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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 02-04-2012, 08:58 AM
patrickjoseph patrickjoseph is offline
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Broken fan blades

Opened up the hood this morning to find ALL the blades on my cooling system fan broken off. Strange because I don't recall any strange noises or incidents during driving that would have signaled the blades were breaking off - I would imagine this would have been a fairly violent occurrence.

Anyone else have this occur to them? Are the fans known to fail and break on their own? Did the first one break and cause the others to break off? Note that I replaced the original fan 3 years / 40,000 miles ago.

So, is it safe to drive to my indy with these broken fan blades? Anything I can do to reduce the risk of overheating aside from putting it on a flatbed? Anyway I can turn on the auxiliary fan to compensate? Keep in mind it's around 40 degrees here in Chicago.

Thanks in advance.
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  #2  
Old 02-04-2012, 09:04 AM
pleiades pleiades is offline
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It's probably safe to drive to your Indy if you pay attention to the engine/coolant temp and your Indy isn't too far away.

Your fan blades hit some point on the shroud, so either the shroud is misaligned or your water pump is going out or your motor mounts are shot.
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  #3  
Old 02-04-2012, 09:07 AM
bobdmac bobdmac is offline
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It depends on how fast you'll be going. If you slog along in traffic, you won't get any airflow through the radiator. You're better off at highway speed. You might time your trip so that traffic is at a minimum. Also, I would take the fan off completely to avoid throwing any more parts around the engine compartment. The broken blades create a dynamically unstable condition.
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  #4  
Old 02-04-2012, 09:53 AM
patrickjoseph patrickjoseph is offline
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Thanks for the input. The t-stat, water pump and radiator were replaced 2 months ago. Last time I looked at the engine was probably 2 weeks ago so the blades must have broken off since than.

Anything specific I should make sure the indy look at when he's replacing the fan?

Thanks, again.
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  #5  
Old 02-04-2012, 10:15 AM
teklord69 teklord69 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by patrickjoseph View Post
Thanks for the input. The t-stat, water pump and radiator were replaced 2 months ago. Last time I looked at the engine was probably 2 weeks ago so the blades must have broken off since than.

Anything specific I should make sure the indy look at when he's replacing the fan?

Thanks, again.
Correct me if I am wrong.. The fan blades shouldn't just disintegrate like that right? Did u check the plastic water pump pulley?
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  #6  
Old 02-04-2012, 10:18 AM
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shaftdrive shaftdrive is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by patrickjoseph View Post
Anything specific I should make sure the indy look at when he's replacing the fan?
The Indy needs to answer the question for you:

Why did the fan disintegrate?
  1. Are the rubber motor or tranny mounts bad?
  2. Or did the viscous fan clutch seize?
  3. Or, was the plastic fan itself developing cracks?
The solution for each is different.
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  #7  
Old 02-04-2012, 10:35 AM
patrickjoseph patrickjoseph is offline
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Originally Posted by teklord69 View Post
Did u check the plastic water pump pulley?

How would the water pump be involved in this? If the water pump failed, wouldn't the car immediately overheat?
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  #8  
Old 02-04-2012, 11:04 AM
pleiades pleiades is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by patrickjoseph View Post
How would the water pump be involved in this? If the water pump failed, wouldn't the car immediately overheat?
The fan clutch is mounted on the end of the water pump spindle. If the WP bearing were going out it could take some time to actually fail but the spindle still might have enough play to let the fan blades hit the shroud.

If the motor mounts are worn out, the engine under load can twist enough on the mounts that the blades touch the shroud and break.

I'm kinda surprised that you only have missing blades and no "collateral" damage from the shrapnel.
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  #9  
Old 02-04-2012, 11:11 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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This is the problem when you don't do cooling overhaul. Piecemeal replacement adds to cost, inconvenience, and worse, engine overheat.

For Fan Blade: none of the aftermarket brands is any good.
For this part, get it from BMW dealer, don't ask me how I know!

Also, get a new Fan Clutch, I am happy with Sachs.
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  #10  
Old 02-04-2012, 11:19 AM
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1BADBM 1BADBM is offline
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This happened to me last year. I replaced entire cooling system except the fan prior and it ended up like yours. Listen to Cn90 go oem.
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  #11  
Old 02-04-2012, 01:09 PM
patrickjoseph patrickjoseph is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pleiades View Post
I'm kinda surprised that you only have missing blades and no "collateral" damage from the shrapnel.

Yeah, me and everyone I've shown it to are amazed nothing was ripped up except for a few minor dents to the radiator. I'll have to take a few pics of what's left of the fan and the blades to post.
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  #12  
Old 02-04-2012, 01:19 PM
patrickjoseph patrickjoseph is offline
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Originally Posted by cn90 View Post
This is the problem when you don't do cooling overhaul. Piecemeal replacement adds to cost, inconvenience, and worse, engine overheat.

Cooling overhaul was done 3 years ago - everything including fan and fan clutch was replaced except for the radiator. All parts were OEM / BEHR. So far, have checked motor and trans mounts, water pump and shroud and they seem to be okay.

Can't test if the 3 year old fan clutch seized at some point so should I replace for peace of mind?
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  #13  
Old 02-04-2012, 07:05 PM
patrickjoseph patrickjoseph is offline
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Here's some pics of the damage.
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  #14  
Old 02-04-2012, 08:56 PM
bobdmac bobdmac is offline
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Looking at the damage makes me think the fan clutch failed and over-revved the fan. I've never seen all the blades break off so close to the hub like that. What made you look at the fan? Did it break up while you were driving?
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  #15  
Old 02-04-2012, 09:54 PM
patrickjoseph patrickjoseph is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bobdmac View Post
What made you look at the fan? Did it break up while you were driving?
I opened the hood to check my steering fluid. I have a leak in my steering rack. I had no idea my fan blades had broken off until I saw them. How would a clutch failure cause this damage?
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  #16  
Old 02-04-2012, 10:40 PM
bobdmac bobdmac is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by patrickjoseph View Post
How would a clutch failure cause this damage?
If the fan clutch fails, the fan will turn at the same speed as the pulley, rather than lagging at a lower rpm. If the blades are brittle, and one is cracked, it can break off. Then the fan is unbalanced and, in theory at least, the resulting vibration could break the other blades.
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  #17  
Old 02-05-2012, 04:30 AM
Quick99Si Quick99Si is offline
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You're more than fine to drive. If you are paranoid, don't go during rush hour (so drive between 10AM and 2PM), blast the heat, read the coolant temp if you have high OBC. My fan rarely even comes on these days unless I'm stuck in very slow traffic or idling for way too long.
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  #18  
Old 02-05-2012, 06:25 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Just curious, did you check your receipt from 3y ago?
What brand was Fan Blade? MTC?

Last edited by cn90; 02-05-2012 at 08:28 PM.
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  #19  
Old 02-05-2012, 07:09 AM
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QSilver7 QSilver7 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quick99Si View Post
... read the coolant temp if you have high OBC. ...
Just a friendly FYI...both the low & high clusters can be UNLOCKED as well...and the same TEST 7 will display the coolant temp (KTEMP)

Click the link below for instructions on how to UNLOCK both the HIGH or LOW instrument cluster...and there is info about each of the 21 TESTs that can be accessed once the cluster is UNLOCKED. The high cluster info is first, if you have the low cluster...scroll down past the high cluster info.


As you can see in the teaser pics from the link above...the low cluster provides the same info...just in a different form since it doesn't have a 20-digit alpha/numeric display for the information to appear...unlike the high cluster:



(see TEST 07 for how to read/interpret current coolant temperature on a LOW cluster)

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Old 02-05-2012, 09:23 AM
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Given what was said above about the water pump shaft wobbling and the need for an overhaul, I amend my prior statement to

Why did the fan disintegrate?
  1. Did the water pump fail?
  2. Or did the viscous fan clutch seize?
  3. Or, was the plastic fan itself developing cracks?
  4. Or, are the rubber motor or tranny mounts bad?
The solution for the first three is the same: COMPLETE COOLING SYSTEM OVERHAUL.
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  #21  
Old 02-05-2012, 10:20 AM
bobdmac bobdmac is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quick99Si View Post
My fan rarely even comes on these days unless I'm stuck in very slow traffic or idling for way too long.
I forgot you guys are in Chicago in February..
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  #22  
Old 02-08-2012, 09:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by patrickjoseph View Post
Anyone else have this occur?
I spent a couple of seconds doing a thread search for "fan blade" in the bestlinks to find this which may help the OP:
- What could cause a BMW fan blade to explode or disintegrate (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) & should you go electric (1)

Quote:
Originally Posted by patrickjoseph View Post
Here's some pics of the damage.
Nice. I'll add them to this thread:
- Pictorial look at typical E39 cooling system failure modes (1)
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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
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  #23  
Old 09-07-2012, 07:23 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Whenever you lean over to look at the rotating fan blade (engine running), beware!
Best is to hold a shield of some sort of shield (for ex, a garbage can lid) to protect you in the rare event the fan blade blows up.

I saw this on local news, not a BMW but similar idea:

http://www.ketv.com/news/local-news/...z/-/index.html



Quote:
COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa -
A Council Bluffs man died Thursday night in a freak accident while working on his car.

Authorities said the accident happened just northeast of the Mall of the Bluffs.

Investigators said the victim was leaning over the engine when a fan blade broke off and sliced into his body. They said he tried to get back to his house but bled to death.

The man, whose name was not released, left behind a wife and child.
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  #24  
Old 09-07-2012, 08:23 AM
Dinan540s3 Dinan540s3 is offline
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Fan blades break because...

From my personal vehicle I know the reason. Your motor mounts are messed up and they need to be replaced. The fan blades hit the upper radiator hose and there is the result. now I have oem fan on my car, so the blades held out fine, but the hose was cut--twice, month appart or so. Changing engine mounts is not easy job but if you have mechanical experience I suggest doing that.
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  #25  
Old 09-07-2012, 09:07 AM
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doru doru is offline
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The OEM fan blades are made by URO.
If the OP mounted MTC or any other brand, they can desintegrate, but they have to hit something for that to happen, or the fan clutch has failed in the locked position.

If the fan blade hit something, the OP has to look for signs where it hit. It can be any of the following:
  • bad install job (I have seen where the radiator was not positioned right, and thus having the shroud off alignment ever so slightly - the tolerance of the blade is not big, so in consequence any small movement can introduce interference)
  • bad WP - failed bearing, which will introduce wobble in the fan clutch/fan blade - interference
  • bad engine mounts, but usually the v8 is prone to that type of failure - more torquey engine, when revving suddenly
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