G.A.S. BMW M52tu-M54 VANOS Disassembly DIY

This procedure covers the dis-assembly of the BMW M52tu and M54 VANOS system, there ia a separate DIY instruction page for the VANOS assembly and timing procedure.

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:

  • 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 the VANOS system dis-assembly procedure only. Reassembly and cam timing are covered by a different D.I.Y. page accessible from the DIY Tech Page.


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

According to the BMW Service Manual, the following disassembly needs to be completed prior to servicing the VANOS, cam sprockets, cams or timing chains:
  • Intake filter housing
  • Cooling fan. fan clutch & cowling
  • Cylinder head (valve) cover
  • Spark Plugs
  • Right coolant hose
  • Plastic cover over intake cam

These instructions assume that the you have already completed the above.

These instruction pertain to both German Auto Solutions 'M54-M52tu Cam Timing Tool Sets Use these disassembly instructions for both the Professional & Personal Cam Timing Tool Sets.


Start by setting the crankshaft to TDC. There is an alignment mark on the harmonic balancer that needs to align with the boss on the front timing cover as shown in the picture. It's a good idea to highlight the mark to make it more visible. In the picture at left I used a pick tool and some yellow paint to highlight the mark.

There are two possible positions for the crank at TDC that are 360 degrees apart. The next instruction block will show how to determine if you have the correct position.


After setting the crankshaft to TDC, check the position of the cams. Note the two holes facing up on the rear ends of the camshafts in the picture at left. If you do not see the two holes facing up you will need to rotate the crankshaft one full revolution and align the TDC marks again.

Do not proceed until you verify that the holes on the cams are facing up and the the crankshaft is at TDC.


Locate the TDC lock pin that came in the tool kit. The lock pin is inserted though the engine block on lower rear drivers side on the engine. There is a plastic plug installed into this hole by BMW to help keep dirt out of the hole. You will need to remove this plug to use the lock pin. The hole will still have some dirt and oxidation build up on the I.D. that will need to be cleaned out before installing the pin. A wire "bottle style" brush that fits into the hole works best. Clean the hole until the lock pin will slide through.


This is a view of the lock pin hole in the flywheel or automatic transmission flex plate. This is what the end of the pin needs to slide into. Verify the pin is fully engaged into the hole by trying to rotate the crankshaft with the pin installed. If you can still rotate the crank, rock the crankshaft back and forth slowly near TDC while pushing on the pin until it drops into place and locks the crank. This will be a two person job.


Unplug the electrical connectors for the exhaust cam position sensor and exhaust VANOS solenoid.


Unplug the electrical connector for the intake VANOS solenoid. Disconnect the oil feed fitting to the VANOS unit.


Remove the 2 VANOS piston access plugs using an 8mm Allen wrench or driver.


There are two plastic oil plug behind the access covers. These will be removed in the next step.


Grab the divider in the middle of the plug with some needle nose pliers, twist and pull until the plugs pop out.


This is what the plug looks like. You will want to replace the o-ring or the entire plug during reassembly. 


Using a T30 Torx driver, remove the intake and exhaust piston screws.



Left handed piston screw removed.


Next we will be removing the VANOS unit from the cylinder head. Remove the hardware securing the VANOS unit shown in the picture.

10, 11 and 13mm sockets will be required here.


Remove the VANOS unit from the cylinder head. You may need to tap it with a rubber mallet to break the gasket loose. Once removed, thoroughly clean the gasket surfaces of both the cylinder head and the VANOS unit. Remove all traces of old gasket material and RTV sealant.


Using a 10mm socket, completely loosen the six nuts shown in the picture.

Do not remove them yet


Using an E8 Torx socket, crack loose the three Torx head bolts shown in the picture.

Do not remove them yet.


Note the hole in the secondary timing chain tensioner shown in the picture. This is where you will be installing the tensioner lock pin in the next step.


Locate the tensioner lock pin that came in the cam tool kit. Press down on the secondary timing chain at the tensioner guide shoe, then insert the lock pin as shown.

You need to press the guide shoe down as far as it will go. The pin only needs to protrude far enough to overlap the shoe. The pin does not need to extend under the chain. It's a good idea to tie piece of string or wire to the loop in the lock pin to prevent the possibility of dropping it into the engine.


View of lock pin properly installed.


Remove the primary timing chain tensioner with a 32mm (1-1/4") socket or wrench.


Locate the cam lock blocks from the tool kit. Starting with the intake cam, slide the block marked "IN" over the square end of the intake cam as shown in the picture. Preview the pictures in steps 22-24 for a better view of the way the blocks need to be installed.Using a 24mm wrench at the spot shown, if necessary, slightly rock the cam forward and backward while pushing down firmly on the lock block to seat the block flush with the head surface. The block should slid on easily and be obvious when seated properly.


Repeat the process with the "EX" lock block on the exhaust camshaft. Again, go slowly, be careful, and do not force the block into place.


This is what the installed lock blocks should look like. Verify again that they are both fully seated flush with the cylinder head surface.


Locate the supplied 8mm socket head cap screw. Using a 6mm Allen wrench or driver, lightly snug the screw to lock the two blocks together


Locate the lock block clamp from the tool kit. Position the clamp over the valve cover stud as shown. Locate one of the OEM valve cover barrel nuts from the valve cover dis-assembly.


Lightly snug down the barrel nut to hold the lock blocks in place.


Remove the three already loosened 6mm hex nuts holding the intake sprocket spring washer in place.


Remove the intake sprocket spring washer.


Remove the three already loosened hex nuts holding the exhaust cam position sensor plate.


Remove the exhaust cam position sensor plate.


Remove the exhaust sprocket spring washer.


The exhaust sprocket thrust washer is a tight fit over the shoulder studs, you need to pull it off straight or rock it to keep it from binding on the studs.


Remove the exhaust sprocket thrust washer. It's definitely not critical, but you may want to mark the side that faces outward for proper reassembly. The part is symmetrical and will work properly with either side facing out. Marking it just keeps previous wear surfaces mated to their original parts.


Remove the three already loosened E8 Torx head bolts holding the exhaust cam sprocket in place, but do not remove the sprocket yet.


While holding the intake cam sprocket from sliding off the cam, remove the intake cam helix cup by pulling outward on it.

The intake and exhaust helix cups are identical, but should be reinstalled back on the cam that they were removed from. An easy way to keep them separate is to put all the intake cam parts in one plastic bag, and all the exhaust in another.


Intake cam helix cup removed.


Support the exhaust cam sprocket as you remove the exhaust cam helix cup in the same way as you did the intake.

Once the cup is removed the exhaust sprocket will try to fall forward. You want to remove the both sprockets and secondary timing chain together as an assembly, so preview the next step to see how the chain/sprocket assembly will be removed. Remove the cup, then the chain/sprocket assembly.


You remove the secondary timing chain and sprockets by grasping the outside edge of both sprockets, then pulling straight back.


Sprockets being removed.


Depending on how you grasped the exhaust sprocket in the previous step, you may have already removed this part. If not, remove the exhaust sprocket helix flange.


If you are not going to replace the secondary timing chain tensioner, intermediate timing chain guide or camshafts, you are finished with the dis-assembly. If you are going to replace any of these, proceed to the next paragraph.

Using a 10mm socket, remove the three top and one side bolt securing the secondary timing chain tensioner.


Remove the secondary timing chain tensioner.


Using an E8 Torx socket, remove the two Torx head screws securing the intermediate timing chain guide, them remove the guide.


If you are not going to remove the camshafts then you are finished with the disassembly.

If you are going to remove the camshafts, then proceed by removing the three hex studs on the exhaust cam flange with an 12mm deep well socket.


With the hex studs removed, slide the main drive sprocket toward you then down. This will give you enough slack to slip the timing chain off of the sprocket.


Using a 10mm deep well socket or wrench, remove the three intake cam hex studs shown.


Remove the intake cam position sensor plate.


You have now completed the disassembly of the VANOS system.

Refer to either the Professional or Personal Cam Tool Kit assembly and timing instructions to reassemble and time the VANOS system.