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  #1  
Old 01-13-2013, 11:34 PM
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Whistle SOLVED - Engine Failsafe after Valve Cover Seal Replacement for Blue Smoke

New Poster - Long time beneficiary of xoutpost's forum posters. Thank you!
***My first post - this one - has possible solutions for both related and seeming unrelated issues. Please, if you have questions of your own about these, pm me a link to the thread where you have posted your question/create a new thread and I'd be happy to give you any information I can offer…but lets keep this thread on topic***

Rest assured that I have read every forum post on Xoutpost.com (and others) and TIS documentation that I could find pertaining to my post below and I have also scoured TIS documents and repair procedures.

Vehicle:
- 2005 X5 e53
- Engine: 4.4L N62 V8 w/135k Miles
- Not CPO but had 100K mile BMW extended warranty/service contract.
- in San Francisco/Berkeley, CA
- subjected to short traffic-filled drives and/or long highway trips to Tahoe.
- rarely subjected to freezing temperatures

This past weekend (1/11/2013) I replaced my Passenger (US) Valve Cover Seals, Upper Timing Cover gasket, VANOS Solenoid o-rings, vacuum pump o-ring, eccentric motor o-ring, and all sensor o-rings on the valve or upper timing covers. (list of parts below). I seem to have fixed my "blue smoke on acceleration from prolonged idling" issue. However, after reassembling, my test drive revealed my engine stalling/stumbling after entering closed loop/warm operation mode while attempting to accelerate under load (higher gears) while revving above ~2000 RPM. I parked it, checked all (touched) sensor connections for solid connections. Resumed driving but had the same issue. Eventually, the dash showed "Engine Failsafe Prog" but no SES light. I drove it home (a block away) and rechecked the sensor connections, looked for vacuum leaks, and attempted to pull the code with my Dad's Innova 3130 OBD 2 reader.* The DTC was P115A - Specific to BMW and "Unknown." I cannot find any real reference to this code relating to BMWs from Innova or any other source. I have researched this type of stumbing/failsafe and most people point to Mass Airflow Sensor (MAF) or post MAF vacuum leak. OBD II should show a MAF code if it has failed…but hasn't and I have been unable to locate any vacuum leaks. I'd hate to just start replacing parts for the fun of it (mostly because I'm a student at UC Berkeley in my last semester and rapidly running out of savings from when I was working before returning to school). Also, I absent mindedly began cleaning the Valve cover before removing the Cam Shaft Position Sensors from it…so the sensors were submerged in soapy water for a minute or two before I realized my mistake and removed the sensors. The sensors appear wholly sealed and I did not anticipate needing to replace them…again, OBD II provides standard codes for Cam Shaft position sensor (CPS) failure, none of which have been raised by the car's computer. I'm leaning further away from CPS failure as the engine revs to redline (carefully tested) when not under load and also if I manually shift the car…which is why I think my "stumbling" is vacuum or MAF. Less likely, I have considered fuel delivery; but why would this coincidently and suddenly fail on first startup/test drive after a valve cover seal replacement with no prior symptoms?

Is there a way to test a MAF sensor, safely/accurately? What else am I missing? I didn't touch the Throttle Position Sensor (TPS), but I did "manually" operate the throttle plate a few times…could this have effected the TPS? VANOS related, because of the removal of the eccentric adjustment motor? but why would it accelerate strongly without load if it was VANOS related? Its driving me crazy and I only have a week until classes start again…

Parts List:
11127513194 - 1 - Valve Cover Seal Replacement Kit
07119903596 - 1 - Eccentric Motor O-Ring - not valve cover seal (11127518420) that was included in Valve Cover Seal Kit
12141748398 - 2 - Camshaft postion sensor O-Rings
11367513222 - 2 - VANOS Solenoid "Large" O-Rings
11367546379 - 2 - VANOS Solenoid "Small" O-Rings
11667509080 - 1 - Vacuum Pump O-Ring
11147506424 - 1 - Passenger (US) side Upper Timing Cover Steel Gasket

* - USB to BMW OBD II cable is on its way - arrives Tuesday!


History - bear with me
I finally resolved my harsh 1-2 and 2-1 shifting by kindly asking the service department at the San Francisco BMW dealership for a vehicle reprogram because of drivability issues in 4/2012. My X5 had previously been reprogrammed on several occasions, the last of which was 2007. I am mentioning the success of my recent reprograming for those with 2004-06 X5s with V8 and 6-Speed ZF transmissions that are still suffering from transmission/drivability issues that have lacked success w/reprogramming in the past.

The relevance is that the service department's "courtesy check" during the vehicle reprogramming appointment informed me of a leaking passenger-side (TIS "right") valve cover seal. However, not taking a minor oil leak seriously, I was distracted by more pressing maintenance issues like a failing water pump that the dealer's courtesy check did not catch.

After replacing the water pump, idler pulleys (preemptively), and vacuum pump o-ring (previously assumed source of oil leak), I noticed the dreaded cloud of blue smoke coming out of my exhaust when accelerating (after entering Closed Loop/warm engine operation) from prolonged idling in traffic. I assume, now, that I disturbed/exacerbated the oil/vacuum leak by working on/around the timing cover during the water pump and vacuum pump o-ring replacements. As I only began to notice the blue smoke cloud immediately after the repair. Also, oil consumption increased markedly (1qt/~500 miles).

I started with the obvious/easiest possibility and replaced both Pressure Regulating Valves (PRV) and cleaned relevant tubes and the accessible valve cover ports. None of these showed signs of tearing nor clogging but were coated with oil; more so on the passenger side. The passenger side was letting a lot of oil into the intake. Unfortunately, symptoms persisted after cleaning and replacing/cleaning the PRVs.

Through all my continued research of the N62's Crankcase Ventilation System and other "Blue Smoke" causing possibilities, I decided to remove and replace the valve cover seal in lieu of pursuing the valve stem seals...and, possibly, guides .

Upon teardown, the crankcase oil leak appeared to originate from the upper timing cover and/or around VANOS solenoid; the external leak's exact source was ambiguous. I decided to to replace the upper timing cover gasket, vacuum pump o-ring (again), and the VANOS solenoids' o-rings in addition to all seals/gaskets/o-rings/rubber grommets on the Valve Cover itself. Teardown also revealed the significant quantity of oil in my intake manifold, originating from the passenger side PRV and, to a lesser extent, the drivers side PRV.

My plug reads show no sign leaks originating from valve stem/worn valve guides. However, the plugs show no signs of being replaced at the 100,000 mile service interval like the dealer (BMW of Fremont) claimed/billed BMWNA for AND plugs 2 and 3 show signs of gasket failure; allowing slight blow-by gasses but no signs of oil. I can only hope there was no permanent damage from this.

I began cleaning the valve cover and noticed how many potential leak paths, especially vacuum, there are. Each bolt and nut on the N62's valve cover has a rubber grommet that acts as a seal. All of the ones I removed were brittle, cracked, and clearly not capable of holding a vacuum. I believe the passenger side valve and upper timing covers were the source of a massive vacuum leak (as a whole). I doubled my cleaning efforts to ensure that every sealing surface was perfectly clean.

I reassembled and everything appeared to run perfect. My idle was stronger even though it was not noticeably weak before and the power at idle was significantly stronger - I know this because my car could not idle its way up my driveway before…and now it can. All signs point to my vacuum leak being solved. Also, I have no oil leaking from either cover or VANOS solenoids. No oil was present in the vacuum lines or intake manifold after pulling the upper vacuum hose from the PRV to the intake manifold, even after prolonged idling.

My current problem did not arise until I started testing "normal" driving conditions. I still did not experience the cloud of blue smoke, but my engine did start stumbling/cutting out when accelerating under load. I could still accelerate like normal when shifting manually. Engine revs to redline with no apparent issues…unless climbing a hill in a tall gear or accelerating onto the freeway in a tall gear. The dash eventually chimed and displayed "Engine Failsafe Prog." Still no SES/service engine soon light.


SOLVED~My oil consumption/blue smoke cloud issues are resolved, as well as Engine Failsafe Prog that was displayed on the OBC-High display.
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Last edited by McDonaldD; 01-14-2013 at 03:45 AM. Reason: Solved issue.
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  #2  
Old 01-14-2013, 04:41 AM
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Cool All Better!

Quote:
Originally Posted by McDonaldD View Post
...I seem to have fixed my "blue smoke on acceleration from prolonged idling" issue. However, after reassembling, my test drive revealed my engine stalling/stumbling after entering closed loop/warm operation mode while attempting to accelerate under load (higher gears) while revving above ~2000 RPM.
DIYer error...I had initially set out to replace both valve cover seals and I had unplugged both eccentric sensors and drives. When reassembling, I plugged back in both eccentric motors but only the passenger side eccentric sensor. The drivers side eccentric sensor plug had fallen back into place and appeared "connected" and I hadn't triple checked it because "I didn't work on that side." My mistake. Tonight, with a fresh mind, I quadruple checked all sensors I had touched, including the driver side eccentric sensor. To my surprise it pushed further in and clicked...fired it up my X and it purred like new.

Everything seems to be resolved:
- no more oil leaks!
- no more clouds of bluish/white smoke on acceleration from prolonged idling
- no more oil entering the intake manifold via the PRV
- idle is now very steady (varies smoothly between 689-703 (w/AC on) according to the scan tool), no more surging!
- opening the oil filler now causes the engine to stumble as it should
- engine is very strong off of idle
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Old 01-14-2013, 07:24 AM
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Old 04-18-2013, 02:08 PM
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Hey, McdonaldD how is everything running. I have a 545 with the same motor and I'm experiencing the same white smoke issue. Everybody says valve seals, but I'm not convinced. It's to inconsistent...some days more smoke than other days, and some days no smoke at all.
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Old 04-18-2013, 10:26 PM
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A or B

Hey pcb5,

After my initial posts, I did experience a few puffs of smoke. I do say puffs because they were exponentially smaller in scale than the ones I had previously experienced...and I had to try to make it happen. Recently, I have eliminated those puffs of smoke by replacing the driver's side valve cover gasket, upper timing cover gasket, and vans solenoid o-rings...I had a massive coolant leak that "inspired" me to do that job.

Anyway, no more smoke...even when I try to make it happen. More importantly, no more oil being sucked into my intake!

When is your 545i smoking?

A.) Immediately after a cold startup - the first startup after a prolonged period of the engine being off, like sitting in your garage over night?
If so, valve stem seals could be your issue; but I believe this to be a limited failure only seen in the early 745i.

B.) Or, like mine, does the smoke appear as an embarrassing cloud of shame - typically after accelerating from prolonged idling, like sitting at a really long stop light or stop and go traffic...?

Cause of A.)Valve Stem seals only leak down, meaning they have to sit for a long time and be cold (small) enough for oil to slowly drip past them; theoretically, it could deteriorate to the point where would leak all of the time, but you’d see the smoke issue as a constant factor, rather than just when the engine is warm. When valve stem seals get warm, they expand. The expansion would reseal the path the oil was leaking through until the seal cooled to the point where it was small enough for oil to seep past. This is why failing valve stem seals can cause smoking at startup - oil has dripped past, collected in your cylinder, and then gets burned off the next time the car starts….and the smoking stops when it gets warm…only to return the next time your car has been sitting and is cold.

Cause of B.) is caused, essentially, by a vacuum leak that prevents the PRVs from sealing...drawing oil into your intake.

Grab a powerful flashlight, expose your throttle body, and peek past the throttle plate. Look for signs of oil...any sign of oil, especially wetness. Oil means that you have a vacuum issue. A vacuum issue (can be an oil leak) is the cause of your smoke.

More to come...
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Old 04-18-2013, 11:14 PM
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Definitely option B. the car will blow smoke after long periods of idling...good example is a long red light, and that's only some of the time. It has never smoked when the car is fired up in mornings after sitting all night. If my wife hops in fires the car up and goes, you never see it smoke. But, I've sat in the driveway idling for long periods of time, then stab the gas and white smoke rolls out the exhaust. I can also smell oil burning from the leaky valve covers dripping on the exhaust.
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Old 04-18-2013, 11:27 PM
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Also, when I was being told it was the CCV's, I could always pull the dipstick out a little, and vent the crankcase that way...the smoke would completely disappear. I'm not sure if I was equalizing pressure from the vacuum leak or what? But, every time I pulled the dipstick to vent the crankcase, let it idle for a long time, then rev it up...no smoke. Weird.
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Old 04-19-2013, 08:16 AM
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Sounds familiar...

The CCV - CrankCase Ventilation is the whole ventilation system - the Pressure Regulating Valve is the part 99% of people are talking about when they mention CCV for the N62. The M62 V8 had issues with an Oil Separator canister that is not present on the N62s. The PRV’s are like $12 each from a dealer. They consist of a rubber membrane and a spring. Nothing fancy, and not likely to resolve your problems unless one of them is torn…but the tear would just be exacerbating the underlying issue, not the cause of it. The underlying issue would be the vacuum leak the could cause a PRV to plug and then tear. Fix the vacuum leak and then fix any torn PRVs

A simple solution might be your oil fill cap is no longer sealing. If you have oil leaking from the oil fill cap, down the side of the valve cover, and onto your exhaust, replacing the cap just might resolve your issue. Also, the o-rings on the dip stick can be replaced with little time/expense.

Opening your dipstick with the engine running should kill, or nearly kill, your engine…it should not run better. It sounds like your car has run like this for awhile(?) and your LTFT is messed up. Otherwise, your car should not want to run with that large of a vacuum leak. The car should at least stumble and sound rough. The stumbling is caused by the same concept as a vacuum leak, the air entering through the dipstick tube is a huge vacuum leak, at idle, is not easily compensated for by the computer. It should force open the PRV’s, letting unmetered air into your intake and messing with your air/fuel ratio. If you can open your dipstick and run it with little to no change, improvement even, you have a major oil leak and, likely, a plugged air filter.

You might look into using a scan tool to look at the LTFT values and see if they’re off. I have seen this issue cause them hit the LTFT max at +25…especially if you’ve noticed your car shifting way more often than it used to or surging at odd times. Now that mine is fixed, I have no problem getting 21-22mpg on the freeway…before I was struggling to get 17-18.mpg Around town I was getting 12-14mpg and now I get 15-17mpg. Keep in mind that mine is an X5 and those are the numbers should be way lower than your 545i.



The fact that you have oil leaking onto your exhaust tells me that you have a major crankcase vacuum leak. If the leak is not the oil fill cap itself, replace the valve cover gasket set, if that is what is leaking, and you’ll likely resolve your smoke cloud issue. The N62 valve cover kit comes with a bunch of rubber grommets, make sure you remove the old ones from the valve cover, clean the valve cover, and make sure you use all of the new parts; those grommets are part of the vacuum seal. The spark plug tubes are also part of the seal and BMW says you should replace them. Many people reuse their tubes… do as you wish, but just make sure you’re not reusing a tube that is cracked or one that is clearly no longer sealing. Its also a good time to replace your spark plugs… Champion's Iridium plugs are far and beyond a better plug than the Bosch 4 point platinum that BMW put in these engines. I think they are less expensive, too.

Not entirely required, but I’d also recommend that you replace the upper timing cover gasket and VANOS Solenoid o-rings while you are in there…as they could also be the source of minor vacuum leaks. The parts are cheap and its a difference of like 8 bolts and 15 minutes worth of work. Doing the timing cover on the passenger side will also require an o-ring for the vacuum pump (if the e60 has this, i believe it does…)

Also, the e60 apparently has some exhaust gas recirculation that the e53 does not have, you may have vacuum issues caused by a hole in one of these pipes.

I’m not sure if you’re planning on doing the job yourself or if you plan on taking it to a shop…but make sure keep all of your sealing surfaces pristine and that you keep all dirt out the engine…especially out of the open ports under the valve covers.


Explanation of whats going on:
A falling piston creates a vacuum in its combustion chamber. The intake valve opens, passing this vacuum state on to the intake manifold. The intake manifold would become a complete vacuum rather quickly if the plate on the throttle body remained closed. However, the throttle plate is typically open, to some extent, as it controls the air portion of the “air/fuel” mixture that keeps our combustion engines...combusting. The vacuum generated by the falling piston allows metered air to flow past the throttle body, through the intake manifold, and into the expanding combustion chamber.

Beyond the throttle body is a tube connected to the Mass Air Flow (MAF) sensor. A sensor that constantly calculates the amount of air being pulled through the air filter, past the MAF sensor, past the throttle body, and into the intake manifold. The MAF is insanely accurate; to the point where using a throttle plate on a cable becomes a laughable, and turbulent, way to control the flow of air into the combustion chambers. Enter active intake and valve timing (for another time). But, the point of this story is to demonstrate that the throttle body, once the car is warm, is not really used to control the amount of air entering the combustion chambers but, instead, it is used to maintain a constant vacuum or “demand for air” from the MAF. It remains open most of the time, especially when the MAF sensor is telling it that it is drawing in a very specific amount of air. The tube between the MAF and the throttle body contains several possibilities for air to “leak,” unmetered, into the intake. This is a problem because the computer expects the specific quantity of air that the MAF told it to expect and any deviation will cause an imbalance in the “Air/Fuel” ratio…this imbalance chemical reaction leads to unreacted fuel being pushed out your exhaust…fuel that could have been propelling you forward (quickly!). The computer can try to compensate…but it cannot measure what it can neither detect nor predict. This source of unmetered air can be air entering through a disconnected or torn vacuum line, a loose hose clamp, or crack, on one of the intake tubes, or the CrankCase Ventilation (CCV) system.

A lot of vehicles use a CCV system has a valve that is held closed at atmospheric pressure and only opens when internal pressure exceeds atmospheric pressure: the PRV is briefly pushed open, releasing the excess pressure from the crankcase, closing, and the mechanical process starts over. Essentially, BMW uses this system as well; however, BMW’s PRVs default to “open” at atmospheric pressure. This is significantly different because the system BMW uses requires a constant vacuum in order for the PRV to remain sealed; where a traditional system remains sealed until there is excessive pressure. Therefore, if the BMW system cannot establish a vacuum (due to a unmetered air entering the crankcase and/or intake); the PRV cannot close and it cannot prevent oil from entering the intake manifold. I assume BMW had an issue with the pressure generated by the alternative system and, instead, chose a system that requires there to be no pressure to be closed and the presence of any pressure is immediately escaped from the crankcase.

BMW uses the intake’s vacuum to draw unmetered air out of the crankcase until the crankcase itself has so little pressure that the weight of the atmosphere can push the Pressure Regulating Valve (PRV) closed. This works great….unless there is a vacuum leak in the crankcase. As explained in earlier posts, the leak destroys the vacuum by equalizing the crankcase’s pressure with atmospheric pressure. The presence of atmospheric pressure, or any pressure, in the crankcase is enough overcome the PRV, releasing it to its default “open" position. This means that a crankcase vacuum leak allows unmetered air to flow past the PRVs and into the intake…it also means that splashing oil has an unobstructed path, through the same PRV and into your intake and combustion chambers.

We typically only see a cloud of smoke after the car has been warmed up and sitting idle for a prolonged period of time. Why? A cold car starts in “open loop,” a startup sequence that runs more or less based on memory, rather than sensor input. After the car is warm and the thermostats start functioning, the car *can* enter “closed loop,” a state where the car runs based on its sensors and less so on memory. The smoke issue tends to arise when the car enters Closed Loop because the Open Loop operation, uses more fuel, more vacuum, etc.. The added vacuum created by Open Loop’s sensor-ignorant operation is typically enough to overcome a typical vacuum leak…allowing enough of a vacuum to exist that the PRV is pulled closed.

Once the car enters Closed Loop operation, the throttle body relinquishes its control of the air flow to the active intake and valve timing. The finer tuned control of the air flow allows us to enjoy more power and better fuel efficiency…but this also means that it needs less air (and less fuel) to produce the same amount of power. Not needing as much air means that the throttle body doesn’t need to create as much of a vacuum…but less vacuum means that the crankcase vacuum leak can produce enough pressure to hold the PRV open. We typically only see a state of such low vacuum while at idle.

Unfortunately for us, the weak vacuum is still high enough to draw oil into the intake; but not quite high enough to pull the oil around the active intake and into the combustion chambers; at least not until you push the accelerator. Everything behind you disappears…and not in the typical “this is why I bought the V8” euphoria but, rather, a “Go-go-gadget smokescreen” kinda way…the humiliation typically only reserved for those that are lame enough to use go-go-gadget references in their posts. When you hit the gas pedal: the vacuum gets stronger, PRV is held closed, and the oil that made its way into the intake is drawn up and around the active intake channels and directly into the combustion chambers.

SIDE NOTE: The air entering the crankcase contains water vapor from the atmosphere. The PRV is the lone exit from the crankcase; its a very small opening leading to the intake manifold, the source of the vacuum. This tiny opening forces the water vapor and oil to mix before entering your intake...and some of it collects on the PRV itself. When it gets really cold, this cheese can freeze and seal the opening. The blow-by gases can create extreme pressure and in the crankcase, not being able to escape through the PRV nor through the tiny vacuum leak, the excessive pressure can cause the PRV to tear. When the PRV tears, you hear whistling as even more atmosphere is drawn into or blown out of the crankcase. At this point, you will need to replace the PRVs…but just replacing and cleaning the PRVs will not prevent the same situation from happening again. One would need to resolve the issue of how the air (and water vapor) is getting into the crankcase to begin with: a vacuum leak in the crankcase. The same issue, sometimes to a lesser extent, as the smoke cloud.
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Old 04-19-2013, 11:28 AM
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Nice write up, McdonaldD. So, I'm wondering if I can disconnect the PRV lines going to the intake manifold and see if the smoke disappears from the tailpipe, while driving around. If that's the only return for the oil to the intake, then I'm thinking I could disconnect and let it release into the atmosphere, or testing purposes. Thoughts???
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Old 04-24-2013, 01:25 PM
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Check for oil in the intake

I would not recommend disconnecting the PRV lines while the engine is running. You'd likely not do any damage, but its not worth the risk. Even if you managed to seal the intake ports, its not worth the risk of one of those fashioned-seals failing and being sucked into your engine...in such a case, you'd almost certainly need to rebuild your engine.

But, if you insist on doing so, you'd need to fashion some kind of air tight (vacuum tight) seal/cap for open ports on the intake manifold - where the PRV's hoses were disconnected - doing so would prevent oil from being drawn into the intake manifold but would not stop oil from splashing out of the valve cover via the PRVs. You would need plug these as well. However, the valve covers (and crankcase, in general) are not designed to be under pressure; which would be generated by blow-by gas during normal operation. Since there already seems to be a leak in the crankcase, you might get away with simply plugging the PRV's port because the leak may be large enough that it would prevent pressure from building, much in the same way it prevented a vacuum from forming...but you'd be gambling on this. I do not know the extent of damage that could be done if the crankcase were to become pressurized: it could be no damage, it could be negligible "damage" like a little more oil gets pushed out, or it could cause oil to be forced past piston rings and into your combustion chamber...

I have not fully reasoned through the implications of sealing off the PRV, even for testing. It certainly cannot be "good" for any of the crankcase seals...assuming it is sealed enough to build a pervasive pressure in the absence of a strong vacuum to evacuate such a pressure.

Also, I do not see what you would gain from disconnecting the PRVs.


With the engine off, you can check if oil is being drawn into the intake by:

1., disconnecting the plastic intake duct, attached to the throttle body,
2., pushing open the throttle plate,
3., and looking inside using a flashlight.

If the interior of the intake is even remotely wet and/or coated in oil, its coming from at least one of the PRVs; being the only possible source of oil in the intake, at least on the e53's N62. A similar test can be done by disconnecting the PRV's tube at the intake and checking for oil stains in the, now, open port.
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