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      07-03-2009, 12:03 AM   #1
Niels E46 M3
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Track Day Power Steering Issues

I spent last weekend instructing/driving with the Lotus Club @ Denver's new track, High Plains Raceway.

Between taking students out, and driving my own sessions, my power steering fluid boiled over. Although I never lost any steering, there is a rather large mess of boiled over fluid in my engine bay. Keep in mind, my car was in complete OEM form, with the exception of an Eisenmann muffler.

I have read this has been a common problem with the e9x m3's being pushed at the track. Even the instructors at BMW Advanced M School have admitted to the problem.

From my analysis, it seems that the power steering reservoir is located too close to the headers, causing the extreme heat levels.

Tomorrow I will be dropping the car off at a local dealer and will be leaving a letter for a BMWNA representative to read and address the problem.

I will keep everyone updated as it develops.

-Niels
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      07-03-2009, 12:57 AM   #2
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I expierenced this problem on the Nurburgring GP track; Not on the Nordscleife. I don't think it boils but splashes out of the overflow vent. Ive had 40 minutes on the GP track and over 100 miles on the north loop and i havent expierenced any power steering problems. I have plans for a few more track sessions and will post if I expierence any problems.
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      07-03-2009, 01:35 AM   #3
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It would be awesome if they come up with some form of a heat shield. Refer them to the thread's here.

Of course, that would mean you took your car on the track, and they could thus void your warranty. BMW can be schizophrenic like that.
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      07-03-2009, 08:46 AM   #4
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After 3 track events, enough spilled out of mine that it no longer leaks from the cap.
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      07-03-2009, 08:58 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jml View Post
After 3 track events, enough spilled out of mine that it no longer leaks from the cap.
Ditto here, and the steering is not affected. OP, save yourself the hassel and let it go. Clean up the mess and check it next time. You'll likley be spill free. But should hte issue return (i.e. - somebody tops off the steering fluid), wrap some of that cheap high-temp heat blanket material around the steering box or install some exhaust header wrap. Problem solved. Finally, I believe somebody on this forum was working with a manufacturer on an aftermarket shield we could purchase. We'll see.
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      07-03-2009, 09:07 AM   #6
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Is the power steering fluid boiling out, or simply excaping out the breather holes in the cap due to pressure. Anyone know.
Thanks, vz
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      07-03-2009, 11:15 AM   #7
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In my case, it was coming out of the weep hole. I connected a hose to it and attached a piece of rag to the end. However, after two days at the track, the rag was still dry, so whatever boiled out the previous time at the track was enough to keep it in check. It's still not a good thing that the PS fluid is getting that hot though. It's not made for it and who knows what will happen to the steering box in the long run if we keep it up.
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      07-03-2009, 08:12 PM   #8
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Same thing happened to me and I'm taking the car to the dealership later this month. Stock car here, and while it was warm, it wasn't "Texas" hot that day. I'll let you know what they do.
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      07-03-2009, 10:32 PM   #9
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This has been brought up before, and I'm not too sure folks have differentiated between "boiled over" and "splashed out." Mine "splashed out" at my last autocross (and the same thing happened to another M3 there as well), as I doubt that our 8 minutes of driving caused it to boil. Just saying there may be another explanation that is a bit less worrisome.
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      07-03-2009, 11:05 PM   #10
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Was up at Nurburgring yesterday and did 3 laps on the Nordschleife. After the 3rd lap I popped the hood to check for any overflow or spillage. The engine bay was nice and clean. Ive only expierenced the spillage at the GP track but it definately didn't boil over. I you run it hard on a tight track that has some very tight back to back corners you might expierence the splashing effect. Just clean it up and press on.
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      07-04-2009, 01:09 AM   #11
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I had heard about this issue before my track day in Portland last week. So in anticipation, I removed a bit power steering fluid (with a syringe) so that the level was mid-way. It was initially at the top most marker. I had no issue at the track.
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      07-04-2009, 10:00 AM   #12
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I'm not convinced it is boiling since there is no indication that there is cavitation in the pump. Unlike the E46, the E90 has a PS oil cooler. It's probably a slight expansion in volume due to temp, and an increase in pressure due to sustained high RPM and high temp.

The E46 has worse PS issues unless you change fluids to something that reduces cavitation (like redline ATF). The feeling of cavitation is that the feel of the wheel changes with RPM, an example is the turn in after braking after a high rpm burst. Hell the leaking PS hoses on the E46 were considered "normal" by BMW.

The steering system performance has been rock solid on my E90 so far. It's a superior design to the E46.
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      07-04-2009, 12:56 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jml View Post
I'm not convinced it is boiling since there is no indication that there is cavitation in the pump. Unlike the E46, the E90 has a PS oil cooler. It's probably a slight expansion in volume due to temp, and an increase in pressure due to sustained high RPM and high temp.

The E46 has worse PS issues unless you change fluids to something that reduces cavitation (like redline ATF). The feeling of cavitation is that the feel of the wheel changes with RPM, an example is the turn in after braking after a high rpm burst. Hell the leaking PS hoses on the E46 were considered "normal" by BMW.

The steering system performance has been rock solid on my E90 so far. It's a superior design to the E46.
+1

I like the idea of not topping it off.... simple solution to yet a simple problem. We'll see if it becomes a bigger problem over time, but so far no reason to think so.
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      07-07-2009, 10:49 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jml View Post
I'm not convinced it is boiling since there is no indication that there is cavitation in the pump. Unlike the E46, the E90 has a PS oil cooler. It's probably a slight expansion in volume due to temp, and an increase in pressure due to sustained high RPM and high temp.
I thought the issue was that the pump is right next to the headers. So extended track use heats up the headers which increases the p/s pump temp with also increases the p/s fluid temp.
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      07-07-2009, 11:03 PM   #15
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Niels is right, it IS boiling and furthermore it will potentially ruin the pump. At the Advanced M-School at VIR in May, at least 1/3 of the M3 pumps failed. The mechanics would take the car to shed and it would reappear in an hour or so. Besides boiling out, it can deform some of the plastic parts in the pump, causing the pump to fail and you'll feel that in the steering reaction.

The fix is a heat shield between the headers and the pump. BMW doesn't do this to the school cars, much to the shagrin of all concerned, because they want all the cars totally stock.

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      07-07-2009, 11:22 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dcstep View Post
Niels is right, it IS boiling and furthermore it will potentially ruin the pump. At the Advanced M-School at VIR in May, at least 1/3 of the M3 pumps failed. The mechanics would take the car to shed and it would reappear in an hour or so. Besides boiling out, it can deform some of the plastic parts in the pump, causing the pump to fail and you'll feel that in the steering reaction.

The fix is a heat shield between the headers and the pump. BMW doesn't do this to the school cars, much to the shagrin of all concerned, because they want all the cars totally stock.

Dave
If that's true then its a big design flaw. However, if 1/3 of M3s failed there I figure we would be finding a high incidence of PS pump failures among members here who track their M3s. AFAIK no one here has had to have their PS pump replaced so I am not that worried.
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      07-08-2009, 07:56 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BMW M Power Mexico View Post
If that's true then its a big design flaw. However, if 1/3 of M3s failed there I figure we would be finding a high incidence of PS pump failures among members here who track their M3s. AFAIK no one here has had to have their PS pump replaced so I am not that worried.
You think that I made that up???

I suspect that the conditions were aggravated by VIR's two long straights that heated the headers to the max a couple of times per lap. If I were going to track my own car I'd rig up a heat shield to protect the PS pump from the headers' heat. You can do as you like.

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      07-08-2009, 02:07 PM   #18
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Long straights. You need to make a trip to Germany; The Nurburgring is 12 miles in length. I ve tracked my car on both the shorter Gp Track and the Nordschleife and only expierenced spalshing on the GP track. How can the headers heat up and boil the fluid? I can cruise all out at 170MPH here in Germany, with motor roaring full tilt on the A bahn. Wouldn't you think highspeed driving on the A-bahn would affect Power steering, if you suspect excess heat from the headers. Just my 2 cents.
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      07-08-2009, 02:25 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trier Germany View Post
Long straights. You need to make a trip to Germany; The Nurburgring is 12 miles in length. I ve tracked my car on both the shorter Gp Track and the Nordschleife and only expierenced spalshing on the GP track. How can the headers heat up and boil the fluid? I can cruise all out at 170MPH here in Germany, with motor roaring full tilt on the A bahn. Wouldn't you think highspeed driving on the A-bahn would affect Power steering, if you suspect excess heat from the headers. Just my 2 cents.
I'm just passing along what the BMW said at VIR. Probably it's the combination of long straights a twisties at a track like VIR. It wasn't particularly hot while we were in Virginia in early May. I'm surprised that it's not happening more often at other tracks. In two-days I witnessed it on three or four out of ten or so M3s in our track fleet.

These are BMW performance driving fleet cars, which are driven hard EVERY day, so maybe that makes a difference. We know they're well maintained, but this is indeed happening. The cars ran 20 to 40-minute sessions from about 9 a.m. to 4 p.m, but that's not untypical of a track day for a private car.

Unless this starts happening with some regularity to many customer cars, I doubt that BMW will do anything about it. I don't blame them. Apparently it takes an unusual set of circumstances to cause it. (The damage, not just the spewing).

Dave
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      07-08-2009, 08:40 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trier Germany View Post
Long straights. You need to make a trip to Germany; The Nurburgring is 12 miles in length. I ve tracked my car on both the shorter Gp Track and the Nordschleife and only expierenced spalshing on the GP track. How can the headers heat up and boil the fluid? I can cruise all out at 170MPH here in Germany, with motor roaring full tilt on the A bahn. Wouldn't you think highspeed driving on the A-bahn would affect Power steering, if you suspect excess heat from the headers. Just my 2 cents.
I would imagine a track with shorter straights would create less heat. Because you are on the accelator full throttle at every exit, downshifting and pushing the engine towards redline.

Aren'y you maintaining a somewhat constant level of throttle if you are cruising at 170mph.
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      07-08-2009, 09:21 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dcstep View Post
You think that I made that up???

I suspect that the conditions were aggravated by VIR's two long straights that heated the headers to the max a couple of times per lap. If I were going to track my own car I'd rig up a heat shield to protect the PS pump from the headers' heat. You can do as you like.

Dave
I am not implying you made it up. Why would you? I am sorry if it came out that way.
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      08-18-2009, 02:58 PM   #22
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I had this PS fluid spill maybe 4 times in the past but on my last track day it reached epic proportions. It was 98 out there and I was running very hard. I got PS fluid all over the right side of the engine. Any solution yet!! I was not concerned too much before but this last spill was huge.
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