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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 Tue, Jan-08-2013, 12:45:29 AM   #1
JB_98M3
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Question NorCal 98 M3 story - upper engine rebuild

Hi Folks. I'm a new member but a 10-year E36 M3 owner.

I recently completed an upper engine rebuild on my E36 at 90k miles. I'll share my car's history, engine symptoms, failure, rebuild and return to life in the hope that it helps other owners and potential E36 M3 buyers.

History

I'm a 2nd owner who purchased my 1998 M3 sedan (auto w/35k miles) in 2002 as a BMW certified pre-owned vehicle from a local dealer (bay area, northern California).

I've used it as a daily driver with occasional spirited street runs for the last 10 years. It's been a supremely satisfying vehicle. In my opinion, the E36 M3 sedan is a near-perfect balance between performance, handling, refinement, fuel efficiency, cost, quality, practicality and convenience. I plan to keep it forever.

The car is stock. I have not done any DIY work on the car. It's been regularly maintained (oil changes, BMW maintenance schedule) by a professional BMW shop.

Symptoms

1) Lost low-end torque

Around 65k miles, the car started to lose low-end torque. It was still ok to drive, but was sluggish to accelerate until the engine reached higher RPMs. It almost felt like turbo-lag. I attribute this to the VANOS unit failing.

2) Engine 'ticking' at idle

Around 75k miles, the engine developed an audible ticking sound at idle. I took it to the shop and they diagnosed it as a sticking hydraulic lifter. Fixing it would require a rebuild which they did not recommend.

3) Engine burning oil

Around 80k miles, the engine started burning oil. The oil level would get low prior to the 7000 mile oil change interval. I took it to the shop which reported that older M3s were known to burn oil and my choices were to rebuild now or add oil and rebuild later. I chose to add oil and added 6 quarts over the next 10k miles

Failure

At 90k miles, I had driven the car to work. At lunch time I started the car and drove 30 feet to the first stop light. While waiting at the red light, my idle suddenly went to hell, all choppy and sputtering.

I turned the engine off and then restarted it. Same behavior. I pushed the car back to the parking lot, called AAA, and had it towed to my mechanic.

Turns out the engine had a blown head gasket (no compression on 5 & 6). Cause was that the electrode on #5 spark plug broke off and fell into the combustion chamber where it pinballed around until getting jammed between the piston and the head, blowing the head gasket for cylinders 5 & 6.

Q for E36 experts: Has anyone else heard of this happening (spark plug electrode breaking off and dropping into combustion chamber) to an E36 M3? I'm curious if this plug failure is a result of something preventable or just cosmic coincidence.

Upper Engine Rebuild

Here's the parts & cost summary:

$860 to Autohausaz.com
6 7405 Spark Plug; Copper; 4 Ground Electrode; OE Plug
1 11121721938 Cylinder Head Bolt Set; Set of 14 Bolts
1 11129069861 Cylinder Head Gasket Set
24 11321748884 Hydraulic Lifter; For Intake and Exhaust Valves
1 11427833769 Oil Filter Kit; OE Filter
1 11517527799 Water Pump; Update Replacement with Metal Impeller
1 11531722531 Thermostat Housing; Aluminum Update Replacement
1 11531740437 Thermostat Seal; For Thermostat Housing
1 13321740985 Fuel Filter; 10 Inch Length with Nipple Fittings
1 11537511580 Thermostat - 88 C

$250 to Dr Vanos
1 Stage I Vanos

$2700 to mechanic labor & to machine shop for head rebuild

After the engine was back together, the car drives beautifully. Low-end torque is back, and the car feels and sounds like when I bought it from the dealer.

Unfortunately, at 91k miles, the car started to overheat. Took it back to the shop and found that the radiator clutch was failing and the radiator neck was broken, leaking coolant.

$1000 to mechanic parts & labor (new radiator & fan clutch)

I'm at 94k now with no new problems (knock on wood).

Summary: daily driver with worn engine after 15 years needed head rebuild, vanos, & radiator. Cost was ~$4800, 2/3 in labor cost, making me suddenly interested in learning more about DIY options.

BTW: Reading through the forums here, I realize that I should look into rear shock mount reinforcement and oil pump nut fix asap as preventative maintenance. Any other 'big risks' I should try to deal with ASAP?

Thanks!
-JB
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Old Tue, Jan-08-2013, 02:17:10 AM   #2
sharpie
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Default Re: NorCal 98 M3 story - upper engine rebuild

The oil pump nut is probably a 9 or 10 on the ol' DIY list, as compared to some stuff on these cars. A head rebuild is like a 7 or 8. The rear shock mounts? Probably a 4.
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Old Tue, Jan-08-2013, 03:09:44 AM   #3
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If you're gonna look at the RSM and you have the original shocks and struts, replace the shocks and struts. I can guarantee they are shot. Obviously they won't leave you stranded, but the ride will be dramatically improved. And while we're busy spending your $$, if they haven't been swapped within the past 30k miles, do the trans, diff, and brake fluids. Here's how much rebound my original struts had with 40k miles, none:
ImageUploadedByTapatalk1357618164.717831.jpg
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Old Tue, Jan-08-2013, 06:00:32 AM   #4
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Default Re: NorCal 98 M3 story - upper engine rebuild

That doesn't seem too bad for the rebuild. Nice to hear it's back on the road. Though I think having to rebuild at 90k is a bit early. Maybe that's just me.
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Old Tue, Jan-08-2013, 11:27:36 AM   #5
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Default Re: NorCal 98 M3 story - upper engine rebuild

In addition to your list, RTAB pockets, front subframe cracks at the motor mounts, and rear swaybar mounting tabs. An old car worth $5-10k is best for a DIYer since it will need regular attention and paying a shop to do everything adds up fast. There are good DIY guides and posts and threads here and on Bimmerforums. I agree the E36M3 is still a nice car even by 15 year newer standards.
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Old Tue, Jan-08-2013, 11:32:44 AM   #6
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What kind of spark plug, guessing it was one of the platinum type? Car was designed for copper as you probably know, not that using platinum should cause the electrode to fall out just curious since I've heard of it happening. Progress is great isn't it? Reminds me of the government a little :rolleyes:

Glad to hear you got it going though!

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Old Tue, Jan-08-2013, 11:55:25 AM   #7
Richardsperry
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Default Re: NorCal 98 M3 story - upper engine rebuild

$2700 for a head R&R seems a little excessive. Book time is probably about 10 hrs...

As an aside, any mechanic that does all that work and doesn't recommend a new radiator, isn't worth going to. (or just doesn't know the E36 very well)

Anyway, glad you're back on the road.
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Old Tue, Jan-08-2013, 05:04:50 PM   #8
JB_98M3
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Question Re: NorCal 98 M3 story - upper engine rebuild

Quote:
Originally Posted by sharpie View Post
The oil pump nut is probably a 9 or 10 on the ol' DIY list.
Sharpie, can you give me your top 5 (or comment on my plan below)? I'm starting to realize that I need to be more proactive with my m3 rather than waiting for the next thing to break.

Quote:
Originally Posted by crqflier View Post
If you're gonna look at the RSM and you have the original shocks and struts, replace the shocks and struts.
crqflier, yes, the shocks are way gone and are the next thing on my 'comfy wish list', followed by replacement speakers for the HK audio system.

Regarding replacement of the transmission fluid, is there a consensus on what to replace it with? I'm somewhat confused on that one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by djjvr View Post
That doesn't seem too bad for the rebuild. Nice to hear it's back on the road. Though I think having to rebuild at 90k is a bit early. Maybe that's just me.
Totally agree, djjvr. If the engine wouldn't have eaten the plug electrode, I think it would have made it to 100k+, but at the rate it was burning oil, a rebuild was probably a good idea.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vmbray View Post
What kind of spark plug, guessing it was one of the platinum type?
vmbray, I wish I knew. It's one of the reasons why I'm looking into the DIY approach more seriously, so I'll be able to correlate car behavior with work-done and parts-used.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pbonsalb View Post
In addition to your list, RTAB pockets, front subframe cracks at the motor mounts, and rear swaybar mounting tabs.
Thanks for the list pbonsalb. I can do wrench work, but welding is beyond me. My idea so far is to do these myself:

- change fluids
- rear shock mounts
- rear shocks & springs
- engine mounts
- transmission mount
- guibo

then take it to a pro for:

- subframe reinforcement
- RTAB pockets
- rear sway bar mounting tabs
- install rod bearings
- oil pump nut
- front suspension overhaul (install control arms, tie rods, etc)
- install front shocks/struts
- alignment

Does this sound like a reasonable plan for a mechanically inclined but novice DIY? Any other preventative maintenance or fixes I should be considering while the car is being worked on?

BTW, once the major preventative stuff is out of the way, I'm considering two changes from my stock setup: 3.91 rear diff, and cd43 stereo instead of c33. Is 3.91 diff a good idea?

Thanks!
-JB
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Old Tue, Jan-08-2013, 05:52:19 PM   #9
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Default Re: NorCal 98 M3 story - upper engine rebuild

It was expensive but awesome that you have it totally rebuilt! I work in Mountain View, so maybe I will see you around! I drive a 97 3/4/5 Arctic Silver sedan.

Chad from Performance European on Evelyn does all my M3 maintenance for me.
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Old Tue, Jan-08-2013, 06:56:47 PM   #10
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Default Re: NorCal 98 M3 story - upper engine rebuild

I'm in San Mateo. I doubt you'll see me around.

Yah. Fluids first.
Skip coolant. It was just done.
Do.....
Brakes
PowerSteering

Once you do those, do filters....
Cabin air filter under dash
Air Filter
Fuel Filter (oh, you did it earlier. good job)
Clean the PowerSteering resivoir filter when you flush it (its in that little tank. take it out with a small torx. you'll see)
I've done the FuelInjector filters too, but I doubt you need that. www.mrinjector.us can help you there.

Once you do a few jobs, your priority list will change. You'll see.
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Last edited by egebhardt; Tue, Jan-08-2013 at 07:02:18 PM.
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Discussing NorCal 98 M3 story - upper engine rebuild 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 Forum.com (E30 M3 | E36 M3 | E46 M3 | E92 M3 | F80/X)