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The Most Common Problems With BMW Cars

Most BMW owners will tell you these cars are exciting and fun to drive. BMW is considered and iconic driving machine but like all vehicles, they come with their own problems over time.

We will delve into the most common issues with BMW vehicles.

The Restraint System

BMW Engine

One of the leading issues with BMW cars is the Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) light coming on and the failure of the restraint system. You will see the warning light on the iDrive display letting you know there is an issue with the restraint system.

There have been many reports about the airbag light continually coming on. The problem usually occurs due to the passenger seat weight sensor or the clock spring. In order to read the codes and clear the airbag light, you will need a scanner to clear the airbag light.

Engine Issues

One of the biggest problems BMW owners experience is the check engine light coming on. In most cases, you should not panic until you have read the fault codes. It could be something as simple as a bad fuel cap or the transmission is stuck in limp mode.

You should not have to try and figure out what the problem might be. Get a scanner, and plug it into the port found under the dashboard on the right side near the bonnetrelease.

Once you get the fault code, you should go online and research it to find out what is wrong with your car, even if you do not plan to repair it yourself. Understanding these codes will help you save money.

Cooling System Failure

BMW Internal Dash

BMW often uses plastic fittings on different components of the cooling system. They also use plastic and electric water pumps that are susceptible to failure. As your BMW gets older, these plastic pieces will become brittle and probably fail. The upside, after market parts are available for all BMW vehicles and are usually a lot less expensive than the OEM parts.

Oil Leaks

Normally, this is not a problem with newer BMWs, but if your car is five years old or older, keep an eye out for oil leaks. The most common leaks we have witnessed are from the valve covers. Also, oil leaks can develop at the transmission and the different seals.

The BST or Battery Terminal

During the early 2000s, BMW introduced the battery safety terminal sensor, also referred to as the BST. The BST is created to disconnect positive cables if the BMW is involved in an accident. This design reduces the risk of a fire in case there is an accident.

Unfortunately, the problem with the battery safety terminal it will disconnect the battery during minor occurrences such as hitting a curb. This could prevent the car from starting because the alternator and starter are disconnected at the battery-positive terminal.

In turn, this issue will trigger the BMW airbag light to come on which will require a BMW-specific scanner to clear the codes.

There was a time that it would be quite costly to repair the BMW BST sensor but for most BMW owners, having a Battery Safety Terminal Kit (you can purchase it on eBay) will fix the problem.

The Hood Lift Supports

BMW Repair

The hood supports on BMWs are known to fail. This is a problem with older models of BMW, around 8 years old. Not to panic, replacing the hood supports is easy and will only take about fifteen minutes. You can find guides online to help you replace the hood strut on your BMW vehicle.

Interior Wear

While the BMW seats hold up really well, the buttons for the windows and control have a habit of wearing out way too soon. This is a leading problem with many BMW vehicles including the 3-Series and 5-Series. All-in-all, this is a pretty minor problem.

The VANOS Rattles

The variable valve timing systems, often referred to as VANOS, can cause engine rattle noises. A common issue with BMW engines is the VANOS rattle. It sounds like metal objects in a metal can.

The variable valve timing system varies the timing of the valves by modifying the position of the camshafts. VANOS rattling is an engine sound that is more obvious at higher RPMs. When idling, the engine sounds perfectly normal but rev up the RPMs and you will hear that sound.

The sound is not that loud with newer engines but as the engine starts to wear, it’ll become more prominent. Take a deep breath, it’s not that expensive to replace the VANOS.

It will take approximately two to four hours to replace the BMW VANOS. You will need a BMW VANOS kit and some essential tools.

Instrument Cluster Issues

The pixels of the instrument cluster may not show correctly or could fail. This is caused by a faulty LCD or the ribbons that connect the LCD to the circuit board.

It’s possible you will see the odometer screen pulsating or going off. You will not have to purchase a new cluster or climate control module to correct the problem. A third-party service will repair your current BMW cluster.

Door Locks Issues

Another issue with BMWs are the door locks that will just stop working. If you are looking into buying a BMW, this is something that is actually quite easy to check. Simply stand 10 feet from the car and press the lock/unlock button and see if the locks open or close.

You can also check the locks by using the button on the centre console. Make sure all the locks work correctly. In general, if just one door lock fails to operate properly, it’s probably a damaged door lock actuator. You can check with the Volksmaster and find out if we recommend a replacement or repairs.

The Window Regulators

BMW Window Regulators

Unfortunately, BMW is notorious for issues with the window regulators. The regulators are plastic clips and if they break, the windows will not move up or down.

In the beginning, the window may move very slowly but with time, the regulator or window motor will stop working. The good news, this is not a costly repair and if you have the time you can repair it if you have DIY skills. If you want your BMW dealer to fix the regulator issue, it can be more expensive.

Coolant Thermostat

BMW thermostats can fail and cause the engine to overheat which can be critical. If this goes unnoticed, the thermostat may fail in the open position. When that happens, the engine will take a long time to warm up, so keep an eye on the temperature gauge.

If you have to replace the thermostat and your car has over 100K miles and has the original water pump, you should replace both of these items at the same time. The thermostat is relatively inexpensive and you can purchase it online.

Lifter Sounds

Certain BMW models may generate lifter sounds, especially during startup. BMW cars use hydraulic lifters meaning the lifters are oil-filled. The lifters can wear out early on due to the quality of the oil or if you only travel short distances. Short trips will not give the engine enough time to warm up to what is considered the normal operating temperature.

If you experience a loud clanking sound when you start the engine or when idling, you should not assume this is a lifter issue. Have a mechanic carefully check out your car.

Defective Ignition Coils

In most cases, ignition coils should last well over 100k miles but we have seen BMWs with faulty ignition coils as soon as 60,000 miles. We repaired a BMW 5-series E60 with a damaged coil. When the ignition coils failed, the check engine light came on and the engine started to misfire.

You might notice hesitation and the engine vibrating. In our case, we noticed the catalytic converter was glowing red caused by fuel that had not burned and was heading into the exhaust.

Electrical Issues

BMW has its own electrical issues just like other manufacturers. Some of the leading issues include turn signals, wipers, cooling fans running constantly, wipers, etc.

These issues will vary depending on the model of the BMW. If you are thinking about buying a BMW, it’s good to know of a BMW specialist such as Volksmaster who will be able to spot those repairs that are common and brand specific quicker than a regular garage.

Blower Fan Motor Issues

If the blower motor for the A/C stops working, your climate control button will probably not work to control the fan. You will not have air coming from the vents.

There are many BMW’s where the blower fan motor goes out. Another reason why the fan might stop working is a defective blower fan resistor. You should have both the motor and resistor replaced at the same time to prevent any further repairs in the future. If you don’t know, the blower fan is behind the glove box.

The Water Pump

BMW Waterpump Replacement

For the record, BMW is one of the first manufacturers to use an electric water pump. While Honda, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi use a water pump driven by a belt, BMW decided to use an electric water pump.

The electric water pump will help keep the engine noises down while not taking power away from the engine. However the electric water pump has been known to stop working as early as 60,000 miles.

Replacing the water pump can be a complicated operation. You will also have to replace the thermostat at the same time. The thermostat often fails at the same time and seems to be a common issue with BMW’s.

IDrive Issues

While BMW has an excellent sound system, the leading problem seems to be that the iDrive stops working. To correct this issue, the iDrive must be removed and replaced. In some cases, a software update might do the trick. If you have this problem, you need to get the used part repaired. This is cheaper than purchasing a new CCC iDrive. You can install the used CCC iDrive, but you will have to have it programmed.

Tyre Issues

You might experience corrosion or cracked alloy wheel which will cause a slow leak or a tyre puncture which could lead to an accident. To avoid this issue, you should follow the required maintenance for both the wheel and tire.

We hope you found all this information helpful for any issues you might encounter with your BMW vehicle. We have provided the most common issues we have run into but make sure you research other BMW problems that could arise.

On the upside, the most common BMW issues can be repaired by yourself. If you are considering purchasing a used BMW, do not be discouraged. These vehicles are very reliable and fun to drive. Just keep in mind, stay up with proper maintenance. One final note, not all BMW’s are affected by these issues.

If you are considering a service, repair or MOT for your BMW you can book your BMW in to one of our 4 branches by using the simple form below or give us a call at Oldham 0161 624 5060, Heywood on 01706 622633, Bury 0161 761 3030 and our Oldham Van Centre 0161 628 5270.

We also offer a highly convenient Collect & Return service or a Courtesy Car to ensure your routine is disrupted as little as possible while your vehicle is serviced, repaired or undergoes an MOT.

Arranging Your Service

Drop your car off
Simply drop your car off with us between 8am and 10am and in most cases your vehicle will be ready for collection the same day between 3.30 and 5.30. Outside these hours you are welcome to park.

Wait with your car
Most servicing and repair work can be done while you wait. If this is your preference we have a superb waiting area equipped with free hot and cold drinks and a interesting viewing area where you can watch our trained technicians working on your vehicle.

Courtesy car
If your vehicle needs to stay with us for 1 day or longer then you are able to pre-book one of our courtesy vehicles to keep you mobile.

Pick up / drop off
The ultimate hassle free solution; one of our drivers will arrange to collect your vehicle from your home or place of work at a pre-arranged time and then return your vehicle when the work is complete. Our service advisors will contact you when the vehicle arrives on site during the day to discuss the progress of the work and then advise you of the time you can expect your vehicle back. Contact our service advisors for more details.

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The Most Common Problems With BMW Cars

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