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E36 (1991 - 1999)
The E36 chassis 3-Series BMW was a huge hit among driving enthusiasts from the first moment the car hit the pavement. The E36 won numerous awards over the years it was produced and is still a favorite of many BMW enthusiasts to this day! -- View the E36 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 01-25-2013, 01:40 PM
bmw_novice bmw_novice is online now
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No heat at idle - thermostat? Fault codes etc.

Hello All,

Well if it ain't one thing....it is another. Just got the starter done, and the VCG. But lo and behold, here is a new set of problems:

Issue # 1: I now dont have heat at idle, the heat comes on strong at even minimal speed (upto 30mph). What could it be? I checked the coolant level in the reservoir, seemed quite full, topped it off to be sure. The fan in front of the radiator was not running i.e the fan that is between the radiator and the bumper not the one closer to the motor with various belts. Is this a problem, should it be spinning at idle too?

Btw, the torque app (see below) showed that the engine coolant temp was about 188 deg F at idle, and about 150 degs when cruising at 65mph. The engine temp needle on the dash stays square in the center for the most part but I noticed that sometimes of late it tends to come up only till about the 1/3rd mark on the dial.


Issue # 2: I just bought the ODB 2.0 code reader bluetooth thingie and the Torque app, and found the following codes: P0420 (cat system efficiency below threshold), P1423, P1421. It does not say what #s 1421 and 1423 stand for.

An indy mechanic who had charged me a fortune when I first bought the car had told me that the intake manifold boot was torn. Could this be causing above issue # 2?

Waah I keep getting these irritating expenses when I am trying to get that suspension refresh done. It will now just have to be postponed!
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  #2  
Old 01-25-2013, 01:57 PM
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ZeGerman ZeGerman is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bmw_novice View Post
Issue # 1: I now dont have heat at idle, the heat comes on strong at even minimal speed (upto 30mph). What could it be? I checked the coolant level in the reservoir, seemed quite full, topped it off to be sure.
Quote:
Originally Posted by bmw_novice View Post
I noticed that sometimes of late it tends to come up only till about the 1/3rd mark on the dial.
Based on these two comments, it definitely sounds like you have a failed t-stat. If the t-stat is working correctly, the temp gauge should reach 12 o'clock and stay there after about 10 minutes of driving in ALL weather & driving conditions. No exceptions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bmw_novice View Post
The fan in front of the radiator was not running i.e the fan that is between the radiator and the bumper not the one closer to the motor with various belts. Is this a problem, should it be spinning at idle too?
The electric auxiliary fan should only be running if A) the air conditioning is turned on, and/or B) your water temp has gotten so hot that it has called the aux fan to duty for additional cooling beyond the normal belt-driven fan. If your A/C is off and the water temp is within the normal range, the aux fan should not be running.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bmw_novice View Post
Btw, the torque app (see below) showed that the engine coolant temp was about 188 deg F at idle, and about 150 degs when cruising at 65mph. The engine temp needle on the dash stays square in the center
This is normal. The actual water temp fluctuates quite a bit, but BMW built a buffer into the water temp gauge so that it always stays straight up at 12 o'clock if the water temp is within the normal temp range.

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Originally Posted by bmw_novice View Post
Issue # 2: I just bought the ODB 2.0 code reader bluetooth thingie and the Torque app, and found the following codes: P0420 (cat system efficiency below threshold), P1423, P1421. It does not say what #s 1421 and 1423 stand for.
I don't know what 1421 and 1423 are off the top of my head, but I bet you can find out fairly quickly by searching with Google.
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Last edited by ZeGerman; 01-25-2013 at 02:00 PM.
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  #3  
Old 01-25-2013, 02:31 PM
bmw_novice bmw_novice is online now
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Thanks German, that was really helpful. So it seems like the T-stat, I don't want to do it outside my apt in this freezing cold though. Anybody knows how much it might cost in labor at a local shop? The Midas guy next door quoted $ 250.00 for the replacement (and was wanting to include another $ 40 for diagnostics).

Btw, just to clarify, I noticed that the temp gauge was at the 12 o clock position throughout (95% of the time) on a one hour drive, however, just yesterday, it came down a bit after a long drive to the 1/3rd position. To add, it takes about 10 minutes for it to get to the 12 position, and it fluctuated from that position (came down) only yesterday.

Also, bavauto suggests that codes 1421 and 1423 are related to the secondary air pump and emissions. How critical is this replacement to vehicle function/performance. Won't leave me stranded somewhere if I don't fix it, will it? http://blog.bavauto.com/5929/bmw-fau...-secondary-air

Regards
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  #4  
Old 01-25-2013, 03:49 PM
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ZeGerman ZeGerman is online now
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No, it shouldn't leave you stranded.

And yes, the symptoms you describe regarding the t-stat sound exactly like it is stuck open. The temp needle should never EVER go down from 12 o'clock. If it does, the car is over-cooling itself due to a t-stat which is stuck open. Same exact thing happened to my car. The t-stat stuck open, which caused the temp needle to go down, with less heat coming from the vents, and it eventually tripped my check engine light due to the engine running rich (02 sensor code). That may likely be what is causing your catalytic converter codes.

As far as how much it will cost you to replace, the part is about $25, but you'd be well advised to also replace the t-stat housing at the same time, which I believe is about another $30-40. I have no idea what the "book rate" is for this job, but it should take a skilled mechanic no longer than an hour to replace, and many mechanics charge between $80-120/hour. You'll also have to pay for some coolant to fill the system back up after the new t-stat has been installed.
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For sale: E30/E36 front sway links
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Last edited by ZeGerman; 01-25-2013 at 03:51 PM.
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  #5  
Old 01-25-2013, 07:24 PM
bmw_novice bmw_novice is online now
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So then $ 250 sounds somewhat reasonable i suppose.
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  #6  
Old 01-25-2013, 08:19 PM
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Important point to note, if you have a shop do it, make certain they don't use their generic coolant. It MUST be an aluminum safe Zerex or G-05 rated coolant with distilled water. Most shops I've seen (unless they are Euro specific and know better) will just use off the shelf Prestone crap or similar.
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  #7  
Old 01-27-2013, 01:15 PM
bmw_novice bmw_novice is online now
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Thx jonesin, but what difference does it make? I ask because I just topped it off ( added a cup) of that prestone antifreeze. Btw, is there anything else I should replace while doing the tstat? If they change the coolant totally, would it be considered a flush? And how much coolant would they need for it?

Last edited by bmw_novice; 01-27-2013 at 01:39 PM.
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  #8  
Old 01-27-2013, 01:45 PM
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Originally Posted by bmw_novice View Post
Thx jonesin, but what difference does it make? I ask because I just topped it off ( added a cup) of that prestone antifreeze. Btw, is there anything else I should replace while doing the tstat? If they change the coolant totally, would it be considered a flush? And how much coolant would they need for it?
1. The reason non-aluminum sage coolant is bad is because you're radiator and cylinder head are aluminum.

2. If you don't know when the ENTIRE chilling system was changed it really should all be done at the same time, else the remaining parts are just going to fail on you one after another. Hopefully not catastrophically.

3. They will need one gallon of coolant mixed equally with one gallon of distilled water. NOT TAP WATER!

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  #9  
Old 01-28-2013, 07:32 PM
bmw_novice bmw_novice is online now
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One more question, would it be ok to wait a couple of months, till it warms up a bit before I fix the tstat? That way I could do it myself outside. Any danger in ding this?
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  #10  
Old 01-28-2013, 07:38 PM
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ZeGerman ZeGerman is online now
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You really do not want to wait to fix this. By running your engine with a failed t-stat, it the engine takes far longer to reach operating temp, and struggles to stay there (if it ever gets there at all in Illinois in the winter). This causes it to run rich for a long time, which is not only bad for the environment (and your pocketbook - due to poor fuel economy), but is hard on the engine, oxygen sensors, and catalytic converters. I'd fix it.
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  #11  
Old 01-30-2013, 07:49 AM
jamrobin jamrobin is offline
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Monday on the way to work I had no heat whatsoever in the 318... (and also on the way home!) It was -35C with the wind chill and I swear it was getting even colder inside the car!

The temperature guage was at it's normal high noon position, so I proceeded to try and find another reason for the problem... checking fuses, looking for a stuck heater valve... Once the car cooled a bit I opened the rad cap and lo and behold no coolant for as far as my flashlight could peer... Topped it up and went for a drive... at first no change but then I went up a steep hill and Ta Da! Heat! I proceeded to go back home and "burp" the system and all is well again.

My concern is where the hell did the coolant go? I thought I detected a faint coolant smell in the fall when heating season began, and topped up then but hadn't really thought about it since... I'm guessing that this points to the heater core? How nasty a job is it to swap that out?

I've contemplated putting some kind of stop leak in until spring but I'm concerned that if it can in fact stop a leak it can probably plug a water passage too?

I guess for now I'll just keep some pre-mix in the trunk and top up and burp as needed... and take the M3 whenI need to be on the road more than an hour.

I would love to hear thoughts on how tough a job the heater core is, or if anyone thinks stop leak is safe to use as a stop gap measure until April or May when I can start tearing stuff apart without frost bite (and breaking every plastic part I touch)?
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Old 01-30-2013, 08:10 AM
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Replacing the heater core is extremely time consuming. You basically have to remove most of the dashboard.

That said, the next thing I should say is do NOT use any form of stop leak. Those products cause all sorts of problems. In addition to maybe (but probably not) clogging the leak itself, they also clog the rest of the cooling system. Very bad, not unlike clogged arteries of a person. You don't want that stuff inside the cooling jackets of your engine and elsewhere.

Secondly, just because you're getting a whiff of coolant when you turn on the heater, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's due to the heater core. If there is only a little coolant leak under the hood, the blower motor will suck it into the cabin for you to smell. So it's hard to say where your leak is coming from. It could be the heater core (especially if accompanied by wet footwells near the heater box and a persistent oily residue on the inside of the windows), but it could also very likely be some other cooling component under the hood. Either way, you have a leak which must be fixed. Time to start looking around with a flashlight.
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1998 BMW 328is
1966 Pontiac GTO
2007 Subaru Impreza 2.5i 5-door
View my photos: Caught in the Wild
For sale: E30/E36 front sway links
For sale: OEM E36 328 catback

Last edited by ZeGerman; 01-30-2013 at 08:12 AM.
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  #13  
Old 01-30-2013, 09:23 AM
jamrobin jamrobin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ZeGerman View Post
Replacing the heater core is extremely time consuming. You basically have to remove most of the dashboard.

That said, the next thing I should say is do NOT use any form of stop leak. Those products cause all sorts of problems. In addition to maybe (but probably not) clogging the leak itself, they also clog the rest of the cooling system. Very bad, not unlike clogged arteries of a person. You don't want that stuff inside the cooling jackets of your engine and elsewhere.

Secondly, just because you're getting a whiff of coolant when you turn on the heater, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's due to the heater core. If there is only a little coolant leak under the hood, the blower motor will suck it into the cabin for you to smell. So it's hard to say where your leak is coming from. It could be the heater core (especially if accompanied by wet footwells near the heater box and a persistent oily residue on the inside of the windows), but it could also very likely be some other cooling component under the hood. Either way, you have a leak which must be fixed. Time to start looking around with a flashlight.
Thanks,

That confirms what I thought... The passenger side carpets were in fact wet when I got the car but so was everything else... PO had shampooed the entire interior... but the passenger side carpet stayed wet a whole lot longer than the rest, which makes me suspicious a bit. Since I dried everything it didn't seem to come back though.

I guess carrying coolant in the trunk until the weather gets better isn't so bad, and maybe I can try to take advantage of the season and park it on top of some nice fresh snow overnight (freezing rain today so not tonight), then back away in the morning to get a bit of insight whether it's leaking anything, and approximately where it's dripping.

Jamie
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