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2017 BMW X5 Diesel - driver side front view

9 Biggest BMW Recalls of All Time

Which BMW recall was the worst?

Published October 28, 2018

There’s no denying that people love their BMWs. They are luxurious, stylish, and come with plenty of performance. The engines are well-built and offer a thrilling driving experience. Unfortunately, BMW is plagued with a fairly high recall rate. We list the top BMW recalls of all time to see how familiar you are with the brand. The question is – have you been affected by a BMW recall?

9. Aluminum Cast Wheel Recall

1982 BMW R100 police bikeModels affected: 1977-1982 BMW R100 Bikes

Problem: These motorcycles were originally fitted with wire spoke wheels. Then, in 1977, BMW switched to using an aluminum cast wheel in a snowflake pattern. After one report of breakage, BMW issues a recall for replacement.

The interesting information regarding the one broken wheel was that it belonged to a European cop bike that repeatedly chased people on cobblestone streets. Aside from that, numerous BMW forums suggest that the wheel never actually broke itself, but was cut instead.

If you purchased one of these bikes would you be concerned about the BMW recall or ignore it since it seemed like a fluke?

8. Female Voice on the GPS

1998 BMW 5 Series 528i - left side viewModels affected: 1990s BMW 5-Series

Problem: We know this BMW recall occurred sometime in the late 1990s. It started with numerous German men complaining about taking directions through the GPS with a female voice. To please their customers, BMW issued a recall for all female-voiced navigation systems.

Then, they had to deal with a barrage of calls complaining about sexism. Interestingly enough, it was all men who made the vehicle and designed the GPS system. We wouldn’t have wanted to be one of the customer service representatives dealing with those calls.

7. Power-Assist Braking Concern

2014 BMW X3 SAV - left front viewModels affected: 2012-2014 BMW 3-Series, 5-Series, Z4 (with 4-cylinder engines), X1 SAV, and the X3 SAV.

Problem: In 2013, the BMW Group recalled vehicles when they found a defect in the vacuum pump oil supply. This led to a loss of power-assist braking in more than 76,000 cars. As part of the BMW recall, information was released stating that the seal disk movement inside the camshaft was the problem. It blocked oil from getting to the vacuum pump which then led to improper pump operation and/or a loss of power-assist braking.

Three minor accidents were reported in relation to this problem. It appeared to happen most often with low miles and initially suspected that higher mileage cars wouldn’t be affected at all.

In July, BMW began initiating a new camshaft geometry which prevented the seal disk from cutting off the oil port. Owners had to take their vehicles to the dealer to have a locking ring installed in the camshaft. This kept the seal disk in its proper place.

6. Driveshaft Failure

2014 BMW X5 - left rear viewModels affected: 2011-2014 BMW X5 and X6 vehicles

Problem: The NHTSA worked in conjunction with the automaker to announce this BMW recall. It included 122,000 SUVs because of an issue with the front driveshaft’s universal joint. The joint was susceptible to water and debris entering. If this occurred, the excess wear could lead to failure in the joint. When this happens, the front wheels can’t be driven which dramatically affects handling and traction. There was a heightened risk of crash and damage to other car components as well.

Dealers notified the customers of the recall and then replaced the driveshaft for free.

5. Neck Injury Risk

2018 BMW i3 - right side viewModels affected: 2014-2018 BMW i3

Problem: This BMW i3 recall included every single i3 model ever sold in the United States. At the time, that was more than 30,000 vehicles produced over a four-year period. Because of the situation, it wasn’t just a recall that was ordered; but they followed through by issuing a complete stop-sale until the problem was resolved.

With help from the NHTSA, it was found that these electric vehicles offered a higher risk of neck injury to smaller people. This only occurred if the person was in the driver’s seat and not wearing a seatbelt.

The crash tests illustrated smaller adults, typically around five feet, sustaining neck damage during a frontal impact crash. Of course, the easier fix for the situation would have been to wear your seatbelt.

4. One Million with Fire Risk

2011 BMW M3 - left rear viewModels affected: PCV valve heater recall included the 2008-2011 128i, 328i, 525i, 528i, 530i, and X3. 2007-2011 X5 and Z4. Blower motor system connectors recall included 2006-2011 323i, 325i, 325xi, 328i, 328xi, 330i, 330xi, 335i, 335xi, and M3. 2007-2011 335is. 2009-2011 335d.

Problem: BMW issued two recalls at the same time which covered about a million cars implicated in fires. In total there were six years of models included. One of them involved a valve heater which caused numerous automotive fires to occur.

There had been more than 40 reports of parked cars which spontaneously burst into flames. Some of these cars had been turned off for hours or days before the fire occurred. Some of the vehicles were subject to both recalls and needed both repairs from the dealer.

3. Takata Airbag Recall

2013 BMW 328i - left front viewModels affected: 2008-2013 1 Series, 2000-2013 3 Series, 2001-2003 5 Series, 2013-2015 X1, 2007-2010 X3, 2001-2003 X5, 2007-2013 X5, 2008-2014 X6, 2010-2011 X6 Hybrid

Problem: Among the many car models that NHTSA listed for the Takata Airbag recall, BMW had numerous vehicles across many model years included. In total, the airbag recall spanned over 37 million vehicles and caused the company to go bankrupt.

The BMW recall for airbags states that defective Takata inflators might explode during a crash and shower people in the cabin with hot shrapnel. To date, there have been at least 20 people who died as a result and almost 300 injured.

The NHTSA determined what is causing the issue. It appears that the airbags use ammonium nitrate-based propellant but without a chemical drying agent. Some vehicles are under a stop-driving order for an immediate replacement, but there’s no way to handle all of these cars at once. The NHTSA needed to prioritize the areas with the most concern first, such as people living in humid and hot environments.

That means the death rate and injury occurrence will most likely rise further before the entire situation is resolved. The one item we all rely on to keep us safe is actually killing people when they need it the most.

2. Improper Steering Wheel

2018 BMW X3 M40i - drivers side view Models affected: 2018-2019 X3 xDrive30i, X3 sDrive30i, X3 M40i

Problem: 51 vehicles were the subject of a steering wheel recall. It turned out they weren’t compatible with the Active Lane Keep Assist advanced safety feature. This software warns drivers if they take their hands off the steering wheel, but these steering wheels didn’t have the capability to do that. It turned out that the sensors were defective from the manufacturer. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for them to figure out the issue and only a handful of cars needed to come back. There were no reports of injuries or crashes as a result of the sensor issue.

1. Diesel Engine Fire

2017 BMW X5 Diesel - driver side front viewModels affected: 2010-2017 four and six-cylinder diesel models

Problem: Initially, 480,000 vehicles were recalled because of the coolant leak that led to fires. This number grew to 1.6 million vehicles worldwide. The leak occurred from the exhaust gas recirculation module. This is part of the vehicle’s emissions reduction system. When this leak combined with soot and high temperatures, it led to the possibility of fire.

Only a handful of the cars recalled were from the United States, the majority of concern was overseas. It came down to 30 defective diesel motors manufactured by the German automaker which started on fire.

While the recall didn’t include repair for every vehicle, they were all subject to free inspection to determine if they were safe. That’s because replacing all the modules would have cost the company almost $200 million.

How to Check BMW Recall

With all these recalls, it’s natural to be worried over the state of your BMW vehicle. A BMW recall could be potentially dangerous and you want to know about it as soon as possible. You don’t want to run to the dealer every time your model ends up in a recall because it might not be for your specific vehicle. That’s why it’s important to know how to find out when to act.

Most times, owners receive a notice in the mail alerting them of the recall. There’s always a chance that you got missed, so you’ll want to double check online anyway. For a BMW recall, you can use the BMW recall checker available online, but that isn’t set up to alert you of future issues. You simply enter the VIN to see if your vehicle is affected by anything.

If you want to find other recalls that aren’t BMW related, the NHTSA keeps an online recall checker as well. This system also allows you to receive notification of future recalls. You simply enter your VIN. Then, it will tell you about the current recalls on your vehicle.

If you find a recall listed through either of these tools, it’s important you take the next steps for repair. You want to contact your local dealer, even if you didn’t purchase the vehicle there. They will help you schedule your free repair.

Keep in mind that there might be a delay in scheduling service or getting the parts needed, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t drive the car. Ask the dealer what you should do in the meantime, and follow their guidance.

Waiting for a Recall

BMW service departmentIn a perfect world, the parts and manpower would be available right now to fix every car that had a recall, but this isn’t a perfect world. With the numerous recalls constantly available, it’s impossible for manufacturers to have the parts ready and the bodies willing to get the job done right away.

These delays prevent repairs on vehicles from happening in a timely manner. This has caused nothing but apathy in consumers and led them to become numb over the recall notices they receive.

Most people have no issue continuing to drive a recalled car because they don’t believe it’s important. They get that impression based on the fact that parts aren’t available, so repair isn’t possible right away.

Is It Safe to Drive a Recalled Car?

The delay causes many people to wonder: Should I drive my recalled car while I wait?

The NHTSA and DOT strive to answer that question for consumers. That’s why the NHTSA works closely with every manufacturer to determine what needs to be addressed immediately and what can wait. The NHTSA has the power to order the manufacturer’s to advise owners that their vehicles aren’t safe to drive when necessary.

In 6% of the recalls from 2000 to 2013, the NHTSA deemed vehicles unsafe to drive in the interim. The other side of this is that the NHTSA also considered cars with recalled Takata airbags safe to operate in the meantime, but look at what continues to happen with those cases.

Understandably, fixing that amount of vehicles at once is impossible. In the same regard, asking all those people not to drive their cars would also be an impossibility. So, what is the solution? When possible, it’s best to avoid driving a recalled car that could result in injury or death. However, it is up to the consumer whether they can do that or not.

Of course, we all want the recalls to be dealt with promptly and efficiently, but it’s never going to happen. We need more parts and more manpower, but with the number of recalls out there, it would take too much.

Instead, the auto industry continues to deal with each instance as it arises – one at a time.

Final Thoughts about a BMW Recall

It doesn’t matter what car you drive these days; you are at risk of a recall. Some manufacturers have lower recall rates than others, but you’ll never get away from them fully.

If you find out that your vehicle is subject to a BMW recall, it’s important you take the steps to repair it right away. Don’t wait and assume it’s not a big deal. There have been many injuries and deaths worldwide from apathetic people that didn’t take recalls seriously.

It would be a shame to have equipped yourself with all the modern safety features only to find yourself injured or dead because you didn’t act on a recall you received. Stay safe and enjoy the drive.

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Brian Jones
About Brian Jones

I am an ASE Certified Master Tech, but spend more time with my awesome family now than I do on cars. In my spare time, you'll still find me playing with tools, cars and many other "manly" gadgets.

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