BMW Engines: How to Get the Most Miles Out of Your BMW Engine

BMW engines are some of the highest performing engines in the world. At German Auto Center we have been exclusively servicing German engines and specifically BMW engines since the 1970s.  Regardless of what type of BMW engine you have, here are a few tips to ensure your BMW provides you with years of service:

1)    Engine oil. Be sure that your engine oil and engine oil filter are changed on a regular schedule. At German Auto Center, we recommend every 5,000 miles for older models that are using mineral based oil and every 7,500 miles for later model engines requiring full synthetic engine oil. Be sure to check your owner’s manual or visit a German Auto service expert if you are unsure of which engine oil you should be using. Remember, the M-Series engines use single weight oil and you should not substitute variable weight oil.

2)    Engine oil filter. All oil filters are not created equally. Most fast lube shops use lower cost paper oil filters and these should be avoided.

3)    BMW specialist. We strongly recommend that you have your oil changed at a BMW specialty shop such as German Auto Center. As these engines are designed to provide you with 100s of thousands of miles of service, it is important that these engines be visually inspected regularly by a trained BMW specialist.  This will help spot any issue that can be addressed early before they become costly repairs or worse, leave you stranded.

BMW Engine Technology:

BMW has been innovating engine design for decades.  Late model BMW engine designs make use of several performance technologies including Direct Injection, Turbocharging, and Variable Engine Timing (Please see or blog on Variable Engine Timing (VANOS) and Variable Lift for more information.

Direct Injection, called High Precision Injection by BMW, is based on utilizing extremely high-pressure fuel rails and injectors delivering fuel directly in the combustion chamber of each cylinder. Traditional fuel delivery systems deliver fuel into the intake manifold or cylinder port as opposed to each cylinder combustion chamber. This design provides more efficient use of fuel and increased combustion performance. Most notable, this technology is used in BMW’s N53, N54 and its successor, the N55 engines.

Turbocharging, called TwinPower Turbo by BMW, is used to refer to engines that make us of both twin-turbo designs as well as single twin-scroll turbocharges.  Turbocharging effectively increases engine performance by forcing more air and proportionally more fuel into the combustion chamber than can be achieved through atmospheric pressure alone.  BMW utilized turbocharging on a number of engines including the N54, N55, N63 and S64 V8 and N74 V12 engines.

Variable Valve Timing was pioneering by BMW for their engines, which BMW has referred to as VANOS engines. Variable valve timing is based on altering the timing (when) of the valve lift to improve performance and fuel economy.  BMW makes use of electro-mechanical devises commonly referred to as the VANOS.

Variable Valve Lift, called Valvetronic by BMW physically changes the height that a valve opens to directly effect performance and fuel economy. When used with BMW’s VANOS technology, these engines offer levels of fuel management and engine control not previously available through purely mechanical engine designs.


Common BMW Engine Types:

As with any vehicle model, each generation of BMW engines have their own unique characteristics and maintenance requirements. Here are some of the common things that we at German Auto Center see regularly and will inspect with each oil service to ensure your BMW provides you with years of trouble fee service.


BMW Straight-Four Cylinder Engines. BMW has been building straight-four cylinder engines since the 1960s.

M10                      1960–1987 – 1.5–2.0 L

S14                       1986–1991 – 2.0–2.5 L

M40                      1987–1995 – 1.6/1.8 L

M42                      1989–1996 – 1.8 L

M43                      1991–2002 – 1.6/1.8/1.9 L

M44                      1996–2001 – 1.9 L

N40                      2001–2004 – 1.6 L

N42                      2001–2004 – 1.8/2.0 L

N46                      2004–2007 – 1.8/2.0 L

N45                      2004–2011 – 1.6/2.0 L

N43                      2007–2011 – 1.6/2.0 L

N20                      2011–current – 2.0 L

N13                      2011–current – 1.6 L

N26                      2012–current – 2.0 L


BMW Straight-Six Cylinder Engines. By far the most popular and recognizable of all BMW engines is the straight-six cylinder engines which have been in production since the 1930s.

M78                      1933 – 1.2-1.9 L

M328                    1936 – 2.0-2.1 L

M335                    1939 – 3.5 L

M337                    1952 – 2.0-2.1 L

M30                      1968 – 2.5-3.5 L

M20                      1977 – 2.0-2.7 L

M88/S38               1978 – 3.5 L

M102                    1980 – 3.2 L

M106                    1982 – 3.4 L

M50                      1989 – 2.0-3.0 L

M52                      1994 – 2.0-2.8 L

S50                       1995 – 3.0 L

S52                       1996 – 3.2 L

M54                      2000 – 2.2-3.0 L

M56                      2002 – 2.5 L

S54                       2002 – 3.2 L

N52                      2005 – 2.5-3.0 L

N54                      2006 – 3.0 L

N53                      2007 – 2.5-3.0 L

N55                      2009 – 3.0 L


BMW V8-Eight Cylinder Engines.  Although not a common as the straight-six cylinder BMW engines such as the M54, have proven performance and a dedicated following.

N55                      2009 – 3.0 L

M60                      1992 – 3.0-4.0 L

M62                      1996 – 3.5-4.4 L

S62                       1998 – 4.9-5.0 L

N62                      2001 – 3.6-4.6 L

N62                      2004 – 4.8 L

S65                       2007 – 4.0 L

N63                      2008 – 4.4 L

S63                       2009 – 4.4 L


What does your BMW check engine light mean?

Automotive manufacturers including BMW are required by law to provide a warning to the vehicle driver of possible issues causing degradation in vehicle emissions. This is how the check engine light came into existence. Although there are literally 1000s of reasons why a vehicle’s emissions may be negatively impacted, there are three basic areas that may be of issue; fuel flow and distribution, air flow and distribution, and the delivery of spark to the combustion chamber. All engines require the proper amount and timing of delivery of fuel, air and spark for an engine to run properly. Any anomaly in these areas will set a check engine light.  Remember a check engine light may be as simple as a gas cap that is not sealing or more complex with engine management electronics.  With today’s complex engines utilizing variable timing to improve performance and fuel economy the specialist can quickly make a distinction between a gas cap related issue from a more complex camshaft timing and deviation issues, or vacuum leak causing improper fuel trim which can often be confused with MAF readings.


When should I consider rebuilding my BMW engine?

With proper maintenance and service, very few BMW engines need a complete rebuild.  If you are having excessive oil consumption or smoke coming from the exhaust, these may be simply signs of issues with the crankcase ventilation system or oil separator and do not require complete engine rebuilds. The most common cause of engine failure is improper engine oil or overheating due to loss of coolant or component failure. Our BMW experts at German Auto Center can help you decide what would work best in terms of cost and efficiency.

Have a question about your BMW engine or does your model need special attention? Please ask using the comment box below on our German Auto Center Facebook page and one of our experts will reply! Len Gilmore would like to invite you to be part of the German Auto Center Community both online and offline by visiting the GAC facility today.