By some miracle, my 2007 BMW M5 is finally fixed. There is currently not a single warning light remaining on the dashboard, a rare accomplishment that’s even more amazing when considering the dazzling array of error messages that were present when I bought this project. Getting to the finish line didn’t require a specialized BMW diagnostic computer, or thousands of dollars of parts — rather, all that was needed to finally fix my M5 was a lightly modified wire hanger.
Of course, it took many, many thousands worth of parts and labor to fix this seriously neglected M5, but before the MacGyver-esque wire hanger repair saved the day, I wasn’t far off from where I started. When I bought the cheapest running example of what’s considered the most unreliable BMW ever made, it was hemorrhaging engine oil, and the SMG transmission would shift violently — like it was trying punch itself into another dimension. With $2,700 spent on a used transmission and an oil cooler, my mechanic, the Car Wizard, was able to fix these obvious problems — along with a few other surprises, such as a failed AC condenser — but with $4,500 spent on the car in parts and labor so far, we encountered a major roadblock.
While the shifts were much smoother, any attempt at spirited driving was greeted immediately with BMW’s friendly chime of death, followed by numerous warning lights, which sent the BMW into limp home mode. The error codes pointed towards misfires and crank sensor issues, but the beard of knowledge on my trusted Car Wizard had finally reached his limit. He didn’t feel comfortable wasting my money by guessing which part needed to be replaced next, so he suggested I seek out a BMW specialist with the proper diagnostic tools.
I’m lucky to know a BMW specialist in town, named Johnny, who is also an E60 M5 enthusiast. Considering most mechanics hate working on their own cars, and end up commuting in a Toyota Camry or a Honda Accord to their European specialty repair shops, Johnny is crazy enough to own an M5 like mine. So he was perfect guy to help me, and when I described the problems with my car, he didn’t need any BMW specialty diagnostic computers to know exactly what was wrong.
With the M5 raised on the lift, Johnny removed the crank sensor and began manually rotating the engine to inspect the hall effect teeth on the flywheel. These evenly spaced teeth showed the crankshaft sensor how fast the engine is spinning, and if one tooth was bent during the removal or installation of the new transmission, it would cause issues similar to what I was experiencing. Johnny eventually found a badly bent tooth, and since removing the transmission again to replace damaged part would be very time consuming, he wanted to try prying the tooth back into position. With a bent wire hanger, Johnny was able to grab the tooth and pull it back into range, which made the crank sensor happy enough to end my limp home troubles.
Johnny suggested I should still replace my spark plugs and coils to fix my intermittent misfire issue, which isn’t cheap on a 10-cylinder BMW, but that job finally vanquished the last of my warning lights. That job cost me $1,171.00, and a new set of front tires to match the rears cost another $421, which if you combine with my purchase price and earlier repairs, brings my total investment to $12,608. So I’ve nearly doubled my investment in the car since purchasing, but I now have an excellent running M5 that would likely fetch around the same price if I offered it for sale.
Despite fixing all of the problems though, the car still feels broken, and I still have lots of anxiety every time I start the engine. The SMG gearbox might be the worst transmission I have ever experienced, with ridiculously slow shifts, and a very confusing shift pattern. I’m scared to use the plastic paddles since I already broke one off the column when I tried to downshift, which is now fixed with glue — so I’m left with the pathetic automatic mode or shifting with the annoying gear selector. Of course, I can make the shifts lightning quick if I press the mighty M mode button, which also unleashes an extra 100 horsepower, but I’m told this wears out the clutch much more quickly.
The other issue I have with this M5 is living with the constant fear that my V10 engine could destroy itself at any moment — thanks to poorly engineered rod bearings, and the VANOS system oil pump. If I wanted to fix these issues as a preventative measure, it would cost another $5,000 — which is really hard to justify. I thought a good reading from an oil analysis would allay my fears slightly, but I’m told there’s very little oil contamination from copper in the rod bearings before they fail — and the VANOS pump gives zero warning before it explodes, sending destructive metal pieces throughout the engine.
If I were planning on keeping the M5 long term, these preventative repairs would make sense — even though it wouldn’t add much value to my higher mileage example. Since I really hate this transmission, as well as the equally annoying and laggy iDrive system, there’s no way I’m willing to throw $5,000 more into this car. Even though it’s a great looking sedan with an awesome amount of power, I just don’t see the appeal.
So this is probably the end of my M5 saga, as there’s so many other cars I would rather have for the money, but selling it will probably be a challenge. It took me over a year to sell my 1997 BMW M3, since it wouldn’t stop breaking on me — and I finally settled for way less than I wanted after spending thousands in repairs. Since that’s considered a more reliable, and desirable BMW, I can only imagine the headaches that await me with this M5. So perhaps it will continue to stick around, like I said earlier, as a shiny red monument of my stupidity, for way longer than I want it to.