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BMW E39 ABS Sensor Replacement
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

BMW E39 ABS Sensor Replacement

Kerry Jonsson

Time:

2 hours2 hrs

Tab:

$150

Talent:

***

Tools:

Phillips & flathead screwdriver, 5mm Allen bit (long)

Applicable Models:

BMW E39 5-Series (1997-03)

Parts Required:

ABS wheel speed sensor, Molykote Longterm 2 grease

Hot Tip:

Check for damaged wires and corroded connectors before replacing.

Performance Gain:

Properly functioning ABS and DSC systems

Complementary Modification:

Clean tone wheel with wire brush while sensor is out.

The ABS/DSC wheel speed sensor gives road speed information for each wheel to the ABS/DSC module. If one of the wheel speed sensors indicates a different speed from the other wheels it knows that wheel has lost traction. The module will then control the brake pressure applied to the problem wheel until traction is regained. The ABS/DSC control unit monitors all the wheel speed sensors and if it detects a failure from one or more sensors it will flag a code and turn on the ABS/DSC warning light. Remember, there are many components in the ABS and DSC systems. Pull self-diagnostic trouble codes first before replacing any components.

In this tech article we are going to go over all of the steps to remove both front and rear wheel speed sensors.

Jack up and support the axle of the wheel speed sensor you are replacing. Review our tech article on jacking up and supporting your vehicle.

Front ABS sensor:
Working behind the strut, on the body of the car, release the two locking tab that hold the connector housing closed and open the cover.
Figure 1

Working behind the strut, on the body of the car, release the two locking tab that hold the connector housing closed and open the cover. Remove the grey connector (Black is for brake pad wear sensor).

Press on locking tab at the bottom of the connector and pull the connector apart.
Figure 2

Press on locking tab at the bottom of the connector and pull the connector apart.

Get a firm grip of the wheel speed sensor harness and pull it out of the bracket that mounts it to the strut.
Figure 3

Get a firm grip of the wheel speed sensor harness and pull it out of the bracket that mounts it to the strut.

Working on the inside of the spindle we see the wheel speed sensor (green arrow) and the two mounting 5mm mounting screws (yellow arrows).
Figure 4

Working on the inside of the spindle we see the wheel speed sensor (green arrow) and the two mounting 5mm mounting screws (yellow arrows). You do not have to remove the wheel or brake caliper but it does make access to the wheel speed sensor easier especially if you are not on a lift and doing the job on jack stands.

Remove the two 5mm mounting screws that hold on the sensor.
Figure 5

Remove the two 5mm mounting screws that hold on the sensor.

Grab the sensor with a pair of pliers and twist the sensor to loosen the corrosion.
Figure 6

Grab the sensor with a pair of pliers and twist the sensor to loosen the corrosion. As your twisting the sensor pull it away from the spindle in the direction of the blue arrow.

Clean the hole where the sensor mounts (green arrow).
Figure 7

Clean the hole where the sensor mounts (green arrow). You can apply Molykoat or equivalent in the hole to prevent the sensor from seizing in there in the future. You can use a wire pipe cleaning brush to insert in the hole and clean the rust off the tone wheel. Simply insert the brush and spin the axle. Install new sensor with a thin coating of Molykote Longterm 2 or similar grease to ABS sensor and housing. Install fastener and tighten. Then route wiring harness as it was before and reconnect at housing.

Rear ABS sensor: Remove rear wheel on side you are replacing sensor.
This photo illustrates the front of the rear spindle inside the wheel well at the ABS wheel speed sensor (green arrow).
Figure 8

This photo illustrates the front of the rear spindle inside the wheel well at the ABS wheel speed sensor (green arrow). It is tucked behind the backing plate of the brake system, so it will be difficult to see.

Remove the single 5mm Allen head fastener that mounts the wheel speed sensor.
Figure 9

Remove the single 5mm Allen head fastener that mounts the wheel speed sensor. Grab with pliers and twist as you try to pull it away from the spindle. These sensors are usually very tough to get out and get damaged while doing so, so be prepared to replace it. If you can get a flathead screwdriver behind it and try levering it out.

Remove the wheel speed sensor harness out of the two harness mounting clips (green arrows).
Figure 10

Remove the wheel speed sensor harness out of the two harness mounting clips (green arrows). Remember how it is routed for installation.

This photo illustrates the wheel well behind the rear strut.
Figure 11

This photo illustrates the wheel well behind the rear strut. Remove the 10mm plastic nut (green arrow) that holds the inner fender cover. Here the nut is already removed.

This photo illustrates the car towards the back of the wheel well, by the exhaust.
Figure 12

This photo illustrates the car towards the back of the wheel well, by the exhaust. Pull out the center pin of the retaining clip (green arrow) and then pull out the whole clips. Pull the inner wheel housing out of the way to access the connector housing.

This photo illustrates the rear fender cover towards the rear side of the wheel well.
Figure 13

This photo illustrates the rear fender cover towards the rear side of the wheel well. Remove the harness from the bracket (green arrow) that holds it behind the inner fender cover.

The connector housing was already missing on this car.
Figure 14

The connector housing was already missing on this car. Use the same procedure as opening the front cover. Press the locking tab at the tops of the connector and separate the connector. You now have the entire sensor removed. Install new sensor with a thin coating of Molykote Longterm 2 or similar grease to ABS sensor and housing. Install fastener and tighten. Then route wiring harness as it was before and reconnect at housing.

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Comments and Suggestions:
Viano Comments: Hello. I have a BMW 316 2006 E39. A garage read fault code ABS rear sensor. Today I replaced it but the the brake lamp still lighting red and Dtc yellow. Have only drived a couple of km after the replacement.
Maybe it must be cleared by a scan tool? Something else?
October 12, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Wheel speed sensor faults will clear as soon as the module sees wheel speed. There may be a different fault stored or the sensor did not fix the issue. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
bimmer2000 Comments: What happens if you do not replace a bad ABS sensor?
The DSC+Brake+ABS lights turned on immediately after mildly hitting a curb on my driver rear tire. NOT ON at cold start and driving between 3-20 miles, then will light up again. No error code using Peak Tool.
September 21, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You will have a warning light and no ABS function. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Jhampton Comments: On a 01 525i . Is replacing the.speed sensor on the transmission a hard job. Speedometer, Milage and fuel consumption is not working on instrument cluster.
July 2, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Before replacing anything, I would check for fault codes. You may have a module or bus issue. As that signal is shared. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Jhamp Comments: Is replacing the transmission speed sensor a hard job.
July 2, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No it is not. There are output shaft speed sensors and wheel speed sensors, all not that difficult. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Alanv Comments: A reminder on erasing the DTC to turn off the warning lights would be a good addition, along with the the moth of of doing so would be a good addition..
March 1, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Wheel speed sensor faults generally clear shortly after the module sees the sensor is working. The fault will also eventually clear on it's own. However, clearing with a BMW scan tool can speed the process.- Nick at Pelican Parts  
Will Comments: I have a 97 bmw528i E39 automatic trans. The ABS and Traction light came on and everything works except I have to manually shift from 3rd to 4th to get 3rd gear and then back down to 3rd and up to 4th to get 4th gear. Do you think this is a right or left wheel speed sensor problem as someone else believes? Thanks.
January 31, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would assume either a wheel speed or speed sensor fault. First check the transmission ECM for fault codes. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
terry Comments: great site well explained tks
January 19, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
jetblack540 Comments: Thanks Nick for your help. Great site! So how can I check trans ECU for fault codes, as I do not own scan tool. Could i go to local autoparts store and let them hook up to comp.outlet under dash? Will that pull codes for trans? Thanks.
November 13, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You will be able to get generic OBD II codes from the engine control module that way. Not BMW specific. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
jetblack540 Comments: It says to clean the tone wheel with wire brush...qust: whats the tone wheel?
November 13, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: See the photo in the article. It shows the area of the rust build up on the tone wheel. it is the wheel that excites the sensor. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
jetblack540 Comments: If right front sensor is bad on my '97 540i. ..with automatic trans, would the transmission make a strange sound at low normal speeds as Im accelerating. Note: if I press gas down as its doing that, the sound stops. Its only as Im gradually accelerating that its almost a slippage of the trans.? Thanks
November 11, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No. the sensor should not cause transmission noise. First check the transmission fluid level to be sure it is correct. Then check the transmission ECM for fault codes. If the system is not working properly, a fault code will be set. This will be your best bet when diagnosing.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
dev Comments: is there a speed sensor on the transmission
August 23, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: On most vehicles, yes. - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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Page last updated: Mon 12/5/2016 02:05:22 AM