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Okay, I need an honest opinion here because I'm sick and tired of mechanics trying to swindle me with lies...

I have a 2001 330i with a little over 157k miles and earlier this week the "service engine soon" light came on, so I had autozone use their scanner on it and it came up with 1 code, which was p0128..

I took it to a local garage who deals mostly with european cars, and on my way to take it there, after a few days of driving it with no issues other than the light being on, the light went away..

I left it anyway and the next day the garage called me and said that the radiator was leaking and needed replaced and the thermostat also needed replaced. They also said the surge tank could be leaking as well, but they wouldn't know until they got the radiator out.

I was referred to a person who apparently knows a ton about euro cars and explained the situation to him, and he told me that the "service engine soon" light is no more than a scheduled maintenance period and that I should just drive it and ignore what this garage said...


the car does not appear to be leaking anything (no spots on the ground) but there is also a shield on the bottom of the car that would seemingly prevent any coolant from hitting the ground anyway, leaking or not.. I did have to top off the coolant twice in about a month due to it being about an inch lower than it should be.


So, I guess my question is, should I listen to what this garage says and spend hundreds getting this repaired or should I ignore it? What is the average total cost for this repair? Would a leaking radiator or a bad thermostat even set off any lights anyway?

Thoughts and opinions?
 

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BMWs need the entire cooling system replaced around every 75,000 miles of so. Just a cold, hard fact of BMW ownership. These are fairly high-maintenance cars, and if not kept up, will quickly become money pits.

Overheating is a "Worst-case Scenario" with these cars, they don`t tolerate it at all, and just one episode can cause a catastrophic engine failure. Which is why we always tell folks "make the cooling system your number one priority".

Now for the upside:
These cars are pretty logical in their layout, and (for the most part), are fairly easy to work on. If you have just a little bit of mechanical ability and some basic hand tools, you can perform a lot of repairs yourself, saving a bundle of money.

That cooling system, for example, can be done on a Saturday without much problem. The folks on this Forum will help to guide you, they`ve seen and done it ALL before, and there are lots of good DIY videos on YouTube which will help.

Here`s a link to a "Master Rebuild" kit, which includes a new radiator:

https://www.oembimmerparts.com/BMW-...oling-Kit-Value-Line-p/e46coolmastrkit-vl.htm

Whatever you decide, good luck ! :thumbup:

PS: There are over 200 things that will trigger a CEL !
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Is there a difference between CEL and SES though? Are there red flags that I myself could look at to see if the radiator is really leaking or if the thermostat really needs replaced? Without just taking the mechanics word for it...
 

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I believe they are the same thing. CEL means check engine light. SES means service engine soon. They do not come on unless there's an emissions problem.

The P code means that your thermostat is failing. The engine isn't getting up to proper temperature. Google "BMW E46 hidden OBC functions." Test #7 shows the coolant temperature as seen by the computer. It needs to be between 95^C and 100*C.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
This car just passed inspection literally 3 weeks ago... How is this possible?


The garage I took it to didn't say anything about replacing the entire cooling system, just the thermostat and radiator.
 

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Agree 100% with Bob's post above. So you're at 157,000 - what mileage did you or a previous owner of the car overhaul the entire cooling system? Everything is plastic in these cars and when they get old and brittle they fail.

Some items to do as part of your overhaul:

Thermostat
Water pump
Serpentine belts
Expansion tank
Cap for expansion tank
Upper radiator hose
Lower radiator hose
Coolant temp sensor located in lower radiator hose
Radiator depending upon mileage/age
BMW blue coolant
Fan clutch (if original)

Of course this is assuming the car is worth putting time and money into for you. If not, you can get away with just repairing whatever is leaking and sell the car and move on. To figure out exactly what is leaking will require a cooling system pressure test. The garage will need the car to be cold so it will require you leaving the car with them. They'll use a pressure pump tool to pressurize the cooling system and then inspect for cracks or leaks.
 

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Is there a difference between CEL and SES though? Are there red flags that I myself could look at to see if the radiator is really leaking or if the thermostat really needs replaced? Without just taking the mechanics word for it...
Please re-read my previous post. CAREFULLY. The bottom line here is that ALL BMW cooling systems are doomed to failure, it`s not a matter of "IF", it`s just a matter of "WHEN". We`re working with the old "weakest link in the chain" scenario, and if your system is original to the car, it is most definitely a ticking time bomb....
 

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CEL or check engine light is the same as SES or service engine soon. BMW's say "service engine soon" when there is a fault code, it is not a maintenance light to be ignored.

What you may have been thinking of is the service indicator lights. BMW's have a service indicator in the cluster which serves as an indicator of maintenance service intervals. If you have an owners manual for your car you can read more information and get to know your car a bit more.
 

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If you need a new radiator, it costs about $140 online at FCPEURO. The water pump is about $50 and a thermostat is maybe $20. You can buy all the coolant parts for about $300. The dealer will rip you off for an extra $800+. Replacing these parts is relatively easy especially with the DIY videos. Please don't waste hundreds of dollars on labor costs.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I think I can handle installing the radiator and the thermostat, but what about all the coolant inside? I don't have any way to drain this and I've been told I need to bleed the coolant after I would finish and I am not familiar with doing that...
 

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By replacing the radiator you will be draining the vast majority of the coolant. I would call it good enough if you;re sticking with same coolant, hopefully BMW coolant which needs to be mixed 50/50 with distilled water.
If you really want to be thorough there is a drain plug on the side of engine block. I'm sure you can find videos on You tube that will point you to it. YouTube was invaluable when I did my cooling system refresh.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
It needs to be mixed 50/50 with water? So, I can't just put coolant in int like I would any other vehicle? Can it be bought like this or do I have to mix it myself?
 

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It needs to be mixed 50/50 with water? So, I can't just put coolant in int like I would any other vehicle? Can it be bought like this or do I have to mix it myself?
ALL coolant needs to be diluted with distilled water to a 50/50 strength....the BMW coolant should be used, it`s different than everything else on the market.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
As far as I can remember, any time I've topped off coolant in any of my vehicles, whether european or american, I have always just poured it in right from the container, and I have never had any issues becuase of it.. As far as I know, any mechanic or garage I have taken any vehicle to has done the same thing unless I am unaware of something?
 

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Okay, I need an honest opinion here because I'm sick and tired of mechanics trying to swindle me with lies...

I have a 2001 330i with a little over 157k miles and earlier this week the "service engine soon" light came on, so I had autozone use their scanner on it and it came up with 1 code, which was p0128..

I took it to a local garage who deals mostly with european cars, and on my way to take it there, after a few days of driving it with no issues other than the light being on, the light went away..

I left it anyway and the next day the garage called me and said that the radiator was leaking and needed replaced and the thermostat also needed replaced. They also said the surge tank could be leaking as well, but they wouldn't know until they got the radiator out.

I was referred to a person who apparently knows a ton about euro cars and explained the situation to him, and he told me that the "service engine soon" light is no more than a scheduled maintenance period and that I should just drive it and ignore what this garage said...

the car does not appear to be leaking anything (no spots on the ground) but there is also a shield on the bottom of the car that would seemingly prevent any coolant from hitting the ground anyway, leaking or not.. I did have to top off the coolant twice in about a month due to it being about an inch lower than it should be.

So, I guess my question is, should I listen to what this garage says and spend hundreds getting this repaired or should I ignore it? What is the average total cost for this repair? Would a leaking radiator or a bad thermostat even set off any lights anyway?

Thoughts and opinions?
The cooling esteem in its entirety should have been replaced. Has it been done, if not why not?
 

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Discussion Starter #16
The cooling esteem in its entirety should have been replaced. Has it been done, if not why not?
The carfax that I looked at shows that the cooling system was checked around the 75k mark but doesn't give any details about the work that was done.. I called the garage that did the work, and they do not have any records stating what was done to the car.. That was in 2011.. The car now has 157,000 miles on it and no carfax history past 2013 so it is a total mystery what has been done to the car or not since then. All I can do is look at the parts and make an assumption of how old they are...
 

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So knowing the cooling system is the weak point of an E46 and yours is leaking and overheating usually ends up requiring a replacement engine you are happy with that? You must be a rich man indeed!
 

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As far as I can remember, any time I've topped off coolant in any of my vehicles, whether european or american, I have always just poured it in right from the container, and I have never had any issues becuase of it.. As far as I know, any mechanic or garage I have taken any vehicle to has done the same thing unless I am unaware of something?
So far, everything you have posted here leads me to believe that you are speaking from a completely uninformed point of view. You ASK for advice, yet refuse to follow or accept it. Maybe this is not the right Forum for you....
 

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Discussion Starter #19
So far, everything you have posted here leads me to believe that you are speaking from a completely uninformed point of view. You ASK for advice, yet refuse to follow or accept it. Maybe this is not the right Forum for you....
I'm not refusing any advice. Just a bit confused with the coolant thing.. After looking closely at the stuff I use, it is already prediluted 50/50 so it makes more sense now. It's just that when someone told me to add water, it threw me off a bit.
 

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As far as I can remember, any time I've topped off coolant in any of my vehicles, whether european or american, I have always just poured it in right from the container, and I have never had any issues becuase of it.. As far as I know, any mechanic or garage I have taken any vehicle to has done the same thing unless I am unaware of something?
The standard coolant should be mixed 50/50 with distilled water, nothing new, and same for the BMW stuff. You may not have noticed issues, but it is the recommended method.

I've started to see pre-mixed coolant at big box auto parts store. I believe that is a fairly recent offering but then again I could be wrong. They wouldn't sell a pre-mixed version if there wan't a version that needs mixing.

Incidentally, the reason I noticed the pre-mixed version is my business minded brain thought it was quite wise for Prestone and the like to sell distilled water at $12-15 a gallon in the name of convenience. Talk about a great ROI for them. Brilliant.
 
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