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Oh #$%^ -- did I just lunch my engine?

Posted by Dave_G 
January 16, 2009 08:28AM
I live in one of the warm spots in Vermont, so our temperature this morning was only -15F, instead of the -20F to -30F of nearby places (that's about -29C to -34C in the rest of the world). By the time I got out to my car to drive to work it was a relatively balmy -7F. I don't usually let my car warm up, but when it's this cold I do let it idle for a couple minutes before driving, while I run back in the house to stay warm. When I got back out to my car after a few minutes of idling, I noticed that the oil pressure light was on. Uh oh. I should have just shut it off, but somehow I thought maybe it was just the cold playing havoc with the warning system, so I tried restarting it. The light remained on. I turned it around in the driveway (why??), and the light was still on. I then shut it off and decided to look underneath for any sign of a leak (even though the oil level service light did not show a low oil level.)

Holy $%^&! It was like the Exxon Valdez under there. There was a huge puddle of 10W40 in the driveway. A quick look under the hood, and I could see that it was coming from the oil filter. I tested the tightness, and the oil filter was so loose I could turn it about a full turn before it wouldn't tighten any more. In all my years of changing oil, I've never had that happen. The leak stopped, and after putting in a quart of oil I restarted the car. This time the oil pressure light was off. However, as I examined the engine it seemed like there was a bit more noise coming from the valve train than I could remember previously. It wasn't horrible noise, but it was defintely ticking. I dunno. Maybe it's just my imagination -- I certainly would like it to be. I'm trying to remember: do all E30s tick under the valve cover?

I turned off the car, left it there, and am planning to change the oil again this weekend when the weather is supposed to be warmer (+10-20F). At some point I guess I'll do a compression check and see how much harm I've done.

__________
Dave
'91 325iX
I would think if all it took was a quart to put the light out then you had enough oil in the system to prevent lunching the engine. I would think at this point as long as the engine has adequate oil there is no danger in letting it run to warm and see what you got? Perhaps with the filter loose, the engine was unable to completely pressurize the oil system thereby getting the oil all the way up to the valve train but you have to think that you would be hard pressed to damage the valve train by oil starvation with that short a run time. I would think everyone's fears would rest on the main bearings.

keep us posted

alan
it's your imagination. i changed the oil (good type, expensive too) 3 times because i was hearing noises in my head. everybody told me i was insane.
all E30 engines click. from both the injectors and valve rockers. I think M42 should be more quiet, since it has hidraulic lifters. hm... why are they called lifters anyway ? they don't LIFT the valves... they PUSH then down.

--
A physics truck just turned over outside. There's physics everywhere!
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Dave_G
do all E30s tick under the valve cover?

Hopefully you didn't do any major damage, but yes, all E30s I've ever heard definitely tick.

Cab
1990 325i(s)
2004 325XiT
rkj
Hey Dave, The fact that the oil filter was that loose could have, and probably was, the cause of the oil not going through normal passage ways making the oil light come on because the oil was dumping overboard (I'm sure we all knew that). That said, I find it very odd that only one quart brought the level back up to normal, my guess is that the oil filter was catching some oil while dumping it too. That could be your saving grace.

Its important to check and make sure the old gasket comes off the old filter when you're changing out the filter, and ofcourse tighten it with a good grip by hand. I always put a very light film of oil on the gasket and then wipe it gently before it goes in place.

If you're not already, this might be the perfect time to switch over to synthetic oils. I've started running Mobil one (even though I don't like the company) 15/50 in the street bike and what a difference it has made, both in the motor and the transmission (they share the same oil). I think in motorcycles you have more of a connection with how things sound and work but both the motor runs better and it's shifts are easier too.

These motors are a touch noisy, especially cold, piston slap, injectors and solid lifters all play a part but I wouldn't worry too much about that, make sure at idle, when the motor is real hot, that the oil light isn't glowing or flickering, and of course throw that filter away and start fresh. Try not to let this incident shake your confidence in the motor. Its just another time when good iron prevails smiling smiley

Good luck, Rick
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jaffar
it's your imagination. i changed the oil (good type, expensive too) 3 times because i was hearing noises in my head. everybody told me i was insane.
all E30 engines click. from both the injectors and valve rockers. I think M42 should be more quiet, since it has hidraulic lifters. hm... why are they called lifters anyway ? they don't LIFT the valves... they PUSH then down.

'Lifters' is a left over anachronism from the days when engines had side valves that where lifted by push rods driven by the camshaft which was mounted at the bottom of the motor beside the crankshaft.

Ever since that time, grease monkeys have continued to use the term 'lifter' no matter how incorrectly it describes the parts or how they function.
As the others have said, don't sweat it. The oil light comes on when you're a quart or more low even if the filter is not loose and leaking.

The ticking valve train is normal...you just never had a reason to listen to it before winking smiley
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Archeo-peteriX
The oil light comes on when you're a quart or more low even if the filter is not loose and leaking.
The oil light in the overhead check panel comes on to warn of low oil levels. It's a friendly reminder that you should check the level and add some more oil someday soon, and it's nothing to panic about.

The oil light in the instrument panel however warns of low oil pressure. That's a critical issue that shouldn't be ignored.

The valve train, and fuel injectors, normally do make a lot of clicking noises. So it's hard to say if there was any damage to the valve train from oil starvation. If you're worried about it, it's not a big job to take off the valve cover and have a look see and check the valve clearances.
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Ferdinand
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Archeo-peteriX
The oil light comes on when you're a quart or more low even if the filter is not loose and leaking.
The oil light in the overhead check panel comes on to warn of low oil levels. It's a friendly reminder that you should check the level and add some more oil someday soon, and it's nothing to panic about.

The oil light in the instrument panel however warns of low oil pressure. That's a critical issue that shouldn't be ignored.

The valve train, and fuel injectors, normally do make a lot of clicking noises. So it's hard to say if there was any damage to the valve train from oil starvation. If you're worried about it, it's not a big job to take off the valve cover and have a look see and check the valve clearances.

You're right...I didn't read it properly again :o

The loose filter would certainly explain the low pressure and the puddle of oil outside the engine sad smiley
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rkj
Its important to check and make sure the old gasket comes off the old filter when you're changing out the filter, and ofcourse tighten it with a good grip by hand. I always put a very light film of oil on the gasket and then wipe it gently before it goes in place.
Yes, I always do that. I once saw a friend of mine dump buckets of oil on a track once when his oil filter let go. It turned out that not only was he using cheapo Fram filters, but he had three gaskets in there because he hadn't checked that the old ones came off!

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If you're not already, this might be the perfect time to switch over to synthetic oils. I've started running Mobil one (even though I don't like the company) 15/50 in the street bike and what a difference it has made, both in the motor and the transmission (they share the same oil). I think in motorcycles you have more of a connection with how things sound and work but both the motor runs better and it's shifts are easier too.
I use synthetic in all three of my cars. The E30 has had Castrol Syntec 10W/40 since the day I brought it home.

Anyway, today I braved the frigid temperatures and changed the oil and filter. Even after tightening up the oil filter the other day, it still spewed lots more all over the ground today as moved the car from the driveway to the garage. When I took the old filter off, I saw why: the gasket had somehow come unseated on one side and was bulging up away from the base of the filter. That's why it was still leaking even after I cranked it down. I've never seen a filter do that before. I think it probably had something to do with the arctic temperatures we had, but still that's not normal, cold or not. It was a good Wix filter, too, so I don't think I can lay the blame there.

Anyway, it's all back to normal now, except for all the oil splashed all over the engine compartment. That cleanup is something that will need to wait until spring. I'll also be keeping an eye on my oil consumption to see if I did any damage, but I'm hoping that I escaped any serious damage.

__________
Dave
'91 325iX
Relax...you didn't run the engine long enough or under enough stress to cause any damage thumbs up

All is good...that's why we have idiot gauges grinning smiley
Remember the Challenger disaster? That too had to do with low temps and an o-ring. What about putting the oil filter in your pants for 30 minutes before installing it?

alan
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jaffar
because i was hearing noises in my head. everybody told me i was insane.

Have you tried seeing a shrink?
What is a "huge puddle" in the driveway? Any pictures? Small amounts of fluids can cause large puddles, it's hard to relate the size of a puddle to an amount of fluid.
Try a bucket of water. See what size of a puddle that makes.

As said, you probably didn't run it long or hard enough to do real damage. As long as there is some stuff in there keeping it greasy, it can withstand a lot.
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Michiel 318iS
What is a "huge puddle" in the driveway? Any pictures? Small amounts of fluids can cause large puddles, it's hard to relate the size of a puddle to an amount of fluid.
Sorry, no pictures. It was probably about 1/2 quart (liter) Friday, another 1/2 quart in the driveway yesterday, another 1/2 quart in the garage after I moved the car in there, and probably about that much sprayed all over the right side of the engine compartment. As you say, it's hard to judge, but I certainly got less than 4 quarts in the pan when I drained it yesterday.

Anyway, today my daughter and I took it up the mountain to go skiing, and it's operating at 100% now.

__________
Dave
'91 325iX
rkj
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Dave_G
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Michiel 318iS
What is a "huge puddle" in the driveway? Any pictures? Small amounts of fluids can cause large puddles, it's hard to relate the size of a puddle to an amount of fluid.
Sorry, no pictures. It was probably about 1/2 quart (liter) Friday, another 1/2 quart in the driveway yesterday, another 1/2 quart in the garage after I moved the car in there, and probably about that much sprayed all over the right side of the engine compartment. As you say, it's hard to judge, but I certainly got less than 4 quarts in the pan when I drained it yesterday.

Anyway, today my daughter and I took it up the mountain to go skiing, and it's operating at 100% now.

Hey Dave, So, you're already using synthetic oil, that is good and probably insured that you did not do any damage like Uncle Pete sez smiling smiley but keep an eye out for sure.

I bought an oil filter wrench (cup style that takes a 3/8 drive ratchet extension) for my 318ti and its the same for the thirty oil filter, I love it for change outs... It was cheap too from BAV.

Change oil when its hot so you get all the crap suspended before the drain plug is taken off!

Good luck boss smiling bouncing smiley
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