BMW E61 535xiT Wagon - Turbo Replacement, Cooling and VANOS Repairs

My 5 Series wagon just hit 185,000 km (115,000 miles), and I've had an engine light (low boost error) for the past 4,000 km. A trip to the dealer confirmed that I had a worn waste gate bushing. corroborated by the unmistakable waste gate rattle sound on acceleration. I was returning from a camping trip with the kids and I got on the phone with Turner Motorsports and discussed the turbo replacement options.
N54 Front Turbo Oil Leak
I decided to replace the turbos with new Mitsubishi OEM units - identical to the BMW part but at half the price.I thought about what work I would do while having the front end apart, and I added the following to the work order:

1. Walnut blast the intake valves;
2. Replace the radiator, expansion tank, thermostat and upper / lower coolant hoses (due to the damage to the radiator fins behind the grille and age). I've already replaced the coolant pump about 2 years ago;
3. Replace the VANOS (variable valve timing system) solenoids;
4. Replace all the drive train fluids - engine, transmission, transaxles
5. Ignition - plugs and coils
6. Do a good inspection and replace any leaking drive train seals.

I'll have to keep the car for another 5 years to justify the investment, no worries considering the later 5 series wagons are no longer imported to North America, and the E63 AMG wagon is a bit out of my snack bracket... I figured this project would justify the purchase of some new tools, so number one on the list was a Quickjack car lift system. I went with the BL-5000 EXT - which I measured to fit just long enough to hit the lift points on the 5 series wagon.

Setting up the Quickjack lift took about an hour - you have to add the quick connect fittings to the ends of the the hydraulic hoses and pumps, fill the reservoir with hydraulic fluid or transmission oil, and test the system. Everything went together smoothly, with no leaks from any of the hose connections.

Quickjack BL-5000 EXT unboxed and ready for assembly

Ready for the first lift with the Quickjack
With the lift tested - and with the engine and transmission still warm - I proceeded with a compression test of all cylinders before dropping the engine and transmission oil.

Engine covers, air filter housing and intake duct work removed to access the plugs, coils and throttle valve.
I removed the covers and intake in order to remove the coils and plugs, and access the throttle valve to be able to jam it open with a plastic pry tool. I also removed the fuel pump fuse - #72 on this car, so that I wouldn't be injecting fuel while doing the compression test. Everything went smoothly - starting with removal of the cabin air filter housings, the cowl cover, the engine cover and finally the air filter housing.
Three of the coils had been replaced last year along with a leaking valve cover. I'll be replacing all coils as a set, along with new plugs. 

My 10 year old daughter held my iPhone and took videos of the compression gauge during each test - so that I could see the results after cranking the engine. Results of the compression test are as follows, from cylinder 1 to 6:

170, 170, 165, 175, 170, 175 psi.

All in all - not bad variation - in spec for this vehicle. I wanted to make sure I wasn't wasting my time and money replacing the turbos...

With the compression test done, I drained the engine oil and transmission oil - and sampled both to send out for oil analysis. I'm interested to see the condition of the oil, particularly the lifetime transmission fluid, and to get some indication if there is any abnormal wear.

Oil bottles with samples ready to ship to the lab.
One thing I did find was lots of oil in the main intake pipe at the throttle body. This could be an indication of oil leaking from the bearings in the turbochargers - another indication that the turbos are ready to be replaced.

Lots of motor oil in the intake piping. 
I'll probably be at this project for a week or two - so I'll be doing regular updates as the work progresses.

Sources and Links

I hope you found this post useful. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below. I answer all questions. If you're interested, you can help support this site by using the following links to in the United States. Turbo parts were supplied by Turner Motorsports. Other parts were supplied by Pelican, BMW Park Avenue in Brossard, and eEuroparts. Oil analysis by Blackstone Labs.


Can anyone identify this Dining Room Table Extension Leaf Catch?

I've done a few google image searches to try to find a vendor selling this hardware, or anything similar, to no avail. This hardware is from a dining room table fabricated in Italy, approximately 15 years ago. This is the catch that holds the extension leaf gap closed.

Table Extension Leaf Catch - Seeking Vendor Source

Table Extension Leaf Catch - Seeking Vendor Source

Table Extension Leaf Catch - Seeking Vendor Source
If anyone out there recognizes this hardware, please leave a comment below, or send me a message. Many thanks!!!


Heat Gun with 2 Heat Settings, Which is High and Low?

I've got a decent Black and Decker 120V heat gun, with two heat settings marked "1" and "2" on the switch. However, there is no clear mention of which setting is high heat, and which setting is low heat. I don't use the heat gun regularly, so if I had to use it on low heat to avoid melting something, I would flick the switch back and forth to try to figure out which setting was the low heat setting.

I finally got tired of this routine, and took 5 minutes to figure this out and label the heat gun for clarity.
500W setting - Measured using the Kill-a-Watt
 I have a Kill a Watt energy meter, so it was quite simple to connect the heat gun, switch the Kill a Watt meter display to instantaneous power (Watts), and flick the switch back and forth to determine that switch position 1 is 500W, and switch position 2 is 1000W.
1000W setting - Measured using the Kill-a-Watt
I have a Brother TZ label maker in my garage toolbox, 30 seconds later I had the heat gun labelled for clarity. No more uncertainty as to what switch position is low, and what switch position is high. Nice.

Sources and Links

I hope you found this post useful. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below. I answer all questions. If you're interested, you can help support this site by using the following links to in the United States.


Self Closing Yard Gate Upgrade - TruClose Hinges & MagnaLatch for Pool Safety

I wanted to upgrade my yard gates to be self closing to increase safety for our backyard pool. Our galvanized steel fence is 4' high, and the two gates to the yard were hinged with two pins into support plates and the latches needed to be manually opened or closed. With the kids going in and out of the yard all the time, it was not uncommon to find the gates left open, despite the warnings to the kids. 

So - it was finally time to take care of this project. 
The completed MagnaLatch and Truclose Latch and Hinge Installation
I decided to go with Magnalatch top pull safety gate latches, and their TruClose gate hinges. These are available at Lee Valley Tools, mail order, among other suppliers. This was going to take some work - because my gates did not have a full frame, the frame was open on the hinge side. So - I went to my local metal supplier and purchased a length of 1-1/2" galvanized square tubing, took it to a local welding shop, and had the tubes welded to the gates to close the frames.
Gates modifed with square tubing (on right side) to permit installation of the TruClose hinges.
Detail of the Welding.
With the gates modified, it was time to cut off the old hinge and latch hardware - first with a jigsaw and metal blade, then grind the remaining metal and weld off with a grinder.
Gate latches ground off.

Gate hinge and latch weldments cut off the gates and posts
I got to exercise a few new tools with this project, my Dewalt 20V angle grinder and reciprocating saw. I'm almost now fully converted to Dewalt 20V cordless tools - and have pretty much sold off most of my corded tools.
Dewalt 20V Grinder and Reciprocating Saw - They still have that new tool smell. 

The convenience of cordless is really apparent when you're working around the yard in various places.
Time to start grinding
With the gates squared away, I painted the areas affected by welding and where the tabs were ground off with some spray galvanizing compound. Then it was a simple matter to install the hinges and latches using the instructions provided. Sharp drills, using the hardware supplied, made for a very secure installation.

MagnaLatch top pull magnetic latch installed. 

Another view of the MagnaLatch top pull installed. The top pull was adjusted so that it was 54" above the ground for security.
All of the grinding, cutting and welding was touched up with cold galvanizing spray - it's a zinc rich coating that's designed to maintain the zinc cathodic protection on steel parts.

TruClose hinges installed. The cap with phillips screw removes to give access to the spring adjustment knob. You can easily increase or decrease spring pressure for reliable closing. 
The back fence isn't quite vertical - but I was able to increase the spring pressure of the hinges to firmly close this gate even with a slight uphill slope on the gate travel. The hinge adjustment is impressive. 


So - one more project completed. A nice feature of the MagnaLatches is that they are key lockable, so if I need to I can lock the gates closed. Very well made, professional grade hardware, I'm very satisfied with these latches.

Sources and Links

I hope you found this post useful. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below. I answer all questions. If you're interested, you can help support this site by using the following links to in the United States.


Adding Trailer Light Harness to the BMW 5 Series E60 E61 Touring

I've had my 1 1/2" trailer hitch installed for three years now, I use it regularly with my receiver mount bike rack, but everytime I needed to tow - I needed to use the Subaru Outback because I never got around to installing the wiring. So - camping trip with the kids planned for this summer, so I was forced to get on the lighting controller installation.
Vehicle connections are on the left side - black - 12V, green - right turn, red - stop, yellow - left turn, brown - tail, white - ground.

Curt Powered, Circuit Protected Taillight Converter, Trailer connections right side, vehicle connections left side.
I thought I'd post a few tips to help anyone out with selecting tapping points for the lighting controller.

Green lead on the Curt adapter - right turn - I found the blue / brown wire to the right signal light right at the connector to the right side signal light connector, just above the trunk battery. 
Stop light (red wire) connected to White / Brown and Running Lights (Brown Wire) connected to Black / Brown at the right rear signal light connector

Ensuring a good ground - scuffing the paint around the ground lead connection to bare metal

Reverse lights (not needed for the Curt adapter, but used in the 7 pin plug connection) in the wiring harness above the battery, right rear of the trunk, white / yellow wire. This is also useful for tying in a reverse light camera. 

Use a bit of aluminum foil to deflect heat from the heat gun when shrinking the butt crimp connectors, to protect trim and other wiring. 

Following installation - neaten up the installation with some black PVC wire wrap. 
And that's all there is to it. Once installed, make sure you test to make sure all is working correctly. You can purchase these inexpensive testing plugs online, this one is made by Curt as well.

Light testing adapter. Running lights / stop and turn signal combination lights. 

2 Year Update

Still working perfectly. Did a cross country tent trailer camping trip with the kids - everything worked great. Good quality parts. 

Sources and Links

I hope you found this post useful. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below. I answer all questions. If you're interested, you can help support this site by using the following links to in the United States.


Installing the Tekonsha P3 Brake Controller in the 5 Series BMW E60 E61 Touring

Let's get the first question out of the way... Why? I've had my 2010 BMW 535xiT for almost 5 years now, and there is no sign that BMW will be importing the next generation 5 series wagon to North America - so I've decided to keep the BMW and run it into the ground. I purchased it at 78,000km, I'm at 175,000km now - averaging about 20,000km per year, so I figure I'll take it to at least 300,000km and really get my money's worth out of it. So - I already had the 1 1/2" receiver hitch installed and get routine service out of it with the bike rack, and I decided to properly set up the car for towing. There's going to be the guys out there that will say you should go out and get yourself an F150 or the like - and I've thought about this quite a bit. The 535xiT weighs 4100 pounds, has 300HP, and most importantly, 300 torques all the way from 1500 to 5000 rpm. Plenty for towing up to 3000lbs with the correct hitch. Oh - and the 535 touring is also equipped with airbag rear suspension, on board air compressor and self levelling suspension control.

The completed Tekonsha P3 Brake Controller Installation, Console Mounted, Passenger side of the Shifter
So - on we go.

Locating the controller - you want the controller within sight and reach of the driver, to be able to actuate the manual brake lever on the bottom of the unit for testing and calibration. One limitation of this controller is that it has to be aligned with the travelling direction of the vehicle (display perpendicular to the direction of travel) so that the inertial sensors work properly. The unit can be rotated up or down a full 360 degrees as long as the unit is aligned along the travelling axis. I originally thought I would install the unit under the drivers side dashboard (below the steering wheel) and there were a few nice options to do so - however - there is almost no clearance below the wheel between the drivers legs. You could easily avoid the unit installed under the steering wheel, but if you ever got in an accident, the placement of the control unit under the steering wheel could really mess up your knees - so - I looked for a better alternative.

I did a quick search on cell phone mounts for the E60 / E61 and found a nice placement to the right (passenger side) of the shifter - so I decided to fabricate a bracket out of aluminum sheet.

First step in bracket fabrication - hook over the leather border on the console, fit into the gap between the wood trim and the console edge. 
Final shape of the bracket, with a small hook to fit under the carpet trim on passenger side of the cabin. 

I glued a baseplate to the top of my bracket to take the screws from the Tekonsha mounting bracket, using isocyanate glue
You can see where the second Neodymium magnet will be fastened to the bracket - make sure you mark the rotation of the magnet with the correct field orientation - so when you mound the magnet on the back side of the bracket, it will engage with the hidden magnet with full force (N to S, S to N). 
 Now - onto wiring. The brake controller needs a battery connect, a ground connection, a brake signal from the brake light switch, and a switched line back to the back of the car, the brake connection on the trailer connector. I first tackled the brake light signal. This took a whole lot longer than what I expected, because the brake pedal switch on the BMW E60 / E61 is not connected directly to the brake lights. It's a double pole switch which switches to ground on one pole, and switches a signal between two control boxes - comfort access and lighting control module. So - I decided against tapping into the brake light switch wiring and tap into the brake light wiring instead.

There are four brake light bulbs on the 5 series BMW, and a single high mount brake light. Since the BMW has a light bulb failure detection feature, each individual light bulb has it's own feeder wire. That means that five separate brake light wires go from the lighting control module located up front to the left of the brake pedal, all the way to the back of the car. I decided to tap into the larger of the two brake light wires feeding the left rear brake light bulbs, this wire is 0.75mm diameter, gray wire with green stripe. I found this wire on the way out of the lighting control module.
Gray wire, green stripe, leaving connector to lighting control module. I've cut the wire and tapping the signal wire which will run to the Tekonsha P3 stop signal (red wire). 
By the way - there are two gray wires with green stripes in this section of harness, one is larger than the other, you need to tap into the thicker wire (0.75mm diameter). Don't ask me how I found this out.
Heat shrink butt crimp connectors - I use two layers of aluminum foil to protect the rest of the wires in the harness from overheating. 
 Now - I needed 20A feed, and a good ground. Just to the right of the center console, on the passenger side of the car, there is a conventional 12V power outlet up underneath the dashboard. Instead of tapping a new fuse on the fuse box behind the glove box, I simply crimped two space connectors on the Tekonsha harness and tapped into the connector for the 12V power outlet. Brown wire on the car harness is ground - connect to the white wire of the Tekonsha harness, and the other wire is the battery feed (12V) to the black wire on the Tekonsha harness. SIMPLE AND QUICK!!

12V power and ground - I just removed the connector from the passenger side 12V power outlet, and tapped into the connector using standard crimp on spade connectors. 
 Next - you have to run a minimum 14gauge wire back to the trailer connector. I ran this wire along the passenger side of the car. Pelican parts has some nice tutorials on how to remove the door sill trim - really useful - just google them - and I ran the wire along underneath all the door sill trim.
Use a coat hanger to help run the wires through B pillar trim without removing the trim piece

Tape the wire you're pulling to a section of coat hanger wire - to help feed the wire under the luggage compartment side wall trim.

Installation of the 7 pin connector underneath the car, to the right of the hitch receiver. I decided to trim the bracket to make the installation a bit easier. 

The completed 7 pin connector installation - bracketed to the underbody cover which hides the battery box and air suspension air compressor. 
 So - with all the wiring completed, back to the final bracket installation. I decided to have the aluminum bracket held in place using two neodymium magnets, one underneath the console side carpet trim, one underneath the Tekonsha mounting bracket.
I used my mythbusters / Adam Savage trick of mixing baking soda with Isocyanate glue to thicken the glue, and provide gusseting for the magnet. This is the backside of the thin carpet trim piece which runs along the passenger side footwell. 


With the brake controller installed and powered up, here's what it looks like in the 5 series. 
Powered up and tested, brake controller head unit conveniently located to the right of the shifter.

The Tekonsha P3 has a nice voltage troubleshooting screen under the help menu - will tell you your battery voltage, and stop light voltage. 
I also installed a Curt lighting adapter to provide the turn signals to the trailer adapter, I'll write a separate post on that installation, and one on the operation of the brake controller.

Sources and Links

I hope you found this post useful. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below. I answer all questions. If you're interested, you can help support this site by using the following links to in the United States.


BMW 535xi Touring E61 Tailgate Hydraulic Strut Popping off the Ball Joint - Set Screw Repair

My BMW 535xiT is my daily driver - use it for going back and forth to work every day and running all the errands to keep the household running. So - the tailgate and back window get lots of use. The car was manufactured in September, 2009 and now has 175,000 km on the odometer, and since BMW hasn't inported the 5 series touring to North America since 2010 - it looks like I'll be hanging onto this car for a while longer. The 3 series touring is too small, I'm not an SUV kind of guy, and I'm not ready to go to a Mercedes E series wagon just yet...

The completed set screw repair - neat and flush. 
So - about 6 months ago the hydraulic strut in the tailgate stopped lifting all the way to the top of travel - it started sagging and making ominous noises. So - I took the time to dig out the hydraulic pump and reservoir, replace the fluid with the BMW service kit, change the 10mm strut ball and get the tailgate functioning well again. I wrote about all that here.

Well - it took about 3 weeks until the hydraulic strut started popping off the ball - you can see the state of the bottom socket on the hydraulic cylinder here, there was finally enough wear that it wasn't going to stay in place.

This is not good....
This isn't good either....
So - just to keep the socket engaged, I cut a piece of styrofoam to jam in behind the strut to try to keep it in place - that worked fairly well for about a month, then the strut would pop off about every time I opened the tailgate, and it was time to make a more permanent repair.

There was a good discussion on the forums, the idea that I decided to try out was a set screw. I did a bit of research and found some really nice ball tipped set screws and decided to try them out. 

5mm ball tipped set screws
So - I ordered a lot of these set screws and set out to do the repair.

To drill and tap a 5mm hole - you need a 5mm tap, and a 4.2mm tap drill bit
First step is to dismount the strut from the tailgate - you need to remove the plastic trim on the left side of the window. There's a small clip you need to get out of the way to get the trim off. 

Lift the trim underneath the window to get this clip out of the side trim.
Removing the lower half of the left hand tailgate trim - once this is removed, you can remove the hydraulic strut. 
With the hydraulic strut removed, it was time to set the hole placement for the set screws, and drill two holes - one on each site. I put a small sheet of plywood on top of the security screen - was very useful to support the strut during the machining.

With the strut removed, it's easy to rotate to drill and tap the set screw holes. The plywood makes a good work surface.
I aimed the drilling to intersect close to the steel circlip. Very important to use a pilot drill to locate the holes properly - a pilot hole of 2.5mm would be perfect before drilling out to 4.2mm which is the tap drill size for a 5mm tap. 

Drilling each side of the strut base. 
The first hole on the top side - this hole walked a bit because I didn't use a pilot drill hole - don't make the same mistake I did...

Aim for the steel ring clip...

With the first hole tapped to 5mm - testing out the set screw. 
With the holes drilled out to 4.2mm tap drill size, it was very easy to tap the holes - this is a fairly soft steel part and it cuts well. 

Strut replaced, and the set screw does a great job holding the strut in place. The bottom set screw is easily accessible.
To access the set screw on the top side - its easiest to access with the window open and the left side trim off.
A dab of blue Loctite will hold the set screw in place, keep it from backing out. 
In case anyone is interested, I've created an eBay listing to sell the surplus set screws from the lot that I had to purchase - you can purchase the set screws here at eBay listing 183298383219.