The 8-Series first debuted in 1991 as BMW’s flagship 2-door grand tourer.
After being discontinued for almost two decades, it was reintroduced for the 2019 model year as a replacement for the 6-Series — just like the first generation E31 model did in the 1990s.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most common issues and problems 8-Series owners have encountered over the years.
Table of Contents
1. Brake Squeal
One of the most common complaints among second generation 8-Series owners is the squeaking brakes even in cars with really low miles.
The brake squeal can occur on the 840i, M850i and M8 starting with the 2019 model year up to the latest models.
It’s also more common on cars equipped with M-Sport brakes.
Although the brake squeal doesn’t affect the car’s stopping power, it’s quite disappointing to hear on an expensive flagship vehicle.
Here’s how a few owners described their experience on BimmerFest.com:
“I bought a brand new 840i and ever since the day I’ve had it the brakes squeal especially when slowing down between 30 mph to zero. It is driving me crazy. The car has been in 3 times to the dealer to fix and they tell me it’s done then when I drive it out it squeals again.”
“Just took mine in yesterday (840i Coupe) for the recall on the DSC and asked them to check the brakes as they had been squealing for the past few months at slow speed.”
Other owners on BimmerPost.com had this to say:
“I have a 2020 840ix GC and have break squeal as well. Took it in and still continue to have the problem. Not sure if there’s any options to stop it. It really is embarrassing.”
“M8comp. Brakes squeak often, and it’s really a problem. Usually gets better after a wash, so I’m suspecting brake dust.”
I have a 2020 M8 Convertible with 4,500 miles. After the initial 1,200 miles when I slow brake (at the end of the stop) My brakes sound squeak like a bus. Took it to the dealer twice and they said it was normal. $150,000 car with squeaking brakes.
Squeaking or squealing brakes usually mean that the brake pads are worn out.
But in the case of the 8-Series, it can start squeaking in cars that are still relatively brand new.
Fortunately, simply swapping out the OEM brake pads for aftermarket ones can completely eliminate the brake noise.
2. Low Coolant Problems
A number of 8-Series owners have encountered a low coolant warning and have had to top up their coolant reservoirs.
This problem can affect all variants and model years of the 8-Series, especially the older first generation E31 models.
Owners of the second generation G14, G15 and G16 8-Series have also had issues with the low coolant warning popping up intermittently.
Here’s how a few owners on BimmerPost.com described their experience:
“My car has been giving me the low coolant warning randomly. If I turn the car off it goes away when I turn it back on. I have had it at the dealer 3 times already, initially they said the coolant was very slightly low but now they are stumped.”
“Happened to my M8. Found a leak on one of the lines. Had to order part from Germany. Took 2 weeks.”
“Strange thing happened today in my 22 M850i GC. Started the engine after it was in the garage overnight. Got a “low coolant level” warning. No liquid whatsoever on the garage floor. Drove the car 5 minutes. Stopped, restarted. Been driving it since and the light had not come back on.”
“So was gonna take the m850 out to do some errands yesterday and when I got in the car and started her up I got an error message which popped up saying that I had low coolant level and to take it in to nearest dealer and don’t drive it or it could cause damage to engine. My car is a 2019 with only about 3500 miles on it.”
In most cases, the low coolant warning in the second generation 8-Series is caused by evaporation.
In newer cars, the coolant can also get absorbed by the gaskets and seals as the engine is broken in.
This problem can also occur in other BMW models and according to a TSB (Technical Service Bulletin) that BMW released, absorption is normal and all you have to do is top up the coolant reservoirs when the warning comes up.
BMWs are also notorious for developing coolant leaks as the hoses and plastic cooling system components wear out and crack.
It’s not unusual for coolant leaks to start appearing before the car hits the five year mark.
An older first gen 8-Series that hasn’t been looked after will usually need lots of new cooling system parts as they’re already more than 20 years old.
Some of the more common sources of coolant leaks include:
- Hoses and pipes
- Expansion tank
- Parts of the radiator
- Water pump
- Valley pan
- Turbo coolant line
3. Excessive Oil Consumption and Leaks
BMWs are known for developing oil leaks as they get older and the 8-Series suffers from the same issues.
The N63 and S63 engines of the second generation 850i and M8, in particular, are prone to excessive oil consumption issues.
The turbochargers in these V8 engines are right in the middle of the “V” shaped cavity of the two cylinder heads, so this area gets really hot which causes oil to burn off and the various oil seals to wear out prematurely.
BMW actually considers losing a quart of oil every 1,000 miles as normal in these engines.
The V8 and V12 engines used in both generations of the 8-Series can also suffer from worn valve stem seals which allows oil to enter the combustion chamber where it gets burned up.
Even the extremely reliable B58 engine found in the 840i can eventually develop oil leaks as they age.
Aside from obvious oil leaks dripping onto the ground, traces of oil inside the engine bay and bluish-white smoke from the tailpipe are common symptoms of oil seal problems.
Here’s how one user on BimmerFest.com described their experience:
“I am looking at purchasing an 850i. The owner says that there are no engine leaks, but it burns about a quart between oil changes (appx. 3,000 miles).”
Oil consumption is especially common in the early versions of the N63 engine. When the 8-Series debuted, it got the updated N63TU3 engine which solved lots of the early N63 problems.
Aside from the valve stem seals, other common sources of oil leaks include:
- Valve cover
- Oil filter housing
- Timing cover
- Oil pan
- Alternator bracket
- Front and rear main seal
Many oil leaks like the valve cover and valve cover gasket are fairly cheap to fix. But there are also some like the valve stem seals that will cost a few thousand dollars to repair because it requires opening up the valvetrain.
4. A/C Problems
A number of M8 owners have complained about the A/C blowing hot air while they’re driving.
This problem only affects the 2020 models of the M8.
Here’s how owners described their experience on BimmerPost.com:
“My first 2020 M8 AC failed so many times in my first 30 days that BMW took the car back. My second 2020 M8 is now having the same issues. Sometimes just hot air until I shut off and restart the car. Most of the time I get hot air when I’m accelerating and cold when I’m not.”
“My 2020 M8 Comp has AC issues twice in 6 months. Taking it again for the second time.”
“I took delivery of an M8 competition Coupe yesterday. AC worked intermittently on way home. Today I only have warm air coming through the events. Even turning the temperature down to max cold in the climate control menu settings has no effect.”
The issue is caused by a faulty batch of A/C compressors fitted in the 2020 model year of the BMW M8.
In most cases, the A/C problems appeared early on and customers were able to get their A/C fixed under warranty.
Dealerships would often replace the A/C compressor, evaporator and condenser all at the same time.
If you’re buying a used 2020 M8, it would be prudent to check whether the A/C compressor has been replaced because a new one costs over a thousand dollars.
5. Timing Chain Failure
The timing chain guides in the M62 V8 engines of the first generation 840Ci are a known weak point that can lead to major engine damage if they suddenly break.
These guides are made of plastic and will eventually wear out over time.
Its main job is to maintain the tension of the timing chain. Once it wears out, the timing chain will become slacker and can eventually cause the engine to lose proper timing which can damage the valves and pistons.
The M62 engine was used in the 840Ci from 1995 to 1999.
The M60 engine in earlier model years can also have timing chain issues, but it’s much more reliable than the M62 engine.
Symptoms of a faulty timing chain guide include:
- Rattling noise from engine
- Check engine light
- Rough idling
- Reduced performance
Replacing the timing chain components is a pretty big job that requires special tools.
BMW specialists usually charge around $2,000 to $3,000 because it’s quite time and labor intensive.
6. Electrical Problems
The first generation 8-Series is prone to electrical issues that can be difficult to troubleshoot.
The following electronic components are known to fail:
- General Module – controls doors, remote entry, alarm, windows, interior lights, trunk wipers
- EKM – Electronic Chassis Module (instrument cluster)
A weak 12-volt battery will also cause all sorts of electrical gremlins in both generations of the 8-Series, as well as in other modern BMWs.
Here is how a few owners described their issues on BimmerForums.com:
“I bought a 1994 840ci 4.0 i just put the 2 new batteries but none of the windows, locks, mirrors , wipers ,seats, horn are working i was checking all the fuses and they r good but i notice that the fuse box in the left trunk doesn’t have any power not even with the key on.”
“I have a 1997 840ci that i bought with 21K miles. The EKM broke and I am getting a new one installed. The new EKM pulled the mileage from the LKM (the backup “odometer”) and suddenly the reading is 104K miles. Turns out the LKM is not original to the car and from another VIN.”
Failure of the general module is usually caused by worn out capacitors.
In a lot of cases, it can be repaired by removing the old capacitors and soldering in new ones.
If you’re not confident in your soldering skills, you can take it to an electronics repair shop that fixes TVs and amplifiers.
Repairing the EKM is a little more difficult, but there are shops that specialize in repairing these units.
You can replace the EKM with a used unit for a few hundred dollars, but you’ll still have to take it to the dealer to get it coded to your car.
7. EML Problems
The first generation 850i and 850Ci equipped with the M70 and M73 V12 engines are known to have issues with its EML (Electronic Motor Load) system or fly-by-wire throttle.
When the car starts having problems with the EML, the EML light will appear on the dash.
The car will also have reduced power or go into limp mode.
This is a very common problem on all model years of the 850i and 850Ci from 1990 to 1999.
Here’s how a few owners described their experience on BimmerForums.com:
“My 1997 850ci recently started doing something strange. The EML light will come on and the car will run slow in the 6cyl/limp mode. I turn the car off and on and the EML goes away and only a check engine light is left.”
“1991 850i automatic, EML light with no codes from Peake reader. I have 125,000 miles on the car and EML came on about 3 minutes after my daily commute started (in the 850). Went into (I think) limp home. I shut the car off for about a minute, restarted and it ran smooth for 30 seconds and then EML/limp home.
After leaving it overnight, EML comes on with start-up.”
In older cars with the M70 V12 engine, the EML issue can often be fixed by cleaning and rebuilding the throttle bodies.
Cars from the 1992 to 1999 model years were equipped with the M73 engine
In cars equipped with the M73 engine, which ranges from the 1992 to 1999 model years, the throttle bodies can’t be rebuilt.
Used throttle bodies cost around $200 a piece, so they aren’t too expensive to replace.
After cleaning or replacing the throttle bodies, you’ll also have to recalibrate the EML system.
8. Steering Issues
Most examples of the first generation 8-Series have some play in the steering wheel and can also shimmy or wobble at higher speeds.
These steering issues affect all variants of the first generation 8-Series from the 1991 to 1999 model years.
Here’s how a few owners on BimmerForums.com described their experience:
“Before I bought my 850i, the previous owner had told me that the shop where my 850 got serviced told him that a bearing in the steering wheel needs to be replaced. He told me that the shop had tightened it for now but there is a lot of loose play in the steering wheel when the car is at idle (if you turn it lightly, it has a very loose feel to it). When I’m driving at about 70 kph the steering wheel shakes pretty aggressively (Only at 70kph is when the steering wheel shakes, higher or lower speeds it doesn’t shake). It’s been getting really annoying so I have to fix this problem.”
“The 850ci steering wheel shakes pretty violently when on the road. Generally it happens at speeds between 30 – 50 mph. I have been on the freeway at 80 mph but did not want to push my luck. When the shaking happens at street speeds I can either speed up or brake and the shaking dies down, but still is noticeable and the shaking returns if I don’t maintain a steady speed. Made an appointment w/ the local BMW repair center. Service Advisor said could be anything, upper control arm, etc.”
The most common fix for the steering issues is to replace the worn out suspension control arms and bushings.
The 8-Series has a very heavy front end which ends up wearing out the front suspension components much earlier than other cars.
Bent wheels or improperly balanced tires can also cause the steering wheel to vibrate at speed.
In some cases, tightening the nuts on the steering column can also reduce the play and vibration.
Other common causes of the steering and vibration issues in the 8-Series include:
- Worn wheel bearings
- Sticking brake calipers
- Worn driveshaft components
- Engine and transmission mounts
9. Excessive Tire Wear
Lots of second generation 8-Series owners have complained about having to replace some or all of their tires at just around 10,000 miles.
In a lot of cases, the inner and outer edges of the front tires get completely worn out and start showing the steel belts.
This problem affects all variants of the second generation 8-Series from the 2019 model year up to the present.
It is also more prevalent on cars equipped with xDrive and right hand drive models.
Here’s how a few owners described their tire wear problems on BimmerPost.com:
“I only have 6,500 miles on my 2021 M8 GC. The rear tires are completely bald (4/32). I have never once tracked the car. Heck, I haven’t even used launch control yet due to the fact I couldn’t ever get it engaged.”
“I am still battling with BMW UK on my 840d tyres, now had 6 in 13,000 miles. BMW are holding the line about ‘characteristic of the car’ but accepted my request to escalate the problem.”
“I have an 840d, which I have had for around 18 months, and been running on Bridgestone S007’s from new. I say 007’s plural, because the thing has been eating tyres. But not all of the tyres, just the outside and inside edges.”
“On my M850i, a front S007 had corded on the far inner shoulder with less than 9k miles. Treadwear indicators are useless, as this failure occurs way out at the sidewall edge. Like a previous poster, I felt the inner edges on my fronts with my bare hands and was rewarded with a few torn steel belt abrasions.”
There hasn’t been any definitive fixes for the excessive tire wear as of yet, so owners are pretty much stuck with replacing the tires more frequently.
If you want to get more life out of your tires, you can replace them with higher treadwear tires that are more durable but won’t have as much grip.
A suspension and alignment specialist might also be able to help you address the uneven wear because the factory alignment specs aren’t very kind to the tires.
10. Transmission Problems
Given the age of the first generation 8-Series, many examples have already started to experience transmission issues and even complete gearbox failures.
Some of the commonly reported transmission problems include:
- Stuck in 3rd or 4th gear
- Clunking or banging noise when downshifting
- Won’t shift into higher ears
- Limp mode
- Hesitation in certain gears
These issues can affect both the 4-speed and 5-speed ZF automatic fitted in the different model years of the E31 8-Series.
Here’s how a few owners described their tranny issues on BimmerForums.com:
“I have an issue with the transmission (at least I think it’s the transmission) – when the car is in D and I’m coming to a stop there is a loud bang coming from the transmission as it downshifts into 1st gear. When I do the same but the car in S mode, nothing happens, quiet as a mouse. I changed the transmission oil and filter twice, overhauled valve body, replaced the engine mounts, gearbox mounts, bought new driveshaft (different issue) and checked diff for play (it had none). It’s 850Ci auto ’93, euro spec.”
“I just recently took my dad’s 850i for a drive, it’s been sitting without being driven almost at all for the last 7 years. I didn’t really drive it hard for the first few days as I wanted it to get back into shape. Well I tried to drive it a little harder today and put it into 3rd. (AUTO). The car went fast from 1st to 2nd but it didn’t want to move from 2nd to 3rd at all. It just maxes out at 2nd and wont move into 3rd. Then on the highway I had it in D, was going about 60 to 65 MPH, hit the gas, the car wanted to go down to 3rd gear then went right back into 3rd and then wasn’t going at all, i had the pedal to the metal and it almost seemed like it stayed between 4th and 3rd.”
“I have 1991 850i with the zf 4hp24. I have been fighting for months on end a trans fail issues that I am now officially stuck on. So far I have replaced the batteries. Replaced the tranny fluid and filter. I have rebuilt the throttle bodies. I have new wires and plugs and cylinder id donuts. New crank case sensor. New speed control for the tranny. And even a new torque converter. Every time I go onto the freeway and hit speed above 60mph aka torque lock up. All I have to do is drive either in cruise control or just trying to maintain speed and accelerate a little and boom trans fail. If I constantly feather the gas or hammer it the trans fail won’t happen. Only when I’m just cruising.”
Many transmission problems can be fixed by replacing a weak 12-volt battery or draining and refilling the transmission fluid a few times.
The sports mode and shift selector switches are also common culprits of different transmission related problems. In a lot of cases, cleaning out the contacts on the switches can fix the gearbox issues.
A defective EGS (transmission control unit) can also cause issues similar to a faulty shift lock solenoid.
If the transmission is truly broken beyond repair, you can get a remanufactured unit for around $3,000.
You can also replace it with a used transmission from other BMW models like the 5-Series, 7-Series and X5 for a few hundred dollars, but the reliability of these used transmissions is not guaranteed.
The manual transmission fitted in the 8-Series is much more reliable, but these are very hard to come by. And when they do start having issues, the parts are also pretty rare and expensive.
11. Broken Door Handles
The first generation 8-Series outer door handles are not very strong and eventually break after a few years.
At first, you’ll need to pull on them harder to get the door to open, until they finally break and you’ll have no way of opening the door from outside.
Although it seems like a minor issue that can be easily fixed, the door handles are unique to the E31 8-Series and BMW doesn’t stock the part anymore.
Here’s what a few owners on BimmerForums had to say:
“I have a 1995 840ci. My outside door handle stopped working, so we replaced the actuator. I ordered the entire door lock, replaced that and now both handles don’t work. Ideas? My mechanic thinks it could be the handle.”
“My exterior driver side door handle assembly on my ’95 840 has broken. The dealership says it’s a discontinued part, and I’m not sure where to look for a replacement.”
Another owners on BimmerFest.com had this to say:
“BMW has discontinued the outside door handle for the 8 series e31. I cannot get a new one. There is pot metal/aluminum actuator inside the handle that cracked and the tab to the spring on it broke completely off. Welding is not a viable option.”
Although the door handles are no longer available, there are companies online that make repair kits that cost around $100 for each cost.
Some members on different BMW forums also refurbish the door handles and replace the broken parts for around the same price.
BMW 8-Series Pros & Cons
- Distinctive styling
- Refined and luxurious interior
- Powerful engine options
- Comfortable on long drives
- Lots of cutting edge tech
- Packed with features and creature comforts
- Decent trunk for a 2-door
- Available all-wheel drive
- Cramped rear seats
- High starting price
- Poor resale
- Expensive maintenance costs
What Do The Reviews Say?
“Sports cars are known for their potent performance while luxury cars are known for their cosseting comfort. Somewhere in between are grand-touring cars that aim to deliver an optimal blend of both. At the top of our list of sporty grand-touring coupes is the 2023 BMW 8 Series, as it artfully combines the best of both worlds.”
“The 840i with the base six-cylinder engine has more than adequate power, and the eight-speed automatic transmission delivers smooth, lightning-fast shifts. At our test track, our 840i convertible test car accelerated from 0 to 60 mph in a quick 4.8 seconds. Dynamic back-road driving from this big grand tourer is impressive too, with relatively flat cornering and impressive braking performance.”
“There are a few drawbacks to the base 8 Series convertible, including heavy but vague steering, poor throttle calibration at slow speeds, and a lack of braking feel. Those are small gripes when you consider the car’s overall aptitude.”
“The cabin’s look and feel are impressive. The primary controls are well placed and require little attention to operate.”
“You’re bound to have high expectations when you’re shopping for a six-figure convertible, and the 840i delivers. It has premium build quality, along with excellent interior materials. We would avoid the optional glass controls and a few other packages, though, to keep the cost down.”
What’s the Resale Value of a BMW 8-Series?
Here’s a quick look at used car pricing for the 8-Series on Edmunds at the time of writing.