The 3 Most Common BMW M60 Engine Problems
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.
The M60 engine made its debut in 1992 as BMW’s first V8 in more than 25 years. It’s available in two variants – the M60B30 3.0L V8 and the M60B40 4.0L V8. Power comes in at 215hp and 282hp, respectively. These are pretty impressive numbers for smaller V8 engines, especially considering the era. BMW’s M60 engine has also earned a solid reputation for reliability. However, no engine is perfect and the M60 isn’t an exception. In this article, we discuss a few of the most common problems with the M60 engine.
3 Common M60 Problems
A few of the most common issues with the BMW M60 V8 engine include:
- Nikasil damage
- Timing chain guide
- Cooling system
It’s a good time to add a few quick notes. The M60 engines are about 25-30 years old now. Age can take just as much of a toll on an engine as mileage. This is especially true if there is minimal upkeep and maintenance. That said, there are tons of various problems that M60 powered BMW’s may run into. Suspension is likely to be worn. Belts, hoses, wires, gaskets, etc may require replacement due to age. Point is – the M60 may suffer problems that aren’t necessarily true defects of the engine, but simply to due natural wear and tear.
Nonetheless, the M60 is actually a pretty solid, reliable engine. It was before the era of endless electronics, wiring, VANOS, etc. The M60 certainly has a lot going for it, but no engine is perfect. Let’s jump in and discuss a few of the common faults with the BMW M60 engine.
1) BMW M60 Nikasil Damage
This issue is mostly a thing of the past. However, there could be a few M60 engines still out there that went under the radar and weren’t fixed. Early M60 cylinder liners are made from Nikasil, which is a combination of aluminum, nickel, and silicone. Unfortunately, that did not work out well for the United States and United Kingdom markets where fuels were high in sulfur at the time.
High sulfur fuels reacted poorly with the Nikasil causing damage to the M60 cylinder bores. This in turn leads to a loss of compression and a total loss of the engine. BMW offered an extended warranty of 6 years and 100,000 miles for internal parts, and the blocks were eventually changed to Alusil instead of Nikasil. The US and UK markets also began lowering sulfur content of fuels.
As such, most problematic M60 engines likely had a replacement engine installed. Some also didn’t have problems at all since sulfur content was quickly lowered. Regardless, if you’re in the market for an M60 it’s a good idea to check if the car had a replacement engine and/or block. The block casting numbers are as follows:
- M60B30 Nikasil — 1 725 970 or 1 741 212
- M60B40 Nikasil — 1 725 963 or 1 742 998
- M60B30 Alusil — 1 745 871
- M60B40 Alusil — 1 745 872
M60 Nikasil Damage Symptoms & Fix
Again, this problem is mostly a thing of the past. Nonetheless, the following symptoms may indicate an issue with the Nikasil lining:
- Extremely rough idle
- Compression loss
Nikasil often caused the cylinders to begin losing compression. This can cause misfires and a very rough idle. If enough compression is lost on multiple cylinders the M60 may not even be able to start. Unfortunately, the only fix is a new engine or engine block. It’s not a cheap repair, so it’s a good idea to ensure the M60 is no longer affected. A compression test is a good idea regardless of the Nikasil issues.
2) M60 V8 Timing Chain Guide Failure
Failure of the timing chain guides is a common issue on the M60 V8 engine. The M60 timing chain is tensioned by one tensioner that uses guide rails. Guide rails and the tensioner itself are the two frequent points of failure. Whether or not this issue is truly a common problem is up for debate. The timing chain guide or tensioners typically hold up beyond 120,000 miles.
However, with the age of the M60 engines today it’s a common point that should be addressed. The timing chain issues are also worth the mention since repair can be a bit of a hassle. It’s also a good idea to replace both the tensioner and guide rail while you’re in there. You might also consider the timing chain and some other small repairs while taking everything apart.
BMW M60 Timing Chain Guide Symptoms
When the timing chain, guide, or tensioner are on their way out you’ll typically notice the following symptoms:
- Rattling noise
- Check engine light
As the timing chain develops some slack due to the failure you’ll hear a pretty noticeable rattling sound from the engine. It may also throw a check engine light for cam or crankshaft position sensors. Finally, if timing falls out of place the M60 will likely misfire and run rough.
M60 V8 Timing Chain Replacement
This is a pretty intensive job on the BMW M60 engine. DIY’s aren’t too complicated, but it does require the proper tools and patience as it can take up to 15-20 hours to replace the chain, tensioner, and guide. As such, labor can be pretty expensive if you take the M60 to the shop.
3) M60 Cooling System Problems
Issues with the cooling system affect many different BMW engines. It’s also a pretty vague problem since the M60 cooling system includes the water pump, expansion tank, coolant hoses, radiator, cooling fan, etc. Nonetheless, these are all wear and tear parts that take abuse with age and mileage. Look for coolant hoses, radiators, and expansion tanks to develop cracks. BMW M60 water pumps and fans are another problematic area since they’re moving parts that wear down with age.
This is – in part – on the list to discuss the bigger picture with the M60. They’re getting to the age where a lot of TLC is required to keep them running strong. However, with the proper maintenance the cooling system (and many other parts) are unlikely to be problematic. It’s just a matter of knocking out repairs and refreshing the engine as things pop up.
BMW M60 Reliability
Is the M60 engine reliable? BMW M60 engines were reliable engines for a good while. US and UK markets experienced issues in the early days due to high sulfur fuels that wore down the Nikasil cylinder lining. However, sulfur content in fuel was brought down and BMW eventually changed the M60 block material. Outside of that the M60 didn’t really suffer many design flaws or common problems.
However, it’s a slightly different ballgame today. The M60 is 25-30 years old and that age takes a toll on any car and engine. Even low mileage examples are bound to need some repairs. Age can wear down plastic parts, hoses, gaskets, wiring, etc. Point is – the BMW M60 can be a reliable engine with the right attention to detail.
It’s going to take some money to refresh the engine. However, with proper repairs and maintenance the M60 is a solid, reliable engine.
Superb Informative Insights on E38 7 Series M 60 and M 62 Engines
The timing chain guide failure statement on M60 is incorrect, and is confused with the TU versions of BMW V8s that uses a horse shoe shape bottom plastic lined guide. The original M60 design uses a metal sprocket wheel on the bottom to guide the chain and this design will last way longer and are not prone to failure lasting over 200K plus miles.