The “75k Mile List”
E39 5 Series (1995-2003, including M) Edition
After years of driving, racing and repairing BMWs, we have clearly identified the common problems and maintenance concerns that need to be addressed on nearly every middle-aged BMW. E39 5-series cars, like all BMWs, have specific areas that need to be inspected regularly, and buyers should require a pre-purchase inspection to verify the condition of these areas.
In this list, you will find items that should have been replaced or at least inspected by 75k-100k miles. Some are model specific and will be noted as such.
Areas of Concern:
Thrust Arm Bushing Failure
Symptoms: Shimmy under braking at freeway speed, vague or rubbery feel in steering, excessive front tire wear. Extreme examples produce a clunking sound. Torn or cracked thrust arm bushing is the most common suspension problem on the E39. Every 5 and 7 series car needs this part replaced by 75k miles, many by 40k miles.
Tie Rod Wear
Symptoms: Steering shimmy, clunking during steering input, inability to hold proper alignment. 5 and 7 series cars share the same basic front steering components, consisting of a tie rod end attached to each end of the center tie rod. If any ball joint boot is cracked as indicated by grease coming out, it must be replaced. All components should also be checked for excessive play, and replaced if out of BMW spec.
Worn and Loose Rear Ball Joints
Symptoms: Unstable handling and excessive tire wear.
The E39 5 Series shares rear suspension geometry with the E38 7 Series, including rear suspension components. The rear suspension joints are critical to maintain the alignment and stability of the vehicle. As the E39 approaches 100K miles, expect the rear ball joints to wear out and need replacement.
Worn or Blown Shocks and Struts
Symptoms: Diving under braking and acceleration, excessive lean and suspension compression during cornering, bouncy and uncomfortable ride, shocks and struts visibly leaking shock oil. Factory BMW shocks on the 5 series are robust and commonly work well for over 100k miles. Because the deterioration is gradual, most BMW drivers hardly notice until the shocks and struts need replacement. On the E39 5-Series, EDGE generally recommends replacing the factory units with either new factory shocks or with Koni Sport shocks. When replacing shocks and struts at 100k miles or more, the upper shock mounts, both front and rear may also need replacement. It is also recommended to install lowering springs and adjust other areas of the suspension at the same time. You will be amazed at the difference a good set of shocks can make in both comfort and performance.
Worn or Failed Swaybar Endlinks
Symptoms: Metallic clicking noise and compromised handling. There is no critical danger in a failed swaybar endlink, but the handling of the car will be severely compromised. Ease of handling can be restored by simple replacement with new endlinks.
Torn Subframe and Subframe Bushings
Symptoms: Erratic handling, unidentified clunking and banging sounds from rear of the car. Especially prevalent on the E39 Touring, torn subframe bushings can lead to subframe failure. Early detection of a torn or cracked subframe bushing can prevent costly subframe repair and welding.
Ripped or Failed Guibo
Symptoms: Loud clunking sound before acceleration as the guibo bolts bind together. A torn guibo (Flex Disc) results in perceivable drivetrain elasticity.
Water Pump Failure
Symptom: Rapidly overheating motor. Water pump failure is the easiest way to cause extensive and expensive damage to your BMW. When the bearing or impeller on the stock pump breaks, it disables the cooling system and can result in a warped head or even more severe engine damage. If your temperature gauge climbs above the ¾ mark TURN THE CAR OFF IMMEDIATELY AND CALL A TOW TRUCK.
To prevent water pump failure, we recommend changing out the water pump on six-cylinder cars every 60-80k miles.
Cracked Radiator Necks
Symptom: Possible drastic drop in coolant level, possible overheating motor, but often no symptoms showing whatsoever. Unfortunately for BMW owners everywhere, the makers of this beautiful car love plastic radiators. These radiators become brittle and crack with age, particularly around the neck and often without warning. To prevent costly repairs or devastating damage, radiators should be replaced routinely every 80-100k miles.
Thermostats and Housings
Symptoms: Car running hot or cold. For 6 cylinder cars and E34 V8s, the factory thermostat housing can eventually crack causing cooling system failure. Replacement with aluminum housing, or with the new composite units every 60k miles will prevent problems. We also recommend replacing the thermostat while the housing is off. Later E39s have electronically controlled MAP cooling thermostats. These will eventually fail as indicated by the check engine light. When this happens, the engine is running approximately 10 degrees hotter. This hurts mileage and will eventually hurt the engine.
If your temperature gauge climbs above the ¾ mark TURN THE CAR OFF IMMEDIATELY AND CALL A TOW TRUCK.
Fan Clutch Failure
Symptom: Fan clutch shows low resistance after driving (while the engine is still warm) when manually turning the fan clutch. Most fan clutches fail between 80 and 100k miles. They provide the primary cooling for your car and are easy for us to diagnose.
Accessory Belt and Tensioner Failure
Symptoms: Squealing noise from the engine bay and/or cracks in the belts, temperature gauge rising above the ¾ mark. If a belt snaps, the cooling system will fail as the water pump ceases to operate. Power steering and alternator will also fail. If you suspect belt failure or see the temperature gauge rise past the 3/4 mark TURN THE CAR OFF IMMEDIATELY AND CALL A TOW TRUCK.
Leaky Valve Cover Gasket
Symptom: Burning oil smell. Prevalent on all BMWs. If uncorrected, oil can seep into the spark plug holes and damage the ignition coils, resulting in costly replacement. Edge recommends replacing this inexpensive gasket when changing sparkplugs as the coilpacks will already be exposed.
O2 Sensor Failure
Symptoms: Poor mileage, poor idle and flat spots in the power curve. Even if your check engine light is on, your car may not be performing optimally. BMW recommends replacing the O2 sensors every 100k miles. Extended high-RPM running/racing and high-performance chips may shorten the replacement cycle.
Symptoms: For 96+ 6 cylinder cars only, poor idle and periodic Check Engine lights showing. A deteriorated valve introduces a vacuum leak that will eventually cause the car to break down if neglected. Typical mileage is approximately 80k miles. Although the part is inexpensive, it requires approximately 4 hours of labor, depending on the year of the car.
Clogged and Dirty Pollen Filter
Symptoms: Reduced flow of air from A/C or heater, and/or damp and musky smell. If either symptom is evident, it’s likely that the pollen microfilter of your car has become dirty and clogged over time. This is a service II replacement item.
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