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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 06-04-2013, 05:10 PM   #1
agj727
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My Ride: 2003 325i
Please help with my coolant leak!

Hello. About two weeks ago my low coolant light came on. I opened the expansion tank cap, and it was very low. I filled it with distilled water, as I did not have any coolant whatsoever, yet alone bmw coolant. It was good for about 5 days. I drove about 30 miles to an amusement park, and of course 30 miles back a couple of hours later. We stopped at a gas station and when I came out, I noticed a stream of coolant coming out from under my car (no noise from engine, no overheating, no steam). The low coolant light came on again for the 2nd time the next day, so I decided to not drive it until I ordered some parts to repair it to avoid any highly costly repairs. I just purchased the car from a reputable dealer on 5/14. I opened the hood after I got home a couple of hours later to see if I could see any leaks or residue. I did not see anything, but that obviously doesn't mean that there is nothing there. I did not drop the splash shield to check to see where the leak was coming from (I now know I should have, but I didn't as I have never performed any DIYs on my bimmer except for a simple stereo replacement). I have a 2003 325i automatic. Like I said, I am unsure where the leak is coming from, so I went with the most likely of culprits, the expansion tank. I ordered an expansion tank, new expansion tank cap, thermostat assembly (since i have the automatic and they frequently break during expansion tank removal), and some genuine bmw coolant. I have been looking all over this forum, as well as many others, to gain some confidence on my DIY. I could not find a full DIY for the automatics, as most on the forums have manuals, so I was wondering if anyone had a good link for a full automatic DIY. Also, a couple of questions. Do I have to remove the fan when performing this particular DIY? Does the expansion tank sit directly on the thermostat or is there a connector between the two? Any help will be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Edit: I just realized that I ordered the thermostat assembly instead of the automatic transmission thermostat. Boy am I stupid! This is the part that i ordered BMW Thermostat Assembly - Wahler (OEM) 11537509227 from FCP

Last edited by agj727; 06-04-2013 at 05:18 PM.
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Old 06-04-2013, 06:11 PM   #2
MJLavelle
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I don't have a DIY link, but I do have some advice - do not re-use your fan clutch or fan blades. If there is even a small crack in one of the blades after removal and re-installation, it will fail catastrophically, as in the fan blade punching a dent in your hood, and taking out your radiator.
If you consider how difficult it is to remove that fan assembly, then the chance of damage is reasonably high. Check out the thread by member "Daves325in2012" if you want to see what a grenading fan can do. If yours is original, and chances are it is, then the blades on the fan are going to be brittle.
I am sure there aware people who have reused their fan blades and clutches, and not had a problem. But IMO, it is not worth the risk, when you consider the cost.
If you don't want to go with a new clutch and fan assembly, you can do the electric fan switch.
As far as a DIY, I have seen some YouTube video's for removing the fan clutch. After that, it is pretty much the same process as the manual cars.
BTW - That thermostat that you ordered may not be the part you wanted, but I would keep it, and change it out as well. The thermostat for the expansion tank is part #17111437362.

Last edited by MJLavelle; 06-04-2013 at 06:13 PM.
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Old 06-04-2013, 06:33 PM   #3
lszlszx
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Yes, keep the thermostat, that's another possible source of leak and before you order more parts, find out what's leaking, it could be the water pump, radiator, hoses and so on.
Even better, if your car has over 70K and everything is original, replace the entire cooling system for peace of mind.
See the cooling system sticky on top of this page!

Last edited by lszlszx; 06-05-2013 at 12:04 AM.
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Old 06-04-2013, 06:39 PM   #4
wildirish317
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Unless you want to spend the summer working on your cooling system, you should consider a complete overhaul. The general experience on the forum is that the entire cooling system (radiator excepted) will fail within a six month period of the first part failure. I suggest you park your car, order the parts from this list: http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showpos...09&postcount=1, and plan on most of a day to do the job the first time.

This was my first "mod" when I bought the car in September (93k miles). I felt like I "overreacted" at first, but after six months of reading threads like yours, I have peace of mind that you would't believe.
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Old 06-04-2013, 11:39 PM   #5
MJLavelle
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I agree with the others. Replacing parts as they break on an e46 cooling system will drive you crazy, and put your car at risk. Replacing one leaking part usually just moves the stress to the next weakest part, and so on.
The dolling system in our cars is different in some ways, the biggest being that it operates at 2 bars of pressure, which is double the normal 1 bar of pressure that most cars use.
There is also a ton of plastic parts in the cooling system, and in your case, that is 10-11 year old plastic. Plastic that old gets very brittle, and is subject to cracking. That is just the new reality with cars now. Before I owned a BMW, I have never had to even replace a water pump, let alone an entire cooling system, and I drove cars well past 200k miles. But, it is a good idea to go ahead and replace everything now, and mark it off of your list of worries.
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Old 06-06-2013, 11:02 PM   #6
agj727
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Thank you guys for all of your advice! I am getting the car checked out by the indy tomorrow. I don't have jack stands or ramps of some sort (probably should invest in) so he's gonna put it up on the lift and drop the splash shield to see what's going on. I'll let you guys know what the culprit is. Thanks again!
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Old 06-07-2013, 02:47 PM   #7
agj727
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Turns out that it was the water pump. I am going to probably do a DIY and replace that, the thermostat, and probably the lower and upper hoses. Anyone know a good DIY for the the water pump and thermostat?
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Old 06-07-2013, 06:48 PM   #8
wildirish317
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Please help with my coolant leak!

The money you save DIY, you spend on ramps, lifts, and tools. Eventually, you start saving money. If you're hard enough, you start charging your friends to borrow the tools, and you begin to fund your maintenance.


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Old 06-07-2013, 11:00 PM   #9
agj727
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wildirish317 View Post
The money you save DIY, you spend on ramps, lifts, and tools. Eventually, you start saving money. If you're hard enough, you start charging your friends to borrow the tools, and you begin to fund your maintenance.


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Haha, I don't think I could do that! I'm too nice haha. I could possibly charge them for the fix itself. Maybe I'm on to something...
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Old 06-07-2013, 11:29 PM   #10
My325XI
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try this site...
http://www.bmw330ci.net/maintenance/completecoolant.php
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Old 06-07-2013, 11:53 PM   #11
kwake330xi
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Please help with my coolant leak!

I am not a mechanic, and after my water pump went I did the coolant overhaul in January in sub 20 degree weather. It was a lot of work and had my car down for a few days, but saved me a lot of dough and gave me good experience and my cooling systems been fine ever since. Read! Read! Read diys and threads on this topic to learn how and what tools you need etc. And if you can afford it, do hoses, belts, pulleys, tstat, etc. if you do pulleys u hafta watch which setup you have, I used a Gates part number that is not listed for the car for one of them, i forget which one. IMO the radiator and cooling fan and clutch weren't necessary on my car


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Last edited by kwake330xi; 06-07-2013 at 11:53 PM.
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Old 06-08-2013, 06:46 AM   #12
agj727
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Thank you! Great resource. I had seen this site before, but could not remember it.
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Old 06-08-2013, 12:56 PM   #13
05graysport
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You should def. drop the money on the parts and get all the work done now. The last thing you want to do is have to worry about this again and be left stranded.

Expansion Tank, Thermostat, Waterpump, AC+Serp Belt, A/T Thermostat should be good for the job. Honestly not a hard job. If you are looking to save some money, buy the parts and post around the regional forum near your area and spend a Saturday doing it with someone. If you were closer, I would have helped you out.

1) Remove Intake Boot + Airbox
2) Remove Fan-32mm screw-Reverse Threaded (turn right to loosen)
3) Remove Fan Shroud
4) Remove Belts
5) Drain Coolant, remove hoses to Expansion Tank and pull UP on expansion tank, A/T thermostat may or may not break, be careful but its not possible to be sure. Also remove the coolant level sensor under the expansion tank.
6) Replace WP, Thermostat, New Expansion Tank. Re-install belts.
7) Double Check everything. Add Coolant with bleeder screw open. Fire her up, watch it run beautiful. Next morning on a cold start, check coolant level add as necessary.

Go buy some ramps and tools, you can do this in 3 hours tops.

Good Luck
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Old 06-08-2013, 03:27 PM   #14
agj727
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 05graysport View Post
You should def. drop the money on the parts and get all the work done now. The last thing you want to do is have to worry about this again and be left stranded.

Expansion Tank, Thermostat, Waterpump, AC+Serp Belt, A/T Thermostat should be good for the job. Honestly not a hard job. If you are looking to save some money, buy the parts and post around the regional forum near your area and spend a Saturday doing it with someone. If you were closer, I would have helped you out.

1) Remove Intake Boot + Airbox
2) Remove Fan-32mm screw-Reverse Threaded (turn right to loosen)
3) Remove Fan Shroud
4) Remove Belts
5) Drain Coolant, remove hoses to Expansion Tank and pull UP on expansion tank, A/T thermostat may or may not break, be careful but its not possible to be sure. Also remove the coolant level sensor under the expansion tank.
6) Replace WP, Thermostat, New Expansion Tank. Re-install belts.
7) Double Check everything. Add Coolant with bleeder screw open. Fire her up, watch it run beautiful. Next morning on a cold start, check coolant level add as necessary.

Go buy some ramps and tools, you can do this in 3 hours tops.

Good Luck
Thank you for this info! This is why I love this forum already: all of the great users and advice given. I really do appreciate it. I pretty much knew that I would be doing the cooling system "overhaul" the whole time, but just wanted to be sure that it wasn't an extremely simple fix such as a new exp. tank cap or bleeder screw. I will definitely get some ramps. I am actually thinking about building some out of solid wood for added security as I am cautious about buying plastic Rhino Ramps (even if they are rated for 6 tons). Turns out the expansion tank was already replaced by the previous owner (as stated on the carfax report), so I will most likely just change the thermostat, WP, belt, and rad hoses. What will be the tools that I need (other than the fan remover tool)?

Last edited by agj727; 06-08-2013 at 03:28 PM.
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Old 06-08-2013, 03:41 PM   #15
05graysport
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Quote:
Originally Posted by agj727 View Post
Thank you for this info! This is why I love this forum already: all of the great users and advice given. I really do appreciate it. I pretty much knew that I would be doing the cooling system "overhaul" the whole time, but just wanted to be sure that it wasn't an extremely simple fix such as a new exp. tank cap or bleeder screw. I will definitely get some ramps. I am actually thinking about building some out of solid wood for added security as I am cautious about buying plastic Rhino Ramps (even if they are rated for 6 tons). Turns out the expansion tank was already replaced by the previous owner (as stated on the carfax report), so I will most likely just change the thermostat, WP, belt, and rad hoses. What will be the tools that I need (other than the fan remover tool)?
Plastic Rhino Ramps are perfect, they give you the perfect space under the vehicle.

Be careful about the Expansion tank being good. These tanks get very small cracks that may not be able to be seen when the car is COLD. This tank builds up quite a bit of pressure when it is hot, and therefore the crack(if there is one) will start spilling liquid when it gets hot, not when you have a cold car.

You should find a few DIYs on here for this job, or you can use google and it will have a few links that have great detailed pictures.

Off the top of my head.

1) You don't need the fan removal tool. You can buy a skinny 32MM wrench, and place it on the 32mm bolt which connects the fan(for removal) and holding the wrench in the middle, give it a hard whack with a hammer to the right, being careful that the wrench is not in the path of the rad hoses. This will loosen the fan bolt, may take one or two tries, and then you can unwind the fan with your hand.

Then make sure to remove the Fan Shroud with the fan together, you can not remove the fan without removing the shroud with it.

1) 32 MM wrench
2) T25 Torx screwdriver for the fan shround
3) T50 TORX bit on 3/8 drive for loosening the a/c tensioner and main tensioner. Move the T50 bit to the RIGHT, slowly but straight and even, the belt will become loose, hold, until you remove the belt completely, then let go of the torx bit. Remeber, right to loosen the tension on the belts.

Then just your normal sockets for the WP, thermostat. Couple 10mm bolts and I believe one 13mm on the Thermostat.

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Old 06-08-2013, 08:50 PM   #16
agj727
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 05graysport View Post
Plastic Rhino Ramps are perfect, they give you the perfect space under the vehicle.

Be careful about the Expansion tank being good. These tanks get very small cracks that may not be able to be seen when the car is COLD. This tank builds up quite a bit of pressure when it is hot, and therefore the crack(if there is one) will start spilling liquid when it gets hot, not when you have a cold car.

You should find a few DIYs on here for this job, or you can use google and it will have a few links that have great detailed pictures.

Off the top of my head.

1) You don't need the fan removal tool. You can buy a skinny 32MM wrench, and place it on the 32mm bolt which connects the fan(for removal) and holding the wrench in the middle, give it a hard whack with a hammer to the right, being careful that the wrench is not in the path of the rad hoses. This will loosen the fan bolt, may take one or two tries, and then you can unwind the fan with your hand.

Then make sure to remove the Fan Shroud with the fan together, you can not remove the fan without removing the shroud with it.

1) 32 MM wrench
2) T25 Torx screwdriver for the fan shround
3) T50 TORX bit on 3/8 drive for loosening the a/c tensioner and main tensioner. Move the T50 bit to the RIGHT, slowly but straight and even, the belt will become loose, hold, until you remove the belt completely, then let go of the torx bit. Remeber, right to loosen the tension on the belts.

Then just your normal sockets for the WP, thermostat. Couple 10mm bolts and I believe one 13mm on the Thermostat.

Yeah, advanced auto has a kit with the fan clutch tool and the wrench that I can rent for free so that's what I plan on doing. Thank you for the tools needed!

Last edited by agj727; 06-08-2013 at 08:51 PM.
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