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Thread: Radiator Fan tore off its Blades

  1. #1
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    Radiator Fan tore off its Blades

    So I'm driving around innocently as ever when I hear a bunch of clickety clack. First I hope it's someone else - sure enough its me - smoke coming from front. I pull off into a big parking lot and shut the engine down. Clickety clack to park and shut off was under ten seconds. Engine temp was in dead center, no overheating. I open the hood and find that the radiator fan is missing a bunch of its blades, some of which have reinstalled themselves elsewhere in the engine compartment... So I get AAA to send me a flat bed, and the guy who comes takes care not to bottom out my baby. He notices that the radiator fan feels like whatever it is attached to is a bit loose. You can pull and push it a few inches, there is some play. Seems like whatever caused the play let the fan hit a screw on one of the radiator hoses which snapped off some fins. So what caused the fan to become loose? Or the thing that holds the fan to become loose (water pump?). I don't know much about this stuff sorry. Now its on the table having multiple transplants performed.

    The car was at the same shop for a simple oil change two weeks ago (50 miles ago). That feels a bit suspicious. Any chance someone accidentally whacked something while pulling off the oil filter or something?

    Thanks guys.


    1999 E36 ///M3

  2. #2
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    The dreaded fan clutch... One of the most common engine issues with the E36. Lucky you don't have any blades sticking out of the radiator...

    Some delete the fan and put in an electric fan. Some just replace the fan clutch ever so often. Some never learn....
    Last edited by XanDer; 12-30-2008 at 03:02 PM.
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  3. #3
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    So what are you having replaced? It would seem that now is the time for a cooling system overhaul; water pump, t-stat, fan and clutch, all hoses,new radiator if it's anywhere near 100k. How many miles on the car?
    Last edited by slipstream; 12-30-2008 at 03:24 PM.


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  4. #4
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    It has about 125k on it. The radiator is new. I think the fan was new too. The car was in a fender bender before I got it, enough to replace the hood and radiator but not the head lights or anything. Tell me about the fan clutch. The shop's repair order says they're going to replace the water pump, but they weren't sure until they got in there. It's not a BMW specific shop. It is University Automotive in Carmichael CA. What should I tell them that they might not know?


    1999 E36 ///M3

  5. #5
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    The fan clutch is the metal piece that the fan blades attach to. It's designed to keep the fan from rotating too fast when the rpms are high. It's expensive. Realoem calls it a fan coupling.
    http://www.realoem.com/bmw/showparts...44&hg=11&fg=35

    If the rad is new and the other components are original then definitely change the thermostat as well as the water pump since the water pump will be out anyway. Some water pumps had plastic impeller blades that will crack and break. Upgraded water pumps have metal blades. Also consider getting an aluminum thermostat cover as opposed to the oe plastic one.

    As XanDer stated, some remove the fan and go with electric. That's what I did. The cost of a new fan and fan clutch is the same as an electric fan. And there isn't an issue later on with either the blades breaking, or the clutch letting go and doing possibly many thousands of dollars damage. I think you were very lucky that you got off with as little damage as you did.
    Last edited by slipstream; 12-30-2008 at 04:07 PM.


    Thunderhill 5 mile TTC record 3:32.916

  6. #6
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    Make sure they don't put the tstat in backwards...
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  7. #7
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    fan clutch isn't too bad to do...you actually dont even need to take the radiator shroud off. fan clutch will run you about $75 and blade will be cheap. The problem is that the plastic fan blades become brittle over time and they break. If you are going to do a t-stat buy and aluminum housing, the stock plastic ones are junk
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  8. #8
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    Ok, I talked to the mechanic and he wanted to confirm with me that he'd put in the metal water pump and metal t-stat housing. I honestly didn't follow half of the stuff he was telling me happened and needed to be done. He said something about a pulley relating to this being involved and a few other things. Anyway it seems to be totaling around $1,000... I'll see if he's patient enough to walk me through everything when I pick up the car today in a few hours. This hurts... I'll post the list of things replaced for you guys later today. I hope one of you can make sense of it for me. Thanks again!


    1999 E36 ///M3

  9. #9
    RRSperry's Avatar
    RRSperry is offline Mostly Senior Member BMW E36 M3 Expert
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    If the fan hit the shroud or the radiator, then the fan clutch, and or the waterpump are bad. It could be the bearings in the wp, or motor mounts, or a couple of other things. but the clutch and wp are a 80-100K mile maintenance items..
    No matter where you go, there you are...

  10. #10
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    same thing happened to me about 6 months ago. the bearing on the water pump went out. its not hard to replace, but id recommend doing what the other guys said and replace most of the the things like t-stat, hoses, ect. if you just replaced the radiator, it should be fine unless it leaks from being grenaded.

    fan delete FTW. i've read that if you're going above 10mph then a fan wont be doing much anyways.

  11. #11
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    Ok car is fixed at a cost of $998.88. As I understand it, it was the water pump's bearings that got weak causing the fan to wobble as it spun. Finally the wobble was great enough to clip the fan blades on its neighbors. They also replaced a bunch of other things. Here is the list of parts I was charged for:

    - Water Pump Metal Impeller
    - Radiator Drain Plug
    - Coolant Bleed Screw
    - Water Pump Pulley
    - Thermostat Housing Aluminum
    - Thermostat
    - Fan Blade
    - Multi Rib Belt (6PK-1555)
    - Multi Rib Belt (5PK-0906)

    What do you think?


    1999 E36 ///M3

  12. #12
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    Should have gone with an electric fan, or no fan at all. The mechanical fan seems to be a pretty common failure in E36s.
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  13. #13
    RRSperry's Avatar
    RRSperry is offline Mostly Senior Member BMW E36 M3 Expert
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    I think it's fixed. It seems a bit high for about 2 hours of work, and maybe $200 in parts.
    No matter where you go, there you are...

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by RRSperry View Post
    I think it's fixed. It seems a bit high for about 2 hours of work, and maybe $200 in parts.
    Yeah, seems like a little much.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mpowered View Post
    Should have gone with an electric fan, or no fan at all. The mechanical fan seems to be a pretty common failure in E36s.
    Or, at least every once in a while, take a close look at the fan & make sure it is snug, not wobbly, not broken, or able to come in contact with anything.

    With a new water pump & fan assembly, the OP should be good for a long time now.

    1999 Estoril Blue ///M3 with common mods to the car, and driver training mods to the driver. It's a safe, intelligent, and fun combination. Member of our local BMW Club Driver Training Team.

  16. #16
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    you could of saved yourself a ton of money in labor if you did your own work....either way, at least it wasn't catastrophic and you are back on the road....nice work by pulling over quickly and shutting down....


  17. #17
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    Wow! $1K.....FDM DIY FTW!

    1 Z3M 3 Row Rad (stock M3 is 2 Row) OEM Bolt in.
    New T-Stat / T-Stat Housing
    New 318i Fan Switch
    New Pump
    New Hoses
    New Belts
    BMW Blue Coolant, Distilled Water, Water Wetter

    Well under $500 and an afternoon....

    2 SoCal Summer commutes so far (temps up to 111 degrees) and one Auto-X (in 108 degree) and zero issues. Stock Electric fan comes on when needed which almost never. No clutch fan drag, never worry about blades taking out the hood, room for easy belt, hose, t-stat work in the future.

    But if you don't work on your on car, hey totally understand. Good luck with the rest of the car!

    John
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    ***Got a '95 M3? (actually pretty common on all years! Even happened to Racer Seth Thomas! ) Check Your LSD! http://forums.bimmerforums.com/forum...d.php?t=390209

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by JETninja View Post
    Wow! $1K.....FDM DIY FTW!

    1 Z3M 3 Row Rad (stock M3 is 2 Row) OEM Bolt in.
    New T-Stat / T-Stat Housing
    New 318i Fan Switch
    New Pump
    New Hoses
    New Belts
    BMW Blue Coolant, Distilled Water, Water Wetter

    Well under $500 and an afternoon....

    2 SoCal Summer commutes so far (temps up to 111 degrees) and one Auto-X (in 108 degree) and zero issues. Stock Electric fan comes on when needed which almost never. No clutch fan drag, never worry about blades taking out the hood, room for easy belt, hose, t-stat work in the future.

    But if you don't work on your on car, hey totally understand. Good luck with the rest of the car!

    So did you just pull the fan off & leave it at that, or did you do more than that for your FDM? Just curious.

    1999 Estoril Blue ///M3 with common mods to the car, and driver training mods to the driver. It's a safe, intelligent, and fun combination. Member of our local BMW Club Driver Training Team.

  19. #19
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    i added the water pump nut, a fan thermostat switch (so the aux fan turns on at a lower temp), lower thermostat. thats pretty much it unless i missed something.

  20. #20
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    Euro fan ftw. I replaced my stocker with the euro in fear of this happening.

  21. #21
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    Seems like they stuck you on the labor AND the parts. The dealership down the street from them charges $160/hr, so their labor rate should be about a benji an hour. With your parts list as to what was replaced, this probably flat rates out to a total of four hours if they stuck you for R&R on each part separately. To replace a waterpump includes taking off the fan/fan clutch, belts and pulley. Flat rate for each part most likely is a lot longer than if they were to charge you for the "combined" operation, which flat rates out to less time. Since they "have to" charge you flat rate, you have to look closely at how they computed it. A good mechanic or DIYer can replace these parts in about two hours. Check to see how many hours you were charged. I do know they most likely sold you a Behr or Nissen radiator and other parts from either SSF Imports, Worldpac, or locally, Foreign Parts Warehouse. Their cost for parts purchased at those places is much lower than that of the dealer, but they probably stuck you for the parts at dealer list. I picked up a Behr radiator from SSF for $126.00 delivered; list from the dealer is over two benjis and a Grant, new Graf water pump goes for about a benji, dealer's version more, stat and outlet another benji (no aluminum outlet available from the dealer), belts and hoses a Grant each from the dealer, and the miscellaneous parts about a Jackson. What did they charge you for parts/labor? This sounds almost like a dealer price.
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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Letter M View Post
    So did you just pull the fan off & leave it at that, or did you do more than that for your FDM? Just curious.
    Well, technically you unscrew it off! Yeah, took off a couple years ago after doing a ton of research. Made sure to Baseline the system by replacing all. I think the addition of the 3 row radiator did a lot to make it bulletproof. I do plan on adding a real gauge someday so I can see what it's doing....

    If you look at Chris's Understeer.com site you can see the parts list, but I get my parts from a neighbor near cost, so I made it up myself. I also dremel'd any flow restrictive burrs in the Alum T-Stat housing to improve flow.

    John
    '95 Hellrot M3 w/Dove
    AA Euro HFM Stage II (w/21# Injectors & Software) W/Gen III Exhaust - URI Crank Pully - FDM w/3 Row M Coupe Rad - 3.23 LSD - Vogtland Club Spec/Koni SA - UUC Red w/Enforcers - TMS Shims/Rear Camber Bars w/QA1 inners/Sways - VMC F/TMS R End Links - X-Brace - Perf Ultimate/SS Brake Lines - GC Tower Mounts/RTAB Shims - ZKW's w/5000K Hid - Fog Delete - Alpine 9847/Pioneer TS-C130R Kevlar Components/Pioneer PRS-X340/Stealth Box's/Wired Zune 120GB - OE LTW CF Sills/Glove Box Plate - Staggered Black M-Spoke II's w/235/40 (front), 255/40 (Rear) Nitto NT05's - Rolled Fenders!

    ***Got a '95 M3? (actually pretty common on all years! Even happened to Racer Seth Thomas! ) Check Your LSD! http://forums.bimmerforums.com/forum...d.php?t=390209

  23. #23
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    Ahh, OK, I'll bet that new rad plays a role in the stability of the temp.

    I wondered because there is such a variety of success with the FDM mod, some people have never had an issue and others have had some overheating issues. I expect you will not have any problems.

    1999 Estoril Blue ///M3 with common mods to the car, and driver training mods to the driver. It's a safe, intelligent, and fun combination. Member of our local BMW Club Driver Training Team.

  24. #24
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    I think most of the peeps with issues did not baseline the cooling system, it's only as strong as it's weakest link. Make sure all is at it's very best from the beginning and you'll have a bulletproof system....until one of those parts fails again, which it will at some point. The #1 reason for a true gauge, not the POS BMW gives us. Then you can respond in a proper time frame and not even come close to warping or cracking a Head.

    John
    '95 Hellrot M3 w/Dove
    AA Euro HFM Stage II (w/21# Injectors & Software) W/Gen III Exhaust - URI Crank Pully - FDM w/3 Row M Coupe Rad - 3.23 LSD - Vogtland Club Spec/Koni SA - UUC Red w/Enforcers - TMS Shims/Rear Camber Bars w/QA1 inners/Sways - VMC F/TMS R End Links - X-Brace - Perf Ultimate/SS Brake Lines - GC Tower Mounts/RTAB Shims - ZKW's w/5000K Hid - Fog Delete - Alpine 9847/Pioneer TS-C130R Kevlar Components/Pioneer PRS-X340/Stealth Box's/Wired Zune 120GB - OE LTW CF Sills/Glove Box Plate - Staggered Black M-Spoke II's w/235/40 (front), 255/40 (Rear) Nitto NT05's - Rolled Fenders!

    ***Got a '95 M3? (actually pretty common on all years! Even happened to Racer Seth Thomas! ) Check Your LSD! http://forums.bimmerforums.com/forum...d.php?t=390209

  25. #25
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    A bad oil change should not have affected your incident.

    The job seems expensive, but is probably expected since it takes around 3 hours. Maybe less for someone that does it all day.

    I would of recommended the composite water pump vs. the metal. Also, I agree with the euro fan vs. the standard US fan.

    I would of also replaced the other two pulleys while being in there. When I pulled mine off at around 90k miles, you can clearly hear the bearings inside of them rattling around. New ones do not make any sound.

    Lastly, the expansion tank and cap should of been replaced as well. Most owners take care of their cooling system, and neglect to replace this, which will eventually fail.

    Take care of the expansion tank if you get a chance.

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