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BMW X3 Mk1 common problems (2004-2010)


BMW was on cloud nine with the success of its first ever SUV, the X5. So, why not give more people more choice by offering a smaller option. Hence the X3 came to be. It was designed to attract people who might want a 3-Series but who needed a bit of four-wheel-drive ability.

Buyers lapped it up, because it was ahead of the curve as far as the craze for SUVs went – there simply weren’t that many rivals.

And it remains popular, because it’s reached ‘bargain ‘status, while people still love SUVs. And it’s also reached an age where people are more than happy to fix it themselves, because doing so can save you hundreds in servicing and repair costs each year.

And that’s what Haynes Autofix is designed for – our online product can help you through how to service your car, and we can show you how to fix common problems, with the help of extensive specifications and video tutorials.


What recalls has the BMW X3 E83 been subject to?

BMW has hauled the X3 back to dealers for remedial work on a few occasions.

The first recall was brought about by a front passenger airbag that might not deploy correctly in an accident. Less than ideal.

Then almost 22,000 examples were recalled because moisture could get into an electrical connection on the fuel filter heater, which could potentially cause a fire.

The fuel filter heater caused another, later recall, due to the fact that in freezing temperatures it could remain on, with another attendant risk of fire.

Then the BMW variable valve-timing system caused another recall, because screws could break and cause an internal oil leak.

BMW X3 common problems

What common problems does the BMW X3 Mk1 have?

BMW X3 cars with the six-cylinder diesel engine can develop a fault that makes the engine difficult to start in cold ambient temperatures, and cause the idle speed to fluctuate when the engine is started.

Some owners have also reported that their diesel-engined X3s can produce a droning noise from somewhere up ahead. A faulty exhaust flexpipe is the cause.

If your BMW X3 has a manual gearbox, then you could encounter a problem in which the clutch seizes, which is going to take the shine off your day. A duff dual-mass flywheel is the cause.

A faulty EGR cooler can also be the cause of problems, because it’ll cause the car to use too much coolant and emit clouds of white smoke.

And finally, the BMW X3 can, on occasion, emit an alarming grinding noise from the engine. It’s the timing chain and associated components that are at fault, so it’s best to sort it quickly.

BMW X3 problems solved with Haynes

Does the BMW X3 have starting problems?

It’s not ideal, but the BMW X3 Mk1 can develop a fault that makes the engine reluctant to start (particularly in colder conditions), and can also cause the idle to fluctuate once the engine is running.

The problem is related to the glow plugs, which can either have resistance outside specification, a short circuit or an open circuit.

The first thing to do is plug in a fault-code reader, which will display one of a number of fault codes ( 4A14, 4A19, 4A1E, 4A24, 4A29, 4A2E, 4A34, 4A39, 4A3E, 4A44, 4A49, 4A4E, 4A54, 4A59, 4A5E, 4A64, 4A69 or 4A6E). These will indicate which fault applies to the dodgy glow plug, and which plug is actually the cause of the issue.

After that, it’s a case of renewing the glow plug and deleting the fault codes.

If you need help accessing the glow plugs, just look up your Haynes X3 Autofix, which will give a good steer on where to find the glow plugs and what to do with them.

BMW X3 problems
BMW X3 Mk1 problems fixed with Haynes

Does the BMW X3 E83 have clutch problems?

If you’re the sort of driver who prefers to flick between gearbox ratios yourself, instead of relying on an automatic transmission to do the job for you, then a BMW makes a fine choice. These are cars that are made to be driven and enjoyed on all roads. Including twisty ones.

However, the BMW X3 Mk1 can develop a problem that means you won’t be able to swap cogs whenever you want, which is going to spoil the drive.

The issue is an iffy dual-mass flywheel, and the only way to fix the problem is to replace the flywheel. Just keep your tablet or phone by your side and follow the Haynes X3 Autofix and all will be right in the world soon enough.

BMW X3 common problems

Does the BMW X3 have EGR cooler problems?

Yes, it can do. One of the clues that your BMW X3 is suffering this issue is when you start it up and see clouds of white smoke behind. Smoke tends to be the precursor to big bills.

The fault is most likely a leaky EGR cooler. The way to suss out if this is the problem is to pressurise the system using a hand pump and check for leaks. If a leak is found, then you’ll need to replace the EGR cooler.

We’ve covered how to check out the cooling system in your Haynes X3 Autofix, so just follow the steps. Swapping an EGR cooler will take time but is well within the scope of the home mechanic. And doing so will save you heaps of cash.

BMW X3 common problems

Does the BMW X3 have exhaust noise problems?

BMWs are marketed as drivers’ cars, and part of the attraction can be the noise they make. Okay, that perhaps applies less to the diesel, but nevertheless the six-cylinder diesels sound good.

Which can make it all the more annoying when the noise you hear from the engine bay develops into a droning noise. No one needs to hear that.

The noise tends to appear at idle speed and when you’re travelling slowly, and the cause is the exhaust flexpipe, which can deteriorate over time. Still, the good news is that BMW has developed an improved part, so you’ll need to safely jack up the car and replace the faulty component. Then all will be silky smooth and serene once more.

BMW X3 common problems

Does the BMW X3 have timing chain problems?

Grinding noises tend to be bad. And expensive. So, starting up your BMW X3 Mk1 and hearing such a noise is going to cause concern.

And so it should, because on the X3 it’s the engine timing chain guide rails, tensioner and tensioner rail that are at fault, so fixing this should be a priority.

If your car has less than 50,000 miles on it, then you’ll need to replace the upper chain tensioner, the timing chain lower guide rails and the guide sleeves. If it has more than 50k you’ll also need to replace the upper and lower timing chains, the upper and lower guide rails, and the high-pressure pump cog.

It’s a job that’s going to take you a while, but keep an eye on the Haynes X3 Autofix and we’ll help you get to the other end of it.