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General E46 Forum
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Old 08-20-2016, 02:49 PM   #1
Zardoz33
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The Vanos Solenoid Pistons - Clean? Replace?

Got my vanos rebuild kit and will be doing it soon. I thought about the solenoid pistons after seeing Mango's thread here, which is about the timing chain tensioner spring compressing over time.

Here is the vanos solenoid piston, which also has a spring:


#4 in the diagram


I wonder if these also compress? Couldn't find an old vs. new picture or anything. I've just read about them getting 'stuck', sludge build-up, etc. They're only around $30/each but I haven't had any issues or codes. Not sure if I should get new ones or just pull them out and clean them.

Last edited by Zardoz33; 09-20-2016 at 08:35 PM.
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Old 08-20-2016, 03:55 PM   #2
WDE46
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maybe pull and clean but that's about all I'd do.
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Old 08-21-2016, 07:26 AM   #3
markusmarkus
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I'd replace the o-ring, part #3 in the pic.
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Old 08-21-2016, 08:12 AM   #4
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If your local BMW dealer parts department has that spring in stock, you could bring in your old one and measure both. Take photos and post here if they're different lengths.
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Old 08-21-2016, 09:16 AM   #5
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I would be interested in how worn the spring was, if you could get a new one and measure any significant difference in rate and length.
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Old 08-21-2016, 12:15 PM   #6
Zardoz33
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Originally Posted by markusmarkus View Post
I'd replace the o-ring, part #3 in the pic.
Already have both o-rings on order.

BaliDawg & BKMrSteel, the dealer closest to me is usually good at having random parts like this in-stock, so I'll ask and take pics. Might be a couple weeks before I get to it though. Still waiting on my last FCP Euro order (their shipping process is extremely slow).

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Old 08-24-2016, 09:27 PM   #7
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I was unaware that you could replace the spring or even disassemble the solenoids. I've tried cleaning mine through the piston hole.

Mine looked like a sealed unit, how do you take them apart?
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Old 08-24-2016, 10:21 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by BeavisBMW View Post
I was unaware that you could replace the spring or even disassemble the solenoids. I've tried cleaning mine through the piston hole.

Mine looked like a sealed unit, how do you take them apart?
Sorry I wasn't more clear before. I was referring to the VANOS pistons themselves, not the solenoids. The VANOS solenoids control oil pressure to the VANO pistons and are modulated via PWM signals from the DME.
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Old 08-25-2016, 03:13 AM   #9
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The spring is not available separately. You have to buy the complete piston.
BMW has redesigned this part by adding one more coil to the spring to make it stronger.
This is because sludge can get into the cylinder and cause the piston to stick. The longer/stronger spring can overcome the sticking better.
You will get a fault code if the piston sticks.
This sticking is more prevalent on the exhaust side than the intake side because the exhaust solenoid cylinder is the lowest point of the tilted vanos and sludge tends to collect there.
This piston is $30 from BMW. So a pair is $60.
When the sticking happens and you get a code, all you have to do is remove the solenoid and clean the piston and cylinder. It's happens to many people and the cleaning is effective.

I don't believe I've seen a case of a solenoid O-ring leaking. So there's no need to replace it.

Last edited by Rajaie; 08-25-2016 at 03:14 AM.
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Old 08-25-2016, 08:25 AM   #10
markusmarkus
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I'd replace the o-ring as its cheap and you've got the cylinder apart. IMHO
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Old 09-20-2016, 03:14 PM   #11
Zardoz33
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New piston on the left. Old one on the right. Good waste of $56 for the two.


Last edited by Zardoz33; 09-20-2016 at 03:33 PM.
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Old 09-20-2016, 03:22 PM   #12
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WAY too much loss of sleep and spending of money on VANOS on most of these cars IMHO.

Maybe on some very high mileage cars, but to do all of this based on threads on Forums, I can think about many other areas of these cars that need to be maintained.

YMMV.
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Old 09-20-2016, 03:32 PM   #13
Zardoz33
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WAY too much loss of sleep and spending of money on VANOS on most of these cars IMHO.

Maybe on some very high mileage cars, but to do all of this based on threads on Forums, I can think about many other areas of these cars that need to be maintained.

YMMV.
Almost 190,000 miles on mine. Plus, no one has ever made a thread about just the pistons. Figured I'd be the guinea pig.
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