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    Seeking advice on known issues concernin 03 540i/6

    Hi Group,

    As mentioned previously in my "stereo upgrade" thread, I just bought a low mileage (36k) 2003 540i/6 that is in beautiful garaged condition. I am seeking advice on things I should do right away, or at least to find out what will be "most likely" upcoming issues with this car.

    I have read a lot about leaking valve covers, valley pan gaskets and all about the time bomb cooling systems ... but I'd like to ask if folks could summarize these issues in this one post for my specific car (meaning ... I have no idea how many of these items BMW addressed and fixed by the time my late model e39 was produced)

    Here is all I know about the cars history

    Perfectly clear carfax

    3 documented oil changes @ the dealer

    1 cooling system check and top off of fluid (2 years ago)

    ... and a couple of trips to the dealer after original purchase where the computer says "tire pressure checks"

    The local dealer did the pre-purchase inspection for me and didn't find a single thing to point out!! They did fail my MD inspection because of window tint but that was it. I did ask them to do a pressure check on the cooling system and to pull the covers to check for that pesky valve cover leak ... everything was fine. This car was only driven in good whether and very low miles at that (3+k per year for the last 3 years at least) Two owners ... first had it for 25k miles and the 2nd for 11k ... both had it serviced at the dealer.

    I DO NOT see any documented brake fluid changes or cooling system flush / refills

    Because the car looked in great shape, I wanted to jump right into the stereo upgrade. Unfortunately I discovered summer performance tires on it & now have to buy a full set of winter tire/wheels which ate up that money (although I did learn what I needed from the group when that time comes ;-)

    I DO want to make sure to address any immediate TIME related issues with the car, even though the mileage is low (meaning for example ... will the cooling system parts fail over time like it will in miles?)

    ASAP I will be changing the motor oil (bmw 5w30) and I will be removing the CDV and changing it out with a less restrictive unit ... I will most likely add SS brake lines and change/flush brake fluid (anything additional needed to make sure clutch gets flushed too?)

    Any and all advice is greatly appreciated ... I plan on keeping this car for a long long time and do not mind spending $$$ if it means longer life/less risk of fatal failures (like upgrading to alloy radiator and cooling system parts IF called for and/or aftermarket water pump if it is an issue on my specific car)

    I also like to do what I can in my garage but I am not an experienced wrench ... but I can follow good directions

    Thank you all in advance for your comments and helpful hints and hope you don't mind me asking for this summary.
    Michael in MD

    2003 540i 6-speed
    Sterling Gray / Black

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    Yes | No

    Congratulations! It seems you're serious about the

    upkeep, so I'd advise the following:

    Flush brake fluid, cooling system and power steering fluid,

    Change differential and transmission fluid,

    Just remove CDV, you don't have to replace it with anything,

    Optional: replace fuel filter (it's little pricey since it has integrated regulator, but you don't where and what kind of fuel previous owners used)

    Don't believe for second the BMW fairy tales about lifetime fuel filter and trans. and diff. fluids.

    These procedures are easily find through search and they'll greatly help longevity of you car.

    Get a Bentley manual, great resuorce.

    Good luck!




    1998 BMW 540i 6 speed
    Arctic silver, M sport suspension (euro delivery), prod. date 05/98, non VANOS
    Staggered 18" style 32 OEM wheels
    3.15 open differential
    Remus exhaust
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    VDO oil pressure and temperature gauges in place of headlight/fog switches
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    1997 BMW 528iA
    Alpine white, premium package, prod. date 04/97, single VANOS
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    2000 Nissan Frontier Desert Runner, AKA "The Work Horse"

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    CDV question

    I thought something had to go back in to take up the gap so as not to bend/kink the lines? That is why I was going to buy the $35.00 "gutted" piece to put back in place ...

    Thoughts?Michael in MD

    2003 540i 6-speed
    Sterling Gray / Black

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    Yes | No

    There's plenty of line to reach

    The clutch line comes down from the clutch cylinder and there is a strain relief coil of line where it connects to the CDV and the transmission.

    Just unscrew the line from the CDV, plug it, unscrew the CDV and screw the line back in. The only reason for the gutted CDV was to look stock for warranty repairs and that's no longer a concern for most if not all E39's.

    BTW, nice rare 540 you have there.

    Vin
    98 540 Sport with everything & extra hots
    BMW CCA, Boston Chapter
    "The 540 is the head-case supermodel girlfriend..." Eric S.
    "The worst thing you could do with your money is save it." ~ Jackie Gleason
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    Re: There's plenty of line to reach

    Thanks,

    I did not know that ;-)

    Curious ... why do you say "rare"?Michael in MD

    2003 540i 6-speed
    Sterling Gray / Black

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    Yes | No

    There were only 1100 or so '03 540/6spds

    Many more automatic sports were sold, but they are not true 540 Sports.

    Replace the CDV, get the adaptations reset and make sure you are turning the DSC off when you are trying to launch. Turn it back on after second gear.

    The clutches in these cars are not robust, they are less than 9 inches and the CDV makes them heat up and wear if you are trying to launch fast.
    Vin
    98 540 Sport with everything & extra hots
    BMW CCA, Boston Chapter
    "The 540 is the head-case supermodel girlfriend..." Eric S.
    "The worst thing you could do with your money is save it." ~ Jackie Gleason
    If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough. Mario Andretti
    The United States is a nation of laws: poorly written and randomly enforced. - Frank Zappa




  7. #7
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    Yes | No

    I would immediately change the oil, filter, trans>

    and diff lube. You should hope that the car had more than just 3 oil changes. Many here change oil at the midpoint of the Service Interval Indicator.

    Are you going to use a pressure flusher for the brakes? If so, use it to also flush the clutch.

    Cooling system failures seem to be related to the number of heat cycles, as well as failure to renew the coolant (BMW stuff and distilled water, please).

    Buy a copy of Bimmer magazine, and email Mike Miller for the Old-fashioned service schedule, and ignore anything your owner's manual says.

    The stuff to which you refer has not been resolved for this model.

    Buy a copy of the E39 Bentley Service Manual, and a good scan tool, one that describes the meaning of the P-code, and can also read pending codes, as well as display real-time data.
    Ed in San Jose. BMW CCA member since 1987 (Nr. 62319). Golden Gate Chapter. '97 540i 6 speed. Build Date 3/97. Aspensilber over Aubergine leather.

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    Re: I would immediately change the oil, filter, trans>

    Thanks for that,

    Yes, I "should hope" there were more than 3 oil changes but everyone at the dealer seemed to think this was normal ... that the owners would have brought the car in for service only when the indicator lights told them too. 36k = 3 changes (although in years I wanted to see more)

    I will definitely be changing the oil (and filter??) half way through the SII ... I changed the M1 in my M5 every 4-5k miles and 12-15k FREAKS me out!!!

    I wasn't really thinking about the trans and R/E fluids yet but I see your point in terms of years.

    I will have all fluids changed at once which will give me a good base line for my own maintenance schedules going forward.

    I will have my local shop do this for me ... anything tricky to changing these fluids or will any mechanic/shop know what to do? I will search for the routine to bleed air from the cooling system just in case ... anything else?Michael in MD

    2003 540i 6-speed
    Sterling Gray / Black

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    Yes | No

    Yes, you should always be changing the filter (m)

    when you do an oil change. You should really be doing oil changes at 7.5K or less with synthetic oils.
    Nice car!






    "Drive It Like You Stole It, A Sickness for Quickness"
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    No guts, no glory! Tire smoke, not traction control!
    Zionsville all aluminum radiator to replace the 3 leak prone Nissens Radiators!

    NOS Progressive 2 Stage Controller with port injection
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    Koni FSD's/H&R Springs, BAV Brass Caliper Bushings
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    Yes | No

    Okay, what should I buy

    Thank to all who have commented so far ... I appreciate the input

    Fluids ... any reason to buy anything other then BMW oils & fluids?

    BMW 5w30 oil (and filter ;-)
    BMW coolant

    How about manual trans fluids? Anything better then what BMW uses (I do not know what they use)?

    Same question for rear end oil and brake fluids (I will not track or race the car ... street use only ... sometimes spirited back road driving but nothing prolonged ... I assume regular ol' dot 4 is fine)

    Major question ... when exactly do you all recommend me doing the entire cooling system replacement? Also, since this is a low mileage vehicle and this is the first time any of it is getting done, should I just buy BMW pcs or go full out and buy the Zionvilles alloy upgrades?

    How often are the factory parts going to fail, or maybe fail, forcing us to replace these items as maintenance items at x miles / x years?

    I would much rather spend 2x3 the price of factory parts to get complete peace of mind with the aftermarket stuff IF (big if) if those costly items do away with the danger the faulty factory parts introduce. Also assuming those parts don't have to be replaced again

    I see Bentley manuals go for $100 - 150.00 and say e39 1997 - 2002 ... I assume this is the same book for my 2003 car too but in case there is something different I thought I'd ask ...

    One last question (for this post lol) ... what scan tool should I buy? I really have no clue about such things (I'd also like the ability to re-set my service indicator for oil changes too if this is part of the scan tool functions) ... and who sells them?

    Oops ... is there a good online retailer you folks recommend? Someone who knows our cars in detail?

    Okay that's it ;-)

    Thanks again everyone,



    Michael in MD

    2003 540i 6-speed
    Sterling Gray / Black

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    Yes | No

    One major complaint so far ...

    Coming from an e28 M5 I have to say that the throttle (pedal) response is terrible in this car when compared to any other car I've driven. I can't seem to blip the throttle on down shifts like I am use to and guess I'll have to re-train myself to this car. I push the pedal but get no raise in RPM's ... I really have to floor it to get a response but it is not natural (nor is it really a blip)

    Any fixes for this issue? I assume it is not just the setup on "my" car ...

    I did see something called Sprint Booster Power Converter advertised but have not seen any actual user comments here ;-)

    ThanksMichael in MD

    2003 540i 6-speed
    Sterling Gray / Black

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    Yes | No

    You have an electronic throttle "drive by wire" >>

    That's a common complaint with that setup. Maybe you can be the guinea pig for others - buy one of those devices and report back.
    Ed in San Jose. BMW CCA member since 1987 (Nr. 62319). Golden Gate Chapter. '97 540i 6 speed. Build Date 3/97. Aspensilber over Aubergine leather.

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    Yes | No

    Throttle response is controlled by the DME (m)

    You can get a Dinan Stage 1 engine download. IIRC there is a 20% discount going on now, don't know how long it will last.
    The one you mentioned is for the newer cars, don't think that will work on our E39's.
    This will speed up the throttle response a little. It will also remove the top end 155 MPH limit and increase the rev limit by 300 RPM in 1st gear and ~500 RPM in all the other gears. It's not going to transform your response, however every little bit helps.


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    Yes | No

    Re: Throttle response is controlled by the DME (m)

    Thanks Jim,

    Does the download add HP and/or torque too? Or should I just ignore the claims made by companies who try to sell such features in their software/chips? (any of them as I search, not just Dinan)

    I would do it if it only improved the throttle response a good bit. I'll never see over 155 around here but I do tend to drive it into the upper RPM ranges/red line on a regular basis (again, because of my past experience with BMW engines & that is how my M5 wanted to be treated ... not sure what is "normal" driving habits for BMW V-8's )

    Michael in MD

    2003 540i 6-speed
    Sterling Gray / Black

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    Yes | No

    Yes it does add some HP and torque (m)

    Click on the Specs in this link

    From the Dinan catalog I have it only shows 9/98 to 2001 production figures. This is for the 540.
    Most of the gain is in the midrange, part throttle operation.
    Peak HP Gain part throttle 16 HP @ 5700 RPM
    Peak HP Gain part throttle 9 HP @ 4500 RPM
    Peak Torque part throttle 25ft-lb @ 2500 RPM
    Peak Torque Gain full throttle 11 ft-lbs @ 2500 RPM
    Rev limit increase +300 RPM
    Also you will get a little better performance with higher octane fuel.
    If you like shifting in the upper region it's nice to not have the engine going into RPM limit below 6000 RPM in 1st gear. The other gears the limit is about 6300 RPM. With a Dinan download you can get ~6200 RPM out of 1st and ~6600 RPM from the other gears.
    Throttle response isn't a night and day difference. I only notice it's shortcomings when you are accelerating from idle. In an automatic this is more noticable that in a manual tranny car. With a manual you already have the RPM up a bit before you are ready to let the clutch out. I find that 1500 RPM is a good speed to take off from if you are looking to pull a hole short or something similar, no drive by wire delays.
    540NJ said he had trouble chirping the rear tires, don't remember what size he has, but my 265/40/17 PS2's can break free without using any additional power adders.

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    Yes | No

    i can't compare to your car jim

    I can break'em free, but need to preload the revs and dump the clutch a bit to do it. They are the OEM 18s. Also, have never deleted the CDV, which doesn't help any. I ordered a motive bleeder from a local porsche shop, will install the CDV when I bleed the brakes soon. I also have PS2s.

    With the 16s and snow tires, it takes no effort at all to break loose.

    dave
    03 540i6

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    Yes | No

    Re: One major complaint so far ...

    As others have mentioned, you have drive-by-wire. I hate it too. You should be aware that there are some adaptions which take place to the driver's habits. You may wish to visit a shop with the proper computer which can "erase all adaptations". You can also try disconnecting the battery and connecting the car's leads to one another (not shorting the battery) for something like 30 minutes. That may or may not remove all adaptations.

    Your brakes also feature electronic "enhancements" which also drive me nuts (and my E39 doesn't have). Both throttle and brake control systems look at how fast you push the pedal, not just how far, and assume that if you depressed a pedal 1" quickly you must want to do whatever you asked for quickly. The same 1" doesn't do the same thing when you squeeze it slowly. I don't understand why German engineers can't simulate a wire with all this computer crap, or at least give the driver an option to select that behaviour.

    I remember one of the first times I was driving my dad's 1999 540 shortly after he got it. An animal was running and came near the side of the road but looked like it was going to turn. I jumped onto the brakes but just intended to hook up the pads and start the car slowing. The EBC interpreted this rapid pedal application (even though it was only a light application) as a "panic stop" and jammed the car to a stop at full braking. I was impressed. Luckily no one was right behind us. I experience the throttle shenanigans every time I drive his old 1999 or current 2002 540. Combined with the transmission adaptations I can't get his car to accelerate "moderately brisky". It's either creeping away from a stoplight or suddenly decides to chirp the tires and roar off. Don't get me started on trying to precisely pull up onto ramps to service the car. He's nearly launched right over them a couple of times because it refuses to creep up, then decides it needs to go go go!

    I think someone will get my cable throttle E39 over my cold, dead body.

    Anyways - look to see about clearing adaptations, yourself or at a shop, and give it some time to see if it learns how you want to drive.


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    Yes | No

    Re: One major complaint so far ...

    Wow!

    I had no idea about the car adapting to the drivers behavior ... I'll do a search today for clearing previous input.

    How in the world does it make sense to have a car with controls that DO NOT react the same way each time we use them?

    I truly hate it (but not sure I'm going to be the guinna pig to try the sprint booster lol) I certainly do not want to launch my car off ramps in the garage ... that would ruin my day!

    Interesting though ... I've seen people talking about the torque grunt and power these cars have (including some stupid youtube videos) but my car does not seem to have that kind of tire chirping power. Hmmm ... maybe that is being removed by software sniffing Sunday driving habits of the previous owners

    ... this is a long way away from my old e28 M5 (which was falling apart around me at 300k+ miles except for drive train / suspension)
    Michael in MD

    2003 540i 6-speed
    Sterling Gray / Black

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    Yes | No

    tire chirping

    I respect Craig's opinions, but must say I haven't experienced the episodes he speaks of with braking and acceleration. Maybe because I am the only driver of the car, so it's already adapted to my habits?

    I assume you have the OEM 18" staggered wheels. I have to try very hard to get any sort of wheel spin, probably due to the large amount of rubber on the road.

    Different story when I put on my 16" winter wheels/tires (dunlop M3). It almost feels faster, because I can slide the car around corners (at fairly low speeds) with a touch of go pedal, and break loose at will.

    dave
    03 540i6

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    Yes | No

    Thanks Dave, that makes me feel better ;-)

    Michael in MD

    2003 540i 6-speed
    Sterling Gray / Black

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