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      09-10-2013, 12:11 PM   #1
Wendall
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Lang Racing on the S54 Rod Bearing problems

http://www.langracing.com/finding-a-...aring-failure/

September 10, 2013

When we first began looking at the S54 knowing its history of rod bearing failure we immediately noticed how small the rod bearings were compared to other engines we’d built. To be more specific, the width of them is relatively narrow compared to other engines that are designed to make that much power. When you look at the rest of the engine you see similar ideas in other areas. BMW made every attempt to eliminate friction surfaces in this engine to increase efficiency and power. This is, of course, is every automotive engineer’s goal. The expense of doing this of course can mean that engine reliability can suffer. Every engine will have a weak point at which it will fail first, or at least most commonly. For the S54 this is the rod bearing. For another engine it might be the rod or the cylinder wall, or something else. Whether its a design failure or intentional, the S54 has a very well documented history of consuming rod bearings at a rate faster than desired.

I’ll do my best to illustrate this with words but really the easiest way to explain it is by simply looking at the engine internals on an S54. Here at Lang Racing Development we have engineered racing engines for some time now, not just the S54. That experience gives us a broad perspective when we look at every engine.

To understand why the rod bearing fails on this engine you first have to understand how the bearings on the crankshaft work. The bearing is a wearable surface, i.e. softer than the material of the crankshaft and the rod itself which are both, typically 4340 steel, one of the hardest/strongest steels available. If those two were to contact each other we’d be in a world of hurt as they would wear each other out. The bearings job is to prevent that from happening. The bearing is designed to be a relatively soft metal alloy so that when it does touch the crankshaft journal it wears away, rather than wearing the crankshaft. Now ideally we keep an oil film between the journal of the crankshaft and the bearing. We choose an oil viscosity based on the bearing clearance we decided on when we assemble our engine.

When BMW built this engine they decided some numbers they thought would work really well. We found out though in 2003 that they made a mistake. They made their recall explaining that there was a problem with the rod bearings they manufactured in the early years. The explanation they gave was that the rod bearings were manufactured incorrectly resulting in too tight of a rod bearing clearance when the engines were assembled. This resulted in inadequate oil film between the crank journal and the rod bearing.

My personal suspicion is that this is merely an excuse and that that the recall was actually an update to a bearing with larger clearance. BMW could never admit openly “our original engine design had too small of a rod bearing clearance and made the bearings spin”. At the time of the recall we noticed that the rod bolts/entire rod changed design as well, but of course there wouldn’t be a recall on rods themselves, that would be a full rebuild of an engine. And finally, the most vital component that couldn’t be recalled in a cost effective manner would be the crankshaft. Does the rod bearing recall solve the problem? My answer is no, and I see this time and time again that even engines that have had the rod bearing recall done fairly recently still exhibit a large amount of rod bearing wear.

Let’s get down to what I consider the main problem: when the piston is on its compression stroke and the mixture is ignited a tremendous pressure is imparted on the top of the piston, down the wrist pin, through the rod, and into the rod bearing. Some engines have trouble or weakness upwards of this chain but what the S54 does is squeeze out all the oil causing the bearing to wear on the top side. This is a simple conclusion to reach when you dissect S54′s day in and day out, the bearing wear tells the story. This situation is also what makes me a bit uneasy about the common suggestion that a coated rod bearing is a great solution on the S54. If a coated bearing is adding material to a rod bearing then, obviously, it must also be reducing the bearing clearance on the crankshaft journal. Some rod bearing treatments are designed to allow the bearing to retain oil better, which, if they do actually do that would be helpful. Still, I don’t believe that these bearings adequately address the original engine design flaw.

There are a couple ways to solve this problem, BMW tried the simplest. Increase the oil viscosity and increase the bearing clearance. This provides a higher volume of viscous oil for the combustion pressure to act upon. Does this help the problem? Definitely. Another option would be to increase oil pressure, this is one of the reasons that some people say all S54 race cars should have a dry sump oil system. This helps not so much because it prevents oil starvation but also because you are able to change gear sizes to obtain the oil pressure you desire.

To really get down to properly fixing the engine we have to go back and re-engineer it. The best way would be to make a new billet crankshaft (like we do for our stroker kits). A cheap alternative is to have the stock journal reground to accept a wider bearing. To do this we also have to choose a bearing that has a smaller diameter. Conveniently this also means that we can fix some crankshafts that have already spun bearings. We grind down the journal and widen it to accept the bearing for our new rod. For economics we choose a rod bearing that is common and easily available. This also means we have a wide variety of rods to choose from that are available in different lengths. Once we choose the rod, which can vary depending on customers preferences, we then measure the compression height we desire and order our custom piston from one of the various suppliers we use. Obviously what I’m describing takes quite a bit more thought than simply reassembling a stock engine and as such the labor cost is higher, and that might scare some people away.

I like to let them think about the cost for a new set of OEM rings, or pistons, or rods from BMW and compare those costs to the cost of some aftermarket rods/bearings/rings from aftermarket sources. Often times the quality is better and the cost is significantly less. The end result is an engine that costs very close to what an OEM rebuild would cost and ends up with lighter weight components that are fully balanced and engineered. More over some of the compromises that BMW made on their production engines don’t need to be made when building custom engines for race applications.

Some might say that its best just to replace the S54 rod bearings as part of regular maintenance, perhaps every 50k miles or so. I think this is a good suggestion but it also carries an expense and is a bandaid on a permanent problem. If a person is in the position to do a complete rebuild and intends to drive the car aggressively I think modifying the crankshaft for future reliability is a wise decision to minimize future maintenance and reduce the chances of catastrophic engine failure.

Even more so I think it makes the most sense for those in the position that their engine has already spun a bearing and has damaged a crankshaft. At this point they are left with the decision to either purchase a used crankshaft or try to repair their current one. The cost of modifying the crankshaft journal for this wider bearing is only slightly more than a standard crankshaft repair when a rod bearing has spun.

If a rebuild is in your future on an S54 I encourage you to investigate the costs of a standard rebuild and compare those costs to our rod bearing modification kit.
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      09-10-2013, 12:40 PM   #2
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Not to knock but I think it is funny they just published this article today after everyone else has already figured this all out. I am not sure about s54 bearing width but a touch wider bearing will not fix anything on the s65. It is the process of everything else they do that fixes it.
A "billet" crankshaft is not in the cards either, we run them in our race cars and they are over 8k dollars each.
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      09-10-2013, 12:46 PM   #3
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Not to knock but I think it is funny they just published this article today after everyone else has already figured this all out. I am not sure about s54 bearing width but a touch wider bearing will not fix anything on the s65. It is the process of everything else they do that fixes it.
A "billet" crankshaft is not in the cards either, we run them in our race cars and they are over 8k dollars each.
At least this article is a good quick summary of that 10+ page behemoth that we had on the V10 bearings.

One question though: In the article, it says that BMW increased the bearing clearance while also increasing oil viscosity.

Our conclusion is to go with a lower viscosity. I know this has to do with oil pressure. Now is this because our oil pumps can handle it and the E46 M3 can't?
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      09-10-2013, 01:13 PM   #4
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At least this article is a good quick summary of that 10+ page behemoth that we had on the V10 bearings.

One question though: In the article, it says that BMW increased the bearing clearance while also increasing oil viscosity.

Our conclusion is to go with a lower viscosity. I know this has to do with oil pressure. Now is this because our oil pumps can handle it and the E46 M3 can't?
Not sure as I have never messed with e46 stuff. How much did they increase the clearance though? It doesnt say.
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      09-10-2013, 02:22 PM   #5
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Good article... Lang Racing is on my way home from work... Maybe I'll pick their brains a bit regarding this... I know however they havent worked on very many E90 M3's... But I am sure that will change soon enough.

I called them before about coilovers, corner balancing, and a track alignment and they where a wealth of knowledge

The question I have for myself is.... 1) do i want to just change bearings as preventative maintenance? 2) have the engine re engineered as Lang racing suggests while using a modified factory rod? 3) enjoy whatever life my car has left and trade it in for something else in a few years

I dont like the last choice cause the soundtrack of that S65 V8 is so full of awesome
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      09-10-2013, 07:10 PM   #6
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For such a long article, they didn't put enough emphasis on clearances IMO. I am quite sure the S54 has a wide enough bearing for its torque output! Horsepower is not the killer of engine bearings, max torque ( read man BMEP) puts the most force on the bearings! To be honest, lightening the rods (the so called narrow rod/bearing that Land Racing refers to) will in fact help bearings on an engine that has relatively low torque output per cylinder but revs high. I think the clearances are more the issue than the width of the bearing in this case. The only way to truly tell is to build an S54 with the proper 0.001" per inch of journal diameter + 0.0005" and inspect the bearings after it is driven for a while!

When it comes to bearings clearance is key, while a wider bearing will take more force, I am unsure that Land Racing has done enough R&D to determine wether the stock bearings are indeed too narrow!
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      09-10-2013, 07:38 PM   #7
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thanks for posting this, I just emailed them to see if they can build a stoker out of my N85 (M5 E60) engine

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      09-10-2013, 08:11 PM   #8
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thanks for posting this, I just emailed them to see if they can build a stoker out of my N85 (M5 E60) engine

Chris
S85? I'm sure they can as would Dinan, Problem is those are crazy expensive for the power increase you get. TT V10 instead? haha
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      09-10-2013, 08:17 PM   #9
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At this point looking at all option but want something reliable even considering failed engine with OEM parts and put anESS kit on it again looking at all option before deciding !
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      09-10-2013, 11:06 PM   #10
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So according to this article the only way to fix the S65 bearing issue is to modify the crank?
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      09-10-2013, 11:20 PM   #11
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So according to this article the only way to fix the S65 bearing issue is to modify the crank?
People's lack of reading comprehension or rather laziness to read an article never ceases to amaze me! Nothing S65 in this article whatsoever!
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      09-10-2013, 11:30 PM   #12
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So according to this article the only way to fix the S65 bearing issue is to modify the crank?
Check Longwong oil thread for permanent fix
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      09-10-2013, 11:31 PM   #13
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So according to this article the only way to fix the S65 bearing issue is to modify the crank?
Check Longwong oil thread for permanent fix
Oh lawd.
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      09-10-2013, 11:34 PM   #14
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What's really uncomfortable about all these threads on the rod bearings is that there is no good solution identified by the pros. They did a good job identifying the problem of tight clearances but what's the owner supposed to do? Don't want to spend $$ for major engine overhaul to properly address the clearance issue and spending $2-$3K to replace the wearing bearings every 30K miles or so doesn't really fix it. Changing oil from what is recommended sounds even more dangerous.

Worse yet, there is no easy (i.e., inexpensive) test to know if you have or don't have a rod bearing problem. This is one s..tty problem on the S65
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      09-11-2013, 12:32 AM   #15
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Has anyone had any experience work done by them on their car ? Are they legit ?

Sorry for asking this in such a way but I'm in touch with them to tentatively build a stroker for my M5 but want to make sure they are legitimate.

Chris
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      09-11-2013, 12:41 AM   #16
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What's really uncomfortable about all these threads on the rod bearings is that there is no good solution identified by the pros. They did a good job identifying the problem of tight clearances but what's the owner supposed to do? Don't want to spend $$ for major engine overhaul to properly address the clearance issue and spending $2-$3K to replace the wearing bearings every 30K miles or so doesn't really fix it. Changing oil from what is recommended sounds even more dangerous.

Worse yet, there is no easy (i.e., inexpensive) test to know if you have or don't have a rod bearing problem. This is one s..tty problem on the S65
This is totally wrong...... All of us have given you a solution! Proper clearance!!!

As for changing oil from recommended, more crap, the S65 don't need the 10W60, if you read into BMW's claims of it being the only good oil for the S65 that is total BS. Lets trust a company who has given us the gift of failing bearings on their last 3 M engines?! Is that a good idea? The recommendation from me and Kawasaki of lighter oil is for someone who wants to maximize their bearing life without taking the engine apart. The 10W60 is a great oil but at the clearances that are in the S65 it is just not suitable!

I am having my engine built within the next year and I will post photos of my bearings and clearance specs once it is apart. I am 100% sure that proper clearances will fix the S65, no doubt! Basically, when building an engine, clearances are one if not the important thing and the basic rule of thumb hasn't changed in years, this is why it is a mystery to me and the others why BMW chose to deviate from what all engine builders, and even the manufacturers of their bearings recommend for both clearances and engine oils. Tight clearances virtually always mean lighter oils but they seem to have missed the boat on both clearances and oils!

I can tell you that on the engines I work on the bearings are good enough on rebuild that you could reuse them and run the engine another 20,000 hours without issue. The only time bearings show excessive wear in my experience is when the clearance is too tight or there has been oil starvation. With the S65 and the grade of oil BMW is recommending you have both conditions existing at the same time, at least until the oil is at operating temperature. At least by going with a lighter oil you can eliminate one of the conditions...... Oil starvation/cavitation. unfortunately, the tight clearances can only be fixed by pulling the engine apart and having machine work performed!

I work with engineers on a daily basis, and what works in theory on paper don't always work out as planned in the real world! The engineer(s) that gave us the clearances in the S54, S65 & S85 had a reason for his(their) specs on the bearings of these engines, unfortunately they don't work on an engine that is used in the real world every day. The problem lies in the fact that proving to an engineer that their was an issue with his theory is sometimes almost impossible. In these cases it is guys in the trenches that do fixes in the field long before engineering comes up with an "official fix". An "official fix" or recall is usually only done if the dollars and cents add up for the manufacturer both on the repair costs as well as factoring in lost business from not doing a fix. Now don't get me wrong, many engineers are brilliant people but when you solely rely on theory and cad models to prove your designs, you sometimes need some failure analysis to help to set you in the right direction. One of the smartest people I know is an engineer and a mechanic, he gets the best of both worlds, he has the hands on and knows the theory so he what works because he looks at both sides of the coin!
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      09-11-2013, 07:44 AM   #17
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Quote:
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This is totally wrong...... All of us have given you a solution! Proper clearance!!!

As for changing oil from recommended, more crap, the S65 don't need the 10W60, if you read into BMW's claims of it being the only good oil for the S65 that is total BS. Lets trust a company who has given us the gift of failing bearings on their last 3 M engines?! Is that a good idea? The recommendation from me and Kawasaki of lighter oil is for someone who wants to maximize their bearing life without taking the engine apart. The 10W60 is a great oil but at the clearances that are in the S65 it is just not suitable!

I am having my engine built within the next year and I will post photos of my bearings and clearance specs once it is apart. I am 100% sure that proper clearances will fix the S65, no doubt! Basically, when building an engine, clearances are one if not the important thing and the basic rule of thumb hasn't changed in years, this is why it is a mystery to me and the others why BMW chose to deviate from what all engine builders, and even the manufacturers of their bearings recommend for both clearances and engine oils. Tight clearances virtually always mean lighter oils but they seem to have missed the boat on both clearances and oils!

I can tell you that on the engines I work on the bearings are good enough on rebuild that you could reuse them and run the engine another 20,000 hours without issue. The only time bearings show excessive wear in my experience is when the clearance is too tight or there has been oil starvation. With the S65 and the grade of oil BMW is recommending you have both conditions existing at the same time, at least until the oil is at operating temperature. At least by going with a lighter oil you can eliminate one of the conditions...... Oil starvation/cavitation. unfortunately, the tight clearances can only be fixed by pulling the engine apart and having machine work performed!

I work with engineers on a daily basis, and what works in theory on paper don't always work out as planned in the real world! The engineer(s) that gave us the clearances in the S54, S65 & S85 had a reason for his(their) specs on the bearings of these engines, unfortunately they don't work on an engine that is used in the real world every day. The problem lies in the fact that proving to an engineer that their was an issue with his theory is sometimes almost impossible. In these cases it is guys in the trenches that do fixes in the field long before engineering comes up with an "official fix". An "official fix" or recall is usually only done if the dollars and cents add up for the manufacturer both on the repair costs as well as factoring in lost business from not doing a fix. Now don't get me wrong, many engineers are brilliant people but when you solely rely on theory and cad models to prove your designs, you sometimes need some failure analysis to help to set you in the right direction. One of the smartest people I know is an engineer and a mechanic, he gets the best of both worlds, he has the hands on and knows the theory so he what works because he looks at both sides of the coin!
Couldnt have said it any better my friend.
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      09-11-2013, 07:45 AM   #18
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Running Mobil1 0W-40 here.
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      09-11-2013, 08:48 AM   #19
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Running Mobil1 0W-40 here.
Same here!
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      09-11-2013, 09:00 AM   #20
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Running Mobil1 0W-40 here.
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Same here!
Me 3
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      09-11-2013, 09:26 AM   #21
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Same here!
Oh cool, I thought I was the only one running it apart from the engine gurus. What do you think so far?

Mine warms up faster to 170, then acts EXACTLY like 10W60 afterwards in hot conditions (not track though).
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      09-11-2013, 09:31 AM   #22
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Oh cool, I thought I was the only one running it apart from the engine gurus. What do you think so far?

Mine warms up faster to 170, then acts EXACTLY like 10W60 afterwards in hot conditions (not track though).
I love it so far. Engine does get up to temps a little quicker and feels less sludged down. I am gonna change the oil every 5k miles. Im on Rotella right but I will try Mobil 1 next.

I am still planning on a rod bearing change next April. I should be at 55k miles.
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