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E46 (1999 - 2006)
The fourth generation 3 Series (E46 chassis) was introduced in 1999 and set the standard for engineering and performance during it's years of production including being named to Car & Driver's 10 best list every one of those years! ! -- View the E46 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 02-04-2020, 10:43 PM
John Davis John Davis is offline
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What happened?

I drove my wife's 2002 325xi home tonight: an hour on the freeway, sometimes up to 95 mph or more. (I put new tires on yesterday and it handles very nicely now, so I was driving fast, enjoying my homebound commute.)

I parked it on the street, turned, started to walk up to my house, and suddenly heard an odd groaning or whooshing sound. When I turned back and looked at the car again, white smoke was coming from under the hood, and what appears to be oil was pouring over the asphalt. (It was dark, but that's what it felt and smelt like.) When I opened the hood, I saw oil all over the inside of the engine.)

Any guesses as to what might have happened? I'm having it towed to my mechanic tomorrow, but I'd like to know what I might be in for.
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  #2  
Old 02-05-2020, 09:19 AM
SPDSKTR SPDSKTR is offline
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Something came loose or blew. Did you get any pictures of the engine bay?
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Old 02-05-2020, 10:07 AM
John Davis John Davis is offline
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Originally Posted by SPDSKTR View Post
Something came loose or blew. Did you get any pictures of the engine bay?
I'm having trouble getting my phone to connect to my computer, so I'll have to describe what I see.

The oil stick indicates that there is almost no oil in the engine. There is a large oil stain stretching about 5 feet downhill from the front of the car. The power steering reservoir is wet with some fluid (I can't tell whether it's oil), but nothing else in the engine bay has any liquid on it. (Last night it looked like there was oil over the air filter housing and adjacent areas of the engine, but it's all dried away this morning.) I can't -see- anything wrong--no broken hoses or leaking seals, but obviously something blew last night--I just can't spot it yet. There is no sign of coolant anywhere in the engine bay (no white stains, etc.).

Your thoughts...?
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Old 02-05-2020, 11:44 AM
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Step one now that the engine is cold is to check all of your fluid levels. Could be that a power steering hose blew and the low engine oil level is coincidental. Other possibilities are catastrophic failure of the oil filter cap, filter housing gasket, or pressure sensor fitting (long shot, that), or valve cover gasket.

The only other (inexpensive ) possibility that comes to mind is the CCV system. I could imagine that making a mess if something separated.
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Old 02-05-2020, 09:40 PM
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I`m thinking CVV....
(Good luck )
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Old 02-06-2020, 07:23 AM
John Davis John Davis is offline
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Originally Posted by Zeichen311 View Post
Step one now that the engine is cold is to check all of your fluid levels. Could be that a power steering hose blew and the low engine oil level is coincidental. Other possibilities are catastrophic failure of the oil filter cap, filter housing gasket, or pressure sensor fitting (long shot, that), or valve cover gasket.

The only other (inexpensive ) possibility that comes to mind is the CCV system. I could imagine that making a mess if something separated.
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I`m thinking CVV....
(Good luck )
Thanks, gentlemen! I hope you are both right and it's something noncatastrophic like the CCV!
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  #7  
Old 02-06-2020, 01:51 PM
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Any pics? Looking to see what could have caused it.
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Old 02-06-2020, 03:56 PM
John Davis John Davis is offline
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Any pics? Looking to see what could have caused it.
I took a few pictures with my phone, but couldn't get my phone to connect to my computer to upload them. They don't show much, as I took them the next morning and all the oil had dried.
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  #9  
Old 02-07-2020, 04:25 PM
john kaminski john kaminski is offline
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Oil dried ? Takes a long time for oil to dry. Are you sure it is not antifreeze ? White smoke is more like antifreeze and the sounds you heard are more like some blow out of the cooling system.
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  #10  
Old 02-07-2020, 05:48 PM
John Davis John Davis is offline
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Oil dried ? Takes a long time for oil to dry. Are you sure it is not antifreeze ? White smoke is more like antifreeze and the sounds you heard are more like some blow out of the cooling system.
You're right on the money!

Apparently the expansion tank blew and all the coolant drained out. The liquid turned out to be a mix of oil and coolant; I'm guessing it drained into a pan that also held some oil before it flowed out of the car.

It was a basic E46 cooling system failure. Fortunately it happened when the engine was not running, so there was no damage to the engine block.
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  #11  
Old 02-07-2020, 06:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Davis View Post
Apparently the expansion tank blew and all the coolant drained out. The liquid turned out to be a mix of oil and coolant; I'm guessing it drained into a pan that also held some oil before it flowed out of the car.
You said it's the wife's car--does she drive a stick or is this an automatic? It matters because the automatics have a heat exchanger for the transmission fitted near the base of the expansion tank.

If the tank blowout damaged the heat exchanger or any of its hoses/fittings, that puddle of oil might not be incidental or safe to dismiss!
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  #12  
Old 02-07-2020, 06:32 PM
John Davis John Davis is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zeichen311 View Post
You said it's the wife's car--does she drive a stick or is this an automatic? It matters because the automatics have a heat exchanger for the transmission fitted near the base of the expansion tank.

If the tank blowout damaged the heat exchanger or any of its hoses/fittings, that puddle of oil might not be incidental or safe to dismiss!
It is indeed an automatic--I'll check that out. Thanks!
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  #13  
Old 02-07-2020, 07:11 PM
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smolck smolck is offline
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I'm due for a cooling system overhaul, this is the warning I need. Hope you get it running again soon.
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  #14  
Old 02-10-2020, 03:08 PM
meinbills meinbills is online now
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Sounds scary but then I changed my expansion tank around 90K miles. It was still in good shape. How could a expansion tank explode? Must be cold weather driving?
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Old 02-10-2020, 07:50 PM
MoparJim MoparJim is offline
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Sounds scary but then I changed my expansion tank around 90K miles. It was still in good shape. How could a expansion tank explode? Must be cold weather driving?
Probably pressure buildup when he shut it off due to the coolant no longer circulating.
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  #16  
Old 02-10-2020, 11:36 PM
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Over filling will do it.
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  #17  
Old 02-11-2020, 08:22 AM
meinbills meinbills is online now
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i have to check but doesn't the tank has a vent tube to let excess coolant to escape?
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  #18  
Old 02-11-2020, 09:04 AM
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i have to check but doesn't the tank has a vent tube to let excess coolant to escape?
They blow up because over time and many heat cycles the plastic gets brittle. You can buy a lower pressure cap from GAS, but it isnít needed. If you replace your cooling system every 80k miles or so, you likely wonít ever have an issue. It is hot and humid 8 months out 12 where I live, routinely 100 degrees with 100% humidity for months at a time and my cars have never suffered a failure as long as I replaced the parts every 80k.
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Old 02-11-2020, 10:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by meinbills View Post
i have to check but doesn't the tank has a vent tube to let excess coolant to escape?
No. BMW uses a sealed cooling system. No coolant can (or should) escape unless the system overheats and pressures rise beyond the pressure cap rating. When the cap vents, the system pressure drops, lowering the boiling point to (typically) less than the coolant temperature, so the coolant immediately boils and creates a large mess as it escapes through the cap.

Or, on a vehicle with a less-than-stellar maintenance record in this regard, the expansion tank ruptures to protect the pressure cap.
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Old 02-11-2020, 12:26 PM
meinbills meinbills is online now
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Isn't this typical MW over design? I mean other manufacturers use coolant vent tube and there is no boil-over coolant like you said. Why is BMW different and are you sure about this? Has anyone tried a vent tube?
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  #21  
Old 02-11-2020, 01:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Zeichen311 View Post

Or, on a vehicle with a less-than-stellar maintenance record in this regard, the expansion tank ruptures to protect the pressure cap.
Now THAT is funny!
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Old 02-13-2020, 04:26 PM
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Glad it was just an expansion tank.
Can't even count how many i've replaced in my days for myself and even random people stranded on the side of the road.

There was a time I use to keep a spare with me ALL the time in my E46. THATS how bad they are LOL
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Old 02-13-2020, 05:01 PM
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It`s like the warranty on a package of condoms:

"If the condom breaks, the guarantee runs out"....
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Old 02-14-2020, 05:10 AM
SPDSKTR SPDSKTR is offline
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There is an aluminum expansion tank, but it's not cheap.
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Old 02-14-2020, 06:09 AM
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Originally Posted by SPDSKTR View Post
There is an aluminum expansion tank, but it's not cheap.
Yea, those are cool and all, but not needed. I mean, your car is supercharged and lives in a place where its HOT for a long portion of the year (darn cold today though!) and your expansion tank isnít randomly exploding every week. If you dont overfill the system, and replace it every 70k-80k miles, you will likely never see a failure here. A lower pressure cap is also a good idea, like 1.4 bar or even GAS who make the 1.2 bar cap.
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