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DIY: N54 Hydraulic Lifter (and Cam Bearing Ledge) replacement
Published by The Spoon
DIY: N54 Hydraulic Lifter (and Cam Bearing Ledge) replacement

This isn't my video, but I was experiencing these exact symptoms. The tapping didn't go away even with the engine warmed up, and the sound persisted and sped up when the engine was revved. Lifter bleed procedure, driving the piss out of it, Marvel Mystery Oil, Lucas Oil Additive, differing weights of oil, I've tried it all. No dice. No codes were thrown and no power loss; just torturous noise that was the bane of my 335i ownership experience.

Let me preface this by saying that I wouldn't recommend tackling this job unless you're a somewhat seasoned backyard mechanic, or at the very least don't have a tendency to crank on things with a gorilla grip when things don't go as expected.

  • Strut brace bolt: 07146954965 (Mounts to chasis)
  • Strut brace bolt: 07146963730 (Mounts to strut tower)
  • Valve cover gasket: 11127565286
  • Camshaft Rectangring: 11317587757 (4 total; 2 for each cam)
  • Camshaft gear bolts: 11367524954 (2 total; 1 for each cam)
  • Timing chain tensioner washer: 11317534251
If you're replacing hydraulic lifters:
  • Hydraulic Lifter: 11337548690 (12 on intake side, 12 on exhaust)
    As far as I know there isn't a high failure rate for these on the N54, and every failure case I've read has been on the exhaust side (including my own), so you'll probably be fine just replacing the failed ones. I replaced 12 on the exhaust side. Use your own discretion.
If you're replacing bearing ledges:
  • Intake Cam Bearing Ledge: 11127550913
  • Exhaust Cam Bearing Ledge: 11127531224


-10mm extended (for valve cover removal)
-27mm (not extended)
-5mm hex (socket or key)
-14mm flare nut socket
-17mm flare nut socket
-Socket extensions
-Universal joints (3/8" and 1/2" at the very least. 1/4" recommended. You can get a decent quality set from Harbor Freight for about $3. They were actually way higher quality than the Craftsman one I had from years back.)
-Telescoping inspection mirror
-Marker (preferably a color that's easy to see)
-Assembly lube
-Angle torque meter: http://www.amazon.com/Lisle-28100-To.../dp/B0002STSW6
-Torque wrench(s) capable of values as low as 7.4 ft-lbs (valve cover) and as high as 74 ft-lbs (strut brace)
-N54 timing tool set

***Before you head to eBay to find the cheapest option like I did, know that not all of these kits are created equal. I paid $140 shipped for mine, not including the chain tensioner tool, and what I saved in dollars I paid for in sweat and tears. Manly tears, but tears nonetheless. The flywheel lock pin was too thick and had to be sanded down to fit, the nubs on the Vanos plate alignment tool also had to be slimmed down, and the camshaft locking tool mounting holes were so far off that I could only screw down one side of it. But hey, the joke's on them because my tears are worth way less than what I saved by cheaping out. I used some of those savings to buy a Costco pack of tissues. The soft ones.

-N54 cam chain tensioner tool

I picked up one of these from Koch Tools and it works perfectly.

-8mm 12-point wrench (helps with cam bearing ledge bolts)
-27mm wrench (easier timing chain tensioner access)
-Zip ties (because zip ties)

As always, when you're in backyard mechanic mode, expect to break things. It's like leveling up in an RPG except instead of victory music and bonus stats, you get dread, anger, and great feelings of ambivalence. It's better than it sounds, really. You follow this guide and your car goes snap crackle and pop, I'm not responsible. I've done my share of crying already. You can do your own.

-Remove valve cover. Robc has an excellent in-depth guide here: http://www.e90post.com/forums/showthread.php?t=775317

-So. Valve cover's off and you're looking at a slightly less blurry version of this. The fun begins.

-Remove the radiator fan by first removing the mounting screw on the left side.

-Remove and set aside the connector and two tubes.

-Undo lower chargepipe clip (I forgot how to do this; I have an aftermarket one), and radiator fan clip on the right side.

-Now you're ready to pull out the fan. If you have an oil cooler it'll need some coaxing, but it'll fit. Trust me, I'm a backyard mechanic. Pay close attention to the tabs at the top of the bumper. As far as I know, their only purpose is to obstruct the radiator fan from coming out smoothly, but I'm also kind of ignorant so I don't really know much.

-So now you're looking at something like this, except probably with the oil cooler line still attached. I did this process before I developed the fearlessness that every backyard mechanic should have and removed the line to be safe. I also spilled oil all over my serpentine belt and alternator clutch pulley in the process, which may or may not have lead to it binding. But hey, my ineptitude is your gain. I wrote a DIY on the pulley replacement. Happy endings are the best.

-Time to lock the motor in the TDC position. Jack up the car, throw some jack stands underneath, and remove the underbelly pan (otherwise known as the void in which dropped screws and tools never return from) of the car. There's about 21 or 23 or eleventy-nine 8mm screws holding it on. Power tools are your best friend here.

-Get your flywheel locking pin from the timing kit. Hopefully you didn't cheap out on this part. It's a real pain in the ass to both locate the flywheel lockpin receptacle and determine whether or not the pin needs to be modified at the same time.

-The locking pin goes in the location of number 16 in this diagram.

-Locate this connector underneath the car.

-Assuming you're laying with your legs toward the passenger side and your head toward the driver's side, look into the engine bay above the connector. You should see something like this.

-Reach into that dark scary hole and feel around the corners of the engine block for something thin and rubbery. Yes, like a small penis, you juvenile. What you're looking for is the rubber plug that blocks the receptacle for the locking pin.

-I had to use a small screwdriver to pull it out.

-Insert your locking pin into the hole.

-Let's go back up top. Locate the crankshaft pulley at the front of the engine bay. Throw a 22mm socket on a big ratchet and get ready to turn the crankshaft clockwise.

-Before you turn, take a look at the opening at the front of your bearing ledges. What you're looking for is a QR code on both cams, like this:

-When both cams show the QR code, you'll be at TDC. The holes on your Vanos plates should be in this orientation:

-Alternatively, you can remove the spark plug in cylinder 1 and place a screwdriver in it. When it reaches its highest point, you'll be at TDC.

-To be safe, use your telescoping mirror to look at the back of the engine, as detailed here: http://workshop-manuals.com/bmw/3_se...n54)/page_339/

-Now go back underneath the car and see if you can press the flywheel locking pin through the flywheel to lock it. You may need to jiggle it a bit. If not...

-Find this plastic cover. The center jack point is at the top of the picture for reference. Pop this cover off to reveal the flywheel.

-Take a look inside and you should see a raised plate with a blue dot (assuming you have the stock flywheel), like so:

-When the end edge of that specific raised plate is in the center of the peephole, the flywheel hole will be aligned with the locking pin position. If the flywheel is past that point, you'll have to rotate it two full rotations before attempting it again. Trial and error, my friend. Trial and error.

-When the lock pin is in position, you'll be unable to turn crankshaft. Verify that the engine is at TDC. If so, you're ready to lock the camshafts into position with the locking tool.

-Now we need to remove the cam chain tensioner, but not before unbolting some stuff to make room, of course. First, unbolt your coolant overflow reservoir and vacuum canister bracket (3 bolts and 1 nut).

-Removing the right vacuum canister reveals two nuts at the bottom. You know the drill. Set them free.

-Now you should be looking at a very well-endowed silver nut. That's the cam chain tensioner.

-Place a paper towel underneath the tensioner nut. A small amount of oil will trickle out once it's loose. If you have a 27mm wrench, it should come off without hassle. If not, you should be able to fit a socket over it using a u-joint and some perseverance.

-Tensioner out. Give it two slow compressions to drain the oil out.

-Take your marker and mark the cam chain position for reference.

-Now you're ready to break those cam bolts loose. 16mm. Do it. Also, discard these bolts.

-Vanos plates should come off with little resistance.

-As an added safety measure, you should probably zip tie the cam gear to the cam chain so they don't separate. Or, like me, you can put an immense amount of faith in the marker you used and hope that they don't accidentally get wiped off. Safety is overrated. Sometimes.

-Separate the cam gears from the cams. They're held on by friction and may need some coaxing if they're tilted off-axis with respect to the cams.

-Evidently I forgot to take pictures up to this point. Oops. Now you're ready to unbolt the bearing ledges. I always hear about how delicate these hollow cams are, so I elected to loosen each bolt a half turn at time. 14 bolts on the intake side, 17 (including 2 in the front that hold the cam chain guide) on the exhaust side. The two cams are not interchangeable, so keep track of them. When removing exhaust, start with the two in the front.

-Intake side out. And drunk, apparently. Apologies.

-Lifters slide out with the rockers. They're clipped on and separate with little effort. Compare your existing lifters with new ones. They should be at full extension and rock solid. If they're mushy, they most likely have a faulty check-valve and should be replaced. If they're solid but shorter than others, then they're stuck. Replace those, too. I tried opening one to clean out but had a hell of a time trying to get it back together without mangling the retaining rings. At $20 a pop, it's probably not worth the effort unless a large number of them have failed.

-Remove the two metal rings at the end of each camshaft. They unclip pretty easily by hand. Replace them with the new softer, gentler rings. You'll have to stretch them slightly to get them to fit, but they'll shrink back and be flush after a heat cycle or two.

-Inspect your bearing ledges for indentations made by the camshaft rings. Here's what mine looked like after 60k.

-So now you're ready to put things back together. First off, in case you goofed and didn't keep track of which cam goes where, here's a reference:

A = Exhaust (left side)

E = Intake (right side)

-Assembly lube. Hey... if some is good, then more is better right?! Put some on the rockers, too.

-Install the new bearing ledges and cams. Make sure the QR code on both cams are facing upwards, and lock them down with the cam tool.

-Make sure the rockers are seated on top of the valve stems. They're magnetically attached so they're pretty easy to knock off. Give them a slight wiggle. Careful when you get to cylinder 6, they fall off pretty easily if you nudge them the wrong way. Ask me how I know.

-So you're probably pretty spent by now. Your back aches, you may have cried a few manly tears, thrown some wrenches, shouted some profanities, and your neighbors probably think you're some sort of psychopath, so you'll be glad to know that this is where things start to get tense. After threading down the bearing ledge bolts by hand, you'll want to tighten them evenly or you risk bending a cam. I did them a quarter turn at a time. Some bolts will give you more resistance than others. An 8mm 12-point wrench works well here since you run no risk of rounding off the torx heads with the force you're exerting, and you'll be able to reach the bolts obstructed by the camshaft locking tool. If you start to feel greater-than-normal resistance, move on to the next bolt. When you come back next round they'll be easier to turn. Stay strong, friends.

-When you've gotten all the bolts finger-tight, check and make sure the sides of the bearing ledges are flush with each other horizontally (i.e. no sideways protrusions). Tolerances are pretty tight so they should be perfectly aligned since they're new. Torque the bolts to 8 Nm or 71 in-lbs. Follow them up with your angle torque meter with an additional 60 degrees. Mark the torqued bolts with a marker in case you lose your spot, since you can't go back to check existing angle torque.

-Remove the cam locking tool and torque the previously-obstructed bolts.

-Now that your bearing ledges are properly torqued, thread the cam chain guide rail bolts and torque them to 8.5 Nm or 75 in-lbs.

-Install the cam gear and timing chain back onto the cam. If you were smart and used zip ties, remove them. If you were less smart and didn't, you're still a winner because this is America. Just make sure the marks you made previously match up.

-Install Vanos plates and thread the new camshaft collar bolts. Do not tighten them yet.

-Install the timing chain tensioner tool. The service manual calls for 0.6 Nm or 5.3 in-lb torque against the chain. If you have a tool to do this, you are a god amongst backyard mechanics. For us plebians, tighten the center rod until you begin to feel resistance, then turn it an additional 15 to 20 degrees. Try this a few times while checking the tension on the chain to get a feel for it.

-With the dummy tensioner in place, you're ready to lock the cams down. Install the Vanos plate alignment tool.

-Now torque the bolts to 20 Nm or 15 ft-lbs, and with your angle meter give it an additional 180 degrees.

-Remove the dummy tensioner, install the new washer onto the factory tensioner, and torque it to 41 ft-lbs.

-Now... Remove the flywheel lock pin. Reinstall the blind plug.

-Turn the crankshaft a couple rotations to ensure things are (still) working. No abnormal resistance, noises, explosions, etc.

-Home stretch! Reinstall the valve cover plus new gasket and torque to 7.4 ft-lbs or 89 in-lbs.

-To torque the fuel lines, use a flare nut socket and position it perpendicular to the wrench handle. Positioning it above this line will result in more torque than indicated, and below it less torque than indicated. Fuel lines to injectors: 24 Nm or 18 ft-lb.

-Fuel rail line: 30 Nm or 22 ft-lb.

-Reinstall radiator fan, connectors, etc.

-Reinstall strut brace. Use new bolts. Big bolt: 74 ft-lb + 100 degrees. Less-big bolt: 30 ft-lb + 60 degrees.

-You're probably pretty tired. Give yourself a hug.
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By unoriginal on 01-20-2015, 07:15 PM
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awesome DIY! Thanks so much for this! I will be tackling this job soon and have been looking for a guide. Time to start ordering parts...

How much time would you estimate it took you from start to finish, including throwing wrenches and shedding tears?
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By The Spoon on 01-21-2015, 01:35 AM
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I'd say if it's your first time through, expect roughly 16 hours if you keep your tools organized; they start stacking up and disappearing. It took a good 18 for me because I spent a good amount of time looking for the blind plug without reference, and the rest of the time figuring out why my lockpin wouldn't slide into the flywheel because of the subpar timing tool set I bought. Good luck! If you run into issues I might be able to help.
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