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Old 12-09-2006, 07:14 AM   #1
TwoE46s
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The "why BMW only" coolant question answered

As this continually comes up, I thought it would be good to post a recent tech column answer from Bimmer Magazine as to why you should only use BMW coolant. This is from Mike Miller's Tech Q&A column in the Dec. 2006 Bimmer, page 36. Mike also writes for The Roundel (the BMW Car Club of America magazine). As I have noted before, if you are a BMW enthusiast, you should belong to the BMW CCA if only to get Roundel, and you should also get Bimmer which caters a little more to newer and modified cars. You'll learn a lot from Mile Miller's columns, and read them all as many questions cross BMW model lines, such as from the same Dec column he talks about considerations for putting larger wheels and tires on an E36 that would apply to E46s as well..

So here is Mike's comments, that I'll take liberty to paraphrase a bit (and I'm not responsible for typos!).

"BMWs are incredibly sensitive to operating fluids, including coolant. I've always felt this is due to the metallurgy used in the engine construction, but there is no way to know for sure. On neglected cars, aluminum oxidation builds up in various places within the engine, including on older models, between coolant hoses and aluminum fittings. That is the most obvious manifestation of aluminum oxidation. It causes the worst problems inside the sometimes tiny coolant passages of the cylinder head, where it can act like hardening of the arteries, restricing or even cutting off the supply of coolant to various parts of the cylinder head. This sometimes presents itself as phantom overheating with no known cause, though more often than not the cylinder head gasket blows before that.

I learned long ago that using phosphate free Original BMW anit freeze mixed 50-50 with distilled water and changing it every 2 years, of even four years on hotter running OBD-II modles essentially eliminates aluminum oxidation. The cars I mantain don't blow head gaskets or have cronic overheating problems. ......................."


again, credit to Bimmer Magazine and Mike Miller
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Old 12-09-2006, 07:24 AM   #2
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why wouldnt you use bmw coolant? woud you not use a bmw oil filter? aftermarket parts are cheaper for a reason there simply not made up to par with bmws suppliers now im not saying everything you replace has to be oem but critical engine parts like these def should be these motors are very sensitive and expensive dont be throwing things in that will hurt it
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Old 12-09-2006, 07:30 AM   #3
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Not really. There are many aluminum friendly coolants out there that work just fine in BMW engines. The operative issue is picking a suitable replacement. I know many long time BMW owners that have run even Prestone and tap water and gone 300k without issue. The issue is changing the fluid...something many owners neglect. You have to purge the acidity due to permeation of hydrocarbons into the coolant stream due to combustion that attacks the metal. As to head gaskets...on most BMW sixes...150K to 200K miles is the rule of thumb...about twice that of a needed bottom end rebuild. Changing fluids is more important that using BMW specific fluid and that applies to the Steptronic trans as well.
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Old 12-09-2006, 07:33 AM   #4
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why wouldnt you use bmw coolant? woud you not use a bmw oil filter? aftermarket parts are cheaper for a reason there simply not made up to par with bmws suppliers now im not saying everything you replace has to be oem but critical engine parts like these def should be these motors are very sensitive and expensive dont be throwing things in that will hurt it
Sorry bro...more baloney. They simply cost more. Yes they are good but there are many suitable replacements....Mann filters....Zerek G06 approved for MB is about half the price of BMW coolant at Autozone and just as good if not better.
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Old 12-09-2006, 09:53 AM   #5
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I don't know guys, my Bimmers cost over $45k each new. I think I'll spend the extra $10 or $15 dollars every few years on 'BMW only" to have a little piece of mind. Bob
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Old 12-09-2006, 11:02 AM   #6
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I remember talking to the service guy at the Acura shop and hearing this loud noise coming from a car pulling up to the service lane. This guy had put on some aftermarket brakes on his Acura. OMG it was it sounded like it was killing the car. I never could understand why people would buy parts that's a "quick'" fix then later returning cause its not working. Especially parts that you need to keep your car safe ie windshield wipers, brakes, belts.

totally agree rwh330CIC
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Old 12-09-2006, 11:04 AM   #7
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I don't know guys, my Bimmers cost over $45k each new. I think I'll spend the extra $10 or $15 dollars every few years on 'BMW only" to have a little piece of mind. Bob
I completely agree with this statement.
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Old 12-09-2006, 11:16 AM   #8
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I don't know guys, my Bimmers cost over $45k each new. I think I'll spend the extra $10 or $15 dollars every few years on 'BMW only" to have a little piece of mind. Bob
Pass the Kool Aid...


It was summed up above - you need to understand what you are buying as a replacement. Does anyone here think BMW has a coolant factory somewhere? No. Of course not. You can buy comparable components elsewhere. I do see an advantage in that it is easy and there is no question. Frankly, the coolant is not much more than other quality coolants.

This is a dangerous (costly) road though ... this mindset is what allows BMW to charge nearly double for something like a brake rotor or windshield glass, just because it has the roundel stamp on it. It must be better then!
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Old 12-09-2006, 11:40 AM   #9
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Pass the Kool Aid...


It was summed up above - you need to understand what you are buying as a replacement. Does anyone here think BMW has a coolant factory somewhere? No. Of course not. You can buy comparable components elsewhere. I do see an advantage in that it is easy and there is no question. Frankly, the coolant is not much more than other quality coolants.

This is a dangerous (costly) road though ... this mindset is what allows BMW to charge nearly double for something like a brake rotor or windshield glass, just because it has the roundel stamp on it. It must be better then!
Exactly. Zerex makes the BMW specific coolant. The guys above that don't know any better are frankly better off with the BMW brand stuff. And that also applies to them deferring their maintenance to professional mechanics at or around $80-100/hr.
Those are just the customers that BMW wants as they make beaucoup bucks by the mark up of certain fluids in particular.
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Old 12-09-2006, 12:04 PM   #10
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"BMW coolant" is like "BMW motor oil"...another privately labeled product made by someone else (probably Prestone lol), and marked up ridiculously in price to alter its perceived value. its a classic marketing tactic. granted, its stupid to use cheap stuff or fluids that don't agree with the materials in the block...but, find out what it really is, and you wont have any problems.
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Old 12-09-2006, 01:29 PM   #11
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Pass the Kool Aid...
dont pass the kool aid if Jim Jones made it
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Old 12-09-2006, 01:42 PM   #12
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mann is the supplier for the oil filters and its what i use in my bmw im talking about pep boys selection of oil filters and coolant you wont find bmws suppliers brand there this post was originally derived from some one saying prestone makes a life time coolant now but thats been around for a long time now you should always use what bmw uses
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Old 12-09-2006, 01:55 PM   #13
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"BMW coolant" is like "BMW motor oil"...another privately labeled product made by someone else (probably Prestone lol), and marked up ridiculously in price to alter its perceived value. its a classic marketing tactic. granted, its stupid to use cheap stuff or fluids that don't agree with the materials in the block...but, find out what it really is, and you wont have any problems.

Actually, BMW motor oil is specially formulated by Castrol specifically for BMW's. The standard Castrol 5-30 full synthetic is different from the "castrol" BMW oil. I have a good friend who runs a independent BMW repair shop and he was the one that informed me of this. So to counter your statement about BMW oil, it is different and it is important to use that oil for the most reliable longevity. There are certain standards which i dont know off hand that the BMW oil is rated at, Thus dont use any oil that is no rated to those standards
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Old 12-09-2006, 01:58 PM   #14
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Zerex G05 is the same phosphate-free formulation as the BMW labeled stuff...
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Old 12-09-2006, 03:20 PM   #15
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Who cares if some people will only use BMW parts. Sheep follow the herd.

I use a combination of what works, is not harmful, is convenient and is cost effective.

Some people take this to extremes and are penny-wise, but dollar crazy like the with Acura described above and some are at the other extreme of paying 200% markup on everything out of fear.

I ride the middle and I don't care if anyone does what I do or not. I changed my coolant as soon as I bought my used 323i with 87K miles and I put in Prestone. I changed it because I'm concerned about the protection of the system and the functionality - but I didn't use BMW coolant because I'm not going to drive 30mi to a crappy BMW dealership or 55mi to a half-way decent one just for coolant.

Thanks TwoE46s for bringing a non-official but well respected piece of literature to the table, but that's all it is guys. Do with the info what you will.

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Old 12-09-2006, 06:38 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rwh330CiC View Post
I don't know guys, my Bimmers cost over $45k each new. I think I'll spend the extra $10 or $15 dollars every few years on 'BMW only" to have a little piece of mind. Bob
i need to get out to the dealership this week and use those seasonal coupons they just mailed
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Old 12-09-2006, 08:59 PM   #17
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Exactly. Zerex makes the BMW specific coolant. The guys above that don't know any better are frankly better off with the BMW brand stuff. And that also applies to them deferring their maintenance to professional mechanics at or around $80-100/hr.
Those are just the customers that BMW wants as they make beaucoup bucks by the mark up of certain fluids in particular.
George
I could not have said it better myself. The problem is (unfortunately), a lot of BMW guys aren't real car guys, aka they don't even understand what is going on with their car. So when they hear something from a so called professional (which by the way, automotive journalists are NOT), they take it literally and live by their words as some sort of religion.

But obviously, there is nothing "wrong" with going with all BMW fluids. I think some people need this false sense of security so that if something does go wrong, they can at least say "well its not my fault because I used BMW fluids" to compensate for their lack of automotive knowledge.

This isn't about saving money or using cheap products. What if someone decides to use Motul fluids in their vehicle? These fluids cost way more than BMW fluids, are scientifically proven to provide better protection against wear and corrosion, and yet some people would still swear by their beloved "BMW" only brand fluids, simply because it has a name on it.
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Old 12-10-2006, 06:32 AM   #18
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There is a fairly good reason Mike Miller likes to recommend OEM fluids for some/most applications. Its a safe bet to do it, especially in a well regarded, BMW endorsed, enthusiast's magazine. He also likes Redline fluids when it comes to driveline components too.

There is definately some merit in the OEM stuff. BMW takes a lot more care when sourcing or specing fluids than some of the other manufacturers, but still targeting the lowest common denominator. Take the Hi Performance Synthetic Oil (aka OEM oil). This is NOT your daddy's off the shelf Castrol Syntec 5W-30. It has a better basestock (still grp. III but ONLY grp. III 5W-30 to meet ACEA A3) and a much more robust additive package. These combine to allow the oil to go the distance of the longer change intervals that seem popular these days. It went 13K in my car from the previous owner and an oil analysis showed it to have done very well.

The coolant is the same way. Borate free, amine free, phosphate free, and ultra low silicate. About the only thing not free is the price . It was speced by BMW for the multitude of metals, plastics and rubber that it will be used with. I believe it is sourced from Pentosin, a very well respected European fluid manufacturer.

Points to ponder with fluids. Nothing wrong with using something else as long as it's equal to or better than the OEM. You have to do your homework when looking for these. I've heard plenty of horror stories with folks putting an OAT (organic acid technology, aka DexCool) coolant in with a standard glycol and creating all sorts of havoc. Make sure you know what you are doing. If you want to change coolants, or brake fluid, or any others, flush as much as you can before replacing. Bad things can sometimes happen when different fluids are mixed. Another thing to remember is change whatever you use on a regular basis. Some people get sucked into the myth of "lifetime" fluids and greatly exaggerated maintenance intervals and neglect their vehicles. The old adage applies, "you can pay now or pay later".

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Old 12-10-2006, 07:38 AM   #19
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Good to see some logical discussion, but I do want to throw another thought on the table with regards to the fact that BMW certainly does not make thier own coolant. In fact, think about this - BMW doesn't actually manufacter a lot of what is put into thier cars, but I think we'll all agree, a BMW is a unique product that we all find extra value in.

However, in the automotive world as well as with many other industries, BMW does set thier specs / requirements with thier manufacturers and while you may find other brand name / off the shelf products made by the same actual manufacturer, there can be minor to major differences in what appears to be the same product. And in many cases, the OEM agreement does not allow the actual manufacturer to produce a similar product under another name.

My perspective on the coolant thing question is that it's something that you do at the most every 2 years, and the cost is inconsequential. I don't have the time nor any desire to worry about what other coolant may or may not perform appropriately in a BMW, and the cost of making a mistake in this area is extreme in both cost and safety on the road. If that doesn't make me a car guy, well, let's meet at the track and we can have that discussion around lap times. (no offence taken, I do undertand your perpective Lugnut! )
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Old 12-10-2006, 07:48 AM   #20
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Good to see some logical discussion, but I do want to throw another thought on the table with regards to the fact that BMW certainly does not make thier own coolant. In fact, think about this - BMW doesn't actually manufacter a lot of what is put into thier cars, but I think we'll all agree, a BMW is a unique product that we all find extra value in.

However, in the automotive world as well as with many other industries, BMW does set thier specs / requirements with thier manufacturers and while you may find other brand name / off the shelf products made by the same actual manufacturer, there can be minor to major differences in what appears to be the same product. And in many cases, the OEM agreement does not allow the actual manufacturer to produce a similar product under another name.

My perspective on the coolant thing question is that it's something that you do at the most every 2 years, and the cost is inconsequential. I don't have the time nor any desire to worry about what other coolant may or may not perform appropriately in a BMW, and the cost of making a mistake in this area is extreme in both cost and safety on the road. If that doesn't make me a car guy, well, let's meet at the track and we can have that discussion around lap times.
There is a sweet spot all said and done. Since you only need a gallon of coolant every couple of years...why not spend the extra 8 bucks for the BMW coolant. That is one thought. BUT...as with BMW oil for example, I personally prefer Mobil 1 to CasterOil. Just me. I run a step in my current BMW and the step fluid is the biggest conundrum...because of the friction modifiers in the ESSO fluid. Anybody that knows motorcycles knows that wet clutches are sensitive to fluid lubricity. So getting the right amount of friction in the oil is big based upon the design of the clutch packs.
Anyway...we can debate this stuff ad nauseum and we have :-) But sheep do follow the herd and as mentioned, many if not most BMW owners don't know much about their cars. I like to rebuild BMW's and design cars for a living so I have a bit different perspective then some.
George
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