BMW N54 Engine Problems – 11 Most Common Problems!

BMW N54 Engine Problems – 11 Most Common Problems!

January 9, 2023 2 By CarGuy

Are you interested in purchasing a BMW model with the N54 engine and you want to learn more about the BMW N54 engine problems and the BMW N54 reliability? Well, if that is the case, then you are at the right place because, in this article, there will be a lot to cover on this topic.

Doing your own research before you make a purchase of a car is always a smart idea. You just need to be a step ahead and be aware of the problems that a certain model or an engine can have. Because if you are not aware, you will pay for your lack of awareness down the line. Especially when it comes to expensive models like BMW cars.

And to be honest, when it comes to luxury brands, we cannot say that their reliability is one of the best out there. They are constantly bashed for cutting corners in order to get the maximum profits from the cars they sell. So, there are good models of a certain generation and also there are a lot of bad engines. And that’s why you need to learn more when it comes to a certain engine and its problems.

First, we are going to learn what is the BMW N54 engine and then we will cover the applications of this engine, as well as the N54 engine specs. Once we clear the basics out of our way, we will move on to the BMW N54 engine problems that this engine has and lastly, we will discuss the BMW N54 reliability. So, if you want to learn more when it comes to the reliability of this engine, follow along.

What Is The BMW N54 Engine?

Now let’s take a look at what is the N54 engine before we dive into more complex topics like the N54 engine problems and the BMW N54 reliability. What is the N54 engine?

Well, the N54 is an engine that was introduced by BMW in 2006 and was produced until 2016 when it was replaced by the N55 engine.

The N54 is an inline-6 twin-turbocharged 3.0L engine. Which means that it uses forced induction to create power. Also, what is worth noting about this engine is that it has a naturally aspirated counterpart known as the N53. So, if you want a naturally aspirated engine, this would be it.

Nevertheless, what is important about this N54 engine is that it is probably one of the most successful engines that BMW ever made. This engine has won the International Engine Of The Year award a total of six times, and three times the Ward’s 10 Best Engines. Which is a true benchmark for this engine and its BMW N54 reliability. But more on that, we are going to elaborate later on after we discuss the BMW N54 engine problems.

BMW N54 Engine Applications

Now before we dive into the BMW N54 engine problems and the BMW N54 reliability. Let’s shortly take a look at the applications of the engine. Which BMW models have this engine installed?

The 225kW version of this engine was extensively used in the 3-Series, more specifically on the 335i model. Also, the engine was used in the 5-Series on the 535i. As well as in the 1-Series, specifically in the 135i model. This engine was also used in the X6 SUV, specifically in the xDrive35i model.

The more powerful 240kW version of the model was used in the 7-Series. More specifically the 740i model.

And the most powerful version was the 250kW version used on the 1-Series M Coupe, as well as in the Z4 sDrive35i.

What is worth noting is that this engine has also found its way into some Alpina models. Namely, the B3, B3 S, and the B3 GTS. But what about the BMW N54 reliability? More on the reliability will cover in a moment.

BMW N54 Engine Specs

Now let’s discuss more about the specs of the BMW N54 engine before we dive into the BMW N54 reliability. Specs are really important, so let’s cover them.

As we noted previously, this is an inline-6 engine. This means that the N54 has six cylinders in a single line. And that’s why these engines are really good. They are much better balanced compared to inline-4 engines. And BMW never disappoints when it comes to this type of engine.

Nevertheless, the engine is made out of aluminum, both the block and the cylinder head are aluminum, making this engine really lightweight. The bore of the cylinders is 3.3 inches and the stroke is about 3.5 inches.

What is worth noting is that the engine implements a double overhead camshaft layout (DOHC), which allows these engines to rev pretty high, at 7,000 RPM.

The important thing about this engine is that it implements a twin-turbo setup with one smaller and one bigger turbocharger. And this turbocharger delivers about 8 psi of boost. And this is what makes this engine great. You can tune the engine and squeeze a ton of power. So, 400hp with this engine is not far away, you only need a tune and you are there.

That’s why this engine is so craved among car guys who want to get more power. The base power of the engine is 302hp and 295lb-ft of torque, while in high-performance spec, this engine can develop about 33hp and 332lb-ft of torque. And in some Alpina models, the engine is tuned to produce 402hp and 398lb-ft of torque.

But what about the BMW N54 problems and reliability, is this engine reliable? More about that, we will discuss more after we learn about the problems of this engine.

N54 Engine Problems – 11 Common Problems With The N54 Engine!

So, we have covered the basic specs of the N54 engine, now let’s discuss more about the N54 engine problems.

What is worth noting is that every engine out there has problems. And you need to be aware of them. That’s why we are going to explain them in great detail in the following chapters.

1. Carbon Buildup On The Intake Ports

Now let’s dive into the N54 engine problems before we dive into the BMW N54 reliability. And the first problem on our list is the carbon buildup inside the engine.

This engine was the first in this generation of direct injection gasoline engines and these engines as you probably know, tend to buildup carbon deposits on the intake ports, more specifically the intake valves.

This is the case because, on older engines, the intake valves were cleaned by the gasoline that was injected through them.

But on direct injection engines, this fuel is injected from a special high-pressure injector. So, there is no more gas to clean the valves. And over a long time of use, they develop carbon deposits.

Sometimes these carbon deposits can even put under question the BMW N54 reliability. But more on that, we will elaborate in a bit.

There is a method to tackle the problem and is known as walnut blasting. You do this every 60,000 miles and you will be good. Now let’s continue with the BMW N54 engine problems.

2. High-Pressure Fuel Pump Failure

The next very common failure point of the BMW N54 engine is the high-pressure fuel pump. So, what is the high-pressure fuel pump?

Well, as we noted previously, this engine uses direct injection. And because of this, this engine needs to have a high-pressure fuel pump to pump the fuel into the combustion chamber at high pressures.

The pressure is so high that basically atomizes the gasoline. Improving the fuel efficiency of the car. But in the same way as any other new technology, this high-pressure fuel pump or HPFP can fail unexpectedly and cause your engine to stop working.

The only way is to replace it with a new one and this can be a costly replacement. So, you definitely need to be prepared for this BMW N54 engine problem. And this is one of the few issues that slightly damages the BMW N54 reliability.

3. Oil Filter Housing Leaks

The next in our list of BMW N54 engine problems are the oil filter housing leaks. And this is a common problem. Both on the N54, as well as in the newer N55 engine that came in 2016.

This leak is caused by a cheap tiny gasket that can start leaking. And when it leaks, you will notice this problem since the front of your engine will be covered in oil.

These oil leaks will be present around the oil filter mounting position. And as you know, on BMWs this filter is located at the front. It is not a serious issue. But still, you have to be careful when it comes to oil leaks and monitor your oil level all the time. But what about the BMW N54 reliability? More about that, we are going to cover in a bit.

4. BMW N54 Water Pump And Thermostat Failures

The next problem that we are going to cover before we dive into the BMW N54 reliability is the water pump and thermostat failures. Let’s discuss these BMW N54 engine problems.

The N54 engine is using an electric water pump. Unlike other chain-driven designs. And this makes the pump very unreliable and can leak. So, it is recommended to be replaced between 60,000 and 80,000 miles

The main con is that the engine could overheat if the thermostat does not activate and if the water pump is not spinning. So, if you own a BMW with this engine, monitoring the temperature is a good idea. But what about the BMW N54 reliability? More about that, we will cover in a bit.

5. Fuel Injector Failure

Next on our list of problems with the N54 engine is the situation when the fuel injectors fail. And this is a common problem on most direct injection vehicles. It doesn’t matter if it is a gas-powered or diesel engine.

These high-pressure injectors are failing when they reach 150,000 miles or so. And this engine since it was really the first engine with direct injection can fail even earlier than this. So, it is definitely worth being aware of this problem. But what about the BMW N54 reliability? More on the reliability, we are going to elaborate in a bit.

6. Serpentine Belt Shreds

Another small problem with the N54 engine is the situation where the serpentine belt starts to shred. These engines are prone to this issue.

So, you should definitely check your engine and make sure that there is no problem with the belt shredding and that your engine is working well. Because if this belt snaps, you will lose all of your accessories and the engine will stall. Now let’s continue with the next BMW N54 engine problems before we cover the N54 reliability.

7. BMW N54 Valve Cover Cracks

When it comes to the BMW N54 engine problems it is worth noting that this engine also has a problem with the valve cover.

The engine uses a plastic valve cover. This plastic valve cover is not highly regarded for its durability and a lot of the owners reported that the valve cover simply cracks and the engine oil starts to sip from the engine. The leaks are really large but they are noticeable.

As one owner reported this is a hairline crack that can be fixed with epoxy like JB Weld or a similar product.

8. Valve Cover Gasket Leaks

The next in our list of BMW N54 problems is the valve cover gasket leaks. As you probably know, the valve cover is sealed with the help of a rubber gasket to the cylinder head.

So, what happens is over long use, this gasket can harden and simply crack. And when this happens, there will be some oil sipping from the side of the engine. You will notice how the cylinder head is becoming very greasy and some engine oil is lost. So, beware of this problem.

9. Oil Pan Gasket Leaks

Another on our list of BMW N54 engine problems is the problem with the oil pan gasket leaks. The oil pan gasket is the gasket that seals the oil pan and the engine block.

And this gasket is also notorious for failing and causing leaks from the engine. So, if you notice some drops on the ground, then your engine is definitely leaking some oil from the gasket.

This is why it is really important that you address the problem because if you leave it like this, you could lose a lot of oil and starve the engine of oil. And this is not something that you want to do because the engine can fail.

10. BMW N54 Turbo Problems

And the last on our list of BMW N54 engine problems are the turbo problems. As you probably know, this engine uses a twin-turbo.

And there could be some problems with the turbochargers as well. There can be turbocharger failures, boost leaks, problems with rattling wastegate, and vacuum supply problems.

The issues with the turbo on this car are a whole different topic. But you have to be aware that this engine is using a twin-turbo setup and this setup is also prone to failure, especially at higher mileage above 150,000 miles.

11. VANOS Solenoid Failure

Now let’s wrap up the BMW N54 engine problems with the last problem on our list. And this is the VANOS solenoid failure.

So, what is a VANOS solenoid? Well, the VANOS solenoid is an electronic component that regulates the operation of the variable valve timing. The solenoid is basically the actuator for this system.

And it can happen that this actuator stop working. Especially if the oil changes are less frequent. Sludge is killing these solenoids. So, before buying one of these engines, make sure that the solenoids are in good condition and that there are no check engine lights and codes concerning them.

BMW N54 Reliability

So, what about the BMW N54 reliability? Is this engine reliable? Well, this really depends on what perspective you look at the BMW N54 engine problems.

If you are experienced with cars and you know these issues, you know that most of them are perfectly normal for engines that are higher miles.

The biggest concern in our opinion is the water pump failure. And this component can fail often and can cause the engine to overheat. In addition to this, the high-pressure fuel pump is another common failure point. And these two components should be your biggest concern when buying this engine.

Besides that, the rest of the problems are pretty normal stuff. Nothing too crazy and concerning. Still, if you buy a BMW you should be prepared for stuff like this and have money on the side if something pops up. You never know what could happen.

Conclusion To BMW N54 Engine Problems

In this article, we covered the BMW N54 engine. We covered what is the N54 engine, then we learned the applications and specs of this engine.

In the second part of the engine, we discussed the BMW N54 engine problems and learned what bothers this engine the most. Lastly, we discussed the BMW N54 reliability.


Now let’s answer some frequently asked questions.

What BMW Means

In German, BMW means Bayerische Motoren Werke, in English, this simply means Bavarian Motor Works. BMW is one of the biggest German automakers with a very long history on the global market and a true benchmark when it comes to building the perfect driving machine.

What Is N54 Engine

The BMW N54 engine is an inline-6 engine produced by BMW between 2006 and 2016. This engine is twin-turbocharged and produces anywhere between 302hp and 335hp.

N54 Engine Problems

When it comes to the BMW N54 engine problems, it is worth noting that the most serious problems of this engine are the water pump failure, as well as the high-pressure fuel pump failure. Other problems can include oil leaks, problems with injectors, turbo problems, and other minor issues.

Why Is The N54 So Good

This engine is very popular because of its tuning potential. This engine is generally a modern 2JZ, it has so much potential when it comes to creating more power from it. With only a boost increase, you will get a ton of more power from it. With aftermarket turbos, these engines can push up to 600 hp.

How Much Horsepower Can A N54 Hold

This engine has very big tuning potential. Only with stock internals, it can be pushed up to 600 hp. And with upgraded forged pistons and rods, and high-performance rod bearings, this engine can push up to 850 hp. These are really high numbers for an inline-6 engine like the N54. That’s why if you can get one of these engines, go for it.