BMW E36 Cooling System Overhaul DIY

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I’ve been seeing a lot of threads on bf.c lately asking about doing a cooling system overhaul on an E36 Bimmer. I wrote this DIY a while ago, but never did anything with it. So, I thought I’d post it here. I actually did this job about 2 years ago and so far, it’s still holding up. After about a year, the new water pump began to leak but the vendor replaced it at no charge. I actually referred back to this DIY for a refresher on changing it out. It went much faster the second time around! Not that it took very long the first time. Total time from start to finish was about 5 hours. Other than replacing the thermostat and flushing the coolant, I had never done any kind of work on the cooling system and compiled the instructions for the job from what I found online and my Bentley manual. I used regular hand tools for the entire project.

The cooling system for the E36 3 Series has developed a reputation for suffering (sometimes catastrophic) failures well before reaching 100,000 miles. The problems include cracked and leaking radiator hose fittings, cracked thermostat housings, sticky thermostats, failed water pump bearings, and leaky water pumps. Some earlier models also suffer from failed plastic water pump impellers. There doesn’t seem to be a consensus on exactly when the impeller was switched to a more robust metal version. The older plastic design is prone to slipping on the shaft, having the impeller blades wear down, or, in some cases shattering, sending shrapnel throughout the engine. Knowing this, I decided to overhaul the entire cooling system since most of the components are at risk for failure. Since the related jobs are much easier with the radiator out of the way, it made sense to do the entire overhaul at the same time. The subject vehicle for this article is my 1998 M3 with 89,000 miles on the odometer. For this project I’ll be replacing the radiator, water pump, thermostat, thermostat housing, upper and lower radiator hoses, serpentine belt, and all associated seals and gaskets. Download free BMW E36 Cooling System Overhaul DIY.pdf here

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