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E60 / E61 (2004 - 2010)
BMW 5-Series E60 Sedan was first seen in the Unites States in the fall of 2003 with a 2004 Model Year designation. The E61 wagon followed shortly there after. The E60/E61 5 series is now available as a 528i, 528xi, 535i, 535xi, 550i and a 535xi sports wagon! -- View the E60 Wiki

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Old 09-06-2019, 11:51 AM
Doobster6 Doobster6 is offline
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Driving Style vs Reliability and Longevity

Hi fellow forum members. I am trying to silence a voice in my head and need some input from experienced owners of the E60. Fundamentally the question revolves around whether or not 'how' you drive and maintain the car effects what you can expect from it as regards frequency and cost of expensive repairs. As a (once upon a long time ago) educated mechanical engineer I would tell anyone that it only makes sense that less mechanical stress on any system improves its life and helps reduce performance degradation and forestall expensive repairs. Here's my story...

Almost two years ago I found a 1-owner, low miles (71k) ’06 530xi being offered by a nearby BMW dealer. That’s right, a BMW dealer was offering an eleven year old used BMW. They were doing so because they had sold the car originally to its only owner and thereafter maintained it, by the book, throughout its life. They also knew that the original ‘elderly gentleman’ had never abused the car and had always driven it respectfully, and had always brought it to the shop if anything seemed amiss. It also had nifty options that they thought would make it more sellable (HUD, PDC, cold weather, comfort access, NAV, upgrade stereo). Along came me and voila; they were proved right!
Now then, at age 63 (at that time) I suppose I too would be described as being closer to ‘elderly gentleman’ than not. I too baby all my cars, tip-toeing around pot-holes and manhole covers, accelerating non-agressively to my cruising speeds which usually is 5 to 10 mph more than the speed limited. No tracking, no drifting through long sweeping turns, no redline blasts to 100 mph. Unlike the younger man I once was I have come to simply enjoy the sublime passive suspension wizardry of BMWs older engineering mantra, reveling in all the subtle differences with which the chassis always seems more planted than its competitors, even just driving to the convenience store for a quart of milk. It’s been decades since I’ve felt the need to thrash a car or push it to its limits to appreciate and enjoy what it is. Here then, is an example of a very well-cared for car that has enjoyed the most careful and respectful of owners, and which rewards me today with driving performance so excellent that I have a hard time believing it could have ever any better when new.

MY DILEMMA now is that the car has just last month finally passed 80k miles on its odometer. Historically, this has always been a point when BMWs start to unravel and pick their owner’s pocket for expensive repairs to ‘restore’ the worn out car to its original glory. In less than a year after I got it I had to replace the electric water pump and thermostat (and since I no longer wrench cars, that was $1,100), but otherwise in my two years of ownership it has been utterly reliable and problem free. Now then, I am fine with stomaching around $1,200 each year to attend to this or that, it is a BMW after all, but my BIG WORRY is the automatic transmission. At this moment it performs very well, almost flawlessly I would say, although I too at times experience the indecisiveness with which it decides what gear it should start out in after having come to a near complete stop. 90% of the time it seems to motor off sedately in 2nd but the other 10% of the time it shifts abruptly into 1st. I’ve seen this commented on in the forums by other owners but don’t know if this is considered ‘normal’, or is a precursor to other issues.
What haunts my thinking is BMW’s posture on the 100k mile service interval, which I perceive to have been all about marketing and nothing at all about engineering. ZF cites 55k miles as the interval for the first fluid and filter change for the ZF6, and that 70k should not be exceeded should the 55k mile interval have been missed. Here I sit at 80k and it’s never been touched, because according to BMW, it shouldn’t have been. My local BMW dealer confirms that “..it’s fine until 100k..” adding, “…we’ve never seen a problem with these transmissions..”. Even my other trusted mechanic of 20+ years checked the fluid and pronounced it “..super clean..” and also advised that it didn’t need to be changed until at least 95k miles.
And then there’s the school of old thought that says if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, a philosophy most strongly emphasized where automatic transmissions are concerned. Having moved well past ZF’s own prescribed 55k service interval, has the car moved now into that territory, and should be left alone? That frankly would leave me with a very unsettled feeling and I will constantly think I hear a ticking sound coming from under the car.

I LOVE this car. I prefer its chassis dynamics even over the 2019 540xdrive the dealership loaned me when they recently flushed my car’s brake fluid. It is IMHO the best 5-series BMW has ever made and likely the best of the 34 cars I’ve (so far) owned. Given as how I only drive it about 5k miles/yr, I was hoping I could enjoy the thing for another say, five or so years without suffering major financial setback.
Now then it probably only has a market value of around $9k. I DON’T want to spend almost that much replacing the transmission. So just yesterday I drove a pristine low miles 2004 Mercedes E500 4Matic being offered by a local Benz specialist because it purportedly offers legendary longevity and reliability; ‘Bulletproof’ engine and trans or so the internet (and its dealer) says. It’s not quite up to the same refined chassis composure of my Bimmer, but it was pretty sweet and less than 50k original miles. Its asking price is probably only a couple of thousand dollars more than the price of having a remanufactured ZF6 stuffed into my car!

So then fellow forum-ers…….what do you think of my prospects going forward? Has the pampered life this car has led positioned it for a longer-than-most, trouble-free future, free from major repair while continuing to deliver a satisfying driving experience? Or is it simply that a BMW is a BMW and no checkbook ever gets out alive? Should I switch into the so-called bulletproof Benz?

Thanks all.
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  #2  
Old 09-06-2019, 01:57 PM
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Jay Arras Jay Arras is offline
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As they say, "the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know." You know the history on the bimmer, so I'd stick with it. As for worrying what "might" go wrong, I say you're depriving yourself the total pleasure of driving it by worrying when it will start giving you problems.

Instead, just enjoy it for as long as it lasts and when that time arrives when a huge repair bill presents itself, THEN you can worry about selling it. By the way, you're deluding yourself if you think you can fetch $9k for a 14 year-old E60, low miles or not. When the right time comes, you can trade it in for the Benz.
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Old 09-06-2019, 03:22 PM
BabyUnicornTaco BabyUnicornTaco is offline
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My .02. BMW engines can run close to forever if they are not starved of fresh oil or overheated. Most BMWs are designed for spirited driving (autobahn). I would have little interest in a vehicle of any kind that I didn't know the full history of. A driver that babies the BMW may also be more prone to letting it idle for long periods of time. That's a bad thing. Low mileage is great but an old seal is an old seal. If you have a great running BMW with low miles then I would stick with it. Cautious driving is great for suspension parts but other than that, these BMWs were designed to be driven hard. If you are interested in the Mercedes then maybe get that as an extra vehicle? As for the transmission, service it fully before there are any issues. Yes there are plenty of BMWs out there with functioning transmission at over 200,000 miles that have never had fluids changed but a full transmission service will give you peace of mind for years to come rather than "wondering." Eventually the internal transmission seals will harden and may cause issues. I'm at 165,000 and 135,000 miles on my BMWs.
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Old 09-06-2019, 07:04 PM
theroux theroux is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BabyUnicornTaco View Post
Yes there are plenty of BMWs out there with functioning transmission at over 200,000 miles that have never had fluids changed but a full transmission service will give you peace of mind for years to come rather than "wondering." Eventually the internal transmission seals will harden and may cause issues.
Isn't there the old legend where doing a transmission service/changing the fluid on the life sealed units actually leads to damage? I've seen that one spouted on various forums.

Last edited by theroux; 09-06-2019 at 07:20 PM.
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Old 09-06-2019, 07:25 PM
BabyUnicornTaco BabyUnicornTaco is offline
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Driving Style vs Reliability and Longevity

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Originally Posted by theroux View Post
Isn't there the old legend where doing a transmission service/changing the fluid on the life sealed units actually leads to damage? I've seen that one spouted on various forums.


If done correctly to an undamaged transmission it should extend the life substantially. I would think most of those reports are from those that do it incorrectly or after damage has been done. I’m not the pro. Just my thoughts.


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Old 09-06-2019, 07:27 PM
BabyUnicornTaco BabyUnicornTaco is offline
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Driving Style vs Reliability and Longevity

My first transmission service ever on my X5 was done at 145,000 miles.


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Last edited by BabyUnicornTaco; 09-06-2019 at 07:31 PM.
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  #7  
Old 09-07-2019, 05:27 AM
tttomttt tttomttt is offline
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Doobster,
You sound like a well educated man who was able to get his point across in a well defined manner. I have owned BMW's since I bought my first used 03 330XI in 2010. I quickly learned that they are wonderful machines that can go many miles with proper preventative maintenance. I kept up with the necessary maintenance on the 330 by consulting the many great forums on the internet and learned many valuable tips to keep my vehicle in top shape. I drove my 330 everyday to work or the train for 8 years and 160,000 miles. Because of the success of the 330 I purchased an 05 X5 with the 3.0 M54 engine for my wife. She loves this truck and I must say it is built very solidly and with the GM transmission it is an unbeatable combination. My usual MO is to replace all fluids, oils, and cooling system parts to give myself a good baseline with which to work with and then attack any leaks (valve cover, OFHG, etc) that are common to the 3.0 M54. Last year I sold my beloved 330XI for $3000 and bought a lightly used 05 E60 530i with 49,000 mi. It is far from as sporty as my 330 but with a nice ride and far less miles plus the 3.0 M54 engine I should be good for another 200,000 mi as long as I follow my usual MO. The only unfortunate part to this car as far as I am concerned is the ZF transmission. Shortly after I took ownership I noticed the bump when coming to a stop and downshifting from 2nd to 1st. Then while highway driving and needing to pass a slower moving vehicle I aggressively hit the accelerator and when downshifting the car went into limp mode. I was able to get off the highway and restart the car which put the car back into normal mode. This happened a few other times as I researched the problem and settled on a plan of attack based on all the information from forums such as this one. If you plan on keeping this vehicle I suggest you also follow this plan to avoid a rather expensive transmission replacement cost. Purchase the Mechatronics service kit which contains all the seals, filter, and fluid necessary to tune up your transmission. This kit alone may solve your problem and at under $400 plus your mechanic service cost is a good deal and if you purchase this product from FCP Euro all these parts are guaranteed for life, even the fluid. In my case because of the limp mode condition upon spirited driving I also replaced the valve body assy. within the transmission with a rebuilt model from a well known company named REVMAX for $900. They rebuild this portion of the transmission which has all the solenoids that control the shifting of the transmission with new and improved parts that should eliminate any issues within a normally driven transmission. My transmission guy charged me $140 for the labor and all of my transmission woes are gone. According to all the threads from all the research I have done in the forums this has cured every ZF transmission that I have read about. Hopefully I have helped you make an informed decision on which route you will be comfortable taking and in addition do some research on your own through as many forums as possible as usually the answers are there for the ones who seek them.
Tom
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Old 09-07-2019, 06:58 AM
Autoputzer Autoputzer is offline
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When I was a kid, my mother worked in a field sales office. The 15 or so salesmen and the managers all had company cars. They drove a lot, and replaced the cars about every two years. There was one salesman, Charlie Waller, who was "magical" in maintaining his company car. When he was finished with them, the paint was shiny, and the brakes and tires were in better shape than anybody else's car. My mother was the secretary, the lowest paid person in the office, and the only one without a company car. So, she got first dibs on Charlie's 1963 Plymouth Belvedere two-door sedan (the frame around the door windows made it a sedan instead of a coupe'). The company bought so many of them, that they custom made them with no back seat and fixed rear windows. I remember going with my dad to a junkyard to buy a back seat for the car. My dad drove the Belvedere for about three years, before getting a 4WD Jeep Wagoneer to get us to the Putzer beach place which was six miles past the end of the road. Then, my grandfather had the Belvedere until he died in 1979, replacing his 1950 Ford.

I worked in a state park in the summers in high school and college. One summer, 1980, my job was to maintain order at the boat ramp on the weekends and patrol a small beach. There was one couple who used the boat ramp just about every weekend. They had a 1967 Chevy Bel Air that looked brand new, and a small speed boat from the early 1960's or maybe late 1950's that also looked new. I ended up chatting with the wife for a few minutes when the husband was parking the car and trailer. I mentioned to her that I noticed how old and in what good shape their car and boat was. She said "Yeah, he's great. Everything we have lasts as long time, and is clean and looks and runs like new."

Charlie and that Chevy Bel Air guy (with the cute wife) greatly influenced my life. "Autoputzer" is German for "car washer." My average for vehicles bought new is about 120k miles and almost ten years.

"Auto" means "self." "Putz" in Yiddish means "'to play or act ineffectively." So, "Autoputzer" could also mean... uhhh…. umm.... "one who plays with himself."

Let's stay with "car washer."

Last edited by Autoputzer; 09-07-2019 at 07:39 AM.
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  #9  
Old 09-07-2019, 12:15 PM
audiophool audiophool is offline
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I'm going to say that driving a car with a firm foot and abusing a car are two different things. I've run BMWs since 1987 and they all get operated at 'maximum volumetric efficiency' (I.E wide-open throttle) several times each time I drive them. By that I don't mean driving the bag off it, and I wait until the engine oil has had a chance to get warm. My E34 M5 loved to be redlined, and I rarely ran it lower than 2500-3000rpm when cruising around.

I maintain my cars pretty well, but the AT in my 535xi is using fluid with at least 100,000km on it, and I have no record of it ever being changed before I bought the car. Transmission seems to be working OK. I get a slight 'click' in the steering column as I slow though 20km/h which is the car shifting into 2nd as I stop - same since I've owned it. I do plan to change the fluid and seals shortly.
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Old 09-07-2019, 12:15 PM
audiophool audiophool is offline
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I'm going to say that driving a car with a firm foot and abusing a car are two different things. I've run BMWs since 1987 and they all get operated at 'maximum volumetric efficiency' (I.E wide-open throttle) several times each time I drive them. By that I don't mean driving the bag off it, and I wait until the engine oil has had a chance to get warm. My E34 M5 loved to be redlined, and I rarely ran it lower than 2500-3000rpm when cruising around.

I maintain my cars pretty well, but the AT in my 535xi is using fluid with at least 100,000km on it, and I have no record of it ever being changed before I bought the car. Transmission seems to be working OK. I get a slight 'click' in the steering column as I slow though 20km/h which is the car shifting into 2nd as I stop - same since I've owned it. I do plan to change the fluid and seals shortly.
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Old 09-07-2019, 11:06 PM
theroux theroux is offline
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Audiophool has it right. I recall softly driven E60s would also needs to have their lifters bled since oil wasn't reaching them often enough since the RPMs weren't high enough.

It also reminds me of ex-unmarked police cars, which spent over 2/3rds of their time moving slowly or sitting at idle and were excessively worn as a result. A mixture of some nice hard driving and general cruising is the best way. On each drive, just take the RPMs up a little and give it a push sometimes.
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Old 09-09-2019, 06:16 AM
jck66 jck66 is offline
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+1 on the "Italian tune up" that audiophool has described but only in the middle of a trip (not cold or just prior to shutting down). I'm also a big believer in "mechanical sympathy", meaning don't beat on your car and then wonder why it breaks.

Also, to the OP, my advice is to find someone who knows how to service the transmission and have it done at your convenience. Don't worry about being at 80k - as you state, the car has been gently driven.
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Old 09-10-2019, 04:30 PM
Glaird Glaird is offline
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Caveat Emptor: You can abuse a car terribly, by driving like the proverbial "old lady who only use the car on Sundays".
Things you can never know, without knowing the owner personally:
1) Did owner meticulously change fluids, filters, regular maintenance items?
2) Did owner truly break in the engine correctly, not the way described in every auto owner's manual?
3) Did the owner respect the car, when cold, and save the fun parts until it was properly warmed up? If turbo equipped, allow the engine to wind down for a mile or two before shutting down?
4) Did the owner meticulously and gently care for the exterior/interior (leather) as they would change diapers on their baby?

That is the car that will outperform the published specs, last 250K miles, and still be tight as the day it came off the assembly line.
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Old 09-10-2019, 07:43 PM
Pete_NZ Pete_NZ is offline
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Change the trans fluid. ZF made the transmission and they say do it. BMW have an expectation on the lifespan of their cars and that lifespan involves recycling the old one and manufacturing another one.
The "old tale" of fluid changes potentially harming a transmission is just that- an old tale. Auto transmissions of old were a fundamentally different design to the transmissions of the last 40 years where "crud" could indeed be dislodged and potentially cause problems. "Crud" does not build up in modern transmissions. Debris and contaminants do indeed, however, build up in filters which DO need changing (or cleaning in some cases).
Failure to change the fluid in your ZF will indeed help to fulfill the prophesy of a "lifespan". There is zero risk in a fluid change done to the correct procedure.

The rationale that "it has always been fine and has required no work" seems to be a rather selective & odd perspective to justify not performing maintenance. For almost anything.

In the 6HP trans of the E60/61 there are also several sealing sleeves and including for the mechatronix that shrink over time causing both leaks and line pressure problems. Search eBay for a genuine ZF service kit for the 6HP26 trans and just have it done. The last genuine set I bought for my E91 was around US$120 incl. international shipping from Poland. (To here in NZ.)
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Old 09-10-2019, 08:30 PM
zod zod is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by audiophool View Post
I'm going to say that driving a car with a firm foot and abusing a car are two different things. I've run BMWs since 1987 and they all get operated at 'maximum volumetric efficiency' (I.E wide-open throttle) several times each time I drive them. By that I don't mean driving the bag off it, and I wait until the engine oil has had a chance to get warm. My E34 M5 loved to be redlined, and I rarely ran it lower than 2500-3000rpm when cruising around.

I maintain my cars pretty well, but the AT in my 535xi is using fluid with at least 100,000km on it, and I have no record of it ever being changed before I bought the car. Transmission seems to be working OK. I get a slight 'click' in the steering column as I slow though 20km/h which is the car shifting into 2nd as I stop - same since I've owned it. I do plan to change the fluid and seals shortly.
Used not abused. Let the oil warm up and change it religiously. These cars find their footing at 80 mph. I have 347K on my 87 535is. It kept me sane commuting on I-40 between GSO and Winston.
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Old 09-15-2019, 02:51 PM
Doobster6 Doobster6 is offline
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Thanks all for the helpful responses! My awesome local Indy BMW shop (Steve Snow at Bimmerworks) recommended that I should indeed change the fluid and then he went ahead and changes some other seals as well. He's quite confident that the trans in my car is in good shape but that it absolutely needs its fluids changed as we anyway would all agree; BMW's marketing department notwithstanding. It's shifting better than ever now and we just got back from taking it on a 320 mile round trip from Philly to VA and I couldn't have asked for a better performing transmission or car. And get this; I always at least keep with traffic and/or do the speed limit +10 mph (or more), and we got 30.5 mpg, well, at least according to the car's own display.
I'm also going to take to heart some suggestions to do the occasional 'Italian tune-up'. I'm going to sneak up on it though; the car really has been 'babied' and I can't imagine that the mechanical wear pattern in the cylinders and valve guides would appreciate suddenly going full bore without some preparation. I give her the boot occasionally and the engine has always been willing to roar to wherever I would want her to go without a hitch. Still, if she has never been driven this way on a regular basis, it just doesn't seem the right thing to do without a graduated buildup.
I did, during my dark moments when I thought the transmission was about to flop out of the car and turn it into financial junk, go out and drive some other potential suspects. A 2010 Mercedes E350 4Matic with their sports suspension would actually have been a livable alternative; not an E60, but tolerable. The Infiniti M's and Q's I drove accelerate with gusto but are otherwise lacking in the whole suspension formula. There's something missing with them. Believe this or not (and I know the Forum master will drum me out of the site for saying this), but a freakin 2017 Honda Accord 'Touring' trim with the adaptive suspension (one of my engineers at work recommended I try it) has reset the bar for Japanese wannabes. It was as good as the E350, really, but fell just a couple of scoatches short of my E60. If anyone ever decides they need Japanese reliability but don't want to sacrifice too much in the way of driving dynamics and road-holding, the Touring trim with adaptive suspension is surprisingly.
As for me, I ran some numbers and have decided that keeping my 530xi in tip-top shape, although not inexpensive, is my best move. I just turned 80k and only put about 5k miles/yr on it so I probably have another eight years of satisfying driving ahead of me. Again, thanks for all your input. I much appreciate it!!
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Old Yesterday, 04:46 PM
zod zod is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doobster6 View Post
I'm also going to take to heart some suggestions to do the occasional 'Italian tune-up'. I'm going to sneak up on it though; the car really has been 'babied' and I can't imagine that the mechanical wear pattern in the cylinders and valve guides would appreciate suddenly going full bore without some preparation. I give her the boot occasionally and the engine has always been willing to roar to wherever I would want her to go without a hitch. Still, if she has never been driven this way on a regular basis, it just doesn't seem the right thing to do without a graduated buildup.
I'm not sure that it will make any difference at this point. Try getting everything warmed up and then going to the yellow line in second or third a couple of times easy to see how it feels/revs.
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