P0012 BMW: Intake Camshaft Position Timing- Over-Retarded (Bank 1)

The BMW P0012 code is one that’s bound to set off some alarm bells, but don’t worry – it’s usually a pretty easy fix. 

In this post, we’ll take a look at what the P0012 code is, what might be causing it, and how to go about fixing it. So if your check engine light starts flashing and you see P0012 on your dashboard, read on! We’ll walk you through everything you need to know.

What Does P0012 BMW Mean?

What Does P0012 BMW Mean?

The OBD II scan shows many codes, each of which signals a different issue. Trouble codes that have the letter ‘P’ in the beginning indicate that there’s a problem in the powertrain of your BMW. The P0012 is a trouble code that often pops in OBD2 scans of BMWs and it means Intake Camshaft Position Timing- Over-Retarded (Bank 1). 

To explain in a simple manner, this code indicates that the engine control module (ECM) has picked up that the variable camshaft timing is over-retarded. The P0012 signals to the bank 1 sensor 2 location of the engine. This is the side that houses the number 1 cylinder of the engine. Going over the details of P0015 BMW code will give you a comprehensive understanding of the topic.

What Are the Symptoms of P0012?

Before you get to know from the OBD2 scan the P0012 has been displayed, there are several ways that your BMW may be signaling you about this trouble code. Let’s look at some of these symptoms below so you can catch this issue quicker in the future. 

Engine Light Will be On

While this symptom is not specific to the P0012 BMW code and applies to all codes such as P0300 BMW, P0304 BMW, and P0174 BMW. Nevertheless, it is still a symptom for it. This symptom will be the easiest to recognize because you will see the engine light is on the right when you get into your car. 

Difficulty in Starting the Engine

This error code could make starting the engine quite difficult depending on the severity of the situation. It will be especially very hard to start your BMW with this issue in the cold weather, as in cold, starting your car will be even more difficult. 

Rough and Poor Performance of Engine

If you have the P0012 code, then you will see your engine’s performance deteriorate rapidly (could happen due to weak alternator symptoms). While accelerating, you will notice that your engine is hesitating and is showing much lower power than it would in its ideal state. If you have ever dealt with other powertrain trouble codes like P1072 code in BMW, then you may know that this symptom is common for a lot of them. 


In some cases, you may see that your engine is stalling. This is most noticeable after you have stopped your vehicle once and are starting it up again. 

Misfiring of Other Codes

In your OBD2 scan results, you may see that a lot of other trouble codes along with P0012 have popped up. However, some of these codes might have been just misfired because of the P0012, and the problems that are related to them aren’t present. 

Knocking Sounds from the Engine

Because of the camshaft timing being over-retarded, you may hear some knocking sounds coming from the engine of your BMW. Your ears may not catch this sound immediately, but you should eventually be able to pick it up because it gets a bit annoying. 

Poor Fuel Economy

The causes of the code being today often results in more fuel being burnt than usual. Thus, this decreases the fuel economy of the car, and as a result of this overconsumption of fuel, you’ll have to spend more money. 

Possible Causes for P0012 BMW

Possible Causes for P0012 BMW

As you will see there are numerous reasons why you might see the P0012 code on your OBD2 scanner, but some of these are more common than others. Although you don’t need to remember all of these cases, it’s good to stay informed so you can avoid these problems from troubling you again.

Besides the possible causes that we have written in our article, there may also be many more reasons why you might get this code. If you take your BMW to a mechanic workshop, they’ll be able to spot the reason more accurately than you would. 

Faulty Camshaft Position Sensor

If your camshaft position sensor has become faulty, then it will not be able to transfer data at the right time. Due to this, the camshaft timing will not be right, and this will cause a wide range of problems in the engine, and you’ll notice it by the poor engine performance. 

Although the timing will be off by just some milliseconds, the effects it triggers the P0012 trouble code in your BMW. 

Low or Dirty Engine Oil 

The most common cause of the P0012 code is probably either having too low engine oil or having engine oil that has sludge or is dirty. Insufficient engine oil can cause severe damage to your engine, and so can dirty engine oil. This will be picked up by the ECM, and consequently, you will get the P0012 code.

Defective VANOS Solenoid

There is a solenoid inside your BMW that is a part of the VANOS system. If it becomes defective, then the OBD2 scan will tell you a range of different codes, and the P0012 happens to be one of them. You will mostly see the code mentioned if the O-ring has failed or if the solenoid is blocked. 

Bad VCT or VVT Solenoid 

Your oil control valve may become faulty, and it will disrupt the flow of oil. As a result of this, your car will experience symptoms such as rough idling, poor engine performance, and decreased fuel economy. It is also a common source of the P0012 code in BMWs. 

Insufficient Oil Pressure

You may also get a P0012 error code because of low oil pressure. There are a few reasons why you might have low oil pressure, but the most common one that concerns this code is because of too many bearing clearances. This may also happen because the fuel pump has become weak.

How to Diagnose P0012 BMW

Diagnosing the P0012 error code is no child’s play, and finding the root of the problem will require a lot of patience and skill. Prior to getting into the discussion of how to diagnose this code, we must mention that this diagnosis can only be made by someone who has a lot of car diagnostics knowledge. So, this is not something an average person can do by watching a 15-minute video tutorial. If you try to do it yourself, you may make things worse for your car. 

For the diagnosis, you will have to start with the ‘possible causes’ list above and check each of these components. The first thing you should check is the engine oil since it is the most common source of this code. If that is fine, then next, you should check the VCT or VVT solenoid. The solenoid may get blocked, as we have mentioned, and that will be visible. 

You should also check the oil control valve (OCV) to see if it is blocked by sludge since it can also trigger the code. Finally, the camshaft position sensor must also be monitored to see if it has become faulty and is causing the camshaft timing to be over-retarded. 

To complete the diagnosis, you will just have to go one by one and check out all the possible causes till you find the one that is causing the issue. 

Cost of Diagnosis

As we have said above, the diagnosis must be done by someone who has plenty of knowledge and skills with diagnostics. Thus, trying to do it by yourself would be a grave mistake, and there’s a high chance that you would make things more complicated instead. So, your best option would be to pay a mechanic to handle the diagnosis. 

Now, we cannot say the exact cost of diagnosis since it is entirely based on the labor rate of the shop. The country you live in also plays a key role in determining the cost. On average, you should be paying just around $75 to $150. Remember that you might be able to get it done for less than $75, and if someone’s charging you $150, then you’re definitely getting overcharged. 

How to Fix P0012 BMW

You will get to know what fixes are needed to clear the P0012 code after the diagnosis has been completed. After checking everything, you may find that there are multiple causes of this code or just one. To clear the code, your mechanic will need to do the repairs and replacements of the faulty parts that they have detected.

Describing how to do these complicated repairs and replacements is beyond the scope of this article, and your mechanic will take care of it. However, we can give you an idea about how it will cost you. 

If the code has been displayed because of your engine oil, then you are lucky because it is the cheapest fix, and it will cost you about $20 to $60. Replacing faulty sensors can be a bit expensive and will generally cost around $300 to $400.

When a lot of sludge has coated and clogged multiple parts of your engine, you may see that your engine needs to be replaced. This can be an extremely costly replacement and will need thousands of dollars depending on your engine. 

Final Words

As we draw our conclusion, we hope you were able to completely comprehend all the information that we have provided in our article on P0012 BMW. We would urge you not to delay fixing the issues related to this code once you detect the code in your OBD2 scan and experience the symptoms. The more you delay, the worse the damage will be, and then you’ll be paying more for repairs!

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