BMW 1 Series model Tuning

"Making the ultimate drivers car even better!"

We look at 1 series model tuning and point out the ultimate modifications. BMW 1 series models are popular cars and with a few sensible sports modifications you can assuredly enhance your driving enjoyment.

Famed for it's great handling, superb range of engines and very smart styling the 1 series forms the basis of many great car tuning projects. There are few factory cars that are as well equipped for a track day out there, but most 1 series models can hold their own on a track day, due in part to the light body, and great chassis design.

Many people get confused at the version numbers offered in the 1 series range, so we've pulled together all of the model designations and years here for reference, and noted significant changes to the 1 series over the years.

We have seen some awesome 1 series model tuning projects and there seems to be quite a loyal fan base of 1 series model owners. Plan ahead and research 1 series tuning to spare yourself making the usual costly slip ups we often come across.

Tuning tips and articles

Engine tuning Transmission tuning Care care Intake & exhaust mods Improve handling Forums


Improving the handling for loads of people first priority in your BMW 1 series tuning project. We suggest that you fit performance suspension and lower the car by 30-35mm. Larger drops require arch work - especially on models already equipped with performance suspension.

First Generation (E81/E82/E87/E88; 2004–2011) smallest and most affordable vehicle in the BMW range released in 2004, the rear wheel drive configuration was unusual in a car in this class and that won it many fans. When launched the 1 series comprise around 20% of BMW's total car sales.

 Second Generation (F20/F21; 2011–2019) available as 3 or 5 door versions, thankfully the rear wheel drive was retained we all see an xdrive all wheel drive version on this year.

Turning our attention to the 1 series models engine we need to get a bit more power out of the top end.

With our hints your 1 series model can be transformed into a track car and yet still reliable daily driver.

The best power gains come from larger engine sizes. The more you start with the bigger the return on investment so engine swaps are good value mods for small engined cars.

BMW 1 series problems and issues

Traction control (DTC ) Warning light comes on, which usually means the traction control unit needs replacing.

Coil pack issues are quite common, and the fault identifies itself as rough running, a petrol smell inside the car in some cases and erratic engine temperature. You can also experience engine vibration, loss of power or end up in limp home mode. Replacing the coil pack will rectify the fault.

Idling from a cold start can be an issue, if this is the case make sure the ECU is updated to the latest version which should address this issue in the software.

The N47 engine had an issue with timing chains, so if it starts making a grinding noise get it checked out ASAP or you'll need to replace the engine. We would recommend that you get the timing chain checked at your next service as a precaution.

Random warning lights on the dashboard flashing on and off. Check the PDC unit in the boot is dry and that the filters in the wheel wells have been fitted the correct way up. A damp PDC will fire off all kinds of warning lights.

Engine Tuning.

These are the modified upgrades are usually carried out by our members, decide how far you wish to go in your tuning project before you begin.

Getting the correct grade of modified parts for your planned usage of the car is vital. Stage 3 (competition) mods just don't work well on the road difficult in stop start traffic.

Typical stage 1 mods often include: Alloy wheels, Remap, Suspension upgrade (drop 30-40mm), Lighter flywheel, Sports exhaust, Panel air filter.

Typical stage 2 mods often include: Power/Sport clutch, high flow fuel injector, Ported and polished head, fuel pump upgrades, Fast road cam.

Typical stage 3 mods often include: Engine balancing, Adding or upgrading forced induction (turbo/supercharger), Internal engine upgrades (pistons/head/valves), Competition cam, Sports gearbox.

Your aims when modding your car should be a wide torque curve. You want to avoid sending all the torque to be at the top end of the rev range unless you are creating a competition car.

The whole aim of our articles is to give a brief overview of car tuning performance parts and point you in the right direction, our forum is where you can ask for more detailed advice and tips on your modified car project, the best Motorsport modifications and all aspects of modding cars.

One of the biggest mechanical upgrades you can do to your 1 series NASP engine is to fit a fast road camshaft .

It improves the intake and exhaust durations and pushes up the power if done right. Ideally you'd add other mods and finish up with a remap. We'd also caution you not to go with a motor sport grade profile cam as this affects the engines idling and general town driving characteristics. Just stick with a mild fast road cam and you'll be fine. You will need to ensure that the engine is not starved of fuel so will need to look at the fuelling.

On the turbo engine a remap/piggy back ECU are the best and most cost effective mods you can do.

Frequently power losses, flat spots and erratic idling after sports upgrades are done can usually be traced to fuelling or timing issues. Uprated injectors will enable you to supply sufficient fuel to the engine. If you've uprated your fuelling with bigger injectors you will also need to get a bigger fuel pump to supply it.

Intake and Exhaust Tuning.

Breathing mods are usually next up. Derestricting the air feed into the engine is the primary part of performance tuning so get a better flowing air filter if you find that the car is running lean only if you find the car is running lean. Induction kits can sound sporty but due to the warm air in the engine bay they will not do much to increase power and more often than not rob you of power on most cars.

Sports exhausts will certainly help air flow out of the engine but do not go too wide or you could very well end up with a reduced flow rate. So generally speaking, keep to 1.5 to 2.0 inches as a rule of thumb.

Head work including a polish and port and 3 or 5 angle valve job will really help to release the potential of the engine. In nearly all cases of 1 series model tuning your clutch will start to slip and this needs an upgrade - read our overview on clutches for more information. Turbo engines are just pleading to be remapped. You will see significant power gains on most modern turbo charged cars including diesels making a remap one of the most cost effective and significant modifications for your money.

We've also seen some tuners toying with twincharging applications and making some seriously high power hikes.

The most phenomenal power gains for NASP engines usually involve the addition of forced induction. Superchargers are usually easier to add than turbos. It is difficult to map fuelling with a turbo as the boost builds exponentially with rpm.

Superchargers however will give a boost which is directly proportional to engine speed so is simpler. Alternatively you could perhaps fit water injection to cut down knock.

Alloy wheel & handling upgrades.

The benefits of alloys include reducing your unsprung weight and more efficient brake cooling via the extra air flow they allow. Large 1 series model alloy wheels can decrease performance. If you get big alloy wheels you will be changing your final drive ratio and will be more prone to tram lining. 19's seem to be the optimum large size for the 1 series but the 18's handle much better and make our pick for most 1 series.

Adding some negative camber to the front & rear wheels will help handling and cornering improve and reduce the understeer you get on this chassis. It only needs between 0.5 and 0.8 on the fronts, and 1.5-1.85 on the rear to hit the optimum setup.

Due to this fact try to keep the overall rolling diameter of the wheel your OEM settings. In all cases not going over 16 inches.

If you would like to know more, or just get some friendly advice on Tuning your car please join us in our friendly forum where you can discuss 1 series model options in more detail with our 1 series model owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased BMW tuning articles to get a full grasp of the benefits and drawbacks of each modification.

Please help us improve these tips by sending us your feedback in the comments box below. We love to hear what our visitors have got up to and which mods work best for them on each model of car. Your feedback and comments are used to keep this page up to date, and help improve the accuracy of these articles which are continually updated.

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