BMW F10 5 Series Automatic Transmission Problems (2009-2017)

The BMW 5 Series has always been the benchmark of what could be described as the quintessential business and sporty sedan. It is a car that brings together many aspects that attract buyers from various walks of life. It is just as popular as a business sedan as it is as a family car or a brutal track weapon in its M5 form factor. A car like the 2009-2017 F10 5 Series must be equipped with an automatic transmission. And that is the purpose of this article today. We know everyone is worried about buying a used car with an automatic transmission because repairing a faulty transmission is not exactly a small financial burden. Here is everything you need to know about the automatic transmission in the BMW F10 and the most common BMW F10 5 Series (2009-2017) Automatic Transmission Problems.

What automatic transmission is in the BMW F10 5 Series?

Just like the BMW F30, the BMW F10 5 Series which was built from 2009-2017, it features the ZF 8HP automatic transmission. The name suggests the following: ZF (as in ZF Friedrichshafen AG, the manufacturer), 8 (as in 8 speed), H (as in hydraulic), and P (as in planetary gear sets). If we put the pieces together, it is an 8-speed standard hydraulic automatic transmission.

The ZF 8HP is not only fitted to BMW vehicles but plenty of others as well. Here are just some of them:

  • Aston Martin Vanquish
  • Audi RS6
  • Bentley Bentayga
  • All BMW X series
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • And many more…

This makes it one of the most popular and tested automatic transmissions in the market today. As you can see it is used in many high-value vehicles which only adds to its reputation of incredible shifting speed and reliability.

What automatic transmission is in the BMW F10 M5?

The M5, being the performance sedan that it is, does not use the same ZF 8HP automatic transmission as all other versions of the F10 BMW 5 Series. Instead, it uses a direct-shift, dual-clutch 7-speed DCT transmission.

We talked a lot about what direct-shift transmissions are and how they work. We suggest you read our guide on DCT transmissions. And the guide on their problems.

The reason why BMW chose the 7-speed DCT automatic transmission for the F10 BMW M5 is the higher speed of gear changes and overall increased performance of shifting compared to the hydraulic ZF 8HP transmission. It is also lighter in terms of weight which is a big factor for the M5.

Common BMW F10 5 Series Automatic Transmission Problems (ZF 8HP)

The ZF 8HP is generally regarded as a much better automatic transmission than the ZF 6HP fitted in the F10’s predecessor, the E60 5 Series. However, it still has its problems. Different automatic transmissions were fitted to the pre-facelift F10 and the updated LCI F10 BMW. The pre-facelift received the ZF 8HP45 transmission and the facelift F10 received the 8HP50 transmission. The stronger non-M versions (535i, 540i, 550i, 535d..) of the F10 5 Series received the ZF 8HP70 transmission that is suitable for higher torque applications.

Here are the most common BMW F10 ZF 8HP Automatic Transmission Problems:

  • Pre-facelift jerky and hard shifting in cold and Sport+ drive mode
    A large number of F10 owners with the 8HP45 automatic transmission complained about the jerky and hard shifting of the gears. BMW tried to resolve the issue with a software update but it did not help as much as they thought it would.
  • xDrive and automatic transmission problems
    There were several transmission issues specific to F10 models with the xDrive 4WD system. We wrote more details in our review of the F30 3 Series ZF 8HP transmission problems review article.
  • Pre-facelift ZF 8HP45 transmission solenoid failure
    While this is not common, certain pre-facelift 8HP45 transmissions did suffer from solenoid failure which led to bigger transmission issues down the road.
  • Transmission fluid leaks
    The most known leak of transmission oil or transmission fluid forms at the inlet and outlet tube of the transmission cooler.
  • Mechatronic sleeve damage
    The mechatronic sleeve is in place to protect the electrical connectors from moisture and dirt. As it fails, so do the electrical connections which cause a number of problems.
  • Regular maintenance confusion
    BMW still likes to claim that the transmission fluid of the ZF 8HP transmission is a lifetime fluid, meaning it does not need changing. This could not be further from the truth and the reality is, that ZF, the manufacturer of the 8HP transmission recommends changing the transmission fluid and filter at a 60,000-mile interval.

Read more details about each of these problems in our review of the automatic transmission in the BMW F30 3 Series which has the same exact transmission and problems. We got into more details there.

BMW F30 Automatic transmission problems (same as the F10, click HERE)

BMW F10 M5 DCT transmission problems (dual-clutch transmission)

The M5 uses a dual-clutch, direct-shift transmission similar to the VW DSG transmission that we talk a lot about here on LifeOnFour. A DCT transmission is much faster than a standard hydraulic transmission but it does come with a whole set of issues. Here are the most common F10 M5 DCT problems:

  • Jerky, hard and hesitant gear changes

A big number of owners are complaining about the jerkiness and the hesitation they receive from the transmission in different situations.

While many claim that it mostly comes down to how you drive the M5 with the super-responsive DCT, many people have gone to great lengths trying to resolve the issues and even had their transmission replaced to solve the problem. A software update and transmission adaptation will also solve certain jerky shifts and hard shifting. Below are a few links to forum threads describing the issue:

https://f10.m5post.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1613051

https://www.pistonheads.com/gassing/topic.asp?h=0&f=181&t=1401465

https://www.m5board.com/threads/dct-clutch-problems.521089/

https://f10.5post.com/forums/showthread.php?t=455949

https://f10.m5post.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1072879

  • 5-7th DCT Gear Rod Problem

A number of owners have reported the problem with the gear rod (gear linkage) responsible for engaging the 5th and 7th gear. As it fails, the car displays a “Drivetrain Failure” warning message and the vehicle loses all of its power in order to prevent further transmission damage. Some owners were able to fix the problem by simply readapting the clutch, while others face enormous costs by replacing the valve bodies or even entire transmissions. It remains a highly mysterious issue but it is definitely worth mentioning. Read more about it here.

  • Adapting the transmission for engine modifications

A large percent of the problems with the F10 M5’s DCT transmission stems from the fact that many of these cars are tuned up to either stage 1, stage 2, or even higher. Smart owners will not forget about upgrading the clutch pack in the DCT transmission but many will. Those that don’t change anything about the transmission are soon met with a mountain of transmission issues that cost an arm and a leg to repair.

  • Replace the DCT transmission fluid regularly

Like they do with the standard hydraulic ZF 8HP automatic transmission, BMW likes to claim that the transmission fluid in the M5s DCT transmission is also a lifetime fluid and does not need changing. This is nowhere near the truth, especially not with a high-performance car where the transmission fluid really needs to lubricate and cool all the internal transmission parts. Replace the transmission fluid every 30,000-50,000 miles to avoid major transmission damage!

  • Other direct-shift/dual-clutch problems

We talked a lot about direct-shift and dual-clutch transmission problems here on LifeOnFour.co. Make sure you check our DSG problems article and our guide on driving a car with a DCT transmission.

Recap And Conclusion

While both the ZF 8HP in the non-M versions of the F10 5 Series and the DCT transmission in the M5 is considered highly reliable, there are some issues, here is a quick recap:

Common BMW F10 5 Series automatic transmission problems:

  • Pre-facelift jerky and hard shifting in cold and Sport+ drive mode
  • xDrive and automatic transmission problems
  • Pre-facelift ZF 8HP45 transmission solenoid failure
    Transmission fluid leaks
  • Mechatronic sleeve damage
  • Regular maintenance confusion

Common BMW F10 M5 DCT transmission problems (dual-clutch transmission):

  • Jerky, hard and hesitant gear changes
  • 5-7th DCT Gear Rod Problem
  • Adapting the transmission for engine modifications
  • Replace the DCT transmission fluid regularly
  • Other direct-shift/dual-clutch problems