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Discussion Starter #1
Hello good people!,
I found a 99 528 sport wagon for $500..basically has been sitting 2.5 years. Needed alternator and a radiator fan at time it was "put down" body is straight interior not too bad..I'm no mechanic and it's located 50 miles from me..I'm going get it just because it's at a very reasonable price.

Besides the obvious (battery, alternator and fan) as well as time up, oil change etc...
What would you all consider the first thing I do?? Assuming it will run and drive once I do the aforementioned things, what should I get done?

E30 I know it would be the timing belt...what are some of the typical e39 issues? I have read coolant system can be an issue and transmission.

Anything I can check in a car that's not currently running?
Thanks in advance!
 

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If you're no mechanic, walk away from it, unless you want to pour big bucks into it.
 

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Agreed, wilth no lefty loosey..righty tighty skills I suggest you avoid this car.

HOWEVER, if you have a desire to learn this car may be a cheap education. Bring a mechanic friend with you. Sounds like, if you source the parts carefully, you may be back on the road for <500 in parts. Worst case you cut your losses and loose a few hundred bucks.
 

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Don't be scared off by these guys. $500....?? Cant go wrong unless its a wreck....ie body damage, body rails out of alignment?

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Discussion Starter #5
The body is straight..when I say I'm no mechanic, I mean I'm not great..I change brakes, plugs, ignition coils, rotors, wired aftermarket radios, etc...I'm handy, but I wouldn't be to do big jobs such as rebuilding an engine. I also don't have a garage.
 

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It would be an education.............how cheap? Well, so far my education has cost me in the neighborhood of 3,000 not including the purchase price. And I still have a good size list of things to do. And that was for a decent running car. Compared to it's value the car is a losing proposition. But that's not what draws us to a car. I'm not complaining mind you, I love the knowledge and confidence in my mechanical skills that I have gained. I just thought you might like to hear a real world story. These cars are expensive to maintain even when you do the work yourself. If that doesn't scare you away then welcome, there are plenty of people with the know how here and a pretty vast bank of data to pick through. I haven't regretted buying it for a second. They are truly fun to work on. In case you didn't notice I'm partial to the V8. I notice you have an older BMW so none of this should be a surprise to you. E39 specific problems that can be expensive. ABS unit. Auto Trans. Assorted modules. Anything that needs to coded to the cars VIN, unless you can do it yourself with BMW software. Agree with the previous post that said if it's straight you can't lose much at $500. Worst case scenario you end up parting it out before you spend to much on it. My guess is a junk yard would give you around $300-$600 for it. Either way good luck.
 

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My advice is to:
1. Open the bonnet and have a look at the engine. If there's white residue everywhere then its at least had a cooling failure at some stage - the white residue is the dried up coolant.
2. check the oil to see the colour and texture. light brown mush means there's water there (bad).
3. check the fluid levels (coolant and oil).
4. borrow a battery from somewhere, plug it in to the car, and unlock the onboard diagnostics. Its not hard.
5. Set the cluster to show temperature and if the fan looks like its not going to disintegrate then try and start the engine.
6. If you can get it to run, let it idle and watch the temperature gauge. Kill the engine if it goes over 100. If it stops rising before 95 then I'd buy it.

YMMV

$500 isn't a lot to spend, but if $500 is every penny you have then dont buy it. My 2 cents anyway.

Spod
 

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Make sure it hasnt been overheated to death, blown head=big bill.
 

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id go for it, I payed 500 for my 540i and all it needed was gas to run. The owner had left it sitting with a dead battery and gas tank empty. Needless to say I talked him down from 1250 to 500 just because it "didnt run". Might need a timing chain and windshield but other then that it was a good buy.
 

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Well, There are two ways to do this, buy the car and spend whatever iit takes to fix issues, or you can buy the car, keep fluids ok and just use it until it dies on you.
I got my 1996 528I for free, it is not in perfect condition, could use a new front bumper and new paint, but I changed the oil, put new cheap headlights on it and changed two transistors in the LCM unit so the long beam is working again but I am not going to put more money in it just for fun. The ABS light is on always but no other warnings.
Dont use the car much, have two other cars also. Have to admit I love driving the car but it uses more fuel than I am used to from other cars, its a big heavy thing.
 

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These cars are maintenance needy. Assuming the engine isn't toast, then you've still got to worry about the cooling system (all of it), the suspension (thrust arms & struts are a common failure point), PCV system, hvac ballast resister, dash pixels, abs...

Since August I've put $1800 in parts into my car for maintenance. Entire cooling system, front suspension, bits that broke as I did those jobs. That's parts, no labor.
I had to tear into the cooling system twice because I tore some o-rings the first time.
The vibration I was chasing is back in my suspension and I'm debating what next.

You're going to want to be handy with a scan tool - "like I can figure stuff out" handy, not "well I read what it says and don't understand it" since the cheap ones are hard to use and the good ones are expensive.

For $500? If you want to give it a go you should. But be ready to get your hands dirty.
And I would be very surprised if it didn't have other issues for that price. Bad Trans or overheated/warped head.
Even at $500 its not a deal and you'll lose money fixing it even if you do all the labor yourself. These cars aren't worth much. I was offered $128 from a recycler and KBB says its worth $1200.
But it might be a really nice driver that you can make worth more to you, because you know what's good on it and that its solid.
 

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omarphi215, sounds like you know enough about twirling spanners to sort it out. But don't underestimate how much there could be to sort out. Modern cars can catch gremlins just by sitting for a while, it's very different to an E30 / E34. If it doesn't run, I would consider it a parts car that you might get lucky on.

As for common problems, here's a discussion about almost everything that could possibly fail on an E39, just to scare the bejeezus out of you :D http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/showthread.php?t=507799
 

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naw..... this car isnt for everybody
Granted. But he's looking at one because he likes it. If he's got the comittment to keep it running, then why not? Show me a car that doesn't require $ to keep it running. If you want a spendthrift car then its going to be a buzz box esp on the highway and no where near the driving experience of one of these.

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a e39 is one hell of a expense to keep on the road (especially in philly) for someone who comes out and says "I'm no mechanic"

a e39 is a good car for a mechanic, mater of fact its a great car for a mechanic.... But there are lots of other choices for someone who wants to get in and drive


Liking a car because of how it looks... and liking a car because of what it is.. are to very different things
 

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a e39 is one hell of a expense to keep on the road (especially in philly) for someone who comes out and says "I'm no mechanic"

a e39 is a good car for a mechanic, mater of fact its a great car for a mechanic.... But there are lots of other choices for someone who wants to get in and drive

Liking a car because of how it looks... and liking a car because of what it is.. are to very different things
Yes that's very true. The question of liking because of looks or because of what it is are very different. But I didn't mention looks at all. Nor did he. He said he's handy and capable of working on cars.... so while its good to be realistic why dampen his interest to get a car like this? I know someone who's not mechanical at all but they love the E39 and don't mind the $ to keep it serviced etc. They'd rather this type of car than spend $20k on a late model Toyota.

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The attached is old, but take a read and look over the 'list of maladies'. These are very well-engineered cars, build quality is excellent and for the most part they are pretty easy to work on for the DIY type person.

That being said, these cars do have their weak points and they definitely require more attentive/regular maintenance than most cars. It's a performance oriented luxury vehicle - not just a car that will get you from A to B; one has to expect it will require a bit more attention.

Good Luck/Bill
 

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