BMW 20 Common Problems

While BMW remains one of the most popular cars on the road, that does not mean they don’t come with their own set of issues. We will go over the leading problems you should know about if you own are considering buying a BMW.

1: The Restraint System

BMW Restraint System

A common complaint noted by some BMW drivers is the SRS light coming on displaying a restraint system failure. You will get a warning on the iDrive display stating there is a problem with the restraint system.

There have been far too many incidences of BMWs warning light continually coming on stating there is a problem with the airbag. In many cases, this is caused by the passenger seat weight sensor or the clock spring. In order to read the codes and clear the airbag light, you need a scanner. The Foxwell NT510 or iCarsoft BMII are two great choices you should look into.

2: Engine Problems

BMW Engine

If the check engine light comes on, don’t immediately panic until you have read the codes. The reason could be as simple as a bad fuel cap or a transmission stuck in limp mode.

Get your OBD-II scanner and plug it into the port.

Once you have the code, go online and search the code to find out what’s going on with your car. Even if you will need help getting the problem resolved, you will know what has happened which could save you money and give you peace of mind.

3: Cooling System Failure

BMW Scanner Foxwell NT510

BMW is famous for using plastic fittings on certain components of the cooling system. They also use plastic and electric water pumps that often fail. As your BMW ages, it’s very likely these plastic pieces are going to become brittle and fail.

The upside, there are replacement parts available for all BMWs and generally cost a lot less than the OEM parts.

4: Oil Leaks

Although this is rarely a problem on newer BMWs, if your car is five years old or older, you should keep an eye out for oil leaks. The most common occurrence we have found is from the valve covers. Oil leaks can also be found at the transmission and the differential seals.

5: Battery Terminal (BST)

BMW Battery

Around 2000, BMW came out with the battery safety terminal sensor, also called the BST. The BST was designed to disconnect positive cables if your car gets into an accident. This design is meant to decrease the risk of causing a fire.

The downside, the BST will disconnect the battery during minor incidences such as hitting a curb. This, in turn, can prevent the BMW from starting because the alternator and starter will be disconnected at the battery-positive terminal.

This problem could trigger the BMW airbag light to come on which would require a BMW-specific scanner to clear the codes. There was a time it would be expensive to fix the BMW BST sensor. Today, all you need is the BMW owner’s Battery Safety Terminal Kit and you can fix the problem yourself.

6: Hood Lift Supports

In general, this is a problem with older BMWs that are 8 years old or older. The bonnet supports would often break.

Replacing the bonnet supports is actually quite easy and will only take about fifteen minutes. Grab a guide online to see how to replace the bonnet strut on BMW vehicles.

7: Interior Wear

BMW Interior

First off, the seats in the BMW hold up very well but the buttons for the windows and controls have a habit of failing way too soon. This is a common issue on many BMWs including the 3-Series and 5-Series. This is pretty immaterial.

8: Vanos Rattle

You might be asking what is a Vanos Rattle? It’s the variable valve timing system which is known as the Vanos causing the well-known engine rattling noise. This is a common problem with BMW engines and is best described as the sound of marbles make in a tin can.

Vanos alters the timing of the valves by modifying the position of the camshaft. Vanos rattle is a sound that comes from the engine and is only noticeable at higher speeds. When idling, the engine will sound normal but rev up the RPMs and you will hear the sound.

This noise is not loud in the early years of the engine but it will get louder with engine wear. The upside, replacing the Vanos is not as expensive as you might think. It will take anywhere from two to four hours to replace the Vanos. You will need a BMW Vanos kit and a few tools.

9: Instrument Cluster Issues

BMW Instrument Cluster

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

You might see the odometer screen pulsating or going off. You do not have to purchase a new cluster or control model to fix the issue. A third-party service will correct the problem for you.

10: Door Locks

Another common issue with BMWs, the door locks will stop working. This is actually very easy to check. Stand approximately 10 feet from the car and press the lock/unlock button. All the doors should work.

You can also test the door locks by applying the button on the center console. Make sure that all the door locks work correctly. In most cases, if one door lock fails to work it could be a damaged door lock actuator.

11: Window Regulators

BMW Window Regulators

BMW is well-known for having window regulator issues. The regulator plastic clips break and the windows will not move up and down.

In the beginning, the windows may move very slowly but over time, the regulator or the window motor will fail. If you have some DIY skills this is not expensive to fix. Not all BMW series go through window regulator issues but models like the BMW-E46 can be affected by this. It could happen, if the window’s plastic clip was smashed down, resulting in the window failing to go up or down. It’s not particularly expensive to have it repaired but you will need an expert who deals with BMW vehicles.

12: Coolant Thermostat

If the BMW coolant thermostat fails, it can cause the engine to overheat. This is the most typical and critical way the thermostats fail.

In many cases what goes unnoticed is the thermostat fails in the open position. When that happens, the engine will take a long time to warm up so pay close attention to the temperature gauge.

If your BMW is over 100k miles and you need to replace the thermostat and you have the original water pump, you should replace both of them at the same time. The thermostat is relatively inexpensive and can be purchased online.

13: Lifter Sounds

Some BMW models may develop lifter noise, especially at startup. BMW can use hydraulic lifters which means they are not oil-filled.

The lifters could wear out early due to the quality of the oil or if you have a lot of short trips. During short trips, the engine will not have enough time to warm up to the standard operating temperature.

If you hear a loud clanking sound when the engine starts up or when it’s idling, then you should not assume this is a lifter noise so get a mechanic to diagnose your car accurately.

14: Faulty Ignition Coils

BMW Faulty Ignition Coils

Even though ignition coils should last over 100k miles, there are some BMWs with damaged ignition coils as soon as 60,000 miles. A newly repaired BMW 5-series E60 had failed coils. When one of the ignition coils fails, the check engine light will turn on and the engine will begin to misfire.

You will also notice hesitation and engine shaking or vibrations. With this car, it was noticed that the catalytic converter was glowing red due to unburned fuel going into the exhaust.

15: Electrical Issues

There is no doubt, BMW has its fair share of electrical issues. Some typical issues include wipers, turn signals, CC iDrive, the cooling fan running all the time, etc.

Depending on the BMW model, the issues can vary.

16: Blower Fan Motor

The blower motor for your A/C is damaged. Your climate control button is no longer in charge of the blower fan. On top of that, no air is coming out of the vents.

With a lot of BMWs, you will see many blower fan motors failing. One reason why the blower fan may stop working is caused by a defective blower fan resistor.

You should have the motor fan and resistor replaced at the same time to keep from having further work performed later on. For the record, the blower fan is located behind the glove box.

17: Water Pump

BMW Water Pump Replacement

BMW is one of the very few manufacturers that use an electric water pump. Honda, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz and Audi use water pumps driven by a belt. BMW reinvented the plan using an electric water pump.

This pump helps to keep down engine noises and does not take power from the engine. That said, the water pump has an electrical motor that can fail. The water pump may fail as early as 60,000 miles.

You should decide to replace the thermostat at the same time because they seem to fail around the same time which has become common with BMW. Just keep in mind, replacing a water pump will be a lot of work.

18: iDrive Issues

BMW is known to have an incredible sound system that is until the iDrive dies. One of the problems is caused by the iDrive constantly rebooting.

To repair this problem, the iDrive must be removed and replaced. In some cases a software update may fix the issue.

You might want to purchase a used iDrive if you are experiencing issues. It’s cheaper than a new one from the dealer. You can install a used BMW CCC iDrive but it will have to be programmed.

19: Tyre Issues

BMW Tyres

If your BMW has a corroded or cracked alloy wheel it can cause a slow leak from a tyre puncture and can lead to an accident. To steer clear of corrosion and cracks, make sure you have regular wheel and tyre maintenance performed.

20: BMW Makes Noise When Accelerating

If your BMW makes a noise when accelerating, the most likely cause is a worn drive belt, pulley bearing, a bad wheel bearings or even the brake pads. In most cases you will hear a squeaking, which eventually fades away as the engine warms. If the noise is more o a a humming noise that gets louder when going around a bend it would suggest bad wheel bearings. A light press on the brakes will stop the noise i the issue is the brake pads.

Other possibilities include a bad CV joint, diferential, driveshaft, bad tyres, fan blower motor, bad transmission, clutch release bearing, the alternator pulley, a whistling noise from the turbine, a clutch release bearing, a belt tensioner, your transmission oil level or the torque-converter. As you can see diagnosing the exact issue can be tricky.


We hope you found this article enlightening regarding BMW issues that might arise. This is only a list of the most common problems so if you are planning on purchasing a BMW, research the issues for each particular model of BMW.

The upside, most of the BMW problems listed in our article can be repaired by you. If you are in the market for a used BMW make sure you are up-to-date on the common problems and be sure to check the car’s service history.

Don’t get discouraged from buying a used BMW. These cars are great to drive and are normally very dependable. A used BMW in excellent condition has gone through regular maintenance. Just know that not all BMWs are affected by this list.

If you are having problems with your BMW you can get your vehicle checked and any issue diagnosed and resolved by booking online today.

For further information on our services you can browse the site or get in touch with us by calling 019253 30468 or you can email us directly at At Lowton Motor Company we service all vehicles produced by all the top manufacturers from the a Ford to a Porsche and everything in between. Our experienced technicians have access to and traning with all the latest technology. You can be sure your vehicle is in safe hands whether it’s in for a repair, a service or just the annual MOT.

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