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6 Common BMW X5 xDrive35i Problems

What kind of problems does a BMW X5 xDrive35i normally have? In this blog, we’ve outlined all the most important things you should keep an eye out for when you’re in the market for an X5 xDrive35i. However, let’s first start with a quick answer:

Most commonly, the BMW X5 has problems with oil leaks caused by the valve cover or the gasket. Furthermore, failure of the VANOS solenoid, water pump, and the high-pressure fuel pump can occur. Finally, a faulty airbag module and a drivetrain malfunction error are well documented.

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 tell you how to identify it, fix it and how much it costs to fix. Read on!

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Also read: Types Of Gas A BMW X5 Can Use (Explained)

1. Oil Leak From Valve Cover Or Valve Cover Gasket

From 2009 to 2013, the BMW X5 xDrive35i used the notorious N55 engine. Similar to its older sibling, the N54. The N55 engine has problems with the valve cover gasket, valve cover, and PCV valve.

The valve cover gasket made out of rubber is prone to degradation over time. Exposed to high temperatures, it develops cracks leading to oil leaks and oil accumulation in the engine of the X5 xDrive35i.

Moreover, due to the high operating temperature of the N55 engine, the valve cover can have similar issues. The valve cover in the engine of the BMW X5 xDrive35i is made out of plastic. The high temperature of the engine causes the valve cover to crack over time.

This problem occurs less frequently than the valve cover gasket. Typically, the valve cover can fail at 100,000 miles or more. Additionally, due to excessive labor involved to repair the valve cover gasket, it is advisable to replace the valve cover as well, at the time fixing the former.

If the valve cover or the valve cover gasket fails in your X5 xDrive35i, then you may notice the following symptoms –

  • Oil on spark plug threads
  • Smoke from valve cover area
  • The smell of burning oil
  • Illuminated low engine oil light

Another problem that ties into the valve cover gasket and the valve cover is the PCV (Positive Crankcase Ventilation) valve. In the N55 engine, the PCV valve uses an engine vacuum to pull blow-by gases out of the engine’s crankcase. Since the PCV valve is integrated into the valve cover, high pressures and fatigue of the PCV valve cause it to fail. 

Similar to the valve cover gasket, the failure of the PCV valve is also common in the X5 xDrive35i. If confronted with any problem with the PCV valve, it should need to be replaced.

Replacement of the PCV valve requires the removal of the valve cover and valve cover gasket. So, if there is a problem with your PCV valve, it is highly recommended to change the valve cover and valve cover gasket.

The valve cover, valve cover gasket, and the PCV valve in the N55 engine are in the same area. If any of these need a repair, then replacing all three as a preventive measure isn’t a bad idea.

These parts are relatively inexpensive compared to the intensive labor involved. Moreover, this is not a complicated DIY process, but since it involves removing many parts to get access to the valve cover, gasket, and PCV valve. It can take long hours to repair this oil leakage issue in your X5 xDrive35i.

In the United States, valve cover, valve cover gasket, and other hardware required to fix this problem can cost around $380. While repairing this issue at the service station can cost you roughly $1000-$1300 in total, including labor costs.

2. Failed VANOS Solenoid

Variable Camshaft Timing or VANOS is the name given to the timing system used along with the Valvetronic in the X5 xDrive35i. Reportedly, the N55 engine used from 2009 to 2013 incurs this issue more frequently. 

The function of the VANOS (or double VANOS on the N55 engine) is to adjust the timing of the exhaust and intake camshafts based on the throttle opening and engine speed.

In the BMW X5 xDrive35i, the VANOS system helps in improving idling and smoothening the power delivery. As the engine speed rises, the double VANOS system in the N55 engine boosts torque, lowers emissions, and increases the vehicle’s fuel economy.

Typically, the VANOS Solenoids in the X5 xDrive35i fail due to old age or normal wear and tear. However, in some cases, if covered in oil, they can be problematic because of being dirty.

On early models of the N55 engines, between 2010 and 2012. BMW also recalled the VANOS bolts as they would get loose or break occasionally. If this happens, the bolts will drop into the engine oil pan, causing severe problems and expensive repairs. Since most of these faulty models were fixed, chances are you would hardly face this issue.    

Going back to the VANOS Solenoid, if they fail, you will experience the following symptoms –

  • Engine hesitation
  • Rough idling and bouncing RPMs
  • Engine starting and stalling problem
  • Limp mode
  • Loss of torque and power

To some extent, the above symptoms are general and may not point directly towards faulty VANOS Solenoids. For instance, failure in the ignition coil or bad spark plugs can cause similar problems in the X5 xDrive35i. 

However, when the following engine light codes accompany the above symptoms, the indication is towards failed VANOS Solenoids.  

  • 2A9A, 2A9B
  • 2A82, 2A98, 2A99, 2A87

To fix this problem, you can try cleaning your VANOS Solenoids. Since removing and re-installing the solenoids is reasonably simple and easy.  If they are dirty, cleaning them to some extent can solve the problem or buy you some extra time.

Moreover, the VANOS Solenoids are not that expensive. Changing them with new ones is definitely a better option in the long run. The approximate cost of replacing the faulty VANOS Solenoids is around $160 for each solenoid (two required), with an additional labor cost of around $150-$200 in the US. 

3. Water Pump Failure

Another common problem in most BMW vehicles is water pump failure, and the X5 xDrive35i is no different. The primary function of water pumps in the car is to circulate coolant throughout the engine’s cooling system to cool the engine.

The X5 xDrive35i uses an electric pump driven by the composite impeller, which often fails after a period of time. Along with the water pump, the thermostat is also a common point of failure. So, if you are replacing the water pump, you should also consider replacing the thermostat.

The longevity of the water pump varies significantly depending on various factors. That is why there is no specified timeline for the failure in the electric water pump to occur. In some reported cases, the water pump in the X5 xDrive35i lasted for about 30,000 to 40,000 miles. While in a few other cases, it lasted for more than 120,000 miles.

On average, the water pump in your X5 xDrive35i should last for about 80,000 to 100,000 miles, and the same goes for the thermostat.

Typically, no early symptoms are indicating the failure of the water pump. Instead, the water pump in the BMW X5 xDrive35i would fail suddenly. 

To check any problem in your water pump, you can test the flow of the coolant in the cooling system. If the water pump has an electrical malfunction, the coolant will not flow at the correct pressure.

Further, if you experience the following symptoms, then chances are the water pump in your X5 xDrive35i has failed.

  • Significant engine overheating
  • Noise from the cooling fan (running at full speed)
  • Boiling coolant leaks out of the coolant cap

With the above symptoms, the failure in the water pump is usually accompanied by the following codes –

  • 2E81, 2E82, 2E83, 2E84, 2E85
  • 377A

A faulty water pump can lead to severe problems caused by excessive overheating of the engine. Thus, such a water pump should be replaced immediately, or the vehicle should not be driven at all. The original water pump from BMW costs approximately around $450, and the installation of the pump would add labor costs of $50-$100.

Changing the water pump is a fairly simple process, but care should be taken as it is a time-consuming process. Moreover, properly bleeding the coolant system after replacing the pump is necessary. 

4. High-Pressure Fuel Pump (HPFP) Failure

The primary function of the HPFP (High-Pressure Fuel Pump) is to pump fuel from the gas tank to the fuel injectors, which then sprays the fuel into the cylinder.

BMW used the N55 engine in the X5 xDrive35i from 2009 to 2013; early models of the N55 engine were notorious for their faulty High-Pressure Fuel Pumps. BMW later resolved this problem by modifying the HPFP in the N55 engine.

But X5 xDrive35i manufactured between 2010 to 2011 run on the older N55 engine that frequently gives problems related to the high-pressure fuel pump.

A faulty high-pressure fuel pump can have significant bad effects on the performance and efficiency of your vehicle. When the HPFP in your X5 xDrive35i fails, it translates to the following –

  • The fuel pump is struggling to supply a steady stream of fuel to the engine.
  • The high-pressure fuel pump is having a hard time supplying fuel with proper pressure.
  • The fuel pump is sending more fuel than necessary if the relief valve is failing to close.

If the fuel pump in your BMW X5 xDrive35i is faulty or fails, then you would experience the following symptoms –

  • Delay in starting of the engine
  • High engine temperature
  • Slow throttle response
  • Poor acceleration
  • Vehicle stalling
  • Reduced gas mileage

Fixing this problem would require the replacement of the faulty fuel pump. Changing the fuel pump after every 100,000 miles or if you observe any of the above-listed symptoms is recommended.

In the United States, the approximate cost of replacing the fuel pump in the X5 xDrive35i would come anywhere around $1500 and $1600, including the labor cost.

5. Faulty Air Bag Module

BMW X5 xDrive35i from the make year 2017 have a non-functional or faulty frontal airbag module. Many reports claim that the airbag fails to open in the event of a crash.

The leading cause of the problem lies in the airbag inflators that struggle to work properly, causing the frontal passenger airbags to fail. Later, BMW recalled the X5 xDrive35i manufactured in the year 2017. The recall began on 20th March 2017.

However, if your car is not one of them, or you doubt a faulty airbag in your X5 xDrive35i. Then you should immediately notify your dealer or BMW about this issue.

6. Drivetrain Malfunction Error

Drivetrain Malfunction error indicates that the ECU (Engine Control Unit) of the X5 xDrive35i has detected a transmission or an engine issue. ECU will limit the torque output to prevent the vehicle’s vital systems, or the car would go in limp mode.

This error can result from the failure of any of the many components and systems. Thus, you can use an OBD scanner that reads the fault codes to detect the issue to determine the exact cause accurately. 

Common symptoms that accompany the drivetrain malfunction error include –

  • Illuminated check engine light
  • Vehicle going into limp mode
  • Engine cuts off when idling or accelerating
  • Car won’t start

Apart from the above indications, in some cases, the X5 xDrive35i might lose complete power. Moreover, most of the time, the underlying problem can be in the –

  • Spark plugs
  • Ignition coil
  • High-pressure fuel pump
  • Catalytic converter
  • Fuel injectors
  • Low-quality fuel

Thus, to identify and resolve the exact cause of the problem, it is recommended to visit the service station where the technician can study the engine codes to diagnose the faulty component or system of your BMW X5 xDrive35i.