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General E46 Forum
This is the place to get answers, opinions and everything you need related to your E46 (sedan, coupe, convertible and wagon) BMW!

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Old 04-15-2016, 03:23 AM   #1
davindersangha
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Join Date: Jun 2015
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E46 coolant problems - no apparent leak

Having an issue with my E46 Compact. It coincides with the air conditioning blowing, but blowing cold air and then sometimes hot.

The coolant level kept showing low and had to be topped up. Had it in the garage, they checked the head gasket, etc. and everything was fine. Ironically, the car seemed fine for a while after this.

However, a few days back, the air con started being erratic again.

The coolant level drops quite a bit, the light comes on. I top it up, but after a while, the light comes on. Temperature is always steady on the half-way mark.

When idle at traffic lights after a while, I see steam coming from the coolant side of the bonnet.

This morning, for example, when cold. I topped it up and drove around 9 miles. Steam started coming from the coolant side of the bonnet around 9 miles in. Temperature remained static at half.

Back home, I opened up and saw steam in and around the area of the coolant cap. I removed the cap while hot and hot water gushed out like a geiser, loads of it. I topped up and drove off again, still the same. The light came on and the steam is still coming out.

Again, no visible leak. Any suggestions? I tightened the cap quite a bit today and will do so when cool, as obviously it would expand. I've also tried to bleed it based on some suggestions online.
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Old 04-15-2016, 06:07 AM   #2
markusmarkus
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E46 coolant problems - no apparent leak

What year is the car? What's the maintenance history? How many miles/kms on the clock.

It may be time for a cooling system overhaul.

Also, find another shop as the one that checked the engine can't seem to find a cooling leak. Your profile sez Washington. Where are you actually located?

Last edited by markusmarkus; 04-15-2016 at 06:08 AM.
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Old 04-15-2016, 06:10 AM   #3
davindersangha
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Hi. It's Washington UK (yes, the original Washington). I trust my garage as they've been very reliable, but I'll get them to check over again. Car is 2003, around 90k miles.
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Old 04-15-2016, 10:15 AM   #4
Custom3
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Im mechanic and have read every single thread about the coolant on this car and let me tell you its a peace of f*cking sh*t design. The bleeding air processes on this system is hit or miss. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't.

BUT in your case you said you saw saw steam around the coolant cap. My guess is either the cap is bad or your expansion tank is cracked near the cap area. Its a common area for cracks. Could even be a hairline crack that you can't see. Wait for the car to cool off. With water, hose down the engine in the front. Tank, hoses, radiator etc. Wipe dry and make sure you see no coolant. Then drive the car for about 15 minutes and check for leaks.

Good luck.

Last edited by Custom3; 04-15-2016 at 10:16 AM.
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Old 04-15-2016, 10:58 AM   #5
davindersangha
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Cheers, man.

I topped up at 12:30pm when cool. I then looked again at 3:00pm, when the coolant level was still okay. I drove around 9 miles and noticed the steam again. I stopped and, with the car still running, discovered the coolant spluttering out of the coolant lid.

Obviously it's loosening itself with the heat, as I was certain I twisted it hard.

I'm going to wrap tape around the thread and then tighten the cap again and take it from there.
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Old 04-15-2016, 04:32 PM   #6
chet31
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My car behaved like this when there was a micro-crack in the expansion tank. It leaked slowly enough that it never made it to the ground, but would slowly lose coolant over time. The AC is likely a separate issue.
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Old 04-15-2016, 05:34 PM   #7
Sapote
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"However, a few days back, the air con started being erratic again."

This indicated the DME detected an overheated engine condition and cut off the aircon. However, something was very wrong here because the next statement said the temperature indicator remained at half, or normal, with an obvious overheated engine.

"This morning, for example, when cold. I topped it up and drove around 9 miles. Steam started coming from the coolant side of the bonnet around 9 miles in. Temperature remained static at half."

"discovered the coolant spluttering out of thecoolant lid.. I'm going to wrap tape around the thread and then tighten the cap again and take it from there."

Do not do this. The cap has built-in pressure relief valve to allow coolant escape in a high pressure situation.

Problems: you might have several issues but the first obvious one is there are trapped air in the system which could make the temp sensors to read wrong (indicator shown normal while A/C was cut off), and overheating. Learn to bleed correctly, then report back new result.

Last edited by Sapote; 04-15-2016 at 05:34 PM.
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Old 04-16-2016, 06:38 AM   #8
markusmarkus
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^ this!
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Old 04-18-2016, 04:21 AM   #9
davindersangha
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Like a lot of things, the solution was quite simple. It must have been a combination of minor errors.

Essentially, I removed the air screw near the coolant lid. Filled with coolant until the water started to come out of the air screw. Then sealed all. Seems fine over the last few days.

Must just have been a lot of air in the system, combined with me not putting the coolant cap on tight enough.
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