BMW Z3 with check engine light

Vehicle Details: 2000 BMW Z3 2.5L, Automatic Transmission, M54 Engine, 35465 Miles

Technician: Tyler

Initial Condition:

  • Check engine light on
  • Engine is running rough
  • **had recent oil change

Diagnostic Process:

Scanned vehicle and found the following faults In the Engine control module (DME):

  • P1522 control VANOS position inlet camshaft
  • P1520 control VANOS end position fault, exhaust camshaft.
  • Ran test plan for the VANOS control on both the intake and exhaust and discovered that the VANOS degree angles were not changing.
  • Removed oil filter cap and inspected oil filter, looked newer and was not plugged.
  • Removed the filter and found that the oil filter housing had been broken from someone doing an oil change.
Broken oil Filter Housing

Broken oil Filter Housing

  • Removed all of the remaining pieces of metal that were in the oil filter housing and replaced the broken oil filter housing unit.
  • Started the car and re-Ran VANOS tests and again found that The VANOS degree angles were not changing.
  • Removed the VANOS and disassembled and found that there was a piece of metal inside the unit that was causing the exhaust VANOS valve to hang up in its bore and not allow oil pressure to the VANOS gear/Timing actuator causing the angles not to change.
Vanos disassembled

Vanos disassembled

Replaced the VANOS Unit with a rebuilt one and test drove the car and reran the VANOS tests and the car is performing well now.


The client confessed to doing his own oil change and not being able to remove the oil filter cap.  As a result excessive force was used on the filler cap causing the internal metal flange to break.  Had he then replaced the oil filter stand before proceeding further the vanos would probably not have been damaged.  This is one of those tougher lessons to learn about not ignoring something that is broken.  End result was good:  the car runs well now.  Had more metal circulated through the lubrication system there could have been much more extensive engine damage.  Great work Tyler on figuring this one out!


Misfiring VW AWM Engine

This was a fun one.  A 2002 VW Passat with 1.8T AWM engine.  The car came in with misfire / most noticable at idle.  Smoothed out ok when the throttle was opened up.  We tested all the basics:  checked the diagnostic error codes, smoke-tested the intake for vacuum leaks, data-streamed the mass-airflow sensor signal, etc, etc.  The basics of the engine all appeared good but the engine ran pretty poorly at idle and it kept throwing error codes.  Interestingly one of the error codes it threw more consistently was a camshaft-crankshaft correlation error (sorry, I can’t remember the specific code number).  Naturally we checked the valve timing by checking the timing belt – everything lined up.

So we decided, since we had a spare (known good) camshaft sensor on hand that we’d try to swap it and see if the sensor was producing a poor signal.  That didn’t help.  We inspected the crankshaft sensor too – it appeared to have been replaced once but there was nothing about it that made us think it needed replacement.

The engine had a leaky valve cover gasket and the oil was contaminating the spark plug boots so we decided, as a smart next step, to sell the customer a new valve cover gasket with the bonus of allowing us to inspect the camshafts, etc while the valve cover was off.  Here’s what we found…


VW AWM Exhaust Camshaft Timing

Check the red-circle in the picture – the exhaust camshaft timing was dead-on.

Notice also the cam lobes, etc all look decent.

Now – check out the Intake Camshaft:

VW AWM Intake Camshaft Timing

WOW – look that – the intake timing is off by one tooth!

Even closer inspect revealed this:

VW AWM Timing Chain Tensioner Damage

Notice that chunk of material in the red circle?  It’s part of the timing chain’s tensioner’s lower guide.  Evidently the tensioner had a problem with the lower and the intake camshaft jumped one tooth.  So why didn’t we see this when we checked the timing belt?  Well, the timing belt aligns the exhaust camshaft with the crank – not the intake camshaft.  This was the timing tensioner can vary the intake valve timing by increasing and decreasing the tensioner on the chain between the two camshafts.  We replaced the the tensioner assemby and the timing chain, reset the valve timing, and retested the engine:  fixed!

Misfiring Vanagon

This one was a challenge.  Older European vehicles (1980s or so) can be particularly difficult to diagnose because they use a lot of modern technologies like fuel injection but they don’t have any computer diagnostic data so testing them requires testing components individually.  This was very true of this 1983 VW Vanagon.  It has a 2.0L flat-four engine with fuel injection and distributor ignition.  It was running very rough and lacked significant power.  (Something a Vanagon can’t afford to be lacking in!)  There had been other attempts to repair it including replacement of the airflow meter.  We started our diagnostics (after a test drive) by using an ignition scope – here’s what we found:

Vanagon Ignition Scope

Notice something wrong?  Cylinder #4 (third graph from the top) has no ignition trace at all – none!  That was a surprise.  We swapped ignition wires and used a spark tester to verify what the scope showed us:  no spark going to cylinder #4.

So, next we popped the distributor cap and rotor off to physically inspect the distributor.  This van had an aftermarket distributor made by EMPI which eliminated the need to use ignition points (yay!).  Here’s what we found inside:

Vanagon Distributor

Notice in the top middle?  One of the magnets is missing!  We found the magnet inside the distributor housing, glued it back in and voila!  The Vanagon was suddenly running on all four cylinders.  After other basic engine adjustments the van’s power was back.

Aircooled Volkswagen Vanagon