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Thread: Oil starvation damage to camshaft

  1. #1
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    2014 F30 Proving Oil Starvation Damage to Camshaft

    Had my 2014 328xi (F30) serviced for an oil change by a national chain. The car had no major repair history, 45k miles on it. It worked fine when I dropped it off. When the car was returned to me, the engine stalled when throttle was pressed. Had it towed to dealer service center, they found metal shavings in oil, oil level was low by 2.5 quarts, intake cam was 180 degrees out of TDC and had seized in the bearing ledges, with scars and pits in the journals inside the head. Timing chain was loose. Oil pump screen was clear, no oil leaking or blown back.

    Fault codes: 131401, 120408, 1C0102, 135808, 135B11.

    The engine needs to be replaced. The techs at the dealer's service center think that the people who changed the oil must have started the car with no oil in it and then tried to cover up their mistake by filling it halfway. They won't submit the repair for coverage under warranty.

    The folks who changed my oil inspected the engine and saw that some of the cam caps and journals had more wear/damage than others. They say this means the damage could not have been caused by oil starvation, because oil starvation would have caused uniform damage to all the cam caps and journals. They think the loose timing chain was the culprit, and they are denying any liability.

    Is it true that oil starvation would necessarily have to cause uniform damage to all the camshaft journals? If not, what can I say to convince them that they're wrong?

    Any help is greatly appreciated!
    Last edited by jthang; 01-30-2019 at 01:37 PM.

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    Being started without oil wouldn't necessarily cause uniform damage. If things were fine when you dropped off the car, then I would agree with the dealer's diagnosis that they started the engine without oil in it.
    Quote Originally Posted by B4SH View Post
    If anyone knows, it's this guy who knows literally nothing about everything.
    Quote Originally Posted by fcvapor05 View Post
    Do you even OT? The mean 401k around here is probably about $6, what with all the shiny cars and $1,000 watches and donations to get other members' Volvos running.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Critter7r View Post
    Being started without oil wouldn't necessarily cause uniform damage. If things were fine when you dropped off the car, then I would agree with the dealer's diagnosis that they started the engine without oil in it.
    Thank you very much for your reply. What might account for non-uniform damage among the camshaft journals? Could it have been distribution of residual oil? I'd like to be able to explain why the damage wasn't uniform.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jthang View Post
    Thank you very much for your reply. What might account for non-uniform damage among the camshaft journals? Could it have been distribution of residual oil? I'd like to be able to explain why the damage wasn't uniform.
    I don't see why they think that the damage would have to be uniform. Assuming it was only started for a few seconds until the tech noticed that there was noise and then realized he hadn't put oil in it yet ("Oh shit!! Shut it off!!"), then the residual oil in some of the galleys could have kept them from all being damaged.
    Quote Originally Posted by B4SH View Post
    If anyone knows, it's this guy who knows literally nothing about everything.
    Quote Originally Posted by fcvapor05 View Post
    Do you even OT? The mean 401k around here is probably about $6, what with all the shiny cars and $1,000 watches and donations to get other members' Volvos running.


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    Quote Originally Posted by jthang View Post
    It worked fine when I dropped it off. When the car was returned to me, the engine stalled when throttle was pressed.
    Can you give more details about what happened? How did they return the car to you, drop it off at your house or it was parked at their lot? You turned the key for ignition, any noise? How do they explain having 2.5 quarts less than should be in the car immediately after they do an oil change? Where did the oil go? Negligence number one right there. Someone heard all hell breaking loose when they ran the engine! Who? An automobile engine does not quietly self destruct.
    The oil service station has insurance to cover staff errors. That's precisely why they have insurance.
    Uniform damage under catastrophic conditions? You gotta be kidding.
    Last edited by ship4u; 02-01-2019 at 03:46 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ship4u View Post
    Can you give more details about what happened? How did they return the car to you, drop it off at your house or it was parked at their lot? You turned the key for ignition, any noise? How do they explain having 2.5 quarts less than should be in the car immediately after they do an oil change? Where did the oil go? Negligence number one right there. Someone heard all hell breaking loose when they ran the engine! Who? An automobile engine does not quietly self destruct.
    The oil service station has insurance to cover staff errors. That's precisely why they have insurance.
    Uniform damage under catastrophic conditions? You gotta be kidding.
    I waited an hour and a half at the service center for them to complete the job. They gave me the keys and told me it had been driving "a little rough" when I brought it in. (Odd, I hadn't noticed any problems.) I started the engine, but it shut off when I pressed the accelerator. The engine sounded awful. I complained to the manager, who drove it around, revved it for a while, and said he thought it was a fuel problem and he couldn't help me. I had it towed to the repair shop.
    Their insurance company is the one who sent an inspector to verify the damage was caused by oil starvation! No doubt, the inspector was being paid to find an excuse not to pay. Now I have to convince the inspector that he's wrong so that the insurance company will pay. Any advice?

    By the way, I noticed in the N20 oil flow schematic that there is an oil spray bar leading from the third cam cap--could this account for lower oil pressure in the third cam cap, and thus more damage to the third cam cap bearings than the others under low oil conditions? Also, am I correct that oil enters the camshaft area from the direction of the timing chain, and so the first and second cam caps receive oil before the third and fourth?

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    Quote Originally Posted by jthang View Post
    I waited an hour and a half at the service center for them to complete the job. They gave me the keys and told me it had been driving "a little rough" when I brought it in. (Odd, I hadn't noticed any problems.) I started the engine, but it shut off when I pressed the accelerator. The engine sounded awful. I complained to the manager, who drove it around, revved it for a while, and said he thought it was a fuel problem and he couldn't help me. I had it towed to the repair shop.
    Their insurance company is the one who sent an inspector to verify the damage was caused by oil starvation! No doubt, the inspector was being paid to find an excuse not to pay. Now I have to convince the inspector that he's wrong so that the insurance company will pay. Any advice?

    By the way, I noticed in the N20 oil flow schematic that there is an oil spray bar leading from the third cam cap--could this account for lower oil pressure in the third cam cap, and thus more damage to the third cam cap bearings than the others under low oil conditions? Also, am I correct that oil enters the camshaft area from the direction of the timing chain, and so the first and second cam caps receive oil before the third and fourth?
    The first thing I would do is to request that your repair shop give you a written report detailing everything they saw and did in dismantling the top end of your engine and examining the damage. How exactly did the timing chain guide appear and get a photograph of it. Have the repair shop write a report that the damage was not caused by a timing chain failure
    .
    Second, as you are now doing, document and photograph how the oil flows into the camshaft area. The oil flow is not uniformly sprayed into that area. You must show the inspector that you fully understand how the damage likely happened.

    Third, you must insist without a doubt that there was no "rough" running or noise prior to handing it over for the oil service.

    Fourth, damage had clearly been done while the car was in for oil service since the engine would not run properly immediately when you turned the key. You never left the parking lot! "Fuel problems" do not cause the sound that you heard from the engine.

    Fifth, how do they explain doing an oil service and not filling the engine to its proper level?

    Armed with your research, you must present this to the insurance inspector that without any doubt, the oil service is at fault. If they still do not budge, you will need to let them know that you will be forced to take legal action unless they work with you. If they believe that your case is strong and that you are serious, they will pay to avoid a lawsuit. They will not want this incident to hit the news and reflect incompetence on the part of their company.

    Best of luck and keep me informed as to your progress!
    Last edited by ship4u; 02-03-2019 at 06:14 PM.

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    I suggest that you also post the details on the "Bimmerfest" Forum at the General BMW section and also the F30 section. It will get more exposure there.

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    Thank you for the very helpful information. I will try to get more help from the repair shop in the form of a written report. The diagnostic they gave me is not very detailed.

    Quick question about the timing chain: They observed slack in the timing chain. I'm compiling reasons for this that could be caused by oil starvation:
    1. seizure of the camshaft in the journals stretched the chain.
    2. the chain tensioner relies on hydraulic pressure (Is this true of an N26 engine?)
    Anything else? I was told that the timing chain guide was pushed out of position. Here is a picture. Could this change in position cause slack in the chain?
    Capture.JPG

  10. #10
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    The timing chain tensioner runs on engine oil pressure, so slack in the timing chain of an engine at rest is normal.
    Quote Originally Posted by B4SH View Post
    If anyone knows, it's this guy who knows literally nothing about everything.
    Quote Originally Posted by fcvapor05 View Post
    Do you even OT? The mean 401k around here is probably about $6, what with all the shiny cars and $1,000 watches and donations to get other members' Volvos running.


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    Quote Originally Posted by jthang View Post
    Thank you for the very helpful information. I will try to get more help from the repair shop in the form of a written report. The diagnostic they gave me is not very detailed.

    Quick question about the timing chain: They observed slack in the timing chain. I'm compiling reasons for this that could be caused by oil starvation:
    1. seizure of the camshaft in the journals stretched the chain.
    2. the chain tensioner relies on hydraulic pressure (Is this true of an N26 engine?)
    Anything else? I was told that the timing chain guide was pushed out of position. Here is a picture. Could this change in position cause slack in the chain?
    Capture.JPG
    Hello, jthang,
    The reason that you need timing chain guide information, is to decisively determine if your engine destruction was caused by a faulty timing chain guide or not. The 2014 N20 and N26 engines were given an extended warranty in 2017 for 7 years/70,000 miles due to the determination by BMW that the plastic guide could be faulty. My understanding is that the red color timing chain guide comes apart on its own causing destruction of the engine. In 2015, the guide was upgraded to one that is recognizable by its white color. My understanding is that you can clearly hear the timing chain rubbing (it sounds similar to when you change gears on a bicycle) long before the chain actually fails. So, I doubt that this is an issue in your case, but you need to rule it out in order to pursue causal blame to the oil service people.

    Regarding "slack" as determined by your repair shop after the catastrophic engine failure, this is to be expected. The friction produced by a lack of oil will damage the timing chain and its connecting parts.

    FYI- The N26 and the N20 engines are almost identical:
    "The BMW N26 is a turbocharged straight-4 petrol engine which was produced for SULEV vehicles from 2012-2016. The N26 is based on the BMW N20, with the following changes: metal fuel lines (instead of rubber), a valve in the fuel tank venting system to test the fuel system for leaks, an electronic wastegate and larger catalytic converters."

    The photo of your engine shows the camshaft adjustment unit missing on the right side. I wouldn't call that "slack", I'd call it bloody chain dangle!
    Last edited by ship4u; 02-04-2019 at 03:45 PM.

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    How did the oil service people explain how they did not fill the oil in your engine to its proper level? Have they addressed that negligence on their part?
    Last edited by ship4u; 02-04-2019 at 03:43 PM.

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    Nobody has suggested that the guide was faulty, but could this be ascertained solely from a visual inspection? Before removing the valve cover (and, yes, the intake cam unit), the chain was loose enough to advance with just the fingertip, which apparently is more slack than normal. (The picture I posted was after the top was removed, obviously.) I will ask the repair shop if they saw anything wrong with the guide.

    Glad to hear that friction from lack of oil can loosen the chain. I had heard that going too long without changing the oil can cause the timing chain to stretch out, though over a longer period of time. I suppose that is the same principle--friction.

    I heard the oil service people mention that even if the oil was only 2.5 quarts (half) full, it would not have caused the observed degree of wear on the journals in such a short period of time. They might also try to say that even if they didn't put enough oil in, the car had a preexisting problem and I would have had to replace the engine anyway.

    Do the diagnostic codes shed any light on whether the car was started with 2.5 quarts or with no oil at all? They guys at the repair shop seemed to think that the diagnostic codes showed that the car was started with no oil, and then someone must have noticed the problem and added 2.5 quarts (though why they didn't add the full 5 is beyond me).

    BTW, thank you again for your help! This has been very upsetting.

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    How many miles are on the odometer and is the mechanic in the repair shop where your car is now BMW certified?

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    Quote Originally Posted by jthang View Post
    I will ask the repair shop if they saw anything wrong with the guide.

    I heard the oil service people mention that even if the oil was only 2.5 quarts (half) full, it would not have caused the observed degree of wear on the journals in such a short period of time. They might also try to say that even if they didn't put enough oil in, the car had a preexisting problem and I would have had to replace the engine anyway.
    First, the timing chain guide issue on the N20 and N26 is a very specific issue - see here:
    https://bmwtechnician.com/2016/08/07...g-chain-issue/
    As you can see, the timing chain guide comes apart on its own. IMHO, this specific fault is the only thing that could cause the damage to your engine other than the engine being oil starved.
    Second, running an engine half full of oil for a short time would not cause the damage experienced on your engine. However, filling the engine only half way is clear evidence of incompetence. Your engine does not have a mechanical dipstick to check the level of oil. The oil level is checked by a sensor in the engine. Let's suppose the engine was started without any oil and the person hears grinding noise, turns the engine off. He adds oil, but can't check the level with a dipstick. This issue is curious and important, IMHO.

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    46,000 miles. I don't know if he is BMW certified. The repair shop is attached to the dealership, so I would hope so. I will ask about the timing chain guide.

    If no oil at all, how long would it have to run to cause fingernail deep scoring on cam journals?

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    Quote Originally Posted by jthang View Post
    46,000 miles. I don't know if he is BMW certified. The repair shop is attached to the dealership, so I would hope so. I will ask about the timing chain guide.

    If no oil at all, how long would it have to run to cause fingernail deep scoring on cam journals?
    46,000 miles is very good news. If your damage was caused by the timing chain guide, you would be covered under the BMW extended warranty for that issue.
    The repair shop attached to the dealership is certainly certified, so you are with knowledgeable people. That's good also. They should be able to provide you with a thorough report of their findings.
    If no oil at all, there would be immediate catastrophic damage to the engine, no question about that. There is a sensor in the engine that detects low oil level and puts the car in limp mode to protect it. That function would not have a chance to operate when starting the engine with no oil.
    If an engine is running at 2,000 rpm (revolutions per minute), the camshaft is opening and closing the valves 1,000 times a minute, or 16 times every second. It must be lubricated at all times to prevent damage.
    Last edited by ship4u; 02-05-2019 at 11:33 AM.

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    jthang, it is unconscionable, even criminal, for the oil service shop to deny culpability in this case if it was not caused by the known timing chain guide. There is no other "preexisting condition" possible to do such damage, in my opinion.

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    You know, the ecu stores data with detail as to when exactly these events happened. The dealer scanning software pulls that automatically.
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    Also of note is that the extended warranty for the timing chain extends to the oil pump chain drive module.

    And the problem addressed by the extended warranty is one of chain elongation, not a materials issue with the tensioning guide.

    Unless the dealership is incompetent, they should have mentioned that the engine has the 7/70 timing chain/oil pump drive module warranty extension. The 2014 F30 N20 and N26 sit in the middle of the stated problematic production range in the SIB.

    Upon further review, I think it's entirely possible that the oil pump drive chain failed and caused this damage.
    Quote Originally Posted by B4SH View Post
    If anyone knows, it's this guy who knows literally nothing about everything.
    Quote Originally Posted by fcvapor05 View Post
    Do you even OT? The mean 401k around here is probably about $6, what with all the shiny cars and $1,000 watches and donations to get other members' Volvos running.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Critter7r View Post
    Also of note is that the extended warranty for the timing chain extends to the oil pump chain drive module.

    And the problem addressed by the extended warranty is one of chain elongation, not a materials issue with the tensioning guide.

    Unless the dealership is incompetent, they should have mentioned that the engine has the 7/70 timing chain/oil pump drive module warranty extension. The 2014 F30 N20 and N26 sit in the middle of the stated problematic production range in the SIB.

    Upon further review, I think it's entirely possible that the oil pump drive chain failed and caused this damage.
    How would you diagnose which came first, as between the timing chain failure or the lack of oil pressure?

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    Quote Originally Posted by jthang View Post
    How would you diagnose which came first, as between the timing chain failure or the lack of oil pressure?
    jthang, that is not the question. The question is, "Did the timing chain fail and is it covered under the BMW extended warranty?"
    The next question is why didn't the BMW service people pursue the timing chain and oil pump drive chain issues for your car?

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    Quote Originally Posted by ship4u View Post
    jthang, that is not the question. The question is, "Did the timing chain fail and is it covered under the BMW extended warranty?"
    The next question is why didn't the BMW service people pursue the timing chain and oil pump drive chain issues for your car?
    I think it is clear that the timing chain was looser than it was supposed to be when they inspected it (before taking off the valve cover and examining the camshaft). But I was under the impression that if the timing chain failed because of a negligent oil change, then it wouldn't be covered by warranty. The repair techs told me they wouldn't submit a warranty claim because of the evidence of a negligent oil change. I'll follow up with them about whether the problem may have started with the timing chain.

    I never noticed any strange noises from the engine before I took it in for the oil change. Wouldn't there be a rattle, or whining noise, if the chain was stretched out?

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    Quote Originally Posted by jthang View Post
    I think it is clear that the timing chain was looser than it was supposed to be when they inspected it (before taking off the valve cover and examining the camshaft). But I was under the impression that if the timing chain failed because of a negligent oil change, then it wouldn't be covered by warranty. The repair techs told me they wouldn't submit a warranty claim because of the evidence of a negligent oil change. I'll follow up with them about whether the problem may have started with the timing chain.

    I never noticed any strange noises from the engine before I took it in for the oil change. Wouldn't there be a rattle, or whining noise, if the chain was stretched out?
    If the BMW service manager feels that there is such strong "evidence of a negligent oil change" then the onus is on him to convincingly make your case in writing so that you are covered by the oil service facility. Plain and simple. What makes him so sure that it is not a timing chain issue that BMW has acknowledged to be present in your model year of N26 engine? Maybe you need to call in a second opinion.

    There is the possibility that it was simply a coincidence that the timing chain issue manifested itself at that particular time. That is why I am puzzled by the engine being only half full of oil. How did that happen? Has the oil service facility acknowledged the error?

    To my understanding, there is a noticeable noise prior to a timing chain failure, as you said, a whining or rattling of the chain.

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    It's not unheard of for the oil pump drive chain to break. You won't know for sure if that happened until the oil pan is removed.

    It's also not unheard of for customers to not notice the timing chain whining noise. In the absence of conclusive evidence of negligence on the part of the oil change shop (there is no conclusive evidence), the dealer should pursue the timing chain extended warranty route.
    Quote Originally Posted by B4SH View Post
    If anyone knows, it's this guy who knows literally nothing about everything.
    Quote Originally Posted by fcvapor05 View Post
    Do you even OT? The mean 401k around here is probably about $6, what with all the shiny cars and $1,000 watches and donations to get other members' Volvos running.


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