really awful
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
72,375 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 accessories - interior problems

accessories - interior problem

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2003 BMW X5 Owner Comments

problem #4

Jan 052014

X5 6-cyl

  • 99,000 miles


The seat heater was turned on to the highest setting. While driving with my 4-year old son in the back, I smelled smoke, then shortly after, my left butt cheek felt burning. I looked down and sure enough smoke was coming out of a an amber glowing hole in the leather seat. Luckily I didn't panic... slowed down and pulled over and turned off the heater. I don't use the heater anymore because even at the lowest setting it starts smoking again.

- Sunnyside, NY, USA

problem #3

Mar 012008


  • 50,000 miles
Starting smelling a burning odor in car. Shortly after, noticed (felt) a "hot spot" on the left side of the driver's seat so I turned the heater off. I had the dealer look at the seat - the response was that the leather had worn therefore I was feeling a little more warmth in that spot (at the time I took the car in, I must have had only 40-50,000 miles on it as I only put an average of 8,000-10,000 miles per year on the car. It seems ridiculous to me that the leather would wear that much in such a short amount of time especially since I am of slight build). I advised that it smelled like burning and the spot was so hot that it felt like something was wrong with the electrical. Again, I was told there was nothing wrong with the heater; it was simply me feeling more heat due to the thinning leather. Shortly after, since the dealer told me there was nothing wrong with the heater, I tried it again. This time though, a hole actually burned through the leather (enough that I felt the burn). I haven't used the seat heater since. I'm told the entire seat bottom must be replaced and the cost is about $2400. The cost of the seat is high and labor is very high since the entire seat must be taken out.

- Atlanta, GA, USA

problem #2

Feb 152011


  • 69,500 miles
While driving vehicle observed smoke coming out from the left side of driver seat. Slowly felt the heat sensation growing stronger in the area. Almost in a panic, and at great risk to myself and others on the road, tried to navigate through traffic on the busy street, to the right hand turn lane, while trying to avoid what was obviously growing into a fire in the seat. Had to avoid sitting in that area of the seat, while keeping the seat belt on in case there was a crash. Finally made it to a parking lot and jumped out. There was a hole in the leather seat that was smoldering. The seat heater had burned a hole through the leather seat. Tried to find something to douse it out with before it spread to other parts of the seat. Also, discovered that my pants were still smoldering on the rear left leg towards the hip area. There were two holes burned into the pants from contact with the burning seat. Called the dealer and scheduled a service appointment. Called BMW na, who said they were not aware of any other such incidents and they would have to wait for the diagnosis from the dealer. Their attitude also seemed very laissez-faire about the whole thing, seemingly not to care since I wasn't reporting any injuries. Just the fact that my seat was on fire and I barely avoided getting in a crash and getting burned, while my pants actually did get burned! meanwhile researched the incident and found one case reported on this very NHTSA website, several others on the X5 on various forums and a documented recall on the 5 series for a similar issue with the seat heater. Now BMW wants to cover only the cost of the parts and not even the labor to get it installed" forget about my pants, or the time/effort and stress all this has caused, that I didn't even ask to be compensated for. NHTSA - why has there not been a recall on the BMW X5 for this issue as yet? is it necessary to wait until someone is killed in an accident due to this or gets burned"

- Aurora, CO, USA

problem #1

Jan 012011


  • 71,000 miles
Driver side seat heater malfunction causing a hole to burn through leather and nearly created fire. When heater is turned on it creates an intense and concentrated heat on seat bolster too hot to touch. Replacement from dealer is over $700 and its been reported on numerous forums that this is a defect.

- Harrisburg, PA, USA

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