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Go Back   Bimmerfest - BMW Forums > BMW Model Discussions > 5 Series > E39 (1997 - 2003)

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 11-25-2010, 05:30 AM
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Dark Green Leak - what is it this time?

leaving my parking lot this morning, I noticed a very dark-green leak on the flooring about 5 inches in diameter positioned center and what looked like towards the rear of the motor.

it had the consistency of motor oil and did not look like coolant which I've unfortunately had the pleasure to witness under my car in the recent past.

car is driving fine, I have not had a deeper look

I may take it in the shop this weekend completely blowing my plans to do the Bilstein HD install.


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  #2  
Old 11-25-2010, 06:01 AM
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The only green fluid in the car is coolant.
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  #3  
Old 11-25-2010, 07:17 AM
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Not if you use BMW coolant...it's blue.

Check your car's fluids and see which one is green. (edit: reading this post today, it sounds like this suggestion was directed at FLYBOT...it wasn't...I was suggesting to the OP to check HIS fluid...so sorry flybot if you thought that last comment was directed toward you.)
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2006 E53 X5 4.4i (Sterling Gray) 12/05 mfg date <<~>> 97 740iL (Arctic Silver) 3/97 mfg date
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99 540iT (Orient Blue) <<~>> 95 525IT (Alpine White)
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  #4  
Old 11-25-2010, 10:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by QSilver7 View Post
Check your car's fluids and see which one is green.
Hmmm... there are only a dozen fluids in the E39:
- BMW E39 fluid summary (1)

I'll guess at the colors below:
- Manual & automatic transmission fluid (1) (2) (3) (4) BROWN?
- Power steering fluid (1) RED
- Coolant, for engine, automatic transmission, power steering, and AC evaporator cooling (1) (BLUE, GREEN)
- Brake & clutch hydraulic fluid (1) BROWN, BLUE
- Engine lubrication, i.e., motor oil (1) (2) BROWN, BLACK
- Air conditioner refrigerant & PAG oil (1) ?color?
- Differential hypoid gear oil (1) BROWN
- Battery electrolyte (1) CLEAR
- Engine fuel, i.e., gasoline & octane (1) CLEAR'ish
- Windshield washer fluid (1) CLEAR
- Intensive cleaning system fluid (1) CLEARLY SOAPY
- Air conditioning condensation CLEAR

If it's wet, it's one of those.
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  #5  
Old 11-25-2010, 10:16 AM
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It COULD be refrigerant oil with dye added to the system?
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  #6  
Old 11-25-2010, 10:18 AM
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Hopefully it's not brake fluid - you know the blue ATE, maybe mixed up with gold ATE after a brake fluid flush - but not done properly, and the 2 mixed - as a result: green oil.
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  #7  
Old 11-25-2010, 05:59 PM
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Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
Hmmm... there are only a dozen fluids in the E39:
- BMW E39 fluid summary (1)

I'll guess at the colors below:
- Windshield washer fluid (1) CLEAR
Windshield washer fluid is usually one of the 4 colors below (in my part of the country):
  1. blue (usually spring/summer/fall formula...may freeze so check label)
  2. green
  3. pink (usually formulated for winter use)
  4. orange (usually formulated for winter use)

---
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2006 E53 X5 4.4i (Sterling Gray) 12/05 mfg date <<~>> 97 740iL (Arctic Silver) 3/97 mfg date
(SOLD)
99 540iT (Orient Blue) <<~>> 95 525IT (Alpine White)
91 735iL (Schwarz Black) <<~>> 85 325e (Bronzit)

http://imageshack.com/scaled/grid240/822/e38e532ndsigpic.jpg
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  #8  
Old 11-25-2010, 06:20 PM
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Odd colors in the US... hmm. In Canada pink is summer/orange, blue is winter, RainX winter is (light) green, and their all season is clear.

Brake fluid could do it I guess, or oddly coloured oil from the main seal Any chance it's another car?
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  #9  
Old 11-25-2010, 11:05 PM
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  #10  
Old 11-26-2010, 12:29 AM
98540iA 98540iA is offline
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  #11  
Old 11-26-2010, 08:15 AM
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thanks all - the color has got me stumped. today (second day) there is leak but considerably less - and it may be more toward the front of the vehicle after a closer look.


its definitely not coolant color, don't think brake fluid based on location and its not any of the washer fluids.

I am taking it into BMW tomorrow - right on time for my monthly visit
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Old 11-26-2010, 09:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by demas View Post
thanks all - the color has got me stumped. today (second day) there is leak but considerably less - and it may be more toward the front of the vehicle after a closer look.


its definitely not coolant color, don't think brake fluid based on location and its not any of the washer fluids.

I am taking it into BMW tomorrow - right on time for my monthly visit
Let's take this from a statistical standpoint since you haven't identified the leak, but you've narrowed the location to the engine compartment.

What 'often' leaks in the BMW E39 engine compartment?
- oil
- coolant
- power steering fluid

Those are the main culprits.
- The oil most often leaks from the oil filter housing (OFH)
- The coolant mostly from the radiator & expansion tank plastic
- The power steering fluid drips off the bottom of the reservoir

What kinds of leaks do they form:
- The OFH leak is more of a seepage, and maybe a drip or two
- The coolant leak is usually puddle but could also drip
- The PS fluid leak is usually a droplet or three

Lastly, let's look at color:
- OFH oil leak is brown
- Coolant leak is blue or green
- PS fluid leak is red

Please let us know the level:
- Check your oil level (although an OFH leak is sloooooow)
- Check your coolant level (that's gonna be telling)
- Check your PS fluid level (although, again, its sloooow)

I'm betting you have a cooling system overhaul in your near future.
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  #13  
Old 11-26-2010, 10:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
Let's take this from a statistical standpoint since you haven't identified the leak, but you've narrowed the location to the engine compartment.

What 'often' leaks in the BMW E39 engine compartment?
- oil
- coolant
- power steering fluid

Those are the main culprits.
- The oil most often leaks from the oil filter housing (OFH)
- The coolant mostly from the radiator & expansion tank plastic
- The power steering fluid drips off the bottom of the reservoir

What kinds of leaks do they form:
- The OFH leak is more of a seepage, and maybe a drip or two
- The coolant leak is usually puddle but could also drip
- The PS fluid leak is usually a droplet or three

Lastly, let's look at color:
- OFH oil leak is brown
- Coolant leak is blue or green
- PS fluid leak is red

Please let us know the level:
- Check your oil level (although an OFH leak is sloooooow)
- Check your coolant level (that's gonna be telling)
- Check your PS fluid level (although, again, its sloooow)

I'm betting you have a cooling system overhaul in your near future.
Blue, you always amaze me with your details

Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
I'm betting you have a cooling system overhaul in your near future.
new radiator, hoses, expansion tank last year. I don't see an overhaul in my future - I see an F10 550
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  #14  
Old 11-26-2010, 11:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by demas View Post
new radiator, hoses, expansion tank last year. I don't see an overhaul in my future - I see an F10 550
Heard bad things about the steering.
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  #15  
Old 11-26-2010, 11:12 AM
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Heard bad things about the steering.
I'll take almost anything over this R/B
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  #16  
Old 11-26-2010, 01:34 PM
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Why not take a white rag, piece of paper, napkin, or paper towel and dabble it in the fluid that is leaking out. You can tell a lot not only by the color of the fluid, but also by it's smell and feel.

Coolant will have a sweet smell and be slick (when rubbed between your finger tips).
Windshield washer fluid will be thin and watery
Oil will be tannish-brown (or dark brown if dirty) and have a slightly burnt oily smell
ATF (Pwr Steering in this case) will be reddish-pink and have a slippery feel to it.

And as already stated...the location of the leak under the car will also help determine what may be leaking. The right side of the car (passenger side if the car is LHD) will see leaks from the coolant system and windshield washer system. The front of the car could be coolant, or oil...and the left side could be ATF (PS fluid), coolant (from radiator)...and rear of engine will usually be oil (as it drips and runs to the back of the engine.

Have you opened your fluid reservoirs to check "color" of fluids? Have you touched or smelled any of the fluids? Also check for any white residue in the engine bay and hood insulation. The engine coolant (after it dries) will leave a white residue if it leaks onto the belts or fans and get's flung to other areas in the engine bay...its spatter pattern is obvious (like an episode of CSI) if it is being flung by the belts/fans.
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2006 E53 X5 4.4i (Sterling Gray) 12/05 mfg date <<~>> 97 740iL (Arctic Silver) 3/97 mfg date
(SOLD)
99 540iT (Orient Blue) <<~>> 95 525IT (Alpine White)
91 735iL (Schwarz Black) <<~>> 85 325e (Bronzit)

http://imageshack.com/scaled/grid240/822/e38e532ndsigpic.jpg

Last edited by QSilver7; 11-26-2010 at 05:43 PM.
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  #17  
Old 11-26-2010, 01:45 PM
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+1. Its really not that difficult to at least figure out what type of fluid it is. Im amazed at the number of various guesses. But until the OP gets on the ground and does some detective work its just a bunch of guesses.
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  #18  
Old 11-26-2010, 01:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by QSilver7 View Post
Coolant will have a sweet smell.
Along those lines ...

Coolant will taste real sweet ...
Brake fluid will make you drunk ...
But, power steering fluid tastes juuuust right ...

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Old 11-26-2010, 05:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
Coolant will taste real sweet ...
Brake fluid will make you drunk ...
But, power steering fluid tastes juuuust right ...

Blue...(read in the voice of Oprah)...girrlll, if you can down any of those liquids...remind me never to get into a drinking contest with you...you'd win and have my "kajones" hanging in a velvet bag above your bar as a trophy! Uh uhh....not gonna do it...not gonna do it. /Oprah

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Q {BMW CCA Member #191509}
2006 E53 X5 4.4i (Sterling Gray) 12/05 mfg date <<~>> 97 740iL (Arctic Silver) 3/97 mfg date
(SOLD)
99 540iT (Orient Blue) <<~>> 95 525IT (Alpine White)
91 735iL (Schwarz Black) <<~>> 85 325e (Bronzit)

http://imageshack.com/scaled/grid240/822/e38e532ndsigpic.jpg
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  #20  
Old 11-26-2010, 10:36 PM
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so took it into the dealer.

we put the car up on stands and had a look. There definitely is traces of a leak coming from the rear of the engine. Looking from the bottom up, the trace goes from well into the engine and down to the area where the engine meets the transmission. Leak trace goes down to subframe and presumably onto the floor.

They suspect the leak is from the left side valve cover/gasket. Since I replaced the VC about 2 years ago, the replacement and labor will be free.

However, what is interesting is that the leak traces are from engine oil (brown) but the leak in my parking space is green as you can see here. I am taking the car in next weekend for the VC replacement.

Also, when I replaced the ignition coils about 3 mo. ago, there were no traces of engine oil in the banks. But the leak in my parking lot matches the location of where the leak trace is on the car.

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Old 12-11-2010, 01:28 PM
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Any update? I wouldn't be surprised transmission fluid from the BMW "lifetime fill" were green but you do not have green oil leaking from your valve-cover gasket.

Off-topic I used to drive all over Tokyo (well, "ride" as I was on motorcylces all the time). Can't imagine being in an overheat-prone BMW 540i in a Tokyo traffic jam on a summer day.
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Old 12-12-2010, 03:44 AM
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VC gaskets not related to leak it would seem. all replaced and the leak has not manifested itself since.

however, my radiator exploded this afternoon. so, if you see a leak such as what I posted watch out.

"overheat-prone BMW 540i" well said


when were you in Tokyo?
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Old 12-12-2010, 04:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by demas View Post
VC gaskets not related to leak it would seem. all replaced and the leak has not manifested itself since.

however, my radiator exploded this afternoon. so, if you see a leak such as what I posted watch out.

"overheat-prone BMW 540i" well said


when were you in Tokyo?
Have you inspected the hoses on the firewall which are near the back of the valve cover gasket? Those pipes are part of the cooling system and could have been disturbed when they were doing your valve cover gasket. If those pipes lea, it will look like a rear valve cover gasket leak, except blue or green, or whatever color coolant is used. The valve cover leak would be oil and ends up in the same place - near the main rear seal.

Have you just started using your heater this time of the year?
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Old 12-12-2010, 05:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pleiades View Post
Can't imagine being in an overheat-prone BMW 540i in a Tokyo traffic jam on a summer day.
My 540 is not prone to overheat in Dallas summer, fully stopped traffic jamb, with A/C running hard and outside temp at 103 F. It can idle like that for quite some time.

I even used to sleep in the car on daytime long trips parked in the shade in some safe place with the A/C running, car idling, for up to 1.5 hours in 100+ F temps. Did this many times over many summers.

If maintained properly they are not 'prone to overheat'. Your statement is grossly in error.
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Last edited by franka; 12-12-2010 at 05:50 AM.
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Old 12-12-2010, 05:54 AM
franka franka is offline
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[QUOTE=demas;5690339]VC gaskets not related to leak it would seem. all replaced and the leak has not manifested itself since.[QUOTE]

I think you mis-spoke here. Drop the 'not' in first sentence and it seems correct.
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