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  1. #1
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    Considering an E39 - read this

    This is a post for prospective E39 purchasers. I am going to specifically talk about my car, a 00 540i sport i bought 2.5 years ago. it had 178k on it and now has 188k on it. i dont drive much. before this car i had an 84 528e E28 which I did basically all the work on and a 71 3.0CS also DIY.

    The bottom line first: I am going to sell the 540i. it has been a major disappointment. and no I do not believe I got a lemon. I just feel the car is too unreliable and too expensive to maintain. here i will spin for you because I know you need excuses to buy one: its a GREAT car if you absolutely love DIY and you have a hoist and a good set of tools. if you really enjoy that experience of spending a bunch of time diagnosing problems, meticulously removing broken parts, installing new ones and really getting to know the car inside and out - the 540i is the car for you!

    Why this advice? since i got the car in may 2010 i have had to replace the clutch ($2500), tires ($900), the water pump seized which caused the belt to seize which broke and took out the fan, fan clutch, some water hoses and other parts ($1800) and now the alternator ($1100) and the aux water pump ($600).

    Now I should tell you these prices are canadian, as I am in Toronto and they are indie shops that are using primarily aftermarket OEM parts. yes... that's why my advice - if you are a DIYer and you love to work on your car you will love the 540i! but if you are basically a "take it to the shop" person you better have a lot of money.

    Granted, now i have a new clutch, a new water pump, a new alternator and aux water pump. but... my 84 E28 did not have ANYWHERE near this amount of work done on it in the 10 years I had it and i bought it when it was 15 years old! the problem with the 540i is there is no end in site: i could be into the suspension ($$$), more engine parts, steering, electronics, the list goes on. so great i have all those new parts and probably don't have to worry about them for 5 years (it used to be you could say 15 years but these days quality has gone down the toliet, prices have gone up) but there is all this other stuff that can go wrong its like throwing around $1000 bills. hey if you enjoy that too, another great reason to get an E39.

    So I've had it with my lovely 540i sport. its too much car for me. and since i am relegated to street parking and i can only work at the side of the street with no hoist. worked great with my E9 and E28. but the E39 is just not practical for that arrangement as its a farily difficult car to work on comparatively. you really need a hoist and a workshop because of the time it takes.

    so, great car for your shop, hoist and serious DIY approach. great car too if you take it to the shop but be prepared to shell out a wake of money on repairs.
    Last edited by plexus; 09-18-2012 at 12:49 PM.
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  2. #2
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    Member No: 4328 jimlev will become famous soon enough jimlev will become famous soon enough jimlev's Avatar
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    Sounds like your doing all the repairs the previous owner neglected.
    At 178K the original parts were way past ready to fail. Even if they were changed once some were ready to fail again.
    Looks like the next owner may get a car that is good for another 100K miles, hope he is a DIY guy.
    I have the same year and model, I haven't had many problems with mine, but I'm only at 138K. Not driving it in the winter does help.
    Just a few mods.
    If it ain't broken make it better and quicker!
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  3. #3
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    I agree with Jim. The guy that buys your 540 is going to have the same experience that you had with your E28. 10 years of relatively trouble free driving because all the replacements have been done. I agree that these cars are not as easy to work on or trouble free as an E28, but, they are a quantum leap forward in performance and technology.
    Vin
    '97 540 6 Speed

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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by 540sport View Post
    I agree with Jim. The guy that buys your 540 is going to have the same experience that you had with your E28. 10 years of relatively trouble free driving because all the replacements have been done. I agree that these cars are not as easy to work on or trouble free as an E28, but, they are a quantum leap forward in performance and technology.
    I agree as well. the asking price will reflect this. but there is more to go: suspension, brakes, wheel bearings, all the other pumps and controls and aux pumps and controls and i wouldn't be surprised if there are aux aux pumps and controls. this car is designed to be a money pit - a cash grab. auxiliary water pump??? wtf? oh and yes, we really need a water cooled alternator. cash grab. oh and right.. the dual mass flywheel. LOL! idiotic.

    live and learn though. i am sure i will get ample acceleration out of a toyota. im not racing. i just want to drive the thing and not have $4000 in repairs every year. is the "performance" of the 540i worth it? not to me.
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    Maybe you should have settled for a 530, as you had the exprience of the 528?
    Any car with that mileage will have the problems you mentioned, or some others.
    BTW what has tire wear to do with all this?

    My 0.02: all the cars I have owned before spell it out in the owners manual what kind of maintenance should be done, and that includes all the fluids. Most people don't do that, then complain that x or y part failed.
    Same with the BMW, which has some tighter tolerances.
    If go exotic, which has some even tighter tolarances, you will see some really weird $$$$ numbers concerning PREVENTATIVE maintenace.
    Just sayin', and you're prolly right: BMW is not for you. Sorry to hear.

    P.S.: my 530 has been the most reliable car I ever had in the last 30 years (preventative maintenance done).
    2003 BMW 530
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    I should have moved away from BMW completely. i have a feeling the quality of these cars has gone down significantly. there are many other citations on the decline of quality. like i said if you love working on your car get a 540i!

    FYI the car i have (i hesitate to say "my car" because I have no pride of ownership with this POS) was under dealer warranty for 6 years, so thats until 2006. so for 4 years it has been "unknown" but I am pretty sure the previous owner gave it a decent amount of car. it seems to me that all these expensive parts are failing now because their time is up. but, my E28 clutch for example, lasted 25 years 290k kms before it needed to be replaced and when i got it replaced it was 1/2 the price of the one in the 540i. its a personal decision if one's 540i clutch provides 4x the value of say an E28 clutch. for me frankly i would take the E28 reliability and lack of "performance" over the 540i.

    the clutch in the 540i was not the original clutch which means it has been replaced at least twice in 12 years 190k kms. that's nuts!

    Maybe a 530 is more reliable, I don't know. But as one 540i owner I will tell you, and this is with 15 years of BMW experience, it is NOT a reliable car at all. i was swayed by the citations of "performance" people post when they talk about this car. and i read into the forum posts what i wanted to read and that was that the 540i has some issues but over-all its an ok car to maintain. but that was not objective. i wanted one so i read what i wanted to read. really, i should have heeded all the warning signs on the forums about the parts reliability issues and cost of this model.

    I am going to try and find an E28 in decent shape but I doubt that will be possible. I'll likely end up with a Toyota.
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    I understand where you're coming from but you can't compare E39 540 to E28. E39 540 is a high performance car that is light years ahead of E28 in terms of engine power, tighter suspension, more electronic aids etc... It's not the most reliable car out there but as the other pointed out you bought yours with high miles and incomplete maintenance history.

    There are number of cars here including mine that are very reliable for the fact that they're obsesively maintained. I do agree with you, E39 540 is not for you (no offense intended). It's definetely not Lexus reliable but it's much less boring to many of us. You have to bit little bit of crazy (meant as a compliment) to own one. Good Luck with your next purchase.
    1998 BMW 540i/6 Arctic Silver Metallic (05/98 non vanos)
    1997 BMW 528i/A Alpine White (04/97 single vanos)
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    The E28 528e is a tough act to follow as it was one of the lowest maintenance, highest reliability car that BMW ever made. Handling is superb - yes, better than a 540, remember, it's under 3000 lbs.! No power to speak of but adequate for normal use and excellent gas mileage. The biggest shortcoming was mediocre air conditioning. Had one for 15 years, gave it to my son when I got a 540. By comparison the 540 is a big, powerful, comfortable - and complicated car. If you wait until problems become obvious and then pay a mechanic to deal with them, it is a very expensive car too. If you take the time to keep an eye on the various known problem areas, do routine maintenance yourself, and keep current with what goes wrong as the car ages, it's not too bad, worth the trouble. My only complaint with the E39 540 is it is too civilized, gasp - dare I say it on an E39 forum? - it felt like a really nice Buick, not a BMW. I gave my 540 to my other son and my wife still has a 540. I went with an E36 M Coupe, feels like a BMW.
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  9. #9
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    Okay, I gotta chime in. I've posted this before. When I got my 540 in '01, I still had not sold my E12. Driving both cars back-to-back, I was astounded by how similar they felt on the road, and how each talked to me. The lineage was very clear. The cars were three generations apart, and I could still feel the "BMWness" between the two.

    So, I have to take issue with your observation. The E39 certainly carried on the tradition.
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  10. #10
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    I am selling my '99 540. I still think it is a great car but I want something smaller. I have spent about $1000 per year on maintenance over the last five years. I think that is pretty reasonable. I have changed fluids regularly and that probably helped.

    I kept good records on the car. Before i bought my new car, I went to the records thinking I could justify a new (to me) car based on maintenance and depreciation. No way! Keeping The 540i made the best financial sense by far.

    Yours has much higher mileage than mine but I have changed some of the same parts. I agree with some of the others that you car was neglected by the previous owner.
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    Neglected? The car had 178k! I hate to break the news to prospective buyers, but clutches do wear out, water pumps do wear out, alternators do wear out and believe it or not tires do wear out. Only the 18 yo's on B'fest would preemtively replace any of these parts. Blaming the seller for buyer's excessive optimism is misplaced.


    Quote Originally Posted by JakeC View Post
    ......................... I agree with some of the others that you car was neglected by the previous owner.
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    Let me see if I understand this correctly. You are stating that if you buy any Toyota with 178k miles that had ONLY what broke replaced, it would not need suspension work, timing belt and water pump replacement, clutch or auto tranny work, tires, front u-joints, or possibly alternator in the near future? That is a statement you should not make, you should know better.
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    Ahhh....I'm not saying that at all. I'm saying that a car with 178k is VERY likely to need maintenance, and that suggesting the PO who didn't replace any of these parts that were fully functioning at time of sale somehow means PO neglected the car, is flat wrong. Preemptive parts replacement, in most cases, is another step on the path to the poor house. With the exception of guys with their first nice car, who can't wait to twist the wrenches, nobody replaces clutches until they're slipping, nobody replaces water pumps until they have excessive play or they are leaking, no one replaces alternators until the battery light is on, and no one replace tires until they're on the wear bars.


    Quote Originally Posted by 66.cobra View Post
    Let me see if I understand this correctly. You are stating that if you buy any Toyota with 178k miles that had ONLY what broke replaced, it would not need suspension work, timing belt and water pump replacement, clutch or auto tranny work, tires, front u-joints, or possibly alternator in the near future? That is a statement you should not make, you should know better.
    Paul S
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