Mechanical misdiagnosis

We received the below question about vehicle issues and asked our CHOICE Help expert to respond:

I experienced a partial loss of power while driving my 2013 BMW X3, and a ‘Drive train’ error message flashed up on the dash with the accompanying message: “Continue the journey at moderate speed. Full performance not available. Have the problem checked by service.” When the car was looked at, I was told there were multiple problems that needed to be addressed in addition to a full service and was charged $2867.80.

A few weeks later my husband and I experienced a substantial loss of power while driving on the freeway at high speed. We returned the car to the dealership and were told that the turbo had seized and would need to be replaced. BMW has offered to pay for the parts (approximately $6000) while we have to cover the labour (roughly $3000). Is there any warranty on work already done? It seems we spent $2800 fixing the problem, which wasn’t really the problem, and that the correct diagnosis was missed all together.


Considering you’ve paid a substantial amount for the repairs and the problems with the car seem to have not been properly identified and fixed (as they re-occurred again shortly after the repair was done), you might have scope to argue that the repair was not performed with ‘due care and skill’ and not ‘fit for purpose’ under the consumer guarantees of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).

I’m uncertain whether BMW’s repairs have a warranty attached, but warranties cannot exclude a consumer’s rights under the ACL. This means that even if the repairs did not come with a warranty, you may still receive statutory protection under the ACL. I suggest you contact BMW again via a formal
complaint letter or email and mention all this to them. If that doesn’t work, you can escalate the matter with your local fair trading organisation.


Also checking online about the issue may be enlightening as to whether it is a common problem. I can’t say if any of the following relate to that particular problem but there seems to be a reasonable rate of engine issues with that model.


X3 Engine failure

After experiencing the problem with the VW DSG transmission, and VW’s “head in sand” attitude to it, I got rid of my Passat. But I bought a BMW X3 diesel and find myself with a problem with the 2.0-litre diesel engine in that. It failed catastrophically at 158,772 km and only 600 km after the BMW dealer carried out a “timing chain campaign”. The engine dropped an intake valve and then the other intake valve head came off and they jammed in the piston crown seizing the engine. BMW are denying any responsibility, despite the fact that in Europe and UK, this engine is failing frequently due to timing chain wear and “extension”. The repairs are very expensive. It looks as though BMW and VW both attended the same “deny everything” course and are hoping they will not be seriously challenged. I will never ever recommend the purchase of either a BMW or a car that is part of the VW Group, because their total lack of product support and unwillingness to admit to a design problem.

Answered by Graham Smith
7 October 2016

You need to get to the bottom of what caused the failure in your engine. It is all very well to assume it was caused by the timing chain wearing and stretching, but until you actually establish that as the cause you won’t get anywhere with the carmaker. Have an experienced engineer inspect the damage and if they believe it is caused by the timing chain failure you have something you can take to BMW to argue your case for compensation. You also then have the option of going to consumer affairs to get their help.