July 21

2007 BMW X5 Coolant Leaks

BMW

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Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert. I'm here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, Vancouver's best auto service experience. 24 times or maybe even 25 time winners of best auto repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers and we're talking cars. How you doing Bernie? 

Bernie: Doing well. 

Mark: So today we're talking about a BMW X5. Now this is a little bit of an iffy vehicle. I think we've talked about this in the past. What was going on with, this a 2007, had some coolant links. What was going on with this vehicle? 

Bernie: Yeah, it's a 2007. These are probably maybe less iffy than older ones. Probably slightly less problematic. But this vehicle came to our shop with a couple of issues. One of the drive belts had broken off, and also there was a pretty major coolant leak. And maybe that coolant leak was the primary concern of the client. But anyways, that was the main reason it came in. It was dripping a lot of coolant outta the vehicle and spraying coolant under the hood.

Mark: So it was towed in, I would assume. 

Bernie: You know, I don't know that, that I'm not certain about. 

Mark: So what testing and diagnosis did you do? 

Bernie: Well, first thing of course is a visual inspection to have a look around, see if we can see anything and a cooling system pressure test was the next thing to follow.

I mean, just to give you an idea, I'll just get into pictures right away. This is what we look at when we look at the engine. Everything's pretty much covered. There's air intake ducts here. There's a plastic shield over the engine. You know, the cooling system, a lot of it, the radiator is located. I'm moving my mouse point around, sort of located up here. And then there's various hoses. 

2007 BMW X5 Coolant Leaks

So that's basically, I mean, a lot of it is removing covers and gaining access and then attaching a pressure tester to the cooling system. And it was pretty immediate right away that the upper radiator hose was blown right by the water pump and spraying coolant straight into the radiator, which had been happening, we don't know how long, but enough time that it had been spraying all over the front of the engine and soaked the serpentine belt.

And then we also, after that, found that the air conditioning drive belt had completely broken off. Flung itself around and got embedded in the water pump pulley. So badly that we actually had to replace the water pump. That was the first round of things that we found that was going on with the vehicle.

That sounds like some pretty catastrophic or nearly catastrophic issues. 

Yeah, well we'll get into a little more, so I'll get into some more pictures. So the other thing that we found on further inspection was the air conditioning compressor pulley in the front was badly damaged. The bearing had let go on that, and it wasn't immediately apparent because there was so many other things going on.

But then after a little while we noticed, Oh, hey, this is toast too. So let's get into some pictures. So there's basically our engine as I showed before. Next picture, this is another view sort of looking down. This is actually after we did repairs on the engine, but again, this is with the covers off kind of looking down.

2007 BMW X5 Coolant Leaks

This is the pulley for the water pump right here. The air conditioning compressor's kind of out of view, but it's over where I'm moving the mouse pointer. And then we have the lower radiator hose, the upper radiator hose. This had a hole right in this area here where I'm moving the mouse pointer.

So let's look at that. So there's our radiator hose. These are all specially, like you see very specially molded and formed hoses with plastic clip ends. On BMW's gone are the days of attaching hoses with gear clamps. They're all clipped together with o-ring seals and clips.

2007 BMW X5 Coolant Leaks

And, you know, they're generally, I mean, they're easy to install, but removing them can be a pain after, you know, a number of years of usage because they tend to get seized on, so you have to be careful how you remove it. Otherwise, you might break another plastic part if it's attached to a plastic fitting on the radiator.

Anyways, this area here, there's a hole in this hose and it wasn't really readily apparent whether this hose had blown first or whether it got damaged for by the damaged belt. Anyways what else do we have here? There's a water pump. We replaced the water pump.

2007 BMW X5 Coolant Leaks

And the reason we replaced the water pump was that the, air conditioning belt had frayed so badly that bits of the belt had wedged themselves in behind the pulley, and we couldn't turn the pulley very easily and it was impossible to remove all this stuff. 

2007 BMW X5 Coolant Leaks

So this is one thing that happens. Sometimes you think, oh, it's just an external belt, no big deal. But they can actually, especially on BMWs, it can cause a lot of damage. Sometimes if a belt breaks, it can wedge behind the crankshaft pulley, create oil leaks or air intake leaks.

Because it actually breaks the seal of the crank case by having belt debris that goes in behind. And it can actually do some severe engine damage as well. And you think, well, this is just a belt running in the outside of the engine, but if it breaks, it can cause some pretty bad damage. So, don't want that to happen on any car, especially a BMW. I mentioned the air conditioning compressor. 

2007 BMW X5 Coolant Leaks

This is a sort of overview of the water pump, what gets replaced. So the thermostat housing and thermostat comes with the water pump as well. And again, you can see bits of this stuff here that I'm pointing at with the most pointer is, bits of belt. 

There's the air conditioning compressor. I mean, it looks kind of oily and grungy. I mean, it's a 2007, it's a, I don't know, had a long life. 14 life. Sorry. It's had a long life. Yeah, it's had a long life. Yeah. It's funny, like I look at the vehicle and I go, it looks like a new one, but it's actually, it's actually been around for a long time. Now there's a large bearing where I'm moving the most pointer. And this is badly worn out. I'm gonna show a video here. Hopefully this'll play no problem. 

2007 BMW X5 Coolant Leaks

Actually before we hit the video, you can see this sort of shiny area here. This shouldn't be like this. This is kind of from excess wear. So this kind of picture tells the story.

Mark: Pulley's are not supposed to wobble. 

Bernie: They're not supposed to wobble like that.  What's actually holding that pulley in place, is the bearing's so badly worn. The clutch mechanism on the front, it has some springs and that's actually all that's holding the pulley. So it was definitely not a reusable part at this point in time. So there's our picture show for the day. 

Mark: So what do you suspect was the sort of the starting point of failure that probably produced this cascade of problems? 

Bernie: Yeah, it's interesting looking at it, you know, thinking, wow, was there two things going on? Was there one thing? I mean, it's entirely possible the coolant hose could have, so, you know, one thing I didn't show pictures of is apparently, that radiator hose had sprayed coolant all the way forward, and it had just sprayed all over the front of the, it was a nasty mess in the front of the engine from all the coolant that had sprayed.

So it's possible that hose blew, you know, hose had a pinhole leak for a while. It sprayed coolant around, maybe that caused the bearing to get damaged, but on the AC compressor. But that's a sealed bearing and it's in an area where there's a high, you know, moisture from the road kind of area, so it shouldn't have got damaged from something like that.

 I think what probably happened was the AC compressor went bad. The belt probably started wearing, whipping around, slapping the hose. Probably blew the hose. And it might be that the owner didn't even realize it. Maybe it made a bit of a noise or something. The owner didn't realize it, just kept driving it until the coolant leak started, you know, alerting him, Hey, we gotta do something here at this point. 

So I'm just speculating. It's sort of like trying to find the cause of a fire after buildings burnt down. I mean, I don't know how people, experts figure that stuff out. But I tried to put a little sleuthing in there and I go, I think that's probably what happened. But of course, the water pump got damaged because of the belt. You know, that's kind of an obvious one, but yeah, so that's my theory. 

Mark: What's the menu list of all the things you ended up replacing? 

Bernie: The upper and lower radiator hoses. Cooling system flush. New coolant and the cooling system flush, air conditioning compressor, and of course we have to evacuate and recharge the AC system. A water pump with the thermostat and gasket, and I believe that took care of it. So, a pretty large order of things. A lot of service, lot of items needed. 

Mark: And so the vehicle was running well after you finished? 

Bernie: Yeah, really well. Yep. Just fine. Oh, and belts too. 

Mark: Yeah. I guess the question that occurs is was there something that could have been done that would've prevented this from happening?

Bernie: Well again, I don't know the entire history of it, but I would say that if you have a vehicle and you notice an unusual noise. Have it looked at. Look at it yourself. If you have some expertise, if not take it in as soon as you can, have it looked at. Cuz this would've been making some sort of odd noise.

 That air conditioning bearing is under, even when the air conditioning's off, that bearing is turning all the time with the engine. So that would've been making a lot of noise. So there was probably some noise that was unusual. So if you hear unusual noises, that's the thing.

You know, if you start seeing a drip of a fluid on the ground, have it looked at. Although I will say if your air conditioning's running, you can get water dripping on the ground. So, you know, make sure if it's something that's dripping sort of at the firewall area of the vehicle, usually the passenger side, and it's sort of a steady drip and it's clear, it feels like water. It probably is water. 

So other than that, you know, you should have it at least looked at. Because there's no doubt the person could have saved some money. I mean, at the end of the day, maybe the water pump didn't need to be done if it had been found sooner. Possibly the hoses too. 

Mark: Right. How are your, you say they've gotten a little bit better. How are BMW X5s for reliability? 

Bernie: Yeah, I think they're definitely better than they used to be. The older models, like we're going like, you know, several years earlier with the 4 and 4.4 litre V8, it's very problematic, very expensive to fix. This is a pretty hefty repair bill. I don't mind saying that, but they're definitely better than they used to be. But they're still a luxury car, German made, finickier and more stuff goes wrong. 

Make sure you service it regularly. 

Yeah. Service it regularly. That's the important thing. And one thing with BMW is that their service intervals are way too long. Their oil change intervals on a lot of 'em are 16 to 24,000 kilometres. I mean, it's ridiculous that you would go 24,000 kilometres between an oil change. Just have it serviced more regularly on an annual basis. It just makes sense. Maybe the first two or three years you can get away with it, but once it gets a little older, the mileage gets a little, there's a little more time on the vehicle. Get it serviced annually, get it looked at. It'll save you money.

Mark: If you're looking for service for your BMW in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them on their website, pawlikautomotive.com. Or you can phone them (604) 327-7112. You have to book ahead. They're always busy. Pawlik Automotive, Vancouver, BC Canada. Thanks so much for watching and listening, we appreciate it and thank you, Bernie. 

Bernie: Thank you, Mark. Thanks for watching and listening.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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