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VANOS Actuator Replacement
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

VANOS Actuator Replacement

Nick Czerula

Time:

5 hours5 hrs

Tab:

$400

Talent:

****

Tools:

Set of sockets Hex, Allen, Torx, Wrenches (19mm, 32mm), screwdrivers, M52, M54 camshaft locking tools

Applicable Models:

BMW 323Ci Coupe/Conv (1999-00)
BMW 323i Sedan/Wagon (1999-00)
BMW 325Ci Coupe/Conv (2001-06)
BMW 325i/xi Sedan/Wagon (2001-06)
BMW 328Ci Coupe (1999-00)
BMW 328i Sedan (1999-00)
BMW 330Ci Coupe/Conv (2001-06)
BMW 330i/xi Sedan (2001-06)

Parts Required:

Valve cover gasket, valve cover grommets, VANOS actuator, VANOS oil line

Hot Tip:

Work with a cool engine

Performance Gain:

Repair oil leaks, remedy rough running engine

Complementary Modification:

Replace VANOS oil line and exhaust camshaft sensor

To improve engine breathing at a variety of rpms, thus improving fuel efficiency, emissions and power, BMW engines are designed with VANOS, an acronym based on the German words VAriable NOckenwellenSteuerung or variable camshaft timing. Though a number of VANOS systems have been designed and implemented, the basic principle behind all of them is the need to change the relative timing between the intake and the exhaust valve opening. The VANOS actuator on each camshaft is supplied with engine oil under pressure; a solenoid controlled by the engine control module (ECM) retards or advances camshaft timing by modifying the supply of pressurized oil to the VANOS actuator.

Intake valves: 

  • Retarded during idle, improves smoothness of idle
  • Advanced during part-throttle acceleration, improves torque and emissions
  • Retarded at full-throttle, improves high power production

Exhaust valves: 

  • Retarded during deceleration so that more exhaust can stay and mix with the cylinder charge, thus diluting the mixture, lowering combustion temperature and reducing NOx in the exhaust. This is similar to the effect of exhaust gas recirculation (EGR).
  • Advanced during warm-up phase in order to allow rapid warm-up and more efficient operation of catalytic converters. 

The VANOS actuator is responsible for adjusting the camshaft timing to achieve the highest engine efficiency. Over time oil sludge can build up and the seals can fail, which leads to a malfunctioning VANOS actuator. You may experience an engine with low power, rough idle or stalling when coming to a stop. If these symptoms occur and are worse when cold, your VANOS actuator may be faulty. Use a BMW scan tool and check for any fault codes relating to camshaft timing deviations or camshaft timing reference signal. Double check that your camshaft sensors are operating normally and replace the VANOS actuator if it is questionable. If this problem persists, replace the VANOS actuator. 

Keep in mind that when your car was serviced before, parts may have been replaced with different size fasteners used in the replacement. The sizes of the nuts and bolts we give may be different from what you have, so be prepared with different size sockets and wrenches. 

Protect your eyes, hands and body from fluids, dust and debris while working on your vehicle. If you are working with the electrical system, disconnect the battery before beginning. Always catch fluids in appropriate containers and properly dispose of any fluid waste. Recycle parts, packaging and fluids when possible. Do not work on your vehicle if you feel the task is beyond your ability. 

Vehicle models change and evolve, as they grow older, so the vehicle shown in our illustrations may vary slightly from yours. If something seems different, let us know and share your info to help other users. Do you have questions or want to add to the article? Leave a comment below. When leaving a comment, please leave your vehicle information.

Read through this entire procedure before beginning. Be sure this is not above your skill level, as engine damage can occur if the engine timing is not correct.

To begin, disconnect the negative (-) battery cable. Remove the engine cover. See our Pelican Parts technical article on Removing Your BMW E46 Engine Cover. 

Remove the air filter housing assembly fasteners (yellow arrows) and disconnect the air flow meter electrical connector (green arrow).
Figure 1

Remove the air filter housing assembly fasteners (yellow arrows) and disconnect the air flow meter electrical connector (green arrow).

Loosen the air flow meter clamp (green arrow), then disconnect the duct from the air flow meter and remove the air filter housing from the engine compartment.
Figure 2

Loosen the air flow meter clamp (green arrow), then disconnect the duct from the air flow meter and remove the air filter housing from the engine compartment.

Working at the left front corner of the cylinder head cover, disconnect the crankcase vent hose by squeezing the release tabs and pulling it away from the cylinder head cover.
Figure 3

Working at the left front corner of the cylinder head cover, disconnect the crankcase vent hose by squeezing the release tabs and pulling it away from the cylinder head cover.

Disconnect the VANOS solenoid electrical connector (green arrow).
Figure 4

Disconnect the VANOS solenoid electrical connector (green arrow). Squeeze the metal release clip and pull off solenoid.

Using a 19mm wrench, remove the VANOS oil line (below oil filter housing).
Figure 5

Using a 19mm wrench, remove the VANOS oil line (below oil filter housing). Cover the line and opening to prevent any dirt from entering VANOS system (purple arrow). Remove the valve cover and the engine cooling fan with shroud.

Remove the plastic camshaft cover from the cylinder head by pulling up and off the cylinder head.
Figure 6

Remove the plastic camshaft cover from the cylinder head by pulling up and off the cylinder head.

Using a 22mm socket on the crankshaft pulley fastener to rotate the engine.
Figure 7

Using a 22mm socket on the crankshaft pulley fastener to rotate the engine.

Rotate the engine clockwise until the first camshaft lobes point toward each other (green arrow).
Figure 8

Rotate the engine clockwise until the first camshaft lobes point toward each other (green arrow). This brings the engine to cylinder #1 TDC (Top Dead Center) position. This is the first step in locking the engine timing position.

Next you are going to remove the dust plug from the crankcase.
Figure 9

Next you are going to remove the dust plug from the crankcase. It is located below the engine, inside of the mounting reinforcement. This photo shows the plug (green arrow) on an engine removed from the vehicle for clarity. Purple arrow points to the engine oil pan.

Remove the plug from the crankcase.
Figure 10

Remove the plug from the crankcase. The dust plug can become stuck over time. If needed, pry it out using a flathead screwdriver. Green arrow points to the dust plug. Purple arrow points to the throttle housing.

Next, install the crankshaft locking pin tool (11 2 300) into the hole the dust plug was removed from.
Figure 11

Next, install the crankshaft locking pin tool (11 2 300) into the hole the dust plug was removed from. When installing the tool, push it in until it bottoms out. Slowly rotate engine until the pin drops in about 12mm further. Once the tool is installed, confirm the crankshaft can no longer be rotated. Follow the instructions that came along with your special tool kit to ensure proper use.

Remove the studs at rear of the cylinder head using a 10mm deep socket (green arrow).
Figure 12

Remove the studs at rear of the cylinder head using a 10mm deep socket (green arrow).

Install the camshaft locking jig (11 3 240) at the rear of the camshafts (green arrow).
Figure 13

Install the camshaft locking jig (11 3 240) at the rear of the camshafts (green arrow). The jig should slide down onto the square ends of the camshafts - now, secure it together. Follow the instructions that came along with your special tool kit to ensure proper use.

Working at front of the VANOS actuator, remove the upper 8mm Allen plug.
Figure 14

Working at front of the VANOS actuator, remove the upper 8mm Allen plug.

Next, remove the lower 8mm Allen plug.
Figure 15

Next, remove the lower 8mm Allen plug. When you remove the lower plug, be prepared to catch a small amount of oil in a container.

Using a needle-nose vise grip, pull the plastic plugs out of the VANOS actuator (green arrow).
Figure 16

Using a needle-nose vise grip, pull the plastic plugs out of the VANOS actuator (green arrow). There is one plug for each camshaft.

Next you are going to remove the VANOS fasteners.
Figure 17

Next you are going to remove the VANOS fasteners. The fasteners are T30 Torx and left hand thread. To remove, rotate in a clockwise direction.

Remove the engine hoisting hook fasteners and remove the hook from engine (green arrow).
Figure 18

Remove the engine hoisting hook fasteners and remove the hook from engine (green arrow).

Remove the seven 10mm VANOS actuator fasteners (green arrow).
Figure 19

Remove the seven 10mm VANOS actuator fasteners (green arrow).

Slide the VANOS actuator off the cylinder head and remove.
Figure 20

Slide the VANOS actuator off the cylinder head and remove. Be prepared to catch excess oil with a rag.

Remove the VANOS gasket and clean the sealing surface, then install the new actuator gasket.
Figure 21

Remove the VANOS gasket and clean the sealing surface, then install the new actuator gasket.

With VANOS actuator removed, swap the VANOS solenoids and exhaust camshaft sensor over to new the actuator (Green Arrows) .
Figure 22

With VANOS actuator removed, swap the VANOS solenoids and exhaust camshaft sensor over to new the actuator (Green Arrows) . I suggest replacing the exhaust camshaft sensor, since it has a high failure rate, and this is the easiest access you will have to it. Once you have moved the VANOS solenoids and camshaft sensor over to new actuator, install the actuator on cylinder head. Install the VANOS actuator fasteners and tighten. Install the engine hoisting hook and tighten. Next you will install the left hand thread VANOS fasteners and tighten, be sure to use the correct amount of torque, this connection is very important. Install the plastic plugs - they just push back into place. Then install the VANOS actuator metal plugs. Next, remove the camshaft and crankshaft locking tools. Reinstall the studs at rear of the cylinder head and reassemble the valve cover and other items removed.

.
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Comments and Suggestions:
Automan Comments: While I am doing cylinder head gasket replacement, I did not lock the flywheel pin. I tried to install VANOS but the engine is not cranked. Looks like jammed. How to resolve this problem. It is BMW 2003 325i engine
June 26, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You will have to reset the timing using the correct tools. If the crankshaft was turned and valve timing was incorrect, valve damage is likely. To safely rotate the crankshaft to reach tdc, you will have to remove the camshafts. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
srl Comments: working on a 04 325xi. I can't this wireing harness off the sensor. Is there a trick? I don't want to break it. Thanks for the info
March 13, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Squeeze the tabs at the side and pull it straight off. It can get stuck due to age and debris. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Ed Comments: how can I tell if my timing is correct on a 202 bmw 325ci? I have removed the vanos and replaced the chain.
February 26, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Install the crankshaft and camshaft timing tools. If they fit and everything lines up normally, it is timed correctly. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
srl Comments: since there is easy access to the vanos solenoids, if one of them is leaking, should it be replaced or just cleaned up and put on new O-rings and reinstall? Thanks for all the great info!
February 12, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Depends on your budget. If removing you may as well replace it. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Larry Comments: e90 the same?
February 18, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No, it is different. The actuators are a bit easier to replace. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Squirrel Comments: Do the cams NOT have to be locked on the 3.0-liter M54 engine? I realize this article is designed for the 2.5-liter engine, but I have found vague information elsewhere that seems to indicate the cams are handled differently between the two engine sizes.
January 20, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: What vehicle are you working on?

All the 6-cylinder M54 engines are timed similarly. If this procedure deson't match your vehicle, I would grab a repair manual. It will have the procedure, special tools and torque specs.

Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Nick Comments: Is it essential to lock the crank and cams before removing the vanos unit? If you are careful not to move the cams when removing/re-installing the vanos can the job be done without doing it?
November 10, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You didn't mention what vehicle you are working on. You do have to lock the crank and cams. Otherwise your timing will not be right. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
dinosaur Comments: Thank you very much for your help it has given me inside to its workings now I've got to put it in to practice
October 21, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Adroir Comments: Olá preciso do reparo do vanos da bmw 325i 2001 igual éssa da imagem
October 21, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: This article applies to:

BMW 325i (2001-2005)
BMW 325Xi (2001-2005)
BMW 325Ci (2001-2006)
BMW 325ti (2001-2004) - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Harry Comments: Do the pistons in the vanos unit need to be in a certain position or is it only important that the cams and crank stay locked? I didn't realized the pistons could turn and I turned them after the unit was off of the engine.
October 18, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Depending on the engine, only the camshafts and crankshaft have to be locked. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Nazar Comments: Can the fastener screws come out, I accidentally broke one by tightening the bolt too much?
March 31, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Which fastener? If broken, they can be extracted or drilled out. - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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Page last updated: Mon 12/5/2016 02:19:06 AM