Common BMW N20 engine problems

Common BMW N20 engine problems

BMW has several exceptional engines on the market, and the BMW N20 is one of them. This engine was introduced in 2011 to replace the N52 and N53 engines. Despite being reliable, the N20 engine also comes with several issues. What are the common BMW N20 engine problems?

Some of the common BMW N20 engine issues are timing chain problems, oil leakage, cooling system issues, bad spark plugs, frequent oil changes, cracked oil filter housing gasket, and bad airflow meter. Despite having several issues, the BMW N20 engine is reliable and performs outstandingly.

The BMW N20 engine has 1.6-liter and 2.0-liter options. It is also a turbocharged four-cylinder DOHC petrol engine with variable valve lift and variable valve timing. This engine replaced the naturally aspirated six-cylinder N52/N53 because it powers equivalent models, thus producing similar horsepower to the N52 and N53 engines.

Nevertheless, the N20 offers better low-rpm torque and greater efficiency than the N52/N53 engines. On top of that, it comes with a twin-scroll turbocharger, double-VANOS, Valvetronic, direct injection, automatic stop-start, and an electric water pump.

What are the common problems of the BMW N20 engine?

Timing chain issues

The most common problem with the BMW N20 engine is the timing chain. This issue is common on almost all BMWs. Nevertheless, this problem is rampant on BMW N20 engines made between 2011 and 2015. This is because BMW redesigned the timing chain parts on BMW N20 engines made after 2015; thus, this issue is not common.

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Signs of a bad timing chain on the N20 engine are excessive slack, a loud whining from the engine, and a lot of scoring on the chain.

Oil leakage

Another common problem that BMW users with the N20 engine face are oil leakage. This happens because valve cover and valve cover gasket are made using plastic and rubber, respectively. As a result, they wear out quickly, making oil start leaking and causing various issues.

The valve cover and valve cover gasket should be changed every 60,000 miles to avoid oil leakage and other problems.

Cracked oil filter housing gasket

Just like the valve cover gasket, the oil filter housing gasket is also made of rubber that won’t hold up for long. After covering over 60,000 miles, you should watch over this component as it can crack and cause several problems. Replace the oil filter housing gasket every 60,000 miles.

Bad spark plugs and ignition coils

Spark plugs and ignition coils wear out faster. So, after 50,000 miles, you should change the spark plugs and ignition coils to ensure that the engine runs smoothly. These two parts are vital as they ignite the air/fuel mixture in the cylinder, thus, generating power.

Frequent oil changes

After your BMW N20 puts on several miles, you should observe the oil level as a bad oil filter housing gasket and valve cover gasket can cause the engine to lose oil. Therefore, you may be forced to fill oil more frequently than normal. Change oil every 7,000 miles.

Bad airflow meter or mass airflow sensor

Another common that BMW N20 engine owners may face is high fuel consumption. This is mainly caused by a bad air flow meter or mass airflow sensor. If the mass airflow sensor becomes bad or faulty, the engine may start to run too rich and lead to poor fuel economy. Replace the bad mass airflow sensor.

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Is the BMW N20 engine reliable?

It depends on the model year that you’re talking about. This is because the earlier BMW N20 engine, which was built between 2011 and 2015 has a lot of issues. On the other hand, the latter model, which was built between 2015 and 2017 has fewer issues. So, the latter model is more reliable than the older model.

Overall, the BMW N20 engine is reliable as it ranks slightly above-average reliability. But like most BMW engines, this engine is also costly and cumbersome to fix. 

What BMW models come with the BMW N20 engine?

Several BMW models are fitted with the N20 engine. Some of them include the 2013 to 2016 E89 Z4 sDrive18i, 2011 to 2017 F25 X3 sDrive20i, 2014 to 2016 F32 420i, 2011 to 2016 F10 520i, 2013 to 2016 F10 520Li, 2011 to 2016 E89 Z4 sDrive28i, 2014 to 2016 F32 428i, and much more.

When should the BMW N20 timing chain be replaced?

Depending on how well you maintain your BMW car with an N20 engine, you may start experiencing timing chain issues after covering 50,000 miles. However, if you don’t maintain your car properly, you may start having these issues as early as 40,000 miles. So, you should check and replace the timing chain on the N20 engine every 50,000 miles.

After how many miles does the BMW N20 engine start having issues?

It depends on how well you take care of your BMW. Nonetheless, people with BMW cars that are fitted with the N20 engines should expect to start experiencing minor issues after covering over 60,000 miles. Serious problems should start after covering 100,000 miles.

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If you always maintain your car well, you should experience serious issues and major repairs may be made after clocking over 150k miles.

How much is a BMW engine rebuild?

Repairing an engine is quite cheaper compared to rebuilding the engine. However, if the problems are many, it is better to rebuild the engine, instead of repairing just a few issues. The cost of repairing a BMW engine may cost between $3,000 and $5,000. Of course, the cost varies according to the type of engine.

However, if you intend to rebuild a BMW N20 engine, you will have to part with about $4,500. The N20 is one of BMW’s most costly engines.


If you intend to buy a BMW with an N20 engine, it is crucial to know some of the problems that you’re likely to face before investing in it. The BMW N20 is a reliable engine built between 2011 and 2017. However, it has some common problems, such as timing chain issues, oil leakage, bad spark plugs, and cooling system issues.

The good news is that most of these issues can be handled by a professional BMW mechanic or at a BMW service center. All in all, proper maintenance will prolong the lifespan of the BMW N20 engine.

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Edwin Odipo

Why do you love writing about cars? Cars make our lives easy. You can visit your distant friend, relative or even rush to the grocery store a few miles from your home with a lot of ease. Imagine how life was before the invention of cars?? To me, cars are a blessing that made life more convenient.

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