Planning for the worst with fingers crossed.

Planning for the worst with fingers crossed.

"In this Special Series, I document the bulletproofing of my S54 with the Beisan kit with a slight detour in internal performance upgrades: let's cam it!

On this entry, the guys get the engine on a stand and start tearing into it to review the VANOS and its condition - with fingers crossed."

My S54. 

The Phoenix's engine had a previously nebulous life, cumulating over 190,000 km and having been supercharged for an unknown amount of mileage. 

Alongside the complete color change and body restoration, I had planned an extensive engine bulletproofing including rod bearings, VANOS and anything that would need attention while the engine was sitting on a stand. 

Looking like a beat up Short Circuit.

I expected the worst as it appeared to have been opened up recently: the valve cover gasket appeared and felt recent. 


Mission Critical Status. 

Listed below are the critical failure points that need to be addressed. I will address the specific fixes to bulletproof your S54 permanently along with the hardware list in a future entry.  

Gear Bolts.

The bolts holding the VANOS gears to the camshafts may shear. They will go one by one, with eventually all of them breaking away. What happens then is up to your imagination. 

Mine were in visually mint condition. 

Exhaust hub tabs.

The exhaust cam gear has a specific hub with tabs that can potentially break off from vibrations. They can potentially wiggle out and end up in the pan - destroying your engine in the process. 

My focus was off, let's zoom in. 

There they are. Mine were mint - but it wasn't a Beisan unit. 

Mission Survival Status. 

If these parts fail, you may have a heads up. The complexity of VANOS however often intertwines a failure with another potentially Mission Critical part. 

It's why I personally opted to replace it all with bulletproofing parts. even though the VANOS was in mint condition. 


The VANOS system is a glorified hydraulic pump. It has seals to push oil through at extremely high pressures. As they wear out, VANOS fails. 

The VANOS o-rings had been recently replaced - we couldn't determine the brand. 


The solenoid actuates the hydraulic action of the gears. It is responsible for ultra fast camshaft control and adjustments. They are the key to partial load throttle application. 

The solenoid pack resides under the bottom section of the VANOS cover. 

Intake Internal Gears.

The intake internal gears wear, and are a culprit to VANOS rattles. I never noticed rattles with my S54 - certainly nothing like my S85. 

The gears are peeking at the bottom center of the picture.

The intake gear sits on the right of the picture below. You will spot the VANOS gear teeth. 

Other areas. 

I couldn't cover everything in this entry because of schedule issues and parts delay to pursue the engine work. 

I will discuss other areas such the high pressure oil line, oil disc and mini-filter in future entries. 

Finally, something had been well maintained on this car by the previous owner. 

We'll still replace it all to knowingly bulletproof it.

Up next: we document the technical problems and the permanent solutions to our VANOS anxieties. 

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