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BMW N52 Lifter Tick Causes & Solutions

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The BMW N52 engine is the last naturally aspirated inline-6 engine that BMW manufactured. That is a big deal considering the brand’s reputation for creating some of the weightier straight-6 engines overly made. Throughout the N52’s lengthy 11-year build trundling between 2004 and 2015, it garnered a reputation for smooth power wordage and unsurmountable reliability. Plane today, the N52 is widely considered to be one of the most reliable BMW engines of the modern era. 

While touted for its reliability, there are some wontedly talked well-nigh issues as far as the N52 is concerned. The most widely publicized issue is N52 lifter tick. N52 lifter tick is a metallic ticking noise that is caused by improper lubrication to the N52’s hydraulic valve lifters due to the diamond of the engine’s cylinder head. While N52 lifter tick doesn’t pose a risk to engine health, it is an tormentor that many people want to get rid of. 

In this guide, we’ll imbricate the topic of BMW N52 lifter tick including what it is, its causes, symptoms, fixes, and more. If you are looking for increasingly information on other N52 issues, take a squint at our 7 Most Worldwide BMW N52 Engine Problems Guide.


What is N52 Lifter Tick?

In the most vital terms, N52 lifter tick is a metallic clicking sound coming from the engine bay of an N52-powered BMW. In some cases, the ticking is very loud and pronounced and in other cases, it can be relatively subdued. N52 lifter tick scales with engine RPM, so the higher you rev the engine, the faster the tick occurs. Some N52 owners that have experienced the issue requirement that the tick makes their car sound similar to a diesel engine when idling. 

While we’ll go remoter into detail well-nigh the causes of BMW N52 lifter tick in the pursuit section, the ticking noise stems from the N52’s valvetrain. Increasingly specifically, the ticking itself is caused by the N52’s hydraulic valve lifters which lack unobjectionable lubrication when the engine is unprepossessed due to the diamond of the engine’s cylinder head.

While lifter tick is a problem on early N52 engines regardless of driving style or any other external circumstances, there are a couple of factors that play into how worldwide the ticking issue creeps up on most N52 engines. Most N52 owners requirement that valvetrain ticking is exacerbated if the car is only used for short trips and municipality driving. N52 owners that do primarily highway driving requirement to not wits lifter tick quite as much. Additionally, N52 lifter tick seems to be significantly increasingly prevalent in colder months, which is likely due to unprepossessed weather’s effect on oil viscosity. 

What Causes BMW N52 Lifter Tick?

BMW N52 lifter tick was unquestionably a pretty difficult issue for the BMW polity to finally nail lanugo due to the inconsistencies with the problem itself. However, now that BMW engineers and technicians have had zaftig time to tear lanugo and inspect N52 engines with the lifter tick problem, we have a pretty good idea of what causes the problem.

Ultimately, there are a couple of factors that play into N52 hydraulic valve lifter tick, with the main two stuff the diamond of the N52’s cylinder throne and the diamond of the N52’s hydraulic valve adjusters themselves. 

BMW N52 Cylinder Throne Design

The main freelancer to N52 lifter tick is the diamond of the N52’s cylinder throne itself. The issue stems from the head’s inability to supply unobjectionable lubrication to the lifters when the engine oil is cold. There is a lack of oil in the lifter zone considering the engine throne losses oil pressure when the engine is off. 

Essentially, the oil drains from the cylinder throne and does not return for a while without the engine warms. Short-distance driving doesn’t indulge the oil to get up to operating temps, which allows the oil to thin. That is why lifter tick is increasingly wontedly reported in engines that don’t see very much highway driving. This is moreover why N52 lifter tick goes yonder without a period of extended driving. The oil gets up to operating temps and thins, permitting it to circulate into the lifter area. That moreover explains why unprepossessed weather has a negative impact on lifter tick, as the cold, thick oil can’t spritz to the cylinder throne effectively. 

The diamond of the N52’s cylinder throne was sooner remedied on later models of the engine. BMW sooner put a revised N52 cylinder throne onto production cars with a build stage without 11/31/2008, which largely stock-still the issue. The later production cylinder heads full-length a trammels valve to alimony oil inside of the hydraulic valve adjusters when the engine is off. 

BMW N52 Hydraulic Valve Lifter Design

While not as wontedly known, the diamond of the N52’s hydraulic valve lifters themselves is moreover a significant freelancer to the problem. The function of the N52’s hydraulic valve adjusters is to minimize valve clearance as the camshaft rotates.

Unlike unstylish solid lifters, hydraulic lifters are hollow and have an internal piston and spring, which allows oil to enter and exit the internal incision within the lifters. Due to the N52’s HVA and cylinder throne design, air can get trapped within the adjusters, not permitting them to function correctly. While hydraulic valve adjusters are once noisy to uncork with, trapped air pockets can overdraw the sound plane further.

BMW N52 Hydraulic Lifter Tick – What Models Were Affected?

Ultimately, the N52 hydraulic valve lifter tick issue plagued nearly every BMW model that featured an N52 under the hood. If we listed every N52-powered BMW here, it would be quite the list, as it powered nearly every mid-low tier model in the BMW lineup from 2004-2013. The unauthentic chassis are as follows:

  • All E82, E83, E85, E86, E88, E60, E61, E70, E90, E91, E92, and E93 with the N51, N52 or N52K engines

It is important to mention that older N52 engines suffered with valve lifter tick issues much increasingly than later model engines. That is mainly due to the fact that BMW revised the N52’s cylinder throne diamond in November of 2008 which helped reduce the endangerment of the issue occurring on later engines. With that stuff said, there are plenty of reports of N52 lifter tick occurring on late-model N52 engines as well. 

Does N52 Lifter Tick Do Damage?

While N52 lifter tick can sound pretty lattermost if it continues to get worse over time, there is no correlation between the sound and engine forfeiture lanugo the line. In the technical service message that BMW released concerning the N52 lifter tick issue, they requirement that “the condition will not rationalization any forfeiture to the engine.

With that stuff said, there were some early reports from BMW owners that experienced the issue of scoring on engine components and metal shavings in the engine oil. While those N52 engines might have experienced lifter tick and those other issues simultaneously, there isn’t any vestige to show that the lifter issue was responsible for scoring or contaminated oil. 

Despite the few claims that N52 lifter tick can rationalization engine damage, there are far increasingly reports of BMW N52 owners experiencing the noise for years without any negative impact on drivability or engine condition. The marrow line is that noisy N52 lifters are increasingly of an tormentor than a serious engine issue. While it is unquestionably that BMW should have recognized and remedied this issue much sooner than they did, it won’t stupefy drivability if you can’t get the problem stock-still right away. 

BMW N52 Hydraulic Valve Lifter Tick Symptoms

  • Loud metallic clacking sound coming from the top of the engine

Ultimately, there aren’t usually any preliminary signs of N52 lifter tick until it begins happening. It is moreover a problem that tends to occur immediately and without warning, neither vociferously or through engine fault codes. If you are unsure if your N52 is experiencing hydraulic valve lifter tick or flipside similar ticking noise (often the injectors), we’ll leave a sound prune unelevated for you to compare.

While N52 lifter tick tends to uncork happening out of the blue, there are a couple of circumstances where the problem occurs increasingly frequently. For instance, most N52 owners notice that if they momentum their car and then park it for a few days, the lifter tick tends to be much increasingly pronounced on startup the next time. Driving short distances in colder climates moreover amplifies the intensity of the tick. The main factor in both of those circumstances is oil temperature. The ticking is louder in those instances as all of the oil has tuckered from the cylinder throne and hasn’t had zaftig time to warm up to operating temperature. 

BMW N52 Hydraulic Valve Lifter Tick Fixes

Over the years, there have been a number of “fixes” for the BMW N52 valve tick issue, with some having higher success rates than others. Fixes for the problem have ranged from gory procedures to oil viscosity changes, and plane well-constructed cylinder throne replacements. While there are certainly ways to modernize the lifter tick issue and limit the chances of the issue resurfacing, the problem truly does stem from the N52’s valvetrain diamond itself. 

N52 Valve Lifter Transude Procedure

In 2008, BMW released a technical service bulletin that outlined the N52’s hydraulic valve lifter tick issues and presented a gory procedure that would supposedly remedy the issue. The gory procedure substantially consisted of holding the engine at a resulting 2,000-3,000 rpm for three minutes and subsequently letting the engine idle for a remoter 20 seconds. If the lifter tick didn’t improve, the process could be repeated up to 5 spare times.

Ultimately, the lifter tick transude procedure was never meant to be a permanent fix to the problem. Instead, it was a way to remedy the issue for a short period. All the transude procedure powerfully did was get the oil to its correct operating temperature, permitting it to spritz from the crankcase to the cylinder throne and to the lifters. The same result could be attained by simply driving at upper rpm for a bit or through some sustained highway driving. 

Oil Viscosity Change

Ever since the N52 polity discovered that the N52 lifter tick issue was primarily due to low oil temperature and upper viscosity, discussions well-nigh oil weight have been a hot topic. In theory, running a thinner oil not only takes less time to warm but moreover remains closer to its operating temperature viscosity when it is cold. Since the recommended 5W-30 BMW LL04 has a nonflexible time reaching the lifters during startup or in unprepossessed weather, switching to a lighter oil makes some sense.

The main treatise in favor of using lighter-weight oil is that plane BMW uses 0W-30 oil in the majority of European dealerships for engines that undeniability for BMW LL04. While it isn’t recommended to stray from the oil guidelines in the owner’s manual, most stipulate that 0W30 will work well in most circumstances as long as you don’t live in an zone with a very warm climate year-round. If you aren’t well-appointed with running such a thin oil all of the time, some N52 owners use 5W-30 in the warmer months and 0W-30 in the colder months.

There are quite a few mixed reports well-nigh how using thinner oil affects the N52 lifter tick situation. Some people requirement that using thinner oil has profoundly reduced the frequency and severity of their lifter tick while others requirement that the tick only goes yonder immediately without the oil transpiration and resurfaces shortly after.

BMW N52 Cylinder Throne Replacement

While gory the lifters and running thinner oil has been shown to help the N52 lifter tick issue in the short term, the only true fix is to replace an early model N52 cylinder throne with the revised cylinder throne that BMW introduced late in the 2008 model year. The revised cylinder throne was initially rolled out in November of 2008, and is found on all N52 BMWs produced in 2009 and beyond. 

The revised N52 cylinder throne features a variegated oiling system design, which features a trammels valve to alimony oil inside of the hydraulic valve adjusters when the engine is off. By keeping oil inside of the lifters while the engine is off, they are at least lubricated with oil upon initial startup. However, lifter tick can still occur with the revised cylinder throne if the oil doesn’t reach operating temperature surpassing the lifters use all of the stored oil.

Historically, replacing the N52’s cylinder throne is the main method of solving the engine’s lifter tick issues. When the N52 was a new engine and covered under warranty, N52 owners often had their cylinder heads replaced under the factory powertrain warranty. Unfortunately, no N52 is covered at this point in time, so the cylinder throne replacement would be an out-of-pocket fix. 

While the replacement cylinder throne did solve the lifter tick issue for most N52 owners that went superiority with it, there are still some reports of the issue resurfacing without the replacement. With that stuff said, it is the weightier endangerment of remedying the issue permanently.

Improved N5X Cylinder Throne Casting Numbers:

N51 (B30): 7588277

N52 (B30): 7588273

N52K (B30): 7588271

BMW N52 Lifter Tick Repair Cost

Considering the fact that N52 lifter tick is a wontedly reported issue that is purely an tormentor and not a risk to engine health, it is important to consider the options that you have at your disposal from a forfeit standpoint. While replacing the engine’s cylinder throne with the improved diamond will likely solve the issue, that is a very plush replacement at this point, with all N52 engines stuff out of warranty. 

The first step should be to see if the transude procedure listed whilom works to unstrap the lifter tick issue. If it doesn’t, it could be a sign of a larger issue with your N52’s valvetrain components. However, if it does help the issue, most N52 owners have had pretty good luck with simply doing some high-rpm driving every once in a while to ensure oil is getting to the lifters. In some cases, intermittent high-rpm driving has remedied the issue for some N52 owners for months. That is a no-cost solution that simply requires a bit of diligence and intention.

While switching to a variegated oil weight is a touchy subject in the BMW community, some N52 owners have found that using thinner 0W-30 BMW-approved LL-01 oil helps the issue as well. Once again, we can’t recommend going versus BMW’s factory oil recommendations, but thinner oil has been proven to work, which is flipside low-cost solution.

If you are looking to replace your N52’s cylinder throne with a revised one, you’ll be looking at between $5,000-$7,000 for parts and labor. While it is understandable as to why some N52 owners would want to do this repair, it is nonflexible to justify that forfeit when lifter tick doesn’t pose a serious risk to the engine. 

BMW N52 Lifter Tick FAQ

Why is my N52 ticking?

Lifter tick from the N52’s hydraulic valve lifters is an extremely worldwide problem on the BMW N52. The ticking is caused by insufficient lubrication to the valve lifters upon startup and in unprepossessed weather. This is due to the N52’s cylinder throne design, which doesn’t supply unbearable oil to the hydraulic valve lifters until the engine oil is warm.

How do I stop my BMW lifter from ticking?

Ultimately, there are a couple of solutions to N52 lifter tick. Intermittently driving at upper RPMs can gravity increasingly oil into the cylinder throne and lifters, alleviating the noise. Some N52 owners opt to use slightly thinner 0W-30 BMW -approved LL01 oil which warms quicker and flows to the lifters easier. BMW moreover redesigned the N52’s cylinder throne in late 2008 which incorporated a trammels valve that keeps oil inside of the lifters when the engine is off. While expensive, swapping to a late-model cylinder throne has been shown to reduce the frequency of the issue.

Will a ticking lifter rationalization damage?

According to BMW themselves, N52 lifter tick is purely an well-marked issue and does not rationalization any engine forfeiture or stupefy drivability in any way. As a uncontrived quote from the technical service message that BMW released concerning the issue, “the condition will not rationalization any forfeiture to the engine.”

BMW N52 Lifter Tick Summary

Ticking from the BMW N52’s hydraulic valve lifters is a widely reported problem that can stupefy any 2004-2015 BMW powered by the N52 engine. The sound itself sounds like a metallic clacking noise that typically occurs during startup or when the weather is cold. There aren’t typically any warning signs surpassing N52 lifter tick starts and there aren’t usually any twin symptoms other than the noise. The ticking moreover scales with engine rpm, meaning the higher the revs, the faster the ticking occurs. 

N52 lifter tick is caused by insufficient oiling to the hydraulic valve lifters due to the diamond of the engine’s cylinder head. Essentially, when the engine has been sitting for an extended period, the oil drains out of the cylinder throne and hydraulic lifters and doesn’t return until the oil has reached operating temperature. That causes the non-lubricated lifters to make a loud ticking noise that typically goes yonder without a period of high-rpm driving. 

There are a few ways to fix BMW N52 hydraulic valve lifter tick, with a couple stuff self-ruling or low forfeit and one stuff ludicrously expensive. Since high-rpm driving is one way to eliminate N52 lifter tick, intermittently driving whilom 5,000 rpm has stopped lifter tick for some N52 owners for months. Some N52 owners moreover say that switching to thinner 0W-30 BMW-approved LL01 oil moreover helps. Replacing an early model N52 cylinder throne with a revised post-11/30/2008 build stage cylinder throne is flipside solution.

Ultimately, N52 lifter tick is an tormentor increasingly than anything else. While it is undeniable that BMW should have resolved the issue sooner and provided solutions for anyone experiencing the issue, the fact that lifter tick does not rationalization any engine forfeiture should bring some peace of mind to some.

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