BMW VANOS Solenoid Replacement DIY – BMW N54 Engine

Here is our do-it-yourself guide on how to replace your BMW N54 vanos solenoids when they fail (not if).

For a quick recap, the vanos system is responsible for opening and closing the intake and exhaust valves. Bad solenoids will result in poor performance, rough idling, limp mode, loss of power, inability to accelerate....it basically kills everything that makes having twin turbos fun.

If you are unsure if your vanos solenoids are failing, you can read our guide on how to diagnose failing vanos solenoids here. We assume you wouldn't be here reading this DIY if you weren't sure your solenoids were bad, so we'll just dive right into it.

This DIY is applicable for both N54 and N52 engines!

OEM Replacement Parts

2A82 and 2A87 are the fault codes, below are the corresponding parts for those codes. Both parts are identical, so just order two from one of the links below:

N55 and N63 owners need to use these Vanos solenoids: N55/N63 Vanos Solenoid (Part #11-36-8-605-123)

Our readers get 5% off the solenoids above by using code "N54TUNERS" at checkout!

DIY Time Requirement: approximately 1 hour. If you know what you're doing you can probably do it in 30 minutes.

Steps to Replace your Vanos Solenoids:

Step 1: Remove Engine Cowl and Filter Panel

Start by removing the engine cowl and filter panel. If you are unsure how to do this, you can take a look at the JB4 install guide out on the internet. We will work on a YouTube video for this and get it posted here once done.

NOTE: wait at least 30 minutes after you last ran your engine as the area where the solenoids are is extremely hot! Wait longer than 30 minutes if you gave it a long drive prior to doing the install.

Step 2: Remove Engine Cover

Remove the engine cover if you have an N54, if you have an N52 then you can ignore this step. There are 4 screws to remove, which you should be able to see in the picture below. Two are in the front, one is in the back center, and the last one and hardest to see/find is in the back left, on the side.

N54 Vanos Solenoid DIYPin

Step 3: Remove the Intake Snorkel

Removing the intake snorkel will require a Torx T-20 tool. Remove the 2 screws shown in pictures 2 and 3 below and the snorkel should pull right out. The first picture is what your engine should look like with the cowl and engine cover removed.

NOTE: cars that don't have OEM oil coolers do not need to remove the snorkel. If you aren't sure if your car does or not, watch this quick video on how to find out: https://youtu.be/eENGybPe0c0

Pic 1: what your engine should look like without the engine cover or cowl.

N54 Vanos Solenoid DIYPin

Pic 2: the left side snorkel screw

N54 Vanos Solenoid DIYPin

Pic 3: the right side snorkel screw

N54 Vanos Solenoid DIYPin

Step 4: Find the Solenoids

The solenoids are small and don't pop right out at you, so use the picture below to help locate where the vanos solenoids are. The vanos solenoids are located right where the brown rag is in the picture - right underneath where the left side of the snorkel used to be.

N54 Vanos Solenoid DIYPin

Here is an up-close picture of the solenoids location. Note the solenoids have been removed in this picture but you shouldn't remove them yet! This is just to make it easier to see.

N54 Vanos Solenoid DIYPin

The top hole is for the intake solenoid.

The bottom hole is for the exhaust solenoid.

As we mentioned earlier, the solenoids are exactly the same, so you don't need to worry about inserting one into the wrong hole.

Step 5: Removing the Connector Wires

Each vanos solenoid has a connector wire attached to it. You will need to remove both of them - to do so push down on the silver clip (pictured below) while pulling out. The connector in the pictures is for the intake solenoid. While the solenoids are interchangeable between holes, the connector wires aren't, so make sure you reconnect them properly when you install your new solenoids. The intake connector cable goes to the left, and the exhaust cable goes downwards - this is how you can easily remember when you are reinstalling.

N54 Vanos Solenoid DIY 7Pin

Here is the silver clip that needs to be pressed down to remove the connector wires. Make sure you push this down and then release when you are reconnecting them later on the ensure it is fully connected.

N54 Vanos Solenoid DIYPin

Step 6: Remove the Vanos Solenoids

To remove the solenoid you will first need to remove the retaining screw that is attached to the solenoid. The retaining clip is part of the solenoid so don't try to remove it! It pulls out while the whole solenoid.  Once the screw has been removed, turn the solenoid clockwise about 1/8 of a turn and pull. The solenoid should pop out.

Some people recommend replacing one solenoid at a time. If you have one solenoid out it is possible to drop the screw from the other solenoid into the open hole. You would then have a metal screw in the casing of your camshaft. So either don't drop a screw or replace one at a time.

N54 Vanos Solenoid DIYPin
Pin

Once you have the solenoids out you should have a pretty easy time wrapping up the DIY. To save any confusion, here are the steps:

  1. Insert the new solenoids. To do this, try positioning it a 1/8 clockwise turn to the mounting hole. Push it in until you feel the pop, and then line the mounting holes up.
  2. Screw the mounting screws back into the solenoids.
  3. Reconnect the solenoid connecting wires. Remember the cable that goes to the left is for the intake solenoid, and the one that goes down is for the exhaust solenoid.
  4. Reattach the snorkel.
  5. Put the engine cover back on.
  6. Put the cowl and panel filter back on.

And that should do it!

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10 thoughts shared

  1. I have 2011 X3, XDrive 28i with horrible acceleration and idle issues. I saw where the solidoinds may only require cleaning. I completed the task in 30 min and replaced. Simple job.

    I took it out on the road and acceleration was much much better but I began to hear a very distinct whining/screeching noise. It is constant and volume increases with RPMs. It was not necessary to remove any other items in the engine compartment. I only touched the clip, bolt, and solenoid. I protected empty solenoid hole so as not to get any debris.

    It seems to me to be vacuum related as when I remove the oil cap while engine is running, the pitch of the whining changes but only the first time.

    Any ideas?

  2. Comment author image

    Zachary J Abelardo

    says:

    I’m getting a persistent 02A87 VANOS mechanics SES code, even with new VAICO solenoids. Car is 2010 128i with 85,000 miles and oil filter housing gasket was recently replaced. I’m stumped!

    1. Comment author image

      Richard Knapp

      says:

      Rowland,

      If you haven’t already found it, try Germanautosolutions.com. They have an amazing upgraded seal kit for E46 M54 engines that use high temp/non shrinking o-rings like the bitumin crap the originals use. The best part, they have a link with OUTSTANDING and thorough instructions, pics, tips and tools necessary. I believe they’re $62. Worth every penny IMO. Best of luck.

      Rich K

  3. I was led here while looking up info on my N52K motor (2007 X5). Is it the same process as shown here? I’m sad to say that I just paid $800 to replace one solenoid. I was quickly scolded on the Bimmerfest forums that I got ripped off. And now reading this, I’m realizing its a 30 minute job (for both), and they only did one.

    If its really this easy, I’ll probably replaced the exhaust solenoid myself in the next few weeks. My car coded with P0012; which is what led me to the shop in the first place. They said I had pending code 2A82, and recommended replacing the Intake. I’m a bit taken back now knowing how easy they are to replace, that they didnt do both.

    1. Hey John,

      Ouch – sorry to hear that. Really crappy on the repair shops part and we would definitely bring up that discussion with them. The OEM Genuine BMW N52 Vanos Solenoid does retail for $210.20 (most shops charge retail price on parts). If they replaced both for $800 we would say you got ripped off. For them to charge that for one solenoid is unacceptable, in our opinion.

      Not too familiar with the VANOS replacement on the X5 specifically, but we don’t see what would cause it to be more than 1 hour of labor at the absolute max. Anyways, sorry again. If you’re comfortable with basic DIY’s then knock out the other solenoid on your own. Definitely find a new repair shop moving forward. Best of luck!

      Regards,
      BMW N54 Tuners

  4. Thanks for the guide, I’ll be using it once I get parts on hand. As far as DCI, I’m not convinced it makes a big performance difference in either way, but I’ll admit I like the way they sound.

    1. https://www.n54tech.com/forums/showthread.php?t=23993

      There hasn’t been any conclusive evidence that suggests dual cone intakes result in hotter IAT’s. I’ll compromise by saying that temps might be a few degrees higher, but the benefits of the improved and increased air flow far outweigh the consequences of IAT’s a few degrees higher. We strongly recommend tuned N54’s run intercoolers, and an upgraded intercooler will alleviate any increased intake temps you might believe in.

      You’re going to have a hard time making significant boost without an intake system and you’ll have more lag since it will take a lot longer for the intercooler to fill-up, especially with a larger intercooler.