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For the N55 engine:

You can replace with either the new, uprated BMW original plastic part, or an even more robust 3rd.-party part like the metal VRSF. There are a variety of other 3rd.-party manufacturers as well.

Feedback is that the new replacement BMW part is much more robust, but not on a par with the metal VRSF and similar. Anyone with uprated engine mods will tend to go for the metal part, especially if they're chaning the intercooler as well.

In theory, the replacement BMW part should last longer, but there's no feedback yet on just how much longer compared to the initial ex-factory charge pipe. The old, ex-factory charge pipe seems to last around 40K miles and then becoms more susceptible to failure. So if the new BMW part lats a bit longer - say 60K miles - then it may not fail 'till well after you've sold the car on. A lot depends on how long you plan to keep the car, and whether it's a standard engine or uprated.

I got a quote from a local approved BMW independent, but they'd only fit the BMW uprated charge pipe, as their liabilty insurance forces them to use only genuine BMW parts. Normally this would be reassuring, but in the end, I decided to take out the extended BMW Insured Warranty instead - this'll cover me for anything like the charge pipe going (£7-800), a new engine (£12K?), new gearbox (£8K?) etc. However, I still plan to replace the coolant overflow pipe - it's a cheap part and a commonly-reported failure at higher mileages and the one thing the extended warranty doesn't cover is water pipe failure (which implies this is too common a fault for them to want to cover).

Bear in mind that if you want the BMW Insured Warranty when the car is out of the initial 3-year cover, then it has to be a standard vehicle with no aftermarket or 3rd-party components used i.e. serviced and repaired at a BMW dealer using BMW genuine parts and with no mods.

For those of you unfamiliar with this issue on older N55-engined vehicles: the original charge pipe assembly design puts it under much higher stress than on the newer models, and above around 40-50K miles, it's more prone to failure as a result. Be aware that as this is the intake pipe, if it breaks severely, then it will allow debris to get into the engine and this can be catastrophic. On the US forums, some owners have reported blowing-up their engines because they chose to continue driving with the charge pipe damaged. BMW never acknowledged this as a design fault, but the new replacement charge pipe has been uprated and should last longer then the old version. That said, in the US, there's a strong tendency for owners to proactively replace the charge pipe with a metal part like the VRSF version once they get past the 40K miles point and intend to keep the car for a while. Unfortunately, replacement is not a straightforward operation, as the pipe is located very awkwardly, unless you're already replacing the intercooler anyway. If you were uprating the intercooler, you'd almost certainly replace the charge pipe at the same time. It seems that it's possible to change the pipe from above as opposed to removing the intercooler, but tht deosn't make it that much easier a task, as far as I can see, just that you're fiddling with fewer components. I think you'd have to be a pretty competent DIY mechanic to do the job yourself (but that may just be the view of someone who isn't).
 

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FTP, Forge ,Masata, Vrsf are all decent alloy aftermarket charge pipes for the n55
 

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I went for forge as I wanted the next day delivery once mine popped. Been perfect for years now.
 
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