Friday, February 27, 2009

Head Gasket Fix in a Can, NOT!

Thought that I'd write about the experience I had using three of the Head Gasket Fix products that I found on the internet.

Shortly after buying the 95 BMW 525i last year, I discovered that I had a leaking Head Gasket (actually ended up being a cracked head). I started doing research and came across these three products:

Heal a Seal
Steel Seal

I did some pretty extensive reading over the course of a week or two and decided that I'd try the "Heal a Seal". Let's face it, I was looking for the cheapest way out and the Heal a Seal was the Cheapest that guaranteed success. When it came, the instructions with it looked like it was written by a 3rd grader. It was one long run on sentence. I read it over and over and finally thought that I sort of understood it. It said if you had questions to call their Tech Support, so I did. I talked with this guy who I doubt had much past a 4th grade education. He was abrupt and in my opinion not knowledgeable at all about the product that he was supposed to know about. I let him know that I was going to do the treatment like the instructions said and he basically told me what was written down on the sheets, only more confusing than the written ones.

I'm pretty sure I followed the instructions, but it didn't work. I really didn't want to deal with these guys again, so I did not try to get my money back. DO NOT try this product, you are wasting your time and money if you do.

Next up was "Steel Seal". The product was a bit more expensive than the first, but application was a breeze. The instructions were easy and quick. Only problem was it didn't work either. I spoke to their Tech Support guy and he was very helpful and friendly. Their Customer service guy was great too. I really wish that it would have worked. I left the Steel Seal in the car for about five hundred miles, but it didn't help. I emailed the Customer Service guy and told him what had happened and he immediately refund the full purchase price of the product. Even though it didn't work, it was still a good experience.

Last one I tried was ThermaGasket. This stuff is a two part mix. You have to make sure all of the coolant is out of the system to treat your car. I had read several stories of people who had used it with good results. I figured what the heck, one more try before I do the head gasket the old fashioned way. The stuff came, the instructions were pretty simple. They asked that you call them before you add the second half of the product if the first part of the treatment didn't seal the leak. So, I called, because the first part of the treatment didn't seal it up. I talked with the Tech Support guy who always sounded like he was out on a Highway somewhere when I talked to him, maybe it was just his phone. I explained what I'd done, and he gave me the OK to add the second half of both bottles. I added it, followed the instructions again, and UNBELIEVABLE, the leak seemed to have stopped. I was shocked. I drove the car for a couple of days and it wasn't using any coolant. But soon after it started using coolant again. I call the Tech Guy and he tells me to go and buy a product that is "Compatible" with their product called "Liquid Aluminum". I asked if this would plug up my radiator (I had a problem with a similar product years ago that plugged my whole radiator on another car). The guy says it shouldn't, so I go buy it and put it in the cooling system. I happened to be at work that day and put it in before I traveled home, which is a 40 mile drive. As I'm driving, I notice that the temp gauge is a bit higher than normal. I watch it climb and climb and climb. I turn on the heat to full blast and open my windows. I get in the slow lane just in case I have to pull over. Luckily the temperature gets to just below the 3/4 hot mark, but stays there. I limp it home and park it. Later in the day, I drain the cooling system and flush it several times to get the Liquid Aluminum and the Therma Gasket out. I put clean water back in and drive it around. It seems to be running just a tad bit hotter than it used to, but not that bad.

I was ticked that the Tech guy did that to me. I sent off an email to ThermaGasket's Customer Support totally expecting a pain to get my money back, but they refunded me immediately too. I think it was me telling them that they ruined my radiator that got them to refund me so easy.

I figured that I was going to have to start saving up the money to start buying the stuff I needed to do the Head Gasket. I told my daughter to drive the car and to watch the temperature gauge closely. I checked the coolant level every day and it was not losing any fluid. I drove the car back and forth to work a few times and it was running OK. I left the thermostat out of the system, that was to facilitate the treatments I tried. It took a while to warm up, but it didn't seem to affect the performance of the car.

I wrote about the Head Gasket replacement earlier in this Blog. The ThermaGasket held for about five months. It got me through the summer and I was able to save up enough money and get the tools I needed before it blew.

Even though it worked for a bit, I don't think I'd try ThermaGasket again. I would just go straight for the old fashioned way.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Battery Location on E34 BMW's


I've received a few requests from people to know the location of and how to change a battery on an E34 BMW. On my 525i's, and most other versions, the battery is located under the rear seat on the passenger side.

To get to the battery (especially if the seat hasn't been out in a while), I've found it easiest to move both front seats forward as far as they can go and tilt the seat backs forward too. I'm 6' tall and can easily get in the back seat area standing up, bent over though, to get some leverage to pull up on the back seat cushion. If the seat cushion hasn't been out of the car for a while, it may be a little stubborn, but I promise it will come out. What I do is while standing facing the rear seat is grab the bottom edge of the seat about in the middle of both the outside seats. Pull up real hard and it should come out. There are two tongue like clips on the seat cushion that fit into slots on the bottom.

Here is a picture of the seat bottom out of the car upside down showing the "two tongues":

This picture shows the slots that the tongues fit into:

If you look or feel near the bottom of the seat, you can see where the cushion ends and the mounting area (for lack of a better term) comes together. Once you have it loose, you can get out of the car and then you can pull the seat out either door.

Alternate way to get the seat out, if it has been out recently, is to pull up in the area of the tongue/slot one side at a time. That is the way I do it now, since I've had the cushion out several times.

As far as changing the battery, it's pretty straightforward. Take off the two battery cables and then remove the hold down clip that is located at the base of the battery. The battery posts take a 13mm and the hold down clip bolt is a 10mm. These batteries have a tube that vents the battery to the outside, so pay attention when removing it. The new battery I bought for my 93 recently had the correct tubing to adapt to the vent tube, but it was in a different location on the new battery compared to the one I was replacing. Depending on the make of battery you have, you may need to re-route the tubing a bit.

Putting the seat cushion back in is pretty much the reverse of taking it out. You just have to make sure that the center seat belts are on top of the seat cushion when you install it. Also, the ends of the seat cushion need to fit under the seat belt receptacles near both doors. Those tongues can be a bit tough to get back in their slots, but if you get everything lined up, trust me, they do go back in where they are supposed to be.

Good Luck!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Tire Rotation and other things

Yesterday, I decided to try and stretch the life of the nearly worn out tires on the front of the 93 525i. I went ahead and rotated front to back. I looked at the tires when I had them off the car and they didn't really look that bad, so I figured I could wait until my measley tax return comes. The front tires (that were on the rear) look in really good shape. Can't decide now if I'm going to just replace all four, or put two new on.

I also, finally was able to drain the fluid in the rear end and replace it with some synthetic. I was afraid of what it might look like considering when I did the trans fluid, it was really bad. But it didn't look that dirty, although it's hard to tell with the heavy oils. The reason it took me so long to get to this was I had been trying to fabricate my own tool to remove the plugs on the differential. It takes a 14mm allen wrench. It's pretty cramped trying to get to the fill plug, so you need a short one. I tried making one out of some metric nuts and bolts, and it would have worked if I could have tack welded it, but since I'm no welder or have a welding machine it wasn't going to happen.

I went to Autozone and bought a set of three 1/2" drive allen wrenches, 12, 14 and 17 mm, for $12. I had checked on line and the cheapest I found the BMW special tool for this job was I'm thinking $35 bucks. It was just a stubby 14mm allen wrench. The ones I bought at Autozone had the allen wrench part on it about 1 1/2" long. I figured I could cut about and inch or so off and use a 14mm 3/8" drive socket. I did it and it worked perfectly. So now the rear end has brand new clean fluid in it.

The battery on the car was dying, so while I was at Autozone, I picked one up. Beforehand, I looked all over the place, the batteries for these cars aren't really easy to find. I paid $90 for this one and it fit perfect. The part number for the battery at Autozone is 49-DL.

While I had the car up on jacks, I decided to do an oil change. I had purchased some motor flush from autohausaz back when I was ordering all of the parts for the Head Gasket job on the 95. I added it to the crankcase with the motor at operating temperature, running and following directions on the can. I let it idle for 10 minutes and then shut it off. When I got the car running back in August, when I changed the oil, I added about a pint of Marvel Mystery oil to the rest of the oil. It does a pretty good job of cleaning up sludge and other gunk in a car that might not have had the best of care in the past. I found a ton of crap under the valve cover when I was changing the valve cover gasket. It had taken me a good hour or better of scraping and cleaning with degreaser and high pressure washing to get most of the gunk out of there. I figured I'd put a couple of thousand miles on the motor after I put it back together with the "Mystery Oil" in it. I was just about there when I changed the oil yesterday. I figured the Motor Flush would help get the rest of the junk out. When I refilled, I used Castrol 20W50 with the sludge inhibitors. We'll see how it works.

The car seems to run really well now. But I noticed a weird thumping like noise. It actually started up right after I had the front end alignment done. My son came home one day saying he was hearing the noise. I took it out and didn't hear anything different than the normal car noises. After I finished all of the work on the car yesterday, I drove it back to Autozone to get my core charge back on the battery I bought and noticed the noise. There really isn't a pattern to it, what it sounds like to me is something hanging up in the undercarriage and occasionally bumping the floor of the car. It only seems to do it while driving on less than smooth surfaces. I drove on a newly paved street and it didn't make a noise. I'm thinking maybe the worn tires are making some weird noise or maybe some suspension part is popping, sort of like something getting bound up and then releasing. As soon as I figure it out I'll post what it was, maybe it will just go away.