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Old 11-30-2012, 07:19 PM   #1
alexxander.foster
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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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Old 11-30-2012, 07:49 PM   #2
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Great info, did not know there was a reasonable option to get rid of the self-adjusting clutch mechanism. So...how much?
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Old 11-30-2012, 07:52 PM   #3
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How does the pedal pressure feel now compared to the SAC setup?
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Old 11-30-2012, 07:57 PM   #4
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Thanks man! Me either! BavAuto was the only BMW parts supplier who was selling these things and they said that they just recently started offering these kits a few months ago.

Regarding cost, BavAuto is charging $680. I just updated the original post to include the cost.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lcoleman View Post
Great info, did not know there was a reasonable option to get rid of the self-adjusting clutch mechanism. So...how much?

Last edited by alexxander.foster; 11-30-2012 at 08:08 PM.
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Old 11-30-2012, 07:58 PM   #5
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Hmm I may have to go this route!
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Old 11-30-2012, 07:59 PM   #6
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Pedal pressure is pretty much identical, which is nice.

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How does the pedal pressure feel now compared to the SAC setup?
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Old 11-30-2012, 09:01 PM   #7
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What's the weight on the flywheel. Interested in this.
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Old 11-30-2012, 09:10 PM   #8
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Good question. I'll ask BavAuto to weigh it for me and get back to you.

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Originally Posted by TitaniumCranium View Post
What's the weight on the flywheel. Interested in this.
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Old 11-30-2012, 10:14 PM   #9
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Very interesting!

Can anyone break down the reasons manufacturers use a single versus a dual mass flywheel?
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Old 11-30-2012, 10:59 PM   #10
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Good question! I've always been really bothered as to why BMW would suddenly throw in this unnecessarily complex piece when the old system was working just fine. But BMW is notorious for making things way more complicated than they ever needed to be.

Anywho, so the benefits are generally three-fold: increased fuel economy, less strain on the gear box, and to stop gearbox chatter. Fuel economy is increased by increasing the weight of the flywheel. A heavier flywheel produces greater rotational inertia. Greater rotational inertia means energy is, for lack of a better term, stored when the engine is not producing power. In reality, it all depends on how you drive the car since nothing is free, but it does boost fuel economy numbers in standardized testing. The last two are effectively the same thing. It helps reduce strain on the gearbox by increased using its increased mass to reduce gearbox chatter. Gearbox chatter is not just obnoxious, its damaging to an engine. That clicking is gears hammering on one another repeatedly. Sure, its not a lot of force, but it does do damage over time. On a vehicle that will see 200k to 300k miles, that likely could result in premature transmission failure. Gearbox chatter also interferes with shifter engagement, because the gears in the transmission are constantly rotating by just small amounts. All this is dealt with by allowing the heavier flywheel to absorb the driveline shock, which smooths out clutch engagement blah blah blah, I'm sure I'm loosing you guys.

Apparently theres a big movement among automotive manufacturers to get away from single mass flywheels and sprung hub clutches -I suspect to boost fuel economy numbers for the MPG target requirements set by the government.

Quote:
Originally Posted by zhp43867 View Post
Very interesting!

Can anyone break down the reasons manufacturers use a single versus a dual mass flywheel?

Last edited by alexxander.foster; 11-30-2012 at 11:02 PM.
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Old 12-03-2012, 03:19 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alexxander.foster View Post
Good question. I'll ask BavAuto to weigh it for me and get back to you.

Alex, sorry for the delay in a response, we had to get one back in stock.

Flywheel - 23.60 lbs
Pressure Plate - 10.10 lbs
Clutch Disc - 3.75 lbs

Unfortunately, I didn't have a stock Dual-Mass flywheel to compare to.

Hope this helps guys.

Thanks

Ian
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Old 12-03-2012, 03:38 PM   #12
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Great info! I'll be doing a clutch job in the spring and may consider this set up. One concern though, is that in the original post you mentioned some gearbox chatter (albeit a small amount) and than you later go on to describe how damaging chatter could potentially be over the long run. Are you thinking that its such a small amount that it won't have any negative long term impacts?
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Old 12-03-2012, 10:58 PM   #13
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Sweet! Thanks Ian!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian@BavAuto View Post
Alex, sorry for the delay in a response, we had to get one back in stock.

Flywheel - 23.60 lbs
Pressure Plate - 10.10 lbs
Clutch Disc - 3.75 lbs

Unfortunately, I didn't have a stock Dual-Mass flywheel to compare to.

Hope this helps guys.

Thanks

Ian
Hmmm... good point. Well, I cant really speak to this issue with any authority other than my experience. What I can do is pitch you some of the arguments I made with myself when deciding on doing this clutch swap.

On the one hand, you can always argue that BMW put part 'X' in their cars for a reason. Which is a great truism and a good catchall when you're unsure about how to proceed with a repair/mod. There is always a trade off when you modify a vehicle. There is also something to be said for the general movement within the automotive industry to stop using single mass flywheels and replace them with dual mass flywheels. And you cant ignore the benefits of having 100% elimination of gearbox chatter and notichy shift lever engagement.

On the other hand, BMW engineers don't always put part 'X' in their cars for the right reason. Any e46 fanatic worth his salt can point out 10+ poor engineering choices made with the e46. These things crop up because engineers are constantly having to make a deal with the devil. Sometimes they choose parts for political reason, sometimes for time reasons, sometimes for cost reasons, and sometimes its because they're a mediocre engineer and are flying under the radar (it happens). Additionally, they have to make their cars function just as well for the grandmas of the world as it does for the Mario Andretti's of the world. It has to be able to get submerged in several feet of water, survive arctic winters, and desert climates. Curbs, car accidents, crazy ex girlfriends, acid rain, etc. In the end, its up to the owner/user to decide whether or not the car meets their needs and whether or not to personalize their car.

Anyway, back on point, I honestly think that auto manufacturers are installing dual mass flywheels for fuel economy reasons -not for gearbox longevity. Manual transmissions are famous for long life and absurdly low maintenance. But fuel economy is an area of improvement all cars can benefit from. And right now all the automotive manufacturers are trying to boost their fuel economy numbers. I just cant imagine a scenario where the project engineers would choose to make an already hyper-reliable part even more reliable.

If you're still on the fence I suppose you could ask the lightweight flywheel guys. They'd be a great gauge for longevity and reliability -especially since they'll be more likely to be beating up their transmissions -haha! You could also email/call ZF's technical department and ask them.

Hope that helps!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Redryan98 View Post
Great info! I'll be doing a clutch job in the spring and may consider this set up. One concern though, is that in the original post you mentioned some gearbox chatter (albeit a small amount) and than you later go on to describe how damaging chatter could potentially be over the long run. Are you thinking that its such a small amount that it won't have any negative long term impacts?

Last edited by alexxander.foster; 12-03-2012 at 11:01 PM.
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Old 12-03-2012, 11:48 PM   #14
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Thanks for the update Ian and Alex. I have sent Valeo an email asking if their flywheel can accept the center bearing used in 6-speed applications. Physically it looks like it might be able to.

The dual mass flywheel weighs 24.89 lbs so both the Valeo and OEM are in the same ballpark from a weight perspective.

As for the lightweight flywheels, I'm currently using a JB Racing aluminum flywheel that weighs in at a mere 10 lbs. They do allow the motor to rev very quickly but the tradeoff is unrelenting gear chatter when you have the tranny in neutral and let your foot off the clutch (more pronounced in hot weather). There is a performance advantage but driveability suffers because it's touchy. For some this may not be a big deal if your sole purpose is to put a grin on your face in the twisties. If you put your time behind 10,000 other cars in rush-hour traffic a lightweight flywheel can be tedious. But like I said, it does rev very quickly.
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Old 12-04-2012, 12:03 AM   #15
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Awesome! I cant wait until I'm done with school and can afford to have a different daily driver -then I'll be able to throw in a lightweight flywheel too!

Question though: what do you mean by accept the "center bearing" used in 6-speed applications? Do you mean the driveshaft input spline? Or the throw out bearing?

Quote:
Originally Posted by TitaniumCranium View Post
Thanks for the update Ian and Alex. I have sent Valeo an email asking if their flywheel can accept the center bearing used in 6-speed applications. Physically it looks like it might be able to.

The dual mass flywheel weighs 24.89 lbs so both the Valeo and OEM are in the same ballpark from a weight perspective.

As for the lightweight flywheels, I'm currently using a JB Racing aluminum flywheel that weighs in at a mere 10 lbs. They do allow the motor to rev very quickly but the tradeoff is unrelenting gear chatter when you have the tranny in neutral and let your foot off the clutch (more pronounced in hot weather). There is a performance advantage but driveability suffers because it's touchy. For some this may not be a big deal if your sole purpose is to put a grin on your face in the twisties. If you put your time behind 10,000 other cars in rush-hour traffic a lightweight flywheel can be tedious. But like I said, it does rev very quickly.
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Old 12-04-2012, 12:13 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alexxander.foster View Post
Awesome! I cant wait until I'm done with school and can afford to have a different daily driver -then I'll be able to throw in a lightweight flywheel too!

Question though: what do you mean by accept the "center bearing" used in 6-speed applications? Do you mean the driveshaft input spline? Or the throw out bearing?
In 5-speed applications the center-bearing is actually located within the output of the crankshaft on the engine. There is a machined nipple on the end of the transmission input shaft that slips into the center-bearing. This keeps the transmission lined up with the engine to ensure vibration is reduced to a minimum. It also maintains alignment of the transmission and engine when the clutch is depressed otherwise the transmission input shaft would float.

In 6-speed applications BMW chose to press the center-bearing into the flywheel. It serves the same purpose but it's a little easier to service.
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Old 12-04-2012, 12:28 AM   #17
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Ah! The pilot bearing! I've never heard it called the center bearing. Very interesting... man, that certainly would make servicing a hell of a lot easier. I had to get a stupid slide hammer to get mine out.

Anyway, just weighing in from memory, that might be a problem. The center hub on the Valeo flywheel is machined much more shallow than the stock dual mass flywheel hub. Its kind of hard to see from the pics but they machined it so it only sticks out just far enough to sit on the shoulder of the tail end of the crankshaft. If my memory serves me right, theres pretty much no more purchase left to press fit a bearing.

I presume you did the 6-speed swap. Would relocating the pilot bearing back into the crankshaft solve your problems?

Quote:
Originally Posted by TitaniumCranium View Post
In 5-speed applications the center-bearing is actually located within the output of the crankshaft on the engine. There is a machined nipple on the end of the transmission input shaft that slips into the center-bearing. This keeps the transmission lined up with the engine to ensure vibration is reduced to a minimum. It also maintains alignment of the transmission and engine when the clutch is depressed otherwise the transmission input shaft would float.

In 6-speed applications BMW chose to press the center-bearing into the flywheel. It serves the same purpose but it's a little easier to service.
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Old 12-04-2012, 12:40 AM   #18
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Haha - you're probably right, I misused terminology but I explained it well.

I didn't have a 5-speed to compare with but my gut instinct is that the 5-speed may have a slightly deeper reach on the input shaft of the transmission. I know that the pilot bearing sits inside that recess on the crankshaft and the flywheel bolts to the crankshaft. Logically i don't think it would work because the 6-speed would be fitting into the pilot bearing further outside the crankshaft at the flywheel.


Quote:
Originally Posted by alexxander.foster View Post
Ah! The pilot bearing! I've never heard it called the center bearing. Very interesting... man, that certainly would make servicing a hell of a lot easier. I had to get a stupid slide hammer to get mine out.

Anyway, just weighing in from memory, that might be a problem. The center hub on the Valeo flywheel is machined much more shallow than the stock dual mass flywheel hub. Its kind of hard to see from the pics but they machined it so it only sticks out just far enough to sit on the shoulder of the tail end of the crankshaft. If my memory serves me right, theres pretty much no more purchase left to press fit a bearing.

I presume you did the 6-speed swap. Would relocating the pilot bearing back into the crankshaft solve your problems?
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Old 12-04-2012, 12:51 AM   #19
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Hahaha! Yes yes, it was a very good explanation.

Ah! Good point... that's a very good point... and I agree completely... hmmm... well, I suppose now its just a question of how bad you want it :/

Quote:
Originally Posted by TitaniumCranium View Post
Haha - you're probably right, I misused terminology but I explained it well.

I didn't have a 5-speed to compare with but my gut instinct is that the 5-speed may have a slightly deeper reach on the input shaft of the transmission. I know that the pilot bearing sits inside that recess on the crankshaft and the flywheel bolts to the crankshaft. Logically i don't think it would work because the 6-speed would be fitting into the pilot bearing further outside the crankshaft at the flywheel.
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Old 12-04-2012, 12:57 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Ian@BavAuto View Post
Alex, sorry for the delay in a response, we had to get one back in stock.

Flywheel - 23.60 lbs
Pressure Plate - 10.10 lbs
Clutch Disc - 3.75 lbs

Unfortunately, I didn't have a stock Dual-Mass flywheel to compare to.

Hope this helps guys.

Thanks

Ian
from BMWfans.info

Dual Mass for 2001 330i:
Flywheel - 24.89 lbs
Pressure Plate and Clutch Disc - 14.55 lbs

Single Mass:
Flywheel - 23.60 lbs
Pressure Plate and Clutch Disc - 10.85 lbs

Essentially the same weight.
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