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      08-13-2015, 01:03 PM   #1
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Advice Needed: Cracked Block and Piston Head

Even when you think you've covered all your bases, there's never a guarantee. Just last week I was driving the coupe after just having installed a new set of headers (euro set) and had gotten maybe around 20 miles back home from my point of install (parents garage as my apartment doesn't allow us to work on our vehicles). The following day I booted the car up to go wash it and run some errands, the car was still cold and I was about three miles from home nothing out of the usual. You can feel one of the cylinders begin to misfire and then all the sudden, poof, big cloud of white smoke. Naturally you think, "well there's gone my head gasket." After putting some serious hours into cleaning up the new headers and the installation I figured I'd better leave this one to a local shop here that I've used several times in the past. Had her towed up the road and they started tearing her apart.

After a few days I thought it's a little odd they haven't called me, they were really slow on getting me the quote for the car, regardless of the fact they'd have to be putting together an estimate to have the head go off to a shop and everything else looked over. Seemed pretty standard practice with some delays, but after two days having approved them to go ahead and start working on it I still hadn't heard back from them again. I give them a call a little ways into it and they say they've put about two gallons of fluid into the reservoir and that nothing had held, resulting in it flooding into the oil pan/cylinders somewhere. Pretty common symptoms for a head gasket. I don't hear back from them for a while after this. I give them another ring and they begin to tell me that they had pulled everything off and that they hadn't sent anything out and off to the machine shop. He then explains to me that there are some cracks in the block and maybe the piston head. He starts to go on about trying to find a replacement engine for the zed.

Unannounced I went over there the following day (yesterday) to see the damage at hand and looked through everything.

Here's the link to the photo album of what I took.

Some of the photos in the album:



You can see debris in the cylinder


Cracks in the cylinder wall and also the cylinder head at the bottom left.




I couldn't believe that this would have happened. Across four different forums I found two cases of the actual block having cracked or failing. It still has my mind blown that this has happened. I wondered what BMW would say so I went out to one of their representatives and spoke for a while. A gentlemen who had quite a few years in service, ever since the S54 was released as an engine. He noted that the only time that something like this would have happened is if the engine had overheated. I wondered if it could have been from the shop at some other time, as they're the same folks who had opened up my engine before. They didn't talk much about how they had done my rod bearings around six months before.

I do not track this car, it is daily driven. Occasionally once every other month I get it out on a spirited drive, but even then it's allowed a lot of time to cool down with a drive home and isn't ever run to a point of concern. I've never seen this car over heat and it's never had any issues over the road before this sudden and abrupt issue. There was one PO before me and the car came to me pretty well stock, even after the inspection II and the rod bearings all seemed well. Oil analysis never reported anything crazy, found that I needed to do my rod bearings. Lead was always a little high but seems to be within reason for everything else. I have the blackstone reports if anyone would ever like to see them.

Can you think of anything that would have caused this outside of heat?
Should I be looking at a whole new engine or attempting to rebuild the original?
Will an E46 S54 even run with our ECU (I know there are some significant differences)?
Should I be looking at the shop for malpractice?

I'm devastated with how everything has turned out, and although I have some savings, I think it's fair to say I can't churn out a new S54 nor one with decent mileage used. It also doesn't help that our company went through a round of lay offs the same week she went into the shop.

Thanks to all who have read this, I may be on my way out of the Z world for a while.
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      08-13-2015, 01:20 PM   #2
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Sorry to hear about this. Truly a nightmare. I wish I had some advice or insight but I don't have any experience with this problem and I look forward to hearing from others who may have heard of other instances of this happening with S54s.
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      08-13-2015, 02:10 PM   #3
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First, I'm sorry to see this, especially on top of other things going on in your life.

Second, this isn't an area I'm experienced with. The only thing I can think of outside heat (water pump, low coolant) is a bad block casting.

Maybe others have ideas. The only "cure" is a new engine. You might be able to source an entire E46 salvage for part of the cost of an S54.

If there's a chance it's a bad casting I guess it can't hurt to talk to BMW.
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      08-13-2015, 03:28 PM   #4
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That's very unfortunate. Sorry to hear it!

I haven't spent an extensive amount of time searching, but the thought of being forced to replace an engine has crossed my mind. The S54 has numerous fatal flaws. I would be hesitant to buy a used engine from anyone other than a reputable shop. I have seen S54's for sale from Lang Racing for around $6k.

If you don't have that kind of money available, there are other ways to get you back on the road, or get the car to a condition where you could sell it. Besides a personal loan (double digit interest rate), you can take out a car loan for more than what you currently owe assuming you owe less than what the car is worth (basically taking equity out on the car, and obviously you pay your current loan off with the new loan). While it's not ideal, sometimes people get stuck. Some banks will only lend you what you currently owe. The Z4M is an older used car, and interest rates can vary significantly. Each time you apply for a loan, it's marked on your credit report.

I was a year away from paying off my first car and had a change in life conditions. I tried to do the smart thing and sell the car. Unfortunately the car was worth more to me than I was offered on trade in, and a private sale might have taken some time. I applied for a loan with a different bank, and ultimately extended the one year of payments I had left into two. I kept the cash as an emergency fund. My interest rate was reduced with the new loan (since I was young and had no credit history when I got the first loan), so it was almost like a net interest-free loan. Fortunately everything worked out and the cash sat in savings while the circumstances passed.

The point is, refinancing is a secondary option if you don't have the liquid assets to repair the car the right way. It may allow you to keep your savings as an emergency fund in case you're laid off, but it will increase the amount you need to stay afloat every month. A Z4M isn't a car that sells quickly. It needs the right buyer, especially if it needs a new engine. So, you may not be able to pull the equity from the car with an outright sale should dire circumstances arise.

I wouldn't advise depleting your emergency fund to fix the car. Personal loans have ridiculous interest rates, so I'd keep that option as a last resort. My advice - refinance, and use the money to fix the car. Cross your fingers and hope things turn around at work. If you get laid off, immediately put the car up for sale.

What does your insurance company say?
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      08-13-2015, 03:51 PM   #5
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Just a theory here, can you get a look at the crank shaft? If it's blueish in color were the cylinder wall and piston broke maybe the shop doing the rod bearing replacement tightened that rod bearing too much, or used the wrong thickness of rod bearing, causing too much friction and heat that transfered to the cylinder wall and piston. As I said, just a theory.
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      08-13-2015, 04:23 PM   #6
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OP something doesn't quite add up here and this is NOT a usual s54 fault. Of course things happen but somewhere down the line id guess something may have happened to facilitate this failure.

Really sorry you going through this, my worst nightmare.
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      08-16-2015, 03:26 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pokeybritches View Post
That's very unfortunate. Sorry to hear it!

I haven't spent an extensive amount of time searching, but the thought of being forced to replace an engine has crossed my mind. The S54 has numerous fatal flaws. I would be hesitant to buy a used engine from anyone other than a reputable shop. I have seen S54's for sale from Lang Racing for around $6k.

If you don't have that kind of money available, there are other ways to get you back on the road, or get the car to a condition where you could sell it. Besides a personal loan (double digit interest rate), you can take out a car loan for more than what you currently owe assuming you owe less than what the car is worth (basically taking equity out on the car, and obviously you pay your current loan off with the new loan). While it's not ideal, sometimes people get stuck. Some banks will only lend you what you currently owe. The Z4M is an older used car, and interest rates can vary significantly. Each time you apply for a loan, it's marked on your credit report.

I was a year away from paying off my first car and had a change in life conditions. I tried to do the smart thing and sell the car. Unfortunately the car was worth more to me than I was offered on trade in, and a private sale might have taken some time. I applied for a loan with a different bank, and ultimately extended the one year of payments I had left into two. I kept the cash as an emergency fund. My interest rate was reduced with the new loan (since I was young and had no credit history when I got the first loan), so it was almost like a net interest-free loan. Fortunately everything worked out and the cash sat in savings while the circumstances passed.

The point is, refinancing is a secondary option if you don't have the liquid assets to repair the car the right way. It may allow you to keep your savings as an emergency fund in case you're laid off, but it will increase the amount you need to stay afloat every month. A Z4M isn't a car that sells quickly. It needs the right buyer, especially if it needs a new engine. So, you may not be able to pull the equity from the car with an outright sale should dire circumstances arise.

I wouldn't advise depleting your emergency fund to fix the car. Personal loans have ridiculous interest rates, so I'd keep that option as a last resort. My advice - refinance, and use the money to fix the car. Cross your fingers and hope things turn around at work. If you get laid off, immediately put the car up for sale.

What does your insurance company say?

I put 10k down on her when I picked her up and definitely don't owe the entire amount of the car now. It was appraised somewhere around 29,850 when I refinanced about six months ago and I owe around 16-17 if I remember right.

The only issue is that I've already been laid off, I'm currently on the job hunt without a lead currently. I'll be reducing my rent and a few other things here shortly, but outside of that I'm not sure what they'll look at doing for me. It does happen to be a local federal credit union though so I'll check up with them. I really appreciate your insight here, this was something I had not thought of.

I'm looking into Lang Racing now but I don't think they have anything directly for sale and I'm unsure how they treat core exchanges or what have you. I'll update this is as I go along through the process if that's something that I decide to move forward with. Once again, I sincerely appreciate your suggestions here. If there are any other companies that specialize in these engines and the rebuilding of them or even just would have some reputable used motors on hand, I would greatly appreciate the leads as I started out with something as simple as ebay.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Westersund View Post
Just a theory here, can you get a look at the crank shaft? If it's blueish in color were the cylinder wall and piston broke maybe the shop doing the rod bearing replacement tightened that rod bearing too much, or used the wrong thickness of rod bearing, causing too much friction and heat that transfered to the cylinder wall and piston. As I said, just a theory.
Unfortunately I didn't get a good look at the crank. The lower block had everything together on it and the head had been pulled off. I actually looked over it real quick but I diverted straight to the cylinder with the cracks as I was still in disbelief that something like that could have happened. I could ask the shop for some photos to see if they could determine more.




Hopefully this gal isn't out of the running just yet.
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      08-16-2015, 06:07 PM   #8
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Shit, that sucks to hear, failing a new donk, is it possible to source just the cast block? New pistons and rings shouldn't be too exy. And you could reuse most other parts from your engine.
If you had the liquid funds, (which I kinda gather you don't) you could chuck a stroker kit in this (with refurbed cast block) and have one heck of a car..

Once more, sorry to hear this sad news.. :-(

Keep us posted.
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      08-17-2015, 05:48 PM   #9
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Contacted Andrew at Lang Racing. He spoke with me for about half an hour, much more than I had expected. He was shocked to hear my issues and what had transpired. I shot him over my photos and I'll end up communicating with him in the near future on what we might be able to work out. For the time being the shop that has been working on the car hasn't let me know what they have found in terms of a new engine and I haven't spoken with them in regards to what they would be able to do for the service side of placing a new engine back into my zed. I'll keep this thread rolling as I find out more.


I may consult with some of y'all on how I might be able to lower the cost from using parts from my engine as most of it seems to be in tact aside from one piston and the lower casting.
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      08-17-2015, 06:43 PM   #10
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All S54's share block and pistons so if you can find an engine with a healthy block but otherwise not runing for cheap that might be an option. Don't know if you'd need all new pistons or if you can only change out the damaged one.
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      08-18-2015, 03:24 AM   #11
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nah new pistons and rings should be done in one go. and should not be too expensive..
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      08-18-2015, 10:10 AM   #12
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Sorry to hear about your engine. I just did a quick search on realoem and it looks like you could get any S54 engine. If the engine comes from a M3 though, you'll have to reuse your oil pan or find an oil pan from another Z4 or Z3. Looks like all S54's share the block and head. I don't know what makes the oil pan different, but they are different part numbers.
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      08-18-2015, 08:06 PM   #13
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If you've already been laid off, it will be difficult to get a loan, at least at a reasonable APR. It's unfortunate that the times you actually need to borrow money, no one wants to lend it.

Have you tried contacting your insurance company?

If you're not against selling the car, there is a WTB thread in the classifieds for a rolling chassis.
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      08-18-2015, 08:32 PM   #14
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Sorry to hear OP, truly a nightmare scenario. I fear you won't have much luck going after anyone who might have been a culprit in the demise of your engine, situations like that are nearly impossible to prove.

I'm even more sorry to hear about your layoff. Regardless of what this lapdog mainstream media tells you, this country is in a f*&^ing depression. Everyone I know is hurting, I don't know a single person who is as well off/better than they were before the 2007 collapse. I've personally been laid off two times in the past 7 years from well paying attorney jobs, and I've been fortunate enough to fall into something working remotely which is a niche job to end all niche jobs. The right place at the right time was never more apt. The people who were laid off with me are all on hard times indeed, barely able to find temp work which pays about 1/3 what they used to be making, and with no benefits.

Regardless, never feel down on yourself and know there are millions more like you who are suffering right now in this country. Keep your head held high, stay proud, and when an opportunity comes along grab the shit out of it.

Good luck.
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      08-24-2015, 11:41 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bignosejim View Post
Sorry to hear about your engine. I just did a quick search on realoem and it looks like you could get any S54 engine. If the engine comes from a M3 though, you'll have to reuse your oil pan or find an oil pan from another Z4 or Z3. Looks like all S54's share the block and head. I don't know what makes the oil pan different, but they are different part numbers.
I really appreciate the heads up, I let them know at the shop that I have the zed at currently and they told me that they were aware as they had done a swap on an M3 and purchased a Z4 engine. That turned into quite the fiasco as they dove into that job.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Westersund View Post
All S54's share block and pistons so if you can find an engine with a healthy block but otherwise not runing for cheap that might be an option. Don't know if you'd need all new pistons or if you can only change out the damaged one.
I think the biggest issue is finding that block, I know they run around 7-800, but when you do find one it's still a gamble, let alone I have a cracked piston head and all my old hardware would have to be swapped out. To my understanding, between the service costs and everything else that has to be done in order to prep the new block with the old head (which would still need machining more than likely), the cost would simply be too high. I would prefer to keep most of the original engine if possible, but right now it doesn't seem very feasible.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vanne View Post
nah new pistons and rings should be done in one go. and should not be too expensive..
That's the thought, and it may come down to cost savings at the end of the day to be honest. I have a finite budget that I can throw into this thing and I'll likely be borrowing a bit here and there to just get it back up and going in order to continue working. We will see though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pokeybritches View Post
If you've already been laid off, it will be difficult to get a loan, at least at a reasonable APR. It's unfortunate that the times you actually need to borrow money, no one wants to lend it.

Have you tried contacting your insurance company?

If you're not against selling the car, there is a WTB thread in the classifieds for a rolling chassis.
I had thought about selling the chassis, but I wondered what I would do outside of that. My only thoughts are reverting to a bike or something very inexpensive. The monthly on this right now is around 380, which is pretty darn affordable for the car of your dreams. Throwing the donor engine into it seems to be the best bet to not only keep a car that I enjoy driving but to also get back on the road without having to invest in a beater that I'm just going to want to get rid of as soon as possible.

After speaking to the shop they didn't feel comfortable working through an insurance angle, I prodded them as I was there and wanted to figure out what other options I might have. I think the best bet here is going to BMW of NA and seeing what they might have to say about such a failure. It's so uncommon and I'm not sure if the previous owner of this vehicle had some serious modifications, but as far as I could tell it was pretty well stock. All of it could have been reverted, but that would have taken a serious penny and a lot of time and effort (assuming it was coming from FI). I can't imagine there was much else that could have caused this other than someone really going all out on the engine before I assumed ownership.


Once again thank you for all the kind words and wishes.



----

MOST RECENT UPDATE

----

I have been speaking with Lang Racing about rebuilding an S54 that he purchased not too long ago. The cost seems a little astronomical but from what I've been told he's the best in the business. It would make sense to go through with his rebuild program, I'm just looking to see what I can afford. I have an estimate from him that came through on Friday night but I had a military training event to attend and was unable to really go through everything. I will be looking through it soon and asking y'all what is absolutely essential and what I might be able to cut out of the rebuild process. I don't know what he's looking at giving me for the core, but even he agrees that the crack is a fluke event. We'll see what BMW of NA has to say and I'll continue to work on from there.
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      08-24-2015, 04:28 PM   #16
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I've scanned through this thread and I'm amazed that your engine suffered such a failure. This is exceedingly rare I think. I agree that following up with BMW NA could prove a wise choice; perhaps they could offer some form of cost-sharing arrangement or similar plan to help out and reduce your expenses. You may have to exercise some patience to find the right person I expect.

And like others have said, all these issues will get worked out and the day will come when you will once more be heading home from work behind the wheel of your treasured machine.

Cheers!
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      08-26-2015, 02:49 PM   #17
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Here's were I'm at. I'm can compare other shops (if y'all have any others to recommend) but this is the quote that I'm looking at currently. I need to shave quite a bit off of this to make it work. What do you guys think are the bare essentials to have done on a pulled engine from another vehicle? (I am unsure of what vehicle or the condition it was pulled from, I can only assume it was an M3 as it does not have the Z4 oil pan and has 80,000 miles on it).

Breakdown of Services on Used Engine

Code:
ACTIVITY AMOUNT
crankshaft-Polishing
Polish S54 Crankshaft Journals, 
1 @ $150.00

CPS54CSTM
Set of 6 Shelf Mahle Pistons S54 Includes wrist pins and piston rings. 87.5mm bore, 21mm wrist pin, 11.5
CR, 1 @ $965.00

S54WideRodCarrillo
Reuse OEM Rods
0.00T

LRD-S54 MainBearingSet
Genuine BMW Main Bearings - Sizes Specifically Determined for Each Engine Application, 1 @ $428.52



Our Stage One Cylinder Heads feature the following:
Complete Disassembly & Cleaning
Comprehensive Leak, Crack & Pressure Test
Inspect All Components For Irregular Wear
Our High performance Five Angle Valve Job
New Valve Seals
Trueness Checked & Resurfaced Mating Surface
Unshrouding of Valves

Attention to Potential Hot-spot Areas and Chamfering, 1 @ $780.73


ACTIVITY AMOUNT
Labor
Machine shop labor on Block (87.5mm Pistons):
Bore Cylinder Walls to 87.5mm Mahle Piston Size
Hone block cylinder walls
Hot tank block
Surface deck, 3.8 @ $125.00
11 12 7 831 920

Genuine BMW Head Gasket Set - Without Head Gasket, 1 @ $356.93
11 12 7 835 918

S54 Head Gasket (.64 mm), 1 @ $75.95
11 11 0 302 722

Genuine BMW Lower Engine Gasket Set:
Oil pan gasket
Crank and intermediate shaft seals
Seal cover gaskets
Miscellaneous o-rings and gaskets, 1 @ $331.75
331.75T
S54CPVOR
S54 Constant Pressure Valve Viton O Ring, 1 @ $4.95
4.95T
11 23 1 402 608

Genuine BMW S54 Crankshaft Pulley Bolts, 4 @ $6.15
24.60T

11 12 7 831 862
OEM Head Bolt Kit, 1 @ $59.36


11 11 2 244 286
S54 Main Bearing Cap Bolt, 14 @ $4.11

S54LRDCamBoltRepairKit
Lang Racing Development Camshaft Bolt Upgrade Kit, 1 @ $14.95
11 31 7 830 159

Timing Chain Rail (Tensioning Rail), 1 @ $17.49
11 31 7 830 569

Timing Chain Rail (Slide Rail), 1 @ $59.64
11 31 7 836 344

Timing Chain Rail (Slide Rail), 1 @ $18.01
11 31 7 836 441

Timing Chain Rail (Tensioning Rail), 1 @ $36.03
BS021

Beisan S54 Vanos Seals Repair Kit, 1 @ $60.00
BS024

Beisan S54 Vanos Sealing Plate Repair Kit, 1 @ $10.00
BS025

S54 Vanos Oil Pump Disk (300 Refundable Core Charge), 1 @ $150.00

ACTIVITY AMOUNT
Labor
Rebuild of Vanos Unit Inlcudes:
Installation of Internal Vanos unit seals
Replacement of Vanos Plate Seals
Installing Oil Pump Hub, 2.8 @ $125.00
350.00

Labor
Long Block Tear Down, Inspection, and Reassembly Labor Includes the Following:
Complete Dissassembly and Inspection of Longblock
Block Inspection, Measuring Main Bearing Clearance and Installing Crankshaft
Measuring Rod Bearing Clearance, Balancing Rod and Piston Assembly
Measuring Piston to Bore Clearance
Measuring Piston Ring Gap and File to Fit as Required
Piston and Rod Installation, Rod Bolts Torqued to Stretch
Cylinder Head Installation, Setting of Initial Valve Shim Clearance
Installing VANOS Unit and Setting Cam Timing
Installing Valve Cover and Oil Pan, Replacing All Gaskets, 26 @ $125.00
3,250.00

S54LongBlockCore
S54 Long Block Usable Core For Rebuild

Prices for Partial Core Refunds if Applicable:

Cylinder Head - 850
Crankshaft - 500
Cams - 200
Oil Pan - 250
Valve Cover - 150
VANOS Unit - 400, 1 @ $2,200
The other assumption is that I can just purchase this engine for around 3,500 and trade in my core components for around 2,200 and net 1,300 for a used engine and tackle whatever problems may lie ahead of it as the come with some rainy day fund specifically for the engine. I'm not sure if this is the best option, but it's the only other I can think of. I'm still working on reaching out to the right folks at BMW of NA. If y'all have any contacts there I would greatly appreciate a lead or two.

Last edited by Arsonism; 08-26-2015 at 03:27 PM. Reason: Clarity
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      08-27-2015, 04:56 PM   #18
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I contacted BMW of NA regarding the situation and due to how I purchased the vehicle (3rd party dealership) and to the fact that the car has been pulled apart at an unauthorized dealer, the costs would be astronomical to get it assessed and for them to provide me with "a percentage off" of the service fees. This didn't add up to everything that should happen from such a failure, but it is how I handled it. The block alone was just under 5 grand.

I'm looking more into rebuilding the 80k engine as it will yield the best results and looking to drive my cost down there. I think that I can make it happen but it will require borrowing some funds. It will be a struggle but I'm going to move forward with it.
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      08-28-2015, 09:46 AM   #19
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Sorry to hear about your situation. Being in TX, is this your daily driver or do you have another car for basic transportation? I know we are all in different situations, but if that's your daily driver I would consider spending that $6k on a reliable backup vehicle like a Honda CR-V so you can get back on your feet quickly. The MC can always be repaired later when you find another job and your finances are back in order. The 2nd car will also come in handy when you need the extra utility too. Hope everything works out for you buddy!
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      09-08-2015, 10:59 PM   #20
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so you bought a new donk? details brotha, details.. any news from bmw about covering costs? after running on borrowed time myself, have decided to put the donk in for overhaul the other day, new bearings kit, guides, vanos being looked at and overhauled if required, plugs and packs, and a few other bits and pieces.

id recon 206k kilometers is probably enough without a look see.

lemme know what your doing with yours buddy
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      09-09-2015, 07:24 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vanne View Post
so you bought a new donk? details brotha, details.. any news from bmw about covering costs? after running on borrowed time myself, have decided to put the donk in for overhaul the other day, new bearings kit, guides, vanos being looked at and overhauled if required, plugs and packs, and a few other bits and pieces.

id recon 206k kilometers is probably enough without a look see.

lemme know what your doing with yours buddy
whats a donk? i keep seeing this from you and wonder what on earth u mean?? lol
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      09-10-2015, 04:45 AM   #22
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Let me refer you to...

http://aussie-slang.com/html/australian_slang.html

Under "D"..

:-) you also may note some other colourful additions on there..
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