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Discussion Starter #1
Been doing a heckuva lot of coronavirus go for a drive entertainment driving and my coolant light came on and I’m low!

Looks like down to about the bottom of the expansion tank. Maybe 2 or 3 cups low? (Why is another question.)

I live 1000 miles from the nearest BMW dealership and any official BMW Engine Coolant.

Can I top back up with this NAPA 50/50 Prediluted “FOR ALL MAKES AND MODELS – ADD TO ANY COLOR ANTIFREEZE”?

If not what can I use if not BMW Coolant? Color?

I’m pretty new to this great car and am pretty spooked by improper engine coolant horror stories I find.

2002 325xi Wagon
F27E804F-1D2E-4D9D-B87C-FB58520FB525.jpeg
 

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Order some oem coolant online, but you should be fine to use that as a temporary replacement just to keep you going, also will probably be a good idea to see where the coolant is disappearing to!

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E30M3 Race F10 535 R1150Rt M Coupe
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Water always works, if there's a leak and future repairs are indicated.
We see folks mix universal green/BMW blue all the time.
 

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E39 E90 E46 F10
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Water needs to be the distilled variety. No, bottled water is not the same.

If that's silicate, nitrate, borate, etc.-free then I'd use that.
 

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2003 330i
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If your expansion tank has a float, use that to gauge the amount in there and what's needed. If you're looking down into the tank, yeah, it's gonna look like it needs a drink, but probably doesn't.
The top of the float shaft should be at about the very top of the tank--it's a general thing, so you don't put too much in there.
 

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2004 325i automagic
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Been doing a heckuva lot of coronavirus go for a drive entertainment driving and my coolant light came on and I’m low!

Looks like down to about the bottom of the expansion tank. Maybe 2 or 3 cups low? (Why is another question.)
Is the red bobber still floating in coolant? How far below the rim is the top of the float roughly?

If not what can I use if not BMW Coolant? Color?

I’m pretty new to this great car and am pretty spooked by improper engine coolant horror stories I find.

2002 325xi Wagon
If the light just came on, top up with distilled water until you can find the right coolant, and also figure out the leak. It makes sense to use just distilled water for now if you will be opening up the system again soon anyways to replace things.

If you haven't already, take a look at the cooling system guide:

 

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E46 '04 330Ci convertible 740K km
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Water needs to be the distilled variety. No, bottled water is not the same.

If that's silicate, nitrate, borate, etc.-free then I'd use that.
Even tap water works for him now. It is not driving forever. He gonna fix leak = drain coolant anyway.
BTW I cannot say for USA workshops, but I doubt everyone follows the procedures and uses distilled water only. They fill in, you never know.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
If your expansion tank has a float, use that to gauge the amount in there and what's needed. If you're looking down into the tank, yeah, it's gonna look like it needs a drink, but probably doesn't.
The top of the float shaft should be at about the very top of the tank--it's a general thing, so you don't put too much in there.
Funny, or complicating, thing is almost a year ago while I was just checking around my engine look a good owner I checked the coolant and that measuring “float shaft” just fell off where it attaches to the float and disappeared down into the expansion tank! – I did some forum searching and theres a history of this happening with those shafts over time, the joint corrodes away. This screws up how the float operates and the float riding up and down on the coolant and tripping a kind of electronic trigger is actually what sets off the low coolant warning light. This meant that the expansion tank was fine, my whole coolant system is fine – it’s just that the warning thermometer gizmo was broken. And then the warning light would come on and off on and off irregularly when I was driving around. The only fix is a new expansion tank – not that big or expensive a deal for me working on it myself but still would take ordering parts and time. So I finally got comfortable just ignoring rhe warning light while keeping a good eye on the engine temp both with gauge and sometimes digitally through that nifty hidden series of clicks you can do with the odometer buttton. At one point I do remember thinking So how will I know if I do have an actual leak if I can’t trust the warning light? I kind of put that out of my mind and it turns out that’s exactly what has happened. For some reason my coolant is low! – Now my mission is find my leak.
 

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2004 325Ci 5MT M54B25 Stock / 2005 330Ci 6MT M54B30
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Given that the OP is in ALASKA, I would not add any water and I would get the right coolant (a couple gallons while your at it) while figuring out what the leak is.

Also, dont overfill it that can be just as bad.
 

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Well, yes, Alaska might call for temporary anti freeze. Its going down to 38 in Ottawa tomorrow night! There should be level markings on the engine side of the tank.
 

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E46 '04 330Ci convertible 740K km
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Discussion starter asked for temporary solution. He just topping up, so if he has proper coolant mix in his radiator, a liter of water won't do any harm. I'd rather use a water than cheap generic coolant. If he doesn't know what is there, then he better fix his leaking asap and pour bmw blue syrup.
 

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2001 325ci
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Discussion starter asked for temporary solution. He just topping up, so if he has proper coolant mix in his radiator, a liter of water won't do any harm. I'd rather use a water than cheap generic coolant. If he doesn't know what is there, then he better fix his leaking asap and pour bmw blue syrup.
i would too.
 

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2004 325i automagic
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The only fix is a new expansion tank – not that big or expensive a deal for me working on it myself but still would take ordering parts and time. So I finally got comfortable just ignoring rhe warning light while keeping a good eye on the engine temp both with gauge and sometimes digitally through that nifty hidden series of clicks you can do with the odometer buttton. At one point I do remember thinking So how will I know if I do have an actual leak if I can’t trust the warning light? I kind of put that out of my mind and it turns out that’s exactly what has happened. For some reason my coolant is low! – Now my mission is find my leak.
Yeah, thats a problem. As it happens the expansion tank is also one of the biggest weak points of the cooling system because it is plastic and under full system pressure (its not an overflow tank), so its also among the most likely parts to break. Worth replacing no matter what, even if leak is elsewhere. Stick with either genuine BMW or Modine, which is OE producer for the part to BMW, since cheap aftermarket tanks might have fitment issues or worse.

In case of need, good OE aftermarket options for other cooling system parts Include:
Radiator - Nissens
Rad hoses - Rein
Thermostat - Wahler or Behr
Water Pump - Saleri
 

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Upon relection, its unlikely that temps will drop to below zero in the next week, so a bit of water wont hurt to get the search for the leak underway. Get a flashlight and ideally get under the car. If you know nothing of the service history, perhaps just order replacements using fcpeuro kit as a shopping list but sticking to recommended brands. Meanwhile confirm that its not something else like pipes under intake.
 

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They have other kits which include more, such as one with radiator, one with radiator and fan. Buy some extra distilled water and do a good flush.
Upon doing my overhaul with the kit shown above. I had a few potential leak areas... the expansion tank was cracked, thermostat housing gasket was leaking and there was belt wrapped around the back side of the water pump from a previous owner... so I’d recommend just doing the overhaul kit rather than spend forever tracking down one or more leaks
Good luck


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