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BMW Recalls 130,000 Cars after ABC News Report

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BMW has just issued a recall of 130,000 cars featuring its twin-turbo six-cylinder engine because of a faulty fuel pump that can fail when the cars are driving at high speeds. The company and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration received complaints about the cars going into a reduced-power or “limp home” mode, which allows drivers to safely pull off the road. It will also illuminate the “Service Engine Soon” light on the instrument panel.

Vehicles included in the recall include:

  • 2007–2010 335i
  • 2008–2010 135i, 535i and X6 xDrive35i sports activity coupes
  • 2009–2010 Z4 Roadster sDrive35i

ABC News reported the problem this morning along with harrowing reports from concerned drivers. There have been no accidents or injuries due to the malfunctioning pump, BMW says. Many owners report having the part replaced numerous times.

The people highlighting their harrowing experiences on ABC may showcase a lack of driver education combined with BMW over-engineering its cars. Typically, a car would just stop driving completely if the fuel pump failed. The power steering would also fail, making it difficult to steer the car and safely avoid traffic. BMW’s “limp home” mode allows the driver to pull over to the side of the road safely or drive at slower speeds until you get to your local dealer.
Dozens of complaints about the fuel pump problem appear on NHTSA’s website, and they may illustrate this lack of education. Here’s one excerpt: “10/8/2010 – While traveling on Alligator Alley in Southern Florida, 2009 BMW 335i experienced a severe loss of power with engine lamp turning on. Loss of power worsened for the next seventy five miles until the car could not go over forty miles per hour and had insufficient torque to go up any inclined highway off ramps.”

We’re not blaming drivers for the failure of the fuel pumps, and it sounds like this is a serious flaw in what is otherwise a very good engine. But when your engine suffers a severe event with a warning light illuminating, we’d advise all drivers to pull over when safe and call a service vehicle. BMW spokesman Matthew Russell says the company has tested the limp home mode on a 135i and it performed at a reduced performance level, but one that was comparable to a lesser-powered 128. Russell also said different transmissions would react differently, with an automatic transmission locking you out of higher gears.
BMW offers free roadside assistance for the first four years of ownership and if you buy a certified pre-owned BMW, you get free roadside assistance until the sixth year of the original service date.

The recall does not include all 2010 BMW models with this engine. The 2010 BMW 335is and 740i are not included. The engine in 2011 BMWs is a different turbocharged six-cylinder that has a newer fuel pump design and is not included in the recall.
Owners experiencing any issues can call BMW’s hot line at 800-563-4269.

Photo of David Thomas
Former managing editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon. Email David Thomas

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