By on August 7, 2010

Nitrobahn reports that Kimmel and Silverman, a law firm, has noticed that cases that have the fuel pump on BMW cars as Exhibit A are on the increase. According to both, bad fuel pumps have been found in 1, 3 and 5 series BMW’s. Kimmel and Silverman have fought these cases on behalf of claimants and have been awarded refunds and cash recoveries.

Now to be fair to BMW, they are trying to resolve the issue (which makes a change). They have extended the warranty on the fuel pump to 10 years/120,000 miles. But it still doesn’t stop many other BMW drivers from discovering new problems, related to the fuel pump, which need fixing.

However, some service advisors have asserted that it isn’t the fuel pump, but bad gas which is the real problem. This is quite sneaky because a) it slings the burden of proof back onto the customer rather than take a look at the problem themselves and b) for the customer to prove it wasn’t the petrol, they would (at the very least) have to have the receipts of every single tank of fuel they bought! And that’s putting aside finding samples of the batch of fuel they bought to prove they met EPA standards!

Any which way, if you are a BMW driver and have noticed you are having fuel pump problems, just feel assured that you’re not alone. Always use the same brand of gas, keep yous receipts, and when the guy says it’s the gas, get it in writing. Then send the letter to the gasoline company with a copy to BMW. Stand back and wait what happens.

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24 Comments on “If BMW Gives You Lemons …...”

  • avatar

    Premature fuel pump failure can also occur if you run your tank to empty. Pumps get damaged when they try to pump air, which is why automakers make the low-fuel light come on with 60 or so miles left to go.

    • 0 avatar

      Damn! And I always thought the light was there to make sure you didn’t get stranded on the tollway between two service plazas, with nothing to do but wait, and look at that yellow light.

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      My father claimed the heat of vaporization of the fuel itself was a factor used in cooling the fuel pump, which would also explain the urgency behind the “low fuel” warning lamp. However, it didn’t seem to be a factor in my father’s first gen Camry sedan (UJC), which with its fuel sipping tendencies tended to mean “please put some gas back in during the next week” after I found I could make it all the way from Kaanapali to Makawao on that lamp.

      I had a chronic fuel pump failure in my L-body GLH Turbo (1986 Dodge Omni w/the 2.2 turbomotor) but not once did any of the dealer service departments use the “bad fuel” dodge with me. I guess it was just easier to burn through the replacement pumps, which were subcontracted to both Mikuni and Bosch. Unfortunately for me, every single pump I had replaced was a Mikuni unit, which was the one with the bad RF filter; most L-body owners would eventually get the more robust (and noisier) Bosch unit through the luck of the draw and not suffer the same problem again. If you could hear the pump clatter during startup, it would stay that way forever. If you heard a barely audible whine as it pressurized the line, you were assured of a quiet fuel system which would fail within a year.

    • 0 avatar

      One of the things that killed the dual fuel tanks (and requisite dual fuel pumps) on the Ford F-series trucks (other than the obvious cost disadvantage of the dual design) was the appallingly high warranty on the pumps due to owners running one tank dry before switching to the other tank. Back in the days of engine-mounted mechanical fuel pumps, this wasn’t a big deal, but in the era of fuel injection and tank mounted pumps it just doesn’t work as well.

    • 0 avatar

      While I am as upset about this issue as the next guy (I drive a new Z4 35i) I cannot agree, I am sure that BMW designers have taken that under consideration. I have not seen any drawings of the tank, however, I believe the pump suction is located in a lower section of the tank and that there is a shut off before the tank runs dry.

  • avatar

    Maybe it’s bad gas, too, that causes SUA in Toyota vehicles? Like, you never know what this bastard is up to once the quality Toyota fuel pump gets it inside them cylinders…

  • avatar

    VW is experiencing similar issues w/ certain diesel high pressure fuel pumps. Between various owner’s forums and websites such as TDI-Issues, at least 50-100 failures have been reported, which appears to be just the tip of the iceberg considering this engine choice has been out for less than two model years and is a relatively low-volume run.

    Unlike BMW, so far VW has not offered warranty extension, or even acknowledged the problem. When the HPFP fails, it sends metal particles throughout the fuel system, necessitating complete replacement at a cost of $8000-$10000 (!).

    Many owners have been frustrated to find VW is denying warranty claims. “Contaminated fuel” is frequently blamed, however VW never produces tests showing contaminated fuel.

    Although it’s possible that fuel quality may play a role in the failures, the fact is that other vehicle designs (which fuel at the same gas and diesel filling stations) are not experiencing these problems. The ultimate responsibility should fall on the vehicle manufacturer to build a vehicle that can run on standard fuel.

    • 0 avatar

      “When the HPFP fails, it sends metal particles throughout the fuel system, necessitating complete replacement at a cost of $8000-$10000 (!).”

      Good God, have OEM’s value-engineered down-stream fuel strainers and filters out of their systems?

    • 0 avatar

      The problem is that the HPCR pump is on the “clean side” (after the filter) of the system – particles as small as 2-3 microns can wipe out these pumps and the injectors. Most stock fuel filters on light duty diesel cars and trucks don’t filter down that small, seems like the 5 micron ballpark is the norm. This (and the ridiculously high repair costs) is why you couldn’t give me a modern, fussy HPCR diesel. Gone are the days of diesels that would run on practically anything and come back for more, and in the unlikely event something did break, it wouldn’t take a personal loan to fix.

      Heavy trucks, which have used HPCR for some time, usually have high capacity/dual stage filtration that gets particles out down to that critical 2-3 micron size and they effectively solved the problem. Good luck cleaning up the fuel supply in this country – there’s too many independent stations that can’t afford (or don’t want to pay for) good tank maintenance and on-pump filtration.

    • 0 avatar


      As crazy as it sounds, one of my coworkers has a Renault Logan and he told me the thing doesn’t have fuel filter.

      And that is in a car that is supposed to be sold in the 3rd world.

      I had a big DO NOT WANT lamp flashing in my head after he told me that.

  • avatar

    As a 335 owner, I’ve been there and got the “bad fuel” story. If it’s a recurring problem, let BMW know that lemon law arbitration is the next step and that certainly made them more helpful in my case.

  • avatar

    K&S handled my lemon claim against Honda (05 Odyssey). They only take cases they’re pretty sure to win. I won a small check, and was happy with their service and the outcome of the case.

    Honda stiff-armed me the whole time. At least BMW admits to a problem.

  • avatar

    VW has used the “bad gas” ploy to avoid warranty work since my 1984 GTI. What else is new?

  • avatar

    Since they make the product, BMW should have to prove that it was bad gas that caused the problem, not the customer having to prove it did not. I say give BMWNA one shot at correcting the problem, then contact a lawyer to act on your behalf. In NJ at least, you have to give the dealer 3 tries to correct the problem, then you can pursue the lemon law remedy. I suggest strictly adhering to this schedule. If enough consumers display the take no prisoners attitude, all manufactures will get the message that we are not beta testers.

    • 0 avatar

      Technically the burden of proof is on the manufacturer, but most customers are too chicken to fight since it may cost them money out of their pocket to do so.

  • avatar

    MINI owners are experiencing fuel pump issues as well, the HPFP is dying, and some dealers are blaming bad gas, some just replace it no questions asked. I look forward to mine going in the Clubman! :)

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Has anyone done a post-failure analysis to see what is actually going wrong with the pumps?

  • avatar

    This problem is doubly problematic if you have a SULEV (Super-Ultra-Low Emissions Vehicle) BMW.

    Non-SULEV BMWs almost universally have fuel pumps that are accessible through a panel under the rear seat.

    SULEV BMWs have completely sealed fuel tanks that must be replaced if anything inside them (fuel pump, fuel gauge sender, etc.) goes bad.

    The parts cost difference is approximately $400 (fuel pump) vs. $2500 (SULEV fuel tank assembly).

  • avatar


    On the E46 I have seen reports of $4000 for a brand new stainless fuel tank and pump assembly. Insane design. Some people buy a used BMW and have no idea it is a SULEV model. Caveat emptor.

  • avatar

    I think it is absolutely poor business practice to make an expensive luxury car, with defects. I recently visited two BMW forums and many posts were about components not working. What is the point of having “the ultimate driving machine” if it doesn’t work? if there is one thing I hate about cars it is unreliability, especially if the price is over $30,000. Do I want an “appliance” car? No. I just want a car that works, plus low owner-ship cost, if I wanted to sink money into a car, I would have bought an un-restored classic.

    It is not all doom and gloom though, Most cars are reliable, and come with cheap well designed parts.

  • avatar

    This has been going on for a while. I had a fuel pump go in my 135. It is an issue with the N54 engine which is in all the X35i cars and SAVs. Hopefully it been corrected with the N55.

    There are all kinds of theories out there. Some have speculated that it is regional or corporate differences in fuel quality and mixtures, as some cars never have any problems.

    There is a lot of consternation on the forums about it because replacement doesn’t ‘solve’ the problem. They just give you the exact same type of pump and the issue could and has reoccured. Though for some people it doesn’t come back, and of course some haven’t had it all.

    To be honest, it’s hard for me to get very angry over it. BMW admitted there is a problem, lifetime warrantied the part, and gave me no trouble replacing it. It was in and out on the very same day, and I got to play with a new Z4. According to the comments on this post, VW and Honda owners haven’t been so lucky.

  • avatar

    Down here I heard it was Toyota owners experiencing the problem. And you bet, they blamed the fuel and the customer had to pay at its expenses the cost. Then people recommended using 91 octane instead of 95. They started putting fuel injector cleaner every other tank…

    Have BMW owners tried to buy the fuel pump alone (outside the stealership) and replace it in the module?

  • avatar

    2 days ago the issue of HPFP failures aired on ABC
    BMW is recalling 130,000 cars in the US (I don’t know about Canada). Let us hope BMW can resolve this issue fast and restore some confidence in affected BMW drivers.
    I am sure BMW is burning the midnight oil to make sure not to loose a great percentage of the 130,000 drivers to the competition not to speak of possible new BMW customers that read all about this HPFP issue all over the Internet.
    PS. Someone said a $30,000.00 car my BMW is well over $60,000.00 before tax and has the HPFP waiting for a BMW letter :)

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