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Thread: REVIEW: AR Design Oil Catch Can and Oil Cooler / Alpina_B3_Lux

              
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    REVIEW: AR Design Oil Catch Can and Oil Cooler / Alpina_B3_Lux

    Hello fellow Bimmerboost members,

    A few of you may know me from "the other forum" and it has been some time since I've been on this one here as well. As I'm not much in favour of the policy (the word comes from "police" I guess...) of E90post and more precisely at its way of handling conflicts (mostly by inflicting bans on members who have posted lots of useful information), I have also decided some time ago to join Bimmerboost.

    Some of you may know the reviews I've written so far, and I would like to make them available to Bimmerboost as well - together with some new ones and updates to the existing reviews. The present article is therefor one among several threads that I will be posting individually (to make them easier to find without having to wade through many posts in one thread).

    Almost all of these are performance oriented, and I will therefor post most of them in the N54 sub-section. @Sticky: If you think one or the other is better placed elsewhere, just move it there please.

    But enough of the preamble, here we go.

    ---


    AR Design oil catch can

    Why?

    Ever since I started modifying my car, I have been concerned with its long-term reliability. Some modifications such as the additional oil cooler or even the upgraded intercooler, while enabling the engine to deliver its power consistently and without heatsoaking, also alleviated the thermal stress on the turbos and therefore contribute to its longevity. However, I learned that more or less all engines suffer from so-called "blow-by" gases which are excess gases that leak from piston rings during the combustion process and get back into the engine crankcase; from there they are vented (by crank case vents) back into the intake system of the engine to be combusted again. That wouldn't be so bad, but the blow-by also contains oil from the crankcase, and this is the real problem - the oil coats the intercooler (thus decreasing its cooling efficiency), the intake valves and other engine components, impacting their performance negatively.

    Now, this oil should be caught before it creeps everywhere, and this is commonly done by a so-called oil catch can ("OCC"). Its function is to filter the blow-by gases and to extract the oil from them, retaining the latter in a container that is (ideally) easy to drain.


    How?
    For quite some time, Riss Racing was more or less the only option for an OCC that was specifically adapted to our
    engine. However, from what I've read on this forum, the quality of this product was only very mediocre and it had a tendency to leak all over the place, due to the cheap components used in its construction.
    As I had so far had excellent experience with other products from AR Design, I was glad to learn that they were developing an OCC for the N54. At that time, other competitors (such as BSH or BMS) were not on the market yet, and in my opinion the use of a real 5 micron filter instead of just some steel wool for filtering was a superior solution. Therefore I jumped on the group buy that was organized for this OCC. The price is admittedly not very low (list price is 229 USD), but I am happy to pay more for a quality product that fits correctly than throwing some stuff together myself and be finally unhappy because it does not work right. An additional advantage of the OCC from ar design consisted in the fact that they offered the possibility to mount it on the passenger side in the engine bay, which was necessary in my case as due to the STETT cold air intake and charge pipe I did not have enough space for the OCC on the driver's side.

    With some delay, the OCC arrived and was excellently packaged in a big cardboard box. Upon unpacking the various items, I was immediately aware of the heavy, confidence-inspiring solidity of the OCC. Also, the mechanism to remove the filter and drain the oil is really easy and obvious. That was clearly no cheap ebay-like item but a thoroughly engineered solution. All mounting brackets for the passenger side location were also provided.

    Here's a photo (not mine, I hope the forum member won't mind) of what the components look like once unpacked:

    Click here to enlarge

    As always, I had the OCC installed at Daum Motorsport and from what they told me it was no problem at all, and they confirmed that all components seem to be of very high quality. It IS a tight fit, and the OCC is quite close to another hose but without actually touching it. However, it does fit into the engine bay, and the mounting brackets provided by ar design had the right size. For additional insight into the installation procedure, I would recommend having a look at
    Former_Boosted_IS' DIY of the BSH OCC, as the install is pretty similar.

    Once in the engine bay, the OCC blends in very well and if you wouldn't know it, you could think it's an OEM part. It's also easy to access, you can see the reservoir window (i.e. how much oil is in the OCC) and the oil can easily be drained in that position, without having to demount the whole OCC.

    Here are two photos of what it looks like after installation:

    Photo from the side:
    Click here to enlarge

    Photo standing in front of the car:
    Click here to enlarge


    Improvements?

    I had the OCC installed for several ten thousand kilometers, and to my disappointment it was apparently not very efficient. After about 8.000km I had it taken out and emptied, and there was not much oil in it at all. I repeated that procedure several times over the next about 35.000km, with a similar result. Considering that I do tend to drive my car quite hard and use it on the Nürburgring, this is rather surprising.

    In my opinion, the tubes going to and from the OCC are simply too long. There's a good reason the stock breather valves are so close to the recirculation circuit, and I think that the overly long tubes - which are of course due to the installation spot - are detrimental to its efficiency.

    I recently replaced the AR Design OCC with an OCC from BMS (which is installed only a few centimeters away from the stock breathing apparatus), and after only a few thousand kilometers there was already two finger width of oil inside the OCC. I therefor believe that it is much better to have as little way for the crank gases to travel in order to filter them of oil, which the BMS OCC does but not the AR Design one.


    Problems / disadvantages?

    The main disadvantage is that it appears not to be very efficient, which for the price it is sold at it should really be. The OCC itself is without any doubt very well made, but the spot that was chosen for its installation counters this and leads to its (in my experience) poor efficiency.

    Alpina_B3_Lux
    SOLD: E90 335i LCI; NOW: Audi R8 V10 MT

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    REVIEW: AR Design oil cooler / Alpina_B3_Lux

    Hello fellow Bimmerboost members,

    A few of you may know me from "the other forum" and it has been some time since I've been on this one here as well. As I'm not much in favour of the policy (the word comes from "police" I guess...) of E90post and more precisely at its way of handling conflicts (mostly by inflicting bans on members who have posted lots of useful information), I have also decided some time ago to join Bimmerboost.

    Some of you may know the reviews I've written so far, and I would like to make them available to Bimmerboost as well - together with some new ones and updates to the existing reviews. The present article is therefor one among several threads that I will be posting individually (to make them easier to find without having to wade through many posts in one thread).

    Almost all of these are performance oriented, and I will therefor post most of them in the N54 sub-section. @Sticky: If you think one or the other is better placed elsewhere, just move it there please.

    But enough of the preamble, here we go.

    ---


    AR Design Oil cooler

    Why?

    The German tuning companies Evotech (and also DMS to my knowledge) offer an upgraded oil cooler with their most powerful stage three flashes, and ALPINA (that are using the N54 with forged Mahle pistons and a flash, basically) also offer that as an option (which has since also been made available to non-Alpina owners; it's however simply a doubling of the stock oil cooler). To my mind this makes a lot of sense, as any biturbo engine runs already quite hot in stock form (due to their high rpms turbos do create a lot of heat) and that is valid even more so if the boost is increased, the turbos spin even faster and more fuel is ignited to create additional power. A permanent thermal strain shortens the life span of the engine and its components and can furthermore lead to a "limp mode", where the engine management decided it has worked enough and any more would damage it, and therefore reduces power significantly.

    Most of the 335i (in fact, all in Europe have one but not all in the US) come equipped with an oil cooler that is located in the passenger wheel well. It has however a rather small core that soon reaches its limits: After the flashing of my car I could practically watch the oil temperature gauge rising when I drove consistently faster than 200 km/h, and that in spite of the fact that a lot of cooling was effected due to the airflow at such high speeds. If going 250 km/h or faster, oil temperatures easily rose until 130 degrees Celsius, and on the track it even went beyond that.

    Some research (back in 2009; now things are different and more options are available) resulted in two options that were available: One could either replace the stock oil cooler by a bigger and therefore more efficient one; this solution was offered by VK Motorwerks and has since been discontinued as the company does not exist anymore.

    The alternative consisted in mounting an additional oil cooler that was (after a redesign took place) located in front of the radiator; that solution was done by AR Design - more info under this link. Although I knew some very satisfied customers with the VK Motowerks solution, I opted for the alternative as I believed that the bigger cooling surface promised even better cooling, and I would not have to remove my stock oil cooler - and the price was almost identical (currently the AR Design oil cooler costs a bit more than 800 USD).


    Why not an additional water cooler?

    Now, would I say an additional water cooling is needed instead of an oil cooler if you're running a tune on your car? BMW puts an additional radiator and a bigger fan into its performance package which only slightly increases the engine's output, and does the same with the 1M Coupé; Alpina also installs this radiator on the B3 S Biturbo.

    In my opinion that is not necesssary - at least for manual transmission cars. The problem of the N54 engine is in the first place oil temperatures that rise very quickly. In a manual transmission car I have not yet heard of anyone going into a limp mode due to high water temperatures; on the contrary, the oil temperatures are for all N54 cars (in particular if they're tuned) a problem. The AT cars have the additional problem, that about 1/3 of their water cooler is used to cool the transmission; when pushed hard, the rising temperatures of the transmission also influence the water temperature in the radiator and induce a limp mode. I have observed this with several caras already, and only recently had a direct comparison - same trrack, same speed: MT drove without any problem, AT went into a limp mode after 3 laps.

    It is of course correct, that the additional radiator such as the one offered by BMW Performance has indirectly also a positive influence on the oil temperatures, as for example the turbos are also water cooled. However, as the N54 does not have a direct heat exchanger between the two cooling circuits (except the AT cars as mentioned before), this is only a very indirect effect that can be neglected in practice. I know of several cars (manual trransmission) that have the BMW Performance radiator and could not observe any decrease in oil temperatures - which meant that in the end they also had to install a better oil cooler.

    In my opinion an upgraded water cooler only makes sense for AT cars (maybe in addition to a proper transmission cooler), and the radiator offered by BMW Performance does not seem sufficient to me for this. Ideally a transmission cooler should be added to the setup in this case; even more so in case of upgraded turbos, as there will be more heat coming from the engine but also the transmission will be under much more stress due to the added torque.


    How?

    No sooner said than done - I ordered the ar design oil cooler with another group buy and had it installed very quickly as I had a trip to the famous Nürburgring in Germany scheduled where I wanted to test it. The install was a bit tricky, as you really have to squeeze the oil cooler in front of the radiator and there is very little space to fit it into. But it did fit, and as far as I can see all components were of a very high quality.

    This is how the various parts of the oil cooler look like:
    Click here to enlarge

    And here are two photos where you can get an idea of where it is placed:

    Click here to enlarge

    Click here to enlarge


    Improvements?

    So, first of all I did some normal driving on limited motorways and could already discern that under normal driving conditions the oil temperature stays consistently slightly below 110 degrees Celsius (230 F). Some trips on unlimited German Autobahn with speeds in excess of 230 km/h did not yield oil temperatures in excess of 120 C (248 F). This however at the time was with a less aggressive flash tune (Evotech) that was capped at 14psi and with stock turbos. Later on, with the GIAC stage 2 flash tune, the oil temperatures still rose beyond 130 degrees Celsius.

    An additional test came on my above mentioned trip to the 'Ring - it was mid-August, really hot (around 30 degrees celsius), the tarmac was quite a lot hotter than that and I did 10 laps (20 km each) on the 'Ring, pushing the car real hard. Even after two consecutive laps, the temperature only rose until about 127 C, whereas other participants did have some problems with the heat. So yes, there definitely is an improvement over having only the stock oil cooler, and I can recommend this if reliability and consistent power is important for you.

    Here are two photos of me in action - it was a great meet with some friends from the UK forum here:

    Click here to enlarge

    Click here to enlarge

    Click here to enlarge


    Problems / disadvantages?

    The oil cooler is, of course, quite visible - so if you go to the dealer, you can't hide it and its removal is quite complicated. However, as it's only an added value for your engine's life expectation, I would be surprised if any dealer would make an issue of that.

    Another drawback is that it partially covers one of the two intake snorkels of the stock intake (behind the kidney grille). I solved that by installing a cold air intake from STETT, but if you leave the stock intake in place it is certainly not ideal.

    Also, potentially there is some heat transfer between the AR Design heating element and the stock radiator as it is placed right in front of it. However, from my personal experience I can say that this does not seem to be a real issue - I never had problems with my water temperatures while I had the AR Design oil cooler installed.

    A more important problem was revealed a bit more than a year ago: At the beginning of a holiday trip one of the oil lines started leaking and sprayed the oil inside the whole engine bay; naturally I couldn't continue the trip with my car any more and it had to be towed to a garage. This is how it looked like:

    Click here to enlarge

    Apparently the oil lines that were delivered with the oil cooler were only braided lines and therefor not sturdy enough to withstand the increase in diameter due to the heat and oil pressure - they moved around a bit and came into contact with one of the many sharp edges inside the enginge bay, rubbed on it for some time and than ruptured. Quite annoying! My garage replaced these lines with proper dash lines made out of steel - and I would recommend this to anyone, as the braided hoses delivered with the kit run a considerable risk of leaking by rubbing against something in the engine bay (even if they're zipped and attached as was the case with mine).


    Still up to date?

    No!

    I had to remove the AR Design oil cooler as it was in the way of installing the Alpina replica intake that I had installed after upgrading the turbos. As I had in the meantime replaced the stock oil cooler with a much bigger core, this had no impact on the oil temperatures.

    Alpina_B3_Lux
    SOLD: E90 335i LCI; NOW: Audi R8 V10 MT

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    You should try mounting it where BMS mounts theirs. Very efficient OCC BMS has. I'm sure you have seen BigTom's review on it, and how much oil he has collected. Anyways by looking at your sig, it looks like you already own one.
    John 3:16


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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by leo985i Click here to enlarge
    This quote is hidden because you are ignoring this member. Show Quote
    You should try mounting it where BMS mounts theirs. Very efficient OCC BMS has. I'm sure you have seen BigTom's review on it, and how much oil he has collected. Anyways by looking at your sig, it looks like you already own one.
    Yes, that's correct. I have now a BMS OCC installed.

    Alpina_B3_Lux
    SOLD: E90 335i LCI; NOW: Audi R8 V10 MT

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    1 out of 1 members liked this post. Reputation: Yes | No
    Threads merged.

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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Sticky Click here to enlarge
    This quote is hidden because you are ignoring this member. Show Quote
    Threads merged.
    Why did you merge them? They were about two different products which were also installed at different times on my car.

    Alpina_B3_Lux
    SOLD: E90 335i LCI; NOW: Audi R8 V10 MT

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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Alpina_B3_Lux Click here to enlarge
    This quote is hidden because you are ignoring this member. Show Quote
    Why did you merge them? They were about two different products which were also installed at different times on my car.

    Alpina_B3_Lux
    Because of your amount of threads. Since there were from the same manufacturer and often times someone will look at both these products I preferred them merged to keep the forum neater.

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