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X3 E83 (2004 - 2010)
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  #1  
Old 01-31-2013, 01:22 PM
jtwrights jtwrights is offline
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2005 X3 Low Temperature Gauge and Cold Weather

I have a 2005 X3 with approx. 80k miles. Recently, I have been experiencing low engine temperatures and the coolant warning light activating while traveling at high speeds in cold weather.

I live in Chicago and on a few days the ambient temperature has been below 20 degrees F. While traveling on the expressways (speeds in excess of 45 mph) the engine temperature gauge recedes to the blue. Shortly thereafter the coolant light activates on the dash and the heater in the car loses any heated output. I've checked the coolant level and it is fine.

When traveling on surface streets (relatively low speeds under 40 mph) the engine temperature is fine and pegs in the middle of the gauge. The interior heater also works just fine.

Any clue as to what is going on? I've searched these forums and haven't found anything similar to my situation. I would like some background before calling my repair shop (if necessary). Thank you in advance for any assistance!!!
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  #2  
Old 01-31-2013, 06:08 PM
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Not an expert, but may I suggest replacing the thermostat? Sounds like its letting the engine cool far too much at those moderate speeds.
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  #3  
Old 02-01-2013, 04:38 AM
jdauria jdauria is offline
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thermostat could be stuck open. 80k miles is getting up there in mileage and a cooling system overhaul may be in your near future. When you travel 40mph or so, there is enough air going through the radiator to keep the engine at normal operating temperature. But since its been super cold by you (-20*F yikes) the X3 is prone to extreme cold weather problems, at least from what I read and hear.

Did you check your coolant level? Check for leaks?
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  #4  
Old 02-01-2013, 11:26 AM
jtwrights jtwrights is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jdauria View Post
thermostat could be stuck open. 80k miles is getting up there in mileage and a cooling system overhaul may be in your near future. When you travel 40mph or so, there is enough air going through the radiator to keep the engine at normal operating temperature. But since its been super cold by you (-20*F yikes) the X3 is prone to extreme cold weather problems, at least from what I read and hear.

Did you check your coolant level? Check for leaks?
Coolant level is fine and I may have been unclear with the ambient temperature: it's been around 20 degrees F and when it goes below that temperature is when I'm having the problem.

And to reiterate, the engine is over cooling, NOT over heating; at least according to the temperature gauge in my car. My gut says thermostat but I just don't know enough to be sure.

Any ideas on cost to replace a thermostat? Is this a DIY project for a fairly handy (but generally car ignorant) person?
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  #5  
Old 02-01-2013, 11:35 AM
jdauria jdauria is offline
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Originally Posted by jtwrights View Post
Coolant level is fine and I may have been unclear with the ambient temperature: it's been around 20 degrees F and when it goes below that temperature is when I'm having the problem.

And to reiterate, the engine is over cooling, NOT over heating; at least according to the temperature gauge in my car. My gut says thermostat but I just don't know enough to be sure.

Any ideas on cost to replace a thermostat? Is this a DIY project for a fairly handy (but generally car ignorant) person?
Thanks for clarification, just sounds like the thermostat is stuck open.

http://www.bokchoys.com/differential/diy_thermostat.htm

But I feel like if your going to replace that part, you might as well do the entire cooling system because once one starts to fail the others will inevitably follow
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  #6  
Old 02-01-2013, 11:42 AM
jtwrights jtwrights is offline
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Thanks! I've got a call into the stealership as well as my local BMW repair guy for an estimate. I'll post back with the results.
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  #7  
Old 02-01-2013, 11:44 AM
jdauria jdauria is offline
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Originally Posted by jtwrights View Post
Thanks! I've got a call into the stealership as well as my local BMW repair guy for an estimate. I'll post back with the results.
If I remember correctly a cooling system overhaul is about 4 hours or labor?? You can source the parts to save some money
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  #8  
Old 02-01-2013, 12:39 PM
Supercourse Supercourse is online now
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Unfortunately today's thermostats are not the simple 5-min. job of dropping in a $10 metal device.

The thermostat costs a lot more now and is more involved to replace.
Seldom done in isolation, but as part of a complete cooling system overhaul.

Before diving in to change the thermostat, I'd eliminate a few other possibilities.

If the thermostat is stuck open, you should be noticing that the temp. gauge takes longer to reach the center position than it used to after a cold start (in any weather).

Surprising that once up to operating temp. the temp. gauge can go down to the blue, however high the hwy. speed is and whatever the air temp. - even if it really was 20 below, which it wasn't.

Maybe the switch for the engine cooling fan (electric) has gone bad and the fan is on continually.

Air pockets in the cooling system can produce strange symptoms.

Has the coolant be changed recently? (Should be every 4 years, with BMW blue coolant.)

Any chance some orange coolant was put in there at some point?

Did you definitely check the coolant level when the car was completely cold? Can be quite a difference.

The coolant level sensor in the expansion tank is a weak point according to the 3-series forums - it might be giving you a false reading.

Don't rule out the possibility of some localized overheating whatever the temp. gauge says.

At your mileage you shouldn't be expecting a thermostat failure - an expansion tank maybe.

When overheating is detected, there are apparently safeguards in BMWs including stopping flow of cabin heat to minimize any risk of scalding occupants.

AFTERTHOUGHT: I see the Bokchoys article above does confirm that a stuck thermostat can cause the engine to cool substantially when on the highway, so that is quite conclusive.

Last edited by Supercourse; 02-01-2013 at 12:42 PM.
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  #9  
Old 02-01-2013, 01:01 PM
jtwrights jtwrights is offline
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Thank you all for the responses, they have been most helpful. I will be sure to tick through the list Supercourse provided with the service professional to see if there is any possibility of something besides the thermostat. As far as the questions:

The coolant has been replaced at the normal intervals as recommended with the BMW preventative maintenance and all done by BMW trained service professionals/technicians. While there could have been orange coolant used I think it highly unlikely and I'm certainly not in a position to confirm that, unfortunately.

I checked the coolant level after the car had been sitting overnight so it was definitely cooled down.

I made an appointment with my local BMW repair shop after calling the stealership and getting an estimate of $425 to replace the thermostat. My local repair shop quoted $300 as follows: $115 for the part, $165 for the labor, and $20 for the replacement coolant. The appointment is for Monday (3 days away) so I will likely get the full low down then and will post the conclusions. I am hopeful it's only the thermostat or a sensor.

Thanks again for the thoughtful, educational and enlightening responses!
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  #10  
Old 02-02-2013, 07:00 AM
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X3emist X3emist is offline
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Sometime in the past few years the temp guage changed what it measures

I had this issue on our 2011 528 and learned that somewhere down the line some German genius decided to change what the temp gauge measures. They now measure oil temp, not water temp. I don't know what year this change occurred so you might look into that before you go changing stuff. I know, I know, makes me feel real confident when driving that I am relying on an electronic gauge to tell me if coolant is overheating. By the time that happens you better react quick. Why do they continually tinker with crap that ain't broke. No dip stick, no key etc etc etc.

Ruups, sorry, I had a misspelling in the title!
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  #11  
Old 02-02-2013, 07:11 AM
jdauria jdauria is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by X3emist View Post
I had this issue on our 2011 528 and learned that somewhere down the line some German genius decided to change what the temp gauge measures. They now measure oil temp, not water temp. I don't know what year this change occurred so you might look into that before you go changing stuff. I know, I know, makes me feel real confident when driving that I am relying on an electronic gauge to tell me if coolant is overheating. By the time that happens you better react quick. Why do they continually tinker with crap that ain't broke. No dip stick, no key etc etc etc.

Ruups, sorry, I had a misspelling in the title!
Thats why I haven't pulled the trigger on a 06+. Everything is too electronic, more electronics will equate to more problems in my opinion.
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  #12  
Old 02-02-2013, 07:53 AM
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X3-terrestrial X3-terrestrial is offline
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Originally Posted by X3emist View Post
and learned that somewhere down the line some German genius decided to change what the temp gauge measures. They now measure oil temp, not water temp. !
Is there a chance you remember the source? If this is true, they are really confusing things up! Oil temp should be that "oil temp" the coolant is much more sensitive to rapid changes than oil, thus alerting the driver faster. My 89 Cabriolet has both.
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  #13  
Old 02-02-2013, 09:02 AM
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Source

The BMW dealer told me this. The OP has a 2005 I just noticed so this isn't relevant to his issue, sorry for chiming in inappropriately but now you know
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  #14  
Old 02-02-2013, 09:38 AM
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It's cool, wasn't trying to create controversy or anything, just trying to learn more about it....something else to "Google" about! lol
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  #15  
Old 02-04-2013, 12:53 PM
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I just went through this whole thing. A few comments;

1) Yes, it is the thermostat stuck open. I first noticed my temp needle DROPPING from the middle when I was driving back highway speeds from Lake Tahoe.

2) Then I saw it take longer to heat up from cold start. It would reach the middle at city speeds, but as soon as I went on the highway, temp got cold again.

3) I would almost guarantee this is the thermostat stuck open.

4) while you're there, you might as well do the water pump and if you want, the expansion tank. THat is only like 40 bucks for the part (Behr), but you'll probably break the automatic transmission thermonstat, so might as well do that as well.

5) I think you could potentially just do the thermostat by itself, lose minimal coolant, and not have to flush the system. Even the independent quote seems high. You can get OEM thermostat for like $60.

6) Oil temp is very different from coolant temp and generally, in the instrument clusters, the labeling is different. Personally, I would prefer oil temp.

Good luck, OP. but you are on the right track with the thermostat. Everything else would generally cause your car to overheat.
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  #16  
Old 02-04-2013, 01:44 PM
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But what about the Low Coolant warning light that the OP gets after the temp. gauge has dropped on the hwy.?

Can that be a consequence of the thermostat stuck in the open position? Can't see it. A quite separate problem with the level sensor in the expansion tank?
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  #17  
Old 02-04-2013, 04:34 PM
jtwrights jtwrights is offline
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I picked the car up from the repair shop today after they replaced the thermostat and a lower radiator hose along with a temperature sensor. I'm assuming they flushed the coolant since they charged me $20 for it.

On my drive home I took it on the highway and had sustained speeds of over 40 mph with the ambient temperature at 30 degrees F. Unfortunately, the temperature gauge again started to drop and finally rested just above the blue and the cabin heat became non-existant. The coolant light never came on but I wasn't at those sustained higher speeds for very long and it wasn't terribly cold relative to the other instances this occurred. So, it could very well still be there (I just wasn't able to tell given the limited sample time).

I'm taking the car back in on Wednesday (Feb. 6 - 2 days from now) because I have some scheduling conflicts. They want to take the car on an extended test drive and run some more diagnostics. I'll report back again and thanks for all of your responses, they have been nothing short of awesome.
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Old 02-04-2013, 10:09 PM
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You're right. Totally forgot about the coolant light.

I am also baffled that you continue to have the problem after thermostat replacement.
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  #19  
Old 02-05-2013, 04:27 AM
timarnold timarnold is online now
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If it is very cold, you could be getting the low coolant light because the coolant is actually getting so cold in the radiator that the volume is reduced. By the time you check it, it could actually warm up due to heat soaking and the volume be back to an acceptable level. It kind of seems like a stretch, but is the only thing that makes much sense.
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Old 02-06-2013, 05:28 PM
jtwrights jtwrights is offline
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Final update (hopefully): It looks like the thermostat they initially installed was bad. I brought it back in and they swapped out a new one and everything appears to be working normal. I test drove it this evening at sustained speeds of over 40 mph with the ambient temperature at 34 degrees F. I won't be entirely confident until I get it out on the road in some weather with ambient temperatures lower than 20 degrees F but it looks like I'm back in action.

Again, thank you all for the assistance. Your discussions helped put me in a better position to talk with the technician and ensure I was getting the correct level of service.
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  #21  
Old 02-07-2013, 09:36 PM
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The $20 for coolant triggered a thought. You may want to check that they used BMW coolant (it's blue), vs some other coolant. Mixing coolant types is not a great thing. I would have expected BMW coolant to be more than $20 bucks. That combined with a thermostat that was DOA may mean the thermostat wasn't OE or OEM quality either.
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Old 02-08-2013, 04:32 AM
jdauria jdauria is offline
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BMW OEM Coolant is $20

http://www.ecstuning.com/BMW-E83-X3-...ling/ES196290/
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  #23  
Old 02-08-2013, 07:58 AM
jtwrights jtwrights is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by silentbob View Post
The $20 for coolant triggered a thought. You may want to check that they used BMW coolant (it's blue), vs some other coolant. Mixing coolant types is not a great thing. I would have expected BMW coolant to be more than $20 bucks. That combined with a thermostat that was DOA may mean the thermostat wasn't OE or OEM quality either.
The technician assured me the thermostat was OE and this is actually the second time in as many weeks that he has had an issue with that supplier. He actually told the supplier that they have one more chance until he switches to another supplier. Also, the coolant was the proper coolant.
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