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limenuke 07-08-2012 12:51 AM

Post Overheating Check
As I posted earlier, my car overheated when my fan clutch died. The fan doesn't spin at all anymore. My main question is: what should you have checked out after your car overheats due to a non-running clutch fan?

The scenario (long story for those who want to know the exact details):

The first time I noticed this problem, I was coming off the highway. I didn't see that there was a problem until I looked at the temps and found that the heat needle was in the red (red light came on and I noticed small amounts of steam from under the hood). I instantly pulled over. Let it cool for 10 minutes and then drove it to a plaza (2 minutes away).

I taxii'd to my destination and came back to the car 6 hours (completely cool) later. Topped up the coolant (I had almost none left in the reservoir, it seemed) and limped the car home. Since it was dark and cool out, I was able to ease my way around at 50kmph on 60kmph roads in the right lane, turning off my engine at red lights and just being very light with the car. <1km from my house, the car's needle goes into the red again, I see small amounts of steam, but I decide to limp it home even in the red.

The next day, I topped up the coolant once again (no leaks. all of it was steaming out), drove the car around the block once more and it seemed totally fine (once around the block is not even enough to get the engine near normal operating temps).

That said, since my car has overheated twice, what should I check for in the car to ensure everything's alright? Coolant system pressure test? Reservoir cracks? *shrug* I'm not sure.

Ceeker 07-08-2012 08:29 AM

You can't visibly check for cracks. NEVER overheat a BMW engine. might be lucky "MIGHT" that you didn't warp the head but there is a good chance you "might" have. Check your oil for anti freeze going in. if the oil has a milky color then your SOL. this will be a sure indicator the head gasket is leaking or head is cracked or warped. Another indication will be antifreeze consumption. now that you ran it into the red twice???? it would be a miracle that nothing has gone wrong. these motors are very temperamental.
Replace your fan clutch, and then keep close eye on the coolant level, oil condition, white smoke out the tail pipe(sometimes a sweet smell) if there is any. performance of the car and the temperature gauge while driving and sitting.

Then go forward with the coolant system pressure test. you can check the rad, the reservoir

limenuke 07-08-2012 10:45 AM

What's the best way to check the oil without dumping it all out of the car?

Tekals 07-08-2012 11:03 AM

I guess you could always do a compression test... if you have any sort of leaks from your cylinders, it should show up...

Ceeker 07-08-2012 10:28 PM


Originally Posted by limenuke (Post 1574019)
What's the best way to check the oil without dumping it all out of the car?

pull the dip stick out. if you see any yellowish goo. that will tell you enough.
that means antifreeze is mixing with the oil. which means most likely you're head is toast.

kenmar 07-08-2012 11:11 PM

Do the visual fluid checks and monitor levels closely for a few weeks. Then follow up with a compression test. Further yet, get your engine oil analyzed for anti-freeze contamination. The oil analysis will also give you an indication of how much internal wear there is in your engine. I use Blackstone Labs in the US (US$26).

The best source I ever found for fan blade removal tools was Princess Auto (Dixie south of Derry):

Bimmer Heaven 07-09-2012 12:13 AM

I hate to say it, but chances are you have a blown head gasket; even without ANY cooling fan, the car will NOT overheat when moving! Very slight chances you might just have air in the system after you lost coolant the first time. Get a new fan clutch, add water (no need to even waste coolant at this point) and bleed the system.

Unlike the newer all aluminum motors, the M52 can take a lot of abuse. In the worst case you will need a head (if cracked) and gasket.

limenuke 07-09-2012 01:43 AM

I took the dipstick out and it was not milky. I took it out several times, in fact. I'm just going to hope the head gasket isn't blown. If it is, I'll either DIY or find the cheapest indy garage willing to do the job, drop the bills and sell the car immediately. This car was in worse shape when I bought it and I've poured way too much effort into it at this point. I don't mind taking a loss so long as I don't have these headaches again...

As for it overheating, the car came fresh off the highway (hot engine) with no cooling fan and was in 36 degree blazing hot road surface. I was stuck in traffic for at least 30 minutes before that. It started to get bad when I was navigating on street roads. Noticed some steam coming out of my hood (I heard that there is a pressure release system built into the reservoir) so I assume it was coming from that.

328IScreamer 07-09-2012 01:04 PM

Even though you lost your clutch fan your car should not have over heated. Anybody who knows e36s will tell you one of them most common mods is to just remove the clutch fan completely as there is still the aux fan which is ran electically. This way you don't get the drag on the motor when it kicks on.

As for why you over heated maybe both of your fans quit working or your thermostat got jammed. Also possible you have a crack in one of your rad hoses. There are a couple posabilities but I don't think you cracked your head gasket or did any damage to your motor from what you described. I have seen these motors take a sh^t kicking in my day with no issues.

SiR 07-09-2012 03:48 PM

hg is likely gone. Would need to pull to repair and you would have to check the head for warpage and any other leaks.

limenuke 07-09-2012 08:50 PM

Everyone seems to say HG is gone. So are E36s notorious for blown headgaskets?

Also, how can cars be designed like this? I'm a bit surprised that there was no way to know that your car is overheating unless you monitor the temp dial regularly. Considering how fast a car can overheat, you'd have to monitor it at least once a minute, which seems rather troubling. There really should be a "limp" mode activated or a "bong" to indicate that the car is starting to reach undesirable temperatures.

Another scratch in the wall for a most-likely-trashed E36. Just wonderful.

iverson03tj 07-09-2012 10:10 PM

I took off my fan clutch n put in a spal 16inch medium profile puller fan, and to this day it hasn't kicked on even in the hottest days, n i live real close to down town, so traffic is a b*tch! and it still never over heated... so its maybe your thermostat or HG... i would first do the thermostat, i hate the e36 thermostats.. i swear they work till i let my car sit for winter and every summer i gotta replace it :@

hawgripper 07-10-2012 06:50 AM

Don't assume anything. Fill it with water like someone suggested earlier and run it. If you don't notice a consumption in either the oil or water level than everything should be ok. I overheated one of mine a few years ago after a rad broke and never had an issue.

SiR 07-10-2012 09:18 AM

People are jjust preparing you for the worst. Do what is suggested above.

But e36's are old. hg get tired but also it has an iron block an an aluminum head. When the iron over heats the aluminum isnt to fond of it ;)

sometimes you can get away with an over heat and be ok...depends on severity and how many times. These cars are old . No such thing as over heat limp mode back in those days. Not that that would do much because generally if your car is over heating it will do so even at idle or low rpm and low speed conditions(which is usually where it happens) You also cant have a car that automatically turns off because it begins to overheat. That would be unsafe.

sb_600 07-10-2012 11:38 AM

The "first" thing to go would be your headgasket. Do a compression test, and if that turns out fine, your head & gasket are most likely fine. I overheated my engine several times while it was a street car (cracked radiator fitting once, blown aux fan another time, blown tensionner pulley a third), and then I ran it for 2 years on the track before I swapped it for my M52 build. Yes it "could" happen, but it could also be ok.

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