fairly significant
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
14,400 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 M3 transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 BMW M3 Owner Comments

problem #5

Jun 152011

M3 6-cyl

  • 61,000 miles


BMW M3's with smg transmission 2002-2006. On hot days the transmission with "pop" out of gear and into neutral for about 15-30 seconds before reengaging into the appropriate gear. This just leaves the car helpless coasting down the street.this has happened every day for the past week and today this happened to me while making a left turn at a busy intersection and an oncoming vehicle had to "brake N swerve" to avoid T-boning me. This is an issue that us BMW owners have been trying to get BMW to acknowledge for years but they act like its not a problem. They don't properly troubleshoot the issue and just throw parts at it hoping to fix the problem. Next thing you know your car was at the dealer for 3 weeks and $3200 later(average for this issue) your blocking traffic downtown coming home in rush hour traffic. This is just incredible to me. I cant understand why nothing has been done by the federal gvt on this a of yet. If you were to do an internet search of " M3 smg out of gear" or "smg neutral fail" you would literally find 100's upon 100's of threads on this issue.please help. Thanking you in advance. Hopefully there are others than myself who took the initiative to file a report like this instead of worrying if our 60K car is going to break down and cause a traffic jam or accident if the temp is above 95 degrees.

- Jacksonville, FL, USA

problem #4

Jul 052005

M3 6-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • miles
I own a 2003 BMW M3 equipped with a smg(sequential manual gearbox). Within a month of ownership, the car started exhibiting a symptom that could potentially cause a serious accident. During acceleration in 1st gear from standstill, if the car travels over a bump or potholes, the car begins to behave in a jerky, stop and go motion. If I kept my foot on the accelerator pedal, the more violent the stop and go motion would become. The only way to recover is to release the accelerator pedal until the car slows down or the tach goes below 1500 RPM. When accelerating over smooth surfaces, the problem will not occur. However, the problem will always occur while accelerating the car in 1st gear over bumpy roads that allows the back tires to momentarily lose traction. A driveway entrance is an example of a bump that would cause this problem to occur. I believe you can see the potential danger when this happens. Crossing the street is potentially dangerous should this failure occur. My car now has approx. 5000 miles and on July, 2005 I brought it in to erhard BMW of bloomfield hills, mi. I demonstrated the problem to their technician and he agreed this symptom was real and always reproducible. After keeping my car for over a week, the service manager called to tell me that BMW said this is normal operation. I calmly took my car back but told him of my dissatisfaction of the service. I work in the automotive industry and I believe I'm knowledgeable enough to know what is normal operation and what is not. If BMW had known that the M3 with smg exhibited this defect, they would have ever launched this vehicle. I believe this is a safety issue. I appreciate if NHTSA could investigate this further. I don't want BMW to disregard their responsibility just to keep their name and reputation intact. I will glady allow my car as evidence to this investigation if needed. I just want BMW to be aware of this issue and work in trying to find a solution to this problem.

- Sterling Heights, MI, USA

problem #3

Aug 102004

M3 6-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 11,000 miles
I am the owner of a 2003 M3 equipped with the smg-II transmission [xxx]. for the past year (since the car accrued about 11,000 miles), the car has, with increasing frequency, failed to make the shift from 3rd to 4th gear under hard acceleration. Instead, the transmission slips into neutral and the engine free-revs often past red-line. The result is that the car loses acceleration (dramatically if the fuel is cut-off when the red-line is passed), but because the driver's foot is on the gas, the brake lights do not illuminate. This recently nearly caused me to be rear-ended. As you can imagine, when accelerating to merge into highway traffic, an unannounced loss of forward momentum is very dangerous. BMW has replaced the transmission (twice), which has failed to correct the problem. My dealer has submitted a puma to BMW engineers (twice) without a response. The most recent submittal was about two months ago, which coincided with another puma submittal from another dealer about the same problem. I am aware of at least three other people with the exact same problem. (one of them is on his fourth transmission and still has the malfunction.) BMW, however, has not taken adequate steps to remedy the problem, issued a service bulletin or otherwise addressed the safety issue. My inquiry to customer service was also unhelpful. At the end of August, I sent a letter describing this problem with return receipt to the attention of the general counsel of BMW of North America, llc. I have received no response nor has any attempt been made by BMW to contact me. My attempts to reach any part of BMW other than customer service have also failed. Updated 07/19/2012 information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6)

- Gasithersburg, MD, USA

problem #2

Dec 012004


  • miles
Ltr concerning a defect of the sequential manual gear transmission on the leased 2003 BMW M3. The vehicle lurches moving only an inch at a time. The lurching forward happens while accelerating from a stop position. Problem exists when the vehicle goes from first gear to second.

- Lantana, FL, USA

problem #1

Dec 082002


  • Manual transmission
  • miles
While traveling 60 mph, the owner began to merge for an exit. The transmission failed not respond to the clutch or shifting of the gears. The transmission locked in second gear from that point until driven home. The vehicle was towed to the dealership which notified the consumer that the clutch wore out and over-heated.

- San Mateo, CA, USA

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