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      12-02-2019, 04:42 PM   #1
dn325ci
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Internal Coolant Leak? Oof.

Guys, wondering your thoughts on this. Pictures show fairly clear evidence of coolant in the oil on my wife's 2014 X5 with N55 inline 6. This under-the-cap photo was taken February 27, but the oil looked so good in general (probably should have had an analysis done) that I decided to let it ride for awhile. My wife drives very little.

Been checking it and not seeing any more milkiness under the cap since then. Yesterday I changed the oil (5,000 later than before, engine now having 60,000 miles total) and again did not see milkiness, but today my wife reports she got a low coolant error.

I assume this means the engine has an internal coolant leak. I'm not sure of the most cost effective way to approach it. Is there a common failure mode with these engines?

Thanks,
Don
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      12-02-2019, 04:47 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by dn325ci View Post
Guys, wondering your thoughts on this. Pictures show fairly clear evidence of coolant in the oil on my wife's 2014 X5 with N55 inline 6. This under-the-cap photo was taken February 27, but the oil looked so good in general (probably should have had an analysis done) that I decided to let it ride for awhile. My wife drives very little.

Been checking it and not seeing any more milkiness under the cap since then. Yesterday I changed the oil (5,000 later than before, engine now having 60,000 miles total) and again did not see milkiness, but today my wife reports she got a low coolant error.

I assume this means the engine has an internal coolant leak. I'm not sure of the most cost effective way to approach it. Is there a common failure mode with these engines?

Thanks,
Don
I'm not familiar with the oil fill cap on that engine, but I assume that's what I'm looking at in the photos, right - the oil fill cap...?
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      12-02-2019, 04:49 PM   #3
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I suspect this may be what you've found.
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      12-02-2019, 04:59 PM   #4
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If you changed the oil and it looked normal, it's very possible that you just have moisture buildup in the engine. Especially if you do a lot of short trips and the engine don't get hot enough to dry out.
Or you may very well have a minor coolant leak. Did you look to see how low the coolant is?
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      12-02-2019, 05:02 PM   #5
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As to the low coolant alert, that's really common as temperatures cool down overnight this time of year. Small losses over the hot months, totally normal, and then when the temps drop it'll fall below the designated "low" warning level. Doesn't mean that it's going into the oil.

If you had any significant quantity of coolant in your oil, your crankcase would be one giant chocolate milkshake of foamy frothy goo. Happened to me on a diesel with an oil-to-water oil cooler leak. HUGE mess - overflowed out the fill tube and all over.

If it were mine, I'd run it up to temp and take a 25-mile drive. Then check the cap. Check it again the next morning.

DISCLAIMER: By all means take it to a competent technician to have it checked out, if there's any doubt.
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      12-02-2019, 10:31 PM   #6
dn325ci
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Great advice here - you guys are on it. I think moisture buildup is the most likely diagnosis. My wife drives primarily very short drives in this vehicle - 6 miles or less. Since I saw this phenomenon once in cold weather and not in hot weather, and the oil appears fine, the most likely conclusion is that it's moisture which would burn off on a longer drive where that upper valve cover and oil cap got fully up to temperature.

On the low coolant, I think the fact that this vehicle will be 6 years old next month, perhaps a bit of coolant has evaporated or burned, etc. I checked the coolant tonight and it was slightly low. About 0.6 gallons of 50/50 water/BMW coolant brought it up to the max line while running at temperature with heater set to max.

I'll be checking that oil cap after longer drive to confirm the theory! Thanks guys!

Don
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      12-03-2019, 02:36 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dn325ci View Post
Great advice here - you guys are on it. I think moisture buildup is the most likely diagnosis. My wife drives primarily very short drives in this vehicle - 6 miles or less. Since I saw this phenomenon once in cold weather and not in hot weather, and the oil appears fine, the most likely conclusion is that it's moisture which would burn off on a longer drive where that upper valve cover and oil cap got fully up to temperature.

On the low coolant, I think the fact that this vehicle will be 6 years old next month, perhaps a bit of coolant has evaporated or burned, etc. I checked the coolant tonight and it was slightly low. About 0.6 gallons of 50/50 water/BMW coolant brought it up to the max line while running at temperature with heater set to max.

I'll be checking that oil cap after longer drive to confirm the theory! Thanks guys!

Don
Happy to share some thoughts, Don. Keep us posted, okay?
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      12-03-2019, 03:48 AM   #8
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Id send the oil out for analysis just to be sure, if coolant were to leak into the engine the first place id check is the oil cooler seals and the oil cooler assembly.

But as suspected by others it could be oil not getting to temp to boil off moisture that is built up in the oil and engine.

A 10 min or 5 miles highway drive 3-4 days a week should suffice in preventing moisture from building in future.
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