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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 05-24-2010, 09:28 PM
mashed mashed is offline
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Help! 1997 BMW 328i Overheating, Failed Emissions, and other Newbie questions

Hi everyone, I bought a used 97 328i last week, and I've been having overheating issues. Initially the issue was a clogged radiator, so I had that changed to a new one. On a cold engine I can usually drive about 5 to 10 minutes on the highway before it starts overheating. Eventually the coolant in the expansion tank is boiling over. I'd usually let it cool a bit then open the cap to add liquid to the expansion tank.

Things that have been done so far:

New radiator
Coolant flush from Valvoline (on the way home)

I was told the issue might be a huge air pocket in the cooling system, and after the coolant flush I was getting what felt like the right pressure on the radiator hoses. However, after driving another few miles it started overheating again. I would stop the car whenever it got near the red light and pop the hood. The coolant was boiling. I uncapped the expansion tank after a little waiting (after coolant stopped boiling) and added more water/coolant. I had to do this process about 3 to 4 times to get home. The expansion tank was never empty but one time I was adding coolant I heard something that sounded like popcorn popping, and I'm not sure if this necessarily means something got damaged.

I now realize this may have already done some damage to the engine, but I literally had no other way to get home. I did a cold start on the car a few days later and it sounded about the same, no colored smoke coming from the exhaust, but the only thing I noticed was when I stopped the engine after maybe a minute or two of running I could see some very light steam or smoke coming from the left of the engine. When I say light I mean if I didn't have the hood open with my head looking in there I wouldn't have noticed it. The next day I also checked the expansion tank for oil but it seemed to be clean.

Symptoms:

I can drive the car a solid few miles before the temperature starts rising. As soon as the temp is at the middle, within about 5 minutes it will start to continue towards red. Whenever I stop the car after it starts overheating, the expansion tank is boiling to the point where if I uncap it a LOT of liquid jets out of the thing. Also if I unscrewed the bleed valve I'd see hot steam shooting out.

Also, the only time I felt correct pressure from the radiator hoses was when I paid for a coolant flush. Any other time the hoses were easily squeezable.

Also, the radiator grille itself felt maybe slightly warmer to the touch when the engine and coolant were boiling hot, and I'm pretty sure it was just from being near the engine.

Possible Solutions:

The Valvoline guy said that my radiator fan clutch was not functioning properly. It would spin when the car started but he could just reach his hand in, stop it, and spin it the other direction without injuring himself. He said if I got a new fan clutch it might be the host of a number of problems but I'm not sure if it will.

Lingering questions:

I also got a smorgasborg of codes from the failed emissions test and I wasn't sure what they meant.

MIL Command Test: Fail
Diagnostic Trouble Code Result: Fail

P1250 - Manufacturer Specific Code
P1188 - Manufacturer Specific Code
P1189 - Manufacturer Specific Code
P0170 - Fuel Trim Malfunction (Bank 1)
P0173 - Fuel Trim Malfunction (Bank 2)
P0442 - Evaporative Emission Control System Leak Detected (Small leak)


1. Is there any other way I can check for engine damage besides what I have done already?
2. If I have low pressure in the radiator hoses AFTER getting a new radiator put in, what else could be causing this? (Note the only time the pressure felt right was after the coolant flush.)
3. What does it mean if the the radiator grille feels almost room temperature when the car engine temp is nearing redline? Does this mean something else is clogged?
4. How much of a difference will changing the fan and fan clutch make in cooling the car?
5. What do the codes mean, how can I fix them, and will any of these cause an immediate harm to anyone driving the car?

Please let me know what I should be checking to diagnose the problem, I am very new to BMW's and car maintenance in general but I am trying to learn as much as I can. The more reading I do the more I realized I made mistakes when trying to fix this problem (one of the biggest was pouring water into the expansion tank when the car was overheating), and I definitely know better now. From this point I just want to figure out what the problem was and what these emissions codes mean. Any help is appreciated, I don't expect anyone to answer every question, but I will edit and cross off the resolved ones as I go. The car's pretty much mine from this point so the most helpful advice at this point would be resolving the issues with the car itself.

I have 4 prepaid Carfax reports I will run for anyone who can help me solve a problem and wants one.
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Old 05-25-2010, 08:08 AM
injunmort injunmort is offline
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unfortunately, it sounds as if your head gasket has packed up. check to see if you have coolant in the oil (milky looking oil) white smoke at the tailpipe or steam coming out of the oil fill cap after car gets hot. you might also see if you have coolant on the oil fill cap. my buddy just went through this with his 98 528. refused to believe it was head gasket. $800.00 later at the dealer, replaced the thermo, flushed system etc and the car still overheats. i am also being optimistic as it could also be a cracked head because the car was run hot. you can bleed the system all you want, but if there is a breach of the gasket, you will still get compression gasses in the coolant eventually causing a vapor lock. take the opportunity to do head gasket, water pump and thermo. it will save alot of headaches in the end. the engine fan on the clutch does very little in the way of cooling once the car is moving. it is only to provide some airflow when the car is at a standstill. you should get the bentley manual and see if you would want to attempt the repairs yourself. it is a big job but very doable if you have some experience and can follow the steps in the manual. i know the dealer here quoted my buddy $2800.00 to do head gasket without doing the water pump etc. i would suggest you do it yourself if you plan to keep the car. fwiw.

Last edited by injunmort; 05-25-2010 at 08:17 AM.
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Old 05-25-2010, 05:51 PM
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drivinfaster drivinfaster is offline
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definately sounds like you did some damage. you can get a combustion gas test done, or diy (it's not hard). here's a link:
http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/Engin...motiveQ5fTools

you need to get the overheating dealt with first before attempting to fix any emissions related failures.




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Old 05-25-2010, 07:16 PM
mashed mashed is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by injunmort View Post
unfortunately, it sounds as if your head gasket has packed up. check to see if you have coolant in the oil (milky looking oil) white smoke at the tailpipe or steam coming out of the oil fill cap after car gets hot. you might also see if you have coolant on the oil fill cap. my buddy just went through this with his 98 528. refused to believe it was head gasket. $800.00 later at the dealer, replaced the thermo, flushed system etc and the car still overheats. i am also being optimistic as it could also be a cracked head because the car was run hot. you can bleed the system all you want, but if there is a breach of the gasket, you will still get compression gasses in the coolant eventually causing a vapor lock. take the opportunity to do head gasket, water pump and thermo. it will save alot of headaches in the end. the engine fan on the clutch does very little in the way of cooling once the car is moving. it is only to provide some airflow when the car is at a standstill. you should get the bentley manual and see if you would want to attempt the repairs yourself. it is a big job but very doable if you have some experience and can follow the steps in the manual. i know the dealer here quoted my buddy $2800.00 to do head gasket without doing the water pump etc. i would suggest you do it yourself if you plan to keep the car. fwiw.
How can I check the oil in the engine? Just open the cap where I would pour oil and look in? I didn't see anything milky when I last looked. Also the expansion tank's fluid appeared to be free of oil, and I checked and there is no white smoke coming from the tail pipe. I have yet to see if the car is hot again because I am afraid this may damage the engine. Regardless the behavior and pattern of overheating did not change after my radiator was replaced.

I think the biggest reason the car is still overheating is because the coolant isn't circulating properly to the radiator. I remember when the car was overheating the coolant in the expansion tank was boiling, the radiator hoses were too hot to touch, and the radiator grille felt cooler than I was expecting.
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Old 05-25-2010, 07:16 PM
mashed mashed is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drivinfaster View Post
definately sounds like you did some damage. you can get a combustion gas test done, or diy (it's not hard). here's a link:
http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/Engin...motiveQ5fTools

you need to get the overheating dealt with first before attempting to fix any emissions related failures.




df
If I do the test and all seems ok does that mean my engine should be fine then?
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Old 05-25-2010, 08:47 PM
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yes but it sounds like your cooling system needs to be bled properly
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Old 05-25-2010, 09:02 PM
mashed mashed is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by E36_Hater433 View Post
yes but it sounds like your cooling system needs to be bled properly
I believe when I got a coolant flush at Valvoline they used a machine that pumps coolant in and through the system, so it should have eliminated air pockets which I thought might have been causing the issue. And while I was able to drive the longest afterwards the vehicle still overheated, with the same symptoms. Boiling hot hoses, expansion tank, little hot air coming from heater, and little heat on radiator grille.
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Old 05-25-2010, 09:04 PM
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bleed it yourself its not that hard..

and if the problem still persists then i would get a compression test
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Old 05-26-2010, 03:40 AM
Thisguys325i Thisguys325i is offline
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Don't forget you may also need to change the water pump and thermostat.
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Old 05-26-2010, 05:41 AM
injunmort injunmort is offline
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if it was filled with a coolant pump and it did not overheat it does not need to be bled. if you drive it while after and then it overheats, there is a breach in the cooling system. you have an obstruction in the cooling system causing a hot spot and it boils over or the breach is the head gasket, head or block. the air you are getting now is not from it not being bled, but caused by a leak in the system. as said previously, check your water pump and see that it has not come apart putting plastic into circulation. if it comes out in one piece you most certainly will have to pull the head. also said you can have the cooling system checked for combustion gasses in the coolant. the reason you lose circulation after it has been bled is due to gasses building back up in the system. i hope it is just your waterpump but my guess is your head gasket is leaking.
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Old 05-26-2010, 09:03 AM
mashed mashed is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by injunmort View Post
if it was filled with a coolant pump and it did not overheat it does not need to be bled. if you drive it while after and then it overheats, there is a breach in the cooling system. you have an obstruction in the cooling system causing a hot spot and it boils over or the breach is the head gasket, head or block. the air you are getting now is not from it not being bled, but caused by a leak in the system. as said previously, check your water pump and see that it has not come apart putting plastic into circulation. if it comes out in one piece you most certainly will have to pull the head. also said you can have the cooling system checked for combustion gasses in the coolant. the reason you lose circulation after it has been bled is due to gasses building back up in the system. i hope it is just your waterpump but my guess is your head gasket is leaking.
Is a malfunctioning water pump easy to hear/diagnose? I was told that if the water pump had went bad I should be able to hear it making noise.
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Old 05-26-2010, 09:30 AM
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My w/p made an extremely loud and obnoxious noise when it decoded to die
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Old 05-26-2010, 11:44 AM
mashed mashed is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TRaV MaNN View Post
My w/p made an extremely loud and obnoxious noise when it decoded to die
Yeah, I think since the valvoline mechanic and myself didn't hear anything sounding unusual the water pump should be ok.
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Old 05-26-2010, 01:29 PM
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318bimmer 318bimmer is offline
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still worth checking
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Old 05-26-2010, 05:24 PM
westfield westfield is offline
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do the simple stuff first. It really sounds like a bleed issue of the cooling system. Had the same thing happen to the car I got...The person got rid of it because the stealership told him it would cost about $8,000 for a head gasket job and possible new head. When i got the car it showed no symptoms of a bad hg...Bled the cooling system and all was right with the world.
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Old 05-26-2010, 05:30 PM
mashed mashed is offline
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Originally Posted by westfield View Post
do the simple stuff first. It really sounds like a bleed issue of the cooling system. Had the same thing happen to the car I got...The person got rid of it because the stealership told him it would cost about $8,000 for a head gasket job and possible new head. When i got the car it showed no symptoms of a bad hg...Bled the cooling system and all was right with the world.
Well I already went to a valvoline and got a coolant flush using their vacuum machine, and it still overheated after driving a few miles so I don't think the primary cause is air pockets in the cooling system. They used a machine that resembled some of these.
http://www.bestbuyautoequipment.com/...ines-s/439.htm

Correct me if I'm wrong but I believe what the ppl at Valvoline did should have constituted a proper bleed.

Last edited by mashed; 05-26-2010 at 05:36 PM.
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Old 05-26-2010, 05:36 PM
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drivinfaster drivinfaster is offline
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if the waterpump wasn't working properly then the vehicle would not circulate the coolant and the engine would overheat.

a malfunctioning thermostat would either a: not get hot enough to allow proper engine temp (in which case the temp guage wouldn't get to normal), or b: allow the engine to get hot but not allow flow through the system since it is providing an improper restriction.

please please please, for the sake of not chasing your tail, either take the thing to an able technician to diagnose, or do the test yourself with the tool (or similar) in the link i provided. doing anything else (such as a compression test) may not verify the condition of the headgasket.

if you overheat long enough, and frequent enough, what could have been just a headgasket r&r will now be an out of spec cylinder head, and possible other damage.

this combustion test is foolproof, and much better than looking for milkshake residue on the dipstick or oil cap. (not that these can't be valid signs, it's just they are vague and not as accurate. think of it as a telepraph vs 3g network).

what the test will not tell you (not will anyone else for that matter) is whether or not the head is cracked and if there is any other additional damage. that will be discovered upon tear down. in other words, be committed to either do it, put an engine in it, or part ways with it.

if you do decide to test it (or have it done), then you will at least be assured of the necessary repairs. keep in mind that if you do go headgasket deep, at a minimum you should be putting a new stat, waterpump, and hoses, as well as belts and plugs. this will save you later on, and since you will already be there it is not going to be any easier (or cheaper) to do.



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Old 05-27-2010, 05:34 AM
injunmort injunmort is offline
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+1 to previous post. also if the plastic impellor failed you would not hear any noises from the pump. the only time you would really get any horrendous noise is if the bearing in the pump fails. that you will most certainly hear. you cant tell by looking and listening, you must take apart and inspect.
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Old 05-27-2010, 06:32 AM
westfield westfield is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mashed View Post
Well I already went to a valvoline and got a coolant flush using their vacuum machine, and it still overheated after driving a few miles so I don't think the primary cause is air pockets in the cooling system. They used a machine that resembled some of these.
http://www.bestbuyautoequipment.com/...ines-s/439.htm

Correct me if I'm wrong but I believe what the ppl at Valvoline did should have constituted a proper bleed.
You could very well be wrong. Valvoline is a quick oil change place right ? Do you think these brain surgeons know how to bleed a BMW cooling system? I doubt it highly. How many Stories have you hear about these idiots (quick lube joints) that forget to put the oil plug back in the sump? So ghe "ppl" at valvoline may not have "constituted a proper bleed" !
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Old 05-27-2010, 06:32 AM
mashed mashed is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by westfield View Post
You could very well be wrong. Valvoline is a quick oil change place right ? Do you think these brain surgeons know how to bleed a BMW cooling system? I doubt it highly. How many Stories have you hear about these idiots (quick lube joints) that forget to put the oil plug back in the sump? So ghe "ppl" at valvoline may not have "constituted a proper bleed" !
Yeah the ppl there all looked like they were younger than 30, but they had good intentions and helped me when I was frustrated and watching my coolant boil out. I more lent credibility because of the coolant machine's purpose in addition to the coolant pressure on the radiator hoses being significantly better after the flush. The fact that it still overheated afterwards is making me start to suspect an issue with thermostat and/or water pump. Of course when this whole thing gets diagnosed and sorted out I plan to properly bleed it myself but until then that's what I know.

Quote:
Originally Posted by drivinfaster View Post
if the waterpump wasn't working properly then the vehicle would not circulate the coolant and the engine would overheat.

a malfunctioning thermostat would either a: not get hot enough to allow proper engine temp (in which case the temp guage wouldn't get to normal), or b: allow the engine to get hot but not allow flow through the system since it is providing an improper restriction.

please please please, for the sake of not chasing your tail, either take the thing to an able technician to diagnose, or do the test yourself with the tool (or similar) in the link i provided. doing anything else (such as a compression test) may not verify the condition of the headgasket.

if you overheat long enough, and frequent enough, what could have been just a headgasket r&r will now be an out of spec cylinder head, and possible other damage.

this combustion test is foolproof, and much better than looking for milkshake residue on the dipstick or oil cap. (not that these can't be valid signs, it's just they are vague and not as accurate. think of it as a telepraph vs 3g network).

what the test will not tell you (not will anyone else for that matter) is whether or not the head is cracked and if there is any other additional damage. that will be discovered upon tear down. in other words, be committed to either do it, put an engine in it, or part ways with it.

if you do decide to test it (or have it done), then you will at least be assured of the necessary repairs. keep in mind that if you do go headgasket deep, at a minimum you should be putting a new stat, waterpump, and hoses, as well as belts and plugs. this will save you later on, and since you will already be there it is not going to be any easier (or cheaper) to do.
Yeah I already found the bentley repair manual on rapidshare (took a good amount of digging actually) and I'm gonna be checking the thermo and water pump asap to see whats going on. Here's the link to the E36 repair manual if someone else possibly needs it
http://pdftown.com/PDF-BMW-3-Series-...ce-Manual.html

That being said I do plan on doing a combustion test if the above doesn't yield any solutions. I posted something in classifieds seeing if anyone had a used one they would want to sell to me so let me know if anyone here is trying to sell theirs.
http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...579&highlight=

I'm not going to be driving the car any further until I fix the issue, so no need to worry about putting the engine in further risk. I like this car and I plan to take good care of it, and the only reason I put the engine in harm's way in the past was because I wasn't aware of just how risky it was. Wish me luck, and thanks for the help so far everyone.

Last edited by mashed; 05-27-2010 at 06:40 AM.
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Old 05-27-2010, 08:59 AM
westfield westfield is offline
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Sounds like you are moving in the right direction ! Let us know how you make out.
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Old 06-14-2010, 11:25 PM
mashed mashed is offline
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Update:

I took it to a better mechanic. One that actually cares about fixing cars and solving problems. First thing he did was a pressure test (which I was not expecting but was pleasantly surprised of) on the engine and said engine was "very strong", which is a huge relief. He also switched out the thermostat, then the water pump. Seems like water pump was the reason the radiator was not doing its job. When he tested the pump it was spinning at what he said was about 20% what it should be. After switching the pump out the radiator seemed to be warming up correctly. Also the front left grille holder was damaged from a previous owner's accident, and he fixed that and is also putting in a new fog light (i bought), fan+fan clutch (i bought), polishing my headlights, and touching up the black paint on the outside. Total cost: $300. Moral is I think everyone should know an honest mechanic they can trust.

Now he's gonna work on getting my emission test passed. If that gets done I will be bringing the car home tomorrow.
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Old 06-15-2010, 03:59 AM
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glad to hear, hope all goes well.

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Old 06-16-2010, 03:13 PM
diego652 diego652 is offline
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Wow i am surprised the guys at Valvoline did not preassure test first. i work for a company similar to Valvoline, and the first thing we do when a customer request anything related to the coolant is do a block test to make sure headgasket in now damaged, and then preassure test to see if there are any leaks in the system.
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Old 06-16-2010, 07:13 PM
mashed mashed is offline
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Originally Posted by diego652 View Post
Wow i am surprised the guys at Valvoline did not preassure test first. i work for a company similar to Valvoline, and the first thing we do when a customer request anything related to the coolant is do a block test to make sure headgasket in now damaged, and then preassure test to see if there are any leaks in the system.
Well this happened when I was on the way home. I wasn't planning to do a coolant flush in the first place and we were both under the impression that the overheating issue was from a "massive air pocket." This was also what my first mechanic told me. Also, I did not know what a pressure test was nor did I realize that I was putting my engine in grave danger by attempting to drive it home.

Luckily my second mechanic is awesome and had a much better idea of what he's doing. Right now I'm waiting for him to finish some body work and paint touch up. So by tomorrow evening if all goes well I will have my car back.
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