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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Title says it all.

Successfully took a 280mi round trip drive yesterday to get a shot in the arm. All was well until I took an 8 mile trip to the gas station this morning to get beer (hey, it’s a Friday and I’m “working from home”). About a mile from my house, the low oil warning came on telling me to add a quart. Odd. Figured that at 172k miles, it was the oil level sensor. It was not; the sensor was right.

Got home, and pulled the following code:


Hmm. That’s new. Pop the hood and find this:


Chocolate milk galore. Hmm ok where’s the oil leak? From the oil everywhere, I thought maybe bottom of OFHG, or the front seal failed (72k on the former, 20k on the latter), coupled with snow melt splash up from my trip. Then I slowly started to remove the expansion tank cap, and chocolate milk started erupting. That ain’t good.


I doubted it was the head gasket, and removing the oil filter verified no chocolate milk there. If I have to make a leak down tester from an old spark plug, I will, but I don’t think I’ll have to.

Considering the car ran fine, my obvious choice was the heat exchanger. I drained the radiator, and clean coolant came out until the end (as it should):



So I pulled it off, and found the following (on the HE, the coolant side is the small parallelogram lower left; note the chocolate milk there only):






Not only is the gasket chewed, but also heat hardened.


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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Ok so now on to the fan: some brief tests on the car (AC on full, disconnecting ECT sensor), did not get the fan on. I didn’t feel like doing the ISTA self tests in the snow, so I bench tested it. Nothing. That isn’t entirely conclusive however because the ECM sends a PWM signal on the small green wire to turn on the fan that I may not have properly replicated; neither 12v nor a lower 9v to that wire (with 12v to the lead power) turned the fan, but did produce some arcing when I grounded the motor to my test battery. That’s usually a sign of a bad motor. Red is power, and in a German, Brown is Ground. So, I took it apart; some black scorching on the coils (which could be dirt), but a lot of corrosion. I may wait until the fan is back in the car to do the proper ISTA test, but I may just replace it now. It’s going on 13 years old in a heavily salted environment, and future failure is not an option.



Even though it is not currently leaking, I’ll be replacing the OFHG at the same time. It is an extreme pet peeve of mine to have to do a job more than once; the system is drained, the HE is already off, so I might as well. I think I got both gaskets from FCP, so all that will cost me is return shipping. I replaced both of these gaskets in 2016 at 100k miles.

The “hardest” (or at least most annoying) part of all this is flushing the cooling system; there’s a foot of snow outside and it’s below freezing. The car is in a heated shop with a floor drain, but I can’t in good conscience flush it into that drain. I enjoy being healthy (I have a well).

As my Silverado 4x4 is currently buried in a foot of soggy snow melt, it looks like the ‘70 Beetle will be the daily driver for the next couple of weeks. Both of the old GMs aren’t allowed to see salt (and the Olds has summer performance tires). The Beetle’s heat actually works great, and it’s better in snow than the Silverado anyway. Looks like I need to get its front end back together (outside in the driveway, unfortunately).


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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
You may be wondering about the external mess from an internal leak, because I forgot to mention it.

The engine oil pressure varies between ~30-65+ psi (much higher on cold starts). The cooling system is 18psi, so that’s why oil went into the coolant and not vice versa. The resulting overpressurization of the cooling system (which may have been due to lack of cooling fan) erupted the excess out of the cap. Yes, contrary to popular belief, these caps DO vent to the atmosphere when their relief valves allow it. I also run a much lower pressure cap than the stock cap; the BMW cap is 30psi (yet another engineering blunder). So, not only does the lower pressure cap protect the cooling system components (turning possible parts explosions into weeps), but also saved my engine by preventing coolant intrusion into the oil, wiping the bearings. A hot idle oil pressure could be low enough to allow coolant to push into the oil at a failed heat exchanger gasket; improbable, but not impossible. Murphy’s law and all that.

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Oh man, nice that the oil level sensor alerted you! Those "gaskets" seem to have a limited life and just need to be changed out periodically. They work fine while the rubber remains elastic, but once it plasticizes, they become a failure waiting to happen. Glad you caught it before it caused serious damage!

AM.
 
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Oh man, nice that the oil level sensor alerted you! Those "gaskets" seem to have a limited life and just need to be changed out periodically. They work fine while the rubber remains elastic, but once it plasticizes, they become a failure waiting to happen. Glad you caught it before it caused serious damage!

AM.
Yeah man me too! I changed the belt 500-1000 miles ago and checked the coolant at the time, it was fine. It’s to the point this gasket is a PM thing.

The puddle of chocolate milk beneath the car would have alerted me the next time I went out to it, but thankful it was a close drive. If I hadn’t put the miles to get a shot, this would have happened 200 miles from home on my next commute which would have turned catastrophic. Ugh.

Good to see you back. How’s the E53 world?

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Both my E53 and E83 have been running like sewing machines lately, so haven't done much to 'em. Did part of a front suspension refresh on the E53, but need to order more parts and complete the job. With Covid, I've spent way more time mountain biking, so I think I wrench on my bike more than my cars! Kicking around the idea of replacing the E53 with an E70 diesel. The E53 (M54) CAN pull my camper trailer, but it's very marginal. We pulled it out to the NW corner of CO through the mountains last fall to go elk hunting and it only dropped down to about 45mph on the passes, but from what I've read, the M57 diesel in the E70 would barely break a sweat pulling my 4,500 lb. trailer. Snagging a bargain on one has proven elusive so far, but I'm being patient. My MIL totalled her RAV4 (not her fault), so she needs another vehicle at age 85. Thinking about looking for an E83 for her since they're fairly cheap and she realistically will only be driving a few more years. Then I think about the work of going through another BMW and catching up all the deferred maintenance.... maybe she needs another RAV4! ;)

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Nice! My father also went out there elk hunting last September; from NY, took his ‘16 Colorado first to North Dakota, then Colorado, and finally New Mexico over a 10 day trip, and snagged an elk, a mule deer and a pronghorn with his bow. Two day drive each way, not bad for 65 years old!

Have you considered a pickup truck for your duties? All things equal you’ll have more stability from the longer wheel base. If you’re looking at an E70, I’d humbly suggest a crew cab Colorado/Canyon with the 2.8 “Baby Max” diesel. It’ll pull 7-8k with ease, still be able to pull at elevation due to the turbo, have more gear storage than the E70, be cheaper to maintain and more reliable than a BMW diesel, be cheaper to buy, and still get an unladen 30 mpg highway. A Ram ecodiesel is also an option if you want/need more interior room. The build quality on my ‘14 Laramie was arguably better than my current ‘16 Silverado CC 5.3 4x4 with a better transmission (8 speed ZF vs. 6L90), but I got a great deal on the CPO Chevy two years ago ($24k). Both the 5.7 Hemi and 5.3 LS are great engines, but with 92k on the Chevy, I’m considering a walnut blast of the valves (it’s a DI motor). According to OnStar, the truck has a 30.5mpg lifetime mileage, damn good for a 6k lb gas engine 4x4 full size.


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Wow! Congrats to your dad! I got a pronghorn, but missed out on an elk (our group took two, however). I had a herd of 8 elk wander into the draw I was hunting. In blizzard conditions, I shot 3 total rounds at 2 different cows, but never was able to track her down. Either I missed what felt like 2 good shots from 200ish yds, or there's a cow laying out there that I never found. Tracking was impossible due to the heavy snow and wind.

I have kicked around the idea of getting a pickup instead. The X5 serves me well all around, though, despite not being the ideal camping/hunting vehicle. I guess I have an unhealthy affinity to the Roundel!

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Thanks AM. If you’re interested in where he went PM me; the ranch he went to in ND sounds pretty cool, days of stalking the hoofers crawling on knees and elbows across country where you can watch your dog run away for 3 days.

I ordered gaskets and a fan last night, $700 shipped (FCP). Fan was on sale for ~$620 or something like that. I didn’t get a new oil level sensor as it seems to be accurate. I have no desire to buy used and beat up parts from a junkyard that are nearing their ends of lives, so new is it and good for another 170k miles. So now I’m in a holding pattern; unfortunate we have a bunch of snow coming in the next week and the Olds is back out in it! The shame of it is that I still have 50% left on the oil in the E83.

Spent the day getting the Type1 ready for daily duty: finishing buttoning up the front end, installing the stock sway bar. I’d added a 3/4” rear (never had one) and tried to upgrade to a 3/4” front, but all vendors are back ordered so the stock 1/2” got clean up with new bushings and clamps. Over the last few weeks I’d cleaned up the rusty front beam, pulled off the torsion arms to replace the ball joints (2 on each side), and cut out some rot/spray foam out of the front quarters and welded in home-made patches, sealed and painted. Pressing the ball joints put my 20 ton press to the test, making me realize I need a new hot wrench! I’d also replaced the points distributor and coil with a Pertronix electronic unit, but am keeping the points unit in the toolkit as a back up should a side of the road repair be needed. Electronic is great until it isn’t; points can always limp you home.

I hope folks appreciate the irony of a 51 year old, air cooled econobox being the backup to a “modern” [faux luxury] car 38 years its junior. There’s something to be said for simplicity; the Type 1 will never have liquid coolant issues.

Shameless car porn plugs:

Front end: cleaned and painted torque arms and beam, new ball joints, urethane seals, and sway bar bushings/clamps.


Ready for service; astute eyes will notice that front bumper was never available on a US car. I’ve wired its lights to work. Quite a bit more fun that its BMW contemporary (Isetta).


Engine where the good Dr. [Porsche] intended. New distributor and coil. Fuel filter location will be changed when I get around to installing the new 34Pict carb.


Parts haven’t shipped yet, hopefully they arrive by next Saturday so I can get that mess back together; if not it might have to wait several weeks.


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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
This morning I received an email from FCP that my order had shipped; much to my surprise, FedEx delivered it to my doorstep by 1100 today. I never select more than the "free, economy" shipping; FCP is usually very quick with shipping, but this was exceptionally fast. Another win for FCP; the free economy shipping is usually as fast as the costly, expedited shipping.

After putting a few hundred miles on the VW since I purchased it in November (and its immediate oil change with 2 quarts oil + 0.5 quart MMO, new oil screen and a valve adjustment), my plan is to do another oil change on Friday (with another round of MMO) and check the valve lash (from available records, the car last had its oil change in the late 1990s prior to my ownership) to ensure everything is breaking back in smoothly, leaving me Saturday to repair the E83 and get it out of the garage bay. I found a bottle of cooling system flush leftover from the E21 project, and theoretically, the self-bleed procedure should allow for an easy, safe cooling system flush. Once the OFH is put back together, I'll pressurize the cooling system to make sure there are no head gasket issues.

Edit: I just reviewed my Excel maintenance spreadsheet: The HE gasket was last replaced on 3.2.2015 at 98,640 miles, putting this most recent gasket failure occurring after 73,670 miles, which isn't terribly impressive but probably within a standard deviation of the mean failure mileage. It had previously been replaced on 1.17.15 at ~97k miles with a URO gasket, that failed very soon thereafter.
 

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OH man. Didn't see this earlier. Glad to hear it's not head gasket. Well, I'm optimistic. :)

I have a diesel E70 nice X5, very well built and performance, but the emission system can break your wallet here and there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
The Harbor Freight fairy arrived today bringing some tidings of great joy. Just in time too; should come in handy tomorrow! Now I need to shorten the wood shelving behind it to fit it under the window.




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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
After dragging my heels all morning, finally got to working on the E83.

Pulled off the dampener to check the front seal; it may be weeping, or it could just be the oil splatter from the expansion tank draining to lowest point. I changed the seal 15k miles ago but may have messed up the ultra special application of the ultra special loctite sealant. I’ll clean up and monitor. Hint for using a mirror: shine your light on the mirror and it will illuminate the area you’re trying to see.



Then removed the oil filter housing; I don’t know if it’s a known trick or not, but as I’m replacing the sensor, I removed it and could easily access the aft bolt with my E12 ratcheting wrench from the front. The sensor takes a 15/16” wrench IIRC, torqued to 16 ft lbs.


With the housing off, holy crap! I’d say I definitely found the source of the coolant intrusion!! The OFHG is trashed! It was not leaking externally, but you can see the oil still sitting on the gasket mating surface. The gasket had turned to plastic, and then melted against the surfaces. I had to delicately use a razor blade scraper, scotchbrite pad, and acetone on a rag to clean up the surfaces, being careful to not gouge the soft aluminum. I plugged the oil and coolant passages to prevent contamination and used an air wand to blow off the areas frequently.



Edit: on closer inspection, the OFH was seeping externally, beneath the intake. Its back side was disgustingly dirty, and needed its own time spent cleaning.

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Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
Heat exchanger cleaned up and ready to install.


I remember the last time I did this, one of the bolts felt a little soft. The new Al bolts (originals are steel) were too long (the threaded holes in the OFH aren’t threaded all the way through), so I chased them with an M8x1.25 tap to clean them up. Even so, the one closest to the PS reservoir couldn’t make torque (16 ft lbs), so I got dirty with it: rather than removing the OFH again to drill out the hole (lack of clearance against the radiator), I ran up to the store and bought a right angle drill which made light work of hogging out the hole in the OFH, and then installed a 5/16-18 x 2 SAE through-bolt with a nut (oh, the horror!).


Used the air ratchet to install the 6 E8 dampener bolts before final torque of 26 ft lbs, same as the OFH.


Finally, ran the self bleed sequence with distilled water and a dash of radiator flush to remove residual oil.


Once done, I’ll drain the system and bleed again using distilled water and coolant.


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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
My lesson learned: these gaskets are a 60-70k mile PM now. Talk about garbage design!


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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
Looking good! Yes, 60-70K miles gaskets are blunder.
Thanks. For sure; on something like a valve cover gasket or something that isn’t quite mission critical, a gasket weep isn’t the end of the world. On something like this that could frag the entire engine due to the failure of a tiny, albeit critical, piece of rubber, is not a great set up IMO. The oil cooler is also an oil heater and probably is more important for heating the oil than cooling it, but it could be plumbed differently. On the list of inexpensive pets causing massive damage, these seals aren’t as bad as the tensioner seals on Ford 3v engines, these aren’t at the top, but they do make the short list.

The job was much quicker the last time, because the failure wasn’t as severe. I didn’t have to drain the cooling system or possibly even the oil the last time, nor did I have to clean up a mess. Just getting the melted, plasticized gaskets off the surfaces took 30-40 minutes, plus removal of the belt and dampener. I can’t wait to do these again in 65k miles.


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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Aaaand the flushing continues. Who knew it would take so many times to remove the remnants of a quart of oil?

I decided to up my game with a gallon of HOT water and a couple caps of lestoil in order to emulsify the oil traces for removal, and finally I’m starting to see so results. I have no clue how the lestoil will react with the Al or Mg or the gaskets, so I’ll probably up my preventive replacement of them to about 50k miles. Depending on how the water looks after this current flush and drain, I may switch back to pure cold water in order to remove Lestoil traces. Trying to avoid firing the parts cannon at a new expansion tank. I’ll be the guinea pig.


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