Advice for buyers
What should I look for in a used BMW 3 Series saloon?
With the BMW 3 Series being very popular with company car drivers, there are plenty of high-mileage examples out there. This, in turn, might tempt unscrupulous sellers to artificially alter the car’s digital odometer, so it’s important to look back through the car’s MOT record online (if it’s old enough to have one), pay for a vehicle history check or plug the car into a BMW dealer’s diagnostics machine.
Also bear in mind that models fitted with large alloy wheels and low-profile tyres are not only more vulnerable to kerb damage, but they also have a significantly firmer ride and produce more road noise, particularly at motorway speeds.
All of the engines in this generation of the 3 Series use a timing chain rather than a belt, but it’s still worth listening out for any ticking metallic sounds which might stem from a faulty tensioner. That aside, there’s really not a lot to report in terms of common problems.
Some owners have found the Bluetooth to be temperamental, but this might be fixed with a software upgrade at a BMW dealer. Beyond that, the iDrive infotainment system is holding up well and is still one of the most logical systems to use.
What are the most common problems with a used BMW 3 Series saloon?
Crankcase bearing bushing
This recall affects some 3 Series models made from 11 March 2019 and 9 July 2019 for a crankcase bearing bushing that might not have been pressed into the engine correctly. This may sound like a minor issue, but cars that are involved will actually need to have a new engine fitted, so speak to a BMW dealer for further information.
A problem with the crankshaft sensor of some examples built from 16 May 2018 and 7 June 2018 could lead to the engine going into an emergency reduced power mode and limit performance. A BMW dealer will be able to confirm if your 3 Series is affected by this and arrange to have the sensor replaced.
There is a possibility that some examples manufactured between 1 September 2014 and 31 March 2015 could have a faulty Driver's side seatbelt mechanism that makes it difficult to use in cold weather. Find out from a BMW dealer if your car is affected since it will need to have the mechanism replaced.
A potential issue with the power steering on cars manufactured from the start of production up to 8 December 2015, and the driver may notice heavier steering than usual if it does fail. Affected examples will need to have a new power steering system fitted to fix the fault.
Rear axle bolts
Additionally, the rear axle bolts on cars produced between 1 January 2015 and 1 September 2016 can fail when reused, so if any work has been carried out on the rear axle (for example as a result of an accident repair), you need to be certain that new bolts have also been fitted.
Loss of drive
If you’re looking at a 2013 3 Series with a manual gearbox and you find it difficult to engage gears, then it might be that the bolts securing the pressure plate are loose. There was a recall issued for cars made between 1 February 2013 and 30 June 2013 to have these bolts replaced in order to fix the problem.
Engine may stall
There is a potential issue with engines that stall due to the fuel pump, and relates to models produced between 1 September 2013 to 30 April 2014. You may notice a warning lamp and error message display in the instrument cluster before the engine cuts out. Check with a BMW dealer to find out if your example is affected by this because it will need the fuel pump to be replaced.
There have been a few recalls for leaking EGR coolers and apply to various BMW models, but for the 3 Series it affects those built between 19 September 2015 and 22 November 2017. With such a broad timescale, contact your dealer for further information, because you'll need to have the vehicle inspected if it is suspected to be one of those affected.
Central rear headrest
Poor welds might mean the foldable central rear headrest might not work correctly on 3 Series models made from 5 - 31 July 2019, and will need to be inspected by a technician BMW dealer to determine if it needs to be replaced.
Is a used BMW 3 Series saloon reliable?
BMW as a brand managed a poor 21st place out of 31 manufacturers in our latest reliability test, but the 3 Series had a more decent result in the executive class, coming closer to the top and beating its main rivals, the Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
If you would like to see the full reliability list for executive cars, head to the What Car? Reliability Survey pages for more information.
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