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Mark Durnell

Nikasil answer from BMW

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Below is a reply I received from BMW customer service , I was curious if mine had the block replaced as its a 1997. I,m not seeing any nikasil symptoms ,I was just curious and am a little suprised at their statement of external signs. Anyway here it is.

We can confirm that some of the M52 engines built between January 1995 and March 1998 were affected by the Nikasil issue. We can confirm that your vehicle was built in July 1997, so falls within the timeframe of the affected engines. We can also confirm that is does not appear from our records that the engine block has been replaced in this vehicle.

it was found that the high level of Sulphur in some UK fuel started to eat away at this lining and therefore the bores were unprotected. As a result, the bores were prone to premature wear. Since the problem was highlighted, BMW stopped using Nikasil linings and instead fitted cast iron liners to the cylinder bores which were not susceptible to the Sulphur of UK fuels.

A characteristic of a vehicle that is suffering from premature bore wear, is high oil consumption which will get worse as time goes on. The vehicle is then likely to lose power and will eventually cut out and not restart; coupled with blue smoke from the exhaust when attempting starting.

We must stress that not all vehicles fitted with a Nikasil liner have experienced this problem. As this was not a recall item, we will not be able to clarify if your vehicle would be one of the specific models that were affected. It is not possible to identify what lining the bores are coated with from the outside of the engine with markings or engine numbers. The only way to identify whether a vehicle is suffering from a Nikasil issue is to have a compression test carried out by an approved BMW dealer. If as a result of this test, a loss of compression is found to be caused as a direct result of this issue; the dealer may then be able to pursue an out of warranty claim.

We recommend that if the vehicle is demonstrating the above characteristics, that you arrange for your vehicle to be inspected at your earliest convenience by your nearest approved BMW dealership.

We trust this is helpful to you, and again please feel free to contact us should you have any further questions.

Yours sincerely

BMW Group UK

Leigh Martyn

Product Information Advisor

Ellesfield Avenue

Bracknell RG12 8TA

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Mmmm, nothing we didn't already know apart from, as you say, the bit about not being able to identify the liner material from external numbers or casting marks on the block. So this could cast (no pun intended) a whole shadow of doubt over whether a particular car could potentially have the problem and that the usual way of telling is no longer reliable?

I'm not concerned about my own car as it's fine but if the above is true, then it begs the question of how do you tell? Only way that I think may work is to take a spark plug out and use some sort of telescopic magnetic tool through the plug hole and see if it clings to the bore wall? Bit risky though!

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Thats the whole point Rich, many threads on many forum say that you can tell by the tab or plug in the block,, Not according to bmw you cant! I'm not concrened about mine as at 152000miles now,and running great with no issues, I think it would have shown up long ago if there was a problem.

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Yeah, interesting. I looked for the tab on mine when I found out about the nikasil issue (after purchasing it :roll: ) but didn't seem to have it, then culdn't find the paperwork re the engine change. Got worried, as guessed it was a nikasil engine that was not replaced, but then thought, as above, its done 130k miles now, losing no power, had 2 compression tests done over 12 months and all seems spot-on (touching wood and whistling like a loon)



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An odd response, as it is possible to identify a steel liner and a Nikasil block.

The steel tab is located by a bolt, and is underneath the starter motor in the corner where the sump meets the block by the bellhousing. You will see it with a torch and this signifies a steel liner block.

Nikasil blocks will not have the tab, but have a pear shaped casting lug on the block with a round hole. Any Nikasil engine that still runs okay will be fine now. The problems were caused by high sulphur fuel and poor running in (too many short 1 mile shopping trips).

The steel liner engines are okay but there have been many cases where the alloy has sunk between the liners causing a blown head gasket. It's not known if this block problem causes the head gasket to go, or is caused by overheating. A Nikasil engined car wouldn't bother me at all. As long as it doesn't drink oil and it goes okay, bollocks to it!

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