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I have a 2002 530i with a build date of 06/2002, very close to yours. I have one mechanical (spring loaded) tensioner and one hydraulic. I'm pretty sure both are original, and I'm not the only one with two different tensioners.
The only way to find out is to actually look. I'm sure someone will post a link to a post that shows what the 2 look like, or you can use the search function.

Jerry
 

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Older than old school
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Bluebee went into great detail on that, as only she can, and showed pictures. Use your browser's search function on the "best links" sticky, and you should find it quickl
 

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Seek to understand,^Value
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Use your browser's search function on the "best links" sticky, and you should find it quickl
Bob is right on the money.

It does my heart good to see all the effort we expended to answer that question (which I myself had at first) for EVERYONE who follows us in the future.

In my humble opinion, EVERY QUEST here should have a comprehensive answer, which, over time, just gets better and better ... until ... at some point ... it just can't get any better.

I think, for the OP's question ... we're in the 'better-and-better' stage! :)

What irks me to no end is when a common question gets asked over and over and over again ... and the respondents are so jaded that they don't answer or they give incomplete answers or, as is all too often the case, the newbies chime in with folklore answers ... none of which is assembled into one comprehensive and complete thread.

I, for one, got PLENTY of wrong answers from well-meaning people when I asked the same question.

However, YOU, the OP, will get the right answer in five seconds simply by doing a a quick /tensioners(F3) in the VERY best of E39 Links:

Common questions which need to be answered BEFORE you do an alternator and/or drive belt system overhaul:
- 1st: Physically, determine what type of tensioners you have (1)
- 2nd: Physically, determine exactly what alternator you have (1)
- 3rd: Determine which parts you need to buy for a complete drive belt system overhaul (1)
- 4th: Do the alternator and drive belt system DIY (belts, tensioners, pulleys, rollers, alternator) (1)
 

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Seek to understand,^Value
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Flashlight and mirror and do it full sunshine.
Here is a picture of me following cn90's instructions when he gave me the exact same advice (when I was clueless myself)... :)

 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I do agree sometimes a simple search would direct me in the right direction. However, this forum has a great I mean GREAT wealth of information, and being an avid reader i spend hours reading to no end, to the point that INFORMATIONS OVERLOAD takes hold of your sanity.
I have learned soo much from this forum, more than I could ever hope to, thanks to the like of BLUEBEE, CN90 and others. (btw it is because of CN90 detailed cooling system overall, which i'm about to undertake, that i asked the question) so please forgive me if i ask a question when I'm dead tired to go under the car and look for it. But if that is the answer so be it I will do it. I had just hoped there was a system based on vin number of mfg date. It seemed strange to me that BMW would make car with different equipment withouth some kind of number/serial system. When you order hundred of dollars of parts for a project from an online supplier you want to make darn sure you are ordering the right one. So... I will crawl under the car and look .

Thank you
 

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FWIW, I replaced my mechanical tensioner with a hydraulic unit about 20K miles ago (when I replaced the cooling system) after days of agonizing whether or not it was the correct decision. From what I read the hydraulic lasts a bit longer than the mechanical so I forged ahead. So far, so good.
 

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Seek to understand,^Value
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i spend hours reading to no end, to the point that INFORMATIONS OVERLOAD
The good news is all you need is a "/" slash key and the "F3" button; and now you know that five seconds in the bestlinks can save you hours of searching.

I replaced my mechanical tensioner with a hydraulic
The /tensioner(F3) instantly comes up with the canonical article on the pros and cons of that switcheroo:
- Changing from Mechanical tensioner to Hydraulic tensioner for your serpentine belt drive

There is even a summary link in the bestlinks:
- How to tell if you have mechanical or hydraulic belt tensioners (1) how to switch from mechanical to hydraulic (1) and what is the difference between the two types (1) (2)

PS: To the OP, most of us do NOT opt to switch from mechanical to hydraulic, mainly because it's a tradeoff between a potential gain in longevity for more money and effort. YMMV.


 
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