2011 BMW X3 Electric Water Pump Replacement
Mark: Hi it's Mark Bossert, Producer of the Pawlik Automotive Videos and Podcast. I'm here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, BC, Canada. We're here talking about cars. How you doin' this morning Bernie?
Bernie: Doing very well.
Mark: We're, of course, speaking about a 2011 BMW X3 this morning that had a water pump problem. What was going on with this BMW?
Bernie: This BMW, the owner's complaint was that an overheat warning light would come on, on the dash and along with that, the vehicle went into reduced power mode, so you couldn't accelerate the vehicle properly. That was what was basically going on with the vehicle.
Mark: What sort of test procedure did you use to find the cause of the concern?
Bernie: First thing we always do when there's any cooling concern, of course I ask the client, what happened to the vehicle? In this case, was there steam, did you see leakage of fluid out under car? No, no steam, no fluid. We verified that. When we looked at the vehicle, of course, checked the coolant level, it was full in the coolant bottle, there was no leaks anywhere, so we knew the problem wasn't from a leakage issue, it was more ... perhaps the water pump wasn't operating or thermostat sticking kind of condition. Maybe a radiator fan issue. The next step with this type of car is to hook a scan tool up, see what kind of information is in the scan tool and when we scanned the engine there was a number of trouble codes for a electric water pump related issues, which I'll show you in a picture in a few minutes. We basically determined that the electric water pump was intermittently failing.
Mark: Electric water pump. Now that's kind of different. Why does this vehicle use an electric water pump?
Bernie: Well, the simple answer of why is because BMW chose to use an electric water pump, but they're actually, reasonably common in a lot of vehicles and as vehicles get newer, they're getting more and more common. A water pump traditionally as been driven by, it's a belt driven mechanical pump and as the engine is idling, it's turning it a certain speed and as the engine speeds up, of course, it turns faster and flows more water. All very good, but in the world of trying to get the most efficiency out of an engine, any accessory run off the engine takes power.
With the electric water pump, the idea is you run the water pump at the speed that's needed to do the job, to keep the engine at the right temperature. When the engine is stone cold for instance, you don't really need to flow any coolant through the engine at all for maybe a few seconds to a minute or two, depending on the condition. The electric water pump as the capability to do that kind of thing, so that's why they use it. It's basically for efficiency, fuel economy, mileage, power, all those things combined.
BMW isn't the only manufacturer that uses them. Actually a lot of manufacturers, especially Europeans and their luxury cars have used electric water pumps, more as an auxiliary pump, so it'll provide quick heat to the vehicle or perhaps it'll provide some heat to the vehicle when you shut the engine off, you can sit in the car for a little while and get a bit of heat flowing through the vehicle.
Electric water pumps have been used as an auxiliary pump for a lot longer than they've been used as a main pump, but this vehicle, this is the main coolant pump, it's electric.
Mark: You have some images?
Bernie: I do. Let's have a look here. There's our 2011 BMW X3. Pretty much, they've made this model look the same for I think 2011 up to about 2017 or '18. They all pretty much look alike. This is a 3.0 version, which is a twin turbo, a higher horsepower model.
Okay. Scan tool. Here's what we found when we plugged the scan tool into the vehicle. We can disregard the first bit of information, but there's a code here, it says message: electric coolant pump missing. It's not running when it's supposed to. Engine cooling system, reduced power, coolant pump voltage low. Again, another message for coolant pump not operating. An interesting thing is, with this particular scan tool we have, you can actually drill down into these messages and it'll show freeze frame data, when the item occurred and certain conditions that were occurring. It's interesting with this code here, I don't have a picture of it. You can actually see that this issue happened four times, previous to the time where it had set a lot of warning lights off, where the pump had been failing. It's a pretty good indication that, that was the issue.
I often say, we can't just plug a scan tool in and find out what the problem is. In the case of this vehicle, this is a very common failure item, so you can be pretty sure, once you see these codes that that's the issue.
Here's the electric water pump. Bolts up to the side of the engine. You can see inlet and outlet, big electrical connector here and yeah, that's basically it. Big motor inside here and commanded by the computer to run when it needs to and at various speeds, so it does not just run on full out, it can run at any infinite number of speeds.
Here's a thermostat. This is another item we replaced while we did the job. It's not necessarily required but there's no extra labor to do it and this is also an electric part here. There's an electrical connector here. Thermostat's ... again, these used to be a purely mechanical item, but on many newer vehicles, they're now electrically controlled so that the computer can send it a signal to open the thermostat, as well as it being mechanical, there's also some computer overrides. I'm just going to stop ... actually, you know what, there's one more picture I want to look at, to show too and that is the instrument panel.
This is the instrument panel in the BMW and what's very curious about this is there is a temperature gauge in this vehicle, however it's not an actual coolant temperature gauge, you can see it actually shows a little oil can. This is actually an engine oil temperature gauge. It's not really a very reliable indicator of engine overheating. The other thing interesting is, you see how high this temperature goes, a 170 degrees of coolant temperature, your motor would have been cooked long before it ever reaches that temperature. Engine oil temperature, it works differently than coolant, it warms up slower, it gets hotter over time and on a turbo charged engine, a lot of the time, if you're going down the highway, this temperature will go over a 120, which is fine, it's normal.
I don't know why BMW chose to put an engine oil temperature gauge, it's kind of a useless item. They really should have put a coolant temperature gauge. If you have a BMW, have a close look at this gauge and you can't really count on it, quite the way you can with a coolant temperature gauge because it'll give different readings. Just a little tip and bit of advice there.
Mark: You alluded to this is a common failure item on this model of BMW or is it on all BMW vehicles?
Bernie: There's a lot of BMW's that use this engine type and a lot that use electric coolant pumps and electric main water pumps and they'll all fail, it's an enormous failure item. They do on all of them. The more I work on cars, the more you can count on certain things. If you have a 2.5 litre Subaru timing belt engine, you can be guaranteed you're going to be doing head gaskets. I mean, it'll happen. It's kinda neat when you have those kind of guaranteed failures. Then you know when you're buying a vehicle, you know what to expect and what's going to happen. I mean, this is one of the things with a BMW, the electric water pump, it will fail at some point in time.
Mark: Is this an expensive repair?
Bernie: Well, expensive is always a relative term, but I would say yes, it is. There's a fair bit of labor involved, the part is very expensive. Canada-wise, it's in the $700-$800 range for the pump, so it's a lot of money for the pump. They're not really any cheap substitutes out there and you do want to use something that's good quality, even that thermostat is over $200 bucks for that electric thermostat. Again, they're expensive parts, bit of labor, it's not your 1970 Chevy non-air conditioned four door sedan, water pump, where you can buy a rebuilt pump for 40 bucks and thinking way back when labor was a lot cheaper too. In today's dollars, maybe a three, four hundred dollar job, whereas this BMW is 15, 16 hundred bucks taxes in. It’s up there for sure.
Mark: You mentioned the temperature control, any other items that you serviced at the same time?
Bernie: I mentioned the thermostat. We also replaced the engine coolant at the same time. It used to be that flushing antifreeze and cooling systems was a really common procedure on cars, the technology of antifreeze is really changed over the years, so much on the automobile. It used to be that you would flush your cooling system twice a year and thank God we don't anymore, because I hate to think of where all of that antifreeze used to go, down the drain probably. Nowadays, modern engine antifreeze and coolants are good for one or two hundred thousand kilometres, even more on some cars, you know five or 10 years flushing intervals, they really do last a long time.
Whenever you have a problem like this, this is a good opportunity to actually replace the engine coolant because it's probably near the end of its lifespan, it's a good opportunity to do it. Coolant flush and also the thermostat. Again, the thermostat wasn't the problem, but there's no extra charge for labor to do the thermostat because it all comes out with the water pump, so why not do it at the same time because it's probably gonna fail, who knows, next week, two years, whatever it is, but you have to take a lot of the stuff back off to do it.
Mark: You alluded to other European manufacturers, does anyone else use electric water pumps?
Bernie: Well, a lot of manufacturers do and the ones that come to my mind, I'm thinking Toyota Hybrids, I mean they have electric water pumps. A lot of accessories on hybrids are all electric. A lot of Prius's, I can't remember after 2011, they don't even have a drive belt, everything is electrically driven, the air conditioning, the whole thing. That's the one vehicle I can think of for example, but many vehicles use 'em and they're going to get more and more common because again, it's about having control over these items, where it's not just a pure mechanical device drawing power, you can go, hey, it's going to draw less power, that's going to give you better fuel economy and power and have better engine performance overall. Even oil pumps in some engines, they have an electrical component to them or they're electrically driven. Again, it's about having that computerized control.
Mark: How reliable are BMW X3's?
Bernie: They're pretty reliable, but BMW tend to have more issues perhaps than a lot of cars, so you'll spend more money on this car then you will on an equivalent SUV, of a lot of others, but I mean, generally, it's a nicely built car, good quality. This one has a lot of fancy stuff on it, so you can expect that you'll pay more money to fix it over time. Generally, pretty reliable car.
Mark: There you go. If you're looking for service for your BMW X3 or any model of BMW, or you have an electric water pump that needs replacing in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to call and book ahead because they're busy or check out our website, pawlikautomotive.com. YouTube channel: Pawlik Auto Repair, close to a 1000 videos on there on all makes and models and types of repairs. As well, thank you for listening to the podcast and thank you Bernie.
Bernie: Thanks Mark and thanks for watching, we really appreciate it.