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BMW 3 Series E90 (2004-2013) – Buyers guide



bmw e92

The BMW 3 series E90 is becoming reasonably priced. This is making it attractive for first time BMW buyers or people looking to upgrade from their E46. The E90 aged really well. The E92 coupe with M-Sport bumpers still turns heads, which is not something many cars do after 10 years. However, the BMW 3 series E90 has a lot of known problems. Here they are, try your best to avoid buying a bad car.

Major faults

  • 320d diesel engines have common turbo failures.
  • All petrol engines have problems with fuel injectors and ignitions coils. The car can have problems starting up or unsteady engine in neutral.
  • The N47 2.0 diesel engines have problems with the engine timing chain. Some claim this is caused by the long oil change interval. The timing chain can skip and cause big damage to the engine. If the timing chain is bad, the engine rattles.
  • 320d diesel engines have problems with plastic flaps on the intake manifold.
bmw e90 touring

Other and minor faults

  • In 335i models, there is a problem with the automatic transmission control unit. The transmission starts in second gear which causes stress to the transmission and unwanted vibrations with rattling. Overall, the automatic transmissions in the E90 3 series are not the best.
  • The steering rack leaking oil is known and common problem.
  • Common dual mass flywheel problems, expensive to replace.
  • Common camshaft sensor failures, especially on 2.0 petrol engines
  • The 330d models have under-dimensioned DPF filters causing them to fail sooner than normal. Expect replacement by 80,000 miles.
  • Owners report fuel leaks on 330d’s.
  • Very common problems and failures with fuel pumps on the 330i and 335i. Expensive repairs.
  • Owners report problems with the OEM tow hook.
  • Regular failures of thermostatic valves on diesel engines (both the thermostat on the EGR valve and the one on engine cooling radiator).
  • Loud and uncomfortable ride on run-flat tires. Most owners replaced them as soon as possible.

Body and interior problems

  • Intensive abrasion of interior plastics on the steering wheels and door panels.
  • Braking of the plastic elements in the power side window mechanism. This results in side windows going down constantly. The whole mechanism needs replacing.
  • Owners report that door handles get stuck in “opened” position.
  • Loud windshield wipers.
bmw e90 interior

Electronic problems

  • Tyre pressure system tends to not work most of the time.
  • Ignition coils are known to fail on all petrol engines.
  • There have been many cases of the G201 pressure sensor failure in the ABS unit. The electronic stability control light turns on and does not go off. The whole ABS unit needs replacing.
  • The fan resistor for cabin ventilation can fail and cause constant drainage of the battery.
  • Owners report common problems with the wiring. This causes random door locking, car radio lock-up and the blinkers to stop working when you lock/unlock the car.
  • Many reported failures of door locks and boot lock.
  • Common failures of the steering wheel lock.

Our recommendation

The E90 3 Series is a car with a huge fan base and a huge base of people who had nightmarish experiences. The key to buying any BMW is to find a car with a known regular service history. Make sure to read our guide to buying any used car.
Make sure to check and ask the previous owners about the major faults we mentioned above. If anything of the above has been taken care of it is a big plus. Good luck with the search!

Recommended diesel engine: 330d (strong and reliable, no problems with the timing chain)

Recommended petrol engine: 330i (reliability king but not performance, it is a naturally aspired R6 engine BMW has been making for years).

Before buying any car, please, we could not be more serious, do a VIN check-up. Read and CLICK on the infographic to learn more:
vin check infographic lifeonfour


1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Larry Schurr

    February 25, 2020 at 9:15 pm

    This blog BMW 3 Series E90 (2004-2013) – Buyers guide helps me a lot with my battery problems.
    Kiss you all!

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