BMW is recalling about 500,000 vehicles in the U.S., including recent model year 3 Series sedans, its most popular vehicle, as well as its 1 Series coupe and the Z4 sports car because a battery cable can fail, causing the cars to stall unexpectedly.
In all, the recall includes 3 Series sedans, wagons, convertibles and coupes from the 2007 through 2011 model years, 1 Series coupes and convertibles from the 2008 through 2012 model years and the Z4 from 2009 through 2011.
The automaker has document a crash in Canada caused by the problem but doesn’t know of any accidents or injuries in the U.S.
In all the recalled cars, the battery is located in the trunk and there is a long battery cable from the battery to the fuse box, located between the glove compartment and the dash panel.
BMW said that both the connector at the end of the cable and the corresponding terminal on the fuse box are coated with tin.
The connection can degrade over time from the relative movements of the cable and the fuse box, which can eventually break the electric connection.
Additionally, BMW said the problem could cause a momentary flickering of the display in the instrument cluster or cause the engine to shut down briefly.
“In an extreme case, the electrical system may be completely interrupted during vehicle operation resulting in engine stalling and a loss of various vehicle systems that could increase the risk of a crash,” the automaker said.
In a filing with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, BMW said it believes less than 1% of the recalled vehicles are actually affected by the problem.
BMW has known about the problem since July 2010 as a result of two field cases from the U.S. market involving the failure of the electrical system on a 3 Series vehicle when a customer experienced a "no-start" condition after it was parked. In October and December 2010, additional reports were received pertaining to the same problem.
It issued a service bulletin telling dealers how to fix the problem but has now decided to recall all 504,545 of the cars sold in the U.S.
BMW will notify owners, and dealers will replace the positive battery cable connector and secure it with an improved method, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in March. Owners may call BMW for more information at (800) 525-7417 or email BMW.
Earlier this week, BMW announced it was recalling more than 30,000 of its eight-cylinder X5 model sport utility vehicles to fix an oil leak that could affect their power brakes. The recall covers X5 SUVs in the U.S. from the 2007 through 2010 model years. The vehicles were made between Sept. 12, 2006, and March 18, 2010.
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