Thursday 24 July 2014

E60: Engine Rebuild 3 - Camshafts + Re-Timing - ghetto style...

When it came to re-timing the engine I realised that the crank could still no longer be turned by hand in order to get the engine to TDC [top-dead-centre], so the cams would need resetting to the same position they were in when the chain was removed. Rather than begin lengthy calculations based on piston-height in the block, I just copied the camshaft positions from the photos I took when taking the engine apart. Naturally I'd rather get the engine to TDC and have a proper look at the cam positions, but for now it's running great and I couldn't say timing was too far out or it wouldn't even start.

You do not need any gazillion £ special tools for this and, provided you've only had the head off and not removed the chain completely, then the lower tensioner will keep the chain in place on the bottom cog-wheel and there is no need to remove the radiator / belt / pulleys etc.

You will need:
  • T30 Torx socket.
  • T50 Torx socket.
  • E14 double-hex socket.
  • Accurate smaller torque-wrench.
  • Mole grips / vise-grips.
  • Large adjustable-spanner.
1. Drop the valve-guides and rockers into the head. It's best they go back into the same ports as they were removed from, even if it's a different head.

2. Oil the camshaft-bearings and drop in the camshafts, E = inlet, A = Auspuff / exhaust [not E for exhaust!].

3. Oil the cap-caps and drop them on in the correct positions numbered 1-7 from front to back.

4. Screw the camshaft-bolts down so there is no play in the caps, but not tight, then tighten them to the correct torque in half-turns only from the middle outwards. Torque is 10nm for M6, 15nm for M7 and 20nm for M8. Most if not all 03-09 330d / 530d etc. should have M7 bolts installed.

5. Use a large adjustable spanner to rotate the exhaust camshaft [A] to the correct position, using the section near the front where the shaft is cut into a hex shape, and apply mole grips to the camshaft so that they are lying flat to the head at the correct cam position, holding the shaft in position.

6. Install the exhaust-camshaft gearwheel, along with the vac-pump sprocket and do up to the correct torque of 30nm and 50 degrees. Try to get the sprocket into as close a position as possible to where the vac-pump was when it was removed.

7. Using the large adjustable-spanner, rotate the inlet-camshaft [E] into the desired position and either get someone to hold it in place for a minute, or apply a second set of mole-grips.

8. Refit the tensioning-rail into the chain. [The left-hand one looking from front.]

9. Roll the chain back onto the top cog-wheel and refit the inlet-gearwheel / cog-wheel / chain to the inlet-camshaft, tightening it to the correct torque of 30nm and 50 degrees. The exhaust-camshaft should now be holding the inlet camshaft in position.

10. Refit the guide-rail to the chain. [Right-hand one looking from front.]

11. Remove the pin holding the chain-tensioner [from this guide] and refit the plug.

12. Release the mole-grips holding the camshafts and you are ready to go!


  1. Man I need decision from you. My low chain is completely broken, I need to change head completely with new camshafts... I need to know if there is a way to setting timing without any special tools? Thanks a lot...

  2. Hi mate, sorry for late reply. Yes you can do it without special tools, you will just need a slim screwdriver or a nail to use as a locking pin for the chain and someone to hold the camshafts in place for you. The easiest way though if you do not need to change the crank position is to do as I have above and just take a photo of your camshaft positions or draw a diagram showing the position of each cam lobe. When removing the chain cog from the camshaft make sure it is kept under tension and does not slip off the bottom cog teeth. Fit your new camshafts, rotate them to the right position, get someone to hold then in position and tighten up. I have had two 530d running perfect using this method. Thanks, J

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Hi mate, thanks for the reply. I think I understood. But only way how to do it, is try to do it. Your DIY post with all of 12 points is a great bay for me.

      Thanks, JT

    3. Ah sorry, I see your chain had broken. Have you made any progress? The online TIS guide is here [], other guides for timing-case etc are on there, if you click on the special tools it shows what they look like and gives an idea of what can be used in its place. I have used locking-pliers / mole-grips to hold the two camshafts in position before. It's a bit awkward to grip them to the camshaft with the cams in the right position so the pliers rest on the cylinder-head, but it works fine. I believe the chain can be fitted and the cams timed-in with the timing-case removed and fit it later.