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E34 (1989 - 1995)

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  #1  
Old 12-09-2010, 07:29 PM
robertobaggio20 robertobaggio20 is offline
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Sweet coolant

I've had two near overheat issues with my car recently that involved the antifreeze being vented or spilled. The first one concerned a coolant hose that cracked, spewing coolant everywhere. The second involved a busted bleed screw. Come to think of it, there was a third issue with a heater valve fix that i had not properly tightened down and a few drops of antifreeze was leaking out throughout the drive. Hmmm...

In all cases, the first indication of trouble was the sweet smell of antifreeze in the cabin, not the temp gauge on the instrument cluster or the coolant level sensor.

I'm using a really cheap antifreeze that I got from a gas station that's bright green in colour. I bought it for a quick topup one day pending a radiator flush, and somehow ended up keeping it.

As far as I can see, it works just as perfectly as BMW's antifreeze. Antifeeze is basically just an organic solvent which, when added to water, both lowers its melting boint and raises its boiling point, enabling the radiator fluids to stay liquid in winter and provide sufficient temperature tolerance during the engine's rated driving conditions (all the way from granny to schumacher mode). This organic compound is typically ethy/propyl glycol. How low it will stay liquid is purely dependent on its concentration. More antifreeze and it stays liquid at lower temperatures, that's all.

These organic compounds are colourless, so a dye is added to help people see spills etc more easily.

There are also corrosion inhibitors in the mix, which react with ions preferentially over iron and thus get depleted after some time and need to be replaced. Nothing sophisticated there as well.

My suggestion is that we switch to one of those cheap antifreezes which have a very bright colour and a strong (sweet) smell, or at least add a can of that to your current mix. This provides an additional level of painless, effective, and near instantaneous protection. I don't drive with my eye constantly on the thermometer (its always on the speedometer! lolol ) and don't intend to either. It is also much much cheaper than BMW coolant, which is also not coloured as brightly as well, making smaller leaks harder to spot.

FWIW. Rgds.

Last edited by robertobaggio20; 12-09-2010 at 07:35 PM.
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  #2  
Old 12-09-2010, 07:54 PM
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RobertV RobertV is offline
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Some interesting food for thought Roberto!
I'm conflicted on this one. I have never kept a new car purchased by me past 64K and am not sure of what the long term effects of cheap antifreeze would be on all the aluminum bits. I know that Mike Miller from Tech Talk in the Roundel has this to say:
"I recommend changing engine coolant at two-year intervals, using only factory BMW
anti-freeze mixed 50-50 with distilled water (reason – BMW anti-freeze is phosphate
free, phosphates cause aluminum oxidation, which blocks cylinder head coolant passages
and causes head gasket failure, others may claim to be “aluminum safe” or “phosphate
free” – make your choice, but I’ve used BMW anti-freeze exclusively in many cars and
have never had an aluminum oxidation or head gasket problem)"
I have always used Prestone with tap water in the past and only had an issues with one heater core b/c the previous owner didn't change the antifreeze in the first 79K miles.
I do agree with you that the cheap antifreeze is hard to miss either by smell or sight.
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  #3  
Old 12-09-2010, 08:33 PM
robertobaggio20 robertobaggio20 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobertV View Post
Some interesting food for thought Roberto!
I'm conflicted on this one. I have never kept a new car purchased by me past 64K and am not sure of what the long term effects of cheap antifreeze would be on all the aluminum bits. I know that Mike Miller from Tech Talk in the Roundel has this to say:
"I recommend changing engine coolant at two-year intervals, using only factory BMW
anti-freeze mixed 50-50 with distilled water (reason – BMW anti-freeze is phosphate
free, phosphates cause aluminum oxidation, which blocks cylinder head coolant passages
and causes head gasket failure, others may claim to be "aluminum safe" or "phosphate
free" – make your choice, but I've used BMW anti-freeze exclusively in many cars and
have never had an aluminum oxidation or head gasket problem)"
I have always used Prestone with tap water in the past and only had an issues with one heater core b/c the previous owner didn't change the antifreeze in the first 79K miles.
I do agree with you that the cheap antifreeze is hard to miss either by smell or sight.
Aluminium has been used to make radiators and cylinder heads for like......like......god knows how long now. No antifreeze on the market would be sold if it reacted with aluminium. So the idea that BMW's coolant is the only one that will protect such radiators is marketing bs to me. They probably used phosphates in antifreezes in like the 60s and the 70s....if I knew more about how cars were built back then I could probably guess why. This is one of those old urban legends that will not die a natural death.

I do agree that distilled water, if CHEAPLY available, is always just that teeny weeny bit better than tap water. This is my sense of prejudice talking. However, my sense of logic says that the peanuts ions in tap water will be immediately neautralised by the corrosion inhibitors in antifreeze in like .02 seconds. So it shouldn't make a difference. I know plenty of people who use tap water with zero problems (and zero hints of a problem).

However, since we clearly love to pamper our cars, and if distilled water (exactly the same as battery water I didn't realise this till a year back myself) is cheaply available then sure why not. Some tlc never hurt anybody

Last edited by robertobaggio20; 12-09-2010 at 08:54 PM.
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  #4  
Old 12-10-2010, 12:44 AM
wisbimmer20 wisbimmer20 is offline
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I mix only BMWs coolant with a 50/50 mixture of purified water. Distilled water isn't very expensive, at least I don't think it is. Very easily obtainable
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  #5  
Old 12-10-2010, 02:32 AM
robertobaggio20 robertobaggio20 is offline
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You can still mix sweet coolant with the BMW coolant. There's no conflict. You will get the benefit of bmw coolant and the benefit of a strong sweet smell and colour, which, as i emphasise, serves as an early-warning system for coolant rupture problems. It has literally worked for me on 3 ocassions recently so it is recommended to anyone.

BMW coolant is coolant with blue dye added to it and marked up 500% because of the magical properties of the white propeller logo. The logo causes the water and coolant crystals to realign themselves with the earth's magnetic field as it exists in where you live, and thus improve cooling, torque, horsepower, fuel economy, emissions and resale value.

Honestly, I would stick with it if they also added some sweet smelling concotions to it. Though its marked up 500%, in real terms its not expensive and it does last 2 years.

Thinking about it, its pretty obvious to me that the same reason some coolants are bright red, yellow or green, is the same reason that they tend to smell sweet. These are artificial additives added by the manufacturer to improve visibility to the driver in terms of both sight and smell. Coolant problems tend to be mission critical affairs, and quick diagnosis helps greatly. It works, and rightly so, for good reason.

Its an early warning system. Prudence rarely comes so easily and at such a low price....$3-$4. Whatever you do, don't say no to the idea and these coolants just because they are so cheap.

Last edited by robertobaggio20; 12-10-2010 at 02:42 AM.
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  #6  
Old 12-10-2010, 02:48 AM
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RobertV RobertV is offline
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Well I'm about 10 hours away from collecting my new to me 525i I have always done all fluids, belts, hoses, battery, and plugs on every used car so I have a good starting point. I'll be flushing the coolant in short order and I will be using cheap antifreeze for the flushes.....not sure about the final refill and what antifreeze I'll use there just yet.
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  #7  
Old 12-10-2010, 06:02 AM
robertobaggio20 robertobaggio20 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobertV View Post
Well I'm about 10 hours away from collecting my new to me 525i I have always done all fluids, belts, hoses, battery, and plugs on every used car so I have a good starting point. I'll be flushing the coolant in short order and I will be using cheap antifreeze for the flushes.....not sure about the final refill and what antifreeze I'll use there just yet.

I can so feel your excitment dude. Congratulations !

I have a ritual with my cars. Once i buy them, I change the bonnet and boot emblems out to new ones, possibly the carbon fibre versions if that works for the car's look. I give the old ones back to the PO if they clearly cared about the car, and fling them far far away into the ocean if they didn't/if it came from a dealer. I change them out immediately if the car does not require a respray and if it does then i wait till that's done then I change it.

Do you have a new car ritual? If you don't, and if you like the idea, you can always borrow mine.

Pictures bob, pictures...of the exterior, interior and engine bay, soon after you've collect the car, if you don't mind ! This is a good day indeed.



rgds,
Roberto

p.s. Remember to pick up the service record if its available. Important.
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  #8  
Old 12-12-2010, 09:30 AM
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Not to be a naysayer, but I remember learning in science that distilled water is void of all minerals and tends to leech minerals back from whatever it is in. I also used to have a hot tub that the 3 year old heater element eroded away. When I ordered a new one, I was asked if I filled my hot tub with softened water, which I did. I was told the softened water has no minerals and will tend to take some back from the metal parts of heater. I switched to unsoftened water with a couple chemicals to treat it and never had to replace another heater element. With that being said, I only use purified water in my cooling systems.
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  #9  
Old 12-12-2010, 09:46 AM
jjohansson5 jjohansson5 is offline
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I work for a bottled water company, purified and distilled are pretty much the same. The big difference being how each is made. Purified water comes from Reverse Osmosis and distilled water comes for distillation units. In the end both are pretty much the same with distilled water being 1 or 2 points cleaner. Neither are ultra pure water. I use either in my batteries and radiators. I have also never had a an issue not using BMW type antifreeze. I think the most important thing here is that you do flush it and never ever let it get to the point that it tries to turn brown or discolored. Just my .02 worth.
Johan
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  #10  
Old 12-12-2010, 10:04 AM
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  #11  
Old 12-12-2010, 01:26 PM
robertobaggio20 robertobaggio20 is offline
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Well, i've just realised that the more important thing practically speaking, is to find a radiator flush that actually removes built up scale and rust. If you look inside your radiator hoses, you'll find a brown coating, which can only be removed with finger force. Flushing will not help. Imagine this coating building up in all the coolant passages in the engine block and cylinder head. It would certainly compromise things over time.

The usual off-the-shelf flushes or flushing fluids are not strong enough to get this built up scale to come off. I've tried several with poor results.
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