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DIY: Do It Yourself
Post here to share or improve your wrench turning skills! All BMW E46 DIY tips, tales, and projects discussed inside. Learn to work on your car and know the right BMW parts you will need!

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Old 01-31-2010, 11:39 AM   #1
BuckwheatOne
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Oil Separator questions

First off....I had one thing inspected at the dealership recently, which had nothing to do with the oil separator (OS), but when I get back and the service manager starts to break things down for me, he says the oil separator is faulty. He claims the technician saw the yellowish gunk in the valve cover (essentially under the oil fill cap), and automatically diagnoses it as the oil separator.

Question 1: is this the ONLY diagnosis for the yellow goo in the valve cover?

I say no, especially since I've seen some other threads about how it could be b/c of a bad head gasket among other things. I have a feeling they just wanted to get me to pay for the OS replacement.

Well, they've scared me enough anyway. The OS failed under warranty when the car was 2 years old, sent oil through the entire engine and even out the exhaust, but I remember that it cost something like $2K to fix (all labor for cleaning, etc., I'm sure). So, given that I'm afraid of paying for that again...I'll be doing the OS DIY.

Which leads to Question 2: Since I have to take off the intake (to install the cold weather version of the OS), which involves messing around with the fuel rail, is it possible to start the car, pull the fuse for the fuel pump and let the car stall out on its own with no fuel in the fuel line? That would ideally avoid the mess when messing with the fuel line.

Thoughts?

Thanks,
BW
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Old 01-31-2010, 01:58 PM   #2
E-rock
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BuckwheatOne View Post
Question 1: is this the ONLY diagnosis for the yellow goo in the valve cover?
It depends on your driving habits. The oil separator can work just fine but if you take a lot of short trips without letting the car warm up and driving off moisture/water vapor, the yellow foamy goo can appear. If you search for valve cover DIYs, there is one (by mkodama, I believe) that shows the yellow goo all over the top of the valve cover. He/she/it attributed the goo to frequently not letting the car reach normal operating temperature

Quote:
I have a feeling they just wanted to get me to pay for the OS replacement.
Possibly.

Quote:
I'll be doing the OS DIY.
Good call. It's an easy job. Some people have stated it's really up there in terms of difficulty, but I didn't see what all the fuss was about. It certainly is time consuming but I wouldn't qualify that as difficult.

Quote:
Which leads to Question 2: Since I have to take off the intake (to install the cold weather version of the OS),
I just installed a cold weather version and didn't have to remove the intake. It's not necessary and just adds a bunch more steps to an already tedious operation.
Quote:
pull the fuse for the fuel pump and let the car stall out on its own with no fuel in the fuel line?
Yes. Search for fuel filter DIYs. They'll tell you exactly what to do, what fuse to pull, etc. That would ideally avoid the mess when messing with the fuel line.

Quote:
Thoughts?
Nope. How thoughtless of me.

Quote:
Thanks
You're welcome. Good luck!

Last edited by E-rock; 01-31-2010 at 02:00 PM.
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Old 02-15-2010, 12:50 PM   #3
BuckwheatOne
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Just a follow-up on my OS DIY:

Yeah, I had a ton of the yellow gunk in my OS, and all the hoses that connect to it. I cleaned out the dipstick tube (the metal piece that you don't replace in the process) and everything else I could get to that I wasn't replacing.

Some thoughts:

1. As mentioned above, you do not need to remove the intake manifold to get the new (cold weather) OS in there. It's a bit of a PITA to get the thing in there and the associated hoses attached, so just be patient, work slowly and you'll be fine. Most of my troubles stemmed from the fact that my wire harness box didn't move completely out of the way (see here: http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=740739 ). Some models have connections that allow you to move the box further away than I did, some don't. I guess it's tied to the build year (who knows???).

2. I did have a bit of trouble installing the new hose that goes from the OS to the valve cover (due to the insulation). I removed the insulation, installed the new one and then tried to slip the insulation back around the tube once in place. Give it a shot, it may or may not work for you.

3. There are posts out there that say that the curved tube going from the OS to the intake must be "twisted on," but there are also posts that say that you can just snap it on if you can't manage to twist it on. I snapped it on and nothing broke, it's the easiest way to get it on if you can manage putting a decent amount of force on it (which requires leverage in an already tight spot). Again, be patient and creative.

4. I did break the F-tube coming out of the upper intake boot and I went to the stealership to get a replacement, but they were dumbfounded b/c it isn't in any of their diagrams. I'm looking up the part number now to see if I can find it.

All in all, I'm happy this is done so I don't have to worry about it anymore.
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Old 02-15-2010, 05:32 PM   #4
Darth Bimmer
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LOL, the yellow gunk you see is the cause of the CCV failiure, not the otherway around. They're trying to get your money. + The valve itself rarely "fails", it gets clogged. once it's warm, you can fill it with brake cleaner or degreaser, wait a couple minutes and empty it. Once this is done gently blow the passages with compressed air and it'll be like new. I say gently because, if you go at it full pressure, you will dammage the diaphragme inside.

(You need to remove it from the car before performing what I described above)

Last edited by Darth Bimmer; 03-05-2010 at 04:52 PM.
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Old 02-15-2010, 10:10 PM   #5
dumped_gti
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darth Bimmer View Post
LOL, the yellow gunk you see is the cause of the CCV failiure, not the otherway around. They're trying to get your money. + The valve itself "rarely" fails, it gets clogged. once it's warm, you can fill it with brake cleaner or degreaser, wait a couple minutes and empty it. Once this is done gently blow the passages with compressed air and it'll be like new. I say gently because, if you go at it full pressure, you will dammage the diaphragme inside.

(You need to remove it from the car before performing what I described above)
REALLY????? If your going to waste all of that time to remove the OS. just replace the damn thing! They go bad all of the time! I can do them in under an hour! Don't clean it out!!! WASTE OF TIME! I know my time is worth money. Don't remove the intake manifold either! I will get pictures next time I have one come in the shop, And i'll do a fast and simple write up.. Oh and the fuel lines and rail don't need to be removed.
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Old 02-15-2010, 11:42 PM   #6
Darth Bimmer
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Originally Posted by dumped_gti View Post
REALLY????? If your going to waste all of that time to remove the OS. just replace the damn thing! They go bad all of the time! I can do them in under an hour! Don't clean it out!!! WASTE OF TIME! I know my time is worth money. Don't remove the intake manifold either! I will get pictures next time I have one come in the shop, And i'll do a fast and simple write up.. Oh and the fuel lines and rail don't need to be removed.
Yes REALLY!!!!!

I never said anything about removing the intake and fuel rail.
Plus, they don't go "BAD" they get clogged. Have you ever cracked one open, once you do you can understand what's going on in there. There is a spiral in there that air/oil vapor goes trough, oil gets separated from the air as it goes trough that spiral and drains back to the pan. Whatever oil vapor that is left gets sucked up with air in the intake and gets burnt in the engine.

There are two ways they can "fail". they either freeze or get clogged. If they clog or freeze in the spiral, it prevents the engine from sucking air trought the valve cover vent. That's when the oil gets sucked in trough the dip stick and that you make a James Bond worthy smoke screen as you drive or worst, your engine hydrolocks.

If it freezes or clog in the passage between the membrane and the intake side, it prevents the pressure from the crank case to escape. that's when pressure built up inside and blow the seals out and leak oil everywere.

You are right in saying that TIME IS MONEY and that in a shop your time is worth just as much as replacing the part itself and that it's going to be quicker for YOU and give YOUR SHOP an opportunity to perform more work in one day thus make more money.

But for an enthusiast who enjoy working on his own car, why replace a part if you can save it. After cracking a few separators open, I finally figured out that, if cleaned properly, they are still ok and will perform just as well as a new one. I performed this operation on MY car and for a few friend and none of us had problems so far, it's been 2 years on mine.

I'm not saying it's THE only way to go, I'm sharing an alternative. Please stay comb, no need to blow a fuse. The way you wrote your answer, I can imagine you pi$$ed and yelling your answer.

You are right in what you say but, that does'nt mean that only you holds the one and only truth.

It is true that it can be done under an hour once you get used to it but, not everyone has the opportunity to replace them every week. Thus most DIYers will take well over an hour to perform. Just try to remember the first time you tried to reinstall the hose between the OS and the valve cover, how much fun you had...

I'm a BMW tech. and I had the opportunity to study the problem on my own time and I even found a solution for a fail safe in case anyone is interested.

I'm about to test it on a friend's car who do short drives all the time and his keeps freezing. When I know if it works properly, I'll post a DIY on here.

Last edited by Darth Bimmer; 02-16-2010 at 12:24 AM.
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Old 02-16-2010, 07:34 AM   #7
BuckwheatOne
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Alright, so someone explain to me what causes the yellow gunk if it's not a failing OS.

You say that it's due to short drives, but I never really take short drives. I have a 12-min ride to work every day, but I still drive the car for 15 mins once it's reached operating temperature, so probably about 20-25 mins every time I get in the car.

So....what causes the yellow gunk other than short drives?

Thanks
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Old 02-16-2010, 12:25 PM   #8
Darth Bimmer
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It's a mix of humidity vapor AND oil vapor. That being said, you can understand why the gunk is the cause of CCV failiure and not the otherway around.

The gunk you see around the oil cap, also make its way into the oil separator, since you have a tight spiral like passage in there this gunk accumulates and restrict air flow trough the separator. On top of things, this gunk is full of humidity (read water) so, it can freeze in the OS and utimately block what little of the passage that was remaining. It happens on every car. Just that cars who do short drives all the time, are more prone to rappid failiure. Also, 25min. still is'nt that long of a drive. A good drive on the highway once in a while will help. In 25min., especially of city driving, all the humidity does'nt have time to completely evaporate and make it's way to the engine.

My friend is a representative and he has a "run" of customers he has to visit every week, they are all within the same industrial complex so, he starts the car, go to one customer, shuts the car of talks for a while, gets back in the car, start, next cutomer, stop...

So, he had a CCV failiure 3 times last winter and one this year. That's what made me think of a solution for a failsafe. If it works like I hope it will I'll post a DIY. It's going to be very simple but, ruthlessly effective.

Last edited by Darth Bimmer; 03-05-2010 at 05:00 PM.
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Old 02-19-2010, 01:17 AM   #9
Luky
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So I live in San Diego and doubt that my car has ever seen freezing temperatures... Does that mean that my CCV should not fail? (ever?) I am currently at 85k miles.

I have had a slight oil leak for a long time, not sure where it is coming from. I get some drips underneath by the tranny/engine interface. Took it to an Indy shop as I keep throwing some codes for catalyst efficiency and talking to the tech, he thought it might be related to the CCV or maybe the oil filter housing gasket (where it bolts to the block, not O ring). (I have already replaced the DISA, plugs and pre cat O2 sensors previously chasing Catalyst errors - it was the DISA before).

I am doing the valve cover gasket (see if that is the leak), plugs (again as I will have it all apart) and fuel filter tomorrow. Anything I should look for or can I "blow out" the CCV without taking it all apart? (unhook the valve cover hose, pull the dip stick, and push air through one of these and out the other?)

Thanks!
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Old 02-19-2010, 11:26 AM   #10
vintagegz
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Darth Bimmer, great explanation. The yellow stuff under the cap is a build up of the moisture and oil in the pcv system. Every time you drive even 20 miles in this cold Canadian weather, shut off the engine and take the oil cap off, it is full of water as well as the area surrounding the opening in the valve cover. I shake my cap out every evening when I get home, and wipe the opening from the water build up, leave the cap off for about 30 minutes, as the engine cools down moisture will evaporate. No yellow cream build up yet. Good idea on cleaning the separator, I agree they do not fail if you can keep them clean. It is really amazing how much water builds up on the inside of the cap and on oil filler opening in valve cover from short trips. If you do not get rid of it problems do arise. You will definitely work on my car if I get to Montreal!
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Old 02-19-2010, 03:16 PM   #11
Darth Bimmer
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Luky View Post
So I live in San Diego and doubt that my car has ever seen freezing temperatures... Does that mean that my CCV should not fail? (ever?) I am currently at 85k miles.
It's a LOT less likely but, still could happen. If you never seen any of that yellow sludge around your oil cap, you'll be fine.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Luky View Post
I have had a slight oil leak for a long time, not sure where it is coming from. I get some drips underneath by the tranny/engine interface.
If you say it's comming from between the tranny and engine, I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news but, the transmission will need to come off. It's your rear main crank seal that crapped. Common probkem.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Luky View Post
Anything I should look for or can I "blow out" the CCV without taking it all apart? (unhook the valve cover hose, pull the dip stick, and push air through one of these and out the other?)!
You could BUT, if you do, do it immediately before an oil change, as you don't want what came out of there making it's way anywere near any moving engine parts. + Don't forget to be gentle on the pressure, you don't want to dammage the diaphragm in there. You can also shoot some brake cleaner in the tube from the valve cover and let it sit for a while before you blow it out.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vintagegz View Post
You will definitely work on my car if I get to Montreal!
No problem, just send me an e-mail... You can also get in touch with me over at http://forums.bimmerforums.com/forum/index.php I'm known as "Chuck Norris" over there. You'll usually find me in the E36/8 forum.

Cheers, hope it helped.

Alex.

Last edited by Darth Bimmer; 02-19-2010 at 03:19 PM.
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