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Need Help! Coolant low, white smoke...

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Hi Forum,

Need some advice. Took car into mechanic (was actually towed in)...while driving it began to overheat, the power steering stopped working and the battery light came on. In turn, my mechanic replaced the following: water pump, ac belt, alternator belt, and thermostat (still on warranty).

A day or so later, I noticed a white smoke upon starting the car (mainly happens car has been sitting over an hour or more), the car was revving higher than usual as well. Called mechanic, was told that the expansion tank was cracked and had to be replaced. Picked car up this Friday...new expansion tank and all...noticed that the white smoke is still coming out. Today (Sunday) coolant is low again, white smoke, and Add coolant light came on.

What should I do? Feel like I am being taken advantage of...and problem still exists. I can't afford to continue to pay out $ while the mechanic appears to be haphazardly figuring out what is wrong. What is he going to say is wrong this time?

Forgot to add...the air conditioning fan is barely blowing now.

Need any and all advice before I return to the shop tomorrow.

Thanks guys!!!! :confused:

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Thanks for replying. What about all of the other things he fixed...does it sound legitimate or does it sound like it was probably the head gasket all along? And should I trust to take my car back to this guy since I've already shelled out a lot of $ to him already

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Yeah all happened at the same time. Lost power steering, battery light came on, and temp gauge went into the red.

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Um... I'm going to guess that you own a model YEAR 2002...not a vintage 1969-1976 era MODEL 2002.....correct? :-)

If it's an E36 / E46 3 series, or ANY BMW produced after 1992, you're only about half way there.....$$$. I'm a real live mechanic (though I don't play one on TeeVee) - and I replace cooling system parts on a DAILY basis on these cars. If it's plastic - it will fail. Period. When we get a car with failed expansion tank, or ANY other portion of the cooing system broken - we replace it ALL (!) The stuff was designed by BEAN COUNTERS...not engineers. You're paying the price for that "marketing". If we don't replace all of it...we get frustrated customers with the same disappointment as you....and no one walks away happy.

If the car was run in the "red" zone on the temp gauge for any length of time - you may very well be buying a new motor. The "low coolant" light may have come on after the repair, simply because an air pocket was trapped in the system, and it was not bled properly - and finally "burped" - leaving space in the expansion tank, where the level sender lives..

For others here that own "modern" BMWs...Replace these items, if you're keeping the car:

water pump (orig. ones had PLASTIC impellers that crumbled into the cooling system!)

thermostat

expansion tank

any hoses that appear to be suspect

consider radiator also.

Have a pressure test performed on the motor, or a chemical test to see if exhaust gasses are entering/pressurizing the cooling system. If it's head gasket - and it's on a later car (E46 for instance) you will probably need a new motor - as the head studs PULL out of the blocks on those when cooked, often turning them into expensive rebuilds.

Now...with ALL of that stuff said....I've BEEN this mechanic...ONCE. Car had a blown head gasket from being overheated,that was undetectable, until we replaced all the OTHER broken, leaking, oozing, cracked parts of the cooling system. There's also a plastic pipe UNDER the intake manifold on later motors that can crack and leak. Replacing it requires complete disassembly of the intake...and while you're there...you'd be well advised to replace the crankcase vent valve and ALL plastic pipes to and from - including oil return line to the dipstick tube/oil pan.

HTH!

Paul Wegweiser (doesn't trust - or desire - ANY BMW built after 1991)

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Thanks Wegweiser...does a broken head gasket automatically mean that I will need a new motor? Thanks so much for your detailed response...as you can most likely guess...I am not mechanically inclined and would like to understand as much as possible before I return to my mechanic for further repair. Should I ask him about the pressure test?

Aren't there diagnostic tests that can be run that make detection better, faster, and more accurate?

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dang Safari actin' up....grrrgh. slow upload time make greasemonkey angry and cause doubleposting.

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As a guy in the professional arena - it's a tough call. I don't think your mechanic a) misled you, or B) was clueless. If he's like most honest and cautious mechanics, he probably surmised that the fan belt broke - or the water pump or tension pullies seized - causing the broken belt (eliminating the power steering, water pump function, etc) and knew enough to replace some precautionary - and relatively CHEAP items like water pump and thermostat. For me - that's a "no brainer". The only thing I might have done differently - would have been to replace the expansion tank any idler/tensioner plastic pullies at the same time. Give it a thorough test drive - and then see how it performs over a 2-3 day period before returning the car to the owner.

On the head gasket failure I described, the problem was immediately apparent upon start-up after repairing the visable leaks- coolant POURED out of the filler cap from over-pressurization. I had already invested several hours in performing the obvious repairs, so we contacted the customer with the bad news. We located a good used motor, installed it - and I swapped all the new cooling parts to the replacement motor (no telling how old the water pump on the used engine was - right?) It was easily a $3500-$4500 repair bill I bet. And yes....we ate a fair amount of the labor costs - because that's how my boss is....and why I work there. :-)

This begs the question: How much of the customer's cash do you spend in the interest of "precaution" or "covering yer beee-hind"?

As an aside - and not to accuse you or any specific owner of any carelessness - whenever we ask a customer "how long was it in the red?" - they ALWAYS reply - only a minute or so. Uh Huh....kinda like telling a cop "I only had 2 beers an hour ago". I think alot of people don't notice the gauge pegging until it's way too late.

Remember also - when performing "warranty" repairs - the tech is probably under a GREAT DEAL of pressure to keep shop costs down - especially at a dealership. The only easy test I know - would have been to pull some spark plugs and check for coolant in the cylinders, or use a chemical test on the antifreeze to detect exhaust gas chemicals - indicating a breach of the gasket.

Hope it all works out for you. Feel free to contact me off board if you need more info.

zenwrenchpaul at yahoo.com

Paul Wegweiser

at Don Miller's Blue Ridge Sportscars, Baltimore

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Well i took the car back. the bleed screw was missing therefore the coolant was bubbling up out of that area...now that i have it back...there is still some white smoke but not as much. Unfortunately, the A/C blower still is blowing at a low capacity...what is the part called that corrects this?

Also, overnight the A/C started blowing out warm air. The mechanic charged it and said that he added freon. The very next afternoon...it is was back warm. Keep in mind that it went from being extremely cold one day to warm the very next. What's the deal? I feel that every since I took it to this guy...I've been having more and more problems this go round. Also, how much coolant is normal to go through? How often should I have to top it off?

Thanks!!!

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Well i took the car back. the bleed screw was missing therefore the coolant was bubbling up out of that area...now that i have it back...there is still some white smoke but not as much. Unfortunately, the A/C blower still is blowing at a low capacity...what is the part called that corrects this?

Also, overnight the A/C started blowing out warm air. The mechanic charged it and said that he added freon. The very next afternoon...it is was back warm. Keep in mind that it went from being extremely cold one day to warm the very next. What's the deal? I feel that every since I took it to this guy...I've been having more and more problems this go round. Also, how much coolant is normal to go through? How often should I have to top it off?

Thanks!!!

Ummm what kind of car are you talking about here? My suggestion is to figure out what you are driving then try to figure out what is wrong with it.

Power steering? Closed coolant system? Add coolant light? WARRANTY?????? Who has a warranty?

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