Touring Hydraulic Tailgate

My touring came with the hydraulic opening / closing option. This is a really neat option and when the car first came out this would have been really impressive. Of course, most cars these days come with this option as standard but I still think it is great.

When I first got the car the hydraulic lift was not working as it should and I have been asked a few times on how I got this working again. The system is quite simple and there  are really only a couple of things to look at if the tailgate does operate but not to your satisfaction. If the hydraulic pump has gone and you get nothing then this will be an expensive fix. If it does work but needs some help then it will most likely a combination of the hydraulic fluid needing to be topped up or the struts for the tailgate and window section that need to be replaced.

I started off with the simplest check, the hydraulic fluid. The fluid recommended is AeroShell Fluid 41. You can buy this from many places. I got a 1 ltr can for around £10. You can get it from eBay, Amazon or direct from a number of aircraft parts websites. The place I got mine is the URL below.

Once you have the fluid you need to carefully remove the fluid reservoir from the pump. This is a push on affair with a clip. You need a screwdriver to loosen the clip and then really carefully pull off the reservoir. It is only a small holder so does not take much liquid at all. Fill it up just past the max level and put it back on carefully. You will no doubt spill some.

Once you have the reservoir back on then grab a hold of the tailgate and move it up and down a few times to pump the liquid around the system. Do this before you try it with the buttons.

When I first changed the fluid  it seemed to make little to no difference to the system but should always be tried in the first instance.

Next came the more difficult check which I left to my local garage. What I noticed was that if I opened the window portion of the tailgate and then pressed the button to open the tailgate then it would magically work with no issue. The hydraulics could not lift the weight of the tailgate and window combined. What we did next was to change the struts for the tailgate and the window so that they are all new and at their best. Changing the struts can be a bit fiddly, which is why I left it to my local garage, but can be done.

Check out this video

Once I had the struts replaced the tailgate now works as it should. It does have some difficulty if the car is pointing down a hill. I am figuring that this is because the tailgate will need more of a push to get it going and the system is not up to it.

Would be great to hear if this has helped or if you have other suggestions for getting this working or making it better.

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.

Angel Eye LED

The first modification I made to the car after I bought it was to change the Angel Eyes to LED. The first ones I put in were the 3w cheap models from eBay. The first lot worked for about three or four months and then one went so I bought a second set. Again, these did not last long and so I started to mix and match to get two working lights. After I ran out of available bulbs I decided I needed to go brighter. The 3w just aren’t cutting it, you can hardly see them in the daylight.

I started to look around at what other people were using and had a chat with Stefan from E39 Zone whilst we were waiting at the motorway services for the convoy for the BMW Show at Santa Pod.

Some people have gone really fancy and fitted colour changing angel eyes which are controlled through a remote control device or from an app on a smart phone.  These are quite fancy and come in at around £58 upwards on eBay.

I decided I needed some bright white 40w LED. The search began.

In all fairness you can find 40w LED quite easily on eBay and I settled on a set which duly arrived a few days later.

In the pictures above, the 40w is the silver unit. The two black units were the ones I took out. These are the orange bulbs that came with the car when I bought it.

The silver bulbs have a slightly larger diameter to the previous LED that I had installed and I wasn’t sure the new ones would fit, they are also longer. They do in fact fit and they are so much brighter, especially in the dark.

I don’t think they come up to the brightness of the LED on the new BMW and other cars on the road that have the daylight running lights but they are pretty close.

The 40w bulbs come with a ballast each which means when fitting I taped the wires up as there was  a lot of lose cable now hanging around under the bonnet. I also didn’t want the ballast being battered around in there whilst I am driving.

Now to see how long these will last compared to the cheap 3w LED that I have used so far.

Regardless of how long they last, I don’t think I can ever go back to the 3w LED, not now I have seen the light. (see what I did there?)

BMW Show – Santa Pod 2nd July 2017

For nearly a year I had been waiting for the 2017 BMW Show at Santa Pod. The girls in the house had no interest in going to the show with me but I thought it would be great to have a run out, see all the fantastic cars and get some ideas for small mods I could make to mine. Sorry, not in to the lowering thing after being bone rattled to death in the wife’s lowered New Beetle, just want some simple style / tech mods. I was also saving my “pocket money” for all the trade stands that I would be running up to saying “here, take my money, give me everything”. I finally managed to talk my youngest daughter in to making the trip with me, on the promise that she had control of the stereo in the car. I know, that was a stupid thing to agree to.

So with a month to go to the show I bought the online tickets. Yay. We were going. Now, to keep off eBay and buying stuff as I will surely get it cheap at the show with their show discounts and offers.

Anyhow, a week before the show I received a message from Radu of BMW E39 Club UK asking if I would like to have my car on the stand at the show. Would I? Do bears poo in the woods? How fantastic would that be. OMG. Awesome. (and other such words that I have been learning from my daughters). Of course, Radu. That would be lovely. Thank you. See you there.

When the tickets dropped through the letter box a couple of days later I was literally jumping around the house in excitement.  Not only was I going to the show that I had been waiting nearly a year to go to but my car was going to be on a stand at the show too. How frickin’ (nope, that one is not one from the daughters, thankfully)  awesome is that !!!!!!

The day of the show arrives and it is an early start to meet up with the convoy to drive to the show. A 6am meet at the services just south of Chesterfield on the M1. The motorway is really quiet at that time on a Sunday morning.

After meeting the first couple of cars to go down (Stefan, Mike and Vicki and their friend in a 740) it was off to the next stop, in Leicester.

As we were a little behind on time the journey to Leicester was a little quicker than I imagined. I am the one on the motorway at 70mph with the cruise control on, in the left hand lane. I think that this was the first time my car had been in the right hand lane under my ownership. It did seem to like it and really did want to have a little charge with all those horses. (I spent the two weeks after this part of the road trip waiting for a letter telling me I had some points. Who knew there were all those speed cameras on the gantry near Nottingham these days).

After meeting a few more cars at Leicester it was off to our next stop outside Northampton. A longer stop this time followed by a sedate drive through the country roads and villages to Santa Pod.

Now, if you remember, I had given over the stereo to my daughter. What ensued from Northampton to Santa Pod was Spotify on repeat playing the song Convoy. I still catch myself singing that song in my head weeks later.

When we arrived at Santa Pod it was great to see the crowds and to be entering the venue as part of the convoy. It’s experiences like this that make the day one never to forget.

The BMW E39 Club UK stand looked awesome and the bacon butty’s, burgers and hot dog’s being cooked on the stand really were making us hungry. The packed lunch I had made for us didn’t last long.

To see our stand with 50 E39 was really impressive. I’m sure it must have been the biggest club stand at the show.

We spent our day looking around the other stands and watching the cars on the 1/4 mile.  I wasn’t going to take the car on the 1/4 mile. I’m sure the car would have loved it but I don’t think the beige leather seats would have stood up to what they may have had to endure if I had been behind the wheel. I have much admiration for all of you that did take a ride down the strip.

I have to say that the trade stands left a little to be desired. I expected more traders. At least I saved some money.

We are already looking forward to next year. Thinking of taking the trailer tent next year and going down on the Saturday and making a weekend of it.

Thanks Radu for inviting me to join the stand and for putting it together. It was a great day and very much enjoyed and one I am sure myself and my daughter will speak of fondly for many years to come. 🙂

PS. And I still came home with those bloody door cards. Could not give them away, even tried giving them to BM Spares trade stand for nothing and they wouldn’t take them. They ended up in the skip after I took off all the fixings to save for spares.

The Woes of Owning an E39

This is quite a long post. I hope you don’t get bored reading this but I would recommend getting yourself a drink and going for a pee before starting.

When I first bought my E39 I thought it looks great, it sounds great. This is going to go for ages without needing any work. It had been given an MOT by the dealer I bought it from. As part of the MOT it needed two new rear tyres so the dealer sorted these out. All great I thought.

I should have known in the first hour of ownership that this was going to be a different experience to what I thought. Within the first hour we were driving around and heard a thud and then a scraping sound. Me being a bit deaf thought it was just road noise but the wife and kids said that it was something more. I pulled over to find the under tray had fallen and was scraping along under the car. A quick pull and it came away and went in the boot. At least the touring has a rather large boot for storing the bits that fall off 🙂

Nothing else could be wrong I thought. I had picked up the car on a Friday so I had all weekend to play and drive around and fall in love with my new (to me) car. On Saturday everything was well with the world and I quickly grew to love my car. Then, on Sunday, the alarm started to go off randomly and it refused to start. In fact after trying it a few time a got nothing. Nada. Not even trying to turn over. A quick call to the breakdown people and within the hour they were looking under the bonnet and jump starting the car. It took the breakdown van and a booster pack to get it started. That is some serious power needed to jump start one of these monsters.

Once it was started the breakdown chappy pulled out his multi-meter and diagnosed that the battery was kaput. Oh well I thought. Time to get a new battery. I knew this would not be covered under the month warranty I had with the dealer but thought I would chance it and email them with the things that I had noted so far and the fact that the battery was knackered. The dealer came straight back to me and was very apologetic and said that he would come round to my house the next day with a new battery, even though this was indeed not covered by the warranty.

The dealer came round as promised and brought the biggest battery I have ever seen. Due to the battery being real dead by now I was unable to get in to the boot via the normal method of opening the tail gate. A quick rummage with the back seats and a crawl in to the boot and I found the battery. What I and the breakdown man both failed to do was to actually go look at the battery. What I found was that the negative cable on the battery was loose and had virtually fallen off. Oops. Saying that, the battery that was in the car was much smaller then the new battery so it was quickly swapped out and the car fired straight up. All is well with the world once more, the birds are chirping and the woodland creatures are polishing my wheels. Oh joy.

However, the alarm is still randomly going off. A bit of Googling showed this to be a common fault with the switch sensor under the bonnet. Unclip the sensor cable and hey presto. No alarm going off. Woo hoo. I must get around to finding a replacement sensor.

Sit back and relax. There could be nothing else wrong could there?

Up until now I had not really played with the stereo, preferring to listen to the quiet purr of the engine. The wife found that the stereo had a cassette player and spent an hour or so digging out all her old cassette tapes of the 80’s top 40 faithfully recorded over many years from the Sunday chart show on Radio 1. She was positively delighted to find the cassette player worked. We were not so delighted to find that the volume knob on the stereo had a mind of its own. When you turn it up it would go quiet, if you turn it down it goes to max volume. You never know what is going to happen when you turn the knob (I know you’re sniggering now, queue the remarks). The volume controls on the steering wheel work fine so not a big issue. My OCD kicks in though every time I glance over to the stereo. I just know it doesn’t work as it should and it bugs me. Off to Maplins and got some circuit board cleaning spray. Spray a little in. Hey presto. Works a treat. Until it drys out and then goes back to not working. Doh !!!. So, this can only mean one thing. The potentiometer. First thing to try, dry joints. So, after once more using Google, found how to take out the stereo and the next thing, it is in pieces on the work desk, soldering iron in hand. A little bit of heat and back in to the car. Looks like that did the trick. Well, it did for a couple of months. Performed the same trick again and same thing happened. At this point I am thinking I either get a replacement or I go for an Android unit. The wife loves her cassettes too much so the Android is out the window. The hunt is on for a replacement that is FULLY working. Hard to find one of these C53 flat pin units that is working perfectly.  The search continues…

BMW E39 Club UK

Everything is now working  and every day I find something else to love about the car. By now I have also found the E39 Club UK on Facebook. A great club to be a member of. I hear on the club about a recall for the drivers air bag and get in touch with Sytners in Sheffield. They confirm that my car is one that requires the updates and they duly book me in. When I get the car back, they provide a little video of an inspection they carry out. Well, I thought my car was great. Turns out it is not so great. A list as long as your arm of things they have found underneath. Admittedly some of this is easy stuff, break line rubbing and needs changing, etc. Water pump on its last legs. ooh . hold on. that one sounds a bit more serious. Sytners is really helpful and say that they can book me in to have all the works done and for the very reasonable price of £££££ per hour. I believe they said it was in the region of £150 per hour but that can’t be right. Anyway, a lot more than the £20-30 my local garage charges me.

I take the little video to my local garage and they say that the first thing to do is throw away the video. They will take a look around. Yep, they find a few bits and off they set to fix everything. The list ended up looking something like : –

  • Waterpump (barings had gone)
  • Cooling fan with blade missing
  • Idle Air Control Valve (car was juddering sometimes when stood at the lights)
  • Lower suspension arm
  • Inlet pipe (for something or other)
  • Leaking gasket on oil sump
  • New brake discs and pads on the front.

Whilst it was in the garage I also had them replace all the struts for the tailgate and tailgate window. This cured the hydraulic tailgate not going up without a helping hand. It now works as it should. I also had a couple of holes in the front sports bumper plastic welded and painted. Cant see that there was ever a hole there now.

Now all is certainly well, surely. Well, up to now, apart from some bodywork that needs looking at (and will be after a visit to the body shop next week) it is.

The car has now done over 10,000 miles with me in the last 13 months and on top of the items noted above it has had new front tyres, a new key from Sytners (I should tell you all about that fun some time),  a replacement air bag sensor in the passenger seat (an eBay special for that one). I have also spent money on LED Angel Eyes (cheap ones that last for about 3 months before stopping working) and HID front lights. I’ve had the front headlights refurbished so they look new again.

It passed its first MOT with me with flying colours. Yay!!! I was so relieved.

So, ownership of the E39 has not been cheap. In fact I have spent as much on the car now as I did on buying it and by the time it comes back from the body shop next week, the costs will have increased even more.

Thanks to an invite from Radu at BMW E39 Club UK the car was on the club stand at Santa Pod for the BMW Show. This has to be one of the most exciting moments I have ever experienced (apart from first kiss, first rumpy pumpy, house, marriage, kids, etc. Ok, so it is down the list but it’s still up there)

Arriving at Santa Pod for the BMW Show July 2017

Whatever car I would have bought at the age of the E39 there would have been issues That is just a fact. With this car though you get a lot of car for your money. You get a great drive and a car that you can never ever want to sell because they are just THE BEST CAR EVER !!!!