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Thread: Nabs' E39 540i Daily Driver

  1. #1
    Premium Member test Nabs's Avatar
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    Nabs' E39 540i Daily Driver

    Hey everyone! I got another BMW... well two more to be exact...



    Back in May, before I left town for work, my very first car came up for sale. It's an E46, same chassis/generation as the M3 but it's only a 323i, so it only has a 2.5L inline 6 and makes about 170hp and 180ft-lbs, but it's an automatic, which I thought is perfect for a DD since I already have the M3. A little history on what happened to it; back the summer of 2010 I had just come home after being out of town for over a month and someone idiot kid on a test drive drove straight into my car on purpose in the Intercity parking lot. I never bought it back and I always kind of regretted it but I finally got a chance to get it back so I took it. Here's a few pictures of what it looked like I originally got it, just before it got totalled, after it got totalled, and what it looks like now.








    To me it was a perfect opportunity and I was very happy to get back into an E46 and RWD and get rid of my VW. I'm very familiar with this chassis having owned 2 different ones over a combined 6 years and it was local, so that was a huge bonus for me. I got it back and I ordered a few things that it needed to get back into good running order, planning on fixing it once I got home in September. Then in July, George (purplebilmer), posted up his black E39 540i for sale. I was really interested in it since it's a bigger car, it has a V8 and I always kind of wanted an E39, but I had just got the 323 back in May, I was out of town for work and it needed a bit of work to get it on the road so I didn't really think about it seriously. Anyways, George sent me a price and told me to pick it up, and it just so happened that I had 3 days off and a flight available to go home, so I went and I bought it. Now the plan is to sell the VW, fix the 323 and sell that and fix up the 540 and keep it as a year-round daily driver.

    Here's a few pictures from George's ad. As you can see it needs a new hood, door handle and mirror.






    I never really got a chance to look over the car fully but I already have an extensive list of things that need to be fixed and things I want to do to it. It's a bit more than I was expecting but it's not anything that I don't think I can fix. There's one issue with the front driver's wheel sitting about a 1/4 to 1/2 inch too far forward and rubbing the fender and bumper that I still have to figure out.




    Keep in mind, this car has had over 10 owners over 17 years so it's in pretty rough shape. I'm not sure who did this stuff and I don't really care, I just want to get it fixed to my standard, I can be a bit picky, and get it on the road

    Here's the list of things to be done, why and what I'm doing, in no particular order:
    • Hood - bent in half, picked up a used hood and struts
    • Airbag light - internal ecu errors, new ecu ordered
    • Cluster - infamous dead pixels and car thinks its an auto, needs to be reprogrammed and ribbon cable replaced
    • Front left tire rubbing - not sure, possible bent thrust arm or control arm due to possible accident damage?
    • New rear tire - Open diff burnouts
    • Hood release cables - one cable broke already, others rusty
    • Battery - died over the last month, aftermarket fog light switch left on
    • Headlight wiring - adjuster wires cut, random splices and shit everywhere
    • Headlights - broken adjusters, dead bulb, one aftermarket ballast, changing projectors
    • Left rear tail light - leaking, aftermarket tail lights to be replaced
    • Turn signals - bulbs just kind of sit in the headlight, facelift headlights require adapters and new holders
    • Ambient air temp sensor - missing, rewire kit ordered
    • Fender liners - missing, needs M sport version
    • Belly pan - missing, needs M sport version and brackets
    • Shifter - needs all parts replaced, extremely sloppy and sits to one side
    • Climate control - broken button, used button ordered
    • Front & rear windshield gaskets - rotten, to be replaced
    • Rear view mirror - dangling, needs to be glued back to windshield
    • Drive belts - basic maintenance
    • All fluids and filters - basic maintenance
    • Spark plugs - basic maintenance
    • Throttle cable - sticky throttle, new cable ordered
    • Passenger mirror - broken, provided but needs to be fixed and reattached
    • Door handle - broken, new replacement provided
    • Valve cover gaskets - leaking, replacing with OEM gaskets
    • Front driver door catch - missing, used one ordered
    • Sunroof - not working, guides probably broken
    • Rear window regulators - both broken, windows don't work
    • Front drivers window - rattles when closing door, probably a loose nut or regulator
    • Fog lights - aftermarket and broken, will be replaced with OEM style lights
    • Fog light switch - missing, hole left in dash
    • Intake airbox - dirty, ugly pod filter and hacked up airbox
    • Steering wheel controls - worn out, new controls ordered
    • Engine cover - missing, used one ordered
    • Tail lights - aftermarket ones are smoked and leaking, OEM facelift lights ordered
    • Updated light control module (LCM) - needed for facelift tail lights
    • Steering wheel - worn out, needs to be re-dyed
    • Aftermarket headunit - no steering wheel controls, proper harness ordered
    • Headunit rewire - clusterf**k of wires
    • B pillars - need to be repainted, carbon fiber trim pulled the paint when I removed them
    • Headliner - needs to be rewrapped, I don't like two tone
    • Trim - don't like cracking wood, vinyl wrapping in satin silver
    • Rust - slight rust on rear quarters and other small bits
    • Interior - full clean and detail to be done
    • Cup holders - front ones missing
    • Paint & bodywork - paint in horrible condition w/ random dents, PDR and will be vinyl wrapped
    • Front seat - stitching on driver's seat pulling apart
    • Jack pads - All 4 pads are missing
    • Speakers - front driver's side speakers hacked wiring or missing entirely


    Now for some photos of said problems!

    Hood folded in half. Release cable was broken so I just took an angle grinder to it and pulled the cable out





    Stupidest intake I've ever seen



    Broken mirror



    Shifter just kind of sits there. It's hard to tell what gear its in.



    Water from the tail light...



    Lovely wiring job on the headunit. Random wires left hanging




    Headlight wiring hacked







    B pillar trim





    Tired steering wheel




    Hole in dash with AEM wideband wiring



    Oil everywhere




    Possibly broken tie rod?



    Two-tone headliner



    Random broken bits




    Rust




    WTF?



    On the plus side it did come with a Pioneer headunit, Kenwood amp and a sub, but the sub is stuck in the trunk




    I've already ordered most of the parts that I need, save for a few that I'm not really sure on just yet. I'll be picking up all the parts when I head down to Brainerd and I'm hoping to have it on the road for early October.
    Last edited by Nabs; 09-16-2015 at 11:35 PM.
    "Exhaust gases go into the turbocharger and spin it, witchcraft happens and you go faster"

    ///M3 Journal | E39 540i Journal | Turbo Install | Carbon Roof Time-Lapse Install

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  2. #2
    Senior Member test 20Specv12's Avatar
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    Re: Nabs' E39 540i Daily Driver

    That's quite an intensive to do list. You've got a lot of work ahead of you, but should be worth it. Looking forward to the progress

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    Senior Member test Tremblay's Avatar
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    Re: Nabs' E39 540i Daily Driver

    My god that's a lot of stuff to do... especially for a rare car. good luck sir
    ALL THE HONDAS!!!

  4. #4
    Premium Member test Nabs's Avatar
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    Re: Nabs' E39 540i Daily Driver

    Quote Originally Posted by 20Specv12 View Post
    That's quite an intensive to do list. You've got a lot of work ahead of you, but should be worth it. Looking forward to the progress
    Yes I do, and on top of that I still have the 323i to fix up, and my stupid Rabbit. It'll be definitely worth it, in my opinion it's almost the perfect daily driver, just needs to be white and have an LSD

    Quote Originally Posted by Tremblay View Post
    My god that's a lot of stuff to do... especially for a rare car. good luck sir
    I like to be thorough and have everything working properly. Really all it needs is a new hood, mirror, handle and the front wheel fixed and it should pass safety. Everything else is just me being picky. I ordered a lot of used parts off eBay already and I everything else I'll be buying new OEM unless it's ridiculously priced and then I can just get aftermarket parts. I figure if I spend $1500 on parts I'll be set and that's really good considering the age of the car, the amount of stuff I'm actually doing and what I paid for the car.

    BMWs are really easy to work on, they just scare a lot of people because they're not used to them. It helps that I have all the factory software to diagnose problems and code the car too. The best thing about this car is that almost everything other than the drivetrain is shared among all the other E39s so finding parts is really easy. It actually has the same transmission, just different bell housing, as my M3!!!
    "Exhaust gases go into the turbocharger and spin it, witchcraft happens and you go faster"

    ///M3 Journal | E39 540i Journal | Turbo Install | Carbon Roof Time-Lapse Install

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  5. #5
    Premium Member test Nabs's Avatar
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    Re: Nabs' E39 540i Daily Driver

    This car is like one of those endless clown handkerchiefs, every time I pull something apart to fix it I find something else that needs fixing. I take one step forward and 5 steps back

    I tried reinstalling the passenger mirror that was broken and fixed and the bracket shattered again. Is it possible to weld this thing? I don't want to spend $350 for another mirror.




    The next thing I really wanted to get done was the door handle. Every time I wanted to get in the car I had to go through the back seat and open the door from inside. It was easy coming out but the new plastic taiwanese piece that was given to me was a bit difficult to get in, it almost took an hour but I finally got it!




    As I was working on the door handle I pulled apart the door panel and found more shitty wiring! Who ever did worked on the audio on this car should never be allowed around any sort of electrical components again...





    Missing speaker and storage bin. The bin is supposed to be attached to the door card and isn't replaceable




    Only 2 of 9 clips weren't broken or missing.



    That's not supposed to be there...



    Toasty bulb. The ballast is also burnt out.



    If I get a chance this week I still have to check the brakes and suspension to see if anything needs replacing for the safety. I have to get started on the M3 and the clutch so it might not happen unless that is done in the next 3 days.
    Last edited by Nabs; 09-06-2015 at 09:17 PM.
    "Exhaust gases go into the turbocharger and spin it, witchcraft happens and you go faster"

    ///M3 Journal | E39 540i Journal | Turbo Install | Carbon Roof Time-Lapse Install

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  6. #6
    Senior Member test Snidd's Avatar
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    Re: Nabs' E39 540i Daily Driver

    Wow, million little things to fix up,glad to see there isnt anything crazy major...but,agreed itll deff be worth it,once it's restored.

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  7. #7
    Premium Member test Nabs's Avatar
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    Re: Nabs' E39 540i Daily Driver

    Quote Originally Posted by Snidd View Post
    Wow, million little things to fix up,glad to see there isnt anything crazy major...but,agreed itll deff be worth it,once it's restored.
    A million little things, but it definitely adds up to the same price as something major. I really just wish I had time to work on them, I keep finding all these small problems but I can't really do anything until October when I'm finally home for good. I need this thing on the road for then end of October.
    "Exhaust gases go into the turbocharger and spin it, witchcraft happens and you go faster"

    ///M3 Journal | E39 540i Journal | Turbo Install | Carbon Roof Time-Lapse Install

    How to: edit posts | post pictures w/ browser | post pictures w/ tapatalk

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    Premium Member test Nabs's Avatar
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    Re: Nabs' E39 540i Daily Driver

    I'm finally home for good now so yesterday I went and got a new battery for the car and found some more goodies

    This isn't the correct terminal for this car. Well it kind of is but not quite.


    BMW puts a tiny charge on the end of the battery terminal so in case of an accident the charge will go off and prevent any electrical fires. It looks like the car has been in an accident before but instead of fixing it, usually require a $300 cable, someone just bought a battery terminal, stuck a bolt in it and attached everything to it. While it worked, that charge that's supposed to be there is connected to the airbag system and was causing my airbag light to be on. I was able to find a cable with just the terminal on it for $50. Here is what the proper terminal is supposed to look like.



    Once I pulled the battery I was greeted by a nice soggy piece of 2x6. Under that was a bunch of rust...



    I was also finally able to get the sub out, which was in there pretty good and found the trunk floor had been replaced with some 1/4 plywood, screwed together in the middle and the spare tire was missing.



    I didn't have much time to do anything else but I changed the climate control button and tried to put in the fog light switch but found that the part that holds it in was all cut up so I had to order a new cluster bezel




    Last edited by Nabs; 10-08-2015 at 10:25 AM.
    "Exhaust gases go into the turbocharger and spin it, witchcraft happens and you go faster"

    ///M3 Journal | E39 540i Journal | Turbo Install | Carbon Roof Time-Lapse Install

    How to: edit posts | post pictures w/ browser | post pictures w/ tapatalk

  9. #9
    Premium Member test Nabs's Avatar
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    Re: Nabs' E39 540i Daily Driver

    In the last 3 weeks I was trying to get the car fixed up and on the road and go on a road trip but just too much came up at the last minute and I wasn't able to get the car done in time. I'm really hoping to have it done by in the next couple weeks before it snows.

    This was the list of things I wanted to get done and then I kept having to add to it


    Here's a list of things I ended up changing or fixing:
    • hood release cables
    • hood struts
    • throttle cable
    • throttle pedal
    • reattached rear view mirror
    • airbox
    • recoded cluster (from auto to manual)
    • front and rear windshield gaskets
    • trunk lock gasket
    • hood struts
    • cup holders
    • rear brake rotors & pads
    • battery terminal
    • both rear window regulators
    • fog light switch
    • quad bi-xenon projectors
    • headlight lenses
    • headlight adjusters
    • headlight adjuster motor wiring
    • rear tail lights
    • light control module
    • shifter bushings
    • spark plugs
    • valve cover gaskets
    • upper timing chain cover gaskets
    • transmission oil
    • differential oil
    • engine oil
    • coolant flush
    • drive belts
    • removed the clutch delay valve
    • B-pillars covers
    • vapour barrier sealant
    • rewired speakers and amp
    • new to me winter tires
    • removed broken fog lights


    Anyway here are some pictures. I'll try and keep them to a minimum since I have over 100 since the last time I updated this.

    First thing I did was get rid of that stupid pod filter and got a used OEM airbag top. Also changed the "plug" on the intake hose that just had electrical tape over it



    Changed out the old windshield gaskets



    Tried to fix the door brake and ended up having to order a new (used) door, which I'm still waiting on, since the old one was really beat up.



    Went to fix the rear window regulators and found this... Ended up just ordering new regulators and just used the old motors.




    Changed the tail lights from the smoked Depo ones on the left to the clear OEM facelift LED ones on the right. Had to bash in the metal a bit and cut a couple holes to get them to fit since they were designed for the '01-'03 and this is a '98



    Pulled off the M badge and quickly repainted it (no picture), so I can put the proper 540 badge on


    The rear brake pads and rotors were pretty worn so I changed those


    Removed the clutch delay valve, it slows down fluid flow so that it slips the clutch for smoother engagement, then bled the brakes and clutch



    Flushed the diff and trans and found royal purple in there, at least someone changed the fluids before


    I had to drop the trans to change the shifter bushing and found that the mounts were rotten, and on one side of the brace all 3 bolts broke and two are directly above the exhaust, which I didn't want to remove (due to time constraints) since the flanges at the header are really rusty and it's one piece from the header all the way back... I'll drop the exhaust now that I have some more time.






    I posted earlier that the shifter was super sloppy and would sit to one side, well the bushings were toast and the foam piece in the shifter joint that connects the shifter to the trans was completely disintegrated. The shifter is really crisp and notchy like it should be


    Went to change the spark plugs and valve cover gaskets and I found that some of the coils weren't even on properly and the wells were full of oil.




    The valve cover gaskets and upper timing cover gaskets were so old and tired that they were like hard plastic and would come out in chunks and was causing major leaks.



    Cleaned up the covers while I had them out




    As I was about to put the valve cover back on I realized the upper timing chain was really loose and the tensioner wasn't pressing on the chain at all. While I tried to see if I could get it to move I broke one of the plastic guides. That set me back a couple days and when I took it off it the bugger was working again.



    The throttle pedal was broken and the pads for the clutch and brake were really worn so I changed all those




    Skip this part if you don't like headlights

    The headlight lenses were really faded and cracked so I ordered some new ones but the old ones had perma-seal on them so I had to cut the lens, then run a knife on either side of the remaining piece in the channel to get them out. I had to replace the adjusters since they were all broken and the inner part of the headlight would just flop around. I also upgraded from the xenon projectors to a bi-xenon projector that was a direct fit, with some clear lenses and also threw in another set of projectors for quad bi-xenons








    Not much left on the to do list:
    • fit the hood
    • remove and strip old door and install new door
    • remount trans brace
    • fix and mount fuel filter holder
    • install passenger mirror
    • flush the power steering
    • rewire the headunit
    • change thrust arm bushings
    • change rear bumper insert
    • fix or buy new front bumper
    • mount the fog lights
    • new front (both) and right rear fender liners
    • new belly pan
    • redye the steering wheel
    • change the steering wheel buttons
    • finish vinyl wrapping the trim
    • remove the slight rust


    If anyone wants to take a look at all the pictures I've taken of this so far you can check them out here
    Last edited by Nabs; 11-27-2015 at 10:25 AM. Reason: spelling
    "Exhaust gases go into the turbocharger and spin it, witchcraft happens and you go faster"

    ///M3 Journal | E39 540i Journal | Turbo Install | Carbon Roof Time-Lapse Install

    How to: edit posts | post pictures w/ browser | post pictures w/ tapatalk

  10. #10
    Senior Member test Mitsubaru's Avatar
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    Re: Nabs' E39 540i Daily Driver

    Nicely done Nabs. It really amazes me though how many weird things have broken on this car.

  11. #11
    Premium Member test Nabs's Avatar
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    Re: Nabs' E39 540i Daily Driver

    Most of these are pretty common issues. The rear regulators are a known issue, as are the windshield gaskets, cup holders, hood release cable, headlight adjusters and shifter bushings. I kind of expected to replace them all anyway since the car is 17 years old and has 228,000km and over 10 owners. The only things that caught me off guard were the throttle pedal, the damage on the door and the wood to hold up the windows.
    "Exhaust gases go into the turbocharger and spin it, witchcraft happens and you go faster"

    ///M3 Journal | E39 540i Journal | Turbo Install | Carbon Roof Time-Lapse Install

    How to: edit posts | post pictures w/ browser | post pictures w/ tapatalk

  12. #12
    Senior Member test squarebit's Avatar
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    Re: Nabs' E39 540i Daily Driver

    You're the only man I know who could be caught off guard by the state of a throttle pedal!

  13. #13
    Senior Member test bgodin23's Avatar
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    Re: Nabs' E39 540i Daily Driver

    Can't say i would ever hesiate to buy a BMW off of you! I give ya credit man, "good enough" just isn't in your vocabulary. Nice work
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  14. #14
    Premium Member test Nabs's Avatar
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    Re: Nabs' E39 540i Daily Driver

    Quote Originally Posted by squarebit View Post
    You're the only man I know who could be caught off guard by the state of a throttle pedal!
    If it was a race car it would be understandable but how do you break the pedal on a street car?! And it's been broken for a while.

    Quote Originally Posted by bgodin23 View Post
    Can't say i would ever hesiate to buy a BMW off of you! I give ya credit man, "good enough" just isn't in your vocabulary. Nice work
    Thanks! There have been some times that I've said good enough on this but only for the non critical and cosmetic parts. After the winter I'll address the front bumper and paint but for now my goal is to get it in perfect driving condition and on the road. I've spent way too much on cars this past year...
    "Exhaust gases go into the turbocharger and spin it, witchcraft happens and you go faster"

    ///M3 Journal | E39 540i Journal | Turbo Install | Carbon Roof Time-Lapse Install

    How to: edit posts | post pictures w/ browser | post pictures w/ tapatalk

  15. #15
    Premium Member test Nabs's Avatar
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    Re: Nabs' E39 540i Daily Driver

    I can't believe the forum is this dead...

    Anyway, time for a new post!

    I haven't done much lately, just because I was out of town for a week and then I decided that I would finally fix the fuel pump on the M3 so I could drive it a couple more times before I change the oil and put it away.

    When I came home I immediately pulled off the sunroof glass as I knew it was broken and I was about to put in an order for parts. It's a common problem with this sunroof and luckily there are parts available. I found both sides had broken, the right side was a lot worse though.




    The next day after I had already put in my order I broke a piece but luckily they hadn't shipped it so I was running back and forth trying to find and remember what I needed to make another order and I found this...


    There were two metal plates siliconed together then they put more silicon on them and put it over the hole... The circular area in the middle is supposed to have a piece that come up so you can use a threaded rod and some other parts to secure the spare tire. I was able to order that and once that arrives I'll tackle fixing that whole mess.


    I also found out that the area where the battery goes is missing a piece that levels it, so my battery currently sits crooked. That part has to come from Germany so it'll take a few weeks for that. In the mean time I have to clean up that whole area as well and weld one spot that's cracked.



    I think all the rust in the battery and trunk area are due to the leaking taillights that were on it before or that centre piece has been missing for some time and everything was splashing in.

    I was also having issues with one of the license plate lights not working so I pulled the holders and tried the working bulb, no luck so I swapped the holders, still nothing. I pulled back all the trunk liner and checked the wiring in the trunk, it was all good. Then I pulled back the rubber boot for the wiring from the body to the boot and found that instead of pulling the old harness and installing it on a new trunk, whoever changed the trunk just cut the stock harness and did their famous wiring of pigtails and electrical tape. This wiring loom is known to have the wires break apart over time from the opening and closing motion and there was some of that too. I pulled it all apart and soldered every wire and used heat shrink.


    On the good side of things I did finally put the hood on but I still have to adjust it and hammer it in a couple spots to straighten it out.


    And a huge thanks to Mark, qwikyking, for welding the broken bracket for my passenger mirror! I was finally able to reinstall that


    Started removing the rust on the rear quarters and the front fenders, luckily it's not too bad.



    I also rewired the amp and pulled out the extra wires I didn't need that were running from the headunit all the way to the back and reinstalled the rear interior.

    Most of the stuff that's left either requires a lot of time and patience or I'm waiting for parts. The goal was to have this on the road for the two weeks ago and go on a road trip but that obviously didn't happen so the new goal is to have this on the road by December.
    Last edited by Nabs; 11-03-2015 at 01:29 AM.
    "Exhaust gases go into the turbocharger and spin it, witchcraft happens and you go faster"

    ///M3 Journal | E39 540i Journal | Turbo Install | Carbon Roof Time-Lapse Install

    How to: edit posts | post pictures w/ browser | post pictures w/ tapatalk

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