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Old 04-13-2012, 08:30 AM   #1
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BMW E39 540i

i'm currently in the market for a e39 540i, or the 'poor man's m5', and was wondering if anyone owns/has owned one of these and have any insights on the car's reliability and common problems? also what to look out for when checking them out.

i've read some stuff online about the V8 valley pan gasket and radiator problems, but just wondering if anyone had any first hand info about that.

trying to look for one with around 100k on it.. but getting a little hard cause the car is more than 10 years old now. thanks!
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Old 04-13-2012, 08:40 AM   #2
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My father has a 2002 E39 540i with 140k kms and yes he's had various cooling issues, ie cracked radiator end tanks, leaking overflow tank, seized replacement water pump, and the infamous valley pan gasket leak. He gets all his work done at the dealership and follows all the regular maintainance schedules, but still seems to have these cooling gremlins. The cooling system is mostly plastic, so it would probably be a good idea to change everything every 4-5 yrs.

There was a problem with the HVAC fan only blowing 1 speed, a known issue with some relay, forgot the real name, but it's known as the Hedgehog. I was able to install that for him, saved him $600 from the dealership.

He also has the issue with the LED "dots" on the digital dash failing.

After tallying up his maintainance bills and repair bills, it works out to be $2k/year, again, all done at the dealership.

Last edited by IMASA; 04-13-2012 at 08:53 AM.
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Old 04-13-2012, 08:42 AM   #3
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But it is a nice lookin car
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Old 04-13-2012, 08:42 AM   #4
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I've had my E39 540i since the day I bought it in 2001. some common problems:

1. LED on Dashboard fading ($200 fix if you decide to send it to someone online to do it).
2. Radiator replaced at 45000km
3. Alternator failed at 73,000km and replaced

so far the car has been relatively good. I have 78,000km now (very low driven). I'm actually considering to sell the vehicle. PM me if you want more info. It's an Auto. Cosmos Black Metallic.
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Old 04-13-2012, 09:11 AM   #5
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Read:

www.540i6.com - Common Problems and Fixes

Then also:

edge motorworks - 5 Series 1995-2003 (E39 & M5)



As it has been mentioned, Cooling System, Valley Pan Gasket, Valve Cover gasket are the main ones.
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Old 04-13-2012, 09:23 AM   #6
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Although the LED dashboard lights are an issue, I wouldn't let that stop you from choosing one e39 over the other. it will most likely fail on you eventually anyways even if it hasn't yet.
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Old 04-13-2012, 09:30 AM   #7
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Yeah..funny thing is with all these potential problems I still really want one. Guess I'm a little obsessed haha
Thanks prelude i might shoot you a PM in a bit! And thanks for the replies. The styling of the car has really gotten to me. The only other 5 series that looks good to me is the newest generation but also too expensive for me and too much electronics in the car. I'm driving an e90 right now and it can't even match the older BMW's connection to the road.
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Old 04-13-2012, 09:59 AM   #8
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This was my 03 540i M-Sport that I had for a little bit:





Very cool car! The 02-03 M-Sport was a very different car with shorter gears, etc and was a very pimp cruiser. Awful on gas, the 4.4 motors have a few common issues, the 5 series has a few common issues, but all in all a sweet ride.

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Old 04-13-2012, 11:21 AM   #9
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That's a really clean 540.

I was in the market for one..what kept me away was the bad fuel mileage and the cooling system issues. They've depreciated a lot though in the past couple years.

Even with the issues that they have, the E39 540i is still most likely the best exec luxury sedan from its time. Way better than the W210 or an A6, etc.
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Old 04-13-2012, 11:48 AM   #10
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Shorn,

Is this why you're selling the E90? If so -
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Old 04-13-2012, 12:33 PM   #11
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Yeah.. 200hp just not cutting it for me hahaha. Need more torque!
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Old 04-13-2012, 08:36 PM   #12
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are you are mechanically inclined, have sources to inexpensive parts, and have a reliable daily driver?
if not, don't do it!
seriously

i have a 540i and a 740i. trust me.
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Old 04-13-2012, 09:33 PM   #13
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had one. loved it. couldn't keep up with the maintenance costs tho

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Old 04-13-2012, 10:05 PM   #14
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i'm kind of on the edge now.. guess it depends if i can find a good condition one. and save up for the repairs. if i can find one thats been taken care of and not trashed.. thanks for the insights!

edit: scratch that i still really want one. its one of those things that you know is probably not the brightest decision you'll ever make but you're still determined to go through with it. sigh.. now someone should give me reasons TO buy one!
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Old 04-13-2012, 11:18 PM   #15
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i've been on the lookout as well.. a least for a standard shift 540i.. but with rising gas costs, and a car that takes premium, higher running costs… maybe if a screaming deal comes along..
here are a couple over here in victoria i've been eyeing.

1998 BMW 540i *93,000km!!* Oak Bay, Victoria


BMW 540i West Shore: Langford,Colwood,Metchosin,Highlands, Victoria

ah hell just buy this!
2000 BMW M5 Imola Red
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Old 04-14-2012, 02:05 AM   #16
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Try to find a M-Sport 6-spd if you can.
My pops had a M-Sport 6-spd, and my mom had a regular auto.
Two completely different cars imho. The M-Sport 6-spd was amazing; would've bought it off him was I not in uni with no money at the time.
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Old 04-14-2012, 05:21 AM   #17
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had one, was a nightmare with a 11 grand repair cost for a motor replacement by the previous owner...... but its was still a nice car to drive around in lol
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Old 04-14-2012, 11:34 AM   #18
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what about a gs400?
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Old 04-14-2012, 11:52 AM   #19
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what about a gs400?
i'm not really a fan of lexus other than the is350. the styling of the gs400 doesn't really appeal to me and i really like the steering feedback and handling of bmw's (even a fatass like the 540i is fun to drive).

$20,000 for the m5 is a little out of my price range.. and i assume the maintenance would be even more than a regular 540i?
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Old 04-14-2012, 01:28 PM   #20
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i'm not really a fan of lexus other than the is350. the styling of the gs400 doesn't really appeal to me and i really like the steering feedback and handling of bmw's (even a fatass like the 540i is fun to drive).

$20,000 for the m5 is a little out of my price range.. and i assume the maintenance would be even more than a regular 540i?
Really depends on the car.
I'd really recommend dropping ~$100 for a inspection at a shop like CG.
Two of my friends bought e36 M3s recently around the same time; both 97s. One of them spent the money to inspect 3 cars over a long period of time before buying the third one which was immaculate. The other bought his on a whim, with just a carfax.
As such, my first friend hasn't had any issues, just an oil change so far, my other friend on the other hand has spent about $7k already fixing things.
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Old 04-14-2012, 03:11 PM   #21
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I'd personally have it checked out by a different shop.
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Old 04-14-2012, 04:35 PM   #22
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Honestly you are buying a 10 year + car.. it is be time for a lot of the parts refurbishment anyways.

Comfort Relay and missing LCD pixels are common for that generation of BMW

There are good things about BMW and german cars in general when it comes to repair (especially when it comes to Asian cars):

1. The repair documentations are often public, you can get it from Bentley etc.
2. The repair tools are generally available (from knock offs to full version real mccoys).
3. There are plenty of DIYer that have done it and have documented on the message boards.
4. I give BMW extra bonus over Mercedes, is their part commonality between models is higher.

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Really depends on the car.
I'd really recommend dropping ~$100 for a inspection at a shop like CG.
Two of my friends bought e36 M3s recently around the same time; both 97s. One of them spent the money to inspect 3 cars over a long period of time before buying the third one which was immaculate. The other bought his on a whim, with just a carfax.
As such, my first friend hasn't had any issues, just an oil change so far, my other friend on the other hand has spent about $7k already fixing things.
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Old 04-14-2012, 08:09 PM   #23
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Btw, this one seriously looks really nice (mileage is around 160K which is not too bad IMO) from the description. However, its from a Kingsway dealership, so do watch out! M technic body kit with M interior and its a 2002! So you get the upgraded lights. 2002 BMW 540i M Pkg, BLACK ON BLACK, LOCAL, NO ACCIDENTS,

Anyways, please do have the car checked by places like CG as mention above before you make the purchase.

I bought mines last year, and so far, the major things that occurred are the valley pan leaking gasket and the replacement of the steering wheel pump. If I remember, CG charged me around $1700 for both inspection II and and leaking gasket, and around $700 for the steering pump problem. The car drives really nice now and CG did an awesome job.

Some other minor things like overheating due to lack of coolant also occurs too! But they were easy to fix.
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Old 04-14-2012, 09:06 PM   #24
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How about a 530i M sport, standard transmission?
2002 BMW 530i M PACKAGE

Used to have a 330i with the same engine, great car and much better on gas compared to the 540i. Also seems to have a different steering system iirc (rack and pinion vs recirculating pinball) which makes it different (better to some).
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Old 04-14-2012, 09:15 PM   #25
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^Wow, that is one of the best colors on the E39s!
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