Question about 1997 BMW 5 Series

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Overheating when idleling

I have a 1997 BMW 528i with a manual transmission, last year I had an overheating problem. After driving for a while if I got stuck at a long light or in traffic the temperature gauge would start to creap up an eventually get into the red zone. It never overheating while the car was moving. I took the car in and after replacing the auxillary fan, thermostat and water pump the problem was resolved for about 6 - 8 months. Now the problem is back, they are telling me that they think it is leak in the head gasket and they will not know if it is the gasket or the head is warped until they take it apart. Does this sound plausible ???? If there was a gasket leak wouldn't the overheating be there while the car was moving ??? Why is the overheating when the car is not moving. Does anyone have any insight into this.

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If I understand you correctly, you said you had an episode last year when your car overheated.
Yes, a common problem with a major overheating incident is that you can end up "shrinking" the head gasket .... this can result in heat from your engine's combustion getting into the coolant channels in the head and raising the temp of the coolent. It is also possible that while you are driving and your coolent is flowing more quickly thru the engine and the action of air movement (as you drive) removes enough heat that you would not have quite the same problem while driving.

Could be a cracked head too.

It is possible to open up a real can of worms with some engines when head or head gasket problems arise. (particularly aluminum heads). If the head is actually warped, you could need to have additional procedures done such as shaving (decking) the head ... baked and surfaced, etc.

To check for a cracked head or head gasket leak ...
Remove all of the spark plugs. Pressurize the radiator with approximately 15-18 pounds of pressure and wait for approximately ½ hour to 1 hour then crank the engine over and watch to see if any coolant comes out of the spark plug holes. This may help tell you if your problem is a head gasket or possibly a cracked head.

If it does come down to the head being toast, you might try and locate a new casting ... try ebay or a BMW club.

Posted on Dec 19, 2008

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Its not impossible for there to be a bad head gasket or leaking. But I agree with you the over heating will be there during driving as well. I would change the fan clutch and replace the thermostat, if the thermostat that was replaced wasn't an oem/delaer thermostat, I would change it. From prior experience with these type of vehicle the most likely cause of overheating thermostat and fan clutch. Aftermarket thermostat just aren't good for this vehicle I have proved it a few times for myself. Take my advise and change the thermostat with an oem one and the fan clutch with an oem. Good Luck. Get in contact with me if you need more help.

Posted on Dec 19, 2008

  • cabernetguy Dec 03, 2010

    Just got off the phone with the mechanic working on a similar problem on 97 528i. New fan clutch/thermostat replaced a few weeks ago and all was fine until now. Am told there are valves in the heater core which needed to be cleaned. Said they were calcified/coolant gelled?
    I asked how the coolant could gel as it was replaced a few weeks back with thermo replacement but he just said it occured over time. Timing is a bit suspicious. Car has gone into the red for just a moment 4-5 times before getting this to him so hopefully that brief "red moment" is not sufficient to cause head issues. I don't think my issues are over.



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Again my apologies...

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