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Old 11-21-2020, 11:11 AM
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3.0d 2006 E53 Oil in radiator scam... but what's still wrong???

Hi all,

Really pulling my hair out at this and keen to hear your inputs. I appreciate that this is a tale of woe and reasonably lengthy but it may draw attention for others to include the scam in my description.
So my car has been specialist serviced throughout, on time and no expense spared. In the last 12 months, it's had over 4500 spent on it and been in and out of a number of garages with intermittent faults, which have had many many parts replaced, trying to rectify the electrical faults together with a transmission issue. Anyway, it finally had a clean bill of health. I advertised it on AutoTrader know that the car was in tip-top condition.

As soon as the advert came out, I got a number of calls and a foreign-accented man with poor English wanted to view the car as soon as possible. He asked whether I'd accept a price knocking 10% off the original asking price as he was driving some distance. I said I'd consider it but the car was well priced in the first place and I'd had a reasonable amount of interest already.

So he turned up with his mate who he said was a mechanic. They were all over the car, no do you mind opening her the bonnet or can I start it up, just straight in. He asked to see the paperwork which I had in the boot and while I was with him his mate the engineer was in the bonnet area.

They started it up and revved it hard and immediately complained about the smoke. Which I ignored as it had just started up. He then took it for a 200m drive and from the get-go was complaining about smoke. He floored the car, which was stone cold having not been run in a week. When he returned getting animated about the smoke, his mechanic said that the smoke was more than likely a cracked cylinder or best case a head gasket, either way the car's value was in parts only. He then proceeded to undo the radiator reservoir cap and dip and showed how there was oil in it from the problem. I was gobsmacked, the car had been in 3 garages over the last 1000 miles and although they had all thoroughly examined it, no one had pointed this out, so I knew something was odd. Combined with the insistence that the car was smoking, when it was just the usual small amount of initial smoke from start-up. They were insistent that I should sell it to them for a fraction of the advertised price to them today for cash.

Smelling a rat, I apologised for their wasted journey and declined. I then reviewed the CCTV footage and sure enough, it's clear that they distracted me with the paperwork query, while the other guy poured a liquid into my radiator which was squirted in within about half a second.

Armed with this information, it was a relief that the car wasn't scrap value only and that although having had a scam pulled, I had ultimately avoided the scam desired result but now had a problem with thick black oil in the radiator reservoir which would look really bad to other buyers.

I got the car transported to a quick service station who said that they could flush it as many times as necessary to get rid of the oil. I gave them some Wynns Radiator flush as well to help. They flushed it with the Wynns and 3 further water flushes. On collection, they said that they got rid of most of it but can't completely get rid of all the residue black surface oil in the radiator reservoir. After driving the car 0.5 miles, I pulled over where I could find something to dip in the radiator to check quality. What I found was that the radiator coolant level was at the bottom and there was still really thick oil evident. I turned around and went straight back to Halfords. They said that the water just needed topping up and got a watering can. I said that I was concerned whether the job had been done properly as it's still so black. They showed me the vessel that they had done the flushing into and it was about 20 litres of what looked like black household radiator water. They said that they use a pressurised flushing system, so don't need to bleed the system but there may have been a small airlock which is why the level was low. They were confident that there was no problem with the car.

Not impressed but satisfied that it must be driveable I took it home. I took the attached photo of the reservoir and a stick that I used to dip into the reservoir after the flushing. To be fair, prior to the flushing the stick came out as thick black, whereas after flushing it's got areas where the oil hasn't stuck. Meanwhile, both the coolant and the engine oil caps have never shown any signs of emulsification. I then contacted a garage that came highly recommended and got the car transported to them. They've carried out their investigation and are slightly concerned. They said that if the car has been flushed you would not expect to have such a large quantity of really dark oil in the reservoir. They have a couple of recommendations but worryingly, none are 100% certain to fix the problem. These are:

1) Take all the coolant components off and thoroughly clean them as best as possible, reassemble and apply coolant and hope.
2) As 1. but replace the coolant reservoir as this is going to be difficult to mask that there had been black oil in it and may put buyers off.
3) As 2. but replace the oil cooler (it's an automatic car).

These works range in price up to over 500. Having had an open cheque book last time, which ran into thousands of 's, it's a case of once bitten, twice shy when a garage says that they aren't sure whether it'll cure the problem. The current garage said unfortunately the oil cooler is a one-pipe variant which with a two-pipe cooler they could have tested easier, whereas with this they can't tell whether it is working correctly or not. I'm thinking of asking the garage to check the ATF reservoir but typically this wouldn't be this jet black colour unless this blackness is the remnants that the scammers have left.

Thank you for reading this far. I'd very much appreciate your wisdom as to what else can be done to prove/disprove possible causes and possibly wasting good money after bad. It could be a genuine coincidental problem or could all simply be leftovers from the toerags that tried to pull a fast one.
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Old 11-21-2020, 11:24 AM
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People suck.

Since they just put a small amount of oil in the expansion tank I would have thought a thorough flush would have solved most of the issue. Perhaps the garage was not thorough in their flush attempt?
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Old 11-21-2020, 11:24 AM
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Oil lighter than water I would just keep dipping something absorbent like white cotton into the coolant tank periodically as the pollutant will get more and more dilute. The only way to speed the process would be some type of detergent which would likely be harder to remove than the oil once done. You can look on YouTube for videos on how people clean oil out of coolant system after a head gasket leak that allowed oil into the coolant I think they just use dish detergent and lots and lots and lots of water.

I don't think a little oil in the coolant will be a problem and with the evidence you have to the source it wouldn't affect one bit my considering the purchase of the car.

A thought: some filter material wrapped into a tube and put into the reservoir while running will get more oil faster.
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Old 11-21-2020, 11:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crystalworks View Post
People suck.

Since they just put a small amount of oil in the expansion tank I would have thought a thorough flush would have solved most of the issue. Perhaps the garage was not thorough in their flush attempt?


The difficulty is in that until detergent is used the oil will find high spots anywhere in the block and cling to things when drained. I don't think it's harmful to have a little oil so were it me I would do as described above.
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Old 11-21-2020, 11:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andrewwynn View Post
The difficulty is in that until detergent is used the oil will find high spots anywhere in the block and cling to things when drained. I don't think it's harmful to have a little oil so were it me I would do as described above.
Exactly. Last flush I did on a very dirty (rusty and oily) system I ran a few coolant system cleaners through with cheap coolant all the way up to temp. And then ran gallons (hose constantly on in expansion tank) while the radiator drain was open. Ran it for 30+ minutes until water coming out was same as water going in. Then shut off and drained the system and filled with distilled water. Then drained that and filled with bmw blue at 60/40 to compensate for some of the water still in the passages/block. Worked great, never had another issue with the cooling system on that car while we owned it.

It took a lot of time (whole process was at least 2 hours), but was probably pretty effective.
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Nav, DSP, Pano, Running Boards, OEM Tow Hitch, Cold Weather Pckg (Purchased 08/15 w/ 90,500 miles)

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Old 11-21-2020, 11:45 AM
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I'm quite confident the mechanics didn't follow such a routine but that's exactly the method needed to completely flush. That said if a complete normal flush was done and only drips of oil remain I would just periodically mop them up with some filter material (like torn apart oil filter) and white cotton rag.
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Old 11-22-2020, 10:09 AM
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Thanks a lot Andrew and Crystalworks.

I'll have a chat with the current garage again tomorrow about using something a bit more significant to help clear the oil, someones recommended green Swarfega but at the very least, copious amounts of water. They may say 2 hours is too cost prohibitive in labour but if they can leave it running and return back to it every 30mins may be viable.

Naturally, the first thing to do is to clear all this thick black oil out. After that, is there anyway of actually proving that the oil cooler is/isn't at fault when it comes to this part on an automatic (where the ATF gets integrated into the cooling system)? The garage believes that this can't easily be done and recommends replacing the unit. This is a fairly hefty bill for something that was ready to be sold, so if there are some 'alternative' and 'outside the box' suggestions, I'd be interested in trying them.

I'll return here to keep you updated. Really annoying when you invest time in helping someone and never get feedback as to whether it was what you suggested
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Old 11-22-2020, 11:49 AM
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Swarfega is probably a good idea, radiator flush is formulated more to get rid of scale and probably not at all effective on oil. Look for a shop with a proper flush machine that uses compressed air and forces bubbles through along with hot water. Skimming as much as possible off the top, as suggested, before hand and maybe even after. Take your video footage to the police and/or post it. The used car market seems to be full of these assholes lately and it's just getting worse.
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Old 11-22-2020, 12:13 PM
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Originally Posted by firefox73 View Post
I'll return here to keep you updated. Really annoying when you invest time in helping someone and never get feedback as to whether it was what you suggested

Closing up a thread always appreciated.
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Old 11-22-2020, 01:19 PM
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Something alkaline like dishwasher powder works better to remove oil deposits.

If there really is oil leak into coolant it's more likely caused by oil heat exchanger on oil filter stem than the gearbox oil heat exchanger.
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