N20 timing chain rail coming apart

 Here’s a hot topic with a lot of BMW owners,,,,this car came in with check engine light on and engine whine and rattle noise,,,,check engine light was low oil pressure and jammed oil pressure ,,,,,I noticed the timing chain whine but the engine was also rattling,,,,I removed the valve cover to inspect the timing chain,,,,you can see the chain rail missing and jammed under the vanos unit. So I removed the oil pan to see what’s going on inside and this is what I found at the bottom of the oil pan,,,,there was so much plastic from the timing chain rail,,,there was also a broken bolt and metal shavings in the pan. There was so much plastic in the oil pan that the oil pump was sucking up pieces of plastic causing a oil pressure issue and causing more damage.

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32 Responses to N20 timing chain rail coming apart

  1. Peter says:

    Same issue as with the old BMW 4 cylinder engines N46 and N43, when they became older.
    timing chain issue and oil pressure loss because of this.
    Sometimes it seems that BMW does not learn from their mistakes


  2. Peter says:

    So I hope my X1 28i will remain as reliable as in the last 5 years without any issue
    … Merry Christmas from Bünde, Germany ….


  3. F30ed says:

    What year and mileage? Was it covered? Thanks.


  4. Chip says:

    First off, Merry Christmas and thanks for running this blog.
    I have a 2014 328i GT with an N20. Currently 89000 miles, always dealer maintained. This is well outside of the recent warranty extension. I intend to run the car for another 2-3 years.
    What can I do to avoid a failure? Or what are the early warning signs? Can I expect my dealer to see any early signs of failure during a regular visit? They have seen the issue on three x3’s, but not other models as of yet.



    • Merry christmas ,,,there really isn’t anything you can do to stop failure,,,,the early signs is the whine noise the timing chain make when it starts to go bad,,,,also there might be a chain rattle during morning start up.


  5. concerned says:

    Wow this is pretty bad. It is surprising that the engine still runs. Well at least in PZEV states this will be covered 100% up to 15 years/150000 miles since CEL is triggered. Hooray! (NOT!!!!)


  6. concerned says:

    BMW should really have a recall on this, which can be a safety if the timing chain busts in the middle of traffic.


  7. GV says:

    I replaced the tensioner which is easy and anyone can do it and probably worthwhile. Likely the chain loses tension from wear on the links and the tensioner weakening (I know its oil pressure assisted)causing slap and breaking the plastic guides as well as rubbing off the block creating aluminium filings.
    Out of interest what’s the highest mile successful n20 engine you have seen that has not needed repair to it’s injectors, timing chain or oil pump? I would presume all have needed turbo replacement at some point.Most seem to last around 40000 miles.


  8. GV says:

    It’s only a single screw in tensioner on the front of the engine. Takes about 10 minutes anyone can do it. It does take a few minutes to compress while pushing and screwing inwards to get it to thread in so no need to panic if it won’t just screw in. My new one had more spring to it than the old one did. It should take a mm or two of slap out of the chain to protect the guides.


    • GV says:

      I doubt Bmw garages would change it but many enthusiasts do every 30k miles as a service item with the oil change. Can’t hurt and only costs around 30.


  9. randy says:

    I will pay out of my pocket to have it changed befor it snaps, my car is a 14 320i xdrive, are any of the new parts any better than the parts in my motor now.. n20


  10. Bilal Ahmed says:

    Are you able to do a quick DIY on timing chain tensioner? Or how to remove electric wastegate (do we need to reprogram car after removal?). Also how many cars have you been seen with major timing chain issues? like 1/10, 1/100 etc. How worried should we really be?


    • You might have to remove the wastegate depending on which one one you have electric or vacuum ,,,I forget which one you remove,,,,no you don’t have to reprogram if you remove the electric wastegate,,,I have probably seen about 5 or 6 out of 100


  11. Mark Kamner says:

    Do I need to have the transmission in park or neutral when replacing timing chain, guides and oil chain and pump on an auto. Thanks


  12. Mark Kamner says:

    Apart from the timing tool, do I need any other special tools to replace timing chain and oil pump and chain?



  13. John Paul says:

    How many hours do you think it would take as a DIY? Is engine removal necessary?


    • That’s a tuff question,,,,,it depends if you have a car rack and all the proper tools,,,,,when we drop the engines,,,,we drop them from the bottom with the transmission attached,,,,we have a custom table to hold the engine and trans,,,,I can do a N20 engine swap in 2 days with all the equipment


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