BMW X3 F25 Problems and Buyers Guide (2010-2018) – Reliability Report

BMW X3 F25 Problems: The second generation of the initial E83 BMW X3 was a success. Not only did it look much better compared to its predecessor, it kind of resembled the bigger brother, the X5. Introduced in 2010, the BMW X3 F25 was not only built well, it also drove well and had features that are still considered modern today. Combine good looks and modern features and what you get is exactly what used car buyers are looking for today. The BMW X3 F25 problems are mostly connected to the engine choices and the good thing is, you can avoid most of those problems if you go for the right engine.

This article covers all the major known BMW X3 F25 problems and issues reported by owners, mechanics and automotive media outlets.

Major problems with the BMW X3 F25

N47 2.0 X3 F25 Diesel engine problems

We already talked about the N47 diesel engine when we reviewed the BMW E90’s common problems and unfortunately we have to talk about this engine again. The N47 diesel engines suffer from common timing chain and timing chain guide failures. This problem first shows up as slight engine knocking when the car is cold but it gradually knocks more and more. If the chain fails, you can pretty much say goodbye to the engine. 

This problem is present because of the way BMW designed the engine, placing the timing chain at the back of the engine, closer to the transmission. Timing chains on BMW diesel engines used to be something that an owner did not even think about, but owning an N47 diesel engine, that is not the case anymore.

Shortening the oil replacement interval helps a tiny bit but generally, the problem is unavoidable.

N20 X3 F25 petrol engine problems

The N20 4-cylinder turbo petrol engine was BMW’s replacement of the 6-cylinder N52 and N53 engines (which were great). The N20 however, is not that great. Just like the N47 diesel engine, it is cursed with timing chain issues until January 2015. So beware of any BMW X3 F25’s made before January 2015 that were fitted with the N20 petrol engine. The N20 engine is known to have issues with the timing chain. As most of these F25 X3’s are going out of warranty, replacing a failing timing chain is very expensive (1500$ at least). A loose timing chain will cause loud whining and ticking noises and you can even see the timing chain become scratched up if you peek through the oil cap of the engine. The timing chain must be replaced before it breaks and causes engine failure.

Another common problem of the N20 BMW engine is the poorly designed valve cover and valve cover gasket. The valve cover is made out of a plastic composite which is susceptible to cracks and breaking as these cars age and reach higher mileages. The valve cover gasket is made out of rubber which is also very sensitive to age related degradation and heat. Symptoms of a bad valve cover and gasket include smoke, oil seepage and burning oil smell. Your mechanic should be able to detect this issue straight away.

N55 X3 F25 petrol engine problems

The 3.0L N55 turbocharged straight-6 engine is a technological marvel and a joy to drive. But only when it works like it should. This engine is most known for having problems with the boost pipe and charge pipe detaching from the intercooler. This is more common on tuned N55 engines, but there were also reports of this happening on stock N55 engines. This happens mainly due to poor design (only 1 metal clamp) and due to excessive heat that these engines produce when driven hard. You can buy aftermarket aluminum pipes that are a much better option than the faulty OEM design.

The N55 engine also suffers from the same valve cover and valve cover gaskets as the N20 engine. Other problems also include: common electric water pump failures, leaking oil filter housing gasket, high pressure fuel pump failures on early N55 engines and Vanos solenoid failure.

BMW X3 F25 Vanos problems

Six cylinder petrol engines, both turboed (35i) and naturally aspirated engines are known to have problems with the engines Vanos unit, namely the Vanos solenoids. Symptoms of Vanos failure include: loss of power, rough idling, increased fuel consumption, limp mode activation, slow reaction to the gas pedal.

BMW X3 F25 Steering wheel problems (clunking and knocking noise)

Many owners, even of (then) completely new F25 X3 are reporting annoying clunking and knocking sounds coming from their steering wheel when it is in a full lock or 90% lock position. As you can see in this X3 forum thread, some owners had their steering wheel racks replaced multiple times without any luck. As of now, BMW issued a set of parts that resolve the issue without having to replace an entire steering rack. But the problem still remains common and annoying to many F25 X3 owners out there. Vehicles with the advanced Servotronic steering are also prone to steering problems which result in huge repair bills. Just avoid buying a car with Servotronic and you should be all right.

bmw x3 f25 rear

BMW X3 F25 Transfer case problems

If you search through the BMW X3 F25 problems forums, you will quickly see that a number of people are facing problems with the transfer case or transfer box of the F25’s xDrive system. Many of those issues were fixed under warranty, some even with a simple fluid flush or software update. Some owners also make the mistake of replacing only 2 tires at once which is a bad idea for vehicles with AWD. All 4 tires must have the same thread depth in order for the transfer case to work correctly. Symptoms of a bad transfer case include shaking and shuddering at low speeds. We list this as a major issue because many people now are buying high mileage BMW X3 F25’s that could potentially face this issue in the future. Replacing the entire transfer case is incredibly expensive, we have seen figures from 4000$ and up to 9000$.

Turbo failures on the F25 X3

While this is not a specific F25 problem, it is still a thing worth mentioning if you are looking at used BMW F25 X3’s. These failures are mainly caused by improper maintenance and vehicle handling. Replacing the oil on a stretched interval or irregularly can lead to blockages of the small oil pipes that carry fresh oil to the turbochargers. This clogging can also be caused by turning off a hot engine without leaving it running for a minute so the turbocharger has the chance to cool down. As these clogs completely block the oil conduit, the turbocharger fails and replacing it is not a joke. Make sure that the car you are looking at has a full maintenance history.

Minor BMW X3 F25 problems

Run Flat tire problems

Unless you like replacing your tires often, avoid using the OEM Run Flat tires. These cars are heavy and use up these Run Flat tires in no time. When you do replace the tires, make sure you change all at once to avoid problems with the xDrive AWD system.

BMW X3 F25 Rear differential problems

We already mentioned the transfer case problems, but as we were researching that problem, we also found a number of owners having problems with the rear differential. Replacing the differential fluid helps prevent future and present problems. Avoid vehicles that have been driven on hard terrain. We have talked about differential problems on here before.

BMW X3 F25 suspension problems

Just because the F25 X3 is an SUV, it does not mean it is a proper off-roader. The suspension of the F25 is very susceptible to damage so if you plan on doing serious off-roading, this really is not the car for you. If you plan on buying a used BMW X3, make sure that you get the suspension carefully inspected for any signs of damage. Innocent suspension problems can result in hefty repair bills.

Oxygen sensor malfunctions

Many owners report common failure of the “Lambda” oxygen sensors. Increased fuel consumption and rough engine idle is a common symptom of this problem.

Body and interior problems of the F25 X3

BMW X3 F25 Sunroof rattle and mechanism problems

Many owners of ConsumerReports and owners forums are reporting issues with annoying rattling sounds of the sunroof and failing sunroof mechanisms that do not open the sunroof entirely. 

Interior part wear

The dreaded interior wear problems that we already mentioned in our E90 common problems review has found its way into the F25 X3 as well. Commonly used buttons, handles and levers are all susceptible to wear all too soon. Do better BMW.

Electric problems on the F25 X3

F25 X3 Infotainment unit problems

Owners report common problems with the infotainment unit on the X3. The infotainment seems to be shutting down on its own. Software upgrade resolves the issue.

ABS Sensors malfunctioning

ABS sensors placed on the wheels themselves are prone to failures. This causes a series of warning lights on the dashboard and even the car to enter limp mode. It is generally considered an easy fix but annoying nonetheless.

Other electric problems

Owners report failing side window regulators, LED headlight problems and sensors integrated into the front seats that manage the correct deployment of airbags in case of a crash.

pre-facelift 2011 bmw x3

Frequently asked questions

Is the BMW X3 F25 Reliable?

Yes, we would say that it is fairly reliable, especially if it has the common engine problems with the timing chain taken care of. Make sure you buy a car with a full maintenance history.

What are the most common BMW X3 F25 problems?

The most common are engine timing chain problems on the diesel N47 engine and the N20 petrol engine, the steering wheel knocking sound and certain electrical issues.

Does the BMW X3 F25 have automatic gearbox problems?

There aren’t many automatic transmission problems reported on the BMW F25 X3, but some owners did have problems with rough gear shifting that was commonly resolved with a transmission software upgrade.

Conclusion and recommendation

The second generation BMW X3, with the codename F25 was a big step up from the initial X3. It offers more space, more comfort, better engines and a great automatic gearbox. Buying a F25 nowadays can be a pretty good decision if you are not looking for an SUV that can actually go off-road. The X3 is not meant to be driven on hard terrain but you will love it on the road. Most of the common and bigger engine issues have been discovered so you know exactly what to look for when buying one of these BMWs. Our recommendation is to look for 2015 and newer model years as they have proven much more reliable than the earlier model years. As always, do not come close to a car with no maintenance history, just don’t. Good luck!

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