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BMW 5-Series Maintenance and Repair



  • I had the same problem in my 95 525i. The same thing had also happened to the previous owner of the car and it was fixed under warranty. Since my warranty had run out, I ended up fixing it up myself with the help of a friend. I got the part (window motor) for about $150 and the labor was free. It is not an easy job to replace the window motor. Yo need to remove the window regulator (frame) out and re install again.

    Before you get into all this, I suggest replacing the window switch with the one on the passenger side first to see if the problem is a faulty switch. Also, check the fuse under the hood. More than likely the problem is with the motor being jammed, however. As a temporary fix and before you get into a costly repair, you may want to hit with the palm of your hand (not too hard) the side panel from inside toward the bottom of the door (that's where the motor is) trying to unjam the motor. Good luck.
  • I have recently bought a '99 540i with Steptronic transmission. When I slow down (apparently from 2nd to 1st gear) and try to speed up again, such as when I approach a yield sign, I notice a very distinct yet short-duration delay in the shifting (apparently from 1st back to 2nd gear). The first time I took it to the BMW dealer (low-millage car still under factory warranty), they reset/re-programmed the transmission to no avail. I'm supposed to take it back in a couple of days so that they can reset/re-program the engine and the transmission. Not sure if that is going to work either.
    Has anybody had similar problem with their car?
  • riezriez Posts: 2,361
    darkblue... Wondering if you really have a problem. No automatic will behave like a manual. They behave differently. Automatics work differently. Do you get the same "distinct yet short duration delay" if you use the Steptronic mode and shift "manually"?

    I much prefer manuals. There always seem to be a distinct delay in nearly all automatic transmissions. Even the best ones. That is the nature of the beast.
  • I was looking at a 1995 540i at a local dealer with 61,000 miles. They wanted 17900 for it. The salesman said that it had just had the 4.0 v8 engine recalled because they were treated with a metal on the interior of the cylinders that reacted with additives in the gasoline and caused the engines to deteriorate prematurely. Consequently she said that they have all been recalled with that engine in for the years 1994 and 1995. I have checked with 2 other dealers adn they have both said the same thing. She said that the engine on this car was new. Are there any issues with this engine that I cannot think of? To me it seems that it would be a bonus to have a new engine. Could the deteriorating engine have caused excessive wear and tear on the transmission? I know that the radiators are prone to going out on these are there any other expensive reparis that I can expect?
  • snagielsnagiel Posts: 750
    True, early versions of BMW's V8's were biased towards European gasolines, so the high sulfur content in US fuels eroded the nikasil cylinder liners of those engines. You can read about the problem at

    As the article states, different remedies were devised to deal with this. Whether the particular car you're looking at had just a new (but same type) block assembly installed, the problems will resurface eventually. Have it checked out to make sure you have the new, compatible, Alusil-lined block.

    I don't know of other trouble spots of the '95 models, but even routine maintenance may add up quickly. I'd get a quality, thorough extended warranty if you can. Good luck.

  • riez, I'd agree with you except that this problem occurs only when I try to speed up after first slowing down and it happens in speed range of under 20mph, such as when you approach a Yield sign. This leads me to believe that the shifting problem is when the car is trying to shift from 1st gear to 2nd gear(speed up) immidietaly after slowing down. I don't have this problem when I start from standstill. I have very smooth gear shift. This problem with the transmission is pronounced enough that I have change my driving habit accordingly. I haven't had this problem with my other models of BMW (3, 5 and 6 Series) that I have owned previously.
  • I'm considering buying a 1997 540i. The car is off of a lease and has almost 50,000 miles on it. The dealer is asking for $25,000 for this car on an as-is basis. It looks like it is in fairly good shape although the leather seats look slightly worn and the car will need new tires after another 8,000 to 10,000 miles. A warranty is available at additional cost. The car does not have any added options other than a 6 disc CD-changer in the trunk. Is this a good price to pay for this car? Also, what type of maintenance costs can I expect in the future? I know its going to differ for different cars, but on an average - how much should I expect to incur on an annual basis in terms of repair costs and general maintenance?
    Any input will be greatly appreciated.
  • I have a 98 528, which I bought at Beverly Hills BMW. My Certified PO warranty will be up in a few months. So far I've had the following problems:
    1. Motor in rear lft wndw went out.
    2. Auto mirrors wouldn't adjust, pad not working
    3. Loud idling noise when car is running & when
    it's shut off @ least for 1 minute after eng-
    ine is shut off
    4. AM radio gets very poor reception.

    Dealer repaired problems 1/2. Said prob. 4 was because back window was tinted (even though they sold to me tinted) so that what's giving poor reception. Dlr. said prob. 3 was normal but I just don't think it is. My old 3 series of 8 yrs didn't make such a noise.

    I was wondering if anyone else has experienced these or other problems that perhaps I could have checked before the warranty runs out. If you know something I should have checked please list it. I don't want other things breaking just as soon as warranty expires.
  • riezriez Posts: 2,361
    The AM reception in my '98 540i6 is poor. FM isn't that great either, but a lot better than AM. The AM reception in my wife's '00 323iA is horrible. Her's even gets electrical interference which makes me wonder if everything is ground. I've had dealer try once and will have dealer try again next week. I think a big part of it is due to a lack of an extended antenna. (In-window antennas are terrible.)
  • pap5pap5 Posts: 144
    Darkblue, my '01 530iA behaves the same as you describe -- a lag or dead spot when coming off a low-speed coast to power-on. That is one of several driveability problems I've had that prompted a warranty repair of the transmission and replacement of the throttle pedal module. While general driveability is now much better, the lag remains. I suspect it's inherent in the execution of the drive-by-wire throttle, the Steptronic, or both. BTW, even at these low speeds, the transmission probably never shifts below 2nd, or even 3rd unless you're in Sport mode. The problem is less pronounced in "Manual" mode.

    Riez, I agree that no slushbox is going to be as direct and immediate as a manual, but the BMW is worse in this regard than anything else I've ever driven, including POS 4-cyl. rentals. It's baffling how a premium marque that does so much right would get this wrong. I prefer manuals too, but an automatic was the price of purchase approval by the Boss.
  • pap5pap5 Posts: 144
    Riez, I agree with you about the quality of the reception. I disagree, however, that it's a function of the in-window antenna. Our '98 Volvo wagon has one also, and station-for-station it pulls in AM and FM frequencies better. It's unfortunately another example - rare but aggravating - of BMW getting something wrong that seems to elude no one else.

    Now, if someone says anything about the comfort of the standard driver's seat, you'll touch on my third gripe with the 5er. After that, it's just about miraculous.
  • I had a 3 series for 8 yrs with a window antenna. I never had bad reception & my windows were tinted. This is the 2nd time I took my 528 into 2 different dealers both said it had something to do with the tint on the back window. You'd think for all this money I'd get a stereo that works correctly!
  • I have a 2000 528 and I thought the AM radio station that I listen to had suddenly changed their signal strength (I recently purchased the used 528). My windows are not yet tinted. If anyone has a fix for this problem (maybe an antenna booster) I would love to hear about it.
  • I didn't have any problem with AM or FM reception on my '95 525i. It had tinted windows as well.
  • I have noticed recently that I get a very bad and unbearable smell in the cabin of my '99 540i after I use the air circulation mode of my ventilation system It smells like MOLD. My dealer says it has to to do with the evaporator and it is not covered by the CPO warranty. My friend who has '98 540i has also experienced the same problem (dealer told her the same thing). Also, I seem to remember there was a message some time ago on this site too. I didn't have this problem in my old '95 525i. Not sure if it had the same ventilation system though. Anybody can shed light on this. By the way my Microfilter has been replaced recently.
  • I have the same smell, like old gym socks. Help.
  • snagielsnagiel Posts: 750
    I haven't had this issue, but perhaps this product may help:

  • msealsmseals Posts: 257
    Guys, not to be a stickler, but there is window tinting out there that will affect your AM reception if your antenna is in the window. It is due to the actual material that makes the window dark. Some window tints use a metal to tint the window, and this metal between the antenna and the signal could cause signal degradation.
  • pap5pap5 Posts: 144
    Darkblue: A couple of weeks ago, you wrote about an apparent throttle or shifting lag in your 540i Step. You said you were going to take it back to the dealer for them to check it further. Did you do that, and what were the results?

    I reported the same problem. Since then, I've determined that it happens only in Sport mode, which is how I've generally driven the car. When I recently tested it in Normal/Econ mode, voila, the problem was virtually gone - smooth launches, almost no lag when getting back on the throttle after coasting. The dilemma is that I don't like driving in Normal becuase the shift points are too low.

    Is anyone else familar with this behavior, and whether it is a defect or just the nature of the design? If the latter, I'm considering going to the Dinan transmission download, which they claim will tighten up shifts and raise shift points in both modes. Does anyone have any experience with this, especially as a standalone not in combination with any other Dinan mods?
  • riezriez Posts: 2,361
    mseals... The AM reception in my '98 540i6 and my wife's '00 323iA is poor. Her's is actually atrocious. Neither of our cars has any after-sale window tinting.

    Took her car to dealer again this week. Told 'em again about the reception issue and she was also having some trouble with the eject mechanism in her in-dash CD player. So they replaced the entire radio. They also recognized the AM reception problem but couldn't find out what was causing it. The service tech said they were having the same problem with another person's BMW and were trying various things out. I haven't had a chance to listen to her new radio to see if that helped or not. I'm guessing it didn't, as the problem seems antenna related along with some electrical interference from engine.
  • How's this problem going?
    I have the same issue on a new 325i I picked up at the end of July - It's in the dealership for the 4th time now & I've escalated all the way up the chain & BMW NA is deciding if they will buy it back - it's pretty close to an official lemon in my state (CA) anyway...
  • I sell automotive chemicals to dealers and independents. The most effective method that I know of is a "lysol" style disinfectant sprayed into the recirculating hvac.
  • mustan01 wrote in posting #51 about an intermitant vibration problem. I experience a similar problem with a CPO 1999 540i. The problem of course becomes imperceptible at the dealer. Often the vibration becomes most noticeable at low speeds, say 30-40, under light load with rpms 750-1200. It also frequently occurs when I take my foot off the gas peddle and slow down to 60mph. The feeling is as if the engine mounts were loose or if a cylinder was not firing correctly. Or perhaps something was out of balance. Of course the dealer finds no fault codes indicating misfires and claims no knowledge of any such problems (why am I not surprised?). The mounts are tight, and if something was out of balance, one would not expect the vibbration to be intermitant. Now, what is interesting, it seems the vibration becomes more consistent on very humid days (i.e. when it rains). Hmmmm.

    The vibration can become quite annoying, especially in light of the cost of these sedans. When it really acts up, I begin seriously thinking of getting rid of the car.
  • pap5pap5 Posts: 144
    A positive service experience:

    I and several other owners have noted premature wear on the lower rear of the weatherstripping around the driver's door, caused when our backsides rub against it while entering the vehicle. While at the dealer for my first oil change last week, I pointed this out. They replaced it under warranty without any hassle. Suffice to say I'm now more careful when getting into the car.
  • I just got my new 530iA... car is awesome. Have a question about the auto climate control. While you may set it at a certain temp (ie 72 deg) there are manual vent controls at the center console which allow you to change the temp of air flowing through. When are you supposed to use those vent controls... doesn't that defeat the purpose of the AUTOMATIC climate control?
  • snagielsnagiel Posts: 750
    Lemme guess, you're a cosmetic surgeon?

    Congratulations on the new car. The manual vent controls, to answer your question, are there to provide manual override if you choose. If you want to leave it in true "automatic," just keep it in the middle (white dot).

    The reason BMW engineers offer this override control is for two reasons: comfort and safety. Most of summer, for example, I keep it on the coldest possible setting for the first 15-20 minutes of driving around, but then find myself adjusting it down a bit to keep my hands and arms from freezing off. As far as safety goes, cooler air helps keep you alert, so when you have the heat blasting through the footwell and windshield areas on those cold winter nights, you can dial up a cooler draft towards your upper body.
  • Thank you so much Snagiel...2 more questions if I may..
    1. Should I have the dealership turn on my daytime running lights. Currently they are off and they told me to just turn on my fog lights in the daytime if I wish. This also turns on my xenon lights...I'm not sure I want them on all the time.

    2. I have noticed that I have condensation developed in my headlights after my first rain...what should I do about that?

    Thanks so much.
  • srfastsrfast Posts: 138
    if you want the daylight running lights. Their suggestion about the foglights is lame. I've heard the condensation in the headlamp housings is common, but evaporates/clears when the car is at speed.

    Hope this helps....JL
  • snagielsnagiel Posts: 750
    srfast is correct, only the dealer can activate DRL's. I have mine off, since I prefer to choose for myself when my lights are on or off. In anything but full sunlight conditions without shadows, I have at least my parking lights on, along with the fogs. (Yes, the fogs will activate with only the parking lights; you don't need the full low-beams to turn them on.)

    As for the water in the headlights, if it's only minor condensation, it is OK and will, as srfast said, burn off. But if you see water visibly collecting on the bottom and slowly rising, then you have a more serious leak, and you should have the dealer apply some caulking (or whatever they do) to plug it up.
  • I have a 2001 530 with the standard audio system (i.e. no subwoofer, etc.). The passenger side right speakers seem to be having problems handling certain passages from certain CD's (I won't go into the details since the type of music varies quite a bit). The sound gets distorted similar to what happens when a speaker gets too much volume (or too much high frequency). These CD's sound just fine on my home sytems (I have a very high end system and very low end as well), as well as on my wife's Lexus ES 300 car's system (which has an audio system that is supposedly lower grade than my 530's). The dealer has replaced the speakers and also the amplifier for that set of speakers and I am still having a problem. Any ideas? Thanks!
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