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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 06-14-2010, 07:07 AM
irishman_irl irishman_irl is offline
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Silly Question - How to check the coolant level?

Hi,

This is probably the most stupid question here, but I am having trouble checking my coolant level (E39, 2001 98k miles).

When I remove the coolant tank cap, I can see the top of the red float about 1 - 1.5 inches down in the tank but the diagram (which I am finding hard to understand) show's that the top of this should be level with the underside of the cap i.e. when I remove the cap, the top of the level should be right there flush, not down in the tank.

Is this correct or an I way off here? Taking a long drive today and want to make sure that this level is correct.

Thanks!
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  #2  
Old 06-14-2010, 08:21 AM
edjack edjack is offline
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The mark is labeled "Kalt", or when the engine is cold. The top of the float s/b level with the top of the filler hole.

Make sure that the float is not damaged - lift it up to see if it's still attached to the lower part of the float. If you can remove it completely, it's deteriorated, and the expansion tank is in danger of splitting open.
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Last edited by edjack; 06-14-2010 at 08:23 AM.
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  #3  
Old 06-14-2010, 08:29 AM
irishman_irl irishman_irl is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edjack View Post
The mark is labeled "Kalt", or when the engine is cold. The top of the float s/b level with the top of the filler hole.

Make sure that the float is not damaged - lift it up to see if it's still attached to the lower part of the float. If you can remove it completely, it's deteriorated, and the expansion tank is in danger of splitting open.
Thanks for that, looking all over the web for an answer to this one!

Just to confirm, when I remove the filler cap, the orange s/b level should be flush up against the rim of the filler hole (where I removed the cap)?

Right now mine is about half an inch higher than this:

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  #4  
Old 06-14-2010, 08:36 AM
edjack edjack is offline
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No, it s/b level with the top of the hole. If you put a straightedge across the hole, the ball on the top of the float s/b just kissing the straightedge.
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  #5  
Old 06-14-2010, 09:04 AM
irishman_irl irishman_irl is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edjack View Post
No, it s/b level with the top of the hole. If you put a straightedge across the hole, the ball on the top of the float s/b just kissing the straightedge.
ahh thanks for that!

While asking silly questions, what does s/b stand for?
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  #6  
Old 06-14-2010, 09:18 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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s/b = "should be"
(but when you get angry then it is "son of a b-tch"! hehe...).
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  #7  
Old 06-14-2010, 09:27 AM
irishman_irl irishman_irl is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cn90 View Post
s/b = "should be"
(but when you get angry then it is "son of a b-tch"! hehe...).
lol

I'll go top up the coolant level now - its clearly low with the top of the "float stick" 2 inches below the hole.

Thanks for your help!!
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  #8  
Old 06-14-2010, 09:35 AM
Jim Rolando Jim Rolando is offline
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But, there is only about a half a cup or less difference between slightly below the bottom of the neck and the top. I've never really known how much difference that makes. My float level seems to vary slightly from day to day or week to week and I just attribute it to outside temperature or atmospheric pressure.
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  #9  
Old 06-14-2010, 09:38 AM
irishman_irl irishman_irl is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Rolando View Post
But, there is only about a half a cup or less difference between slightly below the bottom of the neck and the top. I've never really known how much difference that makes. My float level seems to vary slightly from day to day or week to week and I just attribute it to outside temperature or atmospheric pressure.
I am driving to Vegas from LA today and its going to be hot outside so will top it off just to be safe.

If the coolant level was a "little" overfull would this be harmful?
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  #10  
Old 06-14-2010, 10:03 AM
Mark@EAC Mark@EAC is offline
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if you are going to take the time to reply to a thread here, take the time to type out what it is that you are trying to convey please. Saves us all some headaches.
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  #11  
Old 06-14-2010, 10:18 AM
540nj 540nj is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark@EACTuning View Post
if you are going to take the time to reply to a thread here, take the time to type out what it is that you are trying to convey please. Saves us all some headaches.
??? Everyone seems clear in their responses...

My $.02 - There is a min and max line, as long as it is between you are OK.

dave
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  #12  
Old 06-14-2010, 12:15 PM
irishman_irl irishman_irl is offline
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Hi,

OK, car was parked for about 1.5 hours when I "topped off", only took a little bit of coolant.

I took some photos of how how it looks now, does this look correct?





I hope this helps someone else.
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  #13  
Old 06-14-2010, 02:52 PM
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severe530i severe530i is offline
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Your level looks a little high.

Here's a pic from my owner's manual and one I took of the radiator "instructions."

Hope this helps...
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  #14  
Old 06-15-2010, 02:05 AM
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Piston_broke Piston_broke is offline
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I have an interesting side note on this issue.
When I bought my V ate 535 earlier this year I did the usual obligatory checks and realised that my coolant was way overfull. The indicator stem was actually sticking out of the chamber to the max, close to 2".
I thought this can't be good as their's supposed to be some room for air to expand (I believe).

I was then left with the quandary of removing said excess coolant.
So I'm off to the local chemist and bought the largest syringe that was available. Girl (with a frown) asked me if I wanted a needle, I said nah, scool. The thing loked like a horse needle syringe. So I get home and start removing coolant up untill I can't get anymore out, about 80mls at most. At that stage the indicator stem hadn't moved. So then I cut about 6" of some garden irrigation piping and attach that to the syringe. I was then able to remove enough coolant to get the orange blob at the correct level, some 400ml + - later. car hasn't missed a beat since and the level has stayed as is.

To the OP, get yourself a large syringe. Easy as man.
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  #15  
Old 06-15-2010, 06:12 AM
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Josh P. Josh P. is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Piston_broke View Post
I have an interesting side note on this issue.
When I bought my V ate 535 earlier this year I did the usual obligatory checks and realised that my coolant was way overfull. The indicator stem was actually sticking out of the chamber to the max, close to 2".
I thought this can't be good as their's supposed to be some room for air to expand (I believe).

I was then left with the quandary of removing said excess coolant.
So I'm off to the local chemist and bought the largest syringe that was available. Girl (with a frown) asked me if I wanted a needle, I said nah, scool. The thing loked like a horse needle syringe. So I get home and start removing coolant up untill I can't get anymore out, about 80mls at most. At that stage the indicator stem hadn't moved. So then I cut about 6" of some garden irrigation piping and attach that to the syringe. I was then able to remove enough coolant to get the orange blob at the correct level, some 400ml + - later. car hasn't missed a beat since and the level has stayed as is.

To the OP, get yourself a large syringe. Easy as man.
Eh, props for your hard work but way easier and cheaper to just use a turkey baster to remove 1 cup at a time, more or less.
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  #16  
Old 06-15-2010, 07:43 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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1+,

Josh is right Turkey Baster $2 at hardware store.

BTW, Piston-broke is from Australia, the Aussies have a unique way to solve problems down under (j/k)...
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  #17  
Old 06-15-2010, 09:06 AM
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Josh P. Josh P. is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cn90 View Post
1+,

Josh is right Turkey Baster $2 at hardware store.

BTW, Piston-broke is from Australia, the Aussies have a unique way to solve problems down under (j/k)...
And most of them involve beer . . .
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"Mods": driveshaft, cooling system, Vanos, CCV, PSR, VCG, FSU, spark plugs, buncha belts-n-hoses, & other things I'd just as soon forget

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  #18  
Old 06-26-2014, 02:55 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Today, someone asked what the proper position was for the coolant level bobber, and I was surprised that it wasn't listed in the bestlinks, so, I ran an e39-only title-only search for 'coolant level', which got me three pages of related questions.

Arbitrarily, I chose this thread as the "canonical" thread, for us to post future updates to, and to help others with the same question in the future:
> E39 (1997 - 2003) > Silly Question - How to check the coolant level?


- What is the proper coolant level bobber stick height (1) & what to do when your expansion tank coolant level sensor float bobber stick is MIA missing in action (1) & where to find leaks when the CHECK COOLANT LEVEL is lit on the instrument cluster (1) & where does the coolant level sensor cable go (1) & what is the o-ring size for the coolant level sensor (1) & what is the temperature of the coolant when the thermostat opens under normal conditions (1) & how to modify the cooling system expansion tank 2 bar cap to 1.2 bar to vent at a lower pressure (1) & how to retrofit a coolant level sensor to an E39 that doesn't have it (1) & what is the most often recommended coolant (1) & tricks for efficient flushing (1) bleeding (1) and a coolant refilling DIY (1) & some behr/hella cooling system autopsy photos (1)

*******> ********>*******>********>*******>********>
BMW_TIS_17-00-005_Draining_and_topping_coolant.pdf (215.4 KB, 352 views)
BMW_TIS_17-00-039_Bleeding_cooling_system_and_checking_for_leaks .pdf (118.7 KB, 359 views)
BMW_TIS_17-00_Instructions_for_working_on_cooling_system.pdf (168.8 KB, 253 views)
Bleeding_the_bmw_cooling_system.pdf (2.78 MB, 363 views)


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Please read the suggested threads, where the best always add value to those threads, either by pictures or by descriptions, so the next person with the same problem stands on your shoulders.
See also: E39 Bestlinks & How to easily find what you need

Last edited by bluebee; 06-26-2014 at 03:14 PM.
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  #19  
Old 06-27-2014, 08:20 AM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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For the record, here are some pictures of coolant levels which are too high ...


See also:
- What is the proper coolant level bobber stick height (1) & what to do when your expansion tank coolant level sensor float bobber stick is MIA missing in action (1) & where to find leaks when the CHECK COOLANT LEVEL is lit on the instrument cluster (1) & where does the coolant level sensor cable go (1) & what is the o-ring size for the coolant level sensor (1) & what is the temperature of the coolant when the thermostat opens under normal conditions (1) & how to modify the cooling system expansion tank 2 bar cap to 1.2 bar to vent at a lower pressure (1) & how to retrofit a coolant level sensor to an E39 that doesn't have it (1) & what is the most often recommended coolant (1) & tricks for efficient flushing (1) draining (1) bleeding (1) and coolant refilling (1) & users' behr/hella cooling system autopsy photos (1)
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Please read the suggested threads, where the best always add value to those threads, either by pictures or by descriptions, so the next person with the same problem stands on your shoulders.
See also: E39 Bestlinks & How to easily find what you need
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  #20  
Old 07-14-2014, 09:29 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Saw a tilted bobber in the E46 forums today:
> E46 (1999 - 2006) > Antifreeze symbol keep coming on.
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  #21  
Old 08-06-2014, 03:58 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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This is a nice post, from today...
> E39 (1997 - 2003) > My coolant fill - no issue at all. Old time trick I from my 635 days.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cn90 View Post
I posted this info in another thread but here you go. With engine COLD and OFF:

On the reservoir side, just lean down and look sideways, compare the reservoir markings with the tstat housing, and you will see that:

- The "Neck" of reservoir is at tstat housing's bleeder screw level (RED Arrows).

- The KALT mark is at the same level as the very bottom of the tstat housing (GREEN Arrows).

a. So if one fills above KALT, it will do the trick ---> coolant will flow out of the bleeder hole.
The idea is: the tstat housing needs to be completely filled with coolant. However, you will end up with coolant level above KALT. In my experience, this extra coolant will go to some air pocket some place in the vehicle and eventually settle down.

b. Option "b" is to fill to KALT, then stop. Get a tiny funnel and fill through the tstat bleeder hole, go slow as you don't want to spill/waste coolant. Then gently tighten the bleed screw.

Personally, I like option "b" better.


See also:
> E39 (1997 - 2003) > DIY: The trick on how to fill the M52, M54 coolant
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  #22  
Old 08-13-2014, 08:47 AM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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This very detailed owner is on his third expansion tank in a very short time, so, the information here is useful to this thread ...
> E39 (1997 - 2003) > Will the next person who replaces his expansion tank please cut it open & compare?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Speedex750 View Post
Also as part of my theory I wondered whether we'd got too much coolant in. When it was running previously the bobber was at the top and lightly kept on the stop by the coolant level, so maybe a tad over full?
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Last edited by bluebee; 08-13-2014 at 08:53 AM.
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  #23  
Old 08-13-2014, 09:19 AM
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JDeGraff89 JDeGraff89 is online now
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I would like to ressurect this thread and add one more stupid question. I have a tansparent expansion tank. Am I also supposed to have a bobber level indicator stick? Because I don't. But while filling you can clearly see the KALT line. So maybe in 97 BMW thought it wasn't needed?? Or mine gave the ghost.
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