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E39 (1997 - 2003)
The BMW 5-Series (E39 chassis) was introduced in the United States as a 1997 model year car and lasted until the 2004 when the E60 chassis was released. The United States saw several variations including the 525i, 528i, 530i and 540i. -- View the E39 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 02-22-2011, 05:16 PM
reb78 reb78 is offline
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Location: UK
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 64
Mein Auto: 528i touring
Overheating and water loss

Tonight, popped out 25 miles to the other side of London in my 1999 E39 528i - bit of traffic, but ran fine. Got to about 300yards from where i was going and noticed the red light on the dash had lit up on the temp gauge and it was in the red. Looked in the mirror and there was steam everywhere. My first response cannot be written on here, but then, i was immediately thinking the headgasket had gone. I drove it that last 300yards (could have been a big mistake?) because there really was nowhere to dump it on the side of the road in south east London. I opened the bonnet and there was coolant spraying out in the region of an electrical connection on the left side of the rad about halfway down (kinda opposite the power steering reservoir). Couldnt see a lot more because it was too dark and the torch was rubbish. Recovery man came (i just asked for a flatbed to get it home) - he seemed annoyed that noone had looked at it first. He insisted on putting water in it and driving it onto the truck - it only took about 2-3pints before the expansion tank was full - it started fine, no white smoke and drove straight onto the flatbed. When i had got it home it looked like all of that water had leaked out again as there was a puddle under the car. Its sat on my drive waiting to be pressure tested when i get the gear off of my neighbour tommorrow!

Does this sound to you guys like i just have a leak and it wasnt the head gasket? - just seems strange the amount of steam that seemed to be behind me when i was stopped (i.e. possibly out of the exhaust)? After i had noticed and whilst the engine was still running, the car wasnt missing a beat at all if that tells us anything. If it has lost this water and the headgasket hasnt gone, is the head gasket now a timebomb waiting to break?

Thanks in advance for any help and thanks even more for any re-assurance this is not going to cost me a fortune! The gutting thing is, i was going to fix a few bits on my land rover, then take the BMW off of the road to overhaul the coolant system and do the VANOS seals because of the posts i'd read on here!
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  #2  
Old 02-22-2011, 05:29 PM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Mein Auto: 1998 528i 5-sp 140K+
- SEARCH forum using keyword "Cooling overhaul" and start reading.

- Do a compression test, dry and wet and report back.
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  #3  
Old 02-22-2011, 08:02 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Location: San Jose, California
 
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Posts: 21,543
Mein Auto: 02 BMW 525i M54 auto 130K
Quote:
Originally Posted by reb78 View Post
If it has lost this water and the headgasket hasnt gone, is the head gasket now a timebomb waiting to break?
Here is the typical answer to that question (from this thread):
Quote:
To be more explicit, to the OP (since everyone else already knows this), the BMW cooling system is a time bomb.

Don't believe me. Believe these pictures:
- Pictorial look at typical E39 cooling system failure modes (1)

When this time bomb goes off, if you don't STOP driving the vehicle, the engine is toast. Again, don't believe me. Believe this:
- Major Decision - replace head or buy "new" engine (1)

Now, as I said, this is the most common issue of the BMW E39; and it's one of the most dangerous for your engine. (The solution was not to let it happen.)

I already know what people will tell you (as I've read those threads too); and maybe ... just maybe ... your engine is not blown ... (if you're lucky) ...

But, nobody here at the other end of a keyboard can tell you if your engine is truly toast or if it's salvageable.

You really need to talk to a mechanic.
- BMW phantom diagrams (1) & nominal prices by part number (1) labor rates by zip code (1) (2) (3) where to find a good mechanic (1) (2) & finding a specialty BMW indy in your area (1)

Good luck.
As Cam said, a compression test will tell you if the engine is toast:
- How to test compression on a BMW E39 (1)

If the head gasket is blown, you'll need to consider what to do:
- Fixing a head gasket coolant leak (1) (2)

If not, then a cooling system overhaul is in your future:
- Complete cooling system overhaul recommended parts list (1)

PS: I love the colorful words, "bonnet", "torch", "rubbish", "recovery man",
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  #4  
Old 02-22-2011, 09:02 PM
BayareaE39 BayareaE39 is offline
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Location: East Bay
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 30
Mein Auto: Black 2003 e39
This just happened to me two days ago...
I had my local shop do a compression test and coolant sprayed in every direction.
You need a cooling system overhaul.
Expansion tank, radiator, water pump, thermostat, switch, etc.
Costed me $750 in parts and $300 in labor at my shop I use.
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  #5  
Old 02-23-2011, 05:26 AM
reb78 reb78 is offline
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Location: UK
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 64
Mein Auto: 528i touring
Thanks for the links. Just pressured up the coolant system and the leak is at the top of the rad where the re-circ hose connects as depicted in the links showing the common failure points. Just trying to locate a compression tester now to check the head gasket before i spend any money fixing the coolant system. In the UK, this car is only worth about 2000, so i'm not sure its going to be worth doing much if the head gasket has gone after looking at the other links above. If the head gasket hasnt gone, i'll repair it, but not sure i'll have a lot of faith that it wont go at a later date and leave me stranded somewhere!

I did check the oil and it looked mostly ok, but there was a tiny little bit of white emulsion on the top of the plastic bit at the bottom of the dipstick. I've seen this before on other cars where the head gasket was fine and assumed it was a little atmospheric moisture that had reacted with the oil.

When i do the compression test, i thought i'd read that the engine has to be warm - obviously with no coolant, i dont want to start it, so is it ok to do the test cold or should i run it very carefuly for a few minutes and keep it topped up?
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  #6  
Old 03-04-2011, 10:15 AM
xz14 xz14 is offline
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Location: los angeles
 
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Posts: 15
Mein Auto: bmw 528I
Fan Clutch

The fan clutch is the next problem if you still have the problem.
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  #7  
Old 03-04-2011, 02:13 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Location: San Jose, California
 
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Mein Auto: 02 BMW 525i M54 auto 130K
This problem comes up so often that I'm formulating a "standard" response over here in this thread.
- Replace head gasket or replace engine.

My "standard" response contains everything that everyone else has said to the OP.
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  #8  
Old 03-25-2011, 01:00 AM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
Seek to understand,^Value
Location: San Jose, California
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
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Mein Auto: 02 BMW 525i M54 auto 130K
To the OP:

Update?
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