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Old 06-19-2017, 01:00 AM   #1
Linx
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Cooling issues. Can't figure out what the hell is going on

2002 E46 Touring with 152k on it. Shortly after buying the car the water pump pulley went out so I replaced the water pump and pulley. Other than that I've done expansion tank, upper and lower hoses. Within the past year I started off with a slow coolant leak. Around once every two months I'd get the light telling me low coolant. Eventually it started to become more frequent and now I'm getting it every two days or so. I've been putting water in since at that rate coolant is getting pricey. Yesterday I went out for a drive and got the light. Put some water in and continued on. On my way back I get the light again. Put more water in but about a mile later light comes on again. Couldn't pull over. But then it turns off. It kept doing this. So when I reached home I pop the hood and found one issue. A high pressure steady stream of steam was shooting out from either the bottom side of the upper hose at the expansion tank or behind it, maybe from the radiator. Topped it off with more water and turned in for the night. Today I check the water and it looks fine. Get on the highway to drive about 8 miles away. Coming up to my exit, my temp guage was almost in the red but no light for low coolant. I pull over and pop the hood and steam is shooting out from the same location. I loosened the bleed screw and it was shooting out pressure for a long time. Waited till it stopped, opened expansion tank cap and put water in. But now it fills up then slowly starts going down. Kept filling and it kept going down. Now from the beginning of my cooling issue, I never have seen any water/coolant on the ground. So I kept filling until it held the water to the full position in the expansion tank. Figuring it might be a lot of air in the system, I started the car and loosened the bleed screw half way and nothing was coming out. Cut off the car, removed tank cap and started the car. Level was all the way low and the float/rod was bouncing and knocking around, making me think that the water pump is working. Filled it up again, it held it, started the car and opened the bleed screw and it started bleeding the water out like a fountain. Closed it, put some more water in, start the car and opened bleed screw again and nothing is coming out. I then revved the car to about 2500 rpm and that's when water started coming out the bleed screw. I just tightened it back up and drove it home. Temp stayed where it's supposed to be but I popped the hood and I can hear it under pressure near the expansion tank. Looked under the car and it had spewed out a bunch of water. Put more water in and opened the bleed screw and again nothing coming out. I checked all the known places that's common for an E46 to leak and all looks dry. I checked the lower hose, temp sensor, thermostat, upper hose, expansion tank, and what I can see of the radiator. Oil looks fresh, no milkiness. There's no white smoke coming out the tail pipe. And again as I put water in, it slowly goes down. Say about 20 seconds from full to disappearing in the tank. And besides the water spewing on the ground when I got home, there's never been any other sign of leaks. This is driving me crazy. Could it be the head gasket? Or hopefully the radiator.
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Old 06-19-2017, 06:33 AM   #2
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Oh man...did not read...too long and no paragraph breaks!

I don't mean to be an Internet Forum Formatting Nazi here...just trying to point out why no one has responded.
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Old 06-19-2017, 06:49 AM   #3
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The upper hose connection on the radiator is a weak point in the radiator. I suggest you replace the radiator before you toast the engine.
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Old 06-19-2017, 07:02 AM   #4
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Find your leak. Don't assume because you did the ET already that it didn't burst again because of another issue.

I read enough to know you have a leak somewhere...and I wouldn't worry about a head gasket quite yet.

Markus is right, though, at 150K if your radiator hasn't leaked yet, it will. I'm on my third. But, do the rest while you're there. See Mango's cooling thread at the top of the General Forum. Read it until you feel cold inside...then you'll be ready to do what you need to do.

Also, I always lick a drop of coolant before working on that system...little ritual of mine. Taste the fluid of the system I'm working on. Odd...but it works for most here.
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Old 06-19-2017, 09:09 AM   #5
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Yes I've read Mango's sticky but still can't determine my problem. And sorry for not making my post in paragraphs, yes that would of made it easier. One thing I did forget to mention that might matter or might not. When I fill the expansion tank with water it still looks green from the coolant that was in it before. I would imagine with the amount of water I've put in, since I've been using water, the old coolant should of been flushed out by now.
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Old 06-19-2017, 10:28 AM   #6
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1. Water will boil and evaporate when used alone in a cooling system. That's half your problem.
2. You need to fill it up with the heat on full blast so the heater valve opens up and flows through the core.
3. You have a leak obvious enough that you can see the level dropping, it really shouldn't be hard to find. Did you check the hard pipes under the intake? Maybe put some dye in it and check for leaks with a black light at night.
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Old 06-19-2017, 10:30 AM   #7
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Starvega no I didn't check the hard lines. Are these viewable from the top or bottom of car or do I have to remove things to check them?
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Old 06-19-2017, 10:35 AM   #8
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You can't really see them, just try to look for coolant puddled beneath the intake.
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Old 06-19-2017, 10:39 AM   #9
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Ok, I did look around there but didn't notice anything. My next step is to do a pressure test. Was going to this past weekend but really didn't feel like laying under the car while the temp outside was 99
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Old 06-19-2017, 10:41 AM   #10
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BTW, does anyone know how much pressure I need to set it to while doing a pressure test? I replaced the expansion tank cap and I don't see the pressure printed on it anywhere
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Old 06-19-2017, 11:47 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by dmax View Post
Find your leak. Don't assume because you did the ET already that it didn't burst again because of another issue.

I read enough to know you have a leak somewhere...and I wouldn't worry about a head gasket quite yet.

Markus is right, though, at 150K if your radiator hasn't leaked yet, it will. I'm on my third. But, do the rest while you're there. See Mango's cooling thread at the top of the General Forum. Read it until you feel cold inside...then you'll be ready to do what you need to do.

Also, I always lick a drop of coolant before working on that system...little ritual of mine. Taste the fluid of the system I'm working on. Odd...but it works for most here.
+1

However, I'm at 172k miles and original radiator. All hoses and o-rings have been replaced though. To me your problem sounds like o-ring related since there are no obvious signs of leakage. You can find the part numbers in this section and order them. Just do a search.

And in case you didn't know: a little silicone grease on the o-rings helps the hoses go back together.

Edit: so I read you got steam from the top hose? I replaced the plastic nipple where the top hose connects to the radiator. It had deteriorated inside and the o-ring could no longer seal properly.

I believe it's part #1 in this diagram: http://www.realoem.com/bmw/enUS/show...diagId=17_0145
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Old 06-19-2017, 12:10 PM   #12
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i couldn't read your whole post because it was hurting my eyes. instead go ahead and read my post(s) and see if that sounds like you: http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=1128706
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Old 06-19-2017, 12:21 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Linx View Post
BTW, does anyone know how much pressure I need to set it to while doing a pressure test? I replaced the expansion tank cap and I don't see the pressure printed on it anywhere
The stock coolant cap is rated at 2.0 bar, but many use a 1.4 bar or lower.
https://www.fcpeuro.com/products/bmw...ap-17111742231
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Old 06-19-2017, 04:12 PM   #14
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Pgib8 yes there is a lot of similarities here. I haven't got a chance to finish reading the whole thing as I'm at work right now. I got a little past where you gave the compression readings.
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Old 06-19-2017, 04:18 PM   #15
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ok, well if it's the same thing, keep your rpms low, try not to drive faster than 50mph because in my case that produced much less gasses and i was able to go longer before the low coolant light came on.
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Old 06-19-2017, 04:29 PM   #16
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You definitely have a leak, but opening the bleed screw while the car is running is not how you bleed these things. Steam in the system doesn't cool anything, maybe if your car is parked in a field of four leaf clovers your head gasket is ok, but I wouldn't bet on it.
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Old 06-19-2017, 04:34 PM   #17
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Yeah I changed the et a long time ago and bled it correctly then. Just forgot the procedure when I was getting to do it yesterday. I'll try the correct way tonight, though I know my problem is more than bleeding the system
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Old 06-19-2017, 05:42 PM   #18
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Do a cooling system pressure test.
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Old 06-20-2017, 02:37 PM   #19
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I had the same problem. Your upper radiator hose is bad. The o-ring does not always seat properly. Get a new upper hose and your set.
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Old 06-20-2017, 03:15 PM   #20
Linx
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Suryateja I'm hoping you're correct. Because when I did the et I purchased a new aftermarket upper radiator hose. But the end that connects to the radiator wouldn't fit all the way in. So at the time I used my old hose.
About a year later, while driving, I notice steam coming from under my hood. Pull over and find out the head of the plastic bleed screw somehow broke off and there was a tiny hole the coolant was squirting out of. Mind you the bleed screw was new from when I did the et.
Anyways, I happened to have that aftermarket hose in my trunk. It was my only option since I couldn't get what was left of the screw out. When putting on the hose I had to really fight it to get it on. It's been working all this time. When I started having my current problem I would frequently check around that hose and stick my finger on the bottom side of it to see if I can feel any dripping.
Once I figure out my issue I'm going to also replace my radiator and hose. But if it is the hose, as you say, why would my coolant level go all the way down around 20 seconds after filling?
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