If the head gasket is blown, your BMW won’t perform as it should.
Instead, you’ll have oil leaks, engine overheating, and high fuel usage to low performance.
If you keep driving, you could damage the cylinders and the engine block – so acting quickly and repairing the head gasket on your BMW is crucial for the longevity of the vehicle.
However, the average cost of repairing a BMW head gasket is $2,000. Here, you’ll pay $200-$1,200 in parts and the rest is labor.
However, if you go to the dealer, a head gasket repair can cost as much as $3,500 – with some brand new cars being quoted at much higher than that. At the same time, a head gasket repair will always take at least a full day, even for a professional.
The table below shows a quick price comparison of head gasket repair cost estimates from reputable suppliers:
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How Much Does BMW Head Gasket Repair Cost?*
The two large cost factors for replacing a BMW head gasket are the cost of labor and the cost of the part. The gasket itself can drop to as little as $100 if you buy an aftermarket part. However, you’ll always pay for at least a day of labor.
The following table covers cost estimates for bimmer head gasket repair for 10 different models:
|Vehicle||Head Gasket Cost||Labor Cost|
|BMW 1 Series||$98-$720||$1,245-$2,560|
|BMW 3 Series||$45-$610||$950-$2,560|
|BMW 7 Series||$120-$815||$1,056-$2,551|
*Note: Prices are estimates and were correct at the time of writing (June 2023). Cost estimates may have changed since, our figures should be used as a starting point for your own research. In addition, the lower parts costs are all aftermarket and not OEM.
What Is A Head Gasket?
The head gasket rests between the cylinder head and the engine block, creating a seal between the two. This keeps fluids such as engine oil at pressure inside the chamber, so that the cylinders can turn smoothly and without creating too much heat or friction.
The lubricating engine oil ensures that your car doesn’t overheat or wear away the cylinders and the engine block through normal usage.
However, when the gasket goes out, you’ll have to replace it. Leaks mean your car will overheat and that excessive friction creates wear and tear on your vehicle.
Unfortunately, that means disassembling a large part of your engine so you can get the cylinder head out. In a BMW, that’s a little bit more complicated than some other vehicles where the cylinder head might be more accessible.
BMW Head Gasket Repair Price Factors
The cost of replacing a head gasket will almost always depend on what you pay for labor.
However, if you’re getting an original equipment manufacturer head gasket from the BMW dealer, that can run you up to $1,200 as well.
Cost of Parts
You can find aftermarket BMW head gaskets from about $75. However, if you go to the dealer, X3 owners have receipts showing charges of $950-$1,200 for the gasket itself.
Here, there are pros and cons to getting an OEM gasket. BMW’s own gaskets are made of steel or copper and are designed to last for 10 or more years. They’re also expensive to manufacture. However, a large part of what you pay is still about the brand.
On the other hand, aftermarket head gaskets can come in a range of different materials. The cheapest are normally made of fiberglass or Teflon. These still provide a seal but may be less durable or less good than the steel.
If you’re not sure about what to choose, you can always ask your technician for recommendations.
Cost of Labor
The cost of labor can be the largest cost factor in replacing a head gasket on a BMW. Here, you’ll normally spend 8-12 hours replacing the head gasket. On average, that will be about 9 hours.
So, your BMW dealer will probably charge you for 2 days of labor to be on the safe side. Your technician may as well – although you may get an ‘actual hours’ rate as well.
Dealers normally charge from about $145 per hour but up to about $210. This means you’ll pay a minimum of about $1,200 in labor costs and up to about $3,200 in labor.
Most standard mechanics will charge about $50-$90 per hour, although rates can be higher in urban areas. And, chain shops like Pep Boys and YourMechanic will typically charge around $95 per hour but definitely higher in urban areas.
However, chain shops won’t always have the time to fit in a head gasket repair, so you might have to go somewhere else anyway.
You’ll also normally pay a shop fee (5-20% of total bill), and a machining fee if you have to resurface the engine block or the cylinder head (that can be up to $300). Finally, you might also pay a lot fee of up to $25 per day your car is on the lot.
It’s very possible that you take your cylinder head off the engine block and it turns out you have to resurface the cylinder head or the engine block. This happens when damage, pitting, rust, or other issues affect the surface of the block.
If the block isn’t smooth, the new gasket won’t seal to it. So, you’ll have to shear off a very thin layer off the top, essentially creating a new smooth surface.
That can cost as little as $50 if your technician has the machines to do the work. However, it might be up to $300 if you have to go to a third-party.
You’ll always have to replace engine oil, coolant, and oil filters when you change your gasket. However, you’re also taking apart a large part of the engine.
You might want to stop to inspect the belts, gaskets, and filters to see if they’re near the end of life before you put them back in. If so, paying the cost for new parts can save you considerably overpaying for the labor to take them out again later.
6 Symptoms Of A Blown BMW Head Gasket
A blown head gasket behaves like an oil leak in your car. However, you can look for 6 different symptoms of a bad gasket.
1. White and Frothy Oil
If your head gasket is broken, it can mix the engine oil with the coolant. The result is normally frothing oil. It might also be white.
That’s a quick check to look in the oil reservoir. However, it can also be a case of contamination in the reservoir itself.
2. Coolant Leak
A coolant leak can come from a large number of issues. However, if it’s obviously coming from the cylinders and not the weep hole, it could be a head gasket issue.
If it’s coming from the weep hole, it’s probably a cylinder coolant seal issue.
3. Performance Issues
If your BMW has blown a gasket, it means you’re losing compression pressure in the engine. That will increase the amount of fuel you use to create the same amount of power.
As a result, you’ll frequently see symptoms like reduced power, reduced acceleration, and difficulty holding speed.
4. Oil Leaks
Engine oil leaking around the spark plugs is almost always a head gasket issue.
You can use a spark plug puller to remove one and check for oil. If it’s oily, you have a gasket leak.
5. Burning Oil
If your engine is burning oil, it means you have a leak above the combustion chamber, which is normally the head gasket. The easiest tell here is if your engine is emitting white exhaust.
However, white exhaust can also be a leak from somewhere else that’s bleeding into the combustion chamber.
6. Air in the Coolant
Your coolant system should be a sealed system. If it’s bubbling and full of air, it means you have a leak. That could be anywhere, so it doesn’t necessarily mean a gasket leak.
However, if it’s mixed with an oil leak, the head gasket is a likely culprit. Here, you can pop off the radiator cap (with the engine cold) to check.
How Do You Replace a BMW Head Gasket? (Video)
Replacing the head gasket on your BMW is not an easy job. It will likely take you at least two days if you haven’t done the work before. In addition, you can’t do refinishing work yourself, so you might not be able to complete the work on your own.
It’s also always a good idea to inspect your engine as you take it apart, marking which parts you want to replace, so you can put your engine back together in optimum shape.
Things you’ll need
- Ratchet and socket set in metric
- Breaker bar
- Replacement gasket matching the specs in your service manual
- Service manual for your car
- Wrench set
- Cleaning/wire brushes
- Brake cleaner
- Small hand pump or turkey baster
- BMW crankshaft locking pin tool
- BMW camshaft locking jig
- E8 Torx
- Disposable gloves
- Large flat screwdriver
- Replacement o rings
- Scraping tool
- Park the car on a flat space and turn it off. Take the key out of the ignition. Then, unplug the battery from the left terminal and tuck it out of the way.
- Drain the engine oil.
- Then, drain the coolant.
- Unbolt and remove the engine covers.
- Unclip the engine cooling fan wiring harness and then unbolt the fan.
- Remove the shroud.
- Unbolt the exhaust manifold.
- Remove the intake manifold.
- Take the coolant case off the crankcase.
- Find and remove the VANOS oil line, being careful not to drip oil.
- Unscrew the hose clap on the coolant pipe and pull it off.
- Remove the fasteners on the coolant pipe and then remove it.
- Unbolt the camshaft cover.
- Rotate the engine clockwise using a ratchet and point the camshaft lobes towards each other.
- Remove the dust plug on the crankcase.
- Use the BMW crankshaft locking pin tool to remove the crankshaft lock.
- Remove the studs on the rear of the cylinder head.
- Remove the camshaft locking jig.
- Remove the plug.
- Uninstall the VANOS.
- Loosen the timing chain tensioner using a ratchet and socket.
- Compress the secondary timing chain tensioner.
- Undo the three impulse wheel fasteners from the exhaust camshaft.
- Take off the impulse wheel.
- Remove the spring plate.
- Loosen and remove the inverted Torx bolts.
- Lit the camshaft timing chain and loosen the timing chain tensioner and then remove it.
- Remove the splined shaft.
- Take off the exhaust camshaft sprocket with a deep socket.
- Remove the timing chain cover cylinders.
- Lift the cylinder head from the engine.
- Remove the cylinder head gasket and carefully clean it. Scrape away any old gasket material and carefully clean the surface. Inspect it for damage. Clean the block the same way.
- Apply the new gasket and tighten it with the cylinder head in place.
- Reinstall the timing chain, using your service manual to reference the timing.
- Lock the camshafts in.
- Install the crankshaft locking pin.
- Reinstall the timing chain tensioner and torque to the specifications in your manual.
- Install the exhaust camshaft splined spacer.
- Add the exhaust and intake camshaft sprockets.
- Install the spring plate.
- Add the impulse wheel.
- Use the service manual to preload the timing chain tensioner and exhaust camshaft impulse wheel.
- Reinstall the full VANOS and supports.
- Lock down the camshaft adjustment fasteners.
- Rotate the engine back into place.
- Replace all top covers and accessories.
From there, you can refill the oil and coolant. Make sure you allow the engine to idle for at least 30 minutes, refilling both as necessary.
Your head gasket should last the lifespan of the BMW. If it doesn’t, it’s a major repair. Therefore, replacing one will cost an average of $2,000. You can drop that to close to $1,500 if you choose a third-party technician. However, at the BMW dealer, it may cost over $3,500. Unfortunately, this is a big job and it’s difficult to do yourself and to get the engine back together right.
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