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Old 11-30-2012, 07:19 PM   #1
alexxander.foster
Registered User
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: San Francisco, CA
Posts: 171
My Ride: 2000 323i
Review: Valeo Single Mass Flywheel Conversion Kit

Hello! I've been on this forum for a few years now, mostly just reading up on stuff and keeping my opinions to myself. I've always found the DIYs and reviews extremely helpful for dealing with the problems on my e46, so when I chose to go with a unique clutch kit, I decided to give back to the forum and post a review of the product!

Background:
I live in San Francisco and own a 5-speed e46. I love it here but this is the absolute hardest I've ever had to work a manual transmission in my life -haha! I came up here with about 30k miles on my clutch and within 12k miles of city driving the flywheel was too damaged to function properly. I had to actuate the clutch so often and deal with so many hills that I had superheated the hell out of it. When I finally got a good look at the flywheel and pressure plate it looked like somebody had hit the surface of each of them with birdshot! There were superheated "burn spots" all over the surface. Additionally, the dual mass flywheel had suffered internal spring failure so I could rotate about 15 degrees without any resistance. It was a real shame because the clutch had tons of material and life left, but such is life.

Part Selection:
I was always very disappointed with the dual mass flywheel. I put a brand new one in the car about 4 years ago and have always felt that it was numb. It made the car less predictable to drive. It was awkward. And did too good of a job soaking up rough shifts. I also despised the idea that the dual mass unit was not serviceable. So I began looking for a single mass flywheel.

Initially I looked at performance units with light weight flywheels, but nobody offered a basic clutch disk and pressure plate (which makes sense -of course). Even when I would find an acceptable performance clutch kit, they would throw in some absurdly strong pressure plate. With all the shifting I do in SF, the LAST thing in the world I want is any increase in clutch pedal resistance.

The Single Mass Flywheel Conversion Kit:
Then I came across a random Audi forum posting talking about a single mass flywheel conversion kit. I did a bit of digging and found a company that makes a single mass flywheel conversion kit for the e46: Valeo.

Below is a link to the manufacturer's product info page. On this page is a chart which you can use to find the correct conversion kit for your vehicle:

Valeo Solid Mass Flywheel Clutch Conversion Kit LINK

(The following info is based on a 323i e46)
Valeo Conversion Kit Price: ~$680 @ BavAuto
Stock Luk Dual Mass Flywheel: ~$400-900 @ wherever
Stock Clutch Kit: ~$280 @ wherever

Here's a picture of the clutch kit:

photo

The kit works by replacing the dual mass flywheel with a big hunk of steel that is the exact same dimensions as the stock flywheel. The weight is roughly the same (the solid mass unit weighing more) so performance is roughly the same. The self adjusting clutch is replaced with a standard pressure plate. And the fixed clutch is replaced with a sprung hub unit to eat up gearbox chatter.

Valeo's Street Cred:
Apparently these guys have been around for a very long time and have a good reputation for OEM replacement parts. BMW used them as assembly line parts suppliers for several key pieces in the e46 (don't ask me which, I already forgot). Also, I read on a sister forum that at one point Valeo provided BMW with their clutch kits during vehicle production until BMW switched to Sachs and LUK.

Something that surprised me was that these kits have been around for a while now and the Audi/VW community uses them regularly. The Audi/VW guys have the same awkward dual mass flywheel and self adjusting clutch setup that we do on the e46s. They also dislike them about as much as we do. So, when a clutch goes out these guys will usually take the opportunity to ditch the dual mass unit and install one of these Valeo conversion kits. Now, of course, if they want a performance upgrade, they have just as many choices as we do. But if they want an OE style replacement, they'll go with a Valeo kit. They also seem to have high respect for these kits. They don't hold up well with big performance increases, but if your car is close to stock performance numbers then this kit is fine.

Ordering and Unboxing:
So, after much deliberation, I decided to man-up and just by the damn kit. I called up Bavarian Auto, who price matched a competitor's cost for the Valeo kit, and they shipped it out to me. Chris Salvo at BavAuto answered some last minute questions and confirmed a lot of research I had done.

When the clutch arrived it looked like every other OE replacement clutch kit I've ever seen. The box was unassuming. Inside was:
- solid mass flywheel machined out of one piece of steel
- sprung hub clutch
- standard (non-self adjusting) pressure plate
- throw out bearing
- bag of bolts

Several things stood out to me right away with this kit. First, the solid mass flywheel was a work of art. For a big hunk of steel, it looked so beautiful. The machining tolerances were incredibly tight and the craftsmanship was top notch. The next thing I noticed was the sprung hub clutch was slightly bigger than the stock clutch disk. I didn't go through the effort of measuring the size difference, but I was definitely pumped to see there would be an increase in clamping surface. As for the pressure plate, it looked pretty standard, but you could definitely tell that there was considerable effort made to ensure good build quality.

The one thing I was disappointed about was the quality of the throw out bearing. It just looked and felt cheap. I wish I had a better explanation, but when comparing the quality of the Sachs throw out bearing and the Valeo unit, it just seemed like Valeo gave up at the last minute. I had a brief discussion with Chris at BavAuto about this. He apparently had the same first impression with the Valeo throw out bearings for the e46, but assured me that they've got it where it counts and work just as good as the Sachs unit.

Pics:
Courtesy of Chris @ BavAuto (I would have taken my own but this whole write up was an afterthought -haha)

photo (6)

photo (7)

photo (5)

photo (2)

photo (4)

photo (1)

photo (3)

photo

First Impressions:
After a weekend of bloody knuckles and about 3 feet of socket extenders I finished the clutch replacement and got a chance to drive the car. My initial impression was pure love! I've always felt the e46 and its goofy clutch assembly was weird to drive. It was distracting from the joy of the car. But now that this kit was installed the car drove soooo good. So crisp. So predictable. So familiar. It feels like a real manual transmission set up now -not some weird BMW derivative.

Don't get me wrong, I know that even a stock clutch replacement will feel like heaven the first time you drive it. I replaced the clutch once already. But I know enough about my car to know that its driving better than its ever driven before. I feel like I can finally enjoy the driving experience.

Aside from an increased responsiveness, there are actually very little drivability differences between the stock unit and the Valeo kit. My general impression is that there is a very slight increase in friction/bite over the Sachs unit, but I could be wrong.

The one drawback is that there is a very very slight amount of gearbox chatter. I could only hear it with the radio off, waiting at a light with no other vehicles, and if I was concentrating -otherwise it was washed out. My honest opinion is this is a non-issue. If you've got any sort of exhaust modification, headers, or exhaust leak, you will NEVER hear the gearbox chatter (presuming mine is even a common problem). Hell, just having the radio on low will be enough to drown out the extremely subtle gearbox noise.

Summary:
Overall, I would recommend this conversion kit to anyone... but conditionally. If you don't want a performance clutch but want to get a more response feel from the drivetrain, this is the perfect mod! If you like the way the e46 drives with the dual mass flywheel (or have never noticed it drives a little funny) then this might not be the right kit for you. Or, if you want something with higher performance overall as compared to the OE unit, this is not the right kit for you.

I personally think its fantastic! I've always been bothered by how the e46 drives. I also have an e36 and an e28, and neither of them never drove the way the e46s do. The numb shifting made predicting clutch engagement difficult and distracting. Now that I've installed this Valeo kit, it drives the same as my other BMWs. It drives the same as pretty much any other car I've driven. Which is nice to me. Its also fantastic for daily driving and I feel less taxed driving the single mass unit as compared to the dual mass unit.

But, I have to be honest, I bought this kit for very specific reason and I intended on using it under very specific circumstances. SF is very demanding to drive in and the last thing I wanted was a performance clutch or lightweight flywheel for a DD. I like the idea of having a more "normal" feeling clutch. I prefer sprung hubs over dual mass flywheels. I despise the self adjusting clutch. And I don't like that dual mass flywheels are effectively non-serviceable.



So that's what I think! I sincerely hope this is helpful for the forum! Please feel free to correct me if something is wrong. And definitely weigh in if you've installed this kit too! Also, if at some point in the future you want to contact me and see how its holding up, feel free to PM.

Last edited by alexxander.foster; 11-30-2012 at 07:50 PM.
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