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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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Old 01-06-2012, 11:45 AM
cardnal cardnal is offline
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Location: Jackson, Ms
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 37
Mein Auto: 2003 e39 540i6
Updated: Sell it or fix it? Blown Head Gasket (Could be Valley Pan?)

To make a long story short, my wife was driving my car 3 weeks ago and the water pump pulley seized, which threw the belt off, and it subsequently overheated before she could find a suitable place to pull over. (She was on a bridge)

I went ahead and had the cooling system completely redone and we hoped for the best in regards to other damage that may have been caused by the overheating.

Just got the car back from the shop yesterday, and noticed coolant in the garage floor after it sat overnight. Took it back to my Indy and he just found a leak in the head gasket on the drivers side of the car at the back of the engine.

He said the book states it's a 30 hour job.

Well, I just spent about $1600 on the cooling overhaul two days ago... and now this.

Should I just sell it like it is, or is it worth it to try to fix it? What other problems could have been caused by the overheating?

The car has 98k miles, and is pretty much mint condition inside and out. Barely a few rock chips on the hood. I love the car, but this is just a back breaker.

If I did sell it like it is, how much do you think I could get?

UDPATE: my Indy has now suggested that it "may" be the valley pan pipes, as he remembers that they were loose when he put the pipes back in. Could the valley pan leak all the way down to the back of the engine like that? He said there was coolant all over the transmission too...

2003 540i/6
Dinan Software
Dinan Exhaust
Dinan CAI

Last edited by cardnal; 01-06-2012 at 01:05 PM.
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Old 01-06-2012, 02:02 PM
VegasA6 VegasA6 is offline
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Location: Vegas
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 59
Mein Auto: Alpine White E39
Get a new indy.
1998 540i alpine white 6spd.

2001 740il
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Old 01-06-2012, 03:52 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Location: San Jose, California
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Posts: 25,236
Mein Auto: 02 BMW 525i M54 auto 130K
Originally Posted by cardnal View Post
Should I just sell it like it is, or is it worth it to try to fix it? What other problems could have been caused by the overheating?
I don't know about the valley pan pipes, but there are threads on the valley pan gasket you might want to refer to.

Here is what I found (among others) simply by doing a thread-only search for /valley pan gasket:

- V8 VALLEY PAN GASKETS LEAK: poorly designed V8 valley pan gaskets that leak coolant (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)

In addition, if you still think it's the head gasket, then this reference from the bestlinks (found by searching for 'overheating') was designed to give you all the answers everyone else got who was in a similar critical-decision-making situation as you are.

- Summary advice to provide users who suspect a major engine repair due to overheating (1) (2) (3) (4) & how to test an engine for a blown head gasket, cracked heads, a warped block, stripped head bolt threads, cam seizures, contaminated bearings, coolant hydrolock, or piston, ring, or valve damage (1) (2) & what are the major factors in deciding whether to rebuild the engine, replace the engine, or sell the car (1) & a DIY for replacing the I6 M54 head gasket (1) (2) & replacing the V8 M62TU head gasket (1) & why these engines are so prone to heat-related damage in the first place (1) & welding the crack between cylinder #3 and the water jacket on the exhaust side (1) & what engine swaps are most recommended (1) (2) (3) & where to obtain a new or rebuilt head (1) replacement short block or long block (1) (2) & how to lift & remove the engine (1) & the most recent real-world results from people faced with similar blown engine problems from which this advice came from (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12) (13) (14) (15) (16) (17) (18) (19) (20) (21) (22) (23) (24) (25) (26) (27) (28) (29) (30) (31) (32) (33) (34) (35) (36) (37) (38) (39) (40) (41) (42) (43) (44).
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Old 01-06-2012, 04:26 PM
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joyism5 joyism5 is offline
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Originally Posted by cardnal View Post

Well, I just spent about $1600 on the cooling overhaul two days ago... and now this.

Indeed you need to find a real mechanic/indy. If a cylinder head is leaking coolant, that engine will overheat too. Maybe in the first 100 miles not but in the end it will.
Couple things why you should get another mechanic :
-If your are having a cooling system overhaul, that should include the valley pan gasket with cover.
-If he is really a indy he should tell you exactly where the leak is, since he worked at the car not too long ago,
-If your indy had a Samaritan heart he would do a compression test before fixing anything on the engine . In a overheating situation, first thing that has to be done is compression test!
-I am doing almost the same job on my V8 (removing heads for a valve job) and if you have a shop it will take less than 30 hours.

Maybe you have just the valey pan warped due to overheating ($80 on the internet), maybe the indy did not fixed your car right , and is leaking at the pipes, which can explain the coolant on the transmission. Or the headgasket is blown , just enough to let air into the cooling system which can cause the puddle in the garrage overnight.

If the engine has a blown headgasket due to overheating it is costly to fix that engine or impossible , if is done by amateurs like your indy. Cylinder heads are aluminum as well as the engine block. You have great chances to have the engine block warped, if the engine overheat too much. That being said ,I would declare the overheated engine dead. Too costly to fix it. Instead I would buy a low millage used one.

If you ever changed a spark plug, buy yourself a compression test ($60?) and do the test yourself. If you have the blown gasket...I would put a used engine or sell it. My 2 cents.
An idea about the test :

Last edited by joyism5; 01-06-2012 at 04:31 PM.
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Old 01-06-2012, 05:27 PM
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King 5 King 5 is offline
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Mein Auto: 1997 BMW 528i
There were only 1200 540i M-Sport 6 speeds made in the US in 2003! It'd be a shame to let it go... I know how you feel though man, I had a similar problem a few months ago where I just put money in it and then another big problem occurs. If you plan on keeping the car then expect to put about $1k a year into maintenance. This may seem like a lot but the pay off of driving this "ultimate driving machine" will be well worth it!

1997 BMW 528ia 2/97

2004 BMW 330ci 4/03

2008 BMW 335i 3/08
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Old 01-06-2012, 05:48 PM
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IEbimmerguy IEbimmerguy is offline
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Mein Auto: E38, e23, e3
Have you looked at the leak yourself? I have the same engine, and when mine leaked it was from the back weep hole under the intake.
Looking from the passenger side, take a flashlight and look under the rear of the intake. You should be able to see coolant, or residue from a long term leak. Good luck with this.
You could also find a used engine...
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Old 01-07-2012, 12:35 AM
bjay27 bjay27 is offline
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Mein Auto: 02 530
Something doesent add up here. It sounds like your car overheated, but it has still managed to run? And you told this to a mechanic and he just replaced your coolant system? If your engine still runs, it invariably means you still have some decent compression, which means your engine block is probably ok. Unfortunately, with the Aluminum heads, if your Temp gauge moved passed midline and hit red, you can start doing damage at about $1000 a second. (I know from experience)
You need to do a compression test and follow the links to verify you have a blown head gasket/ or take it to a mechanic for some tests and estimates.

If it were me, and the engine still could run after the overheat [and you talk with your wife and find out how long she actually ran it overheated (excessive time = excessive wear in engine and outside electronics etc], I would take the beast to a good mechanic and verify you didnt blow a head gasket. If so I would still pay to have the heads pulled (and resurfaced at a machine shop with a lathe). This should only be a few hundred bucks. The aluminum heads warp very very easy, which leads to another devistating problem. VERY VERY IMPORTANT to check, if you are replacing the head gasket and having the heads resurfaced or fixed, YOU MUST ENSURE you did not strip the bolts out of your main block.
What can happen, is you go to all this trouble, only to try and re-torque the heads down to the main block and find its all stripped, this is due to the rapid expansion of the aluminum head faster than the engine block, ripping the threads out.

Best case scenario your valley pan gasket is the only culprit from a mild overheat, and your engine is fine, theres just not enough info given.

Good luck, keep us posted.
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Old 01-07-2012, 03:04 AM
uncmozo uncmozo is offline
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Originally Posted by bjay27 View Post
(and resurfaced at a machine shop with a lathe)
Not to be too picky, but you would resurface heads on a milling machine, not a lathe.
1995 525i 5 speed - sold at 225,000 miles
2002 530i 5 speed - 187,000 miles
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Old 01-07-2012, 07:21 AM
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Trebbia Trebbia is offline
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Originally Posted by uncmozo View Post
resurface heads on a milling machine, not a lathe.
I can see the heads spinning now!
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Old 01-09-2012, 04:20 PM
WadeLovell WadeLovell is offline
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Location: San Diego
Join Date: Dec 2011
Posts: 22
Mein Auto: 528i
Fix Her!

Originally Posted by Trebbia View Post
I can see the heads spinning now!
I know mine is...

Seriously, fix her. My 528i has almost 190k on her. Yours will, if you drive it yourself after this repair, last as long. That is incredibly cheap versus buying the first 100k miles!

Get a new independent mechanic with the INPA and DIS/TIS systems. Find out what is really wrong. When my beautiful bride melted the cam bearings and cracked the aluminum head on my Jaguar some years ago, I had to replace the head. If you don't have to replace the head and can deckit instead, the cost will be reasonable compared to the value of the car and the enjoyment you will continue to derive from her.

Your mechanic was not working in your best interest when s/he just handled the source of the overheating without dealing with any of the damage it almost certainly caused.

Happy Motoring,
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