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Old 12-15-2011, 01:33 PM   #1
The Jiveman
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Coolant leak - dealer diagnosis - need explanations from fanatics

I've had a coolant leak in the past couple of months. I've been topping off a little every two weeks or so. It doesn't trigger the coolant dashboard warning within the 2-week time span, but the level drop is noticeable enough to need to top off.

So, I had the dealer inspect things. They pressure-tested the cooling system, and these are the things they want to replace (this is directly from their report):
  • Expansion tank / sensor / cap = $340.74
  • T-stat = $388.35
  • Lower (secondary) T-stat = $169.02
  • Upper hose / lower hose and sensor = $241.92
  • Coolant flush = $212.12
  • Belts = $208.44

SUBTOTAL = $1560
TOTAL ESTIMATE (parts + labor) = $1772


Since my car is a MANUAL transmission, it doesn't have the lower t-stat (right?), which I complained about, only to have them respond that they "meant the lower bracket that the expansion tank sits on..." Sounds fishy, but maybe it's an honest mistake. Whatever.

So, I have a few questions for you guys (here's the link to the REALOEM diagram for reference)
  1. What's meant by "sensor" in "expansion tank / sensor..."? Is that the "leveling switch" (part #5 on diagram)?
  2. What about the "sensor" in "Upper hose / lower hose and sensor"? Is that part #4 on this diagram?
  3. Do I need some "mounting bracket" or anything like that the tech was referring to, when he wrongly said "lower t-stat"?
  4. Do I really need to replace the cap, or is that just a good thing to do with the expansion tank replacement?
  5. Most importantly, can I go and buy these parts at PelicanParts.com (or something) making sure to select an OEM-supplier or "Genuine BMW" or should I get them from the dealer? Refer to the attached image below.

The car is a yr 2000 323i, at 150,000 miles right now. Basically, there's no way I'm paying $1700 for this job. First of all, I'm going to do the belts myself. Plus, I already determined that lower t-stat doesn't exist in manuals. But I WILL have professionals work on the rest, just not the dealer. Not that I don't DIY things, but I don't have a garage, and the weather is cold enough already. With my parts + cheaper labor rates at a non-dealer shop, it should be at least HALF of dealer's estimate.

I would appreciate your guys' help in explaining the parts list above. Thanks!
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Old 12-15-2011, 01:44 PM   #2
rjh325
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Everything you need is in this kit. If you can change belts, you can install everything needed. https://www.trademotion.com/partloca...catalogid=4462
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Old 12-15-2011, 01:46 PM   #3
lsteg
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rjh325 View Post
Everything you need is in this kit. If you can change belts, you can install everything needed. https://www.trademotion.com/partloca...catalogid=4462
this^

there is a really good DIY around here somewhere. Lots of fanatics have done this overhaul and I recommend it. or...take it to the shop and pay twice as much.
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Old 12-15-2011, 01:58 PM   #4
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I changed my cooling system components last week along with the OFHG and an oil change and it was rleatively easy. the hardest part was getting the car onto the ramps. It took me 5 hours total and about $400 in parts and is a very easy DIY. Use the DIY's from this site to guide you and maybe purchase a Haynes/ bentley repair manual.
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Old 12-15-2011, 02:00 PM   #5
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check the pulleys while you are at it, give em a spin to check the bearings.

PKE46BELTS1* Each $482.24 $482.24
$405.00
OEM BMW E46 Belts/Tensioners Replacement Kit
OEM BMW E46 Belts/Tensioners Replacement Kit. Kit includes both alternator and a/c belts, pulleys, and tensioners (includes a hydraulic alt. tensioner). For vehicles that have a mechanical alt. tensioner setup, the coversion kit includes all parts necessary to retrofit the hydraulic setup. Fits all E46 3 Series vehicles except M3's. NEW E46 M3 Kit in options specifically for all E46 M3's!
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Old 12-15-2011, 02:12 PM   #6
The Jiveman
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Thanks for quick replies and for the link to the Tischer kit. That's about $100 more than for the same parts on PelicanParts.com, though. Are the PelicanParts ok to use for this? Or is this a type of situation where you REALLY want the dealer parts?

You guys got me thinking about the DIY, now. I'm not afraid of doing it, it's just a major inconvenience when I don't have a garage and I need to go to someone's house to work on things for 5 hrs. Some things I just leave to shops, for convenience/sanity sake.

I'll tell you this, though... I called a local shop yesterday and asked for a quote on expansion tank, thermostat, upper radiator hose, and coolant flush. They quoted me $560 for parts and labor. At the time, I didn't know about lower radiator hose and those sensors, but still... With my parts and their labor, sounds like it could be under $600 total. Worth it?

But I'll look at the DIYs here to get a better idea of the work involved.
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Old 12-15-2011, 02:42 PM   #7
cvx5832
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Jiveman View Post
  • Belts = $208.44
This caught my eye the most because I coincidentally just did belts yesterday. Only at the dealership will they think a price like that is ok.

$10 for the AC belt, $17 for the main belt, both Contitechs. I probably overpaid too. I threw in the three pulleys and was under $90 delivered.

DIY will certainly save you some big bucks, but I understand the no-garage scenario. I had an E39 in a shared parking lot and apart from the funny looks which I could live with, there was no way I was hauling my tools 34 floors up and down. Needless to say the indie shops were my friend. While I'm an advocate of DIY, not having a space where you can back-off and leave it alone to reformulate your approach (if needed) will give you that additional stress to possibly mess things up. Even with a small job, it's always good to have all of your tools handy.

So while paying someone is often sacrilegious on these boards, it may be recommend in some scenarios.

Paolo
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Old 12-15-2011, 03:09 PM   #8
The Jiveman
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That's exactly what I mean. I love working on my car and learning more about it. But without a garage, I don't always have the luxury. I'm not even in a "shared garage." I park in a shared, covered parking space. It's covered but open on the sides. And in central Illinois it's about 39F degrees right now (which is un-seasonably "warm," mind you), so it's simply not realistic to work on things here, ever. In fact, when I DO work on my car, it's usually at a friend's or parents' garage or something. But I can't abuse that privilege too often, and especially not for longer jobs.

Speaking of belts... Yeah, I have a set of Contitech belts i purchased some 6-10 months ago, just so i have them handy. I've done them before, and I can do them again (small job, friend's garage is appropriate for that).
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Old 12-15-2011, 03:19 PM   #9
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Yup, you're getting hosed.
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Old 12-15-2011, 04:34 PM   #10
The Jiveman
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Quote:
Originally Posted by speedcrazy1532 View Post
Yup, you're getting hosed.
Could you be more specific? Getting hosed by dealer estimate? Or the $600-ish from a non-dealer shop?
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Old 12-15-2011, 04:39 PM   #11
flashmeow
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Jiveman View Post
I've had a coolant leak in the past couple of months. I've been topping off a little every two weeks or so. It doesn't trigger the coolant dashboard warning within the 2-week time span, but the level drop is noticeable enough to need to top off.

So, I had the dealer inspect things. They pressure-tested the cooling system, and these are the things they want to replace (this is directly from their report):
  • Expansion tank / sensor / cap = $340.74
  • T-stat = $388.35
  • Lower (secondary) T-stat = $169.02
  • Upper hose / lower hose and sensor = $241.92
  • Coolant flush = $212.12
  • Belts = $208.44

SUBTOTAL = $1560
TOTAL ESTIMATE (parts + labor) = $1772


Since my car is a MANUAL transmission, it doesn't have the lower t-stat (right?), which I complained about, only to have them respond that they "meant the lower bracket that the expansion tank sits on..." Sounds fishy, but maybe it's an honest mistake. Whatever.

So, I have a few questions for you guys (here's the link to the REALOEM diagram for reference)
  1. What's meant by "sensor" in "expansion tank / sensor..."? Is that the "leveling switch" (part #5 on diagram)?
  2. What about the "sensor" in "Upper hose / lower hose and sensor"? Is that part #4 on this diagram?
  3. Do I need some "mounting bracket" or anything like that the tech was referring to, when he wrongly said "lower t-stat"?
  4. Do I really need to replace the cap, or is that just a good thing to do with the expansion tank replacement?
  5. Most importantly, can I go and buy these parts at PelicanParts.com (or something) making sure to select an OEM-supplier or "Genuine BMW" or should I get them from the dealer? Refer to the attached image below.

The car is a yr 2000 323i, at 150,000 miles right now. Basically, there's no way I'm paying $1700 for this job. First of all, I'm going to do the belts myself. Plus, I already determined that lower t-stat doesn't exist in manuals. But I WILL have professionals work on the rest, just not the dealer. Not that I don't DIY things, but I don't have a garage, and the weather is cold enough already. With my parts + cheaper labor rates at a non-dealer shop, it should be at least HALF of dealer's estimate.

I would appreciate your guys' help in explaining the parts list above. Thanks!
all of this can be done one day on the weekend. good job on getting your car diagnosed by the dealers but I think you should do this project for yourself to save money.

to answer your question, yes, since you have a manual you don't have a "lower T-stat." the lower T-stat is the for the auto tranny. this t-stat is near the bottom of the expansion tank

Good Luck!!!!!
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Old 12-15-2011, 05:02 PM   #12
98Z51
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Jiveman View Post
Thanks for quick replies and for the link to the Tischer kit. That's about $100 more than for the same parts on PelicanParts.com, though. Are the PelicanParts ok to use for this? Or is this a type of situation where you REALLY want the dealer parts?

You guys got me thinking about the DIY, now. I'm not afraid of doing it, it's just a major inconvenience when I don't have a garage and I need to go to someone's house to work on things for 5 hrs. Some things I just leave to shops, for convenience/sanity sake.

I'll tell you this, though... I called a local shop yesterday and asked for a quote on expansion tank, thermostat, upper radiator hose, and coolant flush. They quoted me $560 for parts and labor. At the time, I didn't know about lower radiator hose and those sensors, but still... With my parts and their labor, sounds like it could be under $600 total. Worth it?

But I'll look at the DIYs here to get a better idea of the work involved.
I just installed the Tischer kit in my garage last night. The install wasn't very difficult, the worst part was removing the overflow tank. I ended up removing the whole bracket from the car and separating it outside of the vehicle. The job is pretty much like you see on the DIY's around here.

I think BMW parts from the dealer have a 2 year warranty. Not sure about the stuff from Pelican.

If you don't want to work outside in the cold, $560 sounds fair, especially if you can use the Tischer kit. Hopefully you can borrow a friend's garage for an afternoon and save some money.
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Old 12-15-2011, 05:46 PM   #13
dsio
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Last 2 leaky E46s I've had were both the coolant temp sensor leaking, and were $5 to fix... not suggesting you don't overhaul your cooling system, just might be worth seeing if you get any leaks around that thing (part 4 on the diagram you linked). A new O-ring is cheap and easy to fit on a manual car in particular.
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Old 12-15-2011, 05:50 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Jiveman View Post
  1. What's meant by "sensor" in "expansion tank / sensor..."? Is that the "leveling switch" (part #5 on diagram)?
  2. What about the "sensor" in "Upper hose / lower hose and sensor"? Is that part #4 on this diagram?
  3. Do I need some "mounting bracket" or anything like that the tech was referring to, when he wrongly said "lower t-stat"?
  4. Do I really need to replace the cap, or is that just a good thing to do with the expansion tank replacement?
  5. Most importantly, can I go and buy these parts at PelicanParts.com (or something) making sure to select an OEM-supplier or "Genuine BMW" or should I get them from the dealer? Refer to the attached image below.

1/2 Yes, they want you to buy both of those. It sounds like you don't need either of them.
3. already answered
4. It's cheap for the piece of mind, but most folks don't and get away with it. You could always buy one later if it leaks?
5. I don't even buy "Genuine BMW" on a lot of stuff, but it's the same as you'll get at the dealer for a cheaper price. No-brainer.

It's all personal preference, but a cooling system refresh is pretty simple and the dealer is obviously trying to pull one over on you. It is highly doubtful that all of those parts need replacing. I would replace the ET and that o-ring. They also sell fluorescent dye complete with UV light/glasses if you're having difficulties isolating the leak yourself. Might want to replace belts after you finish the cooling service, as you or your mechanic might end up taking them on/off a few times...no sense in stretching out a new belt.

Good luck!

Last edited by lcoleman; 12-15-2011 at 05:55 PM.
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Old 12-15-2011, 05:58 PM   #15
bimmerbro$$$
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I have the same car with the same problem and just replaced the radiator to fix the coolant leak $270
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Old 12-15-2011, 06:29 PM   #16
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OP, my original radiator finally started to leak at around 185K miles. Yours might be fine, might not be. It could be an 0-ring, but obviously the dealer thinks your ET is leaking and wants to replace everything it can while there. It is a good suggestion for reliability's sake, but might not be necessary mechanically.

I'm sure someone said clean it up and find the leak.

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Old 12-15-2011, 07:15 PM   #17
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I'm actually replacing my water pump and thermostat this weekend. Here's a link to a kit with all of the parts (minus the fluid) that you'd need, and it has a pump with an upgraded metal (instead of composite) impeller. Metal Impeller - Pelican Parts

This second one is the same kit, but with a pump that has the old style composite impeller. Composite Impeller - Pelican Parts
I went through and bough all of the parts separate, because I didn't need the hoses, water wetter, or gasket for the thermostat because the thermostat already comes with one.. Also, look under the "notes" section to see what each kit comes with.

Here's a link to a DIY that should help you replace all of the stuff you have to. http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthr...cooling+system

Also, I live in South-Eastern Wisconsin, so if you live anywhere near the border I'd be more than happy to help you do the overhaul for free. Just PM me and we'll see if we can't work something out.

--Ryan

EDIT: I just saw that you don't want to do a DIY because of the weather and lack of a garage. All in all this shouldn't take more than an hour and a half once you get down to it, and I'm doing mine in my apartment building's parking lot.. it's really easy as far as repairs go.

Last edited by ryansteel87; 12-15-2011 at 07:21 PM.
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Old 12-15-2011, 07:28 PM   #18
Bemwe_03i
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What i plan to do if i dont diy is buy that kit and send it in at some indy shop where they know bmw's. It wont cost that much labour compared to bmw stealership.
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Old 12-15-2011, 07:28 PM   #19
Big Rick
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I thought Pelican had the new and improved composite water pump impeller? That's what I was going to order... (Along with hoses, sensors, etc.) I know that the factory WP had a tendency to crack at the shaft and sluff off pieces of plastic over the years prior to complete failure. I have read that the new composite doesn't do that. Thoughts? Comments?
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Old 12-15-2011, 08:03 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Jiveman View Post
Thanks for quick replies and for the link to the Tischer kit. That's about $100 more than for the same parts on PelicanParts.com, though. Are the PelicanParts ok to use for this? Or is this a type of situation where you REALLY want the dealer parts?

You guys got me thinking about the DIY, now. I'm not afraid of doing it, it's just a major inconvenience when I don't have a garage and I need to go to someone's house to work on things for 5 hrs. Some things I just leave to shops, for convenience/sanity sake.

I'll tell you this, though... I called a local shop yesterday and asked for a quote on expansion tank, thermostat, upper radiator hose, and coolant flush. They quoted me $560 for parts and labor. At the time, I didn't know about lower radiator hose and those sensors, but still... With my parts and their labor, sounds like it could be under $600 total. Worth it?

But I'll look at the DIYs here to get a better idea of the work involved.
Pelican Parts are fine to go with. I think the only thing you really want to stay OEM on is the expansion tank, as non OEM ones seem to fail more frequently. Also check out ECS, they sell a complete cooling system kit as well.

the $560 for parts and labor is fair. A lot of shops dont like it, but you can always ask around to see if you can supply your own parts
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