The 2.0 turbo BMW N20 4 cylinder engine was produced in 2011 as a replacement for the 3.0L 6 cylinder N53. Since then, in the period of production of 2011 – 2017, the N20 engine has proved itself as a very reliable turbo engine with just a few flaws.
Most common reliability issues of a BMW N20 engine
Overall, the BMW N20 is a very solid drivetrain with few issues. On the other hand, all turbocharged engines are more complex, thus there is a larger potential of something going wrong. Naturally, there are some common issues that arise like with any other engine.
Timing Chain issues
Like most other BMW manufactured engines, the timing chain is the weak link for the engine. This issue was eliminated from N20 engines, produced after 2015. If your engine was produced before that, there is a somewhat bigger chance that you might experience a timing chain component fault.
On average, if you are outside of warranty for your vehicle, repairing timing chain components might add up to $1,500 if you visit a mechanic. If you are DIY capable, you can do the job at home for around $500, which is the cost of the components. This issue typically arises on vehicles that have been driven for more than 50,000 miles.
Symptoms of a damaged timing chain
The most common symptoms with the help of which you would be able to predict a timing chain failure are:
- Loud whining noises from the engine of the vehicle. (These can become louder when you are accelerating).
- Too much slack.
- Scoring, marks, or damage on the chain.
Oil filter housing gasket problems
This might be the second most common issue with N20 engines. The valve cover and gasket are both rubber components, very susceptible to wear and tear with time and usage of the vehicle. It cracks over time and leads to damages and oil leaks. The repair might cost anywhere between $100 and $500 depending on the parts and labor costs. These issues typically occur after 5 – 6 years of ownership or 60,000+ miles. Some vehicles hold onto all the way until 100,000 miles until they experience gasket problems.
The most common symptom by which you can recognize housing gasket and oil filter issues are oil leaks below the engine cover on the left side of the car’s engine. The reason why you should look on the left is the typical tilt of N20 engines toward the left.
If you notice visible oil leaks, see smoke, or can smell burning oil, you might have an issue with the valve cover of your N20 engine. The 4-cylinder turbocharged engine uses a rubber valve cover gasket and a plastic valve cover, both of which tend to become brittle over extended periods of use. Under the pressure of the engine’s heat, these two components begin to crack and when they do, they tend to leak out the oil.
The symptoms are very similar to the oil filter housing gasket issues since these two are connected. Repairs cost around $400 on average. You might expect the issue to arise on vehicles driven for more than 50,000 miles.
How to properly maintain a BMW N20 engine
All engines are subject to the typical maintenance procedures like ignition components servicing and fluid changes. The spark plugs and ignition coils are the first parts of your N20 engine you should closely look after.
Spark plugs and ignition coils
Both of these play a major role in gasoline engines because they are the parts responsible for the air/fuel mixture and they generate the power. If they are under wear and tear, due to age and mileage, they might eventually stop working to your liking and start underperforming.
If you are driving a stock N20 engine, the spark plugs should be changed around 50,000 – 65,000 miles. If you are running a modified engine, be advised to consider changing them at 20,000 – 25,000 miles intervals.
The ignition coils of your engine work best when changed each 60,000 – 70,000 miles mark. Both of these components are relatively cheap and should be monitored closely. The spark plugs are $60 per part and might cost around $130 – $150 to fix at a mechanic, while the ignition coils are a bit more expensive sitting at around $150 to buy and $250+ with labor.
N20 Engine oil
Newer N20 engines should change engine oil every 10,000 miles and for older N20 engines, the recommended change interval should be around 5,000 – 8,000 miles. Always check your vehicle’s owner manual before changing the oil in order to fit the right viscosity levels. The recommended for an N20 engine is a viscosity of 5w-30 or 5w-40.
Always used BMW approved coolants. Try to flush and fully replace your engine’s coolant every 60,000 miles. It is not an expensive thing to do, but it might drastically chagne the lifespan of your vehicle.
How can you tell if you have an N20 or an N26 engine?
BMW vehicles, equipped with N20 engines will have “ULEV” under the hood, and N26 engines will state “SULEV” in text. Moreover, the N20’s exhaust system is a bit different and it uses slip-fit joints and clamps to connect to the main drive train components.
How long can an N20 BMW 2.0 L turbocharged engine last?
On average the majority of these engines do not experience any major technical breakdowns until 60,000 miles. Many users have reported engines going well past over 100,000 miles without serious repairs, aside from proper scheduled servicing and fluid changes.
What are the most reliable BMW engines ever?
One of the most reliable engines ever made by BMW is the 1996 – 2005 E390 3-Series, as well as the 325i. Many of these cars have been recognized and labeled as bulletproof by the BMW community all over the world.