BMW has a unique coding system for the identification of different engine features. A 6-8- alphanumeric characters long engine code gives information about the engine family, displacement, number of cylinders, power level, and any major technical upgrades.
Where Is BMW Engine Code Located? You can find the BMW engine code on the engine block, inside the registration documents, on the driver’s side door jamb, and from various online sources. For the N54 family, it is on the timing cover at the junction of the cylinder heads and engine block. BMW M50 engines have it on the intake side of the crankcase, and N55 has it on the surface of the engine block under the intake manifold.
If it is difficult for you to find it on the engine, you can hire a mechanic or workshop to do it for you.
BMW engine code and its purpose
BMW engine code is a 6-8 alphanumeric characters long identifier used to describe specifications or some features of a vehicle’s engine.
It has a specific pattern where each character or a set of characters has a unique meaning regarding engine characteristics, including its family, number of cylinders, fuel type, and different versions.
This unique nomenclature of various models produced by BMW facilitates the users to identify specific variants from multiple options available.
Moreover, it is essential to ensure compatibility when purchasing replacement parts or performing maintenance since different BMW engines have varying components and requirements.
You can also know its specifications by decoding this code while buying a used car. Based on specific variants, its price can vary according to available features.
It can also help you to resell your vehicle by presenting the buyer their code to assess its features and year of manufacturing to know its condition.
Interpreting a BMW engine code
These engine codes consist of a combination of letters and numbers, with a specific meaning. The first character is a letter and represents the series or family of the engine.
For example, the letter N represents the new engines developed after 2001, and P indicates sports engines for racing applications. The next character in the code is usually a digit representing the number of cylinders.
For example, digit 5 is for the Inline-6 cylinder (I6), 6 is for V8, and 8 is for the V10 engine. Next is a number from 0-9 to indicate the original design or its upgraded variants. 0 is specific for a base or original version, and 1-9 indicates the upgrades in sequential order for subsequent model years.
It means 1 shows that it is the version of the first upgrade in the original, 2 is for 2nd upgrade, and so on.
The next character in the series is a letter that tells you the fuel type and the orientation of the engine installation under the hood. Letter B shows a longitudinally installed gasoline model, while C is for a diesel variant installed in the transverse position. E is for electric models, N is for natural gas, and H is for hydrogen fuels.
Next are 2 digits specific for engine displacement in liters. You will find 40 for 4.0-liter, 12 for 1.2-liter, and 23 for 2.3-liter machines. The last 2 characters, usually TU, in the code are for technical updates.
However, for the N family of engines, BMW introduced a change in the nomenclature of engine codes. According to the new scheme, the 1st character is a letter that shows the performance/power class of the engine, like T for Top, S for Super, and M for Middle, according to its horsepower rating.
The 2nd character is a digit from 0 to 9 to indicate the version of the technical update in an order year-wise. You will not find these last 2 characters in codes for all engines.
Locations to find engine code on a BMW
You can locate the engine code on a BMW can through various methods, inspecting both physically and also using online resources.
Under the hood on the engine block
One of the most common places to find the engine code is under the hood, directly on the engine itself. You will often find it on a metal plate or sticker with a black background and silver characters or embossed in its body.
One possible location is on the front of the cylinder heads below the cam sensor on the intake side. BMW N54 models have it on the timing cover at the junction of the cylinder heads and block. There can be slight variations in location on the engine block for different families of cars.
For example, M50 variants have it on the intake side of the crankcase. For the N55 family, you will find it on the surface of the engine block under the intake manifold.
Inside the vehicle
In some BMW models, you will find the engine code in the vehicle’s interior, typically on a sticker or label. The location can vary, but the most common is on the driver’s side door jamb sticker.
You will find a black colored sticker with this 8-digit code along with other data like a bar code and VIN as per specified format. It is available only in the latest models, as earlier models have that code on the motor.
Vehicle documentation is the most authentic and easiest way to locate the engine code as it is difficult to access and look at it on the engine.
First, you should check the registration documents of your BMW vehicle to find it, as it has a significant role in determining the registration charges based on its specifications and displacement.
Next, you can also find it in the owner’s manual of your vehicle. It is essential to verify the code against official records to ensure accuracy.
If you cannot locate the engine code physically or in your vehicle’s documentation, you can also find it through online resources. Many forums provide databases and tools for searching them based on your vehicle’s VIN (Vehicle Identification Number).
You can enter your VIN, and the system will provide the code associated with your specific car model. You can also seek help from BMW-authorized dealers or workshops to locate them.
Are the VIN and engine code of BMW the same?
No, the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) and the engine code of a BMW are not the same. They serve different purposes and provide various types of information. The VIN is a 17-character long unique alphanumeric code assigned to every automobile.
It serves as a universal identifier for the entire vehicle, including details about the manufacturer, the vehicle’s make and model, the production year, the place of manufacture, and a serial number that distinguishes one vehicle from another.
The code, on the other hand, is specific to the engine. It has a length of 6-8 characters that describes the various specifications, such as its displacement, fuel system, and other features. BMW uses them primarily for identifying and distinguishing different machines within a lineup or family.
Common BMW engine code examples
M50B25TU is a code of standard 2.5-liter inline-6 cylinder gasoline engine with a major upgrade from its base variant, including a single VANOS phase regulator. S55B30 indicates a high-performance 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-six gasoline variant used in BMW M models.
N47D20 code represents a 2.0-liter I4 turbocharged diesel powerplant with direct injection. N63B44O1 is a 4.4-liter Valvetronic V8 engine with direct injection and a twin turbocharger system. It is available in the latest models of BMW X5-X7 models from 2010-onwards.
M54B30 signifies a 3.0-liter inline-6 gasoline engine available in earlier BMW models. B58B30M1 represents a 3.0-liter inline-6 engine with a single twin-scroll turbocharger. It has a medium power class and a single minor update from the original design.
Do various models of BMW have the same location for engine code?
The location of the engine code on a vehicle is independent of the model year and depends on the family of the engine. So, variants belonging to the same series or lineup have identical locations.
Earlier BMW engine families, including M10, M30, S14, and S38, have it on the flywheel side of the crankcase. M20, M42, and M50 series have these codes printed on the intake side of the crankcase.
The M70 family has them on the right front side of the crankcase. You will find it on the engine block under the 3rd runner on the intake manifold embossed on the body for the N55 lineup.
Are engine numbers and engine codes the same for a BMW vehicle?
Both BMW engine code and engine numbers are different for a vehicle and have different purposes. Engine code is generic and remains the same for all variants in a family having matching specifications.
On the other hand, engine number also has 8 alphanumeric characters in length and is specific for the individual engine unit throughout its life. It is different for new and refurbished or crate engines.
For newer versions, its first 4 digits have information about their assembly line and serial number according to daily production. The following 4 digits provide information about the production plant and production date.
For remanufactured or crate machines, the engine number gives information about its serial number, refurbished or new status, and the last 4 digits representing its month and year of production. In some models, you will find both the engine code and its number printed on the same sticker.