The BMW 5-Series is a midsize executive sedan that’s been in production since the early 1970s.
It’s known for combining the latest automotive tech with a luxurious and roomy cabin, great driving dynamics, powerful engine options, and excellent build quality.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the common issues BMW 5-Series owners have reported over the years and provide different solutions and fixes.
1. Timing Chain Failures
Many sixth generation 5-Series, also known as the F10 model, have fallen victim to timing chain failures which often led to catastrophic engine damage.
This issue affects early 528i models from 2011 to 2014 which were equipped with the 4-cylinder N20 engine. For the 2015 model year, BMW updated the timing chain components which improved the engine’s reliability.
The N63 turbo V8 engine of the sixth gen’s 550i model has also had many reports of excessive timing chain stretching.
Early versions of the N20 engine had plastic timing chain guides which quickly wore out and caused issues such as:
- Timing chain play or slack
- Timing chain skipping gears/teeth
- Broken bits falling into the oil pan
Here’s how one owner described their experience on the BimmerPost.com forum:
“I recently purchased a 2013 528 xDrive with 81,000 miles. I got a local shop to replace the guides and chain. Both guides were cracked or chipped in multiple places and there was plastic in the oil pan.”
Common symptoms of timing chain failure include:
- Loud whining noise when revving the engine
- Low oil pressure warning
- Loud rattling
The timing chain also drives the oil pump. When it breaks, the car also loses oil pressure which often led to damaged engine internals.
You can preemptively replace the guides and chain with the updated parts, which typically costs around $2,000, to avoid more expensive engine repairs in the future.
BMW did acknowledge the timing chain problems and extended the warranty for these components to 7 years/70,000 miles. However, this warranty extension is only applicable to a limited number of vehicles, and most cars are already past the warranty period.
When it comes to the timing chain wear issue of the F10’s V8 engines, you have to get it regularly checked for excessive play or stretching every time you bring the car in for an oil change or service.
2. Water Pump Failures
Premature water pump failures are fairly common in certain models of the fifth generation BMW 5-Series, otherwise known as the E60 model.
Although water pumps are considered a wear item and are normally replaced at around 100,000 miles, later model years of the E60 used an electric water pump that had a tendency to fail at 50,000 miles.
This issue affects the N52 and N54 engines found in models such as the 525i, 528i , 530i and 535i which were sold from 2005 to 2010.
The updated N55 engine found in the sixth gen 5-Series can also have water pump issues, although not at the rate as the older models.
Here’s how a few owners described their experience on the 5Series.net forum:
“I’ve now had my 3rd water pump fail. The first time was around 40k and it was electric failure. Second one failed less than 15K and the plastic case cracked.”
“My 2006 530xi went out at 63,000 miles.”
Signs that might tell you that the electric water pump is problematic include:
- Cooling fan constantly runs at high speed
- Engine temperature warning on the dash
- Trouble code for 2e83 or “electrical cooling pump, low power mode”
- Coolant leak
- Grinding or rattling noise from the engine ba
If you see a temperature warning on the dash, it’s best to pull over and let the engine cool down for around 30 minutes before driving off again.
If you keep driving with an overheating engine, the excess heat can deform the aluminum cylinder head.
Once you start experiencing symptoms of a failing water pump, you’ll want to swap it out for a new OEM unit before it stops working altogether.
When replacing the water pump, most people also install a new thermostat which is another common point of failure.
3. Cooling System Issues
As a BMW 5-Series gets older, the plastic cooling system components will eventually become brittle and crack.
This is a common issue on all BMWs as they reach the 5 to 10 year mark, so you have to be prepared to replace parts as they break.
After several years of ownership, you’ll eventually have to replace parts such as:
- Hoses and pipes
- Expansion tank
- Coolant reservoir
Here’s how one 5-Series owner on Bimmerfest.com described their experience:
“I’m currently just over 69k miles on my 550i, and recently found a couple issues with the engine cooling system. The plastic tube that runs on top of the radiator as part of the vent pipe is leaking on one end (closer to radiator). The float stick in the coolant expansion tank is missing. Without it, I’m not sure how else to tell that I have enough coolant.”
Some of the coolant pipes in the N62 V8 engine of the E60 model and the N63 engine of the F10 5-series are notoriously hard to get to and replace because you’ll basically have to tear the engine apart.
You can preemptively replace some of the more critical parts all at once to avoid overheating issues, but you can also just keep an eye out for leaks and address them as soon as possible.
When your cooling system starts developing leaks, you’ll usually get a low coolant warning on the dash first before any major issues arise.
As the car gets older, it’s best to check the coolant levels regularly instead of waiting for the low coolant warning to pop up. If the engine overheats, the best thing to do is pull over and have the car towed to prevent further damaging the engine.
4. Fuel Pump Issues
There have been many reports of early fuel pump failures in the E60 and F10 generations of the 535i.
This issue typically only affects E60s equipped with the N54 engine from 2007 to 2010, as well as the first model year of the F10 model which had the updated N55 engine, but still used the same fuel pump as the N54.
BMW only updated the fuel pump design for the N55 during the 2012 model year which resulted in a significant reduction of reported failures.
Symptoms of a faulty fuel pump include:
- Hard starting
- Engine shuts off soon after starting
- Check engine light
- Drivetrain Malfunction error
- Reduced power and acceleration
- Engine stall
Here is how a few owners described their experience:
“My last fuel pump in my 535 was installed around 50k or so and I now have exactly 110.200. I was leaving on a trip today and about 2 miles from the house the chime and the half eng power light illuminated with car in limp mode and on iDrive screen it said possible fuel pump failure.”
“I have a 2010 535i that will shut off while driving about every other day. Says “Fuel Pump” on the dash but if I sit there for a while it will start back up.”
If you suspect that your fuel pump is failing, you should scan for trouble codes to confirm the issue. A replacement fuel pump typically costs a few hundred dollars and can be installed with relative ease by an experienced mechanic.
5. Excessive Oil Consumption
The N62 and early N63 V8 engines of the E60 and F10 generation 5-Series have a reputation for excessive oil consumption.
This issue is more prevalent in the 2005 to 2013 model years of the V8 5-Series.
In 2014, the F10 550i started using the updated N63TU engine which had many redesigned parts, resulting in fewer oil consumption problems. However, there are still reports of owners having issues with the newer engine.
Oil consumption is quite normal in most high performance engines. BMW considers burning 1 quart every 1,000 miles as normal, but many owners go through 1 quart at just over 500 miles.
In most cars, oil consumption starts to occur when the piston rings wear out and let oil leak into the combustion chamber where it gets burned off. This usually only happens after the car has reached 150,000 to 200,000 miles.
However, in the case of the N62 and N63 engines, what usually fails first is the rubber valve stem seals. It’s especially bad in the turbocharged N63 engine because it produces even more heat that wears out the seals and also burns off oil quicker.
Here is how one owner described their experience on the BimmerPost forums:
“My 550i now with 115K miles on the clock is consuming 2qts oil approximately every 1000 miles. This consumption rate increased from little if no consumption between 7500K mile oil changes , to this level,over the past 30K miles.”
To fix the oil consumption problem in these cars, you’ll need to replace the valve stem seals which is a fairly big job that requires taking apart the cylinder head. This repair will usually cost you around $2,000 if you have it done at an independent BMW specialist.
If you’re worried about excessive oil consumption, it’s best to get oil changes every 5,000 miles. You can check the oil levels via the vehicle settings in the infotainment system and top it up before it gets too low.
6. Oil Leaks
Oil leaks are a fairly common problem in many BMWs, especially as they get older and the engine’s seals and gaskets wear out over time.
Common places to check for oil leaks include:
- Valve cover gasket
- Oil filter housing
- Oil pan
- Front and rear main seal
- Turbo oil return line
If a leak goes unnoticed, you’ll eventually get a low oil warning on the dash. However, if you wait for the warning to show up, it might already be too late and some of the engine’s internal components may have already been damaged.
This is why it’s important to regularly check your oil levels every few months if not every few weeks. Older BMWs up until the early model years of the E60 generation still have a dipstick in the engine bay which not only lets you quickly check the oil level but also its condition.
To check the oil in a newer BMW 5-Series, you’ll have to navigate the vehicle settings to access the digital oil level gauge.
If the car’s oil level is below the 3/4 mark, top it up until the gauge shows that it’s full. It’s important to keep a few quarts of oil handy if you’re driving an older BMW, and to make sure that you’re using the right type of oil.
Most oil leaks can be easily fixed and a new gasket should only cost you a few dollars. However, some leaks will require lots of disassembly and might require the help of a BMW specialist.
7. Serpentine Belt Issues
When the serpentine belt breaks, it can sometimes get caught on the end of the crankshaft and get sucked into the engine, causing lots of damage.
This is a fairly common issue on the E60 and F10 generation of the BMW 5-Series equipped with N52, N54 and N55 engines, which includes models such as 525i, 528i, 530i and 535i from 2005 and onwards.
Early serpentine belt failures in these cars are often caused by:
- Oil leaking onto the belt
- Misaligned tensioners and pulleys
- Loose power steering pulley
- Loose power steering bolts
- Defective motor mounts
Here’s how one owner described their experience on BimmerFest.com:
“My serpentine belt broke on my 2006 525i about a block from my house, so I was able to drive the car to my driveway, no problem. Opened the hood and there were pieces of belt laying on the bottom of the cover under my car. Went to Advanced Auto and got a new belt and put it on, no problem.”
“Drove the car about 3 miles and the Low Oil Pressure: Stop Engine light came on and the engine shut down maybe 20 seconds later. Had the car towed to BMW dealer and they are telling me pieces of the broken serpentine belt are inside my engine and it’s going to need to have the engine replaced for $10,000 or $4,100 to clean it out and they can’t guarantee that will fix it.”
Belts can suddenly snap if they’re worn out or degraded. Unfortunately, there aren’t many signs of a worn belt aside from maybe hearing a squealing noise when you rev the engine.
Addressing oil leaks early can help keep the belt in good condition. Regularly checking the belt, as well as the pulleys and tensioners, will also help you avoid future headaches.
Related: 11 Best & Worst BMW 5-Series Years (With Facts & Stats)
8. VANOS Issues
BMW’s VANOS variable valve timing system can start having issues at around 70,000 to 100,000 miles especially in older BMWs from 1992 to the mid 2000s.
In older BMWs like the E34, E39 and early E60 models which used the M50, M52 and M54 engines, the VANOS system can be fairly expensive to repair.
When the VANOS fails you’ll experience symptoms such as:
- Reduced power and torque at lower RPMs
- Rough idling
- Poor gas mileage
- Hard starting
- Limp mode problems
Fixing the VANOS requires special tools so you’ll need to take your car to a mechanic or shop that specializes in BMWs. You can often get away with just rebuilding or replacing the actuators, but there are cases where you might need to completely replace or overhaul the VANOS system.
In newer 5-Series models, VANOS issues can usually be dealt with by replacing the solenoids which should only cost you a few hundred dollars.
Some people clean the solenoids to eliminate the symptoms, but this usually only buys you more time until they fail completely.
9. Transmission Issues
The E60 generation of the BMW 5-Series can have transmission problems at higher mileages.
The mechatronic unit in the E60’s ZF 6-speed automatic transmission can start having problems at 50,000 to 100,000 miles. This assembly houses the valve bodies and solenoids which control the flow of hydraulic fluid inside the transmission.
The mechatronic seal adapter and sleeve can fail and cause issues such as:
- Erratic shifting
- Delayed shifting
- Transmission slipping/hesitation
- Harsh or rough gear shifts
- Unable to shift out of park
The M5 model’s SMG single-clutch semi-automatic transmission is no better and usually needs a new SMG pump every few years.
Here’s how one owner on BimmerForums.com described their issue:
“My 2008 BMW 530 suddenly showed a “Transmission Fault” message and I could not put it into Drive from Park. I sent the car to the dealer. They checked and came back with a Mechatronics + Gear Replacement – costs a fortune – almost as much as the current market value.”
Fortunately, most gearbox failures can be fixed by rebuilding the mechatronic unit which can cost you $600 to $1,000. But you’ll need to take your car to an independent specialist because dealers will often quote you for a new gearbox.
To avoid future issues, you should change the transmission fluid every 30,000 to 60,000 miles. In some cases, you might just need to drain and fill the transmission fluid a few times to fix your gearbox problems.
10. Electrical Issues
Early models of the BMW E60 can have loads of electrical problems.
One of the most common points of failure is the Micro Power Module (MPM) which is located in the trunk where it can easily get wet and short itself out.
The MPM controls many of the car’s electronics such as:
- iDrive system
- Door locks
- Climate control
Here’s how a few owners on the 5Series.net forum described their experience:
“Water spilled all over the MPM and caused I-drive, radio and bluetooth to not work. Replaced MPM and checked for any burn fuses and problem persist.”
“It was raining heavily, and when I opened the trunk on my 2004 545i, some of the water run-off from the trunk lid got into the spare wheel well area and shorted everything out.”
To fix the electrical problems, you’ll need to get a new Micro Power Module and get it reprogrammed to work with your car.
Starting with the 2006 model year, BMW relocated the MPM behind the glove box which significantly improved the car’s reliability as far as the electronics are concerned.
11. Sub Par Interior Materials
In recent years, some auto journalists have criticized the 5 Series for its choice of interior materials describing them as below segments standards and stating that rivals offer more grandeur inside.
BMW 5-Series Pros & Cons
- Excellent handling
- Roomy interior
- Great build quality
- Features the latest automotive tech
- Loads of engine options
- Elegant styling
- Extremely comfortable ride
- Out of warranty maintenance can be expensive
- Some models/engines have known issues
- Base models often lack standard features
Related: 10 Most Common BMW 3-Series Problems (Explained)
What Do The Reviews Say?
“The 2023 BMW 5 Series is a comfortable and, depending on the trim, exceedingly quick midsize luxury sedan with some great driver aids and tech features.”
“If the driving experience is truly important to you, then the 5 Series is a sedan to consider. Most of the models are well-rounded performers. In our testing, the four-cylinder 530i managed to cover 0-60 mph in 6.2 seconds, a good showing for a base engine. We also tested a 540i xDrive and recorded an impressive sprint of just 4.6 seconds.”
“The 5 Series is a supremely comfortable car, especially with the optional multi-contour front seats. We are also impressed with the ride quality — it’s comfortable and relatively plush yet well damped so it doesn’t feel floaty.”
“BMW is one of the more aggressive manufacturers when it comes to innovative features, but competitors like Audi and BMW have updated their offerings more recently. Some tech features, such as the excellent 3D surround-view camera, are limited to certain trims or not available at all.”
What’s the Resale Value of a BMW 5-Series?
Here’s a quick look at used car pricing for the 5-Series on Edmunds at the time of writing.