Common BMW Problems You Should Look Out For

Here at The Import Doctors, we love our BMWs as much as you do. The combination of precise handling, communicative steering, smooth inline-6 power, and handsome styling is hard not to love! This is what makes them ”the ultimate driving machines.” While BMWs have much to offer in terms of the driving experience, there are some common problems with them as they age that could really put a dent in your wallet if you’re not careful. Here is a short list of some of the most common BMW repairs you should expect to have done at some point during ownership.

Oil Leaks

If you’ve ever popped the hood of your BMW, you may have noticed a buildup of dark gunk around the top of the engine and oil filter housing. You may also find drips of oil on the ground where you park your car. This occurs on older models and vehicles with high mileage due to the gaskets failing. It’s common for the valve cover gasket, oil housing gasket, and oil pan gasket to spring a leak over time. While this is mostly a nuisance more than anything else, it should be addressed to avoid it from becoming a major leak which could result in measurable oil loss between oil changes.

Ignition Coils

Your vehicle’s ignition coils – also known as coil packs – are responsible for sending electrical current to the spark plugs which ignites the air fuel mixture in the combustion chamber. There is one coil per cylinder and if an individual coil goes bad, then that cylinder will no longer fire. When this happens, your car will run very rough and a flashing check engine light will appear on the gauge cluster. Inexperienced mechanics can misdiagnose this for a larger problem, so it’s important you bring your car to an expert BMW mechanic (like us!). We’ll accurately diagnose the problem and only replace the defective coil(s). While this sounds expensive, the coils themselves are reasonably priced and readily available in our parts warehouse.


The secret behind BMW’s inline-6 smooth idle, mid-range torque, and top-end power delivery is their VANOS system. What this does is varies the valve timing by changing the position of the camshafts relative to the gear you’re in and the load on the vehicle. At idle and cruising, the valves are opened later for increased fuel efficiency and at high speeds and under full throttle, the valves open earlier for maximum power. After while, the Buna-N o-rings on the VANOS system will need to be replaced. When you have bad seals you may notice a rough idle, poor low-speed power delivery, and a rattling coming from the engine bay. A check engine light may also illuminate on your dash. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, bring your BMW to us for a thorough diagnosis.

Cooling System

The achilles heel of BMW inline-6 engines is the cooling system. The cooling system is a critical component of the engine – it circulates coolant through the block and cylinder head and then to the radiator to control engine temperate. Any issues with the cooling system should be addressed immediately to avoid major damage. We recommend the cooling system be inspected regularly and the key components be replaced every 30,000-40,000 miles, including the waterpump, thermostat, and main hoses. If one of these components failed your engine would overheat and could cause the head gasket to fail, or worse the cylinder head to crack. Both of those major repairs cost significantly more than basic cooling system maintenance.

BMW Repair Experts

Owning a BMW is rewarding and you shouldn’t let minor automotive repairs take away from that. The best thing you can do is to have your car regularly inspected and maintained by a shop that specializes in BMW repairs. If you own a BMW and you’re experiencing any of the common problems that we talked about, or you’d like to have it checked for these issues, bring it to us for a comprehensive diagnosis. We’re conveniently located just south of downtown at 1024 6th Avenue South. Walk-ins are welcome, but it’s always a good idea to call first to make an appointment – (206) 728-2212. We look forward to hearing from you!

Written by The Import Doctors

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