MINI Cooper S N14 Engine Misfire, Valve Timing Problems

Vehicle details:  2009 Mini Cooper S / N14 Engine / 66,xxx miles
6 speed manual transmission

TechnicianTyler Seawright (Master ASE Certified)

Initial condition:

  • check engine light on, hard starting condition and noisy engine.
  • Dealership diagnosed as valve timing problems:  Broken timing guides, bad VANOS pulley, and possible other repairs needed
  • Client came in looking for a second opinion

Diagnostic Process:

  • Verified with computer diagnostics:  misfire codes for all of the cylinders
  • Visual inspection of ignition components (spark plugs and coils) suggested they were ok
  • Tested basic engine datastream – found all parameter data with the engine off was correct, IE Coolant temp, Oil Temp, Battery voltage, Etc.
  • Monitored low side fuel pressure (the N14 is equipped with direct fuel injection system so it has 2 different fuel supply systems):  Low side fuel pressure system was good.
  • Attempted to start the vehicle and it started.
  • Ran running fuel pressure tests.  Fuel pressure within specs
  • When running the DME (engine computer) set a code “2B64 Intake manifold, unmetered air“.
  • Per MINI’s technical service bulletins, removed the valve cover to physically check the valve timing. With the camshaft alignment tools in
    place we found that the valve timing was correct.
  • Also inspected timing chains, guides, and tensioners:  all ok.
  • Further running tests found that the variable Valve timing( VANOS) degree measurements would not deviate from 36degrees.
  • Monitored the Duty Cycle command to the VANOS Solenoid actuator and noticed that the Duty Cycle was changing when being commanded from the DMEto change but the actual valve timing was not changing.
  • This lead us to a physical fault with the VANOS system that cannot truly be measure electrically by the DME.
    We removed the VANOS Solenoid and found that it was physically broken and was not able to supply engine oil to the VANOS gear and therefore would not change the valve timing.  (pictured below – broken solenoid in front / new (good) solenoid behind)

MINI_VariableValveTiming2 MINI_VariableValveTiming1



This is a classic case of a physical inspection trumping what a diagnostic tree / computer diagnostic process suggests.  The dealership followed all MINI protocols and formal test procedures to conclude, consistently but incorrectly, that the problem was with the physical valve timing components.  Knowing that as a weak-spot in this engine design, MINI’s repair suggestions weren’t a bad thing for the vehicle but would not have fixed the client’s concerns.

In the end, we saved our client over $1300 of misdiagnosed repairs.  A big win!

Smart TIP:

This engine is not equipped with a oil level warning system to alert the driver that the engine oil is getting low. We Suggest that every other time you fill your car with gasoline, Check the engine oil.

BMW M62 engine failure

This failure could have been avoided:  the oil pickup tube was clogged from a previous repair.  The timing guides were starting to fail and thus were replaced / the shop didn’t sell the additional work of removing the oil pan to clean the pickup tube.  As a result pieces from the timing guides made their way to the pickup tube and restricted oil flow.  This lead to oil pressure loss and catastrophic failure of the main bearings.  Net Result?:  Whole engine replacement for this otherwise perfect X5.

BMW X5 3.0 M54 Oil Pressure

Have you seen a six-cylinder BMW (M54 engine) with the low oil pressure light coming on and off?  (The RED light in the dash).  You may have a bad pressure valve in the oil filter housing causing this condition.  Generally BMW’s engines are well-built and this issue isn’t super common but it does happen.  The fix is to replace the actual oil filter housing assembly – here’s some pictures of one we did very recently:


Old and New Oil Filter Housing:

M54 Oil Filter Housing - new and old

Bad Pressure Valve:

BMW M54 Bad oil pressure valve

Notice how the valve looks ‘off center in the housing?  Compare that with the new assembly below:

BMW M54 New oil pressure valve

This isn’t too bad of a job to do – here’s a picture of the engine with the housing removed:

BMW M54 Oil Housing Removed

BMW M52 Broken Camshaft

Here’s a disheartening one; from a 1999 BMW 328i.  This car had only 160,000 miles on it.  Engine failure like this should not happen.  BMW’s 6-cylinder engines can last a lot longer than this one did.

The car came in as a rough running / no start condition.  After checking basics (fuel pressure, engine codes, etc) we ran a compression test on the engine.  It revealed good numbers in the first 3 cylinders and zero (!) compression in the last 3.  We got the client’s authorization to diagnose further and we did a leak-down test in those last three cylinders. Next we used a bore scope to view the valves from inside the combustion chamber.  We could see that the intake valves were not opening or closing so we suspected a broken camshaft.

We removed the valve cover to look at the valve train and found significant oil sludge.  Turning the engine confirmed our fears:  The intake camshaft was snapped and the last three cylinders did not have intake valve movement.

This is a classic case of death-by-neglect.  This BMW should have had a lot more life in it but due to poor engine oil services the engine sludged, the valve train was compromised for lubrication, and the camshaft snapped.  Unfortunately this engine is not worth fixing.  To fix it correctly would require complete dis assembly of the entire engine to clean all of the sludge.  Net result:  this car is probably heading to a junk-yard.  What a shame.

BMW E90 or E83 Broken Engine Mount

This one has actually been documented by BMW in service bulletin # SI B22 01 10

As you can see by the pictures the engine mount bolts on the passenger-side of the engine break.  This is because the bolts are aluminum / aluminum bolts are necessary on this engine because the engine block is made out of magnesium (!).  Crazy but true.  With this client he noticed a clunk on the passenger side of the car that sounded a lot like a bad CV axle or CV axle joint.  Not the case.  Here’s the pictures:


E90 N51 broken engine mount 1


E90 N51 broken engine mount 2

E90 N51 broken engine mount 3


BMW M3 S54 Broken Vanos

Here was an interesting one.  An M3 owned by a good client of ours came in with a rough running condition that happened suddenly.  When we got it it was clearly running very rough and misfiring badly.  We didn’t drive it much.  Checking the DME for codes we found misfire codes for all 6 cylinders as well as vanos / valve timing errors for both the inlet and exhaust camshafts.  We ran the vanos tests through the computer and it failed immediately.  Knowing that the S54 has a problem with bolts breaking on the camshaft pullies (and causing vanos errors) we decided the next step would be to remove the valve cover and inspect the cam pullies.  Valvetrain damage in this engine would get very expensive very quickly.  To our surprise the cam pullies were still on nice and tight – no play at all.  Next we checked the vanos assembly itself.  Although it was hard to see we found total free-play between the vanos oil pump and the exhaust camshaft.

Here’s the broken part:

M3 S54 Broken Exhaust Cam Pulley


Another Angle:

M3 S54 Broken Exhaust Cam Pulley


Here’s the Vanos assembly:

M3 S54 Broken Vanos Oil Drive


A broader view:

M3 S54 Broken Vanos Assembly


The repair required replacement of the Exhaust side pulley and variable valve timing adjuster as well as the vanos assembly itself.

Here’s the new Exhaust cam pulley next to the old one:

S54 Exhaust Cam Variable Actuator

Servicing this pulley requires removal of the timing chain from the exhaust camshaft.  To do this we have to lock the lower part of the engine (using a lock pin) as well as the camshafts.  BMW have a special tool to do this:

BMW S54 Camshaft Locking Tool

With the engine locked the service is relatively straight-forward…

Install the new exhaust cam pulley:

S54 Exhaust Cam Pulley Installation

Since these bolts have a reputation for breaking we opted for new hardware (BMW have upgraded the strength of these bolts):

S54 Vanos Bolt Upgrade

We updated the hardware on both camshafts:

S54 Vanos Bolt Upgrade - Intake Side

Our next step was to pull the engine oil pan to find any broken pieces of metal and make sure they didn’t circulate in the engine oil – here’s what we found:

S54 Broken Vanos Pieces in Oil Pan

Verification that we found what we’re looking for:

Vanos Oil Drive Pulley - broken tangs

And then there was this part in the oil pan:

Vanos oil pump part

I suspect this little puck (it was approximately 10mm in size) is a valve adjustment puck – someone lost it during the car’s last valve adjustment?

Finally we installed a new Vanos assembly:

S54 New and Old Vanos

Once we got the engine back together we had a quick prayer for luck and started it up.  It started perfectly!  Got it up to operating temperature, ran the computer vanos test again – recalibrated the vanos through the computer and we were done!

We cannot take all the credit for this success however – we had GREAT help from Ramon LeFrancois of Bavarian Motorsport in Milpitas California.  He was an invaluable asset – thank you Ramon!



BMW 540i Clutch

Here’s a fun one:  a clutch job on an E39 BMW 540i!  These are such great cars and so much fun to drive – especially with a manual transmission.  Of course sooner or later the clutch wears out and needs replacing.  I have heard from technicians more than once that this task looks daunting.  This is simply not so.  Most BMW clutches are easy to do.  Here’s some tips from this one we just did to help you conquer your fears of this job:

– First of all / yes / you have to remove the exhaust system.  Don’t argue with me and don’t worry about it.  It comes out very easily.  Soak those exhaust bolts with a good penetrating oil!

– Next you have to uncouple the driveline (or propeller shaft as we call it in my shop)  Also easy to do.  Don’t allow the center universal joint to be damaged by hyperextension.  Some people recommend marking the position of the propeller shaft relative to the transmission output – can’t hurt…

– also that big rubber ‘puck’ between the driveline and the transmission is a common wear item – if it looks crappy replace it now.  When tallking to your friendly neighborhood BMW parts supplier call it the “Guibo”.

– The transmission is pretty easy to get out but those funky bellhousing bolts require a good set of E-Torx sockets, a universal joint or two, and some long extensions.  Lower the transmission using a good (SAFE!) jack.


BMW 540i Transmission Removed

– next you remove the pressure plate from the flywheel and disguard it and the the clutch disc:


Here’s the old Pressure Plate.  See the hot-spots in the surface?  This is from the clutch slipping.

BMW 540i Used Pressure Plate


Here’s the old Clutch-Disc.  This one isn’t worn down to the rivets in the friction material yet but it is close.  Also, notice that this has a sold center to it / most clutch discs have springs in this center area to allow a certain amount of wind-up to happen as the clutch engages.


BMW 540i Old Clutch Disc


Next step is to remove the flywheel from the engine:

BMW 540i Flywheel

Here’s where things get interesting.  This flywheel is called a Dual-Mass flywheel and if you play with it you’ll notice that it has two parts to it and there is a small amount of play or slip between the two.  This dual-mass slip takes the place of the springs missing in the clutch disc.

Unfortunately resurfacing dual-mass flywheels is difficult to impossible (unlike single-mass flywheels) and thus if the flywheel has any scoring or hot-spots on its surface it will have to be replaced.

Another problem here is that the bolts that hold this flywheel to the engine are trapped in this assembly and cannot be replaced without replacing the whole flywheel.  So stripping a bolt-head is a very bad thing.

BMW Flywheel Bolts


Also these bolts use a ‘RIBE’ style fastener but they often are partially in-accessible due to the dual-mass nature of the flywheel.  So to remove them safely BMW have developed a special tool:

BMW Flywheel Socket

Notice how the tool is ground-down to get the head into a narrow spot?

You **can** get away with using just a normal RIBE socket tool / I’ve seen technicians do it / but it’s dangerious and remember – stripping out a bolt-head will likely mean you’ll have to replace the flywheel.

Here’s the head of the tool:



To align your new clutch you will also need a special tool that, unlike most clutch kits sold, WON’T come with your new parts – here’s what it looks like:

BMW Clutch Alignment Tools

(One of these will be the right size…)

It is very important to get the clutch aligned correctly the first time because the pressure plate come with a pre-loaded tensioner that can only be removed once.  (See below)

BMW Pressure Plate Pre-Tensioner

Once the clutch and pressure plate are installed this center lock gets twisted counter-clockwise and removed and thrown away.  Unless you have the special pre-load tool you cannot reverse this step so be sure your clutch is aligned correctly before committing and removing this plate.

One last twist:  on the the M62 V8 Engine from BMW there is a coolant plate on the back of the engine that is only accessible with the flywheel removed.  This plate likes to leak coolant:

BMW M62 Coolant Leak

Here’s a scematic of it:

BMW M62 Coolant Plate and Gasket


Obviously now is the time to replace the gasket and make sure the system is sealed.  Even if the gasket isn’t leaking right now we advocate replacing it anyway since it’s such a common problem on this engine design.


Installation, as they say, is just the reverse of removal….

VW / Audi 1.8T Overheating

Here’s a common, common problem with VW and Audi’s cooling systems.  Their water pumps use plastic impellers to pump the engine coolant and, unfortunately, the impellers like to crack and freewheel on the pump’s shaft.  This will obviously cause overheating problems.  Sometimes this can be hard to diagnose because, if the impeller still moves a little, the car will only overheat under certain conditions.

This waterpump, like many in the VW/Audi world is driven by the timing belt and these two services should be done together to save on the labor costs as well as to ensure a more reliable engine.

Note:  At Integrity First Automotive we have a great relationship with a parts suppler than can provide us with aftermarket water pumps that use METAL impellers – they are our preferred replacement for these engines.

Below is a picture of a VW water pump with a broken impeller.  This one is from a New Beetle with the 1.8T APH engine:


VW Audi waterpump broken impeller

Audi 2.7T Timing Belt

Audi timing belts are always impressive looking jobs.  They’re actually more bark than bite but, as these pictures will show, they do look like a pretty difficult job.  They’re not as bad as they look.

One thing to know about Audi timing belts, don’t tempt their service interval.  If your car is due for a belt – get it done.  Some engines are less sensitive to their service intervals than others but Audis, unfortunately, are very sensitive.  In fact, on the 4-cylinder engines, we recommend doing the belt early or you can have problems before you ever reach the service interval.  If the belt slips or breaks it will cause expensive engine damage.

So roughly here’s the procedure to do an Audi’s timing belt.  The pictures in this article are for a 2.7T (twin turbo engine found in the Allroad, the S4, and the A6).  Other Audi V engines are very similar in their service procedure and the 4-cylinders are somewhat similiar too.

1- Get engine to TDC cylinder #1 on the compression stroke.  There is a lock tool for the crankshaft that can be installed (it threads into the transmission’s bell-housing) but most technicians find this unneccessary.

2- drain the cooling system

3- remove vehicle’s front clip – the bumper, grill, and the radiator support assembly.  Note that the a/c system doesn’t have to be evaculated – the condensor can be just ‘folded’ off to the side without removing any lines.  **This is the step that scares a lot of people who haven’t done the job before.  The truth is Audi built these cars to have the front clip come off easily so don’t be afraid.  Be careful not to scratch the bodywork or damage a fender.  Also, technicians who have done this job more have found that they can save time by not always removing the front clip competely.  Consider this as a short-cut if you think you can get away with it.  My favorite trick is to bring a padded chair in front of the car and rest the bumper on it.

4- remove the drive belt and any tensioners, pullies, etc that are in front of the timing belt covers

5- remove the timing belt covers.  Note that they come off and go on in a certain order / they interlock.  You also have to pull the main crankshaft pulley to get the lower cover off – there are 6 or 8 or so hex-head bolts that hold it on.  Remove them and pull the pulley off.

6- mark the timing belt’s alignment to the camshaft and crankshaft pullies

7- remove the hydraulic tensioner and compress and lock it using a pin.  Remove the tensioner pullies and the belt

8- replace the waterpump and the thermostat.  Note – this isn’t absolutely necessary but it is a great cost-saving step since these parts will probably need replacing before the next time the timing belt is due anyway

9- Replace the pullies.  IMPORTANT:  the tensioner pulley has a known defect  – the bolt that holds it should NEVER be reused.  It can and will snap later and cause big problems.  If you buy a replacement pulley buy it from a professional supplier – if you do it will come with a new bolt and with installation and torque instructions – follow them carefully.

10- transfer timing marks to your new belt (I recommend counting the teeth twice to be certain that you have the marks transfered correctly)

11- install your new belt / make sure your alignment is right – actually removing the tensioner and other pullies can sometimes help in getting the belt on / use your discretion

12- if available, set the cam timing using the timing tool.  Not totally necessary but recommended.

13- put the hydraulic tensioner back on and release the tension (pull the pin)

14- roll the motor a couple of times with the cranshaft and double-check all the timing

15- reassemble everything else!

16- fill and bleed the cooling system

17- you’re done!


Here’s some pictures:

Front Clip Off Car (Audi A6):

A6 Front Clip Off

A6 2.7T Front Clip Off

Bad Idler Pulley – This engine was luck to survive with this pulley like this:

Audi 2.7T Bad Idler Pulley

New Waterpump Installed:

New Waterpump installed on 2.7T

Timing Belt Camshaft Alignment Tool Installed:

Auid V6 2.7T Timing Belt Camshaft alignment tool

Timing Belt Installed:

Audi 2.7T Timing Belt Installed

Timing Belt Pullies:

Audi 2.7T Timing Belt Tensioners