RE: BMW M3 (E90): PH Fleet

Friday 12th April

BMW M3 (E90): PH Fleet

One month in, and guess which bit of the M3 is requiring the most attention? Clue: it revs



In my first report on the newly acquired M3, I mentioned that the rod bearings are a known issue on the S65 4.0-litre V8. To recap, because of the engine's characteristics (like that 8,400rpm redline), it needs some pretty special 10W-60 oil. For a frame of reference, that's same oil that you'd find in the in the sump of a Bugatti Veyron.

The downside of this oil (aside from it being expensive) is that when cold it is very thick. This, combined with extremely tight tolerances on the rod bearings of the motor, mean that if you rev the car hard from cold, you can do some serious damage. What's worse, this doesn't happen immediately. Instead the problem manifests itself much later, the V8 working absolutely perfectly right up until it doesn't, and you find yourself stranded as traffic runs over the oily remains of your recently liberated engine internals.


Aside from asking the previous owner if they diligently warmed the car up before making use of that mighty rev limit (which I did), the only way to tell if the bearings might be worn is with an oil sample analysis, although the results of these should also be taken with a pinch of salt. Nonetheless, as mentioned last month I sent away a sample to Millers Oil's lab, the princely sum of £29 seemingly worth it for the peace of mind I'd get from knowing my car wasn't showing any symptoms of rod bearing failure. Or was.

In short, the oil analysis showed very high levels of copper and lead in the oil. Copper is what bearings are made of, once the lead outer shell has been worn away at least, the wear more often than not caused by - no prizes for guessing - using 8,000 revs from cold. Brilliant.


If you scour the internet for discussions on this subject (and believe me, I have) there are extremely mixed views. On the one hand, the actual number of failures are fairly low so people think you should just get on and enjoy the car and not worry about it. On the other, there is a school of thought that says that for £1,400 you can have the bearings replaced and - as long as you let the car warm up - you'll never have to worry about the motor again, which is very reliable aside from this issue.

For me personally, I just couldn't live with the fear of the engine letting go; it was stressing me out and spoiling ownership of the car. I immediately did some research and got the car booked in at well-known BMW maestros Evolve Automotive for the bearings to be replaced, and whilst I waited for the appointment I introduced a temporary 4,500rpm rev limit, such was my paranoia of catastrophic engine failure.


Evolve have replaced hundreds of sets of rod bearings in E90 M3s (and E60 M5s, which suffer the same issue - not surprising given that the engines are very closely related). They also have a reputation for building some absolutely wild McLaren 720S-beating-M5s, so to say they're qualified for the job is somewhat of an understatement. After dropping the car in to them and having a good look around their huge fleet of aforementioned bonkers demonstrator cars, I returned home with bated breath to find out just how accurate that oil sample had been.

Evolve carried out the work quickly and efficiently, keeping me up to date with how they were progressing as they stripped the engine down and replaced the rod bearings and engine mounts, which are always replaced at the same time as they are nearly as inaccessible as the bearings themselves.


Now, in my experience, when someone tells you that something is "not the worst they've ever seen", it usually means that it is, in fact, the worst that they've seen - they're just being polite. And, as you'll see from the pictures, the bearings that came out of the car were, and forgive me for getting technical, more rogered than a policeman's radio. There is obviously no way to tell how long they'd have lasted, but I can tell you with absolutely confidence that my drive home from Evolve (and every drive in the car since) has been absolutely brilliant. Where previously there was stress, now there is only joy, the mix of acceleration and noise at 8,400rpm is something that I can't see myself getting tired of. Right now, it feels like money very well spent.

With the car now mechanically fit and healthy (aside from soon needing some new rear brakes), time spent with the M3 has been fantastic. So fantastic, in fact, that I felt like the car deserved some pampering to make it look as good as it drives. I personally really enjoy cleaning cars, but with a young family and a busy life, I never seem to have time to do it 'properly'. Professional help was needed.


Smart Mobile car detailing are a young business who are completely mobile and offer both one-off detailing, or a regular subscription service to keep customer's cars looking their best. I was a little worried before they were due to arrive as the car was absolutely filthy, but owner and operator, Nick, is clearly one of those people that take great pleasure from getting really dirty cars really, really clean. And I'm not judging him for that!

Starting with the obligatory snow foam, Nick got to work the usual process of cleaning every nook and cranny, then using a clay bar, followed by about a million tiny steps and finishing with a polish - the end result looked incredible. Perhaps more surprising was how well the interior came up; after deep cleaning the leather and hoovering the interior to within an inch of its life, the cabin genuinely looked like new. Things like this are so hard to show on camera, but I can't believe that the car looked much better when it rolled out of the dealership for the first time back in 2008.


In the end Nick spent over six hours on the car, which for £200 seems like incredible value, especially given how much better a job he has done than I ever could have, and the fact it would have taken me five times longer. Perhaps better still is the 'top up wash' they offer for just £30. This is a proper, professional wash for the same price as a petrol station 'manned car wash', just without the gravel-laden sponges and from the comfort of your own home or place of work.

As the car sits on my driveway now it looks superb, and it is now well and truly ready for some road trips I am planning over the coming weeks. Every time I have an excuse to spend time in the car I jump at it, and to me that is truly the sign of a driver's car. More on that next time.



FACT SHEET
Car:
2008 BMW M3 (E90)
Run by: James Drake
Bought: February 2019
Mileage at purchase: 35,555
Mileage now: 37,693
Last month at a glance: With the engine in rude health and the paint back to its best, James prepares for a summer of M3 loving

Previous reports:
A sensible, four-door family car, you say? James has just the thing...


Author
Discussion

FoxtrotOscar1

Original Poster:

383 posts

49 months

Friday 12th April
quotequote all
Im sorry.

35k miles and needing integral engine work?

chris116

739 posts

108 months

Friday 12th April
quotequote all
Surprised at the condition with those miles, expected the mileage to be more like 70/80k. I bet that's a relief!

Krikkit

14,778 posts

121 months

Friday 12th April
quotequote all
FoxtrotOscar1 said:
Im sorry.

35k miles and needing integral engine work?
BMW fked up with this engine series and used stupidly tight bearing clearances compared to the previous generations. I seem to remember reading it was around half the clearance that's widely accepted in the industry, and used on previous engines.

No-one can really explain why except perhaps to wring out a few more hp from the engines... But it leads to this.

As noted above it can be exacerbated by revving hard from cold, but it's still a piss poor piece of design.

yonex

13,579 posts

108 months

Friday 12th April
quotequote all
yikes the state of those bearings, very, very wise to rectify that. As far as the 'reliable apart from', I will wager that your throttle bodies will be knackered by 50-60K , so factor those in when looking at things to address.

Fabulous things though, after you've upgraded the brakes wink

Jonny_gti

139 posts

20 months

Friday 12th April
quotequote all
Guess you should budget that money aside when buying one of these for that peace of mind. Least you know its been done now.
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James Drake

2,652 posts

57 months

Friday 12th April
quotequote all
yonex said:
yikes the state of those bearings, very, very wise to rectify that.
Indeed - I'm so glad I got them done

yonex said:
As far as the 'reliable apart from', I will wager that your throttle bodies will be knackered by 50-60K , so factor those in when looking at things to address.
Fortunately (for me) one bank went just before I bought it, so they have both already been rebuilt and have a lifetime warranty.

yonex said:
Fabulous things though, after you've upgraded the brakes wink
One thing at a time, but for now I'm just enjoying driving it without living in fear of catastrophic engine failure!



alec.e

1,114 posts

64 months

Friday 12th April
quotequote all
Crazy, I REALLY want one of these or prefferably the V10 M6, was hoping that if I buy at around 70k miles then they *should* be ok - apparently not!

I guess budgeting the cost of the bearings when buying is the answer.

Would oil testing pick up impending failure?

Ares

8,218 posts

60 months

Friday 12th April
quotequote all
Lovely car/Lovely engine.....but these mechanical dramas when the engine is barely run in, is another reason why highly tuned NA engines are slowly being replaced by turbo lumps.

yonex

13,579 posts

108 months

Friday 12th April
quotequote all
Ares said:
Lovely car/Lovely engine.....but these mechanical dramas when the engine is barely run in, is another reason why highly tuned NA engines are slowly being replaced by turbo lumps.
Yes, but what's the average lifetime costs of a turbocharged engine, or a twin charged engine, covered in various clever re-circulatory devices to reduce emissions? That sort of money is hardly a big deal in the great scheme of E90 M3 ownership.

Onehp

964 posts

223 months

Friday 12th April
quotequote all
So... no need to run in those rod bearings then, already hammering them on the way home?

Z28DUNC

146 posts

90 months

Friday 12th April
quotequote all
I know these are every so slightly better to drive but my money would be going on a ISF. So much less to go wrong.

Cable

208 posts

123 months

Friday 12th April
quotequote all
Ares said:
Lovely car/Lovely engine.....but these mechanical dramas when the engine is barely run in, is another reason why highly tuned NA engines are slowly being replaced by turbo lumps.
The Lexus NA 5L V8 is a lovely thing and pretty much bomb proof.

Ares

8,218 posts

60 months

Friday 12th April
quotequote all
Cable said:
Ares said:
Lovely car/Lovely engine.....but these mechanical dramas when the engine is barely run in, is another reason why highly tuned NA engines are slowly being replaced by turbo lumps.
The Lexus NA 5L V8 is a lovely thing and pretty much bomb proof.
The Lexus NA V8 isn't really highly tuned though is it.

greenarrow

1,578 posts

57 months

Friday 12th April
quotequote all
Reading this article makes me pretty annoyed.

Annoyed because its yet another BMW product with potential catastrophic flaws which affect the engine and also annoyed because on the Jaguar XE thread, people were flaming JLR over their supposed awful reliability.

Obviously its a lovely car, but how do the Germans continue to shrug off this sort of story and continue to sell their cars by the bucket-load. If this was a story about a faulty Jag or Alfa we wouldn't hear the end of it.

Ares

8,218 posts

60 months

Friday 12th April
quotequote all
yonex said:
Ares said:
Lovely car/Lovely engine.....but these mechanical dramas when the engine is barely run in, is another reason why highly tuned NA engines are slowly being replaced by turbo lumps.
Yes, but what's the average lifetime costs of a turbocharged engine, or a twin charged engine, covered in various clever re-circulatory devices to reduce emissions? That sort of money is hardly a big deal in the great scheme of E90 M3 ownership.
Well they seldom need an engine rebuild at 35k!!

James Drake

2,652 posts

57 months

Friday 12th April
quotequote all
Onehp said:
So... no need to run in those rod bearings then, already hammering them on the way home?
It's a valid point, and luckily one I thought of too. Evolve's advice was that the rod bearings do not require the engine to be run in again; you've just got to make sure it is warm before you rev it. Apparently it is not uncommon for them to put a car with brand new rod bearings straight onto their dyno! Having said that, I like to think I have plenty of mechanical sympathy so I did actually complete a few hundred gentle miles to be on the safe side before I started really stretching it's legs - but to be clear Evolve said that this wasn't strictly necessary.

Ares

8,218 posts

60 months

Friday 12th April
quotequote all
greenarrow said:
Reading this article makes me pretty annoyed.

Annoyed because its yet another BMW product with potential catastrophic flaws which affect the engine and also annoyed because on the Jaguar XE thread, people were flaming JLR over their supposed awful reliability.

Obviously its a lovely car, but how do the Germans continue to shrug off this sort of story and continue to sell their cars by the bucket-load. If this was a story about a faulty Jag or Alfa we wouldn't hear the end of it.
I guess the difference is that the BMW is a highly tuned niche performance model where you expect increased care/running costs. The Jag is a run-of-the-mill standard model.

J4CKO

26,868 posts

140 months

Friday 12th April
quotequote all
£1400 doesn't sound that bad and at least the engine doesnt need to come out.

Sort of seems unfair really, first owners of M3's tend not to be quite as diligent as later, enthusiast ones, so they batter it from cold and then some poor sod down the line gets to either get this done, or sweep their engine off the road.




Cable

208 posts

123 months

Friday 12th April
quotequote all
Ares said:
The Lexus NA V8 isn't really highly tuned though is it.
Iunno, 12.3:1 compression, 480hp and 96hp per litre vs the BMW's 12.0:1 compression, 414hp and 103 per litre seems like a similar level of tune to me.

yonex

13,579 posts

108 months

Friday 12th April
quotequote all
Ares said:
Well they seldom need an engine rebuild at 35k!!
Likely not, but you enter E90 M3 ownership knowing full well that it's not going to be a cheap car to run. This wasn't an 'engine rebuild' it was the bearings, a known issue, as are the actuators.

My point is when I had mine it averaged 20 mpg, wore rear tyres at an average of 9-10K and needed the brakes sorting out. Factor in tax and insurance.....

£1400 for the bearings isn't too bad considering the running costs generally. It shouldn't happen, but it does seem a uniquely German thing to be able to get away with it, presumably because BMW (at least) look after you pretty well if it's an AUC.