1998 BMW 540i

Just purchased a used BMW. What’s the best way to recondition the leather seats? It has 87,000 miles. What maintenance should I do immediately? Is CarFax worth the fee? Will the air conditioning system be a problem to fix because of any CFC restriction due to Federal Mandate?


I’ll go in order here. For the seats go to the local Autozone/NAPA etc and get some terry cloths and a bottle of leather cleaner and a bottle of leather conditioner. Set aside a few hours and go to work thoroughly on the seats. However you may want to confirm that you actually have leather and not leatherette. If there’s any cracking or wear it’s likely real leather.

Immediate maintenance? Well if you don’t know about the maintenance history then technically you’re due for an inspection 1 on this car. Every 30K you do an inspection 1 and every 60K an inspection 2. Lucky for you the inspection 1 is cheaper. This will include an oil change among other things. If you decide not to spend the money on this you should be aware that the water pump and radiator need to be inspected, and the oil changed at a minimum. I recommend you find a BMW specialist and have the Inspection 1 done though, which would cover this anyway. Whatever you do don’t go to a quick lube lube place to change the oil-either use a dealer or use a BMW specialist for that. BMW oil or Mobil 1 0W-40 if you need to add any.

Yes a Carfax is worth the fee, but you should have done it BEFORE you bought the car.

No problems with the A/C on a 1998.

I got the Owner’s Manual with the car, but not the Service Schedule. Where can I get a copy?

You may want to have a professional detail shop go over the interior. The A/C is fine. Very nice car, E39’s are one of the most stunning cars around. The newer ones don’t look nearly as nice IMO.

For maintenance, take the car to a good, independent shop that has experience with BMWs. They should know what is likely to bite you if not done for certain. You could also take it to the nearest BMW dealer, but they would be significantly more expensive.

If you are not experienced in maintaining a car’s exterior and interior appearance (your question implies that you are not), you would be better off taking the car to a good detail shop two or three times a year. That will cost you something like $500 per year for cosmetic maintenance, but it is better than letting the car get seedy looking. The mechanical shop or dealer should be able to suggest a good detailer.

540s of that vintage are lovely cars. If you take good care of yours, it will repay you with years of driving enjoyment.

Manual trans? what a blast.You will use up your clutch and tires if you dont watch it.E-39 my favorite.They do have their final stage,sunroff,and window regulator concerns.

I think the professional detail is the way to go. It is a lovely car and is in great shape. The 6spd AT is a beautiful thing. It’s silent except for the purr of the high performance engine. It was the finest automobile in the world the year it was made and it’s still a good car today.
I found a good mechanic, so I’ll rely on his guidance with the maintenance. I do plan to take good care of it. I did purchase a service warranty. The only thing is the little sun screen in the rear passenger seat window is stuck. A new one, replaced is $323. Ouch.

Don’t worry about things like the sunscreen-put the $323 into good useful maintenance. Get that car an Inspection 1 by someone who knows BMW’s and make sure they use an A3 rated synthetic oil in that car. If they don’t know what that means run away. Oh, and change the oil at half-intervals instead of going the full-interval. I used to work on BMW’s so I know of what I speak.

I’m not worried about the screen. I picked this guy to start maintenance on the car: "Euro Motors owner, Urs Schopfer, is a European-trained, certified master technician with more than 30 years experience in servicing and repairing imported automobiles such as Mercedes, BMW, Mini, VW, Audi, Volvo and Porsche."
He charges about 20% less than the dealership, and he seems very capable and personable.
He did an engine diagnostic, is replacing the air filter, drive belts, vacuum plugs, coolant hose, and oil gasket, He’s inspected 32 systems altogether and will help me set up a preventive maintenance schedule. I’ll ask him about the A3 rated synthetic oil.
This car is quite nice to drive. I just hope there isn’t a huge drain on my cash to maintain it.

I’m not crazy about places that specialize in so many different makes personally. When I worked for BMW it was a daily battle just to stay on top of the latest stuff for ONE make of car. However an Inspection 1 or 2 on this car isn’t rocket science, so he should be OK. I would find the complete Inspection I and II list online so you can look through it and see what’s involved.

As for the oil, if he’s unfamilar with what you’re talking about just explain that BMW calls for a specific type of oil and most synthetic oils do not qualify. I’ll save you some trouble though: Castrol Syntec 0W-30 and Mobil 1 0W-40 qualify. Castrol 5W-30 and Mobil 5W-30 do NOT qualify-they are much thinner and less shear resistant. You could also use the factory BMW oil.

They used 10/30 Swepco high quality MO-N motor oil explaining that vehicles prior to 2001 do not require synthetic oil and that this oil is appropriate for NoCal climate. The right blinker wasn’t working, which I thought was a bulb, they said it was electrical, they said they fixed it, charing $56.48. It worked initially, but failed again later the same day. Gosh.!
Also, they scratched the car, so I won’t be going back, most likely.

Oh jeez, well they have an interesting theory on when BMW started requiring synthetic-especially given the large sticker under the hood which specifies that you use synthetic…

I STRONGLY recommend you find a BMW-specific shop in your area. Start looking through the mechanic files on this board, or visit the BMW Car club of America: Bmwcca.org

Okay, I need a primer on Inspection I and Inspection II. If they do an inspection I at 30,000 mile intervals, and they find that maybe the brake fluid is starting to be a “little” dirty and will need a change “soon”, isn’t it better to just change all the fluids that are a “little” dirty and be done with it for 30,000 more miles? Why have an additional spot inspection at the next one or two oil changes to find out if it’s dirty yet?
I respect the shop that only recommends doing the work that is “necessary”, but isn’t preventive maintenance supposed to make your life problem-free instead of adding to the list of pervasive responsibilities by wondering when a "little’ dirty is going to become “too” dirty. This is my first used car in seventeen years, but wouldn’t you just follow the “scheduled” maintenance, which I interpret as lubricate all the parts, change the fluids, filters, belts, inspect the brakes, electronics and other major systems, rotate tires and drive away until the next oil change?