At Beverley Motor Works, we have a depth of experience in addressing timing chain issues in BMW and MINI vehicles. This guide delves into the function, common issues, and detailed analysis of timing chains across various BMW and MINI engine models. Our expertise allows us to offer precise, technical advice and solutions for maintaining the critical timing systems of these sophisticated vehicles. 

Understanding Timing Chains 

A timing chain is a critical component in an engine's operation, ensuring the synchronisation between the crankshaft and the camshaft(s). This synchronisation is essential for the accurate timing of the engine’s intake, compression, power, and exhaust strokes. Made from hardened steel, timing chains are designed to withstand high temperatures and loads, reflecting their importance in maintaining engine integrity and performance. 
 
Location and Function 
The timing chain is usually housed within the engine block, running the length of the engine from the crankshaft at the bottom to the camshafts at the top. It is guided by sprockets or gears, which ensure smooth and precise movement. 
Construction and Durability 
 
BMW and MINI timing chains are built from high-strength materials to ensure durability. Despite their robust construction, they are not immune to wear and can fail due to factors like improper maintenance, inadequate lubrication, or manufacturing defects. 
Common BMW & MINI Timing Chain Issues 
 
Timing chain problems can manifest through several symptoms, including poor engine performance, rough idling, and unusual noises from the engine compartment. In BMW and MINI vehicles, certain models and engine types are particularly susceptible to these issues. 

Symptoms of a Failing Timing Chain 

Engine Misfires and Poor Performance 

A stretched or worn timing chain can cause the engine to misfire, leading to erratic performance. 

Noise 

A rattling noise from the engine, especially on start-up, is often a tell tale sign of a timing chain in distress. 

Metal Shavings in Oil 

Excessive wear of the timing chain can produce metal shavings that end up in the engine oil, indicating severe issues. 

BMW and MINI Model-Specific Timing Chain Information 

BMW and MINI vehicles predominantly use timing chains across almost all models. Specific engines, such as the N47 diesel and N20 petrol engines, are particularly prone to timing chain issues. 
 
A broken timing chain can lead to catastrophic engine damage, including valve and piston collisions, loss of compression, and total engine failure. Regular maintenance, including timely inspection and replacement of the timing chain, is essential to prevent such failures. 
 
While timing chains are favoured in modern BMW engines for their durability, older models like the M40 engine utilised timing belts, which, although quieter and initially less expensive, require regular replacement to avoid engine damage. 
 
From the robust M20 engines of the 1990s to the more delicate M40 with its timing belt, we have seen significant evolution in BMW's approach to engine timing. Our long-term experience with these engines provides not only technical insights but also a bit of humour and nostalgia about the days of frequent belt replacements and the hands-on challenges they brought. 
 
Common Issues and Failures 
 
The N47 engine, used in BMWs from 2007 to 2014, is notorious for timing chain failures due to premature wear, often necessitating a complete engine breakdown as the chain is located at the rear of the engine. MINI vehicles, particularly those with the N14 and N18 engines, exhibit similar problems, characterised by the infamous 'death rattle'. 

Timing Chain Engine Variant Analysis – BMW & MINI Diesel Engines 

N47 – 4 Cylinder Diesel 
 
Common Issues: This engine, found in BMWs from 2007 to 2014, frequently experiences premature timing chain wear due to its placement at the rear of the engine, making access and replacement labour-intensive. 
 
Solutions: We replace the timing chain, and if the vehicle is manual, we also replace the clutch kit and dual mass flywheel if there’s no recent replacement record. For automatics, we change the transmission fluid and filter. 
N57 – 6 Cylinder Diesel 
 
Common Issues: Similar to the N47, the N57 engine suffers from the same rear-positioned timing chain issues. Additional problems include low engine oil pressure faults and worn con-rod bearing shells. 
 
Solutions: Replacement includes the timing chain and con-rod bearing shells, with additional components replaced based on the transmission type and recent maintenance records. 
B47 – 4 Cylinder Diesel (Post-2015) 
 
Common Issues: Despite improvements over the N47, the B47 engine uses the same type of chains and faces similar stretching and failures as mileage increases. 
 
Solutions: Our approach is akin to the N47, including clutch and transmission fluid replacements depending on the vehicle's transmission type. 

Timing Chain Engine Variant Analysis - BMW & MINI Petrol Engines 

N12, N13, N14, N16, N18 – 4 Cylinder Petrol (MINI Cooper and S Models, 2006-2016) 
 
Common Issues: Timing chains in these engines are prone to wear and can cause the infamous 'death rattle'. Excessive oil consumption due to worn valve stem seals is another significant issue. 
 
Solutions: We replace the timing chain and suggest simultaneous replacement of valve stem seals to reduce future labour costs. Attention is also given to the vanos solenoid valves which may require replacement. 
N20 – 4 Cylinder Petrol Turbocharged 
 
Common Issues: Similar to the N43, the N20 experiences wear and stretching of the timing chain. A distinctive whirring noise linked to worn oil pump gears is a common complaint. 
 
Solutions: Replacement includes the timing chain and a modified oil pump sprocket to address the noise issue, ensuring smoother operation post-repair. 
N42, N45, N46 – 4 Cylinder Petrol (BMW E46 & E89x, 2002-2008) 
 
Common Issues: Aging of these engines leads to stretched timing chains and worn valve stem seals, resulting in high oil consumption and blue smoke emission. Leaking vacuum pumps are also a concern. 
 
Solutions: During timing chain replacement, we also replace the valve stem seals and the vacuum pump seal kit to address all potential issues simultaneously. 
N43 – 4 Cylinder Petrol 
 
Common Issues: As these engines age, we see an increasing trend of timing chain guide failure, where the plastic guides break and scatter within the engine, leading to severe damage. 
 
Solutions: Replacement of timing chains includes addressing con-rod bearing shells and cleaning the sump to prevent further issues related to oil pressure and engine damage. 

Maintenance and Care - Preventive Timing Chain Maintenance 

For BMW and MINI owners, we recommend replacing timing chains proactively after 90,000 miles or 9 years to avoid catastrophic engine failures and costly repairs. 
 
At Beverley Motor Works, we emphasise the importance of timely and preventive maintenance. For BMW and MINI owners, addressing timing chain issues before they escalate can significantly reduce repair costs and prevent severe engine damage. Using only Genuine BMW parts ensures compatibility and longevity, backed by a comprehensive warranty that provides peace of mind to our customers. 
 
When to Replace a Timing Chain 
 
Replacing a timing chain is advised when symptoms appear or as preventive maintenance. Delay can lead to increased repair costs and more severe engine damage. Due to the complexity and the need for specialised tools, timing chain replacement is generally recommended to be handled by experienced technicians. 
 
Recent models from BMW and MINI continue to use advanced materials and designs to improve the longevity and reliability of timing chains, though challenges remain. 
 
At Beverley Motor Works, replacing a timing chain involves several key steps, including the removal of the engine or transmission, depending on the model, which is why expertise and precision are paramount. 
Cost Considerations 
 
The cost of replacing a timing chain can vary significantly based on the model and whether it's a BMW or MINI. Our approach includes using only Genuine BMW parts to ensure reliability and performance, backed by a comprehensive warranty. Our experienced BMW technicians will always give your vehicle a thorough inspection and discuss cost implications prior to beginning any work 
Advice for Buyers 
 
Prospective buyers of used BMW and MINI vehicles should be aware of the timing chain condition and maintenance history as part of their pre-purchase assessment. 
 
Understanding and maintaining the timing chain in your BMW or MINI is crucial for ensuring the performance and longevity of your vehicle. At Beverley Motor Works, we provide expert advice and service to help you manage and prevent timing chain issues effectively. 

BMW and MINI Timing Chain FAQs 

 
A: Typically, 90,000 miles or 9 years, but this can vary based on usage and maintenance. 
 
A: Symptoms include engine rattles, misfires, metal shavings in the oil, and error codes related to the camshaft or crankshaft sensors. 
 
A: Costs can vary, but proactive replacement can significantly reduce potential expenses related to engine damage. 
Share this post:
Our site uses cookies. For more information, see our cookie policy. Accept cookies and close
Reject cookies Manage settings