N20 timing chain issue

ok I’m getting a lot of questions about the N20 timing chain noise and replacement,,,,here are 2 short audio clips,,,,you can here a high pitched whine in both videos. one video is at 3000rpms,,,,and the other is reving the engine up and down,,,I sent both videos to BMW to get approval on the timing chain repairs.image Here I removed the valve cover and inspected from the top of the engine for any visual problem,,,I don’t know if you can see it in the picture,,,,on top of the chain you can see shiney marks,,,that is an indication the chain is rubbing on something,,,,those marks are not normally there.image Here the old timing chain and guide reins,,,the guide rails were broken.image Here you can see where they broke,,,,the two rails would normally be snapped together.image Here the old  oil pump timing chain module,,,,this comes complete as you see it,,,,did not find anything wrong with this,,,but BMW wants us to replace it at the same time as the timing chain.image Here are the new timing chain guides and rails,,,the new ones are white in color and made of a better plastic we hope,,,,lol.image This is the new oil pump timing chain module complete just bolt in,,,,this job is not one of the best to do,,,,this was on a X3 so I had to deal with the front axles and front differential,,,,,this job only pays about 9.5 hours,,,so you pretty much have one day to complete the job to make any money.,,,I hope this helps some of you guys about the timing chain issues.

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599 Responses to N20 timing chain issue

  1. willyPSA says:

    By the way Car was on 148608km.. and never had any motor issues. serviced on time and everything done by the book.. first brakedown owned car since new.
    please assist in outlining detailed info on timing chain n oil pump relations .. costs involved etc and how long does it take to repair.. days work, a week etc

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Niels Petersen says:

    I have an 8/2014 built X4 (2015 F26) with the N20 motor and the timing chain is just ridiculously slack. No whining sound and no shiny marks, but only 15K miles on the odometer.
    It is my understanding that BMW has a procedure (11 31 540) and a special tool (2 411 399) to check an N20 engine for possible elongation of the timing chain. Is this something “any” BMW dealer can handle and how long (a.k.a. how much) would it take to do this test?


    • I’m wondering why you are say the chain has slack,,,,how do you know this and if the chain has slack the timing chain tensioner could be going bad,,,,,ok any dealership can check the timing chain,,,,it takes about 1 day,,,,,the cost I don’t know sorry


      • Niels Petersen says:

        Hi (again). One time, and only the one time, I could lift the chain about 1 cm with my fingers. But except for that one time, it has been tight whenever I checked it. Someone stated that this slack can be a function of exactly where the motor stopped.
        The TC tensioner only “works” when there is oil pressure, right? Changing the tensioner is a simple DIY job, it seems. I noticed that the part number and physical appearance has changed for the tensioner. Would you recommend changing the tensioner to new part number as a preventive measure?


      • Yes the tensioner only woks with oil pressure,,,and yes it wouldn’t hurt to replace the tensioner

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Bill P says:

    In a related matter, VW/Audi has recently reached a class action settlement for timing chain and tensioner failures in 2008 to 2014 vehicles with 2.0 turbo engines. The extended warranty is for 10 years/100,000 miles and also covers earlier repairs. It’s easy to check these parts before engine failure, either visually by opening a cap on the timing chain cover or by doing a reading from the OBD. Yes, I have an A4 that is now covered, and I also have an X3 with an affected N20 engine.


  4. Alberto says:

    Hi Andreas, I think my N20 may be showing signs of timing chain issues. There are score marks on the timing chain (inspected through oil fill aperture), and there is a slight whine coming. I took a video, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuHqMGnEaZo

    Also, at the end of the video there is a strange ‘hollow’ high pitched noise (kind of sounds like a UFO), not sure where that’s coming from…
    FYI, 2013 X1 sdrive28i with 37k miles.
    What do you think? Thanks!


    • Yes you have a slight whine from the timing chain,,,,,,the UFO sound I would have to hear more of it,,,,could be the to much vacuum inside the engine causing a whistle noise from the front engine seal maybe.


      • Alberto says:

        Thanks, Andreas. Do you think I would qualify for the timing chain replacement under ELW with this level of whine noise? Or should I wait a bit before taking it into the dealer to see if it worsens?

        I’ll try and take another shot of the UFO sound. Kind of sounds like its coming from the harmonic dampener.


      • I would try now with the dealer and see what they say about the whine noise,,,,,if that UFO noise is coming from behind the harmonic balancer then it is your front crank seal that is going bad,,,,but your valve cover could be causing the front crank seal to go bad with too much internal engine vacuum.


    • ermv says:

      my car sounds very similar to this. it does have a rattling sound on cold starts. when it is on operating temperature, the rattling sound goes away. however, i do hear it towards the end when i rev and release the pedal.
      on the possible vacuum noise, is this something related to a P1290 code? i don’t have a bmw-specific scanner but what i’m reading on the web is that this code is possibly a vacuum leak.
      appreciate your thoughts on this. thanks in advance.


      • I’m not familiar with P codes,,,,but you said you hear a vacuum noise,,,you old check the intake and turbo charge pipes,,,also on some N20 engine with a vacuum wastegate their are some vacuum limes connected to engine cover and the vacuum pump at the rear of the cylinder head.


  5. Stas says:


    Big thanks for the info that you provide here!

    I had timing chain and oil pump drive chain replaced on my N20 engine. After this work, I started to here new buzzing/whirring noise from inside the car. It is best heard on small speeds and RPMs around 2000. This noise changes with RPMs and it sounds like a small electric engine that follows the RPMs, but lags behind a bit. What bothers me more is that there are metal particles in the oil after this work (it was new oil). After that the oil was changed, and there are again metal particles just after around 200 miles.

    I know it is hard question, but can you imagine or suggest what could go wrong during such work and what should be checked?

    Thanks in advance,


  6. ermv says:

    my car sounds very similar to this. it does have a rattling sound on cold starts. when it is on operating temperature, the rattling sound goes away. however, i do hear it towards the end when i rev and release the pedal.
    on the possible vacuum noise, is this something related to a P1290 code? i don’t have a bmw-specific scanner but what i’m reading on the web is that this code is possibly a vacuum leak.
    appreciate your thoughts on this. thanks in advance.


  7. Tony younes says:

    Hi I’m doing timing chain on 2013 bmw 328 do I have to time the oil pump or where is the mark thx


  8. Tom228i says:

    The TSB doesn’t list 228i’s but I’m assuming the n20/n26 have the same issue?


  9. Lucas says:


    I plant to get a X3 Feb2013 tomorrow but i just suddenly read this from you. The car is already 130.000km so I wander is there any way i can prevent this problem or buying Extended BMW Warranty cover cost in case this problem happens?
    It really costly (~6-7000CAD$ for 24mnths with 40.000km). It is worthy?



    • That’s a lot of money for only 24 months and 42k kilo extended warranty,,,,I don’t know if it is worth it,,,,and the car already has a lot of kilometers .,,,was there any work done to this car already?


      • Lucas says:

        Thanks for replying. Im not someone ưho really understands about car so i dont know. I bought this from Bmw authorized dealer in ottawa.
        Should i get extended warranty?
        If not, is there any way i can prevent timing chain problem ?


      • Javier says:

        Hello Lucas
        I allow myself to reply in order to share my experience 🙂 .. In my case, in Summer 2016 i bought a 320i with an N20 from April 2013. Car had 3 years at that time and 109000 kms on the counter. It had the timing chain issue which was gladly covered by the BMW Europlus warranty for pre owned cars. In my case, the issue was that timing chain rail was broken, falling the pieces down into the oil sump and blocking the sucking pipe of the oil pump. So i reached to know the issue just by chance. In my case there was also a broken bolt which made a whole in the block resulting in the need to change also the block. In total, i believe 9000euros which were covered by warranty.

        In order to give you some figures I paid 20000eur for a 320i with 109000 kms and quiete a lot of extra options, 3 years old, warranty included in an official BMW dealer in Bünde (Germany). I don’t know how much are you asked for the car, but definitely i would not buy it unless i would have a 100% warranty which covers whatever thing. And also definitely i would not accept some thousands extra (dollars or euros :-)) just for the warranty extension.

        Hope this helps. If you need some more information that may help you from my side, just please feel free to let me know


      • Lucas says:

        Hi Javier,

        Thanks for your sharing.
        The car is 17.000$ CAD ALL IN with 130.000km on it.
        I accidentally made deposit on it 1000CAD but i dont have budget to go for other vehicle in their inventory.

        I plan to buy extended warranty with them ( Elite BMW in ottawa – official dealer iguess) with around 5-7000 $ CAD. Cover up to 24months and 20-40.000km.

        I dont know what to do now.

        Im between
        1. Get car and 5k for warranty.
        2. Get car only, ask them to replace the timing guide( as i understood the main cause of n20 engine problem. They will not chane it unless it broken). So i have to change it now with my own money or wait til it broken.
        3. Keep 1000$ there and hope to find better car and my whole family has no vehicle for months.

        If i keep money there and look for X3 model, what year and model i should avoid?



      • afels says:

        Hi Lucas, for half of that money you could have the chain guides fixed and won’t need to worry about it any more.


      • Lucas says:

        Thanks guy so much. But extacly what i need to replace?
        And where should i do it? Idian store or Bmw authorized service centre ?

        I wonder 50% to cover that problem but with the rest50% can cover anything come up bumper to bumper for around 2 years. It might be great right?


      • If yo go to a independent repair shop make sure he has done this job already and that he has the tools,,,,not everyone can do this job correctly


  10. Alfie UK says:

    Hi, i have just had the timing chain replaced today at 52k miles on a 2013 320i x drive auto. Was getting similar whining sound with the revs as in above videos… BUT the noise is STILL there!! It’s the same. ANY ideas please??
    (The mechanic did say he couldn’t see anything wrong with it before doing the job and that they all sound like that but I insisted going on the info on this page and others. I could see shiny marks on chain and the guide was not broken but was a couple of mm apart at the joint i.e not tightly flush/snapped together…)


  11. LSA says:

    Hello, question from another tech doing his first N20 timing chain. Since there is no mention of it in the repair information, I did not mark the cam adjusters (sprockets) before removal. Once I loosened them, I realized they are not keyed to the camshafts. They obviously rotated on me when I went to loosen the bolts. I eyeballed them, but now I’m stuck in a conundrum where I am not sure what the proper position of the cam adjusters is when you setup all your timing tools. The tools lock your cams, crank, balance shaft, and sensor wheels, but the VANOS sprocket themselves can be mounted however you feel. Repair information also does not cover this subject. Would you have any insight on the subject matter? Thanks


    • Yes it doesn’t matter what position they are in,,,,just think of them as timing chain sprockets ,,,they are just there to hold the timing chain,,,as long as the crankshaft, both camshafts and the sensor are all at TDC,,,,make sure the timing chain tensioner is tight then you tighten down the vanos unit last,,,,turn the motor over one time and pin the motor and camshaft to make sure everything is at TDC


      • LSA says:

        Thanks bud. Yeah I realized all the magic happens inside the VANOS unit themselves as all the feed ports and valleys exist inside the center bolt of the VANOS, with only one main feed from the center of the camshaft.

        I did have to reset adaptations however. It started to set camshaft obstruction codes, and reset took care of the issue.


      • Nice glad to here that.


  12. Alfie UK says:

    Hi, if the whine is still present after timing chain replacement- is the next thing to change the oil pump chain? If so, would the oil pump also need changing?
    Also I am getting quite a bit of smoke from the exhaust on a cold start, is this related?


    • Gerard Antes says:

      Hi, the oil pump chain on the sproket is the one making the whining noise. The so called silent chain
      stretches out and the chain links seize which does not allow smooth running of the chain on the sprocket. There is a danger of chain snapping. Oil pump does not have to be changed. It is a major job as the front cross member has to be dropped, the engine suspended to be able to remove the sump. Special tools are needed to loosen the oilpump bolt. Normally the engines timing chain and oilpump chain module are replaced at the same time because now the rocker cover has to come off again and camshafts have to be locked in place once again.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes the oil pump chain should be replaced at the same time as the timing chain,,,,the smoke during cold start is due to the turbo oil feed line needs to be updated,,,,there is more info on my blog


  13. Alfie UK says:

    Hi just to update, changed the oil pump chain as advised and the whine has disappeared finally!
    (This seems to confirm the whine sound is actually from the oil pump chain and not really the timing chain although the guide rails are a weak point)
    Thanks for advice


  14. Erik says:

    Hello Andreas! Thank you for all this detailed information and also for helping people out!

    Could i please ask you to watch 2 videos of my car and help me identify if my chain is starting to give up and also maybe explain what that wierd electronic WIRR sound is? Car has run for 112000 km (nearly 70k miles) and serviced accordingly to BMW’s schedule.

    Thank you!


    • Thanks for the videos,,,ok I hear some timing chain noise when you rev the engine,,,now the other video during idle I have never heard that noise before,,,,can you remove the drive belt and start the car and see if the noise goes away,,,,sounds like a electrical whine noise possible the alternator making the noise,,,,,so I want to see if the noise goes away with the belt removed.


      • Erik says:

        Hi! Thank you for helping me. Now unfortantly i absolutley have no clue how to remove the driving belt and since i not very good at mending cars. Im afraid i would just brake something.

        Here in sweden most BMW are diesel but since i drive very short routes with lots of start and stop i was afraid the particulate filter of the diesel would get glogged up so i got myself the petrol engine instead, knowing nothing about the timing chain problems.

        I hoped i could keep the car for a few years but if the chain is prone to breaking unexpectedly then im afraid im going to have to sell it which breaks my heart since our whole family loves the car.

        Thank you for the help.


  15. Michael says:

    I know you have seen or heard of many more of the timing chain problems. Has BMW been able to come up with a definite time line or portions of their production that may experience the timing chain problem or is it more like all of the N20 engines could have the same problem from 2012 forward? I guess I am wondering if there were batches that were good during this time frame. Kind of concerned about buying another BMW if they in fact knew they were installing a potentially defective part. I read the lawsuits and it implies they did but offers no proof.


  16. Michael says:

    Is BMW looking at ranges of VIN numbers or engine serial numbers (?) to determine if there is some range of production numbers that had the problem during the 2010 to 2015 years and other ranges that do not have a problem. Seems like the dealers see some and would report to BMW if it is still covered. Just so hard to believe that all are going to go bad if the engine is an N20.


  17. Tan Zhi Yang says:

    Did the broken rail causes the engine to rattle louder on D or R when stationary? Im getting my oil pan gasket change in a few weeks since they are leaking abit, hopefully wont be seeing anything that belongs to the engine.

    On the otherhand, coming from polymer industry, Ive seen alot challenge that the old rail were white once and turn orange over time, plastics do turn yellowish overtime due to degredation, it is a result of polymer chains breaking down which is what we will see in aged plastics, yellowing headlights or in our case the timing chain rail. However, it will not turn orange even it is summerged in oil. I do believe BMW revised part to uncolored for a reason. Adding pigments into any plastics reduce the melt flow of the material which results in decreasing the mechanical properties of the materials. The revised uncolored rail suppose to last better. Adding pigments into plastics causes the pigment to break down polymer chains during the injection molding of the part or extrusion which is a 2 step process(color compounding), when I say 2 steps it means 2 heat history applied to the material to further degredates the materials.

    P/S: The “white color” of the rail is the virgin color of material, I haven’t touch them in person but I strongly believe it is made of unfilled Polyamide.


  18. Kamen says:

    Hi, I’ve just acquired a 2011 X1 xDrive 28i with the N20 engine. I’ve been following this issue online and so far I have no whining sound to report. Is there anything else I should look out for besides that noise?

    The car is on 90k kms and has full BMW service history, but the oil change intervals appear odd to me: 18k, 53k and 83k. As per the maintenance log the car has been in the shop in between those oil changes but BMW didn’t change the oil. I understand the CBS principle but are these intervals too big? Thanks, Kamen


  19. Michael says:

    Another question about noises. We have a 2014 X1 with low miles (25,000). As I drive up some moderate hills at low speeds but in a lower gear, I hear a whine. It has done it since day one. I’m saying around 30 miles per hour and still in third or fourth gear. Is that the tubine that makes a pleasant whine?


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