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Used BMW 5-Series Fault Guides

Used Car Expert Fault Guides tell you the common BMW 5-Series faults and wear items that can become problems and big bills for their owner.

Independent research indicated that using our fault guides to check a car before you buy it can save you an average of £300 in surprise bills and hidden problems.

That's because our BMW 5-Series fault guides are written so that anyone can understand them – even if you know nothing about cars and have no tools. For every common fault, we tell you what to look for, what it means and what it costs.

Select your BMW 5-Series fault guide:

BMW 5-Series (1996 - 2004) Fault Guide
BMW 5-Series (1988 - 1995) Fault Guide
BMW 5-Series (2003 - 2010) Fault Guide


BMW 5-Series (1996 - 2004) Fault Guide

View BMW 5-Series (1996 - 2004) Fault Guide

We know of 26 BMW 5-Series (1996 - 2004) faults which our fault check guide makes it easy for you to spot and avoid.

  • 9 engine faults
  • 2 suspension wear items or faults
  • 5 interior problems
  • 1 bodywork issues
  • 9 recalls

Here's an example fault on the BMW 5-Series (1996 - 2004)

What to look for:

Open the oil filler cap on the top of the engine and check to see if there are any white creamy substances on the inside of the cap. Check the water reservoir (connected to the radiator at the front of the engine bay) for deposits of oil (grey sludge) floating on the water.

What it means:

These symptoms mean you need a new head gasket. The thermostat housing can leak, leading to overheating, which causes this problem.

What to do

Negotiate a £2,000 discount or have the repair completed.


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BMW 5-Series (1988 - 1995) Fault Guide

View BMW 5-Series (1988 - 1995) Fault Guide

We know of 19 BMW 5-Series (1988 - 1995) faults which our fault check guide makes it easy for you to spot and avoid.

  • 5 engine faults
  • 4 suspension wear items or faults
  • 5 interior problems
  • 2 bodywork issues
  • 3 recalls

Here's an example fault on the BMW 5-Series (1988 - 1995)

What to look for:

518 (up to 1994), 520 and 525 (up to 1990) cars only. Check the paperwork to see if the cam belt has been changed on schedule. On these engines the cam belt must be changed within 3 years or 36,000 miles. Other engines are chain driven so do not have a cam belt.

What it means:

If the cam belt and associated parts (such as water pump and tensioner) have not been changed, and the mileage is over these boundaries, the cam belt is likely to fail soon and will cause expensive damage to the engine. Usually the engine has to be replaced or at least re-built.

What to do

Ensure that the cam belt is changed before the car is driven anywhere if it is coming close to its interval. Changing the belt will cost £200.


Register to have full access to the BMW 5-Series (1988 - 1995) fault guide.

Registered users also get access to our regional price guides, cars for sale email alerts, and many other benefits to help you buy a safe, reliable used car at a great price.


BMW 5-Series (2003 - 2010) Fault Guide

View BMW 5-Series (2003 - 2010) Fault Guide

We know of 31 BMW 5-Series (2003 - 2010) faults which our fault check guide makes it easy for you to spot and avoid.

  • 7 engine faults
  • 4 suspension wear items or faults
  • 11 interior problems
  • 2 bodywork issues
  • 7 recalls

Here's an example fault on the BMW 5-Series (2003 - 2010)

What to look for:

Use the car's I-Drive menu system to establish whether there are any outstanding or imminent servicing requirements. The car has 'condition based servicing' so should be serviced whenever the system requests it.

What it means:

You can check before buying that there are no big service bills coming up. Some services, such as the spark plug change at 60,000 miles are much more expensive than others.

What to do

Obtain quotes for services before buying the car.


Register to have full access to the BMW 5-Series (2003 - 2010) fault guide.

Registered users also get access to our regional price guides, cars for sale email alerts, and many other benefits to help you buy a safe, reliable used car at a great price.


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