Total Recall.

Total Recall.

"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!

In this entry: BMW once (or twice) recalled bearings - AH! I chat history and variants of bolts. We button up the S54's bulletproofing by replacing the rod bearings with the ACL standard set."
- Matt

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me me twice, can't get fooled again [...]

In this infamous gaffe by G.W. Bush, the analogy with BMW M finds meaning. M engines and rod bearings are a sad story filled with good intentions that ultimately still fell short. 

BMW issued an recall campaigns for the S54, the initial SBI 110203 related to E46 M3s produced from October 1st, 2001 up to February 28th 2002. 

BMW M worded the recall to indicate the oil system was at fault for premature rod bearing wear and catastrophic failure. 

The solution was to replace the engine's oil pump and the rod bearings preemptively

We got fooled, twice [....]

BMW issued a second recall campaign in 2004, the SBI 110404 superseded the initial campaign. 

BMW M finally admitted the rod bearings were also at fault, but they didn't admit point to a design issue - it was a manufacturing issue. 

The recall now extended to all cars produced up to 5/22/2003 and all cars that had the 1st call's service perform needed to come back for this new campaign. This time around, only the rod bearings were getting serviced. 

The bold sections are gold. I was to young to know if BMW genuinely cared, looking care - it's telling that these recommendations are not included in the latest G80 M3 main bearing recall.   

[...] and then some more. 

BMW M shunned away any liability beyond its warranty period in regards to V8 and V10 rod bearing failures. They never once formally acknowledged the issue neither did they issue a recall. They even fought off a class action lawsuit and got it denied

Were lessons learned? Of course not. The S65/S85 rod bearing issues are documented well enough

How was my S54?

My S54 was now standing at +/- 190,000km. It's an engine has been around for 6 more years than the S65 and S85 and it is widely accepted that it has commonly less rod bearing failure than its successors. 

My S54 had no documented rod bearing service on file, and I hadn't looked up the VIN to determine if it had been brought in for its rod bearing recall in 2004.

I wasn't worried but I wasn't expecting it to be all rosy based on my S65 and S85 experiences on rod bearings.

With the engine on the stand to perform the cams installation and VANOS bulletproofing, Phil @ InnovAuto turned it over to perform the rod bearing service. I was unfortunately not at the shop to document the service and installation of the bearings.

The engine was timed, sealed and ready to be put back in the chassis when I showed up. 

The OE rod bearings were left on the table along with the OEM bolts. From first impressions, they were the most healthy looking rod bearings between my 3x engines.

None of the caps had yet reached the copper layer of the tri-metal composition of the OEM bearings.

They were getting close though, visibly wear had slowly been developing on the upper rod bearings. That is to be expected on these engines. The piston speeds are high, and the strokes are lengthy. 

We replaced the bearings with ACL standard size bearings that match the OEM clearances and tri-metal composition for about 400$ less.

The bolts equation. 

Early Generation

The early generation S54s manufactured up to 12/13/2002 had M11x1.25mm rod bolts (SKU:  11247834310) distinguished by the bolt head. They had a 12mm socket head and could be reused.

2003/02 and up

The 2003 and up S54s were fitted with an updated style of bolts, they are easily noticeable by Torx head for its M10x1.25mm bolt (SKU: 11247834310). 

Those bolts are stretch to yield with a three step torquing process. They need to be replaced anytime they are removed.

According to the March 6th, 2003 production date of my S54, I was expecting the updated rod bolts design.

I sourced the recall history from local dealership. It confirmed the recall had been done. 

As we opened up the engine and removed the bolts, we visually confirmed it was the updated M10 bolts. 

We sourced a new set of the newer style bolts and completed the process.


With the bearings, Schrick cams and bulletproofed VANOS system installed, the valve cover was put back on with new gaskets and grommets. While in there, we fitted a new high pressure VANOS external oil line from ECS. 

Bulletproofing: DONE! 

You can follow the engine's story in the Special Series on the Schrick cams as I set out to dyno and tune the S54 upon completing break in. 

I can help you source the VANOS bulletproofing kit from Beisan year long here along with the ACL bearings here


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