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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 01-29-2012, 04:39 PM
cwpo1 cwpo1 is offline
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Mein Auto: 2003 BMW 525i
Notes from my cooling system overhaul

I Completed my cooling system overhaul this weekend. First off you really need to read the cooling system overhauls by bluebee and cn90 http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...23&postcount=3(I love their work. I have also attached cn90's diy w/ pictures in pdf.

I am not a mechanic, I know how to change the oil, tires, spark plugs, the basics. It took me running out of cash to attempt serious work on this car. It is not as difficult as it seems once you get the covers off. One thing to note, one month before I started this I paid around $200 with my mechanic, not the stealership, to have the expansion tank removed. I felt like an absolute idiot when I had the fan shroud off and it was right there. That was all the motivation I needed going forward.

I would recommend using ramps rather than jack stands. I got a set of plactic ones from Advance auto parts for about 30 bucks. Too many horror stories on jack stands for me! Very easy to take the cover off the bottom with these.

The problems I encountered were the following:
1. The 32mm wrench to remove the fan is non-negotiable. The 1 1/4 wrench will not work. DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME!
2. When removing the fan shroud be very careful to pry upward, not forward. When I removed mine I pried it forward and it broke the vent spout on the top right hand side of the radiator. This was an issue because I initially was changing out the water pump and the belts. So I was forced to epoxy it back together until the radiator and hoses arrived. This is a very temporary fix as it could not gain a total seal and the antifreeze degrades the epoxy over time. It lasted two weeks, just long enough to get the radiatior and hoses in.
3. When removing the fan use the 32mm and a hammer. There are numerous tips and tricks with counter pulleys and such, but everybody has a hammer. Use a real hammer(not a small one) or a rubber mallet. 3 hits and its off with wd-40.
4. I used a GBM water pump 59.99 at advance auto parts, water pump came with the o-ring. It did not come with a gasket. I used the gasket maker, no problems with it.
5. Belts were simple. Mine has the mechanical tensioner and the belt diagram is on the diy.
6. I used a CSF radiator 80.00 from auto part warehouse dot com OEM replacement. The radiator was very difficult going in and out. If you have any thoughts about replacing the radiator and not the hoses, FORGET ABOUT IT! The radiator will not come out with the bottom hose attached and once you have it off... THIS IS NOT SOMETHING YOU WANT TO DO TWICE! To get the radiator out you have move the left side forward, then start pulling up, while slightly moving the ac hoses very carefully to the side. I pulled off my rubber stops on the way out which helped alot. Putting it back in was just as hard.
7. The top and bottom hoses were about 40.00 together from auto parts warehouse dot com. Pull the clip up with a pair of needle noses and pull loose. Putting them on I had to grease the radiator and hose coupling to get the new ones on. Same thing with the sensor in the lower radiator hose. I had grease the hole as well as the sensor, wrap with towel (so I would not break it) and squeeze it in. I did this part at the kitchen table. I could not imagine it going in while attached to the radiator.

After that put everything back together. Don't forget the plastic clips at the bottom of the radiator. The new radiator came with some but I used the original ones. Now fill up with antifreeze, start it up, turn the heater on high and top off.

This is the best I have on it. This just what I ran into. Hope it helps somebody!
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  #2  
Old 01-29-2012, 07:56 PM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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The reason the WP has no gasket because it uses an O-ring, which is squeezed sideway.
You used the conventional gasket maker, it is probably OK too.
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  #3  
Old 01-29-2012, 11:01 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cwpo1 View Post
It is not as difficult as it seems once you get the covers off.
Agreed. The fear is greater than the pain!
- Notes on my cooling system overhaul (pdf)

Quote:
Originally Posted by cwpo1 View Post
I would recommend using ramps rather than jack stands.
I agree. This thread shows how to make your own:
- How to make your own BMW car ramps (1)


Quote:
Originally Posted by cwpo1 View Post
The 1 1/4 wrench will not work
Hmmm ... 1¼ inches is 31.75mm so it 'should' be pretty close. I used a 32mm wrench & counterhold tool, so, I can't say I've verified that though.
- How to make your own BMW cooling system overhaul fan clutch nut & water pump counterhold tools (1) (2)

Quote:
Originally Posted by cwpo1 View Post
broke the vent spout on the top right hand side of the radiator.
If this is the radiator nipple on the top driver side of the radiator, bear in mind it is a very common break (ask me how I know).


Quote:
Originally Posted by cwpo1 View Post
I was forced to epoxy it back together until the radiator and hoses arrived.
I'm not sure if you're talking about the nipple but you can remove it and easily replace it.

Here is a picture of me removing mine with a 10mm socket in an 'ideal DIY' (where I took the radiator apart to snap the picture):

Quote:
Originally Posted by cwpo1 View Post
When removing the fan use the 32mm and a hammer.
While I fully understand the BFH principle, personally, I just used the 'right' tools and my fan clutch nut came off quite easily (putting it back on straight was a whole different story).

Still, the BFH works for very many people (just don't miss!)

Quote:
Originally Posted by cwpo1 View Post
4. I used a GBM water pump 59.99 at advance auto parts, water pump came with the o-ring. It did not come with a gasket. I used the gasket maker, no problems with it.
As cn90 said, I installed mine sans any sealer since it had a rubber o ring already. Here's a thread on water pumps for others to use:
- What brand of waterpump to buy (1)

Quote:
Originally Posted by cwpo1 View Post
Belts were simple. Mine has the mechanical tensioner and the belt diagram is on the diy.
The hardest part about the belts is figuring out ahead of time which to buy (mechanical or hydraulic); and learning how the things loosen.

After that, it's a breeze!

This may help others:
- How to tell if you have mechanical or hydraulic belt tensioners (1)

Quote:
Originally Posted by cwpo1 View Post
I used a CSF radiator 80.00 from auto part warehouse dot com OEM replacement
Interesting. Very interesting. That's dirt cheap for a radiator. Most of us go Nissens or Behr at more than double that price.

Do you have side-by-side pictures of the two radiators?

Quote:
Originally Posted by cwpo1 View Post
The radiator was very difficult going in and out.
My experience also. On my six-cylinder automatic, it was even harder to get the radiator back in than it was to remove it!

See:
- What's the trick to get the radiator back in on the M52 engine?

Quote:
Originally Posted by cwpo1 View Post
If you have any thoughts about replacing the radiator and not the hoses, FORGET ABOUT IT!
I replaced my two large hoses, but I left the overflow hose, and the two or three smaller hoses for the auxiliary water pump and all the hoses in the back of the engine. I'm sorry that I did though, because now I worry about them all the time.

I just didn't have a good handle on what hoses a cooling system replacement entailed at the time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cwpo1 View Post
Pull the clip up with a pair of needle noses and pull loose.
After thinking about it for a while, I came up with this method of removing the large radiator hose clips:
- How do you safely remove the upper radiator hose with u-pins?



Quote:
Originally Posted by cwpo1 View Post
The new radiator came with some but I used the original ones.
I did too. While I was wrestling the Nissens radiator into place, one of the Nissens clips broke - so I replaced them with the original (stronger) Behr clips.
- Here's what happened in my cooling system overhaul

Thanks for sharing all these wonderful tidbits with us; I'm sure it will help many others in the future!
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Each repair should invariably add to our knowledge base by the process of inexorable incrementalism.
Your job, in return, is to read the suggested threads, where the best people will always add value to those threads, either by pictures or by descriptions, so the next person with the same problem stands on your shoulders.
See also: E39 Bestlinks & How to easily find what you need

Last edited by bluebee; 01-29-2012 at 11:13 PM.
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  #4  
Old 01-30-2012, 04:11 AM
Tuskfish Tuskfish is offline
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Northern Tool sells a large 32mm combination wrench for $7.95. It's kinda fat but will fit down in there. Once it's removed don't forget to apply anti-seize to the threads and you'll never need a hammer again, just a quick tug on the wrench and it's loose.
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  #5  
Old 01-30-2012, 05:34 AM
uncmozo uncmozo is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cwpo1 View Post
I was forced to epoxy it back together until the radiator and hoses arrived. This is a very temporary fix as it could not gain a total seal and the antifreeze degrades the epoxy over time. It lasted two weeks, just long enough to get the radiatior and hoses in.
This is very interesting. I never heard that antifreeze degrades epoxy before. If this is true, it would raise some serious questions about epoxying cooling system parts back together, especially as a permanent repair. Can anyone shed some light on this?

Nice write-up BTW.

Jerry
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Last edited by uncmozo; 01-30-2012 at 05:36 AM.
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  #6  
Old 01-30-2012, 07:42 PM
cwpo1 cwpo1 is offline
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@ bluebee. I did not get a pic of the radiators but I did set them out side by side and they were identical. It was listed on the website as an OEM replacement and since I had already blew 200 on the expansion tank install, I figured I would give it a shot. From the reviews I read CSF is known more for racing high performance, but I could not get a word yeah or nay on longevity. I'll be the first.

I also did try the 1 1/4 wrench and I could not get it on the nut. I ended up finding the 32mm and tool store for tractor trailers. Could not find it anywhere else.

I tried several different ways on the counterhold but I could not get a good enough hold to break the nut. 3 hits with the hammer and that was it. The wrench made a big target.

On the nipple, with that clip broken there was no way to keep it on. I did not even see when it broke. I guess thats another reason to do it all at one time. I was fighting it but that break gave me no choice but to follow through.

@uncmozo. To be the clear, I put about three or four coats of epoxy on that nipple but I could not get a total seal. The best I could get it down to a small intermitent bubble. Over the course of two weeks the bubble became a full blown leak. It discolored the epoxy and broke the seal. By the looks of it I figure it may have held the pressure about another week. When I pulled it off when I removed the radiator, it came right off. The epoxy I purchased was rated up to 2500psi? there was another that was rated up to 3500 psi. Maybe that one would have held better?

I am not saying that the epoxy won't work on something else, but it appears that direct contact with antifreeze at high pressure is a no go.
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  #7  
Old 01-30-2012, 07:48 PM
cwpo1 cwpo1 is offline
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Also I only replaced the top and bottom radiator hoses. I did not change out the heater hoses or the vent hose.
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  #8  
Old 01-31-2012, 11:06 AM
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Trebbia Trebbia is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cwpo1 View Post
On the nipple, with that clip broken there was no way to keep it on. I did not even see when it broke.
The nipple always breaks inside the radiator.

All you do is push it down into the radiator side tank and leave it there.

Then you pop a new $3 dollar nipple into the hole.

Why didn't you just replace the nipple?
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  #9  
Old 01-31-2012, 06:50 PM
cwpo1 cwpo1 is offline
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I did not know it was possible. I had already planned to changed out the radiator and the upper/lower hoses anyway.
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  #10  
Old 01-31-2012, 09:43 PM
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shaftdrive shaftdrive is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cwpo1 View Post
I did not know it was possible
Don't feel too bad.

I had replaced just the nipple at one point and then a few months later, the radiator sprung a leak elsewhere.

You saved yourself that second step.
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  #11  
Old 02-08-2012, 05:36 AM
Shorething Shorething is offline
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I wanted to thank you for this information. I'm not a mechanic and your directions made the job less intimidating. I installed a new radiator, fan clutch, idler roller, both tensioners, water pump and upper and lower hoses. Filled the antifreeze and everything ran perfectly.
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  #12  
Old 02-08-2012, 05:40 AM
Shorething Shorething is offline
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Another thanks...

And, also a shout-out to Max from OEMBIMMERPARTS.COM, his helpful hints and insights and recommendations were a great help as well..

Thanks to ALL…
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  #13  
Old 02-08-2012, 06:35 AM
teklord69 teklord69 is offline
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Great tips thanks.
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  #14  
Old 02-11-2012, 07:35 AM
cwpo1 cwpo1 is offline
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Glad I could help. Make sure you post when you do something to help us non-mechanics!
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