Jump to content

Typical (?) E39 diesel post purchase repairs.

Recommended Posts

Hope this story of a used E39 purchase and the repairs needed might be of interest.


About 3mths ago wanting a large diesel estate I bought a 2002 525D Tourer unseen from 200mls away. Only 2 owners, 112k recorded with history and short MOT/VED. Here is what it's needed to bring the condition up to how like my cars...


The interior was the easy bit as it was already good. A basic valet and several leather treatments over a few weeks with Gliptone brought it up far better than many 12yr old cars. New cupholders, door mirror glass, replacement driver's door seal and a resprayed drivers seat base dealt with all other items.


Body wise it was pretty straight but there were 3 panels that needed smart repairs. In the end I bought the spray silver and other materials from Halfords and to date have completed 2 of the panels and the repairs are not visible.  I did have to use a restoration kit to bring back one cloudy headlamp to sparkling again.


Everything electrical worked fine apart from an airbag lamp on which turned out to be a high resistance joint on the feed to the drivers airbag... now sorted. Also one dip headlamp beam pattern was weird but this was just due to a badly made budget H7 bulb... replaced the pair with uprated ones. The car only came with one key/plip and soon I will have to grit my teeth and get a second from BMW.


Service wise it was up to date on oil but behind on all the other filters so I did the lot in a major service inc finding and washing out the crankcase breather filter. Brake fluid had already been changed last year. The day I collected it I had found a diesel leak from under the car and this was  one of the corrosion prone pipes under the passenger side just behind the secondary pump. I temp replaced this with copper which I had in stock but in time will fit a new pair of OE BMW pipes.


I stripped and copaslipped all the brakes inc the handbrake drums which took a bit of work to get a decent figure on the MOT rollers. Otherwise the discs and pads were quite recent and will last ages.


Wheels and suspension produced a few challenges. A vibrating run home turned out to be 2 buckled rims on the car (not the need to have them balanced as the seller said!) and the spare turned out to be buckled as well so I bought a set of 5 in mint condition from a breakers. On these I had a set of 4 new Dunlop Blue Response tyres. The previous MOT advisorys hinted the anti-roll droplinks were poor so I changed them all front and rear.


On the drivetrain side a clunk turned out to be the propshaft rubber front coupling so I replaced this with genuine BMW and at the same time replaced the centre bearing plus regreased the rear UJ. While I was under there I Waxoyled the floorpan. I also changed the gearbox and differential oils using OE spec long-life fluids.


While the exhaust was off to do this I made up a replacement for the long time missing gearbox to exhaust bracket. This missing bracket was an advisory at the last MOT a year before and sadly not doing it has allowed vibration to accelerate a small blow on one flexy.


After an initial fail due to the airbag lamp and several advisorys which I sorted I now have an MOT pass with just the slight blow on the exhaust flexy and the very earliest sign of oil mist on one front damper as the only advisory items. I was really pleased a strong and thorough tester with a long bar and understanding of E39 suspension didn't find any play or faults in any of the many joints and arms. Emissions were very low too and it went straight through on fastpass.


A recent DIS scan while sorting the airbag lamp showed up loads of historical error codes but two rescans since clearing them all down only show I have a glowplug to replace sometime.


So at the end of this first few months settling in time the car runs superbly, hasn't thrown up any disasters and the "in my own time" to-do list is minimal.


Very pleased... despite the £1,083 spent on items to get to this point. It has to be said £711 of that was on wheels and tyres so the service/repair bits have actually been quite reasonable.


A few random images attached.








Edited by Droverunner

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well I've had my 525D 13mths now and it's just been for the second MOT in my hands so thought I'd update on what I've had to do over the year and a bit.


During initial 3mths after purchase...


Replaced alloys (with OE spec) as 3 were buckled and fitted 4 new tyres.

Major all filters service.

Repair high resistance joint on steering column airbag wiring.

Replaced one underbody fuel line which was weeping.

Removed all brake pads and rear handbrake shoes to clean, check & copaslip.

Replace a-roll bar droplinks front & rear.

Replace propshaft front guibo and centre bearing, repack rear prop UJ.

Replaced missing exhaust support at rear of gearbox.

Changed gearbox and diff oils.

Replaced door mirror glass, cupholders and drivers door rubber.


In the 10mths since then...


As I worked on the vehicle at different times removed every underbody shield and Waxoyled floorpan... no rust anywhere so far.

Replaced the drivers side wheelarch liner and lower section as it had caught on tyre in the past and broken.

Fitted new front shock absorbers, top bearings, gaiters and bump stops.

Fitted front exhaust pipe flexy repair sections.

Fitted new rear subframe bushes.

While subframe was lowered to do above checked and Waxoyled rear brake pipes.

Reset airbag lamp after a heavy load in the front seat shorted out the pass occupancy mat (I guess... fine since).


The MOT this week was a pass with no advisories... very pleasing so I treated it to a new spare key as mentioned elsewhere.


I have to admit as I drove it home 200mls from where I purchased 13mths ago I wondered a bit if I'd made a mistake. After my previous nippy smaller front wheel drive car it felt a bit lumbering and on rubbish near illegal tyres, with poor subframe bushes, slightly blowing flexys, 2 buckled wheels and a clacking prop guibo it didn't feel that good.


With all the above work done the car has been totally transformed into a super smooth cruiser which we value for its effortless load carrying ability.


Thanks to all who've given advice on here to enable the repairs to be done without too much hassle.


Edited by Droverunner

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

wow! A fair bit of work there to get it to a standard you were happy with? But they are good cars once they are running as they should be.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes quite a bit but with all the work by myself and parts carefully sourced for good value it's not been that expensive. I bought it about £700 under private sale value and spent almost £1100 in that first 3mths but as mentioned at the start I was unlucky buying a car that needed a set of alloys and then I'm a bit tyre picky so lashed out on a premium set where I could have gone cheaper.


In the last 10mths the spend was £500 or so which I'm OK with but it does have to be remembered many of the jobs I've done will only be needed once in the car's lifetime so in some ways the benefit can be looked at over many years.


And to further put it into perspective this 525 is my early retirement transport plus bit of a hobby too... not so long ago I was paying over £4000/yr in car lease costs where you have nothing to show at the end of the period.


Oh and it is worth mentioning this 525 hasn't had any faults that have let me down, caused it not to start or taken it out of use at short notice... all this mechanical work has been planned in as routine.

Edited by Droverunner

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Just imagine if you had to pay normal garage labour costs for all that work !  Brilliant that you can do it all yourself, and the car is a credit to you.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

A lot of time and effort invested and you must be proud of the end result. Can I ask how big a job it was to replace the centre support bearing and the guibo (doughnut) once the exhaust was off? Any ideas on time scales for a mechanic?


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the comments.


BigMo have you seen my thread about the guibo swap? http://forum.bmw5.co.uk/topic/100909-2003-525d-touring-propshaft-donut-guibo-swap-tips/

Do you mean is it a big job to do at home? Nothing's complicated but there's a lot of fiddle. Car needing support on ramps at front and axle stands rear took a bit of setting up from the start then quite likely you'll need to cut off the exhaust clamp bolts, the various heatshields can be a fiddle to remove and you need a good toolkit to have a spanner or socket that easily gets onto all the fixings throughout the job.


A mechanic doing this on 5-series cars frequently would have the luxury of a lift and all the tools to hand plus a second pair of hands when needed. My job was lengthened as well because the prop centre bearing is not a standard bearing and that wasted an extra 24hrs while the local engineering suppliers sorted something out. I also got distracted taking off some of the floor undertrays to do waxoyling.


I guess I did it over 2 days but perhaps only 2hrs was the actual prop removal and guibo/bearing swap.

Edited by Droverunner

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Can't believe it's virtually 4yrs since I bought this car and for something that cost under £2k back then it's given service of a car costing 10x more. We had decided to change it this month as the loadspace and interior size is no longer essential to us... but I test drove a non-premium car 10yrs newer and it was so unrefined we have decided to keep the E39 another year.


I keep full records and thought the work needed to keep it in top condition might be of interest.


You can take it as read it's had an oil/filter change each year with the other filters changed according to mileage.


On top of that it needed no further work than above in 2015.


During 2016 it needed a pair of rear tyres and I kept to matching Dunlops. I replaced a cracked foglamp with one from Ebay. Fitted new aux drivebelts and front brake pads. It failed its summer 2016 MOT on rear brake effort so I fitted new rear discs, pads and handbrake shoes to get it spot on... then passed with no advisories. On a whim I removed the EGR to clean and check it's operation then refitted.


In 2017 I fitted new front tyres, Dunlops again. I had to re-polish one headlamp as it had gone cloudy again. One rear suspension upper front top link had play so I replaced both. Also replaced one front wheel bearing. At the summer MOT when they did the test that raises the rear on its suspension the nearside rear airbag split so that was a fail. I replaced it with a new Arnott type and received a pass with no advisories. The final thing that year was the dealer driver's airbag recall which I had completed locally. Not great service from the main dealer but perhaps I was regarded as well down the pecking order with a 15yr old car?


One aspect that has kept me on my toes is the airbag lamp. Initially as mentioned above I had a problem passed on by the previous owner which turned out to be a high resistance on one of the driver airbag connections. Then carrying a load on the front seat temp shorted out the passenger sensor which reset OK. Then it threw up several passenger airbag codes which reset a couple of times but then stuck on. Eventually I sorted it late 2017. When the dealers replaced the driver's airbag under recall I asked them to diagnose the passenger code fault and they were useless. This prompted me to buy two £20-£25 Ebay airbag ECUs that closely matched the part numbers on my own (two as I thought the chance of getting one that worked first time was slim and I preferred to hit the job all in one). Both were U/S so returned for refund. I ordered and tested two more at similar prices... both perfect so fitted one and kept the other as a spare. The light hasn't come back in many months so I'm calling that a result.


Now in 2018 and having decided to run it another year I will replace the rear suspension lower links and rose joints. Also I'm putting a new Arnott suspension airbag on the o/s rear to match the one that I fitted after the original n/s burst last year. It's not leaking but we carry a hell of a holiday load and I'd hate that to go halfway to Cornwall.


Daft really that a 16yr old car worth peanuts can be totally rust free... have all gadgets working... and still be a refined load carrier.





Edited by Droverunner

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Good to hear it’s going well! I miss mine and would definitely have another one. :D

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

My last jobs to do in regard to keeping this car another year or two was an intensive DIY valet plus refurbing one cloudy headlamp and the inner tailgate lamps. Now these are done I've taken some pictures. The quality of materials used on the interior in particular are really demonstrated by the way it will clean up so well after hard use. Over my ownership it's done dozens of tip runs... loads of uni runs for daughter piled to the roof with her stuff... over a month as a plumbing & decorating "van" as I renovated a flat for my parents. 


I know the light leather and woody trim look is a bit "living room" for some but it's exactly what I like.


Excuse the no. plate blocking... it's personal ha ha. Marks on loadspace carpet are just from vacuum.

Valet ext front nono.jpg

Valet ext rear nono.jpg

Valet int front.JPG

Valet int rear.JPG

Valet loadspace.JPG

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now