Advice for buyers
What should I look for in a used BMW 3 Series coupe?
Use the iDrive infotainment system to find a menu option labelled ‘Service Info’. This will tell you whether or not services are due on major components and systems, and will give a good indication of how well the previous owner has kept the car.
Check too that the correct run flat tyres are fitted. They do have a negative effect on the ride quality, but the 3 Series Coupe was never designed to run on conventional tyres and there’s no space for a spare wheel.
What are the most common problems with a used BMW 3 Series coupe?
The biggest issue of all was a timing chain problem on the 2.0-litre diesel engine. Designed to be maintenance free, it instead began snapping unpredictably, causing catastrophic engine damage to a number of cars. BMW claims to have fixed the problem from the 2011 model year onwards, but you’re still advised to be cautious, and to insist on a full service history when buying the car.
Other common issues are ignition key slots wearing out and becoming loose (usually caused by owners pulling the key out, instead of pressing it in first to release it) and clogged diesel particulate filters, which can be very expensive to replace.
If the steering’s power assistance feels odd, or seems to change as you drive it, it can be a fault with either the steering column itself, or the electronic control unit for the steering.
Is a used BMW 3 Series coupe reliable?
Aside from the diesel timing chain issues, the BMW 3 Series Coupe is generally very well built, but you need to make some specific checks. Noisy air conditioning means it needs a re-gas, while interior rattles can come from the trim on the doors.
Knocking from the front suspension is usually caused by anti-roll bar bushes wearing out, but clunking noises from the back of the car (especially when pulling away) means trouble with the rear axle, which can be hugely expensive to fix.
If there’s a vibration coming through the clutch pedal on diesel cars with a manual gearbox, then the dual-mass flywheel may need replacing, and it is an expensive piece of work.
Black smoke from the exhaust usually means a blown turbocharger seal, with this requiring a new exhaust gas recirculation valve to fix.