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X3 E83 (2004 - 2010)
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  #1  
Old 12-04-2012, 10:14 AM
awdrev awdrev is offline
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2004 X3 3.0 Radiator Fluid & Transmission Leak Questions [Update]

Hello all,

I recently purchased a 2004 BMW X3 3.0 with 98k miles and an auto transmission.

I have searched tremendously before posting my question as I hate to be one of those users that posts before reading so I wanted to confirm and then ask some questions about pricing.

The car BTW does not seem to have a lot of the maintenance done, not from what I can tell from the Carfax anyways.

I am pretty sure that my coolant expansion tank needs replacement.
1) Is Turner Motorsport what most of you would recommend to get the replacement part from? I could not find a specific DIY to replace this part, is there an old one someone with pictures that could link?

2) I have heard that replacing the thermostat is also wise, is that recommended? Car heats fine as far as I know.

Now to a more serious question: when I topped off my coolant earlier (due to the leak) I noticed small brown spots... in my experience, that's usually transmission fluid leaking onto the radiator system.. but upon further inspection it seems that the oil heat exchange is actually located outside the radiator unit...

1) I am not sure how to proceed now, I mean, I can replace the coolant expansion tank but what in the world can I do about the tranmission leak? Is there a way to confirm it...

2) Is this a common occurrence or is this something else?

Thank you, I look forward to contribute to this community.

AWDREV

Last edited by awdrev; 12-06-2012 at 02:40 PM.
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  #2  
Old 12-05-2012, 07:15 AM
mlukas161's Avatar
mlukas161 mlukas161 is online now
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Here is a DIY for the expansion tank replacement.
http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=415259

One for the thermostat
http://www.bmw330ci.net/maintenance/thermostat.php

Here is the complete cooling system overhaul.
It's probably time to do this if it's never been done.
http://www.bmw330ci.net/maintenance/completecoolant.php

I've never heard of a transmission leak in the X3's. It doesn't seem to be a common problem.
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  #3  
Old 12-05-2012, 08:34 AM
awdrev awdrev is offline
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Thank you. So the good news is that apparently there is no way that transmission fluid can get into the cooling system because they are totally independent. This is a great relieve because I had an old Ford (yea i know) that had a radiator that was used for both oil and water... of course they were separate systems but all within the same radiator... and what ended up happening is the inside system for the transmission started to leak badly and the transmission ended up being destroyed because of insufficient cooling.

Now that I have a better picture or what needs to be done, I will be replacing the coolant tank. Fortunately, I did confirm that it is what's leaking, which again is good news because it seems quite simple.

And after consideration, I will be getting the BMW OEM part from the dealer which actually is almost double the price but I can't risk any damage to the engine.

As far as the water pump, I'm intrigued as well. I'd like to replace it with a new one, and also to replace the hoses, etc but I need to do a little more research. I think taking the mechanical fan will be a pain, a minor one I reckon but I'll definitely want to get an idea of taking that part off. Fortunately, it seems that after the mechanical fan is off, it's an easy process.

Now, as I said I just got the car and thought about the transmission but I keep reading that it's "lifetime tested" and there is no need to do anything to it.... of course, that's really unpersuasive, cars need maintenance, simple as that. But when I called the BMW dealer, they refused to do it and said tranny would break. I'll prob leave that as is for now, tranny works fine even at 100K and I'll really hate to get the fluid switch and have it slip, etc.
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  #4  
Old 12-05-2012, 09:19 AM
Supercourse Supercourse is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by awdrev View Post
..... I think taking the mechanical fan will be a pain.....

Now, as I said I just got the car and thought about the transmission ....
The engine cooling fan is electric - quite easy to remove by releasing a few plastic clips from what I have read.

Brown spots in coolant be from someone in the past topping off with green coolant.
Just a guess, but doing a good flush and fill should be the first priority after replacing the expansion tank and its A/T thermostat.

Personally, I wouldn't stress over the A/T lifetime fluid if it has never been changed.

Water pumps and thermostats appear to last longer in the E83 than they do in the E46, so not too much risk in delaying that if no symptoms.

Hoses are definitely worth replacing if any signs of degradation after 9 years and 100K miles.

If the vehicle has not had the best of care under the previous owner(s) may be best to err on the side of caution though.

The first thing I would do is a transfer case fluid replacement, even before the coolant repair.
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  #5  
Old 12-05-2012, 09:27 AM
awdrev awdrev is offline
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Thank you for the reply.

I'll replace the coolant tank and I will do a flush or have the dealership do it. I will prob change the water pump in the summer though... and maybe replace everything including the radiator.

If it's only an electric fan, it'll be really easy to pull out but do we have a mechanical one? hmm, I'll have to double check... if not, then even easier to replace water pump.

I'm leaving the A/T fluid as is.... but talk to me more about the transfer case fluid replacement what's the deal with that, as I said, tranny feels strong and I have checked out all the features such as the DSC, etc and they seem to work.

1) Are there major issues with the transfer cases?
2) I'll look for a DYI but if you have one, feel free to please post it along..

EDIT: FOUND A DYI so will probably do that too... but do tell me how the transfer cases are in these vehicles... etc

Last edited by awdrev; 12-05-2012 at 09:31 AM.
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  #6  
Old 12-05-2012, 09:50 AM
Supercourse Supercourse is offline
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BMW engineers like to avoid accessories that are a drag on engine power, so electric cooling fans area no-brainer.

For the 2007+ model they moved to an electric water pump.

Not sure where they are with electric power steering across the current model range.

Transfer cases are thought to be a weak point with the X3 based on discussion in this forum.

Mostly it's the separate actuator that wears out, but some owners have had bigger problems either as a consequence of that, or lubrication issues.

For part of the 2004 model year X3 transfer cases were filled with A/T fluid as the newly-developed xDrive fluid was not available then.

Dealers did not replace the fluid unless a wear value code was thrown based on monitoring of resistance in clutch plate operation.

Fluid costs about $50 so any cautious owner should have had it done regardless.
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  #7  
Old 12-05-2012, 09:53 AM
awdrev awdrev is offline
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But I also have read that if mine used A/T fluid, it would be best if I started using xDrive fluid... The switch of liquid concerns me, is there a way to know which one is it? Maybe through the VIN or through a label...
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  #8  
Old 12-05-2012, 10:29 AM
Supercourse Supercourse is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by awdrev View Post
But I also have read that if mine used A/T fluid, it would be best if I started using xDrive fluid... The switch of liquid concerns me, is there a way to know which one is it? Maybe through the VIN or through a label...
Not really, but if your build date is prior to March 2005 the factory fill was certainly Dexron III A/T fluid.

When you drain it, you should be able to tell from the reddish color.

The xDrive fluid is a very light color.

It's not like other instances where there is a concern that some of the old fluid remains in passages and may be incompatible with the new fluid.

Opinions vary, but changing it about every 50K miles seems right.
The other concern is, for any model year, the factory fill for both the transfer case and the 2 diffs. (synthetic 75W90 gear oil) has been observed to be on the low side.

This may or may not have been a factor in the few cases of early transfer case and diff. problems (clunking, outright failure).
More likely just variances in how well the supplier assembled the gears at their plant.
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  #9  
Old 12-05-2012, 10:34 AM
awdrev awdrev is offline
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So even if the factory used DIII fluid, I should just go ahead and put xDrive fluid?

I will keep the factor that you mentioned about the differentials... unfortunately, I prob won't be getting to that anytime soon. I'll do the coolant expansion tank, and then the transfer fluid change soon and we'll see how it goes from there.

Assuming the car gives me no problems, I will start saving up to do a full cooling system upgrade by the summer which is right where I should be hitting 100K and I'll also try to take care of other fluids... but I am death scared to touch the tranny, especially if it's working fine.
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  #10  
Old 12-05-2012, 10:59 AM
x3brian x3brian is offline
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BMW changed its tune on the tranny's in 07 and now recommend 100,000 mile fluid change. Keep in mind while the GM transmission is different for post lci refresh its the same fluid dexron iv...some food for thought...

I change mine every 30k...but auto are like a box of chocolate...you never know what your going to get.

As for the electric fan, it comes out super easy once the air snorkel is removed. It's only like two clips that hold it in place.

For the cooling system for the m54 motor it is recommended to change water pump and thermostat at the same time as expansion tank. They are known problem areas. Some also like to replace radiator too so it's a 1 and done solution. I know with the e39 it was like clock work every 76k miles the cooling system would fail.
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  #11  
Old 12-05-2012, 11:04 AM
awdrev awdrev is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by x3brian View Post
BMW changed its tune on the tranny's in 07 and now recommend 100,000 mile fluid change. Keep in mind while the GM transmission is different for post lci refresh its the same fluid dexron iv...some food for thought...

I change mine every 30k...but auto are like a box of chocolate...you never know what your going to get.

As for the electric fan, it comes out super easy once the air snorkel is removed. It's only like two clips that hold it in place.

For the cooling system for the m54 motor it is recommended to change water pump and thermostat at the same time as expansion tank. They are known problem areas. Some also like to replace radiator too so it's a 1 and done solution. I know with the e39 it was like clock work every 76k miles the cooling system would fail.
Point well made. I'll speak to the dealership about the tranny but this is an 04. Or you meant to say that their minds change in 07 about what they said regarding auto trannys in general.

I'd love to change the water pump and thermostat now but I won't get the chance... I'll just replace the expansion tank and hope that it holds up! And talking about the water pump, is the BMW OEM part still using the plastic part? I know some aftermarket water pumps upgrade it to METAL but I'd like to stick as OEM as possible if I can... and all I have to say is who in the world thinks plastic will hold up to extreme conditions? would it cost that much more to make the little part out of metal?

Gee
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  #12  
Old 12-05-2012, 11:33 AM
Supercourse Supercourse is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by awdrev View Post
So even if the factory used DIII fluid, I should just go ahead and put xDrive fluid?
Yes, most certainly. ASAP
ATF has always been used in transfer case applications for any vehicle maker, but if BMW felt that all the interventions of xDrive demanded a more complex fluid formula, that's perfectly believable.

Quote:
Originally Posted by awdrev View Post
.... and all I have to say is who in the world thinks plastic will hold up to extreme conditions? would it cost that much more to make the little part out of metal?
Not standing up for BMW, but the general industry direction is to reduce weight wherever feasible.

Might not seem much in isolation, but it all adds up.

Cost to the car maker certainly comes into it, but I think they would argue that's not their primary reason for using plastic impellers, plastic expansion tanks, etc.

Not sure which is preferable for the average owner, a metal impeller that corrodes down to nothing because the coolant didn't get changed often enough, or a plastic one that fails through old age.
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  #13  
Old 12-05-2012, 12:28 PM
awdrev awdrev is offline
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Okay, I'll ask for some of that good xDrive liquid tomorrow and replace it too.

So I get your argument about weight reduction but when it comes to critical parts that directly affect the reliability and resilience of the car, that thought is just unpersuasive coming from BMW's part. Yes, weight has a direct effect on a variety of factors such as MPG, etc but a metal propeller and a metal gear for the actuator would have been more beneficial than detrimental... I suppose you are right about whether is it preferable for the average owner to have a metal impeller that corrodes down to nothing because the coolant didn't get changed often enough, or a plastic one that fails through old age. But I think getting a coolant change is far easier and cheaper than getting the whole water pump replaced.

Anyways, you've been great mate and I thank you for your time. I will be getting the parts and doing the swap hopefully soon... I got to finish these finals first.
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  #14  
Old 12-05-2012, 12:32 PM
x3brian x3brian is offline
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Originally Posted by awdrev View Post
Point well made. I'll speak to the dealership about the tranny but this is an 04. Or you meant to say that their minds change in 07 about what they said regarding auto trannys in general.
I was meaning that BMW changed the recommended service interval in the glove box maintenance guide from lifetime to every 100k miles in 2007. The ironic part is its the same fluid. Things that make you go hmmm.

They also did the same thing with spark plugs between 2009 and 2010 (same part number though). The service interval went from 100k miles to 60k.

For transfer case go get the BMW fluid and do ASAP! It easy to do just remember to get two new copper washers.
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  #15  
Old 12-05-2012, 12:33 PM
awdrev awdrev is offline
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Originally Posted by x3brian View Post
I was meaning that BMW changed the recommended service interval in the glove box maintenance guide from lifetime to every 100k miles in 2007. The ironic part is its the same fluid. Things that make you go hmmm.

They also did the same thing with spark plugs between 2009 and 2010 (same part number though). The service interval went from 100k miles to 60k.

For transfer case go get the BMW fluid and do ASAP! It easy to do just remember to get two new copper washers.
I was under the impression that the washers were fine to be re-used... as long as the dealer has them, I would not mind getting them though.
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Old 12-05-2012, 12:41 PM
x3brian x3brian is offline
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I have reused mine in the past when i forgot to buy them so you can do it. I personally just like to get new ones.
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  #17  
Old 12-05-2012, 12:43 PM
awdrev awdrev is offline
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Ditto.

Thanks Brian, you and SuperCourse have been great at answering my concerns. I'll be sure to keep this thread updated!
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Old 12-05-2012, 03:23 PM
x3brian x3brian is offline
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One other thing, a good fluid transfer pump makes life a lot easier when refilling the transfer case. It is a very tight fit between a cross member and the full plug. I have found filling it much easier to shove a 1/4 clear tube in there attached to a pump.
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  #19  
Old 12-05-2012, 05:12 PM
awdrev awdrev is offline
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It's funny you mention that because I was just looking for an old pump but I can't find it! UGH this is annoying.... what other way are there? I think I remember hearing that there was enough clearance to just fill it up using the bottle but I could be wrong...
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  #20  
Old 12-05-2012, 05:24 PM
awdrev awdrev is offline
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Here's an ancillary question: I notice a little bit of jerking before the car comes to a stop... this seems to be a software issue from what I've researched. How true is that? and what's the overall range to fix something like that at the dealer... I feel this should be complementary because it's software, I mean, who charges for firmware upgrades..

Anyways, I will be doing the coolant tank and transfer case thing tomorrow morning, I gotta get it done early!
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  #21  
Old 12-05-2012, 05:27 PM
Supercourse Supercourse is offline
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Originally Posted by awdrev View Post
I think I remember hearing that there was enough clearance to just fill it up using the bottle but I could be wrong...
I think there is only enough clearance to get the bottle horizontal.

Might be difficult to get the last of it in.

A new fluid transfer pump might be best to ensure no residue contamination of that expensive fluid.
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  #22  
Old 12-05-2012, 05:29 PM
awdrev awdrev is offline
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I think there is only enough clearance to get the bottle horizontal.

Might be difficult to get the last of it in.

A new fluid transfer pump might be best to ensure no residue contamination of that expensive fluid.
Right, I thought so. I'll get a pump or get something worked out.

And as far as how much to put, it's just to the top until it tops off right? According to what I've read it's just fill until it starts coming out, etc.
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  #23  
Old 12-05-2012, 07:49 PM
x3brian x3brian is offline
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You are spot on. It's full when it hits the top and starts spilling out. It takes almost the whole bottle.

Plus one on supers comments. Get a new pump. It is very very tight.
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  #24  
Old 12-05-2012, 07:54 PM
x3brian x3brian is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by awdrev View Post
Here's an ancillary question: I notice a little bit of jerking before the car comes to a stop... this seems to be a software issue from what I've researched. How true is that? and what's the overall range to fix something like that at the dealer... I feel this should be complementary because it's software, I mean, who charges for firmware upgrades..
The dealer charges! Lol. Figure $150 if you need an update. However try the transmission reset procedure first. I'll need help from the folks with a gm5 tranny to walk you through it, because I have the gm6. I am not sure if the steps are different.

If that doesn't help, at 98k miles I would then drop the pan and change fluid and filter.

Another possible culprit could be your drive shaft.
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  #25  
Old 12-05-2012, 08:00 PM
awdrev awdrev is offline
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The dealer charges! Lol. Figure $150 if you need an update. However try the transmission reset procedure first. I'll need help from the folks with a gm5 tranny to walk you through it, because I have the gm6. I am not sure if the steps are different.

If that doesn't help, at 98k miles I would then drop the pan and change fluid and filter.

Another possible culprit could be your drive shaft.
Thanks, you been really helpful. I am still so cautious about changing the tranny fluid... the dealership service guy I spoke to was charging me 400 bucks and told me if it went bad it was on me. He also said, just to ride it.. it's been 100k miles, and I read that unless you have done the fluid changes consistently in the past, it's a BAD idea to do it at 100k when everything is settled.

UGH this is turning out to be a little too much but I gotta start somewhere... I'll try the tranny reset and see if that fixes the issue. I am trying to tackle one issue at a time and right now the transfer case fluid DEFINITELY has priority.

Bought the coolant tank and will try to do that soon too... this might be a stupid question but to remove the tank, must I raise the car? or is an X3 high enough... I'm a thin guy so I think I can squeeze in unless there's major maneuvering around...
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