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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 11-06-2016, 11:11 AM
hohokush hohokush is offline
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white spots - cooling system issue?

I have a 2003 e39 with 84750 miles and noticed a number of white spots that looks like a spray pattern towards the right front on the engine bay when I'm facing the car (see attached images). I have never replaced any of the cooling system components but understand they're historically prone to failure.

I topped off my coolant after receiving a warning about a 6-8 weeks ago and the warning message just came on Monday this week but I've seen it since and have driven each since day then. Checked under the car and don't see any leaks on the garage and the temperature gauge has been running normal just slightly past 12pm.

Can anybody identify the white spot spray pattern?
Is my cooling system about to fail? if yes...how close is the end?

I'm just trying to understand the risk of driving "as is" or if I should take it to my mechanic for an assessment or simply say "replace the entire cooling system" as a preventative measure.
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Last edited by hohokush; 11-06-2016 at 11:18 AM. Reason: improved issue clarity
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  #2  
Old 11-06-2016, 11:26 AM
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Wgosma Wgosma is offline
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Pretty tough to advise you w/o seeing the car in person. Looks like some coolant leak or 'overflow' (i.e. expansion tank cap released coolant due to slight overheat) from above normal temperature.

The temp gauge on these cars is electronically buffered; if the cooling system is functioning properly you should NEVER see the gauge's needle move past the 12 noon position once the car is warmed up to operating temperature.

My guess is your car is running a tad bit 'hot' if the gauge needle is past 'noon' positon, can't tell you exactly why. You can put your instrument cluster into 'test mode' and monitor the coolant temp. continuously - digital readout on the cluster. It's test #7 once the cluster is 'unlocked' . That readout is NOT buffered, you'll see the engine temp's move up/down with load, etc.

I'd get the system checked out right away; these cars don't do well at all if overheated. Most E39 owners will refurb the entire cooling system at about the 100K mileage mark. You're getting near that territory. A typical refurb includes:

Radiator
Main Hoses
Thermostat and housing
Water Pump
perhaps: main fan clutch, belt idler and tensioner pulleys, belts

DO NOT drive the car if it's running hot....if you see your gauge go anywhere near the RED zone, shut the motor off like NOW. A cooling system refurb on these cars is money in the bank.

Good Luck/Bill
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00 528i - 5 spd M-Sport

Last edited by Wgosma; 11-06-2016 at 11:32 AM.
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  #3  
Old 11-06-2016, 05:09 PM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Mein Auto: 1998 528i 5-sp 140K+
1+,

- Never drive when coolant level is low.

- Carry some premix 50-50 coolant in the trunk just in case. I use the Prestone 50-50 mix from Walmart ($9/gallon).

- At ~90K miles, things start to become problems soon.
I did a partial overhaul of my 2006 X5 3.0 aith 116K miles (same engine as yours) recently. Here is the DIY:

http://www.xoutpost.com/bmw-sav-foru...16k-miles.html
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Old 11-06-2016, 06:04 PM
hohokush hohokush is offline
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Just topped off the coolant. Think I added somewhere between 1 and 2 cups. I'll continue to monitor the temperature carefully and will take the last advice by of keeping a gallon 50-50 premix in the trunk.

I'm mainly concerned if the white spots are a warning sign that something is about to blow or are they something else and not related to the cooling system?

I've ready enough horror stories about a catastrophic failure that occurred with nearly no warning and that sometimes left the car stranded.
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Old 11-06-2016, 06:18 PM
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Wgosma Wgosma is offline
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None of us can tell you if the car will suffer a 'catastrophic' cooling system failure. Know this: the car is leaking coolant, possibly due to slight/moderate overheating of the motor- it won't fix itself, it will only get worse over time.
Get the cars cooling system inspected and pressure/leak tested, do it sooner rather than later...the clock is ticking. Be smart and don't be one more E39 owner who has a bad news story to share about their car's cooling system.
Good luck/ Bill
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00 528i - 5 spd M-Sport

Last edited by Wgosma; 11-06-2016 at 07:08 PM.
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Old 11-06-2016, 06:27 PM
FrozenBimmers FrozenBimmers is offline
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What I believe you are seeing is the spray pattern from a leak originating at the water pump. You are getting some weeping through the bearing and it is hitting the fan and spraying. I have seen the same thing on my 740i. Check on your hood liner, there should be a nice white line there too.
Bottom line, water pump is on the way out. Remove the serpentine belt and see if you have any noticeable play in the bearing. When this goes, it can go fast. It will spray a lot of coolant, the belt will come off and likely damage the fan etc...
Good luck.
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Old 11-06-2016, 07:50 PM
hohokush hohokush is offline
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+1 on white spray pattern on the underside of the hood. I'll remove the belt tomorrow and will test the bearing play.
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  #8  
Old 11-06-2016, 07:59 PM
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Wgosma Wgosma is offline
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No need to remove the belt; just release tension and then grab the fan/clutch and check for play.
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Old 11-06-2016, 08:24 PM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hohokush View Post
+1 on white spray pattern on the underside of the hood. I'll remove the belt tomorrow and will test the bearing play.
I hate to tell you this, don't test anything.
Scroll back up and read the DIY I posted.
At close to 90K miles, and with the white spots shown, disaster is looming.

The best approach is to do a PARTIAL cooling overhaul at 90K, then a complete overhaul at 150K-160K.

A PARTIAL overhaul is inexpensive. In the 2006 X5 3.0 I mentioned, the partial overhaul cost me only $292, using the best parts (either BMW dealer parts, or INA, Conti, HEPU etc.).
The $292 is much much much cheaper than a head gasket job.

BTW, a blown head gasket is the #1 cause of death of the E39.
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