G.A.S. BMW M52tu-M54 Personal Cam Timing Tools DIY

This procedure only covers the reassembly and timing of the BMW M52tu and M54 VANOS system, there is a separate DIY instruction page for disassembly and preparation.

This procedure is required if you are doing any of the following:

  • Replacing camshafts
  • Replacing primary or secondary timing chains or guides
  • Replacing cam sprockets or related components
  • Replacing cylinder head
  • Just want to reset VANOS cam timing

The following tools are required to complete this procedure:

  • German Auto Solutions Personal Cam Timing Tool Kit.
  • Quality torque wrench with a working range of 5-75 ft/lbs.
  • 10mm socket
  • 12mm deep well socket 
  • 13mm socket
  • 19mm socket
  • 22mm socket
  • 32mm socket (combination wrench or a large adjustable will work but you won't be able to torque the timing chain tensioner)
  • T30 male Torx driver ( Will need to fit the torque wrench you will be using )
  • E8 female Torx socket ( Will need to fit the torque wrench you will be using, can substitute 1/4" 6 point socket )
  • 8mm Allen driver ( Will need to fit the torque wrench you will be using )
  • 24mm open end wrench or large adjustable wrench

Recommended M54 parts replacement list with part numbers:

Required Part - Recommended Part - Recommended Based on Wear 

  • VANOS Unit Gasket - OEM Part # 11361433817
    • VANOS Piston Oil Plug with O-ring - 2 required - OEM Part # 11361433513
    • VANOS Oil Feed Fitting Sealing Washer - 2 required - OEM Part # 32411093596
    • Pri Chain Tensioner Sealing Washer - OEM Part # 07119963418
  • Secondary Timing Chain - OEM Part # 11311432177
  • Secondary Chain Tensioner - OEM Part # 11311738700
  • Intermediate Chain Guide - OEM Part # 11311722651
  • Exhaust Cam Stud - 3 required - OEM Part # 11361432373
  • Torx Head Bolt - 3 required - OEM Part # 11361432752
  • LH Thread VANOS Piston Torx Bolt - 2 required - OEM Part # 11361748745
  • Pri Chain Tensioner Spring - OEM Part # 11411706809
  • Pri Chain Tensioner Piston - OEM Part # 11311703747
  • Intake Cam Sprocket - OEM Part # 11361744263
  • Exhaust Cam Sprocket - OEM Part # 11361744262
  • Main Drive Sprocket - OEM Part # 11361438565

These instructions cover reassembly and timing only, and begin from the point of a completely disassembled VANOS system. If you are starting from a point that is less than fully disassembled, you can progress through the instructions until you find a state that applies to your situation.


Read the four paragraphs below before you begin any disassembly of your vehicle.

I HIGHLY recommend that you completely read through the entire instructions several times before you begin to familiarize yourself with the procedure. Pay close attention to the first two steps, they will need to be performed during the initial disassembly phase of the engine!

If you cannot have a computer nearby during this procedure, print off these PDF instructions. I highly recommend using a laptop computer at the vehicle location if available over using the printed PDF instructions. The ability to enlarge the pictures on a computer display will ensure that all the important detail information in the pictures will be visible.

DO NOT attempt to perform these instructions using a "Smart Phone"! The pictures contain important details that would be very difficult to view properly on the small display of a smart phone.

Make sure that you read each step fully from beginning to end before you perform any part of a step. Some steps contain multiple procedures, and some steps contain information at the end of the step, that is crucial to completing the step properly. The only time anyone ever encounters a problem when using these instructions is when they start a step before they have read the entire step through first.

Mouse over images in the instructions to view full size

These instruction pertain to the German Auto Solutions 'M54 Personal Cam Timing Tool Set'. If you are using the German Auto Solutions 'M54 Professional Cam Timing Tool Set' please refer to the instructions for that tool kit.


This should be your starting point if you followed the complete VANOS disassembly procedure outlined on this website.

Steps 2-5 further describe critical conditions that need to be in place before beginning the assembly procedure in step 6. If any of the conditions described in steps 2-5 have not been met, refer back to the dis-assembly instructions  to correct the problem before proceeding. 


Crankshaft aligned to TDC timing mark.


TDC lock pin in place.


Cams locked down using the procedure outlined in the disassembly instructions.


No primary timing chain tensioner or tool installed.


Start by locating the main exhaust cam sprocket. Find the timing arrow on the sprocket, it will be aligned to the head surface in the next step.


You need to slip the sprocket up under the timing chain and over the exhaust cam flange. Once slipped into place, rotate the sprocket counter clockwise to take up any chain slack. Compare the timing arrow location to the top surface of the cylinder head. They should line up as shown in the picture to the left. You will probably have to slide the sprocket off the cam flange several times while rotating it a link at a time until it lines up properly with the head surface. If you are not able to line up the arrow very closely with the head surface than you most likely have a worn cam chain and you should replace it. The arrow should be able to be lined up as shown in the picture.


Locate the OEM tensioner, we will be modifying it to work as a rigid tensioning tool. Slide the plunger out and remove the spring.


Locate the longer of the two aluminum pins which came in the kit. Find the end with the small protrusion, this end goes in first in the next step.


Slide the aluminum spacer pin into the tensioner plunger protrusion end first.


Slide the plunger with pin into the tensioner body. You now have an inexpensive tensioner tool.


Install the modified tensioner into the OEM tensioner location. Slowly finger tighten the tensioner body just until you feel a little tension. All you need to do here is take up the timing chain slack enough to verify that the exhaust sprocket is properly indexed to the chain.

If you need to tighten the tensioner all the way in to remove the slack in the chain, it is another indication that the chain is stretched and needs to be replaced.


Verify that the exhaust cam sprocket is still properly aligned to the cylinder head top surface. If not, fully loosen the tensioner and go back to step #7. Once you have verified proper alignment, install and torque the 3 hex studs shown in the next step to 20Nm-15ft/lb using a 12mm deep well socket. Medium strength (blue) threadlock is optional but suggested.


You will now install the middle timing chain guide. This guides both the primary and secondary timing chains. Unless you have a very low mileage car, I suggest you replace it with a new OEM guide. The guide is held in place with 2 torx head bolts. Using an E8 Torx socket,  torque to 10Nm-7ft/lb.


Locate the secondary timing chain tensioner. If the lock pin is not still in place from the disassembly procedure, compress the tensioner and install the tensioner lock pin. The secondary chain tensioner is another recommended replacement item.


Install the tensioner, first snug the 4 mounting bolts, then torque to 10Nm-7ft/lb using a 10mm socket.


Locate the exhaust cam helix flange. Note the orientation shown. The wide gap in the I.D. tooth layout faces upward.


Apply some motor oil or assembly lube to the front and back surfaces and helix splines of the flange. Apply some motor oil or assembly lube to the exhaust cam helix splines. Slide the exhaust cam helix flange over the hex studs with the wide gap in the helix splines facing upward.


This is what it should look like. I'm holding it up with my finger because it wants to fall off if you don't. You will be installing the exhaust helix cup in the next step which will allow the helix flange to stay in place on its own. You might want to have it handy before you complete this step.


Locate the exhaust helix cup. Intake and exhaust cups are identical, but if you are reinstalling used cups, it's best to keep the cups matched to the cams they came off from. Apply motor oil or assembly lube to the helix cup inside and outside splines. Line up the wide teeth on the exhaust cam helix cup with the wide gaps on the camshaft and helix flange. Install the helix cup and push in about half way. You might have to fiddle with it a little bit to get it started.


This is an easy but critical step. Lay the intake VANOS sprocket, exhaust VANOS sprocket, and secondary timing chain on the alignment sheet as shown on the left. Align the wide notch on the intake sprocket helix as shown on the sheet. While keeping the intake sprocket aligned to the sheet, keep repositioning the exhaust sprocket until they both line up with the outline. The exhaust sprocket technically does not have a front or rear so just pick a side to face up. As shown on the alignment sheet, the exhaust sprocket is symmetrical and has 3 possible correct orientations. This is hard to get wrong. If you have a one tooth misalignment it will be obvious.


Apply a film of oil or assembly lube to the front and back faces of both sprockets, the helix splines on the intake sprocket, and the helix splines on the intake cam before installation.

Preview steps 22, 23 and 24 before installing the chain and sprocket assembly. This will help you understand how the assembly will be positioned.

Grasp the chain and sprocket assembly as shown. As you lift the assembly off of the alignment sheet, keep the protruding section of the intake cam sprocket facing toward the engine. Slide the assembly onto the cams while keeping the wide notch on the intake sprocket splines facing up.


Slide the chain and sprocket assembly over the cams as shown.

Please ignore the fact that the exhaust helix cup is not shown installed in this picture. Your exhaust helix cup should be installed.


This is how it should look. Make sure everything lines up as shown in the picture.

With the wide gaps on the intake splines lined up, the oval openings in the exhaust spocket should be centered over the exhaust hex studs. If you installation does not look exactly like this, stop and find out why.


Locate the intake helix cup and apply some motor oil or assembly lube to the outside and inside helix splines. Now install the intake helix cup using the same procedure you used for the exhaust side. Push the intake cup in just until the splined section is flush with the splined section of the sprocket as shown in the picture.


Install the 3 torx head bolts as shown. Tighten them finger tight, then loosen 1/4 turn.


Locate the intake sprocket spring washer. Apply a little motor oil or assembly lube to the back face and install over the intake cam studs.

Note - the bent tabs face outward. Sometimes these will have a "FRONT" marking on the outside face.


Install the three 6mm hex nuts and finger tighten just until they contact the spring washer.


Starting with the intake helix cup, position the cups as shown in the picture. You want a little bit of the intake cup splines to be protruding as shown. After setting the intake cup, pull the exhaust helix cup ouward until it stops.

Tighten the 3 intake sprocket hex nuts until snug, then back the off 1/2 turn.

Tighten the 2 upper exhaust sprocket Torx bolts until snug, then back off just enough to break them loose. Next, snug the bottom Torx bolt, but DO NOT exceed 5 ft/lbs. Be careful that you do not disturb the helix cup position while working with the Torx bolts. You might want to pull out on the cup while tightening the bottom bolt.


Locate the VANOS unit, we will be setting it up to be used as an alignment plate.

From the camshaft side of the VANOS unit, as shown in the picture, push the intake piston in as far as it will go. Since there will probably by oil still trapped in the unit make sure that you have fully pressed the piston in until it has hit it's hard stopping point.


Locate the other aluminum spacer that was included in the tool kit. Drop the pin into exhaust piston access hole as shown. The smaller diameter end goes in first.


German Auto Solutions exhaust piston spacer pin properly installed.


Locate one of the threaded access covers and screw it in over the spacer pin. Just lightly snug into place.


Make sure that cylinder head and VANOS gasket surfaces are perfectly clean with all traces of the old gasket removed.

Any pieces of old gasket material or dirt caught between the VANOS unit and head could have a minor effect on timing accuracy. Slide the modified VANOS unit onto the cylinder head studs.

Do not try to push it all the way on yet.


Push the VANOS unit on just far enough so that it contacts the protruding helix cups. This will be approximately up to the two alignment dowels as shown in the picture.


Install two of the OEM 6mm hex nuts and one OEM 8mm stud at the locations shown, but DO NOT tighten yet. Screw them on just until they contact the VANOS unit.


In this step we will pretension the primary timing chain. The tension is not overly critical. Once all the slack is taken out of the chain, further tightening does not accomplish anything. If you severely over tighten the tensioner you could damage the timing chain or guide. The easiest way to set proper tension without over tightening, is to firmly grasp the exhaust sprocket, (the one furthest from the front of the engine, that the primary chain wraps around) and wiggle it back and forth as you tighten the tensioner. Tighten the tensioner slowly until you can no longer wiggle the exhaust sprocket, then tighten one more revolution.

Again, failure to be able to remove all the slack in the chain with the tensioner fully bottomed out against the head indicates a worn timing chain which should be replaced.


Push down on the secondary timing chain at the tensioner and remove the lock pin.


You will now slowly tighten the left hex nut, and right hex stud, to draw the VANOS unit up to the head surface. This will push the helix cups into their proper timing position.

Turn them only 1/2 turn (180 degrees) at a time, alternating between the left nut and the right stud. You do not need to tighten the bottom hex nut yet. Watch the gap between the VANOS surface and head surface, you want to close that gap equally on the left and right sides as you draw the VANOS unit up to the head. Make adjustments to your tightening pattern if necessary to keep a uniform gap as you go.

Once the VANOS unit fully contacts the head surface you can tighten the bottom hex nut. Torque the two 6mm hex nuts to 10Nm-7.5ft/lbs and the 8mm stud to 24Nm-18ft/lbs.


Using the 1/4 inch combination wrench supplied with the kit, firmly tighten the exhaust sprocket upper left torx bolt as shown.


Using the 1/4 inch combination wrench supplied with the kit, firmly tighten the exhaust sprocket upper right torx bolt as shown.


Using a 10mm wrench, firmly tighten the intake sprocket upper left hex nut as shown.


Using a 10mm wrench, tighten the intake sprocket upper right hex nut as shown.


Now remove the VANOS unit, then snug up the bottom hex nut and bottom torx bolt. Do not torque yet.

Now remove the exhaust torx bolts one at a time while leaving the other two tight to prevent any possible change in the set alignment. Clean the one removed bolt, apply blue locktite, than torque to 20Nm-15ft/lbs. Once you have one bolt torqued, remove the next and repeat the procedeure until all three torx bolts have been torqued.


Locate the exhaust sprocket thrust flange and apply a film of oil or assembly lube to both sides. It doesn't have a front or back and is another symmetrical part. If you're fussy you can usually tell which side was originally facing out by looking at the polished contact areas. The side with shinny spots on the very outside edge (like in picture) faces outward.


Slide the exhaust thrust flange over the studs as shown.

Make sure you slide the flange past the threaded portion of the studs and onto the larger round section.


Locate the exhaust sprocket spring washer. Note the side marked "F" faces outward. Slip the spring washer over the studs like the thrust flange.


Exhaust spring washer properly installed.


Locate the exhaust cam sensor position plate.

Note the orientation, it has an arrow marking like the exhaust sprocket. The arrow needs to line up with the left head surface.


Install the cam sensor position plate as shown. Install the three 6mm hex nuts and tighten a little at a time in a rotation pattern to compress the spring washer.

Do not torque them yet.


While leaving all the other hardware tight, one at a time, remove each of the 6 hex nuts, clean the threads, apply threadlock, and torque to the spec shown. Since you are only removing one piece of hardware at a time there is no danger of anything moving out of position. The BMW manual does not specify threadlock on these, but I feel that medium strength (blue) threadlock adds a margin of safety and has no down side.

Torque the 6 hex nuts to 10Nm-7.5ft/lbs.

Your cams are now properly timed.


Remove the camshaft locking blocks.


Remove the crankshaft TDC locking tool.


Remove the modified primary tensioner and replace the spacer pin with the spring (preferably a new one).  Install the OEM tensioner into the cylinder head.

Use a new sealing washer and torque to 70Nm-52ft/lbs using a 32mm socket.


Apply some RTV gasket sealer to the two areas shown in the picture. Install a new VANOS gasket over the studs and dowels, then apply some more RTV, at the same locations, on the outside face of the gasket.

I highly recommend Permatex "Ultra Grey" for all engine assembly applications where a RTV sealant is required.


Remove the German Auto Solutions exhaust piston spacer from the VANOS unit, then slide the VANOS unit into place.


Install the OEM VANOS mounting hardware and lift bracket.

Torque the 6mm hex nuts to 10Nm-7.5ft/lbs, and the 8mm stud to 24Nm-18ft/lbs.


Install the 2 LEFT HAND THREAD T30 torx head screws to secure the VANOS pistons to the helix cups. I recommend a drop of medium strength threadlock here as well.

Torque them to 10Nm-7.5 ft/lbs.


Locate the piston oil plugs. The o-rings on these tend to harden and need to be replaced. BMW does not sell the o-rings for the plugs separately. New plugs with o-rings cost less than $2.00 each. I recommend just replacing the entire plug rather than trying to find o-rings that fit the used plugs.

Apply some oil or assembly lube to the o-rings then push the plugs into the VANOS pistons until they snap into place.


Install new sealing washers on the access plugs, then install and torque the plugs to 50Nm-37ft/lbs using an 8mm Allen driver.


Reconnect the exhaust cam position sensor plug and the exhaust VANOS solenoid plug.


Install the intake VANOS solenoid plug and the VANOS oil feed line. Use new sealing washers on the oil feed fitting.

Torque the oil fitting to 32Nm-24ft/lbs using a 19mm socket.

You are now finished with the VANOS system timing and assembly.