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E46 Xi Forum
The E46 XI was produced from 01-05 in sedan and touring body styles. Powered by either a 2.5L inline 6 in the 325xi or a 3.0L inline 6 330xi. Discuss all thing about BMW AWD E46 'Xi' here.

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Old 07-06-2014, 08:35 PM   #1
thebmwlover
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Overheated 2004 xi high milage car, Need Advise!!

Hi all,

So my car had this problem when I would turn the heater the radiator light would come on and then turn off after turning the heater off. (I was planning to take it for a leak test....)

I was driving it on freeway and turned on the cooler and the radiator light came on and stayed on this time. I stop at a gas station to put gas and check things, and I saw the car leaking form the expansion tank. I drove the car to a street but right before I turn of the car the temperature gauge reached the beginning of the red part.

Long story short, dad came and we put a glue (recommended by O'Reilly) on the expansion tank with a non BMW coolant. We tested it, and it was still leaking a bit from the glued location. He drove it back home, and when he got there I looked at the temp gauge and again it was close to red (due to low coolant)

The plan is to take it to a mechanic to change the expansion tank.

Questions:

Is it bad to have an empty radiator in the hot summer for couple of days? (Car will be off all the time)

Is it bad to use non-bmw for testing the coolant system? (Will flush and put G BMW coolant)

Head gaskets are ok? No smoke came, no engine sound, and no oil and coolant mix visible so far.

Also, would it be ok to drive it less than 5 miles to the mechanic with the non bmw coolant? (with no overheating temp) Or should I tow?

Car info:
BMW 330xi 2004
Miles: 175K
Well taken car

Thanks,
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Old 07-07-2014, 05:53 AM   #2
Kubica
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Have the car towed. You are doing a lot of damage to the motor right now.

If the expansion tank cracks, you replace the expansion tank. Never use 'glue'.
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Old 07-07-2014, 09:53 AM   #3
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Oh dear lord. This motor is probably toast
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Old 07-07-2014, 09:55 AM   #4
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^ Sorry to say but yea it might be history.
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Old 07-07-2014, 10:26 AM   #5
Justinz
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You can do the expansion tank yourself it's fairly easy. I don't use BMW coolant and my car runs just fine.
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Old 07-07-2014, 08:27 PM   #6
AndrewReaganM
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If it just barely got into the red, it's not good AT ALL. That being said I don't think that your engine is toast... I mean seriously, the red presumably means "Warning", so I wouldn't drop a new motor in because it might be toast. It would be worth it in my opinion to do a cooling refresh. I would definitely tow it if you need to take it to a shop.
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Old 07-07-2014, 09:56 PM   #7
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Any BMW I've ever had, if it goes over halfway on the temp gauge, I shut it down IMMEDIATELY as it means something is really bad. If it got to the red, I'd assume something went boom. Drain the oil, do a compression test, blah blah blah. I hate to join the naysayers, but methinks this won't end well or cheaply.
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Old 07-07-2014, 10:27 PM   #8
Swiff
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Motor should be fine. Don't drive it to the mechanic though. Please have it towed. Make sure he bleeds the air out of the cooling system or you will have heating problems come winter time. Also make sure they don"t overfill the coolant.
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Old 07-08-2014, 09:20 AM   #9
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The temp gauge is a dummy gauge. It's not a uniform increase in temperature from middle to red which means that it only reads cold -> normal -> new engine. Running it at even "close to red" is just as bad as red.

I hope it all goes well at the mechanic but I'll congratulate you on the new head gasket right now.

To answer your questions though:

Quote:
Originally Posted by thebmwlover View Post
Questions:

Is it bad to have an empty radiator in the hot summer for couple of days? (Car will be off all the time) No, that's fine as long as you never start or attempt to start the car.

Is it bad to use non-bmw for testing the coolant system? (Will flush and put G BMW coolant) It's fine to even use non-BMW coolant for extended periods of time providing it meets the same standards.

Head gaskets are ok? No smoke came, no engine sound, and no oil and coolant mix visible so far. I can't see sh1t over the internet so I'll leave that to your mechanic to decide. You'll need to drain and examine oil and do compression tests on the engine.

Also, would it be ok to drive it less than 5 miles to the mechanic with the non bmw coolant? (with no overheating temp) Or should I tow? If it's still leaking then tow. If you're not sure if it's leaking then tow. Based on what you have said so far, tow it. The brand of coolant is far less important than the quantity.

Last edited by SamDoe1; 07-08-2014 at 09:24 AM.
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Old 07-08-2014, 08:48 PM   #10
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Speculation and doom sayers they'll be. Rapid loss of coolant with continued operation can make hot spots (bad) and create head gasket breaches when the head is pulling away from the block tearing out its studs in the process. The horror stories are out there and the common arm-chair diagnostic is trouble may be a brewin'?

Simple answer is a compression test before the cooling system rebuild. If all is well, treat yourself to a complete coolant system replacement with quality parts. You may have slid through the blowout and came out golden? It has happened before.
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Old 07-09-2014, 02:42 AM   #11
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I wouldn't write off the motor yet. Fix the leak, refill the coolant, and see.

BTW why does the owner's manual state the following?

"Normal operating range. The needle
may rise as far as the edge of the red
sector during normal operation."
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Old 07-09-2014, 08:53 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by camrydriver111 View Post
I wouldn't write off the motor yet. Fix the leak, refill the coolant, and see.

BTW why does the owner's manual state the following?

"Normal operating range. The needle
may rise as far as the edge of the red
sector during normal operation."
That explanation is right next to the one for lifetime transmission/diff fluids and 15k oil change intervals.
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Old 07-09-2014, 11:31 AM   #13
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First: advise is a verb. Advice is the noun you are looking for.

Second, the replies in this thread are probably scarier than the reality.

Other than the problem you are facing (a busted expansion tank), the M54 engine is pretty strong. Unless you overheated the car to the point where you warped your head, my money says you wont face any lasting problems.

My experience tells me that warping the head takes more than a quick trip into the red zone on the coolant temp gauge. I've run my car at the track in 100+ weather when the car was coming close to the red over and over. I've also had two expansion tanks fail and had the red portion of the gauge illuminated for a moment before I turned the car off. I have had no issues with the head and zero lasting issues @ 175,000 miles on the odometer.

I agree you shouldn't use glue on a broken expansion tank, however. And I'd advise you to flush the system with distilled water before you refill with 50/50 blue bmw coolant and water. You'll want to remove the residue from the autoparts store coolant.

Last edited by TiAgXi; 07-09-2014 at 11:34 AM.
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Old 07-09-2014, 11:50 AM   #14
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I believe the more likely damage than a head warp would be head gasket damage. You do know the stock parameters of the coolant gauge, right? The needle has a buffer in the middle that will cause it to stick in the dead center from 75 - 115 Celsius. Thats ****ing ridiculous. I reprogrammed my buffer to 90-100. If you ever hit red with a stock gague...well lets just say I wouldnt buy a car knowing its had a few trips to the red temp line. Dont know who would.
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Old 07-09-2014, 08:04 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SamDoe1 View Post
That explanation is right next to the one for lifetime transmission/diff fluids and 15k oil change intervals.
What...they're tricking us?

To be fair, all auto makers now seem to make claims of magic lubes and centennial change intervals. It's us old-skoolers that just can't grasp that new buyers rollin' 'em off the showroom floor are going to keep them just long enough to impress their friends. They'll dump 'em far before 60K and get a shiny new toy. They want to do - nothing. As nothing is good. Therefore the nothingness yields sales. And sales are good. There you have it.

We all should follow the trend and shoot over to the dealer to snag a new M3! Forget it, don't do a dang thing, just drive that sucker like a stolen bicycle. Wait, small problem, um, okay, go change your fluids and get over it.
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Old 07-10-2014, 08:58 AM   #16
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^ Actually not really. Other than the Germans, most automakers are still recommending ~7k mile oil changes and ~60k mile transmission fluid changes. None of the lifetime BS. My Acura has a maintenance calculator that factors in mileage, speed driven, how aggressively you drive, outside temp, and a bunch of other things to tell you when to change oil, fluids, and other things. I think the reason is that most of the people who buy these $50-60k cars don't want to keep them any longer than the model is new (ie, sold E46 when E90 came out, sold E90 when F30 came out, etc) and therefore their sales aren't affected by long term reliability and they therefore don't care. The Germans will fit as much tech and engine in a car as possible to keep it reliably running for the warranty period, after that it's just more money in their pocket. On the flip side, the people who buy Hondas and Toyotas are basing their business and sales on long term reliability. If you have a sh1tty and unreliable Honda, no one will buy it (example: newer Insight). If you have a sh1tty and unreliable BMW, it doesn't matter, everyone will buy it (example: bangle 7 series)
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Old 07-10-2014, 09:05 AM   #17
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You should never drive an overheating BMW even if it's getting hot. You have to shut it down immediately and get it towed.

But at the same time don't panic, my girlfriend drove her 08 e90 to a gas station when she lost a belt and it was pegged in the red. It's been three years and it's still running fine. Not sure how she got away with that one.
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Old 07-10-2014, 09:17 AM   #18
camrydriver111
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Maybe the red is buffered as well?

I've killed a a Toyota by overheating once and it took continuous driving over a few days while overheating to kill it.
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Old 07-10-2014, 10:11 AM   #19
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I've heard these engines blow a head gasket if people don't charge the cooling system properly and it sits in the red too long. They're really sensitive to heat. It's possible if the car is moving at highway speed there is some airflow around the engine but that can't help much.
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Old 07-10-2014, 10:18 AM   #20
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Grey numbers show the stock temp gauge. If you leave the center, youre already dead. Regular operating temp is 86-98 C. Id know. Ultra Gauge

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