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Old 11th December 2009, 09:54 PM   #1
m thriller
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Default E46 M3 Headgasket Problems...... Buying a High Mileage M3?

I thought i'd start this thread for some of the newbies and oldies who may be unaware of headgasket issues on the s54 engine as it can be a expensive problem to fix.

Don't panic as it isn't very common at the moment because most cars are still under 100k miles, but i bet u it will become more aparrent as the cars get older with higher miles.

So if your looking at buying a e46 m3 with higher (even low miles) this is one thing u should check for and i will explain below how to diagnose the problem.

A couple years ago when i bought my 1st e46 m3 it had this annoying rattle, which was more noticable in the higher gears between 3-5k.
I took it everywhere including Sytner main dealers in brum (Stupid tech said it was engine bearings and engine was knackered because it had 130k on it!) with no success apart from being told it was vanos/chain tensioner/ ICV/ bad bearings etc etc.
Their were tuners who wanted X amounts of money to investigate the problem but already knew what it was from the symptons.
After 2 months of faffing about luckily a guy hit me and i got rid of the car.

See this original thread about my last M and symptons it suffered:
http://forums.m3cutters.co.uk/showthread.php?t=756

I have personally seen 4 cars which have had this problem and because off this recent thread below, i was reminded and thought i'd start this thread.

http://forums.m3cutters.co.uk/showthread.php?t=8811

As mentioned before, the rattling is the car pinking (det) and as i used to mess around with jap cars i knew this sound but was a newbie to the s54 and kept getting told that they make all kinds of sounds.
I even took my last M to a trackday at Donnington thinking it might be carbon but was baffled as i drove home and the pinking/rattling dissapered so thought this was true and all my probs had been sorted, but the following day the noise came back.
Luckily as above got rid of that car.

Anyway moving on a year or so i bought my current e46 M with over 100K miles.
Everything was fine but after about 3k miles i swear could hear a very faint ratttle, similar to my last M but alot quieter.
I only picked this up because i knew the sound from my last M and am very sensitive to iregular noises from the car.
U will hear this nosie mainly from 3rd gear upwards with only about 1/4 of throttle pressed accelerating between 3-5k as the engine noise gets so loud u wont hear anything past the rasp.
Funnily enough, if u boot it at FULL throttle it doesnt make this sound and what most people do when they test drive and think all is good.

If u dont know what det/pinking is, basically it sounds like marbles being shaken in a jar or spoons rattling on top of your engine....not good!
If u are getting pinking and no fault codes come, do a compression test.
This will show u if any of the cyclinders are loosing compression as per the recent thread above.
If u get 2 adjacent cyclinders with low pressure then u will most likely have a split their.
If this problem i not rectified, it can screw the head up and that means $$$$!
I have personally only seen this problem on cars over 100K miles including both mine and a mates vert.
The gasket is very thin between the cyclinders only a few mm thick and with miles gets brittle and cracks causing loss of power and compression.

The attachment is a pic of my mates headgasket, which he didnt even relise was cracked but i noticed when i drove his car.
His was extremely bad and was cracked between almost every cyclinder becasue he had been driving it like that for the last 4k miles!
His head was slightly warped so needed to be skimmed.
I had mine replaced early, so head was ok and below is a list of parts i had needed for the fix.

Parts needed to repair if head is ok from what i can remember:

headgasket
headbolts
vanos gasket
oil+filter
coolant
inlet and exhaust manifold gaskets
throttle bodie clips
.............................i had other few bits like chain tensioner/guide rails and oil pressure valve replaced because of mileage.

It cost me approx 700 to get it sorted including labour by my Indy who i know very well.
Was getting qouted 900-1300 for the same job without the extra few bits i had done from some tuners and Sytner wanted to replace the fecking engine!
I had my head de-coked/cleaned and then fitted and before my indy took the head off even he didnt think it could be the headgasket.
So as u can probably work out, this is another potential problem which u should look out with higher mile cars.
Fingers dead from typing lol!
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Last edited by m thriller; 11th December 2009 at 10:04 PM.
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Old 12th December 2009, 12:30 AM   #2
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P.s.forgot to mention if u end up doing this it is a good time to get your valve clearances checked.
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Old 12th December 2009, 12:40 AM   #3
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excellent thread rep added,
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Old 12th December 2009, 12:55 AM   #4
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Very informative info, rep added, love the quote below too

Quote:
Originally Posted by m thriller View Post
His head was slightly warped so needed to be skimmed.
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Old 12th December 2009, 01:28 AM   #5
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Hopefully may save someone alot of time and hassle...............can it be made a sticky or added to the buyers guide?
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Old 12th December 2009, 01:30 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DoZZa View Post
Very informative info, rep added, love the quote below too
Trust me.......he's head is warped lol!
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Old 12th December 2009, 01:46 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m thriller View Post
Trust me.......he's head is warped lol!

In more ways than one
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Old 12th December 2009, 10:30 AM   #8
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Excellent, rep added!

Is the det very noticeable or faint? as the engine ticks a lot from factory
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Old 12th December 2009, 10:42 AM   #9
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The pinking sound is different to nomal ticking, sounds like pebbles rattling and u have to be listening for it to hear it when it first starts happening although will get louder as it gets worse.
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Old 12th December 2009, 11:08 AM   #10
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what is the prevention of headgasket going in the first place.
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Old 13th December 2009, 12:34 AM   #11
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Nothing mate, it just gets brittle with age and all the heat cycles and cracks.......................as they say..$hit happens!

U never get the normal symptons like oil/water mixing or overheating and infact most people wouldn't really notice unless listening for it.
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Old 13th December 2009, 11:03 AM   #12
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So you hear excessive tappety type of sound in the higher gear at normal revs?
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Old 13th December 2009, 11:45 AM   #13
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Pinking is the sound when you run your ///M on 95 oct when pulling away.
When the headgasket is gone this sound is the same but will be a lot louder.
Its just your fuel and ignition out of time with compression
+ 1 on the rep
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Old 26th December 2009, 10:27 PM   #14
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i have never put 95 oct in an M. Always run on 98 or BP97.

I guess it is tappety and things are not in tune.
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Old 15th January 2010, 09:03 PM   #15
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very helpfull as my car is getting on and the miles are mounting up!
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Old 17th January 2010, 12:32 AM   #16
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was just outside walking the dog when an 03 plate cab came past me rattling like its exhaust was full of marbles!! safe to say his car has serious pinking issues.
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Old 17th January 2010, 01:19 AM   #17
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nice write up

had my head gasket go after 65k miles, same symptoms but thought it may have been caused by injectors being old and running inefficiently and lean

cylinder 5/6 gasket was worse but the other positions was going as well
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Old 17th January 2010, 01:52 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shimmy View Post
nice write up

had my head gasket go after 65k miles, same symptoms but thought it may have been caused by injectors being old and running inefficiently and lean

cylinder 5/6 gasket was worse but the other positions was going as well
First one i heard off going at 65k!
Funny thing is, when u mention headgaskets going no one believes you lol!
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Old 17th January 2010, 03:43 AM   #19
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Nice one i think you may save a lot of guys a lot of hassle and cost with this thread +1
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Old 17th January 2010, 09:03 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m thriller View Post
First one i heard off going at 65k!
Funny thing is, when u mention headgaskets going no one believes you lol!
IT HAS HAD A HARD LIFE
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