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2003 BMW X5 - serious white smoke out of exhausts

2003 BMW X5 - serious white smoke out of exhausts

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BellaJC

Original Poster:

6 posts

2 months

Wednesday 16th August
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Hi all,
I have a 2003 BMW X5, roughly 118k on clock. I've had it three years, looked after it well and serviced it regularly. Hubby was driving it for about 15 mins when the exhausts started giving out loads of white smoke! Had it towed home, and did a few checks, this is what we found. Am hoping for some advice please.

Water level in radiator was low so have topped it up.
Oil filler cap is totally clear and not cloudy/milky (1st suspected head gasket).
Oil level not registering on dipstick, despite adding approx. another 5L of oil. Some oil spitting out of exhaust too. Only warning light is the oil pressure one which only came on after it started blowing smoke.

Could this be a turbo failure or something else? Any suggestions gratefully received!

E-bmw

2,842 posts

74 months

Wednesday 16th August
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Sounds like it, is the "smoke" oily?

If so it is oil vapour not smoke.

Also you say the oil level isn't registering on the dipstick after putting 5 litres in, I do hope you haven't tried to start it with the oil not on the dipstick!!!!

BellaJC

Original Poster:

6 posts

2 months

Wednesday 16th August
quotequote all
Its been towed home not driven but yes car was started up to test the oil level after putting more in. The smoke/vapour is very white but does smell oily then if you like.

caelite

3,145 posts

34 months

Wednesday 16th August
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Take it to your local backstreet, ask him to 'sniff test' it. What you have described sounds textbook for a headgasket failure, or worse case a block failure. A sniff test will test for exhaust gasses in your coolant, it is the simplest and most decisive way of proving or disproving whether or not your coolant is coming into contact with stuff that it should be, I doubt he would charge more than £20 to get it done and it will put to bed the endless speculation you will get as to whether or not it is a HG failure.

If it is a headgasket, budget £500-1000 at a reputable backstreet for a replacement, it is a fairly low cost part but I am afraid it's replacement is rather labour intensive, however most garages will also be able to do your timing belt and water pump at the same time for minimal added cost, which is ultimately good if that job is due anyway.

EDIT: For oil burning I would expect more of a blue-ish smoke, white smoke (steam) strongly implies coolant is combusting. A failing head gasket or block can result in both oil and coolant being burned though, depending on the severity and location of the failure, if the oil level was low then you likely wouldn't see the expected residue on filler cap as that tends to be caused by coolant leaking into the oil and being 'whisked up' by the crankshaft, if there isn't enough oil to reach the crank from the sump then this wouldn't occur unless a LOT of water leaks in.

Edited by caelite on Wednesday 16th August 15:41

BellaJC

Original Poster:

6 posts

2 months

Wednesday 16th August
quotequote all
Thank you both.
I've arranged for the car to be taken to a garage in the morning. My usual mechanic is on hols for two weeks but has recommended another one. I take it it shouldn't be driven at all?
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caelite

3,145 posts

34 months

Wednesday 16th August
quotequote all
BellaJC said:
Thank you both.
I've arranged for the car to be taken to a garage in the morning. My usual mechanic is on hols for two weeks but has recommended another one. I take it it shouldn't be driven at all?
Erm, depends how far, if its literally 5-10 minutes down the road then you should be alright provided to triple check that the oil and coolant is topped off before you leave, if it is any further I wouldn't risk it.

Essentially if coolant is mixing with the combustion process it will heat up, a lot. This can cause your engine to overheat if you happen to take it on a long journey. In HG failures it is pretty common that people drive their cars until this happens, normally damaged components further (warping the head usually). So if you do drive it take it easy.

BellaJC

Original Poster:

6 posts

2 months

Wednesday 16th August
quotequote all
caelite said:
BellaJC said:
Thank you both.
I've arranged for the car to be taken to a garage in the morning. My usual mechanic is on hols for two weeks but has recommended another one. I take it it shouldn't be driven at all?
Erm, depends how far, if its literally 5-10 minutes down the road then you should be alright provided to triple check that the oil and coolant is topped off before you leave, if it is any further I wouldn't risk it.

Essentially if coolant is mixing with the combustion process it will heat up, a lot. This can cause your engine to overheat if you happen to take it on a long journey. In HG failures it is pretty common that people drive their cars until this happens, normally damaged components further (warping the head usually). So if you do drive it take it easy.
The garage is about a mile away, so wouldn't take long. Ill be extra cautious then I guess. Thanks again

R8Steve

3,021 posts

97 months

Wednesday 16th August
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You might be very lucky and it could be a blocked breather/oil return pipe.

Completely different car but my turbocharged clio had the exact same symptoms and the result was the oil return pipe from the turbo had de-laminated internally causing the oil to back up into the turbo and out the exhaust.

It could also be the turbo seals. Oil out the exhaust would indicate this is a strong possibility.

BellaJC

Original Poster:

6 posts

2 months

Wednesday 16th August
quotequote all
R8Steve said:
You might be very lucky and it could be a blocked breather/oil return pipe.

Completely different car but my turbocharged clio had the exact same symptoms and the result was the oil return pipe from the turbo had de-laminated internally causing the oil to back up into the turbo and out the exhaust.

It could also be the turbo seals. Oil out the exhaust would indicate this is a strong possibility.
Im crossing everything for something relatively minor, but im not hopeful. Had this issue with it last year, but smoke out the back was very dark, not white like it is now. But here's hoping!!

caelite

3,145 posts

34 months

Wednesday 16th August
quotequote all
Oh yeah, I do apologise for being all doom and gloom.

It's just easiest to get the worst & most obvious faults out of the way first, It's better to go in expecting a £800 HG bill and being told it was a £50 pipe than the other way around. Hell white smoke could be an indicator of something as minor as a little condensation in your exhaust, which is easily possible if the car has sat for a while, or has been parked at an unusual angle allowing water to collect. But it can also be an indication of a very serious, potentially engine wrecking fault, so it's definitely best you get it checked out rather than drive around in it.

BellaJC

Original Poster:

6 posts

2 months

Wednesday 16th August
quotequote all
I've been preparing myself for the worst anyway. If it is gonna be a big expensive job then I won't be doing it. I love the car but I'm not going to keep ploughing money into it. Ill be selling it off for parts.

caelite

3,145 posts

34 months

Wednesday 16th August
quotequote all
BellaJC said:
I've been preparing myself for the worst anyway. If it is gonna be a big expensive job then I won't be doing it. I love the car but I'm not going to keep ploughing money into it. Ill be selling it off for parts.
Haha amen to that, I have a little MX5 at the moment that I can practically hear rusting away underneath me, took it to a proper restorer for a quote to weld the bad parts, quote was to the tune of twice the cars value. Just had a pal patch the noticeable holes, it's going in for an MOT when I get around then I'm selling it whilst it is still able to get a 12 month ticket. Rebuilding engines doesn't phase me but I can't weld rust to save myself. biggrin

GreenV8S

24,744 posts

206 months

Wednesday 16th August
quotequote all
BellaJC said:
The garage is about a mile away, so wouldn't take long. Ill be extra cautious then I guess. Thanks again
You mentioned losing oil pressure after it started smoking. Obviously you wouldn't be driving it anywhere (or running it at all, except as necessary to diagnose the problem) if there are oil pressure problems.

Now you've topped up the oil and coolant I suggest you start the engine with the pressure cap off, confirm oil pressure is OK and see whether it throws water/bubbles out of the pressure cap opening. You might be lucky and find the problem is 'just' that a failed turbo seal has resulted in the contents of your sump being pumped into the intake. (Could still be expensive if it has wrecked the cat, but not 'new engine' expensive.)

helix402

2,645 posts

104 months

Thursday 17th August
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I may have missed it but has anyone mentioned what type of X5 this is? I'm guessing it's a 3.0d. If it it the most likely cause is a failed turbo.
Head gasket failure is very rare on the M57. If the head gasket fails on the M54 it's a whole different ball game (threads failing in the block etc).

E-bmw

2,842 posts

74 months

Thursday 17th August
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From the description originally I am thinking turbo/turbo oil seal or similar.

You say it drained the oil, sorry, but I wouldn't be driving/starting it at all unless the oil is up to the max mark & then only for long enough to check oil pressure light goes out, with the full expectation of a potential runaway just in case.

speckledspaniard

35 posts

19 months

Thursday 5th October
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Morning Guys,

what was the outcome of the above?

thanks in advance

SS

CarsOrBikes

876 posts

106 months

Thursday 5th October
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I'd go with a crankcase breather valve

Classy6

179 posts

99 months

Friday 6th October
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Sounds like Turbo all day. Especially on a X5.

mazm3

41 posts

60 months

Saturday 7th October
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Turbo