BMW Timing Chain Replacement: A Comprehensive Guide for Effective Maintenance

Understanding BMW Timing Chain Replacement

When it comes to maintaining your BMW, one critical component to keep an eye on is the timing chain. The timing chain is an integral part of your engine’s operation, and understanding when and how to replace it can save you from potential costly repairs in the long run.

Generally, timing chains are designed to last the life of the car and the rest of the engine. However, their life can sometimes be defined by pistons and valves running into each other when the timing chain breaks or stretches1. BMW models commonly use timing chains, and based on past experience, these chains usually last nine years or 90,000 kilometers2.

If you start to notice timing chain problems or issues with your BMW, it is essential to address them as soon as possible to avoid internal engine damage. Signs of a failing timing chain can include a rattling noise coming from the engine, rough idling, poor performance, or a check engine light.

Replacing a BMW timing chain is a labor-intensive process and can be quite expensive. On average, the replacement cost ranges from $600 to $1,1003. Factors affecting the cost include the specific BMW model and whether you decide to do it yourself (DIY) or have a mechanic perform the replacement. Keep in mind that tackling the replacement yourself requires a certain level of mechanical expertise and the right tools for the job. If you feel confident in your skills, you can save on labor costs; however, if you are inexperienced, it is recommended to have a professional handle the task.

In conclusion, maintaining the timing chain of your BMW is essential for the engine’s performance and longevity. Understanding signs of potential problems and addressing them promptly can save you from costly repairs in the future. Whether you choose to perform the replacement yourself or hire a professional, it is crucial to ensure that the job is done correctly to keep your BMW running smoothly.

Components of a Timing Chain System

Role of Timing Chain

The timing chain is a critical component in your BMW engine, responsible for synchronizing the rotation of the camshaft and crankshaft. This ensures that the engine’s valves open and close at the right time, optimizing fuel combustion for better performance and efficiency. The timing chain is designed to last the life of the car and the rest of the engine. However, it is important to monitor for any signs of wear or damage to prevent more serious issues.

Chain Tensioner and Sprocket

The chain tensioner is a crucial part of the timing chain system, as it maintains the correct tension in the chain to avoid slack and reduce wear. The tensioner is typically spring-loaded or hydraulic, allowing it to adjust automatically as needed. The sprocket, on the other hand, is a wheel with teeth that engages with the chain, driving the movement of the camshaft and crankshaft. It is essential to ensure these components are in good condition to ensure the proper functioning of your BMW’s engine.

Camshaft and Crankshaft

The camshaft and crankshaft are two key components of your BMW’s timing chain system. The camshaft is responsible for opening and closing the engine’s valves, while the crankshaft converts the linear motion of the pistons into rotational motion. These two components, connected by the timing chain, need to be precisely synchronized to ensure the engine runs smoothly and efficiently. Regular inspections of the camshaft and crankshaft can help to identify potential issues before they become severe and costly to repair.

Timing Chain vs Timing Belt

Comparison of Wear and Stretch

When it comes to the key components of your BMW’s engine, the timing chain and timing belt serve a crucial role. They both ensure the accurate timing of the engine’s camshaft and crankshaft, but their differences in wear, stretch, and composition are important factors to consider.

Timing chains are made of metal and resemble a bicycle chain. They are more durable and can last the entire life of the engine, with proper maintenance. Due to their metal composition, timing chains are less prone to wear and stretch compared to timing belts. This means you’re less likely to face untimely engine failure due to a broken chain.

On the other hand, timing belts are made of reinforced rubber-like material, which makes them more prone to wear and stretch over time. As a result, timing belts require regular replacements, typically every 60,000 to 100,000 miles, based on your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations. However, when it comes to performance, timing belts can be quieter and smoother in operation compared to chains.

While both timing chains and timing belts share the responsibility of synchronizing the engine’s internal components, their differences in wear and stretch affect their overall longevity. To keep your BMW running optimally, pay close attention to the maintenance requirements of your chosen component and consult your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations for proper care.

Recognizing Signs of Timing Chain Issues

Detecting Abnormal Sound

One of the first indications that something might be wrong with your BMW’s timing chain is the presence of an unusual rattling noise, particularly when your engine is idling. This sound could be a result of the timing chain being loose and making contact with other engine components. If you notice such a noise, it’s important to have it checked by a professional to accurately diagnose the issue and prevent further engine damage.

Assessing Engine Performance

Different symptoms may arise if your timing chain is failing. You could experience engine misfires or poor overall performance. This might manifest as decreased acceleration, increased fuel consumption, or reduced power output. The underlying cause could be issues in valve timing, leading to incomplete combustion in the engine’s cylinders. Be attentive to any changes in your BMW’s performance and consult an expert if you suspect something might be off. Staying proactive in addressing these signs can save you from costly repairs in the long run.

Remember to maintain your BMW according to the manufacturer’s recommendations and always be vigilant for any irregularities in your vehicle’s performance. By doing so, you’ll be taking crucial steps toward preserving the longevity of your timing chain and ensuring your engine operates at its peak.

Potential Risks of Neglecting Timing Chain Replacement

If you neglect to replace your BMW’s timing chain when it starts to show signs of wear, you potentially expose your engine to several serious problems. One of the most severe consequences is engine failure. A worn-out timing chain may break or cause the pistons and valves within the engine to collide, leading to extensive damage that could result in catastrophic engine failure.

In general, maintaining proper chain tension is essential to ensure the correct alignment of the pistons and valves. If the timing chain becomes stretched or leaves the sprockets, it may lead to improper synchronization, causing the pistons to strike the engine’s valves. This impact can damage the valves, bend connecting rods, and even crack the engine’s cylinder head.

Another risk associated with neglecting timing chain replacement is reduced engine performance. A malfunctioning chain hampers the engine’s ability to efficiently transfer power, which often leads to decreased horsepower and performance. In some cases, this can manifest as poor acceleration, inconsistent engine operation, and increased fuel consumption.

Leaving a critical issue such as a worn-out timing chain unaddressed can also result in higher repair costs. Fixing the damage caused by a broken chain might involve extensive labor and costly replacement parts. The longer you wait to replace your vehicle’s chain, the more likely these expenses may add up. For example, a BMW timing chain lawsuit settlement occurred in late 2020 involving vehicles with N20 and N26 direct injection turbocharged engines that could fail due to faulty timing chains.

In conclusion, adhering to proper maintenance recommendations and being attentive to signs of wear in your BMW’s timing chain can help you avoid the risks of engine failure, catastrophic damage, and increased repair costs. Regular inspections and prompt replacements when necessary ensure your vehicle stays in optimal condition and keeps you safe on the road.

BMW Models Prone to Timing Chain Issues

The Notorious Cases of N20 and N26

Some BMW models are more prone to timing chain issues than others, especially those equipped with the N20 and N26 engines. These direct injection turbocharged engines were used in certain 1, 3, and 5 series BMWs manufactured between 2007-2011. The N47 motor engine is particularly prone to timing chain problems, causing their chains to wear out more quickly.

As a BMW owner, you should be aware of these issues and make sure your vehicle’s maintenance is up-to-date. Regularly inspect your engine and consult a professional mechanic if you suspect any problems.

328i and Z4 Models

The BMW 328i and Z4 models are other examples of BMW vehicles that can experience timing chain issues. The 328i, a part of the 3 series lineup, features a similar N55 I6 engine as the X5 35i, which has not been reported to have timing chain issues but may be prone to cooling pump problems after about 50,000 miles.

The BMW Z4, a sports car, can also encounter timing chain problems due to the various changes and improvements made to its engines over the years. To ensure your Z4 maintains peak performance, follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule for your specific model.

While BMW has made improvements to their timing chain designs, it’s crucial for you as an owner to be aware of potential issues and keep up with regular maintenance checks. By staying informed and proactive, you can protect your investment and enjoy driving your BMW for years to come.

Evaluating the Cost of Timing Chain Replacement

Determining the Labor Cost

When it comes to replacing the timing chain in your BMW, labor cost plays a significant role. Typically, mechanics charge per hour, and the amount of time required varies depending on the specific model and complexity of the repair. On average, the labor cost for BMW timing chain replacement ranges around $750. However, you can reduce your expenses by visiting third-party repair shops instead of BMW dealerships, as they tend to charge less for labor.

Calculating Parts Costs

In addition to labor costs, you’ll also need to consider the expense of the parts required for the timing chain replacement. The cost of the parts can vary based on the model of your BMW. On average, you can expect to spend between $567 and $667 for the necessary parts. Therefore, the overall estimated cost for a BMW timing chain replacement can be around $1,250. Keep in mind that these are average costs, and they may vary depending on your car model and other factors.

When evaluating the cost of your BMW timing chain replacement, remember to account for labor and parts costs. By shopping around and comparing prices at different repair shops, you can find the best value for your specific situation while ensuring your BMW remains in top condition.

Choosing Between DIY and Professional Service

When it comes to replacing your BMW’s timing chain, you have two primary options: tackling the job yourself (DIY) or relying on professional service. Each option has its merits, so consider your budget, skills, and the potential risks involved in order to make an informed decision.

If you decide to go the DIY route, be aware that this is a complex task and can be quite time-consuming. You’ll need a good understanding of your BMW’s engine components and access to the necessary tools. The cost of the replacement parts can be around $650. However, by investing your own time and effort, you have the potential to save a significant amount on labor costs.

On the other hand, if you choose to opt for professional service, you can select either a dealership or an independent mechanic. The advantage of using a dealership is that their technicians are specialized in BMW vehicles and can guarantee the use of genuine parts. However, the downsides include often higher labor rates and potential difficulty in securing an appointment. A professional mechanic may charge a more affordable rate for their services, with repair costs ranging from $600 to $1100 on average.

Visiting a third-party repair shop instead of a BMW shop can help you reduce the overall cost of the timing chain replacement. One important thing to consider when choosing between dealership service and an independent mechanic is the quality of work and parts used in the repair. It is essential to choose a reputable service provider to ensure the longevity and performance of your BMW’s engine.

In summary, weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each option, taking into account your budget, skills, and the importance of a reliable repair. Consider the factors, and you will be able to make an optimal decision for your BMW timing chain replacement.

Common Tools Needed for DIY Timing Chain Replacement

When you decide to tackle a DIY BMW timing chain replacement, there are some common tools you’ll need for the job. Having the right equipment at hand will make your work easier and more efficient. Here are the essential tools for a successful project:

A pry bar is a crucial tool for disassembling and reassembling certain parts of the engine. It will help you create the leverage you need to separate components and apply the correct amount of force without damaging the engine.

A torque wrench is necessary for tightening bolts and nuts to the manufacturer’s specifications. Using a torque wrench ensures that components are not overtightened, preventing damage and ensuring the engine runs smoothly.

Hex socket sets are a must-have for BMW owners, as these are commonly used for various bolts and fasteners in BMW vehicles. Make sure to have a variety of sizes to accommodate different applications.

A timing chain kit is essential since it includes components like timing guides, chain tensioners, and other necessary hardware needed for proper installation. Make sure you have the correct kit for your BMW’s engine model.

A pick tool will allow you to remove O-rings and seals with ease, preventing damage and simplifying the removal process.

Screwdrivers in various sizes and tips are important for removing and installing different parts of the engine. A good set will come in handy for various tasks during the project.

Floor jacks and jack stands are crucial for lifting the vehicle and providing a stable work environment. These tools ensure your safety and make it easier to access the undercarriage of your BMW.

Having these common tools ready for your DIY BMW timing chain replacement will make the process smoother and more efficient. Remember always to stay safe and work in a clear, well-ventilated area to achieve the best results.

Warranty and Legal Aspects

Extended Warranty

BMW has recognized the issue with timing chains and has extended the warranty for certain vehicles. The limited warranty extension covers the N20 and N26 engines’ timing chains, chain tensioners, guide rails, slide rails, and sprockets. This extension applies to eligible vehicles up to 7 years or 70,000 miles. Keep in mind that additional components may only be claimed if their replacement is necessary for proper repair of the timing chain.

Class Action Lawsuit

A class action lawsuit was filed against BMW, alleging that certain vehicles had flawed timing and oil pump drive chain assemblies. BMW reached a settlement, providing uncapped class deals that reimburse owners for repair costs and extending warranties. Depending on various factors, some owners may receive 100% of their repair costs through this settlement. This extended warranty program also covers repair or replacement of defective parts such as the timing chain module, oil pump drive chain module, and the engine if damaged.

To benefit from this warranty extension and the class action lawsuit settlement, ensure that your vehicle falls within the eligibility criteria and take action accordingly. Remember, the warranty extension and legal aspects may differ for various models and mileage, so consult your dealership or a legal advisor for accurate and personalized information.



Georg Meier

BMW technician since 1996. I began my automotive journey in 1993 as an apprentice mechanic at Automag, the world's oldest BMW dealership in Munich. With years of experience and dedication, I garnered a wealth of knowledge about the intricacies of BMW and MINI vehicles. The love/hate relationship with the brand led me to found BIMMERIST where I share expertise and insights with fellow enthusiasts.

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