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X3 E83 (2004 - 2010)
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  #1  
Old 01-08-2014, 12:24 AM
white_lancer white_lancer is offline
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massive water leak

Got a massive water leak on my X3 but can't find out where it is leaking from? If I top the expansion tank up to max and drive 10 miles the car will loose about 2 litres of water from the radiator system? I am stumped as to where the leak is? I recently changed the expansion tank and AT thermostat as the tank had the usual crack down the side. there is no obvious signs of water leakage when you look in the engine bay. I have checked the oil and it is good so no leakage there. the car gets up to temp ok and does not overheat but sits at 90 degrees. if I then remove the radiator cap I get a little hiss as though it is pressurised slightly and the tale tale is good and strong so the water pump is working fine. I put the heater on max and the fan on max inside the car and hot air blows out fine. the electric fan works fine and cuts in and out.

When my wife got home last night she called me as there was steam comming out from the front of the car. I went out and took a look and could not see where the steam was comming from. I removed a couple of plastic trims from around the radiator and It looked like the steam was comming from the very top of the radiator behind the condenser radiator. I put 8 litres of water back in the system but then ran the car for about half an hour and not a drop of water leaked out

really dont know where to look next?
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  #2  
Old 01-08-2014, 07:23 AM
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cagui1223 cagui1223 is offline
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Have you always used water? What about coolant?
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  #3  
Old 01-08-2014, 07:44 AM
white_lancer white_lancer is offline
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for the sake of argument - yes it is 50/50 water/coolant. in fact the amount of times I have topped it up over the last week it is probably 100% water by now. it is still 12 degrees C here though so no worries about freezing yet. I will replace the coolant once the leak has been fixed and before the cold weather comes
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  #4  
Old 01-08-2014, 07:50 AM
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cagui1223 cagui1223 is offline
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I wasn't too concerned about the water freezing as I am about it evaporating within the system. Where you normally park your vehicle, have you seen any fluid-spotting below the engin bay? Would it be possible to lay down a large white rag/paper underneath the vehicle and leave it overnight to see if any fluid drips onto it?
Have you replaced anything else besides the expansion tank & transmission thermostat?
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  #5  
Old 01-08-2014, 07:59 AM
jlex jlex is offline
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Almost sounds like you're overfilling that crazy thing and it's throwing water out the pressure relief cap. Maybe the cap's malfunctioning and it's opening up too soon. Also, when you fill it, don't fill the expansion tank to the brim... just enough to have the indicator stick float halfway between filled and add. I'm convinced that these expansion tanks split in the first place because owners are used to filling their car's radiator to the top and then some after the thermostat opens. Excessive pressure due to overfilling and perhaps pressure relief cap malfunction, I believe, causes these tanks to split in the first place.
Check you level and check your pressure relief cap...
Also, if you're using BMW coolant, when it's dry it leaves a nice white trail that should lead you to where the leak is...
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  #6  
Old 01-08-2014, 08:44 AM
white_lancer white_lancer is offline
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never heard of water evaporating inside the cooling system? only when it turns to steam of course! Not replaced anything else on the cooling system recently. not sure if i will gain anything from putting a piece of white paper under the car as the sump shield covers the whole of the engnine bay so any leakage will track to the lowest point.

As for the overfiling - I always fill it up until the red stick floats. when the engnine was running at operating temp I removed the filler cap and the fluid level was just below the tale tale so it had expanded quite a lot. I dont think that the pressure relief cap is malfunctionng as when i release the cap i get a little hiss as though the system is pressurised slightly.

It is almost as though the system is holding pressure and temp and when the car is driven the pressure must build just that little bit more to force a leak somewhere. when ever i run the car on the drive for about half an hour it does not leak anywhere? the steam comming out from the top of the radiator somewhere kind of implies that there is a hole there but it must nead a lot of pressure to force it open?

I did not identify if the steam leak was from the cooling radiator or the condenser radiator - there was a little pool of water on top of the condenser radiator - thinking about it the A.C. was off at the time so nothing would have been going through the condenser radiator?
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Last edited by white_lancer; 01-08-2014 at 08:48 AM.
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  #7  
Old 01-10-2014, 12:04 AM
white_lancer white_lancer is offline
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still looking for the leak!
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  #8  
Old 01-10-2014, 06:44 AM
jlex jlex is offline
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No tell-tale white trail?
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  #9  
Old 01-10-2014, 07:38 AM
white_lancer white_lancer is offline
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no white trail at all..... that is the confusing bit. you would think that loosing 2 litres of coolant a day - you would be able to see where it is leaking from

I may take the sump shield off at the weekend and crawl under the car to see if I can spot anything?
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  #10  
Old 01-10-2014, 08:36 AM
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X3emist X3emist is offline
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Blown head gasket????
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  #11  
Old 01-10-2014, 10:28 AM
jlex jlex is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by X3emist View Post
Blown head gasket????
God forbid! He should be able to see a change in the oil if it's an internal HG leak...
There's also a test kit that can be purchased to confirm the presence of hydrocarbons in coolant...
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  #12  
Old 01-10-2014, 10:34 AM
white_lancer white_lancer is offline
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no salad cream in the oil? could the head gasket be blown the other way from the coolant channels to the external of the engine?
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  #13  
Old 01-10-2014, 12:23 PM
ioannis214 ioannis214 is offline
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Check for wet carpets on foot wells...you could have a leak in your heater exchange matrix (I am not sure this is the correct teen) inside the cabin behind the dashboard. It's the same system with the radiator and can leak.
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  #14  
Old 01-10-2014, 01:01 PM
white_lancer white_lancer is offline
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good idea but no wet carpets.
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  #15  
Old 01-10-2014, 01:02 PM
jlex jlex is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by white_lancer View Post
no salad cream in the oil? could the head gasket be blown the other way from the coolant channels to the external of the engine?
Yes, there can be a head gasket leaking either internally or externally...
I think you'll find the source once you take the skid plate and plastic deflector plate off the car & poke about underneath.
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  #16  
Old 01-11-2014, 08:29 AM
white_lancer white_lancer is offline
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Well I had some time today to carry out some more trouble shooting. I filled the expansion tank to the correct level and ran the car on the drive for about half an hour. still no leak....

I could feel the cooling system hoses were pressurised and very hot so I grabbed the biggest hose and squeezed as hard as I could to try and increase the pressure a little more. hey presto - I had two water jets coming from the front of the radiator. this may explain why the engine bay was totally dry - the water was squirting out of the front of the car and on to the drive.

Peace of mind now I know the head gasket is ok.... I will order a new radiator next week and carry out the replacement. thanks for everyone's help and suggestions
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  #17  
Old 01-13-2014, 06:13 AM
jlex jlex is offline
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Good deal. I'll have to remember that trick.
I've squeezed radiator hoses before to help eliminate air pockets, but never to locate a leak. Radiator shouldn't be too difficult to replace.
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  #18  
Old 01-13-2014, 06:32 AM
white_lancer white_lancer is offline
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ummm - looking for a DIY but can't seem to find much on radiator replacement. I found a few snippets on X5 Outpost for the same M54 engine on the X5 so it should be a very similar setup
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  #19  
Old 01-15-2014, 08:25 AM
Gee3 Gee3 is offline
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This might help: http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=517819

I had a mysterious water leak recently too. I thought it was the lower radiator hose but it turned out to be a bad or broken seal on the side of the radiator near the lower hose area. It looks like the plastic part failed.

Now that I've had the car for over 100k miles I've become less of a fan of how much plastic is on the car like the parts of the radiator, coolant catch can, water pump, tabs in the windows, sunroof, etc... Sure they make the car a little lighter but age and heat/cold will eventually kill it. Luckily I've been able to replace most of the stuff myself!
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  #20  
Old 01-16-2014, 05:19 AM
white_lancer white_lancer is offline
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Thanks - excellent write up - should help lots
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  #21  
Old 01-16-2014, 06:59 AM
swampX3 swampX3 is online now
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vac the coolant !

get one of those "down the dipstick" plastic vac arrangements from Bav or someplace and vac out your coolant .....
it can save a mess , helps re use good coolant and save the Gulf of Mexico dead zone fro getting bigger
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  #22  
Old 01-21-2014, 05:56 AM
white_lancer white_lancer is offline
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Well - job done.

Took about 2 hours at the weekend. Old radiator out and new radiator in.

Sorted.
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  #23  
Old 01-21-2014, 10:49 AM
jlex jlex is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by white_lancer View Post
Well - job done.

Took about 2 hours at the weekend. Old radiator out and new radiator in.

Sorted.
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  #24  
Old 01-21-2014, 11:22 AM
joylove joylove is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by white_lancer View Post
Well I had some time today to carry out some more trouble shooting. I filled the expansion tank to the correct level and ran the car on the drive for about half an hour. still no leak....

I could feel the cooling system hoses were pressurised and very hot so I grabbed the biggest hose and squeezed as hard as I could to try and increase the pressure a little more. hey presto - I had two water jets coming from the front of the radiator. this may explain why the engine bay was totally dry - the water was squirting out of the front of the car and on to the drive.

Peace of mind now I know the head gasket is ok.... I will order a new radiator next week and carry out the replacement. thanks for everyone's help and suggestions
Late to the party but the feeling of relief when you felt wet knees must have been epic. :thumb up:


Can you share the price/source/PN of the rad for future visitors to the site?
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  #25  
Old 01-22-2014, 12:21 AM
white_lancer white_lancer is offline
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Sure - I'm in Hampshire, UK the part was purchased from ebay for 163.59

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/4006155644...ht_2160wt_1192
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Last edited by white_lancer; 01-22-2014 at 12:23 AM.
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