Common Problems with the BMW 5 Series

Ellie Dyer-Brown, 2 months ago

5 min read

  • Advice
  • carproblems
  • bmw
A silver 5 Series from late 2019.

WhoCanFixMyCar explores some problems drivers have reported with the BMW 5 Series and how much you can expect to pay on average to get them fixed.

The 5 Series has been setting the standard for luxury saloons since 1972, easily competing with rivals like the Jaguar XF and Audi A6 by offering drivers a complete package of refinement, comfort and choice. This car gets pretty much everything right - but what about long-term reliability and repair costs? Detailed information can be hard to come by, which is where this guide comes in.

Known pain-points for the BMW 5 Series include:

What’s wrong with the BMW 5 Series?

Drivers frequently search for information about the following issues. 

BMW 5 Series air suspension problem

Rear air suspension issues are common in the 5 Series Gran Turismo, causing symptoms such as the vehicle leaning to one side, sagging at the rear, a loud bag from the suspension airbag, and hissing noises.

Air suspension differs from conventional suspension because instead of featuring a physical steel spring at each wheel, it uses bladders that can be inflated or deflated using a compressor. As the volume of air changes, so does the car's height.

Learn more about how suspension systems work here.

A few things can go wrong with air suspension systems:

  • Airbag leaks

  • Faulty air lines

  • Loose or broken electrical connections

  • Broken compressor

  • Malfunctioning ride height sensor

  • Faulty control module

It’s more challenging to diagnose the cause of air suspension problems than with a conventional suspension system, especially without existing mechanical knowledge. The best course of action is to contact an expert.

The average price of suspension repairs for a BMW 5 Series is £149.97.

BMW 5 Series air conditioning problem

One of the most common explanations for AC failure in the 5 Series is a refrigerant leak, which allows gas to escape from the system, eventually stopping it from blowing cold air. In addition to warm air from your aircon, you may also notice a quiet hissing sound.

The dashboard controls of a car's aircon.

Fortunately, an aircon technician can locate and fix the leak for you in no time. On average, this type of air conditioning service costs £90.42 for a 5 Series.

BMW 5 Series auto gearbox problems

Some 5 Series owners have reported issues with the automatic gearbox, including jerking, clunking and sudden drops in speed. Many automatic transmissions are jerky, so this symptom doesn’t necessarily indicate a fault, but clunking noises and changes in performance should be investigated.

Image of an automatic transmission.

You can learn more about how automatic gearboxes work in this guide.

Auto gearbox problems can be caused by various things, from faulty solenoids to a damaged torque converter. The average price of an auto gearbox repair for a 5 Series is £734.94 when you book through WhoCanFixMyCar.

BMW 5 Series alternator problems

The alternator converts chemical energy into electrical energy to replenish the battery - a process that happens as you drive. 

Two hands holding a car alternator.

When your alternator starts to fail, you’ll notice the electrical systems in your car behaving unusually. For instance, the lights may dim, and the radio will slow down or not work at all because the battery can’t give it enough power.

Read about five signs of a faulty alternator.

These symptoms indicate it’s time to get a new alternator fitted, which costs £483.67 on average for a 5 Series.

BMW 5 Series bonnet release problem

If your bonnet releases on one side and not the other, as is common in the 5 Series, the cable to the latch is likely broken and will need to be replaced. This job should be quick and easy, costing no more than £50.

BMW 5 Series 1995 to 2003 problems

A 2002 BMW 5 Series

We’re kicking off with the Mk4 5 Series - which went on sale in 1995 - since few models from previous generations are likely to still be on the road.

1. Faulty cooling system

The main issue to look out for in a Mk4 5 Series is a malfunctioning cooling system, which accounts for a quarter of all trips to the garage. Ensure the engine doesn’t start overheating on a test drive, and look for any signs of leaking coolant under the car. It’s also worthwhile inspecting the hoses and radiator for signs of wear.

Close up of a car's coolant reservoir.

The most common problems are:

  • Cracked hoses

  • A faulty or stuck thermostat

  • Failed water pump

  • Damaged radiator

Fixing coolant hoses in a 5 Series costs £75.20 on average, and general engine and cooling repairs cost £101.00.

2. Electrical glitches

Many modern cars suffer from electrical issues, and the 5 Series is no different. Some drivers have reported intermittent problems with the indicators, radio switch and dashboard cluster. 

The first thing to check is the fuse box, which could be at fault. Otherwise, it’s hard to tell what’s causing these symptoms without inspecting the car, so it’s best to make an appointment with a local mechanic or auto electrician.

According to our data, diagnosing a 5 Series electrical fault costs £61.04 on average.

3. Oil leaks

Mk4 5 Series models will likely have many miles on the clock, and all the wear and tear you'd expect. Oil leaks become more common as they age, particularly from the rocker cover gasket, which seals the engine and rocker cover, and the oil filter cap.

A puddle of dark brown engine oil that has leaked from a car.

Read this guide for advice on locating, identifying and fixing car fluid leaks.

You can expect to pay £73.67 on average to repair a 5 Series leak when you book through WhoCanFixMyCar.

4. Sticking valves

Early 528i models are known to get stuck valves from running on high-sulphur petrol. When you’re having trouble with your valves, you’ll often hear popping or ticking noises, which increase in volume and intensity as the car accelerates. Other signs to look out for include blue smoke from the exhaust and loss of engine power.

You should replace stuck valves to get your car working as usual.

Our data on valve replacement prices is limited; the best way to determine how much this will likely cost is to request quotes below.

BMW 5 Series 1995 to 2003 recalls

Recall DateReason
30-Jul-99Possibility that gearbox may lock up
15-Dec-99Brake lights may fail to operate, remain on or flicker
09-Nov-01Tyres may have cuts in side walls
31-Jan-02Engine cooling fan may fail
22-Feb-02Possible detachment of ball bearing from front suspensions strut top mounting
01-Nov-03Unintentional deployment of airbag

BMW 5 Series 2004 to 2010 problems

bmw 5 series from 2006

1. Tyre leaks

Run flat tyres were fitted to most models as standard and are known for leaking air. Unfortunately, they are expensive to replace, and it can be hard to tell whether they are leaking from just an inspection and test drive when buying second-hand.

Learn more about run flat tyres and how they work in this guide.

You could swap run flats for conventional tyres, but BMW doesn’t recommend this because models with larger wheels were only tested on run flats.

A mechanic selecting a tyre in a workshop.

WhoCanFixMyCar has a wide range of run flat and conventional tyres and expert fitters nationwide. Check out our reviews and buying guides for advice on which tyres to choose.

2. Worn suspension

Suspension issues are common, with some components wearing down faster than expected. When this happens, you may notice your car pulling to one side, a reduction in ride comfort, squeaking noises, difficulty steering and one corner of the vehicle sitting lower than the others.

Close up of car shock absorbers.

Find out how suspension systems work here.

Repairing the suspension on a BMW 5 Series costs £149.97 on average when you book through WhoCanFixMyCar.

3. Malfunctioning iDrive infotainment system

The iDrive infotainment system in some early models can malfunction, and when it does, it renders the stereo, heating, and phone controls useless. Likewise, some drivers have reported that it fails to work on cold mornings until the car has been driven long enough to warm up.

You could contact an auto electrician to fix this problem (costing £71.18 on average for a diagnosis), but it might be best to go to a BMW specialist since it is a known fault.

4. Injector defects

Fuel injectors atomise fuel and push it into the combustion chamber at the correct moment in the combustion process. Injector defects are a known issue for 525i and 530i models with the N53 petrol engine. 

A hand holding a fuel injector.

When your fuel injectors stop working correctly, you’ll likely experience:

Fuel injection system repairs for a BMW 5 Series cost £122.17 on average when you book through WhoCanFixMyCar.

5. Transmission fluid leaks

Transmission fluid is red, making it easy to identify. It makes changing gears less strenuous by lubricating and moving components. Unfortunately, automatic 5 Series models are prone to transmission fluid leaks, leading to slipping gears, accelerated wear and grinding noises if left unrepaired.

Red transmission fluid being poured into reservoir.

Checking your transmission fluid level is the first step in determining whether there is a leak. After that, follow the advice in this guide to see if you can spot where the leak is coming from.

The average 5 Series leak repair price on WhoCanFixMyCar is £73.67.

BMW 5 Series 2004 to 2010 recalls

Recall DateReason
22-Mar-04Possible fault in the DSC yaw rate sensor
14-Jul-04Possibility of inadvertent loss of engine power
23-Dec-04Front seat back-rest heater may overheat
08-Feb-05The bearings of the fuel injection pump may fail
06-Jul-06Rear shock absorber mounting may fail
15-Jul-08Rear axle carrier may fail
11-Nov-10Possible reduction in brake servo assistance

BMW 5 Series 2011 to 2017 problems

A blue 2015 BMW 5 Series.

1. Worn brakes

Since the 5 Series is heavy on its suspension and brakes, these components tend to wear out more quickly - especially the brake pads, which you should check the condition of if buying a car second-hand. Brake pads push against brake discs to create friction, slowing the vehicle, but this also causes abrasions, weakening them over time.

Brake pads typically last between 30,000 and 70,000 miles.

Brake Pads

Worn brake pads often cause the following symptoms:

  • Screeching, squealing or grinding noises

  • Vibrations through the brake pedal

  • Lack of responsiveness when you apply the brake pedal

  • Pulling to one side

Here are five brake problems you should never ignore.

The average price of brake repairs for a 5 Series on WhoCanFixMyCar is £735.20. However, this is how much it’s likely to cost to replace all four brake pads and discs, not just the pads.

2. Leaking engine oil

In addition to leaks from normal wear and tear, four engine bolts may work loose on some Mk6 models, causing oil to leak and the engine management light to illuminate.

Find out other reasons why your engine management light might come on in this guide.

BMW issued a recall for this problem, so affected models should have already been repaired, but it’s worth checking the service and repair history if you’re in the market for a used 5 Series.

3. Ticking noises

Ticking noises can be maddening, especially when caused by something more serious than a stone stuck in your tyre tread. This sound is common in the Mk6 5 Series and usually comes from the front wheels due to a lack of clearance between the back of the brake disc and the wheel-bearing flange.

Brake Calipers

Repairing this issue is simple. All you have to do is remove the wheels and fit a washer between the above mentioned components. Or, if you don’t feel confident doing this yourself, a mechanic will happily do it for you.

Our data doesn’t cover how much this will likely cost, but the job should be quick and inexpensive. You can learn about other causes of ticking sounds here.

4. Leaking water

The last thing you want is for a passenger to climb into your car and be met by a musty smell and squelchy footwell. Unfortunately, this sometimes happens in the Mk6 5 Series due to a leak between the blower cover and the blower motor housing. 

To fix this issue, you’ll have to remove the parts from your car and tighten the screws connecting them. As always, this is a job a mechanic can do for you if you don’t fancy messing with anything under the bonnet.

5. Worn timing chain components

If you hear grinding noises when you start your car, never ignore them because they often indicate a problem with the timing chain. And although timing chains usually last between 80,000 and 120,000 miles, they are notorious for wearing out more quickly in the 5 Series. 

Timing chain hero image

This guide discusses how to find out whether your car has a timing chain or belt.

Cars that have done less than 50,000 miles when the grinding starts should have the lower guide rails, upper chain tensioner and guide sleeves replaced, while cars that have done more miles will also need the upper and lower chains, upper and lower guide rails and high-pressure pump cog replacing.

Typical signs of a worn timing chain include:

BMW 5 Series 2011 to 2017 recalls

Recall DateReason
17-Nov-11Short circuit may occur
27-Apr-12Fire may occur
26-Sep-12Engine may fail
20-Dec-13Towing ball hitch may detach
28-Jul-14Engine emergency mode may be activated during driving
16-Nov-16Front airbags and seat belt tensioners may fail to deploy when needed
10-Jan-17Airbags may not deploy
11-Apr-17Driveshaft universal joint may break
20-Jun-17Brake switch may be activated permanently
21-Sep-17Steering rack might lock

BMW 5 Series 2018 to 2023 problems

It’s too soon to say whether there are any recurring common problems with the latest 5 Series, but BMW has issued several recalls.

A black 2018 BMW 5 Series in the rain.

Leaking EGR cooler

The EGR cooler is a heat exchanger between the EGR valve and the turbo. It features one or more hollow tubes for exhaust gases to pass through, and several coolant passages surround these tubes. The purpose of the cooler is to dilute the air-fuel mixture with cooled exhaust gas to lower the combustion temperature.

BMW issued a recall due to leaking EGR coolers, meaning affected models should have been repaired for free. However, if you’re buying an Mk7 5 Series second-hand, it’s a good idea to have someone check the cooler for signs of leaks and ensure it wasn’t affected by the recall (or, if it was, that it has been repaired).

Cooling system issues

Cooling system problems are a recurring theme for BMW, particularly in relation to the thermostat and water pump, so this is something to look out for in the Mk7 based on the performance of its predecessor. 

Close up of a car thermostat

You might notice overheating, coolant leaks, strange sounds, and erratic temperature changes when the thermostat goes. A failing water pump can trigger the same symptoms.

If there’s an issue with your car’s cooling system, you should stop driving immediately and arrange a repair to prevent further damage.

General engine and cooling repairs cost £109.25 on average for a 5 Series.

BMW 5 Series 2018 to 2023 recalls

Recall DateReason
20-Aug-18Software fault with crankshaft sensor
15-Oct-18Software fault in crankshaft sensor
09-Dec-19The pressing force of the bearing bushing into the crankcase may be out of specification
22-Oct-20Remaining particles in the cells of the high voltage battery can cause a short circuit
14-Dec-20Remaining particles in the cells of the high voltage battery can cause a short circuit
25-Jan-21The battery cables on the 28V starter generator may not have been sufficiently secured during production
09-Feb-21Exhaust gas recirculation cooler could leak over time
15-Mar-21Affected vehicles may be fitted with brake discs which are not to specification

29-Mar-21Rear drive shafts may not fulfil the durability requirements 29-Dec-21|The material quality of the screws used for seat belts and rear seats may not be to specifications 28-Mar-22|The OBD software could misinterpret certain input parameters for the engine management system

Is the BMW 5 Series reliable?

WhatCar? has awarded the Mk7 5 Series saloon a strong reliability rating of 97.2%, putting it in second place out of 24 cars in the most recent reliability survey. BMW had a respectable but slightly weaker performance, coming 12th out of 32 manufacturers. However, TheCarExpert rates the 5 Series much less highly, giving it a poor reliability score of 26%. 

Overall, the 5 Series is a reasonably reliable executive car, reflected by how few common problems have emerged over the years. It isn’t the best for reliability, but it is class-leading in other ways, earning a largely positive industry-wide reputation.

If you’re having trouble with your BMW 5 Series, WhoCanFixMyCar can help you find the right garage at the right price, whatever you need.

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