Common BMW N20 Problems & Reliability Concerns

Posted on

Common BMW N20 Problems & Reliability Concerns. The BMW N20 is a 4-cylinder, turbocharged engine produced from 2011-2017, and was BMW’s replacement for the naturally aspirated 3.0 L 6-cylinder N52/N53 engines. As the outgoing N52 and N53 were reliable engines, the BMW N20 had huge shoes to fill, particularly given its turbocharged design. Turbo engines are more complicated and require several extra elements, which indicates there are more things to potentially fail. Nevertheless, thus far, the N20 has shown to be a reliable engine without a considerable number of common problems.

BMW N20 Common Engine Problems

Although the N20 is a trusted engine in general, the earlier designs are pestered with timing chain concerns that might be expensive to repair. Simply since some engine problems are common does not indicate they will indefinitely experience concerns on every engine. Furthermore, N20 engines are susceptible to many other problems that we will not classify as common issues, as they might just turn up on a little portion of engines. What are the most common issues on the BMW N20?


1. Timing Chain

The timing chain seems the primary fault on the N20, nevertheless, this concern is mainly common on vehicles and engines produced prior to 2015. In January 2015, BMW upgraded the timing chain elements, which seems to have considerably reduced the opportunity of failure. For certain vehicles produced prior to 2015, BMW used a prolonged service warranty for 7 years/70,000 miles on the timing chain and elements.

In the regrettable scenario where your N20 was not offered the prolonged guarantee or is outside the age or mileage of the guarantee, then the timing chain replacement can be a substantial expense. In the worst circumstance, a complete timing chain failure might potentially lead to engine failure. Generally, independent service center charge $1500+ for parts and repair, while the expense at a BMW car dealership might be nearly double. This is a fairly hard DIY job, nevertheless, the timing chain and components cost roughly $500.

  • Signs of BMW N20 Timing Chain Failure
  • Loud Whimpering from Engine
  • Usually, really loud and visible
  • Substantial Scoring on Chain
  • Too Much Slack/Play

The most common symptom is a loud, noticeable grumbling sound from the N20 engine. Engines might make audible, however quiet whining noises under light revs/acceleration, nevertheless, this is not likely to show a timing chain concern. An overwhelmingly loud whine might recommend the timing chain is beginning to stop working. Additionally, substantial scoring or scratching on the timing chain might indicate a hidden problem. Some scoring is regular due to age and wear and tear. The same might be said for slack or play in the timing chain; percentages are typical, while substantial slack or movement in the chain may suggest an issue. You might inspect the BMW N20 timing chain by peering through the oil cap.

DIY Problem– Intermediate to Advanced
BMW N20 Timing Chain Package
Expense to Repair N20 Timing Chain & Elements – ~$ 200 DIY, $1000+ indy shop
Mileage– May fail earlier, however typically after 50,000 miles

Other BMW N20 Engine Problems

The timing chain appears to be the most significant problem on the N20, and mainly only affects vehicles produced before 2015. Apart from the timing chain it is tough to come up with any problems that are really common to the BMW N20. Obviously, as engines age and accumulate more mileage there might be some common issues that turn up due to common wear and tear. Here we will review a few concerns that may be the most common “wear and tear” problems.

Common BMW N20 Problems & Reliability Concerns

1. N20 Valve Cover and Valve Cover Gasket

Similar to its bigger 6-cylinder turbocharged BMW siblings, the BMW N20 utilizes a plastic composite valve cover (VC) and a rubber valve cover gasket (VCG). With increased mileage and age the valve cover and valve cover gaskets may end up being breakable and start breaking. This is primarily due to the nature of heat cycles where the engine and parts warm up and cool off continuously as you drive the car and let it rest for long periods. Once the valve cover and/or gasket establish cracks they will start dripping oil. Usually, this begins as a minor leakage and might not be obvious up until it broadens, or additional cracks establish.

  • Symptoms of Valve Cover and/or Gasket Leaks
  • Noticeable oil leak
  • Burning oil odor
  • Smoke

Due to the tilt of the engine, this is usually visible just listed below the engine cover on the left side of the engine, when viewing the car head on. Smoke originating from the engine bay will likely become widespread as the dripping oil may leak onto the very hot exhaust or turbocharger. For the exact same factor, you may discover a burning oil odor inside the cabin with the A/C or heat switched on, without utilizing the air recirculation.

It is not likely a small leakage will trigger any significant problems on the N20, however, over time the leaking oil may cause premature wear on parts such as engine or transmission installs. Fire may also be an issue as the oil usually leaks onto very hot components. The N20 VC and VCG are fairly low-cost parts at about $300 for the valve cover, gasket, ball pin, shaft seal, 4 damping components, and 20 bolts. Repairs done at a store might add up as it is a labor-intensive replacement.

Do It Yourself Trouble – Intermediate
BMW N20 Valve Cover (for BMW N20B20A) – Complete set including valve cover, gaskets, and bolts
BMW N26 Valve Cover (for BMW N26B20A) – Complete kit including valve cover, gaskets, and bolts
** We advise changing the entire valve cover, especially over 100,000 miles.

N20/N26 Valve Cover Gasket (gasket just).
Cost to Repair – ~$ 300 DO IT YOURSELF, $500+ independent service center.
Mileage– 6+ years, and 60,000+ miles. Might be faster, or may hold up well past 100,000 miles.

2. Oil Filter Housing Gasket.

We will not spend much time going over the N20 oil filter housing gasket (OFHG) concerns. As you may have thought, it is extremely comparable to the valve cover and gasket. It is a rubber component that is subject to similar wear and tear with age, mileage, and heat cycles. The gasket might start to break over time, which will lead to the advancement of an oil leakage. It is likewise possible the oil filter real estate itself establishes a crack and subsequent leakage, but this is less most likely than the gasket alone.

Signs of a leaking OFHG resemble the VC/VCG, however, the oil leak will be observable in the area of the oil filter housing. The gasket is just roughly $10, while the oil filter housing runs over $300, consisting of the cap, oil filter, and gaskets. The OFH/OFHG likewise are rather labor intensive, so expenses might accumulate at independent service center or the BMW car dealership.

Do It Yourself Problem– Intermediate.

BMW N20/N26 Oil Filter Real estate – Consists Of housing, filter, cap, and gasket.
BMW N20/N26 Oil Filter Real Estate Gasket – Gasket only.
Expense to fix – $10, or $300 to DIY, $500+ at independent repair shops.
Mileage– 6+ years and 60,000+ miles. Might be quicker, or might hold up previous 100,000 miles.

Final N20 Wear and Tear Items to Think About.

Undoubtedly, as cars age there is no other way to tell what will end up stopping working in the long-run as wear and tear takes a toll on almost all components. However, a couple of other concerns that are probably consist of:.

Coolant Pipes.
Vacuum lines.
Vanos Solenoids.

All in all, the BMW N20 is a dependable engine and does not have many common issues that necessitate issue until greater mileage. For the DIY crowd, a lot of the repair tasks pointed out are not overly expensive as the cost of parts is not expensive. For the store goers, some of the repair work are prolonged and labor intensive so the costs may build up.

BMW N20 General Maintenance.

Just like any engine, the BMW N20 is likewise based on basic maintenance items such as fluid changes and ignition elements. We will not discuss vehicle maintenance such as tires and brakes, however rather concentrate on the upkeep recommendations for the N20 engine particularly. Below is a list, in no specific order, of general upkeep products to expect on your BMW.

1. N20 Spark Plugs & Ignition Coils.

These parts play a crucial role in gasoline engines as they are straight responsible for firing up the air/fuel mixture in the cylinder, thereby producing power. Ignition coils transform the car battery voltage into the thousands of watts required to send out a charge to the spark plugs. The plugs then develop the stimulate that is required to ignite the air and fuel in the cylinder. Each time a cylinder fires, the associated ignition coil and spark plug must do their jobs completely to produce a big sufficient spark to create a full burn, otherwise the engine will lose power. Ultimately, due to wear and tear caused by age and mileage, the coils and plugs will no longer work to the best of their capability.

It is suggested the spark plugs are changed every 50,000-60,000 miles on stock N20 engines, while modified or tuned N20’s might require replacement as frequently as 20,000 to 25,000 miles. On the other hand, ignition coils ought to be altered every 60,000-75,000 miles on stock engines and tuned engines may burn through them as quickly as 30,000 miles.

Recommended Maintenance Period.

Stock Engine: Spark plugs every 50,000-60,000 miles; Ignition coils every 60,000-75,000 miles.
Modified/Tuned Engine: Plugs every 20,000-25,000 miles; Coils every 25,000-35,000 miles.

Upkeep Expense.

Spark Plugs: $65-89 DIY, $120+ at an independent service center.
Ignition Coils: $159 DIY, $250+ at a repair shop.

2. Engine Oil.

Although it is obvious engine oil need to be changed as a part of basic maintenance, it is reasonably uncertain how often. Searching the forums, a lot of individuals will suggest 5-7k (thousand) mile oil changes, while others claim 10k, and some claim 15k is acceptable. For a while, BMW suggested altering the oil every 15,000 miles on their more recent engines, however, this was revised in 2014 to 10,000 miles. Personally, our company believe the cost of engine oil is relatively inexpensive compared to premature engine wear or failure, so our company believe 5,000 to 8,000-mile oil change periods (OCI) are best.

Related: The Seven Most Common BMW N52 Engine Problems

That being said, the oil is long-life approved (whatever that means) and is normally premium oil. If you extend a couple of oil modifications to closer to 10,000 miles the engine is not going to suddenly detonate due to old oil alone. In addition, gentle driving on highways at continuous speeds will likely extend oil life, while aggressive driving and/or frequent city driving will likely shorten the life. Your driving style must determine whether your personal OCI is on the greater or shorter end.

N20 Engine Oil Details.

Weights: 5W-30 or 5W-40 advised.
Oil Usage: ~ 1 quart per 850 miles.
Oil Capability: 5.3 Quarts (5L).

Advised Maintenance Period.

5,000-6,000 miles for aggressive driving, or brief trips/city driving.
7,000-8,000 miles for gentle/moderate driving, or long trips/highway driving.

** We highly recommend utilizing LiquiMoly engine oils. It’s exceptional oil for the price, and is our oil of choice for all 3 of our BMW N54 engines along with any other turbo BMW.

Maintenance Expense.
DO IT YOURSELF: Depends on brand name, roughly $30-40.

Store: ~$ 100.
BMW N20 LiquiMoly Engine Oil.
BMW N20 Oil Filter Package.

** The oil filter ought to constantly be changed in addition to the oil **.

3. Engine Coolant.

BMW does not plainly state a coolant change period for the BMW N20 as they declare the coolant is a “lifetime” fluid. Now I am not quite sure if BMW simply anticipates the engine to blow up before 100,000 miles so they consider it a lifetime fluid. We advise flushing and replacing your N20 coolant every 60,000 to 80,000 miles or roughly every 5 years. The coolant itself is very low-cost, and as such, the DIY crowd might want to alter the coolant even sooner.

N20 Coolant Info.

BMW authorized coolant.
Coolant Capacity: 7.1 Quarts (6.7 L).

Suggested Maintenance Interval.

60,000 to 80,000 miles.
OR every 5-6 years.

Upkeep Expense.

~$ 100 repair shop.

Final Thoughts on BMW N20 Maintenance and Common Problems.

As discussed throughout this article the BMW N20 is a total reputable engine that does not have many common problems. The timing chain and parts might be troublesome on designs prior to 2015, but has actually given that been fixed with an updated design. Oil leaks from the valve cover/gasket and oil filter housing/gasket may start to end up being common prior to 100,000 miles due to tear and use.

Furthermore, basic maintenance on the vehicle is inexpensive and pretty small. Please do bear in mind– simply due to the fact that something is noted as a common issue in this guide it does not mean it will forever become a concern on every engine. In addition, because something was not noted does not imply it might not end up being an issue on particular cars.

Typically, reliability of each particular N20 engine might boil down to how well it is maintained, along with the luck of the draw. Some engines may make it previous 100,000 miles without any substantial issues, while others might cost thousands of dollars a year in repair bills. A well maintained BMW N20 engine need to generally be a reliable, low-cost engine to own, all while remaining satisfying and sporty to drive.

What are your thoughts and experiences on the BMW N20 reliability?

Leave a Reply