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BMW M3 Reliability and Common Problems

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The BMW M3 is a powerful car with excellent handling. When it comes to depreciation and resale value, CarEdge.com has archived their page on the depreciation rate of the M3, citing insufficient or out-of-date market data. AutoPadre.com has listed the 2018 BMW M3’s five-year depreciation rate at 38%. 

Is the BMW M3 Reliable?

When it comes to the BMW M3’s reliability, the reviews and the ratings vary greatly. Due to a combination of high average annual repair costs, as well as frequency and severity of unscheduled repairs, RepairPal gave the BMW M3 a below-average reliability rating of 2.0 out of 5.0. Meanwhile, UK-based marketing research firm J.D. Power has no available ratings for this model on its website. 

According to the RepairPal page on the BMW M3, the annual cost of maintaining this car is at $1,161 on average. This is significantly higher than the average annual ownership cost of other luxury midsize cars ($739) and other vehicle models in general ($652). The frequency of unscheduled repairs for this model is estimated to be around 0.8 times per year, which is higher than the frequency of luxury midsize cars (0.6) and other vehicles (0.4). The probability of encountering severe issues is significantly higher (21%) versus that of other vehicles in the M3’s class and other vehicle models (12% for both).

As with any vehicle, the BMW M3 can last up to 200,000 miles or more with proper care and maintenance.

bmw m3 e46
While it has a reliability rating of just 2.0 out of 5.0, the BMW M3 does have a lot of power and excellent handling.

Top BMW M3 Problems

With its low reliability scores, you’d think that the BMW M3 has a lot of reports on CarComplaints. However, there are only 10 reports on the website. Below are some of the most common BMW M3 problems:

Loud Internal Engine Noise

At around 54,000 miles, a 2012 BMW M3 owner had severe problems with engine noise. Aside from the loud, metallic ping-pong-like sounds, the owner had also noticed a significant decrease in engine performance. Upon inspection by a mechanic, this owner found out that they needed to replace their entire engine, a repair that can cost upwards of $3,000. 

The root cause wasn’t indicated in the report, but BMW has issued a recall and several technical service bulletins (TSBs) to address engine issues. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) campaign #19V472000 aims to recall 16,641 vehicles that have electrical and stalling issues. Among the affected models are the 2009 328i and 328xi, 2009-2011 335d, 2008-2012 M3 Coupe, M3 Convertible, and  2008-2011 M3 Sedans. 

Vehicle Died While Driving

This 2011 BMW M3 problem is the third-most severe, according to CarComplaints.com. However, as of writing, it only has one report on the website. According to the affected owner, they were driving down their usual route when their vehicle died without warning. The brakes and the steering weren’t working. This problem happened at around 29,000 miles. 

This owner got their car checked at a shop and the mechanics told them that the engine seized up and needed to be replaced, a repair that cost the owner $26,000. BMW issued several TSBs regarding engine issues, including TSB #B130619 and TSB #B122110

bmw m3 engine
Engine problems are some of the common issues reported for the BMW M3.

Engine Failure

There’s only one report about this issue on CarComplaints.com, and that report doesn’t provide much detail about the issue. According to the 2008 BMW M3 owner, the engine had problems so severe that their mechanic said that the engine needed to be replaced. This took them by surprise, as they’d thought their vehicle would be in the shop for only a little while. According to the owner, the issue started at around 70,000 miles. 

BMW has issued a few recalls and TSBs for 2008 M3 units. On June 19, 2019, BMW recalled 16,641 vehicles that had stalling issues or experienced a loss of electrical power under the NHTSA campaign #19V472000 (same as the recall mentioned above). There are also quite a few TSBs that address engine issues regarding the 2008 BMW M3. 

Faulty Transmission

Of all the items on this list, this is the worst BMW M3 problem, according to CarComplaints.com. This is a specific 2005 BMW M3 problem, which involves the transmission going into neutral. This problem only has one report on CarComplaints.com. According to the owner, their vehicle’s transmission gear indicator went into neutral. This immobilized and disabled the car’s ability to start up. As of writing, there are no available documents about recalls or TSBs specifically addressing this issue.

No Spare Tire

While this may seem like a very dangerous problem that can put anyone in jeopardy, it’s not the worst M3 problem. For the 2002 BMW M3, the most common problem reported on CarComplaints.com is a lack of spare tires. According to the report, the owner noticed that their vehicle’s tire fix kit only consisted of a jack and a Fix-a-flat tire repair aerosol can. There were no spare tires and the owner was afraid that this might put them in a tight spot should anything happen on the road.

Most BMWs have a run-flat tire, which means they’re designed to function even if they’re flat. However, according to this M3 forum, the BMW M series (at least the model years before 2007 when the thread started) only had regular tires installed. One user did point out, however, that the M series came with the M Mobility System, which is an alternative to run-flat tires. There are no available documents online to indicate that BMW issued a recall or TSB regarding this issue.

Radiator Stopped Working

According to a report posted by a 1999 BMW M3 owner, the radiator and most of the cooling system components failed and needed to be replaced. This repair alone required the affected owner to shell out more than $3,000. After a few months, the same owner said that their vehicle’s clutch also wore out. Aside from the faulty radiator and cooling system components, the vehicle also had electrical, A/C, and heating issues. The owner encountered this issue at around 110,000 miles. 

Based on the problems listed above, the M3 has quite a few significant problems that may have led to its low reliability ratings. If you’re planning on buying a BMW M3, you need to research the model year you plan on buying. Also, make sure to clear everything up with the seller before you seal the deal.

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Vehicle Reliability

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