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First off, yeah the bay is dirty... And the vanos have been quieter in their day. Some days they're loud, other days they're pretty quiet.

E39 M5 Leak / Smoking - YouTube


Oil-related though, Engine normally consumes a quart every 1000 miles give or take. I always use Mobile 1 Synthetic 5w30. On a road trip, I got a low oil warning indication on the dash and stopped by a highway-side gas station and picked up oil there, but there wasn't any synthetic at all. In fact all they had was conventional 10w40. Being far from home, I didn't want to run it low for too long so I just used that.

On the road, of course I didn't have a funnel, so I spilled a little bit of oil around the cap as I was pouring it in. I figured it would burn off after the car got hot. So I drive off and I can tell the engine is burning the oil off a little bit, well it kept smoking and after 30 miles I got a low oil light again. 30 miles for 1 quart, yikes. Open up the hood and there is smoke everywhere and a sheen of oil across most of the engine's passenger side.

So I let the engine cool, degrease, wait, then wash with some water, then wait overnight, then try it again... seems to be less smoke, but still there. Changed all the oil out for 5w30 Mobil 1 Synthetic. Try it again, still smoking. There's a little bit from the cap, but most of it is coming from the back from what looks like the headers/heat shield as you can see in the video.

I've read a few Valve Cover Gasket threads, but wanted to make sure I was barking up the right tree before I started throwing parts at the problem rather than performing any more troubleshooting.
 

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2002 BMW M5 E39 Dinan
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That is smoking pretty heavily. Looks like the valve cover seal just gave way and the oil is pouring onto the header. Leaks are slow usually; that is a waterfall (oilfall).
You can also use some gasoline (when engine is cold) to wipe/clean off the lower edge of valve cover/gasket, then run it and see if it gets wet again.
 

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I had this issue. My oil cap was faulty and causing oil to go into back of motor because of pusher fan. If oil cap let out enough oil, it can reach to exhaust manifolds.

Make sure the oil cap is sealed and clean up back of the motor to verify it's not valve cover gaskets. My valve cover gaskets aren't leaking at all.
 
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You might want to check the condition of the two short rubber brake lines next to the ABS module. I don't think the hot oily smoke is making them any better.
 

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If this was true then maybe it is a leak in the vanos oil line blowing in a new direction getting picked up by the fan? Frankly I am having a hard time thinking of anything else that will dump that much oil in such short order.
 
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