Almost one month ago, we reported on a BMW investigation into a potentially defective bolt that lived in the company's VANOS variable valve timing system. At that point, the potential recall was seemingly limited to Chinese-market cars; the company was filing a recall application with Chinese officials.

Today, Bloomberg is reporting that the engine bolt issue has expanded into a recall for several world markets, involving some 489,000 vehicles. BMW was able to verify that report to Autoblog, while also providing a great deal more detail about the issue and vehicles affected.

The recall affects vehicles powered by N55 inline six-cylinder gasoline engines equipped with VANOS and Valvetronic technologies. 1 Series, 3 Series, 5 Series and 5 Series Gran Turismo, X3, X5, X6 and Z4 models from the 2010 to 2012 model years are included, as is the 2012 6 Series.

In total, 156,137 vehicles in the US are affected by the recall, which BMW says was filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration late on Wednesday.

In rare cases, the bolts holding the VANOS unit housing may become loose, or, in "extreme" cases, break. A broken bolt may trigger an engine warning light or send the engine into safe mode if the VANOS unit is compromised. Ignoring the issue could cause "no start conditions," stalling and further engine damage.

As you might suspect, BMW recommends that owners observing engine warning lights should arrange for service.

NHTSA has yet to issue its own recall notice, though presumably they are forthcoming, and BMW's own statement can be seen below.
Show full PR text
BMW has informed NHTSA of its intention to voluntarily recall approximately 156,137 MY 2010-12 vehicles in the US, equipped with inline 6-cylinder engines. In very rare cases the bolts holding the variable camshaft timing (VANOS) unit housing may become loose or, in extreme cases, break. If that happens, a "Check Engine" or "Service Engine Soon" lamp will illuminate and a check control message will be displayed. If the operation of the VANOS unit is compromised, the engine will operate with reduced engine power in "safe mode". If ignored, the problem can become progressively worse, eventually leading to no start conditions, stalling and engine damage.

Affected Series:
2010-12 1 Series
2010-12 3 Series
2010-2012 5 Series
2010-12 5 Series Gran Turismo
2012 6 Series
2010-2012 X3 SAV
2010-12 X5 SAV
2010-12 X6 SAV
2010-12 Z4

Drivers of potentially affected vehicles may continue to drive their vehicles, however, if they observe a "Check Engine" or "Service Engine Soon" lamp and Check Control message warning, drivers should immediately contact their nearest authorized BMW center to arrange service. In the event of stalling, drivers should carefully move away from traffic and stop the vehicle in a safe location as soon as possible. They should contact BMW Roadside Assistance at 1-800-332-4269 to have the vehicle brought to the nearest authorized BMW center. They should not continue to drive their vehicle.

Owners of potentially affected vehicles will be contacted by BMW Customer Relations via first-class mail, to inform them of the recall and, when parts are available, will receive a second notification that will advise them to make an appointment with their authorized BMW center in order to have the repair made. Customers with questions should contact BMW Customer Relations at 1-800-525-7417 or email

I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.

    • 1 Second Ago
      • 1 Year Ago
      I had this problem on my 2011 335i. I was driving along, in traffic even, and got a message for "Reduced Engine Power." and something to the effect of 'get it to a service center'. I pulled over, called my local dealer and on the phone, they recommended I turn the car off and back on. So, I did, and it was still there. It felt like the turbo was just not there. Almost no acceleration. After almost 6 weeks in the shop, it turned out to be that the bolts on the VANOS gear set in the N55 had been changed to be aluminum and the motor had sheared the bolts at the head. There were four that sheared on mine, and only two stayed in the upper end. The others had made their way to the oil pan. As soon as it was out of the shop, I traded it in. That was right about a year ago...
        • 1 Year Ago
        6 weeks sounds about right for simple diagnosis by BMW Master Techs. Don't forget to delete this post too Autoblog Nazi's!
      • 1 Year Ago
      There are plenty of reasons to recall the 5 series Gran Turismo, and Vanos is not one of them
      • 1 Year Ago
      10 years ago BMW would've issued a TSB and if you were out of warranty, you were screwed out of hundreds to thousands of dollars on a fix. Today? Auto makers are petrified and have been straightened out and are pre-emptively putting together recall campaigns. The E46 M3's spun-bearing issue would've been a recall today, for example. As opposed to just a TSB and a commonly known issue people dreaded.
        • 1 Year Ago
        The E46 M3 was indeed subject to a rod bearing recall due to out of spec rod bearings from a supplier. My 03 car had it done and runs great at 162k.
      • 1 Year Ago
      I applaud BMW for getting the word out early. Obviously every manufacturer is tip-toeing on thin ice with GM already fallen through with their latest recall scandal.
        • 1 Year Ago
        Kinda makes you wonder if they don't wait a few months to see what else crops up and then they can report them all...
      • 1 Year Ago
      Car in the photo looks like a 10 year old Honda with an ugly grill.
        • 1 Year Ago
        The 10 year old Honda already had the ugly grille, but at least it was better than a new one.
        • 1 Year Ago
        that's what they've been saying about you
      • 1 Year Ago
      That's a good start. BMW has had poorly designed VANOS systems going back all the way to the E36 generation M3's.
      Papi L-Gee
      • 1 Year Ago
      My mother has a '10 or '11 535i and she had this problem. I'm gonna tell her about the recall next time we speak.
      • 1 Year Ago
      When is this recall going to extend to Canada??? I just had my vehicle repaired over the broken bolt and the cost was 980$!!!! Not to mention the fact that BMW needed month to obtain a new software system from Germany! 15 minutes after I drove my x5 off the service lot, the car started to vibrate, the steering was not controllable and i had to have my vehicle towed! I drove a Lexus 350 prior to obtaining my x5 in 2011 and never had an issue or breakdown. The Lexus may not offer as an exciting ride, however, I rather have boring then continues malfunctions and no drivability!!! So disappointing for a high end car manufacturer.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Counterfeit Chinese bolt? Improper torque? No loctite on the bolt? WTF?
      • 1 Year Ago
      Sounds like bad metallurgy.
      Mark Snow
      • 1 Year Ago
      My '06 330i has the same broken head bolt issue, but BMW refuses to fix it. After several calls and smokescreens put up by BMW, the issue remains unresolved. As such, I will continue to make other potential BMW customers aware of their lack of transparency and inability to address an issue that they are responsible for. CPO customers beware. This is a serious problem affecting far more vehicles than those that were recalled.
        Michael Quintanilla
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Mark Snow
        Your talking about a different problem and its much less common then the vanos unit failures the newer models have.
      Sebastian D. Dixon
      • 1 Year Ago
      Good morning to all. I found about the recall on June 21, 2014. I will sum my feelings up by saying one word. "Karma!" I bought a 2011 535i from South Atlanta BMW in June of 2010. It broke down in December of 2011. I have spent anywhere from $4000 to $8000 does on this car and it still doesn't run correctly. I AM PISSED WITH BMW! They told me it was my fault and I should burn a better gas. This car has been in the shop at a BMW dealer at least 3 times and it a BMW specialist at least twice. This car has shut down on me at least three times and had to be towed. It hesitates and sputters! I am so displeased with this BMW experience.
    • Load More Comments
    Share This Photo X