Bimmerfest - BMW Forums - View Single Post - Cute little trick to diagnose blocked CCV system...
View Single Post
Old 05-25-2011, 10:48 AM
rdl rdl is offline
Officially Welcomed to the 'Fest
Location: Ontario, Canada
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 1,790
Mein Auto: 530i 2003
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post

... stuff deleted ...

They're mostly the same. AFAIK, the key difference is that the CCV itself looks different depending on the model year, and, the orange-and-black vacuum hose is not on the newer models.

For my M54, I simply placed a plastic bag over the oil filler hole:

The balloon test over the dipstick tube can be useful since if you find any pressure (i.e. inflating balloon) the CCV has failed.
OTOH, I think the plastic bag over the oil filler is not precise enough to measure a failure on the too much vacuum side. From my experience it pays to do the test with accuracy - and pay attention to the results .

For instance, I sarted getting a bit of a rough idle. I tried the baggy test & passed. I assumed the CCV was OK. Then I measured crankcase vacuum accurately & found 9 inches of water column vacuum; well outside the 4 - 6 inches specified by BMW. I knew the CCV was going south, but took a chance and hoped it would be "OK enough" until warmer weather arrived. A few months later I had ~45 inches w.c. (!) vacuum and most of the symptoms listed for a failed CCV. And weather around 0 F.

Here is a link describing how to measure CCV operation accurately, cheaply and in about 10 minutes.

Since there have been so many questions on the topic of CCV operation and failure, here is a description of how I think the CCV operates using Bluebee's picture for reference.

The vent pipe, swirl labyrinth chamber and vent hose are always at the same pressure or vacuum - there is no valve or obstruction between them. The swirl labyrinth is the lower part of the CCV assy that the vent pipe & vent hose connect to. Further, they connect to the valve cover & crankcase without restriction and are at crankcase pressure/vacuum.

The connecting line and return pipe connect to the inlet manifold which has a vacuum of ~20 inches Hg (mercury) at idle; ~260 inches water column vacuum.

The portion of the CCV immediately beside the blue "CCV" label in Bluebee's picture is a vacuum regulator whose job it is to maintain 4 -6" w.c. vacuum in the swirl chamber.

When the engine starts, the labyrinth is at 0 vacuum (i.e. vacuum is less than 4" w.c.) & the orifice/valve in the regulator is open. The gases in the swirl chamber flow through the regulator into the connecting line (which is at high vacuum), on to the inlet manifold and through the engine. Soon the vacuum in the swirl chamber (also the crankcase to which it is connected) is sucked down to 4 - 6" w.c. vacuum and the orifice valve in the regulator closes.

The engine runs, more blowby gases from the combustion chamber enter the crankcase & raise the pressure (reduce vacuum) in the vent pipe & swirl chamber. The regulator opens again, allows manifold vacuum in the connecting line to suck them away until crankcase vacuum is back to 4 - 6" w.c. at which point the regulator closes again. And on it goes, cycling over and over.

As the blowby gas travels through the engine toward the CCV, it picks up microscopic droplets/mist of oil. We don't want this oil mist to go through the vacuum regulator, into the inlet manifold and be burned: high oil consumption and air pollution. Enter the swirl labyrinth; it causes oil droplets/mist in the blowby gases to stick to the wall of the labyrinth and drain down the vent hose into the dipstick tube and sump while the "cleaned" gases carry on through the regulator.

Now the problems that ocurr.
One of the CCV hoses ruptures with age and lets air into the swirl chamber. The regulator stays open in a losing battle to get down to 4" w.c. vacuum. Lots of air is sucked in through the hole, on to the inlet manifold and the ECU senses a vacuum leak - bad news.

The regulator diaphram ruptures with age. Now it can't close the orifice and crankcase vacuum goes high. And/or the rupture is so large that we have enough of a vacuum leak the the ECU gets upset. Plus gaskets and seals are being pushed harder than designed may fail entirely.

The CCV and hoses can get very cold in winter conidtions since they aren't heated or even insulated. Blowby gases have lots of water vapour as a product of combustion chemistry. If these gases get cold enough, the vapour condenses into water and we get sludge/mayo. The mayo/water can freeze and block the regulator orifice - either open or closed.
Stuck open - high vacuum resulting in damaged gaskets/seals (or at worst, hydrolock according to BMW)

EDIT 2 - had this sentence in the "stuck closed" paragraph:
Also, seals and gaskets can start leaking air into the crankcase - a vacuum leak according to the engine.

Stuck closed - high pressure resulting in oil leaks &/or blown out gaskets and seals. BMW warns pressure can get high enough to crack the valve cover.

Again in cold weather, water condenses in the swirl chamber, sludges it up so it can no longer separate out the oil mist droplets. Then, the blowby with oil mist is routed straight to the vacuum regulator into the engine. High oil consumption and in the worst case, hydrolock.

Again in cold weather, the oil draining down the vent hose toward the sump plugs up in the narrow channel of the dipstick tube. Perhaps with some mayo/sludge if the regulator isn't operating properly (see above) to get all the water vapour out of the swirl chamber fast enough before it condenses. The liquid oil backs up into the swirl chamber, oil gets sucked through the vacuum regulator into the engine. In the worse case, so much oil the engine hydrolocks.

Three, four & five being good reasons for installing the cold weather CCV kit & insulated hoses.

EDIT: six
I occurs that if the CCV fails as above, oil mist and water can condense out in the distribution piece that the connecting line attaches to on the way to the inlet manifolc. One could then replace the CCV but have enough sludge in the distribution piece that a slug of it is pulled into the inlet manifold after the repair when the CCV is perfect. Bad news.
Seems a good reason for at least checking the distribution piece when doing a CCV overhaul.


Last edited by rdl; 05-25-2011 at 12:20 PM. Reason: added fault six - distribution piece. Edit 2 - correct fault three desc.
Reply With Quote