Archive for the 'BMW E39 M5' category

BMW e39 M5 VBR (fuel burn rate)

A short video demonstrating how to get a BMW e39 M5 (or any e39 with high OBC) to tell you how many litres of fuel it is burning per hour (instantaneous reading). This is extremely useful for determining how healthy the air mass meters are – if they’re in good condition an E39 M5 should burn almost 140 litres/hour at full throttle (easier to measure in a high gear).

Farewell M5

So today I delivered the M5 to its new owner. It was ultimately a pleasant sale, and in fact despite advertising on both Pistonheads and Auto Trader, the first car I’ve ever sold through Facebook – to a friend’s dad.

Looking back over the near three years of ownership, I have thoroughly enjoyed this car. I’ve spent less time with it recently, but at first there was a flurry of activity including a trip to Curborough, and a DIY clutch change; my favourite photos from those to follow:

I had dearly wanted to take this car to the Nurburgring. I imagine the M5 would intensely contrast with the E30 M3; I’d love to see how the extra weight hurt in the tighter corners, while I’m sure 400bhp and 500Nm would help immensely at times, especially up Ex-Mϋhle. More recently there was the epic three peaks weekend:

As is common, this car leaves me in far better condition than it arrived, and yet worth a lot less. That’s motoring for you. Even so, I think I’ve owned this car at exactly the right time. Any younger, and I would either have crashed it or just been arrested, any older and I wouldn’t have been likely to really use it to its potential.

So, what’s next? As soon as I put it up for sale I was asked that question a lot. The answer is… nothing just yet. Yes, that is partially because I’ve got a baby on the way and that changes priorities, but the main reason is that I’m frankly tired of trying to use Britain’s roads. Barely anyone else can, and having a decent car is really, really frustrating! So for now at least, I’ll just chug around in the tractor.

Anyway, let’s not let such depression detract from such a great car. Here it is, the most ridiculous car I’ve ever owned. Hurrah!

12 meals, 4 men, 3 peaks, and an M5

Last weekend saw the execution of a long standing goal of mine – to complete the National Three Peaks Challenge. As that Wikipedia article suggests, while it is usually the case that participants try to complete the challenge within 24 hours, many do make a more leisurely weekend of it, and that’s exactly what we did. Some people also club together in a minibus, but at nearly 1,300 miles, that didn’t really appeal to us. So, naturally, we took the M5:

So above we have this story’s cast, from left to right: The M5, Jonny, Neil, Henry and Ben. This photo was taken in Woking at around 6pm on Thursday evening, as we set sail for Carlisle. Needless to say we immediately came to a standstill on the M25, so took the opportunity to take a cheesy in-car photo.

The trip to Carlisle took nearly 5 and a half hours. We passed the time with a mixture of foul jokes and excellent music from our iPhones. Needless to say we also ate a lot – sandwiches, sausage rolls, chocolate éclairs etc – all most civilised. Having got so far north and west we marvelled at how late light faded as we neared the top of the M6 and Carlisle – a moody shelf of cloud covered most of the sky but left the horizon free to reveal dusk.

We checked into the Carlisle Travelodge to discover that Ben had indeed carried out his threat to book two double rooms. He claims that was all that was available. It certainly was by the time we got there, so we decided a few beers were in order to ensure a near-instant passing out.

The following morning we rose early to continue our journey to Fort William. I love the Lake District, but Carlisle isn’t a city I’ve got much inclination to spend time in – there are certainly prettier places nearby.

Still, that didn’t matter because we were soon back in the M5, on the M6 and then into Scotland. Once north of Glasgow, Scotland offers some stunning views, and we were in high spirits.

By midday we had found a McDonald’s for various preparations, and were at the foot of Ben Nevis to start our ascent at 12:35.

We were blessed with a clear day, which made for glorious views throughout our ascent.

The fine day did mean we were rather hot though, and this combined with our general lack of preparation meant we found the going quite tough:

After over 2 hours we were high enough to find a patch of snow.

Finally, after 3 hours of hard ascent, for the first time I reached the top of the UK.

This vantage point offered some seriously impressive views – here’s a quick 360:

Here we all are – on top of Scotland, and indeed the entire land-mass!

Here are a couple of other stills:

Frantic iPhone social media updates from the summit!

So after 3 hours of climbing it was time to descend:

Henry and I then thought it might be a nice idea to run the rest of the way down. That bright idea lasted maybe 20 minutes, but in that time we covered a huge amount of ground and had a lot of fun. A few close calls and general creaking of ageing joints made us realise that such activity on day one was foolish, so we slowed to a brisk walk.

The entire team managed the Ben Nevis section in 5 hours. I had climbed Scafell Pike and Snowdon twice previously, and can safely say that Ben Nevis really took the game up a level – the sheer scale of the Highlands is just that much more serious than the other peaks. Climbing Nevis had been a personal goal of mine since I first drove around its foothills in 2004, so I was delighted with this achievement. We were shattered, but managed to locate our B&B, and popped out to a local pub for a much deserved slap-up meal with beers. Here’s Jonny’s “monster burger”.

That marks the close of the first full day’s adventure. I was delighted to note that Henry and I were in a twin room rather than a double which was far more civilised. Worryingly though, Ben had ensured he once again got the chance to share a double with Jonny…

Saturday morning was overcast; a weather system had arrived on the west coast of the UK which was to set the tone for the day. Still, our B&B had a beautiful view:

Ben took the M5’s wheel leaving me free to snap away and marvel at the car’s overtaking prowess.

We estimated that the car’s total weight was around 2.2 tonnes, yet that magnificent V8 beat away sending us from corner to corner, around truck and minibus, with incredible ease. This was the super saloon in its element, and Ben in his. Henry was suitably impressed:

Much as I love the Highlands, trips there involve Glasgow. Which in my humble opinion, mings mercilessly.

As such I was delighted to escape back to merry England.

That delight was short lived. Carlisle was full of traffic, and the weather at Wasdale was rather inclement.

I’d like to thank Henry for this particularly unflattering photo:

As we started climbing, visibility became somewhat reduced:

At one point we had to cross a stream which proved to be quite a challenge:

We ended up in thick cloud. In stark contrast to the previous day’s climb where we found loads of people milling around at the top of Nevis, there was a lone member of Mountain Rescue at the top of Scafell Pike, and he was about to call it quits for the day. I tried to take a picture of the view:

And this is the only picture of any of us up there:

Despite being so stiff, it took us just a couple of hours to reach the summit. It was so unpleasant that we stayed there for just a few minutes. I then chose to run down – I had no wish to stay out in the cloud any longer than necessary! It was pretty hairy – I had a couple of slips and a minor dunk at the river crossing, but I managed it in 51 minutes keeping my total time under 3 hours which was pleasing. I also ran iMapMyRun, so have a crafty little elevation graph:

From Wasdale we had to move to Ambleside to locate our bunk house for the night. As luck would have it, this permitted me to fulfil another personal goal – to pilot an E39 M5 at full chat over the Hardknott and Wrynose passes (check those Wiki links if you don’t know what those are, especially the Hardknott one as it contains good pictures). Sadly, four up with luggage and minimal visibility weren’t ideal conditions, but it was a great run nevertheless. The M5 is an absolute animal, and it just ate up the 30% gradient hairpin bends – not without expending some effort mind – it’s rare that I know the LSD is hot, for instance! I really had to concentrate!

We had a few beers that night and an excellent meal in Ambleside – nice tasty local lamb!

We spent that night in a bunk house. Our room slept 10, but only 2 unfortunates were sharing with us. It was certainly preferable to sharing a double bed(!), but still a little weird. I took a top bunk and was pleased not to fall out. I was less happy to be photographed in the morning:

So I thought I’d return the favour:

So, it was Sunday morning, and time to blast to Snowdonia. That didn’t take too long:

That was a lovely little B&B, and the weather was nothing short of fantastic. After a quick bite to eat, we embarked on the Watkin path. As it says in that Wikipedia article, the Watkin path is “the most demanding route direct to the summit of Snowdon” and “starts at the lowest elevation of any of the main routes”. We had conquered Ben Nevis, so why not?!

Stunning views soon followed:

Towards the top the Watkin path gets rather hairy. Yes, this is a path – can’t you see it?!

We went the wrong way at one stage, so reaching the summit took 3 hours.

No group photo at the top – just this reverse iPhone shot of Jonny and me standing at the top of Wales:

A special mention for Jonny at this point. Our friend Ben was supposed to be joining other Ben, Henry and me for this trip, but unfortunately he couldn’t make it. I drafted Jonny in, and I may have failed to convey quite how much effort would be required and what sort of kit should be brought. Ben, Henry and I had all climbed Snowdon and a few other hills in the past. Poor Jonny didn’t have much hill climbing experience, no water pack, not even a ruck-sack. Ben Nevis certainly made an impression on him, and he had incredibly painful legs for the remainder of the trip (as did we all for that matter). Even so he soldiered on (with extremely entertaining wit at times), and has now really earned his stripes. So, Jonny – well done!

Soon after starting our descent we realised we had failed to take a group photo, so we took one near the top:

We opted to take a more interesting route down – along this ridge:

The overall Snowdon time was four and a half hours – not bad given we took a wrong turn on the way up and deliberately took a long way down. That night we feasted like starving animals in a rather average Chinese restaurant:

And so we returned to Woking on Monday afternoon – all safe and sound and in one piece:

So to summarise, some stats:

  • 1,278 miles, at 25mpg, at an average of 51.2mph (£305 of fuel)
  • 12.5 hours climbing time
  • 10.5 hours transfer time from Nevis via Lakes to Snowdon
  • 12 meals (significantly more than the fuel spend)
  • 1 epic weekend

A massive thanks to Ben, Henry and Jonny for making this such an excellent weekend. It was a shame that more couldn’t join us – Ben and Robin were certainly missed – so here’s to them too. This trip was the M5’s swan song (and a mighty fine effort too) – it’s now on sale, so it makes sense to end this blog post with my favourite two photos: from Woking to the top of Ben Nevis – what a team!

e39 M5 iPod/iPhone Silverline integration

This coming weekend we will probably take the M5 on a bit of a jaunt. I’m heading off to do the 3 peaks in a leisurely fashion with a few friends, and naturally it’s essential in my view to take the car with the most horsepower: mine. Facing around 1,200 miles it’s going to be important to have a fair old selection of music in the car, and I fear the six CD changer and in-dash cassette deck isn’t quite going to cut it. So despite the fact that the M5 will probably be put up for sale next month, I’ve decided to invest £93 in a Dice Silverline Duo BMW iPod integration kit.

Installation was surprisingly easy. I can barely remember the details of installing the Connects2 item in the back of the 330d in 2006, but I’m sure that was a good deal more involved, although I can’t think why. Anyway, I whipped out the CD changer, and used the loom adapter that came in the kit to make the Silverline connect to the CD changer’s old cabling.

I fed the cabling behind the boot trim and popped it through the seat back where it arrives behind the arm rest. I’ve mounted the Silverline there, and it has a lengthy cable that terminates with the traditional Apple connector. Here’s a picture showing it connected to my iPhone.

And with the leather backing replaced:

Connected to an iPhone 4, the system works well. The phone plays/pauses as the stereo mode it switched to and from the ‘CD’, volume of course works, and so does skip forward / back. It even attempts to show the track information on the display:

The obvious issue is that I don’t want to have my phone permanently back there. Fortunately we have a fair few compatible devices lying around:

So I thought it’d be nice to permanently mount one of the two old crusty iPods behind the arm rest. For trips such as this forthcoming weekend we can just extend the cable out to anyone’s phone – that’s quite a good solution, but in general I’ll want my phone with me in the front with a large music collection elsewhere.

Sadly, the big white brick doesn’t seem to receive charge from this integration kit (it does from the Connects2 in the 330d), so that’s no use. The silver unit does receive charge, and the audio output is sent to the car, but the start/stop and skip controls don’t work, and neither does the on-screen text. That’s no use either; again that device works perfectly with the Connects2 in the 330d. The 3GS is Diane’s, so I didn’t bother trying it, but the iPhone 4 works perfectly.

I guess if I was going to keep the car for any duration I’d test with a modern iPod and purchase one of those if it worked, but it’s more likely I’ll just stick the car up for sale and pop the CD changer back in so that everything’s nice and standard back there.

So overall I can’t really rate this kit. It’s okay. Sometimes even when connected to the iPhone 4 it doesn’t send any audio and has to be powered down and reconnected. There are plenty of similar complaints on the internet. Maybe more expensive kits are better; for the purpose of a tour of the UK though, this thing will do nicely! :)


e39 M5 update

Summary: MOT passed, refurbished alloys, some bodywork, pipe cleaning and painting, and ultimately, for sale.

The M5 passed its MOT last month, and at the time they advised that the brake and fuel lines under the car looked a bit corroded. It’s entirely common for these to gain a bit of surface rust, but of course the danger is that they get so bad they lose structural integrity. The M5 has therefore spent the last couple of weeks up in the air with belly panels off while I dropped down all fuel and brake lines for inspection.

As I expected, I was relieved to find that a general build up of grot and surface corrosion was the only issue. After few hours of scrubbing with emery paper followed by some painting, we’re now in a position where the underside of the car looks very healthy indeed.

Above, nice clean brake lines. Below, nice clean fuel lines (although, not yet fully clipped back into place).

However, that’s not all that’s happened by a long run! In my March update I noted that there was a spot of rust under the boot lid. Since the MOT the car has spent a week at a local body shop to not only have that seen to, but also a little rust along the bottom of the driver’s door, and most notably it’s had all 4 alloy wheels refurbished. The result is that the M5 has never looked so good during my ownership! I’ve also treated it to new wheel bolts and centre caps.

All this leaves me in a strange position where I’m entirely satisfied with the car’s condition, and that leaves me in a bit of a quandary. I’ve done under 10,000 miles in nearly 3 years of ownership. Snoop’s arrival vastly reduced the scope for M5 usage, and now we’re expecting a baby in October, I really can’t see the super saloon getting much use at all. Now is the sensible time to move this car on – I’ve never been more confident in its condition, or in the fact that I’m really unlikely to require its services that often. Enquiries are of course welcome via this site; it’ll go on the usual sites at the end of the month.

e39 M5 brake fluid reservoir location

When replacing the M5’s front brakes it took me a little longer than I might have hoped to locate the brake fluid reservoir, so this is a quick blog post to address that in the hope that someone else finds it helpful. As you stare at the engine under the bonnet, it’s under the driver’s side pollen filter, as indicated by the arrow below:

To gain access, undo the plastic clips just to the right of that arrow to free it from the ducting. Also unclip the housing lid – there’s a metal bar running along the front that holds the lid in place. A certain amount of wrestling should reveal the reservoir:

E39 M5 – front brake replacement

So today I settled down to replace the M5’s front brakes. When I got the car, some two and a half years ago now, I noted that the front discs were quite crusty and lipped, so now seemed like a sensible time to do something about them.

Generally speaking, the brakes and wheels are just some of the parts of the car that prevent it from looking really smart. I therefore decided to not only replace the brakes, but also give the calipers and carriers a decent clean and a paint, and I’ve also booked the car in to have its wheels refurbished next month.

So straight to the usual routine – car up, wheels off…

Despite the discs being rather corroded, I was pleased to note how well maintained the various bolts were – they were all a pleasure to operate, and showed no sign of the car being 10 years old.

I had a little bit of a mission finding the brake fluid reservoir – turns out it’s under the driver’s side microfilter. I’ll probably make a dedicated post on this matter in due course to make this information easier to find for others, but for now, here’s this photograph:

Having marvelled at how well maintained the driver’s side brake assembly was, I was of course massively stitched up by the other side. The M5 has not one but two retaining bolts to hold the disc to the hub, and unfortunately one of those heads had been previously thoroughly rounded. There was just no way I could get a tool of any sort to bite in there – I even tried hammering in a star key. So I took to drilling it out.

Several hours later I was clearly getting there but was running out of daylight and warmth. This was extremely disappointing, so I did what I always do at such a stage, and I gave up and called Alex. Regular readers might remember that Alex saved my arse when I couldn’t replace the 330d’s propshaft donut. This time we discussed the issue, and I explained that I was patiently drilling the bolt out. Alex told me to man up and use an angle grinder, and 5 minutes later I was done. Good advice!

So then I was finally able to crack on again. I wired brushed and solvent prepared the calipers and carriers. Previously:

Then, painted:

A reminder of what the brakes looked like this morning:

Crusty! This evening:

That’s as far as I’ve got – bad light stopped play. Tomorrow morning I’m off in the tractor to BMW to collect new retaining bolts, and I’ve also elected to replace all the wheel bolts – once the alloys are refurbished this should really make the car look much smarter.

I had previously mentioned that I was hoping to fit drilled discs to the M5, but unfortunately C3BMW have stopped stocking those as they say they received too many complaints about them warping. The only other options were > £2,000 for full on multi-pot caliper conversions. Since I don’t actually track the car, and I haven’t got those sort of funds available(!), I’ve therefore fitted BMW parts.

It’s a bit of a shame really, as when viewed in perspective with the rest of the car, these brakes don’t really look up to much:

Could be bigger, or drilled or generally a bit more bling, no? 400 horse power after all sir. Oh well, at least it’s all clean and tidy now. I hope to be back on the road by lunchtime tomorrow!

Castle Combe Drift Day

Today Alex and I popped along to Castle Combe circuit to spectate at their Spring Performance Car Action Day, the highlight of which was to be two drifting sessions. I’ll start right now by saying that I wasn’t disappointed in any way – today was nothing short of awesome! There were a huge variety of cars present, and a full gallery of photos is available here. Also, for those with a shorter attention span, here’s a video clip to help convey the general atmosphere of action!

So, down to the usual blogging business. After an early start I found myself parked next to Alex’s van trackside at 9:30.

M5 & Alex's van

We spent the morning watching those brave enough to take to the track on get to grips with our little corner.

Of course plenty of people were doing very well, some were a bit slow, and some were a bit bland. But then the mistakes started to happen, and we were happy! :)

Just before the first drift session was a about to begin, I found myself exceptionally entertained by this gentleman doing apt justice to his Vauxhall Omega – it’s hard to get more sideways than this!

Here’s the above hero at work:

Soon the first drift session was underway:

It wasn’t long before we saw the first wheel loss of the day…

Here’s the video clip that leads to the above!

And some classic E30 action:

We then went for a wander along the pits where we saw lots of wonderful cars (and some, er, dubious ones…). Let’s start with this – if you know me, you’ll know how excited I was…

The afternoon sessions saw two more cars lose wheels (that we saw on our corner – who knows how many wheels were lost in total today!), and another epic drift session that went a bit like this:

I’ll spare a special note for this E39 M5 – it had lovely multi-pot AP brakes and the tyres looked well used, but I couldn’t help thinking that the poor chap looked a bit slow. It really made me want to take to the track to fly the M5 flag, but I didn’t because I know what I’m like and I had no spare wheels and tyres to get home on. As this conversation was taking place, said M5 came past us and simply popped a wheel off for me to inspect – almost as though it was offering to help!

Really, a BMW dropping a wheel off on the circuit? Outrageous! He clearly should have been going faster – those nuts rely on a good dose of V8 to self-tighten, don’t you know. ;)

Here are a few more of my favourite photos, starting with a Ford Capri:

This Lancia Delta Integrale was showing a level of decay typical for its age:

This reminded me a bit of Smith’s Chavbo:

And this definitely reminded me of our old 106 Rallye.

Carry on racing – there’s nothing to see here…


What a glorious day to chuck a wheel…

Always good to see the show cars in top notch condition – in particular I liked the rear wheel arch.


Best place for a Corsa, really.

The king of the forests needed a bit more grunt on hot sticky tarmac.

What a scene!

Anyway – there are loads more photos on the gallery page, and of course there are more videos on my Youtube channel. I’ll conclude by saying that it really was an excellent day, and by thanking Paul Stewart for letting me know about it. If you’re one of my friends who so often thinks “damn, I wish I’d gone along” then why don’t you actually do that next time? ;)


M5 update

During the various cold snaps of the past two winters the M5 has refused to start due to a completely flat battery. I don’t blame it for this: it often goes for 2 to 3 weeks without being used, and the battery is dated 2004. When I bought the 330d’s drilled discs from BMW I noticed that they were offering 30% off all batteries in February. So right at the end of the month, I took the plunge and gave them £130 for an enormous 28kg 110Ah monster.

New one on the left, oldie on the right. Same part number after 7 years – quite unusual in my experience! Due to the lack of a spare tyre, the battery fits quite neatly under the centre of the boot floor, and it takes just 3 13mm nuts to hold it in.

On other matters, I’ve found a disappointing spot of rust on the back of the car. I’m sure that wasn’t there just a few weeks ago! The paint hasn’t yielded yet (despite looking like it has in the picture below). There’s another spot elsewhere so I’ll give the car a once over and consult a body shop later in the year.

I did give the car a rather satisfying clean though, removing lots of grime from the rubber seals around the windows and within the boot lid space.

As a final thought, we’ve got a silly situation now where the 330d’s brakes look more bling than the M5’s. Given that the M5’s discs are rather worn, and I’m toying with the idea of making the M5 tackle some circuits later this year, I’ve found some tasty items on C3BMW. Discs, pads and sensor have come to £475 – I shall report back in due course!

E39 interior door handle replacement

I got stuck in the M5 last weekend. Pulling the interior door handle didn’t open the door, the action was a bit sloppy, and the handle didn’t return when released – something certainly wasn’t right.

So I popped the screw cover off, and then paused to take the photo above. Once that screw was removed I could open the door by pulling the entire handle assembly forwards. From here I deduced that the door mechanism was okay, but the handle assembly had just failed with use over time.

A quick bit of correspondence with BMW saw a replacement part (B51. ordered for £28.  I hoped I would be able to perform the replacement without dismantling the door, so I used a pair of mole grips to hold the mechanism in place while I removed the old handle.

A comparison of the old and new handles:

I then noticed that there’s a little black arm on the back of the handles into which the door mechanism slots, so that the handle can tension the release cable correctly. This meant that there was no way of replacing the handle without dismantling the door. Fortunately this isn’t difficult: with the exception of a single screw in the air vent inlet, the rest of the door is (alarmingly French-like) snap fit. I worked my way around the edge of the door with a large flat head screwdriver and was soon able to get moving again.

I fitted the handle to the mechanism behind the door card, as shown below.

Here’s a close up – you can see the little black arm that tensions the cable – it works much like a bike brake lever.

Fortunately I had a few replacement clips for the snap-fitting door card, as some were inevitably broken. I have now run out though – I must re-stock but I’m unlikely to remember. Refitting was then of course the reverse of removal, and I’m now pleased to not only to once again have a fully functioning door release, but for it to be nice and new and shiny.

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