BMWNA Recalls N54 High-Pressure Fuel Pump & Naturally Aspirated X5

The new BMW 3 series Coupe: Six-cylinder inline petrol engine with twin turbo and high precision injection

BMW to Conduct Voluntary Emissions and Safety Recalls

  • Emissions recall affects models equipped with twin-turbo inline six-cylinder engines
  • Safety recall affects X5 Sports Activity Vehicles equipped with inlinesix-cylinder engines

BMW of North America has just notified the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of its intent to conduct a voluntary recall of some model year 2007-2010 BMWs equipped with twin-turbo inline six-cylinder engines, all of which feature BMW ‘s High Precision Injection direct fuel injection system. It has also asked for approval from the California Air Resources Board to conduct this action. Affected vehicles may experience a failure of the high-pressure fuel pump. This is a known issue with the N54 twin turbo and will come as a very welcome news to owners.

Symptoms include long-crank engine starting times along with the illumination of the “Service Engine Soon ” light.In certain cases, the driver may experience reduced engine performance in a Safe Mode accompanied by a tone and the illumination of the “Engine Malfunction ” light. Based on the individual service history of the vehicle, the action will entail replacement of the high-pressure fuel pump and/or a software update.

Approximately 130,000 vehicles are potentially affected with about 40,000 expected to require a new high pressure fuel pump. Affected BMW models include:

  • MY 2007-2010 335i models.
  • MY 2008-2010 135i, 535i and X6 xDrive35i Sports Activity Coupes
  • MY 2009 – 2010 Z4 Roadster sDrive35i

In a separate action, BMW has notified the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that it will voluntarily recall approximately 20,800 MY 2008 X5 Sports Activity Vehicles equipped with normally-aspirated inline six-cylinder engines to replace the low-pressure fuel pump.In this case, should the fuel pump experience a failure, the engine will stop running and the driver will lose power assist for the steering and brakes although both the steering and the brakes remain operational. Letters will be sent by First Class mail to owners of affected vehicles in the coming weeks, requesting the scheduling of a service appointment with an Authorized BMW Center to have the update performed. No injuries have been reported with either of these issues.

In the case of either issue, if the customer experiences a problem, they should contact their authorized BMW Center. Customers with additional questions should contact BMW Customer Relations at 1-800-563-4269 or email CustomerRelations@bmwusa.com.

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  • Bimmer1

    It’s been 3 years and the pump has been redesigned multiple times and many new software applications have been released to correct the issue. Yet no one has told us what the actual cause of the pump failure is. Some of the latest pumps have still failed even with the latest software installed. I’m still betting on poor fuel quality and ethanol playing a large part in this ordeal. These fuel system components are state of the art and they require a very high standard of fuel quality to operate efficiently and keep working properly over time. The piezo crystalline injectors contain thousands of crystals that are electronically charged and can pulse up to 10,000 times a second based on driver demands. As you can imagine, there’s not much margin for error when you’re dealing with something that happens 10,000 times per second. That’s just one example of how advanced the fuel system components are these days. Poor quality fuel leaves behind carbon deposits, dirt, debris, oils, and films that contaminate components and can lead to poor operation or total failure. Personally I just don’t think we can meet those standards, at least not in the US. I was shocked when I found out the percentages of ethanol in most fuels when we first started having these issues. Until recently ethanol levels were only supposed to be up to 10% of the total fuel mixture, no more. I can tell you first hand from the tests we’ve had to do on fuel samples that it’s usually more like 15-22% ethanol. Just recently, the government has approved and is pushing for the use of E15, which is supposedly up to 15% ethanol. This is nothing more than a money making scheme and does nothing to improve emissions or reduce our dependence on oil. In fact it takes more oil to produce ethanol that it would just to use gas that doesn’t have it just like we used to. But no one would make as much money doing that way. Although E15 availability is still a little ways off in the future, we should assume it will probably end up being much higher around 20-25% ethanol or more based on our current levels. BMW immediately released a statement with the E15 announcement that said after initial testing they do not approve and strongly urge client’s not to use E15 fuels. Although there was no specific mention of why, I’m sure there’s a good reason for releasing the statement. Now what if all of this is because of a fuel quality issues, who is responsible for that? You’ve got the government pushing the green agenda which makes them money. Farmers support it because growing corn for ethanol makes them a guaranteed profit from government subsidies. Fuel companies charge more to refine it, then they sell it at a higher cost so they make even more money from it. So who’s responsible when the fuel isn’t what it’s supposed to be? Who takes the blame and burden of paying the costs associated with it when problems come up as a result? Those are the questions that no one seems to be willing to answer. Is it the governments fault for not regulating the fuel quality to a high enough standard? Are the farmers growing crops that can meet those standards? Are the oil companies just blatantly ignoring the requirements? Are filling stations not paying attention or maintaining their tanks properly? It’s any ones guess at this point. Fuel standards in Europe are much stricter, and from what I’ve been told pump failure overseas happens much less frequently. That’s just one more thing that keeps me coming back to our fuel quality potentially causing or at least contributing to the problem. Hopefully we will have the answers to these questions soon, but who really knows when. Of course, this is just my personal opinion based on what I’ve seen over the past several years and I’m certainly no expert in the field. My only suggestion to my client’s is to make sure they are using top tier fuels (http://www.toptiergas.com/retailers.html) and the highest octane available which is usually 93 octane. What else can we do? I think we all need to take a step back and figure out what our real priorities are in this country before it’s too late. Maybe it already is…

  • Mark

    Bimmer1,

    Great, thought provoking post.

    A few questions: Is the HPFP failure issue specific to US market? Or better still: are failures occurring only in markets with Ethanol blends? I’ve had the reduced power light on multiple occasions past 2 and half years, but it always goes off when I pull over, switch off and restart. But a friend with 335 had a major pump failure within 2 weeks after delivery, which is hard to believe is just fuel related, so I’d expect some failures in Germany etc.

    In the US is Ethanol added to all fuel blends, or only to lower octane mixes? Since BMW requires (strongly suggests using) premium fuels, it seems that these must contain EtOH if this is a contributing factor. I’ve used Shell V power exclusively in US, but don’t know exactly what this blend is, other than its the highest octane available from Shell.

    Mark

  • Bimmer1

    To be honest, I have no first hand knowledge of the percentage of pump failures overseas vs. NA. I have never been able to find any conclusive or reliable numbers. This is just the conclusion that I keep coming back to. I have gathered information and discussed others opinions in conversations with numerous people, some of which are reliable sources and others that were untested in the past. Some inside the industry, some end uses, some outsiders. That being said, most of us all kept coming back to the difference of fuels around the world being a factor. Potentially, a very large factor. I strictly use Shell 93 oct. in my cars, and the pump in my 135i failed without warning (minus a handfull of intermittent excessive cranking occurances several days apart) with just over 4,400 miles. It was the day after driving home from watching BMW sweep the G.Am Rolex/Conti Ch. races at Watkins Glen. I was on my lunch break in a busy part of town when I felt a slight miss around 2200 rpm light throttle and then it just hit limp mode and would not go faster than 10 mph. The deceleration from 45MPH to 10MPH felt like someone was lightly pressing on the brake pedal, definately unexpected but more than managable. The car slowed pretty quickly even with no brake application, but I was able to crawl back to work. Cycling the igntion worked until 1,500 RPM then back to limp mode we went. I took a fuel sample at the shop and it was in the 15-17% ethanol range. Not that this is conclusive evidence by itself, but I deal with this situation on a daily basis. Has it gotten better with new pumps and software? To an extent, yes it has gotten better. But in my opinion it could still use some improvement.

    Here’s another angle…

    Who knows what BMW is changing in their software updates. Some updates have changed the way the car performs. At what point does the manufacturer have the responsibilty to give the client the same performance traits as when the car was test driven and then purchased? At what point does the consumer have a right to have the same performance levels as what they originally purchased? Is it a “breach of contract” situation, you paid for one thing and ended up with another? Not that the differences are huge, but most do notice a difference of some kind after reprogramming. Well that’s getting into a whole differnt issue in and of itself, but I still don’t want them pulling power from me to take strain off the pump. I want what I paid for…maybe even more. Thank you for the more Steve D. 😉 My car has been fine since the pump was replaced with the latest design and software update. Although I’ve only gone another 4,000 miles since then so I could also be pressing my luck.

    I have to stop now or I’ll be writing all night.

  • Sargetony

    I have lived in both Germany and the US over the course of the past 6 years. When I initially moved to Germany in 2005, I had a Dodge Durango R/T with the 5.9L in it. This engine required 91 Octane gas, same as our BMWs. While in the States my Durango averaged 13mpg in the City and 18mpg on the highway. When I took it to Germany, I was getting 8/13mpg (and no, I was not trying to do 120mph on the Autobahn with it). Many of my fellow Service Members complained of the same issue with the loss in gas mileage with their cars when using German gas.

    So, I would question your hypothesis Bimmer1 about the gas being the issue. I do not think that German gas is a higher quality than American gas. I now own a 08 135i that I purchased in Germany, and drove it there until Dec 09 when i moved back to the States. Since returning to the States, I have noticed a mpg increase on American gas. Granted, it was only around 10% increase, but it is still an average increase over what I was seeing in Europe.

    Furthermore, I have 20,000 miles on my 135i and I have not had the HPFP failure that some, yourself included, have experienced. Maybe I am just lucky. I doubt it is driving style, I have taken mine to the governed limit on the Autobahn and do not baby it. I added a JB3 about a year ago and have other upgrades as well.

    I think we can make all of the educated guesses that we want and try and pin the tail on a donkey all day long. It could be something simple or something complicated. It is entirely possible that it is just a Quality Control thing at whatever factory makes the pumps.

    I just wanted to share my experience between US gas and European gas since I have plenty of experience with both.

  • Ravaglia

    sargetony, since i doubt you tampered with engine compression ratio when changing countries, there are two explanations: you were filling your tank with e85 in germany, or your calculation is off. it is documented that e85 vs unleaded gasoline makes a difference of the order of magnitude you described (in favor of unleaded). anyways, i think this is way off topic, and i doubt any of this stuff has much to do with hpfp failure. must be quality control issue, something similar to the infamous death rattle in minis. they’ll figure it out eventually.

  • goat

    The recall is good to see (despite the media “sunshine” it took to have BMW North America release it). Couple of questions that have been raised on forums are worth asking here too in case anyone has information:

    1. MY 2011 saw the move to the N55 single-turbo motor in the majority of BMW series models, which is not cited in the BMW recall, and yet this turbo uses the same fuel pump and thus is subject to the same failures (some have indeed been documented by N55 owners). Is BMW being disingenuous by not including the 2011 N55-motored cars in this recall or is the fuel pump less prone to failure in the N55 application?

    2. Since the recall was issued by BMWNA, can we safely assume that BMW Canada will be enforcing the recall and contacting affected owners?

  • We will have much more on this HPFP stuff tomorrow- bring some popcorn !

    As for us vs EU gas- there is a difference in the octane ratings 91 in the EU is NOT premium- they use different RON calculations over there. You should use 100 to equal 91 in the US if memory serves me ( I’ll double check tonight).

  • goat

    Thanks Michael… Looking forward to getting more details from BF… Other sites are just regurgitating rather than analyzing and providing the “so what?”.

  • chas58

    Ethanol is and fuel grade is another can of worms.

    I didn’t notice a change in fuel economy when returning from Germany. I’m not sure you can do a direct comparison though, as the speeds and traffic are so different. That alone could explain the difference.

    Yes, the fuels in Europe are to a higher standard. They don’t have the ethanol mandate, they don’t have “regular” gas (They sell “regular” but in tests it has much higher octane than it is rated at), and certainly BMW feels much more comfortable selling direct injected engines in Germany than the US. Of course, GM and and to some extend Ford have been selling direct injection engines in the US for a while.

  • Update: We have a ton of exclusive content on this entire HPFP issue and were planning on letting it fly yesterday. Due to a last minute discovery of additional information from the engineers that design such parts we are holding off on publishing. We want to be sure we have all the facts and all of the possibilities under control before we release our story. Just what makes us reliable- we try to get things right as best we can the first time.

    -M

  • goat

    @ Michael – good enough for me! Anything worth having is worth waiting for.

    VERY keen to see what the story is if you have been able to get technical info from the fuel systems engineers at BMW or perhaps even the fuel pump supplier.

  • Bimmer1

    Can’t wait to see what info you have. Keep us posted.

  • Chris

    Any updates?