5-Series (E39) – MY1997-2003

BMW M5 (E39)
BMW M5 (E39) – photo by inkiboo

BMW 5-Series (E39)

The E39 5-Series, produced from 1995 to 2003, is quite possibly the most classy and handsome car ever produced, especially in 540i Sport and M5 guises. The late 90s and early 00s were the pinnacle of BMW engineering and design. Predictably, there are some reliability concerns on the V8 trims, and if these are a dealbreaker then the inline-six trims (such as the 530i) are a more reliable option – and still have plenty of power to move the car’s bulk around. The M5 is the ultimate option, although values on these cars are beginning to appreciate.

Desirable Features

  • Sport/M-Sport package (especially on 540i)
  • Premium package (better leather, redwood trim, moonroof, autodim mirror, rain sensing wipers, garage door opener, auto headlights)
  • Cold weather package (headlight washers, heated seats, heated steering wheel)
  • Harman Kardon stereo
  • “Touring” trims (station wagons) are rare and command a premium


Click the links below to see common problems specific to the engines available on this vehicle.


All Vehicles

  • Automatic transmissions can fail if fluid is not changed every 60k miles (despite BMW’s claim that they have “lifetime” transmission fluid)
  • Cooling system in general, especially if fluid is not changed every two years
  • Window regulators (easy to replace)
  • Worn thrust arm bushings – lifespan of ~65k miles; symptoms include wheel shimmy at highway speeds, clunking when stopping or setting off, and less responsive handling/braking
  • Rear swing arm ball joints – lifespan of ~75k miles; symptoms include tramlining, vibration and squeaking from rear suspension, and wear on the inside of the tires
  • Dead pixels on gauge cluster, radio, and climate control displays
  • Interior wood trim has a tendency to crack with age

Certain Vehicles

  • 528i and 530i vehicles with manual transmissions: TSB – Transmission may stick in 5th gear or reverse and/or may have a lack of shifter feel – attributed to gear selector shaft pins sticking due to a defective bushing