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E39 (1997 - 2003)
The BMW 5-Series (E39 chassis) was introduced in the United States as a 1997 model year car and lasted until the 2004 when the E60 chassis was released. The United States saw several variations including the 525i, 528i, 530i and 540i. -- View the E39 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 12-28-2010, 12:29 AM
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What is a reliable & easy-to-perform DIY objective before/after test of VANOS seals?

We were discussing the extremely powerful 'placebo effect' over here:
- Single Vanos Seals! Done

The "placebo effect" works on humans; but it shouldn't work on E39s.

That means, there should be an "objective" test that can be run both before and after a VANOS seals overhaul that will conclusively prove whether or not there is a beneficial effect.

What would that objective, easy-to-perform reliable test entail?


(BTW, to be fair, the test and results should be "blind" to the mechanic who performed the VANOS seals replacement.)
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  #2  
Old 12-28-2010, 08:19 AM
pleiades pleiades is offline
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I suppose the test would have to demonstrate the expected benefits of variable timing (or their absence). My car had the uneven idle with dips and surges every 15 sec or so when warming up. I did the double-vanos seal replacement per Beisan instructions back in late summer. Instant cure, with the immediate benefit of a smooth engine idle and an increase in fuel economy (at least on the car computer, from 21 to about 24 mpg average). I've had this car half a year but still haven't tried to push the engine that much; it is, after all, a 12-yr-old with over 152k miles on the clock. It's 'only' a 2.8L six, but it still pulls faster than I usually care to go. Past probable placebo explanations, I can't say the new seals have improved engine torque at lower rpms (because I haven't been unhappy with the power band prior), but they certainly haven't hurt.
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Old 12-28-2010, 08:53 AM
Garrison5 Garrison5 is offline
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Ditto on the elimination of the engine idle drop off and surges. These were very prevalent when the temperature started to drop below 45 degrees and the car was cold.

Replaced the seals 3+ years ago and haven't had a stumble since.
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Old 12-28-2010, 10:13 AM
edjack edjack is online now
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pleiades,

Those with manual transmissions typically don't notice the difference in performance; those with automatics do.

bluebee,

The only "objective" test would be a before/after dyno run to measure torque across the RPM range. There are, however, "observable" results, as noted in the above posts.
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  #5  
Old 12-28-2010, 04:15 PM
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Simple--find a hill that your automatic will slip back into a higher gear when your crusing to the top===now after you have a hundred miles or so--see if your car will climb the same hill and not step back to the higher gear like it did before the new seals were installed---I have many around me that my car climbs without changing gears--before on the same grades the car would slip back to catch a gear to make it to the top--
If you living out in the flat lands this might not be as simple a test though.
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Old 12-28-2010, 04:33 PM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edjack View Post
pleiades,

Those with manual transmissions typically don't notice the difference in performance; those with automatics do.
Yeah,

I have MT so far so smooth ha.
But I might do the Vanos seals next summer, as long as my wife does not bother me Arghhh!
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  #7  
Old 12-28-2010, 04:55 PM
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Originally Posted by poolman View Post
Simple--find a hill that your automatic will slip back into a higher gear when your crusing to the top===
There are way too many variables for this test to be either reliable, repeatable or objective. The easily replicated environment is on a dyno with similar environmental and other factors on the car both before and after. The objective result will be the results from a given series of pulls.

Last edited by PropellerHead; 12-28-2010 at 04:58 PM.
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  #8  
Old 12-28-2010, 05:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edjack View Post
Those with manual transmissions typically don't notice the difference in performance; those with automatics do.
Wait. What?
Quote:
Originally Posted by 16valex View Post
Those that have replaced their Vanos seals and doesn't find the difference are usually automatic tranny cars, or drive like grandpa or they are just numb.
So which dose of syrup is everyone taking here?
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  #9  
Old 12-28-2010, 05:05 PM
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Somebody give me a free dyno run and Ill be a test case. Louisville, Cinn, Indy area.
LOL. Dont expect it to happen, but Id do it. 163k mile test car.
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  #10  
Old 12-28-2010, 05:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Garrison5 View Post
Replaced the seals 3+ years ago and haven't had a stumble since.
So, if we replace the entire VANOS unit with an OEM part on a then 9 year old car (1998 manufacture), what would prevent anyone from expecting another nine years out of the replacement OE part? What if it were only 8 years old? Is another 8 years long enough to go between changes? Has *anyone* had these replacement seals in their car for more than 9 years?

What's the max number of miles that these seals have been tested and what is the number of years they've been available as compared to the OE part? Why couldn't I find a junk yard unit with fewer miles on it and buy it for less than the seals?

Last edited by PropellerHead; 12-28-2010 at 05:11 PM.
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  #11  
Old 12-28-2010, 05:20 PM
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Somebody give me a free dyno run and Ill be a test case. Louisville, Cinn, Indy area.
LOL. Dont expect it to happen, but Id do it. 163k mile test car.
I really don't think it's up to us. But as responsible consumers, we need to be fully aware of the facts- and the lack of them- when making a decision.

There once was a guy who used to sell blue bulbs that were cheaper and looked 'as good as the real thing.' He marked them way up over the other OE alternatives and made everyone think they were the best blue bulbs anyone could get anywhere- because of the price. Turned out that they were the same bulbs available everywhere for less money. It was all about his marketing.

Without quantifiable, reliable, independent proof, the seals are just a pair of blue bulbs. Only these are offered the appearance as cheaper than the alternatives. But we really don't know, do we?
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  #12  
Old 12-28-2010, 05:31 PM
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I agree that Rajaie should post dyno results, or at least something quantifiable that show a performance improvement.

But I can tell you that there is a NOTICEABLE difference in low-end grunt after putting in the seals. Even more important, it's not something that happens right away, it does take a few hundred miles before the results are apparent. Since all rubber seals on these cars shrink over time, it stands to reason that as the seals in the Vanos unit contract, the pistons are not operating at factory efficiency. Same with spark plugs as they age, or anything else that affects timing in the engine.

I too was very skeptical, as I am by nature, but I do think they work. As far as longevity, who knows if the material will last as long as Buna.
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  #13  
Old 12-28-2010, 05:32 PM
pleiades pleiades is offline
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P'raps you could turn this query around. Folks that have been driving vanos-equipped e39s from the get-go should be the best qualified to say or know when wear or flaws in the mechanics for variable timing have begun to set in ... of course, need to be able to distinguish Vanos bugs from the many others that these cars can develop with age and mileage.

BMW has no doubt done all the lab testing, dynos and such. The Vanos depends on a good vacuum for the pistons to work properly (I assume). If the seals are shot, the vacuum is weaker and the unit less efficient than designed....

Back to my earlier post, I had no way to measure internal vacuum pressure inside the Vanos unit when I changed out the old seals for new. So, in reality, I have no way of knowing for certain that the new seals actually put the unit back in or near spec. All I do know is that the engine began immediately running smoothly at startup and that the car computer began reporting higher mileage. I've been afraid to push the engine over 5K RPM because it's old, high-mileage, and because it gives me more than enough power before I ever get up there anyway. So chances of me observing benefits with the car under that kind of load were nil to start with.
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Old 12-28-2010, 07:45 PM
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Originally Posted by pleiades View Post
P'raps you could turn this query around. Folks that have been driving vanos-equipped e39s from the get-go should be the best qualified to say or know when wear or flaws in the mechanics for variable timing have begun to set in ... of course, need to be able to distinguish Vanos bugs from the many others that these cars can develop with age and mileage.
Even further- any user who's driven an M52TU equipped BMW should be able to answer. That's where the skepticism comes in for me- 2 of the 3 M52TU's we own I've driven since new. The oldest of which is ten years old next month. The newest one has the most miles: My daily driver 2004 X5 with 96K miles. It turned 7 in October. The last 80K miles have been under my less than delicate foot.

Each has double VANOS. None has a whisper of trouble. Even if they did and the replacement VANOS OEM part lasted as long as the OE, it is reasonable to believe it would last another 10 years or 96K miles. The claim that the OE units fail quickly is not offered with support. We're just supposed to believe it. It's difficult to see the value of seals that have been neither time nor use tested as long as OE parts. To me, it looks like a cheap thing that's relatively easy to do and makes the DIYer feel good about himself. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose.

Last edited by PropellerHead; 12-28-2010 at 08:43 PM.
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Old 12-28-2010, 08:38 PM
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I was a skeptic too. And I agree a dyno test will tell something.
However, before changing the seals, the car was OK, maybe a diesel-ish startup especially when it was cold in the morning. After the change, no more of this symptom.
Now enter the "placebo effect": one is the unreliable butt dyno, so I'll give it a rest. The next, someone mentioned downshifting resolved in on certain hills - this is true, but hard to convince skeptic people who need hard facts. Another thing I noticed after the vanos seals change, was that actually in summer, on dry roads, at stop sign, when I pushed the pedal once it's green, the rear wheels slip and the DSC kicks in. This did not happen before, is no dyno butt, but again, I have no numbers to prove it. Only if one wants to try it, it will be self explanatory. With DSC off, my lowly 6-er actually spins the rear wheels. The guys with the OEM vanos can try this test I bet their wheels don't spin (maybe on ice) - mine didn't before the swap.
Also, the cold start issue is a non issue for the Southern states skeptics, and will be.
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  #16  
Old 12-29-2010, 08:57 AM
PropellerHead PropellerHead is offline
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Also, the cold start issue is a non issue for the Southern states skeptics, and will be.
Oh, I dunno ab that. It was below freezing in N Florida last week. In fact, much of the southern states were covered in snow.
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  #17  
Old 12-29-2010, 09:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Josh P. View Post
Rajaie should post dyno results, or at least something quantifiable that show a performance improvement
I hadn't thought of that when I asked the question ... but it makes a lot of sense because, it appears, there isn't a simply DIY test otherwise ...

Someone who knows Rajaie would do us a favor to ask him.
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Old 12-29-2010, 12:02 PM
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Originally Posted by PropellerHead View Post
I really don't think it's up to us. But as responsible consumers, we need to be fully aware of the facts- and the lack of them- when making a decision.

There once was a guy who used to sell blue bulbs that were cheaper and looked 'as good as the real thing.' He marked them way up over the other OE alternatives and made everyone think they were the best blue bulbs anyone could get anywhere- because of the price. Turned out that they were the same bulbs available everywhere for less money. It was all about his marketing.

Without quantifiable, reliable, independent proof, the seals are just a pair of blue bulbs. Only these are offered the appearance as cheaper than the alternatives. But we really don't know, do we?
Prop, this isn't really an accurate analogy. First, the proof is in the pudding: All it takes is for people to install the bulbs (or the seals) and then report their experience. If ten people buy the bulbs or seals and then say, hell, these things aren't any better than the OE equipment (and this experience is publicized enough) then sales will presumably fall. If people have installed the Beisan seals and feel zero difference, well, I don't hear them shouting from the rafters that they've been taken. Where are they? I would like to hear from someone who has done the swap and finds no benefit.

The other thing is that unlike you, few of us here bought our cars new. Which means we had no experience with the motor's performance straight from the factory. So if the performance was degraded, this is simply what we were used to.
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  #19  
Old 12-29-2010, 12:09 PM
pleiades pleiades is offline
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Originally Posted by PropellerHead View Post
Even further- any user who's driven an M52TU equipped BMW should be able to answer. That's where the skepticism comes in for me- 2 of the 3 M52TU's we own I've driven since new. The oldest of which is ten years old next month. The newest one has the most miles: My daily driver 2004 X5 with 96K miles. It turned 7 in October. The last 80K miles have been under my less than delicate foot.

Each has double VANOS. None has a whisper of trouble. Even if they did and the replacement VANOS OEM part lasted as long as the OE, it is reasonable to believe it would last another 10 years or 96K miles. The claim that the OE units fail quickly is not offered with support. We're just supposed to believe it. It's difficult to see the value of seals that have been neither time nor use tested as long as OE parts. To me, it looks like a cheap thing that's relatively easy to do and makes the DIYer feel good about himself. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose.
Didn't BMW acknowledge problems with the seals or at least make modifications on later-model cars with the Vanos system?

That you have three M52TU-powered BMWs that do not, at least to you, exhibit symptoms of degraded variable timing is fortunate but not surprising to me. You needn't bother replacing the Vanos seals. I wouldn't recommend replacement as preventive maintenance, either; I'd wait until a car actually has symptoms attributable to degraded variable timing. My uneducated, gut guess is that the seal failures may be from a confluence of factors: car age/mileage, driver habits, local climate, fuel quality, oil quality and change frequency, use of fuel additives or anything that may chemically react with plastics etc. It's entirely plausible that some cars may experience earlier failure than others and some may never have a problem with the seals at all.

I did the Vanos repair because failing seals were described on this and other forums as a factor causing poor/surging idle on cold starts (my car had this classic symptom, and it was mid-summer). I wasn't at all certain my seals were bad and only half-expected any benefit. I do not necessarily feel better about myself after this procedure nor did I find the procedure something I'd describe as "easy." The immediate results (smooth engine, no more surging or near-stalling on cold start) are not subjective at all. Further, the procedure is quite involved for someone like me. I really wanted -not- to have to do it, and I'd prefer not to have to do it again, and of course "feel good" that I have it behind me. Also, there are hidden gotchas that can both drag it out time-wise and compromise the final outcome. Note also that if you [anyone] plan to replace your seals, only one source is currently out there in the marketplace because BMW isn't going to sell you just the seals.

BTW, for pre/post seal replacement dyno test results, I'd ask that someone -other than- Rajaie provide them because the next step here will be for skeptics to question data provided by the seal vendor, no matter how unbiased the testing may have been.

I wouldn't have done the seal replacement on my car if it had no symptoms. I was happy enough with the power it had prior and as mentioned, haven't pushed the car enough to know absolutely that fresh seals have worked like spinach for Popeye.

Some people buying high-mileage M52TU-driven e39s and not having experience with these cars beforehand may be happy with their car as-is and not notice whether it runs as well as it always did. Others that feel something amiss may be grasping for that elusive "fix" that gives their M52 a power boost. I am only one data point with my experience, and have no baseline for comparison. I was happy with my car's "oomph" on that very first test-drive before even buying the thing. I had been looking for a used, solidly built sedan with RWD and a stick and this car "fit" my expectations. It was only after I had it in my possession that I began to wonder about the unsettled idle, but I have never been unhappy with its power, even after test-driving a 540i, which I felt was waaay more than I needed.
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Old 12-29-2010, 12:31 PM
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There was no official ack from BMW on the Vanos issue. When you have a few hours, you can read the history of the Beisan seals here:

Roadfly thread


Honestly I really don't think Rajaie created this business to help separate E39 owners from their $60. He is/was simply a concerned owner who spent innumerable hours researching the problem and designing a solution. I still agree that some numbers would be nice, though I'm able to accept before and after pictures of the seals.
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Old 12-29-2010, 12:53 PM
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I've got a pretty simple opinion on the VANOS issue.

The seals are essentially made of rubber. Time and heat are tough on rubber. My car is old.

Therefore I probably need new VANOS seals. I probably need new motor mounts. I probably need to replace all the worn out bits of rubber, eventually.

Will my car run better. Don't know. I bought her used and have no baseline performance to compare it to. All I know is that she runs pretty hard right now and if new seals even make her run a tiny bit better, I'm good with that.
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Old 12-29-2010, 01:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Josh P. View Post
There was no official ack from BMW on the Vanos issue. When you have a few hours, you can read the history of the Beisan seals here:

Roadfly thread


Honestly I really don't think Rajaie created this business to help separate E39 owners from their $60. He is/was simply a concerned owner who spent innumerable hours researching the problem and designing a solution. I still agree that some numbers would be nice, though I'm able to accept before and after pictures of the seals.
+1000
Rajaie is even working on the problem that he and some collegues have found on the v8. I've read these posts extoling the virutes of preventive/corrective maintenance and I always believe going back to factory specs will be a benefit, even if you never had the original factory performance.

I understand Bluebee's point of having specific information for those more detailed than the others, so more power to her in order to pull it off.

Happy New Year all!!!
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Old 12-29-2010, 01:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Josh P. View Post
If people have installed the Beisan seals and feel zero difference, well, I don't hear them shouting from the rafters that they've been taken. Where are they? I would like to hear from someone who has done the swap and finds no benefit.
I think my point may have been lost. The point is that the bulbs offered the same benefit as other alternatives at a different price. It was the marketing behind them that made one user think that he'd derived enhanced value from his choice. Further, no quantifiable, objective proof exists for either product.

That is Bluebee's noble cause and one I think both sound and admirable over a bunch of relatively anonymous testimonials.
  • Even though one user on Bimmerforums did report exactly that: No benefit after the seals.
  • Another BMW parts employee from E46Fanatics says the same. WIthin the same thread, many express no change, but a 'good feeling' that they did it.
  • And right here on Bimmerfest, our own RobV15 experienced no change after doing the seals.
  • 525man reports no change. Right here at the 'fest.

The answer? Check all of these other problems. If they get fixed, you might 'feel' the difference in new seals. What? Do seals fix these issues or are they caused by a bunch of other things that can be wrong? Which is it? It's worth pointing out- again- that this is not an exclusive E39 issue. It's marketed for all single and double VANOS cars to 2006 or so.


The answer on Bimmerforums was that the seals take 'time' to set in. Well, which is it? Do we expect 'time to set it,' or should we expect to see an immediate improvement? In this thread alone, we see that some people think that automatics get the best benefit, while others see manual tranmissions are happiest. That's just silly. VANOS shouldn't care what transmission it's setting time for. It's a mechanical device setting variable timing for a set of cams. That's it. That the answers vary from testimonial to testimonial bares proof of their inherent unreliability and fully lacking objectivity.

As for whether or not dry, crusty rubber is reason enough to make a change- well, no. It's not. If the dry crusty rubber does the same thing and performs the same function as new seals and causes no problems, why change them? It's my time and my money. I want it to solve a problem- or better- I want it to improve performance as so many profess, but none have objectively proven.

Last edited by PropellerHead; 12-29-2010 at 02:58 PM.
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Old 12-30-2010, 06:38 AM
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As for whether or not dry, crusty rubber is reason enough to make a change- well, no. It's not. If the dry crusty rubber does the same thing and performs the same function as new seals and causes no problems, why change them?
The (leaking) valve cover gasket that was so brittle I had to remove it in pieces with a hair dryer was enough to convince me that dry, crusty rubber does not do the same thing or perform the same function as new.

Like doru, my butt dyno - which is admittedly not the sort of quantitative data being sought here - told me I had more low-end oomph as well as a more pronounced ~4400rpm kick after replacing my VANOS seals. Mine is a Southern car and has been all its life, though it was experiencing a bit of a rough idle when it was first started in the mornings, even in Summer. It's not doing that any more since the seal replacement.

In light of this thread, I wish I'd saved my old seals so I could send them to someone who could analyze them properly.
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Old 12-30-2010, 07:23 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2009
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Mein Auto: 2001 530 SP/PP/CWP/Slush
Honestly I think if you go back and read the original thread, including all he and Loach did to isolate the seals while ruling out other factors that could be the cause of the problem, you'll find that they did lots of tests that pin-pointed the cause.

If you don't think old rubber under the hood causes running problems and eventual if not immediate performance issues then you have not looked very carefully at your rubber bits!

Regarding the threads you note, I would only point out that these engines are complicated. Installing new Vanos seals may do nothing if the idle/performance issues and "rattle" are caused by other factors (which is exactly what Rajaie pointed out after Rob's post). Idler pulley roller bearings, CCV etc can all cause start-up and drivabiliy issues. Obviously the seals are not a cure all!

Listen I have no horse in this race, and I agree that if one makes performance claims one should back them up with data. That's important. I'd also agree that swapping the seals is not a trivial repair, in time or cost, if you pay for it. I'm not quite sure why a dyno run hasn't been done, if not by Rajaie (who stands to gain the most if it proves his claims) then by someone else. But in my case I feel/felt a definite gain.
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2001 530 Steel Blue Metallic, purchased Dec 03
SP/PP/CWP/Slushbox (I know I know)

OEM M5 bumper, 40% Huper Optik ceramic tint, Dice Silverline Pro iPod adapter, 540SP radial spokes, Zimmerman Z-Coat rotors w/ Hawk HPS pads
"Mods": driveshaft, cooling system, Vanos, CCV, PSR, VCG, FSU, spark plugs, buncha belts-n-hoses, & other things I'd just as soon forget

BMW CCA member for 12 years
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