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      02-02-2017, 04:04 PM   #1
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Developing Mishimoto's N55 Direct-fit Oil Catch Can

Hey everybody!

My name is Steve and I work for Mishimoto as an automotive journalist. My job is to let you all know about upcoming products and give you some insight into our product development process as well as gather your feedback and ideas on how we could make our products even better. Check out our Engineering Blog to see everything we're working on!

We've already produced a large line of products for BMW's from E30's to E88's and everything in between. Most recently we've been working on a direct-fit oil catch can for the N55 powered E90/E92 335i and E82 135i. Check out our first look at the stock PCV system and our plans moving forward below and, as always, feel free to send any feedback my way!



BMW N55 DIRECT-FIT CATCH CAN PART 1: AN ELEGANT AND COMPLEX SYSTEM




This is it. The leather seat grips your back as hard as your hands grip the wheel and the tires grip the road. The pavement is your playground and nothing can break the connection you have to its twists and turns. Your mind is calm, but calculating, guiding the wheels through every turn with finesse as the headlights cut through the darkness. Smooth is fast, and this car is certainly smooth. When you finally coax yourself to go home, stepping out into the cool night air, you think to yourself, "This is it."


The Dark Horse of Combustion: Blow-by

But what aren't you thinking about? Sure, BMW's N55 TwinPower Turbo inline-six engine is smooth and powerful, but what happens inside that engine is much more violent. Internal combustion engines are essentially controlled bombs; air and fuel combust to drive pistons and crankshafts. One byproduct of this violence is power, but there are darker horses to contend with, too. As the N55 churns away, high pressure on the top side of the piston pushes combustion gasses, as well as droplets of oil and fuel, past the piston rings and into the crankcase. This mixture is known as "blow-by."


BMW's TwinPower Turbo N55 is a smooth and sophisticated machine that drives some of the smoothest cars on the planet.


In order to keep the crankcase from becoming pressurized, causing issues with oil sealing and robbing the engine of power, blow-by is pulled from the crankcase via the positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) system and routed back into the intake. You may be seeing the problem already; oil and fuel are not what you want in your air intake system. Many modern cars employ some sort of air-oil-separator system to minimize the amount of blow-by that reaches the intake, but due to cost and maintenance restrictions, these stock systems are usually not completely effective.

Blow-by is an even bigger issue for direct-injected engines. In a direct-injected engine, fuel is injected into the combustion chamber, downstream of the intake valves. Direct injection eliminates the cleaning effect of fuel washing over the valves that is inherit in a port-injection system. This means that over time, blow-by can build up on the back of the intake valves, impeding airflow and causing potential running issues.


The N55's valve cover. The orange highlighted area shows the check valve that is open during "turbocharged mode" and the tube that leads to the turbo inlet pipe.


The Most German of PCV Systems

So what does all of that mean for your N55 135i or 335i and how can Mishimoto help? First, let's take a look at the N55's stock PCV system. The N55's PCV system operates in two different modes: naturally aspirated, when the intake manifold pressures are at atmospheric pressure or below; and turbocharged mode, when the manifold is being pressurized by the turbocharger. In order to control the flow of crankcase gasses, the N55 employs a series of check valves. These check valves determine which side of the intake system recieves the mixture, based on the amount of vacuum or pressure each valve is under. This system ensures that the crankcase is never pressurized by the turbocharger and that there is constant vacuum to pull blow-by out of the crankcase.

Where the N55's PCV system excels over other PCV designs is a series of perforated plates in the valve cover. Crankcase gasses flow through these plates before being recirculated back into the intake. The plates act as an impact surface for oil vapor and do an impressive job of condensing the vapors into a liquid that will not flow with the intake charge. After the vapors condense, the oil flows down a return channel and back into the oil sump. If all of this sounds a little confusing, check out the diagrams above and below for a visual explanation of the N55's PCV system.


The N55's PCV system operating in turbocharged mode. The blue highlighted area shows the one-way valve that allows blow-by into the intake track before the turbo.


But Could It Be Better?

So why would you need a catch can with such a complex and effective system? Well, no system is perfect and this system is no exception. Sure, BMW went above and beyond by adding in the impact plates, but there is a flaw inherent in those plates. While they do a good job of blocking the flow of oil vapor, some of that vapor still follows the flow of blow-by gasses into the intake. What's worse is where the blow-by is routed into the intake track. While the system is in naturally aspirated mode, the blow-by is introduced after the throttle body. In naturally aspirated mode, only a small portion of the intake and the back of the intake valves are being exposed to blow-by. However, in turbocharged mode, the blow-by victim count is a lot higher. In turbocharged mode, the blow-by is introduced before the turbo and the throttle. This means that blow-by, oil and fuel vapors included, is being blasted onto the hot turbo compressor wheel, the throttle plate, and the valves, eventually coating all of them in sludge and reducing the engine's efficiency.


Coming up

Now that we've looked at the stock PCV system and its strengths and weaknesses, we'll be looking at the best way to mount our catch can, as well as which "mode" of the system we'll target. Space in the engine bay is quite limited and there is another hurdle to overcome with the complex PCV system, but more on that next time. Stay tuned for more updates on our BMW N55 direct-fit catch can and feel free to send us any feedback!

Thanks for reading!


Want to read more about Mishimoto's engineering process and see what else we're developing? Check out our Engineering Blog!

-Steve
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      02-02-2017, 04:07 PM   #2
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Hey everybody,

Here's an update on our development of the N55 catch can! As always, feel free to leave any feedback!


BMW N55 Direct-Fit Catch Can R&D, Part 2: Protect What Matters Most




You spend hours washing, waxing, and polishing. Not a single drop of water or speck of dirt is left on the paint's surface when you're done. The interior is the same story; the carpet, seats, and dash look better than on the day you picked up your new BMW from the dealer. You spend precious time and effort protecting your investment from the outside, but what about the places you can't see? I don't mean that spot under the seat where you have to break every bone in your hand to retrieve your phone. I mean the heart of the car: the engine. Using high-quality fuel is a start to keeping your engine healthy, but there are more threats that you may never see coming until they've already gotten the best of your engine.



Looking Back


In the last post, we looked at the N55's stock PCV system; we examined its advantages and disadvantages, and how blow-by can harm your engine. We also took a quick look at how we started developing our catch can. This time, we'll be taking a look at the prototype system we've created.



The N55's valve cover. The orange highlighted area shows the check valve that is open during "turbocharged mode" and the tube that leads to the turbo inlet pipe.


Before we dive in, let's take a minute to recap what we discovered in the last post. The N55's PCV system is one of the most complex systems we've looked at here at Mishimoto. Because the N55 is a turbocharged motor, its PCV system operates in two different modes: turbocharged and naturally aspirated. These two modes route blow-by into two separate sections of the intake tract. In turbocharged mode, the blow-by is introduced into the intake upstream of the turbo, resulting in more of the intake system (including the turbocharger) being exposed to unburned oil and fuel.


Decisions, Decisions


The N55's PCV system operating in turbocharged mode. The blue highlighted area shows the one-way valve that allows blow-by into the intake track before the turbo.


For this catch-can kit, we decided to target the turbocharged side of the N55's PCV system. The increased exposure of the intake tract makes this the ideal location to install a catch can. Also, because cylinder pressures are higher under boost, even more blow-by is created in turbocharged mode.

To start developing our catch-can kit, we first had to decide where to mount the catch can itself. We didn't have much of a choice; BMW really crammed the N55 into the engine bay. There is some room on the driver's side behind the headlight and around the strut tower. However, that would require routing lines halfway across the engine bay, and we wanted this kit to fit the stealthy, unassuming feel of the 135i and 335i. Also, there's no way to route the lines under the engine cover from this side.



The driver side of the BMW 135i engine bay.


Space on the passenger side of the engine bay is more limited but presents the shortest route to the PCV system. We decided that the best spot for our catch can would be right next to the coolant reservoir. This position will tuck the catch can tightly into the corner of the bay and allow the lines to run underneath the engine cover, no cutting required. Once we decided on this position, our engineer, Jason, took some measurements and cut a cardboard bracket.



Jason test-fits the cardboard bracket before cutting a metal version on the waterjet.



The first prototype bracket being cut on the waterjet


After checking the fit, Jason turned his paper template into a 3D model, added a few bends, and sent it over to our fabricator, Mike, who cut it out on the waterjet. After the waterjet had done its thing, Jason decided that the bracket needed a little flare. Some drilling and a dimple-die later, we had a pretty cool-looking prototype bracket.



Jason adding some style to our prototype bracket with a dimple die on the press.



Pesky Little Heater



The N55's PCV heater and hose.


After we finished the prototype bracket, we moved on to routing our lines and connecting them to the PCV system. For the inlet side of the catch can, this wasn't too difficult. The valve cover on the N55 contains a built-in PCV valve that connects to the turbo-inlet pipe with a detachable tube. On the valve-cover side, this tube simply slides into a fitting on the valve cover and clips into place. This allows us to match the diameter of the tubing and simply slide the catch-can line onto the fitting.

The outlet side of the catch can was a bit of a challenge, however. Instead of a clip-on fitting, this side of the PCV tube contains a heater element that screws into the turbo-inlet pipe. This heater element is essentially like the cigarette lighter in your car and helps to keep any fuel and oil vapors from condensing in the intake.



Here you can see the heater and hose connected to the valve cover and turbo-inlet pipe.


One solution for this issue could have been to unplug the heater and simply mill an adapter to screw into the turbo-inlet pipe. However, if the heater were left unplugged, it would inevitably throw a check-engine light, so that idea was quickly discarded. Another option could be to use a similar adapter, but keep the heater plugged in and tucked out of the way in the engine bay. While this solution would prevent a check-engine light, we're not so keen on having a hot heater element dangling under the hood.

This left us with two options: Trick the car into thinking that the heater was still plugged in, or find a way to connect the catch-can lines to the heater itself. The first solution would require fabricating an adapter with an integrated electrical connector and resistor. The N55's computer simply checks for resistance across the two wires to ensure that the heater is working. All we would have to do is match the resistance of the heater element, and the computer wouldn't know the difference, so we gave it a shot.



Our chosen resistor inserted into the PCV heater's harness for testing.


We started by measuring the heater's natural resistance, hoping that it wouldn't change as it heated up. From there, we found a resistor to match what we measured, and we simply plugged it into the car's connector. It worked! Ö. sort of.

One worry we had, before even trying this, was heat. Resistors work by converting electrical energy into thermal energy; essentially, the heater element that we removed functioned as a big resistor. We weren't sure how much heat would be generated by the actual resistor, but once we started the car, we learned pretty quickly. Within seconds, the resistor was way too hot to touch. Back to the drawing board.

With only one option remaining, we sought to find a way to connect the catch-can outlet to the heater itself. We had a hunch that what was underneath the tubing on the heater would be similar to the valve-cover side of the PCV system. Manufacturers like to utilize a common design for components that share similar functions, because it cuts down on tooling costs and manufacturing times. So, it's often safe to say that what's on one side of a tube will be mirrored on the other side.



Here you can see the PCV heater in Jason's hand. With the hose removed it is much easier to attach a hose for our catch can.


With the help of a heat gun, we took a few minutes to remove the tubing from the heater and found that we were correct! This process could easily be repeated with a hair dryer at home. Underneath the corrugated tubing (that was already cracked after only about 30,000 miles, I might add), we found a fitting that was similar to the valve-cover side of the PCV system. We were then able to slip our catch-can line over this fitting for a perfect seal.


Finishing Touches


The final 3D model of our catch can bracket.


The final task was to route the lines underneath the engine cover for a stealthy, cut-free look. Jason whipped together some connectors and tubing. While it may not be the prettiest prototype, Jason ensured that the system was leak-free so we could begin testing. You may also notice that we are not using our typical shiny silicone hoses here. While silicone offers greater durability than most other materials, we wanted to stay away from components that would stand out too much in the engine bay.



Jason sandblasting the N55 catch can bracket.


After all the lines were routed, Jason created one more 3D model of the bracket for a cleaner look. After cutting it out on the waterjet, he gave it a quick sandblasting and a coat of paint before assembling it with the full kit on the car. The final product is definitely stealthy and, to the untrained eye, looks damn-near factory. Check it out!



Our N55 catch can prototype stealthily lurking in the corner of the 135i's engine bay.



Coming up


Now that we have a functional prototype, we're on to testing and modeling in preparation for production samples. This donor car will be going back to its loving owner for a few thousand miles before we check out what our catch can has gathered. In the meantime, feel free to leave any feedback, comments, or questions!



Thanks for reading!

-Steve
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      02-07-2017, 05:01 PM   #3
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Hey everybody!

Here's the post you've all been waiting for: the 1,000 and 5,000 mile test results from our N55 catch can kit and the final look! Enjoy!


Protecting the N55 Ė Catch Can R&D, Part 3: Test Results and Final Look



Nothing ruins a weekend drive through your favorite back roads more than an unexpected check engine light (CEL). That is, nothing except a flashing check engine light. Having driven my fair share of Volkswagens, Audis, and more recently Subaruís, Iíve become quite accustomed to the warm, orange glow of a lit check engine light. A solid CEL is something that no longer worries me; itís something that I, and most people who modify cars, have come to expect every now and then. What does still haunt my dreams, however, is the flashing CEL. Whatís the difference? A solid CEL is usually a fault thatís not life-threatening to the engine. Small issues like loose fuel caps, small vacuum leaks, and dirty throttle bodies all cause a solid CEL. But what causes a flashing CEL is something much more dangerous: a major misfire.



The Orange Omen


The dreaded flashing check-engine light is a sign that something catastrophic is happening in your engine.

Major misfires can be the result of the simplest issues, like old spark plugs, or something more serious and expensive, like a failing ignition coil. A major misfire can also be caused by dirty valves, an issue that many owners of direct-injected vehicles, especially N54 BMW drivers, are familiar with. As we discussed in previous posts, direct-injected engines can suffer from a buildup of carbon on the back of intake valves, leading to misfires. BMWís equipped with the N54 engine are notorious for having issues with carbon buildup on valves, often needing an expensive valve cleaning after only 30,000 miles. But this is an N55 catch can post, right? Right. So, letís talk about the N55.

In the last two posts, we looked at the stock N55 PCV system, discussed its complexity, and how it utilizes every bit of German engineering that BMW could squeeze into such a system. We also looked at its weak points, including the fact that turbo-charged engines inherently generate more blow-by than naturally-aspirated motors. This particular PCV system also routes the blow-by into the intake before the turbo, meaning itís not just the valves that are exposed to blow-by. Coupling that with the normal disadvantages of a direct-injection fuel system means that the N55 will eventually fall victim to carbon buildup, just like its N54 brethren; and we can prove it.



Initial Test Results and a Surprising Discovery


The clear catch can bottoms we use for R&D allow us to quickly gauge the level of blow-by in the can, but unfortunately, the clear bottoms donít hold up very well to long-term use.

Our initial N55 catch can prototype has been on the volunteer R&D vehicle for about 5,000 miles and itís time to bring it in and see the fruits of our labor, as well as fit it with our production sample. Weíve actually been keeping a close eye on this project since the last update. In fact, a few months ago we took a trip to see how the system was doing after about 1,000 miles of being on the car. After removing the catch can from the still very hot engine (it was lunch time and we werenít about to wait for it to cool down), we found something very encouraging. After only 1/10th of an oil change interval, the catch can had collected about 5ml of blow-by. Five milliliters may not sound like a lot, but thatís more than enough to begin coating all 12 intake valves of the N55. Knowing that the catch can system would be effective, we reinstalled the catch can and asked our volunteer to drive the car another 4,000 miles while we started production.

What we found when the car came back to our facility for a production sample test fitting was surprising, even to the project manager and me. The catch can had not been emptied since the 1,000 mile test, so we were expecting something along the lines of four times what we initially saw, which would be about 20ml. Instead, we found that the can was almost completely full.


Even after emptying almost 60ml of blow-by, a layer of sludge held on to the bottom of the can. In the bottom-right image you can also see how effective our 50-micron filter is at removing oil vapor from the returning gases.

We measured about 60ml of blow-by which was well above the baffle and beginning to contact the filter element at the top of the can. This time, we found a significant amount of clear fluid (probably a mixture of fuel and water), oil, something that looked like gelled fuel and general slime (definitely the scientific term for it). The blow-by also smelled like the time I accidently ran my lawnmower on a mixture of 2-stroke and diesel fuel. Needless to say, our catch can system had been quite effective. All that was left to do now was test fit the production sample.



The Final Look

In the time that it took to remove the engine cover and one bolt from the coolant reservoir, we had the production sample installed and were basking in the awesome OEM look that Jason, the project engineer, had achieved.



To the untrained eye, itís hard to tell whatís different about this engine bay from any other stock 135i, but any enthusiast will know that whoever owns this car likes to keep the engine as clean as the body lines. Now that we know the catch can fits and works beautifully, weíll be pushing through production, and soon, youíll be able to buy this kit in pre-sale! Check out the rest of the photos of the installed kit below and as always, feel free to leave us any comments or questions you have.





Thanks for reading!

-Steve
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      02-08-2017, 08:53 AM   #4
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Looks great -- especially that mounting setup. Wish you offered some type of OEM looking mounting solution for the N54 users who are running your catch can in conjunction with an external PCV setup!
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      02-08-2017, 10:13 AM   #5
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Already have a OCC, but this looks nice. Good work!
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      02-08-2017, 10:17 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chadillac2000 View Post
Looks great -- especially that mounting setup. Wish you offered some type of OEM looking mounting solution for the N54 users who are running your catch can in conjunction with an external PCV setup!
Thanks! I'll pass your feedback on to the product development team!

-Steve
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      02-08-2017, 10:18 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dylanize View Post
Already have a OCC, but this looks nice. Good work!
Thank you! This catch can kit will be on pre-sale soon if you feel like making a change

-Steve
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      02-10-2017, 08:25 AM   #8
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Is there a price point we can have? This looks like it could be my first mod. Also, is there shipping for Canada?
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      02-10-2017, 09:22 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Havocsteve View Post
Is there a price point we can have? This looks like it could be my first mod. Also, is there shipping for Canada?

We don't have a price point just yet but we should have one in the next month or so when the pre-sale starts! I'll check on the shipping to Canada but I believe it will be available.

Thanks!

-Steve

Last edited by mishimoto; 02-10-2017 at 09:44 AM..
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      02-10-2017, 06:33 PM   #10
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Looking forward to buy this Catch Can. Hopefully you can send a couple units out before full production is finished. I'm in need of one now👍

Last edited by Chaotic317; 02-11-2017 at 10:54 PM..
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      02-11-2017, 08:13 AM   #11
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Looks promising and a lot better than others that require poor mounting and trimming.

Can't wait!
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      02-13-2017, 09:35 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chaotic317 View Post
Looking forward to buy this Catch Can. Hopefully you can send a couple units out before full production is finished. I'm in need of one now👍
Hi Chaotic317,

Unfortunately, we usually hold onto our production samples. However, we will be having a pre-sale soon, at a discounted price, that will ensure you get the kit as soon as it starts shipping!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yeineken View Post
Looks promising and a lot better than others that require poor mounting and trimming.

Can't wait!
Thank you! Keep an eye out for the pre-sale!

-Steve
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      02-17-2017, 04:31 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mishimoto View Post
Hi Chaotic317,

Unfortunately, we usually hold onto our production samples. However, we will be having a pre-sale soon, at a discounted price, that will ensure you get the kit as soon as it starts shipping!



Thank you! Keep an eye out for the pre-sale!

-Steve
Awesome! I'll definitely be one of the first to place an order once you have the pre-sale. BTW, do we have a time frame of when this pre-sale may occur?

Thanks!
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      02-17-2017, 09:55 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chaotic317 View Post
Awesome! I'll definitely be one of the first to place an order once you have the pre-sale. BTW, do we have a time frame of when this pre-sale may occur?

Thanks!
That's great to hear! We're hoping to start the pre-sale in the next month or so, with shipment happening in early spring. I'll have an exact date closer to the launch of the pre-sale and will post here as soon as I get that date.

Thanks again!

-Steve
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      02-17-2017, 10:14 AM   #15
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How does one empty the OCC? It looks like quite a tight squeeze. Do the lines need to be disconnected and unmounted or can it simply be unscrewed?
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      02-18-2017, 08:41 PM   #16
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^Good Question!
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      02-20-2017, 08:48 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AGAV13 View Post
How does one empty the OCC? It looks like quite a tight squeeze. Do the lines need to be disconnected and unmounted or can it simply be unscrewed?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chaotic317 View Post
^Good Question!
The space is definitely pretty tight. If you have flexible hands you can definitely unscrew the base of the can (there's plenty of room underneath it for it to drop down). Probably the easiest way would be to either disconnect the hoses to get a better angle on the can or remove the bolt that connects the bracket to the coolant reservoir and lift it up. The bottom of the can features a 3/8NPT plug that can be removed and replaced with a valve to make emptying easier. We also offer a drain kit that includes a hose barb for the bottom of the can, drain hose, and a valve to make draining in tight spaces easier.

Hope that helps answer your question! Let me know if there's anything else I can help with.

-Steve
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      02-21-2017, 09:44 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mishimoto View Post
The space is definitely pretty tight. If you have flexible hands you can definitely unscrew the base of the can (there's plenty of room underneath it for it to drop down). Probably the easiest way would be to either disconnect the hoses to get a better angle on the can or remove the bolt that connects the bracket to the coolant reservoir and lift it up. The bottom of the can features a 3/8NPT plug that can be removed and replaced with a valve to make emptying easier. We also offer a drain kit that includes a hose barb for the bottom of the can, drain hose, and a valve to make draining in tight spaces easier.

Hope that helps answer your question! Let me know if there's anything else I can help with.

-Steve
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      03-02-2017, 04:41 PM   #19
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Hey everybody, just a quick note to keep an eye out for a big announcement tomorrow!



-Steve
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      03-03-2017, 11:11 AM   #20
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Hey everybody,

The pre-sale for this catch can kit is now live! Click here to purchase our N55 catch can kit at a huge discount!
These kits are scheduled to ship at the end of March on a first-come first-serve basis, so get your orders in now!


Here are some photos and features of the kit for your enjoyment!











BMW N55 Catch Can Key Features
  • Direct fit for 2011-2013 BMW 335I/335XI/135I
  • Single 2-Port Compact Baffled Oil Catch Can separates oil particles using 50 micron bronze filter
  • Application-specific bracket mounts the can in a serviceable location
  • Billet 6061 aluminum sealed can
  • Defends intercooler, intake system, and VANOS system from oil blow-by
  • Helps maintain proper octane levels to reduce potential detonation
  • Internal air diverter increases air turbulence to improve oil separation
  • Filters and can are fully serviceable
  • Mishimoto Lifetime Warranty
  • Expected Ship Date: End of March
  • Note: Coupons and discounts to not apply to items in pre-sale

Click here to buy the Mishimoto N55 Catch Can Kit!

Feel free to let me know if you have any questions. Thanks!

-Steve
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      03-03-2017, 03:28 PM   #21
oneBIGtoe
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Drawbacks for OCC?

What are the draw backs on installing the OCC? Is there any loss in airflow/performance and is it measurable?

Any others?
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      03-03-2017, 04:10 PM   #22
mishimoto
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oneBIGtoe View Post
What are the draw backs on installing the OCC? Is there any loss in airflow/performance and is it measurable?

Any others?
Hi!

The only drawback we can see to adding an oil catch can is the fact that it needs to be drained every now and then. We think that the protecting your valves, turbo and pistons from blow-by is worth that little extra maintenance. There's definitely not any negative impact to performance or air-flow; if anything there would be a minimal boost in flow and performance as your engine will be burning a cleaner air-fuel mixture without the addition of oil and water vapors contained in the blow-by and your intake will no longer be coated in blow-by.

If you'd like to learn more about the benefits of adding an oil catch can you can check out our blog on blow-by and catch cans here: Blow-by 101: How to Keep it from Ruining your Engine

Feel free to let me know if you have any more questions!

Thanks,

-Steve
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