Information and FAQ's for the S54 Vanos


The S54 exhaust hub is a very common failure point and should be checked every 60k miles. The 2 tabs on the hub are prone to breaking off, causing vanos faults and misfires (best case) to engine failure if the one of the tabs falls into the timing chain. In some cases only one tab will fail, which can go unnoticed for a long period of time until the 2nd tab fails, so it's important to visually check the tabs every couple of years. We offer a brand new factory replacement hub that has been cryogenically treated to improve strength by 30% over stock. Cryo-treating is a very involved process which strengthens the metal by cycling the temperature below freezing, then heat treating the part.
The vanos also uses 4 solenoids which are attached to the bottom of the unit in a non-rebuildable aluminum case. These solenoids are very sensitive to oil pressure and can easily become clogged or damaged over time due to contaminates in the oil. Generally this will cause a fault code relating to the vanos and either intake or exhaust timing problems. We highly recommend changing the oil every 5000 miles and only using the BMW 10w60 High Performance oil to prolong the life of the vanos. For the most reliable results we always recommend using NEW factory solenoids over refurbished solenoids. New solenoids will easily last 80-100K miles when the oil is changed regularly.
Typically the S54 vanos does not exhibit the common diesel rattle noise under normal operation. If you notice that your engine has suddenly become noisy we recommend that the car not be driven any more than necessary until the source of the noise can be determined by removing the valve cover, vanos unit and both cam hubs to check all 12 mounting bolts holding each cam gear to the camshaft. These bolts are known to loosen up over time and if left unchecked can fail without warning. In some cases this can cause valve-to-piston interference severely damaging the engine.
The S54 vanos uses a high pressure oil pump located on the back of the vanos unit. This pump, along with the drive hub on the exhaust cam is a potential failure point that may cause extensive damage in a worst-case scenario. Mounted to the front of the exhaust camshaft is a drive hub that spins the oil pump on the back of the vanos unit. The tabs on this hub are known to fail without warning, causing the oil pump on the vanos to stop spinning. Without the high oil pressure needed to drive the cam timing, the engine will misfire at idle and have poor performance. It's common to see several mis-fire codes stored in the DME when this happens. Additionally, the tab failure on the exhaust hub will typically cause excessive wear to the oil pump holes as they bang back and forth, creating excessive play. Our rebuilt S54 vanos units have a modified oil pump to address this potential failure point, and when combined with our cryogenically treated exhaust hub will substantially reduces the chances of pump failures.
To help reduce valve train noise caused by the loose bearings in the splined gears, we offer a set of rebuilt gears with a slight preload on the internal bearings. The gears are offered individually or as a pair, and are sold on a core exchange basis.
Many of our parts are sold on a core exchange basis and require a refundable security deposit for your old parts. This deposit ensures that we receive a good working vanos (or other related part) which can be easily rebuilt and sold to another customer. Once the core is received we will refund the deposit to you within 1-2 business days providing the parts are not broken or damaged in a way other than normal wear and tear. A good rule of thumb is if the parts you are sending back are in more pieces than what we originally sent to you, then they are probably not rebuildable.

We fully disassemble the vanos so the actuator housing can be ultrasonically cleaned inside and out, the oil pump disc is modified smaller holes, then brand new factory solenoids and solenoid valves are installed. Finally, the vanos is fully tested with the special BMW tools to ensure everything performs properly.
The S54 Vanos comes fully built and ready to install, and includes a new vanos mounting gasket. The exhaust hub is not included with the S54 kit.

A core charge is a deposit for your old vanos unit. By returning your old unit to us in good condition, we refund the deposit and are in effect buying it from you. The core charge also allows us to send you a rebuilt vanos at a much lower price than a new unit would cost from the dealer. By sending out a complete, ready to install vanos the customer has the ability to replace their vanos as quickly as possible and then return their old vanos to us for the core refund. This helps to keep your downtime to a minimum so you can get back on the road without waiting for parts.

Please note that while most every S54 core is rebuildable, occasionally they can fail in a manner that prevents them from being rebuilt. In very rare situations the oil pump disc and it's bearing will catastrophically fail causing serious damage to the vanos and sometimes the engine itself. If this happens to you then your core may not be accepted for a refund. While this is a small risk for our customers, by purchasing our rebuilt vanos you are accepting the responsibility of this risk. Keep in mind that even if your core is damaged beyond repair, the cost will still be less than half of the retail price of a new S54 vanos at your local BMW dealer.

We ask that you return your old vanos unit to us as quickly as possible. Once we receive your complete core we will immediately refund the full core charge amount back to your PayPal or Credit Card account.

Cores must be in rebuildable condition to receive a full refund. Damaged cores will not be accepted for a core refund.

Yes. The basic S54 vanos install can be performed without using the special BMW tools, but we do recommend having one of our preferred shops install your vanos for you. See our 'Recommended Installers' page link above. In addition, the use of diagnostic software is recommended (but not required) for post-installation testing and adaptation procedures. When replacing the exhaust hub or cam bolts, the cam timing will need to be set, requiring the cam alignment tool and crank locking pin. We do offer the cam alignment tool kit for our customers to rent or buy. Of course you can always contact us by phone or email if you have any installation questions or concerns.

When installing a replacement S54 vanos we highly recommend replacing the cam gear bolts with new factory bolts, especially when replacing the exhaust hub. Of course if your have a broken exhaust hub tab we highly recommend our Cryo treated hub, which is 30% stronger than stock.

It can also be a good time for a valve adjustment, and the valve cover gaskets may need to be replaced if more than 5 years old.
Yes, we encourage customers to send in their vanos to avoid the core charge involved with providing a pre-built unit up front. Once you send your vanos in we can have it rebuilt and shipped back out within 1-2 business days in most cases.
 

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