BMW N52 Engine Problems

The 7 Most Common BMW N52 Engine Problems

Jake Mayock

Meet Jake

Jake currently owns two N54 powered BMW’s – an E60 535i and E82 135i. Jake has 10 years of experience maintaining, repairing, and upgrading his BMW’s. The 135i features a single turbo Precision 6266 conversion capable of 700+whp; Jake completed the entire project on his own. With over 200 automotive articles published, Jake brings a balance of writing skill, hands-on BMW experience, and technical knowledge to the table.

BMW’s N52 engine is one of its most successful, and most produced inline-6 engines. The N52 was predominately found in the E90 325i, 328i, 330i, and the E60 525i and 528i models, as well as various others such as the 128i, X1, and Z4, to name a few. The N52 was produced from 2004 until 2015 when it was replaced by the turbocharged N20 engine. It is the successor to the M54 which was used in various E36, E39, and E46 models.

Given the long production history, BMW was able to perfect many aspects of the engine over the production lifetime. The engine even won a spot on the Ward’s Top 10 Best Engines list in both 2006 and 2007. However, the N52 still has its fair share of common reliability problems. We’re going to address the 7 most frequent engine issues the N52 experiences.

Due to the engine design, the BMW N52 has proved more reliable than its bigger brother, the N54. Because the N52 doesn’t have an HPFP or direct injection, these are two common N54 issues that drivers of the N52 won’t have to worry about. We also wrote an N54 engine problems guide you can read to compare the two!

BMW N52 (328i, 528i) Engine Problems

These are the most common engine problems, outside of these problems the car is very reliable and problem free. However, I will mention one other common, non-engine-related issue is the window regulators. This results in the affected window not being to roll up or down. Replacement cost is approx. $500 at a shop for the part plus labor.

If you would rather consume this content via a video, check out our BMW N52 Common Problems video below:

1. VANOS Failure

The BMW N52 engine uses BMW’s VANOS system, which is a variable valve timing system. The VANOS solenoids are responsible for controlling how much oil flows to the cam gears, which in turn controls the opening and closing of the valves. Understanding VANOS is rather complicated, although you can read our full guide about it here.

Failing VANOS solenoids will result in a loss of power, poor idling, bad fuel economy, trouble starting, and the occasional limp mode.

These solenoids commonly fail every 70,000 miles or so. We recommend replacing them at this interval as they are likely having a negative affect on performance, although you may not know it yet.

Engine Codes for VANOS Failure

The 2A82 and 2A87 codes are for the intake and exhaust solenoids. The solenoids are exactly the same, so you just need to purchase 2 of part #11-36-7-585-425 to replace these.

VANOS Repair Costs: $178 for the solenoids, about $200 in labor if not DIY’ed

DIY Difficulty: Intermediate

DIY Guide:

2. BMW N52 Hydraulic Valve Adjusters (Lifters) Ticking Issues

Commonly on higher mileage cars (usually 50,000+), drivers will experience an annoying ticking or rattling noise coming from the engine. It is most prevalent during cold weather or on short trips. The ticking noise is caused by the hydraulic valve adjusters, also known as lifters, not getting enough oil to function properly. The lifter ticking noise isn’t detrimental to performance or harmful to the engine, but rather it is extremely annoying and more of a nuisance.

The lifters don’t get enough oil due to the poor design of the lifters and the cylinder head. This is only prevalent in 2008 and earlier models. The designs of the lifters and cylinder head were changed in December 2008 which fixed this issue.

How to Fix N52 Lifter Ticking Noises

The first route, and free route, to take is to “bleed” the lifters. To do this, drive only the highway for 30-minutes at high RPM’s (>4500rpms). Most of the time bleeding the lifters is a temporary fix that may work a few times in a row until a more permanent solution is needed.

The permanent solution is to replace the lifters and the cylinder head with the newly designed post-2008 parts. Unfortunately, I don’t think any pre-2009 N52’s have any warranty left, so you will be footed with a $2-3k bill to get this issue replaced if it hasn’t already been taken care of.

I suppose the third option is to just drive with the ticking noise and put up with it.

Repair Cost: $3k+ at a shop

DIY Difficulty: Very difficult

3. BMW N52 Water Pump Failure

BMWs are infamous for water pump failure, and it is certainly very prevalent on the N52. It’s also a frequent problem on the N54…I blew mine at 42k miles, our E60 blew one at 60k miles, and our E90 had a failed one at some point as well.

BMWs use an electric water pump, rather than a traditional water pump. The electric water pumps are made out of plastic, which over time normally begins cracking and corroding. The bearings and impellers are also common parts that fail within the water pump. Water pumps usually fail around the 80k mile mark. We recommend getting a new water pump that has a metal impeller, since we see the impeller being a common cause of failure.

Symptoms of N52 Water Pump Failure

  • Engine overheating (even when just idling)
  • Leaking coolant
  • Steam coming from the radiator

Water Pump Replacement Cost: ~$400 for the pump, $800 with labor included

BMW N52 Water Pump

BMW N52 Thermostat

DIY Difficulty: Intermediate to Difficult

DIY Guide:

4. BMW N52 Thermostat Failure

Thermostat failure can sometimes be mistaken as water pump failure and vice versa. This is because the water pump and thermostat work in tandem to control engine temperatures.

Automotive thermostats start in a “closed” position, which helps the car reach normal running temperatures faster. The thermostat then gradually “opens” as temperatures rise. When it opens, it forces the hot engine coolant into the radiator to be cooled off, and the water pump pushes the colder coolant from the radiator to the engine.

Thermostats can fail in either of two positions: opened or closed. Failing closed means the car is not cycling cold coolant into the engine, resulting in extremely quick overheating, and potential serious engine damage from running at such high temps. Continuing to run a car with a closed thermostat can result in head gasket failure, radiator cracking, and cracking/failure of other cooling components.

N52 thermostats are built to fail in the open position. Failing in the open position is the most desirable option, as it is the least harmful to the engine. With that being said, it still isn’t good for the car.

N52 Thermostat Failure Symptoms

  • Engine is overheating quickly, gauge reads in the red quickly (stuck in closed position)
  • Engine takes a really long time (20 mins or so) to reach normal running temps (stuck in open position)
  • Erratic temperature changes
  • Coolant leaking near the thermostat

The thermostat commonly fails along with the water pump. With the thermostat being relative cheap, we recommend replacing it while replacing the water pump as it will save some costs on labor compared to replacing them separately.

Thermostat Replacement Costs: about $70 for the part, and $150-200 in labor

BMW N52 Thermostat

DIY Difficulty: Intermediate

DIY Guide:

5. BMW N52 Valve Cover Gasket Leak

Like the N54, the N52 engine is plagued by the same common valve cover leakage. The oil leak can be caused by two things: either the valve cover gasket degrading or the valve cover itself cracking. Since the valve cover is made of plastic, it warps over time from the engine heat and can crack. The result of both is oil leaking into your engine bay and also a build-up of oil in the engine.

If your valve cover cracks you will need to replace the cover and the gasket. The best-case scenario is only needing to replace the gasket, which is a lot cheaper.

Symptoms of N52 Valve Cover Leak

  • Spark plugs covered in oil (usually on the threads of the plug)
  • Ignition coils covered in oil
  • Low engine oil light coming on
  • Oil in the crevices of the engine block, or signs of oil on the head
  • Smell of burning oil from the engine, possible engine smoking if its leaking a lot

Unfortunately, leaking valve covers and gaskets are slightly harder to detect compared to other issues since it will not result in any engine codes. You could get a low-oil service light, but this likely won’t happen unless you have a severe leak. The easiest way to diagnose this problem is to remove the valve cover and see if you see a build-up of oil underneath. Also, remove your spark plugs and ignition coils and see if they are coated with oil and if there is standing oil at the bottom of the valves.

N52 Valve Cover Replacement: approx. $40 for the gasket, about $450 for the cover and gasket. This is probably 6-8 hours of labor from a mechanic, so it can get pricey.

BMW N52 Valve Cover – Includes valve cover, gasket, and bolts

BMW N52 Valve Cover Gasket – Gaskets only

DIY Difficulty: Intermediate to difficult

DIY Guide:

6. BMW N52 Oil Filter Housing Leak

Similar to the valve cover gasket deteriorating over time, this also frequently happens on the oil filter housing gasket. The gasket seals the oil filter housing to the engine block/cylinder head, and is the most common oil leak found in N52 and all N5x engines, along with the one listed above.

All oil leaks are serious, but the oil filter housing leak is the most serious as it can destroy your whole engine if ignored. If your leak becomes big enough, oil will seep all the way down to the serpentine belt, and cover the serpentine belt with oil. Once this happens, it is only inevitable for the belt to slip off. When it slips off, it goes backwards and gets caught by the timing cover, which chews it up, resulting in pieces of the serpentine belt going through the front crank seal and into the engine. This can kill your engine, or, best case, a few thousand dollars of repairs.

N52 Oil Filter Houston Leak Symptoms:

  • Conditions similar to the valve cover gasket leak
  • Oil dripping underneath the vehicle
  • Smell of burnt oil in the engine bay
  • Leaking oil on or around the intake manifold
  • Oil spots around the front side of the engine

Oil Filter Housing Replacement: about $30 for the gasket, $419 for the housing and gasket, and 1-2 hours of labor, probably $150-200 all in

BMW N52 Oil Filter Housing – Includes housing, gaskets, cap, and filter

BMW N52 Oil Filter Housing Gasket – Gasket only

DIY Difficulty: Intermediate

DIY Guide:

7. N52 Rough Idling or Misfires

We’ve heard a lot of people on the forums complaining of rough idling and occasional misfires from the engine. Other common symptoms will be loss of power, slow starts, and bad gas mileage.

While these symptoms are all similar to VANOS solenoid failure, they will not throw an engine code, and the VANOS solenoid will. If you aren’t getting an engine code you likely need to replace your spark plugs and ignition coils. On N52 engines, these typically need to be replaced every 30,000-60,000 miles.

Bad Spark Plugs and Ignition Coils Symptoms

  • Poor idling, rough idling
  • Misfires
  • Bad gas mileage
  • Slow starting, or issue starting in cold weather
  • Loss of power or sluggish performance

Replacement Parts:

DIY Difficulty: Easy

DIY Guide:

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  1. Good day.
    I have a problem mentioned in number 7(rough idling and misfire) and it’s pretty bad. The car is almost un-drivable especially on hills. Before it happened I replaced the oil filter/cooler housing gaskets. Then it started and also there was a whining noise caused by cvv. I replaced the valve cover and gasket. only the noise was resolved. Rough idling won’t go away. My mechanic got the error P0012 and suspects that the oil pump might be dead and not pumping oil at the required pressure. Oil pump is quite expensive to replace and i feel he hasn’t done enough as he did not replace the spark plugs and ignition coils, even the solenoids he only cleaned.
    Any ideas on what could cause error P0012? (Camshaft Position over retarded) I’m not clued up whith cars so any ideas what could be causing this error? I aready spent a lot of money on this problem

    Kind Regards

    1. When I bought mine this happened, mileage was just 45k miles. Turns out the crooked dealership had switched out a couple of the good coils with ones that were intermittently failing, bingo the same day I bought the car I was referred to a shop that wanted $450 to replace the coils. While I was waiting though a huge man with two used looking ignition coils came in and waited around for a mechanic to come to him. He handed off the coils and left. Probably the good ones from my motor being returned so they could put them back in for the failing ones.

      I left and limped home stopping to buy 6 coils at AutoZone and took me a couple hours to replace all six. Has run without flaw since.

        1. It could be crankshaft position sensor aswell, try to disconect it and if its the same then replace it, its 1 hour job.

          1. Turned out I needed to replace the solenoids. Issue was sorted. But now there’s a new problem. The valvetronic motor dies and I replaced it. Then the car at cold start would not hold the idle. I had to boost it once or twice with accelerator for it to keep running which might be dangerous when the engine is cold.
            Couldn’t figure out the problem for two months. even tested MAF sensor.
            Now there’s oil leak in the spark plugs, at the bottom which means it’s not coming from valve cover gasket. Well I replaced it anyway and also replced the those for oil cooler and filter housing. then the rough idle and misfiring started again.

            I also noticed there’s an oil leak on the head gasket so I guess I have to open it.
            Will be replacing, Head Gasket, Profile Gasket, Valve Stem Seals. Bolts that attach head to the block, New Venos Solenoids, Spark Plugs, and Coil Packs.
            This is the last fix I’m gonna do on this car. If it does not get sorted I’m stripping it and selling parts.

            E 90 323i LCI, 2010.

  2. If your engine is produced before December 2008, it could be that the seals at the front end of the camshafts have worn grooves in the camshaft journals. This means that the oil pressure in the vanos pumps becomes too low, and the camshafts won’t reach the correct angle as requested by the ECU.
    An intermediate fix could be to change to the new type of seals, but if the journals are worn out, they must be either replaced, which is possible for the exhaust “bearing ledge”, or the whole head must be replaced to fix the intake journal.

  3. Really helpful post! Thank you!

    I got n52 (185 000km) in my Z and allready got:

    1. Water pump failure.
    2. Oil filter housing gasket/leak which led oil in to my coolant.
    3.Rough idling and slow start-up (not sure if it is VANOS or sparks. Sparks where changed at 133 000km. So almost 50 000km ago. Still working with this problem. Some codes came so possible VANOS. Or is it possible that its only vanos solenoids?
    4. And yes the passengers side window is not working like it should. It still goes up and down but the automatic is gone when trying to get it up.

    Lets wait for the next failure. Heh…

    1. Vanos sensors can be bought for under £50 a pair on Amazon and are easy to fit. It did mine on my Z4 last month

  4. I’m working on a 2008 128i with my son & we are chasing mix ratio issues around the engine. Initially it was a cracked valve cover so we replaced that along with the eccentric shaft sensor seeing as how we were already in there. DIY saved $2k but now we have upstream mix biased rich. Gonna clean the MAF sensor & check the O2 sensor assemblies, but after that I think it is going to a professional mechanic. Other BMW owners I talk to say this isn’t uncommon . . . fix one issue in a system & then it uncovers another smaller issue in the same system.

    1. Good luck tracking down the issue. O2 sensors seem like a good possibility, especially if the N52 is over 100k miles and they’ve never been replaced. Usually a code would be present indicating the O2 sensor(s) is faulty, but that is not always the case.

      As you pointed out, it’s definitely not uncommon to fix one issue and have another pop up. We see it all the time. New ignition coils can expose bad spark plugs and vice versa (standard maintenance so it’s not fair to call this a “problem” but the point stands). New plugs/coils can also expose fuel injector issues, notably on the N54. New VANOS solenoids may expose issues with non-return valves, cam ledges, etc. The list goes on and on.

      Best Regards,
      BMW Tuning

  5. Good day,

    I have a water pump proble on my E90 323i. I replaced a water pump in October last year and the new pump failed last week. I replaced it with an aftermarket pump and it only lasted 3 days. I have a feeling there more to this problem. I also changed the thermostat when i did the first water pump chage
    I’ve checked the fuse and its still fine.
    Any ideas what could be causing this pump failure? I am trying to narrow down the problem before I spend a lot of money on this again.



    1. I know your post was a while ago, but the problem is VERY likely your aftermarket water pump. Chinese crap doesn’t work long. Buy a Pierburg brand from FCP Euro. Not only will it last, but it’s warranted for life! Can’t beat THAT!

      1. I second that! I needed a replacement for my original pump at 160 000km and found one at around 20% saving over the other suppliers. Shortly after my regular mech fitted it, I had issues with ignition coils, so I commissioned my new indie mech to replace them and I remember him mentioning that INPA reported 2 water pump errors. At the time, we concluded that perhaps the installer had forgotten to reset the fault codes when he replaced the pump the previous month. Shortly after, similar symptoms to ignition coil failure returned and the car was running roughly and just felt weird, as if there was a power lag issue as can be experienced with turbo equipped cars. Luckily Covid changed everything for me, because in order to prevent insanity, I downloaded INPA and built a K-LINE OBD diags interface from transistors and a few other components I had lying around in an old storage rack. Sure enough, the same errors had returned. I actually sent Pierburg HQ an email and questioned the pump quality. I was dismayed to learn from them that the market is saturated with fake
        Chinese built pumps that look and feel similar to a Pierburg at first glance, but the output is generally about 20% of the cooling system’s critical point, explaining the power drop and shudders as the EMS was suddenly whacking everything into low power mode when the temp ramped up sharply. In addition, the pump motor controller is a pulse width modulated unit (like a variable speed frequency inverter drive), but the board had no screening to contain the high frequency square wave modulation pulses and this electromagnetic interference is known to cause spurious errors on all the system buses and affect noise-prone analog signals. This could also explain the car having a “psycho spasm” every so often. Despite all the issues with my E60 N52 B30; some inherent, some due to being ripped off and parts being changed by dodgy mechs, it is the longest I have ever kept a car, because when it runs well (about 11 months of a year on average which I’m aiming to improve), it still feels as good as some of the newer models. Fortunately my workshop tools now include a current version of ISTA+ and ISTA-P and I do all my own servicing now. Last week my starter suddenly said adios, so I’m currently busy sorting that. It is still not financial suicide to keep it as selling it would leave money for perhaps a second hand Chinese hatchback if I’m lucky and that isn’t gonna cut it after being used to the 5. Sadly, another second hand 5 in a similar condition to this one when I bought it is out of my reach thanks to Covid and corrupt presidents! There is an official doc that will allow one to determine if a pump is fake or genuine, by looking for the omission of or issues with markings. I am happy to send to anyone who may be in doubt whether they have a genuine or fake pump under the hood.

        1. Dont use Chinese knock offs. I put a Gates pump in, and has been great ever since. I think Gates is Australian, not sure.

          1. In my case I was conned and the supplier must have made a massive profit to boot. I was so shocked and upset at the supplier’s attitude that I joined a local complaints site and apparently the words “DODGY ETHICS” in caps were unacceptable and my post was removed, however, the issue has lead to a sliver of an alliance with Rheinmetall Automotive through their local agent here in SA and although my local market is but a drop in the Beemer Sea, I have vowed to promote awareness of the knockoff issue and also supply info of suppliers selling them under the pretense of being genuine Pierburg products to unsuspecting clients if I find anything conclusive. What is really interesting is my Deutsche mech didn’t notice that he was fitting a knockoff either, which goes to show that there are more than likely a fair number of frustrated driver’s on the planet whose cars use what I call “suicide” pumps wrecking everything good about the way their car drives. How I didn’t break something while the thing was installed is beyond me, although I’m aware that damage that presents itself later may have been caused. Believe me, don’t chance it and make sure you are being supplied the genuine article or ask someone who does know before you risk being ripped off and driving many crappy km until you may be lucky enough to realize or be informed that the pump is the chump! I’m not familiar with the Gates brand as they are not offered here in South Africa, but anything other than a knockoff and with a decent warranty would be sitting among all others on the good side of the performance and longevity chart 🙂


    1. Hi Jim,

      Have you tried replacing the spark plugs? That may be a good next step, especially if the current plugs have 50,000+ miles on them.

      Best Regards,
      BMW Tuning

  7. I have 2011 328i x drive. Wife ran it through auto matic car wash pulled out car died about 30 feet after leaving.
    Auto mechanic is saying we have zero compression on all cylinders? Have not done anything else to it yet.
    How can this be possible? He is thinking timing chain has broken?? Any Ideas?

  8. I have an 2005 N52 and wanting to ensure it keeps on being reliable. I don’t have any failures, and plan to do VCG, OFHG, Vanos solanoids, radiator shortly, I’m at 70,000 miles.. waterpump/thermostat already done.
    I don’t have ticking issues;

    When would you recommend replacing the disa valves on an N52 mileage/age (as preventative maintenance)?

    What about Crankcase valve ?

  9. i just finished up new cams lifters timing vano solenoids cam sensors crank sensors oil pressure and oil temp sensors new valve cover and gaskets new water pump and thermo new water hoses new starter.. when working on the water pump i noticed a short wire with a female spade connector under the p side of the crankshaft on a black plastic fixture what is this and where dose the wire go

    1. The information is indeed knowledgable for a new Owner with a present car mileage of 101000 km . Do the listed problem need immediate attention such as water pump and thermostat .can you provide guidance how I can check the coolant temperature with running engine

  10. It’s a ground put it back sandwiched between the block and the plastic fitting with metal insert

  11. A well written article. Have an 2008 E60 with 150k km. Have redone everything you mentioned a while back. I would also add replacing all coolant hoses due to plastic degradation. I had one of the front hoses (p/n 11537544638) just decide to break off on the plastic part going into the cylinder head. The plastic just crumbled and lucky I noticed the steam and stopped immediately. I also had the plastic tube that goes over the radiator to the coolant bottle break (p/n 17127521775). My radiator cap also crumbled. I am in the process of replacing all coolant plastic. Thank goodness the radiator has ally tanks.

    1. I second that, the coolant hose going near the oil place was leaking a few days ago… Turns out the head of the plastic broke.. I had to replace it.

  12. “….because it’s made of plastic”

    I keep hearing in the article and from my mechanic. Why do BMW insist on using cheap shitty parts from plastic that they know don’t last? Does my head in.

  13. Dear Jim,
    if did your Solenoids and you have still rough idle or loss of power in low RPM spectrum.
    Measure you crankcase vacuum level – it should be around 28-32 mBar at idle for N52. If the vacuum is outside expected values, replace your crankcase vetilation valve and attached hoses. Your ECU will never say you that vacuum level is outside the Limits. Correct vaccum level is very importatnt for these natural aspirated egines with Valvetronic System.

    1. I agree Daniel and had a major issue with my wife’s old E36 M42 which stopped running on the highway due to the CVV valve tank being totally blocked. My E60 (and hopefully other N52 equipped models) has a rounded plastic tank containing the valve mounted under the intake manifiold, with very brittle PVC piping running between it and:
      1. A source port at the back of the engine just below the headvalve cover
      2. A supply port to the intake for more gaseous recirculants
      3. A second supply port to the block (for liquid recirculants) that is clipped onto a steel tubing leading into the block. The PVC pipe to tubing connection is very similar to the connectors used for the car’s coolant circuit and the tubing is mounted against the bodywork in the engine bay that is next to the left hand front wheel, withe the connection point quite low down.

      From the above info, the experienced among us would already have realised the changing the CVV components is not a simple job. The intake manifold would at least need to be disconnected and moved toward the LHS (driver’s perspective) of the car, which involves removing the engine intake ducting and filter box, both cabin air intake boxes, the 2 engine braces that meet near the centre rear of the engine bay, lots of wiring (all via plugs at least), breathing tubes etc etc etc just to be able to get anywhere near to the canister to remove it. I also removed my wipers (noting their position before by painting lines across the ends of the mounting shafts and the wiper arms), necessitating a small 2 armed joint/bearing puller to remove the big arm and the press-fitted alloy pad with grooves for adjusting rest position of the other wiper arm. I also removed the extra ducting that supplies the cabin (below the wipers) so that I could pull the PVC pipes off the canister. The pipe connections were grimy and gritty so it was not an easy task, as the pipes eventually become brittle from being so hot and usually break on removal. The supply pipe from the rear of the engine will more than likely break for you as you will most likely only understand the design and how to remove it best after it comes out broken, but realising it is a single piece, covered in heat resistant sponge wrap with a heater inside it and that removing the engine side first is key, might help. I learned this after breaking mine, but manged to avoid shelling out for a new one by cutting open the insulating foam cover, reglueing the break with hot melt glue and reglueing the foam back over it .I tested for leaks (carefully) before reinstalling by blocking one end with a hand and blowing in the other end with a soon to be dirty mouth. Two months later and the repair appears to have worked, judging by experiencing no new faults related to a leaking CVV intake. Take note that the 2 heater supply wires end in a plug that connects to one of 3 power supply sockets below the CVV canister. The pipe that returns liquid recirculants to the block and the CVV canister itself have a similar arrangement, their heater power supplies connecting to the other 2 sockets. The third short pipe feeding gaseous recirculants to the intake is not heated nor covered.

      I learned the above after spending hours googling and watching youtube until I decided on my path after watching and reading a sh*tload. I could probably find the useful content again so if anyone needs it please let me know.

      And the reason for stripping had zip to do with CVV issues, but was necessary in order to remove the starter and replace the brush kit assembly, which was the easy part. The stripping seems very daunting initially but really is very easy if you just keep at it patiently. When reassembling, allowing cables and pipes to show you where they belong due to heat having hardened their plastics enough to retain shape even after removal can simplify things immensely. I hope I don’t need to do the same disassembly procedure again soon to replace any CVV components, which are very pricey in South Africa, making labour reducing mgtype repairs for probably worn components a distinct reminder of my younger years when the ZAR was a stronger currency than the dollar!.

  14. Hi
    I have a 2010 BMW 323i N52 engine.
    The problem with the car is an occasional slow start. Happens often but not all the time and never on the first cold start. It cranks for up to 5 seconds before starting at times. I have looked at the starter and the earth cables. .

  15. I bought a BMW 530i MSport new in 2005, one of the first with the N52 engines. I still have the car and although I have had two of the issues mentioned the car has done 154,000 and I have not had a Vanos issue or the Hydraulic Valve Adjusters. I had a water pump failure at 104,000 miles caused by small leak on the rear of the radiator (which much have been a manufacturing fault). At 120,000 miles the oil housing started leaking, it tuned out to the lower angled part which they change along with the gasket. They distort over time. The only other issue is at around 80,000 cylinder 4 ignition coil died. The car still runs really well, still revs to a ridiculous 7000 rpm and accelerates very well. Also returns over 32 mpg average on longer runs. The main issue I have had with the E60 is the rear springs break the knuckles on end, which causes tram lining upsets the gearbox. They seem to last about 50,000 miles roughly. The handling and steering is fabulous and the ride improves with either Goodyear or Pirelli run flats. Bridgestones should be avoided.

  16. Made very interesting reading. I have a 2007 2.5 Si X3 which has done 142000 km’s and fortunately doesn’t have any of the problems listed above. However I’m experiencing a low speed vibration between 40 & 60 kph when accelerating out of low speed corners or going up slight inclines? Do you have any thoughts on the matter? Is it gearbox or drive train? Apart from the vibration the vehicle is marvelous to drive.
    Regards, Grant

      1. Thanks. The mounts appear ok and as far as I know the transmission oil is ok but I’ll def check it.
        After chat to mechanic it may very well be plug, fuel or combination of both so working that angle right now.

    1. Similar problem with my 128i with the N52 engine and automatic (GM) transmission. The BMW dealer said there was a known problem with torque converter vibration when locking and unlocking. It seems to only do it when shifting at low rpms. Running the car in Sport+ Mode masked the problem, as it shifted faster and higher in the rev range. I have a 99 M3 and had a similar feeling in the driveline. Being a manual though, the vibrations was coming from the rubber guibo (flex disk) between the driveshaft and transmission. Good luck.

      1. Thanks for that Rich. Seems like the problem may be fuel and plug related but the driveline is something I’ll keep an eye on. Biggest issue now is overheating. Getting thermostat and water pump done this week so hopefully that will fix that 🤣.
        These Beemers are def beautiful cars but man do they have some issues.

  17. I bought a used 2006 325xi with 266K miles (GASP!).
    I know from experience I was going to immediately have to put some cash into it, but it got worse. I only started it here and there to move it on my property, and I was getting low coolant and temperature warning lights. Refilling the coolant only made it leak out more. I bought a scan tool and discovered that the problem codes included waterpump, thermostat, low coolant, VANOS, and both camshaft position sensors. So, I created a plan of what was most likely wrong, what procedures to take, and a list of parts to start off with.
    So, last night I started my car to run a fresh diagnostic after I cleared the codes. The temp sensor never alerted me to high temps. I noticed a lot of white smoke coming from exhaust, and went out to smell it. Yup, coolant. Then I noticed that a massive leak had sprung somewhere and all coolant drained from the system. So… What do you think my procedure is now? I really hope its not a headgasket. There is no coolant in my oil that I can discern. And I really hope its not a cracked block or warped head. Looks like I need to take the bumper and radiator off, and go thru everything part by part. I know that there is a combo of issues I need to address. Any ideas of what I should do???

    1. yeah sounds like head gasket, if its a coolant gallery in to the combustion chamber you wont get coolant in oil but will blow smoke. probably happened before you bought it, unless you been driving it like that with no coolant. N52 is very reliable, unless you ignore issues and symptoms and then they die a very swift death.

  18. Hi guys the information you have in here is A1.
    Have you ever has the experience of the thermostat in the recovery tank failing and does it replicate water pump or main thermostat failure?
    Appreciate your thoughts.

  19. my 2015 bmw x5 was stolen and got it back with a broken spare plug in cylinder 4, car cracks but doesn’t start, bmw dealer wants 20k to fix, does anyone any cheaper recommendation..please advise

  20. My assumption here is that the head needs to be removed to get it out?! 20k is absolutely ridiculous!
    It was stolen/vandalized thus should be covered to some extent by your insurance. Had this been a much lower quote, your insurance covers the repairs and your done. Now if the repairs are approaching the salvage cost of the vehicle, your insurance will want to total it out. I see several options here. Get a REALISTIC repair quote because the one from BMW is just stupid expensive. Not to mention, they don’t normally do repairs like this so other shops are better suited, and get your insurance to cover the bill. If the repair is too expensive than your choice is to let the insurance total the vehicle out and potentially take a loss on the difference, or take the insurance to their max payment and pay the residual repair cost out of pocket. The latter might be a way to minimize the overall loss and still have a vehicle after all is said and done. If your X5 is the v8 I think it is, it likely has a HORRIBLE reputation and excessive repair costs after the warranty Expires. Maybe you can take advantage of the situation to get out of a bad vehicle. Just my 10 cents worth. Best of luck.

  21. My E60 530iA uses around 13l/100km for regular city driving and around 8.5l/100km for regular highway driving.

    By regular I’m referring to the type of driving style one would use to drive their parents around, no jackrabbit starts, smooth driving style (egg between foot and gas pedal analogy), using engine braking whenever possible and sticking to speed limits.. When trying to drive like Lewis Hamilton, consumption almost doubles.

  22. I had a BMW 128i that I bought new from BMW. The engine sized up at 65,000 miles. This was my wife’s car and she babied it and took very good care of it. Still, we had many problems in the years we owned it leading up to the engine failure.. In fact, it was the most unreliable car I’ve ever owned and I had a Chevy Vega in the 70s! Even though the car was out of warranty when the engine sized up, BMW was kind enough to replace it for $3200 dollars. We kept the car for about another 15k miles and sold it. The new owner had the car only a few months when the replacement engine sized up. It only had 20,000 mile on it. Both times there was metal in the oil. BMW couldn’t say why the engines sized. The engine was replaced again by BMW, even though they did not have to, because the warranty wasn’t transferable to the second owner when I sold it. I’ve very glad they did replace it. I sold it to my best friend!

  23. These things aren’t rocket science, engines seize due to lack of lubrication or heat expansion brought on by lack of oil or overheating.
    99% you overheated the engine, from a failed waterpump, blown valve cover gasket and or lack of coolant or oil. When overheated; pistons expand first, rings scrape the barrel sides causing metal deposit in oil, and then seize.
    Waterpump failure is a well known trait of these cars.

    Don’t run out of coolant or oil
    Don’t ignore engine warning lights stop immediately
    Get regular services
    Check over on a monthly basis

    N52 are very reliable engines if you maintain them,

  24. Yup, these things are not rocket science. However, 100% fact this car had excellent care by the BMW dealership. We had oil changes done every 5,000 miles too. We did not have oil leaks, or run out of coolant and we certainly did not ignore warning lights. There was no waring lights leading up to the engines failing.

    Two engines in our 128i failed completely. Once at 65K and again when the second engine had 20K miles. No car with such low miles should have such a problem, nor any of the other issues you mention that are well known, I had a Ferrari 348 and had zero problems with it. In fact, I’ve had many cars that I put 100,000+ miles on with no issues at all, my BMW 330 was one.

    Your comments might be valid for a car that received poor maintenance and was neglected, but even after some investigation, BMW was stumped as to what caused the failures.

    I loved the 128i when it was running. It was quiet, handled beautifully, and was a pleasure to drive. I expected it to be as reliable a 330 I owned in the past. The older cast iron 6 cylinder in that car never let me down. It was very reliable well past a hundred thousand miles, but then, it wasn’t made of magnesium, aluminum, and plastic. The N52 is no doubt a highly engineered marvel, but for me, it was a very unreliable hunk of metal. I won’t be buying another BMW. Might lease one, so it’s problems aren’t my problems, but wouldn’t buy one thinking I could drive it problem free for 100,000 miles.

    Anyway, thank you for stating the obvious, but it was not a neglected or abused car and did not have the problems you mentioned. Our local BMW shop in town tells me I’m not the only one. I find that odd because the N52 has such a reputation, you’d think it was perfect. Sure wasn’t for me.

  25. I have a 2011 bmw 328i and I keep getting codes for timing over retarded and crankshaft over retarded I replaced the censors and still get the same code when I scan the computer. My question is am I doing something wrong this Is my first bmw so be nice please

    1. did you receive error code, such as P1017. my car is the same as your car. technician told me that it is bad valvetronic eccentric shaft sensor. too money to fix it. welcome any idea to share, thanks!

  26. Another issue worth mentioning are starter motors. Mine quit at 140000km. I had my clock always reset on the dash due to low voltage. Thought it was bad battery but still did it with a new bat. Starter quit and once I put a new bosch one in all good with the starting. On the 2008 e60 it ain’t your normal starter either. This has some gear reduction stuff in it and can’t easily be rebuilt.

  27. A have a high mileage BMW 323i 2008 E90, it recently started vibrating and making grinding noise at low speed below 6kms/hr or 25 miles per hour. When the car is in neutral it doesn’t make the noise or vibrate even when you rev the engine. We replaced engine mountings with new ones checked the propeller and it looks ok. I’m just wondering what causes thus noise and vibration at low speed. Once you pass the 60kms/hr speed the noise and vibration completely goes but the moment you decelerate to those low speed it immediately comes and when breaking quickly it will also feels like it’s jerking or something or take long to change from gears 2 and 3 unless you press it hard

    1. 3 things to check, try checking the relay or fuse, check the wires in the fuel pump that always comes loose, and last, it’s the starter.

  28. I bought my BMW 728il N52 in 2000, I drove the car over 1.5 million km without engine failure. Only serviced the engine on a normal basis. I finally rebuilt the engine not due to failure but my BMW engineer didn’t have anything to do, so he wanted to surprise my when I got home. Still driving the same car today. I didn’t have any issues like the cars in the US. I just bought a 2010 BMW Active Hybrid 7 N63. I don’t have any of the issues you listed for this car as well. With that being said, I will change the injectors, oil pump, oil seals, sparkplugs and coils, driveshaft bushing and other small things before the major failures appears. I guess the European versions of these cars are built to a different specifications, standards and maintain differently in Europe.

  29. I have an LCI E61 525i.

    The engine gaskets can fail prematurely if the PCV valve is broken as well.

    Recommend to check the PCV valve to see if it holds vacuum before just replacing the gasket. If the PCV valve doesn’t hold vacuum you will need to replace the whole cover.

    You can get a handheld brake bleeder to do the test; only a small amount of vacuum is needed.

    I recommend the BMD cover as the aftermarket ones are not likely to last.

  30. I own a 2008 528xi, since I have reached 140,000 miles I have been burning through thermostats, like 8 of them in the last 14 months. My certified mechanics have replaced the radiator, overflow reservoir, heater core, and transmission thermostat. Just got my car back last Monday and Friday the engine light came on once again and once again its the thermostat. They just can’t figure it out, even with all of the tests they have run. I have not had the thermostat regulator sensor replaced and my water pump appears to be working without issue. Any ideas as to what could be causing this thermostat failure?

  31. Good article,but take note as to recommendation of bleeding hydraulic valve lifters. CORRECTION
    Do not perform the bleeding procedure that was previously provided in SI B11 09 07 which has now been deleted. Per BMW TSB. I subsequently had a head gasket blow in process of bleeding at 2000 rpm.

  32. N52 engine – If having repeated issues with check engine lights associated with vanos solenoids, you may want to consider replacing the vanos filters that are located on the passenger side of the head (towards the front of the engine). The fine screen in these filters can get clogged. Once replaced, I haven’t had any issues with check engine lights associated with vanos solenoids.

    1. Same situation here. They can be difficult to remove as they are aluminum countersunk heads in a relatively deep aluminum well. Suggest starting with penetrant, tapping for looseness, and a very high-quality Torx bit so as not to strip it.

    2. When replacing the Valve Cover Gasket, these should be checked or replaced, along with the cam bearing seal surfaces.

  33. h have an e60 of which it gives me the issue it gives me the error message engine reduced power then get to limp mode

  34. I own an old, year 2005 (production date 2005.11.1) E90 330i with automatic transmission. One of the versions with S902 production code (special inspection press vehicle) probably meaning it’s been driven hard since the day one..
    Anyways it’s the worst car ever, but why. I’ll explain.
    When I bought it in 2013, it had 120000 km (about 75000 miles) on the clock. Now it has 266000 km (166 000miles),
    I have had to change the water pump at 210000 km and last summer I had to replace oil filter housing gasket and valve cover gasket. Those had leaked for a while, causing the alternator to fail at 255000km (alternators do not like oil).
    The failing alternator caused weird symptoms, such as hesitation when pressing gas pedal quickly at revs lower than 3000 rpm. After replacing the alternator, this behavior was gone. That’s all the issues I’ve had with the engine.

    But what makes it the worst car ever… It has adaptive steering, which makes it a razor sharp, it has pretty much all the bells and whistles that a car of that era can have..

    The reason is simple. There really is no reasonably prized option that I could find to replace that car and the smooth powerful, perfect noise making engine, which I absolutely love. I have driven a lot of BMW;s, MB:s, Audi’s, etc german products and I even own some Americam made vehicles but this old Beemer is the one I love to drive. Mostly because of it’s silky smooth, powerful engine which doesn’t require much more than good quality oil and petrol and occasionally a very heavy right foot to push it to the limits.

  35. Important to do engine/transmission mounts, improved idle vibration. With lifter ticking, when I use 5w30 ( I use liqi moly bmw spec oil) it does not seem to be a problem. Thicker oil does make it tick, even 5w40. Maybe could try even thinner oil. It takes a while to stop ticking after having thick oil thru the engine, like 100s of kms. Use genuine parts, aftermarket hit and miss.

  36. Hello all,

    I’ve been having an issue with my 07 X5 3.0. I replaced the idler pulley, tensioner then both belts (serpentine and AC) now my car threw a p00bc (intermittent miss at idle), the car has a hard time starting and holding idle, sometimes when I hit the brakes the rpm’s drop below 500 and have stalled the motor. Even though the only difference before and after the code/issue was the installation of the pulley, tensioner and belt I’ve tried replacing the maf and map sensor with no luck. The belt is real tight, could the mechanical tensioner be too tight putting extra strain on the motor?

  37. I came here to look up my engine because I’m so impressed with it. 2008 528xi, its been flawless at 142,000 miles of Wisconsin weather.

    I just know my luck will run out though and I’m looking at doing so parts replacement to make sure I don’t cause problems. Not sure if that’s a smart move or not.


    1. Generally speaking if it ain’t broke don’t fix it – no point in prematurely replacing a water pump or something like that unless you do a lot of long cross country trips. But staying on top of oil changes, spark plugs, coils, etc. is a good plan. Just don’t go too crazy on prematurely fixing things that might not be a problem since some of these replacements can get pretty expensive on a BMW.

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