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This article is one in a series that have been released in
conjunction with Wayne's new book, 101c


g #$
  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.



p p

This technical article is designed to be used in conjunction with

other ones in our Technical Library. If you replace your head
gasket, you will need to retime your camshafts and re-install the
Vanos unit. For the purpose of instruction here, we'll assume that
you have your cylinder head installed on the engine block, the
crankshaft is locked at Top Dead Center (TDC), and your two
camshafts are locked using the BMW camshaft locking tool. This
article will guide you through the process of retiming your
pp camshafts, and re-installing the Vanos variable camshaft timing

This article departs from our normal format of text and words
mingled together. Since there are so many photos associated with
this article, I have arranged them in assembly order with captions
for each. Read through each caption as a step in the assembly

We start the procedure by making sure that the engine is at Top

Dead Center (TDC). At this point, the TDC pin is installed into the
locking position, and is holding the flywheel steady (see Head
Gasket Replacement article for more details). The camshafts are
locked in place using the camshaft locking tool. This will allow us
p to properly align and time the camshafts and the Vanos unit. p
1 p
Shown here is the sprocket for the exhaust camshaft. Prior to
mounting it on your engine, verify that the teeth of the gear are
not worn or damaged. Also inspect the inner mounting slots to
see if there is any wear from being loose at one time.p
% p
Install the sprocket onto the exhaust camshaft. Make sure that
the mounting holes located on the camshaft flange are visible
through the slots in the sprocket, and also make sure that the
holes are biased towards the left side of the slots, as is shown by
the red arrow. It may require some maneuvering to get the
p sprocket into it's proper position. Normally, it takes multiple
# p attempts to get it to look exactly like the photo on the left. p

Turn your attention now to the lower chain tensioner, which is

located on the lower part of the block, on the right side of the car.
We will be removing this tensioner and replacing it with a
tensioner tool, which will keep the chain tight while we time the
p cams.p
& p
Here is the tensioner tool, which we use in place of the spring-
loaded tensioner when timing the camshafts. It's important to use
this tool, and not to rely solely on the spring -loaded tensioner - it
does not provide enough tension when the car is sitting to
accurate time the camshafts. Use the tool, and get the accurate
p reading that your engine deserves. p
' p

Remove the tensioner by placing a socket on the end piece of the

tensioner. Do not remove the tensioner block which is attached to
the housing (not necessary). When the tensioner comes out, it is
spring loaded, so be prepared for it to pop out when you release
p the tension with your socket and driver. p

Here is the tensioner assembly when you remove it. The assembly
consists of a plunger, spring, cap, and sealing ring. p

( p

Replace the tensioner with the proper tensioning tool. For now,
simply tighten the tool so that it is hand tight - we don't need or
want the chain tension to be super-tight right now. p
) p
With the left sprocket installed, install the center plastic chain
guide and torque down the long bolts that hold it in place. Don't
over torque (10 Nm) - the first time I did this, the long bolt was
brittle and broke off in the cylinder head. I had to take the
assembly back apart, fish out the bolt, and then special order a
p new one (3 days wait).p
* p
With the guide in place, reinstall the top chain tensioner. These
tensioners sometimes fail, but there really isn't a good method for
testing them. I recommend replacement if your engine has at
least 80,000 miles on it or so. A little bit of preventative
maintenance can go a long way here. Tighten the bolts down to
p 20 Nm.p
10 p

This photo shows the tensioner installed and ready to go. Inspect
the ramp before you install it to see if there is any significant wear
or obvious deformations. The ramp should still be held in place
using the two small hex keys that you inserted when you removed
p it. Do not release the tensioner yet.p
11 p
Place the camshaft sensor cap onto the intake camshaft. This
metal cap serves to trigger the camshaft position sensor, and lets
the engine know whether the engine is on an intake or exhaust
stroke of it's 4-cycle process. The camshaft position sensor fits
into the hole on the right side of this photo ( you can make out the
p small green o-ring to the lower right). p
1% p
Shown here are the studs for the thrust washer and sprocket.
These studs look very similar to the ones that mount the valve
cover to the head - don't mix them up. Compare yours carefully
to the ones in the photo to make sure that you have the right
studs. It is also important to keep in mind that there are two
types of Vanos units (early/late). The early units do not have a
p plate spring, whereas the later ones do. The plate spring fits over
1# p the intake camshaft thrust washer, and requires slightly longer
studs. This particular car does not have the spring plate. p

Install the thrust washer onto the intake camshaft. Use the
special studs, and install it in the same configuration in which it
was removed. In other words, in this photo, you can see the oil
stain from the slots that surround the studs. Install this side
facing you when you reinstall this thrust washer (copy the photo).
p Torque the studs to 20 Nm. p
1& p
Now, take the two intake sprockets and chain and attach it to the
6 assembly. See the photo for the proper orientation of the two
sprockets. The exhaust sprocket should have it's cup facing
outwards, and the intake sprocket should have its cup fa cing
inwards. Verify that both sprockets are correctly mounted flush to
the surfaces behind them. The intake sprocket is installed with the
flat side facing you (the Vanos unit). The collar of the intake
p sprocket faces and points to the camshaft. Align the two
1' p sprockets and the chain so that the slots are centered on both
sprockets (see arrows).p

Here's another view of the intake Vanos sprocket, correctly

mounted flush against the thrust washer behind it. Soak all of the
sprockets, gears and chains in clean motor oil before you install
them - these are sliding parts that need lubrication. p
1 p
Now, install the thrust washer onto the intake camshaft and
tighten the nuts down. It's okay to reuse the old nuts. If you
have the Vanos unit with a spring plate, then install it first, before
the thrust washer (not shown). Tighten the nuts down to 10Nm.
 c+ , With the nuts tight, the inside sprocket should be
free to rotate back and forth about 20 degrees, along with the
chain. When I assembled this engine, I found that it could not.
p Some of the bolts and flanges were worn, and I had to order new
1( p
ones. The Vanos unit requires that this "sandwich" of parts be
able to rotate smoothly. Verify this prior to proceding. p

Install the screws onto the exhaust camshaft. Place them onto the
sprocket and tighten them only Î ,-Î. We will be making
adjustments later on, and these bolts only need to be in place to
hold the exhaust camshaft in its proper position. p
1) p
,+. From this point on, these are the instructions that you will
pp want to look at if you are simply replacing the Vanos unit. p

Here is what your engine should look like now. You have the new
camshafts installed, you have the chain and sprockets properly
setup, and we're ready to install the Vanos unit. p
%0 p
Shown here is the Vanos unit. It consists of a solenoid, and a
hydraulic gear that is activated when oil pressure is released into
the unit by the solenoid. It's a rather simple device. The gear on
the unit is pushed out by oil pressure and as it moves outward, it
rotates the small sliding camshafts sprockets, thus advancing the
p camshaft timing.p
%1 p

Test the Vanos unit by pulling out the gear plunger all the way.
You should be able to simply pull on it with your hand, and it
should extend from the housing (see arrow). If the unit still has
oil in it at this time, it will make a gurgling noise or two. Push the
p plunger back into the unit when you are finished. p
%% p

The BMW service manuals recommend that you place some

silicone sealant around the left and right mounting points
(alignment pins) for the front Vanos seal. This photo shows the
right side (looking at the engine from the front). Repeat for the
p left side alignment pin.p
%# p

Install a new seal onto the front of the cylinder head (indicated by
the arrow). The seal should be made of a thin metal. p

%& p
Now comes the tricky part. Rotate the front sprocket/chain
assembly all the way clockwise to the right (towards where the air
cleaner sits). With the plunger of the Vanos unit pushed all the
way back into its housing (important), place the Vanos unit on the
p cylinder head.p
%' p

The Vanos unit has inside gears that need to mesh with the one s
on the sprocket (see arrow). When you push the Vanos unit onto
the cylinder head, it will not want to easily mesh with the gears on
the sprocket. 
 the sprocket/chain assembly should
p still be rotated as far clockwise as possible.p
% p
With your fingers, rotate the spline shaft on the Vanos unit, until
you can engage one spline of the sprocket. Pushing forward on
the Vanos unit, carefully rotate the sprocket/chain assembly
counter-clockwise. As you do this, the Vanos unit should slide in
towards the cylinder head. Always ensure that the FIRST suitable
p tooth combination between the sprocket and the Vanos unit
%( p engages. p

Reinstall the main mounting bolt and the engine lift ring. p

%) p

After tightening down the Vanos housing, and clean up any

squeeze-out from the silicone that you used to help seal the unit
to the cylinder head. p
%* p

With the sprockets properly installed, now pull out the retaining
pins and reapply tension to the chain. The tensioner should spring
back with some force and tight the chain quickly. If it appears
sluggish, or does not spring back, then replace the tensioner
p before continuing. p
1* p
Now, tighten down the tensioner tool to 1.3 Nm. This is such an
incredibly small amount, that you can simply use a hand-wheel
ratchet to tighten the chain very tight. You want to remove all
slack in the chain prior to tightening down the exhaust sprocket.
Use of the regular spring-loaded tensioner does not place enough
p tension on the chain to correctly tighten the sprocket. p
#% p

With the tensioner tool still in place, tighten down the four nuts on
the exhaust sprocket (15 Nm). Reinstall the plugs on the outside
of the Vanos cover.p
#0 p
Remove your tensioner tool, and replace it with the real
tensioner. Make sure that the slot in the end of the tensioner is
correctly aligned with the ramp on the inside of the engine. If you
make this mistake, it will cause the chain to rattle fiercely and may
p cause damage to your engine.p
#& p

Remove the camshaft holding tool from the rear of the engine.
Also remove the flywheel locking tool.p

#' p
You're finished! Your Vanos unit should be installed, the
camshafts will be timed properly, and all you have left to do is: p

’p Connect Vanos oil linep

’p Connect Vanos electrical control linep
’p Install valve cover with new sealp
p Reinstall Coilsp
# p ’p