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On the 1989 and 1990 model year 525i or the two 535i cars that I was analyzing, the heat shield separated the exhaust from the drive shaft. In one case, it had been touching the drive shaft, and the latter had a bright finish from all the rubbing … not good.
After the exhaust has been removed, it’s pretty straightforward to remove the heat shield. Six 13 mm bolts need to be loosened. The tricky thing is that, to get the bolts out, you have to be underneath the heat shield so as the last bolt comes loose, the part falls on you unless you’re careful.
As the last bolt or two come loose, a large amount of rust also tends to come down.