N20 vanos unit broken

image Ok here’s another vanos unit off a 2011 328 N51 engine,,,,this is the intake vanos unit that is now in several pieces,,,,the customer was just driving on the highway when the engine just lost power.image As you can see there’s is nothing special about these vanos unit,,,,when I was checking out the engine I also found the exhaust vanos unit,,,,one of the bolt were broken,,,,so I replaced both vanos unit and had to find TDC on the engine and time the engine,,,,while performing this job,,,,,I also removed the  oil pan and removed all the broken pieces from the vanos units,,,,,so they don’t roll around in the oil pan.,,,,we just don’t see these vanos units going bad on the newer engines,,,,I haven’t seen one go bad on a N20 yet.,,,,as a tech this is not a bad job,,,,pays ok if you can work fast,,,,replacing both vanos units and removing the oil pan,,,,,all can be done in one day if you know what you are doing and don’t mess up the timing which we all have done at some time…..lol

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31 Responses to N20 vanos unit broken

  1. kr4va says:

    are vanos bolts T T Y bolts?


  2. Said Turgutalp says:

    Andrea, I just found your blog looking for answers for my used/ new to me 2013 328i with N20 engine.
    Im getting error codes 120408 Charging Pressure Control: Switched off.
    130304 Vanos exhaust control fault camshaft jammed
    131401 vanos exhaust cold start not controllable
    1d2404 Map thermostat, activation, line disconnection
    CDA904 No message Status of trailer, 0X2e4 DME receiver AHM transmitter.

    I would like the tackle the Vanos issue first and go from there. I know I might be looking at replacing Vanos Actuator, central valve or the whole vanos unit. My question is, when I remove the central valve, will the timing chain or sprockets will slip their position? should I buy timing lock kit to lock the cams and cranksshaft in place?

    or can I slowly unscrew the center valve and insert a new one?

    Any input will be greatly appreciated.


  3. Ronnie says:

    Andreas first and foremost thank you for sharing your knowledge. now I have a question for you and hoping to get a direction. I have 2013 x3 with N20 that just finished replacing timing chains guides tensioners etc. due to a low oil pressure and chain noise.now iam having inlet and outlet vanos dtc . I tried to reset vanos with no success. also it has a start stall initially. unfortunately info on this N20 is almost none exist at best. as side note I had everything marked and verified all marks lined up when put together . dtc are 131401 and 131501 . your input is much apreciated


  4. Blake Ward says:

    No one knows what this CDA904 code means. 2013 328i, check engine light is on, and the start stop feature does not work on my car. When I go to accelerate now, the engine lags. Today my engine shut off while I was driving. The head mechanics at BMW Santa Monica have no idea either. Please help!


    • Ok you have a couple of things going on here,,,,that fault code just ignore,,,that fault code is a bogus fault some kind of software bug,,,,,ok you start stop function not working I don’t know without looking at the car,,,,now the car shutting off while driving sound like the fuel pump and the fuel pump relay EKPS module is going bad,,,,I would have those checked out next time.


  5. Tomelino says:

    Hi bmwtechnician,
    I want to reset the timing on my N55 but I can’t lock the Vanos units in it’s default position.
    Seems like the locking pins are stuck. Do you replace the units in such case, or do you know a trick to lose them?


    • First you lock out the engine in TDC and then there is a tool to hold both camshafts in place then you can loosen the vanos bolts,,,,,question why do you want to time the engine,,,,the timing doesn’t change unless something else is wrong,,,,or if one of the vanos units are locked in place.


      • Tomelino says:

        I had to replace the valve lifters. I have the alignment tool to lock the crankshaft, camshafts and impulse sending wheel. Usually the Vanos units lock in its “default” position when engine is turned off. There are locking pins integrated inside the units. They unlock only when oil pressure is applied. To set the timing properly you have to be sure the Vanos units are locked its end position, so it’s moving 1:1 with the camshaft. Problem is, mine aren’t locked. Seems like the locking pins inside the units are jammed …


      • I know that’s what BMW wants you to do for repairs,,,,but we never use the vanos lock out default,,,,we just lock out the flywheel,lock out both camshafts and sensor wheels on the vanos unit,,,,we tighten the chain tensioner then torque down both vanos units,,,we then turn the motor over by hand and pin the motor and vanos again to make sure everything is at TDC again.,,,I hope this helps


  6. bmwlover says:

    Hi, I have N20 with rough idle. ISTA says these errors:
    Charging pressure control: Switch-off as consequence
    Intake Camshaft: Installation faulty.
    Exhaust Camshaft: Installation faulty.
    Also after cold start also misfire error pops up. Tried test with ista for vanos solenoid test removed – solenoid stiff does not move when activated. Tried to read live camshaft sensors read – ista says that currenty no data is sent from them to DME. All wiring lines are good. What could be the problem?


  7. bmwlover says:

    Yes it does not say no signal. But when I try to test VANOS data via ISTA it gives no data, only 0. Also camshaft sensors also does not give any data to DME. It should show something like incorrect angle/position. I dont know if failing VANOS system should give any data to computer and should show somekind bad data or shouldnt show anything. Also can sparkplugs have any influence to this situation? Maybe I should replace them?


    • The spark plug have nothing to do with this problem,,,,they would cause misfires,,,I would think you should get some kind of signal from camshaft angle,,,,are you sure everything is plugged in correctly


  8. Dino says:

    Hello, My exhaust cam is retarding to the most far point , I time the engine with kit, locking crank, cam shaft and vanos. When engine starts cam shaft on exhaust goes all the way to the end. and cam shaft are not in alignment any more. I manually crank engine over few time but after start it always goes retarded on exhaust cam shaft. reference point is the same? What me be causing this? Thanks Regards


    • After you time the engine you should only turn it over by hand one time and the blocks should lock down,,,,if you turn it over a few times it will never align again that is normal.,,,my question is does the the engine run and are there any faults


  9. Merl says:

    Hello there, loving your info. Just replaced timing chain and oil pump module on n20 13 528i xdrive. Now im getting vanos inlet, outlet codes, along with vanos camshaft jammed for both intake and exhaust. Would you suspect this is more related to the software reprogram or is the timing off? I used my scope when inserting the crank pin holder and i assumed the hole in the flywheel closest to cams at tdc was the locking point, Is this correct? Thanks for any input.


    • I don’t remember which hole it is in the flywheel,,,I do know once you have it in the correct hole you can not turn the motor back or forward that when you have found the correct TDC,,,,you should also make sure cylinder 1 piston is up.


      • Merl says:

        The crank pin to hold at TDC goes through the tiny hole pointing to the rear of the car by the catalytic converter, the only thing this would be able to hold onto would be the flex plate/flywheel. And yes the crank wouldnt rotate after being inserted. Im more concerned with the multiple vanos codes which happened after the fact. There are no timing codes.


      • I would check the timing again


  10. Siddiq says:

    Hi. I bought a BMW F20 118i with N13 1.6 engine. The engine was low water damaged. Cleaned spark plugs and as the mileage was 65000 so I changed the timing chain with a TOOL also. The engine start ok. no misfiring. no hesitation. but after 3-4 minutes these fault codes with a message -Drivetrain problem – comes in the display. three fault codes are
    1; 120408 Charging pressure control: switch-off as consequence
    2: 12A701 Catalytic converter downstream oxygen sensor, electrical fault: circuit short to battery (+)
    3: 130304 VANOS (Variable camshaft timing) exhaust: control fault, camshaft stuck
    Changed the solenoid valves. Changed the exhaust VANOS. Changed the oil filter and OIL. Opened oil pan and checked pick up screen. still the same problem.
    Please advice. Thanks


    • The charge pressure fault is probably due to the the vanos fault,,,,it looks like you replaced all the general stuff already and you are sure the timing is correct,,,,,you said the engine had low water damage what does that mean,,,is it possible the exhaust camshaft is binding,,,,you might want to check the exhaust camshaft journal caps


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