BMW E39 Tips and Tricks


Things you did not know about your E39

1. rather embarrassingly my wife asked me why I keep pressing the little button in the car to open the boot! I hadn’t realised you can also squeeze the handle at the back and it pops open! Previously I had been using the key button or the interior button!
did you know that the front arm rest in the middle slides forward! Judging by the dust under it I doubt the previous owner did!

2. Here’s another one – assuming you have the full climate control – once you have stopped and switched off – push the “max” button – the heater kicks in to pull the reamining heat from the engine block.

This will keep her warm – while YOU are in the supermarket !
It needs a few conditions to work:

1. External temp <16 C
2. Engine temp >75 C (at least – that’s the temp it starts working in the E60, where I have a digital temp gauge!)
3. Car off for not more than ~10 mins or key in pos 2. In pos 2 you also get temperature and fan controls working; with car completely off the fan is at mid-speed and the temp is set at whatever it was when you switched off

And it’s definitely not just on diesels – my ’98 E39 535i had it, and very convenient it was too at level crossings/one way bridges with loooooooooong traffic lights.

I believe the “max *” button in newer E39s has a dual function (max a/c when engine is running, and residual heat extraction when engine is off).

The latent heat storage, using sand to store heat and then releasing it, is – AFAIK – only on cold climate country Diesels; the Rest button only uses residual heat in the engine.

3. What about, flash your lights when you’re getting out of the car (key out door open) The dipped beam lights comes on to light your pathway

4. Another one, total closure / opening. Hold the lock button, the windows then sunroof will close (mirrors will fold in if programed) Hold the unlock button and windows open then the roof and the mirrors unfold (if programed)

5. Just remembered, on tourings the load cover / net slots in to the rear seats, where your calf muscle touch. The net pulls right out and reaches up to the roof.

6. love the heated locks and washer jets – the puddle lights – the boot opener in the cabin and on the key and on the boot – the auto dim mirror

7. My Touring has an opening rear glass – so that you don’t have to open the tailgate to park your shopping – the dealer who sold me the car didn’t know about that – he nearly fell over when I opened it – thought the window had come off in my hand.

Also – if you leave an interior light on, it will shut down after 15 mins to preserve battery charge. . . .

If you press the remote key lock button twice you can leave your dog in the car without setting off the internal sensor alarm as it is deactivated by the second key press . . .

Recirc works in two ways – press the button once and it detects fumes and switches in recirc automatically, press it again and it switches recirc in permanently . . .

Has anyone found out a use for the little fan symbol above the clock symbol above the menu button on on board monitor equipped cars? – It’s the aux heater (diesel) or independent ventilation control for fanning the car down before you get into it when it’s hot and you don’t want to fry on the way home from work . . . WOW

8. I got a e39, Next to the dash is a ‘adjuster’ marked 0, 1, 2 it dips or raises the head lights.
Cool, and?

Well i just found out that the 0, 1, 2 represents how many passengers are on the back.
2 people in the back, so set the dip to Pos 2.

I’m guessing X amount of people in the back raises the beam. so this compensates.

Also. I’ve noticed the first press of the squirt button on the right stick. also squirts jets of water onto the head lights as well as the windscreen.
where as the 2nd and subsequent button presses still only squirts the windscreen only.
The headlamps get squirt washed every 5th push of the washer stalk.

btw if you pull the stalk you put water up from the main washer bottle – if you push the end, you get a squirt or two of fluid from the intensive wash bottle, then water from the main washer bottle, I’ve got green in my intensive bottle – it looks revolting . . .

9. if you do this with the indicator switch set left or right when the dipped beam goes out the side light on which ever side the switch is set to will stay on as a parking light.

10. I also love the red glow of the overhead lights, the seats, the climate etc. But can anyone tell me what the button does that has two circles made from arrows (one with an A in) does?
Thats the intelligent recirculation button that Hearty mentions approx 2 posts above – a cool feature.

11. . Speed sensitive stereo – super idea.

Windows that open and close all the way with one press – saves my finger getting numb.

So many driver seat adjustments – great for annoying me for hours everytime my Wife drives the car.

Ping and change to outside temp on the computer when the air temp goes below 3’C – Reminds me turn turn traction control back on.

12. . Limit – can set speed warning at ?mph that when you go over will…. ping. A good idea for when you get cramp in your right foot.

13. . How to get to the OBC codes:

There are two buttons on the instrument panel. The button to the lower left of the speedometer is the reset button for the trip odometer, which I’ll call the Reset or R button. The button to the lower right of the tachometer is the check control key, which I’ll call the Check or C button. If you don’t have both of these buttons�and the check control indicator�on your instrument panel, this isn’t likely to work for you.

The first step is to start the car. (It may also work if the key is turned to position 1 or 2 without staring the engine; I didn’t try.) Now hold in the Check button. The check control indicator will read “CHECK CONTROL OK”. Keep holding the button. After a few seconds the indicator will go blank, and after a few seconds more the indicator will display “TEST-NR. 01″. Now release the Check button.

At this point you can press the Check button briefly to cycle through each available test, or hold it in for a few seconds to exit the test mode.

In each test, you can press the Reset button to cycle through any displays that might be available in the current test (however, some tests use the Reset button to CHANGE the current value, which could be very bad�read the rest of this page before using the Reset button!). Here’s what comes up for test 01. The first line is the initial display, and each subsequent line is displayed for each press of the Reset button. These displays are usually centered in the check indicator, but I won’t attempt to imitate that here. I’ve added comments to explain the displays I think I understand.

FGSTNR: GM615xx (VIN serial number, censored)
K: 7744
BMWTNR: 8387061
CI:12 DI:06 BI:09
DAT: 43/98 (week and year of manufacture)
HW:04 SW:1100/1100
ZYL:08 M:4 S:4095 (cylinders, and what else?)
CAN:02 AEND:14

There’s a lot of information here. You’ll notice here that the OBC’s native language is German�”cylinder” is represented by ZYL because that’s the abbreviation for the German word “Zylinder”. You’ll see other examples below of German words and metric units appearing in these OBC displays, regardless of what language the OBC usually uses to communicate with you.

At first, tests 01 and 02 are the only test you’ll be able to access. The rest of the tests are normally locked. Test 02 is simple:

(Instrument test)

This test works only when the key is in position 1, NOT when the car is running. Press Reset and all of the gauges and lamps in the instrument cluster come to life. All the lamps except for the warning indicators (such as overheating and low oil) come on. I presume the “idiot lights” are connected directly to their respective sensors so they still work even if the OBC dies.

The speedometer and tachometer move on their own from one extreme to the other, so if you want to get a picture of your speedometer reading 155 without leaving the garage, this is the way to do it. (This is not how I made my autobahn video, though.

TNK: 7.5/31.0/38.5L (current fuel levels: left, right, total)
TNKANZ: 39.4L PHASE1 (average total fuel level)

This test relates to the fuel tank. I left the numbers in to assist with the explanation, but you’ll get different numbers. The first two numbers seem to be independent fuel-level measurements; the third is the sum of the first two. My car has some kind of “reserve” gas tank with a rated capacity of “approximately 10 liters”, so maybe the first number is the reserve tank. The first two readings bounce around a lot when the car is moving, suggesting that the fuel-level sensors respond fast enough to show the fuel sloshing around in the tank.

The first value also starts out higher than it ought to be and declines over the first ten minutes of operation to a stable value. The second number starts out low and increases, while the third number remains relatively stable but still moves around. For example, on my first trip after making these measurements, the TNK values started out at 19.6/19.7/39.3 and declined to 6.9/31.2/38.1 within a few minutes. I assume the dashboard fuel gauge ignores the first value as long as there’s fuel left in the main tank, since it seems fairly consistent from one trip to the next. I’ve had trouble with my OBC being overoptimistic about its driving range estimates right after the car is started when the tank is near empty, though, and I think this shows why.

The German word Anzahl means “quantity”. The TNKANZ value seems to indicate the average fuel level over some period. And what does PHASE1 mean?

KTMP: xxx�C (engine core temperature)
N: xxxxx U/MIN (engine RPM)
ATMP: +xx.0�C (ambient temperature)

It was 65�F when I took these readings (about 18�C) and the core temperature stabilized at about 108�C, which seems about right. My car idles at about 500 RPM, a value which is difficult to read precisely from the tachometer.

V: xxx KM/H (current velocity)

VB: xx.x V (battery voltage)

Tests 08 and 09 have just one display each, and both are somewhat useful. My battery voltage, idling in the garage, was around 13.5 V.

LAND: 02 US (country of sale?)


Einheit means “unit”. Units 1 through 3, then, and each seems to have a hexadecimal (base-16) number associated with it. Intriguing, eh? It gets better later on.

VANK: xxx.x KM/H
ANK: –:–

On my car, VANK was 077.6 KM/H. Could ANK be from the German word Ankunftszeit for “time of arrival”? That would explain why it was blank, since I didn’t have a destination programmed when I read out these values. In this case, VANK could be average speed for the purpose of calculating time of arrival, left over from the last trip.


This one is the audio equivalent of Test 02. Instead of testing the lights, it tests the sounds. You’ll hear, in order, the tones for the Memo, Outdoor Temperature Alert, Limit/Code, and Check Control chimes.

DIAG: 1 C7 81 000
DIAG: 2 00 00 000
DIAG: 3 00 00 000
DIAG: 4 00 00 000
DIAG: 5 00 00 000

These would presumably change if your car has accumulated diagnostic codes for some failure. I don’t know what C7 81 means; I’ve seen my car do the occasional strange thing, but nothing bad has happened. At least as far as I know.

Now, here we get into the most intriguing test:

PORT A00: xxxxxxxx
PORT A01: 00000111
PORT A02: xx0x0001
PORT A03: 00000011
PORT A04: 000×0101
PORT A05: 001B1111
PORT A06: 00110101
PORT B00: xxxxxxxx
PORT B01: 00100010
PORT B02: xx0x0110
PORT B03: x0111001
PORT B04: 000×1111
PORT B05: 11100111
PORT B06: 00000000

Here we have some cool stuff. These appear to be register values from some type of microprocessor, displayed in binary. The 0’s and 1’s showed here were stable when I read out these values; the x’s were toggling between 0 and 1. I didn’t take any time to try to figure out what these bits mean, with one exception:

Notice the “B” in register A05�I discovered that this bit is connected to the button on the turn-signal stalk that controls the on-board computer (OBC) displays that normally appear in the check control indicator. Normally this bit is 0; press the OBC stalk button and it goes to 1.


This means “oil temp,” but I’m pretty sure the oil was a lot warmer. In fact, I’m pretty sure there isn’t anything on my car that can be this cold. So it’s a mystery.


I have no idea what this means.

(No response to Reset on this test.)

LOCK: OFF (press Reset to turn the lock back on)

KVBR: 1000

This “test” is actually a way to adjust the OBC’s fuel consumption factor. There’s a sensor in the fuel injector system that indicates fuel consumption back to the OBC. This “KVBR” value is used to calibrate that sensor using the following process:

1. Reset one of the OBC mileage indicators and the trip odometer, and fill your tank.
2. Record the actual fuel consumption for your car over a long period (one to two months at least).
3. Divide this reading into the trip odometer value to calculate your actual mileage.
4. Divide this result by the OBC indicated mileage over the same period and multiply by 1000.

You now have your fuel consumption factor. To enter the factor into the OBC, get into Test 20 and press Reset. This will start the KVBR value counting down. It will count down to 750, then start over at 1250. A crude user interface to be sure, but it works.

You probably don’t need to change the KVBR value; the default value of 1000 should be accurate. And if your calculated fuel consumption factor is outside the 750�1250 range, there’s probably something wrong.


Be careful here too�I didn’t try the Reset button on this one, because I assume it resets the whole OBC. This could be a very bad thing.

14. . Talking of headlights, you can adjust the dipped beams by flipping the levers on top to get rid of the left hand ‘kick up’ beam pattern, so that when you go to France for yer duty frees, you don’t have to get those beam benders from the AA . . .

Now you don’t get that on a Mondeo!

15. . For all you touring drivers out there, what about, to change the intermitant timing of the rear wiper, quickly turn the rear wiper on then off, wait the required time between swipes then turn on again. It will then use this wipe timing until turned off again. First time I’ve had that on a car, And if its on intermittent wipe when you select reverse it goes into a continuous wipe mode until you have finished reversing

16. . This might be a well known one, but it was a surprise to me when I noticed it – there is a small clear plastic dot on the stereo unit – I thought the display got brighter/dimmer without me changing the control no the right of the steering column. it was a It’s actually a light sensor – it changes the brightness of the stereo and OBC etc. text display depending on the lighting conditions. Nice little feature I though

17. . Just put my car in the garage, turned off engine, removed keys, hey – presto the windows still work.

18. . For those of you with Sat Nav

You can set the brightness of the NAV based on this releative setting for all of the instruments using the “contrast” feature in the hidden NAV menu. Here is how:

1, With the ignition off (position 0), turn it to position 1 (one click).
2. Press Menu key, then select and enter the “Settings” function.
3. Immediately press and hold the “Menu” key until the hidden NAV menu comes up (about 10 – 15 seconds).
4. This has all sorts of neat stuff including statistics on the current visible satellites. Play as you want, but what you are looking for is under the item “Onboard Computer,” so select this.
5. Now select “Functions.”
6. Now select “Contrast.”
7. Now select “Slider” and adjust by turning the round Accept button until the proper brightness is attained.
8. Just press the Menu key to exit.

19. . In case you didnt know you can get your key programmed to auto lock the doors once you start driving. I have one key with that feature (used it when I was working in a particularly rough area). Its not ideal, you have to pull handle twice from inside to open door, If you crash the car is meant to unlock the car…just before a little explosive charge in the battery terminal disconects the +ve wire (i kid you not!).

20. . Hi Peeps,

If you have the CD player, press the scan button in and hold for about 4 seconds when the cd player is in use and it will then play randome tracks from random CD’s.

Press it briefly and it will play the first few seconds of each track consecutively.

21. . The wing mirrors are permanently heated on most BMW’s so you don’t have to turn on the rear window demist to clear or dry them off.

22. . With Sat nav, you can shut the voice up completely, by holding the button in when ‘Instruction’ is highlighted. Press it again to reactivate the voice.

23. . Clip which folds out to support the bootfloor whilst you remove the spare wheel – makes life a little easier when your feeling down after a flat.
Toolkit located in a drop down section of the tailgate lid – nice touch
Small rechargeable torch in the glovebox – always kept charged

24. . If you lock the car from outside with your remote, whoever is inside the car can not get out! Not even from the driver’s side! No matter what they do the doors wil not open unlike other cars where one could just flick open the door locks from inside and step out! U can’t do same the 5 series. For those of you with kids, its probably a good way of keeping the lil tikes inside the car while u pop out to say…urm..the ATM!

25. . Today I got a ‘Washer fluid” warning on the High OBC. Telling me I’d wantonly wasted 6 litres of screenwash. Which was nice.

So the e39 has a thoughtfull washer bottle sensor to prevent me from having a dirty window. Bless.

26. . Looking through the handbook ( I don’t have a saloon, so can’t verify it) – there is a hook on the left in the boot for hanging carrier bags – useful for that quick Tesco trip, when your shopping, just MUSTN’T fall over!!
The hook is also a clamp. You can either clamp stuff in it or hang things over it. Very usefull.

So are the rubber luggage straps and elasticated carg net. Coupled up with a karabiner my shopping is always secure

27. . Going back to screenwashers, how about the little level gauge that lives under the bonnet on the right side just in front of the suspension mount that has a little red ball in a sight glass so you can see what the level of fluid in the washer bottle is. My 96 540 has it but it was not on my 2000 523. rather neat though

28. . My car knew it had a broken headlight bulb this morning BEFORE I had switched the lights on! Clever! I could get a replacment before I have to drive home in the dark!

29. . Ever wondered why you can’t get access under the front passengers seat ……… There’s a comprehensive First Aid Kit nicely and discreetly blocking the way in ………

Ok Ok .. You’ll not be able to carry out major surgery with it but its neat and nobody will want to use it unless they can restock with genuine BMW bandages and the like …….. Enough people write up about keeping the tool kit complete so it will have to be an absolute emergency to use the First Aid kit

30. . If you have your electric mirror control switch set to the drivers side mirror, when reversing the passenger side mirror dips to the curb. Good for making sure those beautiful wheels stay unblemished! If you don’t want it on (e.g. you aren’t parking just reversing), you just slide the switch over to the passenger mirror. (Mirror moves only on the comfort option with electric seats)

31. . Here’s another – works on all BMW’s with fly-by-wire throttle – turn on your ignition (without starting the car) for 10 seconds, turn it off, leave for 10 seconds and then start the car – you will have reset and recalibrated your accelerator pedal to take up any slack or sluggishness – most folks who have done this have reported a marked increase in response to a call for more coal in the boiler.

32. . Here’s another I picked up from some American site – 50/50 mode on ASC&T/DSC.

Now because this affects your stability and traction, it comes with a Health and Safety warning and disclaimer – I take NO responsibility for any damage caused.

Apparently this is a hidden Easter Egg that provides Stability control but removes the Traction Control, so in theory you can light up your tyres in a big pull away, but there remains some protection from spinning, as the DSC will still apply brakes differentially (up to 3 apparently) to correct slide/skid.

What you do is to press the DSC button to get the dash light on, holding it in for 10 seconds, until the dash light goes out. This then leaves the DSC in 50/50 mode. There is no way to unset this apart from turning off the ignition and restarting the car.

I’m just off to try it, very carefully, as the roads are quite wet and slippy.

Don’t go mad and crash your car trying it out, as I say I take no responsibility for it working or not, or for any madness by others . . .

Oh, and btw, before somebody makes the obvious comment, I can’t see WHY anyone would want to do this, apart from try it out . .

33. . Did you know that you cant put things through the arm rest hole and into the boot!

Unlike all cars I’ve ever had, I found this out in the B&Q carpark with my 10 bits of 3.2 meter wood – SOLID REAR BULKHEAD!

Where would one put ones ski’s

34. . there is a wheel chock next to the spear wheel

35. . You can have bags of fun showing your kids how you can survive getting your head caught in the leccy window when it shuts.

Alternatively,if you don’t want to teach them stoopid things, press the window button to shut then press the inside seal bit round the top of the window and it goes back down again

36. . Just found a little credit card sized plastic card which tells you to check your oil! It’s stuck in front of the tool kit in the boot. The great thing is it’s curved on one side so you can check you tyre tread depth with it! Superb idea!

37. . had mine on axle stands as i was checking the thick ness of the front discs , well i had the car lock with the alarm set as i had to pop out , got back went to jack it up to remove the axle stand and the alarm went stright off when i jacked it about 1-2mm lol.

so itr must have a thing built in to alarm to stop people from robbing ypur alloys etc

38. . mine has double glazed windows meaning to hear the growl of my V8 I have to put the window down

39. . The front ashtray is so well engineered! I have just discovered that if you have it open you can push back the cover a little further it pops out for cleaning! There is a little dampening wheel in there and everything. Just feels so solid! Almost make me want to start smoking so I can use it*!

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