The BMW M3 is a popular sports car that has been around for many years, with many engine variations throughout the years! The four-cylinder E30, moving to the more M3 style 6 cylinder E36, E46, the first v8 E92 generation, and through to the newer F80 and G80 editions going back to 6 cylinders with a little added boost in the mix.
It is known for its high-performance engine, sleek design, and luxurious features. However, like any other car, the M3 does have its share of problems and issues. In this article, we will discuss some of the most common problems with the BMW M3.
We will also explore whether or not BMW has been making improvements over the years and what you should look out for when buying a new M3.
BMW are big hitters in the motorsport world, and their M3 is the go-to car when most people think of super-saloon! The M3 has been a very popular performance coupe ever since the German automaker introduced the first generation in 1986. the e30 M3 was controversial with its wide body but still holds its own in the history books sitting alongside the 190E.
Now the m3 is in its sixth generation of production, the M3 remains a very popular vehicle but seemingly more detached from its motorsport roots as time goes on. The last true M3 some may argue was the E46, having owned one of these cars myself I can confirm it is a must-have on the top 10 cars to own before you’re too old and have the reactions of a blind sloth. But these amazing cars don’t come without their fair share of “what to look for’s”.
Fortunately, with these cars lingering around for a while, and enthusiasts taking them to their limit pretty early on, there are plenty of recalls issued to cover most of the problems that arise, and after that, the aftermarket industry will have the answer to most f the issues we come across!
If you’re lucky enough to find an m3 that’s been looked after and owned by an enthusiast, these things may already be taken care of. Things such as the rear subframe on e46.’s deciding they want to leave the rear of the car… a lot of the remaining cars on the road today will have reinforcement plates welded into them to prevent this.
The issue then for us is do we want to buy a car with these changes already made? or are you willing to fork out the money, or get under the car yourself to crack on and be that enthusiast we all need?
There are a lot of things to consider when taking on an M car such as this, but with the right knowledge and research, you can be sure to find one that will suit your needs whether it be for show, track or even both! I owned my E46 for just over four years and had a few issues, but this is because I modified the systems preventatively based on meticulous forum dredging and specialist consultation.
- Common Problems
- BMW F80 M3 Common Issues
- BMW E90 E92 M3 Common Issues
- BMW E46 M3 Common Issues
- BMW E36 M3 Common Issues
- BMW E30 M3 Common Issues
- Collective issues to Consider with the M3 through the generations:
- The Verdict
BMW F80 M3 Common Issues
If you’re a proud owner of a BMW F80 M3, you probably know that it’s one of the most sought-after performance cars on the market. However, like any high-performance vehicle, the BMW F80 is prone to certain problems that can affect its overall performance and reliability. In this section, we’ll take a look at the most common problems found in the BMW F80 and how to address them.
Throttle actuator failure
Another common problem with the BMW F80 M3 is throttle actuator failure. This issue is caused by a faulty throttle actuator motor, which can cause the engine to go into limp mode. Symptoms of throttle actuator failure include reduced power and a loss of throttle response. To fix this problem, you’ll need to replace the faulty throttle actuator motor.
The BMW F80 M3 is equipped with a dual-clutch transmission that is prone to certain issues. These issues can include delayed or harsh shifting, as well as transmission slipping. To address these problems, it’s important to perform regular transmission maintenance, including changing the transmission fluid and filters.
BMW E90 E92 M3 Common Issues
The BMW E92 M3 is a high-performance coupe that has won over the hearts of many car enthusiasts. However, as with any performance vehicle, the E92 M3 is prone to certain issues that can put a damper on your driving experience. Don’t worry though, we’ve got your back. In this article, we’ll go over the most common problems found in the BMW E92 M3 and how to give them the boot.
Rod Bearing Failure
First on the list is the notorious rod bearing failure. This issue is caused by the factory-installed rod bearings that are known to wear out too soon, resulting in major engine damage. If you hear strange knocking or rattling sounds coming from your engine, it’s time to switch out those factory bearings for high-performance aftermarket ones, in fact it may already be too late! excessive wear on the crank may lead to needing a re grind and if its too far gone a whole new crank all together!
Its best to get an oil analysis done as often as you can afford, preferably every oil change, to monitor the condition of these bearings before they become a fatal issue for the heart of your pride and joy.
Throttle Actuator Failure
Another pesky problem is the throttle actuator failure. This little guy can put your engine into limp mode, leaving you with reduced power and a loss of throttle response. Fear not, you can replace the faulty throttle actuator motor and get back to living your best driving life.
VVT/ Vanos Failure
The E92 M3 is also equipped with a variable valve timing system known as the Vanos, but over time, the Vanos solenoids can fail, leading to a rough idle, reduced power, and increased fuel consumption. To combat this, you’ll need to replace the solenoids.
BMW E46 M3 Common Issues
Ah, the BMW E46 M3 – the stuff of driving legends. But even legends have their weaknesses. The E46 M3 is prone to certain issues that can ruin the driving experience. Don’t fret, though – we’re here to help. In this section, we’ll go over the most common problems found in the BMW E46 M3 and how to give them the old heave-ho.
RCPA Rear Subframe Cracks
First on the list is subframe cracking. While the rear axle tearing itself out the car may sound like something out of a fast and the furious movie, it’s a real problem for E46 M3 owners. This occurs when the structure that holds the suspension to the car develops cracks. its not even limited to spot weld failures, we mean these things literally tear themselves apart! Symptoms include clunking noises and uneven tire wear. To fix this issue, you’ll need to get the subframe reinforced or replaced, there was a recall where manufacturers would inject resin into the chassis but.. well. just do it properly?
Vanos VVT Failure
Next up, Vanos failure. The E46 M3’s variable valve timing system can go kaput over time, resulting in a rough idle, reduced power, and increased fuel consumption. To fix this, you’ll need to replace the faulty Vanos components. this could be a bad soldered joint in the vanos solenoid unit, poor seals or failed board all together.
Cam Bolts Failure
Oh, snap! Literally. One of the not-so-fun issues with the BMW E46 M3 is camshaft bolts snapping. This can lead to a major headache and even more major engine damage. To avoid this, it’s recommended to replace the factory bolts with high-strength aftermarket ones. Don’t let a snapped bolt ruin your day!
The E46 M3 was one of the first cars to be equipped with a sequential manual gearbox (SMG), but it’s not without its problems. SMG transmission issues can lead to harsh or delayed shifts and a loss of power. To get your transmission running smoothly, you may need to have it serviced or replaced.
Trailing Arm Bushes
Last but not least, rear trailing arm bushing failure. This may sound like a mouthful, but it’s a common issue for E46 M3 owners. The rear trailing arm bushings connect the rear wheels to the car’s body, and over time, they can wear out and fail. Symptoms include a clunking noises from the rear of the car, misaligned rear toe (tracking feels off). To fix this problem, you’ll need to replace the faulty bushings.
BMW E36 M3 Common Issues
The BMW E36 M3 – the classic sports car that has captured the hearts of car enthusiasts for decades. But even the most beloved cars have their quirks. Here we’ll go over the most common problems found in the BMW E36 M3 and how to sort them once and for all.
Cooling system issues
The E36 M3 is notorious for its cooling system issues. Over time, the plastic components in the cooling system can become brittle and crack, leading to leaks and overheating. Symptoms of cooling system issues include a loss of coolant, a rising temperature gauge, and steam or smoke coming from the engine. To fix this issue, you’ll need to replace the faulty components with metal or upgraded plastic ones.
Rear shock tower failure
Another pesky issue with the E36 M3 is rear shock tower failure. The rear shock towers can crack and break, leading to a dangerous situation. Symptoms of rear shock tower failure include a clunking sound coming from the rear of the car and a rough ride. To fix this problem, you’ll need to have the shock towers reinforced or replaced.
The E36 M3 is equipped with a variable valve timing system known as the Vanos. Over time, the Vanos system can fail, causing issues with the engine’s performance. Symptoms of Vanos failure include a rough idle, reduced power, and increased fuel consumption. To fix this issue, you’ll need to replace the faulty Vanos components.
Fuel pump issues
The E36 M3 is prone to fuel pump issues, which can cause a range of problems. Symptoms of fuel pump issues include a loss of power, engine hesitation, and a difficulty starting the car. To fix this problem, you’ll need to replace the faulty fuel pump.
BMW E30 M3 Common Issues
The BMW E30 M3 – the iconic sports car that has a special place in the hearts of car enthusiasts. But even the best cars have their quirks. In this article, we’ll go over the most common problems found in the BMW E30 M3 and how to show them the door.
The E30 M3 is a classic car that’s been around for a while, so it’s not surprising that it can be prone to rust. Rust can appear on the body, suspension, and even the engine. To prevent rust from taking over, it’s important to keep your E30 M3 clean and dry, and to perform regular inspections for any signs of rust.
Timing chain issues
Another common issue with the E30 M3 is timing chain problems. The timing chain is responsible for synchronizing the engine’s camshaft and crankshaft, and over time, it can stretch and wear out. Symptoms of timing chain issues include a rattling noise coming from the engine. To fix this problem, you’ll need to replace the timing chain and related components.
Fuel pump relay failure
The E30 M3 is prone to fuel pump relay failure, which can cause the fuel pump to stop working. Symptoms of fuel pump relay failure include a difficulty starting the car or a sudden loss of power. To fix this issue, you’ll need to replace the faulty fuel pump relay.
As with any older car, the E30 M3 can be prone to electrical problems. This can include issues with the battery, alternator, and other electrical components. Symptoms of electrical problems include a dead battery, dimming headlights, and flickering gauges. To fix this problem, you’ll need to troubleshoot the electrical system and replace any faulty components.
Collective issues to Consider with the M3 through the generations:
1, Overheating and Poor Radiator System
The first issue we will discuss is overheating and poor radiator systems. This is a common problem with older models of the BMW M series, particularly the S50 engine which was used in the E36 S50 cars.
The main cause of this problem is a faulty thermostat or water pump. These issues also extend to the E46’s S54, but the fault in these coolant systems lean more toward cracking expansion tanks and faults in the hoses themselves. Overheating an m car can lead to catastrophic and expensive engine failure if not found immediately.
avoid any car that you test drive that’s leaning into the red on the water temp scale!
If you’re looking to buy an M car, be sure to check the radiator and cooling system for any leaks or cracks. These can often be repaired relatively easily. However, if the problem is more severe, it may be necessary to replace the entire radiator system.
BMW has made some changes over the years to try and rectify this issue, but even with the new designs, it can still be a problem. In my opinion, if you’re not looking for the complete “driver’s car” experience, and you’re looking to buy an M car, it’s best to go for a newer model that has had any potential issues with the cooling system addressed.
If you do end up with an older model BMW M car, be sure to keep an eye on the coolant level and check for any leaks. It’s also a good idea to upgrade the cooling system to a more modern design. This will help prevent any issues with overheating in the future.
coolant draining and high temps is also a symptom of a blown head gasket, although the m cars tend to blow them between cylinders it is best to check this out too just to be sure.
2, VANOS or valve timing issues
The next issue we’ll discuss is VANOS or valve timing issues. This is a common problem with the BMW M series, particularly the S54 engine which was used in the E46 M cars. The main cause of this problem is a faulty VANOS unit. This can often be repaired relatively easily.
However, if the problem is more severe, it may be necessary to replace the entire VANOS unit.
BMW has made some changes over the years to try and rectify this issue, the older engines had things such as poor soldered joints in the electrical system that vibrate and fail, but even with the new designs, it can still be a problem. In my opinion, if looking to buy an M car, it’s best to go for a model that has had any potential issues with the VANOS system addressed before purchasing or ask the garage to carry them out prior to the purchase.
If you do end up with an older model BMW M car, be sure to keep an eye on the engine light. If it comes on, it’s likely that there is a problem with the VANOS, the car will feel like there is no power in either the mid or high-rev range. it is still driveable but should be taken to repair right away.
3, High oil consumption
The next issue we’ll discuss is high oil consumption. This is a common problem with the BMW M series, particularly the S65 engine which was used in the E92 M cars. The main cause of this problem is a faulty piston ring design. This can often be ignored and taken as one of the quirks of the car… However, if the problem is more severe, it may be necessary to replace the entire engine if left unchecked. asking for compression checks on the engine prior to purchasing should give some peace of mind.
BMW has made some changes over the years to try and rectify this issue, but with highly strung high-performance engines you may have to accept that they have their “qualities” lets not get started on the e60 M5.
its best to keep a litre f oil in the boot of your car just in case that oil light does pop on your dash, if this is a Sunday car why not just make a little checklist before going out on your weekend hoon?
4, automatic transmission issues
The next issue we’ll discuss is automatic transmission issues. This is a common problem with the BMW M series, particularly the SMG Gearbox which was used in the E46 M cars. The main cause of this problem is a faulty Pump unit. This can often be repaired relatively easily.
The DCT Gearboxes are not without their flaws, however, they are a much more modern design and don’t have the same issues as the SMG. the gearboxes can be jerky and uncomfortable, but these can be rectified by simple software updates! the power of the modern world.
the newer auto gearboxes feel a lot more positive and user-friendly than the older SMG, would I choose one myself? not in the e46, but certainly I would consider the flappy paddle race car mode in the following models. this is particularly good for the driver who wants a fast car but lacks a bit of skill on the driving side of things, particularly rev matching the downshifts.
5, RCPA Reinforcement and cracks
The next issue we’ll discuss is RCPA reinforcement and cracks. This is a common problem with the BMW M series, particularly the E46 M cars. The main cause of this problem is a faulty design. This can often be repaired relatively easily. However, if the problem is more severe, it may result in the whole chassis being scrapped! the issue is that the rear subframe mounts can tear through the floor of the car, leaving you with a very expensive repair bill… or a new car. there is a recall that comprises of injecting resin into the rear chassis, but I find this doesn’t really treat the issue of the problem, there are also aftermarket fixes for this and many companies willing to take on the task.
the rear end of the car needs to be removed, stripped back and plates welded in as reinforcement.
on the plus side, this will address any rust issues back there too, while things are off it would be a good measure to replace plenty of bushes and perform the differential bolt modification to reduce any jobs in the future.
6, Rough Idle
The next issue we’ll discuss is a rough idle. This is a problem with various generations of the BMW M series. The main cause of this problem is a faulty VANOS unit. This can often be repaired relatively easily. However, if the problem is more severe it could indicate a blown head gasket!
There are other electrical gremlins or idle control valves that could also be at fault but these are the common ones to look out for. when driving listen for a “pink” noise to possibly point towards a head gasket failure or get a compression test carried out. the last thing you want is a head gasket failure on your plate, if this is the case you better get that wallet out and hope there isn’t any overheating issues that have destroyed things!
Its certainly best to get yourself a specialist local who you can go to for all the requirements like this, I personally wouldn’t trust regular garages to carry out work such as this.
7, Rod Bearings
The next and final issue we’ll discuss is rod bearings. This is a common problem with the BMW M series, particularly the S54 engine which was used in the E46 M cars. The main cause of this problem is a faulty design.
This can often be repaired relatively easily by replacing the bearings and is also a BMW recall item! oil sampling or actually taking them out is the only way to really tell if there is an issue, otherwise, the catastrophic failure and rod striking out the engine block will be the next indicator that the bearings are failing…
As you can see, there are many issues that have plagued the BMW M series over the years. However, with proper maintenance and care, these cars can be very rewarding and last a long time. Hopefully, this article has given you some insight into what to look out for when purchasing an M car.
So there you have it, the most common BMW M issues and problems from E30 to G80. I hope this has been informative and helpful in your search for the perfect M car! if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment or contact me directly.
When considering an m3, check out people’s other issues and recommendations on M3Cutters forum: https://forums.m3cutters.co.uk/
If you’re looking to purchase an M car, we recommend checking out our friend’s over at m3cutters They are a great community and can help point you in the right direction.
if you’re looking for a more reliable BMW check our list of most reliable cars! https://motorsandmanstuff.com/the-best-cars-with-the-least-problems/
Thanks for reading!