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Go Back   Bimmerfest - BMW Forums > BMW Model Discussions > 5 Series > E39 (1997 - 2003)

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 10-20-2011, 10:28 AM
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What is Seafoam? ... where does it go? ... what does it do in an E39? ... and how?

This quote from this thread today got me thinking:
- Seafoam through the Vaccum Line - Yea or Nay

Quote:
Originally Posted by doru View Post
What is Seafoam? What does it do? And how?
Doing an E39-only title-only search for "seafoam", reveals about a dozen threads, most of which contain little to no detail on those specific questions (but lots of unsubstantiated 'assumptions').


Reading just those threads ... I find (in no particular order) ...
  • Most spray the Seafoam into the F connector line to either the injection pump or the brake booster (diego88m, facedon, etc.)
  • However, some say 'not' to use the brake-booster line (bimmerd00d)
  • Some worry about Seafoam's effect on oxygen sensors (16valex)
  • Others worry about Seafoam damage to the cats based on the amount of smoke in the exhaust after a gas treatment (bobdmac)
  • Some warn that incorrect usage can lead to disaster (cn90, bigCo540i, etc.)
  • Others point out an OSV that was ruined by Seafoam (Max at Oembimmerparts)
  • Some use Mopar Combustion Chamber Cleaner instead (aise)
  • But, most just wonder if it does anything and why (Josh P., Edjack, Doru, Schardbody, Orxan4ik, nigel_1981, Cancan, etc.)
After reading all the E39 threads above, I still wonder myself.

Looking up the components:
- MATERIAL SAFETY DATA SHEET - Sea Foam


I find some brand names:
  1. Sea Foam Motor Treatment SF-16, SF-128, SF-55
  2. Sea Foam Trans Tune TT-16, TT-55
And, for those brands, I find (at first apparently) new (to me) chemical terms (even though I have taken the standard college inorganic, organic, and biochemistry classes).
  1. Pale oil (~50%)
  2. Naptha (~30%)
  3. IPA (~15%)
Googling for "pale oil", I find that even Wikipedia has no spot for it; but it seems to be a very light oil (hence, I guess, the name 'pale' oil), apparently similar to thin sewing-machine & wind-instrument oils:
- MSDS for pale oil (1)

No need to google for naptha, it's well known as, basically, a bunch of common aromatic solvents.

The mysterious IPA, turned out, anti-climatically, to be simple isopropyl alcohol, in three-letter disguise.

So now we know the answer to the 'what' (it's half common sewing machine oil with the other half being a mixture of common aromatics & drugstore alcohol). Pretty basic stuff: I 'could' summarize as oil, solvent, & alcohol (bearing in mind that aromatic solvents and alcohol already make up a good part of the gasoline we burn today).

So, what we're left with is:

Q: What is Seafoam? Where does it go? What does it do? And how?
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Last edited by bluebee; 10-21-2011 at 10:50 AM. Reason: Adding details ...
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  #2  
Old 10-20-2011, 10:52 AM
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bmw_n00b13 bmw_n00b13 is offline
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It's for American muscle cars, a holdover from when gas was pretty impure and carbs dosed totally random amounts of gas into a large cylinder with loose tolerances. Like most magic mystery oils it doesn't help, and without empirical data it probably will hurt.
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Old 10-20-2011, 11:42 AM
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From my personal experience with my E38, E36, E46, E30, E34 :
Seafoam is great in oil before oil changes only! Do not drive the car with seafoam in the oil. What it does it cleans so well the engine that will clog the oil filter. I once drive about 60 miles my E38 with a can of Seafoam in oil . When I dropped the oil and looked at the filter it was looking like a rag . That kind of a rag that grandma use to wash the dishes. The filter was MANN and had on it 3000 miles. It was clogged with dirt but it was somehow twisted and very weak.

Seafoam in the vaccum line with the engine runing, just like in the video above DO NOT DO IT ! Use Liqui Molly Ventil Sauber added to the gas instead. Seafoam with the engine running is an aggressive way to take care of the carbon build on the valve, but looking closely this is what's happening: The carbon on the valve becomes flaky, falls in the combustion chamber, gets stuck between cylinder and cylinder walls scratching the walls and ruin the engine !

If you use the Liqui Molly stuff, the carbon will come off in small pieces without affecting anything else. They will get burn, or slowly eliminate through the exhaust port slowly but surely .

From my personal experience take a look at the pictures with my E38. I have done the same thing like in video above , right before I took apart my engine. Luckly I did not drove the car like that so no additional damage has been done. However I damaged the cylinder walls to one cylinder.

Take a look at the 4th picture, first cylinder at the left has some carbon chunks on top it . Or sand like.

I would not recommend Seafoam in the vacuum/intake for eliminating carbon build on valves. Is too aggressive. Instead , use Liqui Molly in gas. That's the way some guys do in
Europe with good results.

It is okay for throttle bodies cleaning but for valve cleaning is a NO NO.
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Last edited by joyism5; 10-20-2011 at 11:54 AM.
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  #4  
Old 10-20-2011, 11:54 AM
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Seafoam falls pretty much into the same category as Marvel Mystery Oil, Slick 50, etc. It claims to cure all ills, but might not be the right tool for the job at hand. IMHO, common sense would dictate that if you follow *sane* oil change intervals, use the proper oil and good-quality fuel, you really don`t NEED anything else....running the tach into the upper half of it`s register on a regular basis helps to keep internal bits clean & carbon free, as well.
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  #5  
Old 10-20-2011, 12:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fast Bob View Post
Seafoam falls pretty much into the same category as Marvel Mystery Oil, Slick 50, etc. It claims to cure all ills, but might not be the right tool for the job at hand. IMHO, common sense would dictate that if you follow *sane* oil change intervals, use the proper oil and good-quality fuel, you really don`t NEED anything else....running the tach into the upper half of it`s register on a regular basis helps to keep internal bits clean & carbon free, as well.
+1

It appears to work great for crappy poorly engineered vehicles with nothing to lose. I would not recommend turning the exhaust system of your finely tuned machine into a garbage dispos-ALL. People who recommend this stuff often cite results for Dodge Rams, Ford Mustangs and such. They are actually pleased to see smoke spew out of their exhaust. I can loosen my header to garner the same visual effect OR suck some oil into the same vacuum hose they use for seafoam. They have no idea what the smoke represents so they assume it must be carbon off the engine vs the substance they just dumped into their intake.

Has anyone ever sampled the smoke, burned seafoam in a lab, and compared the chemical makeup of the two? Has the smoke been tested for concentrated levels of carbon? Does seafoam, when it is exposed to extreme heat and pressure, turn into carbon?


I think the most frequently expressed concerns for the BMW are:

BMW CBU is much denser than the less engineered cars
It does not touch the "something" plate where a lot of CBU is located in BMWs
You could inadvertently damage the BMW Cat Converter by spewing pressurized deposits through it at high velocity aka using it like a garbage disposal

Not to mention I'm not going to redline my engine with zero load for several minutes to force crap through my exhaust system.

My conclusion is it is not necessary for me to prove something is bad before I DON'T use it. A wise person should prove something is good before they DO use it. Watching cars smoke on YouTube isn't proof. Comparing Ford F150's and Chevy's to BMWs is flat out ridiculous. BMWs are NOT just another poorly engineered driving machine that is simply designed to haul stuff or to go fast in a strait line.


- That being said I will ALWAYS be willing to adjust my conclusion if/when new information is provided -


Quote:
Originally Posted by joyism5 View Post
From my personal experience with my E38, E36, E46, E30, E34 :
Seafoam is great in oil before oil changes only! Do not drive the car with seafoam in the oil. What it does it cleans so well the engine that will clog the oil filter. I once drive about 60 miles my E38 with a can of Seafoam in oil . When I dropped the oil and looked at the filter it was looking like a rag . That kind of a rag that grandma use to wash the dishes. The filter was MANN and had on it 3000 miles. It was clogged with dirt but it was somehow twisted and very weak.

This makes more sense to me.



.

Last edited by seemyad; 10-20-2011 at 12:58 PM.
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  #6  
Old 10-20-2011, 12:08 PM
z168 z168 is offline
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Thanks for the info Jovism5. You didnt mention Seafoam into the gas tank, which is what is recommended on the can to begin with. Still no?
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Old 10-20-2011, 12:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by z168 View Post
Thanks for the info Jovism5. You didnt mention Seafoam into the gas tank, which is what is recommended on the can to begin with. Still no?
Emphatically, "NO"....a bottle of Techron once or twice a year won`t hurt, but I wouldn`t put ANY of that other crap in my car....
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  #8  
Old 10-20-2011, 12:32 PM
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There's no reason to suspect that the seafoam didn't CREATE the carbon buildup in the photos. Without a history of how the vehicle was operated and maintained, what kind of fuel and additives was used, and what the head looked like before the Seafoam, it's impossible to rule out the seafoam as the culprit.

Anything that creates that much smoke can't be good for the engine. It obviously messes up the fuel mixture, which will not improve the DME calibration, the O2 sensors and cats will get covered in filth, and the muffler will get filled with soot. Ever wonder why Diesels don't have cats and O2 sensors? This is why.

Last edited by bmw_n00b13; 10-20-2011 at 12:40 PM.
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  #9  
Old 10-20-2011, 12:37 PM
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If you are having to use seafoam in your bimmer, you're doing it wrong.

EDIT: Unless you own an E92 335i, then you may need to be doing this yearly...lol.

Last edited by BentValve; 10-20-2011 at 01:02 PM.
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  #10  
Old 10-20-2011, 12:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by z168 View Post
Thanks for the info Jovism5. You didnt mention Seafoam into the gas tank, which is what is recommended on the can to begin with. Still no?
The can posted in the post above is the one that you put it in gas or oil . That, I say it's fine except the seafoam added to oil while driving it.
Seafoam has another can that you add to throttle body or via a vacuum hose, which I used too. I think is the one in the picture bellow. I throw away the can, and I recall I bought about 3 different cans @ that time. It is stated on it that you need to rev you engine around 2500 RPM when use it. Then the car will smoke just like in the video above.
That is not right. It's true that works, but the risk to damage your cylinder walls is very-very high.
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Old 10-20-2011, 01:07 PM
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Old 10-20-2011, 01:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bmw_n00b13 View Post
There's no reason to suspect that the seafoam didn't CREATE the carbon buildup in the photos. Without a history of how the vehicle was operated and maintained, what kind of fuel and additives was used, and what the head looked like before the Seafoam, it's impossible to rule out the seafoam as the culprit.
.
This is my personal car and the carb build up because of the high oil consumption (bad OSV + worn stem seals). As far as the gas used, I used at least 91 in it. There is no way to blame the Seafoam to carbon build up. Carbon was there. And it got loose and flaky in big chunks. I had the valves removed and soaked, in that Seafoam and is true that is getting into it deep.
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  #13  
Old 10-20-2011, 02:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joyism5 View Post
This is my personal car and the carb build up because of the high oil consumption (bad OSV + worn stem seals). As far as the gas used, I used at least 91 in it. There is no way to blame the Seafoam to carbon build up. Carbon was there. And it got loose and flaky in big chunks. I had the valves removed and soaked, in that Seafoam and is true that is getting into it deep.

Soaking it is far better than spewing it out of the exhaust so no arguments from me on that. I am just in no position to take an engine apart to soak it.

I recommend what Joism5 said to use, Liqui Moly, and here is a link:
http://www.autohausaz.com/search/pro...ids/Treatments


I just ordered 3 cans of Jectron Fuel Injection Cleaner, 3 cans of Ventil Sauber Valve Cleaner, and 1 can of Motor Clean Oil Change Prep (Engine Flush). The total came to $50.28 which qualifies for free shipping.

.

Last edited by seemyad; 10-20-2011 at 02:35 PM.
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Old 10-20-2011, 02:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fast Bob View Post
Seafoam falls pretty much into the same category as Marvel Mystery Oil, Slick 50, etc. It claims to cure all ills, but might not be the right tool for the job at hand. IMHO, common sense would dictate that if you follow *sane* oil change intervals, use the proper oil and good-quality fuel, you really don`t NEED anything else....running the tach into the upper half of it`s register on a regular basis helps to keep internal bits clean & carbon free, as well.
+1

Quality oil changed at regular intervals will clean a dirty engine or keep a new one clean.

Seafoam is snake oil for those that erroneously believe in a quick fix and advertising.

Loosening chunks of debris at a time is not good for your engine as it can block oil galleries and oil drain-back passageways plus cause other problems.

Quality oil will slowly dissolve the gunk and remove it with the filter and an oil change. Quality multi-wt oil used to be called 'detergent' oil because of its cleaning properties. That is why the oil should be changed when its at or near operating temperature and all the gunk particles are dissolved in it and all come out with the oil.
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Old 10-20-2011, 03:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by seemyad View Post
Soaking it is far better than spewing it out of the exhaust so no arguments from me on that. I am just in no position to take an engine apart to soak it.

.
I knew that oil consumption is no good , but I just did not had time & budget to take the engine apart.The carbon build in so manner that I had 20 PSI compression in one cylinder. I did the compression test, leakage test which point to one exhaust valve. I assumed that is the carbon build not letting the valve to close properly. At that time I tried the Seafoam since I was thinking I had nothing to loose. I loose....I scored a little bit one cylinder wall because of the carbon chunk released by the Seafoam. With the compression, actually it was a chunk of the valve missing. Luckily it got throw in the exhaust and did not scored the cylinder walls.
I have the cylinder head apart now and the valves soaked in a mix (Marvel Mystery oil + Seafoam).

This is the video with the compresion test, and at the end of it, there is a test for a exhaust burn valve.
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Old 10-20-2011, 06:47 PM
vclifford vclifford is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
But what we're left with is:
What does it do? And how?
You know the real method asked for treatment with water, i.e. let little bit of distilled water get sucked in through vacuum tube in a hot engine so that when it turns to steam it cleans up carbon and then do then sea foam. some thing this guy says
http://www.chrisnovoa.com/57_engine-...ture-w-seafoam

I did this on my Volvo240 (i.e. water + seafoam) did not make much difference as engine was pretty clean to start with, moreover red block volvo engines are not prone to carbon build up, now going by threads l read here, BMW engine do suffer from carbon build up.

I will see when I will feel brave or foolish enough to do this.

turbobricks is site where folks drive mostly pre 95 RWD turbo charged Volvos and smoke the hell out of them

Last edited by vclifford; 10-20-2011 at 06:58 PM.
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Old 10-21-2011, 09:43 AM
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I killed my left cat with Seafoam thru my intake
http://forums.bimmerforums.com/forum....php?t=1383519

yup...seafoam crap'd my primary o2 sensor. how do i fix this?
http://www.clubcivic.com/board/showthread.php?t=89074

Cat glowing red after Seafoam treatment
http://www.yotatech.com/f116/cat-glo...atment-138705/
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Old 10-21-2011, 10:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by seemyad View Post

... I killed my left cat with Seafoam
... seafoam crap'd my primary o2 sensor
... Cat glowing red after Seafoam
I wonder what warnings are printed on the label of the Seafoam container itself?

Anyone have a can handy to transcribe for us to read?

Last edited by bluebee; 10-21-2011 at 10:05 AM.
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Old 10-21-2011, 10:16 AM
dvsgene dvsgene is offline
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For those interested, here is a good breakdrown of the various cleaners:

http://www.jhodson.net/miata99/inj-cleaners.txt
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Old 10-21-2011, 10:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dvsgene View Post
here is a good breakdrown of the various cleaners
Interesting.

Here is an excerpt of just the Seafoam section:

Quote:
Seafoam ingredients:
1 PALE OIL 4229 40-60% = A base or process oil refined until its color = yellow.
2 NAPHTHA 20 25-35% solvent powerful , common in all good injector cleaners. Zippo juice !
3 IPA 125 10-20% = Isopropyl Alcohol (rubbing alcohol), Useless in gas , cuz it already has tons.

In my opinion , putting oil into your gasoline is not too smart. Think about it? fouls plugs, makes lots of carbon , and messes up OXy sensors. You decide.
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Old 10-21-2011, 02:40 PM
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seemyad seemyad is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
Interesting.

Here is an excerpt of just the Seafoam section:
PALE OIL 4229 40-60%

This explains the white smoke that comes pouring out of the exhaust.

Although I accidently reverse the colors at times::

White Smoke = burning oil (seafoam)
Black Smoke = burning water


I am pretty convinced the smoke pouring out of the exhaust after seafoam is vacuum fed into the engine is the seafoam itself.

.

Last edited by seemyad; 10-21-2011 at 02:46 PM.
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Old 10-21-2011, 04:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by seemyad View Post
I am pretty convinced the smoke pouring out of the exhaust after seafoam is vacuum fed into the engine is the seafoam itself
I don't doubt it.

Seafoam = oil + naptha + alcohol

There is already naptha and alcohol aplenty in gasoline ... so the only thing different is the sewing machine oil.

BTW, is this where most people seem to be adding the Seafoam?

Note: Picture courtesy of this thread:
- E39 (1997 - 2003) > E39 528i Seafoam in the intake
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Old 10-21-2011, 05:13 PM
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Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
Anyone have a can handy to transcribe for us to read?
When I will find the other can " Deep Creep" will add it here.
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  #24  
Old 10-21-2011, 05:25 PM
vclifford vclifford is offline
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Location: CT
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
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Mein Auto: 530i
Are you talking about Kreen from Kano Labs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by joyism5 View Post
When I will find the other can " Deep Creep" will add it here.
Are you talking about Kreen from Kano Labs. Bobistheoilguy is the forum if want to make any oil popular.

http://www.kanolabs.com/engCle.html#anchor63574


I ran 1/2 a can (300-400miles) for couple of days , the difference was the car was consuming 1 quart per 1000 miles and now it is 1 quart per 3000 miles. Earlier the oil was bmw 5w30. now it is mobil1 0w40 so that is one variable. I have yet to plan for crankcase ventilation system to really address the issue as the vacuum test was ok.
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  #25  
Old 10-21-2011, 05:29 PM
vclifford vclifford is offline
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Mein Auto: 530i
Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
I don't doubt it.

Seafoam = oil + naptha + alcohol

There is already naptha and alcohol aplenty in gasoline ... so the only thing different is the sewing machine oil.
So the only difference is method of application.
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