BMW N52 Engine Problems And Reliability!

BMW N52 Engine Problems And Reliability!

April 13, 2023 0 By CarGuy

Are you interested in buying a BMW with the N52 engine and you would like to learn more about the BMW N52 engine problems? Well, if that is the case, you will find this article quite useful!

Doing your own research on a particular model should be one of your top priorities. Why is this the case?

Well, out there are a ton of cars both on the new and on the used car markets. Each one of these cars has some issues. Some of them to a lesser extent, and some of them to a greater extent. So, much so that you will regret buying one of these cars for yourself.

But that’s why we are here to help you out when it comes to purchasing your future BMW. In this article, we are going to elaborate on everything you need to know when it comes to the N52 engine.

First, we are going to learn the basics of this engine and the general specs of the N52 engine including the most common variations. We will also cover the applications of this engine and then we will focus on the BMW N52 engine problems as well as its overall reliability. So, if you want to learn more, follow along.

What Is The BMW N52 Engine?

Now before we delve into the BMW N52 engine problems, let’s discuss more about the N52 in general and understand more about the core concepts of this motor.

This engine is a naturally aspirated inline-6 engine that was produced by BMW between 2004 and 2015. This was the engine that replaced the good old M54.

The engine was first introduced in E90 3 Series and the E60 5 Series. But was also included in a lot of other BMW products as well.

What is interesting to know about this engine is that it was listed on Ward’s Top 10 list of engines for the years 2006 and 2007. Being on this special list is quite an achievement for the N52 engine.

What is interesting about this engine is that since 2011 it was slowly being replaced by turbocharged four-cylinder applications. Namely, the N20 engine.

This engine, unlike many other engines in this family, did not come in a high-performance version. The S62 engine should not confuse you because the S62 engine is a completely different design based on the M62, and that engine comes as a V8, unlike the N52 which comes as an inline-6.

BMW N52 Engine Specs

Now let’s cover some of the specs of this engine. We noted that this engine is a naturally aspirated inline-6 but what is worth noting is that this engine came in two different variations. Namely, a 2.5L and a 3.0L.

BMW N52B25

This was the 2.5L version of this engine. There are three sub-variations of this engine. The least powerful one is making 174hp and 170lb-ft of torque. While the most powerful version making 215hp and 184lb-ft of torque.

BMW N52B30

This is the 3.0L version of this engine. There is a total of seven different variations of this engine. The least powerful is making 215hp and 199lb-ft of torque. While the most powerful model makes 268hp and 232lb-ft of torque.

BMW N52 Engine Applications

When it comes to the applications of this engine, we can say that this engine found its way into a ton of different models. So, let’s list them really quickly.

  • 1 Series E87/E82/E88
  • 3 Series E90/E93/E93
  • 5 Series E60/E61/F10
  • 6 Series E63/E64
  • 7 Series E65/E66/F01
  • Z4 E85/E89
  • X1 E84
  • X3 E83/F25
  • X5 E70

BMW N52 Engine Problems

Now let’s move on and discuss the BMW N52 engine problems. Let’s find out what troubles the N52 engine and see if there are some very serious issues.

We will go through each of the problems briefly and then we will further elaborate on each of them.

  • Lifter Tick
  • VANOS Failure
  • Valve Cover Oil Leaks
  • Oil Filter Housing Gasket Oil Leaks
  • Oil Pan Gasket Leak
  • Ignition Coil Failure
  • Water Pump Failure
  • Thermostat Failure

1. Lifter Ticking

The first problem that happens on many of these N52 engines is the lifter tick. These lifters do not actually fail completely but are prone to develop sound at higher miles. This sound is known as lifter tick.

This ticking sound will be present all of the time while the engine is running. Which is very bad since this sound is pretty annoying.

The only way around this problem would be to replace the hydraulic valve adjuster (HVA) which is reportedly the main culprit for this problem.

This can be a hefty repair bill in the end. It could cost you near to $3,000 to sort these problems out on your BMW because in some cases the whole cylinder head has to be replaced.

So, you should be definitely aware of this issue before you buy and make sure that this specific BMW does not produce a lifter tick.

2. VANOS Failure

Another very common failure point on this N52 engine is the VANOS system. So, what is the VANOS?

This is a variable valve timing system that is included in BMW engines. This system is quite essential because it is able to advance or retard the position of the camshafts and improve the performance, as well as the fuel economy.

But what can happen is that the solenoids that activate the VANOS can fail. This solenoid is simply a switch that turns on and off.

Each camshaft has one of these solenoids that activates and deactivates. So, in total, there are two of these solenoids on the N52 engine.

These components are notorious for failing and can cost a good penny to replace. But nothing too serious to replace. They are easily accessible.

3. Valve Cover Gasket Oil Leaks

The next problem on our list of BMW N52 engine problems is the situation when the valve cover starts to leak oil.

This valve cover is the plastic cover that is located on top of the cylinder head. What can happen is that this cover can crack and leak oil or the valve cover gasket can degrade and allow some oil to be lost.

These oil leaks can get pretty serious and the only way around this problem would be to either replace or fix the valve cover if damaged and also replace the valve cover gasket with a new one.

This problem is easy to be solved and if you are a beginner who wants to try to wrench, you can try and sort it out.

4. Oil Filter Housing Gasket Leak

Another very common place where BMWs want to leak oil is the oil filter housing. This leak happens on a lot of BMW engines including the N52 engine.

This oil filter housing is located in front of the engine right where your oil filter is mounted. What happens is that the housing is secured on the engine with a tiny gasket that tends to fail 99% of the time.

So, when you have a BMW, you just know that the oil filter housing is one of the main places that can start to create leaks.

This is another good job for beginner mechanics who want to wrench on their BMWs. With only a few tools and watching some YouTube videos, you will sort this problem out in no time. In the video, you can check how this is done on this engine.

5. Oil Pan Gasket Leak

And the last place where your N52 engine can leak oil is the oil pan gasket. Oil pan gaskets are notorious for causing leaks in BMWs.

This problem is somewhat more expensive to fix compared to the previous two leaks because the oil pan has to be dropped so you can replace the gasket. In addition to this, you need to gain some access from underneath the car to remove the oil pan.

For this purpose, you will need a lift. That’s why we would only recommend this job to more experienced people who know what are doing.

6. Ignition Coil Failure

Next on our list of BMW N52 engine problems is the ignition coil failure. So, what is an ignition coil?

Modern engines implement individual ignition coils for each spark plug. This is known as a coil pack.

These coils are basically electric transformers. They convert the 12v power from the battery into high electric current and this current is directed into the spark plugs.

Without these ignition coils in good shape, you will start to experience the check engine light, engine misfires, poor fuel economy, and even limp mode.

Luckily, these ignition coils are not expensive to replace. Replacing them is a job that even a beginner can do.

7. Water Pump Failure

Another on our list of BMW N52 engine problems is the water pump failure. This is a common failure point on a lot of BMW engines from this era.

These engines are using a special electric water pump. In other words, this pump is not driven by the timing chain.

This pump on the N52 is notorious for failing and can easily cost you anywhere between $1,000 and $1,250 to get replaced.

If you don’t replace the pump the engine will simply overheat and this will junk the engine. So, beware of these water pump failures on this engine.

8. Thermostat Failure

And last but not least on our BMW N52 engine problems list is the thermostat failure. So, what is a thermostat?

The thermostat is a component that is mounted underneath the thermostat housing. What it does is that when the coolant inside of the engine block reaches the operating temperature, it opens up and allows the coolant to circulate outside of the engine and travel into the front radiator.

This thermostat is something like a switch that turns on and off based on the temperature of the coolant.

If the thermostat does not open, you will have an overheated engine. And if it happens to be open all the time, the engine will run pretty rich since the coolant will constantly circulate when the car is cold.

Both of these scenarios are something that you don’t want to happen since it can be detrimental to the engine’s health and you will end up paying thousands of dollars to fix the problem.

So, if you notice something strange with the temperatures, it is either the water pump or the thermostat on this engine.

Another thing to add is the possible leaks that can develop on this engine. Hoses can break and start leaking coolant on the ground. So, always check the coolant level, just to be on the safe side, and avoid letting your car run dry on coolant.

BMW N52 Engine Reliability

We have covered the BMW N52 engine problems, now let’s discuss more about the reliability of this engine. Can the N52 be considered reliable?

The answer to this question is yes. This engine is reliable. When it comes to its mechanical components only the lifter tick can be a real problem. Besides that, these engines are pretty much bulletproof.

If one thing that BMW does really well is inline-6 engines. They try to nail each generation and deliver a good product.

There are still some problems like oil leaks, coolant leaks, and coil issues. But besides that, this engine gets a pass when it comes to reliability.


In this article, we focused on the BMW N52 engine. First, we learned more about the basics of the N52 and learned its specs, and also the applications where you can find this engine.

Then, we focused on the problems that this engine has. We listed the problems and then we further explained each of these issues and how serious they are. Lastly, we gave this engine a reliability score. Overall, this engine is pretty reliable, especially if it’s a lower mileage motor.


What Is The Common Problem With N52 Engine?

The most common problem with the N52 engine is definitely oil leaks. Oil leaks can develop on the oil filter housing, valve cover, and oil pan gasket. Other problems include ignition coil failure, lifter tick, water pump, and thermostat failure.

Is The N52 BMW Engine Reliable?

Yes, this engine is one of the most reliable engines that BMW ever made. They always manage to deliver a good inline-6 engine to the market. And the N52 is no exception. There are some minor things here and there but overall, this engine is really good when it comes to its longevity.

What Is The Lifespan Of A N52?

This engine should easily last anywhere between 200,000 and 300,000 miles. It is far more reliable than similar engines in its class from competitors. So, if you want to get something that can deliver good reliability and longevity, this is the engine that you want. What is worth noting is that the engine still has some problems. So, you need to be aware of these issues before you buy. These problems include oil leaks, coolant leaks, water pump and thermostat failures, and lifter ticks.

Is N52 Bulletproof?

Pretty much yes, the N52 is a really good engine that will last for a lifetime if you maintain it well. There can still be minor problems with this engine like a lifter tick that is linked to a bad hydraulic valve adjuster. But overall, it is a very reliable engine.