TTAC Tech Column: BMW Valve Adjustments

Cary Hubbard
by Cary Hubbard
ttac tech column bmw valve adjustments

Hi Cary,

I have a question for you about some maintenance on an older BMW I recently bought. The car is an E30 325i and I was told that it needs to have a valve adjustment. I am new to having an older car as everything I have owned prior has been much newer. Any advice on it and what to keep an eye out for?

Thank you for any information.



Congrats on the purchase of the BMW! Those are really fun cars and overall, pretty reliable. Yes, it is true those engines have solid tappets and need to have regular valve adjustments done on them. That is true for the older inline-six engines M20 and M30 that you find in the 3-, 5-, 6-, and 7-series. If you aren’t getting a small amount of “ticking” from the top end I would definitely look at it. Get yourself a good shop manual if you are into doing the work yourself, Bentleys is a great one for BMWs of that era. If you don’t want to do the work yourself do some research on a good independent shop where you live, and they should be able to take care of it for you. I have an E34 535i that I check the valve adjustment every time I do an oil change. Granted that might be a bit overkill, but I like to make sure everything is well in spec since it has a lot of miles on it.

Another thing to keep a close eye on is the cooling system. Older plastics in that system can be troublesome if not taken care of and bleeding the system well is an important thing. Overheating can cause havoc on those long cylinder heads. Also make sure the fan clutch is working properly, and not locked up or out of balance.

On the M20 in your 325i, it does have a timing belt that needs to be changed, the book calls for 50K miles or four years on those. If you are unsure if it has been done just replace it and do the water pump while you are in there. They are really easy to do, and doing it will give you great peace of mind that it is taken care of.

Besides the obvious regular oil changes, spark plugs, and normal maintenance there isn’t a huge amount to deal with on them.

Like any old car sometimes sensors can go wonky and cause issues but those can be addressed if they are causing problems.

All in all, those are easy on the maintenance side and will provide you with lots of fun driving.

Best of luck!


Please email me any tech questions to and I will write up a piece for you. 

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2 of 7 comments
  • MRF 95 T-Bird MRF 95 T-Bird on Dec 17, 2022

    A similar valve adjustment was also part of the maintenance regime on the Slant-6 Mopar. For all of their robust refuse to die nature it was kind of necessary. My dad used to do them on his Darts and Valiants with a feeler gauge and when the engine was warm.

  • Scoutdude Scoutdude on Dec 19, 2022

    How many miles are on the car and if there are any records of previous service. If you don't have any records or signs of the water pump, fan clutch, radiator, thermostat and timing and accessory drive belts having been done in the last 4 or 5 years just replace them all now. Seriously consider replacing all the radiator and heater hoses too. Make sure the fan is carefully inspected before being transfered to the new fan clutch. Any signs of cracking just replace it. Definitely won't be cheap having it done somewhere and not really all that cheap for quality parts but worth it compared to what you can spend if one of those items fail and you don't catch it in time. Don't skimp on no name parts, it is a false economy.

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