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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is the 1st post in a series which will chronicle my quest to swap a M54 engine and manual transmission from a 2003 530i into a 1997 528i equipped with a M52 engine and automatic transmission.

I had been looking for a manual transmission donor car for quite a while and thought it would also be nice upgrade to the M54 engine at the same time. About six months ago I found a 2003 530i with a manual transmission that was totaled due to the left front quarter being pushed up half way to the winshield. The rest of the car was extremely clean so I bought it and have since completely stripped it.

I have read the numerous posts stating that it would require all the electronics to be swapped due to the significant differences between the two power plants. I could very well be wrong, but I feel swapping the DME and associated modules would be even more difficult. The wring harnesses are completely different and I believe the i-bus communication protocol used between modules is also different (ISO vs. CAN). The following is a list of the similarities and differences between the M52 and M54 that I am aware of, and my proposed solutions.

*Problem > The M52 is single VANOS, the M54 is dual VANOS. Proposed solution > The intake cam position sensors and pick-up rotors are the same on both motors so the M52 DME should be able to read and control the M54 intake cam. Since the cam control signal from the M52 DME is an on/off signal, rather than the PWM signal used by the M54, the intake cam control signal should be able to control the exhaust cam solenoid as well via a relay. Both intake and exhaust cams will move between their advanced and retarded positions simultaneously via the M52 DME intake cam control signal. The M52 DME won't know there is an exhaust VANOS and shouldn't need to know. I'm sure this solution will require remapping, but since the new M54 will be getting hotter cams, bigger valves, head porting, higher compression pistons and headers, the fuel and ignition tables will need to be remapped anyway.

*Non-Problem > Crank position sensors and rotors seem to be the same between both motors so that should be plug and play.

*Problem > The M52 uses a cable actuated throttle body and the M54 uses a 'drive by wire' throttle body. Proposed solution > Since there is no way that the M52 DME can ever control the M54 TB, I have machined a custom cable actuated TB that fits the M54 intake manifold; it's also 3mm bigger in diameter than the M52 TB to match the size of the M54 TB. I will post CAD models and pictures of the completed TB.

*Non-Problem > The idle air control solenoids, although different in physical dimensions, work the same way and have the same connectors so the M52 DME should be able to control idle speed via the M54 IAC solenoid.

*Problem > The MAF sensors and the diameter of the MAF housings are different. Proposed solution > Initially I plan on splicing the M52 MAF and housing in place of the M54 MAF and housing. Once major systems seem to be working OK I will probably make a hybrid MAF using the M52 MAF mounted into the larger M54 housing before final mapping.

*Problem > The M52 does not use the DISA valve, but the M54 does. Proposed solution > Switch the DISA valve via the same signal that controls the VANOS. I have monitored the RPM that my M52 switches the cam timing, and it is approx the same RPM that the M54 switches the DISA valve.

*Non-Problem > Oil pressure, coolant temp and other sensors look to be direct plug and play. The M54 has a few extra sensors, such as oil temp and thermostat internal heater which will not be used since the M52 DME does not accommodate them. I will use a stock M52 thermostat and housing in place of the 'dual zone' heated unit from the M54.

*Shouldn't be a problem > The M54 uses a 'dead end' fuel rail while the M52's fuel return comes from the end of the rail. I don't see that this would matter; maybe someone else has some input here.

*Somewhat of a pain, but not a problem > The engine harnesses are different. Proposed solution > I plan on splicing the engine bay side of the M54 harness to the DME side of the M52 harness; that way everything fits and is the correct length.

*Shouldn't be a problem > The ignition coils are different between the M52 and M54. Proposed solution > I plan on using the M54 coils but can always switch back to the M52 coils if needed.

I'm not sure if I forgot to list anything else major or not. I'm already ready in too deep to turn back now, so I hope no one posts an unsolvable problem that I haven't thought of. If so, I will have a really nice, completely rebuilt, high performance M54 for sale.

I know this is a major undertaking and I wouldn't attempt it if I didn't have all the resources needed at my disposal. I have been wrenching on motors all my life and currently run a high performance motorcycle shop. I have a full CNC machine shop, head flow bench, porting tools, Serdi valve seat & guide machine, boring and honing equipment and both bike and car dynos (although the car dyno is not yet operational). This is actually intended to be a relatively 'low budget' project based on doing all aspects of the labor myself. The only thing I don't have covered yet is the software and fuel & ignition table knowledge to do the remapping. I'm hoping someone out there that has that capability will be willing to help me in exchange for free dyno time, free CNC machining, head porting or whatever we can barter.

I hope I can pull this off; I would hate for my first exposure on this forum to be a public display of failure!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
here's a few pic of the tear down.


Note the damage to the oil filter housing/alternator mount. I already have a replacement off ebay.


Bottom end before pulling pistons and rods.


Intake manifold


Block before ultrasonic tank


Block after ultrasonic cleaning. Best thing in the world for cleaning engine parts!


Valve lifter housings - before & after ultrasonic.


Some cleaned engine parts.


Some more cleaned parts.


Donor car. Think I stripped it enough?
 

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I'll add a cross reference to this thread in the bestlinks.

BTW, here is what we currently have (which isn't much) on engine swaps ...

- What E39 engine swaps are most recommended (1) (2) (3) & where to obtain a new or rebuilt head (1) replacement short block or long block (1) (2) & how to lift & remove the engine (1)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Per request, throttle body CAD and finished pics:


CAD image 1


CAD image 2


CAD image 3


Original M52 throttle body


New TB view 1 - BTW we anodize inhouse too.


New TB view 2


New TB view 3


New TB view 4

The new TB needed to be twisted with respect to the bolt pattern and made longer for IAC clearance. Springs and cable guides were pulled from stock TB, everything else was made from scratch. Note the extended tube section on the bottom of the TB that extends into the intake manifold inlet (view 3). This improves flow compared to a flat flange like the OEM unit. This was a pretty involved project; I made 2 versions before this one until I got everything fitting right.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
The electronics and harnesses are completely diffferent. You can't plug the M52 DME into the M54 harness. I would have to strip my car down to the chassie and swap the entire harness and all the modules. Then I would still have problems due to my car having less air bags, head and tail lights that aren't compatible with the later model light control module etc, etc. The wiring harness in the 2003 is one giant harness and doesn't brake down by sub-systems. I could be wrong about this, but the more I looked into swapping the electronics the bigger PITA it appeared to be.

 

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You are probably already aware, but I think the guys at Koala Motorsports have done quite a few custom BMW engine and transmission swaps. Not sure how helpful they will be if you are not having them do the conversion, but it might be worth the effort to contact them for any isights/tips/ compatibility questions.
 

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I done this swap before. I used the M54 wiring, and swapped over everything from the donor shell. I spend over 80 hours programming the car after the engine was in. When I was finished, the only thing that was original to the 528i was the emblem on the trunk.
 

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*Shouldn't be a problem > The M54 uses a 'dead end' fuel rail while the M52's fuel return comes from the end of the rail. I don't see that this would matter; maybe someone else has some input here.
I'm sure you know the fuel pressure regulator plugs into the fuel rail on the '97.
On the '03 the regulator and return line is in the fuel filter.

You could use an adjustable fuel regulator that has a return line.
This might be advisable as you are increasing the HP, you might need to increase the pressure a few PSI if the air/fuel ratio becomes a problem.

Good luck, sounds like a fun project. I'll be following your posts.
 

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Freude am Fahren
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Interesting post.

After all that work on the TB, you should know that M54 manifold swaps on M52TU engines have been explored to a certain degree and the key component that's holding people back is the difficulty mounting the TB, but people have found that the M52TU bolts up to the M54 with some modifications (notably an aluminium plate from Turner Motorsports) they've made it work.
http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=691568
 

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WOW!
I was going to recommend to just swap the 528i over to the totaled 530i, that way, no need for swapping electronics and such...
Incredible work on the throttle bodies, and love the CAD pictorial!
I can relate to the that... :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
I'm sure you know the fuel pressure regulator plugs into the fuel rail on the '97.
On the '03 the regulator and return line is in the fuel filter.

You could use an adjustable fuel regulator that has a return line.
This might be advisable as you are increasing the HP, you might need to increase the pressure a few PSI if the air/fuel ratio becomes a problem.
My first thought is to use the M52 fuel rail and swap to an adjustable regulator if needed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
After all that work on the TB, you should know that M54 manifold swaps on M52TU engines have been explored to a certain degree and the key component that's holding people back is the difficulty mounting the TB, but people have found that the M52TU bolts up to the M54 with some modifications (notably an aluminium plate from Turner Motorsports) they've made it work.
I was aware of the adaptor plate, but it didn't address all of the issues, such as bore diameter and IAC clearance. If I had to pay someone to do this I never would have done it; but if you can do it yourself it's a fun challenge.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I done this swap before. I used the M54 wiring, and swapped over everything from the donor shell. I spend over 80 hours programming the car after the engine was in. When I was finished, the only thing that was original to the 528i was the emblem on the trunk.
Did you swap the head and tail lights as well? The rear LED tails don't fit without cutting. What did you do about the A-piller airbags and other electrical option differences between the cars?
 

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A lot of work and very cool. But why not just throw a S52 in it? 236Hp then do a OBD1 conversion & gain close to 50hp more = 286Hp 'ish


Use a S52 and all your stuff = very easy.

M52 = 190Hp @5300 rpm
M54 = 225Hp @5900 rpm

S52 = 236Hp @6000 rpm

The nice thing about a S52 swap is if you're in California you can leave the stock 528i valve cover on it and the Smog guy will never know it's a 3.2 and the emissions are within specks.

But still a very cool project!! :thumbup:
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
A lot of work and very cool. But why not just throw a S52 in it? 236Hp then do a OBD1 conversion & gain close to 50hp more = 286Hp 'ish
The response I expected to get was; "why not use a 540 for the donor?".

I found the 530 at a good price, I like the electric smoothness of the inline 6 and I want decent fuel economy. The mildly built M54 should by in that hp ballpark anyway.
 
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