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Old 10-06-2011, 02:44 PM   #1
mere_mortal7
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Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Sacramento
Posts: 12
My Ride: 2000 323i
2000 323i Fluid Leak - What & Where?

I have a 2000 323i with 106K miles on it. I've kept it pretty well maintained, serviced at an indy mechanic & have saved a lot of $$$ doing a lot of work myself. Last year I had a crack in my coolant expansion tank. I replaced it, & decided while I was into it, I'd replace the water pump, thermostat & two hoses. No leaks or overheating problems since then.
Last Sunday while backing out of my garage, I noticed what looked like an oil leak which left a 2" wide trail about 14' long down my driveway. I pulled back in the garage & put an oil drain pan under where I thought the leak was. I touched & smelled the fluid from the leak. It looked & smelled like oil. We were in a hurry, so we left in my other car. The next day, I was surprised to see that most of the fluid on my driveway had faded away & barely left a stain. The next day, I checked all of my fluid levels & everything looked OK. started it up & looked under it with my drop light & saw no leaks while it was running. I put it up on ramps, shut it off & looked under to see a very slow leak from the power steering tank & hose (I had noticed that leak before). Also a very slow leak on the passenger side from somewhere above the exaust manifold which was dripping off of the exaust pipe connected to the exaust manifold. I saw no coolant leaks.
A side note - I have occasionally noticed a burning (oil?) smell for the past few months while driving, sitting at a stop light, etc.
I figure if it was oil or power steering fluid, it would still be a noticeable stain on my driveway. Could it be brake fluid? What is it, & where is it most likely coming from? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Last edited by mere_mortal7; 10-06-2011 at 02:47 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 10-06-2011, 03:00 PM   #2
Alekm
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Western Mass
Posts: 158
My Ride: 323 E46 1999 AT 170k
My guess is this is the head cover gasket leak. The head cover gasket over time turns into plastic due to excessive heat and leaks. Usually the leak is in the back of your engine. It is a simple diy, the gasket is about $80, and you need the red sealant. Search for a diy.

To verify, open your hood and try with your hand to touch the metal wings (especially the ones in further back) that are on the side of the engine. These "wings" are right along the hose that goes from your secondary air pump. As you are changing the head cover gasket make sure you do not brake this hose. A simple repair to the hose if you do brake it is getting one from Autozone. There should be oil on them (at least it was accumulating for me in that area). As you drive this oil spills and falls on the exhaust and you smell the burnt smell.
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Old 10-06-2011, 07:21 PM   #3
Stickbuilder
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Check your windshield washer tank. If the pump O-ring fails, it will dump the fluid like you said you saw. If it was oil, you would still see the fluid or a dark stain from the leak.
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Old 10-07-2011, 07:58 PM   #4
mere_mortal7
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Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Sacramento
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My Ride: 2000 323i
Valve Cover Gasket

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alekm View Post
My guess is this is the head cover gasket leak. The head cover gasket over time turns into plastic due to excessive heat and leaks. Usually the leak is in the back of your engine. It is a simple diy, the gasket is about $80, and you need the red sealant. Search for a diy.

To verify, open your hood and try with your hand to touch the metal wings (especially the ones in further back) that are on the side of the engine. These "wings" are right along the hose that goes from your secondary air pump. As you are changing the head cover gasket make sure you do not brake this hose. A simple repair to the hose if you do brake it is getting one from Autozone. There should be oil on them (at least it was accumulating for me in that area). As you drive this oil spills and falls on the exhaust and you smell the burnt smell.
You are correct. I checked the metal wings & noticed oil on them & some oil near the back of the cover. The leak has been getting worse recently. I found 2 good DIY's on youtube on how to replace the gasket & have started working on it, ordered the parts & should have it back together soon. That will solve the problem of leaking on the exaust manifold.
The other leak is power steering fluid. There is leaking from the bottom of the resevoir which has been running down the hose. I will replace those parts & hopefully will be back on the road soon. Thanks.
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Old 10-25-2011, 12:43 AM   #5
mere_mortal7
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Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Sacramento
Posts: 12
My Ride: 2000 323i
2000 323i Fluid Leak - What & Where?

Quote:
Originally Posted by mere_mortal7 View Post
You are correct. I checked the metal wings & noticed oil on them & some oil near the back of the cover. The leak has been getting worse recently. I found 2 good DIY's on youtube on how to replace the gasket & have started working on it, ordered the parts & should have it back together soon. That will solve the problem of leaking on the exaust manifold.
The other leak is power steering fluid. There is leaking from the bottom of the resevoir which has been running down the hose. I will replace those parts & hopefully will be back on the road soon. Thanks.
After watching a few DIY's, I replaced the fuel filter. Also replaced valve cover gasket - that solved the problem of leaking on the exaust manifold (the gasket was hardened, brittle plastic). Replaced power steering fluid tank & 2 hoses coming off the bottom. I've been driving it for a week & noticed no leaks until this morning while backing out of my garage, same as before (my orig. post), so I guess I replacing the old power steering fluid tank & 2 hoses coming off the bottom didn't solve that problem after all. From the 20' long trail it left on my street, it looks like was coming from near the middle of the drivers side only when I turned the wheel when it was cold.
I checked all of my fluid levels - all good, & no leaks on my garage floor.
Also, my service engine light came on today (probably not related?).
Does anyone know what my problem could be? Any help will be appreciated.
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