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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83 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


  14. I have a 2014 X1 (E84) xDrive 28i. The build date is 6/2013. Right now the engine is running okay, but I think I see some evidence of rubbing on the chainlinks I see through the oil fill cap. Should I be worried about chain issues?

    Engine also has 2 or 3 oil leaks, had to go to three different places to get a diagnosis and repair. I put new cardboard on the garage floor, and after a week I see a few more oil drips.

    The muffler also just developed the butterfly valve rattle, not sure what to do about that. The plastic cover over that area is riveted down in my X1. I can’t believe BMW would come up with such an overly complex design to control ‘drone’ – just terrible mechanical design.


    • I would just keep my hear peeled for the whine noise,,,,that will tell you the chain is going bad,,,the muffler rattle you can live with,,,,not hurting anything just noisey.


      • Okay, I am going to have my local indy shop look at the muffler tomorrow. I might just have them weld it open.

        Do I have any options for the timing chain? I have not received any letters or email notices about it. The BMW USA website does not indicate any open recalls or anything.

        Looking around it looks like the lowest price for a new engine is about $7k. I doubt the local dealer will do anything, they have a poor reputation for service.


      • Yes have your Indy look at the exhaust,,,,,,if it is vacuum controlled you can just disconnect the vacuum line and plug it up,,,,if the flap is electrical controlled you might have to weld it open and disconnect the connector,,,,on the timing chain not everyone needs a new timing chain,,,,only some of them are having problems.


      • Hmmm…I am not sure. My X1 only has 41,000 miles, I’ve only had it for about 6 months and put 4000 miles on it. I had to have my indy fix the oil leaking from the oil filter gasket, oil filter housing gasket, and the oil pressure sensor switch gasket. I feel like this is too many problems for such a young vehicle. Thank you for your advice.


  15. thethirdcoast says:

    I also have the strange noise I tried to capture in the video here, it is between 0:14 and 0:16, you have to turn up the volume because my camera is not the best: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFtolTU-uto

    No one seems to know about this soft “thump-thump-thump-thump-thump” that always happens at 10 mph after a cold start. It does not seem correct that this occurs.


  16. Jeff says:

    Received a 7 year/70,000 extended warranty on the Timing Chain and Oil Pump Drive Chain from BMW in the mail for my 2015 328i xDrive.


  17. Bilal Akhtar says:

    Is there a recall or anything for bmw f10 2013 528 n20??

    Timing chain teeth jumped almost 7-8 ahead of the adjustment marks

    Car wouldn’t start etc


    • There might be,,,,some of the 528 were covered with a extended timing chain warranty up to 7/70,,,,you should ask your dealer if your car is still covered,,,,,if you have more then 70k miles you might be out of luck,,,,sorry


  18. TheyStillCallMeMister says:

    I have a 2015 x1 xdrive 28i. No whine or noises as of yet. About 80k miles on it. Do you know if this model has the updated part for the timing chain?



  19. kris says:


    I’m planning DIY the guide and chains on X1
    service manual calls for:

    Lower front axle.
    Remove front axle differential.
    Remove bearing support

    Do I really have to remove differential to remove oil pan ?

    No way to get oil pan out without lowering front axle?



  20. concerned says:

    Does this TC issue throw a CEL? And do owners with this failure use the auto-stop start feature?


  21. cormac says:

    Ive bought all the bits,tools and torque wrenches to do the job. The tools likely cost more than the parts. The new plastic guide rails whilst the new part number look incredibly flimsy where the clip together with the top support, less than 3 mm of plastic and probably less than 1mm thin. Im thinking this is a every 60000 mile job. Just as well I intend on keeping her as like the car and generally never sell.


  22. cormac says:

    The other thing is do you think a boroscope can inspect if the plastic is broken later on the new guides through the oil fill cap ,so something do do every x miles?


  23. Sunny says:

    I have a feb 2014 built 420i. Will this suffer the issue, auc warranty finished and am a bit worried.


  24. Steve says:

    I will just replace my chain and guides as preventative maintenance. I have 100k km on my 2013. Still have a year of warranty left. Likely complete this next summer. Very Keen to see a dyi on this as well.


  25. Eric Henry says:

    What concerns should I have on purchasing a 12’ 328i with 2.0 turbo?


  26. BFW says:

    When measuring the chain stretch with the BMW tool at what limit would it be wise to replace the chain to prevent catastrophic failure. Pin out by any degree or wait until flush per 11 31 540.
    I have a noisy one but the pin is still out.
    In all honesty, these are not bad engines. They just require a service that was not scheduled. No one called the M20 junk unless they failed to replace the timing belt before it broke – it that caused muse more severe damage than this chain jumping and busting up the guides. While being a lot more complex than an M10, these crank out a hell of a lot more power and all at the same size. The M10 would wear out at about 80,000 miles and everyone thought those engines were fantastic. Expectations and oils have changed.


  27. Max says:


    I have the X1 with N20 engine.
    When I push more gas I get “limited power” symbol on my dash.

    Its only under hard acceleration – any tips where to start any common issues that you are seeing ?

    Thank you!


  28. Max says:

    Low boos pressure recently, and before no any longer misfire on cylinder 1 and “multiple missfires”

    Could this be caused by a vacuum leak ? Intercooler or something ( I had fender bender before, but this showed up months later )


    • There could be a leak somewhere,,,you would need someone to smoke test the intake and intercooler,,,,,I would also check cylinder 1 misfire possible a injector,spark plug or ignition coil could also cause a low boost fault


  29. Mike says:

    Hi. I will ask here but in my case it is probably not the timing chain issue. I’m looking for help with the whining noise in the N26 engine 328i F30 from 2015 hear. Two movies below are not mine, but in my engine I hear the same whining noise. My car only have 5000 mileage… Any advise? Any suggestions about the reason for this sound? Thank you in advance.
    1. https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=6s-gSuN5eFQ
    2. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Jwa-Mj-svyI&feature=youtu.be


    • They all made a little whine noise during start up and then the whine noise should quiet down when the engine gets warm,,,,but if the whine noise increases when you rev the engine then you probab have a timing chain issue


      • Mike says:

        Hi and thank you for your answer. This whining sound can be heard rather when the engine’s revs are falling (drop down between 2000 and 1000 rpm) than when they increase. Warming the engine does not help. Recently, I traveled about 200km and after returning to the garage despite the warm engine, the sound was still present. Of course, when the engine is cold in the morning, this noise can be heard more. Also the guy from BMW checked the timing chain and he told me that there is no problem with it. He also unmounted the belt in order to check the alternator and according to him the noise was still present. I can assume that the alternator and the A/C compresor are both OK. This whining sound is very werid. Sometimes I can hear it only in the morning when the engine is cold and sometimes this sound is present throughout the day.
        Three more movies (not mine but noise is 100% the same). Not whistling sound but whining when revs drop down. This whining sound can be also heard when the revs are increasing but they can be better heard when revs are falling. Could you please check?
        1. https://youtu.be/KKFlT4HsmQ0
        2. https://youtu.be/2TDmD9apoUw
        3. https://youtu.be/LxLp2ahcjxQ

        Thank you in advance.


      • All 3 of those videos are the timing chain making noise,,,,that one of the signs that the timing chain and oil pump drive chain need to be replaced


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