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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi All,

OK First off, this is my first post on here, Secondly it's about my mom's car, I drive an Audi (please don't hate me!) but respect all german cars. I am not the most familiar with working on BMW's so I figured I would turn to all of you for help.

So the story goes; I got a call from my mom today saying that her car broke down. I could tell she was really sad and shaken up so I figured it was pretty bad, I asked her what was wrong and she said the battery light came on and she lost power steering and then the car made a loud pop and sprayed fluid all over the windshield. (and yes my reaction was probably the same as all of yours but please remember this is my mother and she knows nothing about cars so please be kind) So I figured it was the serpentine belt since that would account for the battery issue and the power steering problem as well. It didn't really dawn on me right away what the fluid was, though I knew any fluid from the engine bay that ends up on the windshield is no good. So I got to the car and assessed the situation. There are 2 belts that are off but not broken, from what I can see there is at least one broken pulley. When I first saw the fluid my thought was coolant because it dried white on the engine covers. However it did seem a little thick to be coolant (I can't say I really know the viscosity of coolant is like though) and it had a greenish tint. (audi uses pink coolant) so I am not 100% sure what it is but I am still leaning towards coolant. I checked all the levels of all the fluids and they all seemed full which is another mystery.

So after I looked at everything I asked her some questions to find out what had happened. Again she mentioned the battery light and no power steering but she was afraid to stop because she didn't want to get stranded (again her thoughts not mine). I asked her if she happened to look at the water temp gauge and she said "yeah it was all the way to the right, but no lights were on". then i asked her how it died and she said it slowly lost power and wouldn't start again.

I know it's pretty grim, any chance of salvaging anything or is the engine blown and done?

Sorry the story isn't organized well I just wanted all the facts to be in it.

Any help would be great. Thank you all!
 

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Pulleys and belts are simple enough. You can get the part numbers from realoem and find plenty of places on-line to get them way cheaper than the dealership.

The other problem though...you could drain a little oil and coolant and see if there was any mixing going on. If it has actual BMW coolant in it, it should be blue with a little green tint (although my wife says I'm color blind). There is also a test kit you can buy just about anywhere that checks for combustion gases in the coolant. The most important test to do though would be a compression test and while your at it if those numbers look good than do a leak-down test. If you still have good compression I'd put a new pulley and belts on it and top off the fluids and take it for a road test. Oh, and obviously you need to fix where ever that fluid came out from.

Where you go from there, even if the road test works out, depends on the maintenance level of the car which you didn't give enough info to comment on specifically. If that was coolant splashed on the windshield though, many around here would say to replace the entire cooling system (radiator, reservoir, water pump, thermostat, hoses - belts and pulleys should already be done).

On the down side, if it was overheated and needs a headgasket all is still not lost. There are plenty of DIY's for doing that and a lot of individual help on this forum (or the E39 since they also used that engine).
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks U.Nanimous, She is currently looking for her service receipts now, The car is a 2001 and has120,000 miles on it and I am almost positive she has had the waterpump done. The belts that I found both looked like they were on the newer side. From what I can tell the idler pulley is what broke, though whose to say it didn't break after something else broke.

The other thing I am worried about is if anything warped from her driving it overheated. This is a problem I have never had to diagnose, any tips or tricks to check this? Granted I could get everything fixed.

also thank you for letting me know the E39 used the same engine. as they say you learn something new everyday
 

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ROLL TIDE!
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If she drove with no belt (broken pulley kills the belt) and the temp gauge stayed in the red for more than a minute or two, it's going to be dead. The pop was likely the expansion tank, radiator hose or similar due to over heating. The white stains are a tell take sign of dried coolant. But, the bottom line is, these engines are all aluminum, and have a very long head. As such, they simply do not tolerate overheating. I've seen it too frigging often, and it sucks.

Maybe she got lucky, but I bet the head gasket is dead.
 

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Do a compression test on all cyls before you replace anything. You need to verify the head gasket is not blown first and foremost.
 

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I asked her if she happened to look at the water temp gauge and she said "yeah it was all the way to the right, but no lights were on". then i asked her how it died and she said it slowly lost power and wouldn't start again.
Given that this is pretty much exactly how my old 318is died, after hemorrhaging its coolant onto an Interstate on-ramp, I'm with smolck: The head gasket is done.

Start with a compression test, as already suggested, but I doubt the results will be a surprise. The source of all the dried coolant (yes, it is coolant) should not be hard to find; check all the plumbing. If it all seems intact, it's likely the tank/radiator cap did its job and blew open to relieve the overpressure, blowing coolant everywhere. As u.nanimous noted though, tentatively put most of the cooling-system plumbing on the parts list, because all those old plastics would have been seriously stressed just before it blew.

The good news is, yes, this is salvageable. The bad news is, if you have to pay someone to do the job, the cost could exceed the value of the car. Hope you're handy & have the time. Good luck! :thumbup:
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Hi Guys, thanks for all the info so far. I was able to work on it a little today. The elbow on the upper radiator hose it what gave out and is the source of the coolant leak. When I removed the plastic tray from under the car I found a bunch of small bearing balls which I am assuming are from the idler pulley that is broken. I have all the coil packs and spark plugs out (I covered the holes in the meantime) I will preform a compression test this weekend when I get some more time. The main issue I am having right now is trying to get the belt driven fan off. Any suggestions on how to do this? From what I read so far it seems like its kind of a pain in the ass. Anything helps, thank you all
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Zeichen, I will be attempting all the work myself, We have already decided that its not worth it to take it anywhere to be fixed as the labor will cost more than the car is worth at this point. The good news is my mom has another car she can drive while I try and sort this out so time is no issue. It will certainly be a learning experience in the sense I have never done anything this intensive on a BMW but I have torn my Audi apart a few times so I have a general knowledge of how cars work.
 

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Hi Guys, thanks for all the info so far. I was able to work on it a little today. The elbow on the upper radiator hose it what gave out and is the source of the coolant leak. When I removed the plastic tray from under the car I found a bunch of small bearing balls which I am assuming are from the idler pulley that is broken. I have all the coil packs and spark plugs out (I covered the holes in the meantime) I will preform a compression test this weekend when I get some more time. The main issue I am having right now is trying to get the belt driven fan off. Any suggestions on how to do this? From what I read so far it seems like its kind of a pain in the ass. Anything helps, thank you all
Most likely the pulley was probably original and it gave out, they usually produce a bit of noise before they're too close to failure.

Since this is an automatic I can't help you personally with that process, search "fan clutch removal"
 

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The main issue I am having right now is trying to get the belt driven fan off. Any suggestions on how to do this? From what I read so far it seems like its kind of a pain in the ass.
I can confirm that its a real pain. Typically a 1-1/4" combination wrench and 3lb hammer are the tools of choice for the job. Obviously you have to stop the water pump from turning and that is the hard part. I hear chain wrenches are good for this; your other option is to get a pulley holder wrench. Of course you want to note that the threads are left-hand, or backwards, so left is on and right is off.

Personally I gave up trying to get mine off when I tried for several hours. If I had to pull mine I would be pulling out the water pump and everything as one piece because my fan won't budge. So hopefully you have better luck!

It is a shame to hear of the unfortunate events. Hopefully you are able to repair the damage without much trouble!
 

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I wedged a prybar in behind against a screw head to hold it in place while turning nut. Once it breaks free you should be able to just give the fan a spin and it comes right off. As noted above - LEFT HAND THREADS! There are some videos that show whacking the wrench with a hammer to break it free - do that at your own risk, the shock of the hits may cause more damage to the already stressed parts. Then again, if you are going to replace the pulleys and water pump just go for it.

Post #960 shows the prybar I used (yes it was my E38 - but it's the same)
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I can confirm that its a real pain. Typically a 1-1/4" combination wrench and 3lb hammer are the tools of choice for the job. Obviously you have to stop the water pump from turning and that is the hard part. I hear chain wrenches are good for this; your other option is to get a pulley holder wrench. Of course you want to note that the threads are left-hand, or backwards, so left is on and right is off.
This seems to be to go to process for the job, I won't have a chance until Saturday to attempt doing this but I will give an update when I am finished. Thanks for the tip on the left hand threads!
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I wedged a prybar in behind against a screw head to hold it in place while turning nut. Once it breaks free you should be able to just give the fan a spin and it comes right off. As noted above - LEFT HAND THREADS! There are some videos that show whacking the wrench with a hammer to break it free - do that at your own risk, the shock of the hits may cause more damage to the already stressed parts. Then again, if you are going to replace the pulleys and water pump just go for it.

Post #960 shows the prybar I used (yes it was my E38 - but it's the same)
Thanks U.nanimous, I am sure I will be trying various ways to get this job done.. The chances that it comes off the first way I try is slim to none I am sure :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
One other quick question, When I do the compression test and it fails, as it most likely will, how can I tell if it is just the gasket as opposed to the head being warped? I would hate to do all the work to replace everything and find out that the actual head was damaged? Thanks in advance
 

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You never change a head gasket without confirming the integrity of the head also. The most basic check is to measure flatness using feeler gauges and a rigid straightedge laid across the deck face of the head at various angles. If the gaps or variations are excessive the head needs to be machined flat (and IIRC you then need an oversize gasket to achieve the correct compression ratio). I have little hands-on experience in this area so I'll let others give you the details.

While you have the head off, even if no machining is required, consider having it dye-tested for cracks. It's probably not a concern but if the engine was run a fairly long time without coolant, might be worth the price for peace of mind.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
You never change a head gasket without confirming the integrity of the head also. The most basic check is to measure flatness using feeler gauges and a rigid straightedge laid across the deck face of the head at various angles. If the gaps or variations are excessive the head needs to be machined flat (and IIRC you then need an oversize gasket to achieve the correct compression ratio). I have little hands-on experience in this area so I'll let others give you the details.

While you have the head off, even if no machining is required, consider having it dye-tested for cracks. It's probably not a concern but if the engine was run a fairly long time without coolant, might be worth the price for peace of mind.
Yea I have been doing some research over the past hour or so and have read multiple forums saying that is the best way to check if the head or block have warped.

The thing that is really concerning me now is that it seems like quite a few special tools are needed to do the head gasket job, even if it is salvageable. I'm starting to think it may not be worth it for me to fix it myself. If I planned on owning multiple BMW's in the future it would be worth the investment for the tools, but I don't see that being the case, so for a one time fix I may have to chalk it up as a loss and let my mom decide what she wants to do with the car.
 

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Tools can be rented, or you may be able to find someone local who'll let you borrow them for a six-pack.
 
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