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      11-15-2012, 12:38 PM   #1
knsaber
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Track day woes - engine failure



I took my Z4MR to her first track day at NJMP early November, since this is only my second time doing a track day I was still in green. The first day I was on Lightning and was doing pretty well, even slowly learning heel-toe from my instructor. Unfortunately I wasn't paying attention to the dashboard and ran out of gas on track near the pit lane. Car was towed in.

Second day we were running on Thunderbolt and again, I was learning more and shifting more often on the track. I only ran between 3rd and 4th gear, sometimes just redlining at 3rd gear during a straight. The engine cuts power at redline, however I would downshift early into the braking zone instead of late but never did a money shift.

By the 3rd run on the second day, it was during a long turn around the 'octopus' where the service engine light came on and a loud engine knocking sound started as I coasted back to pit. A couple of guys took a look at it did a quick look at the spark plugs but nothing visible.

I had the car towed to Bimmer Clinic and had them take a look. The tech told me the first thing he thought of when he heard the knocking was the rod bearings, I had them take the oil pan out and the valve cover off.

The rod bearings were worn as it seems like a common issue with S54 engines, but no other visible issues like valves, springs, vanos. They saw some wear or deposit on the piston walls but could not verify with only a boroscope, but I also didn't want to spend that much money just to remove the cylinder head to inspect since the common cause of knocking was bearings.

I am having them replace the bearings with a treated version and should be done next week. I am hoping that will solve the issue and not have to swap engine blocks.

Videos of Lightning


Thunderbolt


Final lap of breakdown


I'll keep you guys updated.
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      11-15-2012, 12:50 PM   #2
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damn =/

i hope it all goes smoothly. if you dont mind sharing, how much (ballpark range) is this going to end up costing you?
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      11-15-2012, 12:58 PM   #3
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Treated bearing kit for $599 (although OEM would be cheaper), oil pan gasket, oil filter, oil, bolts, 10 hours labor, you're looking at about $1700.
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      11-15-2012, 01:24 PM   #4
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Wow.

How many miles on the car? Do you know if it saw extensive track use from the prior owner, or are you the original owner?

Did you have any UOA done, and if so, were the lead levels high?
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      11-15-2012, 01:29 PM   #5
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^Finnegan asked exactly what I would like to know. Also, how long since the oil was changed?

You have my sympathies and I hope it works out ok in the end (and doesn't get worse.)
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      11-15-2012, 01:31 PM   #6
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I bought the car CPO at 19,000 miles, it now has 32,000 miles. I believe the previous owner was an older guy.

If you're talking about testing the oil, I've never done it.

Oil change at every 7k miles once I owned the car. Last change was at 31,448 miles.
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      11-15-2012, 01:37 PM   #7
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vanos bolts look in tact


This is what the worn bearings look like
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      11-15-2012, 01:48 PM   #8
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Spun bearings at 32K, I have to get serious about finding a Z06.
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      11-15-2012, 02:46 PM   #9
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That rod bearing is ugly. Likely the cause of the knock. Doesn't take much out of spec for a rod bearing to make a hell of a noise.. Hope that clears it up for you and glad you didn't ventilate the block.
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      11-16-2012, 04:41 AM   #10
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Wonder how much adding boost effects this issue??? If any??? Well.... I'm prepared to build this bitch.

Scary at such low miles BUT!!! On a possitive side I think this motor has remarkably low failure rate considering how many we're produced and also how many are tuned up. Very very low so we mustn't blow this out out of context.
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      11-16-2012, 05:23 AM   #11
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What kind of oil did you use? did you change your filter and how much oil did you put in?
It seems bizarre to me that just 500 miles after your oil change you are encountered with this issue.

How do you drive your car? any issues encountered earlier? heat issues? where does the oil needle stand on street driving as well as track driving if any.
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      11-16-2012, 12:22 PM   #12
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Any mis-shifts or over revs while you were at the track?
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      11-16-2012, 01:31 PM   #13
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Interestingly enough, I recall my first day at T-bolt and I was using 3rd/4th a lot but quickly realized I was using the wrong gears around certain areas of the track. I was redlining too often and found that I only needed to be in 3rd for heel/toe for a turn, ie the one left hander but I'd get back on 4th pretty quickly. The only other section is the sharp right leading into the octopus, and again it's a quick blip on gas, h/t from 4th to 3rd. But staying in 4th for the majority of the track with the exception of hitting 5th on the front straight gave me a lot more usable power and far less stress on the motor. Surprised your instructor didn't tell you to change your shift patterns.

Tony - hope things work out and this doesn't deter you from doing more track days in the future. Whatever happened really does sound like a freak incident. One other shop I'd consider is Northeast Motorsports in Mahwah. Both myself and gtmc have gone there in the past with good results. Mike is a standup guy and has worked on a few s54 Z4's.

My only track day woes include a bumper that looks like it was sprayed by an automatic bb gun. I told myself, one last respray and I'm finally going to clearbra the sucker. Painters tape isn't enough...
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      11-20-2012, 12:41 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tikamak View Post
What kind of oil did you use? did you change your filter and how much oil did you put in?
It seems bizarre to me that just 500 miles after your oil change you are encountered with this issue.

How do you drive your car? any issues encountered earlier? heat issues? where does the oil needle stand on street driving as well as track driving if any.
I did the oil change with friend, everything purchased from the dealer, the oil (10-60) and filter, done to spec.

I did redline a few times on the track, but the instructors are more interested in you learning smooth lines before shifting, especially when I hadn't learned heel-toe yet. I could've stayed at 4th gear the whole time, except whenever he wanted me to power out of a turn, 4th wasn't enough and I would understeer. When learning to heel-toe, I would mis-shift once in a while but always kept the clutch depressed if it didn't feel right, and got a few perfect heel-toes, albeit they were at higher rpm's.

I assume the S54 engines aren't built for beginners to learn heel-toe on :P

Still waiting to hear back from Bimmer Clinic, the bearings should have arrived.
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      11-20-2012, 02:00 PM   #15
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Would the check engine light typically come on for a spun bearing?
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      11-20-2012, 02:09 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ovaltine View Post
Would the check engine light typically come on for a spun bearing?
My service engine light came on, and an immediate OBD read said cylinder 5 misfire.
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      11-27-2012, 05:03 PM   #17
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Latest update: Bimmer Clinic replaced the bearings and put everything back together. The engine is still knocking, must be something with cylinder 5. They were never able to look at the cylinder or piston without me paying more to remove the cylinder head. Can't you look at the piston while removing the crankshaft and con-rods? Well I just wasted $1800 and the engine isn't any closer to being fixed.

Now I have to figure out what my next step is...
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      11-27-2012, 05:19 PM   #18
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Upper connecting rod bearing? One could look at the piston from below, but they unload through the top - with the cylinder head removed. I don't know that one could easily spot an upper rod bearing failure from below anyway.
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      11-27-2012, 06:58 PM   #19
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Okay a couple of things:

1. Please tell me that they have checked to see if this was a bad coil/ plug. With the mis fire code and knocking engine that should have been checked first.

2. Was the car going into limp mode or did you just get the check engine light?

3. After the rod bearings were replaced did the tech clear the codes and run the motor? If do did the code return or just the knocking?

4. Did you happen to fill up with fuel right before this happened?

5. Has the shop checked the smooth running values of the engine? If so what were they?

Also an experienced tech could remove the piston from the bottom end on these motors if he knew what he was doing
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      11-27-2012, 07:03 PM   #20
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Oh boy. This has really got me nervous. A failure like that at such low mileage is really scary.
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      11-27-2012, 07:06 PM   #21
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What F360 said, and Ovatine has good input as well.

Man, I can only imagine how you feel.

VAC Motorsports is in PA, they specialize in S54 rebuilds, racing builds, etc. Might be worth consideration, since this project seems to have an expanding scope without a clear target or clear diagnosis.

Last edited by Finnegan; 11-27-2012 at 08:12 PM.
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      11-27-2012, 07:33 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BIMMERGUY91 View Post
Oh boy. This has really got me nervous. A failure like that at such low mileage is really scary.
Yeah, but I'm guessing the problem was caused/made worse by pushing it to its limit on a track. For a non-track driver like myself, I don't think you have much to worry about.
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