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5-SeriesGeneral discussion and technical help for 5-series BMWs.
Welcome to United Bimmer. Good to hear your looking at an E39. Probably the best 5 Series ever built. If you can I would suggest trying I find a 540i if an M5 is out of your budget. The 528 uses the same M52 engine as the E36, but because of the bigger size their slower then the E36. Still very fun to drive.
Common failure points include the Rear Trailing Arm Bushings (RTAB) and the Rear Shock Mounts (RSM). As with any car a standard inspection of suspension and steering components is important. Checking to ensure the coolant system is functioning properly is important. The M52 has a plastic radiator and expansion tank that was prone to cracking. Same with the thermostat housing. The aluminum replacements are much better. Same with the water pumps. The pre-1997 ones (I think) were all plastic impeller and were prone to failure. At least with the M52 engine.
One good way to check is to find the Last 7 digits of the VIN of the car your thinking of getting and going to realoem.com or pelica parts.com and putting that in to see what the factory parts were. If its a 525 or 528 made before 1999 then it's most likely an M52 engine which came with plastic rad and expansion tank. An aluminum rad is around $300. Definitely worth it for prolonged life
From the factory BMW made them out of plastic to save weight. They work fine until they fail. Realistically the factory coolant system is sub par to the needs of the car. Replacing the rad and expansion tank, water pump and thermostat housing with aluminum ones is the best bet. If the car already has aluminum ones that means they have been replaced in the past. Which is fine, but jut make sure the engine wasn't overheated and blew the head gasket. If their is coolant in the oil, which will look light brown. Almost like what coffee does when you add creamer. That usually means their is a head gasket problem. The part is about $120 but the labor is what's expensive.
I have the M52 engine in my 328i and it's still the stock radiator and expansion tank and I have 262,000 km on mine. The water pump and thermostat have been replaced though. Preventative maintenance is the key. If you see cracks or anything that doesn't look right then replace it before theirs a problem and you will be fine.
Sort off. To see if the thermostat housing is aluminum you need to remove the cover over the alternator. On the M52 the expansion tank is to the left of the radiator if yor facing the car. It's green so it's pretty easy to spot. On the M54 I think it's on the right hand side and it's black. The thermostat housing is above the water pump.