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My first S14 Overhaul

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  • My first S14 Overhaul

    Hello Guys, (and Gals?)

    Well its time for my very first S14 overhaul and swap project. As a background filler I own a small E30 specialty shop here in SoCal and have lots of experience with E30s, about 4 years now of dedicated E30 service work. I have rebuilt and repaired lots and lots of M20's, a few M42's, M10, M30, etc. etc.

    The only direct experience I have with the S14 is refurbishing a valve cover, installing a CF air box and Alpha N system. But my actual engine experience with the S14 is nil.

    This engine is for a 2002 swap project and is long overdue to start. The customer has a fair amount of budget set aside, but I understand these engine can go from expensive to bank busting in a matter of a few wrench strokes so to be honest I am nervous to start and the customer sense this. I have to break past this and get cracking on this engine project.

    What I am hoping to gain from you folks here is some tips and tricks, what kind of costs I can expect during a overhaul and where you guys think the best deals are to be had. I typically use a mix of aftermarket and dealer parts in most of my work and value long term quality of repair as opposed to getting it done for the lowest price/highest profit. Also if there are brands/parts to watch out for regarding quality issues, I would like to know.

    So I will kick off this thread with a picture of the engine I have to work with and what I have found so far.

    Originally it was hoped the engine could be cleaned up, a few gaskets here and there and get it into the 2002. We have all the parts for the actual swap. I did a leak down test and it did not turn out good at all. With a 90psi reference pressure I was greeted with #1 @ 78psi, #2 @ 75psi, #3 @ 70psi, #4 @ 60psi. I was getting air leak down mostly on the exhuast but it was also coming from the intake and crankcase. So I am assuming valves need to be serviced, headgasket it most likely toast, etc.. So this has turned into a complete overhaul and looks like I may end up doing the bottom end. My thoery is if the head is in poor shape then the bottom end is most likely going to need bearings, and rings, and most likely pistons. See where the cost is going already? Right out the window, lol

    Your advice and feedback would be appreciated.


    Here is what I am working with:

  • #2
    Before you touch a thing have your customer decide whether
    he wants a standard rebuild or if he wants modifications/upgrades.
    While the standard rebuild parts can cost a pretty penny themselves,
    it's usually chasing more hp that sends budgets through the roof.
    The normal stuff isn't too expensive, headsets, sumpsets, headbolts,
    conrod bolts. Oil pumps are pricey, and for some reason Sport Evo
    "upgraded" oil pumps seem to be cheaper than the standard one,
    worth checking. OE Mahle pistons are very expensive, there are
    cheaper options and I'm sure someone will chime in with suggestions.
    A large portion of the budget can disappear in the timing chain area.
    The 2 main tensioners pads are very expensive and if the gears are
    worn (2 cam, 1 tensioner, 1 crank) if can add quite a bit more.
    The chain tensioner weakens with age and a popular upgrade seems
    to be the e36 m3 evo engines tensioner (straight forward swap).
    Water pumps aren't overly expensive, but there is one aftermarket
    brand to avoid, I think its Lasso, maybe someone can confirm the brand?
    The other thing to note is the valve clearance is adjusted by shims rather
    than adjustable rockers like the m20. If your having the head skimmed you'll
    most likely have to pick up a few, they're not big money just awkward to have
    to wait on while building.
    Cam timing is fairly crucial, pistons have relief's for the valves and theres no
    real room for error.
    The throttle bodies are connected to the head by rubber blocks, which over
    time harden and become a source for air leaks, so best to renew. Again a popular
    mod seems to be fitting cheap M5 paper gaskets between the new blocks and
    the head to help long term sealing.
    When your refitting the rocker box and cam cover check your plug socket can
    fit down the hole each time before securing each, if they're a little off it can
    make the socket a tight fit later, which in worst case scenario can mean having
    to loosen and reposition things down the line and disturbing the gaskets.
    Thats all I can think of off hand, I'm sure others will have more or tell you most
    of the above is rubbish. Best of luck with the build, it's only nuts and bolts at the
    end of the day.:gotcha:
    Last edited by xworks; 12-08-2009, 09:45 AM.


    • #3
      Hi Robert, glad to see that you're going to be starting this project. It should turn out to be a fun car in the end!

      Funny profile, BTW


      • #4
        since you're not toooo too far away from Glendale, call up BMA 818 240 1223 , talk to Pat , they have the cheapest prices and free shipping on orders over $50.

        That, or just have the owner sell the motor and buy a low mileage one with good numbers.

        good luck


        • #5
          xworks, hit the nail(s) on the head... Get a sense of direction with the restoration, some aftermarket parts will actually be cheaper than OEM as upgrades. There are a ton of "while I'm here..." upgrades that can end up increasing the project budget quite quickly.

          It's obvious it likely needs head work the usual suspects valve seals and guides (which have better alloys now than stock). The bottom end will need bore & hone to the 2nd oversize at least, so forged pistons (JE or CP) to 95mm is a good option. The EVO crank bearings are also made by Kolbenschmidt which is an OEM manufacturer at almost half the price.

          Head upgrade porting the intake side, avoid porting the exhaust side as it is easy to go too thin and end up with leaks in the water jackets. If the throttle body blocks don't show cracking you can reuse them with a light silicone to ensure a good seal.

          Avoid the Laso water pump OEM only as mentioned. The original oil pump was magnesium vs the EVO which is aluminum which may account for the price differential. If you can get the uprated spring and there is no scoring on the OEM pump I'd keep it. I think Metric Mechanic and VAC offer oil and water pump upgrades.

          The chain tensioner rails are and unavoidable expense.

          No cork gaskets, use paper with Loctite Hylomar or any other FIPG sealants.

          Replacing the coil, spark plug wires, thermostat, idle stabilizer, fresh injectors and sensors eliminates the potential problems normally associated with troubleshooting the S14 motor (eliminating the MAF is BIG too) Partswise Jeremiah and Don McAdams were very resourceful in my rebuild, good guys!

          You're local, I'll posse out with Ara to lend a hand as well
          Last edited by ///schwartzman; 12-08-2009, 03:54 PM.


          • #6
            Alright, time for a update. My buddy Colin came by the shop and we got motivated to start the tear down. Other then the typical 20 year old oil leaks and sludge, it was all there in good shape.

            The crank nut was incredibly tight, I thought for sure I was going to have a tooling explosion as my breaker bar was basically flexed into a 'U' shape, the chain wrench held and the nut cracked loose. Talk about a ball busting nut cracker, lol.

            I appears that at some time in its life the front covers had been off as there was traces of silicone on the gaskets. The rotating assembly is still assembled but rotates freely and the rods all feel tight and consistent. The timing are as expected, worn heavily, down to metal in a couple places. The camshafts show no wear or pitting as expected on a cam over bucket design.

            In talking with the customer he seems to want to keep it mild. He has left the choice of piston up to me. Although he mentioned wanting to crack the 11:1 barrier.

            He is ready and eager to start ordering parts, I think he looking to make that big Christmas purchase.

            Here is my loose plan of the recondition process.

            Crankshaft; oil holes chamfered, micro polish
            Rods; Recondition, grind and polish side beams, shot peen
            Pistons; Forged, CP, VAC, Metric Mechanic, final piston undetermined.
            Oil Pump; Febi replacement, already purchased to fit the M10 oil pan (2002 swap)
            Rod and Main bearings; Kolbensmidt OEM

            Cylinder Head, Recondition, possible new valves, surface, etc
            Cams; reuse existing stock
            Head gasket; OEM from dealer

            Timing gears, chains, rails, etc.. New, Dealer
            Water pump, gaskets, etc. OEM aftermarket

            Piston recommendations are requested. I was surprised to hear Wiseco is not a preferred brand?

            Here is where we stand at the moment.

            Until Next Time, Merry Christmas! [peace]

            Tear Down

            M10 Oil Pan (2002 Swap)
            Last edited by RobertC; 12-22-2009, 06:15 AM.


            • #7
              Robert, I ordered my pistons from VAC, for 11.0:1 CR and are CP. Seems to be the best arround there for BMW or at least the top choice of many entushiasts. Happy building
              Euro M3'87 NogaroSilver / Euro E34 M5 '93 / Porsche 993 TT 97' Euro / Porsche 993 Carrera 95' Euro / Skyline R33 GT-R


              • #8
                Originally posted by diegom6 View Post
                Robert, I ordered my pistons from VAC, for 11.0:1 CR and are CP. Seems to be the best arround there for BMW or at least the top choice of many entushiasts. Happy building
                VAC makes alot of great products for the s14!


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Mstngcobr761 View Post
                  VAC makes alot of great products for the s14!
                  i second that. VAC built my engine top to bottom. great people (very busy, but busy is good) they built me a wicked fast engine too... (pull e46 m3s) on 93 octane.
                  one thing to note is engine management. what ever you build make sure it is tuned right, and by the right people.

                  good luck, and the best!


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by RobertC View Post
                    Piston recommendations are requested. I was surprised to hear Wiseco is not a preferred brand?

                    been running CP for almost 4 years, no problems
                    havent heard to many good stories about Wiseco lately.



                    • #11

                      Regarding Wiseco pistons, I have them in my 2.5L build. I think they get maligned for several reasons:

                      a) people run a chip with too aggressive ignition timing (Conforti/Turner)
                      b) they don't respect the P-to-V clearance and are disappointed when a big duration (>284) cam won't fit (w/o compromised cam phasing)
                      c) they still have an AFM with an air leak and/or faulty baro sensor

                      So, having said that, there are better options depending on a, b, or c. For me, at the time, there weren't.

                      When I built my engine and needed a chip, I called Dick Chiang at DynoSpot Racing and we discussed my needs (shitty California pump gas, AFM, Evo II intake cam, pistons, etc.). I used a GIAC (aka Garrett) chip that he recommended. Nearly ten years and 50,000 miles later, I can't complain. I still use it with my Alpha-N/ CF intake.

                      Hope this helps,



                      • #12
                        Good to see the project is a go... What's with the tap in the oil pan

                        Castillo Crankshafts is near you off the 5 Fwy and do excellent work.

                        Piston choice is just that, it is preference... IMHO if I had to rank manufacturers it would look like this: JE, CP, Wossner, Ross,etc. etc. Metric Mechanic has a good handle on power to weight and they have been good to deal with in my experience, but so has Steve @ VAC. I choose JE #1 because they offer so many piston options from hard anodizing & ceramic coating (@EMBEE) to special porting for ring lands and anti-vibration rings cnc'd, the valve pockets are built deep enough for 292 cams out the box, they come with etched numbering so if you need to reorder a piston they can from the number on the piston your paperwork or the box. CP is a very close second but you have to know exactly what you want and be able to articulate that to them for a custom set, just not as user friendly but just as good. A consideration is the type of Al alloy they use as well for their thermal expansion rate, warm up times in the morning can be long depending... you may want to ask.

                        You should consider changing the valve guides as the material has improved since the 80's and I'm sure it's about time for new guides and seals. Be careful not to resurface much off the head, have them hot tank/blast it first. If it doesn't need it don't do it... If it does, make sure they give you the exacly amount skimmed so you can factor it in to the valve adjustment etc. if they take too much off you will need adjustable cam gears (VAC or Turner) to offset so the chain lines up. I always spray the head gasket with a good copper sealant (Permatex or Indian Head) to ensure a good seal and good even heat dissipation.

                        And again try to avoid stock cork gaskets, get paper...
                        Last edited by ///schwartzman; 12-23-2009, 09:29 AM.


                        • #13
                          OK, So I talked to Chris at VAC and of course he recommended the CP's which are back ordered due to popularity. All things I have read and hear are saying these are the piston of choice.

                          So my customer pulled the plug and got the 11:1, 94mm CP's, gasket sets, ARP rod bolts, timing chain tensioners, and, hahaha, a set of 284/276 cams!

                          This is going to be a fun build

                          What's with the tap in the oil pan?
                          For the oil vapor recovery that goes into the top of the stock M3 pan.

                          This little 2002 is going to haul ass!

                          Merry Christmas to all of you :gotcha:



                          • #14
                            I'm sure you've seen this site:
                            They might be helpful when it comes time to fit that S14 into the 2002.

                            The guys at Cars & Concepts here in Tampa recently did a ton of work on an S14 in a 2002 ( They've got a very good reputation in town, and might be a good resource for you.

                            I recently saw this car at a meet here in Florida (this car now lives out here and the engine was overhauled by Cars & Concepts):

                            According to the video the swap was done by A1 Imports in San Rafael:

                            This particular car had quite a bit of fabrication done -- it's pretty obvious they had to build a framework to support the radiator and cooling fans:

                            Your customer will definately like the results. It'll be a lot of work, but the outcome can be spectacular.
                            The day ain't over yet....


                            • #15
                              CPs are what I have....12:1 CR CPs doing a great job....but I regret the 12 CR cause i need hi octane...11 would be the way to go...