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 > Technical Articles: / BMW E36 3-Series (1992-1999) >
BMW Camshaft Removal & Installation

Pelican Technical Article:

BMW Camshaft Removal & Installation


5 hours5 hrs






Two blocks of wood, 22m open-end wrench, a helper (two-person job), crescent wrench, small hammer, torque wrench

Applicable Models:

BMW E30 325i Coupe/Conv (1987-93)
BMW E30 325i/iX Sedan (1987-93)
BMW E30 325is/iX Coupe (1987-93)
BMW E36 323i Convertible (1998-99)
BMW E36 323is Coupe (1998-99)
BMW E36 325i Convertible (1992-95)
BMW E36 325i Sedan (1992-95)
BMW E36 325is Coupe (1992-95)
BMW E36 328i Convertible (1996-99)
BMW E36 328i Sedan (1996-99)
BMW E36 328is Coupe (1996-99)
BMW E36 M3 Coupe (1995)
BMW E36 Z3 Convertible (1997-02)
BMW E36 Z3 Coupe (1999-02)

Parts Required:

Camshafts, valve cover gaskets and spark plug sealing gaskets, head gasket

Performance Gain:

Restore power to the engine

Complementary Modification:

Adjust the valves
101 Performance Projects for Your BMW 3 Series

This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Wayne's new book, 101 Performance Projects for Your BMW 3 Series. The book contains 272 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to timing the camshafts. With more than 650+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any 3 Series owner's collection. The book was released in August 2006, and is available for ordering now. See The Official Book Website for more details.

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I recently had to tear down the top of my BMW 325is M50 engine in order to replace the head gasket (see accompanying tech article - coming soon). Performing this large amount of work, I decided that it would be in my best interest to have a complete valve job performed on the cylinder head at the same time. This requires that you remove the camshafts from the cylinder head.

Piece of cake, I thought, until I learned that the BMW camshafts are not like many others that I had worked on previously. Particularly on the six-cylinder cars, the camshafts are very long and hollow. This makes them very susceptible to bending and adverse side loads that can be placed on them during the removal process. After consulting the BMW factory documentation, I quickly realized that BMW requires you to use a special tool in order to remove the camshafts. "No problem," I thought. "I'll just purchase the tool and then rent it out through Pelican for others to use." Well, that well-thought out plan went right down the drain when I realized that the tool costs over $1400 and isn't even available for purchasing at this time. The story I received from our BMW dealer was that the tool is specially made by one guy, in some small company, in the motherland of Germany. There would be an eight-month lead time for delivery of the tool, and even that wasn't guaranteed. In addition to that, you had to buy two tools - one for the four cylinder engines, and an adapter add-on tool for the six cylinder engines.

Being the cavalier defender of the Do-It-Yourself mechanic, I decided that there had to be a better way to do this without using the tool. I dove into research, and inquired to many shops and BMW owners about how they have removed the camshafts. Just about everyone I spoke with told me that they either took their car to the dealer, or in one case, had the tool themselves. Hmm, not promising information. I even heard of one story where a poor soul took his 325is to a shop to have the camshafts swapped out - and they broke them removing them. To add insult to injury, they told the fellow that they weren't responsible, and that he had to buy new ones. I'll bet these dolts didn't even bother to check the BMW factory documentation (or even the Bentley manual) to find out the proper removal procedure.

Okay, so at this time, my goal was to find a way to safely remove the camshafts without using the tool, and without breaking or damaging them. I'll spoil the suspense right now - I achieved successful removal and installation using a special technique I developed after studying the camshafts for quite a few nights (and a few failed ideas, which I will explain in a few paragraphs). Especially encouraging was one story from a fellow who had seen a BMW racing crew carefully and quickly swap out camshafts in the pit without using the special tool. With this knowledge in hand, I had a feeling that I would be able to figure out a way to achieve this goal. If it sounds like I'm boasting right now - it's because I am - just about everyone I spoke with said not to try it. I just figured, "what's the worst that will happen - I'll just break some camshafts." I wanted my readers and customers to know what would work and what wouldn't work, without all the myths and hype.

Let me pause for a second though to give the standard disclaimer. BMW doesn't recommend that you use this method for removing your camshafts. If you don't do it correctly, you can break your camshafts. While this won't destroy your engine, you'll have to replace them ($500 or so apiece, new) before you can run your car again. This would probably be the worst-case scenario. However, if you are careful and smart, and follow my directions and precautions precisely, you should be able to achieve the same successes that I did. Note: I am not responsible if you use this method and you end up breaking your camshafts.

Anyways, let's talk for a moment about why the camshafts break, so that we can discuss the methods used to prevent this from happening. As mentioned previously, the camshafts are hollow, and very long (Figure 1). Camshafts are also hardened, which makes them very brittle and prone to cracking. Although I have never broken a camshaft, I would guess that they would break much easier than they would bend, due to the hollow geometry combined with the metal hardening processes. If you place a force on one end of the camshaft, and another force on the other end of the camshaft without adequate support in the middle, you will slightly bend and break the camshafts. The key to safely removing the camshaft is to reduce the uneven forces that are placed on it during the removal process.

Where do these forces come from? They come from the preloading of the valve springs. The camshaft can rotate, obviously, through 360˚ of motion. During 100% of this time, there is at least one pair of camshaft lobes pressing down on valve lifters and compressing a pair of valve springs. Transmitted through the lifters, the springs place a tremendous amount of force on the camshaft. The camshaft is supported evenly by the bearing cap that lies between each camshaft lobe. If the camshaft is cocked, or if the force is not evenly distributed across the length of the camshaft, then the camshaft will bend and break.

To understand what we need to do, I would first like to discuss how the factory tool works. Figure 2 (11-3-260) and Figure 3 (11-3-270) both show drawings of the BMW factory tool. The tool shown in these drawings is appropriate for the removal of camshafts on four-cylinder cars. The tool bolts onto the head near where the spark plugs are mounted. A handle on the tool then activates a set of rods that press down on all of the individual bearing caps that hold the camshaft to the head. At this point, with the tool in place, you can remove all of the nuts that hold each of the cam bearing caps in place. With the tool applying uniform pressure and force to each of the cam bearing caps (very important), you can release the rods slowly and let the camshaft rise off of the lower cam bearing surfaces. The tool applies even, uniform pressure across the entire camshaft during the removal process. When the camshaft lobes are no longer compressing the valve springs, then you can safely remove the camshaft, as it will have no more forces placed on it.

Make sense? It does to me. However, understanding the problem is only the first step. One would think that you could achieve the same results as the BMW tool by simply unscrewing all of the bearing caps uniformly. For example, each nut would be turned 1/2 turn until they were all removed. I must admit, in theory, this seems like it would work very well. However, from the research that I did, I found out that this is almost a sure-fire way to break your camshafts. It seems that simply uniformly removing the bearing cap nuts does not guarantee uniform pressure on the camshaft. I didn't hear too many of the specifics, but I did hear that there were quite a few camshafts broken using this method, so I quickly rejected it.

The problem lies with the tension that is placed on the camshaft by the valve springs. Reduce or remove this tension, and you should be able to safely remove the camshafts without them breaking. How to achieve this? Well, I first thought about fashioning a tool that would fit between the valve and the seat on the cylinder head. Such a fork-shaped tool would effectively hold the valve open and compress the seat. However, the tool would have to be manufactured out of a soft plastic-like material like Delrin, otherwise it may damage the seat in the head. My second idea was to use rope - marine rope to be precise, considering that it's available in many different thicknesses. With the head out of the car, you turn the camshaft until a particular valve is open. Then, wrapping the valve with rope, you rotate the camshaft and let the rope compress between the valve and the seat. My attempt at this is shown in Figure 4. For all intensive purposes, this does work. It safely keeps the valve slightly open and the spring slightly compressed. However, this technique didn't appear to keep the valve open enough to make too much of a difference on the force that is exerted on the camshaft. Besides, a number of problems exist with this method. You can only do this when the cylinder head is removed from the engine. You can only do this when the valve is compressed, which would make the insertion of the rope (or Delrin tool) difficult to do without an appropriate spring compressor.

After wrestling with the rope for several hours, I decided to give it a rest and see what else I could do. After many hours of pondering, and thinking, I began to wonder exactly how many valves had to be held open in order for the camshaft to not have any load placed on it. During normal operation, valves open and close. When the valves are closed, they do not place any load on the camshaft. So I got to thinking, "is there a spot on the camshaft where only one set of valves are open at a particular time?" The answer is yes - and that is key to the removal technique here. The theory is that if only one set of valves are open at a time, there are no forces or loads placed on the camshaft from any other lifters. Since each pair of cam lobes is supported by a single cam bearing cap in the center (Figure 5), slowly removing this bearing cap will leave equal pressure on both sides over a very small distance - basically making it impossible to break the camshaft.

Huh? This is one of those techniques that I have had great difficult explaining to people without the cylinder head sitting in front of me. Let's take a look for a moment at Figure 6. In this photo, the cam lobes for cylinder number one are shown with red arrows. The ones for cylinders 2-6 are shown with green arrows. For the purpose of removing the camshaft, you want to rotate the camshaft by using a wrench to grip the square end, as shown in Figure 7. If the head is out of the car, make sure it is supported on two small blocks of wood (Figure 8), so that the valves don't try to lift the head up in the air off of your table from the opposite side.

Rotate the camshaft so that the cam lobes for cylinder number one are acting on the valves for cylinder number one. At this point, it doesn't matter whether you're working on the intake or exhaust side. There should be a point in your rotation where the cam lobes are acting on valves for cylinder one, and all of the other valves (2-6) are closed. At this point, the valves for cylinder number one should be slightly open (not fully open).

How can you tell if the valves for cylinders 2-6 are closed? Easy - I just stuck my pinky finger down behind the camshaft lobe and tried to rotate the camshaft lifter in its bore. There will be a small clearance between the lifter and the camshaft when the valve is closed and no camshaft lobes are acting on the lifter. This will allow the lifter to be rotated in its bore by your finger. There should be one spot on the camshaft where you can rotate it, and all cylinders two through five should have the valves closed, and the lifters free to spin with your finger.

A word of caution here. The camshaft will be heavily spring-loaded due to the fact that cylinder number one has two valves compressed and open. In addition, the cam lobes acting on cylinder number one will be cocked off at an angle, meaning that the camshaft will be spring loaded, and can snap back into another position if not tightly held in place. For this reason, I recommend that this be a two-person job. One person holds the camshaft in place (Figure 7 and Figure 9), while the other person removes it. If not, then the camshaft can rotate while you're removing it, and this may cause it to become compressed against some valve springs and break. In addition, when you're feeling the lifters with your finger, if the camshaft rotates quickly back into place (snaps back), you may end up crushing your finger. Go with my advice here - two person job.

On my 1993 325is, I was able to find this "sweet-spot" where there was no loads placed on the camshaft, except for the valve springs from cylinder number one. While all of the BMW 3-Series camshafts are similar, they may have different profiles, where this sweet-spot doesn't exist. In this case, you need to find the spot closest to the "sweet-spot", where the valves for cylinder number 2-6 are all barely compressed. There will be one of these spots on your camshaft.

To remove the camshaft, simply put the camshaft into it's "sweet-spot" location and remove the cam bearing caps for cylinders 2-6. There should be no loads on these caps, and after an initial loosening, the nut should be able to be removed easily by hand. Make sure that your assistant is holding the camshaft secure and steady so it doesn't slip (Figure 10). If it slips at this point, the lobes will try to compress the valve springs with no support on the camshaft and it will surely break.

Turning your attention to cylinder number one, slowly begin removing the bearing cap. Alternate between screws and turn each one a quarter turn at a time - this will ensure that both sides of the cam bearing cap receive equal pressure. The camshaft should slowly lift up as the valve springs pull the valves back into their seats in the head. If it doesn't, then give it a very light tap with a very small hammer to loosen the bearing cap (Figure 11). Continue until the bearing cap can be removed. The nuts will go very close to the end of their travel on the stud before they will be able to be removed by hand (Figure 12 and Figure 13). This is normal. When the bearing cap is removed, there should be nothing holding the camshaft to the head, and you can simply remove it from the head (Figure 14). Don't drop it on the floor.

Alternate Method: If you can't get to a point where all of the lifters for cylinders 2-6 can rotate in their bores, then you need to slightly alter the previous procedure. Instead of removing all of the bearing caps for cylinders 2-6 all at once, use the following method. Put the camshaft in the rotation as close as possible to the point where there are no cam lobes acting on the lifters. This will be the point where cylinder number one lobes are acting on the camshaft, but the rest of the cylinders are placing very little force on the lifters. This will minimize the amount of force on the camshaft. Remove all the bearing caps for all cylinders (1-6) by turning each nut counter-clockwise a quarter turn, turning each and every nut only one quarter turn before continuing. In other words, turn all of the screws one quarter turn, then repeat in the same order.

Installation of a camshaft is performed in the opposite manner of removal. Set the camshaft on the head so that the lobes for cylinders 2-6 are as far away from the lifters as possible. The lobes for cylinder number one should be pointing downwards at an angle. Begin tightening the bearing cap for cylinder number one, a quarter turn on each nut, alternating as you go. Constantly check the lifters as you tighten down the camshaft - they should be free to rotate in their bores if you have aligned everything correctly. If you used the alternate method detailed above, then repeat the alternate method for installation - tighten each of the bearing caps for all of the cylinders one quarter turn, and then repeat. Camshaft bearing caps should be tightened to 11 ft-lb (15 Nm), as shown in Figure 15.

This procedure should work very well, particularly if the cylinder head is out of the car (Figure 16). You can perform this procedure if the engine is in the car, but it makes it quite a bit more difficult to navigate (Figure 17). One note of caution - if you do perform a camshaft swap with the engine in the car, then you will want to make sure that you don't accidentally tap your valves to your pistons. In order to be 100% safe, you should turn your engine clockwise to top dead center (TDC) for cylinder number one. Figure 18 shows the main crank gear with the TDC mark (green) pointing towards the notch on the engine case (red arrow). Now rotate the engine about 45 degrees clockwise. This will move the pistons about half-way in their bores so that they won't have any danger of touching the pistons - no matter what you do.

Well, there you have it. I hope that this wasn't too confusing. If it was, then send me an email at and I will do my best to clarify some of the concepts here.

This technical article is made possible solely through the support of Pelican Parts. If you like what you see here, then please visit our online BMW catalog and help support the collection and creating of new and informative technical articles like this one.

Comments and Suggestions:
Raider Comments: Thanks, I get the concept nowand it’s so obvious in hindsight. Once I lock the cams in and put the pin in to lock down at TDC, everything’s lined up again.

Unfortunately, I had 4 cracks that couldn’t be fixed and had to buy a new/used cylinder head. Hopefully it comes intact....
January 28, 2018
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the follow up. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Raider Comments: I’m a little confused. I got the head out thanks to your excellent and since I discovered three small cracks, I’m going to hand it over to a machine shop to have them fixed. Therefore, out come the cams.
Here’s what I’m stuck on: My cams are locked down at TDC using the special BMW cam locking tool. When I remove the cams from the head, how can they still be at TDC? There’s no instruction on how to accomplish this.
January 14, 2018
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: When removed, they won't be. But when reinstalling, you put them back in the position you removed them from. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Jack A Comments: Great article. I'm getting ready to do this on a e36 M50 that has a blown head gasket. I've been a mechanic for 45+ years and have done a lot of head gaskets but have never had the pleasure of pulling the head on a BMW. Glad you had this article to follow. Well written and procedure well explained. Thank you.
March 1, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Chris Comments: Hi Nick,

Have picked your brains before, have a euro 328 m52b28 with US S50 hollow cams.. Blow head gasket, saving money have taken the head off with the cams on. Have followed your guide so far.. Head is now resting on two wooden blocks at either end and I've managed to manually turn the cams so that cylinder 1 has all 4 valves open.. and the rest are shut, I can turn the lifters etc.

I'm confused, I thought cylinder one was the cylinder closest to the cam gear/vanos/thermostat. In your picture it's at the back of the engine with what I can tell every bearing cap off other than the last one.. E7/A7

Am I at the wrong end of the head? I was about to start but E1 and A1 caps are at the very end of the cams and not holding the lobes down which are E2 and A2?

Really don't want to break these cams as they cost a bomb to import/source from the states!

Appreciate any advise.

Chris Masters
February 5, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Cyl 1 in the cylinder closest to the timing chain. I don't have repair info for Euro engine, so I can't give you specifics. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Smithy111 Comments: Very helpful information. I need to change the valve stem seals on my 330Ci. I will follow this procedure very carefully, thanks.
October 18, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Dan Comments: Upon reinstalling the camshafts, should any lubricant be applied to the camshaft tray and caps, lifters and bores, etc. such as lithium grease? My head was cleaned at the machine shop so it is not lubricated. Thanks for the great articles!
September 11, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Use an engine assembly lube. Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can help you find the right part.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
jerry Comments: I loosen the nuts with the chains and everything still connected. I start at the back #6 and rotate the engine until the lobes are 180 deg off the lifter. I can now loosen the nuts for the adjacent bearing without any effect on load on the cam. I've done 3 cars the same way, no troubles. Or maybe I just got lucky.
August 10, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info and feedback. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Herman Comments: Hi i have a e36 m50 and i want to know can your cams and crank timing be out the car starts easy and have a lack of power and is smoking and feul consumption is 37.7l/100KM THANKS
June 7, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Camshaft timing can cause a lack of power. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Chris Comments: I cracked the head on my M43B18 1997 E36 and I'll be trying this method when I swap the parts over to my new head. It's a little different since it's SOHC and rockers, but I imagine the differences will be irrelevant. Thanks for the info!
December 20, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Let us know how it works out. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Bokke Comments: I took my BMW 325! E90 in for repair at my local dealer as it had a strange noise from the engine. They diagnosed and told me that they needed to replace one valve on piston number 6. I paid an arm and a leg for that. Two months down the line the car starts misfiring on piston number six. I took it to them and now they are telling me that the camchaft is broken closer to piston number six. Now I should pay a new one? Could it not possibly be them that broke the camshahft when the fixed the valsve on piston number six?
June 17, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I can't comment on what they may have done without seeing the vehicle before and after they repaired it. If the original problem was remedied, then a new problem surfaced, I would assume they repaired the vehicle correctly. It is possible the camshaft was part of the original issue, but not bad enough to notice. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Charles Comments: It occurs to me that this "sweet spot" where only one cylinder is at TDC exhaust stroke with valve overlap must be there for every cylinder, not just #1. So the head could be placed in a shop press, balanced front to back, and the middle bearing cap loaded with the press while the four other caps two on either side of the press frame are removed. Might be simpler than trying to do all five at once with square stock? Although the all-at-once method would not require pre-positioning of the cam.
January 22, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I have no experience with that method, as I have the factory tool. Have you tried it yourself?- Nick at Pelican Parts  
emilo Comments: Hi
I have a one question. What is the book?

November 9, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Right here: - Nick at Pelican Parts  
paul Comments: I have a 2004 E46 with an n42 engine. How can i set the cams without the tool they say you need. I have the motor in TDC.
September 9, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You can't. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Fast-Learner Comments: Got the camshaft off thanks to your help here. However, having trouble finding the torque specs for an E36/M42 for a 318ti. We need the sequence and torque for the bearing caps for the 4 cylinders. Would the torque be 11ft-lbs15NM as well?
August 16, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I don't have that information handy. 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
Rick Comments: I have a Bmw 2001 3.0 x5 series, need to do the head gasket but I need to know if the procedure above mentioneto take the cams off. works for this engine M54 as well tnx
July 21, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No, the procedure is different. 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. This might be helpful, slightly different though: - Nick at Pelican Parts  
JCoder Comments: Hello All,

So upon removing my valve cover I noticed the the camshaft bearing cap on the exhaust side closest to the firewall was snapped in two. I am wondering if I need to replace just the bearing cap, the cam and bearing cap, or the Cam/bearing cap/tray/ and Lifters? Any advice would be great.

Thanks in advance guys!

April 9, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: This is a tough one. I would imagine the bearing cap and the camshaft at the minimum. However, the cylinder head may also be damaged. You are going to have to pull the camshaft out to inspect the head and see what requires replacing. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
ELISHA Comments: I have a 1993 BMW318i E36,The timing belt just damaged yesteday and the car could not run,Now i want to replace it but my question is How do i know that the valves were not damaged and the camshaft if they are safe.
January 27, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The engine is an interference engine. You should put the cylinders at 90° before tdc, set cam timing, them set crank timing. Once this is done, you can leak test the cylinders to check for damage You will want to temporarily install a timing belt to use when rotating the engine once it is timed. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
CHJacob Comments: I used your instructions to get the cams off, got a valve job, then got them back on. But now I notice there are a couple valves that are slightly compressed, even when the lobes are pointing directly up and there should be no pressure on the lifters. Is this a problem with my installation of the cams or is it possible the shop I took it to messed something up during the valve job?
October 9, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If the lobe of the cam is up, those valves should be closed, if not they are stuck open for some reason. They could be bent, you could have a bad valve guide, or a lifter problem. I would take a closer look and find the problem before you put the head back on.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Chris H Comments: I will be installing re-grind cams in my '96 M3 in the near future. I have two questions. 1 When removing the stock cams, will the S52 cam profiles allow free play on cylinders 2-6 as described in the writeup, or will I need to use the alternate method and loosen those caps 1/4 turn at a time? 2When installing the new modified cams, is there anything special I will need to do since the profiles will be different?
September 5, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Loosen them 1/4 turn at a time. You are going to have to check the valve lash and also look for interference issues with the pistons and valves.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
BOSS Comments: awsome thanks very much you guys are top blokes and i wouldnt go anywhere else fo parts or info cheers
August 26, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
boss Comments: hello,i am going to be swapping out a cracked head for a good one on my 325i m50 vanos.and cant seem to grasp the basically i have removed the head and have my flywhel locking pin in. my new head is complete but when it was removed it wasnt set to tdc so am i able to manually align the camshafts to tdc using a cresent whils it is off?also i read in your article to take the pin out and rotate the crank 30 degrees before torquing the head down.and then turn back to tdc and re-insert the pin is this correct? would that not affect the camshafts if i was to turn the crank whilst they are locked please help
August 23, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If you set the camshafts to TDC before installing it, you can torque it fine with the crankshaft locked. The article note is referring to replacing the camshafts with the head installed.- Nick at Pelican Parts  
Spankdathass Comments: This was totally helpful. It was well written and well thought thru. This is why this company is still in business today. It's not all about profit. It's about helping the customer because they care. This is why I keep coming back.

Thank you
June 25, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
jc Comments: From the photos, it looks like this was a vanos motor. Did you ever try this on a non-vanos motor? I have a '92 non-vanos m50 and I am guessing the cams have more lift or the studs are shorter because with the nuts nearly at the end of there travel no more than two threads engaged it looks like the valves are still extended at least 3-4mm. I am afraid that if I turn them any more, one of the nuts will come off before all of the tension is off the springs and even if it something doesn't bend or break, there will be no way to get it back on.
December 4, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If concerned about bolt length, you can build a tool from wood to support the camshaft bearing journals during bolt removal. Just clamp wood along the top of the beraing journals, secured around head, with another piece of wood at the bottom prtecting the cylindfer head. Then remove the bolts, and slowly loosen the clamp. A large C-clamp should do the trick.- Nick at Pelican Parts  
VitonVanos Comments: Great write-up by Dempsey and YouTube follow up by M Nichols. Have used this procedure probably 20 times on the 2.8L M52 engines, both with head in and out of car. A few things: 1I do my removal/installs without 2nd personleft hand on wrench holding cam and right hand turning cap screws, 2getting sweet spot on stock cams using bare clean pinkie method to rotate all lifters except #1 cylinder is crucial, 3 before removing caps, I always use a chisel punch & ball peen to mark the foreward-most cap and cam lip next to it caps A1 and E1 and then keep these corresponding cap/cam marks in alignment for each cam to ensure cam is stall at sweet spot, and 4Go look up the price on a set of replacement cams on Pelican's fine site just to keep in mind the gravity of doing this procedure correctly not for the faint of heart or mechanically-challanged, and lastly, buy stuff from Pelican Parts as they give us BMW nuts so much invaluable free information.
February 26, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback and plug. We are glad to help. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Rick Comments: Great write up. I am ready to move forward.

January 20, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
ciphertx Comments: Excellent strategy here, sir. Was able to easily remove and install my cams without damage. Been 15k miles since the head was off and everything is still great. Thanks!
January 6, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Glad we could help, thanks for the feedback. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
M Nichols Comments: Wayne,

As promised a video on the cam replacement. If I would have had this to review before starting the project I would have felt much better.

Mike Nichols

December 22, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Cool, thanks for sharing!

johnnysurrey Comments: My e36 DME shorted from water and caused the fuel pump to activate and the injectors to fire over night flooding the engine and hydro-locking the cyl's - unable to crank in the mourning. Fuel spills from air box agressively filling the manifold etc.. Bent con rods or valves ?
November 29, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would assume there is engine damage. However, I have seen a few survive water or oil intake into the cylinders. Dry the engine, then check compression, it is the only way to know for sure. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Braaicharcoal Comments: Hi
Interesting article & not many would realise until too late the camshafts are hollow.
For me - I would be inclined to combine both your methods especially if cyl head were on the bench in any case.
Make up 2 plastic discs with slots in them and put them between the valves and seats on the "sweet spot".
You have to go to full lobe and back again of course to do any good.
Takes a little longer - but less risk.
September 28, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback, glad to help. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
e30 s52 Comments: i understood the concept but had to re read it a few suggestion to people is read the whole thing...he said the ropes dont work DONT D O N T...DO NOT...thanks for the post
May 29, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
bvlady Comments: WAYNE I NEED HELP PLEASE it is bvlady i had don everithing acording to you and averithing in these articles but i had bent 2 valves on the 6 piston from the intake now i had replaced them and cleaned the hydraulic lifters all of them.1-st question :Why dit i bent only 2 valves?
2-nd :i have to give the car a key with out the spark plugs instaled now when i put the head engine back and the cams.the head engine is perfect it was tested what is the procedure to spin the engine with out any damage to the valves?.
the 1-st time before i started the engine i turnd it by hand few time and nothing was stuk it didnt hit the valves but when i started it it was a ouful noise at first and no compresion on the six-th piston beacouse it hit the intake
valves my angine is 325 M50.thanks i wait as soon as posible four your answers
May 3, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The only safe way to turn the engine ovber without bending valves would be to do so with the head removed from the engine, or with the camshafts removed fromt he heads. Otherwise you risk valve damage. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
bvladrian Comments: thanks Wayne i found on youtubepeople i didnt understand it at 1-s but serch on youtube the removal and instal part but i cant remove the head engine from the engine blok i i have a question four you once more.
can i tke the cams out with the 1-st piston down with your method.
April 19, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You want the engine properly timed when you remove the head. This helps with reinstallation and obtaining correct engine timing. CYlinder 1 should be at TDC. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
bvladrian Comments: please help me i cant understand the way to remove the camshaft.ok i have to keep the valves 2-6 colased and the from where do i start unsrewing the cam ?fom wher im holding the wrench.the first one to un screw is in the front of the head cilinder where the chain is.ok then the second clamp stays as it is.the second one is to be unscrewd last? please help mee
April 12, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I can't really explain it any better than I did in the article. Read the article very carefully, and follow along with the photos, and it should make sense. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
EdMulder Comments: I would like to change the cams in my M42 while the engine in the car. Great discussionSame principle..what cams do recommend for street engine.
February 25, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It's not too difficult on this engine - the valve cover pops off pretty easily and the two cam gears are very accessible from the top. Shrick makes good cams for a bit more performance, although I'm not sure what they offer for the four cylinder engines. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Tony Comments: I just read this article to prepare for the installation of my camshafts on my 2001 530i. Is there another article and set of pictures for the installation procedure? This seems like the removal instructions only.
November 29, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: There are a few more article on the whole procedure in our main tech articles area. Take a look at the head gasket article in particular. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
jomechanic Comments: it works for me, the sweet spot could be any other just using sense of logical
thanks for the article
July 21, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No sweat - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
flyfishvt Comments: What a great writeup. It worked like a charm on my 318i. I lost two of the head bolt washers and had to take the cams off to find them.

One change or addition you might want to make: I was really nervous about doing this and almost didn't until I looked at the additional pictures and figured it out. You failed to mention that when you take the caps off for 2-6 you can also take off the one in front of Cylinder #1 that has the chain guide attached to it at the same time so the only one you have left is #1. I also didn't see anything about reinstalling the cams safely. Nervous Nelly's like me need every detail spelled out when it comes to potentially expensive procedures like this one.
May 2, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Glad we could help. Thanks for additonal information. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
shawnCT Comments: I followed your instructions and it worked great! I was so nervous about taking the head apart. I kept looking for professionals to rebuild the head. After a month of no call backs I gave up and decided to try it myself. I did just the instructions to a T. I honestly think most BMW mechanics do it this way and just never tell you.

I think BMW loves to sell tools! I did the entire head job without any special tools. I just improvised.
March 29, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback, glad to help. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
coach Comments: you do a great job.can you replace my head gasket.
March 19, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Sorry, we are nto a repair facility. We can help you find the parts you need to replace your head gasket. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
dazamup Comments: hi, i have a e46 1999 318i with a 4cyl M43 engine, from the looks of it, there are followers and rockers in the head. am i correct in saying once i take the rockers off there will be no presure on the camshaft
January 22, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You can remove the rocker arms witht he cmashaft installed, you have to align the camshaft to a certain position. You'll want to grab a repair manual. Once rmeoved, the rocker arms should relieve pressure on the valves. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Hefftone Comments: I just removed the intake cam quite easily from a S52, which I had just pulled thanks to wayne's write up!!!
With cylinder head REMOVED and engine tilted on exhaust port side. Rotate Intake cam to "sweet spot", feeling for lifters to be spinable, except for one pair that will be somewhat open. Then using a block of 2x4 on the bottom of the head, I place a large clamp onto the block, and the cam bearing cap for the open pair of valves. Tighten, but leave enough screw action if using a bar clamp with screw adjuster, you'll need that in a minute.
Remove the nuts for ALL bearing caps over the closed valves, and remove the caps.
At this point, the should only be the bearing clamped over your open pair of valves. MAKE SURE YOUR CLAMP IS SECURED!!! There should be as much pressure as you can achieve with the clamp.
Now, break each nut a quarter turn, untill they will spin off completely. Now the clamp his holding the cam bearing down, and the valves open.
Simply loosen the clamp, and the valve springs will push back until the valve closes, and will push back the final cam bearing until free of pressure. This is where you need to allow yourself a bit of extra backing off adjustment, with the clamps screw adjuster. A Large C-clamp may work, as long as is does not get in the way of the bearing cap nuts.
November 1, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback and additional information. Glad it worked out. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Big Jerry Comments: Mr Dempsey. Why not just use the guy belows method and get rid of all the confusing stuff above? Make some pics of it too. Makes it way easier to me to understand...
October 24, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: As mentioned in the article, I didn't end up using the ropes method - it didn't work. The method I used in the article is far simpler than the jig method shown below. Read the article carefully again, and it should be clear. If not, let me know if you have any additional questions. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Joe Bond Comments: Sorry for yet another post here, I have no idea what my friend of a similar name "Engineer Joe" below is talking about but the way I put my cams back in was the same way I took them off. First, set the cams in the ledgers with the #1 cylinder intake and exhaust lobes facing each other. Then put the bearing caps on top with the bolts in. Use a piece of heavy square stock, again applying LIGHT, slow and evenly distributed pressure from the ram across the caps. Keep a close eye on the caps to ensure even pressure as the ram pushes the cams down onto the ledgers. Once the caps were very close to being seated ~1/8" gap or less, I then locked the ram and finger tightened the bolts. I then kept the ram and stock on the caps and completed tightening the caps down, in an alternating method similar to bolting the head down till they were all seated. Done.
October 16, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Yup. It's not too complex, especially if you follow my instructions above. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Joe Bond Comments: Recommend the staff either remove this as a suitable technique or have people allow the machine shop to remove the cams. Too time consuming, confusing, risky and dangerous to knuckles...
October 16, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. if someone sees the difficulty of this repair and thinks it is above their ability, I would thinkt hey would choose to have the camshafts removed by a repair shop. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Joe Bond Comments: Follow up to my bearing press method... I'm cursed! Had to replace the head gasket on my 17 yr old's 98 323Is. Since I moved to a new town in the north east, the local shop here DOES NOT remove the cams as part of their service because they said they don't have the BMW tool. So I had to use the method again and it still works. Additionally, I passed it along to the shop who says they're now going to use it now. Lastly, I had another guy email me about using a bearing press technique. He bent a valve with the ropes method.
October 16, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Right, as I mentioned in the article, the ropes method *did not* work for me. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Engineer Joe Comments: I think the term the author was looking for in terms of describing the effect of the distance between a fixed point and a force is bending radius. The shorter the better to reduce bending stress. By having all the other lobes 'free' then the only force is on the one journal that sits right next to it, thus keeping the bending radius very short and minimizing bending stress.
I would bet that there are multiple sweet spots where only one set of lobes are acting on the springs. Ideally the 3 or 4 hole would be better as if there is a slip, it would cut the radius in half.
Might also be a good idea to spell out how to put the cams back in. I could not get the nuts on the studs on E2 with the lobes in the down position, causing me much anxiety.
September 9, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback and additional information. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Fast FRANK Comments: Very interesting and a big help.
August 26, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
UFC Fan Comments: That's a great idea! I wish I would've read this before I bent two valves doing the "magical ropes!" Broke a knuckle nearly too.
July 28, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Joe Bond Comments: There's a more simple and more importantly safer way of removing your camshafts without using a crescent wrench and magical clothes line. I'm no factory trained BMW technician but this works great and you don't place incredible stress on the valves. See attached pic. Essentially you must have a friend with a bearing press and an ability to make a solid, wooden jig that will level the top of the head while it's under the press an some kind of solid square stock. Simply palce the stock over the bearing caps, apply LIGHT pressure, remove the bearing caps. No ropes, no stress on the valve train, no crescent wrenches, no problem. Lastly, before I knew my head was cracked, I removed the cams on head this way. When I took it into the shop to be tested, the machinist asked me where the cams were. He said they remove them and put them back as part of the service. So... save yourself the pain. If you blow a head gasket, take the entire head in to be re-worked. You'll get it back the same way...
June 7, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback and additonal information. The graphic is a big help.. - Nick at Pelican Parts - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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