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E36/7 Z3 (1996-2002)
E36/7 Z3 Roadster, Z3 coupe, Z3 M Roadster and Z3 M Coupe talk with our gurus here.

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  #1  
Old 03-18-2013, 12:41 AM
Meat Head Meat Head is offline
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Mein Auto: 2008 Dodge Charger SRT8
S54 engine- rod bearing design flaw question

Ok guys, new question for my quest to purchase a Z3 M Roadster! I'm now seriously looking at a 2002 M Roadster with 51k miles on it. Its a two owner car. The current owner has had the car for the past 7 years. He is not much of a gear-head at all but he always garage kept the car and has had all maintenance done at his local BMW. I know that the S54 engine has the rod bearing design flaw. How can I tell if the rod bearings on the crank shaft have been replaced with the updated version? The current owner didn't know what the hell I was talking about so I assume he didn't have it done but I'm thinking that the first owner (owned it for the first 4 years) my have had it done under warranty or on his own dime. Is there a way that I can find out? Is this something I should be worried about or if the car hasn't encountered a problem before 51k am I ok? Is the S54 engine inherently a good or bad engine? Thanks for your thoughts..........
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  #2  
Old 03-18-2013, 05:38 AM
dougmcintyre dougmcintyre is offline
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Location: Chapel Hill, NC
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 661
Mein Auto: 2000 M Coupe, 1997 318ti
The S54 was the 2001 International Engine of the Year, the 2001 Best New Engine of the year, the 3-4 L winner for 2001 to 2006, and on the Ward’s 10 Best Engines list for 2001 through 2004. It's a perfectly wonderful engine that makes a glorious noise.

The only downsides are the 10-60 weight oil is a MUST and the need for valve adjustments every 30k.

Also, there is nothing wrong with the rod bearing design. The manufacturing was the problem. The bearings were improperly hardened.

The S54s in the Z3 M's were not covered by the BMW recall. If the bearings have been replaced, only the shop that did the work knows.

In your situation, I would consider bearing replacement as part of the purchase price. If you can afford the additionally expense, go for it.
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  #3  
Old 03-18-2013, 06:03 PM
marty505 marty505 is offline
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Mein Auto: 99 Z3 M Coupe/99 540i
The S54 is a fantastic engine, perhaps the best 6 BMW ever made. The performance comes with a price though. Maintenance costs are somewhat high and there are some potential weaknesses. The Z3M cars were not included in the recall because BMW dropped the rev. limit in the Z3M cars to 7800 vs. 8000 in the M3 and thought this was adequate protection. It wasn't. There are fewer rod bearing failures in Z3M's than M3's but it happens. If you don't replace the rod bearings right away you should send a sample out for analysis from every oil change. Not very expensive compared to a blown engine. Another item that never got much attention (from BMW anyway) was the bolts on the end of the cams (typically the intake cam) that come loose and drop onto the timing chain. This tends to destroy the engine with little or no warning. BMW quietly got rid of the original bolts in 2006 and replaced them with a new design. I'd replace those too (see Items 5 & 6 in this diagram - http://www.realoem.com/bmw/showparts...04&hg=11&fg=25 ) I'd replace those too. Does this mean the S54 is unreliable? No, it just needs a bit more care and attention.
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  #4  
Old 03-18-2013, 09:11 PM
dkl dkl is offline
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Broken tab on the exhaust hub is another thing to look for. Other than bearings, you can pretty much "check" cam bolts (using the wiggle test) and hub tabs during a valve adjustment. It's a wonderful engine and a lot of people had past 100k miles without issues. I wouldn't hesitate getting a low mile, well maintain S54 Z3.

Last edited by dkl; 03-18-2013 at 09:13 PM.
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  #5  
Old 03-19-2013, 09:01 AM
STIHLBOLTS STIHLBOLTS is offline
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Mein Auto: 2008 Z4MR
I just went through a Vanos failure. $3800 to get taken care of. The bearing gave way. A washer was either never put in or got loose somehow and ate up the hub.

Randy Forbes has coated bearings made up, you might consider contacting him about them.

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  #6  
Old 03-23-2013, 03:27 PM
Patrick Gent Patrick Gent is offline
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Mein Auto: 2007 M Coupe
OK, guys, now you're making me nervous. I have reaad a comment or two about bearing failure, and seen a thread on the Forbes bearing repacement. I am stil learning BMW-ese, but I believe my 2007 M Coupe also hs the S54 engine. Did BMW solve thr problem before the 2007 run, or should I worry about it?
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  #7  
Old 03-24-2013, 06:05 AM
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Randy Forbes Randy Forbes is offline
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Z4///M Coupe; this is the 2nd one I've done, and the bearings looked identical to the 1st one I did (well documented on this forum, search for Pal's bearings): http://www.spcarsplus.com/gallery3/i.../JD-Z4-M-Coupe



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  #8  
Old 03-27-2013, 11:05 AM
smjohs smjohs is offline
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I have a similar question about the S54 vs. S52 engines. Are there any downsides to the S52? I am looking for an MCoupe/Roadster and would be inclined to choose a low mileage S52 equipped car for daily driving. Certainly the extra torque and hp of the S54 would be fun, but I suspect it also produces potential additional stress on the chassis and suspension
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  #9  
Old 03-27-2013, 11:34 AM
tmoua328 tmoua328 is offline
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Except for the aforementioned issues with the S54 engine, the S54 and S52 roadsters share the same chasis and suspension, but have not heard of the S54 adding stress to the chasis and suspension. Although there is almost a 100 hp increase from the S52 to the S54 engines, remember that the european model M e36/7/8 S50 engine was already putting over over 300+ hp to the chasis and suspension before switching to the S54. I'm sure the S54 wouldn't add too much stress.

Aside from the lower torque and hp, the S52 engine is pretty bullet-proof - no rod bearings issues nor does it require valve checks.

Last edited by tmoua328; 03-27-2013 at 02:04 PM.
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  #10  
Old 03-27-2013, 01:40 PM
smjohs smjohs is offline
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S52/54 differences-Thanks!

I appreciate the feedback...
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  #11  
Old 03-27-2013, 01:54 PM
dougmcintyre dougmcintyre is offline
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Location: Chapel Hill, NC
 
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Mein Auto: 2000 M Coupe, 1997 318ti
On the track, S52's can have oil starvation issues with hard turns or braking. Autocrossers usually run the oil level a little over the high mark.

For "normal" spirited street driving, pretty bullet-proof.

However, as an S52 owner, if you can afford the S54, go for it. The S54 just has that extra magic.
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  #12  
Old 03-27-2013, 04:53 PM
marty505 marty505 is offline
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I went with the S52 for it's reliability and lower maintenance costs. It is after all an S series engine and by no means doggy or slow. I'm currently looking at supercharging to make up the performance difference without sacrificing reliability.
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  #13  
Old 03-27-2013, 07:02 PM
smjohs smjohs is offline
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Moving up to the S52 from the M52 2.5, which I believe was rated at 184hp, the performance will be greatly improved. I thought about supercharging the M52, but decided to trade up to an S motor.
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  #14  
Old 03-27-2013, 08:28 PM
smjohs smjohs is offline
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Thank you for your opinions! Having just joined today...I am already impressed with the forum and the members who have graciously responded to my questions.
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