Join Date: May 2003
Location: Bay Area, CA
My Ride: 2002 Stock 330Ci
You may never see a problem with the internals, but you stop by those independent shops and you see a E46 M3 in there for a VANOS check, or rod bearing change, or the engine spun a bearing so it is time for a new engine. People are starting to notice that those bearings are starting to give out at about 100k miles.
Originally Posted by bigjae1976
Yes, the E46 M3 is a far superior car and cheaper to make a reliable track car. Most of all, the M3 has a much beefier suspension and a limited slip standard. Don't think for a second that a 333hp non-M is the same as a 333hp M3, not even close. The S54 has proven itself to be a reliable engine in the track environment but not bulletproof. It has an advanced oiling system and more advanced DME. The body work allows you to fit 275s on all 4 corners without too much work. You can get 295s but might not be pretty.
A non-M has non of that. I think for a novice, a 330 will work. Let's admit it, most of us are competitive. Nothing worse than seeing a Miata pass you. That will happen at the higher run groups. Then...the Miata's wil enjoy much lower running costs and just be faster.
I see at least 5+ S54 engine'd cars at the track every month. Never a problem with the internals. The S54 is reliable but maintenance throughout the life of the egine is imperative and issues must be promptly fixed. It is critical to keep the oil level just right. The S54's oil system does not like too much, the rod bearings do not like too little. The one interesting thing about the S54 rod bearings is the Z4M never had a recall, don't hear many issues and the redline is 7500 or 7800...I know its not 8000. I think you'll find that many post-recall rod bearing issues are due to running the car a quart low on oil frequently and not using BMW spec'd Castrol TWS 10w-60 or comparable oil. And that's a fact according to the Shop Foreman from a very large BMW dealership.
If you take a percentage of failures from car that are tracked and not tracked...I will guarantee that unless it is a design or material shortcoming, a street car will ALWAYS see higher failure rates. Why? Because track cars see far more frequent and thorough maintenance vs your average poseur that is driving around until the dash tells him/her to change the oil. So your logic of if it happens on the street, it must happen more on the track is incorrect.
A VANOS only blows up if you keep driving it with a rattle and never fix it. M54s will pull out cam bolts as well. With an M3...you don't have to worry about your cooling system suddenly exploding.
Yes, it is the harmonics. In my discussion with a very experience engine builder who built baja racers and marine engines and has 25 years of experience...there is an inherent harmonic issue with the M54. Bolting stuff on helps mask the issue but its still there.
I think you did it the right way and I would have done the engine just as you did. Balancing goes a long way to reducing the harmonics. But I'm looking at the complete picture, not just the engine. And the M3 gets to me to a higher level for less money. I'm not saying my 330 wasn't fun and fast, it was. But I'm not willing to keep spending to keep it on the track sacrificing seat time. People who go to the track are generally very intelligent, not very easy to outsmart them. I'm willing to be a good chunk are accomplished engineers. So I really asked myself, "Why am I the only one who consistently shows up and drives a non-M BMW?"
Let talk lap times. I ran a 1:47:68 in my 330 at MSR Houston. It was at 3260, no driver, full tank. I did a 1:45:69 in an E90 M3 with OE dampers and 3700 lbs. The 330 actually has more power (torque and low peak but more area under the curve). I feel like I could maybe drop a second in my 330 on that lap time. I'm confident if I throw some coilovers on and drop 200 lbs (easy to do) in my E90, I'd drop another 2-3 seconds, being conservative.
Another lesson learned? You really do have to spend a LOT of money to make a non-M better than an M. Might as well buy the M from the beginning...and that's my one real regret.
I have a friend who is meticulous with his car maintenance. Always follows BMW inspection guidelines and changes oil every 7,000 miles. He ended up with a failed VANOS, sheared cam bolts, and bad rod bearings. It was a 2004 car with a few track days. He treats that thing like his baby.
Z4M also have those rod bearings issues as well, but probably didn't see the recall because it was produced much later than the E46 M3 and at a small production number. This Z4M guy tracks his car, monitors his oil level, and even upgraded his oil cooler to keep oil temperatures down. Look what it got him in 64k miles. http://www.zpost.com/forums/showthread.php?t=787684
Another car with 50 track days: http://www.zpost.com/forums/showthread.php?t=607732
50 track days would only last you a year at most if you tracked once every week. If you do a track weekend, you're looking at 25 weeks. This is well short of your expected 2-3 year track life before an engine refresh.
Well most of the people that do modify their cars, they care about their cars. I know my group of friends change their oil on the S54 between 5,000-7,000 mile intervals. We are all enthusiasts, so why would we run anything but the 10W-60 anyways? Last time I checked, the 10W-60 oil requirement was due to noise from some M motors so 5W-30 was no longer used. Thicker CUSTOM engineered oil to reduce sounds and wear characteristics, sounds like design shortcoming to me.
As far as failures happen more on the street versus on the track, you can ask any engine builder and he will tell you that high RPM and high load is what kills engines - that is when you are flying past your fellow HPDE driver's MP4-12C on the front straight away on the track. Not putt putting around in traffic. As far as maintenance goes, most sensible people adhere by the maintenance schedule anyways. Valve adjustment every 30k miles, so I would check my exhaust hub tab every 30k miles. Would you check your cam bolts and exhaust hub tab every oil change? How about the rod bearings? How would you do regular maintenance on that? Rod bearing wear would be indicated from high levels of lead in the oil during a Blackstone analysis. That could be done every oil change, but at $35-50 an analysis, it adds up. M3Forum cars are starting to see more rod bearing wear on 100k mile motors. So what kind of maintenance would a track car like yours see more than the typical street car that isn't track abused? More frequent oil changes obviously, but other than that?
BTW, I pulled off my M54 cam bolts tonight and they still look awesome!
A VANOS doesn't even need to blow up. The solenoid can fail and you are SOL and in limp mode country with no core exchange possible with DrVANOS. Happened to a friend and it wasn't pretty - just lucky he was still under CPO warranty.
You don't have to worry about your cooling system exploding if you replace it at the scheduled intervals. That's why it is called scheduled maintenance. However, I will agree the S54 cooling is superior in that it is so much faster to bleed. However, the expansion tank is still plastic.
As far as your big picture, I agree with you that the S54 has higher power potential. However, to say it is better because it sees no engine failures is misleading and incorrect. Parts are even more expensive for M cars, which is the reason people say the M actually stands for Markup instead of Motorsport. On the other hand, the higher power potential rational is the reason I have a S54 in my 330 now.
Last edited by HighBoostin330; 02-16-2013 at 03:18 AM.