BMW E53 X5 3.0i Sport

It only seems like yesterday when I was picking up the 530i E39 and was totally besotted (which I still am) but it has now been over a year since the E39 became part of the family.

When I got the E39 I was actually looking for a X5, preferably a 04 or 05 model. Whilst I was looking around I saw the E39 and that was the start of that adventure.

Now that the E39 is as close to how I want it as it can be, apart from some paintwork which will be done over the winter, I needed another project. This is when an 02 E53 popped up on my Facebook page from an X5 group. Turned out it was not too far away and had only just been posted and so no visible interest so far. The car needed some work, the owner was very open about this and was priced appropriately. As this would be a side project then as long as there were no major issues then this could be the car for me. I quickly got in touch with the owner and a meeting arranged.

When I got to see the car I could see straight away that there was some work needed doing, the car needs some TLC. Visibly from a distance it looks great. There are a few bodywork dints here and there,  nothing major. A few scratches that will easily polish out. The wheels are in a bit of a state and may need a professional refurb rather than me getting out the sandpaper and spray cans. The tail gate lights are fogged over, which is the same issue on all these models, including the E39 touring. The windscreen wipers need painting and the drivers side mirror has paint falling off. All this is nothing really for a 15 year old car.  The usual dash pixel problem.

From a mechanical side I had been told the engine light comes on now and again and the three wheel sensor lights (which is fixed by turning the steering wheel to reset the unit, only happens occasionally). I had brought along my laptop with BMW Scanner to take a look at what issues were being reported.

  1. Running lean banks 1 & 2
  2. Drivers door central locking not working
  3. One of the two keys does not start the car. Reports Out of Sync. (the second of the keys, which does start the car is held together with sellotape). Neither key remote buttons work and I have been unable to sync them to the car. Tyres looking very worn.

Again, nothing to make me worried. A test drive showed that there were no funny sounds from the suspension and the gearbox and engine seemed to work well. Head under the bonnet and you can hear a sound that sounds like the bearing in the alternator may have gone so will have the garage check this out.

A deal was struck and I picked up the car the next day. Once you have your hands on the car, this is when you really start to find out all the little things. A full list of items that I have found so far: –

Outstanding Items

  1. Engine light comes on now and again. Running Lean banks 1 & 2.
  2. Drivers Central locking not working.
  3. Issues with the keys.
  4. Garage to check the alternator and the water pump.
  5. When in reverse on a hill the car will sometimes slowly roil forward. Local garage has confirmed that this is working within normal parameters and probably needs a fluid change. This is happening this coming week.
  6. The handle on the handbrake not fastened on. Quick fix to tighten the screws and it now works a lot better although all the teeth seem to have been worn away so I will be having this replaced.
  7. Rear tailgate lights need a refurb. Have already set to work on this with the Autoglym Headlight Restoration kit. First attempt has done good but need to go back and work on all the edges to get them better.
  8. Going to put on new tyres all round.
  9. Just about ready for a service so this is being done for piece of mind.

Fixed Items

  1. The tailgate release switch on its last legs. Sourced a new unit from Sytners. This was an easy swap. Couldn’t fix the existing one due to it being a sealed unit and besides, the rubber was past its best.
  2. The middle rear seatbelt does not fix in to the holder. Replacement sourced from eBay and fitted.
  3. 12v socket in the rear had been disconnected so this has now been fixed. Great that the kids will be able to charge their phones in the back.
  4. Radio does not work in the stereo. An aftermarket Pioneer double din unit has been installed, with screens in the headrests. When this was installed the antenna did not have a converter fitted. Now Sorted with a cable from Halfords. There was all the wiring hanging around for an old telephone Bluetooth kit which has now been taken out.

A few things to sort out to get this car where I would like it to be but not that much, and great fun sorting the little things, leaving the bigger things to my local garage to sort for me. As with all these things, if left they build up. What could have been small costs along the way is becoming a lot of things all adding up but I see this as being well worth while to have a lovely car at the end of it. I will have to watch it though as the better half has decided she likes it too. She prefers it to the 530i. She says she prefers the higher up driving position. How she can say that when she drives a Beetle.

I am looking forward now to following the X5 groups and seeing if there is a group out there for the X5 that can match up to how great the BMW E39 Club UK is. Any group has big boots to fill to try and match The E39 group and I am honoured to be a member.

I’ll be posting more on how the X5 is coming along and posting some pictures when I get to take it out properly for a few good runs.

How to refurb tail lights with Toothpaste

Ok, now I have your attention. Did you really think I was going to go on about how you can get your lights back to looking brand new using only toothpaste from the bathroom? We all know that this will just not work, unless…. You use it brush your teeth before going out to refurb your lights properly.

It appears to be a common issue on the E39 Touring where the lights on the tailgate start to look faded and battered. They do the same thing on the E53 X5 as well I have noticed. The lights on the Saloon and on the side of the Tourer don’t seem to have the same issue and look sparkling.

Anyway, this has been bugging me for a while and I have looked around on Fleabay to see if I could get some replacement lights or lenses at the very least. Nada. Nothing. Just don’t seem to be able to find them. If anyone has a link to some, please do let me know.

I have watched numerous videos on YouTube on how to refurb your headlights, all the different methods that people use, all the different products, including toothpaste.

It just so happened that in my cellar I had some sponge pads that would fit in the drill and some Halfords compound. Surely this must be worth a try. I set about putting on the masking tape and had a go on one of the lights with the rubbing compound. This did make the lens more smooth to the touch but was no way going to make the lights sparkle as they should.

I have been weighing up getting the Maguires 1-step headlight restoration kit and I nearly bought the kit for this very job whilst at the BMW Festival the other week. The thing that stopped me was that Maguires were selling it at the show for around £23-24 and I knew I could get it at Halfords for £21 (the cheapskate Yorkshireman in me). I had also read that the Autoglym Headlight restoration kit was good to use.

When I got to Halfords both products were in stock, the Autoglym being more expensive at £24.99. As I generally like the Autoglym products I took a punt and paid the little bit extra.

The Maguires product just seems to be a wool pad with some compound and they now throw in a couple of sanding blocks for the harder parts. The Autoglym product comes with the drill attachment, various sanding pads, the sponge pad for polishing and the compound.

As it was a nice warm day I set straight to work. I have to admit that at first I didn’t think that was going to do too well but I persevered and after about 20-30 minutes on each light I was generally chuffed with the outcome. There is a visible difference and when I put the lights on you can actually see the light on now rather than just this foggy mess.

Conclusion

As you can see from these pictures, the results are quite good. This was only the first time I had tried to refurb any lights so I wasn’t expecting too much. I had had my headlights done a few months ago by a proper company and they looked awesome (£35 each lense in case you were wondering). The back lights I have done are not as good but I think if I had spent more time on them they would have come up as good as new. I think it would also have been easier if I had removed the lights from the car. I was desperate not to scratch the paintwork and I think I would have been rougher with the sanding if I had not to worry about this.

All in all, I am pretty chuffed with the results and would certainly recommend the Autoglym product.

BMW Festival 2017 – Gaydon

For the second time this year, we were invited to be a part of the BMW E39 Club UK stand. This time the event was the BMW Festival at Gaydon, the home of the British Motor Museum.

The BMW Festival is hosted by the BMW Car Club at the British Motor Museum at Gaydon.

The E39 Club stand was once again “King of the Hill” with the cars overlooking the main show arena. There were over 40 E39 on the stand of all different models, Alpina, M5, Pre-facelift, Touring and everything you can think of. In all there were over 45 E39 on the stand. It must have been the biggest club turn out behind the host club.

There were many clubs in attendance as well as a compere through out the day along with an Oom-pah band. A number of trade stands kept our wallets open. Attendees were also free to walk around the Motor Museum and Historical Collection buildings.

The weather turned out great and we had a fantastic day out. I have to say that I love going to the shows and being a part of the club stand. It’s great to meet and put faces to the people we talk to on the club Facebook group and always a good opportunity to catch up, swap stories on the trials of E39 ownership, get some advise or help and maybe even pick up a bargain from a club member.

So looking forward to the show season next year and hope to get to more meets and shows, including Vanity which I missed out on this year.

To Radu and the club admins and mods, Thank you very much for all that you do and putting together the club stands. It is very much appreciated.

Testing PDC with Inpa

Since I took ownership of my car the back PDC (Park Distance Control) sensors have not been working as they should, they beep a lot as though there is something behind me when there isn’t. I used the Inpa software from Cable-Shack to test the individual PDC to see if I could determine if there was one PDC which was at fault. This showed that the driver side middle PDC though that there was something around 50 inches from the car when nothing is behind.

I bought the car in June and around October time it stopped randomly making the noises and worked as I would expect.  It came back to spring again and the issue started again. This time I used the BMW Scanner software to test the PDC module and it reports no errors. It seems like this issue only happens during the summer months as during the winter I had no issues at all, it started to get warmer again and the PDC started to play up again. This time Inpa shows that both the middle PDC are showing something behind the car, at different distances.

The method I used to test the PDC with Inpa is detailed here.

  1. Start the Cable-Shack menu and choose the Inpa menu option.
  2. When Inpa starts, switch on the ignition to position II. The Inpa software should show the battery and Ignition as being on. This is indicated by the circles next to the Battery and Ignition text fields showing as solid black.
  3. Choose E39 as your car. You select E39 by pressing the F3 button or clicking on the E39 button at the bottom of the screen.
  4. Once E39 has been selected you will be shown a menu of options, select Body from the list of items on the left of the dialog, a new list of items will appear on the right. Select Park Distance Control from the list on the right hand side.
    NOTE: You need to double-click on the Park Distance Control item in the list for it to activate.
  5. If you receive a message box with an error message about language variants do not match, ignore this and press the OK button to continue.
  6. The PDC menu screen will appear. We want to look at the status of the PDC sensors so press F5 or press on the Status button at the bottom of the screen. The sensors on the car will be displayed.
    Initially all the displays should show as black as the PDC is not active. Press the PDC button in the car to activate the PDC. In the screenshot above my sensors are showing that there is something close to the passenger side outside sensor (there was a telegraph pole next to the car) and something in close to the passenger side middle sensor (nothing behind the car at this point so I know this is the sensor giving a false reading).
  7. Now you want to locate your laptop somewhere that you will be able to see it when you go outside the car to move behind the sensors.
  8. Leave the car and go and put your hand at various distances around the sensors, you should see the status screen change to reflect where you are around the car. This is all there is to how I test the PDC sensors.

BMW Scanner

As a side note, using BMW Scanner you can look at the programming of the PDC and set various parameters for distances, etc. You can also program the loudness of the noises from the PDC and whether they use the gong or speakers. I have mine configured at maximum volume and have the front PDC warn through the speakers and the rear PDC warn through the Gong.

You can set if there is a noise when the PDC is activated and when it is deactivated. You can set when the PDC will automatically switch off, by speed, distance or if you come out of reverse. I have mine configured to switch off after I have driven about 50 feet.

 

Streaming Audio

I see a lot of questions on the various E39 groups asking about what people do to attach their phone to the sound system. This really depends on the sound system you have in the car. I have the C53 Business Stereo cassette player with the 6 CD changer in the boot.

My C53 is the flat pin connector type. The older versions have a round pin connector.

When I was looking around based on my stereo, the options I seemed to have were Intravee, an AUX cable, Cassette with a 3.5mm jack, Bluetooth adapter or buy a new stereo head unit.

I won’t go in to the DSP (Digital Sound Processor) sound systems as I don’t have one so not sure how these work.

Intravee / Intravee II

I’ve taken a look around at the various websites about the Intravee and I am still not sure exactly what it does. It looks like it allows iPod to connect to the stereo unit and you can do various programming of the car through it. It seems to work with various stereo configurations and depending on which set up you have you have different abilities.

You can find more information about the Intravee at http://www.toysinyourcar.com/acatalog/intravee.html

AUX Cable

A quick look on eBay and you can find various AUX cables fairly cheaply. These replace the CD changer. On the back of the stereo unit you unplug the cable for the CD changer and plug in the AUX cable.

The AUX cable wire needs to be available somewhere in the car and people seem to have fed the cable from the back of the stereo to various places. Some put it in the glove box, some have fed it though the centre console and out behind the handbrake, some have it coming out via the cigarette lighter.

Using the AUX cable involves plugging the cable in to your phone or other media device and then switching the stereo to the CD changer source and away you go.

Cassette with 3.5mm jack

This is the option I went with originally. Looking around on eBay I found a cheap and cheerful adapter for about £2.50. It didn’t work. When I put it in to the cassette player it just kept switching from side A to side B and just didn’t work.

I then went for the more expensive Belkin adapter. This cost around £12 but did work and  produced some good quality sound. I moved away from this though as it required something to be hard plugged in and I hate having cables hanging around. It also meant if the kids wanted their device plugged in, the device is in the front with me and they can’t reach to change tracks or search for other music.

A good solution but not one I kept with for long.

Bluetooth Adapter

The Bluetooth adapters are a step up from the old wired adapters that send out a radio signal from the device which you can then pick up on the stereo radio. The old wired devices plugged in to your device with a 3.5mm jack and were powered via battery or plug in to the cigarette lighter. These were quite naff quality based on the ones I tried years ago. The sound quality was usually pretty dire and quite a bit of interference.

The Bluetooth adapters perform the same function, they connect to your device and then transmit a signal that you pick up on a radio station. The device is connected to the adapter via Bluetooth which means no wires and is powered from the cigarette lighter.

I searched around for quite a bit for one of these and the one I ended up with has been really good.

This device not only allows you to stream audio but it also acts as a hands free unit for the phone. I have to say that I haven’t actually used it hands free at all (not popular enough for anyone to call me) so can’t comment  on how well it works for this task.

The device allows you to pick different radio frequencies to transmit on, has a volume control and allows you to skip tracks.

The kids love this as they have a game to see who can connect to the device first when they get in the car. It plays really well. I say that, there is just one band it seems to have a problem with. Avenged Sevenfold. My eldest loves this band but whenever she plays some tracks there is some kind of hiss or distortion on some tracks. What we found here was that if we turn down the volume on the device and turn up the volume on the stereo it goes away. This must be something in their tracks which the sound processing unit can’t handle properly. Apart from that it works great. We use it all the time.

The cigarette lighter in the E39 is always on even when there is no key in the car so I always disconnect the device and throw it in the door pocket when not in the car.

Replacement Head Unit

The last option I have for you is a replacement head unit. A lot of people swap out the OEM stereo and go for Eonon or some other Android based head unit or you can get adapters for single or double din head units. There are plenty of these adapters available on eBay which opens up the standard head unit market. The only thing I am aware of for the double din units is that there is some butchering needed behind where the unit will sit to make it fit. The single din and Eonon units don’t require this hacking.

I really like the idea of the Android head units as you get some great functionality like GPS, reversing cameras, DAB (which you could get with single and double DIN units), plug in a SIM card and get a wireless hotspot in the car as well as being able to connect to the OBDII and use some software like Torque to read the car ecu and display dashboards. I just don’t think I would use all the functionality once the initial excitement had worn off and at > £260 for one of these units, my £15 Bluetooth adapter looks a lot more affordable to my wife who thinks I would be made to spend that on the car stereo.

I keep thinking that I would like a Eonon unit, I find myself looking around the site at lunchtimes,  but I have to admit that I like keeping the car as standard as it was when it was delivered and we do use the cassette units. Being of a certain age we have a few cassettes still lying around that we didn’t think we would get to play again (remember making those mix tapes and recording the Top 40 on a Sunday evening?)

That’s my run through of the different audio options that I looked at. Of course there are many more and I have seen some great set-ups with HUGE sub woofers mounted in the boot, etc.