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08-21-2008 10:36 PM #1
Warning X5 Transfer Cases Flawed - Class Action?
Dear Prospective Future X5 buyer ( and BMWUSA ),
After some investigating internet bmw forums and speaking with numerous bmw part counter employees, it seems that X5 Transfer Cases are of high demand, apparently much higher then they should be.
The Transfer case is one of the few if not the only American made (major) part on the SAV.
I have owned other BMWs ( and still do ) and have also introduced my entire family to this brand. I now have father that used to drive Lincolns now driving a 740 and brother and his wife have a 540 and a 535. I also introduced a few friends to the BMW brand ( also now owners).
However the E53 does not compare to the other BMWs. Why would BMW release a product that was not sufficiently tested ? This transfer case is junk and plus the $600.00 drive shaft that fits into it is about 1/2 inch too short. The spline on the shaft do not fit in as far as they should which caused wear on the transfer case and on the drive shaft spline. Even when these two parts are completely replaced they probably fail in a short time compared to all the other components.
I now feel a bit guilty for promoting BMWs to family and friends . I will no longer be bringing you more customers and will do my best to inform all prospective buyers of this problem.
Following email sent to BMWUSA - so far not response and since BMWUSA does not even give us the courtesy to respond I have decided to post in this forum ( and SOON will be posting in every BMW forum I can find ). If anyone else would like to join me in spreading the word about this faulty drive train please start posting.
Original email to BMWUSA.COM:
August 15th 2008
BMW of North America, LLC
300 Chestnut Ridge Road
Woodcliff Lake, NJ 07677-7731
Dear Consumer Complaint Division,
Re: 2001 BMW X5 - Currently 87,281 miles - VIN#WBAFA535X1LH79225
In December of 2006, my husband and I after much deliberating decided to forgo Christmas presents to each other and instead, purchase a used 2001 BMW X5 with only 48K miles on it from a friend. My husbands parents own a 740IL and his brother owns two 5 series BMW’s and they both rave about their vehicles. We also have a 1993 325 that has 205K miles on it and it has proved BMW to be superior brand of vehicle. We were ecstatic when we brought the X5 home because we believed it to be the ultimate in a luxury SAV.
Unfortunately, the SAV has not performed as an ultimate driving machine because have had numerous issues with the drive train since we purchased it. Last summer when driving to Illinois to a wedding, the vehicle left us stranded due to the spline wearing out on the rear drive shaft and we ended up having to rent a car to make it to the wedding on time
When our mechanic finally called us with the prognosis, he said that it was a very common problem with the X5 and that it could not ever be fixed properly due to the rear drive shaft spline not completely fitting into the transfer case as far as it should. I am disappointed because we were really excited about the purchase of this luxury vehicle and it has not held up to the BMW standards.
This last week while driving from Florida to Pennsylvania to visit my father-in-law who was receiving a quadruple bypass, the X5 started making clunking noises while in 1st gear and within a few hours was making the loud noise in all gears. When we finally made it to PA, we immediately took it to our BMW specialist to have it serviced.
The specialist just informed us that the transfer case has gone bad and that it will be $4000 plus to fix which we absolutely can not afford to do and we are now stranded in PA. We were told that the transfer case is the only major American manufactured part on the vehicle (transfer case manufactured by New Process). We were shocked to hear this as we would expect the transfer case and drive shaft components to last well over 100K miles especially on a BMW.
I am hoping that with you being the leader in luxury vehicles and offering the very best for your customers in products and services that you would be willing to help us have the part replaced and get back home to Florida.
We are looking forward to your reply and hope that you will stand behind your products and your reputation for superior customer service.
Angela and Keith
08-22-2008 02:56 PM #2
Re: Warning X5 Transfer Cases Flawed - Class Action?
I have an '01 X5 sport manual. Bought it in Feb '04. Within a week I heard a strange sound coming from under the truck. Dealer diagnosed a bad transfer case and fortunately replaced it for free as I had a 45 day warranty. Otherwise I would have been on the hook for $4,500. About a year later the driveshaft failed which I had to pay for.
I concur with you that BMW produced an inferior part and should do the right thing by supporting its customers. This is my 3rd BMW, but the X5 has been the least reliable. How many times do we have to replace plastic items like window regulators before the company gets it right? I had a '97 M3 sedan which I beat the hell out of on a regular basis and it performed like a champ. I treat my X5 like a baby and it falls apart.
08-29-2008 12:49 PM #3
Mine's OK at 80K miles, beating the snot out of it
I have 80K miles on mine and no problems, and I use it to tow trailer and even pull down trees.
Are you taking the vehicle to a BMW dealer? Sometimes independent mechanics like to make up these stories to cover their own ignorance or improper repairs.
A driveshaft is desined to slide back and forth on the splines. This is normal. If it did not, it would break as the drive flexes.
I suspect you may have other issues here than the transfer case.
Also, I have not read of any postings similar to yours, so I doubt this a widespread problem as your mechanic suggests.
Yes, the 2001 Transfer case was made by the former New Process Gear corportion (now MAGNA). Newer X5s, I believe, use a case souced from other suppliers. However, New Process makes a very robust transfer case, so being an "American" part is hardly a ding on it.
The car is assembled in America, using US and foreign components. The stampings are done in America, and the early automatics were sourced from a GM division.
Sorry to hear about your problem. Was the vehicle ever in an accident? Have you checked the GUIBO and CENTER BEARING in the car? If the driveshaft is falling out as the mechanic claims, perhaps something else is going on here.
08-29-2008 12:57 PM #4
No Transfer Case?
I did a google search on "BMW X5 transfer case defect" and didn't find much.
I did find this howler, though:
"The BMW X5 comes with a permanently engaged all-wheel-drive system that is more akin to one found in sedans. It does not use a transfer case and does not offer low-range gears."
So you see, your problem is all in your mind. The X5 doesn't have a transfer case!
Automotive writers. Sheesh!
BTW, I met a fellow the other day, retired from New Process/Chrysler. I told him I saw the NP logo on my transfer case when flushing the clutch slave cylinder. He told me he used to make these, but that with SUVs falling from favor, NP/MAGNA is slowing down.
I just replaced two output couplings on my boat, at $3000 a pop (you have to remove the engine). There is a grease fitting on the splines that has to be lubed anually. I wonder if a little waterproof grease would have helped the splines on your case....
08-29-2008 01:05 PM #5
More Complicated Car...
As I noted before, the more complicated a car is, the more likely it is to break. This is not rocket science. Well, it actually is. See MIL-SPEC 217D.
Reliability of any machine is measured by taking the failure rate of each individual component (per X hours) and multiplying them together.
The more components, the higher the failure rate, unless you can make each component correspondingly less failure prone.
Your 1997 M3 did not have a transfer case, nor a self-levelling suspension, navigation system, etc. If you were smart, it had a 5-speed, which as you know is nearly indestructable.
But as an E36 owner, I am sure you had the typical problems with door lock actuators, delaminating door panels, OBS pixels going bad, the SRS light coming on when the kids kick the seat switch, lower ball joint wear, water pump failure, exploding radiator, etc. - that is, if you kept the car for any length of time.
E30 owners will tell you the E36 is an overweight over-electronic POS car. It is more complicated, and perhaps not as reliable as the E30, but I like them.
The E53 is probably a quantum level increase in complexity over the E36. It inherits some of the same problems the E36 had, and adds a few of its own.
And as it was built by a niche "boutique" player in the auto industry (family owned, no less) you can't expect it to be as reliable as, say, a mass-produced Honda or Toyota.
Also, the 2001 was an early version of the car. Your 1997 OBD II E36 was one of the last years made and was a significant improvmenet in quality over the OBD I versions (1992-1995).
Similarly, the later model E53s are probably better made than the 2001 models.
I'm happy with mine. Would I trade it for a Durango? Not on your life!
09-14-2008 09:44 AM #6
Re: No Transfer Case?
I do appreciate that you read my post. However I am not really sure of your goal of posting nonsense about X5's not having a transfer case at all. It makes me feel as if you are attempting to diminish the original point of this thread which is about BMW producing SAVs with under engineered parts. This transfer case and driveshaft should have been recalled way back when they realized it was junk..
Again thank you for the humorous post but if I was looking for comedy I would just turn on the mainstream sheeple news. :)
Ok BMW lets make a deal, you pay for the parts and I'll pay for the shop time to install them. Sounds fair enough to me and then I will consider taking down the google ad that points to this thread... ( 300+ thread views so far. )
09-14-2008 10:02 AM #7
Re: Mine's OK at 80K miles, beating the snot out o
Seems funny BMW now uses another source since New Process makes such a "very robust case" as you mention.
Not going to debate spline design with you. After seeing the size of the spline, it is so completely under designed that it is laughable.
The point here is that it should have been RECALLED after the flaws were noticed/ or when they became so apparent.
My Indepenent BMW only mechanic has quite the following he's worth more per hour then any dealer mechanic I have run into. Every experience I have with a dealer is a freakin joke.
Ok BMW lets make a deal, you pay for the parts and I'll pay for the shop time to install them. Sounds fair enough to me and then I will consider taking down the google ad that points to this thread... ( 300+ thread views so far. )
Heath(from Corp BMW ) I'll have my wife email you about this so we can take care of the details. Thanks.
09-14-2008 10:47 AM #8
Re: Warning X5 Transfer Cases Flawed - Class Actio
Apparently you must install a new drive shaft when replacing the transfer case.... otherwise you surely will have problems.
I bet the dealer did not inform you of that when they replaced the transfer case....
I appreciate your post!
Should have been a recall.
09-17-2008 10:17 AM #9
Why no other posts on this?
I searched the internet for this issue and found... nothing.
If there was a "chronic" problem with these transfer cases, I would think we'd have heard about it by now.
New Process Gear is now part of Magna corporation.
Sorry, but I think this problem is pretty specific to your car.
09-17-2008 10:24 AM #10
Trying to intimidate BMW, taking the wrong tack
It is clear that the only point of your negative postings here is to try to get BMW to pay for repairs on your EIGHT YEAR OLD CAR (maybe 9 years at this point) which went out of warranty FIVE YEARS AGO.
You mention this at the bottom of each posting. You are trying to blackmail them into paying for your repairs by threatening them with bad publicity for an alleged "defect" (that no one else seems to have).
Sorry, but no sale.
You bought a used car and it broke down. This happens. Get over it.
It is the risk you take.
If you don't want to take risks, buy a new car, or a CPO used car with an extended warranty.
You can't be a risk taker and then expect to have all your downsides covered.
That would be like AIG writing insurance on mortgage-backed securities and then expecting the taxpayers to bail them out when it all goes horribly wrong.
See your X5 and buy a Toyota. If you can't handle PAIN or don't know how to repair older cars yourself, you got no business owning a BMW out of warranty.
Sorry, too many whiners in the USA as it is. If it breaks, crawl under it with your wrenches and FIX IT.
Oh, wait, you're too much of a [Oops!] to turn a wrench?
I suspected as much.
09-17-2008 10:29 AM #11
I went through this with my boat - twice.
Stern drives have an output coupling which can fail (Bravo II). The couping has an aluminum spline and the shaft is hardened steel. Guess who wins?
Replacement requires removing the engine. $3000 each time. Hey, I bought a used boat for $20,000 off the price new. So I took a risk and still came out ahead.
The first mechanic botched the job, failing to properly align the drive and engine and also failing to replace the shaft. The shaft tore up the new coupling in a year.
Cost of doing business, plain and simple.
$3000 might sound like a lot of money, but it was less than my fuel bill on my last trip. So that put things in perspective.
The size of the splines on the X5 trasnfer case is not "undersized".
I would note, however, that ANY BMW does not tolerate driveline shock well. If you want to do somkey burnouts with ANY BMW, you will have lots of drivetrain trouble down the road.
What are your driving habits like? What were the driving habits of the previous owner like? If you bought the car used and don't know the previous owner, all bets are off.
09-18-2008 11:15 AM #12
Re: Actually the 3RD Transfer Case under 90,000
Transfer case that we just removed was built in 2002.
Which would have been a dealer install back then. Could it have been a install on a Friday afternoon and the tech forgot to add the correct amount of lube to it. Or was it just a faulty part.
So currently installing the 3rd transfer case in under 90,000 miles.
I'll post some pictures as soon as I have a chance that will show the exact dates of the parts to back up my words.
Robert I would love to have the knowledge, time and tools to work on this myself. However I have some other projects that are more important at this point in my life. I truly do want to learn more about how to do this stuff myself and plan on having a serious garage with space for all the tools to really get into it at my next home ( moving from FL to CO soon ).
I wish I lived next door to ya so I could learn all this stuff from someone that is really into it.
09-18-2008 11:31 AM #13
Re: 3rd transfer case now --
I had such a great experience with buying a 325 with 93,000 miles on it and it now has 205,000 miles on it that I thought that the X5s would be the same great quality level.
Yes I am a risk taker and usually have no problem paying for whatever breaks. This is now the 3rd transfer case in under 90,000miles BMW or NEW PROCESS should be picking up the tab on it. You are the one that says these transfer cases are so robust, and here I am on the 3rd one, and I baby the heck out of this SAV.
Yes yes I do want to buy new from now on. And would love to learn more about working on bmws myself. I'm sure it would be most rewarding.
Do you agree that a transfer case SHOULD last at least 100,000 miles?
09-18-2008 01:28 PM #14
There is something else wrong with your car....
There is something else wrong with your car or your mechanic.
It sounds like something is not aligned properly, which would make me suspect the car was in a wreck or something, or your mechanic is not very skilled.
A clear indication of the latter is his claim that this is a "chronic" BMW problem, when it clearly is not. He is covering up something and blwoing smoke up your wazoo. Find a new mechanic, period, and take that variable out of the equation.
You mentioned, I thought, that the splines were "sticking out" of the transfer case. While they should slide back and forth a bit (and should be greased for this) perhaps some other misalignment in the vehicle is causing problems.
If the car was in a serious wreck or rebuilt from pieces (2 cars welded together) and the rear subframe is out of wack, it might be pulling the drive shaft out of the case.
It also could be the case that the mechanic is making some error in replacing the case or is using an inferior quality rebuild or failed to replace or rebuild the ENTIRE SHAFT, including guibo and center bearing, which is causing some misalignment problem.
Again, I've searched the web and all the other X5 and BMW forums and there is BUBKIS on transfer case failure. Very few, if any, report the problem you are having.
It seems that very few of these fail, and you are one of the few to complain of it. Very odd for a "chronic" problem and really not the grounds for a "class action" suit (who is in the class besides yourself?)
The fact that your REPLACEMENT transfer cases are failing would seem to indicate that there is some inherient problem with the alignment in your vehicle.
Did your mechanic check the ENGINE and TRANSMISSION MOUNTS for example? A misalignment there might also be pulling out the shaft.
If you had an E36, you know of all the horrible things that can go wrong with them - the GM automatic transmissions failing at 70K miles, for example (Yes, German cars, even made in Germany, might have GM parts in them). Or the radiator failing and warping a head at 80K miles. An E36 can rapidly turn into an expensive repair nightmare, too.
You were LUCKY to get 200K out of your E36. But that is not the norm for that car (except for folks who drive 50K a year for the first 5 years). As these E36 cars get to be 10-15 years old, many are going to the boneyard, as the cost of repairs exceed the residual value. A used E36 is worth about $2500 now.
THIS SAME DISCUSSION occurred on the E36 and Z3 boards not long ago. People buy these cars that are 5-10 years old (and pay a LOT of money for them) and are shocked to discover that they (gasp!) might have reliability problems after 100,000 miles.
They expect Honda-like new car reliability in a worn out luxury car.
When you buy a used car of unknown provenance, all bets are off and you have to take your lumps.
My 2002 X5 was clearly in a collision of some sort (lease terminated at 30 months instead of 36, title washed to Tennesee, clearly repainted in front, DOT R replacement stickers on fenders).
The sales price reflected the fact it was a used car and had been in an accident. I would have paid $10,000 more for a low mile CPO at the dealer.
If I can reach the milage you are at now, I'd be happy with the car as having given good service for the money. Anything beyond that is "gravy", not something I am ENTITLED to. I suspect I'll probably keep it until about 150,000 miles. I doubt I'll be driving it beyond that, unless I keep it as my lake car (replacing my '48 Willys).
Change your mechanic first. I suspect there are other issues with your car.
If it is running now, perhaps you should think about selling it. Like I said, you can buy really nice Hondas and Toyotas for not a lot of dough, and you'd be happier with them in reliability department.
09-18-2008 04:25 PM #15
Re: self appointed or offical bmw answer guy ?
All geesh the shaft is not falling out, I should have been more detailed in the post that you are referencing , the spline stripped of the shaft about a year ago. Then we put in a new shaft.
Anyway now I can look in the old transfer case and see that there is about 3 to 3.5 inches of depth..... the shaft only goes in about 1 inch at most.
So you really think there is suppose to be that additional 2 inches of spline that are never touched? It would make much more sense if the shaft fit in another half inch to an inch, then the chances of the spline wearing on both the shaft and/or the transfer case would be much less.
Also when we ordered the new transfer case and asked if they sell many they told us that they sell a bunch of the X5 2001 - 2003 transfer cases. In fact they have a many on standby to be sent out since they know from past history that the orders wi;ll keep coming in for years to come.
I'm sure we'll have some more people turn up and post on here about, give a it little time.
Both Guibos ok , center bearing fine. NEVER in an accident. All stickers match.
Robert you respond to almost everyone that posts in here, are you the self proclaimed bmw answer guy or what?
tmw posted on Aug 22 in this thread about a transfer case failure. ( although you indicate I am the only guy to break a transfer case) .
Do you work for bmw or what ?
You have a 2004 x5 correct ?
The exact date on the transfer case that we just removed is July 2002, and this is a 2001 vehicle, that means to me that the first case was faulty and then replaced by a dealer ( possible improperly , who knows ) and now the 2nd case is also faulty.
Never before ( I bet ) was a new shaft and transfer case put back on at the same time perhaps it will now go an additional 100,000 miles as it should have originally.
I guess we have to agree to disagree.
09-18-2008 05:19 PM #16
I guess you did not look very hard -here's a bunch
2002 x5 transfer case/front drive shaft problem
My x5 has 72,000 miles on it and the splines on the front drive shaft and the splines on the transfer case have rounded off making the x5 not drivable. Has anyone else experienced this?
What would cause this to happen?
heres another with a nice picture of the teeth all worn:?
hi, guys can anyone know where can i buy parts on TC. Because my specialist say, that this part Is not sale separately. Should i need buy new TC? see pic
Here is a guy that works at a bmw dealership talking about this "common problem "
That is a common problem, and it is usually not the chain (at least from what I've seen at the dealer in the last 4 years). And 9 out of 10 times it has been the splines at the front shaft output stripped. There likely was water ingress to the splines, causing rust which eats them up to that failure point. I'm not sure if someone can dig up a source of a new shaft, other than robbing one out of a junkyard trucks case. At the dealer, we usually end up selling them a new case and shaft... But my suggestion to you would be to remove the front drive shaft and inspect the splines on both parts. The shaft is removed by taking it loose at the front guibo joint (rubber flex joint, six 18mm bolts/nuts) and slipping it off of the splines. You also need to remove the aluminum stiffening plate to access the front of the shaft, which is six 16mm bolts with nuts on the top. No matter what, when it comes to re-assembly... MAKE SURE you use a healthy dose of either anti-seize or a thick axle/bearing grease on those splines. Hope this helps you!
Robert, I found above info within about 7 minutes... do you want me to keep digging for other people that have dealt with this trusty component?
09-18-2008 08:09 PM #17
"There likely was water ingress to the splines, causing rust which eats them up to that failure point"
An intersting point. Was your car driven in snow or was it flooded (Florida car, Hurricane) at some point?
You can bet I'll be checking the lube on mine before I head south. A couple of shots of the grease gun can't hurt.
But I think three data points hardly makes a trend, does it?
Out of how many hundreds of thousands of cars made?
And no, this is not a "transfer case problem" but a driveshaft problem.
Sorry no sale. Maybe if youand 20, 30, 100 or more failures. But a handful?
09-18-2008 08:17 PM #18
I'm just sick and tires of WHINERS
Sorry, but folks like you make me vomit. You don't even read my posts. I have a 2002 X5. Try READING.
I am an Automotive Engineer and a Lawyer. I do not work for BMW.
YOU DON'T HAVE A CASE.
To bring a "class action suit" you'd need hundreds if not thousands of plaintiffs in the case and millions (if not tens of mnillions) of dollars in damages.
And the failure would have to be proven a defect, not caused by environmental problems, lack of maintenance, or other causes.
So far, you have a handful of failures and some ancedotal evidence supposedly from a parts guy at a dealer that "a lot of these fail".
Whiney losers in America have something go wrong in their life and their first instinct to blame someone else.
No-nothing lawyer-wannabes say "I'm going to sue!"
Here's a clue: If you could find a firm that would take the case, the lawyers would make 99% of the money and you'd get a coupon good for a free oil change.
That's the REALITY of your "CLASS ACTION SUIT".
You have a high milage older car and it just wore out, PERIOD. Take your lumps and move on. If you don't want expensive repairs, learn to use hand tools or buy a Honda.
YOU HAVE NO BUSINESS OWNING AN OLDER BMW. Leave these cars to folks with garages, air tools, and lifts.
I highly recommend you sell your X5 NOW as you are going to get a lot more angry over time as this high-milage 8-year old car WEARS OUT FURTHER.
You are not guaranteed 200,000 miles of use by the Constitution, or even the Magnum-Moss Warrantee act.
Get over it!
09-18-2008 08:18 PM #19
09-18-2008 08:20 PM #20
Re: P.S. -
Where exactly do you come off telling me when I can and cannot respond to a posting, when you SPAM the entire board with your whiney messages about your stupid transfer case?
Someone asked about towing. What the F**CK does that have to do with your whipped X5?
Sounds to me like you beat the snot out of it and never took care of it.
BMWs do not tolerate smokey burnouts. The drivetrain is a not built for shock loading.
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