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E36 M3 (1992-1999) {Euro - S50 B32 321hp @ 7400 rpm} {U.S. - S52 B32 240 hp @ 6000 rpm}
Total Produced: 71,212 - Years Produced: 1992 to 1999

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Old Thu, Jun-05-2008, 10:57:09 PM   #1
I've never even been to Mt. Vesuvius!
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Default DIY: Vanos Removal and Installation

Part 1: Removing the old vanos

Vanos noise can ruin the appeal of your M3, and shops will charge an arm and a leg to install a new unit. This is a guide for replacing your broken vanos. I hope that this DIY will help you out.

I will go into detail about the tools and parts needed, along with a step-by-step guide of how to take your engine apart. Unlike most DIY guides for this, I will start with the engine fully assembled. Then Show you the critical steps that some DIY guides do not. Then Reinstall everything for you too see.

Sources I have read about on this subject:
Bentley Manual
Pelican Parts DIY guide (I will be using several pictures from them to specify parts, which I did not take pictures of)

*Note* I take no responsibility if anything goes wrong with the installation due to misreading the directions, or simply a lack of knowledge about engines.

*Note* There is a testing method for the Vanos that requires the use of an air compressor. This test will show you how much advancing the vanos is able to do, it should be between 8mm-12mm for stock engines. I did not list this in the DIY as most people do not have access to an air compressor. You can do this test at a later time if you wish.

Step 1: Preparation
First, you need to get yourself the right tools:
Camshaft blocks (lock the camshafts in place)

Fan wrench’s (god these make getting the fan off sooooooooo easy!)

Sprocket wrench (placed on the exhaust sprocket to turn it easily)

Flywheel locking tool (keeps the flywheel in place while you work)

Then comes the new parts!
Valve cover gasket set:

Head-vanos gasket

You will also need some anti-seize and some silicon gasket sealer

Along with...BIG SURPRISE!!! ...a tool kit lol

You can buy almost all of these tools and parts off of:

Step 2: Begin working on the engine

You will want to start be removing the black plastic radiator cover on the front of your M. It is attached using four screws and two expanding rivets. While doing this also remove the alternator-cooling duct.

Now remove both covers from the engine and fuel rail. On both of the covers, there will be two plugs that can pop out using a flat head screwdriver. Under which there will be two 10mm bolts (for the fuel rail cover) and two 10mm nuts (for the engine cover). Remove both covers and place them to the side. To take these off you will need to remove the oil cap, put the cap back on after the covers have been removed.

Next, you should remove all the ignition coils from the engine.

Two 10mm nuts will hold down each coil pack. It is all right to reuse these so remove them all and place them in a safe place for later. Use a flat head screwdriver to unclip the coil packs, before you unbolt them.

On two of the coils there will be a grounding cable, leave them attached to the bolts below for now. One of the bands will be on the farthest stud, and one will be in the middle. I am missing the one in the middle lol, but look towards the back of the coils and you can see one of the brown cords.

After you have removed the coils its time to relocate the ignition wiring. Unplug the wiring harness from the injectors by pulling the wiring box up with some force. You will hear each injector unplug, make sure to hold this secure while removing. Do not forget to remove the grounding cable that goes from the wiring to the bolt at the top of the vanos. After you remove this cable, place the bolt back in the hole but leave it loose. You will remove this later. When fully unplugged move the wires so they are over the intake manifold and out of the way. Like this:

Now you want to remove the fan, you can do this one of two ways. The first, which is the easiest; you use the specialty fan removal tools and take the fan off. If you do not have these tools, there is no need to worry. The second way is to take a long flat head screwdriver and wedge it between the four bolts that connect the fan to the engine. Then use monkey wrench to unscrew the fan. REMEMBER!!! The fan has counterclockwise threads…turn the wrench clockwise to loosen!

After the fan is removed, you can now relocate the fan shroud and expansion tank. On the bottom of the expansion tank there is a sensor, you need to unplug it. Then carefully pull the fan shroud up, you will have to mess with it a bit to get it past the coolant hoses. You may also have to unplug the overflow hose from the radiator. This will leak a bit but can be plugged easily. When you have the entire thing free, rotate it so that it rests on the intake manifold out of the way.

Now it is time to remove the valve cover. Start by unplugging the vacuum hose on the driver’s side of the engine:

There are six 10mm bolts that go along the outside of the valve cover, and four bolts on the center where the coil packs were. Unscrew all of the evenly and place aside until we reinstall the valve cover.

Two of the bolts on the center of the valve cover will have the grounding cables we talked about before. Keep the grounding cables with their bolts and remove them. They will look like this:

The two bolts that are farthest back will take the most time to get off, try using the smallest 10mm ratchet you have to reach back there. Removing the oil cap will help a lot as well. Do not be surprised if you loose a few bits…I have lost many doing this exact thing. They will usually fall out when you begin to drive the car again.

After the removal, you should see something like this:

Now is a good time to inspect your valve cover for any signs of trouble. Milky oil is a clear sign of head gasket failure. Be sure to look at the section above the vanos and secondary timing chain tensioner for signs of the timing chain hitting the cover. If all is good, move along. If not, it may be time to do a head gasket replacement!
A good picture of coolant in oil:

There will be a plastic cover over the intake camshaft, it simply pulls off. You may need to apply force to the sides to get it to pop off. Place this to the side until its time to reinstall it.

Now it is time to put the car at Top Dead Center (TDC). Start by loosening your spark plugs, you do not need to remove them, but loosening them will make turning the engine by hand easier. Using a 22mm deep socket, you can manually crank the engine. When looking directly at the engine from the front of the car rotate towards the drivers side of the vehicle (clockwise).

Your goal is to get the first cylinders camshafts pointing towards each other and have your camshaft locking tool slide into place easily. There will also be an arrow on the exhaust sprocket that needs to be pointed perpendicular to how the head gasket sits. However, before you start trying to get to TDC, it is time to call a friend in to help. On the driver side of the engine bay, right behind the throttle body and next to the oil dipstick. There will be an open section where you can look down and see the transmission. In the transmission, you should see a blue plug sticking out. Reach down and pull out that plug, then have your friend reach back down with the flywheel-locking tool and place it into the hole and apply pressure.

Now it is your turn to start turning the engine to TDC. Use that 22mm wrench to turn the engine slowly. It will be tough, but get the first cylinder camshaft lobes close to pointing at each other. With your friend still pushing the flywheel-locking tool in place, slowly turn the engine until the tool slides into place. It will only go in a little bit, but you can tell when it does. While you are turning the crank look at the exhaust sprocket and make sure the arrow is pointing upwards. Once the flywheel tool is in do not rotate the engine anymore. There are three studs at the back of the head, remove them, and place them to the side. The three studs are circled in red below:

Take your camshaft-locking tool and place it at the back of the head. If it does not slide on easily, you can rotate your crank a little more each way. If it is off severely…you have major timing problems and I am surprised your engine runs lol.

Also, make sure to check the crankshaft pulley that it is at TDC as well. The sprocket part has markings at the top that look like this:

Disconnect the oil line from the vanos; this will be the big black hose connecting to the driver’s side of the vanos. There will be a little oil that drips out after you remove it, I just took a rag and wrapped it around the end of the hose. There will be two washers that come off with the bolt, do not loose them!

Before you remove the vanos use some sort of wire, I used a metal shirt hanger, to lock your secondary timing chain tensioner in the down position. Push down on the tensioner so that it cannot go down anymore. Then insert the wire into a hole on the back of the tensioner that is above where the chain is.

Now this picture is after I removed the chain and vanos…but it gives you a good picture of where the wire goes:

Finally!!! Taking off the vanos. There are six 10mm nuts and one 13mm bolt connecting the vanos to the engine.

Remove the six nuts, the crank position wire runs in front of two of the bolts. A black plastic cover that is held in with C-clips will cover it. Remove this cover, do not be afraid to break the C-clips they are cheap. With that out of the way continue to remove the nuts. When you get to the 13mm bolt at the top of the vanos, remove it and place it with the nuts you just took off. There will be a metal lift ring attached under the bolt.

Loosen the second bolt holding this on; this is located on the underside of the vanos. Just follow the lift ring down and you cannot miss it! Swivel the ring to the driver’s side so that it is out of the way for the vanos removal.

Now you need to unplug the vanos solenoid. The solenoid is located on the driver’s side of the vanos next to the oil filter housing. It is what I have circled here:

This has a small black wire coming out of the back of it. Follow the wire under the intake manifold and unplug it. Try to remember where it goes, it is not too hard to find again. If you are not replacing the vanos and are, using this guide to get to the actual engine you can simply unscrew the solenoid using a monkey wrench.

Next remove the two access plugs at the front of the vanos and set them to the side

Now using an E10 Torx socket... loosen, but do not remove, the four bolts holding the secondary timing chain exhaust sprocket on the exhaust cam shaft. They only need to be loosened a little bit, maybe 1 turn. You will need to use a short bit extension and go through the two holes you just opened up in the vanos to get to the bottom two bolts.

Before pulling the vanos off, rotate the exhaust sprocket as far as I can towards the drivers side of the car. This will put you on the right foot when installing your new unit. Use the Sprocket wrench to turn it.

After the sprocket is all the way over towards the driver’s side of the car, it is time to pull the vanos off. Pulling evenly on both corners of the vanos, slowly separate it from the head.

Using a flat head screwdriver will make this easier but be sure to space it out evenly. Pulling the vanos off you will notice that the gear plunger on the vanos is being pulled out. This is perfectly fine and is a good sign that you almost have the thing out. The exhaust sprocket may also rotate back towards the passenger side of the vehicle, which is fine.

Instructions continue in Post #2

MY EX-///M3 || Vanos DIY || 200k ///M Club:(ask me for membership!) || Supercharged ///95 Club(ask me for membership!)

Last edited by M3cosmos95; Tue, Apr-27-2010 at 01:01:36 AM.
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Old Thu, Jun-05-2008, 10:57:44 PM   #2
I've never even been to Mt. Vesuvius!
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While pulling my vanos off I realized that one of the metal bands that clamps the coolant hoses to the thermostat housing were in the way. If this is the case, loosen them and swivel them out of the way. Coolant will not rush out if you loosen them lol.

There is also a metal gasket between the vanos and the head…remove it and throw it away. You should have bought a new one to replace it.

Part 2: Reinstallation

Step 1: Preparing to put the Vanos onto the engine

Starting where we left off in Part 1, you will need to clean off any oil or residue from the front of the engines head. Old silicone sealant or dried oil will prevent you from attaining a perfect seal, and may force you to do this again.

Clean the area circled in red with a clean rag, for really tough material use a brush, but be careful not to damage the metal.

Next, take the silicone gasket sealer and liberally apply it around the upper left and right areas that you have just cleaned, try and keep this stuff off of the studs.

Now take that new vanos gasket that you bought, pictured below, and put it in place. It will only be able to go on one way; you should be able to figure it out.

Step 2: Installing the Vanos

Now comes the most difficult part of the install. This is the time where you will need a friend to help you out. I have done this solo and do not recommend attempting it for your first time.

Your friend needs to take the sprocket wrench we used before, and turn the sprockets all the way to the right and hold it. You should be able to keep it in place with little to no effort, but it is important that it is cranked as far as it can go, turn in the direction shown in this photo:

Time to insert the Vanos, make sure that the Vanos plunger is pushed all the way back into the Vanos. The picture below is the Vanos plunger extended out; make sure it doesn’t look like this, press it down to be sure.

With the plunger set in place, place the Vanos onto the studs coming off the head. Make sure that you push evenly along the entire Vanos; you don’t want to install it crooked.

You will want to stop when the plunger gets to about here:

The Vanos plunger has gears inside and outside that need to mesh with their counterparts in the sprocket. With the sprockets still turned all the way to the right, start pushing the vanos unit farther onto the head. The gears will not want to match up easily, but insert it until you cannot anymore. It should look similar to this:

Now using your fingers, hopefully they aren’t too big, rotate the plunger while pushing the Vanos farther in slowly, until you can feel the gears engage with the ones inside the sprocket. You will not be able to insert it all the way so do not exert a lot of force.

Now your friend should begin slowly releasing the sprockets back towards the left (passenger) side of the car. While this is happening, push the Vanos onto the head, making sure that the Vanos engages with the first set of gears. If you didn’t insert it far enough in the previous step this is a real possibility. If you feel that you have had this happen, remove the Vanos and try again. It should be fairly obvious when you do it incorrectly, I did it once myself. The timing will be off if this happens…DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN!!!!

The Vanos should slide easily within the first few milliseconds of releasing tension on the sprockets and you pushing it in. The two of you will need to work in unison, so make sure you trust who is helping you.

Make sure that you have pushed the Vanos all the way in, it will be flush with the head, and you can completely release your tension on the sprockets.

Now you can start to reinstall the Vanos mounting nuts and bolt:

You will want to tighten them down evenly across the Vanos to insure a tight and secure fit. Make sure that you remember to put that wire we removed that was running along the bottom of the vanos over the thermostat cover back into place. When you install the main mounting bolt, located at the top right of the Vanos, make sure you slide the engine lift ring back into place along with the grounding wire as well.

After all of the bolts are hand tight, begin to torque them down. All of the Smaller nuts, the M6 nut, need to have a torque of 10Nm (89in-lb). And the larger main mounting bolt, M8 bolt, needs to have a torque of 22Nm (17 ft-lb).

After all of the bolts are torqued down, you will need to wipe off some excess silicone sealant that will be pressed out from between the Vanos and the head. Make sure to do this or the valve cover gasket may not form a perfect seal.

With the Vanos secured back in place you can remove the wire from the secondary timing chain tensioner. Push down on the top of the tensioner and then pull the wire out the back, and then release the tensioner. It should tighten the chain back up quickly.

Make sure that your engine is still at TDC and that the cam locking block looks squarely placed on the head. If you followed along with this DIY and used both the flywheel pin and cam blocks you shouldn't have any issues. If it is not at TDC, review how to put car to TDC and do so now!

Now using an E10 Torx socket... re-tighten the four bolts down to 5Nm or 44in/lb. Many torque wrenches wont go this low so this should make them about finger tight. Once all the bolts are evenly tightened, torque the four bolts down to 22Nm or 17ft/lb. Doing this may cause the cam shaft to rotate slightly even with the locking blocks DO NOT let that cam move while torquing this down!

Next replace the two access plugs at the front of the vanos down to 50Nm or 37ft/pounds

The last step in this is to plug the Vanos solenoid back in…hopefully you can remember where it goes and find the correct plug.

Step 3: Putting the engine back together

Now you can remove the camshaft locking tool:

While you are back there, you should go ahead and put the three studs we removed early in Part 1. These simply require a good hand tightening, they will become tighter once you install the valve cover bolts.

You can also remove the flywheel locking tool and place the little blue plug back in place:

Next, reconnect the Vanos oil supply line that we disconnected earlier:

Make sure that you either replace the metal washers or reuse the old ones when putting the banjo bolt back into place. I reused mine, but replacing them is a good idea.

This should be torqued to 32Nm (24 ft-lb)

Now reinstall the intake camshaft cover, it will just pop into place and goes on only one way:

Step 4: Valve cover

It’s now time to replace the valve cover gasket.

You should inspect the outside of the head, where the gasket goes, and clean off any residue or oil before moving on.

With the area clean, add a liberal amount of silicone sealant to the front corners of the head:

As well as the two half moon cut outs on the back of the head. This picture shows only sealant on the tops but I like to put a small amount on all of the curved sections.

Now place your new head gasket on the head, making sure that it is flat and makes good contact all the way around the head.

Also place the spark plug gaskets onto their positions, like this:

Place the valve cover onto the gasket, making sure that you do not move the gasket out of place. With the cover sitting on the engine you should look something like this:

Finally it is time to secure that valve cover gasket down!

Start by screwing all of the six 10mm Cover bolts, and their individual gaskets around the outside of the cover down to a hand tight. Then you can move on to the inside ones, two of which have grounding cables attached. The ones on the back of the head will be difficult, but a small ratchet works wonders.

Here is a picture of one of the grounding cables and cover bolts we took off before:

Each of these cover bolts should be torqued down to 10Nm (89 in-lb), make sure to tighten them evenly and DO NOT OVERTIGHTEN!

Next, reinstall the vacuum hose to the valve cover gasket, 96+ ones will look different but serve the same purpose.

Step 5: Reinstalling the fan parts

If you will remember we left the coolant reservoir attached and simply placed it on top of the intake manifold out of the way…time to put it back in place.

Make sure that the sensor that attaches to the coolant reservoir is out of the way and ready to be attached. Start to lower the fan shroud and coolant reservoir back into place. You may need to feed the coolant line through the shroud as you’re doing this. This is how I left mine:

The fan shroud will have several tabs that will need to slide into place on your radiator. Do not be afraid to use a little muscle to get this thing to work…its difficult sometimes. Before you lower it down completely, make sure that you plug the coolant reservoir sensor back in, because it will be near impossible once it is back in place.

Now that the fan shroud is back in place…install the engine fan. Remember that this has counterclockwise threads, and will require you to spin the fan towards the passenger side to tighten it up. You will not need tools or anything for this, just use your hand until you can tighten it no more. The engine will take care of the rest.

Step 6: Electrical system

Start by retightening your Spark Plugs, they should be torqued to 25Nm (18 ft-lb)

Now reinstall the ignition wiring, the big black box that runs along the fuel injectors. This simply pushes back into place; make sure that you correctly line up the fuel injectors to their corresponding plugs and begin pushing down. You will hear each one click into place, to not use a lot of force as this may damage your injectors and/or wiring.

Time to reinstall the coil packs!

Slide the coil packs back into place:

Then reinstall the two 10mm nuts that hold each of them down, make sure to remember to install the two grounding cables while you are doing this. The nuts only need to be hand tight; using a large torque wrench would be over kill. Tighten up with a medium ratchet until you cannot turn them without using force and you will be good.

Now plug the coil packs back in, raise the silver piece of metal and slide the plugs into place and push down on the silver piece of metal. Make sure you use the right plugs for the right coil packs!

Now you can reinstall the covers for your engine, simply screw these nuts and bolts on hand tight. The put your oil cap back on.

After the bolts and nuts are secured down you can place the little bolt/nut cover back on:

And the FINAL steps…reinstall the cover on the front of your M, along with the alternator cooling duct:


Once again I would like to thank pelican parts because I used several of their pictures and Bentley Publishers for their torque specs

MY EX-///M3 || Vanos DIY || 200k ///M Club:(ask me for membership!) || Supercharged ///95 Club(ask me for membership!)

Last edited by M3cosmos95; Tue, Apr-27-2010 at 12:46:28 AM.
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Old Thu, Jun-05-2008, 11:01:42 PM   #3
Can't touch this
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Ansel, this is most impressive...
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Old Thu, Jun-05-2008, 11:12:03 PM   #4
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excellent post, thanks for all the effort you put into this

Originally Posted by Saag View Post
Financial security, good looking women, fine automobiles and clothing. That is how my friends and I portray ourselves to the rest of society.
Originally Posted by greggb View Post
Must be horrible that you cannot afford one..
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people hate you and you look like a turd. GTFO.
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Terrible taste confirmed
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Old Thu, Jun-05-2008, 11:12:03 PM   #5
How many licks..
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Nice. I can't wait to see the rest.
♪♫♪♪♫♪ Trevor ♪♫♪♪♫♪

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Old Thu, Jun-05-2008, 11:14:37 PM   #6
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Holla PLAYA!!!! I smell rep BARZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!

good work Ansel. You did a really good job
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Old Thu, Jun-05-2008, 11:15:32 PM   #7
Kiss my a$$ cancer...
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Ansel, this is great! Something that I need to do, and your DIY makes me feel a lot more confident; having a complete front-to-back guide is wonderful, rather than bits & pieces.

Joffre - '95 ///M3 Arktissilber-Metallic/Schwarz
Originally Posted by OZBMW View Post
Webster's Dictionary: mutherforkation > a modification done to an E36 M3 that serves no useful purpose, detracts from aesthetics and value
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Old Thu, Jun-05-2008, 11:23:35 PM   #8
I've never even been to Mt. Vesuvius!
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Originally Posted by thedood View Post
Ansel, this is most impressive...
Originally Posted by M3_Dust View Post
excellent post, thanks for all the effort you put into this
Originally Posted by Sirius View Post
Nice. I can't wait to see the rest.
Thanks guys! It's great to see my efforts were not in vain!

This has been a little side project over the past month. I have been doing a couple steps a night while i balance this out with school. But hopefully part 2 will be completed early next week. Proof reading this was a pain in the @ss lol, i expect there may be a few minor errors.

MY EX-///M3 || Vanos DIY || 200k ///M Club:(ask me for membership!) || Supercharged ///95 Club(ask me for membership!)
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Old Thu, Jun-05-2008, 11:26:39 PM   #9
I've never even been to Mt. Vesuvius!
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Originally Posted by KnudsonsM3 View Post
Holla PLAYA!!!! I smell rep BARZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!

good work Ansel. You did a really good job
haha i hadn't even thought about that...though it would be cool to get some

Thanks Leif, this took forever and it's not even done yet lol

Originally Posted by Stovelegs09 View Post
Ansel, this is great! Something that I need to do, and your DIY makes me feel a lot more confident; having a complete front-to-back guide is wonderful, rather than bits & pieces.
Thanks It's good to know i did a good job.

I constantly see the same questions asked over and over because the one ok DIY guide(pelican parts) is done in reverse. I hope that this guide will help you and everyone else on the forums.

MY EX-///M3 || Vanos DIY || 200k ///M Club:(ask me for membership!) || Supercharged ///95 Club(ask me for membership!)
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Old Thu, Jun-05-2008, 11:30:03 PM   #10
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v nice! I've been thinking about doing this myself...i had my vanos replaced a couple years ago and it sounds as horrible as ever, haha. I can't stand it and don't feel like paying the shop to do it again...I am planning on replacing it w/ a Dr. Vanos unit, since the BMW-refurb that my shop put in made a mediocor difference...what are you replacing it with?
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diy, installation, removal, vanos

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Discussing DIY: Vanos Removal and Installation in the E36 M3 (1992-1999) Forum - {Euro - S50 B32 321hp @ 7400 rpm} {U.S. - S52 B32 240 hp @ 6000 rpm}
Total Produced: 71,212 - Years Produced: 1992 to 1999 at BMW M3 (E30 M3 | E36 M3 | E46 M3 | E92 M3 | F80/X)