Complete E39 (M54 engine) Cooling Guide (Information with parts list) - Bimmerfest - BMW Forums



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E39 (1997 - 2003)
The BMW 5-Series (E39 chassis) was introduced in the United States as a 1997 model year car and lasted until the 2004 when the E60 chassis was released. The United States saw several variations including the 525i, 528i, 530i and 540i. -- View the E39 Wiki

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Old 04-11-2012, 08:59 AM
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Complete E39 (M54 engine) Cooling Guide (Information with parts list)

I wrote this for the E46 community and want to help the E39 community. If there are ANY different part numbers specific to the E39, let me know. I think the E39 expansion tank may be different? I'll look this up as I write this.. stay tuned.. (I am a former E39 owner, btw. Would love one again some day!)

Introduction:

This thread is for you if you just purchased your E39 5-Series and/or have more than 75,000 miles on your current cooling system on your E39 5-Series BMW.

The E39 5-Series (as well as the E46 3-Series) are known to have somewhat of a delicate cooling system which are sometimes known to fail prematurely. In the event of a failure, the results are often times catastrophic.

The inherent design of the inline-six BMW engine having a long block/head coupled with the fact that the head is made of aluminum means that the head is particularly vulnerable to heat damage (or warp). This damage to the head and headgasket can occur in seconds once your car is overheated and usually means a top-end rebuild which may cost around $2,500 to repair.

As such, it is absolutely imperative that you maintain your BMW E36/E46/E39 3/5-Series cooling system.

If your temperature gauge does go into the red zone, immediately shut off the car and have it towed.

The failures:

How, why, and when do the failures typically occur?

Plastics. Your E39 contains lots of it. The typical first failure of the E39 cooling system is the expansion tank. It will typically develop a hairline crack anywhere from 60-95k miles (give or take a few). That crack will expand under heat and water will leak out. This will trip the low coolant warning on your dash. If this level becomes low enough, there will not be enough coolant for the water pump to circulate. No circulation means no flow through the engine/radiator. No flow through the radiator/engine means overheating.

Other typical failures are the pulleys and belt systems. The main belt drives the water pump, alternator, and power steering pump. This belt is guided by pulleys. These pulleys contain ball bearings and grease. After around 60k miles, this grease dries up and the pulleys are vulnerable to failure. The belts are then thrown off once this pulley fails and you now have no cooling system, no power steering, and no charging system. Your dashboard will light up like a christmas tree and your temp needle will fly into the redzone.

The water pump is another potential failure point. It can fail in at least three ways. 1) The impellar itself will break and cannot continue to push water. 2) The seal may leak and, 3) The bearings will fail causing the shaft to wobble and break.

Failure isn't that common but can still happen. You might hear nightmares of water pumps with plastic impellars, but don't pay attention to this. Replace your water pump due to age and/or mileage, not because what its made out of. The latest BMW water pump design (at least 10-15 years old) features a plastic composite impellar. BMW did once try metal impellars but quickly phased those out due to premature balancing and bearing failures. Design is more important than physical materials. You might hear stories and internet legends about the Stewart water pump (and they may be true) but really it is unnecessary and a waste of money (unless you plan to drive your car enough to justify the cost--at least 180,000-220,000 actual driving miles)

The thermostat sometimes fails around the time the expansion tank does. Maybe a little longer. They are generally designed to fail stuck open but don't risk it. Just change it.

Belts. Self-explanatory. No belts, no cooling system. Replace them every 35k miles.

Radiator is typically robust, but the endtanks are made of--you guessed it--plastic. The rubber seal between the endtanks and the main body may deteriorate as well. You'll notice staining or slight weeping. The radiator has thin passages which can become clogged with sediments as well and may cause water to flow slowly to where it needs to go. This may cause problems in traffic or while stopped.

Fan blade and clutch (for automatic transmission equipped vehicles). Another failure point. If the blade chips or deteriorates, there goes its balance and will explode in your engine bay. There goes your belts, hoses, hood and whatever else it feels like taking out. The fan clutch is typically robust, but is good practice to replace it anyway. It controls the speed of the fan. You don't want it spinning too slowly or too quickly.


Cooling System Parts List

Radiator
Behr $137.30 (Manual transmission) Part# 17111436060
Behr $139.29 (Automatic transmission) Part# 17119071519

Expansion tank
Part# 17111436381
Genuine BMW $63.29

Expansion tank cap Part# 17111742231
CRP $10.19

Water pump
Part# 11517527910
Saleri (OEM) $54, BMAparts.com part# BMW006731 (you won't find it on their site as of 4-9-12 but you must add it to your cart using the store part#)

Radiator hose lower
Part# 11531705224
CRP $24.68

Radiator hose upper
Part # 11531705223
CRP $27.03

Thermostat
Part# 11537509227
Wahler $44.19

Radiator fan switch
Part# 13621433077
Genuine BMW $26.01

Water pump pulley
Part# 11511436590

URO Aluminum $22.68
Genuine plastic $30.55

Water pump pulley bolts x4 $0.25 ea. Part# 07119904524

Belt tensioner pulley Part# 11281748131
SKF $15.93

Alternator deflector pulley Part# 11287841228
Ruville $23.25

A/C tensioner pulley
(hydraulic, SKF $15.93) Part# 11281748131
(mechanical, Dayco 89133 $21.94) Special part which you won't find on typical BMW vendor sites: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...SIN=B001C6ITTK


Alternator/accessory belt Part# 11281706545
Continental $14.21

A/C belt
Part# 11281437450 (5-rib up to 9/2002) $8.72 or;
Part# 11287512762 (4-rib from 9/02) $7.91

Automatic cars: (If you drive an auto trans., add the following parts to the above list)

Thermostat Part# 17111437362
Genuine $84.34

Fan blade Part# 11521712058
Genuine $61.05

Fan clutch Part# 11527505302
Sachs $90.59

Grand total manual transmission cars: $500.18

Grand total automatic transmission cars: $738.15


Bleeding the system: (VERY IMPORTANT-DANGER-DO NOT SKIP!!)

This step is extremely important. No amount of brand new cooling parts in the world will work if you do not bleed. The point of bleeding is to remove air bubbles. The cooling system is most efficient when it is circulating pure fluid.

Here is the official procedure per BMW TIS: http://tis.spaghetticoder.org/s/view.pl?1/06/06/86

Here is a quick cheat sheet:

Raise front of car on ramps (Not necessary, but recommended)

CAUTION: ONLY DO THIS WHEN CAR IS COOL AND ENGINE IS OFF. At no point should the engine be turned on.

1) Remove expansion tank cap and bleed screw and set aside

2) Turn ignition to ON (dash lights on but do NOT start the car)

3) Set heat to MAXIMUM (90) and fan speed to low (this opens heater valve)

4) Begin to fill your expansion tank with ideally a 50/50 mix of Genuine BMW coolant and distilled water (do not use anything else--no reason to. The proper stuff is cheap) The system might take a while to swallow the water. Massage the hoses if you think it will help. Keep pouring. Water will begin to pour out of the bleed screw hole with air bubbles. The point is to keep filling and filling until the bubbles are gone. This may take a while--be patient.

5) Once you are satisfied that a continual stream of bubble-free water is emerging from the bleed hole and that your cooling system is adequately filled, go ahead and replace the bleed screw (do not overtighten). The expansion tank will be full to the top at this point so you'll need to siphon off any excess so that the appropriate tank level can be achieved.

Congratulations. Your E39 is now ready for another 75k miles of trouble-free driving. Never will you have to worry about being stranded with your wife, girlfriend, pets or kids in the car. Never will you have to worry about posting a thread asking why your car is overheating or why your engine is stained with coolant. Never again will you have to worry. (at least for another 75k miles) :thumbsup: The mileage is just a guide. Your results may vary.

Happy motoring
(if there's anything which I should address, edit, or add. Let me know)
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Last edited by synenergy52; 04-11-2012 at 09:48 AM.
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  #2  
Old 04-11-2012, 09:18 PM
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See also: E39 Bestlinks & How to easily find what you need
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Old 04-12-2012, 04:35 AM
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A good complement to the other cooling system DIYs. Thanx!
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Old 04-12-2012, 11:29 AM
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no problem.
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Complete BMW E46 Cooling System Guide
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Old 04-12-2012, 06:40 PM
EconoBox EconoBox is offline
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One stupid question.
You're supposed to bleed the coolant with the engine off ?
How does this even work?
If the car is off, how the the coolant even move around and drain itself from the bleed screw?
I'd think you'd need pressure to have it pushed out of the bleed screw.
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Old 04-12-2012, 07:30 PM
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Aux pump
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Old 04-12-2012, 07:32 PM
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I agree with Fudman, Nice addition to Cooling system threads.
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Old 04-13-2012, 06:22 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Quote:
Automatic cars: (If you drive an auto trans., add the following parts to the above list)

Thermostat Part# 17111437362
Genuine $84.34
The thermostat info needs to be edited.
The PN above is for another car.
It is the same part for manual vs auto.
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Old 04-13-2012, 10:58 AM
md-va md-va is offline
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Nice writeup! Minor correction to the last part of the writeup. E39 Manual Trans cars also have mechanical fan clutches and blades. The E46 is a bit different in that the manual trans cars had electric fans.
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Old 04-15-2012, 12:55 AM
Aussie528iT Aussie528iT is offline
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If you don't do the "cold rev" part of the TIS bleeding procedure you won't get the air out of the heater cores. The symptoms of air still in the heater cores is less heat output the faster you go, particularly with M52TU and M54 engines.
These engines have a completely different cooling system arrangement and operation than the earlier M52 single vanos engines - MInimal water flow through the block and electronic thermostat controlled by the engine ECU to control water flow through the head.

RonR
99 528iT M52TU
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Old 04-15-2012, 08:32 AM
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Trebbia Trebbia is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EconoBox View Post
You're supposed to bleed the coolant with the engine off ?
How does this even work?
The electric auxiliary water pump is mounted vertically on the lower driver side of the radiator facing the engine.
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Old 04-23-2012, 09:13 AM
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Question for those who had experience with M54 + auto tranny. When replacing the radiator does one really need to detach ATF cooling lines? In case they have to come off, how much ATF is going to come out?
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Old 04-23-2012, 09:37 AM
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glaz1281 glaz1281 is offline
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I found no need to remove trans cooling lines. Pull up on pass side of radiator and then tilt toward engine driver side of radiator. You may need to shift ac lines on pass side slightly. Doing this in slow small movements.
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Old 04-23-2012, 11:12 AM
chemist chemist is offline
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Thanks a lot glaz1281. I'll start with what you've outlined. Do you know how much of ATF will come out, in case I end up with pulling these lines off? REALOEM diagram (http://realoem.com/bmw/showparts.do?...06&hg=17&fg=05) suggests that not much ATF will be lost. Is it true? Do you know the torque value for the bolt holding these lines to the ATF cooler?
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Old 04-23-2012, 02:29 PM
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glaz1281 glaz1281 is offline
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I doubt much would come out of the lines as they are much higher than the pan. Might want to try and plug the openings on both the lines and cooler to minimize leakage.p As for torque ,I dont know.
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Last edited by glaz1281; 04-23-2012 at 02:33 PM.
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Old 04-24-2012, 03:02 AM
EconoBox EconoBox is offline
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Can someone explain how ATF lines don't need to be disconnected?
If ATF lines go into the radiator, and you're switching radiators, how on earth can they NOT be removed?
I'm missing something big here.
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Old 04-24-2012, 04:33 AM
Chisum Chisum is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EconoBox View Post
Can someone explain how ATF lines don't need to be disconnected?
If ATF lines go into the radiator, and you're switching radiators, how on earth can they NOT be removed?
I'm missing something big here.
The ATF lines don't go into the radiator. They connect to a heat ex-changer in front of the radiator.

Chisum
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Old 04-24-2012, 04:36 AM
chemist chemist is offline
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My understanding is that only three things (hoses or lines) are connected to radiator: lower (passenger low side of rad) and upper (driver upper side of rad) hoses and overflow (small hose on top driver side of radiator obstructed by fan shroud). Schematics from realoem: http://realoem.com/bmw/showparts.do?...61&hg=17&fg=05. The diagram showing ATF lines: http://realoem.com/bmw/showparts.do?...06&hg=17&fg=05. These lines are too close to rad and apparently make the removal of the radiator a bit difficult not seems like not impossible.
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Old 04-26-2012, 06:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by glaz1281 View Post
I found no need to remove trans cooling lines. Pull up on pass side of radiator and then tilt toward engine driver side of radiator. You may need to shift ac lines on pass side slightly. Doing this in slow small movements.
Thanks glaz1281! Worked just as you said. The AC lines had to be wiggled a little bit in order for rad to pass by them, not even moved/shifted away!
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