2001 BMW 540iA

Below are a few of pics of my new daily driver.

This is a 2001 BMW 540iA with the M-Sport package and about ~ 72K miles on it. I am the 3rd owner and have all the records for it since it was new.


These cars can be very expensive to maintain. Despite BMW's claims of superior engineering, the 540i has some well documented issues... the cooling system blows up between 50 and 70K miles! The front control arm bushing wear out at about 60K mi and there is a whole slew of other issues that commonly occur much sooner than you would expect. However, issues aside, these cars are extremely nice to drive and with a big V8 engine, this car will get up and go!

I searched long and hard for a nice 540i - I really wanted a 2003 but was not able to find one I liked so I settled for this 2001. Its selling points were 1) All records since new, 2) complete cooling system overhaul about 5K miles ago (cost $2,000), 3) new front upper and lower control arms/bushings about 5K miles ago (cost $1,000), 4) purchase price - I paid $10,400 (not bad for a car that cost almost $60K new).

All this car really needed was a new set of tires. Discount Tire had a set of BFG G-Force Sports on sale so I went with these ($620); they are a little noisy at low speed but handle nicely. New tires, a new set of floor mats ($90) and a $100 oil change are all I've had to spend so far but I'll be into it for a bunch more soon as I plan to replace the suspension and service the transmission (precautionary). I'll do the suspension myself.


I've not kept a very good log of the maintenance performed on this car... it now has 184K mi. It has been mostly trouble free. I did replace all of the suspension parts front and back including shocks, struts, ball joints and control arms. I also did the valley pan and intake gaskets. It doesn't look quite as nice anymore - my son drives it now and he's not quite as diligent about keeping it clean and covered as I am. The paint has faded a little on the hood, roof and trunk but the sides still shine like new - this car has/had beautiful paint.

At 185K mi the engine developed a slight tapping sound which I assumed to be the timing chain guides which typically go about this mileage. It was also leaking coolant and oil so time for a major overhaul....

The timing chain guides turned out to be in surprisingly good shape with no damage and very little wear! I'm sure they would have lasted a lot longer but better to replace them and not have to worry...

As for the noise I was hearing... what I did find was a couple of very loose spark plugs!

The oil leaks are typical of this car and should be corrected with all new gaskets and sealer on the front of the engine.

The source of the coolant leak is yet to be determined. It was from the front of the engine but nothing obvious has been noticed so far.

I've ordered new timing guides, chain, gaskets, etc, all OEM BMW for ~ $675.... a lot cheaper than the $1800 or so most shops charge for this job! It's not a difficult job, just long and tedious. I'm not going to rebuild the vanos as this engine has always been very quiet on start up.

It should not be necessary to remove the intake manifold for this job but I had a hell of a time removing the valve cover due to the fuel rail extending above the valve cover. To get the valve cove back  in place with its gasket I will most likely have to remove the intake manifold as I don't want to risk bending the fuel rail.