BMW X5 3.0 Sport | Shed of the Week

'Not perfect' just means it has potential, right?

By Tony Middlehurst / Friday, April 30, 2021 / Loading comments

‘Lady Luck please let the dice stay hot, let me shoot a seven with every shot, viva Las Vegas!’

If you think you might want to talk to the seller of this week’s shed, before pressing the call button Shed strongly advises you to play this Elvis classic all the way through. And then again, louder.

Shed used to do car mechanicking for the folks in the village. It was a sort of community volunteering project which came with the bonus of putting him first in line for lowball bids on probate classics as the ancient residents popped their clogs. The spannering was easy until the early 2000s when the villagers’ cars (along with everybody else’s) suddenly became far too complicated and stopped responding to spanners. At that point Shed drew a line under it, only making the odd exception for routine maintenance work on the cars of people he liked.

As a result, Shed now has a lot more downtime between postmistress servicing work and being shouted at by Mrs Shed. He uses this time to pore through PH forums and classifieds listings. One PH thread that’s running at the moment details the adventures of a chap who put in a speculative bid on an E39 530 Touring which, to his delight, secured the vehicle at a bargain price. The car looked great, to be fair, but the initial euphoria of the first page seems to have dimmed somewhat as one problem after another has come to light and the bargain begins to look more like a burden. To Shed, anyway.

This week’s BMW X5 3.0 Sport diesel has the same whiff of potential financial disaster about it. X5s were brilliant when they came out in 1999. Sharing the E39’s drivetrains and electrical systems, they were a miraculous combo of BMW performance, SUV versatility and (thanks in part to BMW’s acquisition of Land Rover) decent off-road ability.

The downsides of this particular X5 are as obvious as Mrs Shed’s five o’clock shadow: monster mileage, an inoperative front window and, the main knee-wobbler, ‘a very light slip on the transfer box’. To their credit, the sellers are completely open about the car’s faults and even suggest a snagging list of jobs to put the car right. How successful might you be though if, like our E39 Touring buyer, you take the plunge and carry out the work yourself?

First the easy stuff. ‘Low battery’. It was electronic complication that drove Shed out of the car-fixing business. The modern car’s pathetic dependency on a strong battery does at least mean that a ‘high battery’ can butter a lot of parsnips. A decent brand replacement X5 batt will be £100 or so.

The 4×4 warning light that’s illuminated on this car’s dash might need nothing other than a reset, but it could be a busted steering angle sensor. These are available for £60 or so, and the work is DIY-able if you have the equipment to encode the sensor. Given that the dealer is talking about a transmission slip, however, it could be the transfer case, or specifically the t/c’s actuator motor gear, which in the best tradition of cars from this era had plastic bits in it. For once though that’s not usually the problem here. It’s usually the metal cog inside the actuator that’s worn. A clicking or clunking from the transfer case on switch off is the giveaway.

If you want to fix it yourself, you can. It all looks quite simple on YouTube but then it always does when the film’s been sped up and the bloke doing it knows what he’s about and has all the right tools. In short, you remove a heat shield under the car, and maybe the gearbox crossmember if you want better access to the bolts that hold the actuator motor in place, but that’s not essential. Once you’ve got the motor off, a quick strip down will reveal your knackered actuator gear. Replace that – it’s a ten quid part – rebuild the motor, bung it back on the car, and hey presto! It doesn’t work and you’ve wasted even more of your life. Maybe. Or maybe not. Throw the dice and hope for a seven.

Non-operating X5 windows are annoyingly common. The very first X5 that Shed looked at online for comparison with this one had the same problem. If it is a new regulator that’s required, which it probably is, these are available for £25 or even less, but even the YouTube videos telling how to do the work run for quite a while so this is not such a DIY-friendly job. Even jollier mechanics might mutter something that you could swear sounded like four hours. Multiply that by your own impatience/ignorance factor to get the actual DIY time.

With all the jobs jobbed, there you have it: a clean, straight-looking X5 Sport with an MOT to December and more than enough miles on it to keep your hands nice and dirty in the weeks and months ahead. Or who knows, it may be fault-free after your DIY-ing.

Elvis’s rather poignant last words were: ‘I’m going to the bathroom to read’. This is a phrase Shed himself uses a lot, along with ‘where did I go wrong?’, but for a perfect inscription on the Shedman’s tombstone let’s finish with another quote from The King. ‘I’m gonna keep on the run, I’m gonna have me some fun, if it costs me my very last dime, if I wind up broke as well, I’ll always remember that I had a swingin’ time.’ Viva Las X5!


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