The BMW E39 M5 is inarguably one of the greatest ‘jack-of-all-trades’ cars ever made. It offered enthusiasts the unbridled power of an M-GmbH-developed S62 V8 that produced impressive power figures. Its chassis was nearly balanced perfectly, as it sported an almost dead-on 50-50 weight distribution. The suspension was a multilink front setup, which provided incredible handling characteristics and made the big sedan feel like some of its more nimble M family members while it retained the plush, executive, lounge interior. At nearly 20 years old, though, the E39 M5 is now reaching the point of affordability for some of the higher mileage and less cared for examples. But what does that get you?
Our own BMW brand manager, Pete, purchased what was the cheapest E39 M5 in the country at the time. From ten feet, the car looks loved, but up close, it shows off many, many, many flaws. Before coilovers replaced the blown suspension and new bushings found their way up under the car, I was actually able to take it out to lunch with some other coworkers and enjoy the M-powered cruiser. It felt… bad. I wanted to wait to talk about the car when it had been given some love. That patience has paid off, but not in the way I expected.
Recently, the rear subframe was pulled, new mounts and bushings installed, coilovers added, and several key maintenances on the car were completed. Before it could be test driven, however, a faint knocking sound started to make itself heard as the engineers pulled the car off of the rack. The S62 is known for rod bearing failure after excessive mileage, so that was initially the guess made by several of our BMW experts. Back on the rack went the E39.
Upon our technician’s inspection, it was found that both cylinders 7 and 8 sported play around the crank, pointing to our knocking noise. Further disassembly revealed some impressive wear on the completely spun bearing in cylinder 8, missing chunks from said bearings, many metal shavings everywhere, and an abundance of engine sludge.
The oil delivery tube was almost completely clogged, as were both the VANOS solenoids, and everything inside the engine was caked with sticky, goopy, thick, residue. How does this happen, you ask? As these cars become ‘affordable,’ they are often purchased by people who can afford the purchase price, but not the maintenance. Often, lower-priced examples feature maintenance needs, thus justifying their low price. More often than not, the buyers forego the maintenance for one reason or another in order to have their budget M-sedan. Their continued use further increases the present issues, as well as creates new ones. Then, the car is sold at an even lower price when it is almost un-drivable. The cycle continues.
So what exactly happened to Pete’s car? Thanks to extreme negligence on the part of one or more previous owners, a lack of oil changes, VANOS service, rod bearing service, and inspections meant this high-performance engine is now a monument to compromise. Actually, less than compromise. No compromise was made. Purely neglect on the part of who we can all agree should never have owned the car.
This is a prime example for demonstrating why it is important to regularly service your car. Even just basic oil changes can keep your car in a shape that closely resembles its original performance. Changing the oil and filter keep your engine from building up that sludge that proves to be fatal, especially in the cases of engines with known oil delivery or wearable component issues.
At ECS, we make this easy for you so you don’t wind up replacing all your internals. Our Assembled by ECS oil service kits include everything you need to quickly service your car, as well as other kits that cover everything from brakes and suspension to larger engine maintenance services. Several levels of kits featuring both OEM and aftermarket options allow you to tailor the service to what your car and budget demand. Rather than waiting to get to a point where you are rebuilding your block, stay ahead of those issues on the front end. A few hundred dollars now is much more desirable than a few thousand later.
That point brings me to my final bit of advice that doesn’t cost any money at all. Buying a car should include budgeting for the initial purchase as well as the cost of ownership. I know it can be tempting to go out and buy the ‘cheapest __ in the country’ that gives your budget sports car fantasy a somewhat fulfilling conclusion, but you should resist those urges unless you intend for it to be a full project. Don’t ruin an enthusiast car because you can afford to buy it. Please. This happened to me recently with the very first BMW I ever purchased that has made its way back into my life. But that’s another story. Be responsible. Don’t ruin a wonderful car for the next owner because you’re lazy or whatever. Take care of your maintenance and don’t be a goober.