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Thread: Did I make a good purchase?

  1. #1
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    Question Did I make a good purchase?

    So I just bought a 2001 540i with 115,000 miles for $3,000, everything looked decently clean and in order save a few deadpixels and worn leather

    But.... there haven't been any major repairs done yet, vanos, cooling overhaiul, suspension etc. Is there a way to avoid these repairs, and what should i do now in terms of quick fixes, 02 sensors, filters etc. Thanks!

  2. #2
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    You cannot avoid these repairs. They are the normal maintenance/replacement items. The only way to avoid them is to sell the car.

    Replace all the fluids and lubes, and all filters. Flush the brake system. No need to replace the O2 sensors until you get the codes. However, you CAN preemptively replace them.

    Wonder why he sold it at such a low price?


    Ed in San Jose '97 540i 6 speed aspensilber over aubergine leather. Build date 3/97. Golden Gate Chapter BMW CCA Nr 62319.

  3. #3
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    Congrats on your purchase.
    But no, the items you mentioned are part of e38 maintenance (unless the 7 doesn't have vanos).
    As for quick fixes, get a code reader, you'll need it down the road. I wouldn't change O2 sensors until needed.
    Did your car come with any maintenance records?
    <== Steptronic Sealbeach740
    2000 740i sport: 74k Green/Tan chrome MPars, clear corners, quad brake lights, AIC hi-beams, Hoen fogs, 16x9 screen, MKIV, TFT LCD screen in back, license plate backup camera with "on demand" switch, iPod audio/video (CDC/iPod audio switching, iPod video on 16x9 screen), Basslink, gauge rings, ///M pedals, switched steptronic +/- shifting mode, E46 paddle shifter steering wheel, Dinan engine & tranny software upgrade, DDEs controlled via Euro fog light switch, painted calipers with "BMW" lettering, windows up/sunroof close via remote.

    2003 540i sport: 81k, Sterling grey/grey, MKIV Nav, PDC & CWP - Added license plate backup camera with "on demand" switch, paddle shift steering wheel, windows up/sunroof close via remote, Akebono's, painted calipers with "BMW" lettering, quad brake lights, iPod audio via AUX mode/video via 16x9 screen, BMW TV tuner, ///M pedals & gauge rings.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by edjack View Post
    You cannot avoid these repairs. They are the normal maintenance/replacement items. The only way to avoid them is to sell the car.

    Replace all the fluids and lubes, and all filters. Flush the brake system. No need to replace the O2 sensors until you get the codes. However, you CAN preemptively replace them.

    Wonder why he sold it at such a low price?
    I added the car to mycarfaxgarage and the value is at about $5,000, the most recent service history was august too....

    - - - Updated - - -

    Also, I've put about 100 miles on it since I bought it and I've already gone though nearly half my tank driving very conservatively. Is this a sign of bad 02 sensors? 93 octane is pretty expensive around where I live, the mpg on the radio unit seems to drop .1mpg every 5 seconds whenever I'm at a stop or parked and it's pretty frustrating to see

    - - - Updated - - -

    No records, but mycarfaxgarage shows general service being done over the years

  5. #5
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    Uh, that’s gonna need another 3k in work. 200 miles on a tank in the winter is not unheard of in an old 540. And you need 91 or higher octane. Did you think it was a Honda? All kidding aside, that car will need lots of care and feeding. You have to be prepared to spend, and are you good at bmw diy? If not, you will pay. Not clear on your age, but you don’t sound prepared for this.

  6. #6
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    What CPHES said! Not trying to scare you, but this car could and might nickel and dime(or$100's)you. They are wonderful, but like any car that age, will need some love. And that love can be pricey. Especially if you have someone else do the work. Do some research here. Timing guide job-$2500-5K, coolant system refresh-$500-1500K, suspension rebuild-$1000-2K. We haven't even talked about transmission, trim, pixels, etc. So much help here and on the net in general though. If you aren't a DIY'er, maybe a good time to start. If not, and expect a shop or dealer to take care of issues, I would sell the car now and move on to something else.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by CPHES View Post
    And you need 91 or higher octane. Did you think it was a Honda? All kidding aside
    Depends on what elevation this is at

    And there are plenty of high-revving Honda's that need higher octane than E39

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by fedisrico View Post
    So I just bought a 2001 540i with 115,000 miles for $3,000, everything looked decently clean and in order save a few deadpixels and worn leather

    But.... there haven't been any major repairs done yet, vanos, cooling overhaiul, suspension etc. Is there a way to avoid these repairs, and what should i do now in terms of quick fixes, 02 sensors, filters etc. Thanks!
    I should mention that i'm a college student and this is technically my first car, but I've had plenty of experience working on cars already. My main worry right now is that I get a check coolant level message but when I check (car is cold of course) it seems to be overfilled if anything as the bobber pops up a good inch and a half. That, and the horrible 14 mpg I average, does this get better as the weather gets warmer?

  9. #9
    geargrinder's Avatar
    geargrinder is offline Having No Trouble Here BMW CCA Member
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    I agree w/ all my bros here.

    A V8 E39 is a painfully high cost used car. Check your gas mileage, there's delusional whackos out there who claim otherwise but generally low-20's is the best MPG yer gonna see for a 540. If you're not doing a lotta highway then 18-19 is totally normal.

    In terms of what to prioritize...

    General maintenance like Ed says - fluids and filters including brake, doing that will get you acquainted with possibly with what else might be sketchy with the car. Scan the car for codes for sure, and report that back, that's something every car should have before being purchased really!

    Cooling system - if nothing has ever been done that should be at top of the list for 'pre-emptive' for all kinds of reasons (stranding, engine damage, etc.) and there's a lot to a full coolant overhaul. Radiator, exp tank, hoses, pump, mechanical fan... You might be able to get away with "watch carefully for signs" but be prepared to get stuck someplace. Mechanical fan failure can send blades through the hood and do other damage, exp tanks and radiators can crack or burst without warning... (hoses less common on these cars but once you start doing the job put those on the list). Watch for signs of coolant leaks around the block which will most likely be the valley pan. Any sign of overheat / coolant issues - STOP THE ENGINE to prevent damage. The ECU on these is pretty good at early warning however way way way too many people drive right past the lights 'trying to get home cuz I had to change the cat litter'.

    Suspension - can probably get away with 'watch for signs' but realize it will probably need something. If you get vibration when braking at highway speeds don't let a mechanic tell you its 'warped rotors' - its your control arm bushings wearing out. An inspection here by a GOOD shop is always a good idea cuz they know how and what to pry on and check to find stuff that might not be making noises you can hear even if its bad.

    Chain guides? Not rattling? Then least of your worries... for now. Just keep an ear out for rattling and maybe eventually can drop the oil pan to look for debris. That's a costly job and many motors in fact do make it to 200k without it. Not to say they don't suck when it has to be done but there's way too much internet hype about how bad the guides are. And this is from a guy who talks crap about the M62TU motor ALL THE TIME. VANOS? meh. Again - least of your worries. Won't cause massive runabilty problems on this motor even if the seals are leaky.

    Watch for your alternator if that's never been done. They can seize up and eat the belt and wreak other havoc like damaging the power steering pump. If you get crazy belt squeal noises and any sign of alternator/charging light on the dash, stop the engine.

    Hows the valve covers and oil situation? Watch for oil leaks. Un-maintained motors will generally need those and perhaps upper timing cover gaskets also.

    Anything like O2's like Ed says - no worries unless there's codes.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by fedisrico View Post
    I should mention that i'm a college student and this is technically my first car, but I've had plenty of experience working on cars already. My main worry right now is that I get a check coolant level message but when I check (car is cold of course) it seems to be overfilled if anything as the bobber pops up a good inch and a half. That, and the horrible 14 mpg I average, does this get better as the weather gets warmer?
    The sensor has a connector down attaching to the bottom of the expansion tank - try popping that off and spraying w/ contact cleaner and back on again. The sensor magnet thingy could be broken inside the expansion tank - that happens. Try NOT TO OVERFILL (in fact turkey-baster it back down to the proper level if you can) as that drives up system pressure dramatically and can cause other stuff to fail that "would have been fine otherwise".

    - - - Updated - - -

    Oh and re: 14mpg, well, scan for codes and see what you've got. The nightmare scenario is that you've got a dozen codes for all kinds of issues and the previous owner clipped the "SES" lights in the cluster to make it go away. Not uncommon for scumbags to bag scum like that.
    2003 M3CicM6 TiAg
    2002 540iT Sport Vortech S/C 6MT LSD TiAg
    2008 Audi A3 2.0T DSG (hers)
    1999 Cherokee Sport 4L (trailer-hitched in-law-loaner bomber)


    Former:

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    1995.5 Audi S6 Avant (utility/winter billetturbobattlewagen)


  10. #10
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    I'll be happy if I get 18 - 19 MPG in the city in my 540 Sport auto. Yes I get more on the highway. I only get 24+ on highway on my Touring (528) doing 80-85 mph.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by geargrinder View Post
    The sensor has a connector down attaching to the bottom of the expansion tank - try popping that off and spraying w/ contact cleaner and back on again. The sensor magnet thingy could be broken inside the expansion tank - that happens. Try NOT TO OVERFILL (in fact turkey-baster it back down to the proper level if you can) as that drives up system pressure dramatically and can cause other stuff to fail that "would have been fine otherwise".

    - - - Updated - - -

    Oh and re: 14mpg, well, scan for codes and see what you've got. The nightmare scenario is that you've got a dozen codes for all kinds of issues and the previous owner clipped the "SES" lights in the cluster to make it go away. Not uncommon for scumbags to bag scum like that.
    My two bits:

    (A) I swear these are the best cars ever made. I have the 530i Sport, and I can't imagine selling it despite the many many hours of work I have in it.

    (B) You need to find a place to work on it. When I was wrenching in college (in Chicago), I had to use some sketchy places to do a lot of work on the crappy old cars I drove -- an aunt's garage, the sparsely patrolled part of the parking lot at my apartment complex, service alleys behind the neighborhood grocery store, and most frequently the side of the Kenwood Avenue in the freezing cold. Working outdoors like this sucked. Find a garage to work in.

    (C) Unless you can tell that the cooling system is new, you're likely going to have a big repair there.

    (D) That check engine light will eventually come on. Maybe for misfire (ignition coils), maybe for mixture lean (vacuum leaks), maybe a zillion other things. Buy a BMW specific code reader. I had a good generic one, but a knockoff BMW code reader from Amazon turned out to be WAY better and more specific.

    (E) Try not to defer maintenance. If you can see that something is starting to go, save up money in advance, shop online for the part, and do the fix up front. If you can afford it, replace all the old parts that are related to the fix you're doing to save headaches later.

    (F) Don't skimp by buying aftermarket parts that do vital jobs.

    BUT, you're going to love this car!
    Last edited by FelixEsq; 01-12-2018 at 01:08 PM.

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    ---------------------------------------
    I do so I can understand.

  12. #12
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    geargrinder is offline Having No Trouble Here BMW CCA Member
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    More good stuff there.
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  13. #13
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    Drive belt and valve cover gaskets were replaced 65,000 miles ago brakes flushed too, but looking at the carfax it says it was imported from the Dominican Republic for the first owner?? And do you know what those plastic button things are that pop out from the bottom front of the driver's door? They push in and look like little paint containers

  14. #14
    geargrinder's Avatar
    geargrinder is offline Having No Trouble Here BMW CCA Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by fedisrico View Post
    do you know what those plastic button things are that pop out from the bottom front of the driver's door? They push in and look like little paint containers
    huhwut? pixors?
    2003 M3CicM6 TiAg
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    2008 Audi A3 2.0T DSG (hers)
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by fedisrico View Post
    And do you know what those plastic button things are that pop out from the bottom front of the driver's door? They push in and look like little paint containers
    You know what a quarter is? Good, How about a nickel? Fantastic! Dimes??? F'kin Amazing!!!! There's some hope for the planet yet!!!
    Set the controls for the heart of the sun

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by BimmrMeUpSnotty View Post
    You know what a quarter is? Good, How about a nickel? Fantastic! Dimes??? F'kin Amazing!!!! There's some hope for the planet yet!!!
    lmao this actually helped me

  17. #17
    geargrinder's Avatar
    geargrinder is offline Having No Trouble Here BMW CCA Member
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    ha ha I had so forgotten about that feature, and 'paint containers' uh, that still confuses me...
    2003 M3CicM6 TiAg
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    2008 Audi A3 2.0T DSG (hers)
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by fedisrico View Post
    lmao this actually helped me
    Haha! Good, I'm glad, some would have accused me of being a total jerk..... Now, don't forget to breath.
    Set the controls for the heart of the sun

  19. #19
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    The price sounds fair but it is definitely not a good car for a person with limited income, time, and no other form of transportation. If I were in your shoes, I would flip it and get a reliable ricer. When the time comes to own a beauty, like the e39, keep the ricer. You will need it. LOL!

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by JaxPlanet View Post
    The price sounds fair but it is definitely not a good car for a person with limited income, time, and no other form of transportation. If I were in your shoes, I would flip it and get a reliable ricer. When the time comes to own a beauty, like the e39, keep the ricer. You will need it. LOL!
    What would I spend on maintenance per year? Assuming no major repairs

  21. #21
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    If you are DIY, $2400 / year 200 a month, the first year is not unexpected. Things will happen. You need to figure out your collant issue. Use bmw coolant $25 per gallon at the dealer. Have the red stick flush with the top of the expansion tank - not above it, and check it daily. That engine will leak at the valley pan. The valve cover gaskets are likely 2/3 to 3/4 end of life, as he runs really hot. This is an excellent car, but not a starter / learning car. Read here, and e38.org, which has lots of info on the m62.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by geargrinder View Post
    huhwut? Pixors?
    lmao!!!
    I do not believe in a risk free society where the thrill of living is traded for the safety of existence. Nick Ienatsch

    The law does NOT determine "right" from "wrong". They are unrelated!

  23. #23
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    In the nearly 5 years I've owned my 540i6 (2003 model with 155,000 miles), the only actual failures I've had were: expansion tank, alternator, power steering pump, throttle body. Three outa 4 could have left me stranded. The total for those parts is about $1,000 ish. I've spent much more on preventative maintenance. Maybe another $1,500 for suspension parts, brakes etc. In addition I've spent a couple grand for tires during the same time frame.
    If you can do your own work most of the time and have back-up transportation, these cars are a friggin blast to drive!
    I do not believe in a risk free society where the thrill of living is traded for the safety of existence. Nick Ienatsch

    The law does NOT determine "right" from "wrong". They are unrelated!

  24. #24
    geargrinder's Avatar
    geargrinder is offline Having No Trouble Here BMW CCA Member
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    Stranded or nearly so: throttle body (multiple times), alternator, coils (not fully 'stranded' but 'not really driveable had to leave car at shop and get a ride', so close enough), steering center link (again not quite stranded but "crap you might die if you don't stop driving this right now and leave it here")

    Leaving mods out of it, absolutely required maintenance that demanded to be done at various times: expansion tank (multiple times), valley pan, valve cover gaskets, timing chain gaskets (were gushing by time I did them), rear control arms, brakes, sway bar links, water pump, and probably a bunch of other things.

    That list would probably be much longer except the mods and pre-emptive maintenance covered coolant hoses, additional suspension bits, total driveshaft service/replacement, new diff, and buncha other things.
    2003 M3CicM6 TiAg
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    2008 Audi A3 2.0T DSG (hers)
    1999 Cherokee Sport 4L (trailer-hitched in-law-loaner bomber)


    Former:

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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by fedisrico View Post
    What would I spend on maintenance per year?
    Download a maintenance schedule: https://www.bavauto.com/tech-info/
    Take a look at the service intervals to determine how much normal maintenance will cost over the years.

    Quote Originally Posted by fedisrico View Post
    Assuming no major repairs
    You need to get past the denial stage and accept that this car is going to cost you far more than you expected. You need major repairs right now and there will be many, many more over the years to come.
    Last edited by JaxPlanet; 01-13-2018 at 01:26 PM.

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