Common BMW Problems

common bmw problems

One of the most common questions ask about any car make or model is “is it reliable?” and that is no different for BMWs. While the Munich manufacturer certainly has a great pedigree people still ask about BMW reliability and for good reason. 

No car maker is exempt from problems and in many cases broad mechanical or electrical issues across a range is down to manufacturing processes, design or material choices. As with most brands there are models and common issues but there are also some great cars and great engineering that can see you sail passed 100,000 miles with no trouble. It is worth keeping in mind that even a BMW with no faults will need items replacing and as a brand BMW parts can be expensive. It is important to always assume things will break and be prepared to pay for them.

German cars, on the whole, are considered to be very reliable but they still fall foul to a range of issues just like brands from other countries. BMW are no exception so here is the list of common BMW problems everyone should read if they are thinking about buying a used BMW. Our car checker can give you a huge amount of detail about any specific car, but it is still worthwhile reading through some common issues to look out for in BMW of all ages

10 Most Common BMW Problems​

Keeping an engine cool is critical to its function so any issues around radiators and cooling are important. BMW’s cooling system problems are quite common and tend to appear in cars at, or above, the 80,000-mile mark. BMW use a lot of plastic parts in this system which becomes brittle and break when old. The systems have a habit of failing so it can mean a roadside rescue rather than a nagging problem you can get fixed before it does any harm. Regular servicing is the key to avoiding this so check that service history before you buy an older BMW.

BMW has struggled with ignition coil problems for years; the core problems were between 2003 and 2016. The results of a failing coil can be hesitation, stuttering, poor idling and poor performance. Generally, if the engine is running a bit lumpy it may well be a coil. The engine warning light may come on to show this. BMW has actually worked really hard on continually redesigning the coils in a range of engine types and rolling out these changes to improve the issue so do your research before buying a used BMW and find out what the latest news is on the engine you are looking at. Thankfully coils are not a big job to replace but it is important to be aware of the issue as it will cost money to fix.

As well as brittle plastic parts the thermostat in the cooling system can also be a commonplace for a fault to occur in BMWs. If it fails when closed the engine will overheat. This is quite easy to notice but if it has overheated a few times before you buy it the engine could be compromised. The other common issue is the thermostat getting stuck open. This is a lot more subtle and will result in the engine taking a very long time to warm up. When viewing a used BMW check the engine comes up to temperature. You should always ask the seller to leave the car cold before a visit, a warm engine can hide all manner of ills. When you start it give it a few minutes and if the engine is still cold you may have an issue. An engine running too cold could mean lubrication isn’t getting around the engine properly and it certainly wouldn’t be wise to drive it very hard when it’s cold. The thermostat isn’t an expensive fix but one to keep an eye out for, nonetheless.

BMW electric windows have a habit of coming down and staying down. This is a rather annoying common fault from a security point of view as well as a comfort one. Perhaps not so bad in the summer but no one wants to be driving at 50mph with a window down on a rainy winters day. The issue is normally down to a window regulator failure rather than anything to do with the glass or switch gear. It can be due to the pulleys in the regulator coming loose or the regulator overheating and failing. Again, regular servicing should help identify problems early on before the window gets stuck down.

The heating system in a BMW is closely linked to the engine cooling system so it makes sense that BMWs do suffer from issues with both things. The coolant can leak and get into the heater matrix which gives off a sweet smell in the car. Be sure to check the heating if you test drive a BMW before buying. Any signs of heating issues can actually be a very useful indicator that a larger cooling system problem is on its way!

While many manufacturers use a water pump driven from the engine directly BMW designed an electric water pump. This led to less noise and not taking any power from the engine but it also led to other issues. These pumps are prone to failing, generally, anything past 80,000 miles is considered likely to fail at some point. Symptoms include engine warnings like saying the engine is too hot straight after starting when it’s not actually hot, as well as coolant leakage. You may also notice a high-pitched whining sound when the engine is running. There are lots of replacement pumps on the market but if you are looking at a car with a whine or some mess in the engine bay buy knowing you may need to get it replaced.

This is a simple part, but it can cause a lot of issues. There is a small gasket between the oil filter and the rest of the engine. Over time this can become brittle and start to leak. Generally, this will mean some oily mess and maybe even a noticeable oil leak on your drive. However, if it gets really bad it does mean less oil is getting into the engine and this isn’t a good thing at all. The part itself isn’t expensive so like most other things if the car is well serviced it will get picked up and fixed before it does any damage.


Older Beemers are also prone to other oil leaks too. These can come from valve covers but also appear around the transmission and form various seals around the engine. Have a good look underneath any used BMW for spots of oil on the ground or under the engine.

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