7 Common Problems of the BMW X5 Diesel (Solved)

7 Common Problems of the BMW X5 Diesel (Solved)

As BMW’s first SUV in 1999, the X5 is officially classified as a “Sports Activity Vehicle” by the manufacturer, and this has remained true for its 4th-generation model today.

But just like any other vehicle on the road, the BMW X5 is not perfect, as it has its own issues that all need to be addressed.

In this article, we’re going to shed some light on the common problems that have plagued the BMW X5 models throughout the years and see what we can do to resolve them. 

What are the common problems of the BMW X5 3.0 Diesel?

The BMW X5’s engine tends to stall due to issues with either the timing chain, fuel system, or electrical system.

The transmission, MAF sensor, and battery of the BMW X5 are all also known to run into their own issues.

It’s also known to suffer from coolant leaks, oil leaks, and sunroof leaks.

There are still several other issues of the BMW X5 to go through, so we’ve outlined each of them in more detail below.

Hopefully, by the end of it, you will be well-versed in figuring out and solving the various problems that the BMW X5 can present.

Of course, we would still like to be clear that this guide isn’t a substitute for actually going to an authorized BMW mechanic, especially if you don’t have much automotive experience yourself.

1. Stalling and Jerky Engine

Stalling and Jerky Engine

One of the most common (and major) problems that many BMW X5 owners have reported is that their engine seems to become jerky and even stall at times.

This usually happens during idle or whenever the vehicle tries to accelerate after throttle input. Additionally, you can also run into issues with getting the car to start up right away.

You would feel the car struggling to maintain power (hence the jerky feeling) until it eventually stalls out. 

Specifically, diesel variants and BMW X5 models from 2011 seem to suffer from this more, although various X5 models from 2001 to 2017 have reportedly had this issue as well.

This is also more likely to happen in BMW X5 models with considerably high mileage, which is an average of around 80,000 miles (almost 130,000km) or more.

There are actually a few common culprits to the BMW X5’s stalling problem that mainly relate to its timing chain, fuel system, and electrical system.

In addition, this can also be caused by a blockage somewhere in the exhaust system, though this happens to a lesser extent in the BMW X5’s case.

While it’s initially quite difficult to narrow down the reason for the stalling issue, we’ll be dissecting each of the underlying causes we’ve mentioned to give a clearer distinction.

Bad or Failing Timing Chain

Bad or Failing Timing Chain

One probable cause of the BMW X5’s stalling and jerky engine problem can be traced to a bad or failing timing chain.

The timing chain connects your engine’s camshaft and crankshaft, so when it begins to fail, it can throw the whole timing process out of sync and lead to engine misfire and stalling.

There are specific BMW X5 models that you should look out for that are prone to timing chain issues, which are the 3-liter diesel variants belonging to the 2nd generation (2006 to 2013).

While it has been more frequently reported to happen in models until the 2012 model year, you still need to be on the lookout for this kind of issue on both older and newer models, regardless.

For instance, the E53 BMW X5, which is the 1st-generation model, also runs into problems with its timing guide rails, which are essential in keeping the timing chain in place.

In both cases mentioned, you will simply need to replace either the timing chain or timing guide rails, depending on which fails first.

Fuel System Issues

Fuel System Issues

Another common cause of a stalling BMW X5 engine is a fault in the fuel system, which can be related to the fuel injectors, fuel pump, and fuel filter. 

The BMW X5, just like any car with an internal combustion engine, needs every part of its fuel system working in harmony with each other.

If any fuel system component was to get damaged or fail, then that can also be a reason for the BMW X5’s engine to misfire and eventually stall.

While there is always a chance for it to happen to any model year, the 2013 BMW X5 models received the most fuel system-related complaints from owners.

Such complaints included a broken fuel pump that left particles that clogged the fuel system and failed injectors that eventually led to the common stalling issue.

As with the timing chain earlier, you will generally need to replace any fuel system component that fails. We recommend asking for an authorized BMW service center’s help with this.

Even the quality of fuel that you put in the tank itself can be a factor in a fuel system failing to work properly.

Contaminated fuel can also clog the fuel filter easily, which can result in poorer engine performance.

Make sure that you’re using the recommended fuel for your BMW X5, which is generally low-sulfur diesel for the diesel variants and around 91 to 93 octane for the gasoline ones.

Electrical System Malfunctions

Electrical System Malfunctions

The BMW X5’s electrical system is another possible source of its engine stalling issue, as various electrical components fail to work.

While the BMW X5 diesel variants do not have sparkplugs, they still have something called “glow plugs” that work in a similar way.

Glow plugs are also technically connected to the fuel system we’ve discussed above, though it ignites the fuel by heating it up instead of sparking it.

However, glow plugs still need electric current in order for the “heating element” at the tip of it to work.

Whenever a glow plug fails in your BMW X5, it can also be a cause of engine misfiring, stalling, and even failure to start.

Luckily, glow plugs cost just as much as spark plugs, which are actually relatively inexpensive.

It’s generally recommended to replace glow plugs every 100,000 miles (161,000km).

Spark plugs, on the other hand, should be replaced every 30,000 to 60,000 miles, depending on the specific BMW X5 model you have.

Another electrical component that can go bad on the BMW X5 is its alternator, which can cause the battery to discharge as well.

The alternator powers a lot of electrical components on the BMW X5 and also charges its battery while you’ve got the engine on.

Aside from a discharged battery, another way to know if your alternator is going bad is that the battery indicator light on your gauge cluster will turn on.

You will also notice that it will be difficult to crank up the engine right away and all your onboard electronics start weakening.

This is because, with a bad alternator, the electrical load will solely be provided by the battery. When the battery runs out while you’re driving, the engine will also stall in the process.

The alternator is a much more expensive part to replace and usually costs upwards of $1,200 in the US.

It’s also worth checking your engine’s electrical wires to see if there is any damage to them, as any damaged wire can disrupt the natural flow of electric current to various engine components.

2. Transmission Problems

Transmission Problems

Another known issue with the BMW X5 among owners is something to do with its transmission, especially the CVT transmission that the automatic models use.

The BMW X5’s CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) specifically found in some 2011 year models is known to have faulty mechatronic sensors.

Faults in the mechatronic sensor lead to irregular shifting regardless of the inputs made by the sensor.

Once this happens, a transmission warning light will also be illuminated on the gauge cluster.

Other BMW X5 models a year later also run into vibration issues with their transfer cases, which connect the transmission to the front and rear axles of all-wheel drive (AWD) X5 models.

Generally, the BMW X5 is also known to leak transmission fluid, which is only just one of several kinds of leak-related problems that it has.

The main cause of this leak was found to be caused by either a broken mechatronic sleeve or bridge seal adaptor.

Both the mechatronic sleeve and the bridge seal adaptor are basically gaskets that allow the transmission fluid to flow into the engine’s valve body while sealing the connection tight.

Whenever they leak, it will obviously cause a drop in the transmission fluid level, which turns the BMW X5’s “limp mode” on.

Even though the limp mode is a security feature that’s necessary to protect any car’s engine and transmission, it can be an annoying hindrance to your car’s performance.

Whenever your BMW X5 is in limp mode, you may notice any of the following symptoms:

  • You will have reduced engine power
  • The check engine light/service engine light will turn on
  • You will be locked out of higher transmission gears (e.g. 3rd, 4th, 5th gear)
  • The turbocharger will deactivate and not make any boost
  • The RPM limit will be lower

At that point, it’s definitely a good time to go straight to an authorized mechanic to resolve this problem. 

While both of the gaskets we’ve mentioned are not that expensive to replace, it’s a completely different story when they cause damage to other major parts of the transmission.

For instance, replacing the entire transfer case will cost several thousands of dollars including labor.

3. Mass Airflow (MAF) Sensor Problem

Mass Airflow (MAF) Sensor Problem

The BMW X5 uses a mass airflow (MAF) sensor that detects how much air is entering the engine via the air filter element.

It’s a common issue for the BMW X5 to have a faulty mass air flow sensor. Specifically, BMW X5 models made before 2013 have a bigger tendency to have this issue.

Once the MAF sensor doesn’t work properly, it will not be able to accurately calculate the airflow, causing the ECU (or DME for BMWs) to receive incorrect readings.

Furthermore, this will throw off the delicate air-fuel ratio of the engine, leading to a number of possible issues that we’ve explained below.

While replacing the BMW X5’s MAF sensor is a quick and simple task even for non-mechanics, it will still set you back $300 or more to buy a new one.

Replacing the MAF sensor is generally recommended every 100,000 miles or so, but if you’re nowhere near this mileage, then you can consider cleaning it with a MAF sensor cleaner.

Engine Idling Roughly

One of the most noticeable signs of a bad MAF sensor is that your engine starts to idle roughly even when it’s already completely warmed up.

Additionally, the engine can also completely shut down while it’s idling this way, which comes full circle with the BMW X5’s stalling problem we’ve discussed previously.

Reduced Engine Response

Whenever you have a faulty MAF sensor,  you can also feel that the engine has a sluggish response to your throttle input. This results in poorer acceleration overall.

Louder Engine Noises

An incorrect air-fuel ratio caused by a bad MAF sensor can make your engine sound louder than normal.

This is because there is an irregular rate of combustion happening within an engine with an incorrect air-fuel ratio, resulting in louder or even knocking noises.

Service Engine Light (SEL) Turns On

Service Engine Light (SEL) Turns On

Even if you don’t notice the change in the engine’s idling right away, there will be a service engine light (SEL) that will turn on in the BMW X5’s gauge cluster.

While this light can turn on for a myriad of other reasons, it’s still generally good to be aware whenever it does come on.

4. Various Leaks

Various Leaks

The BMW X5 has been plagued with a lot of different leak-related issues, and the difficulty (and cost) in fixing them depends on what and where the leak is.

Coolant Leak

The cooling system of the BMW X5 is a well-known weak point of the vehicle because of its tendency to leak coolant as you rack up the miles.

There are several places where your BMW X5’s coolant can leak from:

  • Broken radiator
  • Damaged auxiliary fan
  • Failing coolant/radiator hoses
  • Blown head gasket
  • Damaged coolant expansion tank

Even though leaks from the cooling system are more common in the 1st-generation BMW X5 models (E53), this can happen to any diesel model of other generations too.

Some common signs to look for, other than liquid leaking under your car, are a low coolant warning light and even a bit of rough idling.

If you lose enough coolant from the system, you also run the risk of overheating your engine, which can snowball into an expensive list of repairs.

If any of the above-mentioned parts are the source of the coolant leak, then the cost to replace them can vary depending on the part.

Both a damaged radiator and a blown head gasket can cost over $350 to replace, while hose replacements can cost around $40 to $70 depending on the job and materials. 

Oil Leak

This is a leak that we mentioned earlier because it also has something to do with the BMW X5’s automatic/CVT gearbox leaking oil/fluid.

As we’ve mentioned, the main culprit is either a damaged mechatronic sleeve or bridge seal adaptor, and replacing either of these will ultimately be the way to stop the leaking.

Sunroof Leak

The BMW X5 is also known to get water leaks from its sunroof whether it’s raining outside or you’re washing and rinsing your car off.

While the sunroof mechanism itself works fine, the sunroof’s drain tubes that should be keeping water or any outside elements from entering the cabin are known to fail.

Leaks from the sunroof can even potentially damage some electronic parts in the cabin, which can further increase the repair or replacement costs.

In some cases, the drain tubes simply need to be unclogged, while in other cases where it has been damaged, it actually needs replacing.

5. Premature Battery Failure

Premature Battery Failure

The battery on the BMW X5 should last you for about three to five years, but unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

The BMW X5’s battery sometimes dies out way before its expected lifespan even if the alternator is working just fine.

One common cause is that the battery terminals are either loose or have corroded and fail to receive electric current from the alternator.

The symptoms you would notice from a weak or dead battery are very similar to those of a bad alternator, which include difficulty starting the engine and weakening of various electronics.

Getting a new battery will cost about $500 to $600 depending on the specific brand and model you choose.

6. Steering Problems

Steering Problems

Another big and, sometimes, dangerous flaw of the BMW X5 is that it can also run into steering problems.

One issue that owners report is that the steering wheel feels very jerky, especially in very cold temperatures.

This is an issue with the BMW X5’s software itself. Getting it updated at a BMW service center not only fixes the jerky steering issue but also improves other basic driving functionalities.

Additionally, BMW recalled thousands of X5 diesel models from 2009 to 2013 because of an issue with their idler pulleys breaking, leading to a loss of power steering in the process.

With no power steering, it will be noticeably harder to steer the BMW X5 and an alternator warning light will turn on (for the idler pulley failure).

Getting a new idler pulley for a BMW X5 will generally cost you around $132 to $144 on the parts alone, while the labor for replacing it costs similarly ($132 to $167).

7. Airbag-Related Problems

Airbag-Related Problems

The airbags are a very important safety feature on just about any vehicle, but they sadly fail to work properly on the BMW X5 sometimes.

For the 2008 model year, the BMW X5 had a faulty front seat person detection mat that didn’t deploy the airbags even in a significantly severe crash.

This prompted BMW to immediately recall around 200,000 of their 2008 BMW X5 units and even offered to repair the detection mat along with giving an extended 10-year warranty.

Similarly, 2001 to 2003 BMW X5 models also had an airbag-related recall, but for the exact opposite reason. 

Instead of not deploying at all, the front airbag would deploy and rupture with metal fragments because of a degraded propellant, potentially injuring occupants.

Since March 2017, the replacement of the front airbags on the aforementioned BMW X5 models has been free of charge, according to BMW of North America.

Pros and Cons of the BMW X5 Diesel

In this section, we’ll summarize and compare the pros and cons of the BMW X5 Diesel to see if it’s worth looking past its flaws.

Pros of the BMW X5 Diesel

Powerful Engine Performance

The 3-liter straight-6 (or I6) diesel variant of the BMW X5 packs quite a punch, making as much as 394hp and 760Nm of torque for 4th-generation models equipped with the B57 engine.

Excellent Handling for an SUV

The BMW X5, whether it’s a diesel or gasoline variant, has always been known to have excellent handling comparable to that of a sports car. 

This is further complemented by BMW’s xDrive technology, which cleverly modulates the ratio of power distributed to the front and rear axles depending on the road conditions.

Great Exterior Styling

Regardless of the generation, the BMW X5 has always been a looker, and that’s before you even take the sportier “X5M” model into consideration.

With the introduction of the 4th-generation model, it’s now even more difficult to not notice its blend of aggressive yet luxurious styling.

Equipped with Numerous Luxurious Features

As each generation of the BMW X5 is made, more and more luxurious features are added both to the interior and exterior of the vehicle.

These include a panoramic sunroof, LED headlights, 12.3-inch displays both in the middle of the dash and behind the steering wheel, a 360-degree parking camera, and many more.

Comfortable and Spacious Interior

Let’s not forget that the BMW X5 is, after all, an SUV (or SAV, as BMW likes to call it). Thus, there is plenty of space to be had in its interior for both people and cargo.

Not only do you get over 36 inches of legroom, but the seats themselves are nicely made for the occupants’ utmost comfort.

Cons of the BMW X5 Diesel

Prone to Engine Stalling

Despite the BMW X5 Diesel having a powerful engine, it’s quite notorious for stalling its engine due to several electronic, fuel, and timing-related issues.

Leaks in Different Places

The BMW X5 Diesel is known to leak in several places, mainly the transmission, sunroof, and different parts of the cooling system.

Faulty CVT Mechatronic Sensors

The CVT of automatic BMW X5 Diesel models sometimes has faulty mechatronic sensors, which can cause irregular shifting that doesn’t go by what the sensor reads.

Faulty MAF Sensor

The MAF sensor is another common weak point of the BMW X5 Diesel and can lead to an incorrect air-fuel ratio inside the engine.

Short Battery Life

The factory-provided battery of the BMW X5 Diesel tends to prematurely discharge, which can commonly be traced back to its terminals being corroded and not receiving any electric current.

Steering-Related Issues

The BMW X5 Diesel sometimes runs into steering issues either because of an error in its software or an idler pulley failure that causes the power steering to not work.

Airbag Issues

BMW X5 Diesel models are known to have issues with their airbags, in which the airbags either don’t deploy during a serious collision or deploy and rupture randomly.

Steep Pricing for Newer Models

When it comes to a vehicle like the BMW X5 Diesel, you can always expect to pay a premium price tag, especially with the newer models.

With a base price of $60,600 for the 2022 model year, it’s far from being a budget-friendly SUV. It’s still a price tag that’s to be expected from a BMW, regardless.



After discussing multiple pros and cons of the BMW X5 Diesel, we’ll now be answering one more question below.

Is the BMW X5 Diesel reliable?

Whether the BMW X5 Diesel is reliable or not will depend on the specific model generation that you’re going to get, as not every BMW X5 model was made equally.

With the newer 3rd-generation (F15) and 4th-generation (G05) models, most of the issues discussed above have already been addressed and are now less likely to happen.

We generally recommend being warier about the 1st-generation (E53) and 2nd-generation (E70) BMW X5 models, in which age is an undeniable factor in their reliability.

Based on our research, they seem to be the more commonly associated models with the problems we’ve discussed.