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1997 BMW E39 540i Timing Chain Noise – M60, M62 V8 – E31, E32, E34, E38, E39, E53, X5

August 20, 2010

This answer is applicable for many BMWs in addition to the one listed below.

The timing chain on my 97 540i is intermittently noisy (It’s sometimes completely quiet). A mechanic replaced the one easy to reach tensioner but it didn’t really help. He is saying that a timing chain replacement is a 24 hour + parts job. I think just replacing the other tensioners may solve the problem without pulling off the chain itself, saving time and money. What do you think?

If the main timing chain is responsible for the noise,the main timing cover must be removed in order to access the tensioners, chain, etc. We have found that the M60 and M62 V8 engines (530i, 540i, 740i, 740il, 840i, 840ci, X5) can start to exhibit timing chain noise at mileages around 150,000 to 200,000.  The typical fault is that the plastic chain guides get brittle and start to break apart, allowing the chain to slap around a bit.

Yes, this is a big job. 24 hours? Well, I’m not sure of that, but it is lengthy. Have we used a mechanic’s stethoscope to determine that the noise is indeed coming from under the timing cover (suggesting that it is a fault in the timing chain system)? If not, I would certainly do this before ripping into it. We offer a nice mechanic’s stethoscope, that you can use to do some detective work. The Bentley repair manual covers all of the steps, if you’d like to study up on this a bit. Of course, we can order all of the parts that you’d need.

Mechanic’s stethoscope:


Bentley repair manual:


One Comment
  1. Steve Omner permalink

    Yes, I can vouch that it is a big job. Just got done replacing upper timing chain cover gaskets (plus replacing the water pump and stripping, repainting valve covers). The only difference I can see in upper covers only and full cover removal, guide replacement is my lack of a crank shaft holder to remove the crank hub. My job was about 21 hours of work time start to finish for the three items listed. Not difficult at all just lots of parts to keep track of and things to check and double check. Car: 96 740iL M62, 210,000 miles.

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