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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 04-02-2012, 01:03 PM   #1
jjrichar
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Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Australia
Posts: 244
My Ride: 330 Ci convertible
Project M54 Engine: Hydraulic Lifters

Hydraulic Lifters

Link to other parts of the project
http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=899347

Hydraulic lifters are a small but important part of the engine. Each one sits between its valve stem end and camshaft lobe. Ideally we want the round part of the camshaft lobe to run right against the valve stem end when the valve is closed. However, as the engine heats up and things expand, or as things wear in the engine, this stops happening. The answer is the hydraulic lifter. It's an ingenious device that automatically adjusts its thickness to ensure that the round part of the camshaft lobe is only just in contact with the top of the lifter when the valve is closed.

It uses oil that is forced into a chamber, to either expand or contract the lifter's thickness. The problem is that this mechanism can get filled with crap, and then it won't do its job. This will then have the camshaft not run correctly on the lifter, doing damage to the lifter and possibly the camshaft.

I have done a fair bit of reading on these over the last week, and what is apparent is the importance of putting the lifter back in the same place where it came from. This is not just because of the bore that it sits within the bearing rack, but because the camshaft lobe and the lifter top have worn together when the engine was run in and are now matched. Apparently if you mix them up, then excessive wear or damage may result.

When I pulled out the lifters on this engine. There was one that seemed to need replacing, so I cut it in half to find out what's inside and to see how it all works. I learned a lot. Probably the most important lesson out of the exercise was that there is very little flow in and out of the lifter. Therefore lots of crap gets in there and can't get out. Have a look at the photos below. It amazed me just how much stuff was inside. The ball valve is very small, and the fit of the piston parts is extremely tight. It wouldn't take much to clog these up and have the lifter stop working correctly. Lesson, change your oil and filter often. If I was taking off the camshafts for whatever reason, I would definitely remove the lifters and give them a clean.























To clean it out, you have to remove the piston parts. I'd seen on the web (and talked to an expert at a head reconditioning place back home) that you could whack it on something hard, and the piston would just come out. Well, not these ones. I nearly broke my hand hitting on things so hard, and then made up a contraption that had a swing arm about one meter long so I could hit these as hard as I could. Still no luck. This is what I came up with. Grab hold of the cap with something like this and pull it out. Don't just try and pull it straight out, twist while you are pulling. It takes a little force, but not overly so. Works no problems. You might be worried about doing damage to the cap. Surprisingly there were no scratches at all. Also, if it did scratch it, it would have been on the end part that doesn't go into the ball valve, so it would have created no issues.





When it's apart, give it a good clean out. Amazing how much stuff was inside the body.








UPDATE: I'd previously written that it was necessary to fill the piston with oil prior to installation. While this seemed like a good idea, this actually doesn't work. This is because with the whole thing full of oil, the lifters are so pumped up, it's not possible to get the camshafts on. The lifters sit so high that the studs that you bolt on the cam bearing caps aren't long enough, and you can't get the caps on. I got the caps on using another method, but the problem is then that the lifters don't bleed down. Because they are so full of oil and they seal themselves so well. The temperature when I did this was about 35 deg C, so the advertised bleed down time was supposed to be 5 mins. I left them there for about 2 hours with there being no difference. If I'd started the engine, I would definitely have had valve/piston contact, and significant damage.

What to do? This is my opinion, but I'm unable to test this as I don't have the engine in a car. However I've done a lot of research, and this seems to be common practice when rebuilding an engine.

1. Clean the lifters as described above, and then put them back together just using light oiling.
2. Install the lifters and cams.
3. Because the lifter is full of air, if you get a plastic tool and push down on the lifter, you will feel that it is spongy. This is what we are going to get rid of.
4. Prime the engine. This is the process of filling all the oil passages in the engine with oil. If you have only removed the bearing racks and lifters, then rest of the engine should be full of oil. If you have removed the filter, or pulled the engine down more than this, a little more priming is required.

Make sure the engine is full of oil. Have the valve cover on loosely so you can pull it off as required during the process.

Remove the fuel pump fuse so no fuel goes to the engine. Also I would have the ignition coils plugs removed. We don't want the engine to start or have any fuel go to it.

Get your oil can and give the camshafts and lifters a good squirt of oil. Have the baffle that covers the intake cam removed for the priming.

Put the valve cover on but just have a few of the nuts holding it on. Now go and turn key to start the engine. Do it for about 10 seconds. This is going to turn the oil pump and push oil up into the oil gallery in the head and fill the lifters. Now pull off the valve cover and use your plastic tool to see how spongy the lifters are. If they are, repeat the process. Give a good squirt of oil over the cams and lifters again prior to putting the valve cover on and turning over the engine. Keep repeating until the lifters are full and as solid as a rock. Depending on how many times you need to do this, you may need to allow the starter to cool and also put the battery on charge.

While I haven't done this process myself, I've done similar and it works perfectly. I live overseas, and we have two cars back at home. My 330 and my wife's Audi. They get started once every 6 months or so. When I was first starting them after an extended period, the shocking sounds they made for about 5 seconds or so after start made me shudder. The oil had clearly all drained out of the engine after many months, and it took a little time for it to fill again after start. I started used this priming method. I'd pull the fuel pump fuse and turn the engine over for about 10 secs, put the fuse back in and start. They would start like they were running only 5 mins ago. Quite a difference. I also do this after an oil/filter change, as it takes a bit of time for the filter housing to fill with oil and then get to the rest of the engine.

Just in case you were wondering, the BMW is a miles better car than the Audi. The Audi has a big V8 and goes like a scolded cat, but it isn't half the car of the Beemer. If you were ever considering trading your E46 and buying an Audi, don't do it. Just my opinion.
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Last edited by jjrichar; 06-04-2012 at 01:00 PM. Reason: Addition
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Old 04-02-2012, 06:10 PM   #2
manaman22
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The Bentley book talks about the bleed down time in the Cylinder head section. It's a function of the ambient temperature:

pg. 113-18
68F and higher - 5 min.
50F to 68F - 14 min.
32F to 50F - 30 min.

Very nice write-up. The whole project is an interesting read.
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Old 05-15-2012, 01:31 AM   #3
tommytoyz
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Ijust did this

I am in the process of replacing my cylinder head gasket, so I decided to clean the lifters while they were laying there. I did as described here. I was getting some faint ticking every now and again, which I knew could only be from the lifters. Once you get going, the next becomes easier.

Almost all require quite a bit of force and effort to get apart. Sometimes multiple attempts. They're tough little bastards.

Once apart, some hydraulic lifters were clearly jammed. I used a straw to blow brake cleaner from the can through the small parts and till the spray started coming out of the small hole in the cylinder body. Cleaned everything as best as I could.

Took me about 4 hours to do all 24 lifters, apart, clean and back together and clean the cam trays. This includes getting held up on the 1st one as I lost the spring, which I never did find again....I took my old spare lifter apart and robbed the spring from it...haha, it served a purpose after all. I had replaced it previously and saved it. After that little episode, I moved the operation to the cement floor, sitting Indian style.

Previously, I had a very loud tick and I discovered it was the collapsed lifter. Once I had replaced it (and saved) that the loud ticking went away. The thing I saw is that the lifters start to stick closed, because the two small cylinders with the spring inside, stick together in the collapsed position to each other and won't move anymore. Maybe gunk or stale oil, debris, whatever. I am sure that robs power from the engine and causes some ticking, but is not harmful to the engine.

I hope this rejuvenated my lifters for a good while.
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Old 08-18-2012, 04:56 AM   #4
phamine
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Nice writeup
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Old 04-19-2013, 07:44 PM   #5
TrickTizzle
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Nice! Lots of useful information.
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Old 06-30-2013, 04:40 PM   #6
ThreeOhFive
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Right in the middle of a head replacement. Got a few questions. The used cylinder head that I got came with a different style hydraulic lifter it seems. There is no major wear, but all of them are in a bucket of oil right now soaking, and I've noticed that one particular lifter does not "press down". Also, now that they have been in the oil, they lost all their damn markings as to which is intake and exhaust. Does it really matter?
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Old 06-30-2013, 05:43 PM   #7
jjrichar
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If the lifter is full of oil like it is when operating in the engine, it shouldn't press down. Whether they press down or not is not an indication of it working correctly or not.

I'm going to be honest with you, the new head you've got looks to have had a difficult life (I'd seen the other thread on the project in the general forum). To me looking at the colour of it, it looks like it's had a fair bit of sludge in it at some stage and has been cleaned up for sale. At work I sit next to a bloke who has worked on his own cars for about 30 years, including engine rebuilds. He said the same thing. I personally would be very hesitant about putting the head you have bought into the car. I look at it and I don't have a lot of confidence in what is going to happen when it gets installed. If it's been decked and tested, hopefully it should be alright. I'd be checking cam journal wear with some plastigauge and also check the valve guides for wear.

With regard to the lifters, the exhaust and intake are indentical. The problem you have is that each wears itself to the bore it is in, and should only go back there. Now that the markings have come off, this can't happen. Considering this, I'd be putting your original lifters back in the head, as they look a lot better. I'd probably be using your old cams, racks, bearing caps, as I suspect they will be in better condition than the new ones. Also, I'd pull the lifters apart like I described in the post above and clean them. It's close to impossible to clean them out correctly unless you do this. Finally, after you've got the engine going, I'd be putting in some oil fluch additive to clean it out, and then immediately change the oil again.
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Old 07-01-2013, 04:36 AM   #8
ThreeOhFive
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I actually found out today that it was from an overheated car. 70,000 miles. Guess the machine shop tested it good, and cleaned it up, decked it, there is no carbon build it. Stains could be from hot oil.. My cams and trays are in excellent condition. I'm worried to say the least...

But its reassuring that it came from a guy on this board that has excellent seller feedback and sells a lot of E46 stuff. It looks to have come out of a 2004 330ci vert. Woman owned it, overheated engine, and it was taken apart.
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Old 04-01-2014, 08:23 PM   #9
kevindsheaka
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Super interesting and impressive. I have owned multiple e46 m54 manual sedans including currently 2 zhp cars. I'm a Villanova marketing guy turned into a 9 year bmw tech. I'm considering turning my. 193 k zhp into dedicated track / auto cross car. I think the zhp cams are good up to 7400rpm but I don't trust the hydraulic lifters at that rpm. I will drill and cotter pin the oil pulp shaft/pulley. I am interested in the schrick solid lifter conversion . I have replaced lifters and replaced vanos seals on 2 of my e46s in the past. Solid cam follower conversion kits often mention that solid lifter cams must be used, but then contradict this by saying works with all available aftermarket high rev cams. So can anyone help me verify if I can do the shrick solid lifter conversion on zhp factory performance package cams? Thanks in advance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jjrichar View Post
Hydraulic Lifters

Link to other parts of the project
http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=899347

Hydraulic lifters are a small but important part of the engine. Each one sits between its valve stem end and camshaft lobe. Ideally we want the round part of the camshaft lobe to run right against the valve stem end when the valve is closed. However, as the engine heats up and things expand, or as things wear in the engine, this stops happening. The answer is the hydraulic lifter. It's an ingenious device that automatically adjusts its thickness to ensure that the round part of the camshaft lobe is only just in contact with the top of the lifter when the valve is closed.

It uses oil that is forced into a chamber, to either expand or contract the lifter's thickness. The problem is that this mechanism can get filled with crap, and then it won't do its job. This will then have the camshaft not run correctly on the lifter, doing damage to the lifter and possibly the camshaft.

I have done a fair bit of reading on these over the last week, and what is apparent is the importance of putting the lifter back in the same place where it came from. This is not just because of the bore that it sits within the bearing rack, but because the camshaft lobe and the lifter top have worn together when the engine was run in and are now matched. Apparently if you mix them up, then excessive wear or damage may result.

When I pulled out the lifters on this engine. There was one that seemed to need replacing, so I cut it in half to find out what's inside and to see how it all works. I learned a lot. Probably the most important lesson out of the exercise was that there is very little flow in and out of the lifter. Therefore lots of crap gets in there and can't get out. Have a look at the photos below. It amazed me just how much stuff was inside. The ball valve is very small, and the fit of the piston parts is extremely tight. It wouldn't take much to clog these up and have the lifter stop working correctly. Lesson, change your oil and filter often. If I was taking off the camshafts for whatever reason, I would definitely remove the lifters and give them a clean.























To clean it out, you have to remove the piston parts. I'd seen on the web (and talked to an expert at a head reconditioning place back home) that you could whack it on something hard, and the piston would just come out. Well, not these ones. I nearly broke my hand hitting on things so hard, and then made up a contraption that had a swing arm about one meter long so I could hit these as hard as I could. Still no luck. This is what I came up with. Grab hold of the cap with something like this and pull it out. Don't just try and pull it straight out, twist while you are pulling. It takes a little force, but not overly so. Works no problems. You might be worried about doing damage to the cap. Surprisingly there were no scratches at all. Also, if it did scratch it, it would have been on the end part that doesn't go into the ball valve, so it would have created no issues.





When it's apart, give it a good clean out. Amazing how much stuff was inside the body.








UPDATE: I'd previously written that it was necessary to fill the piston with oil prior to installation. While this seemed like a good idea, this actually doesn't work. This is because with the whole thing full of oil, the lifters are so pumped up, it's not possible to get the camshafts on. The lifters sit so high that the studs that you bolt on the cam bearing caps aren't long enough, and you can't get the caps on. I got the caps on using another method, but the problem is then that the lifters don't bleed down. Because they are so full of oil and they seal themselves so well. The temperature when I did this was about 35 deg C, so the advertised bleed down time was supposed to be 5 mins. I left them there for about 2 hours with there being no difference. If I'd started the engine, I would definitely have had valve/piston contact, and significant damage.

What to do? This is my opinion, but I'm unable to test this as I don't have the engine in a car. However I've done a lot of research, and this seems to be common practice when rebuilding an engine.

1. Clean the lifters as described above, and then put them back together just using light oiling.
2. Install the lifters and cams.
3. Because the lifter is full of air, if you get a plastic tool and push down on the lifter, you will feel that it is spongy. This is what we are going to get rid of.
4. Prime the engine. This is the process of filling all the oil passages in the engine with oil. If you have only removed the bearing racks and lifters, then rest of the engine should be full of oil. If you have removed the filter, or pulled the engine down more than this, a little more priming is required.

Make sure the engine is full of oil. Have the valve cover on loosely so you can pull it off as required during the process.

Remove the fuel pump fuse so no fuel goes to the engine. Also I would have the ignition coils plugs removed. We don't want the engine to start or have any fuel go to it.

Get your oil can and give the camshafts and lifters a good squirt of oil. Have the baffle that covers the intake cam removed for the priming.

Put the valve cover on but just have a few of the nuts holding it on. Now go and turn key to start the engine. Do it for about 10 seconds. This is going to turn the oil pump and push oil up into the oil gallery in the head and fill the lifters. Now pull off the valve cover and use your plastic tool to see how spongy the lifters are. If they are, repeat the process. Give a good squirt of oil over the cams and lifters again prior to putting the valve cover on and turning over the engine. Keep repeating until the lifters are full and as solid as a rock. Depending on how many times you need to do this, you may need to allow the starter to cool and also put the battery on charge.

While I haven't done this process myself, I've done similar and it works perfectly. I live overseas, and we have two cars back at home. My 330 and my wife's Audi. They get started once every 6 months or so. When I was first starting them after an extended period, the shocking sounds they made for about 5 seconds or so after start made me shudder. The oil had clearly all drained out of the engine after many months, and it took a little time for it to fill again after start. I started used this priming method. I'd pull the fuel pump fuse and turn the engine over for about 10 secs, put the fuse back in and start. They would start like they were running only 5 mins ago. Quite a difference. I also do this after an oil/filter change, as it takes a bit of time for the filter housing to fill with oil and then get to the rest of the engine.

Just in case you were wondering, the BMW is a miles better car than the Audi. The Audi has a big V8 and goes like a scolded cat, but it isn't half the car of the Beemer. If you were ever considering trading your E46 and buying an Audi, don't do it. Just my opinion.
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