BMW Series 5 E39 ~ Cars and Bikes
Cars and Bikes

Saturday, 3 May 2008

BMW Series 5 E39

BMW series 5 E39 is still worth to buy, this type represent a comfortable and luxurious car from the BMW product line. In the market the BMW E39 is face to face with Mercedes E series, Audi A6 or Lexus.

Lets start with history (from Wiki)

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 or a 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. 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. 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 brakes, traction control, power steering, and air conditioning.[2][3]


The E39 all-steel body acts as a safety cage for occupant protection. The structural rigidity of the monocoque was increased using computer-aided engineering. This allows key points to be reinforced, to increase rigidity, without significantly adding to the weight. The overall increase is 10 kilograms (20 lb), which is offset by the aluminium suspension. Laser welding techniques ensure rigid bonding throughout. Another area of focus in the design of the body was in structural dynamics. The body was designed so that the frequencies for torsional twisting and bending are in separate ranges and above natural frequency. These frequencies are out of the range of engine and driveline vibrations; thus they will not amplify them.

The aerodynamically designed body and features of the E39 gave the 528i and 540i, 0.28 and 0.31 drag coefficients respectively. Torsional rigidity was also increased over the E34, by 40%. The chassis was so stiff that the rigidity was unchanged for the E60 model. This added stiffness allows the suspension to work with more accuracy. It also allows total engineering of ride quality through the suspension; rather than in combination with body flex.

Steering and suspension

With the E39, two steering types and double pivot, MacPherson strut suspensions systems are used. For the 520i–530i models, BMW, for the first time in a 5 series, utilised rack and pinion steering. This not only offers weight reductions over the recirculating ball type used on the V8s, but also provides quick steering response through its variable ratio. This system steers from the front of the axle.

Six-cylinder models also receive an aluminium front subframe. The struts use aluminium "Tension Link" that comes from a forward position back to the front of the wheel and an aluminium horizontal link to locate them. Aluminium is used for the: steering knuckles, outer strut tube, and the spring pads; saving 21 kilograms (46 lb).

With the 540i, BMW retained the front steering and suspension from the previous E34 540i with the design based on the E38 7 Series. The physical size, dimensions, and weight of the V8 540i required that the steering be the older recirculating ball type. This system steers from the back side of the axle. The front subframe is steel. To compensate for the heavier front end, BMW used extra aluminium in components including the steering box, steering knuckles, outer strut tube, and the spring pads. The struts are located by an aluminium "Thrust Link" that comes from the rear to meet the back of the wheel and an aluminium horizontal link.

The E39 employs similar design to the E38 7 Series for the rear suspension, regardless of the model specified. This "four-link integral rear suspension" or "Z-link" axle was first introduced on the BMW Z1. With this, Chapman struts are utilised. Through precise toe angle changes, stable yet responsive handling without unwanted toe change effects under load is achieved

Engine specifications

Various engine sizes and configurations have been available. The North American market saw the 525i, 528i, 530i, 540i and M5. The European range was however, more diverse, with BMW offering the 520i, 523i, 528i, 530i, 535i, 540i, 525tds, 520d, 525d, 530d and M5.

From 1997–2000, the E39 model range in North America consisted of the 528i, 540i, and M5. In 2001, the 528i was discontinued and replaced by the 525i and 530i. The 520i, 523i, 525i and 528i were powered by a 110 kilowatt (150 hp) engine in earlier versions, a 126 kilowatt (170 hp) and 141 kilowatt (190 hp) engines respectively. These were all versions of the gasoline M52 inline-six engine. The 530i was powered by a 167 kilowatt (225 hp) inline-six shared with the E46 330i. The 540i was initially powered by the 210 kilowatt (282 hp) 4.4 litre M62B44 V8 which was derived from the earlier E34 5 Series' M60, but included upgraded cylinder block material, electronics, and more displacement. In September of 1998, the 540i received the further upgraded M62TUB44, which was also seen in the E38 (7 Series) and in the BMW E53 (X5). This engine supported a VANOS variable valve timing system, and had electronic throttle control.

Common Problems

The following list that I quote from, its quite long, however very useful to use as pre inspection list before you buy the second hand BMW E39

Cooling System
Water pumps and thermostats are common failure points, with occasional radiator issues. The electronically controlled thermostats are prone to failure and set the “Service Engine Soon” warning. They can short out internally and melt a section of the engine wiring harness on the V8 cars.

Computer Readout
The display in the instrument cluster is prone to drop pixels, making it difficult or impossible to read. This requires replacement of the instrument cluster, which must be coded to the car.

Plastic Trim Around Seat Cushions
The plastic trim around the seat base is fragile and easily broken, but is fairly inexpensive. If you ignore this for awhile, it may cause the connector to disconnect from the seat switch or break the switch assembly, adding significantly to the cost of repair.

Front Thrust Arm Bushings
The rubber bushings, which isolate unwanted vibration during braking, age much like the rear shock mounts. They start to develop small tears and cracks, then progress to completely broken out of their mounting. The normal symptom is vibration in the steering wheel under light breaking. Ignoring this will result in uneven tire wear. Larger than stock tires / wheels amplify the symptoms.

V8 Power Steering Hoses
The power steering hoses on the V8s will leak. The low pressure hose can be repaired, carefully cutting the crimped on clamps and replacing the flexible hose section. The high pressure hose requires replacement and is a fairly expensive part which is in very tight quarters.

V8 Valve Cover Oil Leaks
The V8 valve covers leak around the inner and outer gaskets. The outer gasket leak leaves a visible on trail of oil on the head. An inner gasket leak isn’t visible until the covers are removed from the engine, exposing a lake of oil in one or more spark plug wells. If enough oil accumulates in the plug well, it sometimes shorts the plug, causing misfires.

V8 Vacuum Plate
There is a plate on the rear of the intake manifold that provides crankcase ventilation. The internal diaphragm fails, requiring replacement. This involves removal of the intake manifold. The symptoms are rough idle, sometimes a whistling noise, and a “Check Engine” light.

6 Cylinder PCV Valve
The vacuum valve on these cars has a higher failure rate than the one on the previous 3 Series. Its failure causes rough idling and sets the Service Engine Soon light.

Brake Light Bulb Sockets
The contact tabs on the sockets corrode or bend. These can frequently be cleaned up. Also, when the center bulb fails, the dash display shows it as one of the corner lights. The socket for the third light sometimes melts.

Window Regulators
A few failures of these has been reported.

Cup Holders
Fragile and easily broken with large cups.

Lower Front Wheel Well Liners
Plastic liner in forward part of wheel well which is easily broken by contact with curb or concrete parking stops, but is fairly inexpensive. The passenger's side liner shields the secondary air pump from water and road debris. If it is missing water can get into the pump, damaging the bearings and requiring replacement.

Cam Position Sensor(s)
The position sensor(s) for the camshafts will go open, either intermittently or completely. If it fails completely, the engine won’t run. If intermittent, it will die, then restart, run for a while, and repeat the cycle. It usually sets the “Service Engine Soon” warning.

The thermostat on these engines is electronically controlled and experiences a moderate failure rate. If it sticks open, the engine doesn’t fully get to operating temperature. If it sticks shut, the temperature rises rapidly and the vehicle needs to be stopped as soon as safely possible, then towed in for repair. It may also be a temporary failure, but should be replaced as soon as possible. These problems set the “Service Engine Soon” warning.

ABS - ASC/DSC Controllers
The electronic brain for the braking and stability control systems has a fairly high failure rate. It is an expensive part and requires coding to the vehicle.

On-line resources

Check my other posting regarding useful BMW online resource

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi there
Does anybody love BMW's just as much as me?
This past May, I bought pre-owned BMW Z3 roadster, and entirely love it. BMW is actually one of the best brand cars you can get. I most certainly will always purchase BMW's from now on, but I must still say I love the older design a lot better than the newer versions. The old models (really anything from 03,04 in some models back) look genuine german. The newer models look more like japanese makes, but nevertheless, they are simply remarkable.
Thank you