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Thread: S54 Valve Adjustment - 3.0mm shim?!

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    S54 Valve Adjustment - 3.0mm shim?!

    Bottom line: I have a 3.0mm shim on one of my S54's exhaust valves - is this an indicator of a problem? I need it to be ~2.93mm to get the right clearance - any idea how to achieve this?

    More details: I purchased a 2001 M Roadster in pretty rough shape recently (I realize it's not an e46 M3, but figured this place would have a good body of knowledge on the S54), and it has a pretty bad engine knocking sound. Based on some research, I think it's either some damaged valvetrain components, VANOS, or a rod bearing. I started off with a valve adjustment. 6 valves were out of spec, but none too bad. Most were correctable, but one of them (Exhaust valve #10) had a very custom-made-looking shim that was 3.0mm thick! The normal kit of shims only goes up to 2.6mm. So ... is this alone an indicator that I need to dig further into the valvetrain? Or should I pursue getting a custom shim made, or grinding 0.07mm off of the current shim, and see how it goes? The car has 220,000 miles, but this seems like a very out-of-whack thing.

    I've attached some pictures below - I can't see anything wrong with the cam, rocker arm, or valve, but I don't have a very well trained eye for this level of stuff.

    Thanks in advance!

    IMG_20171201_080214928.jpgIMG_20171201_080206051.jpgIMG_20171201_080520489.jpgIMG_20171201_080157970.jpgIMG_20171201_080145114.jpg

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    Quote Originally Posted by m090030 View Post
    Bottom line: I have a 3.0mm shim on one of my S54's exhaust valves - is this an indicator of a problem? I need it to be ~2.93mm to get the right clearance - any idea how to achieve this?

    More details: I purchased a 2001 M Roadster in pretty rough shape recently (I realize it's not an e46 M3, but figured this place would have a good body of knowledge on the S54), and it has a pretty bad engine knocking sound. Based on some research, I think it's either some damaged valvetrain components, VANOS, or a rod bearing. I started off with a valve adjustment. 6 valves were out of spec, but none too bad. Most were correctable, but one of them (Exhaust valve #10) had a very custom-made-looking shim that was 3.0mm thick! The normal kit of shims only goes up to 2.6mm. So ... is this alone an indicator that I need to dig further into the valvetrain? Or should I pursue getting a custom shim made, or grinding 0.07mm off of the current shim, and see how it goes? The car has 220,000 miles, but this seems like a very out-of-whack thing.

    I've attached some pictures below - I can't see anything wrong with the cam, rocker arm, or valve, but I don't have a very well trained eye for this level of stuff.

    Thanks in advance!

    IMG_20171201_080214928.jpgIMG_20171201_080206051.jpgIMG_20171201_080520489.jpgIMG_20171201_080157970.jpgIMG_20171201_080145114.jpg
    Means u need to replace the follower as it is worn


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    Thanks for the reply - that sounds reasonable. I think I may just yank the head and send it to Lang Racing to get a once-over. At this mileage, it's probably not a bad idea to at least look at the valves and seats themselves. The previous owner treated this thing like a Honda Civic (crap 5w30 oil, never a recorded valve adjustment, etc), so I wouldn't be too surprised at some wear here.

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    Ouch, that is painful. Of course there are plenty of people out there only want the car for it's badges, and do not care about the maintenance until it breaks down.

    Yeah, if 5W-30 was ran in that motor, you may end up with more problems down the road, as it needs the heavy weight to run the VANOS properly too. I would send you VANOS off to these guys for a rebuild: www.drvanos.com
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    Quote Originally Posted by m090030 View Post
    Thanks for the reply - that sounds reasonable. I think I may just yank the head and send it to Lang Racing to get a once-over. At this mileage, it's probably not a bad idea to at least look at the valves and seats themselves. The previous owner treated this thing like a Honda Civic (crap 5w30 oil, never a recorded valve adjustment, etc), so I wouldn't be too surprised at some wear here.
    Yeah that seems like a prudent course of action given the mileage and suspect maintenance history, especially if you want to drive it in anger or track it. Might as well just overhaul the top and bottom end properly and never have to worry about the motor again.
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    I have a rebuilt DrVANOS in the mail! As far as the bottom end goes, I'm on the fence about that. Definitely rod bearings, but I think I might run it for a while before going any further than that, unless I see other issues. Although the whole "since the head's off..." thing is hard to resist...

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    Good luck... you're gonna need it.

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    Update: the follower for Exhaust valve #10 (rear valve on cylinder #5) was flat-spotted, which was very evident as soon as I removed the cams and could see it well. The head's en route to Lang Racing for their Stage 1 job as well as all new DLC followers and a good set of stock cams. Still planning on rod bearings, but I don't see any need to pull the pistons (Lang agreed).

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    Quote Originally Posted by m090030 View Post
    Update: the follower for Exhaust valve #10 (rear valve on cylinder #5) was flat-spotted, which was very evident as soon as I removed the cams and could see it well. The head's en route to Lang Racing for their Stage 1 job as well as all new DLC followers and a good set of stock cams. Still planning on rod bearings, but I don't see any need to pull the pistons (Lang agreed).
    Since your head is off AND you are doing bearings, it's 1/2 step to hone the cylinder and get new rings. I would say do it now.

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    Why do you need heavier oil for the vanos? wasn't the car originally spec with a 30 wt oil?
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    U can change the follower to a new one and gain adjustability. I would verify with a leak down to see if a valve job is needed


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    Quote Originally Posted by Cobra1956 View Post
    Why do you need heavier oil for the vanos? wasn't the car originally spec with a 30 wt oil?
    Link to source?

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    From what I have read in the past, the reason why the switch was made to 60 weight was for the VANOS. They were losing pressure at high temps and the oil was sheering, and even 50 weight wasn't holding up to the challange in the long run. While in a pinch you can top off with 5W-50 you cannot run the car solely on it.
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    S54 Valve Adjustment - 3.0mm shim?!

    Quote Originally Posted by dworthy View Post
    From what I have read in the past, the reason why the switch was made to 60 weight was for the VANOS. They were losing pressure at high temps and the oil was sheering, and even 50 weight wasn't holding up to the challange in the long run. While in a pinch you can top off with 5W-50 you cannot run the car solely on it.
    Bmw s54 engine had over heating of rod bearings causing premature wear. As such a recall was instituted. 10-60 oil helps with the high heat produced by the high rpm engine with corresponding heat in the rod bearings.






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    Last edited by being3; 02-19-2018 at 10:45 AM.

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    What is posted there is what I believe to be true, that the bearings were not to spec. When I researched this I came across the 30 wt number and can chase it down but it is irrelevant. New high performance engines are running 5w20. What do you think the clearances are on those bearings? If the bearings arent to spec will a thicker oil make a difference? Not to mention you can't compress a liquid. Again just asking as I can never get my head around some of the positions taken on this issue. Have 3 S54 engines, 2 in use now. Sorry about the thread jack.

    Quick check of some of my old stuff: This is from 2000!
    Newly Issued BMW Service Info Bulletin on "Oil"!

    BMW has issued Service Information Bulletin (SIB# 11 04 00) dated September, 2000 concerning engine oil.The information appears to be a clarification on which type engine oil to use in "M" engines (both S52 and the new E46 M3) as well as how to properly check the engine oil level. However it also has a couple of other points of interest too.
    Under "General Information":
    The race bred engines incorporated in BMW "M" vehicles include increased power outpiut and maximum engine speeds compared to conventional BMW engines.
    Due to their high performance design characteristics all "M" engines may exhibit slighty higher oil consumption compared to conventional BMW engines.
    A spirited driving style (especially during the critical break in period) will lead to further increased engine oil comsumption.
    Under "Engine Oil Recommendations":
    6 Cylinder Engines (S52, S54)
    For the S52 Engine:
    BMW High Performance Mineral Base Oil SAE 15W-40* (BMW Part #07 51 0 017 868)
    * For reliable engine performance in all temperature ranges "mineral based" engine oil viscosity MUST (my emphasis!) be matched to the temperature range at which the vehicle will be operated. Check the temperature viscosity chart in the Owners Manual or Operating Fluids Manual for further information.
    (or)
    BMW High Performance Synthetic Oil SAE 5W-30 (BMW Part #07 51 0 017 866)
    For the S54 (E46 M3 Engine):
    BMW High Performance Synthetic Oil SAE 5W-30 (BMW Part #07 51 0 017 866)
    (End of written part of bulletin)
    (Certain written information in the bulletin which does not apply to either the S52 "M" engine or the new S54"M" was purposely omitted as well as information on proper oil level checking procedure.)
    Also noted is new labeling on the BMW synthetic oil containers. The newest labels will have the Motorsport "M" on the front of the container. The BMW Part number (#07 51 0 017 866) will remain the same as the most recent synthetic 5W-30 oil. The maker of the engine oil is Castrol (which is unchanged).
    That's pretty much it for the bulletin! I would like to thank our friendly bimmer.org BMW technician, Mr. Jon Caldito for making me aware of this newly issued bulletin. I dropped by my local dealership's service department and picked up a copy this afternoon.

    I discussing this bulletin with my Master Mechanic that by the way just returned from a training session on the new E46 M3 in Spartunburg, SC, he said the BMW synthetic oil may be changed somewhat in chemical makeup to help reduce the oil consumption in all "M" engines. He was familar with the bulletin and was told the change addresses the consumption issue.
    According to him, the change is totally in the synthetic oil's base makeup and the additive package. The viscosity grade (5W-30) will not change! I personally have no idea if this is true but I thought I'd share the information with you.
    It does make some sense that with:
    (a) the newly issued bulletin
    (b) the addition of a Motorsport "M" on the container
    (c) the many "M" owner customer complaints concerning oil consumption
    (d) the arrival of the new E46 M3
    that there certainly could be a change in the making.
    It's interesting to note that BMW only offers one viscosity grade of their mineral oil however they emphasize that it is a must that the viscosity match the temperature range in which the vehicle will be operated! On the other hand, the BMW 5W-30 synthetic is proper for year round use.
    My dealership has not received any of the newly labeled oil yet. If anyone wants to try it, look for an "M" on the front label beside the letters BMW as in: (BMW ///M)



    Next info I found was this:GROUP 11 11 08 98 Woodcliff Lake, NJ October 2001
    Engine Service Engineering
    This Service Information bulletin supersedes S.I. 11 08 98 dated June 2000 and replaces S.I.02 12 98 dated June 2000.
    SUBJECT BMW Engine Oils
    MODEL All
    SITUATION Starting with the introduction of the 1999 3 Series (E46), BMW introduced an extended oil
    change interval of approximately 15,000 miles depending on engine operating conditions.
    The engine oil change interval of approximately 15,000 miles has been carried over to all 2001
    BMW models. However, engine oil should be changed at least once a year. This revision
    (annual oil change) is retroactive to earlier model years and is included in the BMW
    Maintenance Plan.
    To coincide with the increased oil change interval, BMW also introduced "BMW High
    Performance Synthetic Oil" SAE 5W-30.
    BMW recommends the use of BMW High Performance Synthetic Oil SAE 5W-30 or Castrol RS
    SAE 10W-60 Synthetic Oil also called Castrol TWS Motorsport SAE 10W-60 Synthetic Oil on
    all models as outlined below whenever a service is necessary to avoid engine damage.
    Synthetic Engine Oil Recommendations
    Model / Engine Production Date Engine Oil
    E39 M5 / S62 Up to 3/2000 Castrol RS SAE 10W-60 Synthetic Oil
    also called Castrol TWS Motorsport SAE
    10W-60 Synthetic Oil
    E39 M5 / S62
    E52 Z8 / S62 From 3/2000 BMW High Performance Synthetic Oil SAE
    5W-30
    Or
    Castrol RS SAE 10W-60 Synthetic Oil also
    called
    Castrol TWS Motorsport SAE 10W-60
    Synthe E46 M3 / S54
    All Castrol RS SAE 10W-60 Synthetic Oil also
    called
    E36 M roadster, Castrol TWS Motorsport SAE 10W-60
    Synthetic M coupe / S54 Oil
    SI BMW Engine Oils BMW AG - TIS 26.01.2003 08:55
    Issue status (01/2002) Valid only until next CD is issued Copyright Page - 1 -
    All other current From 1999 model BMW High Performance Synthetic Oil SAE
    models / engines year - vehicles with 5W-30.
    not listed above. extended oil change
    intervals of approximately
    15,000 miles.
    Synthetic Engine Oil Benefits
    BMW High Performance Synthetic Oil SAE 5W-30 and Castrol RS SAE 10W-60 Synthetic Oil
    also called Castrol TWS Motorsport SAE 10W-60 Synthetic Oil offers several benefits over
    conventional mineral based oils.
    These oils have been durability tested on BMW engines and supply superior lubrication under
    all operating conditions and over the extended BMW oil change intervals.
    -- Superior thermal stability
    The synthetic based oil resists thickening at very low ambient temperatures providing improved
    flow, lubrication and less internal engine resistance during cold starts.
    Under high heat conditions, the oil resists thermal breakdown/shearing which causes a loss of
    lubrication quality with conventional oils.
    Using BMW High Performance Synthetic Oil eliminates the need for seasonal oil changes since
    it covers all ambient temperature ranges.
    -- Superior lubrication throughout the life of the oil
    Compared to conventional engine oils, BMW High Performance Synthetic Oil is better able to
    keep engine combustion contaminants in suspense and is less susceptible to the harmful
    effects of oxidation.
    The oil resists sludge build up thus allowing extended oil change intervals. Synthetic based oils
    also have a lower volatility which makes them less susceptible to evaporation thereby reducing
    oil consumption.
    1999 Model Year and Later Oil Recommendation
    BMW High Performance Synthetic oil must be used on all 1999 and later BMW vehicles which
    have oil change intervals of approximately 15,000 miles (except M5 produced up to 3/00 and
    E46 M3, E36 M roadster and M coupe with S54 engines) as stated in the owners manual. In
    addition, there is a label affixed to the engine cover which states the oil specifications and
    refers to the BMW website (www.bmwusa.com) and toll free number (1-800-831-1117) for
    additional information.
    M5 and Z8 Oil Recommendation
    M5 (S62 engine) produced up to 3/00:
    -- The M5 up to 3/00 production requires a specially formulated synthetic engine oil - Castrol
    Formula RS SAE 10W-60 or Castrol TWS Motorsport SAE 10W-60 and is the only
    approved oil for this engine.
    SI BMW Engine Oils BMW AG - TIS 26.01.2003 08:55
    Issue status (01/2002) Valid only until next CD is issued Copyright Page - 2 -
    -- Castrol Formula RS SAE 10W-60 Synthetic Oil or Castrol TWS Motorsport SAE 10W-60
    Synthetic Oil must be used on M5 models produced up to 3/00 whenever a service is
    necessary to avoid engine damage and is available under BMW part number 07 51 0 009
    420 (1 liter bottle).
    Notes: For logistical reasons Castrol Formula SAE RS 10W-60 Synthetic Oil has been
    renamed and is now called Castrol TWS Motorsport SAE 10W-60 Synthetic Oil. Since the
    formulation has remained the same it is sold under the same BMW part number 07 51 0 009
    420.
    Only if a customer needs to top up oil between oil changes and Castrol Formula RS 10W-60
    Synthetic Oil or Castrol TWS Motorsport SAE 10W-60 Synthetic Oil is not available is it
    permissible to use synthetic engine oils with a lower viscosity which conform to the API
    classification SH or higher.
    However engine oil consumption will increase when Castrol Formula RS 10W-60 Synthetic Oil
    or Castrol TWS Motorsport SAE 10W-60 Synthetic is diluted (topped up with other low viscosity
    synthetic engine oils).
    M5 (S62 engine) produced from 3/00 and all Z8:
    -- The S62 engine incorporates redesigned piston rings from 3/00 which permit the use of
    BMW High Performance Synthetic Engine Oil SAE 5W-30.
    -- The recommended engine oil for all Z8 vehicles and M5 vehicles (produced from 3/00) is
    BMW High Performance Synthetic Engine Oil SAE 5W-30.
    Note: Refer to Service Information bulletin 11 04 00 for S62 engine oil level checking
    procedure.
    E46 M3, M roadster, M coupe with S54 engines - Oil Recommendations
    -- All M models with the S54 engines require the use of Castrol Formula RS SAE 10W-60
    Synthetic Oil or Castrol TWS Motorsport SAE 10W-60 Synthetic Oil and is the only
    approved oil for this engine.
    -- Castrol Formula RS SAE 10W-60 Synthetic Oil or Castrol TWS Motorsport SAE 10W-60
    Synthetic Oil must be used on E46 M3, E36 M roadster and M coupe with S54 engines
    whenever a service is necessary to avoid engine damage and is available under BMW
    part number 07 51 0 009 420 (1 liter bottle).
    Notes: For logistical reasons Castrol Formula SAE RS 10W-60 Synthetic Oil has been
    renamed and is now called Castrol TWS Motorsport SAE 10W-60 Synthetic Oil. Since the
    formulation has remained the same it is sold under the same BMW part number 07 51 0 009
    420.
    Only if a customer needs to top up oil between oil changes and Castrol Formula RS 10W-60
    Synthetic Oil or Castrol TWS Motorsport SAE 10W-60 Synthetic Oil is not available is it
    permissible to use synthetic engine oils with a lower viscosity which conform to the API
    classification SH or higher.
    SI BMW Engine Oils BMW AG - TIS 26.01.2003 08:55
    Issue status (01/2002) Valid only until next CD is issued Copyright Page - 3 -
    However engine oil consumption will increase when Castrol Formula RS 10W-60 Synthetic Oil
    or Castrol TWS Motorsport SAE 10W-60 Synthetic is diluted (topped up with other low viscosity
    synthetic engine oils).
    Note: Refer to Service Information bulletin 11 04 00 for S54 engine oil level checking
    procedure.
    1998 Model Year and Earlier Oil Recommendation
    BMW High Performance Synthetic engine oil may also be used on earlier BMW models.
    BMW High Performance Synthetic engine oil is included and may be claimed on all vehicles
    covered under the BMW Maintenance Plan.
    BMW High Performance Synthetic Oil will replace BMW approved Special Oils.
    The oil change intervals should not be extended due to the greater durability of a fully synthetic
    engine oil. The engine oil and filter should always be changed as per the vehicle's Service
    Indicator when the "Oil Service" or the "Inspection" display appears regardless of the type of oil
    being used.
    BMW mineral based High Performance engine oil is also offered for model year 1998 and
    earlier BMW models. However, for reliable engine performance in all temperature ranges
    mineral based engine oil viscosity must be matched to the temperature range at which the
    vehicle will be operated. See the Temperature - Viscosity chart in the Owners Manual or
    Operating Fluids Manual for further information.
    Engine Oil Additives
    The use of engine oil additives is not recommended and not necessary on BMW

    Now if you got this far and want to go on a unicorn hunt, see if you can find a spec sheet for 10w60 TWS.
    I think it is a high zinc and phosphorus oil that chose to sacrifice your cats versus your engine.
    Last edited by Cobra1956; 02-19-2018 at 02:30 PM. Reason: additional information
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    Not taking away from your research, but the text piece you copied to the forum appears to be someone's narrative, not a BMW Service Bulletin. For my own curiosity, I'd like to see the actual SB which a quick search did not yield.

    I am curious as the original owner of my 04 M3 as well as an owner of a 47K mile ROW S50B32. The oil requirements are quite different, so I'd like to know whats up! I also have a few years in as an oil test engine operator at one of the SAE approved oil testing labs and studied the science to a degree. 10W-60 is some seriously viscous lube. I'd much prefer a 10W-40 be the fill for my S54 as it is in my S50B32.

    The S54B32, actually all of the 'real' M motors, require a high ZDDP oil for wear protection. As I understand it, the solid tappets are the primary need of the high ZDDP, etc).

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    Well the service bulletins are listed there so you should be able to find them. I have the one downloaded in PDF format but am too stupid to figure out how to load it. My goal was to back up my impression that the S54 was speced for a much thinner oil and questioned why a thicker oil would help the vanos. No worries if you think I have not supplied enough. I would recommend to all to change the vanos filter as all of mine were quite dirty and I did not know about that. James Clay recommends a 50 wt and I would be inclined to try the AMSOIL AMO 40 wt as it is a high zinc and phosphorus oil but think I am splitting hairs versus the stuff I currently use. If I recall correctly the info lifted from a thread was actually on this forum but years old. Still looking for a sheet that says what the make up of TWS was.
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    Original site is no longer up but a good read FWIW. Also refers to the oil spec being changed so I am not the only nut out there:

    StoneWalk's S54 Failure History

    M3 Rollout - The early days

    Our story begins before M3's were even available to the public. There was much publicity and anticipation of the "new" e46M3 which would take over the honored title of M3 from it's predecessors the E30M3 and E36M3. In mid 2000 there had been a few press reviews and test drives, lots of photos, and intense speculation from the enthusiast community. BMW was telegraphing a "Fall 2000" roll out under a 2001 model year designation for the new car.

    And then, as late 2000 approached, rumors of delays surfaced. It was all hush hush. No one in authority would comment (this is a recurring theme). But soon it became clear that the M3 would not arrive on time for some reason, and the rumor was that engines were exploding.

    After a few months, some semi-official comments were made that indeed a very few motors had failed in testing, that BMW had caught the problem, stopped production, called off the roll out, and was now locating the root cause and re-starting the process.

    More details emerged. The failed motors had died catastrophic deaths - broken cranks, thrown rods - major metal mayhem. After initially suspecting that the long inline 6 crank was at fault in the 8000 RPM stressed environment, outside experts were brought in, including none other than tuner Nowack, and the seeming real root cause was located: critical parts in the crank+bearing+block area had been mis-manufactured due to a programming error on the CNC machine which created them. This out of tolerance part had resulted in an oil starvation issue which then overheated the crank and led to overall catastrophic failure (is this sounding familiar yet)?

    Because the out of spec parts were already deep inside the stack of motors and M3's being prepared for the roll out, a full halt had to be called on production, and the whole assembly line backed up so that motors could be inspected, removed, parts replaced, and things put right again. This pushed the originally planned ~November 2000 roll out date back 4 months to around March 2001.


    M3's arrive

    March finally came, and enthusiasts went into a frenzy. M3's were glorious, fun, and kinda raspy it turned out. They clunked a little, but still everyone loved them. Life was good.

    And the cars appeared very strong. Some new owners immediately took them to the track, ran them hard, and had not a single problem. Everyone was relieved that the roll out engine health concerns seemed to have been dealt with.

    Production trundled along, though it was mighty slow. After shipping around 500 cars in March for the roll out (333 demos - 1 to each dealer, plus a hundred or more customer cars), the following months saw what appeared to be lower numbers - 200 here, 300 there, barely one per average sized dealer in the US. Word was that capacity was totally limited by BMW's ability to build S54 motors at the Munich plant. Long waiting lines continued for eager enthusiasts looking for delivery.

    Starting around July and August of 2001, about 6 months into the M3 production run, a couple reports from the US, and from foreign owners surfaced of blown engines. Thrown rods was the word. It was just a couple cases, and both BMW, and the enthusiast community looked at them as likely some kind of driver error - previous generation M3's had been famously easy to mis-shift due to strong gearbox synchros, and one could blow an engine by grabbing 3rd gear instead of 5th at 120 MPH and spinning the motor up to 10k or 12k RPM. A few of the failed-car owners protested vehemently that nothing of the sort had happened, but they were generally dismissed. BMW was famous for making very strong engines, and the manufacturing problem from fall 2000 had long since been located and dealt with - at least this was the thinking at the time.

    Of minor interest, in mid 2001, BMW ordered an oil change on the M3 - the 5W30 oil which had been shipping on all cars was ordered changed to a new special BMW-only 10w60. New cars came with the new oil, and 5w30 cars were asked to come in for a free change to 10w60. This seemed to be some kind of reaction to concerns over long term high RPM running ability, and the oil having enough high temperature capacity to hold together on such autobahn blasts.



    Late 2001, SMG arrives

    As the year 2001 progressed, the SMG gearbox was announced for the next model year, to become available in the US in November built cars. Enthusiasts eagerly awaited this new feature. M3's continued to carry huge long waiting lists - stick or SMG - everyone wanted one.

    After some minor fiascos with BMWNA trying to neuter the S6 mode of the SMG gearbox, it arrived on US shores, and at around this same time M3 production gradually ramped up to around 2 to 3 times the rather meager levels which had been accomplished during mid 2001.

    A few folks pointed out that one of the really nice things about the SMG was that it was incapable of a missed shift. Those few folks who'd seen blown engines - they'd have been ok with the SMG, since the computer would refuse to obey any requested gearshift that might run the engine over its 8000 RPM limit.

    In October 2001, around 800 or so M3's came to the US, essentially all stick shifts.

    In November 2001, the SMG option came online, and another 800 to 1000 cars arrived on US shores. Around 80% of them were ordered with the new SMG option, the remaining 20% were sticks.

    In December 2001, production appeared to drop - perhaps due to holiday season time off, though there were a couple rumors of a production stop that were never confirmed. Something like 300 to 500 M3's appeared to come to the US in December 2001.

    At around this time, a couple of running changes were recorded at the factory. On September 24th 2001, the part number for main crank connecting rod bearing shells for the S54 was changed to a new "red" variant. Strangely, on November 14, 2001 the shells were changed again to an older "yellow" part number which had been used early in the M3 production. At about this same time - on November 8th, 2001 service instruction 11 08 01 was issued raising the connecting rod bearing shell tolerance from 0.03 mm to 0.04 mm along with the advisory that if you ever went to change the connecting rods in an S54 you had to change the entire carefully balanced package, you could not swap out just a few of them or re-use a subset of the bolts from the old ones.

    Things were still going pretty good, and as the 2002 calendar year arrived, most everyone was happy with their M3's - a few clunks, rattles and grinding differentials notwithstanding.


    Spring 2002 - Fails ramp up

    With production cranking along nicely, March through April of 2002 found a series of new reports of M3 engine failures. Most were thrown rods. Some appeared to have been driven hard, others didn't show much sign of it.

    BMW's reaction was to aggressively go after the owners of these cars. The engine DME records peak speed, peak RPM, and elapsed time over 7800 RPM. DME's were dumped, and some showed evidence of at least brief operation in the 8100 to 8500 RPM range. As more reports of engine fail hit the Internet ( 3 in March, 5 in April, 10 in May ) BMW began a pattern of regarding any DME data over about 8300 RPM as proof that the driver was at fault, and several stick shift owners were considerably hassled about paying for their $17k new engines.

    There was a lot of back and forth. After various threats about the DME data, it became clear that BMW could not really prove when these "peak RPM" events had happened, and it was also becoming clear that the nature of the engine failures didn't really make sense for a pure overrev scenario.

    Two major flaws in the "mis-shift overrev" theory came to light:

    1. SMG cars were getting failures, and were showing DME data in the 8400 region in a few cases, yet it's impossible for that gearbox to be mis-shifted.

    2. Damage to failed engines was typically isolated to one or two of the rod bearings - numbers 3, 4 and 5 being prevalent, and there almost never evidence of top end valve-train damage on the other cylinders. If the motor was massively overreved, the first thing to go is usually the valves (at around 10k RPM, not 8.4k), followed by the bearings at some higher RPM range. Fried specific bearings without any valve damage looked - _strange_.

    After a lot of agony for what was becoming a couple dozen or more M3 enthusiasts, BMW inched forward to what appeared to be a policy of eventually replacing all the failed motors under warranty, even in cases where BMW wanted to claim driver fault in these 8200 or 8400 RPM readings. BMW also began to show signs of being less accusational towards SMG owners, since they clearly could not have mis-shifted their car, and the rev limiter should prevent throttle induced overrevs.

    BMW didn't seem to see the irony on being hostile towards stick shift owners showing 8300 RPM on their DME, while being kinder to SMG owners with the same set of failed bearings and a similar DME reading of 8300.



    The Summer of Discontent 2002

    Due to the easy communication of the Internet, enthusiasts began gathering together data on failed M3 motors - one in particular set up a very thorough site to collect up and organize the fail data for analysis.

    In June 2002, another dozen failed engine reports surfaced, followed by a similar amount in July. Cars were failing at the rate of about 3 to 4 per week - getting close to one a day, and these were just the reports which happened to reach the Internet.

    Some folks screamed in panic. Some argued for calm. BMW very very clearly said _nothing_. When comments could be extracted from BMW staff at any level, the following were the themes:

    - Fails are really rare and/or people are lying about it on the Internet.
    - All engines which have failed were massively overreved.
    - M3 owners don't know how to break in and maintain their cars - we're lucky BMWNA brought the M3 to the US at all.

    In general, most folks could already see that these statements were factually incorrect. Many enthusiasts personally knew some of the people with failed motors, so it wasn't all lies. Ample documentation of non-overreved blown motors was available - and an intelligent person would assume BMW had access to this data. And M3 owners were well aware that as a group they were obsessive about their cars and hounded their dealers to do proper maintenance.

    As July led to August and September, the patterns in the fail data became more and more clear.

    Failed cars were disproportionally coming from 3 specific build months, and more exactly 7 specific build weeks which happened to come almost exactly on a 3 week delay offset from the bearing shell changes back in late 2001. This became known as the 11/01 era (covering late 10/01, all of 11/01, and early 12/01). Cars made in the 11/01 era were around 20 times more likely to fail than either before or after that time. Massive speculation about the exact failure rate raged on the Internet. Problem being that only BMW had the actual fail stats, and they were not talking. With guesses that perhaps 50 to 70% of all fails got reported onto the net, a general guess is that there is a background M3 bearing failure rate of somewhat less than 1%. And the 11/01 era appears to carry a failure rate more in the 10% range, and is still rising, though at a slowing rate compared to the summer failures.

    More data got cooked, and more things were noticed:

    1. Fails had no correlation to gearbox, it was just a cross section of whatever was being ordered for each production month. October fails were all sticks because that what was shipping. November fails were 80% SMG, same proportion they were ordered in.
    2. Fails looked very much alike. Main rod bearing death, typically on cylinder 3, or perhaps 4 and 5. No signs of valvetrain damage other than that inflicted by the spun bearing.
    3. Data showed no correlation to which oil was used, in fact the cars from the 5W30 era were somewhat more robust that the 10W60 cars.
    4. The DME dumps of SMG cars appeared to prove that the factory rev limiter was not functioning well, at least not in some cars.
    5. Most 11/01 era cars were failing right around 6000 miles
    6. January 02 cars and newer saw a few fails, but not at the rate of 11/01.
    7. There is a hint of early data that cars newer than March 02 may not be seeing much in the way of bearing failures. BMW may have iteratively fixed the problem.
    8. Owners have begun to show that a simple $18.50 oil analysis can detect elevated levels of lead in the engine oil that are markers for imminent bearing failure.

    And as more experiences were exchanged, BMWNA's policy on M3 failures became more and more clear.

    BMWNA's formal stance is that there may be a few failed motors out there, that customers need to use the right oil, shift properly, break their motors in right, warm them up, and that each failure will be examined on a case by case basis. In other words, BMWNA specifically wants to reserve the right to accuse drivers of being at fault.

    This despite massively accumulating evidence that examples of driver-abuse being involved in these fails is vanishingly rare. After what we guess to be several hundred cases of replaced motors, we are not aware of BMWNA ever successfully blaming the failure on the driver. They've attempted it some, insulted a lot of customers, stalled, forced things into litigation in a couple cases, but never once had the customer pay for the replaced motor in the end.

    You can spin that positive. If you own and M3, and the motor fails, you're likely to get a new motor under warranty in the end.

    And you can spin it negative: You may very well go through a very painful and insulting process along the way to having BMW fix a motor which by all logic was flawed when it was delivered to the customer.

    And the sad part here is that BMWNA is not saving a dime with all their accusations and ill will with their customers. Engines are being replaced no matter what.

    The three specific areas of focus right now are the following:

    A. BMWNA continues to examine spun bearing M3s and look for opportunities to blame their customers despite massive evidence that the problem is in the motor, not the customer. This is insulting to their customers, and is not saving any money nor protecting any reputation.

    B. Despite several hundred examples of bearing death, and its associated symptoms, BMWNA field techs are required to examine each and every unhealthy motor before dealers are allowed to perform and service, and these techs in many cases are still leading with the assumption that despite the car having the tell tale noise and being from the famous 11/01 era, failing bearings is not the most likely cause. Their marching orders appear to be to actively try and NOT find failed bearings, and if they do find them to actively look to blame anyone except BMW. This is again pointless, and inefficient. The rational move is to have a quick and easy test ready for the very large number of ongoing bearing fail cases which are cropping up, and to quickly and politely get new motors into those cars

    C. BMWNA is in a communications blackout with their customers on this issue. Customers want to know what's really going on, and believe that BMW knows more than they are saying. Customers would like to see some kind of confidence boosting warranty on the engine bearings to address owner stress and resale value issues, yet BMW is still in a damage-control mode where they won't even discuss the problem let alone take ownership of it. This is doing serious harm to their reputation and the feelings of their most enthusiastic customers, and it doesn't appear to be buying BMWNA anything in return for that suffering. There is obviously a problem with the bearings everyone can see that, and continuing to let the issue fester helps no one.


    StoneWalk's S54 Failure History

    M3 Rollout - The early days

    Our story begins before M3's were even available to the public. There was much publicity and anticipation of the "new" e46M3 which would take over the honored title of M3 from it's predecessors the E30M3 and E36M3. In mid 2000 there had been a few press reviews and test drives, lots of photos, and intense speculation from the enthusiast community. BMW was telegraphing a "Fall 2000" roll out under a 2001 model year designation for the new car.

    And then, as late 2000 approached, rumors of delays surfaced. It was all hush hush. No one in authority would comment (this is a recurring theme). But soon it became clear that the M3 would not arrive on time for some reason, and the rumor was that engines were exploding.

    After a few months, some semi-official comments were made that indeed a very few motors had failed in testing, that BMW had caught the problem, stopped production, called off the roll out, and was now locating the root cause and re-starting the process.

    More details emerged. The failed motors had died catastrophic deaths - broken cranks, thrown rods - major metal mayhem. After initially suspecting that the long inline 6 crank was at fault in the 8000 RPM stressed environment, outside experts were brought in, including none other than tuner Nowack, and the seeming real root cause was located: critical parts in the crank+bearing+block area had been mis-manufactured due to a programming error on the CNC machine which created them. This out of tolerance part had resulted in an oil starvation issue which then overheated the crank and led to overall catastrophic failure (is this sounding familiar yet)?

    Because the out of spec parts were already deep inside the stack of motors and M3's being prepared for the roll out, a full halt had to be called on production, and the whole assembly line backed up so that motors could be inspected, removed, parts replaced, and things put right again. This pushed the originally planned ~November 2000 roll out date back 4 months to around March 2001.


    M3's arrive

    March finally came, and enthusiasts went into a frenzy. M3's were glorious, fun, and kinda raspy it turned out. They clunked a little, but still everyone loved them. Life was good.

    And the cars appeared very strong. Some new owners immediately took them to the track, ran them hard, and had not a single problem. Everyone was relieved that the roll out engine health concerns seemed to have been dealt with.

    Production trundled along, though it was mighty slow. After shipping around 500 cars in March for the roll out (333 demos - 1 to each dealer, plus a hundred or more customer cars), the following months saw what appeared to be lower numbers - 200 here, 300 there, barely one per average sized dealer in the US. Word was that capacity was totally limited by BMW's ability to build S54 motors at the Munich plant. Long waiting lines continued for eager enthusiasts looking for delivery.

    Starting around July and August of 2001, about 6 months into the M3 production run, a couple reports from the US, and from foreign owners surfaced of blown engines. Thrown rods was the word. It was just a couple cases, and both BMW, and the enthusiast community looked at them as likely some kind of driver error - previous generation M3's had been famously easy to mis-shift due to strong gearbox synchros, and one could blow an engine by grabbing 3rd gear instead of 5th at 120 MPH and spinning the motor up to 10k or 12k RPM. A few of the failed-car owners protested vehemently that nothing of the sort had happened, but they were generally dismissed. BMW was famous for making very strong engines, and the manufacturing problem from fall 2000 had long since been located and dealt with - at least this was the thinking at the time.

    Of minor interest, in mid 2001, BMW ordered an oil change on the M3 - the 5W30 oil which had been shipping on all cars was ordered changed to a new special BMW-only 10w60. New cars came with the new oil, and 5w30 cars were asked to come in for a free change to 10w60. This seemed to be some kind of reaction to concerns over long term high RPM running ability, and the oil having enough high temperature capacity to hold together on such autobahn blasts.



    Late 2001, SMG arrives

    As the year 2001 progressed, the SMG gearbox was announced for the next model year, to become available in the US in November built cars. Enthusiasts eagerly awaited this new feature. M3's continued to carry huge long waiting lists - stick or SMG - everyone wanted one.

    After some minor fiascos with BMWNA trying to neuter the S6 mode of the SMG gearbox, it arrived on US shores, and at around this same time M3 production gradually ramped up to around 2 to 3 times the rather meager levels which had been accomplished during mid 2001.

    A few folks pointed out that one of the really nice things about the SMG was that it was incapable of a missed shift. Those few folks who'd seen blown engines - they'd have been ok with the SMG, since the computer would refuse to obey any requested gearshift that might run the engine over its 8000 RPM limit.

    In October 2001, around 800 or so M3's came to the US, essentially all stick shifts.

    In November 2001, the SMG option came online, and another 800 to 1000 cars arrived on US shores. Around 80% of them were ordered with the new SMG option, the remaining 20% were sticks.

    In December 2001, production appeared to drop - perhaps due to holiday season time off, though there were a couple rumors of a production stop that were never confirmed. Something like 300 to 500 M3's appeared to come to the US in December 2001.

    At around this time, a couple of running changes were recorded at the factory. On September 24th 2001, the part number for main crank connecting rod bearing shells for the S54 was changed to a new "red" variant. Strangely, on November 14, 2001 the shells were changed again to an older "yellow" part number which had been used early in the M3 production. At about this same time - on November 8th, 2001 service instruction 11 08 01 was issued raising the connecting rod bearing shell tolerance from 0.03 mm to 0.04 mm along with the advisory that if you ever went to change the connecting rods in an S54 you had to change the entire carefully balanced package, you could not swap out just a few of them or re-use a subset of the bolts from the old ones.

    Things were still going pretty good, and as the 2002 calendar year arrived, most everyone was happy with their M3's - a few clunks, rattles and grinding differentials notwithstanding.


    Spring 2002 - Fails ramp up

    With production cranking along nicely, March through April of 2002 found a series of new reports of M3 engine failures. Most were thrown rods. Some appeared to have been driven hard, others didn't show much sign of it.

    BMW's reaction was to aggressively go after the owners of these cars. The engine DME records peak speed, peak RPM, and elapsed time over 7800 RPM. DME's were dumped, and some showed evidence of at least brief operation in the 8100 to 8500 RPM range. As more reports of engine fail hit the Internet ( 3 in March, 5 in April, 10 in May ) BMW began a pattern of regarding any DME data over about 8300 RPM as proof that the driver was at fault, and several stick shift owners were considerably hassled about paying for their $17k new engines.

    There was a lot of back and forth. After various threats about the DME data, it became clear that BMW could not really prove when these "peak RPM" events had happened, and it was also becoming clear that the nature of the engine failures didn't really make sense for a pure overrev scenario.

    Two major flaws in the "mis-shift overrev" theory came to light:

    1. SMG cars were getting failures, and were showing DME data in the 8400 region in a few cases, yet it's impossible for that gearbox to be mis-shifted.

    2. Damage to failed engines was typically isolated to one or two of the rod bearings - numbers 3, 4 and 5 being prevalent, and there almost never evidence of top end valve-train damage on the other cylinders. If the motor was massively overreved, the first thing to go is usually the valves (at around 10k RPM, not 8.4k), followed by the bearings at some higher RPM range. Fried specific bearings without any valve damage looked - _strange_.

    After a lot of agony for what was becoming a couple dozen or more M3 enthusiasts, BMW inched forward to what appeared to be a policy of eventually replacing all the failed motors under warranty, even in cases where BMW wanted to claim driver fault in these 8200 or 8400 RPM readings. BMW also began to show signs of being less accusational towards SMG owners, since they clearly could not have mis-shifted their car, and the rev limiter should prevent throttle induced overrevs.

    BMW didn't seem to see the irony on being hostile towards stick shift owners showing 8300 RPM on their DME, while being kinder to SMG owners with the same set of failed bearings and a similar DME reading of 8300.



    The Summer of Discontent 2002

    Due to the easy communication of the Internet, enthusiasts began gathering together data on failed M3 motors - one in particular set up a very thorough site to collect up and organize the fail data for analysis.

    In June 2002, another dozen failed engine reports surfaced, followed by a similar amount in July. Cars were failing at the rate of about 3 to 4 per week - getting close to one a day, and these were just the reports which happened to reach the Internet.

    Some folks screamed in panic. Some argued for calm. BMW very very clearly said _nothing_. When comments could be extracted from BMW staff at any level, the following were the themes:

    - Fails are really rare and/or people are lying about it on the Internet.
    - All engines which have failed were massively overreved.
    - M3 owners don't know how to break in and maintain their cars - we're lucky BMWNA brought the M3 to the US at all.

    In general, most folks could already see that these statements were factually incorrect. Many enthusiasts personally knew some of the people with failed motors, so it wasn't all lies. Ample documentation of non-overreved blown motors was available - and an intelligent person would assume BMW had access to this data. And M3 owners were well aware that as a group they were obsessive about their cars and hounded their dealers to do proper maintenance.

    As July led to August and September, the patterns in the fail data became more and more clear.

    Failed cars were disproportionally coming from 3 specific build months, and more exactly 7 specific build weeks which happened to come almost exactly on a 3 week delay offset from the bearing shell changes back in late 2001. This became known as the 11/01 era (covering late 10/01, all of 11/01, and early 12/01). Cars made in the 11/01 era were around 20 times more likely to fail than either before or after that time. Massive speculation about the exact failure rate raged on the Internet. Problem being that only BMW had the actual fail stats, and they were not talking. With guesses that perhaps 50 to 70% of all fails got reported onto the net, a general guess is that there is a background M3 bearing failure rate of somewhat less than 1%. And the 11/01 era appears to carry a failure rate more in the 10% range, and is still rising, though at a slowing rate compared to the summer failures.

    More data got cooked, and more things were noticed:

    1. Fails had no correlation to gearbox, it was just a cross section of whatever was being ordered for each production month. October fails were all sticks because that what was shipping. November fails were 80% SMG, same proportion they were ordered in.
    2. Fails looked very much alike. Main rod bearing death, typically on cylinder 3, or perhaps 4 and 5. No signs of valvetrain damage other than that inflicted by the spun bearing.
    3. Data showed no correlation to which oil was used, in fact the cars from the 5W30 era were somewhat more robust that the 10W60 cars.
    4. The DME dumps of SMG cars appeared to prove that the factory rev limiter was not functioning well, at least not in some cars.
    5. Most 11/01 era cars were failing right around 6000 miles
    6. January 02 cars and newer saw a few fails, but not at the rate of 11/01.
    7. There is a hint of early data that cars newer than March 02 may not be seeing much in the way of bearing failures. BMW may have iteratively fixed the problem.
    8. Owners have begun to show that a simple $18.50 oil analysis can detect elevated levels of lead in the engine oil that are markers for imminent bearing failure.

    And as more experiences were exchanged, BMWNA's policy on M3 failures became more and more clear.

    BMWNA's formal stance is that there may be a few failed motors out there, that customers need to use the right oil, shift properly, break their motors in right, warm them up, and that each failure will be examined on a case by case basis. In other words, BMWNA specifically wants to reserve the right to accuse drivers of being at fault.

    This despite massively accumulating evidence that examples of driver-abuse being involved in these fails is vanishingly rare. After what we guess to be several hundred cases of replaced motors, we are not aware of BMWNA ever successfully blaming the failure on the driver. They've attempted it some, insulted a lot of customers, stalled, forced things into litigation in a couple cases, but never once had the customer pay for the replaced motor in the end.

    You can spin that positive. If you own and M3, and the motor fails, you're likely to get a new motor under warranty in the end.

    And you can spin it negative: You may very well go through a very painful and insulting process along the way to having BMW fix a motor which by all logic was flawed when it was delivered to the customer.

    And the sad part here is that BMWNA is not saving a dime with all their accusations and ill will with their customers. Engines are being replaced no matter what.

    The three specific areas of focus right now are the following:

    A. BMWNA continues to examine spun bearing M3s and look for opportunities to blame their customers despite massive evidence that the problem is in the motor, not the customer. This is insulting to their customers, and is not saving any money nor protecting any reputation.

    B. Despite several hundred examples of bearing death, and its associated symptoms, BMWNA field techs are required to examine each and every unhealthy motor before dealers are allowed to perform and service, and these techs in many cases are still leading with the assumption that despite the car having the tell tale noise and being from the famous 11/01 era, failing bearings is not the most likely cause. Their marching orders appear to be to actively try and NOT find failed bearings, and if they do find them to actively look to blame anyone except BMW. This is again pointless, and inefficient. The rational move is to have a quick and easy test ready for the very large number of ongoing bearing fail cases which are cropping up, and to quickly and politely get new motors into those cars

    C. BMWNA is in a communications blackout with their customers on this issue. Customers want to know what's really going on, and believe that BMW knows more than they are saying. Customers would like to see some kind of confidence boosting warranty on the engine bearings to address owner stress and resale value issues, yet BMW is still in a damage-control mode where they won't even discuss the problem let alone take ownership of it. This is doing serious harm to their reputation and the feelings of their most enthusiastic customers, and it doesn't appear to be buying BMWNA anything in return for that suffering. There is obviously a problem with the bearings everyone can see that, and continuing to let the issue fester helps no one.
    ME:"I want to make my car faster and lighter"
    THEM:" Get out and let someone else drive"

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