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  1. #1
    DF PwNagE dpSparhawk's Avatar
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    Default Engine Coolant - Distilled, De-Ionised or Tap Water?, Also advice re. trickle chargers

    Subject sums it up....

    I've never actually had to put coolant in a car before but 'kin ell I'll be darned if my Engine coolant warning has popped up. I'm hoping it's just that it needs a top up and there isn't a leak anywhere. A quick inspection of the reservoir and cap doesn't show anything of concern.

    I have a nice new bottle of Coolant and it says "Mix 50/50 with water".

    So, what would people recommend?

    Tap water - possible risk of limescale. Relatively hard water area, seems to be a bit of limescale in the kettle.

    Distilled Water
    - Are there any particular concerns? Loads of people say yes, but then there's the "chemists" out there who say it's bad and there's even a site which goes on to talk about why it's bad.... people using it far outweigh that though.

    De-ioninsed water - Same points as above but without the site saying why it shouldn't be used.

    Or am I over thinking this lol. Just interested in peoples thoughts.



    Ignore the reference to the Trickle charger in the subject.... I did a shit load of reading this evening and answered my questions
    Last edited by dpSparhawk; 20th November 2018 at 02:25 AM.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Engine Coolant - Distilled, De-Ionised or Tap Water?, Also advice re. trickle chargers

    on the lime scale thing first
    the lime scale could actually fill in any slight holes, I've always used tap water and never had an issue. although its not a high hard water where I live

    My cars stop/start works when there is at optimum power in the battery, if there is insufficient power then the engine stays on at traffic lights etc till
    the battery is maxxed out. I noticed this after a 2 week away holiday and came back to the car not stop/starting for a few hours till it was 100%

    Get the alternator tested as this is probably not giving out enough charge into the battery or if its not that then its probably the battery.
    [Only registered and activated users can see links. ]

    Thanks to Mickey

    dpSparhawk (20th November 2018) 


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    DF PwNagE dpSparhawk's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engine Coolant - Distilled, De-Ionised or Tap Water?, Also advice re. trickle chargers

    Hi Mickey,

    Thanks for your reply. I'll probably just throw tap water in there with it. I checked UU Water quality and they actually say it's Moderately Soft lol. There's not huge amounts of Limescale on the kettle. Certainly no build up at the spout (like I used to see at our old home) so I guess it's not quite so bad.


    Re. the Trickle charger question, I didn't realise you'd responded and edited out my previous text.

    I've had a good read though and got a number of questions answered.

    When I took it in and BMW said the voltages were very low, they gave it a charge up and did say if I still have any further issues, then call them. It'd probably be worth getting the Alternator tested for sure.

    However I've still gone ahead and purchased a Trickle charger. BMW sell a re-branded CTEK which guaranteed will be a lower spec model at the cost of a higher spec CTEK model

    In which case, I ordered myself a CTEK MXS 5.0 Test and Charge. This particular unit can actually test the Alternator as well so we'll what that comes up with and if it indicates an issue with it, I'm under warranty so can easily get that sorted.

    thanks again.
    Last edited by dpSparhawk; 20th November 2018 at 02:59 AM.

    Thanks to dpSparhawk

    Mickey (20th November 2018) 


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    DF Super Moderator Over Carl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engine Coolant - Distilled, De-Ionised or Tap Water?, Also advice re. trickle chargers

    My personal opinion (this is not based on any official guidelines/documents so do not take this as gospel).

    Tap water : This is what I use and the only thing I see workshops use to top up. I can only imagine limescale issues if in a very hard water area, and fresh water is being constantly added to the car (to top up leaks or if the cooling system is flushed too often). My logic being that whatever scale is in the water will solidify where it wants to (and might plug tiny gaps), but as long as more water is not being added, more scale is not being introduced to the system so the trace amounts present shouldn't cause any issues.

    Distilled water : I wouldn't bother myself. Water is a surprisingly good solvent, but tap water has normally reacted with various trace amounts of various chemicals meaning it is a lot less reactive. I can't say whether distilled water has the potential to cause deterioration of the rubber hoses and seals but I wonder if it is possible. In either event, I can't see the point in spending a lot of money on something that will not give any benefit and could potentially cause major damage.

    De-ionised water - I did A level chemistry but didn't do brilliantly at it, and I've currently got brain problems so my memory is a bit sketchy, but I think everything I said about distilled water would also apply to de-ionised water.

    The one big suggestion I have for you - your car shouldn't need coolant being topped up, if it needs a top up it must be (slightly) leaking somewhere. Keep a bottle of coolant/water mix in the car all the time in case you need a top up until you are confident the car isn't leaking water, or the leak has been addressed. Just last week I looked at a 116i that needs a new head gasket and probably a new turbo all because of a little dribble from the water cooled turbo.

    Now reading through the thread it sounds like you have bought a battery charger, as BMW have advised you stop-start functionality isn't working because your battery is low. The BMW diagnostic computer has a check to bring up frequency of MSA (stop/start) inhibitors and I'm guessing they have done this and found high frequency for low battery.

    CTEK is quite a reputable brand and make some good chargers - I believe the one you have purchased has a mode where you can leave it connected indefinitely and it will continually top up your battery if/when required without over charging and damaging the battery. However I don't believe it has any alternator testing functionality. Basic alternator check - check battery voltage with car off, then start car and watch battery voltage. Most modern F series BMW with healthy alternators will be around 14.5v-15.2v when running. If MSA still doesn't work after using the charger, just send the car back to the dealer and let them take care of it under warranty - getting to the bottom of MSA issues can be a piece of cake, but can be a pita as well sometimes.

    My personal opinion is that MSA is a daft pointless feature. I remember years ago testing if there was any fuel saving from manually stop/starting a Toyota Carina E 1.6, and I was surprised to find no difference in fuel consumption whatsoever. However stop/start will cause extra wear and tear on the engine, and in particular starter motor. Also if I am driving, I prefer the idea of me being fully in control of a vehicle. Finally, I'm sure most of us at some point have driven a shitty old car that needs a bit of effort to start, but is fine when it's running. Will cause a lot of embarrassment and chaos when a car gets to that stage but still has functioning stop/start feature.

    I don't mess around with the MSA system much but one of the most common things I do end up doing with MSA is tweaking coding so MSA is normally off as a lot of people find it annoying.
    Last edited by Over Carl; 20th November 2018 at 10:02 PM.

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    beerman (21st November 2018), BigBird (20th November 2018), dpSparhawk (21st November 2018), JonEp (23rd November 2018) 


  5. #5
    DF Moderator BIG-TED's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engine Coolant - Distilled, De-Ionised or Tap Water?, Also advice re. trickle chargers

    A vw rep told me the new golf, needs deionised water mixed with the coolant.
    Comming from vw though, never trust it..

    Ted
    Run your wife a nice hot bath, light some candles & pour some wine. Then you've at least 40 mins on the xbox plus a clean wife.

    Experts... x is an unknown quantity and spurt is a fast drip.

    2 Thanks given to BIG-TED

    dpSparhawk (21st November 2018), Over Carl (20th November 2018) 


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    Default Re: Engine Coolant - Distilled, De-Ionised or Tap Water?, Also advice re. trickle chargers

    As Over Carl said, you would have to top up a hell of a lot for scale to build up to the point where it has any measured effect. And even then the only effect I can think of is a slightly lower heat output from the heat exchanger because the thin coating of scale would have an insulating effect between the water and the aluminium core.

    You wouldn't notice it but when I worked as a development engineer in the automotive hvac industry we used to measure the difference in performance that small changes like that could make. After the change from Copper/Brass to Aluminium heat exchangers, and with more efficient engines producing less waste heat, some cars only just met the requirement of the screen defrost test to be allowed to be sold in the EU. That thin layer of scale could be enough to make the difference between a pass and a fail. (">

    2 Thanks given to BigBird

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  7. #7
    DF PwNagE dpSparhawk's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engine Coolant - Distilled, De-Ionised or Tap Water?, Also advice re. trickle chargers

    OverCarl. Ted, Big Bird

    Cheers guys for all of the advice. I've decided on Tap water and have a mix ready to go in in the morning. With regards to the leaking. I'll be checking the reservoir and hoses in the general vicinity of it for any cracks / holes, loose connectors etc. It's a 16 plate so would be quite disappointed if there was an issue there. Certainly if the warning comes up again, I'll be speaking quite assertively with BMW about it.

    That said, it's not bringing the warning up every time I fire up the engine. Alerted me once today but didn't yesterday. I have done some further reading and there was a posting on Bimmerforums or somewhere that the 3.0L 6 Cylinder engine is quite thirsty on coolant. I didn't think it could go anywhere if it's an enclosed system but hey, I'm not a mechanic .

    Ya know, I think I may book the car in with BMW anyway and ask them to do a full health check on the car including pipework inspection and a look at any evidence of leaks just to make sure.


    With regards to the battery situation. I'd noticed that the auto start/stop was playing up so after some research, most of it pointed to a battery issue. I took it to BMW who advised the voltages were very low. Asked if I did any long drives as they said short journeys don't help keep the battery charged. I guess anything less than 20 odd miles or more on a motorway is classed as a short journey and not enough which is currently my case.

    They advised that there are so many electrics in a car now that battery's are hit quite hard and they do need good runs to keep 'em charged up, plus, in addition to this, I do have 2 extra security systems on the car. A secondary alarm which has the wiring looms away from the "known" areas and also a Killswitch immobiliser which requires a series of key presses on various dash buttons just to enable the car to be driven so they themselves will also be adding extra load on the battery.


    Certainly a quick search on google shows quite a few resources that insist anyone with cars that are featuring a hell of a lot of electronics but don't drive far distances should invest in a trickle charger (wtf is the world coming to lol?)


    So yes, I ordered the CTEK MXS 5.0 Test and Charge unit. The product information via the link below does state it has an Alternator testing feature. As to how in depth that goes, I wouldn't know. I think all in all, for 90 it's not a great deal to pay out but certainly, I'll be keeping eyes on how the car is behaving.

    [Only registered and activated users can see links. ]

    Incidentally, how does the "connecting the charger indefinitely and constant topping up of battery" work out of curiosity?


    Ps. I get quite irritated by the Auto Start/Stop feature myself but I guess when it's not working right, at least it's an indicator of something being awry .

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    DF Super Moderator Over Carl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engine Coolant - Distilled, De-Ionised or Tap Water?, Also advice re. trickle chargers

    Quote Originally Posted by dpSparhawk View Post
    Incidentally, how does the "connecting the charger indefinitely and constant topping up of battery" work out of curiosity?
    I can't say exactly how it does it, but the advert pretty much says it does this:

    CTEK’s patented float/pulse system, which is the most efficient maintenance mode when a battery is connected for long periods.
    • Fully automatic ‘connect and forget’ charging"


    And you are correct, it does seem to have some kind of alternator testing feature.

    Thanks to Over Carl

    dpSparhawk (21st November 2018) 


  9. #9
    DF PwNagE dpSparhawk's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engine Coolant - Distilled, De-Ionised or Tap Water?, Also advice re. trickle chargers

    Coolant all done. Pretty simple procedure after all. Open coolant reservoir, start engine and have blowers on full whack power and heat.

    Pour in mix up to the max line, let the engine run for 5 mins to circulate it all. Shut it off and put the cap on.... that part was the bastard hardest part. Getting the bloody cap off and back on. They obviously have one of those rubber can opener type things or similar.


    Crazy, never had to top up coolant in 19 years of driving.


    Sort of seems to be a feature of the 440i engine. - [Only registered and activated users can see links. ]

    I checked and there are NO visible signs of leakage anywhere, not at the cap, hose connectors or on the hoses themselves. Of course can't say for right down in the bay if there are any there but time will tell. Have a mix ready to go in if needed and more in the house.


    Thanks again guys and OC, I'll keep you posted on the CTEK and how it goes.

  10. #10
    DF Super Moderator Over Carl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engine Coolant - Distilled, De-Ionised or Tap Water?, Also advice re. trickle chargers

    I have to admit I don't work on the bigger engined BMW's often, and I'm not familiar with the B58 engine but a bit of googling suggests it may be normal for them to consume coolant. I've got a couple of mates who work for BMW so I will ask them for their opinions about B58 needing coolant top ups.

    Thanks to Over Carl

    dpSparhawk (21st November 2018) 


  11. #11
    DF PwNagE dpSparhawk's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engine Coolant - Distilled, De-Ionised or Tap Water?, Also advice re. trickle chargers

    Quote Originally Posted by Over Carl View Post
    I have to admit I don't work on the bigger engined BMW's often, and I'm not familiar with the B58 engine but a bit of googling suggests it may be normal for them to consume coolant. I've got a couple of mates who work for BMW so I will ask them for their opinions about B58 needing coolant top ups.


    Cheers mate. Yeah it's a Hungry bastard...even for Coolant!!! haha.
    Last edited by dpSparhawk; 21st November 2018 at 10:24 PM.

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    DF PlaYa New Art Riot's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engine Coolant - Distilled, De-Ionised or Tap Water?, Also advice re. trickle chargers

    I have stop start on my bmw and it's so annoying I permanently turned it off using an app called carly and bluetooth adapter.

    Also I used to have a range rover sport and whenever the battery was low (I think the tracker on it used to hammer it if I didn't use it for a few days) you would get countless bullshit faults come up on the dashboard.

    Thanks to New Art Riot

    dpSparhawk (23rd November 2018) 


  13. #13
    DF PwNagE dpSparhawk's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engine Coolant - Distilled, De-Ionised or Tap Water?, Also advice re. trickle chargers

    Yeah, I've had a few things coded with Carly. Actually, I have a Carly adapter here I've borrowed off a friend (I say borrowed, he changed a few settings for me and we forgot to remove it from the OBDB port and as he's a 60 mile round trip...just not got round to getting it back to him). I am however struggling to get a working version of the app and I believe phones have to be rooted etc. if you wish to "temporarily" use the app (Android).

    Anyway, I think I'll just get him to code a whole bunch of other things I want doing when I take it back to him.


    As for disabling the Auto Start/Stop. I've contemplated it I must admit. However in some respects, without it being enabled, I wouldn't have become aware of the battery's low voltage and probably would have ended up trying to start a dead car one day lol.

    it'd be nice if the threshold could be adjusted... e.g instead of it just shutting off the minute you stop (and YES, those times when you stop for a moment as you need to reverse into a parking bay and the fkin start stop kicks in), it actually gave you say 5 or 6 seconds before doing so.


    Ps. charger arrived today, going to test Alternator and battery tomorrow and probably pop it on charge overnight on Saturday.

    fking big cars and their electrics :/

  14. #14
    DF Super Moderator Over Carl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engine Coolant - Distilled, De-Ionised or Tap Water?, Also advice re. trickle chargers

    If you "really" want to play with coding options on your car, ENET lead, E-Sys and PSDZdata is what you need.

    ENET lead is cheap as chips, E-Sys is software, PSDZdata is definition files for your control units.

    With this, you can access all options and do a lot of stuff, but it is not user friendly at all, and you can seriously mess up your car if you randomly click things you aren't sure of.

    If this is of interest, I can post links and a basic intro, but you will need to do a bit of reading into the subject to really do anything productive.

    2 Thanks given to Over Carl

    BigBird (23rd November 2018), dpSparhawk (24th November 2018) 


  15. #15
    DF PwNagE dpSparhawk's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engine Coolant - Distilled, De-Ionised or Tap Water?, Also advice re. trickle chargers

    Cheers mate but to be honest, There's only a few things I want to change that I'd personally not prefer to pay BMW to do for me

    Things such as having the audio turn off when the doors are opened, being able to actually close the boot using the button in the car and on the key fob.

    Adjustments to other things etc. I've had a few little changes done already but found the full list and want a few more done haha. As for full on coding and non-user friendly stuff, to me that is guaranteeing a dead car if I get involved lol.

  16. #16
    DF Member Max2004's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engine Coolant - Distilled, De-Ionised or Tap Water?, Also advice re. trickle chargers

    OP Dont put just water in a radiator engine coolent system. Some Engine Coolent is hydroscopic and absorbs water . It can be added alone to the cooling system . Other colling system run a mixture of antifreeze and water . The hydroscopic and antifreeze are used to prevent rusting inside the engine . You really need to know what was in it in the first place or drain and flush the hole system.

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