BMW 3 Series Common Problems

BMW 3 SeriesThe BMW is one of the most iconic cars on the British roads. With many variations and affiliations over the years the 3 series is without question one of the best known models. With a history reaching back to 1975, this is the German manufacturer’s best-selling vehicle accounting for 30% of their annual turnover.

Winning various awards over its lifetime the 3 series has seen a number of incarnations including 2 door sports coupes and 5 door station wagons. There is a supercharged version of the vehicle available known as the M3. With this many cars rolling off the production line, there are always going to be a few faults reported in various models. So if you have a 3 series, what should you be on the lookout for?

Engine issues

One of the most common faults in the engine are problems with the fuel pumps and injectors. You’ll see these problems most commonly on 2006-2007 335i models. This is especially true with the 4 and 6 cylinder turbo charged engines that appear on new models. Such issues will cause difficulties when idling and can affect the fuel performance of the car, increasing stalling and leading to a rough ride and a long crank time. You’ll need to check in with your mechanic to get this problem solved.

Also there are known issues with the valve timing system known as VANOS, which can become clogged with dirt and debris from the road. This in turn leads to the car running very slowly and failing to pick up the appropriate levels of power with the vehicle going into limp mode.


There are a couple of problems widely reported with the 3 Series’s electrics, with consumer reports highlighting models built between 1999-2005. The first is with the key, which may stop working in the ignition leading to the steering lock light engaging. This is due to faults in the steering column and computer, which will need serious diagnostics. Also there is a problem with the battery connectors that can lead to lose of electrical power to the vehicle. The positive battery connector is prone to degrading and will corrode over time increasing chances of stalling and even leading to complete ignition failure.

Cooling system

Some of the more common issues with the car’s cooling system include faulty water pumps that will lead to the engine overheating rapidly. It is always advisable to keep one eye on such problems as this could lead to other parts becoming damaged in the vehicle. Cracks in the vehicles coolant system could also cause coolant leaks. It’s therefore advisable to replace the water pump, thermostat and thermostat housing every 30K miles and to change your pipes every 100K miles, even if they appear to be OK.


Many owners report noises coming from inside the engine of the BMW 3 series, including vibrations and slow rattling sounds that can cause annoyance and frustration when driving. These effects can even mask real problems with the car leaving more serious faults unnoticed. We’d recommend getting the vehicle checked out by an official mechanic to find the source of such problems.


BMWs in general are known to use expensive and uncomfortable flat run tyres, which degrade quickly and need frequent replacement. Make sure your tyres are in good condition in the usual way and make more regular checks than you would with a standard family car.

The 3 Series is still a great looking vehicle that represents a quality city vehicle at a good price, giving you access to sports-car style engineering. With a smooth ride, the power to go the distance and the ability to turn heads, you can see why it’s such a popular vehicle all over the Western World. Second hand cars are a great way to save money, but be sure to use our list to check out any potential purchase for those underlying faults.

This entry was posted in Cars and tagged , on by Justin Smith.

About Justin Smith

As the man at the helm of BreakerLink, it is no surprise that its Director, Justin Smith, has always had a keen interest in cars, bikes and most things wheeled. Having spent over two decades in the car parts industry, Justin combines his passion that since 2002, has successfully united those looking for new and used car parts with the breaker that supplies them. Follow Justin on LinkedIn.

Disclaimer: These articles are for guidance purposes only. If you have any questions regarding any matter relating to your vehicle we would recommend that you seek the advice of an appropriate professional. We accept no responsibility or liability should you suffer financial or personal damages in relation to the advice stated on this website.