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Does the BMW 2.0-litre diesel engine have a problem?

I read recently on a site that specialised in information on car engines, that the current 2.0-litre BMW diesel engine had a weakness in the timing chain area, and that getting this fixed was pricey. The site also said that BMW refuses to recognise that the problem exists. As I am considering purchasing a second hand 520d in the future, this piece of news is disquieting, as the engine seems to be good - powerful, frugal, and great when matched to the eight-speed auto. Have you heard of any problems with the timing chains of this engine?

Tony Mulhare (Dublin)

Sep 2013 Filed under: diesel

Expert answer

Hi Tony,

OK, there are a couple of issues here. One is that a trawl of the Internet forums, especially in the UK, seems to indicate that there is a common problem on the N47 2.0-litre diesel engine whereby the timing chain can either fail or jump its sprockets. Either way, you're looking at an engine failure and a need for replacement. Not a trivial matter. 

However, BMW has not issued a recall or any specific advice in this area, which may indicate that there has not been a significant level of these incidents. It's easy to accuse a car company of ignoring a major problem but actually that's rarer than you'd think and it's all to easy to get into a froth of indignation from just reading complaints on the internet.

That being the case, we'd simply advise caution. There are some very good independent BMW specialists out there (such as and it might be worth getting in touch with them for more detailed advice.

Also, insist on full service history with these cars, paying particular attention to oil change intervals.

Neil Briscoe - Complete Car Adviser

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