My 2001 BMW 740i Sport

This car was built in April 2001. It has almost all the options offered on the 740i.... Sport package, Convenience package, Park Distance control, wide screen navigation, heated seats, retractable door mirrors, sun shades, an infrared reflect windshield! and lots of other cool stuff. MSRP $70,360 !!


I purchased this car on Dec 27th 2011. These pictures were taken then. The front roundel had peeled so I removed it and have since installed a new one.



The interior....



Notice no retractable window shade in the pic below - its buried inside the door panel!



Notice the rectangular discoloration in the windshield (bottom center). At first I thought this was residue from something having been stuck on there - but it did not clean off. I later learned that it is an opening in the infrared reflect coating that allows for use of a radar detector or fast pass. The rest of the windshield does not allow radar signals to pass through it! The infrared reflect windshield helps protect the dash from sun damage and reduces the heat from the sun inside the car.


Lighted door handles... How cool is that!


59,758 orig miles! The pixels were perfect when I got the car but that didn't last long... as soon as the weather warmed up they became intermittent (a common problem). 


The wheels are near perfect (well 3 of them anyways, there is some very minor curb rash on one).  Unfortunately they don't stay looking this clean for long (brake dust).


I cleaned the engine bay....

You can see that I had a minor coolant leak on the right side of the radiator - perhaps from the bleeder hose under the fan cowling.


I paid $7250 for this car but later learned it had a couple of fender benders that were not disclosed....

The car was hit at the rear drivers side wheel in 2004. From some pictures I found in the car, it looks like it broke the rear control arms and the car suffered some minor body damage. I contacted the seller (a 3rd party) and showed him the pictures I found in the car. He was shocked and told me he had no knowledge of the accident, he promised to contact the owner and ask why it was not disclosed. After some negotiation I obtained a $750 refund making my net cost for this car $6500

BMW's are great cars to work on.... there are many 740i (E38) enthusiasts and a wealth of information to be found on the web about these cars. I purchased this car with the intention of doing all the repair work myself and so far I have!


First thing I needed was new tires as the ones the car were badly dried out and cracked; I decided on Falken Azenis PT-722's and got a great deal on these at Discount Tire. 

When offered a 20% discount I purchased a full set of Brembo brakes (rotors/pads/sensors etc), Meyle HD upper and lower front control arms, bunch of hoses and stuff for a cooling system overhaul. Free shipping too! 

The car had some shimmy on uneven road surfaces and did not feel as tight as it should. Front control arm bushings are the usual cause of this.

I treated the leather seats with Lexol leather conditioner - it works great and the made the leather look and feel much nicer.

The steering wheel was looking a little grungy so I cleaned it with a 'Mr Clean Magic Eraser'. Check out this link  All I can say is this stuff is amazing! It cleaned up the steering wheel so nice and cost only $2 at my local grocery store.... it is a mildly abrasive sponge that you wet and then wipe on the steering wheel. It picks up all the crud and leaves the leather looking dull but very clean. I followed up with some Lexol leather conditioner and it looked like new!

The hood bumper springs were shot. One of the front kidney grilles was loose - missing a few tabs. The best deal I found on these was from Tischer BMW.... $100 shipped with a few other small plastic parts. Tischer ( ) has good prices on OEM BMW parts but the shipping can be steep.

And I purchased a new BMW hood roundel on Ebay for $8! Its definitely not OEM but it looks OK. Update: this soon peeled in the hot California sun so I purchased an OEM.

The cluster pixels soon became intermittent. I sent an email to BMW USA asking if they would fix it (free of charge)! I know they have done this for some people but in many cases they will only pay a fraction of the replacement cost. In my case they offered to pay 50% which meant I would still need to pay ~ $500! I fixed it myself....



Today I fixed the sun shade in the passenger rear door. Whoever worked on this last left the retractable screen down when they installed the door panel! The screen pull tab was buried inside the door panel. I had to remove the small window shade first and then the door panel (instructions here )

I reinstalled the door panel with the screen up this time. That was an easy job and the door panel fits much better now too!


I made some ramps.... need these so there is room to get my floor jack under the front of the car. They work great and have now seen a lot of use!

The ramps are high enough for me to get underneath without using the jack (for oil changes etc).

The lower engine cover was covered in oily grime when I got the car. Now it is nice and clean....


There was a lot of oil on the engine and subframe which I have now mostly cleaned off. I'm pretty sure this oil is running down from the valve cover gaskets. It looks a lot cleaner now.


Belts look like they were recently replaced. I'll hang on to the new ones I just purchased for later.


Do you have problems with mice getting under your hood and chewing things up? I have had this happen to me with my other cars especially in the winter - Mice like the warm engine. I had a rat living under the hood of my 4 runner for weeks - it built a nest in a corner and would even stay in there while I was driving! I learned that fabric softener sheets repel mice so I have tie wrapped a couple under the hood. I've not noticed any mice lately so this is just a precautionary measure.



I installed new gas struts on the trunk lid yesterday (about $20 ea, URO brand). The trunk would drop hard unless I held it back. These turned out to be not much better than the ones I replaced. I have read that OEM is the only way to go on these. I definitely do not recommend URO.

I purchased a replacement mirror on Ebay and installed it today. I ended up buying both the left and right complete retractable mirrors for $150 and took the drivers glass out to fix mine (it had badly discolored). I figured I can probably re-sell these mirrors without glass for my $150 purchase price since these are the retractable type. Update 8/18/13 the drivers mirror is turning brown and will need to be replaced again soon.`````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````

I replaced the front upper and lower control arms with Meyle HD's today.

Got to use my vintage Dayton jack for the first time - it does a nice job. I picked this up on Craigslist for $50 and I bet it is 50 yrs old! 

The ball joints under the front struts were a pain to remove. Rather than loosen the strut mount I ground down the tip of my Harbor Freight ball joint tool down so it would fit under the strut.

There are several DIY's on this job and busting the ball joints loose is the hardest part but with this ball joint separator tool it was quite easy. The last one I freed was the tightest of all..... the right side under the strut. I was afraid the tool was going to break and thought it had when it eventually popped but it was fine and the ball joint was free! 

The ball joints were in ok shape (my car has 60K mi) but the bushings on the rear control arms were torn and rotted (see pics below). 


The front lower arm bushings looked ok but I swapped them out also.



Started on the cooling system overhaul today;  new water pump, hoses, radiator and expansion tank are to be installed.

Everything came apart pretty easily. The water pump shaft main seal was leaking slightly as evidenced by white coolant marks on everything perpendicular to the the water pump pulley (coolant being flung out). It also had a little play in it. The top driver side of the radiator is also visibly leaking. Getting the radiator out was tough at first but easy after I disconnected the power steering cooling lines - the way these were oriented there was no way to way to get it out without disconnecting these and since I ended up replacing the condenser frame - I needed to remove the power steering fluid cooler anyways.

There are signs of oil seepage all over the place but nothing worth doing anything about for now. I cleaned a lot of it up in the picture below. The car is 10 yrs old and does not drip any oil on my driveway so I'm not going to worry about it. A little oil film stops the metal corroding!

One of the dowels came off with the water pump instead of staying in the engine block. It was seized in there so I got a replacement at Encinitas BMW - also a clip for the cooling line to the expansion tank which I managed to break trying to remove it.

A couple of the water pump bolts were corroded and this one is actually warped! I replaced these with new bolts and used anti-seize on them all.


The 'O' ring in the water pump that mates with the small tube is disintegrating! I'm not sure what the factory put on this but whatever it is it has turned the 'O' ring soft and gooey. Makes me wonder what the 'O' ring in the rear manifold looks like!



Got the cooling system put back together. 

While I had the radiator out of the car I went ahead and replaced the condenser frame which as you can see was broken at the top. This had been bugging me for a while as it was putting a lot of strain on one of the top radiator clips. I have no idea how it got this way. I found a nice (used) replacement on Ebay for $50.

To install this I had to break open the A/C system as the coolant lines to the condenser must be separated to remove the condenser from this plastic frame. I had the system discharged and swapped it over... The coolant lines were open for only about 30 mins so I didn't bother to replace the drier.

Just for this job, I picked up a very nice vacuum pump on Craigslist for $80 and the seller was kind enough to deliver it to my doorstep!

I vacuumed the system for almost an hour and then recharged with 1.5 lb of R134A. This was my first time working on a car A/C system! R134A has become expensive here in California and there is a $10 refundable core charge on each can too! The cheapest source for R134A I found was Walmart - about $15 per can and I needed 2 cans ($30 plus a $20 deposit).


Today I replaced the front struts (with Bilstein HD's), strut mounts (OEM), bearing plates (OEM), sway bar links (Lemforder), front rotors (Brembo) and pads (Akebono low dust).

I re-used the original spring pads as these showed no signs of wear. 

My struts were completely shot - no leaks at all but I was able to push stanchion tube in with barely any force - I knew they were bad because every time I braked the front end dived and my tires were not wearing evenly. 

I found some spring compressors on Craigslist for $20 and again had the seller deliver them to me! They worked perfectly and the whole job turned out to be much simpler than I had expected.

Everything came apart beautifully.... My rotor puller (new tool) worked great and popped the brake rotors off easily without needing to smack them with a hammer.

I replaced the sway bar links but the originals did not feel that bad. I purchased new ties rods but did not bother to install these as the original's felt fine. I'll replace them when ever I need to replace the center drag link.



I flushed and bled the brakes today. I installed an air hose fitting on a spare master cylinder cap, set my air compressor to 15psi and attached it to the cap. Bled the rear wheels first then the fronts. I was surprised how much air I bled out along with the old fluid. Pressurizing the master cylinder makes it easy - just got to remember to keep topping it up.

Then onto the rear control arms (I should have done the rear struts at the same time as I ended up removing the rear control arm again later to install new rear struts).


and ball joints .....


Having the right tool for the Ball joints made the job easy. I paid $120 for this tool and it was worth every penny! Took me about 5 mins to press out the old ball joint and press in the new one.



I installed a new weather strip on the front windshield... these fall apart after a few years in the California sun and a new one makes the car look much nicer. This was not too difficult to install.


I also removed the stock sub woofer assy from the rear shelf and installed a 10" sub in the trunk. This was a very easy install and gives much improved Bass response from the sound system. Removing the stock sub assy opens a cavity between the cabin and trunk allowing the sound from the trunk mounted sub into the cabin.

I spliced into the sub wires (L + R) from the DSP amp to feed the sub. This sub has a built in amplifier that turns itself on and off so you only need to hook up a 12V source - I connected it directly to the trunk mounted battery with the supplied in-line fuse. The sub is held in place by an existing luggage rod. This sub was great deal at $95 shipped (from Parts Express via Amazon)! It comes with an optional control and cable that allows you to adjust the sound level remotely - I did not hook this up but it would be useful to optimize the sound level. I have it set quite low. Update: I have since replaced this sub with 2 x 10" subs mounted just below the rear shelf.

With the rear seat out of the car I noticed some light rust on the seat frame. This led me to discover the rear windshield had a small leak allowing water into the rear cabin area. This had been collecting under the rear seats as evidenced by the light rust on the seat frame. I don't know how I missed noticing this as it looks to have been this way for some time. Anyhow I sealed it up on the inside with silicone caulk. and I also filled some gaps on the exterior window seal. There is a drainage channel under the exterior weather strip but filling these gaps at the corners helped minimize the amount of water that seeps under there. I poked some weed whacker line up the drainage channels from the trunk lid area to verify no obstructions.


I washed the car today and confirmed that the rear window is now watertight!

I installed new Bilstein struts on the rear. This completes my suspension rebuild (everything has now been replaced - front and rear).

Although I have new rotors and pads for the rear, I did not install these yet as there is still plenty of life left in the originals.

The old struts were shot and I was surprised to see that they were not even the same part# ! Notice the damper rod is much shorter on one of them! I'm sure one of these was replaced when the car was hit.


I had suspected my fan clutch was leaking when I overhauled the cooling system but now I am seeing more obvious signs. It is just a minor leak but never the less needs immediate attention.... a replacement has been ordered.



I installed a new Bosch fan clutch today. That job was easy.

On my way home from work last night the car started misfiring and stalling - first time that has happened and gave me quite a scare... I managed to get the car off the road and after starting it a few times the problem seemed to clear itself. 

I checked the engine codes when I got home and sure enough.... engine misfire on multiple cylinders. 

This sounds like a Valve Cover Gasket problem so I popped the lid on the valve covers and voila!

I'd say it is definitely leaking... the spark plugs are almost completely immersed in engine oil! Both sides looked like this (its a V8)!

I cleaned it up... lots of paper towels seemed to work best. My back was aching after that (requires a lot of bending over the engine) so will have to replace the gaskets another day. I already have the parts but It will take a few months to fill with oil again so I can take my time. Update: I ended up leaving it like this for almost 1yr! Every few months I would pop the cover and clean up the oil. I finally changed out the valve cover gaskets.

I ordered a replacement LCD cable for my instrument cluster as the LCD was just about unreadable (many missing pixels). This is a very common problem with BMW's of this vintage. The cable came from and has good instructions. There are also many DIY articles on the web about this. It was quite a tough job.... the plastic housing that holds the LCD panel had several small stress cracks at each end where it screws to the circuit board so I applied some glue and used machine screws instead of the original self tapers (which no longer held it secure). It needs to be pulled tight against the main circuit board to ensure good connections on the ribbon cable. You can see part of it has broken off on one side but it is securely held in place by those metal pins.

I took my time and it now works perfectly.

I can read the mileage again now....  I have put ~ 4500 miles on the car since purchasing it.

Update: After about 9 months the backlight on the pixels would die after the car warmed up. I lived with this for a few months before opening it up again and finding that one of my solder connections had cracked. I reinforced it and re-soldered it. While I had the unit open I installed some chrome rings ($20 on Ebay). These are plastic and just snap in place but look very nice - this is a very common mod with BMW fans.


Since the beginning of the year the car started loosing progressively more and more coolant. When I had to top it up every few days I knew it was time to do something about it! The valley pan was leaking (a common problem with these cars). The time has come to fix the valve cover gaskets as well!

With the intake manifold removed you can see the valley pan and it is definitely leaking! All that green goop is dried coolant.

This job took me about a month to complete - working on weekends at a very leisurely pace.

Everything looked nice and clean under the valve covers

Here you can see the new (OEM) valley pan installed. I also installed 4 new rear heater hoses and a new PCV tube. You can also see my freshly painted valve covers with new valve cover gaskets installed.

New drive belts and Vanos solenoid gaskets were also installed along with a new water pump gasket and 'O' rings for the 2 pipes.

All back together again

I replaced all of the intake gaskets (in the manifold and manifold to engine) and also replaced the rear PCV valve and coupling pipe.


6-1-13 Lower oil pan Gasket and oil sender gasket

The lower oil pan gasket was seeping a little oil so I decided to replace it. This would be a good opportunity to check for any damage to the timing chain rails.

As you can see, nothing was out of place (no pieces of chain guide or loose oil pump bolts). I installed a new oil pan gasket and also replaced the round gasket on the oil level sensor.

After all this work I'm afraid she still leaks an occasional drop of oil and coolant! The upper timing cover gaskets are probably leaking a little but this will have to wait until the timing chain guides are replaced in a few years time.


6/30/13 Transmission Service AND Power steering hose replacement

Today I dropped the transmission pan to replace the filter. As you can see below the magnets have only a small amount of debris on them (good). The fluid is quite dirty so glad I did this.


Cleaned the pan and Magnets. Removed and installed a new OEM Filtran filter. Pan is now ready to bolt back in place with a new gasket.

I flushed the transmission by disconnecting the return hose at the transmission oil cooler and allowing the transmission itself to pump out the old fluid while I added new fluid to the pan.

After much research I decided to use Valvoline MaxLife transmission fluid. Everythng felt great until the transmission warmed up (after ~ 30mins driving) and then I would experience a slight thud when downshifting into 3rd. Since I had not experienced this before changing the fluid I drained it again and this time filled it with Pentosin ATF-1 (the OEM fluid). Now everything is back to normal and the car shifts beautifully. I also replaced one of the transmission cooler lines (the return line) as was starting to seep fluid.


All the Power Steering hoses (all 4) were original and starting to leak. I replaced them all with Cohline hoses. Getting to the high pressure hose is just about impossible unless you jack up the engine an inch or so on the drivers side... then it is easy.

I also installed a new O-ring in the reservoir cap and now there is no seepage and the reservoir stays nice and clean!


7/5/13 New sub-woofer install

I read on a E39 Forum that the stock DSP amp produced very good results with a pair of Rockford Fosgate dual coil 10" subs. SO I replaced the Sub in the trunk with a pair of these speakers. 

Below you can see a piece of wood attached to the rear parcel shelf. It is mounted with some heavy duty aluminum angle sections that bolted to the car witht h ebolts holding the rear window shade assy. They are very sturdy. You can also see 2 more aluminum brackets I screwed to the sheet metal behind the seats ( I removed the rear wall carpet to mount these and cut a slot in the carpet. These and front piece of wood will support the baffle holding the 2 speakers.


Here are the 2 speakers bolted to the baffle (3/4" plywood).


And here is the finished product (prior to my wiring them up).

How do they sound I hear you ask... Well, they sound excellent - way better than I was expecting. They are wired up to the stock DSP amplifier which has outputs for 4 subs. Each of my subs is dual coil so a separate output is wired to each coil (just got to be careful they are phased correctly). I really am surprised how good they sound and how much base they put out - tons better than the sub I was using previously and I gained back some usable space in my trunk. Turn up the volume and you can really feel the base!


7/28/13 Replaced the Radiator again!

 I replaced the radiator today. This time I went with a Nissens from I am very disappointed with the Behr radiator - it barely lasted 18K miles. The Nissens even came with replacement O-rings for the hoses!

Now that I have replaced the Radiator, oil pan gasket, one Power transmission cooler hose and all 4 power steering hoses the car is almost leak free! There is still a little bit of engine oil leaking from somewhere but no drips on the garage floor!

8/11/13 Spark Plugs

I replaced my Spark plugs today. I went with NGK's; best price I found was on Ebay.

The old plugs didn't look that bad.... all 8 looked pretty much identical to the one below. These are the original plugs, 12yrs old and ~ 80K mi.

After changing them the car does seem to run a little smoother and more responsive so glad I did this.


8/18/13 Engine and Transmission mounts

This was supposed to be preventative maintenance but I was shocked by what I found.....

The drivers side engine mount is always the first one to go; that is the one on the right and you can clearly see it is starting to fail.



The Transmission mounts were in even worse shape... one of them completely broken apart and the other one starting to break apart!

Replacing the Engine and transmission mounts was very easy and only took an hour or 2. The engine mounts I replaced one at time, jacking up that side of the engine to replace.

The transmission mounts are even easier, just place a large piece of wood under the transmission pan and jack it up.

I expected that I would notice a significant improvement after replacing these but it was not so easy to tell. I'd say it feels better at high speed and helped tighten up the handling.


Below is a summary of my total expenditures on this car (as of 8-18-2013). As you can see, in less than 2yrs I have spent more on parts than I paid for the car!

Summary of BMW 740i Expenses  
car $6,500.00
Tires $720.00
Front control arms (upper and lower) $325.89
Front suspension (struts, mounts, sway bar links) $640.95
Rear control arms (upper and lower, ball joints) $399.54
Rear suspension (shocks, mounts) $307.40
Brakes (rotors and pads all around) $357.00
Cooling system (All hoses, radiator, water pump, Tstat, valley pan) $998.94
Radiator#2 (Nissens) and coolant $171.14
Mirrors (L+R retractable, purchased for mirror assy) $165.00
valve cover gasket $51.20
Spark plugs NGK x8 $53.44
Transmission service (filter, gasket, fluid discarded, fluid OEM, one cooler line) $481.75
Power steerring hoses $251.15
Speaker upgrade (subs and door speakers) $200.00
Engine and transmission mounts $148.85
oil and filters $235.65
Misc parts $948.11
tools $1,241.76
total $14,197.77

You can access a more detailed spread sheet here.