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Old 02-24-2011, 01:47 AM   #1
HiTempguy
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1997-2003 540i

I've been mulling over picking one of these up for a while. I do a lot of highway driving and have been looking for a v8 powered vehicle for a while. Obviously, I'd be going with the 6 speed for extra fun

Is any year recommended over others? I am currently looking at a 1997 and a 2001, both very clean and well kept. From my understanding, the big thing about the '97 is it does not have the crazy water cooled alternator, correct? Is that really an issue on these cars? I'm a fairly DIY kind of guy who very rarely takes his car to a shop, so as long as things like that aren't sanity destroying, I keep inching closer towards them!
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Old 03-02-2011, 12:19 PM   #2
spencercat
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I have a 99 540i/6 and bought it for many of the same reasons you describe. Like many 540i owners, I have a love/hate relationship with the car. It's smooth, powerful, handles great, rides fast on the highway, looks good, has decent mileage and where else can you find a sporty V8 with a good six speed manual?

On the minus side, the cooling system is poorly designed. It operates at 30 psi (!) which along with the high heat leads to failure of the plastic components. So be sure to check maintenance records to see what cooling system pieces have been replaced.

There are other less important issues, such as electrical problems, leaky power steering hoses, oil leaks, coolant leaks, intake manifold leaks, suspension shudders at 50mph, airbag light faults, window regulators, etc. that can go wrong. Check out: http://www.540i6.com/probsfixes.html

Another minus is that fixing any BMW is going to be more costly than other cars, if only because the parts cost more, are more complex and it's more difficult to replace them. The water cooled alternator is one example.

As to differences between the model years, the 2001 is called a "facelift" model, with changes to trim, headlights, etc. One major other difference between the two is that the later engine has the Vanos cam timing system which changes the valve timing based on engine RPMs, and that system can cause trouble.

HTH
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Old 03-02-2011, 11:06 PM   #3
MLue1
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HiTempguy View Post
....Is any year recommended over others? I am currently looking at a 1997 and a 2001, both very clean and well kept. From my understanding, the big thing about the '97 is it does not have the crazy water cooled alternator, correct? Is that really an issue on these cars? I'm a fairly DIY kind of guy who very rarely takes his car to a shop, so as long as things like that aren't sanity destroying, I keep inching closer towards them!
IMO the water cooled alt is not really a problem, they break because the battery goes bad. I've replaced mine and it's not bad a job at all. Speaking from personal experience if you're a DYIer like you say you should be OK.
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Old 03-13-2011, 05:42 PM   #4
BiturboSI
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I am also wanting to buy a 540i M 6 speed and wondering if they are reliable aside from the cooling issues. I can replace the water pump but want to know if I should buy one or stay clear.

It will be a daily driver, summer/winter. Will drive long distances at times.

Thanks
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Old 03-13-2011, 09:37 PM   #5
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Early models no vanos, late models vanos. Issues with vanos gotta love them.
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Old 03-13-2011, 10:35 PM   #6
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Thanks, so I can replace the vanos every year, are there any other major hurdles, issues?

Cheers
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Old 03-13-2011, 11:14 PM   #7
MLue1
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Originally Posted by BiturboSI View Post
Thanks, so I can replace the vanos every year, are there any other major hurdles, issues
Replace what... I haven't heard of anyone having vanos prob on a '99+ 540i only on the I6 engines.

Bud, if you can replace vanos every year there are no hurdles for you... .
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Last edited by MLue1; 03-13-2011 at 11:16 PM. Reason: adding comment
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Old 03-13-2011, 11:16 PM   #8
BiturboSI
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Thanks, I checked this website out with common problems with the 540i
http://www.540i6.com/probsfixes.html

My 528i e39 did suffer from some of the issues though, but wondering if these issues are even more prominent on the 540's.
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Old 03-20-2011, 10:34 PM   #9
speedemn
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I have a 2003 540i/6 that I commute with (1000 kms a week) and have been doing so for over 4 years. The car has been great on fuel mileage for a V8 (mostly highway for me though which is why) and as long as you find a good shop or are a DIY'er the other general issues, should your car experience them should not be too bad. I have been relatively lucky with my only major issues being expansion tank and rad. RMP as well as my local dealer have helped maintain my car.

I rely on RMP for the big ticket items (like Inspection II, rad). I used my dealer for brakes since with the amount of miles I drive I wanted the 24 month dealer warranty (and actually had to end up using it at 22 months for new front brakes which they did no questions asked).

Go for the 540 as long as you can find one with service history and looks/drives well. Test drive a few to get comparables as the E39 are now a bit older and getting in to their 3rd/4th owners in some cases. Mine at almost 300K drives and feels about as ballsy as any E39 M5 and definitely more powerful than any 550i or 650i that I have driven at the dealer or of friends'. I have periodic dynos done over time showing that these motors can maintain their power over the long haul.
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Old 03-20-2011, 10:43 PM   #10
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Many thanks for your reply, I actually decided and will be buying a 545i tomorrow.

Though I love the e39 body style, my 528 was awesome, I think I am ready for something different, which is why I decided on the 545i and eventually the 550i.

And I fully agree with you, with places like Bimmersport and RMP, you know you are in good hands

Cheers!
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