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buying 2001 540i

Discussion in 'E39 (1997-2003)' started by jdw928, Mar 19, 2008.

    • Member


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    Hi all!!

    I'm a newbie lookie for some information and even more some good advice.

    Just this past weekend I looked at a 2001 540i with sport and cold weather packages. The car has 100K miles looks to be in pretty good condition. Its an automatic with Tiptronic? and asking price $15k. What should I be looking for? Dont have any service records available. I just dont want any surprises. Looking forward to hearing from anybody - good or bad.



    GregS_WI guest

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    I'd be very cautious

    A higher mileage car without the service records is a real gamble. I love my BMWs but they are not cheap to keep on the road -- parts & labor is expensive plus lots of stuff just seems to break. If you can get it well below 'book' then maybe, if you can handle expensive repairs otherwise, keep looking for a car with maintenance records. If you are OK with an auto, you will have many to choose from.

    Good luck, enjoy!

    boknnon guest

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    The 540 is a great car but for sure has high maintenance costs. I had to replace the transmission just out of warranty (65k miles) and it cost $6000.00. :mad: The dealerships don't even waste their time trying to rebuild them, so unless you know that car's had a new tranny, you might want to factor that into the savings of a non-CPO vehicle vs one still under warranty.

    Another common issue with the 540i are cooling system failures. Since the warranty expired the radiator has gone twice. Much of the frame and connection points on the 540's radiator are plastic and both times it split down the side. I have also replaced the fan clutch, water pump and the alternator. The alternator is unique in that it is water cooled and is much more expensive then a standard air cooled unit. The water pump has a plastic impeller and is a high failure item. If you do purchase a 540 and have any preventative items replaced it is worth buying a new water pump with a metal impeller.

    I just went over 93K miles on the vehicle and use it primarily for highway commute driving between Walnut Creek and Newark everyday. The brakes are getting replaced this weekend so I've decided to replace the struts while I have the axles exposed. So a quick calculation of my replacement costs between 50K and 100K miles is around $9500.00. The transmission issue is not normal but something to consider. If I were to purchase a used BMW now I for sure would spend the extra money and get a CPO.

    All the maintenance issues aside, the only way I'd get rid of my 540 is if I were upgrading to an E60 545 of M5. I love the car, the power is phenomenal, it rides and handles great and makes my 3 hour commute tolerable. Good luck with your search :)
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    540i vs 740i

    Thanks for all the replies to date. Hear lots of horror $torie$ on the 740 which I can afford. Also seems like a great car to others, as long as you have the PO service recors available.

    Looks like the 540i with Sport (M) may be the better choice, again as long as sevice has been done. What is the HP and torque rating for this year model?

    I took the liberty of listing a link to both cars. if anyone would like to point anything out that would be terrific...

    540i -


    740i -


    Autohaus guest

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    I beleive the HP for a 2001 540i is 282. Not sure if it was 2001/2002/2003 that it was upgraded to 290 HP stock. Like the others said, I would replace the radiator, water pump, thermo, belts and hoses. Also, a simple tune-up won't hurt (plugs, filters, etc...). As the the tranny, I have heard horror stories of them failing between 80K-120K on tranny's with no fluid/filter/gasket change. These tranny's are expen$ive, so maybe bring it to Aamco and have them check it out. They might even offer a lifetime warranty if you have them do a maintenance package. It might cost a few hundred, but well worth it. From the pics, the car looks great, but you would need to test drive the vehicle and have an independent BMW shop do a pre-purchase inspection. Hope it works out for you.

    1987 528e (auto)
    2001 525i (shift)
    2003 325xi (auto)

    324871 guest

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    buying '01 540i reply

    Nice car, mine is a 2000 540i M-Sport with 6-speed, nav, etc and I am very, very happy. On the '01 if there's no records, then assume there will be 'surprises' like the valley pan for $1,000 and probable water pump/thermostat/radiator replacement for $800. Tires go for 12,000 miles then need replacement (especially rears). The MAF could be ready to go, and at 100,000 miles your looking at at least 2 oxygen sensors (the per-cats) adn those are $200 a pair from Pelican. Hope this helps.

    kbuicker guest

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    I'm selling my 01 with all the goodies if you're interested (I'm a BMWCCA member). I've already fixed everything that is notorious on these models.

    * 62k miles
    * Titanium Silver
    * Grey leather interior
    * sports package (M wheel, sport seats, black trim)
    * OEM 03 rear M bumper
    * 03 front bumper
    * tinted windows
    * fog lights
    * H&R Lowering Springs
    * 19" MRR GT-1 rims- no rim rash- BMW emblems
    * Bridgestone tires (newish, plenty of miles left on them)
    * new ceramic brake pads
    * new OEM rotors
    * 'Power Acoustiks' amp with two 10-inch subs
    * DICE integrated iPod Player
    * business CD
    * Chrome Magnaflow muffler with tip- 14829 model
    * automatic with manual shift
    * no tears or stains in interior
    * climate control
    * Xenon auto-adjust headlights
    * normal chips in hood, but not bad
    * detailed and polished regularly
    * non-smoker
    * garaged
    * maintenance in past: radiator replaced, MAF replaced, new expansion tank, dash pixels fixed, new 02 sensors, belts, AC control unit, spark plugs.
    * car is fast, runs smooth, no problems at all. Good car. Selling to get SUV since I am a new dad!

    North Dallas Area: $19k

    email saveitk@gmail.com

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    • Member

    TeamStowell We love driving!

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    Like most Bimmers, owning one for an extended period of time is a labor of love. Once the service contracts expire, they get expensive to keep up, but in our humble opinion the joy they bring when we drive them makes up for the cost. Find a model that excites you and jump in.

    e396spd guest

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    Truth: 540 is not really cheaper to maintain than 740

    2/3 of the expensive and troublesome problems on the 740 are powertrain related. The powertrains are identical between the 540 and 740. The suspensions on the 5 series are no less troublesome (and in fact are more sensitive to bad parts), and most of the electronics are close to identical, with the exception that the climate control on the 7 series is more susceptible to failure and even in good condition puts out slightly less air volume at max fan speed (but makes more noise). Tires last longer on the 7.

    As the current owner of one e38 7 series and two e39 5 series cars (both 540s), and doing all the maintenance/repairs myself, I'd say get the car you like because maintenance will not be much better on the 5 series. If you're getting the auto anyway, the difference between the two cars is not that significant. Maybe 250-300 lbs difference in weight, better handling in the 5 against much happier backseat passengers in the 7.
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    2001 540i

    I have a 2001 very similar to the car you are considering except for color and trans, mine is a 6sp. Mine also has a built in phone, digital, that my cell provider no longer supports, so it's useless.
    The foam pad at the rear of the seat bottom on the driver's side deteriorated at about 25K miles. The BMWNA service rep said the seat felt fine to him. I took it to a trim shop for repair. The foam had turned to powder. The BMWNA rep was sitting to the steel suppot bar and thought it felt OK. I mention this since the seat looks low in that area in the photo.
    The moisture barriers had to be repositioned in the rear doors. Both leaked water into the rear foot wells.
    The AC occationally has a bad odor. I run it on outside air only, no recirc, which helps.
    The DIC was turned off in the photo. Some of the pixcels went out on the bottom portion of mine and the entire cluster had to be replaced. I might want check it.
    Hope this helps. Good Luck
    By the way - - I plan to keep mine for many years to come.

    dale3wins guest

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    TeamStowell We love driving!

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    Without records, I would take it to a mechanic with BMW experience and have her/him look it over carefully. The major things tend to be brakes, coolant system and transmission, but there is a lot of little things that suck the $100 bills out of your pocket very quickly.

    kbuicker guest

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    jlockht guest

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    If you are still considering an E39 540, I have a 1998 Sport Package Automatic with less than 29k original miles on the clock. I'm the only owner , a BMW CCA member and a non-smoker. Have all records and car was gone over and serviced last October. As you may suspect, it has never been a daily driver, only a fair weather weekend toy. Other info:

    Arctic Silver Metallic with Gray Leather

    Dealer Installed Dinan Upgrades
    Stage 4 Engine Software
    Cold Air Intake
    High Flow Mass Air Meter
    Free Flow Exhaust with Resonator Bypass Pipe
    Transmission Software
    Front Strut Brace
    Stage 1 Suspension Package
    " DINAN 5 " Badged

    BMW 3.15 Rear Differential Upgrade
    BMW M-5 Sport Steering Wheel
    Brembo Cross-Drilled Disc Brakes
    Hawk Performance Brake Pads
    Stainless Steel Brake Lines
    Super Blu Brake Fluid
    18" Borbet 5-Spoke Polished Wheels
    Dunlop Sport 9000 Ultra-Performance Tires
    Fold Down Lockable Rear Seats
    Front and Rear Passenger Side Airbags
    Always Garaged and Covered
    Synthetic Oil Changes
    Zero Door Dings, Perfect Body Condition
    Impeccable Interior - Smells New Still

    Houston Area - Asking $ 19,800.00
    email: jlock@allicomm.com

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    HogDriver guest

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    1999 540i slight coolant leak

    I just purchased a lovely 540i. Over the weekend we sprung a little leak on the coolant reservoir. Looking from underneath the car there are two electric sensors. One plugs into the bottom of the reservoir. The second plugs into plastic sides of the radiator. I could be wrong on the second sensor (I'm new to BMW's and learning as fast as I can). It seems the sensors are the cause of the leak.

    I priced the sensors at Auto Zone ($40.00).

    Is this an easy project? Is this a common issue? I'm considering taking the car to Rhine West in SA. I was thinking an initial Coolant flush/repair, oil change, and transmission flush would be a good idea to start from known dates/mileage for further maintenance.

    I welcome opinions and recommendations. Is anyone familiar with Rhine West in SA?

    dale3wins guest

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    I've had to take my 540 into the dealer for the displaying ',check coolant level',she was'nt low ,it was the sensor---MARC---

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