Common BMW Problems

We go through some of the common problems you might find with a BMW...

Common BMW Problems title with black BMW 5 Series in the background

When you are looking at getting a new car, regardless of whether you are leasing or buying, it’s always good to know what sort of problems you may encounter with the model.

No car is without fault. Some are more dependable than others, that much is true, but there can be problems with every model, regardless of how reliable or unreliable it is. And in recent years, it appears that our cars have actually become less reliable.

So, it’s always good to know the common problems you may have to overcome for the duration of your ownership.

In this article, we are going to look at some common BMW problems, looking at the brand as a whole and individual models.

Common problems with the BMW 1 Series

The BMW 1 Series is a perfect car for small or new families. But what sort of problems might you encounter?

ReliabilityIndex have recorded that the main problems they have found with the 1 Series is down to the engine. This has accounted for 29.13% of all problems. This is followed by electrical trouble, accounting for 22.68% of the problems. The braking system and the fuel system follow suit.

ReliabilityIndex use WarrantyDirect to determine which cars are dependable and which ones aren’t, as well as recording the source of the problems from claimants.

Breakeryard have also recorded some common problems with the BMW 1 Series. These include;

  • Coil pack failure
    • This is common on the petrol version of the 1 Series. You may smell petrol or there will be sudden rises and falls of the engine temperature.
  • Faulty traction control unit
    • You will know this has happened because the Dynamic Traction Control warning light would have appeared on your dashboard. If your car is still under warranty, you will get this repaired for free.
White BMW 1 Series on a white and blue background
  • Cold start idling problem
    • You may have trouble getting your car started when its chilly. This is caused by an issue with the ECU. You can get this re-programmed to resolve the issue.
  • Door handle problems
    • Some have reported that their door handle sticks out after use. This is due to a failure of the handle and the catch.

So those are some of the problems you may encounter with the BMW 1 Series.

Common problems with the BMW 3 Series

Slightly bigger than the 1 Series, the 3 Series is a popular car with private individuals and businesses alike.

ReliabilityIndex have reported that the engine on the 3 Series has accounted for most problems at 24.20%. This is followed by the fuel system at 19.27% and then the electrics. The braking system follows.

Breakeryard have reported that you may encounter the following;

Silver BMW 3 Series parked on a hill top with the countryside in the background
  • Problems with the Diesel Particulate Filter
    • This is obviously found on diesel cars. If the warning light appears on the dashboard then it means it’s clogged up.
    • To fix this, you should take your car out and drive your car around for about 10-15 minutes in fourth gear. This should heat the filter up enough to burn off the particles.
  • Lack of power or acceleration
    • This can be caused by a faulty crankshaft sensor or faulty camshaft sensor
  • Rear light failure
    • This can be common on the 3 Series and is due to faulty connectors

What are the common problems with the BMW 5 Series?

If you’re looking for something a bit more executive, then you are probably considering the 5 Series.

Contrary to popular belief, luxury cars don’t mean they have less problems, and have recorded that the main problems with the 5 Series is again the engine. This accounts for 26.54% of the problems, with the electrics coming in close second with 23.78% of all problems. The axle and suspension follow suit.

Breakeryard report that you might have the following problems with your BMW 5 Series;

  • Water leaks
    • This could be in the boot area and could be due to blocked sunroof drains or boot seals. Ensure that the spare wheel and the electronic control module don’t have water damage.
  • Rear window wiper failure
    • This has been a problem on the touring version of the 5 Series. This is due to the rear wiper spindle failing.
    • This will need to be repaired as soon as possible to avoid the wiper mechanism becoming damaged.
Black BMW 5 Series on a hilltop with mountains in the background
  • Engine overheating
    • The thermostat has been known to fail on the 5 Series which can cause the engine to overheat
    • To resolve this issue you will need to fit a replacement thermostat
  • Air conditioning problems
    • This is due to a faulty blower motor resistor
  • Noises coming from the steering wheel
    • This is caused by a lack of lubrication on the steering rack

Common problems with the BMW 7 Series

The 7 Series is a very luxurious car, and is popular with executives. ReliabilityIndex put the axle and suspension as the main cause of problems on the 7 Series, accounting for 24.44% of all problems. This is followed by the electrics and then the engine with 20% and 18.89% of the problems respectively.

Other problems you may encounter include;

BMW 7 Series Metallic outside building
  • Engine misfiring
    • This could either be due to a faulty coil pack or either the camshaft or crankshaft sensor being faulty
  • Problems with the windows
    • The electric windows have been known to be a problem with the 7 Series. This is due to the window regulator failing
  • Air conditioning issues
    • The condenser has been known to be faulty on the 7 Series
  • Key fob problems
    • If your car doesn’t lock using the key fob but does lock with the keys, then this could either be faulty door lock motors or a flat battery in the key fob

Common BMW M3 Problems

If it’s performance cars you’re looking at, then you might be considering the BMW M3. Here are some of the problems you might encounter with the M3 during your ownership;

ReliabilityIndex state that the axle and suspension accounts for 23.16% of all problems, followed by the engine and fuel system, both accounting for 17.89% of the problems. Other problems may include;

  • Problems with the car starting
    • This is due to the starter motor failing, which is common with the M3
  • Engine idling
    • Another known issue on the M3, this is caused by the Idle Air Control valve
  • Inner door membrane
    • If your door is rattling, this is because the inner door membrane is vibrating against the speaker mounting
Metallic Orange BMW M3 driving along a country road with trees in the background
  • Suspension problems
    • There could be a problem with the anti-roll bar. This is common on the M3
  • Problems with the power-assist
    • If the steering warning light has appeared then there could be a problem with the programming of the power assistance

Common problems with the BMW X5

If you are looking for something bigger, then the BMW X5 could be perfect for you.

ReliabilityIndex have reported that the axle and suspension accounts for most of the problems, at 36.26%, with the electrics coming in second at 18.24%. You might also encounter the following problems;

White BMW X5 in the desert
  • Engine misfiring
    • This is common on the X5 and is due to a broken unit on the intake actuator
  • Failing door aperture seals
    • You will know if these have failed if there is excessive noise coming into the cabin, particularly at high speeds
  • Problems with the handbrake
    • It can be known as the stick, and is caused by a software failure. You will need to get the software updated and this is often in warranty
  • Gearbox leaking
    • This is seen on the automatic gearbox and is the gearbox plug sleeve seal failing.

What are the common problems with the BMW X6?

The BMW X6 is larger than the X5, and is perfect for larger families. However, it’s still important that you know what problems you may encounter.

ReliabilityIndex report that the electrics account for 43.48% of the problems, with the axle and suspension accounting for 26.09%. There have been no problems reported for the transmission, braking system or the steering system, which is positive.

The following are some other problems you may encounter;

  • Problems with the engine
    • This is seen on the diesel engines and it’s due to the swirl flap braking. This can let metal debris into the engine and can lead to something much more serious.
  • Handbrake problems
    • This is the same as the X5 and is due to it needing a software update
Blue BMW x6 Front driving around a race track
  • Door rattles
    • If your door is rattling then this could be down to the poor fitment of the door cards. To fix this they will have to be adjusted slightly.
  • Adjustment of the front seats or steering column
    • If you are struggling to adjust the electric front seats or steering column then this is a problem with the switch assembly. They both run on the same switch assembly which is why it can affect both.

Common BMW Problems

And finally, what are the problems that are most widely seen across all BMW models?

  • Door locks
  • Rattling
    • We have mentioned this a few times above and is often heard coming from the doors
  • Electrical problems
    • Electrics have accounted for many problems on ReliabilityIndex. The problems vary from model to model, but they are quite common with BMW’s
  • Check engine light
    • Again, the engine has also accounted for a lot of problems with the BMW. This can be anything from something minor to something a lot bigger.

Those are some of the problems that you might see in all BMW models. Of course, you might not see any problems at all, but it’s always good to be informed of the issues you may encounter. This allows you to compare with other models you may be considering.

Hopefully this has given you a good idea of the type of issues you may encounter with some BMW models. This list isn’t exhaustive, and it doesn’t include every problem with every model. It does, however, go over some of the common problems you may encounter.

How reliable are BMW as a brand? Click here to read our honest assessment! 
Rachel Richardson
Latest posts by Rachel Richardson (see all)


  • Mark| 17th February 2018 at 8:02 am Reply

    Lots of people posting issues about steering racks on BMW 1 and 3 (F30) series, but no mention in your article.

    • Abbie Rawcliffe| 19th February 2018 at 4:59 pm Reply

      Hi Mark, We have not heard of this fault ourselves, it could be that because both of these are high volume cars it appears that a lot of people are having an issue but in percentage terms, it is a few issues.

  • bmw 63117207284| 17th February 2018 at 7:34 am Reply

    I have BMW 7 series F01, I want to replace TMS Driver Module. I searched and found it less costly at xenons4u. Is there any other place where I can get it without troubling my wallet too much. I need this one

    • Abbie Rawcliffe| 19th February 2018 at 5:01 pm Reply

      Hi, I’m afraid this isn’t something that we can help with, sorry.

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