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BMW 3-Series (E90 E92) Forum > E90 / E92 / E93 3-series Powertrain and Drivetrain Discussions > NA Engine (non-turbo) / Drivetrain / Exhaust Modifications > My ordeal with the 2A87 Exhaust Vanos code - Long story



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      06-15-2018, 07:55 PM   #1
E91ME
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My ordeal with the 2A87 Exhaust Vanos code - Long story

Hi All. Long time reader, 1st time poster. I'm fairly new to BMWs, so have not had any info to share that's not already out there. I did, however, just had a recent experience that seem worthwhile to share, if only to help other new-to-BMW guys avoid the hassle that I went thru.

The car is a 2011 328i Wagon that was mainly driven by my wife. At about 80k miles a slew of problems popped up (with service engine soon light) that made me take over the car to take care of the issues. The first thing I tackled was a misfire that was tracked down to a fairly new ignition coil (13k miles old) that somehow went bad already. This coil was made by Delphi and I'm thinking I'm just freakishly unlucky to get a bad one that only lasted a year. Immediately after this the car started making a very loud whistling/loud hum while idling or coasting with the throttle off (The sound is very much like what UFOs sound like in old black and white movies). This was pinpointed to be a torn CCV diaphragm, so in went a new Valve Cover which solved the issue. Then after this I kept getting a 2A87 Exhaust Vanos mechanically jammed code. The car was driving pretty much normally, but the code would come back after 30-60 miles of driving like clockwork after I clear it. Since the car was driving okay I took my time and started researching all of the causes of the 2A87 code and found all of the usual recommendations...

1) Check oil filter cap and make sure center insert is intact. - Since I had done an oil change barely 4k miles ago I knew the insert was there, but checked it anyways.

2) Clean and swap Vanos solenoids. - I had gotten the 2A87 code maybe 6k miles prior to this and installed new OEM solenoids, so I didn't really think this was the cause, but I swapped the solenoids anyways just for a sanity check. With my crappy luck on the ignition coil I probably wouldn't have been surprised to also get a Vanos solenoid that barely lasted 15k miles. The code stayed on the Exhaust side, so no cigar here.

3) Vanos non-return valves. - This was a long shot that I hoped was my issue since the first 2 checks above yielded nothing. I did buy the car at 59k miles, so I didn't really have a full picture of the oil change history. Took out the old ones and they were very clean and not clogged. Already bought 2 new valves anyways so installed them and fixed nothing.

4) Camshaft bearing ledge. - At this point I'm sweating and crying that I have to get into the valve cover for a 3rd time after getting the car (1st time was to replace a leaky valve cover seal.). I also wasn't really confident that this was the cause of my 2A87 code because, according to BMW SB-10032779-2821, my car's build date means that I have the new teflon seals that shouldn't gouge the bearing ledges. But, since all of my research up to this point tells me this is the path others have walked to solve this problem, I decided that I either did this or take the car to a shop and bend over for a reaming. Fortunately, there's a metric crap-ton of info on how to DIY this, so I bit the bullet and bought all of the tools and parts I needed to swap my exhaust bearing ledges out, hopefully in one weekend. A buddy of mine that had recently also gotten into BMWs came to help on the fateful weekend, and we went to work and tore out the exhaust bearing ledges. To my utter disappointment the surfaces that the seals rode on were perfectly smooth. The color was darker where the seals met the metal, but there was not a ridge or groove that I could feel with my fingers or my finger nails.

At this point in my journey I was not in a happy place. I pretty much knew that, after all of this work, putting in a set of new bearing ledges and seals was not going to make the code go away. I also had no other ideas on what else to look for, so my buddy and I get back to work to put the car back together. Since we were both working simultaneously to try to be "efficient" we kinda did things a bit out of order. Because of that, when I went to torque one of the bolts for the exhaust bearing ledges I accidentally pushed on the top tab of the upper timing chain rail (which my buddy had already bolted back on) and snapped it off......... I decided to quit for the day.



The next day I dragged my reluctant butt into the garage to pull the broken upper timing chain rail out. What I really wanted to do was to set the car on fire and be done with it, but because it was in the garage I would've burnt the house down with it, so no go on that. So I went ahead and took both of the cam gears out to get the upper timing chain rail out. Because it was a Sunday and dealers were closed I didn't have a replacement timing chain rail to put back in the car, so I sat around sulking looking at the crippled car and all of the parts in the garage. Then I noticed something weird about the Exhaust cam gear unit. I was looking at it wondering why it had 3 bolts and 1 weird pin looking thing, whereas the Intake cam gear had 4 bolts.



As I looked closer and closer at the "weird pin" until my nose was pressing right up against the cam gear I realized that, holy $h!t, this is not a weird pin thing at all, it's a freakin' broken bolt! Then I realized that 2 other bolts on the exhaust cam gear and 1 bolt on the intake cam gear had all loosened and backed out.



It's a really weird thing to feel joy upon discovering a crappy design in a critical part of your car, but I was ecstatic at this point because I finally found the REAL problem to my damn 2A87 Vanos code. With 3 bolts no longer holding the gear on the exhaust cam gear assembly oil pressure was no longer able to build up quickly enough inside it to change the timing on the exhaust side, thus tripping the 2A87. The intake side still had 3 tight bolts, so I haven't yet gotten any codes on that side, but it's only a matter of time. Here, take a look inside the exhaust cam gear.



My story doesn't end here, though. Since these cam gear units were expensive puppies I spent several days searching for a good price amongst new/used sources. I eventually decided on some new ones and placed an order. While waiting for the parts to arrive I remembered coming across stories of recalls on the N55 engines for defective cam gear bolts. I also remembered coming across some used cam gears on Ebay that were the same part numbers as what I needed, but were advertised for the N55 engine. At this point I'm kinda pissed that BMW would use the same defective part across different models of engines, but only recall them on some of them. So, I kept digging and reading more until I finally came across old forum posts from 2014 about an extended warranty for cars with the N52 engines for this defective cam bolts issue. I call up my local BMW dealer and the service advisor confirmed that my car is covered for 10 yrs for unlimited miles for the cam gears. The downside...I had to put the car all back together before they will take it. After all is said and done the dealer replaced both cam gear units, pulled the oil pan and took out the broken bolt head. My oil pan was leaking before all of this, so I got a free oil pan gasket job out of it. No more dripping oil on the driveway! I go on and forget all of the pain I went thru. Hey, I'm easily bought with free things. The fact that my 7 yr old, bought used BMW got covered under warranty for some pretty expensive parts made me feel like I won the lottery, albeit a small one.

Here are the new cam gear units that I bought. Notice that BMW got rid of the security torx bolts on them and is now using regular torx bolts.



The lesson from all of this is if someone's got an old E9X and has the dreaded exhaust or intake vanos codes, do all of the easy outside of the engine troubleshooting first. If all those fail to get rid of the codes, prepare to dig into the cam gears and bearing ledges, and be prepared to have the car down for some time so that you can physically take those parts out to determine what is really wrong before you pluck down all of the $$$ for the parts. Also, to be aware that there is the 10 year extended warranty for the defective cam gear units. In my case, even if I had known that cam gears could be a cause for the 2A87 code, I had no way to tell whether it was bad bearing ledges or bad cam gears because the car basically drove just fine. I drove ~4k miles from when I first got the 2A87 until it got fixed. I had no symptoms like the loud rattling sounds some people get from the bolt head hitting on things while backed out. I don't even know when the bolt head sheared off and I'll never know.

Anyways, hope this helps somebody in the future. If anything this was therapeutic just to get it off my chest. I still occasionally feel the desire to set the car on fire, but that's a story for a different time.
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      06-15-2018, 09:17 PM   #2
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Good work!

I've been chasing a 2A87 code myself for a few weeks now. Swapped solenoids, no bueno. Still on the exhaust side. Tried changing out the check valves but they wouldn't pop out after being loosened. It seems as if the o-ring is keeping enough tension on there to not let them fall out and there wasn't space to try and pry them so... Anyways I figured there's not much to lose with trying aftermarket solenoids. Put one of those in, and the car is driving perfectly fine again! I'll have to keep an eye on it and see how long this "fix" lasts... My guess is there is some crud in the engine that's going to eventually gunk up the new solenoid too.

Really hoping to avoid having to do a full teardown. That's beyond my DIY skills unfortunately
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Last edited by 6ixSpd; 06-15-2018 at 09:27 PM.
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      06-16-2018, 12:15 PM   #3
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The non-return valves should come out pretty easily once you’ve unthreaded them completely. I went in thru the fender well so it was a fairly straight shot to reach them. If you think there might be gunk in your oil it’s worth it to check those.
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      06-17-2018, 10:29 AM   #4
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Nice story, good read. Happy to see things sorted now!
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      06-17-2018, 02:42 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saico View Post
Nice story, good read. Happy to see things sorted now!
Thanks!
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      06-17-2018, 07:54 PM   #6
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Can these cam gear bolts be checked for tightness when the valve cover is off without any further dis-assembly?
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      06-17-2018, 09:04 PM   #7
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Great job diagnosing the car and not giving up man!
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      06-17-2018, 09:55 PM   #8
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The service bulletin on this (there may be updated ones):
https://static.nhtsa.gov/odi/tsbs/20...45283-5967.pdf
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      06-18-2018, 11:20 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CobraMarty View Post
Can these cam gear bolts be checked for tightness when the valve cover is off without any further dis-assembly?
I think you can. The screws that were loose on mine could be turned easily by hand. There were no signs of thread locker on the threads. The tricky part would be getting access to the screw heads, which are facing the cams. You can probably turn the cams gears to expose a screw or two at a time. Word of caution if you want to use a torx bit, tie/tape a fishing line or something to the tool in case you drop it.
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      06-18-2018, 11:21 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by 3002 tii View Post
Great job diagnosing the car and not giving up man!
Thanks! Dumb luck helped a lot here!
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      06-18-2018, 11:30 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PhaseP View Post
The service bulletin on this (there may be updated ones):
https://static.nhtsa.gov/odi/tsbs/20...45283-5967.pdf
Thanks for posting this. I somehow never came across this when I was looking up the 2A87 code. Wish I had.
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      08-17-2018, 01:11 PM   #12
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According that bulletin, the build dates are from 2009 to 2012.

Is it save to assume that my 2007 328 will not have broken or loose Vanos blots?
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      08-17-2018, 01:43 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pinscher View Post
According that bulletin, the build dates are from 2009 to 2012.

Is it save to assume that my 2007 328 will not have broken or loose Vanos blots?
I would trust the bulletin and not worry about it. In my case the broken bolts still allowed me to drive the car without getting stranded. If you ever take the valve cover off you can take a peek at the camgears just as a sanity check, but if your car is driving fine then just keep driving it.
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      08-17-2018, 04:08 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by E91ME View Post
I would trust the bulletin and not worry about it. In my case the broken bolts still allowed me to drive the car without getting stranded. If you ever take the valve cover off you can take a peek at the camgears just as a sanity check, but if your car is driving fine then just keep driving it.
That's a great comfort. Thank you.

I am getting the same error code, and I did clean the forward Vanos solenoids, cleared the error codes and the errors came back there after.

This weekend I'll do the solenoids from behind the driver side wheel well.

Okay thanks a lot!
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      08-17-2018, 05:35 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pinscher View Post
That's a great comfort. Thank you.

I am getting the same error code, and I did clean the forward Vanos solenoids, cleared the error codes and the errors came back there after.

This weekend I'll do the solenoids from behind the driver side wheel well.

Okay thanks a lot!

Oh, I didn’t know you have the error code already. I thought you were just wondering if your car could have this problem down the road.

When you said you cleaned the “forward vanos solenoids” and the codes still came back, I’m guessing that the code did not change from exhaust to intake, or vice versa? I’m also guessing you are going to work on the non-return valves behind the right side wheel well next, and not solenoids. The non-return valves are just spring loaded check valves. They are not powered solenoids, so no wires going to them.

For your year look up the bearing ledges tech bulletin and see if you fall in those build dates. I’ve seen at least 2 versions of those, with one that was revised for the build date ranges that it covered.
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