About this Wiki
The E39 Wiki should be used as a tool to help all E39 owners. The greatest feature of the Wiki is that anyone with an account on Bimmerfest has the ability to edit it. See something incorrect or notice something missing (there's a lot missing!)? Simply click on the edit link to the right of any section. Please respect the contributions made by other members and PLEASE don't sabotage this page.
The E46 Wiki has a LOT of information, and the I6 engines are largely shared with the E39. If the answer to your question is not here, look over there.
The E39 Best Links wiki post is under development here BMW_E39_bestlinks
Each BMW body style is assigned a two digit number preceded by "E". The "E" stands for "Entwicklung", the German word for development. The BMW E39 automobile platform was the basis for BMW 5 Series between 1995 to 2004. It was the successor of the BMW E34 in 1995, and was phased-out by the E60 platform in 2004. Sales to Germany and the United Kingdom began in 1995, and by 1996 sales to the remaining entities of Europe and the rest of the world had commenced. A mid-life update appeared in 2001, featuring minute detail changes. At launch, the base model was the 520i, which developed 112 kilowatts (150 hp) in the pre-update models, and 126 kilowatts (170 hp) in later models. An M5 variant was introduced in 1998, with a 5.0 litre S62 V8 engine. All models but the M5 were available as either a sedan (car) or a Station wagon|touring wagon.
Introduced in Europe in 1995, the complete vehicle redesign draws heavily from the E38 7 Series in body construction and electronic technology. The mid-level BMW sedan showed evolutionary styling changes rather than a dramatic redesign. Initially offered only as a sedan, the wheelbase grew by 68 millimetres (2.7 in) and overall length by 55 millimetres (2.2 in) over the E34. In the US, the new 5 Series came in two forms; the 528i and 540i. The 528i is equipped with the 2.8 litre M52 in-line six carried over from the 1996 E36 328i and the 540i equipped with the 4.4 litre M62 V8. Both engines were upgraded over the prior 5 Series generation. The 2.8 litre dual overhead camshaft six-cylinder engine made 141 kilowatts (190 hp), versus 210 kilowatts (282 hp) for the 4.4 litre dual overhead camshaft, all-aluminum V8. A ZF five-speed manual transmission without overdrive was standard on the 528i, with an optional A4S 310 R four-speed automatic transmission. The 540i, in contrast, could have either a Getrag six-speed manual or a new five-speed A5S 560Z automatic transmission with adaptive transmission control. Standard equipment on both models included dual front and side airbags, Anti-lock braking system, traction control system, power steering, and air conditioning.
The E39 is the body style for the following models:
|Model||Engine||Displacement (cc)||Bore/Stroke (mm)||Comp. Ratio||Fuel System||Power (kW/bhp)||Torque (Nm/ft-lb)||0-62mph man||0-62mph auto||Produced||Where Sold (If not in all markets)|
|520i||I-6 24V||1991||80/66||1:11.0||Multiport Fuel Injection||110/150 @6250RPM||190/140 @3500RPM||10.2sec||11.5sec||1996-2000||Non-US|
|520i||I-6 24V||2171||80/72||1:10.7||Multiport Fuel Injection||125/168 @6100RPM||210/150 @3500RPM||9.1sec||10.2sec||2000-2003||Non-US|
|523i||I-6 24V||2496||84/75||1:10.5||Multiport Fuel Injection||125/168 @5500RPM||245/181 @3500RPM||8.5sec||9.6sec||1995-2000||Non-US|
|525i||I-6 24V||2494||84/75||1:10.5||Multiport Fuel Injection||141/189 @6000RPM||245/181 @3500RPM||8.1sec||8.9sec||2000-2003|
|528i||I-6 24V||2793||84/84||1:10.2||Multiport Fuel Injection||14w/190 @5500RPM||280/210 @3500RPM||7.5sec||8.8sec||1995-2000|
|530i||I-6 24V||2979||84/89.6||1:10.2||Multiport Fuel Injection||170/228 @5900RPM||300/220 @3500RPM||7.1sec||7.6sec||2000-2003|
|535i||V8 32V||3498||84/78.9||1:10||Multiport Fuel Injection||180/241 @5800RPM||345/254 @3500RPM||6.9sec||7.6||1996-2003||Non-US|
|540i||V8 32V||4398||92/82.7||1:10||Multiport Fuel Injection||210/282 @5400RPM||440/320 @3600RPM||6.2sec||6.4||1996-2003|
|M5||V8 32V||4941||94/89||1:11||Multiport Fuel Injection||294/394 @6600RPM||500/370 @3800RPM||5.3sec||N/A||1998-2003|
|520d||I-4 16V||1951||88/84||1:19||Common rail turbodiesel||100/134 @4000||280/210 @1750RPM||10.6sec||N/A||2000-2003||Some European countries|
|525d||I-6 24V||2497||80/82.8||1:17.5||Common rail turbodiesel||120/161 @4000||350/260 @2000RPM||8.9sec||9.1||2000-2003||Some European countries|
|525td||I-6 12V||2498||80/82.8||1:22.0||Indirect injection turbodiesel||185/114 @4800||230/170 @1900RPM||11.9sec||N/A||1997-2000||Europe|
|525tds||I-6 12V||2497||80/82.8||1:22.0||Indirect injection turbodiesel||105/141 @4000||280/210 @2200RPM||10.4sec||11.0||1996-2000||Europe|
|530d||I-6 24V||2926||84/88||1:18.0||Common rail turbodiesel||135/181 @4000||390/290 @1750RPM||8.0sec||8.4||1998-2000||Europe|
|530d||I-6 24V||2926||84/88||1:18.0||Common rail turbodiesel||142/193 @4000||410/302 @1750RPM||7.8sec||8.0||2000-2003||Europe|
Enter your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) at these websites for information on the model, engine, gearbox, production date and options of a particular vehicle: bmwarchive.org, bmw-z1.com bmw-z1.com.
- i – "Injection" - Fuel injected petrol engine
- d - Diesel engine (not sold in North American market)
- A - Automatic transmission
- t - Touring (wagon)
- P - "Protection" - Enhanced security vehicle fitted with bullet-resistant glass with polycarbonate skins (to retain glass splinters in the event of damage from projectiles), aramid armor in the doors and bulkheads as well as Michelin run-flat tires that can take a round and still keep the car on the road. Rear windows are fixed.
Oil and filter change
For choosing which oil to use, BMW recommends "LL-01 Approved" (aioros thread) for the E39. There is a wide variety of oils used by owners, and the topic is the subject of much debate (bluebee thread, jnyost thread).
Oil pressure and level
Low oil pressure can cause engine damage.
Discussion about causes of low oil pressure: toofast02 thread
Although the E39 shows a yellow "oil can" warning light when the level is low, the level can also be checked with the dipstick (dcolangelo thread).
The tube from the CCV to the dipstick can become clogged (blueebee thread).
Discussion about dipstick calibration: fudman thread
Oil level sensor
Oil filter housings
The gasket at the bottom of the oil filter housing is a common cause of oil leaks.
Valve cover gasket
The valve cover gasket is a common source of oil leaks.
Oil pan gasket
This gasket, along with the oil filter housing and valve cover gasket, can cause oil leaks (nyclad thread. The official procedure for the M52/M54 involves dropping the subframe, however it is possible to avoid this by cutting the new gasket into pieces (mudbone thread) or RTV sealant (trickstar thread).
M52 replacement procedure: bluebee post
M62 replacement procedure: zerodfx post
Replacement procedure: Jackcat559 thread
Crank case ventilation valve (CCV)
The CCV (sometimes called "positive crankcase valve" or "oil separator valve") commonly causes poor running (through vacuum leaks) and oil leaks (bluebee thread, RDL thread). The valve itself can fail (jfive96 thread), the associated hoses can leak and the dipstick tube can become clogged (blueebee thread). Another possible solution is to replace the CCV with an oil catch can (eparayno thread).
How to tell if your CCV valve has failed: CCV Oil Cap Test
There is a special "insulated" CCV to prevent failures in cold weather due to condensation freezing (kjet540 post).
Discussion about testing the CCV: bluebee thread
Discussion about hours of labour needed to replace CCV, VANOS, VCG and intake manifold: BavarianE31 thread
Timing chain tensioner and guide rails
A failed timing chain tensioner can cause a rattling noise on startup. If the timing chain slips due to failure of the tensioner or guide rail, this could result in extensive engine damage. The issue seems to mainly affect M62 engines.
M54 replacement procedure: doru thread
M54 removal procedure: Jackcat559 thread
M57 replacement procedure: philthompson thread
M62TU replacement procedure: blackBMWs thread
VANOS is a type of variable valve timing, which advances and retards the camshaft. Single-VANOS (exhaust camshaft only) is used on the M52 (non-TU) and M62TU engines. Dual-VANOS (intake and exhaust camshafts) is used on the M52TU, M54 and S62 engines. It has been claimed that the seals in the VANOS unit on M52 and M54 engines fail within 20,000 miles, due to incorrect materials used in the seals. This causes (according to Beisan Systems, who sells replacement seals) rough idle, stalling and loss of power. The VANOS can be tested using DIS (TheHockeytowner thread).
Many users recommend upgrading to seals made from Viton, such as those sold by Beisan Systems (bluebee thread). Rattling sounds can be caused by failed VANOS bearings, which can be replaced. Refurbished VANOS units, containing new seals and bearings, can be purchased from Dr Vanos (Fudman post) for the six cylinder single-VANOS (Dr Vanos) and dual-VANOS (Dr Vanos, Pelican Parts) engines.
BMW does not provide the VANOS seals separately. It sells rebuilt VANOS units for ~$500. New rebuilt VANOS units are supplied with the same o-rings and have been found to significantly fail in 20k miles (32k kilometers), according to Beisan Systems, who is the sole marketer and manufacturer of replacement VANOS seals.
M52 (non-TU) seal replacement procedure: Beisan Systems
M52 (non-TU) bearing replacement procedure: Beisan Systems
M52TU / M54 seal replacement procedure: Beisan Systems
M52TU / M54 bearing replacement procedure: Beisan Systems
Valley Pan gaskets
On the M62 engine, the valley pan gaskets can leak coolant.
M54 Spark Plug DIY Video: M54 Spark Plug Installation Tutorial
Over time, the coil pack on each spark plug ("coil on plug") can fail (jieg thread). This leads to rough running (since the engine is running on one less cylinder) and often triggers a specific ignition coil fault code.
Camshaft Position Sensor (CPS)
A faulty CPS can cause a lack of power, stalling and hard starting.
Crankshaft Position Sensor (CKP)
M52/M54 location: barneyhyphen thread
M62 replacement procedure: zapperjoe thread
Cruise control actuator
M62 replacement procedure: MontanaRob thread
E39s were fitted with 90 Amp, 120 Amp or 140 Amp alternator. The type of alternator fitted to a car can be identified from the sticker (bluebee thread). However, the M62TU uses a water-cooled alternator (verite thread), and often auto-electricians are not willing to rebuild it. However it is possibly to DIY rebuild this alternator (RocketSurgeon thread).
M52 replacement procedure: flybot thread
Battery testing and maintenance
A failing battery can cause many strange problems with the car. Before disconnecting the battery, some people prefer to wait until the car has gone into "sleep" mode (dvsgene thread), however some people consider this unnecessary.
Battery test: Bluebee thread
Replacement procedure: jamesdc4 thread
Topping up the distilled water: BMWdiy
A common cause of flat batteries is current drain, however first test the battery to ensure that it is not simply that the battery is too old. Common causes of current drain are a faulty FSU (bluescholars thread), the car is not going into sleep mode (check if light indicating gear on shift lever is out after 20 min without opening doors), the CD changer constantly cycling disks after the car is turned off, or the DICE modules.
Fuses and relays
Failure of the fuel filler door locking solonoid can cause the fuse for the rear door locks to blow (kiwijochen thread).
Retrofit procedure: davidf procedure
Poor connections on these straps, including the one located under the cabin air filter (djt5150 thread), can cause various electrical problems.
Warning: the temperature gauge on the dash is heavily buffered and may not show that the engine is overheating until it is too late (edjack post, 1BadE39 post, Waveho post, 540iman thread). Therefore, as soon as the needle moves beyond halfway, turn off the engine to minimise damage.
The coolant temperature can be checked in realtime using the OBC "secret menu" (5th_gear thread).
BMW specifies unique tools for the cooling fan and alternator removal, however other options are available (bluebee thread).
Discussion of date stamps on cooling components: speedgoat thread
A cooling system which is not properly bled can suffer sporadic rises in temperature or loss of cabin heat. The BMW TIS has some specific notes about bleeding the cooling system (NNY528i thread). Some people prefer to replace the plastic bleed screws with brass screws (Mack thread).
M54 drain plug location: bluebee thread
Installation requires the fan to be held stationary while the nut is being tightened.
Removal discussion: mosearch thread
Upper hose removal: bluebee thread
O-ring replacement discussion: bluebee thread
Operating temperature discussion: bluebee thread
The plastic components - especially near hose connections (bluebee thread) - are a common failure, so some people use an all-aluminium radiator instead. A coolant level sensor is only present on cars with the High OBC (cambrian123456 thread).
Coolant level sensor discussion: bluebee thread
Outlet temperature sensor replacement procedure: pelicanparts.com
Radiator cap and system pressure
Some people believe that the high pressure of the BMW cooling system contributes to failures, and therefore install a lower pressure radiator cap (540IA_750IL thread). The lower pressure cap does not affect normal operation, since the system spressure is below 1.4 bar anyway at normal operating temperatures (Gary@GAS post, JimLev post). The difference is that, if the engine overheats, the system vents pressure earlier.
A waterless cooling system has also been used (chiefwej thread).
Temperature gauge on dash
The temperature gauge is not linear. The 12 o'clock position seems to cover a large range of temperatures. There are reports of a warning bell sound when the engine is overheating (540iman thread).
Discussion of replacement options: bluebee thread
Replacement procedure: pelicanparts.com
This electric fan operates on low speed when the air-conditioning is used. It also operates at medium and high speed as required to assist in cooling the engine. Failure of the fan itself or fuse #75 (cnn post) are common causes for the fan to not operate correctly. For 1997-1998 models (cn90 post), a replacement fan motor is available (PENER thread 1).
The drive belts (also called serpentine belts) provide power to ancillaries such as power the water pump, alternator, air-conditioning compressor and power steering pump. The belts can crack as they age, eventually leading to failure (which can cause the engine to overhead since the water pump stops working). Special tools to hold the rotating parts in place can be either purchased, created or improvised (bluebee thread).
M54 replacement procedure: bluebee post
M62 replacement procedure: ArbysNight thread
The thermostat opens when necessary to route coolant through the radiator, so that the engine is cooled. A failed thermostat can cause an engine to run cold, or (much worse) overheat. A supplier of thermostat upgrades claims that the electronic map-controlled can cause cooling system failures (Zionsville).
M62 replacement procedure: joshs540i thread
Fuel and intake
Location of intake gaskets: bluebee thread 3
Also called "intake boot".
M54 replacement procedure: bimmerfiver thread
M54 Video Installation DIY: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AadAO4o1aQ
Idle control valve (ICV)
The ICV can become clogged, leading to poor idle and acceleration.
M54 cleaning procedure: csw8331 thread
M62 cleaning procedure: John540i6 thread
This valve allows different length intake runners to be used, increasing torque at low revs (artisthand post). DISA failure can be caused by the valve becoming clogged, the pin becoming loose (teklord69 thread 1), the plastic cracking, a failed O-ring (brickwhite thread) or the diaphragm rupturing (uncmozo thread, dakarm thread).
This is what a failed DISA valve sounds like on an M54 engine: DISA Valve Noise Video
If a part of the DISA- especially the pin- wears loose and is ingested into the engine, catastrophic damage can occur (ForcedFirebird post). An aftermarket DISA valve, which removes the possibility of a worn pin being ingested into the engine, is available (Gary@GAS thread).
DISA autopsy: teklord69 thread 3
Discussion about diagnosing DISA failure: bluebee thread
Autopsy of used fuel filters: Nervous thread
M52 replacement procedure: Jamaican71 thread
Fuel tank vent hose
The smell of fuel in the car can be caused by a fault with the fuel tank vent hose (Chillebeam thread).
Fuel level sensor
A faulty fuel level reading is commonly due to a failed sensor.
Discussion about repairing fuel pumps: Pistonbroke thread
Relay location: bluebee thread
Fuel gauge sending unit
A dirty sending unit can cause the fuel gauge to read incorrectly (lsfeder thread
Mass Airflow Sensor (MAF)
A faulty MAF can cause rough idle and poor fuel consumption. Over time, the sensor can become dirty and requires cleaning.
Note that a MAF error code can also be caused by a problem elsewhere in the engine (eg CCV, intake leak).
Leaking seals can cause leanness and fuel leaks (doru thread).
Engine failsafe error
A loose gas cap can cause a Check Engine Light (IH8DMV thread).
Throttle position sensor (TPS)
A faulty oxygen sensor can cause poor fuel economy. The sensor can be tested (Edwin thread).
Tools required for M54 oxygen sensor replacement: Bluebee thread
Procedure for M62 oxygen sensor replacement: BMWtips
Secondary Air Pump (SAP)
Part of the Secondary Air System (SAS), problems with the SAP can cause fault codes or thumping sounds (16valex thread). The failure can be the pump itself (cn90 thread), the valve (cn 90 thread) or the vacuum hoses connected to it (fudman thread). The pump and valve can be rebuilt (cnn thread).
Repair procedure for rattling heatshield: cn90 post
The Japanese cars have a warning message "SLOW! CAT. OVERHEAT" for when the catalytic convertor is overheating due to a rich mixture (edjack post).
- GM A4S-270R: 4-speed, used with M52 engine
- GM A5S-360R: 5-speed, used with M52 engine
- GM A5S-390R: 5-speed, used with M54 engine
- ZF 5HP19: 5-speed, used with M54 engine (gtxragtop thread)
- ZF 5HP24: 5-speed, used with M62 engine
- ZF 5HP30: 5-speed, used with M62 engine
Manual transmissions (Qsilver7 post)
- ZF 5SD-320Z: 5-speed, used with M52 and M54 engine
- Getrag 5SD-250G: 5-speed, used with M54 engine
- ZF/Getrag S6S 420G: 6-speed, used with M62 engine
Transmission fluid replacement
Despite BMW's claim that the transmission oil is a "lifetime" fluid, it has been found that the oil becomes contaminated over time, and therefore requires replacement. The type of oil needed is indicated by the colour of the label on the transmission sump (MatWiz thread, Bluebee thread, hungdynasty post).
For the ZF 5HP19, several brands offer fluids conforming to the Esso ATF LT 71141 specifications (fudman thread).
GM A4S-270R fluid flush procedure: jvcajita thread
GM A5S-390R fluid flush procedure: Jason5 thread
ZF 5HP24 fluid flush procedure: vicent page
Manual transmission fluid flush procedure: CNN thread
Tools for M62 clutch replacement: DavidPorter thread
Clutch Delay Valve (CDV)
Most manual transmission cars (except M5) include a CDV to prevent clutch abuse. However, many people find it hard to drive smoothly with the CDV installed. The CDV can be either modified (Zeckhausen) or removed (CN90 thread, BMWtips).
There are several opinions regarding what is the best diff oil to use (Bluebee thread).
M57 replacement procedure: philthompson thread
M62 replacement procedure: BlackBMWs thread
Discussion about U-joint repair: bartelbe thread
Discussion about oil leaks: dannisieze39 thread
Suspension and Steering
Front Wheel Bearings
Growling/humming noises from the front wheels are often caused by worn out front wheel bearings.
In the front struts, the shock absorber also forms part of the suspension geometry (unlike the rear suspension). Therefore, the front strut also holds the wheel in place and creates the up/down axis for the wheel movement. Poor braking and shudder during braking can be caused by failed front shock absorbers(MatWiz post, ahspao thread).
Discussion of worn shock absorber symptoms and replacement options: Bluebee thread
M52 front suspension overhaul procedure: cn90 thread
Front strut replacement: Beisan page
Worn out rear shocks can cause noises over bumps, poor ride and poor handling.
Replacement procedure: Beisan page
Cracked rubber can cause the air springs to leak.
Rear ball joints
Worn out rear swing-arm ball joints can cause vibration, squeaking, poor handling and uneven tire wear. Ball joints on M52/M54 cars can be removed with commonly available tools (cambrian123456 thread, however M62 cars require a special tool to be purchased (z0lt3c thread, mark@EAC thread) or made (chip740iL post).
The six-cylinder cars use a rack-and-pinion steering system, while the V8 cars use a recirculating ball system.
M52/M54 replacement procedure: MatWiz thread
The six-cylinder cars use a rack-and-pinion system (aka "steering rack"), while the V8 cars use a recirculating ball system (aka "steering box"). The
M52/M54 replacement procedure: iDrift thread
M52/M54 rebuild discussion: champaign777 thread
Thrust arm bushings
A failed thrust arm bushing is a common cause of vibration at 50-60 mph (Beisan Systems).
M54 replacement procedure: champaign thread
M62 replacement procedure: hotswimmer thread
Power steering fluid leaks
Power steering fluid leaking from the reservoir or hose can drip into the alternator, possibly causing damage (bluebee thread). Common sources of leaks are the hose, hose clamp, reservoir cap seal and vent hole in the reservoir cap (firemanory thread).
Discussion of hose and clamp replacement: NC530i-2003 thread
Power steering fluid flush
Power steering pump brackets
M62 discussion about failures: bluebee thread
Rear sway bar
The sway bar reduces body roll in cornering. The thicker M5 rear sway bar can be used to reduce body roll and understeer.
M54 replacement procedure: Jackcat559 thread
Rear wheel alignment procedure: cn90 thread
Brake pad and rotor replacement
Discussion about machining rotors: stigst3r thread
It is recommended that "bedding in" be performed for new brake pads (Zeckhausen).
Rotors can be machined if they are above the minimum thickness (bluebee thread). If rotors are less than the minimum thickness, they should be replaced.
Anti-seize lubricant called "BMW Never seez" (part number 83-23-9-407-830) should be used where the rotor touches the rub and wheel (bluebee thread).
ABS module and wheel speed sensors
Early E39 models use Active Stability Control (ASC), while later models use a more advanced version- Dynamic Stability Control (DSC).
The "trifecta" of DSC, ABS and brake warning lights on the dash is commonly caused by failure of a rear wheel speed sensor or the ABS module. Wheel speed sensors can be tested (Bluebee post, Quick99si thread, 540iman thread). In some cases, the ABS module can be repaired (cn90 thread, 540iMan thread, niffel thread), however it is not always successful (regardless of whether the repair is DIY or professional).
If the ABS module is replaced, the steering angle sensor needs to be recalibrated (bluebee post).
The speedo takes its input from the left-rear wheel speed sensor (Qsilver7 post).
Replacement procedure for ABS module: BlackBMWs thread
Discussion on DIY repair for ABS module: 540iman thread
Brake pressure switch pinout: Bluebee post
Steering angle sensor
Repair procedure: rdc8118 thread
Parking brake (handbrake)
Overhaul procedure: cnn thread
Once you have identified whether you have the High or Low OBC (bluebee thread), you can unlock the "secret menu" to obtain information about the vehicle. This menu also allows you to calibrate the fuel consumption (L/100km or mpg) readout (Brandon 540/6m thread).
Missing pixels on the dash and MID display is often caused by problems with the ribbon cable. Some owners prefer to replace the MID with an aftermarket multimedia system.
MID test mode procedure: RDL post
Wiring diagrams: elektroda.pl PDF
Trunk wiring harness
Chafing of the wiring harness in the trunk is a common cause of problems with rear lights and can cause other mysterious electrical problems (bluebee thread).
Lighting Control Module (LCM)
Replacement procedure: mario788 thread
Diagnosing rear light problems: bmwMobiletech thread
Replacement procedure for centre brake light: bluebee thread
Failure of the ignition switch can cause all kinds of symptoms (QSilver7 thread, nyclad thread, racerock thread). A test for a faulty switch is the passenger sunvisor light (maher528 post, ProV1 thread).
Rebuild procedure: cal45fan thread
Licence plate light bulb
Replacement procedure: bluebee post
Alarm and EWS (immobiliser)
The alarm is part of the EWS system. Random alarm activation can be caused by a failing battery (Qsilver7 post, jamesdc4 thread) or hood switch (Touring_Dude post, jamesdc4 thread). After the limit of 10 keys are programmed, no more keys can be programmed (Jimmys_530i post).
Siren replacement procedure: BMWtips
EWS overview: bimmerfest pdf
The keys perform 3 functions: immobiliser (EWS), keyless entry (FZV) and alarm (DWA) ().
Keys contain a chip, which must be specifically programmed for each car. However, there are some third-party key suppliers who are able to provide a fully-functioning programmed key cheaper than the dealerships (nariusb thread, ambishop post, sixpot_simon post, AskoR post). The EWS has 10 "slots" where keys can be programmed, however it is suggested that a new key can be programmed to replace an old key (AskoR post).
If the remote central locking buttons don't work, the car can be manually unlocked with a key (vetaldj thread). If the car's flat battery prevents the central locking from working, an external battery can be used to power the system (cn90 post).
Procedure for replacing rubber buttons in square key: QSilver7 thread
Procedure for charging key batteries: traviss351 thread
Deactivating stolen/lost keys: Qsilver7 post
Replacing battery in diamond key: BMW_525i-Noob thread
Discussion of options when keys are locked in car: vetaldj thread
Carsoft, INPA and DIS are commonly used for coding. The following forum contains a lot of information on coding: http://www.bimmerforums.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?233
External door handle replacement
Procedure: TIPenta thread
Trunk lock actuator
A failed trunk lock actuator prevents the trunk (also known as "boot") from closing (MNsport528i thread).
Replacement procedure: BMWtips
Sedan replacement procedure: cn90 thread
Touring replacement procedure: xpcgamer thread
Water in rear footwell
Water in trunk boot
Discussion about clogged drains: HeavyJ thread
Discussion about hood adjustment: JCGinMA thread
Hood release (bonnet release) cable
How to open the hood when the cable is broken: 528inOttawa thread
Upper seal replacement procedure: davegraham page
Door jamb seal discussion: Bluebee thread
Replacement procedure: 540i6.com
Replacement procedure: porksoda thread
The rubber trim cracks over time (Agent99 thread).
Replacement procedure: blackBMWs thread
The OEM headlight adjusters are made from PBT, which over time becomes brittle over time and breaks. This results in the headlights pointing downwards or moving around. There are many options to repair/replace them (Bluebee thread). Replacement plastic adjusters are available (Ebay, Odometergears), or replacement metal adjusters, or you can make your own adjusters (raf0419 thread). Headlights on 2002+ cars require a different technique for disassembly (jamesdc4 thread).
The headlight levelling sensor is located in the front suspension (bccwu thread).
Heat and moisture can lead to a cloudy headlight lens (Edgy36-39 thread). Also, over time the outer surface of the lens can become dulled, which can be fixed by polishing (gonzilla thread) or sanding (540IForMe thread).
The headlights are not sealed, they have drain tubes (Edgys36-39 thread).
Sunroof water leaks
Roundel (BMW trunk and hood badges)
Paint can flake off from the emblem over time. The rear badge is slightly smaller than the front (cn90 thread).
Warning: when working around airbags or seat occupancy sensors, disconnect the battery first to avoid triggering the airbag light (TemporarySanity thread).
These are very fragile, therefore they commonly break. When broken they are unable to be closed.
Installation Video: DIY Video YouTube
Cracks may appear in the woodgrain trim over time, especially on the CD player cover (Fudman thread).
Interior trim removal procedure: bagman thread
Internal door handle replacement
Cars before 03/99 have a single stage airbag. Cars after 03/99 have a dual stage airbag. Therefore a replacement steering wheel must be in the correct date range for the airbag to function.
If the steering wheel lock jams, it can be unlocked by drilling the underside of the steering column (kevinI34 thread).
Some drivers have found the American front armrest with plastic cradle to be uncomfortable for their elbow, and have replaced it with the European armrest which does not have the cradle. There are several types of European armrest available (jmhunter thread, shaftdrive post).
Door panel removal
Front pretensioner replacement procedure: cn90 thread
Front Window Regulators
Stuck front windows are often caused by the regulator failing (RookieBMW thread).
Rear window regulator
Phantom window opening
Front seat control module
The control module and wiring can become damaged by the movement of the seat. This causes faults in the seat movement and steering wheel reach adjustment (shockler thread, mmoghbelli thread, Al's540i thread)
Replacement procedure: bluebee thread
Switch repair proceudre: NoTempoLimit thread
Warning sticker removal: jamesdc4 thread
Sunvisor autopsy: pudl thread
Seat cables often fall out, causing the seat to twist (ElwoodBlues thread).
Seat removal: cn90 thread
Replacement procedure: DavidC post
Airbag warning light
Failure of the occupancy sensor is a common cause of an airbag warning light. The belt buckle can also cause the warning light (ztom thread). Resetting the airbag light requires special equipment (mattmartindrift post).
The latch can fail, making the glovebox unable to be opened (Paul_Astrike thread).
Removal procedure: wilbura thread
Discussion about faulty cluster lights: Mobius528 thread
Rear parcel shelf
Final Stage Unit (FSU)
A common cause of erratic climate control behaviour is the FSU (also known as "blower resistor"). It has also been known to drain the battery, by running the fan when the car is switched off (Bluebee post). The FSU can be tested (cn90 thread, Bluebee thread). One mode of FSU failure is ageing resin on the circuit board, which can be repaired (Kraft thread).
Some cars also have a rear FSU (ZeroDfx thread).
Ambient Temperature Sensor
This sensor often damaged by parking curbs, due to its location. When the sensor is faulty, it reads as -40°F (-40°C).
Replacement procedure: jamesdc4 thread
Relocation of sensor to a safer location: cnn post
Automated Recirculated Air (AUC) mode
When the climate control recirculation mode is set to auto ("A"), the AUC sensor is used to determine whether fresh or recirculated air is used (Qsilver7 post).
A noisy interior fan may be fixed by cleaning and lubricating it (frostone209 thread).
It is common for this vent to crack in the top-left corner (ncmallard78 thread).
Replacement procedure: porksoda thread
It is common for the climate control temperature adjustment buttons to crack.
Repair procedure: violinARC
A single beep is a warning that ice is likely, due to the outdoor temperature. A triple beep is the hourly alarm (jamiblack thread).
Milage tamper dot
A dot in the dash display indicates an error with the mileage calculation (bluebee thread), therefore the mileage data may have been tampered with.
A faulty or loose compressor can cause rattling sounds from the engine bay (flug540 thread).
Heater control valve
CD changer "no discs"
A "no discs" error is commonly caused by a faulty CD changer (bigjaggs thread, Neils528iM5 thread, forest540BG thread). In some cases, the problem can be fixed by dismantling and cleaning the changer (bem-ster thread).
AM radio reception
Repair procedure: cnn thread
User procedure for adding aux cable: severe530i post
Procedure: Ustad thread
Technical Information System (TIS)
The official BMW information provided to dealerships. It contains repair procedures and other technical information.
Raising/jacking the car
BMW specifies 4 jacking points- 2 on each side of the car. Some models- possibly excluding the 528i and 540i- also have a jacking point on the engine crossmember (see 2nd picture on BMWtips). Some people also use the differential as a jacking point, while others prefer to use ramps (discussed on page 2 of Neversaynever thread).
Jack pads (wind noise)
OBD fault codes
Scanning the fault codes is recommended as a starting point for many problems. Fault code(s) will be stored when the Check Engine Light (CEL- an orange light on the dashboard) is lit. However, there are also many fault codes which do not cause the CEL to be lit. Scan tools- some of which also can reset service lights- are available from a range of suppliers (bluebee thread).
Windshield washer jets
Adjustment procedure: FIA thread
Windshield washer reservoir
The grommet in the reservoir can cause leaks (shabbaman thread).
Windshield washer hose
Problems with the hoses can cause a water leak and reduced effectiveness of the washer jets.
Replacement procedure: jamesdc4 thread
Parking Distance Control (PDC)
Front and rear acoustic parking sensors were available on the E39. The kit was also sold as a retrofit (bmwtips.com).
Replacement procedure: Edwin post
Wheels and tires
Wheel fitment specifications: iceman4169 thread
Tire Pressure Monitoring System (RDC / TPMS)
An option on euro-spec E39s (Dackleone post)