Top 10 Most Common E53 Repairs
So you’re the proud new owner of BMW’s first generation X5 SUV. What kinds of repairs will you encounter during your ownership journey? Well, have a look at the Bimmerzeit top ten most common repairs and failures of this model. None of these jobs are particularly difficult to repair yourself as a DIY, and you can follow all of my step by step BMW repair tutorials to help you along. To see all 83 of my X5 video repairs in a YouTube playlist, click here.
1. Exterior Door Handle Carrier Replacement
The exterior door handle carrier is made with a unique design on the E53 which features a cable and aluminum frame that pivots to actuate the door lock mechanism. Over time, the cable (like a bike brake or shifter cable) stretches and no longer actuates the latch properly. I’ve owned two X5’s and have replaced the driver and passenger front carriers on both of them. Very common failure item. To order a new carrier, buy here.
2. X5 Service Interval Light Reset
This is a really easy one, and you don’t even have to get your hands dirty. After a period of time the service interval lights will turn yellow and red on your cluster. To reset them after a service, watch this video below.
3. M54 Water pump and Thermostat Replacement DIY
At some point, every BMW will need its cooling system overhauled. The M54 6 cylinder in the 3.0i X5 is no exception. In fact, you can listen to what a failing bearing on the water pump sounds like in this video. To access the pump and perform the job, you’ll need a set of fan clutch tools like these to get started.
4. Auxiliary Audio Input Kit Installation and Retrofit
So you like driving a 15-20 year old classic; the first generation X5. But you’re not willing to miss out on connecting your phone to your radio to stream Spotify music. No worries, this genuine BMW auxiliary audio kit available here will install in 20 minutes and allow you to connect your phone to the factory X5 radio via an auxiliary input jack. This is the best method to achieve the highest audio sound quality in your SUV. Avoid bluetooth or radio frequency wireless models. This cable offers the best audio fidelity and is made by BMW, not an aftermarket third party.
5. M54 Alternator Removal and Replacement DIY
It seems to me that October is the month where BMW alternators fail. In my 17 years of driving BMWs the overarching principle is that the cold weather that rolls in during October in New England begins the decline of many a BMW charging system. Batteries and alternators meet their demise. Here’s my guide to quickly and affordably changing yours out yourself, should you find it failing this autumn.
6. E53 X5 Front Brake Rotor and Pad Removal and Replacement DIY
Sooner or later, your X5 is going to need new brake rotors and pads. Learning to do tune ups, oil changes, and brakes is the single most important group of repairs you can learn to do to save big money on owning a BMW. Brake jobs are very easy and affordable to DIY, compared to what local dealerships will charge. You can save thousands by doing it yourself. Here’s my front brake replacement guide:
I recommend using Zimmermann rotors (made in Germany) and genuine OEM BMW pads or equivalent such as Jurid and Textar. In my experience, the genuine BMW pads last longest and bite the hardest. The downside is you’ll experience greater wheel dust and dirty wheels. The commonly used ceramic pads that claim zero brake dust do just that – virtually no dust is to be found. However, the performance of the bite when braking is not inspiring, and I refuse to compromise braking power for aesthetics.
7. Transfer Case Actuator Gear Replacement
The transfer case actuator will eventually give you issues in your X5 or X3. The original plastic gear will strip it’s teeth and cause the ABS, Brake, and DSC traction light to appear which will alarm you when it first happens. Don’t let your local dealer tell you that you need a $4,000 USD transfer case replacement. Buy this little carbon fiber reinforced replacement gear here with a lifetime warranty!
8. X5 Ignition Switch Replacement
The ignition switch can cause all kinds of issues on this model. Issues that you think are something else end up leading back to this switch. The second failure of the X5 ignition switch during our 5 year ownership came along with a battery light flashing and led me down the path of replacing the battery and alternator before realizing it was once again, the switch. See that diagnosis video here.
9. X5 Xenon Light Bulb Removal and Replacement DIY
One great thing about the BMW xenon system is that one, their light output is much greater than standard halogen bulbs. The D2S bulbs themselves also last much longer than a standard halogen bulb: 7-8 years for a xenon vs. only 1-3 for a halogen type. If you find yourself with a warning “check side lights” and your headlight is out, see my tutorial here on how to replace the bulb.
10. E53 X5 Air Suspension Struts and Bags Replacement DIY
If you’re lucky enough to have a rare X5 with four corner air suspension, you may eventually run into replacement of the air struts and air springs as they fail. The rubber reservoirs age much like a tire does, and break down over time to leak. Fortunately replacements are readily available and cheap. The replacement is not too difficult either, this will save you thousands over taking it to the shop. For a demonstration of the adjustable ride height on an E53 X5 with four corner air suspension, see my video here.
So there you have it, these are the top 10 most common repairs you can expect to perform on an E53 X5, the first generation SUV from BMW. If you’re looking to buy one of these models, check out my complete buyers guide recently posted here on the blog.
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