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hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
92,024 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2003 BMW X5 drivetrain problems

drivetrain problem

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2003 BMW X5 Owner Comments

problem #8

Jun 042014

X5 6-cyl

  • 51,000 miles


Stopped at red light and when resumed driving at green light, suddenly heard loud grinding noise in drive mode (D). Stopped car immediately. Tuned off engine and started again after few minutes and same grinding noise in drive mode as well as reverse mode. Not able to move the car when accelerate. Towed the car to my local BMW mechanic (he has his own service center not a dealer owned). During phone conversation, he suspected its something to do with transfercase/front drive shaft and upon physical inspection he confirmed its those two parts. The spline connection between drive shaft and transfer case went bad. The mechanic knew of this issue happening in several X5S but not at such low mileage (51K only). Ended up replacing the bad parts through him as I had no hopes dealer will fix this issue at their expense based on several readings online and feedback from other car owners. Total repair cost $4000 oem parts plus labor. Read in several BMW forums (bimmerforum, bimmerfest etc, ) this is very common problem. Experts believe it is due to a design flaw in the connection between front drive shaft and transfer case (drive shaft being an inch short).there are custom front drive shaft available that are about 1inch longer than the oem part. Another factor that may be driving this issue could be related to ac condensate pipe location right above where the drive shaft and transfer case connects. I read this in another complain but unable to confirm as I'm not the mechanic. Based on the same issue reported so far (and many that are not reported just because not everyone is internet savvy to report), it is high time BMW needs to be pushed for repairing this issue in future and refund repair cost for those who already fixed it on their own.

- Clarksburg, MD, USA

problem #7

Feb 052014


  • 128,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 BMW X5. The contact stated while traveling at any speed, the vehicle jerked violently without warning intermittently on multiple occasions. The vehicle was taken to a local mechanic who diagnosed that the transfer case needed to be repaired. The vehicle was scheduled to be repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 128,000.

- Coatesville, PA, USA

problem #6

Feb 152011

X5 6-cyl

  • 101,680 miles
The temperature was about 5 degrees F. after driving a short distance, there was a large amount of smoke from tailpipes and smoke from engine compartment. Engine oil warning message and ses light illuminated. The engine hesitated and misfired. After stopping, the back of the X5 was covered in oil. The engine compartment was covered in oil and oil coated the exhaust manifold. The X5 had to be towed to the dealer. The dealer indicated the ccv was frozen and it was common in these cars. When the ccv freezes, it can suck the oil from the oil sump through the ccv into the intake manifold. The valve cover gasket usually blows from the increased pressure. If enough oil is sucked in through the intake manifold, it can hydrolock the engine, breaking piston rods, etc or the engine can seize from lack of oil. BMW is aware of this design flaw in these cars when operated in cold climates and is providing some relief for some of the cars that experience this issue. The valve cover gasket was replaced. Oil had to be vacuumed from the spark plug wells. The ccv and associated hoses were replaced with a newer insulated design. The dipstick tube was replaced. The oil filter was replaced. Any oil that may remain is drained and new oil was added. The engine compartment was degreased.

- Mansfield, MA, USA

problem #5

Apr 232013

X5 6-cyl

  • 189,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 BMW X5. The contact stated that while driving 60 mph, the vehicle stalled. The contact was able to get the vehicle to their home and had a mechanic look at the vehicle. The mechanic stated that the drive shaft and transfer case had chipped. The failure mileage and current mileages were 189,000. Updated 06/12/13

- Covington, GA, USA

problem #4

Jan 192010


  • 60,000 miles
Oil separator froze causing high pressure and blown seals. Initial cost about $1100 to repair. Dealer states this "happens all the time" to X5's in cold weather. Temp was in the single digits. In January 2013 oil separator froze two more times;however, this time damaging the engine - cost over $5000 to repair - basically totaling the car. With about 15 minutes of research, this appears to be a common and known issue on BMW X5 3.0, 4.4 and 4.8 engines from 2001 to 2008... looks like the parts were redesigned in 2009. Looks like a simple preventive maintenance routine and insulated oil lines would have prevented the "catastrophic engine failure" and dangerous condition of tailpipe fire, or being stranded in zero degree weather (which seems to be a condition required for the failure). Owner of car is the original owner, with all maintenance being done at local BMW dealerships including major services at 60K and 90K so there appears there is no "preventive maintenance" included in either of these major service milestones for the known oil separator defect. A recall on this defect to install the small amount of parts to prevent "catastrophic engines failure" and dangerous conditions "being stranded in single digit weather" seems like a logical choice... or at least changing major service milestones to add preventive maintenance so the probability of the failure can be reduced.

- Falmouth, ME, USA

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problem #3

Mar 032011


  • 70,513 miles
I own a 2003 BMW X5 4.6is my transmission has gone completely out with only 70000 miles. I have done a lot of research. I'm not the only one with this problem. I have read in forums that other 2002-2003 4.6is owners had transmission trans failures. I believe the transmission is defective on this vehicle. There is no reason that a 75K vehicles transmission should not last under 100K miles.

- Willowbrook, IL, USA

problem #2

Jun 062012

X5 6-cyl

  • 136,000 miles
Driving on highway at approximately 60 mph, felt as if something fell off or came loose and vehicle began to slow down in middle on traffic and would not accelerate when gas pedal was pushed, which could have caused anyone to crash the back of me. Luckily I was able to get to the shoulder and stop. Very tragic, this could have been fatal. I was told there was a recall but my vehicle came from the wrong manufacturer. Very unfair :-(

- Clinton, MD, USA

problem #1

Jul 132008


  • miles
The contact owns a 2003 BMW X5. While the contact was driving 50 mph he noticed a clicking sound coming from the front of the vehicle. When the contact attempted to accelerate the RPM's would rise but the vehicle would not move. The contact did not notice any differences in the vehicle beforehand and was not in a crash due to the failure. The vehicle was towed to the dealer where the contact was informed that the transmission and the differential failed. The VIN is unavailable. The current and failure mileages were 48000.

- San Diego, CA, USA

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