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BMW 5-Series Sedans



  • Thanks snagiel for your input. I wouldn't have any real heartburn if I had to spend $4 - 5K on it if I knew I had a solid car when I was done. Of course having a competent tech look at it would be a forgone conclusion; I was also looking for feedback regarding common big-buck problems with cars of that vintage (such as the engine block issue with the V-8's), and whether low miles is really a major consideration.

    You're right tho, the price is the temptation, and I have to keep that from clouding my judgement.
  • I agree with snagiel of pricing 1-2k over invoice. I paid 3% over invoice and took delivery in spartanburg as I live in North Carolina. I wanted to deal locally but was getting hardballed. The Performance Center Delivery option gave me some leverage as I could contact dealers up and down East Coast for pricing...In the end, I dealt with my local dealer as they came down to price I was willing to pay. I still went to Perf Center because I thought it would be fun...and it was. This may help you negotiate if you can go to SC for pickup,or at least make your dealer think that's a viable option for you.
  • The 530i uses the rack and pinion steering, but the 540i uses the recirculation ball type. Why? What is the difference? Is this partly why the 540i is nearly $10K more?
  • cmr530icmr530i Posts: 278
    Thank you for your opinions on the damage to my door. I agree that it should be repaired to prevent any rust problems and to satisfy my need to have my 5 look as near perfect as possible. I got an estimate today of $588.42 from a shop recommended by my local BMW dealer. (One heck of an expensive bottle of beer!) They will need to repaint the entire door because of the scratches in the paint.
    dabimmer: Sounds like you experienced an equally freakish event with that rock. This sure has made me think twice about having the window down completely. I am also very thankful it didn't hit the window. Good to hear you only had singed hair. ;-)
  • srfastsrfast Posts: 138
    Rack & Pinion steering is more "direct" than recirculating ball, making the 530i more responsive to steering input. I believe the 540i uses RB steering because the V-8 and R&P components cannot both fit into the available space.

    The 540i is more expensive than the 530i because of the V-8 and in the case of the 540i/6spd., the "standard" Sport Package.

    Hope this helps...JL
  • msealsmseals Posts: 257
    I have been reading that you are looking at a mid 90's 5 series for around $11k? Just to let you know, I just recently bought a 1998 528i CPO 80k miles, 5sp, PP, lthr, wood trim, htd seats, htd steering wheel, power moonroof, jet black on black leather for $16500. I know the mileage is high, but the guy was commuting from Novi to Lansing for work. That is about a 60-65 mile drive one way. When he bought the car it has 25k miles on it, and it was 2 years old. So he put about 55k miles on it in two years and it was pretty much all freeway. He got it serviced locally at a dearlership right near my job. I work near where he lives fortunately. And I have put just over 1000 miles on the car and I couldn't be happier. It is the best car I have ever owned. It just took me some time to get use to buying a used car again, but the fact that it is CPO'd is helping me out since I have 2 years and 20k miles left on the warranty.
  • snagielsnagiel Posts: 750
    A quick definition:

    Rack-and-pinion employs a pinion gear at the lower end of the steering column that engages a rack or a toothed rod that connects to the steering arms. When the gear is rotated by the steering wheel/shaft, it moves the rack from side to side: turning the wheels.

    With recirculating-ball, the steering shaft turns a worm gear that, in turn, causes a toothed metal block to move back and forth. Ball bearings in a recirculating track reduce friction between the worm gear and the block. As the block moves, its teeth rotate a gear connected to a steering arm, which then moves the steering linkage and turns the wheels.

    srfast is right: R&P is inherently a simpler and more direct system, which is why many think it offers better road feel/feedback. RB systems are mainly found in trucks and in heavier cars. I read an explanation somewhere that RB is better suited for heavier cars/trucks because it's a more sturdy mechanism by design. I'm not sure about that, but most of the discussions I've read about it in the 5-series have indicated that the 540's and M5's larger engines prohibit the use of a R&P system.
  • div2div2 Posts: 2,580
    The E34 5ers are darn near bulletproof-assuming you find one that was well maintained. The 525i you are considering doesn't appear to meet that criteria. A well-kept 525i or 535i(even better) can often go 200K+ miles before any major engine work is required. I'd wan't to see a full service history- Was the coolant changed every 2-3 years? How about the brake, transmission, and final drive fluids? Take your time; there are a lot of E34s out there. Find a good one.
  • mod62mod62 Posts: 38
    Washer fluid - In the main reservoir, the manual says to just use water or dilute the solution. i bought some Rain-X winter stuff. Can I just pour it in?
    Also, what is the concentrated reservoir for?
  • srfastsrfast Posts: 138
    Yes, you can use the Rain-X fluid straight.

    The concentrate bottle is for "extra strength" fluids. The following excerpt is from the 2002 5 series owner's manual:

    Fill with intensive-cleaning washer fluid.
    It resists freezing to approx. –177
    (–276) and is available from your BMW

    Hope this helps...JL
  • Help,

    Wife's car, '98 528ia sport, stock stereo, with 52,000 miles, out of warranty. Wife came back today saying the car is possessed. She started the car and the airbag light remained on, she noticed that as she tried to control the radio from the steering wheel controls, nothing happened, however, the indash radio controls worked fine. Stereo wouldn't raise/lower volume, wouldn't change radio station from the steering wheel. She turned the car off then moved the steering wheel up/down, telescope in/out, then started the car again, this time the airbag light went off, steering wheel radio controls worked. She repeated the process, turn car off, play with steering wheel, turn car back on, notice that sometimes the airbag light remains on, sometimes it's off. When airbag remains lit, the radio controls on the steering wheel do NOT work. When the airbag light turns off, the radio controls on steering wheel work fine. Does this sound like a short? Airbag sensor? Any help would be appreciated before I take it to the dealer.


  • Sounds like the "clock spring". That's the wire connection in the steering wheel housing, under/behind the airbag, connecting the airbag to the computer and the other steering wheel controls to their respective components. It could be a loose or broken connection. I would have this checked out IMMEDIATELY as when the airbag light is on, the airbag won't deploy in an accident.
  • msealsmseals Posts: 257
    You definitely want to have this checked out. There is a topic in the web site under the e39 message board that shows how to replace the standard steering wheel with the sport stearing wheel. It shows in detail all the wiring that is behind the airbag. There really isn't much, I think 2 or 3 wires. It seems really simple to take the airbag off. I believe that is like 2 or 3 screws also. Just an FYI if you are a DIYer adn want to save some cash. It it doesn't work, then just take it in.
  • I am not much of DIYer. I get very nervous in general working on cars yet along BMW's. Not to mention SRS (Airbags) systems. I just wanted to get an idea of what may be the problem this way I can be somewhat educated before I take it in to the dealer. I played with the steering wheel last night for about half an hour and the airbag light would remain on only about the half number of attempts. When the airbag light stayed on, the radio controls on the steering wheel wouldn't function till you turn the car off then back on. Sometimes it took a few attempts to get the light to turn off. It sounds like it could be a short somewhere in the steering wheel or may be a part that could be starting to fail.
    More to come I guess,

  • snagielsnagiel Posts: 750
    srfast is right, but dealers do NOT carry the "concentrated windshield washer fluid" for the separate tank. After I tried unsuccessfully to find some at a couple of dealers, I finally heard an explanation: Apparently the fluid BMW intends to put in there doesn't meet some EPA standard, since it's very potent stuff and can be dangerous, so it's illegal in the US. Hence, just use nondiluted windshield washer fluid there.
  • snagielsnagiel Posts: 750
    Congratulations to you and your wife.

    Mechanically, I believe very little--if anything--changed between those two model years. The 5-series did receive a minor facelift for the 2001 MY, however, with the "angel eye" headlights and clear tails that, in my opinion, are certainly sharper than the now-antiquated look of the pre-2001's.

    But either way you'll enjoy the car. I recently drove a 540iT, and it was awesome for a wagon. (It really made me wonder why anyone would consider the X5, or any other SUV for that matter.)
  • According to Alldata, there are a couple of TSBs (service bulletins) for airbags on the '98 528. One is #720200 and its description is "Airbag Control Module - Warning Light ON/Codes Set". The other is #610200 and its description is "Airbag Systems - Wiring Repair Procedure". There's no way to know ahead of time whether these apply to your car, but at least there is something that MIGHT be related. Since your car isn't far out of warranty and this is a safety item, maybe the dealer will fix it without cost to you. Good luck.
  • Thanks for your feedback. I am drawn to the E34s mainly because a well-maintained example is more unusual on the street than the later models. Of course there are added safety, power, and convenience considerations from '97-up, but since I restore vintage Mustangs, the "classics" obviously always get my attention by default. You are probably right, div2, I need to keep looking for a somewhat better-maintained car, but I'll probably have this one checked out anyway.
  • I'm seriously looking into buying either a '95 or '97 540- there's so much I like about the car and it's making me crazy with my wife being the only Bimmer owner in the family (she refuses to acknowledge my 1/2 interest in the Z3). I've seen lots of 540's that look to be right in the price range I'm looking for, but I have a couple of basic questions: Are there inherent problems/issues which might differentiate the model year to buy? (engine block problems, recurring exhaust or electrical things, etc...that would steer me either toward or away from one year or the other?) Second question- those that have owned a 540 for a while- how do you find the interior space (driver's as well as rear seating)? Is it OK or just something you've learned to live with or adapt to over time? I'm 6'2" so obviously it's an issue with me. I realize these are pretty broad and vague questions but I'd really appreciate any input.
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    This is purely "anecdotal" but in my perusal of the used car ads in the Washington Post, I've noticed several 1994/5 BMW 540i's advertised with "engine replased at XX k miles". As though that's supposed to make me feel good??

    I had considered a new BMW 5-series last fall and several dealers I talked to said that the "new" 540i (i.e. 1997 on) was a more reliable V8 than in the previous generation.

    You may want to look into the reliability and maintenance costs of the previous 4.0 liter V8 vs. the current 4.4 liter. I didn't pursue it because I postponed the purchase and likely would have gone with the 530i anyway. BMW's 2.8/3.0 liter I6's were almost universally praised (even by a competitive MB dealer) as highly reliable and sturdy.
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