Last year in the midst of the Pandemic, I, like many other car enthusiasts, decided to rescue a cheap project car. Many people dove into new projects as a way to cope with the stress of the pandemic, and to focus on something positive. Mine was a $900 E39 Touring I found for sale online back in February 2021.
In typical enthusiast fashion, I quickly poured significantly more money into the car than it was worth. I changed the interior, body panels and overhauled the cooling system, brakes, engine and suspension. This financial loss was realized when I sold the car last summer for a loss of over $1,600. Well, at least I have this four episode series on YouTube to remember the good times.
Knowing that this BMW wagon or “Touring” was made in very small numbers, I knew it was special enough to try to save. Besides, it was an experiment in creating a rescue series on YouTube for the Bimmerzeit channel.
Did any of you buy a BMW project car during the pandemic? Let me know in the comment section.
For the last five summers I’ve been enjoying the e28 I bought from just outside Portland, Oregon from its long time owner. The previous owner bought the car in July 1987 and kept the car until July 2018. I wrote about the long time owner here.
It’s a 1984 533i which was only sold in the US and Japan in small numbers. This 533iA is one of 2,514. This rare model has the 3.2L version of the M30 making it just as fun to drive as the 535iS. The 533i is also lighter than the 535i and 535iS. Alpinweis paint over rich Pacific blue leather interior.
One charming feature of early e28’s like this one is that they used horsehair cushioned seats; this gives the cabin a wonderful scent reminiscent of a vintage Porsche. The later model e28’s used foam, so they lack this quality.
This car has been a joy to own and has been meticulously kept throughout its life, primarily by the previous owner – who has kept hundreds of service records detailing every month of the car’s history. Also included are all of the manuals and even the original window sticker.
No rear badge was ever put on the car, the original German owner requested no badge be installed when he ordered the car, which is common in Germany. I recently installed a new genuine Alpina badge to the trunk lid along with a new BMW roundel.
Recent work includes: oil and filter change, air filter, spark plugs, spark plug wires, fan clutch, rubber intake boot, oxygen sensor, brake master cylinder.
The original TRX wheel is in the trunk, while the other four were swapped out (20+ years ago) for new e34 wheels on new Michelin rubber.
It’s been driven maybe 1,200 miles by me over the last five summers. As an entrepreneur and father of two, I just don’t find myself driving the car as much as I’d like to. This wonderful opportunity to own a very clean and cared for e28 is now yours.
If you’re a long time BMW driver, owner or enthusiast you may be surprised to learn that installing a new battery is no longer an easy 10 minute DIY job on modern models. Starting around 2006-2007 most BMW cars require the battery to be programmed and registered when replaced.
This is because of more complex power management and battery management software. When replacing the battery, you need to tell the car that a new battery has been installed and input parameters such as the amp hours capacity and type of battery (AGM vs. lead acid). While this seems like an unnecessary hurdle to DIYers, it’s actually just a result in the evolution of technology that makes a lot of sense.
If you’re still driving an E30, E28, E34, E36, E32, E39, E53 or E46 then there is no need to program a new battery with software; you simply remove and replace the battery. Nice and easy.
Thanks to inexpensive scan tools made for BMW’s found on Amazon, you can program and replace your battery yourself and avoid the BMW dealership all together. I recommend the Foxwell NT510 here on Amazon (affiliate).
With this tool you can register and program your new battery in about 10 minutes right from your driver seat in your own driveway. No need to pay BMW $300 for this service.
Here’s my step by step guide to replacement in an E70 X5 SAV (sport activity vehicle) along with tips such as how to tell how old your battery is, and how to register the battery with the NT510 BMW scan tool.
While the battery location varies between different models, the registration and programming part of this video is essentially the same across modern BMW’s.
Not sure if it’s time to replace your battery? Not sure how old your BMW battery is? Check out this video to figure out the age of your car’s battery here:
According to BMW, your battery will typically last 3-5 years depending on your mileage traveled and weather. More extreme hot and cold cycles will age the battery faster.
I recently replaced our X5 battery at 7 years old as it started to show signs of failing with slow cranking. If your battery is 5 years old or older, I recommend replacing it immediately.
So it’s time to replace your battery, but you don’t want to pay the dealership $600? Well, my DIY guide might help you save some cash and time scheduling a service visit to BMW.
Before you start this job, you are going to need a handheld OBD-II scan tool that is compatible with the E70 X5. Many versions that work with older cars like the E46, E39 and E90 may not communicate with the E70 due to its updated electronics. You’ll need the scan tool to register and or program the new battery after it’s installed. Alternatively, if you have a PC laptop, cable, and BMW software such as INPA or ISTA you can use that to register the new battery.
I personally use the NT510 scan tool available here on Amazon for under $200. This will quickly pay for itself after avoiding costly labor diagnostics charges at BMW. In Fairfield Connecticut, as of 2022, the current rate is $185 an hour plus tax. Yikes.
How to Remove and Install a New Battery in your 2007 to 2013 X5
Step 1: Locate the battery in the trunk by removing the storage tray underneath the trunk floor. Remove five phillips head screws.
Step 2: Disconnect the negative cable from the negative battery terminal. Loosen the nut with 10mm socket/
Step 3: Remove 10mm nuts from the two battery hold-down brackets.
Step 4: Lift plastic flaps to reveal 10mm and 13mm nuts. Loosen 10mm terminal nut for positive battery cable. Remove 13mm nut from battery bracket.
Step 5: Remove battery vent tube from left side of battery.
Step 6. Lift out old battery using handles that pivot out.
These cars use AGM batteries from the factory. I recommend replacing what originally came installed from the factory in your X5.
You can buy a new battery from your local BMW dealership for around $285 as of April 2022. Aftermarket batteries are around $230-$240 and may be of a lower quality or different amp hour rating. This is not the time to cheap out.
If you’re not sure how old your battery is, there are two ways to check. One, using the scan tool mentioned above. The battery menu should display the date the battery was last changed. “Should” being the key word. For some reason my car did not have the data stored.
If you have a factory BMW battery installed, it will be dated one of two ways. Older batteries have the date stamped into the negative (-) terminal post. My battery said 30 and 15; this translates to a production date of the 30th week of the year 2015.
Newer BMW batteries and 3rd party batteries are typically dated with a round sticker. My new battery had a sticker 02/22 which translates to a manufacture date of February 2022.
Finally, after installing and registering the new battery you may see that the DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) and 4X4 lights are illuminated on the navigation screen and cluster. This is because of the power loss to the computers while the battery was disconnected. I have found that as soon as I put the car in drive and began moving forward, the lights turned off on their own automatically. To be certain, I cleared the stored codes in the ECU using the 510 scan tool.
For sale is an exceptionally clean 2001 E39 530i with the desirable sport package and manual 5-speed transmission combination. In my opinion, this is the best all-around BMW you can buy today. Nothing that came before it, and nothing that came after the E39 really lives up to all that this car offers in one great value package.
What other car offers: timeless styling, the ability to drive a modern classic on vintage plates with discounted tax and insurance, comfortable for the family yet still sporty with direct road feel and confidence inspiring handling unmatched by any other five series?
This car actually belongs to my Father who lives out in the suburbs north of Chicago, Illinois. He bought this car from down South so it is very clean and solid, never exposed to road salts and has been garaged and driven only in Summer under his ownership.
I have personally driven this car while visiting my family last summer; the car drives beautifully (and I’ve driven a lot of E39’s). The manual transmission is always a pleasure to drive in this platform. No clunks, vibrations or issues were noted. Suspension is tight and the car is quiet. You just don’t find them in this condition anymore.
The car has a clean Illinois title and Car Fax is also clean showing no accident history. Exterior color is the very smart Titanium silver metallic over black Dakota leather interior, featuring the premium package and beautiful coffee tobacco colored wood trim – a rich shade that I’ve not seen before in an E39.
Inside the cabin, the door panels and seats are in excellent condition. The leather is soft and the car retains its signature BMW leather aroma.
Original equipment includes this wood grain m-technic shift knob and wood trim.
The sport package further enhances this car with m-technic sport suspension from the factory, two-piece BBS 17” wheels, black shadow-line exterior trim and the m-technic sport steering wheel.
Last fall, before storing the car for winter, all four BBS wheels were completely professionally restored and refinished in the original silver. A set of four new factory spec 235/45/17 Falken tires were also mounted after the refinish.
Under the hood is the reliable and easy to work on M54 3.0 liter inline six. This motor is powerful enough (228 horses) to have fun around town yet easy and relatively affordable to maintain, unlike the BMW V8’s of this era. The 6 cylinder cars benefit from better weight distribution as well as a sublime rack-and-pinion steering, whereas the V8’s get a steering box.
The car is offered for sale complete with service records, fresh oil change, new filters, new tires, new wiper blades and includes factory service and owners manuals. The original window sticker is also included, don’t you just love that? The car has just turned 162,000 miles.
Also included are manuals, two keys, original books and file.
Wondering what to look for when buying an E39? Watch my E39 buyer’s guide here, then send us an email at the link below to check out this one if you’re interested. Avoid the bidding wars seen on BaT or Cars and Bids!
Its July 1987: Full Metal Jacket is playing in movie theaters nationwide and the E24 M6 graces the cover of the July issue of Car and Driver. Gasoline hovers around 0.90 cents per gallon and U2’s Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For hit top of the Billboard Hot 100 music chart. I wasn’t even born yet – until December that year.
The Summer of 87 is when the previous owner of my E28 began shopping for and ultimately purchased his 1984 533i from an ad in the local paper. The dealer invoice I have dated July 16, 1987 indicates a sale price of $19,000 which became $21,084.50 after tax and title. He would drive the car for the next 31 years until I bought the car in July 2018.
Last week, I sent an email to the previous owner to ask some questions that I had hoped would help me understand more about the car and it’s long time owner. We hadn’t spoken since the pandemic began in 2020, but I knew I wanted to ask him some additional questions while I still could.
Here is the discussion that we had.
Why did you choose the BMW 533i back in 1987 – was it just a good deal from the original owner, or were you specifically seeking out a BMW?
At the time we bought the 533i, BMW was the recognized leader in road handling, Mercedes the leader in luxury. Few argued with that. I wanted the best road handling car I could get. There was no real competition, unless you could pay a mint for an exotic car.
Were you considering other vehicle makers besides BMW?
I never really considered another brand. I just searched the ads in the paper and saw the 533i advertised. The owner was a tech company owner who made a fortune selling his company. He liked the 533i, but his real loved was his Porsche 911 black on black. He didn’t keep cars around very long, according to him.
How was the 533i perceived by others during the late 80’s and 90’s during your ownership? Was it a special car? Today a BMW is so ubiquitous they’re hardly considered special anymore.
German cars ruled. Yes, today you see them everywhere, almost all leased. Even 20-somethings driving a new lease.
Why did you keep the car for so long?
I loved the car. I intended to keep it forever. We just finally realized that we were not driving it, and we really only needed one vehicle for both of us. And an SUV was the most functional. The 533i sitting in the garage all the time made no sense.
Were you ever tempted to trade the 533i in over the years for a newer model like the e34 5 series or e39 5 series?
No, never tempted by a newer model. I think German cars were at their peak when I bought the 533i. Once the German companies decided to jump in and compete for larger volume by dropping their quality edge to hold down price, it wasn’t the same IMHO. I’m not saying they aren’t solid cars today, but they don’t seem to me to stand above the crowd like they did when I bought the 533i. You may have a different view on this; you are closer to the current models than I am. My view is clearly biased in favor of the 533i (smile). Just look at that paint job! Yes, change was forced on them by environmental regs, but still it was just one of the many high quality edges they had back then.
From an old service record, I saw that you had the car serviced at the now famous Vasek Polak dealership during your time living in Hermosa Beach, California. How was the experience at that dealership?
I honestly don’t have any memorable service experiences at BMW dealerships, other than to remember they were expensive! I didn’t begrudge the cost, since the mechanics were well trained at that time and I rarely had any problems. Solid service.
Thank you so much for being generous with your time to answer my questions. I really appreciate it.
I hope you are still enjoying the 533i. I have never loved a car like that one. I really like the Jeep, but not with the same affection. But life moves on and we adapt.
Recently I teamed up with the marketing guys at BMW of Bridgeport Connecticut to test drive my first electric BMW. I took out a 2018 i3 on loan, a car that I’ve wanted to test drive ever since I heard about its development in Leipzig, Germany.
Here’s a video I posted to my YouTube channel sharing a little bit about the experience.
If you’re experiencing the classic dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree scenario in your E90 3-series BMW, you are probably thinking that something horribly catastrophic just happened to your car.
But don’t worry, yet.
Recently my 2007 335i broke down on the highway on the way home from my mother-in-law’s birthday celebration. I was with my wife and daughter and it was just getting dark out. It was also the hottest and most humid day of the year so far with temps around 90 degrees.
This was the worst possible time to experience a break down!
The car was cruising along for 15 minutes on the journey home, without any hint of a problem. All of a sudden, every warning light in the car came on and it began slowing down. The speedometer dropped to zero, even though we were going 65 MPH. The transmission shifting felt clunky, too.
The coolant, ABS, airbag, DSC dynamic stability control, brake, service engine soon, yellow gear of death, and others, came on and cycled through like a holiday light display. The car was jerky and then would not drive. Once I pulled over to a safe place, I turned the car off and back on. I tried to drive, but the shifter would not come out of park. I thought the car was in limp mode, but it really wasn’t.
Looking back on all of this now, it’s easy to see that this group of symptoms was a classic voltage regulator failure. When that part fails, the alternator overcharges the system with 18+ volts, when it should only be receiving in the 13.8 range.
As a result, all of the car’s complex modules and computer systems go haywire due to the extra voltage; if you continue limping the car along like this, a module or electronic part may get fried. So it is best to pull over and call for a tow.
Thankfully, I had AAA roadside service, which I highly recommend to anyone. I have the gold service for around $120 per year, which includes up to 100 miles of towing. That’s the one to get.
My mother in-law came to pick up my wife and daughter to take them home, and I waited with the car for AAA who arrived 15 minutes later. I can’t say enough good things about the AAA service. When you need it, you need it. Especially if you own several BMW cars.
I had to car towed to my house, though I was tempted to bring it to a local shop because I was so thrown off by the number of lights and codes. Upon scanning the car with my $60 C310 scan tool, I saw many codes for over-voltage. That is a clear sign that the voltage regulator needs inspection.
I ordered a Bosch unit from FCP Euro for around $43 and had it the same day. Typically, there is no need to replace the entire alternator, which is more like $400 and a ton of work. To replace the entire alternator, the oil filter housing must be removed in order to make room. I recommend trying the $43 part first, which can be installed in less than an hour with simple hand tools.
Upon removing the old voltage regulator, I saw that the brushes were very worn down. You can see in the image above that the new brushes are more than twice the length of the old ones. These brushes wear down over the years and eventually fail; the alternator is designed that way and the regulator is designed to be easily removed and replaced.
It’s been nearly five months since I last posted a video on YouTube. It was a fun video where I just drove around in our E53 X5 during a blizzard here in Connecticut. That was early February, 2021. Check it out below:
It was around this time that I came across a very sad 525iT which was just listed for sale locally on Craigslist. With several feet of snow piling up during a tough New England winter, there wasn’t much to do but indulge in the pastime we all love: browsing online car ads for old BMW’s.
It wasn’t long before I saw the touring ad on Craigslist Fairfield. It had been advertised for $1,600 which seemed like a steal at first glance. That was of course, until I saw the car in person. It was definitely the worst condition car I’ve probably ever seen, let alone purchased.
Nearly everything was broken and needed replacing. Service engine soon light illuminated. Seats torn. Driver seat not moving. Interior disgusting. Rust. Dents. Dings. Sunroof stuck closed. Curb rash on every wheel. Valve cover gasket leaking. One hundred and ninety thousand miles on the clock. Recently failed emissions test. Missing side mirror and rear wiper arm. It also sported a mystery battery drain issue, which later turned out to be a bad DSP amp sucking juice from the battery overnight.
But somehow, none of that mattered. I had never seen an E39 touring wagon in person, nor had I owned one. Perhaps that’s a testament to how rare they really are; only around 5,000 525i Touring cars were imported to the US.
As a staunch E39 enthusiast, I was really excited at the prospect of owning a touring, without spending $10,000 for a nice one. You may be shocked at how much they’re selling for on Bring a Trailer these days. Check out the market today, here.
I did decode the VIN number with a BMW VIN decoder to see what options it had, which were unique. Xenon lights, self-leveling sport suspension, DSP premium sound system, rear sun blinds, sport premium package, convenience package. A clean CarFax report revealed only two owners and no accident history. It also had a clean Connecticut title.
Upon inspecting the car, a box in the trunk offered a glimmer of hope. Inside it revealed a 3” thick binder of BMW dealer service history since 2001 along with the original window sticker. There’s always something inspiring about finding the original window sticker and service records. Next to that were the monster two-volume E39 Bentley manuals. The service history was exclusively performed at BMW dealerships which added up to over $20,000 invested since 2001.
Recent work for big-ticket items included: new rear air suspension springs, new front struts, oil pan gasket, and a $750 BMW windshield replacement done at BMW. The original owner really loved this car.
I then did something I had never done before. I told the seller I would consider it and get back to them. Usually, I come prepared to jump on a car deal right away, which one should always prepared to do. But this time, I really didn’t want a project of this magnitude. So I waited two days. I really didn’t want it. Honest. But someone had to rescue it. After all, this was the police car used by the Berlin Polizei in Germany from 2001-2004. More on that later.
I floated an offer of $900 to the seller, which they immediately accepted. They wanted to see it get rebuilt on YouTube, and they knew it was going into the right hands if I bought it.
I was supposed to be done rescuing old BMW’s. Yet here we were, with a tiny suburban driveway full of future projects and a blizzard ready to drop several feet of snow.
As we enter the July 4th weekend of Summer 2021, I am finally beginning to edit YouTube videos again. I’ve been filming every detail of every repair on this Touring rescue over the last five months. Nights, weekends, and sometimes during the day, only if I’m blessed with a long enough baby nap.
As a full-time stay-at-home Dad, my channel has been on the back burner this year. I look forward to bringing you this E39 Touring rescue series in the coming weeks on YouTube. Thanks for sticking around.
Looking for more E39 content? Check out my last E39 rescue series from July 2019 on YouTube here.
About a month ago I made a video called The End of Gas Powered BMW’s where I drove around in my 1990 735iL just talking to the camera about electric cars and my desire to drive one. I’ve been curious and interested in electric vehicles for a long time. In fact, I gave an elaborate presentation on Toyota’s hybrid technology for an engineering class at The University of Connecticut back in 2006. Wow, it’s hard to believe my college days were that long ago.
Anyway, after uploading that video, it turns out that one of my subscribers is a Tesla employee who also happens to be a BMW enthusiast. Hey, even Elon Musk began his passion for cars with BMW, long before the idea for Tesla was born. Elon’s mother tweeted the photo below two years ago: Elon working on his E21 BMW in 1995!
In the photo, it looks like he has the door card trim panel removed to repair a broken window regulator motor. The steering wheel also appears to be a three spoke sport 320iS wheel, so Elon had good taste in well-engineered cars even then.
Allen, the Tesla employee and viewer, emailed me with an offer to come down to the Milford, Connecticut Tesla Gallery to test drive the new 2021 Model 3 and 2021 Model Y. Of course I jumped at this opportunity as soon as I could get down there to drive cars for a few hours.
Upon arriving, we introduced ourselves from a safe, social distance while wearing face masks of course. While chatting about his BMW experiences, Allen performed Tesla’s safety protocol for test-drive-prep: wiping down all surfaces, steering wheel, door panels and touch points with disinfectant and a microfiber towel. The windows are also down to allow fresh air to blow through the car. Test driving a car can be challenging during a pandemic, but Tesla seems to have a very strict (and safe) procedure in place.
You can even schedule a contactless test drive on Tesla’s website, here. This is so far removed from the olden days where a pushy salesman would ride in the passenger seat with you on the test drive, digging for your financial info. Tesla is doing it right; enjoy and experience the product on your own accord, with space, no pressure at all. The gallery experience is akin to a trip to the Apple store, where the entire experience is considered carefully. Bravo, Elon.
Test Driving the 2021 Tesla Model 3 Plus (Base Model)
Before the test drive, your sales associate will hand you a plastic Tesla credit card which acts as your key. It holds a chip that activates the car by placing it down on the center console behind the cupholder space. A chime from the car lets you know the car is now on. From a safe distance, Allen described to me how to adjust the mirrors, steering wheel, seat and the available steering options. I could drive around as I pleased, or set the navigation to their predetermined route called Work.
Selecting Work would bring you around the twisty backroads of Milford, and then up onto the Merritt Parkway rt. 15 for a jaunt at speed on the highway. Selecting Home on the navigation touch screen would automatically direct you back to the dealership. Genius.
What was most noticeable upon entering the model 3 was the shape of the steering wheel. The wheel diameter was round, of course, but the shape of the steering wheel handle radius had a square oblong shape to it, not round like a standard steering wheel. Interesting. This shape must somehow enhance your grip on the controls as the instant torque of the dual motors forces your body deep into the vegan leather seats.
The next thing immediately noticeable was how the regenerative breaking grabs you and slows down the car – as if you were hitting the brakes – as soon as you lift off the “go pedal”. With enough practice, Tesla drivers can operate the car with what is known as one pedal driving: effectively accelerating and slowing down with just one pedal.
Overall, the model 3 was a pleasure to drive, quiet, with a build quality that was high and a drive as sporty as a 3 series BMW. The base model lacked a bit of wow factor that I was hoping for, but I quickly found that special quality as soon as I got into the 2021 Model Y Performance model.
Driving the 2021 Tesla Model Y Dual Motor AWD Performance Model
The Model Y is the newly released mid size SUV offering from Tesla, but critics have called it merely a bloated model 3. The car doesn’t look too big from the outside, but once you get in, it feels spacious like a mid sized SUV. The ride height and visibility through the front glass felt very similar to our first generation 2005 E53 X5 BMW that my wife daily drives to work. Though I lament the level of maintenance it has required over the past five years, the X5 has grown on me lately, and I may hold onto it for an X5 overland build coming soon. More on that later.
The performance model Y comes in at around $60,000 USD which is a substantial amount of money for this market segment. However, there are not many SUV’s (read: none) that are all electric, dual motor, and can do 0-60 in as little as 3.5 seconds. The performance of this SUV is just absurd, so much fun, constant acceleration with no delay between gears to shift.
I fell in love with the Model Y instantly, it is everything I would want in a new family hauler. The 326 mile range and supercharging is more than enough to suit our personal transportation needs.
As a life long BMW enthusiast, I am really looking forward to seeing the new i4 electric sedan and iX electric SUV offering from BMW. The i3 is another car I’m looking forward to driving on the channel soon, though I doubt it would be a practical dad car due to the rear door design and small overall size. We will see how that goes.
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