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Old 10-13-2012, 09:30 AM   #1
LittleBear
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Coolant leak, Here?

Hello BMW Experts!
Yesterday my coolant level light came on and I saw steam from the front of my car! The temp needle stayed fine so I made it home, though.
I have a 2001 330i, with ~ 107k, water pump replaced a while ago. When I open the hood I see coolant seemingly sprayed over most of the front of the radiator, with a little pooling in the plastic undertray at the bottom, still in front. The front of the radiator seems wet at least up to the mid brace, I think higher. Behind the radiator it is dry, except for a small stream over on the drivers side of the plastic undertray, maybe under that hose (?). The ET looks dry.
So what gets stuff in front of the radiator wet, but not in the back of the radiator?

TIA! Murf
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Old 10-13-2012, 09:32 AM   #2
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Maybe ET cap?
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Old 10-13-2012, 09:37 AM   #3
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Listening to the story you tell----the radiator

Going with the normal suspects first----------the ET
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Old 10-13-2012, 09:44 AM   #4
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Clean things up with water...get car to op temp and look to see where coolant is leaking.

Also, you can't see in front of your radiator, only the back of it. The radiator looking thing in front is the AC condenser...and that could be wet because you used the ac and you're seeing condensation...maybe.

Fill to between min and max on level ground, in a.m. when cold and don't drive it until you know what your issue is. It's unlikely that only the radiator would be leaking...if you haven't replaced anything else in your system, it could easily be ET and or cap because you overfilled the ET...but you need to read many cooling threads to figure this out.

Do not drive until you know what your issue is, though. You're putting your engine at risk.
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Old 10-13-2012, 10:01 AM   #5
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Hi Folks,
Well, the ET cap is fine & there is no sign of leakage there. Yes, from the front I can only see the a/c & not the radiator, but the fluid is radiator fluid.
But what goes on up front there that might leak coolant? And it seems like a slow leak....

Manual tranny

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Old 10-13-2012, 10:36 AM   #6
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Any photos of the suspected leak area?
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Old 10-13-2012, 11:02 AM   #7
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Hi Folks,
Well, the ET cap is fine & there is no sign of leakage there. Yes, from the front I can only see the a/c & not the radiator, but the fluid is radiator fluid.
But what goes on up front there that might leak coolant? And it seems like a slow leak....

Manual tranny

Murf
only thing up front is the radiator
If you suspect the radiator, remove your cooling fan and look carefully at it, if there's coolant between the fins it's likely it. and look for bowed/expanded areas.
my radiator failed on me and it had visibly expanded in about 6 of the tubes running across it.

my guess is the rad or possibly bad O-rings on the E-tank or the tank itself
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Old 10-13-2012, 11:05 AM   #8
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Radiators leak from the sides where the plastic bonds to the metal.
Time to replace no matter what for safety if you're having this problem.
You can get a new Behr for less than $150 complete.
Can you DIY?
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Old 10-13-2012, 05:30 PM   #9
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I just replaced my radiator due to leaking, the leak came from drain. I would check that since mine was broke and loose. Another plastic part prone to break in time.
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Old 10-13-2012, 05:33 PM   #10
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When was the last time you completely overhauled your cooling system according to this thread?

http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=914109

Probably the best $500 odd spent on my car.
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Old 10-14-2012, 12:03 PM   #11
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Hello BMW Expert!
From poking around with the search function, it looks like I should probably do a full cooling system repair, including rad, ET, & hoses (~ $384 @ TM?). I had my water pump done ~ 35k ago, but since it was a road repair, I only used the pump easiest to get at the time (not a Stewart), so I'm not sure about replacing that, although it's probably a cheapo pump.

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Old 10-14-2012, 12:23 PM   #12
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I have a Stewart, but don't be intimidated into thinking that other name brand quality pumps won't work for tens of thousands of miles reliably. For about sixty dollars you can get quality.
Take into account the age and mileage and condition of your car in terms of how much longer you want to keep it. You don't always needs a 150K mile pump.

Last edited by Stinger9; 10-14-2012 at 07:40 PM.
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Old 10-14-2012, 07:33 PM   #13
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you can do a cooling system pressure test which will often show where the leak is. or as dmax suggested.
in this case it sounds alot like your radiator but NO one can tell on this forum without more info.

often it is prudent with the labor and parts already out to do many of the other components. but listen to me carefully, it is not a must. anyone telling you it is is lying to you and/or does not know what they are talking about. PERIOD. these people have taken this forum from a diagnose and car fixing forum to a cop out spew, "just replace all with new". these are the same people in time that when someone has an engine problem tell them to replace the whole engine. then when the engine drives better, "hey i'm a master tech".
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Old 10-14-2012, 07:43 PM   #14
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Sounds like you're letting someone get under your skin.
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Old 10-14-2012, 08:18 PM   #15
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you can do a cooling system pressure test which will often show where the leak is. or as dmax suggested.
in this case it sounds alot like your radiator but NO one can tell on this forum without more info.

often it is prudent with the labor and parts already out to do many of the other components. but listen to me carefully, it is not a must. anyone telling you it is is lying to you and/or does not know what they are talking about. PERIOD. these people have taken this forum from a diagnose and car fixing forum to a cop out spew, "just replace all with new". these are the same people in time that when someone has an engine problem tell them to replace the whole engine. then when the engine drives better, "hey i'm a master tech".
This happened to me in other forums
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Old 10-14-2012, 08:58 PM   #16
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Alex is right, but, I have to say having been here a while, the $300 or more for overhaul can make good sense in many cases.

If your car is a DD and you can't risk it and 'have' to fix it over a weekend...you don't have the time to replace what you 'think' is wrong, put it together, only to find out it was something else.

If you're not mechanically inclined, then again, replacing everything takes the guess work out of the equation.

If you don't have a lot of money and are fearful of DIYing, then know that the cost of a shop replacing just the ET, or just the therm...would probably be close to $300...the cost of an entire system.

As a last ditch effort, though, if you can't find the leak, just sell the car and buy a new one without leak! (That was a joke, btw! )

So, yes, Alex is right that just a part or two failing will cause the whole system to fail. Finding the part(s) isn't always so easy...and thus the cooling overhaul was born as a guaranteed (almost) fix.
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Old 10-14-2012, 09:24 PM   #17
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Alex is right, but, I have to say having been here a while, the $300 or more for overhaul can make good sense in many cases.
If you don't have a lot of money and are fearful of DIYing, then know that the cost of a shop replacing just the ET, or just the therm...would probably be close to $300...the cost of an entire system.
$300 is not the $540-$775 just in parts being pushed. And it could be under a $10 fix.
I'm not saying it's bad to do it all. But let's advise on a case by case basis before(not you) copping out with that other type of answer.
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Old 10-15-2012, 12:04 AM   #18
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Alex is right, but, I have to say having been here a while, the $300 or more for overhaul can make good sense in many cases.

If your car is a DD and you can't risk it and 'have' to fix it over a weekend...you don't have the time to replace what you 'think' is wrong, put it together, only to find out it was something else.

If you're not mechanically inclined, then again, replacing everything takes the guess work out of the equation.

If you don't have a lot of money and are fearful of DIYing, then know that the cost of a shop replacing just the ET, or just the therm...would probably be close to $300...the cost of an entire system.

As a last ditch effort, though, if you can't find the leak, just sell the car and buy a new one without leak! (That was a joke, btw! )

So, yes, Alex is right that just a part or two failing will cause the whole system to fail. Finding the part(s) isn't always so easy...and thus the cooling overhaul was born as a guaranteed (almost) fix.
I was charged 320$ to replace thermostat, 80$ to flush, 25$ for coolant level sensor...after it was all said and done with taxes and waste disposal of anti freeze it all came down to 490$ at a reputable bimmer shop in Hackensack, NJ then they tried to charge me 445$ to change the water pump which is now leaking
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Old 10-15-2012, 05:15 AM   #19
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$300 is not the $540-$775 just in parts being pushed. And it could be under a $10 fix.
I'm not saying it's bad to do it all. But let's advise on a case by case basis before(not you) copping out with that other type of answer.
This is true. The overhaul kits can be had for $300 minus radiator...add in pulleys/belts...$540.

But, some here have the money, but not the patience or ability to acquire the knowledge to 'know' 'the' part(s) they really only need.

The full overhaul avoids the issue of having to know what the issue is.

With prices around as quoted above ($300 for therm installed at shop), the merits of the 'do it all approach' come to light. I usually like to present both as options...study until you puke and diagnose properly...or 'do it all.'

Different strokes for different folks, but they can choose. Besides, one thing about 'do it all' is that it is almost guaranteed that they can fix their cooling issue. With diagnosing, say, a wp or therm only, there's a chance that the hoses will get messed up, that an OP missed that the ET really was cracked.

I like the overhaul as a solution, but I know we have more and more these days with old, beat up bmws, without much money. If they can't pay, they need to learn, which learning isn't so easy. I've worked hard at learning and I still know so little compared to good 'real' mechanics.
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Old 10-15-2012, 07:49 AM   #20
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Thanks Folks,
I am looking at a rehab kit, including the rad, for $349. I think it is time (~108k) to do the hoses, ET, switches, etc since I'm in there. Throw in a metal impeller water pump because I don't know what's in there & it has ~ 35K on it... So that means a big fat kit. I'm not sure if I have the time & patience to do the work, so it may go to the shop.

Murf
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