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      02-23-2013, 04:10 PM   #1
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Thumbs down 1st Track Day = N54 Engine Failure :(

FINAL UPDATE: #3: 4/6 - New engine was installed on 3/12 and car returned to me on 3/14. SouthBay Autohaus knows their stuff and has been great to work with through all of this. Also, added better pics of failure and what remains of piston #6 which exploded like a grenade (scroll down).

UPDATE: #2: 3/5 - Engine removed. Added pics of failure. (scroll down).

UPDATE: #1: 3/3 - added pics of replacement N54 (scroll down).
Will continue to update and post pics throughout week

Original Post, 2/23
For the last year I've been debating on whether or not to take my car to the track or wait until I buy a dedicated track car. I finally decided I should at least go once for a full day event before I make the investment in a 2nd car. So last Friday (2/15) I attended Speed District's open track day event at Willow Springs.

I thought I was going overboard with all of the preventive maintenance I did in preparation (see earlier post for all kinds of good DIYs I took advantage of) coupled with my newest mod, ER Competition Dual Oil Coolers (link to pics post-install).

The first session was great and the car was everything it should be - balanced and composed in the turns and pulling hard on the straights.

I took a look at the engine bay when I came back in the pits and everything was in order. I was stoked for my 2nd session as I'd paid for an instructor to help me learn the proper line and get the most out of the day.

The 1st lap with the instructor (white helmet) was smooth as I was focusing on the line and not pushing the car. In fact, there was only a single shift that lap from 3rd to 4th gear while exiting turn 6. Coming out of turn 9, I floored it and a moment later while still accelerating down the straight, the car started surging. I assumed the clutch was slipping and steadied the throttle to maintain a constant speed of 110mph at that point. No more surging, but I had to prepare for the left-hand turn 1. The moment I lifted off the gas and applied the brake there was a sickening explosion followed by white smoke in my rear-view mirror. If that wasn't bad enough the clutch pedal was at the floor.
I pulled off to the side of the track and had to wait for what felt like an eternity (probably only 10-15 minutes) before the instructor or I could get out of the car. The whole time I was kicking myself for breaking my car.

Fortunately, no fluids leaked onto the track, but since the car wouldn't even turn-over they had to tow me into the pits. I still assumed it was just the clutch that had failed at that point. My logic was since it couldn't engage, the engine's electrical coding was preventing it from turning over as a safety feature.

Called AAA and fortunately got a free tow home as Willow Springs is 98 miles from Redondo Beach (100 mile free tow radius).

I had it dropped off at a shop recommended by a friend. The next day the mechanic calls and tells me he believes the engine hydrolocked due to the meth kit malfunctioning. He did a compression test and identified cylinder 4 to be no good. When he turned the engine over he could hear a thud each time.

I still don't know exactly what went wrong. I think it's more likely that (a) the meth line boiled and got air in the lines causing the surging sensation while under WOT and engine failed due to lack of octane. Issue there, is that it was only lap #1 and my oil temps were still down around 210. It could have been (b) an electrical grounding issue, (c) clutch failed and engine somehow over-revved (although I didn't hear anything to support this), (d) tune malfunction, or (e) who knows what else. Even once I tear the engine apart, I probably still won't know.

Regardless I'm still waiting for the replacement engine to arrive as it's supposed to get here Monday. Getting a 2010, N54, complete with turbos and only 25K miles. Settled on $6K. Also, I went ahead and purchased an upgraded SPEC Stage2+ clutch from Jeff@TopGearSolutions. Including labor, I figure it's gonna cost around $10K total. Glad I was saving for a track car, but it looks like that's gonna be a while - especially since my wife now thinks that this is what happens every time you go the track.

I still plan on taking my car back to the track at some point, but am probably going to ditch the meth all together and just mix in some race gas to raise the octane and ensure safe, reliable power. If someone manages to convince me to keep the meth, I'd definitely switch to a trunk mount kit (at a minimum) as I didn't realize so many people had fires until I spoke with Jeff@TopGearSolutions.

Pertinent info I didn't mention regarding my car's setup at the time of failure:
- Car has 67K miles w/ original clutch
- HPFP, Turbos, and Wastegates replaced under warranty at 55K miles
- Carbon build-up cleaned by dealer at same time, 55K miles
Tune / Meth:
- JB4, G4 board running map 3 (controls meth flow)
- Max boost set at 14.5 psi
- 0 boost additive
- BMS Windshield Washer (WW) Meth Kit (uses components from CoolingMist) link
- Boost Juice (49/51 meth-to-water ratio)
- Single CM10 nozzle
- ACN91 Octane gas (basically, weak CA "piss-gas" that's not equal to 91 octane in other states). Filled up at 76 station.
- I normally blend in race gas, but regrettably did not this rare time as I was concerned about engine temps after reading the "Limp Mode STICKY"

I want to believe that the JB4 didn't cause this, but I feel like I had pretty conservative settings relative to what most people run on the forums. I've had the JB4 and BMS WW Meth Kit since they came out and have had zero issues until now.

I'd appreciate any thoughts, concerns, and constructive comments about the situation in general.

UPDATE #1: 3/3 - Replacement engine arrives

Had a little drama as the 1st engine we sourced was delivered, but had been stripped of parts. My mechanic wisely rejected the engine as the condition had not been disclosed before negotiating on a price and the trust was loss at that point. Mechanic located a 2nd engine, which arrived on Friday. It's a 2010 N54 from a 335i that had 27K miles. Shop is prepping for the swap today. Hopefully, we'll discover something to shed some light on what went wrong. Targeting Thursday to have my car back to me.

My car gathering dust as it waits patiently for its heart transplant. Fortunately, I have a few fun mods planned too...

UPDATE #2: 3/5 - Engine removed and root cause identified; hydrolock caused by methanol injection malfunction

Today the failed engine was removed from the car and the cause was identified without even needing to tear the engine apart... excessive methanol injection caused hydrolock which resulted in a hole blown through the bottom end of the long block on the driver side. CRAZY!

This is what I saw when I walked in the shop on my way home from work...

I hope I never see this again...

Failed engine removed from the car (below)

Note the Lamborghini Gallardo in the background

Hole blown through the driver side of the longblock above the oil pan, near the rear of the engine (closer to cylinder 6, farther from cylinder 1)

Chunks of metal were removed from the oil pan and fragments were found in the oil filter (below).

This means my ER dual oil coolers need to be flushed to ensure there's no remaining metal floating around in my oil lines.

Also, still need to inspect the turbos off my failed engine to ensure they're good to re-use on the new engine. I'd prefer to keep them as they only have 12,000 miles on them, whereas the new engine and turbos have ~27,000 miles. Turbos off of replacement engine and various spare parts shown in picture below as the replacement engine is being prepped for transplant surgery (i.e. - carbon buildup being removed and major cleaning to ensure all metal fragments removed).

Mechanic said there were still puddles of pink "boost juice" (pre-mixed methanol and distilled water in 49/51 ratio) inside the cylinders when he first gained access to the intake manifold. He feels this is a smoking gun that the engine failure was caused by excessive methanol injection, which resulted in hydrolock. Whether or not this is possible, I have no idea. All I know is that my confidence is shaken. I plan on ditching methanol completely and switching to a more track-friendly tune once my car is back up and running. Mechanic plans to have my car running by Friday (3/8).

Of all the people using JB4 and its functionality as an integrated methanol injection controller, I guess I'm the first lucky one to have this happen.

FINAL UPDATE: 4/6 - Just got home from taking my car the LTMW meet and the engine's running better than ever

New engine was installed on 3/12 and car returned to me on 3/14. I've put almost 700 miles on the new engine. Let me start by saying that SouthBay Autohaus knows their stuff and has been great to work with through all of this. Their expertise is top notch and I really appreciate how they've kept me informed along the way. The car is running better now than it ever has, but it's taken some serious work to get to this point.

Last time I posted, I knew my original clutch was toast but I didn't know that I'd have to purchase a new DMFW (Dual Mass Fly Wheel) too. When the engine seized, the torque from the driveshaft caused this to happen... (notice how the holes don't line up?).

Also, here's a few of the other issues we had to work through after the car was originally returned to me:
- squeeling pulley - replaced
- broken nipple off of plastic vacuum canister - replaced
- boost leak - replaced all vacuum lines
- vanos codes - replaced both intake and exhaust vanos solenoids
- low pressure fuel pump codes - resolved issue with ECU
- high pressure fuel pump codes - resolved issue with ECU
- clunking noise when turning left or right - issue caused by a worn bushing (see upgrades below for fix as I decided to use this as an excuse to upgrade to front and rear M3 control arms)

Here's what remains of piston #6 (left and middle) which exploded like a grenade. Far right is the piece of the block that was blown off.

Below is a better shot of the hole that was blown through the block

The head of piston #6 sheared off the top of the spark plug

Good shot of what 67k miles worth of carbon build-up looks like

Pic of the new engine below that was taken the day before it was installed

Upgrades / Future Plans:
- I now have a 2010 engine with 27k miles
- Carbon build-up was cleaned out completely (you can get to way more with the engine removed than you can otherwise)
- new water pump and thermostat installed
- new Vanos solenoids
- new spark plugs
- and a bunch of other new stuff (i.e. - crankshaft seal, oil pan gasket, exhaust gaskets, valve cover gaskets, etc...)
- The new Spec Stage 2+ clutch is great and has a very OEM feel with a very subtle, slightly stiffer engagement.
- Front and rear M3 control arms (link). Still waiting for these to arrive.
- Still waiting for my Qauife LSD to arrive. Plan on having LTMW install next weekend.
- Purchased PowerFlex Urethane Diff Bushings to go on the same time as the LSD:
Rear Diff Front Mounting Bushing PFR5-425 (qty 2)
Rear Diff Rear Mounting Bushing PFR5-426 (qty 1)
- Planning on having LTMW install some side splitters and maybe a custom front splitter for a little more downforce
- swapped out the JB4 for Cobb St2+ FMIC tune (really like it so far)
- installed BMS DP Fix

Oh, I have a BMS WW Meth Kit w/ FSB if anybody wants it for free.
I wouldn't feel right selling it since it's what caused all of this.

I'm not bitter as I understood this was a possibility when I started modifying my car years ago and I plan to continue modifying my cars in the future. That said, I'll certainly be far more wary of engine mods. Thankfully, I really love this car and plan to continue enjoying it for at least a few more years now that I've made such a big investment in it; that was one expensive track day.

Last edited by SneakyDeeky; 06-08-2013 at 05:35 PM..
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      02-23-2013, 04:16 PM   #2
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good luck getting it all sorted out!
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      02-23-2013, 04:21 PM   #3
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Poor you !!!

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      02-23-2013, 04:22 PM   #4
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Welcome to the club... Are you Lifting the head to check exactly what caused the issue?
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      02-23-2013, 04:22 PM   #5
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Wow that sucks. Good luck getting everything fixed and hopefully figuring out what caused this
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      02-23-2013, 04:23 PM   #6
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10k for a track day..I hope everything works out for you!
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      02-23-2013, 04:23 PM   #7
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damn, that blows! GL
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      02-23-2013, 04:25 PM   #8

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Wow, that's horrible. Sorry about your luck, keep us updated as the engine replacement is done. Surging meth causing cylinder failure, never imagined that. And only running 14.5psi with meth, that jsut sucks.

Good luck
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      02-23-2013, 04:26 PM   #9
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If it locked the cyl 4 has a broken rod, pin or piston. Or combo thereof...

Water does use up space. A nozzle spraying too much could easily overcompress the chambers.
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      02-23-2013, 04:27 PM   #10
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Another meth horror story... I'm sorry man hope everything works out. Another reason for me to stay away and just use e85.
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      02-23-2013, 04:33 PM   #11
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That sucks and I wish your vehicle a speedy recovery.

But are u still gonna use Meth after this??

I've always been against using meth because the few times something goes wrong, it goes wrong big time.
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      02-23-2013, 04:38 PM   #12
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Could be as little as popped off coolant hose.
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      02-23-2013, 04:46 PM   #13
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Do you have logs of the failure?
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      02-23-2013, 04:46 PM   #14

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Meth on track days is invaluable. It's just important to make sure that it is controlled and configured properly. It should also be integrated with the tune with more than a basic failsafe.

Sorry for your bad experience. Sometimes running street cars on tracks can be a learning process.


PS. Hydrolock is pretty unlikely. More likely a cracked piston or a spun bearing. But you won't know for sure until the head is lifted.

Last edited by OpenFlash; 02-23-2013 at 05:35 PM..
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      02-23-2013, 04:56 PM   #15
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Dude this is awful. But I don't see how surging meth would hydro-lock only one cylinder, or affect clutch operation for that matter. Keep us posted.
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      02-23-2013, 04:59 PM   #16
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Did you take any logs during your runs?

I'm thinking it has to do with your tune and meth...
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      02-23-2013, 05:09 PM   #17
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That sucks man! Sorry for your misfortune . I would think that even with a mishap with the meth that it wouldn't hydro lock your engine. How much water could of possibly pooled up in there ?
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      02-23-2013, 05:41 PM   #18
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How did the plug look? Sounds more likely to be a locked fuel injector than a meth issue in my opinion. I have heard of it happening before with similar results. The tear down should provide clues.

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      02-23-2013, 06:04 PM   #19

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I agree with Mike. I find it hard to believe that you can dump that much meth at high rpm to cause this. Good luck with the tear down.
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      02-23-2013, 06:07 PM   #20

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Man you should have shopped around a little more for the motor. I found a good Longblock for 1400 bucks shipped. You can get entire salvaged cars right now with non frontal accident damage for under 5 grand all day. Either way you already have the motor, Dzenno had sent me your email to ask me what I thought. I told him if the motor did go, I really had no idea why but I was thinking it was something else. Obviously I was wrong. Good luck with the rebuild, sorry to hear about it...
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      02-23-2013, 06:12 PM   #21
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I don't get why/how this happened when he lifted the throttle, as opposed to while he was under WOT.

I'm really sorry to hear this happened to you. My first track day caused my wastegates to fail and that same day I saw my buddy's S2000 catch on fire... This was all at the Streets of Willow.
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      02-23-2013, 06:16 PM   #22

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Originally Posted by Pankakez & BMWs View Post
I don't get why/how this happened when he lifted the throttle, as opposed to while he was under WOT.

I'm really sorry to hear this happened to you. My first track day caused my wastegates to fail and that same day I saw my buddy's S2000 catch on fire... This was all at the Streets of Willow.
I popped a motor 10+ years ago on the Streets of Willow. I was driving an FD3S RX-7 so those motors were known to pop if you looked a them funny. Hot desert temps and highish altitude didn't help.
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engine failure, hydrolock, n54 335i, sneaky, track

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