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Old 06-20-2015, 10:29 AM   #1
chmac
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Leaking coolant front centre, dripping from fan

I've got a 2001 325i (e46 of course!). It's leaking coolant. I started the car today, watched, nothing happening. Let it run for 15 minutes or so, checking every so often, and on the last check, there was a puddle forming under the car. I hunted around with a torch, and could see drips, they looked like they were coming from the underside of the fan, connected to the back of the radiator.

It's hard to see precisely in the picture, because the angle is not great, but it looks like it's dripping from directly underneath the circle on the back of the fan (highlighted in white in the photo attached).

I'm reading that the thermostat is often the problem, or the expansion tank. But from where I see the drips, it doesn't look like it could be either of those things. Does the fact that it takes a while before it leaks tell me anything definitive?

I don't have easy access to a garage to jack it up and remove the underside panels. Is there any other way to get a better idea of where the leak is coming from? It only leaks when the engine is hot, so it's hard to get down into the engine there to be able to get a better look.

Any advice at all would be great. Supposed to be driving 2 days from Berlin to Paris on Friday, so hopefully I can sort this out soon... :-)
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Old 06-20-2015, 10:41 AM   #2
Solidjake
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You have an electric fan so slide it out and see if coolant is coming out of the radiator. Honestly with it leaking coolant I would not drive the car until the entire cooling system is replaced. (expansion tank/cap, thermostat, radiator, lower radiator hose sensor, both radiator hoses, coolant level sensor, water pump and water pump pulley)

Do you have any records of any of that work being done on the car?
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Old 06-20-2015, 10:52 AM   #3
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Haven't checked the records for that work, will have a look in the car. I got the car (2001) and 119k miles (April 2013) and none of the cooling system has been replaced since I've had it (now 145k miles).

I had a look at removing the fan, and found a video that looks helpful. Does it involve removing the headlights and the bumper to take the fan off? It's raining today on and off here in Berlin, and Germany is 100% closed on Sundays, so might be a job left for Monday. Or, I might have to suck it up and take it into a garage on Monday. :-)


Last edited by chmac; 06-20-2015 at 10:53 AM. Reason: Move video under text
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Old 06-20-2015, 12:58 PM   #4
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No - that's only on the automatics - your car has one torx screw and a plastic rivet holding the fan in - should take about 10 mins tops. When you remove it look at the weeping hole on the waterpump then around the thermostat for the leak. If no recent work has been done my suspicion would be the waterpump bearing starting to fail and it leaks coolant to provide the owner a visible sign before complete failure.
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Old 06-20-2015, 03:49 PM   #5
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Oh great, thanks. I'll give that a go tomorrow. Here's hoping we have better weather! :-)
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Old 06-20-2015, 03:55 PM   #6
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You are describing a leaky water pump.
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Old 06-20-2015, 03:58 PM   #7
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Find a diy for water pump removal for a manual transmission. That will give you the instructions you need to remove the fan and other parts to find the leak. At this point you don't need to remove the water pump to diagnose but you may have to remove the pulley on the water pump. It has 4x10mm bolts. I suspect the leak is occurring behind that either at the water pump seal (o ring) or the bearing. Be careful pulling off the pulley. It is black plastic and will be stuck to the pump. It is brittle so watch you don't break it. Put a little anti seize on it when you put it back so next time it is easier.
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Old 06-20-2015, 04:39 PM   #8
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I just re read your first post. Sorry missed the part about the drip off the fan. If you mean the fan shroud then follow jakes suggestion and thoroughly inspect the radiator. They can start to weep with age and corrosion. Once you get the fan out you can get a proper look at everything. You can run the car for about 2 mins safely with no fan just to find the leak.

Last edited by BMW-North; 06-20-2015 at 04:40 PM.
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Old 06-20-2015, 04:46 PM   #9
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@jdstrickland: You think it's the water pump even though it takes a good 5 or 10 minutes to start leaking when it's cold? I thought the pump operated all the time while the engine was running, so I was leaning towards the radiator. I read in the Haynes manual that the coolant only circulates through the radiator once it's hot, so that might explain the delayed leaking.

@BMW-North: Thanks for the tip, I'm watching a video of how to replace the water pump now. Very useful. It definitely looks like it's dripping off the fan shroud given what I can see from above, and having just watched the fan come out in the video.

From the video, it should be easy to get the fan out and have a look tomorrow. Hopefully I can pinpoint exactly what is leaking once I've removed the fan.

@BMW-North: If I should only run the car for 2 minutes without the fan, do I run it first until it starts leaking, then remove the fan? It definitely took more than 2 minutes to start leaking from cold.

Here's the video I'm watching now:



Thanks a lot for all the help folks, I really appreciate. Between the forums and the youtube videos, there's an absolute ton of wisdom available on these cars. :-)
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Old 06-20-2015, 05:19 PM   #10
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Yes, you are describing a water pump.

Upon engine start, the coolant is cold and the t-stat is closed, the water pump does nothing so it does not leak. The coolant (water) heats up and becomes pressurized due to the heat, and when the t-stat opens then water is feed into the pump, and the leak is apparent.

You are describing a water pump failure.
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Old 06-20-2015, 05:49 PM   #11
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It does sound like a wo leak but I don't know how the coolant could make the horizontal jump against blowing air to end up on the fan shroud???? You can run the engine with the fan removed. I was being too conservative as I didn't want you overheating I've probably ran the engine for up to 5 mins with the fan out from a cold start. Closely monitor the temp and shut off well before any chance of overheating. Remember you are only doing this to see where the leak might be occurring. You probably still want to inspect the water pump anyway.
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Old 06-20-2015, 05:54 PM   #12
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You have to remove the fan to get to the water pump, so start taking stuff off so you can see where the leak is.
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Old 06-20-2015, 06:37 PM   #13
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Folks, thanks a lot. I see the water dripping off the back side of the fan shroud, so it seems like it's on the radiator side of that space. However, I'll know more once I can have a look without the fan tomorrow. I'll take the fan off first, while the car's cold, start it up, and then watch the temperature closely and turn it off as soon as I see the leak.

Thanks again for the help. I'll post back tomorrow once I make some progress.
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Old 06-20-2015, 06:42 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by chmac View Post
Folks, thanks a lot. I see the water dripping off the back side of the fan shroud, so it seems like it's on the radiator side of that space. However, I'll know more once I can have a look without the fan tomorrow. I'll take the fan off first, while the car's cold, start it up, and then watch the temperature closely and turn it off as soon as I see the leak.

Thanks again for the help. I'll post back tomorrow once I make some progress.
Sounds good. Don't fix this with a snake oil bottle of rad sealant. It will clog your heater core and cause premature wear of other components. That's if you plan on keeping the car.

The plastic shoulders of the rad are common leak points so look there.
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Old 06-20-2015, 08:11 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Solidjake View Post
You have an electric fan so slide it out and see if coolant is coming out of the radiator. Honestly with it leaking coolant I would not drive the car until the entire cooling system is replaced. (expansion tank/cap, thermostat, radiator, lower radiator hose sensor, both radiator hoses, coolant level sensor, water pump and water pump pulley)

Do you have any records of any of that work being done on the car?
I've been driving with a low pressure leak all year (some days it leaks, some days there is no leak).

The low pressure leaks are far less critical than the high pressure ones.

But like Jake said get that ish fixed asap don't be like me who drives around with a jug of coolant in his engine bay stash bin.
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Old 06-20-2015, 08:22 PM   #16
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I did the water pump replacement last week. It takes about 1-2 hours tops. Possibly one of the easiest repairs you can do.
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Old 06-21-2015, 07:34 AM   #17
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Thanks again for all the help and advice so far. Got the fan out without too much bother (broke the plastic rivet on the fan itself), started the car, and it took nearly 10 or 15 minutes, but finally, water started sprouting from the back side of the radiator. Two very small jets. Photo attached. I guess it needs a new radiator.

@BMW-North: You already recommended against any kind of rad sealant. Given the picture, is that still the best advice?

Before I put the fan back and put the car away, I'm wondering if I can somehow seal the radiator from the outside. Maybe with some kind of epoxy? Probably not a great solution, and I guess a new radiator is the long term solution, but might be cutting it fine to get a new radiator delivered and replaced by Friday.
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Old 06-21-2015, 07:47 AM   #18
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Replace the radiator for now, but I strongly recommended changing everything after your trip
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Old 06-21-2015, 07:50 AM   #19
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replace the radiator for now, but i strongly recommended changing everything after your trip

+1000000
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Old 06-21-2015, 08:38 AM   #20
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No hope of fixing it from the outside with something like quiksteel, a metal epoxy type thing?

The car is a 2001, I've gotten a good 25k miles out of it, and it cost me 2.1k ($3k USD) 2.5 years ago. I've spent more money on fuel than on the car so far. Not sure if it makes sense to invest in a whole cooling system replacement at this point in the car's life.
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