Garage Report No.5 – BMW M5

what's been happening with the M5?

By Tim Kendall | 8th August 2014

Garage Log

  • Model: BMW M5 (E39)
  • Date Purchased: March 2012
  • Total Mileage: 101,500
  • Mileage Since Last Report: 8,421
  • Cost Since Last Report: £1,500 (see text)
  • Economy: 20.5 mpg
  • Read previous garage update for this car

Garage Report No. 5 – BMW M5

Cars are there to be used, aren’t they? I’m not so sure in the case of this M5. I’d rather squirrel it away in a heated, de-humidified garage underneath a custom tailored microfibre duvet, but the departure of the old colonel means I’ve been using it a lot more than I did in my two car days.

Perhaps that explains why my garage update is a bit tardy – I’ve been too busy enjoying driving the thing to put finger to keyboard. Or it could be because totting up the running costs brings me out in a cold sweat. Either way, it’s been 18 months and 8.5k miles since the M5 last appeared on these pages.

BMW M5 long term report

The M5 has almost behaved itself for 18 months….

What’s the M5 been up to?

Mainly dealing with the thrice-weekly slog from Wiltshire up to Oxford on a yawning, HGV-infested belt of tarmac called the A34. Running a decade-and-a-bit old M5 is never going to be particularly cheap, but the E39 hasn’t thrown any horrors which would warrant speaking ill of it (for the past 18 months at least). However, excluding fuel costs it stands me at over £1,500 for the privilege of being its custodian since my last update in Feb 2013.

What did I get for spending a bag-and-a-half on maintaining an E39 M5? First up was the unnecessary and satisfying job of having the steering wheel re-trimmed. I’d spotted the work of Royal Steering Wheels after browsing a forum for BMW beards and admired the aesthetic, tactile joy a freshly leathered steering wheel can bring. Really. Figuring the shiny old rim had been handled by many a sweaty palm in its 11 year life, not least my ham fists, it was time for a spruce-up.

BMW M5 steering wheel replacement

Out with the shiny old steering wheel…..

The process was simple – I drove up to Aylesbury, where Royal Steering Wheels’ proprietor, Jack, removed the old helm. He then bolted in a freshly trimmed exchange item, in OEM-grade leather with the correct tri-colour stitching, no less. I’m aware this is catapulting me up to the top of the BMW beard-o-meter, but it’s a superb upgrade and at £105 fitted, a relatively cheap one. And it’s funny how much nicer the car felt afterwards. Evidently it’s all in my head, but upgrading one of the car’s key contact points has made a positive difference to the driving experience. I think.

E39 M5 steering wheel

….and in with the new one

Other work has been less frivolous. As it turned out, two of the M5’s other contact points – the rear tyres – were also due an upgrade. It failed the MOT in March as the rear boots were on the wear indicators, so I took the opportunity to dump the (incorrect) Dunlop run flats and sourced a pair of 275/35 R18 Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2s. Another tip – this time online tyre retailers, who threw up the desired rubber for a bargain £305. A noticeably more settled rear end (the car, not me) and a quieter, more supple ride were welcome side effects.

Nothing’s gone wrong then?

I almost forgot, the winter wobbler. Last year it was the battery, this time in December the M5 caught a cold again when the blower motor for the heating and ventilation gave up. In fairness it had been wheezing like a 50-a-day octogenarian enduring a damp wintertide, so it wasn’t wholly unexpected. Nor was it wholly cheap. On account of trying to fix things myself rather than let a professional at it, I spent a miserable two hours contorted underneath the dashboard trying to wrestle the final stage resistor unit or ‘hedgehog’, from its confined home. Swearwords flowed freely, but air from the dashboard vents did not. The fruitless frittering of my own time and £100, allied to the reality of no heating or demisting ability led me to seek the help of a professional.

Oxford based BMW specialist Mark Purcell told me the blower motor was kaput. Fine I said, replace it, there’s no skin left on my knuckles and I can’t bear to travel to work wrapped in a duvet anymore. ‘Sure, but the top of the dashboard has to come out’. Right. And £413 later, she blows. Phew.

BMW M5 tyres

Goodyear Eagle F1 Assymetric 2s noticeably improved the ride

More wobble

And that was it, no other real wobblers to speak of. Aside from the unwelcome return of a bit of brake wobble (something that was cured last time with new discs, pads, suspension control arms and £850). Steering shimmy is a bit of an E39 problem and knowing the M5 was due a major service, I booked it in. So it’s just returned from Phil Crouch of CPC Performance Engineering in Amersham – a chap who seems to be acknowledged as something of an E39 M5 guru and the same bloke who replaced the engine’s con rod bearings. Phil gave it an Inspection II service (BMW speak for the big one) which included various filters, oil, spark plugs and diagnostic checks. He also skimmed the front discs. This has cured the hugely irritating wobble under braking and it now pulls up very well indeed – in fact stronger than I’ve ever known it to. So, top marks to CPC Performance Engineering. The bill of £534 thankfully wasn’t as eye-watering as I was braced for. Seems the M5 is in good health, apart from slight play in the rear anti-roll bar link rods. We’ll leave that for next time.

BMW M5 at CPC Performance

CPC Performance Engineering sorted the brakes and gave it an Inspection II service


Two and a half years and a good chunk of wedge into my M5 journey, I’ve learnt there’s always a shopping list of work that needs doing with these cars. You can sort that list into the ‘must do or face grenaded engine and horrific fireball’ and ‘nice to do if funds allow’. Short of a lottery win funded nut-and-bolt restoration job, I’ll probably never get to the end of that list. But then if I did, I’d get bored and want to move on to something else. And who wants a perfect car you don’t drive for fear of something happening to it? Nope, I’ll keep on using it.

By Tim Kendall
8th August 2014


  1. taz says:

    Would you be interested in selling this?

  2. Would love to hear another update

  3. Does it have the HK stereo option?

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