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10 Common BMW F10 5-Series Problems You Should Know!

What kind of problems does a BMW F10 usually have? In this blog, we’ve outlined the essential things you should watch for when you’re in the market for an F10. However, let’s first start with a quick answer:

Most commonly, the BMW F10 5-series has problems with water leakage, transmission jerking, or the heated seats not working. Furthermore, the F10 has issues with the timing or oil pan drive chain, which led to a class-action lawsuit. Finally, in 2012 – 2013 models, the vacuum pump can get damaged, resulting in a loss of braking power, and 2014 – 2016 diesels have leaking EGR coolers.

However, that doesn’t tell the whole story. In the rest of the article, we’ll discuss every single problem in detail. Furthermore, we’ll let you know how to identify it, fix it and how much it costs to fix. Read on!

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Also read: The Complete Cost Of Maintaining A BMW

1. Water Seepage Problem

The BMW F10 (sedan version) is the sixth generation of the BMW 5 Series. Numerous owners have reported water leakage problems in their BMW F10, including the 520/523/528/535/550/M5 models. Though this is a prevalent issue, the good thing is it typically occurs in older models of the F10.

When the F10 gets older, the steering column cover (or grommet) loses its sealing ability causing water to seep inside the cabin. This issue is noticeable, especially when it is raining outside or the car is being washed.

The leaking water from the steering column can soak the passenger area, particularly the cabin floor. In worst cases, it can even flood the whole cabin floor. Also, remember it might seem that the leaking water is coming through the door, but in reality, it is not the real culprit.

The cause of this problem, to some extent, is the design of the firewall (this is the metal sheet separating the engine from the cabin, in the image below, it’s the part indicated by number 5). The F10 is designed so that the steering column can be positioned either to the left or the right, depending on the country and its norms.

Firewall, part number 5 Source

In the US, the steering column cover on the F10 is designed to cover the opening on the right since the steering is located on the left.

This cover can get damaged over time or lose its sealing ability, giving rise to the water leakage problem. If this happens, water flowing from the exterior of the F10 runs through this area and then seeps into the cabin. If ignored, the water can flood the module area, which is a costly affair to repair. Also, it can damage the carpet and the speaker underneath the front seat.

Replacing the steering column cover (or grommet) is the only solution to fix this problem. If the damage is more minor, you can also try covering the column cover with a sealant, but that’s not recommended, as replacing the cover is a more robust fix. However, applying a waterproof adhesive to the steering column cover is still recommended if you just replaced it to provide extra protection.

The yellow steering column cover is the part that needs to be replaced, source

Furthermore, it’s recommended you drill holes in the earlier mentioned firewall so that future build-up of water can leak out of the system instead of building up near the steering column cover.

Also, reaching the cover can be a bit tricky considering its location. So, if you plan to take your car to the service station, solving this issue can cost you around $150-$200 in the United States.

2. Heated Seats Not Working

On some models of the BMW F10, the problem of non-functional heated seats is common.

If this happens, the lights for heated seats won’t turn on, and thus, the seats will not produce any heat. In other cases, the heated seats would turn on and off erratically.

If you face this problem, the first thing you should do is check all the fuses. If any blown fuse is found, the possibilities are it is the cause of this problem. So, replacing the lousy fuse is essential to fix the problem.

There are two fuse boxes in the BMW 5 Series F10. The first one can be found inside the glovebox at the very end, behind a cover. The second fuse box can be found in the trunk behind the carpet cover (on the right).

You can refer to the fuse box and relay panel diagram for exact details.

Suppose no blown fuse is found. Then to fix this problem, it is highly recommended to take your BMW F10 to the service station since they have the proper equipment to detect the exact cause of the problem.

Also, the heated seats are controlled by the BMW bus system, which employs no wires from the switch to the seat. The switches signal the module, which activates the seat heater. A problem with the module, a short somewhere, or a program malfunction can be the culprit. Thus, it might take an expert from BMW to fix this problem.

3. Issue With Transmission System

The F10 had several transmission options. These included a 6-speed manual, and an 8-speed ZF 8HP45/8HP50 automatic, whereas the M5 was coupled to a 7-speed DCT (although the 6-speed manual was still an option in the US and Canada). Reportedly, many owners of the BMW F10 have faced a problem with the car’s 6-speed manual and 8-speed automatic transmission systems.

Common symptoms relating to the transmission problem include –

  • Jerk while downshifting
  • Loud clunking noise when shifting gears
  • A sudden drop in speed
  • Rough riding experience

Moreover, in some cases, the transmission of the F10 acts as if it slipped a few gears. However, besides these symptoms indicating a problem with the transmission. What makes this problem more annoying is that the dashboard warning light on the F10, in some cases, won’t notify the driver about this issue. Usually, when this problem occurs, the ‘Transmission failure’ light should turn ON.

A variety of reasons can be the underlying cause of this problem. Obviously, the transmission on your BMW F10 is having complications, or the car could be low on the transmission fluid.

Furthermore, a malfunction in the car’s software can also lead to this problem. In that case, the software of your BMW 5 Series F10 would need a reset. You would have to take your F10 to the BMW service station, where a qualified BMW technician would download and install new software to fix this problem.

4. Timing Chain Failure

Failure of the timing and oil pump drive chain is prominent in the N20 engine produced between 2012 and 2015. This engine is used in the 520i and 528i sedans of the same year. In later models of the F10, BMW has used engines with upgraded timing chain designs to counter the problems.

The failure of the timing chain on the BMW F10 usually occurs after 50,000 – 80,000 miles. Problems were so widespread that BMW issued a warranty extension at the end of 2017.

Common indications of a timing chain failure on your BMW F10 include –

  • Loud and noticeable whining from the engine
  • Too much slack/play in the timing chain
  • Significant scoring of the timing chain
  • Rough idling
  • Engine misfiring

The loud noticeable whining noise from the N20 engine on your BMW F10 is the most common sign indicating a problem with the timing chain. Even under light acceleration/revs, the engine would make a low whining noise, which would still be audible.

Moreover, if the engine produces an overwhelmingly loud whining noise, it strongly indicates the timing chain’s starting problems. To add on, the scratching or scoring of the timing chain also shows an underlying problem. 

The cause of this problem was excessive wear on the engine oil pump chain drive sprockets because of a design flaw. The solution BMW provided in their warranty extension (which increased the warranty of these parts to 7 years or 70,000 miles) was to replace the engine oil pump drive chain module, timing chain, timing chain tensioner, slide rail, tensioning rail, and guide rail.

However, this warranty extension wasn’t enough for many owners. Some of them had already paid up to $900 in repairs to replace the timing chain and oil pump drive chain, and these owners didn’t receive compensation for this. Therefore, a class-action lawsuit was started and won. The settlement involved reimbursement for past repairs as well as potential future ones.

Checking The Timing And Oil Pan Chain Yourself

If you want to check the timing chain for abnormalities, you can peer through the oil cap to see if you can spot wear and tear.

Furthermore, it’s good to know that, since the class action has already ended, applying for reimbursement of repairs isn’t necessary anymore. In this case, you’ll have to pay for repairs out of pocket.

Generally, independent repair shops in the United States can charge around $1500 to replace the timing chain on your BMW F10. In comparison, the cost for the same at BMW dealerships can be nearly double. 

If you are a DIY person, the timing chain and other related components can cost you roughly $350-$500. But you should know that fixing this problem is relatively tough and time-consuming.

Furthermore, resolving the issue with the timing chain is crucial since a complete failure of the timing chain can be a potential threat to the engine. In worst cases, the timing chain can break, causing various engine components and other parts. If this happens, then fixing this problem may need a lot of time and money. 

5. PCV Valve Heaters Malfunctioning

BMW issued a 2017 recall for brand-wide problems with the PCV valve heaters. In the case of the F10, we’re talking about the 2011 model years of the 525i, 525xi, 528i, 528xi, 530i, and 530xi, which were recalled under number 17V683000.

The role of the PCV valve is to regulate the intake of gases. If the valve malfunctions (or, in the case of BMW, short-circuits), the flow of gases can’t be adequately regulated. This results in the build-up of sludge in the engine, which contaminates the oil in your BMW and causes the following symptoms:

  • Black smoke coming from the engine
  • Oil leaks
  • High fuel consumption
  • The car is misfiring or idling

These problems were caused because the electrical contacts of the blow-by-heater are coated with plastic material. Irregularities in the manufacturing process could allow moisture to occur near the blow-by-heater and lead to a short circuit. The solution to this problem involved replacing the blow-by-heater, which was done free of charge.

6. Loss Of Braking Power

2012-2013 BMW 528i Sedan and 528i xDrive sedans were recalled at the end of 2013 (13V454000) and 2014 (14V627000) because of a sudden loss of braking power. These specific models had a problem with the lubrication of the brake vacuum pump. Insufficient lubrication of this part led to the failure of the vacuum pump.

This would result in loss of braking assistance, making braking difficult or impossible. Recalled models had the brake vacuum pump replaced free of charger.

7. EGR-Cooler Leaks

Problems with the EGR cooler are not very common in the BMW F10. However, the company has had a recall for the 2014-2016 535d and 535d xDrive. Common symptoms of a malfunctioning EGR cooler include:

  • ‘Powertrain Malfunction’ error
  • Smoke from under the hood
  • Sudden power loss
  • The engine has a rough idle

BMW did issue a recall for the above-mentioned diesel model years at the end of 2018 and 2021 (18V755000, 21V907000). As it turns out, the EGR in the affected models leaked internally, causing coolant to mix with the diesel soot in the EGR. This resulted in smoldering parts and melting of the intake manifold.

Dealers inspected the EGR cooler and the intake manifold and replaced both when defects were found.

8. High-Pressure Fuel Pump Failure

This recall was specific to the 2014-2016 535d and 535d xDrive. In these vehicles, the high-pressure fuel pump was at risk of failing. A failing fuel pump always results in difficulty starting the engine, engine stalling, or complete and sudden power loss. In these models, BMW described the problem as follows:

Over time, and due to factors such as fuel quality, a reduction in pump lubrication could occur, which
may lead to an increased wear of pump components. This could result in an increasing deposit of metallic shavings within the pump housing and a corresponding deviation in the measured fuel rail pressure.

If this continued, a warning lamp would be illuminated in the instrument cluster along with a reduction in pump performance.

Source

9. Engine Overheating Issue

Engine overheating is another problem that can be experienced with the BMW F10. However, this problem occurs occasionally and is quite rare. But if faced, it is essential to pay immediate attention to restoring the cooling system’s health and related components to save time and money.

Some of the common causes leading to engine overheating in the BMW F10 include –

Clogged Cooling System

If the coolant in your BMW F10 cannot flow properly through the car’s engine, it can lead to the engine overheating problem. This clogged cooling system is typically due to any one of the following causes – natural build-up, debris accumulation, or a malfunctioning thermostat.

A contaminated or clogged cooling system of the F10 would have difficulty circulating the coolant, resulting in overheating the engine.

Faulty Water Pump

The water pump is an integral part of the cooling system of the BMW F10. It helps in the circulation of coolant in and out of the engine. In old BMW F10s, the water pump can wear out or get damaged with time. In that case, it must be replaced to save the engine from frequent overheating.   

Coolant Leak

Often coolant leakage is the most common cause of engine overheating in BMW cars, and the 5 Series F10 is no different. The function of the coolant is to regulate heat and keep the engine temperature within the optimal range. Faulty gaskets and damaged radiators are common causes of leaking coolant.

Wrong Coolant

Different cars need different types of coolant. Moreover, depending on the environmental norms of the area you live in, you will have to use a specific type of coolant. It is crucial to use the correct coolant for your BMW F10; else, the wrong coolant without the proper viscosity can lead to the engine overheating problem.

The information about the coolant can usually be found inside the owner’s manual, or you can contact BMW directly in that regard. BMW also makes its own coolant, which would suit your 5 Series F10.

Resolving engine overheating is crucial to ensure the engine’s and other components’ proper functioning. Suppose you can’t figure out the root cause. Then it is highly recommended to take your BMW F10 to the service station and get this issue fixed as soon as possible. 

10. Failed Belt Tensioner

The drive belt tensioner or the serpentine belt tensioner on the BMW F10 provides tension to the drive belts to ensure it stays connected with the crankshaft pulley and the pulley the belt is intended to drive.

If the belt tensioner on the BMW F10 fails, there will be a very noticeable grinding, chirping, or rattling noise from the front part of the engine. This is mainly because the tensioner pulley bearing is not smooth, and rotating leads metal to grind at high speeds.

If not replaced straight away, it can dislodge or cause the drive belt to lose tension or even break. If the belt falls off and fails, then the accessory it drives will no longer operate correctly.

In some cases, the tensioner spring can also fail, causing the belt to slack, leading to a loud screeching or squeaking noise combined with a rattle as the tensioner would jump back and forth under load. While a squealing noise comes from the belt slipping on the crankshaft pulley, which needs belt replacement after the belt tensioner is changed. 

Driving can be extremely hazardous if the belt tensioner on the BMW F10 fails. However, if the tensioner has just begun to rattle or chirp, the car can be driven to some extent or at least to the repair shop. Also, be aware after the tensioner fails, your BMW F10 can only be driven for a few minutes before coming to a halt due to the loss of electrical power from the alternator.

Usually, the drive tensioner on the BMW 5 Series F10 lasts for about 125,000 miles, but sometimes it can need replacement as early as 50,000 miles.