covers. https://www.bimmerforums.com/forum/s...lve-cover-redo It's a pretty anal process ... to me if they ain't broke don't fix them.

The electrode on that plug actually looks pretty fresh. It may have misfired so often it barely carried a spark.

I'd be very suspicious of all the coils that have borne such neglect. Certainly they'll need new boots at the very least. You could probably save some money by replacing any dead coils with some used ones.
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Old 03-23-2020, 11:44 AM
Bimmurph Bimmurph is offline
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Very true. At least some of those coils are working, so I test coil resistance to see how things are looking, plus replace the bad boots. After I clean out those spark plug wells, I will pull the other plugs to check how healthy they're looking.

As a question, how difficult is it to test injectors? Thought that might be a good question to add on, considering that it's the other variable in the combustion equation. (I'm guessing that I have adequate pressure from the pump because I have a couple cylinders firing)
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Old 03-24-2020, 07:29 AM
Mr._Graybeard Mr._Graybeard is offline
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The only way I know to test injectors is to pull them out of the motor and flow test them. I wouldn't worry too much about injectors at this point -- they don't go bad very often. I'd concentrate on ignition, that's an obvious problem. Get that right before you move on to anything else. That's generally the best approach to troubleshooting.

The photo of the plug you posted didn't look bad at all. It was fouled but the positive electrode looked nice and square. Worn plugs tend to have erosion on the center electrode. You might invest in a plug gap gauge to see how close they are to spec. You should be able to google the plug gap for the m60b40 engine, or search the archives here and at bimmerforums. Consider these e34 forum archives your reference library. The advance search function will yield a lot of info for you.
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