Key Takeaways

  • The BMW 3 Series has some issues, including oil leaks and fuel pump problems
  • Potential electrical issues should also be caught early by an inspection
  • The 3 series is otherwise a solid, very fun vehicle to drive
  • Some believe that the vehicle goes through brake pads too quickly
  • We suggest getting any vehicle - especially a BMW, inspected before buying.

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The BMW 3 Series is a fun, high performance vehicle. Does the BMW 3 Series have problems? Is it worth buying for the average BMW owner?

A BMW 3 Series can be worth owning. At this point, older models are well  known for issues with their fuel pumps starving the engine of much needed gas. BMW in general is also well known for having oil leak after oil leak.

We’ll explore more details about the positives and negatives of owning a BMW 3 Seriw, which is overall a fun car to drive after overlooking a few problems commonly presented with the line of the vehicle.

Table of Contents

BMW 3 Series Info

Before we dig into the problems of the BMW 3 Series, let’s be fair and discuss the vehicle itself just a little more. The BMW 3 Series is a line of performance sedans created by the company known for building the “Ultimate Driving Machine.” Drivers tend to love the vehicle for offering plenty of power while also keeping the driver feel connected to the road with serious handling abilities around corners. The 3 Series is well suited for urban, suburban, and countryside driving with the ability to accelerate for passing and parallel parking.

For most people, a BMW 3 Series could certainly be a daily driver, so we assume that drivers will put 10,000 miles or more per year on their BMW 3 Series.

BMW 3 Series Problems

Now that you have a little taste of the positive front the BMW 3 Series, we’ll dive into some of the issues drivers and the government have noticed about BMW’s sedans.

Oil Leaks

Oil leaks are common across all BMWs. Part of the challenge of keeping up with BMW maintenance is checking the oil more often than you think you do it. The issue that causes common problems like oil leaks or oil burning is that vehicles like the 3 Series do run hot. As performance vehicles, parts like the valve cover gasket and the rings that hold pistons in also tend to get loose over time and let some oil slide out.

The result? We hope the warning light comes on - because a vehicle, especially a BMW, lacking in oil due to oil leaks is bad news for engine issues. If you have continuous issues with oil leaks, a repair shop might be able to help you fix some of them. In other cases, your better bet might be to just keep a better eye on the overall oil levels. Without proper oil, you could burn the engine out and have an inoperable vehicle.

Electrical Issues

Electrical issues are usually not a good problem to have for vehicles. In the case of the BMW 3 Series, the problem is actually fairly simple - it’s just annoying, and to be honest, potentially dangerous if it happens while driving. The positive battery cable connector can become corroded, then lose connection with the battery itself, causing the vehicle to lose power which would cause the electrical power to shut off - turning off the entire vehicle.

The solution here is fairly simple: BMW should know about the issue and inspect your vehicle's positive power cable for degradation, then either clean it or replace the cable to prevent the issues from happening in the future.

Fuel Pump problems

One of the most common BMW 3 Series problems that we have read about is a faulty fuel pump. A faulty fuel pump doesn’t quite all happen at once but can result in a rough idle, increasing stalling, and a vehicle that goes into limp mode. The problem is just that the fuel pump can prematurely fail, so it doesn’t deliver the requested amount of fuel as needed to the engine.

A way to slowly see this coming: when you have a long crank time when trying to start your BMW 3 Series. This is related because the crank time should be nearly instant as the fuel pump activates right away.

Faulty Water Pump

Another pump issue. This time, the BMW 3 Series problems extend to the part of your engine that cools everything. The water pump on a BMW 3 Series can fail, leading to a shutdown of the vehicle’s engine as it overheats quickly. Before this happens, BMW could help replace the thermostat and thermostat housing so that the water pump itself doesn’t overheat, along with the parts that help regulate it.

Brake pads

More often than not, performance vehicles have the ability to burn through brake pads faster than you’d like. Consider this a combination of drivers buying lower end brake pads for their vehicle, and a driver also attempting to frequently get every ounce of the BMW 3 Series’ solid ability to slow down into a corner or stop quickly.

If you feel like you are going through brake pads too fast, ask the dealer about your rotors. You could also consider buying more durable brake pads if they are available.

Timing chain

This problem is a bit more specific to the 2011 to 2015 models. The timing chain guides on a BMW 3 Series can fail, causing the timing chain to have a serious issue. Unfortunately for any vehicle with a timing chain, having the timing chain can cause all sorts of issues and potentially wreck the engine in moments. Have the timing chain guides carefully inspected by a BMW dealer so you can avoid this happening.

In most cases, a timing chain breaking will cause a immediate engine failure anyway - it’s just a matter of whether not the flying parts in your engine happen to make contact and create a bigger mess.

Small mirror issues

Not a really significant issue here - but could be annoying. There are reports that the side mirrors on the BMW S3 Series would have a problem when you attempt to turn the side mirrors in or push them back out. The mirror housing can get stuck and be difficult to electronically or manually move to the right spot.

Is the BMW 3 Series worth buying?

The BMW 3 Series is one of the best combinations of price and performance out there. People tend to drive them for a very long time and enjoy their ability to take sharp corners in a very comfortable manner, and the overall performance is worth the price.

Do know that although we listed off a few things that can go wrong with the BMW 3 Series, there is a good chance that your future BMW 3 Series won’t experience every problem imaginable. Your driving experience could actually be quite pleasant with the right maintenance. So please don’t take your investigations and warnings that you shouldn’t buy a BMW 3 Series because it does have some problems - because literally, every vehicle does!

Preparing to buy a BMW 3 Series

Our best suggestion for anyone buying a performance vehicle, especially a BMW or Mercedes, is to get the vehicle thoroughly inspected. This is especially true if you don’t feel like you know much about cars - and if you don’t have the immediate budget in case the vehicle has a problem right away. There is little worse than having a couple of major issues immediately after buying the car of your dreams, which results in the vehicle sitting around or saddling you with debt.

The vehicle is an absolute dream to drive - just take it to someone with serious know-how. A dealer or private party might also be unwilling to negotiate the price of a BMW 3 Series because they know they often need fixes. Prepare to either walk away from a deal or move forward with caution.

BMW 3 Series Problems & Complaints: Are The Issues Worth Buying?

About The Author

Charles Redding

Charles Redding

I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.

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