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  1. #1
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    oil separator problem

    Haven't posted for quite some time, but just had a "near miss" trashing my engine due to the oil separator problem and want to relay the info for the benefit of E46 owners living in cold climates who may not be aware of the oil separator problem or who (like me) think it won't happen to your engine. I sent the info of my incident in to Mike Miller at Roundel and his reply is worth posting. I have pasted below my letter to Mike and his response for the info of all on this board:

    Hi Mike,

    I have a 2000 328i with 109,000 miles on it. I'm writing to encourage any of your readers with a '99 - '04 E46 to service the oil vapor separator if they live in a cold climate and have not had the cold climate oil vapor separator backfitted. I never checked mine, partly because it is so difficult to get at, but mostly because I believed my car to be at low risk of the oil vapor separator plugging due to a long daily commute allowing the engine to warm thoroughly and 5k mile oil changes using BMW/Red Line/Amsoil synthetic oils. Sad story follows.

    I started off to work in my 328i which had been sitting over the weekend in well below freezing temperatures. After about 2 miles I got a brief whif of burned oil, unusual for this car because it does not use oil between changes. Two miles later, while in 5th gear at about 1500 rpm, the engine suddenly lost power and I noticed a huge plume of smoke was trailing behind me. Luckily my reaction was to immediately push in the clutch, allowing the engine to stop as I coasted to the side of the road. I suspected the oil vapor separator had frozen/plugged, sucking oil through the engine, so I did not attempt to restart the engine, but had it flatbedded to my independent mechanic. He confirmed my suspicion that the oil vapor separator had sucked a lot of oil into the intake manifold and into the engine. Oil was actually dripping from the exhaust tips when the car was loaded onto the flatbed and I assumed I had trashed the engine. A compression and cylinder leakdown test indicated no permanent damage had been done to the engine - very fortunate for me. My mechanic removed the entire intake system and cleaned out the oil from every place accessible. He estimated close to 4 quarts of oil were sucked into the engine. New spark plugs were installed and the engine started and smoked profusely while burning off the residual oil in the exhaust system for the first 15 minutes (now you can blame me for global warming).

    It has now been more than 1,000 miles since the incident and the engine seems to be running normally. I have not received a check engine light, so I assume the O2 sensors survived the mess. One question - is there anything I should be on the lookout for, such as a plugged catalytic converter? Thanks for all the valuable advice you provide Mike, it is appreciated.


    Mikes reply:

    Actually, the saddest stories of M54 oil separator failure end with a blown engine, secondary to hydrolocking with oil, secondary to oil separator failure. It is quite rare but it does happen, especially in cold climates. Your story is quite common. On the bright side, I haven't heard of any catalytic converter failures following oil separator failure -- they smoke like crazy when you start the engine after the repair, but that goes away and so does the smell.

    BMW has a completely revised most of the oil separator parts and every car needs the whole system. But, true to form, BMW didn't tell owners about it and did not issue a service action or provide a secret warranty. The oil separator update with cold weather modification, cleaning out the hole for the dipstick tube, the new dipstick tube, and all the associated hoses (which are always soft and mushy) costs about $450 to $600 depending on where you are and who is doing the work. Every M54 needs it, but it is REALLY important if you live in a cold climate. What happens is that ice forms in the sludge inside the system and completely blocks it, and that's when you get what happened to your car. You're very lucky it didn't hydrolock.

    I try my best to print letters like yours once in a while but without a web site presence I am very limited in what I can do to spread the word about the M54 oil separator menace. It was a stupid design and it's a stupid way to loose an engine.

    The updated parts and cold weather modification are detailed in BMW Service Information Bulletin 11 08 03.

    Best regards,

    Mike Miller
    BMW CCA Roundel Magazine Technical Editor
    [email protected]
    [email protected]



    Lesson learned: if you live in a cold climate and have not had the "cold weather" oil separator backfitted to your E46, have it done as it is cheaper than repairing your engine if it should freeze and plug during cold weather.

  2. #2
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    Excellent telling of important information

    Even down to the service bulletin number.
    Thanks

  3. #3
    jayb
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    SIB 11 08 03

    See below--

    heizervr6
    So the wife's X5 exploded oil the other day after having spent a cold night outside. :thumbsdow

    Has anyone here in Calgary had this problem fixed under a goodwill gesture by BMW? If not, how much $$$ can we expect to pay? If there is no chance they'll cover it I'll consider doing it myself but I'm not sure I can get it back to the house without having it towed.

    Here's a copy of the SIB:

    SI B11 08 03
    Engine
    February 2005
    Technical Service

    This Service Information bulletin supersedes S.I. B11 08 03 dated December 2003.

    [NEW] designates changes to this revision

    SUBJECT
    Oil Separator - Cold Climate Conditions

    MODEL
    E39 5 Series, E46 3 Series, and E53 X5 with the M54 Engine

    [NEW] SITUATION

    Certain areas of the US experience extremely cold climate conditions during the winter months A small number of vehicles in the above series listed have experienced problems ranging from leaking or broken valve covers to complete engine failure.

    [NEW] Cause

    Moisture accumulating in the engine oil separator, hose to oil dipstick guide tube or the orifice in the dipstick guide tube can freeze. When this occurs, depending on the position of the internal valve, this may either cause high crankcase pressures (stuck closed) resulting in valve cover leakage/breakage or cause an oil hydro-lock condition (stuck open) which could result in engine damage.

    [NEW] CORRECTION

    In case of a customer complaint, replace the crankcase vent valve, crankcase vent hose and remove and clean the oil dipstick guide tube orifice.

    [NEW] PROCEDURE

    Repair/replace all affected components. Access to the oil separator is best achieved by removal of the intake manifold. Refer to Repair Instruction 11 61 050 for details.

    1. Replace the oil separator and hoses (1) with the new insulated style (2).

    2. The oil separator repair kit fits all the affected models. One additional hose needs to be ordered:

    ^ (1) E39/E46 PN 11 15 7 532 629

    ^ (2) 53 PN 11 15 7 532 628

    3. Obtain a thin piece of metal measuring approximately:

    ^ = 2.50 mm

    ^ = 0.8mm

    ^ Length = 30 cm

    Using a wiper blade metal reinforcement will be sufficient.

    4. Remove the oil dipstick guide tube and clean the upper crankcase vent tube orifice using the metal device (1).

    Note: The guide tube orifice can be restricted by a build-up of oil, water and ice. Using a brake cleaner solvent will aid in the process.

    5. The lower end of the dipstick tube has a double-wall. The outer orifice needs to be cleaned using the metal device (1) as noted above and brake cleaner solvent.
    Glenn 328is
    This happened to me on my 328 back in '03. BMW has done the repair based on a goodwill gesture? I think for me it was around $350. Basically what you need to do is drive the car for longer periods once a week in the cold. The condensation needs to be burned off. What they did after cleaning everything up and filling up the oil was they insulated that oil tube.

    Check out this post from bf.c: http://forums.bimmerforums.com/foru...ead.php?t=81663
    heizervr6
    Thanks for the reply, I appreciate it.

    I doubt BMW will cover the repair even though it is clearly a design flaw and affects a huge number/range of models but I figure it can't hurt to ask. My wife drives the vehicle and usually it is at least 25 km and 30+ min of driving so I was a little surprised to see this happen. If it was consistenly a 10 min. like yours I might have expected it. I've read that newer models actually have heated parts now to cure the problem.

    In my case it appears that it blew out the valve cover gasket (I haven't checked the actual cover yet as those have also been known to crack from the pressure) on top of everything so depending on what they tell me today, I'll have to make the determination if I want them to fix all or part of it or if I'll just do it myself...grrr.
    Glenn 328is
    Good luck dude. Blowing out the valve cover gasket? Ouch. That repair is a diy, but not sure about once it is blown out. Let us know what happens.
    heizervr6
    Thanks. :) Did you ever get reimbursed from BMW Canada like you had mentioned in the other thread?
    Bimmer88
    Dude... goodluck, and a 50/50 fight with BMW Canada. Go call them and see what they can do, and then they'll have to pay you back money if the dealership isn't willing to help you.
    Glenn 328is
    No, I did not. They told me that I need to drive the car longer distances when cold, making sure that the condensation in the oil gets burned off. Look under the oil fil cap - if yellow, you need to drive more - which isn't a bad thing, right....


    Originally posted by heizervr6
    Thanks. :) Did you ever get reimbursed from BMW Canada like you had mentioned in the other thread?

    heizervr6
    That's kinda what I figured. There was a little yellow under the cap so I guess I need to tell the wife to haul more [Oops!] down the highway in the future.

    As for BMW Canada covering it, I'm not holding my breath esp. since they acted like they didn't even know about the problem when I called them. The interesting thing to note is that BMW dealers in Minnesota are covering these repairs...talk about a reason to finally start a class action lawsuit for the rest of us...
    Glenn 328is
    What happened?
    heizervr6
    Got a tow truck to haul the X5 outta there and bring it home. Fixed it all myself on Sat. for $450 including all new hoses, oil separator, valve cover gasket, assorted parts and oil change. BMW wasn't even remotely interested in looking at it after 3 days - :thumbsdow for BMW service. It probably didn't help that it is a US-spec vehicle so being below the bottom of the list ensures nothing gets done, fast...or ever. Overall service is the worst I've ever experienced in my life...and not the first time at Crowfoot BMW. It's a good thing these are the worlds easiest cars to work on and repair.

    Parts dept however is top notch.
    :thumbsup:
    Glenn 328is
    That is brutal. Why wouldn't they look at it? Perhaps a letter to BMW Canada is needed?

    I am glad it is all sorted though.
    heizervr6
    Who knows. I'm done with the dealer and writing letters to BMW Canada gets you absolutely no where. I'm not the only one that has complained about that dealer. All you get back is a letter (and this is paraphrased) from BMW Canada telling you "thanks for your correspondence but there is nothing we can do and we don't care to do anything".

    If these cars weren't so damn sexy and fun to drive I sure wouldn't continue to own them that's for sure. :)

  4. #4
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    Switch to one of them trouble-free Toyota's?

    I know it's irritating, and some of the BMW engineering seems hair-brained sometimes, but find the car that wouldn't have some sort of similar weak point? That's why they have radio called in car shows. Talk about one problem after another.

  5. #5
    jayb
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    SIB 11 08 03

    see more below







    This Service Information bulletin supersedes SI B11 08 03 dated February 2009.
    designates changes to this revision
    SUBJECT
    Oil Separator Cold Climate Conditions
    MODEL
    E39 (5 Series) all with M54 engine
    E46 (3 Series) all with M54 engine
    E53 (X5) all with M54 engine
    E60 (5 Series) all with M54 engine
    E83 (X3) all with M54 engine
    E85 (Z4) all with M54 engine
    SITUATION
    Certain areas of the US experience extremely cold climate conditions during the winter months. A small number of
    vehicles in the above-listed Series have experienced problems ranging from leaking or broken valve covers to complete
    engine failure.
    CAUSE
    Moisture accumulating in the engine oil separator; hose to oil dipstick guide tube; or the orifice in the dipstick guide
    tube can freeze. When this occurs, depending on the position of the internal valve, it may either cause high crankcase
    pressures (stuck closed) resulting in valve cover leakage and/or breakage, or cause an oil hydro-lock condition (stuck
    open), which could result in engine damage.
    CORRECTION
    Replace the crankcase vent valve, crankcase vent hoses, and dipstick guide tube.
    SI B 11 08 03
    Engine
    March 2009
    Technical Service
    1. Replace the oil separator and hoses (1) with the
    new insulated style (2).
    Page 1 of 3
    2. If the vehicle is already equipped with the new insulated crankcase ventilation valve and hose, only replace the
    dipstick guide tube with the part number from the list by model below.
    3. If the vehicle is not equipped with the new insulated crankcase ventilation valve and hose, replace those parts
    with the updated style and replace the dipstick guide tube with the part number from the list by model below.
    PARTS INFORMATION
    E39 (5 Series)
    E46 (3 Series) rear-wheel drive only
    E46 (3 Series) all-wheel drive only
    E53 (X5)
    E60 (5 Series)
    Part Number Description Quantity
    11 61 7 534 237 Oil Separator Repair kit 1
    11 43 7 565 437 Dip Stick Guide Tube 1
    11 15 7 532 629 Hose 1
    Part Number Description Quantity
    11 61 7 534 237 Oil Separator Repair kit 1
    11 43 7 565 437 Dip Stick Guide Tube 1
    11 15 7 532 629 Hose 1
    Part Number Description Quantity
    11 61 7 534 237 Oil Separator Repair kit 1
    11 43 7 565 438 Dip Stick Guide Tube 1
    11 15 7 532 629 Hose 1
    Part Number Description Quantity
    11 61 7 534 237 Oil Separator Repair kit 1
    11 43 7 563 831 Dip Stick Guide Tube 1
    11 15 7 532 628 Hose 1
    Part Number Description Quantity
    11 61 7 533 400 Oil Separator 1
    11 43 7 565 440 Dip Stick Guide Tube 1
    11 61 7 533 398 Hose 1








    WARRANTY INFORMATION
    Covered under the terms of the BMW New Vehicle Limited Warranty or the BMW Certified Pre-Owned Program.
    Please refer to the latest KSD for all applicable labor operations and allowances.
    If the appropriate labor operation is not contained in KSD, then a work time labor operation should be used.
    11 61 7 533 399 Hose 1
    Part Number Description Quantity
    11 61 7 533 400 Oil Separator Repair kit 1
    11 43 7 565 438 Dip Stick Guide Tube 1
    11 61 7 533 398 Hose 1
    11 61 7 533 399 Hose 1
    Part Number Description Quantity
    11 61 7 533 400 Oil Separator 1
    11 43 7 565 437 Dip Stick Guide Tube 1
    11 61 7 533 398 Hose 1
    11 61 7 533 399 Hose 1
    Defect Code 11 15 03 14 00
    [ Copyright 2009 BMW of North America, LLC ]

  6. #6
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    Just did mine.

    I had recognized some indications that mine might be on its way out (01, 330i with 135(+)k miles) but, like you, I figured I'd be OK since my daily commute gets the car up to temperature, I don't make a lot of short trips, and religious oil changes with BMW High Performance Synthetic of Mobil 1.

    As oil consumption started to increase, I knew I was due. Bought a kit from Tischer BMW (delivered to my door for about $150) in December and finally installed it a few weeks ago.

    Overall, not really as bad as I thought it was going to be...just time consuming. Glad I got it done before I got the old "oil burp" and had to deal with those issues.


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    Re: oil separator problem

    Hi guys, I just got off the phone with Herb Chambers BMW in Boston to see if my car had the updated parts had been installed in my 2001 330ci prior to my purchasing it as a pre-owned in 2003. The service rep said he knew of the issue and that I shouldnt be to concerned. I asked what it would cost to install the updated parts and he said approx $1300.........WTF!?!?!? (Picture jaw droppin here)

    He said the high cost was due to the amount of labor involved to replace the parts, including having to remove the intake manifold. I asked him what the dif was in the system and he said the parts are nearly indentical except the updated ones are insulated to prevent the freezing. He also said no damage would occur since even if oil was sucked in that the car would burn it off and no hydro locking could occur while the car was running.

    Ok blast away cus I believe hes prob full of S%@! Im a bit concerned since my valves are leaking some and Ive noticed that milky residue on the underside of the oil cap when doing oil changes. It has been there since buyin the car and I fugured it was normal.

    Any thoughts?

    Thanx guys

    Kevin (Longshot)

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    Relax, take a slow breath, and sit if you have a

    chair handy. Sounds as if you have just been quoted a robbery dealer price, along with some tech advice coming from someone who really doesn't know what they are talking about. It's not uncommon, has happened to me too, and curiously always results in quotes on the grossly high side. Ever get a price mistakenly on the too low side?

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    Re: Relax, take a slow breath, and sit if you have a

    I see some others have done this update themselves. Anyone know how involved it is and if the Bentley Manual goes into detail on how to replace these parts? I do quite a bit of work on the old girl myself but usually stay away from any engine work other then plugs, oil etc.

    Thanx

    -K

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    I spent about 8 min looking thru the Bentley

    but couldn't find a mention of it at all.
    Perhaps ask J//Kidd to give us a brief description?

  11. #11
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    Re: Relax, take a slow breath, and sit if you have a


  12. #12
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    Re: oil separator problem

    The service rep/advisor you talked with does not know what he is talking about based on your description of what he said. If enough oil is sucked into the intake, as was the case with my car, the engine will not "burn off the oil" and will definitely hydrolock due to oil in the cylinders being incompressible. It has happened to others, as stated by Mike Miller. I was lucky in that I think the oil fouled my plugs and when I lost power I immediately pushed in the clutch and the engine stopped. I think that is the only reason my engine didn't hydrolock and bend valves and/or the rods.

    If you are seeing milky residue on your oil cap you may have sludge in the oil separator plumbing and it would be a good idea to get it checked. It will probably be cheaper to have the work done by a trusted independent mechanic if you won't be doing it yourself. I made the initial post to warn/remind others of the problem if you live in a cold climate.

  13. #13
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    Re: oil separator problem

    change oil every 6 months

    don't let it sit and idle - especially during winter

    if the temp gauge shows cooler than new operating
    temp - change the thermostat to regain correct,
    'hotter' engine operation temp



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    I might be having this issue. Took my 2002 325CI into a local mechanic for an oil change. They noticed some problems with the oil change. Said there was a Valve cover and oil filter adapter leak.

    http://docs.autovitals.com/EIS/Image...26fcee0d1f.jpg


    My wife who drives it during the winter since she has a longer commute said on two different equations the car started to vibrate or shake for about 30 seconds. Both times were on a Monday after the car sat for the weekend. IS this due to the oil separator problem? From what I have read, this is a cold weather problem that might go away at least until next winter. I had thought since it was 30 degrees this morning, it would have been warm enough to avoid any problems.

    Here is my estimate from the local mechanic. Might try to see what the dealer would charge. Seems to me since BMW has known about this for 10 years and should have recalled it, they should bear some of the cost.

    Job03 Oil Seperator Update $814.00
    Remove necessary components to gain access
    Remove old components and replace with new
    Check for proper operation and leaks
    Re assemble and test drive
    Re inspect for leaks
    O-Ring 1.0 Quan
    Vent Tube 1.0 Quan
    Guide Tube 1.0 Quan
    Return Pipe 1.0 Quan
    Oil Seperator Kit 1.0 Quan
    Intake Gasket 1.0 Quan
    Job Subtotal: $814.00
    Job04 Replace Valve Cover Gasket $218.81



    Any opinions? Is it urgent I get this looked at? Is this the oil separator issue? Is it better to fix now? Just had a major repair bill on our other vehicle and it would be nice to wait until the fall.
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