Oil leak in 1994 325is... am I getting hosed by my dealer?

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I took my 1994 325is in to my BMW dealer with the following symptom:
rough engine behaviour when starting cold , but once warmed up , sounds fine, normal..

after a numbe of 'standard' tests turned up nothing, they did a compression test and came up with the following numbers ( which I confess I have no idea re the meaning of:
leakage% 1 2 35 4 5 6
They said this cylinder 3's leakdown was not acceptable and that they recommended an engine rebuild or replacement dur to 'suspected wear on engine bottom end'.
I am your typical BMW owner I suppose because I seem to be unable to sort thru all this, but I can't help but wonder if they are not giving me a cheaper alternative because they want the 20 hours of labour at $110/hr to put the new engine in.
I would really appreciate it if someone who understands what could be going on in my engine could answer a few questions, like: Could this really be the cause of my original complaint? what is 'suspected wear on engine bottom end/? and , is there no cheaper alternative open?
One PS I must add is that 9 months ago I paid a non-BMW dealer $2600 to fix a 'crack' in the engine block. I am about to take it back to him and ask whether this purported oil problem is related to the work he did. You can guess what his response will be. Can you offer any suggestions on how I can approach this guy to avoid getting hosed by him as well? Do you think there could be a connection between the two?
Many thanks in advance to anyone who takes the time to comment. I value your opinions, believe me.
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A leakdown test checks the crankshaft and bearings? How?
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Dave Plowman snipped-for-privacy@davenoise.co.uk London SW
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Sounds like a fuel mixture problem on startup. Engine needs extra gas when cold, and it's not getting it.
Engine mechanical problems unlikely. Esp. "bottom end" or crankshaft. Numbers provided mean nothing. A standard compression test would help.
What is the "oil problem"?
I don't think your problem is caused by prior work. 9 mos is a long time.
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Freebase wrote:

Drive away from that dealership and never return again.
Wear in the bottom end would mean that the crankshaft main and/or connecting rod bearings have become worn and enlarged. This is usually diagnosed by observing oil pressure and/or knocking noises.
There is no way in hell that they can tell you have a lower end problem from a leakdown test. A leakdown test measures how quickly the cylinders (top end) lose compression. This measures faulty ring and valve sealing, not lower end bearing quality.
Get another opinion on your cold start problem from a reputable shop (I would go with a good independent rather than a dealership for cost reasons) and don't mention these prior findings. It is most likely some sort of temperature sensor or possibly an intake vacuum leak.
--
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The cylinder leakdown test is, according to the Bentley manual, the most accurate diagnostic of the engines compression and not only tells you which cylinders are leaking but where the air is going which is probably what led them to say 'bottom end'. I don't think they really meant the bearings and crank - more likely they meant rings as opposed to valves or head gasket. Considering the potential cost of the repair it would certainly be prudent to get another opinion - perhaps the first shop you mentioned might do it for nothing to convince you that their previous work is not the culprit.
The leaking cylinder diagnosis fits pretty well with the symptoms you noted. The spark plug in the bad cylinder tends to get fouled because its running cold all the time and this causes it to miss when the engine is cold. Try replacing that one spark plug, third from the front, to see if it fixes the symptom of missing when cold. It won't fix the real problem but could confirm their diagnosis if it starts missing again after a week or so. On the other hand if it fixes it for several weeks you might consider putting off the major repair until you get tired of replacing that plug.
It would help in forming an opinion to know how many miles you have on this engine. The really big mystery is why you used the words oil leak in the subject of your post. There is never any mention of an oil leak in your discussion. I would like to hear more on that subject.

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Perhaps I'm being naive, but I'd expect a dealer to use commonly accepted terms. If it has bore or piston problems what's wrong with just saying that?
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Dave Plowman snipped-for-privacy@davenoise.co.uk London SW
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the answer is obviously: yes!
"dealer" and "getting hosed" go hand in hand.
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Hi there and thank you all for your speedy and very helpful information... at least my problem is now being explained in something approaching 'english'.... a few noted that I did not describe anything about the oil leak, so I will copy in here what it says about oil on the diagnosis...bear in mind that I find it hard to trust this dealer ( they once quoted me $1500 to replace a jammed sunroof that my daughter's friend fixed in five minutes), yet this is what they say, in addtion to the aforementioned 'leakdown' info :
"during compression test, noticed oil spraying out of cylinder #3..looked inside and noticed top of piston head covered in oil,,heard air coming out of dipstick tube during #3 leakdown test...suspected wear on engine bottom end....vehicle requires engine rebuild...or replacement"
.also someone asked about mileage...the car has 210K on it and the engine block crack was 'fixed' at about 190K...
I just want to say that I am very pleasantly surprised at how uesful and informative the replies have been.. I should have started posting my problems long ago ..maybe I wouldn't be sitting in the 'seat' I'm in now!
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Freebase wrote:

OK, from the above, I would have concluded that there may be a blown head gasket between the #3 cylinder and an oil galley (passageway).
When there is compression in that cylinder (as when doing the leakdown test) it would send air out through the oil galley and cause gurgling up from the dispstick as the crankcase is pressurized. When there is vacuum inside the cylinder (such as during the intake stroke when cranking during a compression check) it is likely to draw some oil into the cylinder. If the leak is small, when the engine is cold it may cause that cylinder to run rough, clearing up as the engine comes up to temperature.
Considering this, and with 210k miles on the clock, I am inclined to believe that they may (for the wrong reasons) be correct that your engine may indeed need some TLC. But still, no matter what, I would find someplace other than the stealership to get it properly sorted out.
Your best option may be to try and find a low(er) mileage engine at a salvage yard.
--
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Hi there, I posted some further info earlier but I don't see it so I' trying it again. I apologize if it is repeated...
the engine has 210km on it, or 120,000 miles ... does that still put the engine 'with one/two/three or more cylinders' in the graveyard or is there still enough life left in it ( on average) to have it repaired ( if that' s possible) .... that is , is there any alternative to replacing the engine at a cost of$5K , for example someone mentioned 'blown head gasket'... I assume this is in cylinder #3 as reported by my dealer, so could I just get that gasket replaced ? presumably at much lower cost?

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Bob Freeman wrote:

If your engine has/had a cracked block (presumably because a previous owner put cold water in an overheated engine where the overheating was caused by a blown head gasket, thus cracking the block), if I were you I would replace the engine, not the head gasket. It will still cost you a whole bunch of money just to replace the head gasket unless you do it yourself.
-- Phil Robyn 1987 E28 535is 1991 E34 M5 University of California, Berkeley
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I'd never in the first place have had a cracked block repaired on an engine this common - a good secondhand complete unit would have been a better bet. And now as then. ;-)
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Dave Plowman snipped-for-privacy@davenoise.co.uk London SW
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The described oil leak into the combustion chamber would cause huge amounts of smoke while running and an oil-fouled spark plug. Yet you say the car runs fine when warm. That rules out major mechanical problems.
Concentrate on your lean misfire when cold. Once you track that down, if you have no other symptoms, forget about it.
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Thanks again to all who replied to my original post... I have learned alot and am still amazed at how helpful complete strangers are willing to be. A footnote to my trials&tribulations..... after I got my car home last Friday I checked the oil level myself and found that it was at the 'minimum' level as per the driver's handbook.I have to confess that I do not check the oil level very often at all and it had been months since I had the oil changed... So I added two litres and a bottle of Bardohl Oil leak fix stuff and now, two days later the car is starting much better. the rough idle seems to have disappeared and the engine absolutely purrrs.... could the oil have just thinned out so much that it lost all its viscosity and was leaking thru, where the new oil is much thicker? I am wondering if the folks who have been saying there can't be major mechanical probs if its purring when warm are on the right track? Would low oil level and quality cause the symptoms I was reporting? am I out of the woods or do I have my head in the sand (-y oil)?
A small PS on the price the BMW dealers charge for parts... another minor prob I was having was that the 'Check Coolant Level' diag was appearing on my console, even after I had just topped up the coolant. I knew it was the sensor, and its fairly obvious , but they charged me $60 to tell me that and quoted me $130 for a new sensor. By chance I then found a BMW parts site where they want $22 for the same part! These are the kinds of numbers that have made me VERRY apprehensive about anything my BMW dealer tells me... they seem like no more than a price-gouging parts dealer to those of us with the older models.
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I think you'll find that a lot of us are fairly happy with our local dealers but don't buy a lot of parts there. In my case, sometimes the cost of the parts is comparable to what they cost elsewhere but it does depend on the parts. There are some parts I can get WAY cheaper anywhere else. I do have a dealer that will give me an assist on diagnosing the problem though. Just found out they are more than happy to listen and diagnose. There are two guys there that love the older cars and as they put it "don't charge the diagnostic charge if we don't hook up the computer".

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Jeez I'd love to find two guys like that at a BMW dealership....the guys at mine are 'gentlemen' and I don't get near them, let alone talk to them.
Hey , for the kind experts that have been following my problem...
NEW INFO... turns out I may have my head stuck in the sand after all....the engine starts fine and sounds really good when I drive, no missing etc, but I'm blowing smoke out my exhaust on acceleration....IS this the end? Is the only possible explanation a blown gasket and/or cracked head? or Is there anything else I can check into, eg change the spark plug or ...? Your advice this one last time would either give me something more to try or should I throw in the towel and get the engine replaced as my dealer recommends?
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Is it definitely oil smoke? Ie, blue? And how much oil does the car consume - ie quarts per x1000 miles etc?
Moderate oil consumption and therefore oil smoke from the exhaust may not effect the performance and running in any way - until it becomes excessive. So a leakdown or compression check may not show the cause of smoking. To explain, oil smoke is caused by oil being drawn past either the pistons because of worn bores or oil control rings, or down past the valves because of wear or poor seals.
It can also be caused by blocked crankcase breathing. Some of the high pressure gasses of combustion will always get past the pistons or valve stems and pressurises the crankcase. The engine breather system is designed to cope with this and burn these fumes along with the injected petrol. But if any of the various hoses or filters used in this ventilation system are faulty or blocked the pressure builds up and can *force* oil into the combustion part. Giving the impression of a worn out engine.
What basically I'm saying is it is near impossible to diagnose your problem without checking all the basics first. And your dealer talking about 'bottom end' problems suggests - well, draw your own conlusions.
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Dave Plowman snipped-for-privacy@davenoise.co.uk London SW
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Ok well the color of the smoke.. I assume blue means oil and white means coolant? From your description I' wondering now if its coolant....Every once in a while my temp gauge goes up into the red zone that slowly comes back down again. It only does this once in awhile , eg once in 5 'errand' trips. Could it be related to the 'bottom end' rumour. Your suggestion re tracking oil consumption is a good one... wll watch it closely. I am concerned about this imtermittent red-lining, though. Any suggestions re what could be causing that? One question for you re the oil floe, Dave. If a head is cracked or a gasket is blown do I assume correctly that oil is being drawn into the combustion chamber and not combusting because it's oil! and being exhausted out? Can coolant also get into the cylinder the same way or does it 'live' somewhere else?
Thanks again. and if I keep the car I definitely am going to buy that book!
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And black means a rich mixture. And be aware that on a cold damp day you will get lots of white 'smoke' until the engine and exhaust get hot.

Normally, your car should go from one service to the next without needing coolant added. If extra coolant is needed often it's possible there is a problem with the gasket or cylinder head. Although it's far more likely to be other - and simple - things.

No.
I'd do a Google to find out how a basic water cooled engine works. It hasn't changed in 100 years as regards your questions.

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Dave Plowman snipped-for-privacy@davenoise.co.uk London SW
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Following up on Dave's suggestion re finding out how a water cooled engine gets its cooling, I found this awesome demo of that... even you seasoned veterans will be impressed by the animation you see when you click 'start' on this site... it sure is informative for me at least...thanks for the tip , Dave
http://auto.howstuffworks.com/cooling-system2.htm
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