The BMW S62 engine powers 1998-2003 M5 and 2000-2003 Z8 models. It's an impressive engine for its time making 395hp and 370 torque from the 4.9L V8 design. However, they're obviously aging quickly with all S62 powered BMW's nearing two decades old. Given the age, almost any engine problems are fair game. In this post, we'll touch on a few of the most common S62 problems to consider if you're in the market.
4 Most Common S62 Problems
Again, the S62 powered M5 and Z8 aren't getting any younger. Almost any failures are fair game on an engine with nearly 20 years of wear and tear. We're simply pointing this out as buying any old performance cars comes with risk. Though, you likely understand that if you're in the market for an E39 M5. The four below issues are among the most common and/or concerning:
- VANOS system
- Rod bearings
- Timing chain failures (less common than on M62)
- Oil leaks (primarily valve cover gaskets)
Some of these issues - such as the S62 rod bearings - are not necessarily the most common problems. However, it's something to consider given the extensive labor to replace rod bearings. Otherwise, lookout for VANOS issues which are common and can be pricey. Timing chains are less problematic when compared to the M62 engine. Finally, oil leaks (as with almost any BMW) become very possible and likely with age and mileage. The valve cover gaskets are among the most common, but there are other oil leaks that may pop up too.
1. BMW S62 VANOS Issues
The S62 uses a dual VANOS system and is likely one of the most common problems you'll run into. VANOS is BMW's version of variable valve timing. The S62 uses two VANOS units responsible for controlling the timing of intake and exhaust valves. VANOS systems can be a bit confusing for those not familiar with it. We wrote a post about them failing here. However, the older engines like the S62 are a little bit different. Many of the newer BMW's have issues with the solenoids, but the older engines house most of the components within a VANOS unit.
Not only is it a fairly common problem, but it also may be an expensive repair. Fortunately, the entire unit rarely fails on the S62 so they can often be rebuilt. We'll touch on this a bit more below. However, those who would feel more comfortable replacing the entire unit (or both) should understand it's not exactly cheap.
S62 VANOS Failure Symptoms
- Rough idle
- Growling noises
- Power loss
- Stuttering/hesitation at lower RPM's
Rough idle, power loss, and stuttering may be confusing symptoms. That's partly due to the fact many problems - such as spark plugs and ignition coils - can show these same symptoms. However, those symptoms paired with the infamous growling may indicate a potential problem with one or both VANOS units. Additionally, it's possible you will receive fault codes that will point you in the direction of VANOS issues. That's not always the case, though. It's possible to have a failing unit without any codes.
S62 VANOS Replacement
As we mentioned earlier, the full S62 VANOS unit is less prone to failure and it's often different components within that suffer the actual problems. Solenoids, solenoid seals, and gear bearing play are typically to blame. A lot of repair shops will simply replace the entire VANOS unit rather than taking apart the unit and tracking down the actual problem within. It makes sense, of course. It's a lot easier and faster for a shop to simply swap units. However, you may be able to save a few $$ working with a shop familiar with VANOS rebuilds or DIY'ing the job.
This kit from Mr Vanos features new o-rings, solenoid seals, and piston cover bolts. It may be an option for some depending upon the exact failure within your VANOS units. Dr Vanos (not to be confused with the previously mentioned Mr Vanos) offers fully rebuilt units. They're $1,300 each - including a $400 core charge - so replacing both isn't cheap. However, the rebuilt units use new piston seals, o-rings, gaskets, and upgraded solenoids. You're looking at $1,800 in parts cost alone assuming you send back your old units. Not cheap, but some may prefer the peace of mind of a rebuilt and upgraded unit.
2. BMW S62 Rod Bearing Failures
Rod bearings are certainly far from the most common issue on the S62 powered E39 M5. However, they're worth a mention due to the labor required which can lead to a very expensive repair bill. Those familiar with M engines have likely heard about rod bearing issues. It's not something that's as common as some may lead you to believe. However, rod bearings can and do wear and fail prematurely sometimes.
The rod bearings are responsible for connecting the rods to the crank. If they wear prematurely and go unnoticed for too long they could lead to engine failure. Not to scare anyone, but it can happen. Even if it doesn't lead to complete engine failure worn bearings may scuff or wear down the crankshaft. That can cause additional problems down the road even after the bearings are replaced.
S62 Rod Bearing Failure Symptoms
- Ticking sound at idle and low rpm's
- Metal shavings in oil (copper)
Unfortunately, the warning signs for worn bearings aren't terribly noticeable. You may hear a faint ticking sound at idle and lower revs. However, the sound isn't always noticeable enough to pick up on. Metal shavings with a gold/copper appearance may be evidence of bearing failure. The amount would be pretty minimal so it won't always be visible.
For those wanting to play it safe - send an occasional oil sample to BlackStone Labs for oil analysis. That will give you a good idea of overall engine health. It will also indicate if there is too much copper in the oil.
S62 Rod Bearing Replacement
Each cylinder has an upper bearing and lower bearing meaning the S62 uses 16 bearings in total. They run about $30 each for Genuine BMW bearings and if you're in there to replace 1 bad bearing you may as well replace all. As such, you're looking at about $500 in parts for the bearings. It's also a good idea to replace things like the oil pan gasket while you're in there. Also consider any other parts in the area that you may want to replace to avoid future labor.
Speaking of labor, the rod bearings are an intensive job. Quotes from repair shops can vary quite a bit, but expect at least $1,500 in labor alone. Add in the parts costs and other stuff you want to replace and you could be looking at a $2,000-3,000+ job.
Again, rod bearings are not a terribly common problem. The parts are fairly cheap so the DIY crowd can knock this out without too much damage to the wallet. However, it's not a job for the inexperienced or impatient.
3. BMW S62 Timing Chain Problems
We'll keep this one rather quick since we wrote about it for the M62 too. The timing chain designs are slightly different as the S62 uses two chains with wider guides. It's actually the guides that are a common failure point on the M62 engine. The S62's double chain design helps distribute the forces more evenly and makes it a much less common failure.
Most S62 M5 timing chains will likely hold up beyond 150,000 miles. That probably makes it less of a common problem and more of a long-term wear and tear item. However, it's something worth mentioning since these engines are getting older. Timing chains also aren't a cheap repair, so it's something to keep in mind but don't panic too much.
S62 Timing Chain Symptoms
- Check engine light
- Timing is off
- Whining sound from cylinder head
Check engine lights and timing being off are two of the most common symptoms of S62 timing chain problems. You may also notice a whining noise from the engine. If you have these symptoms and are nearing 150,000+ miles then it may indicate timing chain issues.
4. BMW S62 Oil Leaks
OK - we're keeping this one pretty short, too. Oil leaks are not uncommon on any BMW engine. It's also maybe not completely fair to refer to them as S62 common problems. We generally think about common problems as things that are actually defective. As with the timing chain oil leaks could be chalked up to simple wear and tear items. Gaskets are prone to cracking with age and resulting in S62 oil leaks.
Among the most common S62 oil leaks are the valve cover gaskets. A few other common leaks include the oil pan gaskets and oil filter housing o-rings. None of these leaks were necessarily common in the S62's early days. However, age can be just as tough as mileage when it comes to gaskets, seals, o-rings, etc. With the S62 being 17+ years old any of these leaks are very possible.
S62 Oil Leak Symptoms
- Low engine oil
- Oil on ground after parked
- Burning oil smell
- Smoke from engine bay
Oil leak symptoms are usually pretty obvious, especially if the leak gets bad enough over time. Of course, exact symptoms depend on the severity and type of leak. An S62 could have a very minor oil leak without any symptoms without visibly inspecting the area and seeing a leak. Otherwise, engine oil lowering faster than usual may indicate an oil leak. Oil pan gaskets often leave visible traces of oil after the S62 is parked for a bit. Valve cover gasket leaks typically present burning oil smells and/or smoke from the engine bay. There may not be any oil on the ground because it's burning up before dripping.
BMW S62 Common Problems Summary
BMW's S62 engine is overall a pretty strong, reliable engine. 10-15 years ago there wouldn't have been too much to write about. The S62 simply did not suffer many common problems outside of the VANOS units. As such, it's likely fair to chalk up most of these S62 "common problems" as wear and tear items. As with any aging engines almost all problems are fair game. However, there were a few items worth mentioning even though they may not be too common.
Rod bearings do not commonly wear prematurely, but it is possible on the S62. Occasional oil analysis is a good way to stay on top of any potential bearing issues. Badly worn bearings may cause serious issues if left alone for too long. Timing chain problems are more confined to the M62, but the S62's age may begin showing more and more failures. Finally, oil leaks are common on almost all BMW's once they're 10+ years old. Lookout for possible leaks from the valve cover gaskets, oil pan gaskets, and oil filter housing o-ring.
What's been your experience with the S62? Feel free to drop a comment and let us know!