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Old 11-21-2017, 07:04 PM   #1
El Valluco
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Coolant level question for new-to-me 330ci

Coolant level question for new-to-me 330ci

Hey guys, just got my first E46 and am totally stoked about it. It’s a beautiful 2000 323ci w/ 176k miles.

I recently checked the coolant level and the red float stick was all the way down (not floating at all/won’t move if you push down on it, about 2.5” down from the rim). Shined a light down there and could see the floater wet & sitting in a little bit of water. Called the PO (an acquaintance) and he told me if there was no indicator light on the dash, not to worry about it. Sounded odd to me but he had the car for 12 years and put the last 127,000 miles on it, so I figured he knows what he’s talking about. I’ve even been driving it around a little (no highways) and the temp gauge never passes 12 o’clock.

I should add that the PO had the radiator, expansion tank, water pump and heater hose replaced, already (don’t know how many miles ago) and that the car has Pentofrost NF coolant (and I just picked up a bottle).

So, the thing is, I live in NY and it’s about to start dipping into freezing temps and his “don’t worry about it” isn’t enough to let me sleep at night, anymore, so now I’m coming to you guys.

So, is he right? No dash light, no problem? Is it normal for the indicator stick to not float at all? If it does need coolant, can I just “top it off” using Mango’s bleed method?

Many thanks in advance for any help!

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Old 11-21-2017, 07:12 PM   #2
king_Phillis46
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Yo there is a level indicator just to the right of the cap that tells you where the red float should be sitting at.

You wanna top up with coolant till the stick pops up above the rim and looks like the little picture next to it

Hope this helps

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Old 11-21-2017, 07:29 PM   #3
87 300D
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Quote:
Originally Posted by El Valluco View Post
Coolant level question for new-to-me 330ci

Hey guys, just got my first E46 and am totally stoked about it. It’s a beautiful 2000 323ci w/ 176k miles.

I recently checked the coolant level and the red float stick was all the way down (not floating at all/won’t move if you push down on it, about 2.5” down from the rim). Shined a light down there and could see the floater wet & sitting in a little bit of water. Called the PO (an acquaintance) and he told me if there was no indicator light on the dash, not to worry about it. Sounded odd to me but he had the car for 12 years and put the last 127,000 miles on it, so I figured he knows what he’s talking about. I’ve even been driving it around a little (no highways) and the temp gauge never passes 12 o’clock.

I should add that the PO had the radiator, expansion tank, water pump and heater hose replaced, already (don’t know how many miles ago) and that the car has Pentofrost NF coolant (and I just picked up a bottle).

So, the thing is, I live in NY and it’s about to start dipping into freezing temps and his “don’t worry about it” isn’t enough to let me sleep at night, anymore, so now I’m coming to you guys.

So, is he right? No dash light, no problem? Is it normal for the indicator stick to not float at all? If it does need coolant, can I just “top it off” using Mango’s bleed method?

Many thanks in advance for any help!

Pics attached...
Got ya, read your concern... I'm first winter running mine. Like your cap needle, mine reads the needle at bottom..(I topped it off last week) Last March when I bought the 325...and somewhere since that time I lost a cup and a half of coolant.

Yeas it's concerning...they aren't supposed to leak!

No joke, this is concerning.

Pull the "Castrol" oil fill cap atop the valve-cam cover...look at the underside of the cap...is there a 'white-yellow' froth collecting?
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Old 11-21-2017, 07:42 PM   #4
El Valluco
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Originally Posted by king_Phillis46 View Post
Yo there is a level indicator just to the right of the cap that tells you where the red float should be sitting at.

You wanna top up with coolant till the stick pops up above the rim and looks like the little picture next to it
Yeah, it's way below the minimum from that graphic - guess my question is if there is any validity to the "if there's no indicator light on the dash, not to worry about it" line of thinking.

..and if I can just pour in some more coolant or if I have to do the whole bleed thing.

Thx!
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Old 11-21-2017, 07:48 PM   #5
87 300D
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Originally Posted by El Valluco View Post
Yeah, it's way below the minimum from that graphic - guess my question is if there is any validity to the "if there's no indicator light on the dash, not to worry about it" line of thinking.

..and if I can just pour in some more coolant or if I have to do the whole bleed thing.

Thx!
Is that light bulb working? Is the sender of that warning working?

You have to question this....Check and recheck...
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Old 11-21-2017, 07:53 PM   #6
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Moreover...you should mechanically check with your eye. PLEASE never rely on light-bulbs..or leds, on your dash. Respect them, but please do a check...only if you have knowledge what to check for...if not, find a good 'in-line' BMW indy.
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Old 11-21-2017, 07:54 PM   #7
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Get BMW coolant and mix some up in a container with 1/2 distilled water. Then you have a 50/50 mix you can pour directly into the expansion tank.

Often you will not have a low coolant light until the coolant is really low.

Make sure you fill a bit short to the full mark on the float, BMW recommends the coolant level be set at 68F, if you set the level say at 40F to full, this leaves less expansion room.

Replace the O-ring on the temp sensor in the lower radiator hose, these leak all the time after 5 years and never leave coolant on the ground. O-ring part number is the last item in my signature.
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Old 11-21-2017, 07:59 PM   #8
87 300D
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Originally Posted by jfoj View Post
Get BMW coolant and mix some up in a container with 1/2 distilled water. Then you have a 50/50 mix you can pour directly into the expansion tank.

Often you will not have a low coolant light until the coolant is really low.

Make sure you fill a bit short to the full mark on the float, BMW recommends the coolant level be set at 68F, if you set the level say at 40F to full, this leaves less expansion room.

Replace the O-ring on the temp sensor in the lower radiator hose, these leak all the time after 5 years and never leave coolant on the ground. O-ring part number is the last item in my signature.
Thank you for injecting your professional knowledge into this......I'm only trying to help aim here.

Last edited by 87 300D; 11-21-2017 at 08:00 PM.
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Old 11-21-2017, 08:35 PM   #9
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With a cold engine, maybe tomorrow AM. Top off the tank to the correct level. Keep an eye on it, check it every few days while cold. I do think that maybe your coolant level sensor is not working or the tank itself sucks. With the coolant stick all the way at the bottom, the low coolant light in the car should be popping on.
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Old 11-21-2017, 09:04 PM   #10
El Valluco
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 87 300D View Post
Moreover...you should mechanically check with your eye. PLEASE never rely on light-bulbs..or leds, on your dash. Respect them, but please do a check...only if you have knowledge what to check for...if not, find a good 'in-line' BMW indy.
Can't argue with that! Solid reasoning, here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 87 300D View Post
Pull the "Castrol" oil fill cap atop the valve-cam cover...look at the underside of the cap...is there a 'white-yellow' froth collecting?
Woah, that sounds scary, no, thank goodness. Pic attached..

Quote:
Originally Posted by jfoj View Post
Get BMW coolant and mix some up in a container with 1/2 distilled water. Then you have a 50/50 mix you can pour directly into the expansion tank.

Often you will not have a low coolant light until the coolant is really low.

Make sure you fill a bit short to the full mark on the float, BMW recommends the coolant level be set at 68F, if you set the level say at 40F to full, this leaves less expansion room.

Replace the O-ring on the temp sensor in the lower radiator hose, these leak all the time after 5 years and never leave coolant on the ground. O-ring part number is the last item in my signature.
Great info and will do, thx!

So just to be clear, it's sounding like I can just pour into the tank to bring the coolant stick to level without having to do the whole bleed procedure, correct?
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Last edited by El Valluco; 11-21-2017 at 09:05 PM.
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Old 11-21-2017, 09:08 PM   #11
El Valluco
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Originally Posted by My325XI View Post
With a cold engine, maybe tomorrow AM. Top off the tank to the correct level. Keep an eye on it, check it every few days while cold. I do think that maybe your coolant level sensor is not working or the tank itself sucks. With the coolant stick all the way at the bottom, the low coolant light in the car should be popping on.
Thanks - yeah, I'll definitely be checking this often after bringing it back up to level. PO replaced the tank and radiator, so hope those aren't the problem..

Last edited by El Valluco; 11-21-2017 at 09:08 PM.
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Old 11-21-2017, 09:22 PM   #12
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Yes you can top up without having to bleed. As far as the light goes, the only time I've ever seen mine was when the harness was disconnected from the level sensor.
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Old 11-21-2017, 09:44 PM   #13
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Late October or early November just like clockwork all the cars in my area have the active or direct TPMS systems lighting up and BMW's tend to have low coolant lights coming on.

Tire air pressure changes 1 PSI for every 10 degree F change in temperature. If you set your tire pressure cold at 80F, at 30F assuming there are no leaks in the tires, they will be 5 PSI lower.

Coolant expands and contracts a lot with temperature as well, I find that small coolant leaks often go un-noticed because few people actually monitor the coolant levels until there is a problem. The when the first cold snap shows up, a system with low coolant typically can trigger the low coolant light.

I typically increase the cold tire pressures in the Fall to compensate for the drop in pressure over temperature, check the coolant, power steering and brake fluid, top up the windshield washer fluid and change the oil regardless of mileage so I start the Winter season out with fresh oil and get all the contaminants out of the crankcase. I typically try to have 4k miles or more on the engine oil in October.
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Old 11-21-2017, 09:53 PM   #14
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Quote:
Coolant expands and contracts a lot with temperature as well, I find that small coolant leaks often go un-noticed because few people actually monitor the coolant levels until there is a problem. The when the first cold snap shows up, a system with low coolant typically can trigger the low coolant light.
The trucks at work almost always start dripping coolant when the weather gets cold. Lots of hose clamps to tighten on a dozen trucks and only one 5/16" nut driver in the tool box lol.
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Old 11-21-2017, 10:03 PM   #15
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The trucks at work almost always start dripping coolant when the weather gets cold. Lots of hose clamps to tighten on a dozen trucks and only one 5/16" nut driver in the tool box lol.
That's the benefit of the OE style spring hose clamps, there is no need to tighten anything up. Assuming you have the tool to remove and reuse them, they are wise to reuse.
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Hidden OBC Menu - Check Voltage, Temp, Fuel Level - https://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=239619

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Old 11-21-2017, 10:19 PM   #16
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I forget who said it here but a week or two ago someone said you should remove the little bleed screw when adding coolant so that any displaced air will leave the tank as you add liquid. The reasoning for this was to avoid getting an air pocket trapped in there. I don't know %100 if that is necessary but it's easy enough to do while you add coolant and sure won't hurt anything. Better safe than sorry I guess?
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Old 11-21-2017, 10:47 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by El Valluco View Post
Thanks - yeah, I'll definitely be checking this often after bringing it back up to level. PO replaced the tank and radiator, so hope those aren't the problem..
The 'expansion tank' on a e46 BMW is pressurized. Its main purpose is to accommodate the changing volume of fluid as it heats and cools. The tank can be almost empty and the radiator will still be full. The tank will have just a little fluid in it when cold and more fluid in it when it gets hot. If you over fill it when cold when the engine/coolant gets to operating temperature the fluid has no extra space to expand. As the pressure increases the tank will split, coolant escapes and the engine overheats.

That's a long winded way of saying DO NOT OVER FILL A BMW'S COOLANT TANK. If you aren't sure how to fill it precisely leave it a little low - like the previous owner did. I've done this for years. I had an eighteen year old e36 that still had the original cooling system when I sold it.

Many other manufacturers avoid this problem by using an expansion tank that is not pressurized. If you over fill those systems the coolant just ends up on the ground with no major damage.
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Old 11-22-2017, 05:59 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by El Valluco View Post
.

So, is he right? No dash light, no problem? Is it normal for the indicator stick to not float at all? If it does need coolant, can I just “top it off” using Mango’s bleed method?
Your friend is 100% wrong and you do not mess around with coolant on these cars or very bad things can happen.

You need a turkey baster or similar suction device.
1. fill tank to the brim.
2. open bleed screw. if there was air in the system you will hear it escape while the level starts to drop in expansion tank.
3. keep expansion tank full to brim while air comes out from bleed screw.
4. when coolant starts to dribble out from bleed screw, close bleed screw.
5. siphon coolant out of the expansion tank until it is approximately half full, the float will be at or very slightly below the max position. if you pull on the red stick, it should move up a tiny amount.
6. tighten cap tight and you're done.

7. keep an eye on it for now.
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Old 11-22-2017, 11:17 PM   #19
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Just top it off cold.
until the dipstick is level with the top.
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Old 11-23-2017, 08:00 AM   #20
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Just add distilled and you'll only need a cup I bet. You don't need to open the bleeder valve. Just do it when cold and fill to between the two balls on the dipstick. There's no mark for 'overfull' and you do need the air so the expanded heated coolant has a place to expand to.
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