Upgrading the BMW F30 3 Series - All you need to know

Paul Smith
Sep 7, 2020

The 3 Series is always among BMW's most popular models, and the sixth-generation F30 was no different. But with the seventh-generation G20 hitting the roads, its predecessor is starting to feel a little long in the tooth.

So what options do you have? Do you really have to upgrade to the latest BMW 3 Series, or is there still life in the F30 yet?

To help you make up your mind, we take a thorough look at the F30 3 Series, how it is to own and what you can do to breathe new life into your older vehicle. BimmerTech makes it particularly easy with our range of BMW F30 retrofits, including park assist cameras, Apple CarPlay, navigation retrofits and car audio upgrades.

Upgrading the BMW F30 3 Series - All you need to know

Which BMW is the F30?

Let's start with the basics. With so many overlapping terms — BMW 3 Series, BMW 320i, BMW F30 — BMW's naming conventions can get a little confusing. Of the three, F30 is the one you're probably least likely to hear. People usually refer to their cars as a BMW 325i or BMW 335i, rather than an F30.

Break things down and it's clear how things work. The 3 Series is BMW's family of compact executive cars, nestled below the more substantial 5 Series. The 3 Series has been in production since 1975, during which time it's gone through several versions.

The F30 is BMW's internal model code specifically for the sixth-generation 3 Series sedan, produced between 2011 and 2019. This model code differentiates it from 3 Series vehicles from other BMW generations, like the E90, E46 and E36.

What is the difference between BMW F30 and F31 or F34?

Within a single series, BMW uses different model codes for each body style. For most of the world, the sixth-generation 3 Series was made up of three models: F30, F31 and F34.

F30 refers to the standard four-door sedan. Sharing the same platform is the F31 wagon (also known as the 3 Series Touring), and the F34 3 Series Gran Turismo, a five-door hatchback with a sloping, coupe-style fastback.

All three BMW 3 Series models have a lot in common, including many engine options, meaning a BMW 328i could just as easily refer to a family-friendly wagon as to a sports sedan. Other configurations, however, such as the BMW 330e plug-in hybrid, can only be found in the typical sedan package.

The underlying similarities between the different models means that they are often considered alongside each other. For example, discussion on major BMW F30 forums like Bimmerfest and Bimmerpost is also dedicated to the F31 and F34.

BMW 4 Series and BMW M Series - Similarities with BMW 3 Series 

It also happens that the BMW F30 3 Series is often compared to the 4 Series models F32/F33/F36. Why is that so? Simply because the F32/F33/F36 cars were launched in mid-2013 as more sporty-looking versions of F30 3 Series and share many of its features and engine types. As for the body styles there are: 2-door coupé (F32 BMW), 2-door convertible (F33 BMW) and 4-door fastback coupé (F36 BMW, marketed as "4 Series Gran Coupe"). Along with the F30 3 Series range, the F32/F33/F36 is powered by turbocharged petrol and diesel engines having 3, 4 and 6 cylinders.

Due to the similarities between 3 Series and 4 Series BMWs, many retrofits are cross-compatible, so if you happen to have the F32/F33/F36, this F30 retrofit guide is just as suitable for your model. 

The BMW M Series, on the other hand, are  high-performance versions of the standard BMW range, with the F80 being the counterpart of the F30 BMW. The BMW F80 M3 was produced between 2014–2018 and had several upgrades over the F30 including engines, aerodynamics, lightweight materials and interior design retrofits. In terms of the engine, the F80 has the S55 twin-turbocharged straight-six engine and is the first turbocharged engine in an M3 model.

What is the technology package on BMW F30?

As a newer car, the latest G20 3 Series has more technological bells and whistles than its predecessor, but that doesn't mean the F30 has to go without. If you're shopping for a used F30 3 Series and having a car packed with the latest tech matters to you, it could be worth picking up one with the Technology Package.

The Technology Package includes:

  • Remote Services: Lock and unlock your doors, activate the horn and more remotely from your smartphone.
  • Advanced Real-Time Traffic Information: Get traffic updates through the iDrive navigation system, helping you avoid jams.
  • Navigation system: The full BMW navigation system, including larger iDrive screen.
  • BMW Apps & BMW Online: Access Facebook, Twitter, news and other online content through your iDrive.
  • Head-up display: See vital driving information projected onto the bottom part of the windshield for easier viewing.
  • Instrument cluster with extended contents: The 6WB digital cluster, featuring a digital panel with vehicle information.

The technology package does not include Enhanced Bluetooth (S6NSA), which was sold as a standalone option. Enhanced Bluetooth is designed for smartphone integration, letting you browse your phone's music library over Bluetooth, pair two phones and use BMW's Mobile Office feature to check your texts, emails and calendar events on the iDrive screen.

Owners of vehicles without this option can activate Enhanced Bluetooth in their BMW F30 with BimmerTech's remote iDrive coding. Contact us for more information.

BMW F30 3 Series key fob

The F30 3 Series uses the same remote key fob as other BMW F Series cars, so any tips and tricks for the F10 5 Series, F25 X3, F15 X5 or other models from the same generation are likely equally applicable to the F30/F31/F34.

How to change F30 key battery

Standard F30 key fobs without Comfort Access come with non-rechargeable batteries that should last up to three years. If your fob has stopped working, or you've just noticed your remote range has got worse, it could be time to replace the battery.

To do so, simply remove the internal key blade to reveal a small hole behind the plastic back plate of the fob. They key blade can be used as leverage to pry off the back plate, giving you access to the CR 2450 battery.

How to get a new BMW key

If changing the battery doesn't help, the problem might be with the key fob itself. If you have a faulty or broken key fob, or just need a replacement for one you've lost, getting a new BMW original fob is the only option.

Learn more about replacing your BMW remote key fob.

For security reasons, all F30 key fobs must be programmed by BMW to match your exact vehicle, ruling out using second-hand fobs. This process is designed to prevent thieves gaining illegitimate access to your vehicle. BimmerTech offers BMW F30 replacement key fobs that have been prepared by BMW, guaranteeing proper functioning. Fobs are available with or without the CNC cut key blade.

How to program F30 key fob

After receiving your replacement F30 key fob, it's necessary to pair it with your BMW to activate it.

Doing so is easy. After unlocking your vehicle with your existing key, set the key down away from your car, hold the new fob against the key markings on the side of the steering column and hold the start/stop button until the 'no key' warning light disappears. Pressing the start/stop button again will confirm the pairing worked.

How to close BMW windows with remote

The F30 key fob can do more than just lock and unlock the doors. It's also possible to control the windows and sunroof remotely by pressing and holding the lock and unlock buttons on your key fob to roll the windows up and down.

BMW does not make the remote closing feature available in all markets. If you can't close your windows by holding the lock button on your F30's key fob, you will need to activate this option through coding.

How to retrofit BMW F30

If your F30 lacks the technological bells and whistles you’d love to have in your car, we are going to give you a closer look into upgrades you can add to your BMW. Here, you’ll see how to retrofit your F30 3 Series with Apple CarPlay, Navigation System, Digital Cluster, Backup Camera and more.

How to code your BMW F30

Remote window control isn't all coding can do for your F30. It's possible to make changes to several aspects of your iDrive through coding, giving you a car that better suits your needs.

The simplest way to code your BMW F30 is with BimmerTech's Easy iDrive Coding. We offer two coding methods depending on your vehicle: coding via cable or via USB.

Coding via cable is primarily for F30s from the 2011--2013 model years, as well as vehicles without the high-end technology or navigation options. Coding via cable requires connecting your laptop to your BMW's OBD port with an ENET cable. This connection lets our expert technician code your F30 remotely.

Coding via USB is compatible with most F30s with an NBT or NBT Evo head unit. This innovative process is designed for ultimate convenience, letting you code your car whenever you want simply by plugging a flash drive into your vehicle's USB port. Within a few minutes, your car will be coded and ready to go.

Find out more about BimmerTech's Easy iDrive Coding for BMWs.

Both methods let you code your BMW F30 from home at a time that suits you.

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What things can you code on a BMW F30?

When coding your F30, you have plenty of options to choose from. Popular options include:

  • Video in Motion: Let your passengers watch movies and videos when you're driving (learn more about Video in Motion for BMW).
  • Legal Disclaimer Deactivation: Disable the safety warning displayed when starting your BMW.
  • Enhanced Bluetooth: Improve connectivity between your F30 and smartphone (learn more about Enhanced Bluetooth for BMW).
  • RDC Safety: Check your tire pressure on the iDrive screen.
  • Battery Registration: Register your new car battery and maintain your vehicle’s longevity (find out more on  Battery registration).

Exactly which options are compatible with your F30 depends on your head unit and vehicle configuration. We offer almost 50 coding features and BMW programming services. You can check the full list of options for your car by entering your VIN on BimmerTech's BMW iDrive coding page.

BMW Battery Registration for F30

When thinking about the replacement of an old car battery in your F30, what you should also keep in mind is the battery registration procedure. It’s a hugely important part of battery exchange as it helps to maintain your car’s longevity. 

Even in recent years, when preparing for the purchase of a new car battery you had to find one with similar parameters, that is similar type and capacity. BimmerTech’s registration process frees you from that requirement. Our specialists offer a coding process to adjust your vehicle to the new battery specifications, so that you can choose from a range of various BMW batteries.

BimmerTech experts will also help you register the new battery and code your F30 on-board computer in around 20 minutes. Everything, in the comfort of your home.

Learn more about BMW battery registration.

Apple CarPlay for BMW F30 3 Series

As well as changing your vehicle settings, coding can also let you activate third-party services, such as SiriusXM satellite radio for BMW or BMW's Apple CarPlay option. Many people will no longer consider buying a new vehicle without CarPlay, so the right BMW F30 CarPlay retrofit is a great way to make an older car feel much more modern.

How to add CarPlay to BMW F30

If your F30 was built towards the end of the model run, it's possible it's already fitted with all the hardware necessary to run Apple CarPlay. 3 Series vehicles with the NBT Evo ID5/6 head unit (introduced for the 2017 model year) will be CarPlay ready, as will any other cars with the CarPlay Preparation (S6CPA) option.

Out of luck? Find out how to retrofit CarPlay in an older BMW.

In this case, activating Apple CarPlay in your BMW is a simple coding process. You might only need to add a WiFi antenna, to allow connecting your iPhone to your BMW. In less than an hour you'll be able to use popular navigation, music and messaging apps on your iDrive screen, without making any physical changes to your vehicle.

The possibility of adding CarPlay & Android Screen Mirroring to the head unit is in fact the biggest improvement of NBT Evo ID5/ID6 over the older iDrive systems. Apple CarPlay allows using all your apps right on the BMW factory screen without the need to engage with the phone, not to mention without taking your focus from the road; Siri makes it possible to manage all apps through voice commands.

F30s that don't allow activating BMW-original CarPlay will be compatible with BimmerTech's CarPlay MMI Prime retrofit, a hardware upgrade that adds support for CarPlay and Android Auto. CarPlay MMI Prime is fully wireless for all iPhones, however you do need to use the cable if you have an Android phone that does not support wireless Android Auto. The CarPlay interface is also displayed full-screen by default, as opposed to the split-screen display of the factory CarPlay option. Check which CarPlay option is compatible with your F30.

If you or your family use Android phones, our CarPlay MMI Prime also comes with Android Auto, making it an easy way to add Android Auto to your BMW.

Backup Camera for BMW F30 3 Series

Another area where expectations changed during the run of the F30/F31/F34 is rearview cameras. While a park assist camera was an optional extra when the car was launched, all new vehicles in the US and Canada will now have a backup camera as standard.

There are plenty of reasons to have a backup camera, but if your vehicle is missing one, BimmerTech makes it easy to add an aftermarket BMW F30 rear view camera retrofit to your car. All three of our camera models — MMI, OEM Integration and OEM — mount the camera discreetly in the trunk handle, and use the factory dashboard screen to display the image from the camera. It's also possible to add a camera to our MMI Prime kits, to use alongside CarPlay or Android Auto.

  MMI Prime MMI OEM Integration OEM 
Manufacturer BimmerTech BimmerTech BimmerTech BMW OEM
Camera mode Full screen Full screen Native (with PDC view)* Native (with PDC view)
Requirements Head units: ENTRY, ENTRYNAV, NBT, NBT EVO ID4, CIC (F3x only) and CHAMP2 (F3x only) Factory screen Navigation Professional Navigation Professional + PDC
Coding Not required Not required Required Required
Installation time 2 hours 3-4 hours 3-4 hours 3-4 hours
Compatible add-ons Integration with Front and Rear View Cameras SmartView HD AT3/ATV4, SmartView HD Flex, Front View Camera PDC Obstacle marking (included), Trailer hitch mode (included), Surround view

*PDC is not included as part of the kit.

Check out how to choose the best camera retrofit for your BMW.

Still not sure which camera to add to your 3 Series? Enter your VIN on our BMW Rear View Camera retrofit page to see which options are compatible with your car.

If you want to know how to install the MMI Rear View Camera in your F30, follow Bryan in this short video tutorial.

Front View Camera for BMW F30 3 Series

Keeping an eye on the front of your vehicle while parking or navigating through narrow streets saves many from unwanted scratches, dents and bigger damage. That’s why investing in a camera mounted to your bumper may be a good idea for your BMW's sake. If you’re looking for one suited to the F30, we’ve got a dedicated product for your model — Grill-Friendly Front View Camera for F30.

It stands out for its lease-friendly design that lets you attach the camera module without the need to make any alterations to your bumper. What’s more, this aftermarket camera overrides the native iDrive mode when activated, displaying a full-screen view, and can be turned on either automatically after shifting from reverse to drive, or by pressing a button on the iDrive Controller or steering wheel.

Our Grill-Friendly Front View Camera is the go-to product for F30 owners looking for flexible parking camera solutions to broaden their car features. Due to the MMI and front view camera wiring, there’s also the possibility of adding more upgrades, such as rear view camera or mirroring devices, for substantially lower prices. Check which addons can be put in your BMW by typing your VIN number.

BMW F30 3 Series navigation

If you're still feeling like your iDrive is showing its age, there are a few more hardware and software changes that will bring your F30 up to match the latest vehicles.

How to update iDrive navigation

If you're committed to having the latest BMW has to offer in your F30, you'll probably want to look into upgrading your iDrive head unit. If your vehicle currently has an older or more basic iDrive version, replacing the hardware will instantly give you a host of new features and a sleek, modern interface.

Find out more about BMW F30 head unit upgrade.

Before deciding to upgrade, it's worth finding out which BMW iDrive version you have, and how it differs from the NBT Evo ID6 head unit -- the latest offered in the BMW F30. Older vehicles are likely to have the CIC head unit, whereas NBT has been offered in the F30 since the 2013 model year. The upgrade process depends on which head unit your car is fitted with from the factory.

NBT Evo ID5/ID6 upgrade in F30 

So, what are some of the up-to-date features of NBT Evo ID5/ID6? 

The first difference you’ll notice is the new layout of the user interface, which enables easy access to each part of your iDrive. There are 6 sections listed on the menu: Media/Radio, Communication, Navigation, ConnectedDrive, My Vehicle and Notifications — you can control each of them simply by tapping on a chosen option. 

Another major difference is that NBT Evo ID5/ID6 is a lot more responsive and much faster compared to older iDrive generations. Having a higher resolution screen and being equipped with a 400GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM, it provides improved 3D maps and more accurate navigation. In some BMWs with an NBT Evo touch-sensitive display, you can even move the maps (zoom in and out) using the touchscreen.

The third improvement of NBT Evo ID5/ID6, as mentioned earlier, is mobile phone integration through Apple CarPlay and Android Screen Mirroring. It supports Waze, Google Maps and Apple Maps, which are continually updated. Plus, it lets you search for your destination by asking Siri, so you can always keep your eyes on the road.

To upgrade your BMW iDrive to NBT Evo ID4, retrofit an NBT Evo ID5/6 head unit in your BMW or learn more about the upgrade process, contact us.

How to update BMW F30 navigation maps

Perhaps the simplest way to keep your 3 Series from falling behind the latest cars is to update the BMW navigation maps. BMW regular adds new roads and points of interest, and recommends updating your maps to the latest version every 6 months.

Updating is simple; you only need to upload the latest map data to your vehicle through the USB port and enter an authorization code from BMW. Both the map data and the activation code are available from BimmerTech in our BMW Navigation Maps Update.

How to upgrade BMW F30 screen

What good is the latest map or a quality backup camera on a screen that doesn't have space to show everything clearly? Many F30s without extra packages come with a 6.5″ iDrive screen -- the same size as a lot of people's smartphones. Once the more premium option, the larger 8.8″ screen now feels like a standard.

If you own an F30 without the larger 8.8” screen but want more room for menu and apps on your iDrive, a great option would be a Panoramic Screen Upgrade. It’s one of the easiest BMW F30 screen upgrades, as it is made specifically for F3x (F30, F32, etc.) vehicles with the ENTRYNAV head unit, giving them double the resolution of the smaller factory screen. Panoramic Screen packs a sharp 1280x480 display, OEM quality, fits perfectly into your dashboard and matches our CarPlay MMI Prime — check whether your BMW 3 series is compatible with Panoramic Screen.

Take a look how to install Panoramic Screen in your F30.

Retrofit 6WB Digital Cluster in F30 

One of the premium retrofits from BimmerTech that makes people's eyes light up is the 6WB OEM digital cluster. It’s an entirely digitized instrument panel that has 3 driving modes (Comfort, Eco Pro, Sport +) and can act as your tachometer, digital speedometer, navigation, oil temperature display and more. Apart from its dashing modern look, the panel is perfect when it comes to displaying the most important information while driving. You can have it customized according to your own needs to show the real-time car data you want to see. A great thing about the panel is its illuminated screen, which makes it easy to check the info at different times of the day.

Captivated already? Learn more about  BMW's 6WB digital cluster.

If you want to retrofit a 6WB digital cluster in your BMW F30 but aren't sure whether it’ll be an easy task, take a look at our tutorial. You’ll see how fast it is to install the cluster at home.

Speed Limit Information for F30

Don’t want to plunge into a full digital cluster retrofit but still want to have some modern gauges in your standard cluster? Adding the Speed Limit Information for BMW  can give you that extra help you need.

SLI is a very popular display option — it helps the driver get immediate updates on specific road limits and avoid severe fines. To update the speed limit data you just have to update your iDrive map regularly, so that your indicator is as accurate as possible. 

An important thing you need to check though is whether the Speed Limit Information option is available in your region — North America and most of Europe are covered, but availability in other places may vary. See if your F30 is compatible with Bimmertech’s SLI.

Already decided you want to add SLI to your car? Follow along as Chaz installs it in an F30.

Wireless charger for F30

If you’re searching for real innovation for your BMW, as well as real convenience while driving, the Wireless Phone Charger should definitely appear on your retrofit list. BimmerTech’s Wireless Charger for BMW 3 Series / 4 Series was made specifically for F3x vehicles to keep their interiors tidy and free of cluttered cables. The charging pad installed on the center console makes it easy to instantly access your phone without fiddling around with your glove compartment or armrest and doesn’t block your view to anything on your dash. True comfort and security while keeping an original factory-like look. See if your vehicle is compatible with a Wireless Charger.

Want to know more on why it's worth having a Wireless Charger in your F30? Check out the blog.

Sound system upgrade for F30

For the ultimate multimedia experience, many people look towards upgrading their BMW F30 stereo, with replacement speakers for BMW or an aftermarket amplifier. The right car audio retrofit can give immersive sound that compares to the premium Harman Kardon sound systems found in many BMWs, and making the change doesn't have to be difficult.

BimmerTech cut its teeth in the audio game with the Premium Audio System, the world's first drop-in replacement for the factory BMW amplifier to feature a powerful 64-bit DSP. F30 owners with the base or HiFi stereo options can easily add the amp to their cars, thanks to the included harness and bracket that's designed specifically for BMWs. With greater power and clarity than the factory BMW amplifier, the Premium Audio System makes a significant difference to sound quality in your vehicle.

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For an even greater improvement, the Alpha One speakers are designed to perfectly complement the Premium Audio System as well as the factory BMW amp. With tweeters, mids and woofers all designed to perfectly match the housing of the factory BMW speakers, fitting the Alpha Ones is a simple DIY job. Within only an hour or two, your F30's sound will be completely transformed.

Have a look at the Premium Audio Amplifier installation procedure: 

At BimmerTech, we believe that the latest technology shouldn't be the reserve of the latest cars. With many older-generation vehicles still offering a great driving experience, we're committed to providing the right BMW F30 retrofits to keep you from needing to switch to later model. If you need any more help upgrading your car, please get in touch with our team.

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