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Old 06-20-2012, 09:45 PM   #1
fiveightandten
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Ok, I give up. Burning oil smell, NO oil leak. Any ideas?

I've had my car about a month now. 107K on the clock. I first noticed the burning oil smell about 2 weeks ago. I drive the car harder than the PO for sure. That may have aggravated this. I'm sure I switched oils on the car too. Currently running Mobil 1 0W30.

Symptoms:
-Burning oil smell after driving the car hard, or after driving on the highway for any decent length of time.
-Only noticeable at idle, driving dilutes it past the odor threshold immediately.
-Can smell it through the climate control and outside the car slightly.
-It's getting worse as time goes on (more frequent)

I've crawled all over the car and the entire engine bay is bone dry as far as I can see. VCG is dry, oil pan is dry, OFHG is dry, PS lines are dry, CCV system is dry. Granted I can't see *everything* with other parts in the way and that aluminum scrape guard under there. But I spent over 30 minutes under the car with a flashlight and a mechanics' mirror for the 3rd time today and I can't find any signs of leaking fluids. Anything burning enough to get pulled in through the climate control has to be a decent sized leak. I'm absolutely stumped at how I can't see this anywhere.

Any thoughts or suggestions?
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Old 06-20-2012, 09:48 PM   #2
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If you have 107K on the clock the VGC will be cracked.
Mine was leaking at the rear with no visible oil leaks.
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Old 06-20-2012, 09:50 PM   #3
fiveightandten
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If you have 107K on the clock the VGC will be cracked.
Mine was leaking at the rear with no visible oil leaks.
VCG is bone dry. I inspected the back of it with a mirror and ran my hand around the back of it and around the entire perimeter to confirm.
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Old 06-20-2012, 10:01 PM   #4
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OFHG then
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Old 06-20-2012, 10:08 PM   #5
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I had exactly the same symptoms as you.

Nothing was wet anywhere, no visible oil leaks, I could barely smell burning oil under the hood but I could definitely smell it through the vents.

I searched the forums here and everything pointed to the VGC. When I finally removed the VGC it was so brittle it was breaking apart in my hands.
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Old 06-20-2012, 10:13 PM   #6
fiveightandten
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OFHG then
Completely dry.

I checked it out with a mirror, checked it out when I have all my cooling system components out for an overhaul last week, and checked it out with a mirror again today.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChiMaster View Post
I had exactly the same symptoms as you.

Nothing was wet anywhere, no visible oil leaks, I could barely smell burning oil under the hood but I could definitely smell it through the vents.

I searched the forums here and everything pointed to the VGC. When I finally removed the VGC it was so brittle it was breaking apart in my hands.
...and the smell went way after replacing the VCG? I'm sure it's quite brittle, but it's definitely not leaking anywhere. Are you thinking it's venting fumes from the crank case without any visible residuals around the VCG?
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Old 06-20-2012, 10:15 PM   #7
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+1 on the VCG. I realize you checked all around but at 107k, it needs to be done regardless. It's only $30 or so with all the grommets. Bmaparts.com . so your manifold heat shields are dry? Do you see signs of a VCG replacement? Dripping/oozing sealant at half moons/corners? Only thing I can think of is rear main seal... but is anything hot enough back there to burn it? Maybe get your car up on jackstands and run the engine as you inspect below with a flashlight. I'm surprised your engine is bone dry. that's usually not the case with 99% of E46s (or any BMW for that matter at this age/mileage)
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Old 06-20-2012, 10:30 PM   #8
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+1 on the VCG. I realize you checked all around but at 107k, it needs to be done regardless. It's only $30 or so with all the grommets. Bmaparts.com . so your manifold heat shields are dry? Do you see signs of a VCG replacement? Dripping/oozing sealant at half moons/corners? Only thing I can think of is rear main seal... but is anything hot enough back there to burn it? Maybe get your car up on jackstands and run the engine as you inspect below with a flashlight. I'm surprised your engine is bone dry. that's usually not the case with 99% of E46s (or any BMW for that matter at this age/mileage)
VCG will get done regardless, when I do the plugs I guess. I don't see any signs of it ever being replaced. PO only bought the car at 81K. He was a Chinese guy here for grad school and went back to China after 3 years here. Nice guy, but he's one of those dudes that has no idea why someone would want to know what parts on a car have been replaced in the past. He took it to the dealer for everything.

Anyways. The RMS is also bone dry. But I wouldn't figure something back that far would make it into the climate control so readily. I can smell it very soon after the car comes to a stop. Seems like it has to be in the engine bay. And yes, the engine bay is remarkably clean. Every square inch of it that's readily visible is completely free of any type of fluid. Even the PS lines are clean.

I'll take pics. It sounds like you guys are calling BS on me.

It has to be something either completely buried in a place i'm not seeing, or oil vapors are venting somehow. But it really does smell like burning oil. I don't see anything dripping onto the headers or exhuast parts.
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Old 06-20-2012, 10:43 PM   #9
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lol i gotcha. didnt mean to insult your intelligence. its just puzzling because 10 times out of 10 a burning oil smell at idle is the VCG. Maybe oil leaking into the spark plug wells? slightly burning?
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Old 06-20-2012, 10:50 PM   #10
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lol i gotcha. didnt mean to insult your intelligence. its just puzzling because 10 times out of 10 a burning oil smell at idle is the VCG. Maybe oil leaking into the spark plug wells? slightly burning?
Not insulted at all. I just want "the smell" gone.

I'll replace the VCG and see what happens. I haven't had the plugs out or anything, so i'm not sure if it's leaking into the wells. But i'm not sure how it would get hot enough in there to burn it. And the other thing is that there's no visible smoke. Every time I get some place, i'm popping the hood and sniffing and looking around for smoke. It's turning into an obsession, and it's getting embarrassing.

Whatever it is, I don't think it's leaking at idle...only at elevated RPM. And it's all burned off by the time the car stops moving for a short period of time.
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Old 06-21-2012, 05:49 AM   #11
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What you may be smelling is crankcase/blowby fumes? Kind of common on higher mileage engines anyway.

This is a very common problem on some BMW's.

I have this from time to time on my wife's E46 and my E39 M5.

I is partially due to the way the crank case vent system works and the fact that the cabin intake air pick up location.

It is hard to explain how it smells, however, once you have the smell in your head it is hard to forget. Kind of like anti freeze leak smell.

Not sure I have a solution on how eliminate the issue, just be aware and learn what it is. Also make sure all your cabin air ducts are in good shape, properly connected and your crankcase vent system is in good shape.
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Old 06-21-2012, 09:19 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jfoj View Post
What you may be smelling is crankcase/blowby fumes? Kind of common on higher mileage engines anyway.

This is a very common problem on some BMW's.

I have this from time to time on my wife's E46 and my E39 M5.

I is partially due to the way the crank case vent system works and the fact that the cabin intake air pick up location.

It is hard to explain how it smells, however, once you have the smell in your head it is hard to forget. Kind of like anti freeze leak smell.

Not sure I have a solution on how eliminate the issue, just be aware and learn what it is. Also make sure all your cabin air ducts are in good shape, properly connected and your crankcase vent system is in good shape.
Good info. Thanks for the reply.

It looks like a VCG and CCV are in my future. It won't be immediate. But i'll report back after I do one...then the other. VCG will be first. Cheaper and easier.
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Old 06-21-2012, 10:08 PM   #13
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I had the same problem with my 2000 328i. I replaced the plugs and the valve cover gasket (which comes with the little gaskets for the plug wells), and I still have the smell. I thought for a while that it was just old oil burning off, but recently befriended another 328i owner who told me that it could be the oil filter housing gasket. I did a little research and made a few phone calls and it proved to be a valid possibility. I haven't changed mine yet, but from what I can tell and after some of the major repairs I have already done, it should be an easy fix. I hope for your sake that it is the VCG, because of all the VCG's I've replaced on any car, it was by far the easiest on the BMW. Good luck man!
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Old 06-21-2012, 10:25 PM   #14
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If it was the OFHG, the leak would be obvious.

I have a method on BMW problems. I don't question any problems until everything that needs to be done is done. Then I can more effectively rule things out.
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Old 06-21-2012, 10:49 PM   #15
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Check oil level. Maybe overfilled.
Overfilled oil will burst through the VCG even if it was sealed nicely before.
Happened to me after some incompetent mechanic changed my oil.
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Old 06-21-2012, 10:55 PM   #16
fiveightandten
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Originally Posted by RiceKrispys View Post
I had the same problem with my 2000 328i. I replaced the plugs and the valve cover gasket (which comes with the little gaskets for the plug wells), and I still have the smell. I thought for a while that it was just old oil burning off, but recently befriended another 328i owner who told me that it could be the oil filter housing gasket. I did a little research and made a few phone calls and it proved to be a valid possibility. I haven't changed mine yet, but from what I can tell and after some of the major repairs I have already done, it should be an easy fix. I hope for your sake that it is the VCG, because of all the VCG's I've replaced on any car, it was by far the easiest on the BMW. Good luck man!
Thanks for the suggestion. But it's not the OFHG. I was able to see under there quit well when I had the cooling system pulled apart last week. The VCG is indeed a nice easy job. It's cheap as well, so i'll do that as a preventative measure and see if it does anything.
Quote:
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If it was the OFHG, the leak would be obvious.

I have a method on BMW problems. I don't question any problems until everything that needs to be done is done. Then I can more effectively rule things out.
It never ends.
Quote:
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Check oil level. Maybe overfilled.
Overfilled oil will burst through the VCG even if it was sealed nicely before.
Happened to me after some incompetent mechanic changed my oil.
Thanks for the suggestion, but the oil level isn't overfilled.
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Old 06-21-2012, 11:35 PM   #17
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Don't listen to anything MercForHire says. He's known to be a troll. That "advice" he gaves you makes no sense whatsoever.
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Old 06-22-2012, 02:59 PM   #18
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I had the same problem VCG fixed it. You might think about the Vanos at the same time
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Old 06-25-2012, 01:27 AM   #19
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Hmmmm.. I might be way off but check your coolant bro.
Mine smelled likie burning oil or when it was basically empty
right before my coolant light came on..just check if its low tho
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Old 06-25-2012, 02:24 AM   #20
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What an assh0le. I was trying to help from my own experience. He needs to install a cooling system for his head.
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