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Making Money on YouTube with a BMW Car Related Niche Channel in 2020

Five years ago I began uploading videos to YouTube, primarily as an experiment to see how things worked. When unique problems or issues came up on my cars, I thought I could turn that problem into an opportunity. The opportunity was a chance to share my experience and help others facing the same issues, as most BMW issues are commonly shared between models. When something broke, and break they did, I thought to myself: “Great, here’s another video.”

The other opportunity that often comes with solving other people’s problems, is money. In this case, for me, it’s not much (yet). But I do earn a small income from the BMW video content I produce and upload to my YouTube channel. This topic is somewhat taboo as many creators choose not to share how they’re doing on the financial side of things. I think that a secretive mindset is a huge disservice; sharing the knowledge one has simply expands opportunities for others and takes nothing away from those who share it.

Everyone with an interest in creating on this platform could benefit from a little help and behind-the-scenes look at earning money to see if it is something that could be viable for them. The truth is, unless you’re really talented and full of energy to create, it can be difficult to earn a full time living from uploading niche YouTube videos. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try.

In this video below, I discuss how much some of my recent videos have earned and the various ways which you can monetize a YouTube channel in 2020 and beyond.

Are you interested in starting a YouTube channel of your own? Let me know in the comment section on this video and I’ll reply to your ideas, or check out your channel if you’ve already started one.

With the COVID pandemic keeping millions of people around the world stuck at home, starting a YouTube channel in 2020 is a great way to creatively express yourself and share something with the world from a safe distance. You never know, your experimental channel could just become a new career for you.

Five New YouTube Videos on my 1990 E32 735iL

Recently, upon late night browsing of Facebook Marketplace, I stumbled upon a 1990 735iL available for sale. Days went by, then a week. I saw that the car was still available and it was on my mind; I couldn’t stop thinking about how great the car’s condition was. It had been garage kept and driven less than 1,000 miles per year since 2008.

Then, Facebook’s sneaky notification buzzed my iPhone. The asking price had dropped from $3,500 USD down to $2,900 USD. I asked for some details on the car, checked out the VIN number, and prepared my offer. I asked if $2,500 USD would do. It was accepted. One week later on a Sunday afternoon the seller delivered the car to my driveway two hours from New York!

This Fall 2020 E32 project began as an accidental purchase of a classic BMW that I really should not have purchased. My day job is a stay-at-home Dad to my one year old daughter. I run a business and YouTube channel on nights and weekends, which leaves little time to maintain the three BMW’s we already own. This new arrival makes four. My wife is a patient and understanding gem.

To be fair though, the acquisition of new and interesting cars is what fuels this blog and YouTube channel to begin with. I like to think about it this way: even once the car is eventually sold on, I get to keep the videos and memories forever. Of course, I hope the content continues to bring in royalties in perpetuity, too.

To keep this BMW classic blog updated and interesting, here are the first five new videos I made about the new purchase. I’m slowly replacing and repairing the little items that are often overlooked, along with some basic maintenance and servicing. Enjoy.

I Bought a 1990 Islandgrun E32 735iL BMW

This first video is really just to show off how cool this E32 735iL really is. It has some rare options including its color: islandgrun metallic. This long wheelbase 7er has 4.5” of extra leg room in the rear, along with a power adjustable rear seat and an uber rare LSD – limited slip differential.

What Special Coolant Does My BMW Take?

The idea for this video came when I realized how often I’m asked about coolant in these cars. BMW basics is a series of videos where I try to appreciate what seems obvious to a seasoned enthusiast may not be obvious to everyone. This is one of those things. In this video I share why it’s important to use BMW blue coolant in your car, not the garden variety green stuff.

How to Perform The BMW Stomp Code Test Procedure

The BMW Stomp Test as it’s known as, was a fun rediscovery of an old trick. This trick allows you to read and decipher OBDI diagnostic trouble codes on 1995 and earlier BMW cars. For many years I shared a 1994 530i 5-speed sedan with my Dad, the last car of this era with the stomp test feature. Since the car was sold in 2014, I’ve only driven BMW’s with OBDII diagnostic capabilities, so this feature was long since forgotten. Until I bought the E32.

BMW Door Handle Gasket Rubber Seal Removal and Replacement

Another element the E32 shares with the E34 is the door handle gasket issue. These cars have rubber gaskets surrounding the door handles which dry out over time, crack and rot. They’re unsightly and can allow water into the door. I can’t recall ever replacing them on my Dad’s old E34, but I got to try it for the first time on the new 735iL.

BMW Broken Fuel Gas Door Hinge Repair

Finally, the good old broken fuel hinge issue: I’ve definitely been here before. My Dad’s E34 had this same problem, so when I saw that the fuel door wouldn’t stay open, I knew what needed to be done. This is where experience saves the day. The hairline crack in the hinge is not easily visible, but can be seen if the door is overextended outwards. The repair is relatively difficult, because of the design of the plastic hinge.

So there you go, five new YouTube videos on the Bimmerzeit channel. More to come, soon. As Gary Vaynerchuk says, content is king.

BZ

BMW Intermittent Random Stalling Issue Help

If your BMW is randomly stalling out, it is dangerous to your safety on the road, and it must be resolved ASAP. Here are some of the common reasons why your BMW might be exhibiting stalling issues.

  1. The fuel pump is faulty and needs to be replaced.

2. The crank position sensor is faulty and needs to be replaced. This is common on older classic cars such as the E30, E32, E34 and E36. But it can also present as an issue on modern cars like the E39, E46.

3. One of the most difficult to diagnose stalling issues is when the intake camshaft position sensor is beginning to fail. This part will fail very slowly overtime, and will not always throw a service engine light with stored code. This makes diagnosis next to impossible. This stalling happens in slow speed such as coming to a stop sign or slow drives around a shopping center parking lot, for example.

If your BMW is showing these symptoms of intermittent stalling, with no trouble codes present, it might be the intake camshaft position sensor. If you’re lucky, you’ll eventually see the P0340 generic trouble code appear on your BMW scan tool. That will confirm the intake camshaft position sensor has failed.

This blog periodically contains affiliate links, whereby I earn a small commission through parts purchases you make through the links I recommend at no additional cost to you. This method of monetization helps support my work with no ads.

BMW Door Handle Gasket Seal Replacement E31, E32, E34, E36

The rubber door handle gaskets on the E31 8 series, E32 7 series, E34 5 series and E36 3 series cars will all fail in time. The original BMW gasket dries up in the sun from UV exposure over the years causing cracking and crumbling. Unfortunately BMW does not sell the gaskets separately, so you must purchase the entire door handle if going with the genuine replacement. This can add up to several hundred dollars for a sedan.

Before / After

Instead, quality aftermarket gasket kits are what most people use, coming in at around $29 USD for a set of four gaskets. You can buy a set here.

How to Remove the Door Handle Cover Plate and Gasket

  1. Open the door and look at the jam on the edge of the door
  2. With a nylon pry tool, remove the plastic cap covering the access hole. Avoid using a metal object for this step as it can damage your paint.
  3. Spray lubricant such as WD40 onto the sliding brass mechanism and allow to sit for a few minutes. This step makes the job substantially easier.
  4. Push the brass slider in the access hole in towards the car’s interior
  5. This will allow the outer door handle trim and gasket to pop off
  6. Clean the door handle area thoroughly of dirt, grease and debris
  7. Install the new rubber gasket to the door trim plate
  8. Place the gasket with trim plate back onto the door. While holding it firmly against the door with one hand, use a hook tool like this one to pull the brass slider back out towards yourself (away from the car).
  9. Replace access hole plastic cover
  10. You’re done! Move onto the next door.

Below are the Genuine BMW Part Numbers to reference:

E32/E34 Front Left Gasket and Cover 51211938285

E32/E34 Front Right Gasket and Cover 51211938286

E32/E34 Rear Left Gasket and Cover 51221938280

E32/E34 Rear Right Gasket and Cover 51221938280

Was this helpful? Check us out on YouTube here.

This blog periodically contains affiliate links, whereby I earn a small commission through parts purchases you make through the links I recommend at no additional cost to you. This method of monetization helps support my work with no ads.

How to Do The BMW Trouble Code Stomp Test for E30, E31, E32, E34, E36 Cars

You may have heard about the “Stomp Test” that can tell you what trouble codes are stored in your vintage BMW’s engine computer. Unlike modern OBD II cars (from 1995 onward) that use a scan tool plugged into the OBD II port, older cars system is classified as OBD I. Some cars have this OBD I diagnostic port under the hood which can allow for a tool to scan for codes.

Fortunately for classic BMW drivers in the US, there is the Stomp Test. This works on cars with Bosch Motronic 1.3 or later, which is in model year 1988 cars and up. If you have a 1987 model year BMW, it may be on the cusp, so it depends on what ECU is in the car and its production date. I have been told this test does not work on European or Euro Spec cars, though have not confirmed myself.

How To perform the Stomp Test:

  1. Turn the ignition to position two. That’s the second click on turning the key. Do not start the car.
  2. Press the gas pedal to the floor five times within 5 or 6 seconds.
  3. After one flash of the check engine light, the process will begin.
  4. Engine light will flash a four digit code using morse code to communicate the trouble code, if one exists.
  5. It is helpful to keep a pen and pad to note the numbers displayed.
  6. Refer to the list of trouble codes here to begin diagnosis

OBDI BMW Trouble Codes for Classic BMW Cars

1211 DME control unit did not pass self-test. Disconnect from power and reconnect after 10 minutes.
1212 Oxygen (O2 or Lambda) Sensor 2 (cylinders 4–6)
1213 Lambda Control System Bank 2: The ECM has been unable to maintain Lambda (fuel mixture or fuel trim) on Bank 2 (cylinders 4–6) of the engine.
1215 Air mass/volume sensor
1216 Throttle potentiometer
1218 “Output Stage, Group 1”
1219 “Output Stage, Group 2”
1221 Oxygen (O2 or Lambda) sensor
1222 Lambda Control System Bank 1: The ECM has been unable to maintain Lambda (fuel mixture or fuel trim) on Bank 1 (cylinders 1–3) of engine.
1223 Coolant temperature sensor
1224 Intake air temperature sensor
1225 Knock sensor 1
1226 Knock sensor 2
1227 Knock sensor 3
1228 Knock sensor 4
1231 Battery voltage/DME main relay
1232 Throttle switch—idle
1233 Throttle switch—WOT
1234 Speedometer A Signal
1237 A/C compressor cut off
1241 False air mass sensor code—update the EPROM and replace the idle valve
1242 A/C compressor
1243 Crankshaft pulse sensor
1244 Camshaft sensor
1245 Intervention EGS
1247 Ignition secondary monitor
1251 Fuel injector 1 (or group 1)
1252 Fuel injector 2 (or group 2)
1253 Fuel injector 3
1254 Fuel injector 4
1255 Fuel injector 5
1256 Fuel injector 6
1257 Fuel injector 7
1258 Fuel injector 8
1261 Fuel pump relay control
1263 Purge valve
1264 Oxygen (O2 or Lambda) heater
1265 Fault lamp (check engine)
1266 VANOS
1267 Air pump relay control
1271 Ignition coil 1
1272 Ignition coil 2
1273 Ignition coil 3
1274 Ignition coil 4
1275 Ignition coil 5
1276 Ignition coil 6
1277 Ignition coil 7
1278 Ignition coil 8
1281 Control unit memory supply
1282 Fault code memory did not pass self-test. Disconnect from power and reconnect
after 10 minutes. Check charging system for over-voltage.
1283 Fuel injector output stage (can be set by a faulty ignition coil)
1286 Knock control test pulse
1444 No failures

One caveat to this is for the special V12 cars like the 750i, 750iL, 850i. They have two banks of cylinders, and each one has its own ECU. To access the second ECU complete the same steps as above, but press gas pedal 6 times (not 5). Each code for the second bank will begin with the number 2.

Was this helpful? Check us out on YouTube here.

This blog periodically contains affiliate links, whereby I earn a small commission through parts purchases you make through the links I recommend at no additional cost to you. This method of monetization helps support my work with no ads.

Two Things to Learn Before Buying an E30 BMW

Are you finally buying your dream car, “God’s Chariot”?

Here are two important DIY’s that you’ll need to learn when you buy your E30 3 series BMW. First, the valves on an M20 6-cylinder engine will need to be adjusted roughly once a year or every 15,000 miles. This keeps your car running correctly and reduces the possibility of breaking a rocker arm. Poorly adjusted valves can put additional stress on the already fragile rocker arms in this motor, so be sure to stay on top of this maintenance item.

M20 Valve Adjustment Procedure

Adjustment of the valves on an M20 engine requires simple tools:

  1. 10mm deep socket and ratchet with extension
  2. Stainless steel feeler gauge set to measure the correct gap
  3. Alan key set; use a small key to adjust the rocker eccentric while adjusting
  4. New M20 valve cover gasket

This procedure should take you anywhere from 1-2 hours depending on your experience and mechanical aptitude. Perform this check and adjustment in early spring each year when taking the car out of storage, before the driving season begins.

Secondly, you’ll need to reset your service interval lights in the gauge cluster. When I first began driving E30’s in 2003, the reset and oil light tool was $150. Over the years, enthusiasts figured out that you don’t actually need an expensive tool to reset these lights. With a piece of wire you can simply jump the pins (carefully) in the diagnostic port under the hood and reset the lights. Here’s a video detailing exactly how to reset the E30 service interval light and oil light without a tool:

E30 Service Interval Light Reset

So there you have it! Two maintenance items you’ll have to learn before buying or owning an E30 3-series BMW. For more E30 specific guides, see my playlist on YouTube here.

Buy E30 Parts and Specialty Tools Here.

This blog periodically contains affiliate links, whereby I earn a small commission through parts purchases you make through the links I recommend at no additional cost to you. This method of monetization helps support my work with no ads.

Is Buying a Used BMW i3 a Good or Bad Idea?

So you’re thinking of going all electric… me too

With the prices of used BMW i3 EV and used Nissan Leaf EV vehicles coming down rapidly these days, the thought of buying my first new (used) electric car is making more sense now than ever before. Leasing a new electric car is typically advised over buying a new one due to the huge depreciation hit these cars suffer from in their first 5 years.

However, buying an older used electric car outright is more appealing for several reasons: no monthly car payment, no need for expensive full insurance coverage, no hidden fees or wear fees when returning the lease car. In addition, many enthusiasts just prefer to actually own vs. feeling like you’re renting.

The most important considerations when buying an electric vehicle are the range capability and current battery condition. How well will a particular car’s electric range fit into your daily needs such as commuting to work, family trips, shopping trips. I have found that it is common for EV owners to share an i3 for commutes and short trips around town, shopping, weekend errands – but they still keep a gas powered BMW or other SUV for longer family road trips and hauling.

In reality, it isn’t yet practical in 2020 for most of us to own just one EV and get out of gasoline and oil all together, no matter how much we might want to. Before this year, renting a car for long trips or work may have made it easier to ditch our backup gasoline car. The COVID 19 crisis has put enormous pressure on ride share services like Uber and Lyft, along with other car rental services. Few people today want to share or rent for fear of health risks it now poses. The pandemic has also caused a surge in car ownership even in unlikely places like New York City.

Saying Goodbye to Gas and Oil Forever?

My current daily driver is not exactly a daily driver. You see, since 2010 I have been self-employed and working from home. Ironically, as a car enthusiast, I don’t actually need to own a car nor do I drive all that much. My trips are largely to the grocery stores which are a mere 1 to 2 miles from home. Other trip locations include the post office, UPS, or down to the beach several miles. The car I use for these simple pleasures is a 2007 335i, a car I have long lusted after since seeing one at Bavarian Autosport Show and Shine car show in the Fall of 2006. Thirteen years of depreciation later, and I could finally afford one: Click here to see a video of my car.

My 2007 335i

This twin-turbocharged E90 with 6 cylinder gas engine is such a blast to drive, with approximately 340 horsepower thanks to a modest ECU tune. It is arguably the most fun car I have ever owned and I would really hesitate to part with it. This would be a good car to garage and use strictly for pleasure or those longer road trips as a back up to the EV. I purchased it from the original owner who took incredibly detailed care of the car, with a huge stack of BMW dealer-only service records. Usually these cars are found neglected and modified by young owners with a need for speed.

My other car is a classic 1984 533i E28 which I purchased over two years ago. It’s possibly the car I’ve owned the longest in recent memory, since I typically catch and release these cars just to produce content on YouTube. This car has been driven maybe 6-700 miles in the two years I have owned it; it is now so valuable that I don’t like to leave it out in random parking lots. It is not the most practical car to own at the moment, so I do consider selling it – though I may regret it.

My 1984 533i

My 533i was purchased in July 2018 from Portland, Oregon from the long time second owner. Now in his 70’s, the second owner Mike cared for the car since July 1987. With E28 prices on the rise in the last few years, it is tempting to sell it and make back a little money to fund life’s other ventures. Though if I do this, I may not be able to afford to buy one this clean again in the future.

All of this being said, I have been thinking about giving up gas and oil for years. The amount of maintenance, repairs, time, money, oil changes, gas fill ups and combustion related issues is just stupid. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. As an enthusiast, I enjoy bringing old cars back to life with servicing, though I recognize how bad their existence is for the air quality and world health. Not to mention, I would love to never leak oil and fluids on my new driveway or street again.

Buying a used i3 BMW BEV vs. Range Extender

My first choice of electric car would probably be an all-electric BEV i3. The range extender would offer peace of mind sure, but they are known to be more troublesome. Besides, this small onboard motorcycle engine generator would require combustion servicing like tune ups, gas fill ups and oil changes, defeating the purpose of owning an EV for me personally. The upside is that the range extender greatly extends the usability of the car, and eliminates the anxiety of running out of power while my wife takes it to work.

My 2002 530i next to an i3 REX

The first year 2014-2015 i3 BEV can be found from $10,000 to $13,000 at the low end which is an incredible bargain considering the technology and build of these cars. Since this is a BMW focused blog, continuing with the BMW brand would work for my interests as well as my viewers.

What’s most impressive is the carbon neutral conditions they were produced under in Germany and the fact that the car’s frame is made entirely of carbon fiber. The only other cars with carbon fiber bodies on planet earth are million dollar super cars. Very cool. Here’s a photo of the production in Leipzig in July 2013 from BMW’s press kit i3 photos.

The i3 carbon fiber body at BMW’s Leipzig Production Plant

The i3 features active cooling for the battery which is essential to longer battery life. The Nissan leaf does not have thermal battery management. The only major downside of this car is the narrow, expensive tires which produce a bouncy ride. I do wish it featured a taller tire for a more comfortable ride. The initial purchase price of the i3 is also nearly twice that of the Nissan leaf, which can be found from $5,000 to $7,000 at the low end.

Is the first generation Nissan Leaf a better option?

While I am obviously a huge BMW enthusiast, I do enjoy many other auto makes. Specifically, Japanese autos. Japanese culture is a big part of my life and I have traveled Asia pretty extensively, including across Japan. This leads me to the Nissan Leaf.

The early leaf suffered from a poorly managed battery cooling system – it did not have thermal management for the battery packs. In 2015 I believe the battery chemistry was improved so it is now advised to choose a 2015+ for best range performance. The 2013 models also feature an efficient heat pump HVAC system which improves range, which is essential in New England winters. The initial 2011-2012 models featured an energy sucking heater setup.

One other interesting point to mention is the early model 2011-2012 are made in Japan (not the USA) and also feature aluminum body parts to reduce weight. This is really cool and obviously very expensive to manufacture. The early ’11 and ’12 models are known for very high build quality, and aluminum panels are very high-end. To cut costs, the 2013+ models featured regular steel body parts. Not cool Nissan, not cool.

Conclusions

As we roll through 2020 there are so many new electric options coming out, most notably is Volkswagen’s iD4 which looks amazing. It has the option for an AWD dual motor car and features enough battery for 250+ miles of range which is more than enough for most driver’s needs. My hope is that as the next generation of EV’s become available in 2020-2021, the first generation i3 will come down in price a bit more. For now, the leaf looks like a better buy at half the price, though I would prefer the BMW.

Which EV would you choose? The i3 or Leaf?

This blog periodically contains affiliate links, whereby I earn a small commission through parts purchases you make through the links I recommend at no additional cost to you. This method of monetization helps support my work with no ads.

The Top 10 Most Common E53 X5 BMW Repairs

Top 10 Most Common E53 Repairs

So you’re the proud new owner of BMW’s first generation X5 SUV. What kinds of repairs will you encounter during your ownership journey? Well, have a look at the Bimmerzeit top ten most common repairs and failures of this model. None of these jobs are particularly difficult to repair yourself as a DIY, and you can follow all of my step by step BMW repair tutorials to help you along. To see all 83 of my X5 video repairs in a YouTube playlist, click here.

1. Exterior Door Handle Carrier Replacement

The exterior door handle carrier is made with a unique design on the E53 which features a cable and aluminum frame that pivots to actuate the door lock mechanism. Over time, the cable (like a bike brake or shifter cable) stretches and no longer actuates the latch properly. I’ve owned two X5’s and have replaced the driver and passenger front carriers on both of them. Very common failure item. To order a new carrier, buy here.

2. X5 Service Interval Light Reset

This is a really easy one, and you don’t even have to get your hands dirty. After a period of time the service interval lights will turn yellow and red on your cluster. To reset them after a service, watch this video below.

3. M54 Water pump and Thermostat Replacement DIY

At some point, every BMW will need its cooling system overhauled. The M54 6 cylinder in the 3.0i X5 is no exception. In fact, you can listen to what a failing bearing on the water pump sounds like in this video. To access the pump and perform the job, you’ll need a set of fan clutch tools like these to get started.

4. Auxiliary Audio Input Kit Installation and Retrofit

So you like driving a 15-20 year old classic; the first generation X5. But you’re not willing to miss out on connecting your phone to your radio to stream Spotify music. No worries, this genuine BMW auxiliary audio kit available here will install in 20 minutes and allow you to connect your phone to the factory X5 radio via an auxiliary input jack. This is the best method to achieve the highest audio sound quality in your SUV. Avoid bluetooth or radio frequency wireless models. This cable offers the best audio fidelity and is made by BMW, not an aftermarket third party.

5. M54 Alternator Removal and Replacement DIY

It seems to me that October is the month where BMW alternators fail. In my 17 years of driving BMWs the overarching principle is that the cold weather that rolls in during October in New England begins the decline of many a BMW charging system. Batteries and alternators meet their demise. Here’s my guide to quickly and affordably changing yours out yourself, should you find it failing this autumn.

6. E53 X5 Front Brake Rotor and Pad Removal and Replacement DIY

Sooner or later, your X5 is going to need new brake rotors and pads. Learning to do tune ups, oil changes, and brakes is the single most important group of repairs you can learn to do to save big money on owning a BMW. Brake jobs are very easy and affordable to DIY, compared to what local dealerships will charge. You can save thousands by doing it yourself. Here’s my front brake replacement guide:

I recommend using Zimmermann rotors (made in Germany) and genuine OEM BMW pads or equivalent such as Jurid and Textar. In my experience, the genuine BMW pads last longest and bite the hardest. The downside is you’ll experience greater wheel dust and dirty wheels. The commonly used ceramic pads that claim zero brake dust do just that – virtually no dust is to be found. However, the performance of the bite when braking is not inspiring, and I refuse to compromise braking power for aesthetics.

7. Transfer Case Actuator Gear Replacement

The transfer case actuator will eventually give you issues in your X5 or X3. The original plastic gear will strip it’s teeth and cause the ABS, Brake, and DSC traction light to appear which will alarm you when it first happens. Don’t let your local dealer tell you that you need a $4,000 USD transfer case replacement. Buy this little carbon fiber reinforced replacement gear here with a lifetime warranty!

8. X5 Ignition Switch Replacement

The ignition switch can cause all kinds of issues on this model. Issues that you think are something else end up leading back to this switch. The second failure of the X5 ignition switch during our 5 year ownership came along with a battery light flashing and led me down the path of replacing the battery and alternator before realizing it was once again, the switch. See that diagnosis video here.

9. X5 Xenon Light Bulb Removal and Replacement DIY

One great thing about the BMW xenon system is that one, their light output is much greater than standard halogen bulbs. The D2S bulbs themselves also last much longer than a standard halogen bulb: 7-8 years for a xenon vs. only 1-3 for a halogen type. If you find yourself with a warning “check side lights” and your headlight is out, see my tutorial here on how to replace the bulb.

10. E53 X5 Air Suspension Struts and Bags Replacement DIY

If you’re lucky enough to have a rare X5 with four corner air suspension, you may eventually run into replacement of the air struts and air springs as they fail. The rubber reservoirs age much like a tire does, and break down over time to leak. Fortunately replacements are readily available and cheap. The replacement is not too difficult either, this will save you thousands over taking it to the shop. For a demonstration of the adjustable ride height on an E53 X5 with four corner air suspension, see my video here.

So there you have it, these are the top 10 most common repairs you can expect to perform on an E53 X5, the first generation SUV from BMW. If you’re looking to buy one of these models, check out my complete buyers guide recently posted here on the blog.

Due to factors beyond the control of BIMMERZEIT, we cannot guarantee against improper use or unauthorized modifications of this information. BIMMERZEIT assumes no liability for property damage or injury incurred as a result of any of the information contained in this video. Use this information at your own risk. BIMMERZEIT recommends safe practices when working on vehicles and or with tools seen or implied in this video. Due to factors beyond the control of BIMMERZEIT no information contained in this video shall create any expressed or implied warranty or guarantee of any particular result. Any injury, damage, or loss that may result from improper use of these tools, equipment, or from the information contained in this video is the sole responsibility of the user and not BIMMERZEIT. Video and Content is owned by BIMMERZEIT © 2020

This blog periodically contains affiliate links, whereby I earn a small commission through parts purchases you make through the links I recommend at no additional cost to you. This method of monetization helps support my work with no ads.

Buying a Used BMW X5?

Here’s what to look out for

So you’ve decided to buy a used BMW X5? While a Japanese make such as Lexus would bring more peace to your life, you’ve decided to eschew logical adult reasoning and take on the challenge of owning heavily depreciated German steel to enjoy all of the pleasures it will bring. The driving experience, heated surfaces, envy from the neighbors. Your idea of the spice of life is not knowing when the next water pump or window regulator failure will hit, sucking up your only free time on weekends for the foreseeable future.

All kidding aside, the X5 is a good SUV if you are an enthusiast who enjoys performing a good deal of DIY work. After all, if you’re reading this blog, you are likely a BMW enthusiast. Besides, the initial purchase price of a used X5 is going to be much less than that of a Lexus GX or some comparable Japanese suburb-crawling baby-hauler.

My best advice for owning a used X5 is as follows:

  1. You MUST own your own BMW specific diagnostic scan tool such as the one I use today, the Creator C310 available here for $55. This allows you to scan your own Service Engine Soon lights and diagnose issues without a trip to the dealer.
  2. As soon as you buy the X5, begin using maintenance parts from FCP Euro in Milford, Connecticut. Their lifetime warranty on everything they sell is 100% real and 100% awesome. I regret not purchasing parts from them from the beginning, as I would have saved a lot of money in years 4 and 5 on our X5 as items are replaced continually. Those guys are friendly, honest and I love going into their showroom parts pick-up to chat about cars and collect my goodies.
  3. Find a used example that has been kept with service records. Whether those are enthusiast owned DIY receipts for parts purchases, or extensive dealership invoices, that is what you want to see. If someone can’t find the records, or ignores your request for service records, move on. You want to find an example that has been well maintained and loved – this will save you money in the long-run.

Here’s my 5 Year Cost of Ownership on our used X5.

If you’re considering buying an E53 generation X5, check out my buyers guide here:

As we enter the beginning of year 6 of ownership this month, we are still working on some maintenance issues and engine trouble codes. The P1093 code for rich fuel bank has persisted, despite replacement of both pre-cat oxygen sensors. This may be a failed idle control valve, that may be our next replacement item.

We’re at a spot now that it might be time to consider looking into upgrading to the E70 generation X5, built from 2007-2013. The newer and greatly improved F15 X5 came later in 2014, but is still too expensive for us to consider at this time. The 2012-2013 X5 35i is what we are considering, and it looks to be a great balance of value for the money in today’s 2020 market. As soon as we can pick one up, my E70 used X5 buyer guide will be posted here. Stay tuned.

Shop BMW parts here.

Shop used BMW X5, X5 and M cars here.

X3 and X5 BMW Transfer Case Actuator Gear Replacement DIY

This one little gear will save you over $4,000 USD

The BMW X3 and X5 are known for their incredible x-drive all wheel drive systems that power through stormy winter conditions and keep you safe on the road. They’re also known for being incredibly robust, rarely having any major failure of the transfer case systems, as they are typically overbuilt by design. The X5’s ATC 500 transfer case is particularly robust.

However, one small detail was overlooked on the design by BMW mechanical engineers: the small plastic gear inside the transfer case actuator motor. This small gear typically fails between 90,000 -120,000 miles in the X3 and X5. When it does fail, it throws the car’s computer systems into disarray and will show the trifecta of lights: Brake, ABS, and 4×4 DSC lights will all illuminate on the gauge cluster.

Perhaps this is a planned failure, kind of like BMW’s version of planned obsolescence. If millions of X3 and X5 suffer this failure, that means millions of new reasons for customers to either pay heavily for dealership repair services or trade in for a new model BMW. Perhaps this is too cynical, who really knows.

Sometimes, when this gear has failed, an audible clicking may be heard from under the driver side of the car when turning the ignition off. This is the transfer case actuator trying to work but it can’t as the gear’s teeth are stripped by the metal worm drive gear that rides against it. The factory plastic wears down over time causing the failure. When the position of the actuator is no longer known, this throws off the rest of the computer systems that rely on that position as an input signal.

My Experience with my X5 transfer case failure

In 2016, shortly after purchasing our E53 X5, we experienced these warning lights, the intermittent clicking from the actuator and saw the BMW fault code 5F39 or 5F3A. We brought the car in for some inspection at a local Fairfield county Connecticut BMW dealership. Here is where we were delivered the bad news: “Sorry, you’re going to need a new transfer case, the cost is over $4,000 USD.”

This was a really stressful experience, and I was shocked that this happened to us so soon after buying our first X5. Being responsible for the car buying and repairs in my family, this was the worst car news I could deliver to my wife about her new SUV. I decided to do a little more research and more digging. First, I bought myself a BMW specific scan tool so I no longer needed the dealership for diagnostic troubleshooting work. I chose the Creator C310 here on Amazon.

As it turns out, many owners have experienced this transfer case actuator failure which throws these lights and trouble codes. I was determined to try to repair ours or at least remove the actuator for inspection – we had nothing to lose.

First, you need to diagnose the issue by scanning the car’s computers and inspecting the gear. Here’s how to diagnose a potential failure in the transfer case actuator gear system.

Once you’ve established this is likely the cause of your X3 or X5 issues, you will need to order a new updated gear. You can order a carbon fiber reinforced nylon gear which is virtually indestructible here: new transfer case gear.

(photo of gear here link to my shop)

E53 X5, E70 X5, E83 X3 Transfer Case Gear Replacement DIY

Next, you can begin replacement of your transfer case actuator gear once you receive it. You will need the following tools and special socket sizes in order to perform this job:

  1. Micro flathead screwdriver for removal of the transfer case actuator resistor harness connector plug bolted to the side of the motor.
  2. Female torx sockets size E10 for removal of 4 torx bolts holding on motor
  3. Female torx socket size E7 for unbolting transfer case resistor if necessary
  4. C-clip retaining ring removal plier for removal of circlip on gear shaft
  5. Knife for assistance in prying up small metal cover on housing of motor

Here are the steps to installing your new carbon fiber nylon transfer case gear:

  1. Remove four E10 torx bolts that secure the actuator motor to the transfer case and set them aside in a safe space.

2. Unplug the harness to the transfer case actuator. Unplug the harness to the resistor on the side of the transfer case motor.

3. Remove transfer case actuator motor from the transfer case

4. Remove c-clip on shaft of motor to allow for gear removal

5. Pry up metal housing cover and lift off motor. Use WD40 if corroded.

Complete transfer case actuator motor
Carefully remove cover from housing

6. Remove white gear and old black plastic drive gear

Separate and re-use the old white plastic guide gear

7. Clean any debris or plastic in the housing, apply molybdenum grease to points inside the gear housing as needed.

Inspect original gear for worn teeth to confirm diagnosis
Note how the metal worm drive sits on the plastic gear
Molybdenum grease applied to shaft of motor housing

8. Reassemble with new gear in actuator motor

Re-install c-clip to secure gears in place
Original worn gear (left) vs. new carbon fiber nylon gear (right)
Original gear (left) vs. new carbon fiber nylon gear (right)

9. Install metal housing cover, tap down around perimeter to secure

10. Re-install motor assembly to transfer case

11. Install the four E10 torx bolts

12. Plug in actuator harness and resistor harness

13. Celebrate! You’ve just saved $4,000 USD

Buy a new Carbon Fiber reinforced Nylon gear here.

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