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Go Back   Bimmerfest - BMW Forums > BMW Model Discussions > 3 Series / 4 Series > E36 (1991 - 1999)

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 01-06-2008, 02:58 PM
NOLAbimmergirl NOLAbimmergirl is offline
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could this be a cracked head?? help!!!!!

Our 1998 328i right now (as much as we love it) is causing us untold misery, inflicting huge amounts of pain.

We purchased our car 3 months ago with 116K miles, and by all accounts seemed to run just great. Since that time, we have spent:
- $600 for a complete tune up (pricey, but figured it was worth it)
- $800 for two (not one!!) cooling system overhauls including two (!) thermostat replacements, due mainly to intermittent overheating problems.

We have much faith in the current BMW clinic we are (still) using...but after the last thermostat replacement, they finally paid attention to our complaints of blowing white smoke from the exhaust.

The last job ---to the tune of $2100--- was to replace the head gasket. They noted the #3 cylinder was the apparent problem child. It now runs stronger than ever...that is, until the white smoke not only returned, but is back in all its glory, billowing out the exhaust pipe, and the distinct odor of coolant is noticeable. While it is burning small amounts of coolant, the overheating problem hasn't returned -- yet. This was only two days after receiving it back from the repair shop, and they had it for nine days!

Now they are telling me, "it must be a cracked head" and there is no way for them to know without sending the head off to an off site shop. They DID ADMIT to not planing the head prior to this last installment, citing it measured up just fine with their technical equipment, maintaining that no planing was necessary.

At this point we are disgusted and angry, not to mention BROKE (!) after a total of $3500 in less than 6 weeks time. If it is a cracked head, what are we talking moneywise, and should this shop pick up any if not all the charges in order to 'make this right'?

If it is NOT a cracked head, what the heck could it be???? Hey any and all advice is supremely appreciated, we love our bimmer so much and this just has us distraught.

Thanks everyone!
nolabimmergirl.
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  #2  
Old 01-06-2008, 03:19 PM
CameronSF CameronSF is offline
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White smoke is coolant getting into the combustion chamber from somewhere. Usually this is a head gasket issue although there may be a fissure in one of the coolant passages causing leakage. Either way the shop should have inspected the head prior to installation...I would think they should be on the hook for some of this.
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  #3  
Old 01-06-2008, 04:13 PM
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bboyvek bboyvek is offline
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when u first took ur car to ur mechanic he should have pressure tested ur car and run some chemical tests to determine if coolant was being mixing with oil/gas.. if they didnt do their job rite u shouldnt be responsible..
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  #4  
Old 01-07-2008, 07:06 AM
NOLAbimmergirl NOLAbimmergirl is offline
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Thanks everyone for reading and replying :-) I'm much of the same opinion myself. I will be sure to keep you posted and let you know how it turns out. Let's hope there's some sort of resolution!!
Cheers,
nolabimmergirl
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  #5  
Old 01-29-2008, 08:10 AM
oboeplayer23 oboeplayer23 is offline
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I have had the SAME EXACT PROBLEM...including the number #3 they did the samew exact thing too, first the water pump and thermo. replaced....then that didnt wonk then the head gasket....worked for a while like 1 day 100 miles....threw a check engine light...water still getting in the #3 cylinder...now they are telling me its a cracked head....which i was furious...telling them they should have checked this....which i thought i did...when i told them do whatever it takes to get the car fixed.....since i have a 3rd party warranty they are honoring it because i have a friend who works there....they also told me they were going to cover some of the costs..since its been 1 day since i have had my car. IM really frustrated...i think once i get this fixed...its a trade in or sell.

-Greg
Scranton, pa


p.s what did it end up costing to get a new head

thanks
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  #6  
Old 01-29-2008, 04:16 PM
bmwadam bmwadam is offline
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That is a cracked head issue. I suspect there was a thermo failure, the car overheated one too many times and cracked one of the coolant passages.

I do not understand why they would automatically assume that it was a water pump, thermo issue when the car was billowing white smoke. This is a classic sign of a cracked head.

I'm sorry for your pain. Since you are so far into this now cost wise, you should try and pick up a boneyard head and have SOMEONE else install it. I do not think you have been treated well in this situation. These are great cars, BUT are unforgiving IF they are not maintained and worked on properly.

Last edited by bmwadam; 01-29-2008 at 04:17 PM. Reason: typo
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  #7  
Old 01-29-2008, 08:35 PM
iznogoud iznogoud is offline
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I am with BMWAdam on this one. They did not do a good job at the mechanic for either of the cars that
were mentioned having the same problem in this thread. In some regard, there is much merit in asking
them to pick up some of the damage costs, and I say this because they should have told you that they need
to pressure test the heads, which costs a lot, before they proceeded with the repairs. In fact, they should
have susspcted a bad head before going with a gasket-only replacement.

All of the symptoms, including the ovearheating indicator coming on, are due to the cracked head or
gasket. The car was not really overheating in a traditional sense, it was acting as if it were
ovearheating because hot gases from the ignition chamber were rushing into the coolant lines and the
cooling system. To diagnose whether there is a thermostat issue, or head gasket, or the head itself
they need to run a series of test. First they find out if it overheats because of a thermostat or water
pump. If it is not the case, they need to remove the head and pressure test it. This because if they are
to replace the gasket, the head has to come off. When the head is off, they send it to someone else who
can pressure test that alone and inspect it for cracks.

I do not know how to advise you on how to proceed, but since you have gone too far with repairs, you
might as well get a new head and have someone install it along with a new gasket.

Now, another question to ask is why did the head and head-gasket go? This is probably because the car
had overheated in the past; overheated in a traditional sense.

Sorry to hear about your troubles.
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Last edited by iznogoud; 01-29-2008 at 08:38 PM.
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  #8  
Old 01-29-2008, 10:19 PM
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NO-IT'S NOT NECESSARILY A CRACKED HEAD!

Its pretty simple, here's my guess. They didn't bother planing the head as you mentioned. They definitely should have. That's their fault, unless they asked you if you wanted it done and you specifically refused it. Now, when head gaskets go, if they go in glory they tend to cause pitting of the surface of the head or small imperfections, or most likely, warping. So, the head most likely is warped and thus did not create a good seal on the HG, and now it blew again. The shop should absolutely pick up the tab in that situation.

Similar situation, the head had pitted a bit in some areas due to the HG blowing before. Now that its reinstalled, just like the warped situation, the pitting caused the seal to not be perfect (as HG seals need to be) and it blew again. And, the shop should pick up the tab here as well.

The last situation, which is not as favorable for you, is that the shop failed to catch a crack or fracture in the head. Now, this would be their fault for installing it as is, but you can't reasonably expect them to eat the cost of a new head. Here's where they should pick up the labor and gasket, since they should have never reinstalled a damaged head, but you will reasonably be expected to purchase the new head, as they had nothing to do with the head itself failing.
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  #9  
Old 01-30-2008, 01:39 AM
blitzer blitzer is offline
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did they change the piston rings?.. worn rings also result in a white chimmney
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  #10  
Old 01-30-2008, 05:57 AM
bobbobb bobbobb is offline
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I think the head could be fine as its happened to me a few times on older cars, the head gasket blew and should have been skimmed and pressure tested a thicker then is put on to make up the diffrence and in some cases new bolts as they stretch which have to be tightened in the correct order or the head doesnt lie flat. the car would then be fine but if the head wasn't skimmed then it could run fine for a few days or weeks then would probally let go when you give it a thrashing classic tons of white smake out the back.

you would be very unlucky to crack the head though it does happen.

if the heads ok just needs skimmed the garage should do all the work free except paying for the head to be skimmed and pressure tested as you have paid for this once and the job was a bad one.

if the heads cracked you need to supply a good head and they should do everything else free as its not your fault they didnt check the head before putting it back on.

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  #11  
Old 01-31-2008, 07:33 AM
bmwadam bmwadam is offline
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The problem is that these cars run hot! They do not take well to overheating. Have them test the head, OR better yet have them take it off and send it to someone who can. THEN determine what needs to be done. Either way they should eat the labor costs. BUT if you do need a new head, you will have to pick it up.

Of course it could be due to warping, or improper installation of the head, gasket and no planing, BUT this is a low mileage car. HG's do not just fail. There is something else that happened, I suspect overheating. IF it was overheated enough to blow the gasket, odds are greatly increased that a crack occurred, although not nessecarily. Again get it pressure tested. Any good head shop has the tools to do this.
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  #12  
Old 01-31-2008, 02:02 PM
oboeplayer23 oboeplayer23 is offline
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hello all,

and thank you all for your imput. Well it was a cracked head, i took it tues. morning...furious at them since i told them to check everything no matter the cost...i had to go back later in the day...to get some stuff out of the car that i needed..and to my horror i saw that the head was out in one pile, my cooling system and fans in another.. and pieces all over..(they showed me the crack hairline size around #3) .this is (i thought) a qualified BMW certified dealership shop..so at 83 dollars an hour youd think theyd know what the hell they were doing...i even said after the fact...didnt you pressure test the head...i mean isnt that common sense...if the head gasket went wouldnt you at least pressure test the head to see if its ok...not very happy at the moment..i dont even want to talk to them at the moment.. they have it......hopefully it will get fixed.......and ill see what happens...they did ask me about pressure testing the system.. i naturally thought that was the head and all...but it turned out to be just the cooling system test...for 83 dollars might I add....my total loss thus far is 2250 with head gasket(1650) water pump and thurmo (600)
sorry for babbling i love these cars...and when i got it in 04 it ran great until nov. of 07 just regular main. i hate to part with it now...after all the miles ive had with it. BUT I ALSO KNOW THIS IM NOT PUTTING ANOTHER PENNY INTO IT BECAUSE OF THEIR SCREWUP...

A very angry BMW driver..
-ob
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  #13  
Old 01-31-2008, 02:08 PM
PatrickG328 PatrickG328 is offline
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Sorry man that sucks.

Thank God I work on my own cars. Honestly, if I didn't do my own work I couldn't afford this car.
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  #14  
Old 02-01-2008, 09:41 AM
bobbobb bobbobb is offline
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  #15  
Old 02-02-2008, 02:51 PM
citystars403 citystars403 is offline
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Sell the heffer when u get it back, Gain some money back and find another DEAL
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  #16  
Old 03-04-2008, 03:23 PM
oboeplayer23 oboeplayer23 is offline
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ok,

I am back, the head is cracked ive been fighting with BMW now for 2 weeks, since finding out the head is crack, realize that i already had the water pump, head gasket replaced, now my head has to be replaced, i had talked to another local BMW dealership about 30 minutes away from me and advised me that everything should be covered...because of the faulty work, they even gave me a number to call, customer relations the 18008311117 number, and they informed me that even though BMW did the work, they were NOT required to check the HEAD, for cracks, does this seem VERY VERY STRANGE, i got a price check for a new head is 2335 + 3.50 for the plug.....if i have to pay it, im naming names in my later post. god damn STEALERSHIPS!
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  #17  
Old 03-04-2008, 05:03 PM
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Oboe,
If you described the symptoms to the dealer and told them to fix the issue as needed, its absolutely their responsibility. You told them "The car is doing X, fix it." Its their responsibility to troubleshoot the issue and fix it correctly. If they replaced Y in order to solve X issue, and Y didn't do it, then you shouldn't be picking up the tab for their mistakes, simple as that.

You need to call BMWNA (don't know if that's the number or not) and talk to someone very high up. Also, be sure you have all receipts, estimates, problem descriptions and diagnoses. Don't lose your temper with them. Be very cool headed, and be clear about what the problem was and state quite clearly what you expect to be covered. Also, go to the BBB and other organizations. Whatever you do, keep your cool, or you'll get nowhere with the companies.

If it were me, first off, I'd demand labor on the new head be covered. Next, I'd demand labor on the headgasket and water pump/thermo jobs be completely reimbursed. Yes, you'll have to pay for the new head, because that should have been your responsibility anyway, but the other things were their faults so they should eat it. You didn't tell them to replace the water pump, you told them to fix the issue. Simple as that.
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  #18  
Old 03-04-2008, 10:38 PM
vwvannut vwvannut is offline
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I'd say they are on the hook for all the labor, unfortunately I wouldn't trust a shop that didn't do a standard and routine test on the head when it was out of the car. This is common knowledge, obviously everyone on this forum agrees and we are not (at least not all) professional mechanics. I would ask them to refund the cost of labor and all no reusable parts (head, intake, exhaust gaskets, etc) and take the car to a real shop with real mechanics. By the way what was the name and location of the shop?
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