2018 BMW X3 Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Electrical system, poor vehicle structure, brake and powertrain issues among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

By Brian Jones | Updated on

By Brian Jones | Updated on

Luxury SUVs are the talk of the town and the 2018 BMW X3 seems to exceed expectations at first glance. The company claims that “adventure awaits” behind the wheel and research agrees, but not for the same reasons. Adventure comes in the form of a faulty powertrain, a defective structure, a glitchy electrical system, finicky steering and flawed brakes.

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NHTSA Complaints for the 2018 BMW X3

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Electrical System
6
Unknown Or Other
6
Service Brakes
4
Steering
4
Engine
2
Structure:body
2
Suspension
2
Forward Collision Avoidance
1
Service Brakes, Hydraulic
1
Back Over Prevention: Sensing System: Camera
1

Problems with the Transmission

The powertrain is one of the main systems that keeps a vehicle running its best. With defects, owners get frustrated and are also put into danger.

One Edmunds review states, “New.At 3,600 miles Drivetrain Malfunction – Total Lockdown- NO GEARS, no go.Stranded. 4 hour wait for BMW ‘Roadside Assistance’ before tow to dealer. Dealer states ‘software’ but remains vague re. cause. States they have ‘done all that BMW will allow’, but there might be a bulletin coming soon! Chassis G01, Engine code B46B20M0. Other BMW models with the same engine have experienced Crankshaft Sensor failure resulting in a bulletin requiring Sensor replacement. 2018 X3 is not included in the Bulletin, but SEVEN other models with the same engine are.  After 3 previous trouble free BMWs, this reflects an apparent departure from a commitment to customer safety and security in favor of cost saving for the company.”

BMW acknowledges numerous powertrain concerns, including Service Bulletin #B611719. Some owners experience a Service Action: Replace the Gear Selector Switch warning. It turns out that the GWS was not produced to specs and will need to be replaced. The first adventure for some owners is a trip back to the dealer for repair.

Problems with the Vehicle Structure

For the price of the X3, it is to be expected that the SUV will contain premium materials, but that’s not the case.

One more Edmunds customer states, “BMW has added plastic inside the doors instead of metal and changed the windows making the cabin noise LOUD. Like you have a window open!!”

Unfortunately, there’s a recall related to the structure as well. It turns out that the rear spoiler might loosen and eventually detach. NHTSA Campaign Number 18V154000 states that the spoiler wasn’t attached properly during assembly or it could be missing screws. Who is putting these BMW vehicles together and why did they forget to put in vital screws? Was it like putting together a piece of furniture when extra screws are noticed and they just get thrown away?

Problems with the Electrical System

With a luxury car, like the X3, it’s common to expect the highest-end technologies and innovations. While there seem to be plenty of amenities included, many of them are defective or not working as they should.

Take this NHTSA complaint as an example. “The contact owns a 2018 BMW X3. The contact stated that the speedometer displayed the incorrect speed. The dealer informed the contact that there was no remedy for the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The failure mileage was approximately 5,900.”

If this driver wants to continue owning an X3, it’s necessary to operate it with the incorrect speed displayed, because there’s no way to fix it? Does this even sound logical? It’s almost as interesting as the recall stating that the display might not illuminate at all or flash various warning symbols for no reason. NHTSA Campaign Number 17V719000 is just one more example of the adventures this luxury SUV takes owners on.

Problems with the Steering

What could be more adventurous than having to forcefully steer the BMW SUV? That’s what’s happening to some owners.

An NHTSA review states, “At between 52 mph and 60 mph, steering wheel buzzes and shakes. Seems to be something with lane depart system even when shut off. Excessive front passenger tire wear also. No fix from dealer yet?”

While there’s no recall yet, it’s probably only a matter of time. For now, other steering issues are addressed with Service Bulletin #B320518. This document says that the Power Steering Assistance might not always become available after starting the engine. Plus, Electronic Power Steering might not always activate, leaving owners trying to figure out how to steer correctly. What a disaster this must be for families trying to take the kids to school. Not only could this lead to a crash, but another recall admits that the seat can fold unexpectedly during a crash, causing further injury. How many adventures is one family supposed to be subjected to?

Problems with the Brakes

What is one system that can make any vehicle safer? The brake system, of course. But again, there are massive failures with the brakes on the BMW X3.

One more look at NHTSA reveals this comment. “The vehicle was moving and when I tried to stop because the car in front of me stopped. My car had a brake failure and caused an accident. ABS and/or the collision deterrent system engaged to avoid this accident.”

As with most other systems on the X3, there is also a recall for the brakes. The rear brake caliper pistons don’t have the correct coating applied, which can cause a reduction in performance while applying the brakes. NHTSA Campaign Number 18V453000 just further proves how insufficient this luxury SUV truly is. With countless recalls and problems with almost every system, this is an adventure no one should take.

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Complaint Data

CategoryForward Collision Avoidance
DateOct 11, 2022
StateTX
Description
The contact owns a 2018 bmw x3. The contact stated that while driving at various speeds, the forward collision avoidance feature would be active without incident. The contact stated that both the warning chime would sound and a red alert warning light would appear on the instrument panel during the failure. The contact also stated that while driving at 35 mph, the vehicle came to an abrupt stop as the forward avoidance collision feature activated. The contact stated that both vehicles were more than a vehicle's distance apart and that the feature should not have been activated. The dealer was notified about the failure and informed her that they were aware of the matter; the contact was then given an appointment for a diagnostic. The manufacturer had yet to be notified of the failure. The vehicle had yet to be repaired. The failure mileage was unknown.
CategoryEngine
DateJul 20, 2022
StateGA
Description
* components: per dealership, heat exchanger (metal) and oil filter housing (plastic), oil filter housing supports the heat exchanger, vehicle inspected by dealership and available for further inspection. *vehicle unexpectedly overheated while driving on interstate risking the safety of driver/passengers and others. Dealer's (manufacturer) technician stated that the heat from the metal exchanger warped the plastic oil filter housing causing coolant to leak from heat exchanger, thus not allowing coolant to circulate to engine (leaking out) and causing vehicle to overheat. Metal warping (or potentially melting) plastic seems hazardous *dealer's technician (manufacturer) inspected and identified the problem and quoted a cost of ,140. 80 to repair (this is seemingly a manufacturer's design flaw). Vehicle's warning system displayed an alert that coolant level was low while driving on interstate and recommended adding coolant soon. Driver pulled over within 5 min of warning light and added coolant. Within 5 min of driving away, vehicle's onboard warning system displayed warning that vehicle coolant was low and engine temperature was elevated but it was safe to drive a low speed and consult nearest dealership, 2 min afterwards, vehicle alerted driver that engine overheated and to stop vehicle and contact nearest dealership. Vehicle towed to nearest dealership.
CategoryService Brakes, Hydraulic
DateJun 13, 2022
StateNY
Description
The contact owns a 2018 bmw x3. The contact stated that while driving at an undisclosed speed, the brake pedal went to the floorboard while depressed; however, the brakes failed to stop the vehicle. The contact was able to steer the vehicle into a gas station before the vehicle came to a complete stop. Car's computer failed to indicate there were any hazardous issues nor dangerous concerns. The vehicle was towed to the dealer where it was diagnosed with brake master cylinder failure. The vehicle was not repaired and remained at the dealer. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure and advised the contact to file a complaint with the nhtsa. The failure mileage was approximately 50,000.
CategoryStructure:body
DateMar 17, 2021
StateVA
Description
The vehicle's rear liftgate has opened randomly several times without notice or without input from the user. The first incident was when backing out of a parking spot, the rear liftgate opened suddenly. This is concerning because it was a busy parking lot and our dog was in the car and began to jump out of the vehicle and could have jumped into moving traffic. Another incident occurred in our driveway where the vehicle was parked and unlocked and unoccupied. We noticed that the hatch had opened by itself at some point without any input from anyone. I do not want to wait for an additional incident to occur which could lead to the injury or death of an occupant, human or otherwise. Our vehicle is outfitted with a factor tow hitch so we believe that the car does not have the capability of hands-free liftgate opening with a 'kick' motion. We do not know if the sensors for this feature are still installed but disabled and/or if they became enabled by mistake through a software update at the dealership.
CategoryElectrical System
DateJan 13, 2021
StateNH
Description
While driving at 60 mph the electronic dashboard completely shut off. It restarted itself after some 30 seconds. When it reappears it does not show correct speed, it starts at 0 and works its way up to the correct speed. I have been unable to get a picture of the dashboard as it has happened while driving at speeds this car had previous dashboard problems with the dash sliding to the left. This was brought to the dealer for correction. This is different. It is a momentary complete dash failure.
CategoryElectrical System
DateOct 27, 2020
StatePA
Description
Digital image of speedometer and tachometer needles shifted to the left making it impossible to accurately read the speed of the vehicle. Consistent when vehicle stationary or in motion; needle position would change while in motion and changing speeds but majority of "needle" not visible. Did not reset after restarting the vehicle several times. Did reset after a few days.
CategoryEngine
DateAug 26, 2020
StateMA
Description
Tl* the contact owns a 2018 bmw x3. The contact stated that while her husband was driving at 80 mph, the coolant level low, drive at a moderate speed warning message had appeared on her instrument panel. The contact's husband continued to drive at a moderate speed as advised, soon after, the pull over, stop the car warning message also illuminated on the instrument panel and her husband proceeded as advised. Due to the failure, the contact's husband had the vehicle towed to the automaster bmw (3328 shelburne rd #3, shelburne, vt 05482). The dealer informed the contact that they discovered a coolant leak and that a part needed to be ordered to repair the vehicle. Prior to the failure, the contact stated that the same coolant level warning message had appeared on the instrument panel. The contact had twice taken the vehicle to south shore bmw(1040 hingham st, rockland, ma 02370) where they never discovered a coolant leak and would top off her coolant levels each time she visited the dealer for the same matter. The dealer was then notified again of the latest failure and the contact was informed that the failure was due to normal vehicle operation, they offered no further assistance with the failure. The vehicle remained in the possession of the automaster bmw(3328 shelburne rd #3, shelburne, vt 05482) and had yet to be repaired. The manufacturer had yet to be notified of the failure. The failure mileage was approximately 6,000.
CategoryUnknown Or Other
DateMay 01, 2020
StateNY
Description
Sunroof "exploded" while driving causing glass to fly everywhere.
CategoryElectrical System, Service Brakes, Suspension
DateMar 27, 2020
StateNY
Description
Tl* the contact owns a 2018 bmw x3. The contact stated while driving at 65-70 mph, the vehicle became unstable. The contact stated that several unknown warning lights were illuminated. The contact reduced the vehicle speed and regained control of the vehicle. The vehicle was taken to wide world of cars bmw located at (125 ny-59, spring valley, ny 10977) to be diagnosed. The contact was informed that the failure was due to tire treadwear. The tires were not replaced. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 14,000.
CategoryUnknown Or Other
DateMar 20, 2020
StateNH
Description
The trunk opens randomly both while parked and moving. Sometimes while driving at low speeds. I often find the trunk open in the parking lot after locking it. Also, the alarm will go off while driving.
CategoryService Brakes, Steering, Unknown Or Other
DateDec 22, 2019
StateCA
Description
I was parking when I totally lost control of my car. I could not steer it and I could not break. I went left while I was attempting to brake but I had no brakes. I attempted to go straight and hit one parked car. Then I went right and damaged another car then the car hit a 3 car. Then the car stopped. I receive a bmw assist message regarding having an accident then the screen went dead. I was parking my car. Few weeks before I received the following message: chassis stabilization problems. You can continue driving but take your car to the dealer ( something like that). I stopped the car and the message went away. Never came back. So I was planning to talk about it to the dealer when going for the next appointment. I was parking in a place I know very well, hispital parking.
CategoryStructure:body
DateJul 17, 2019
StateMD
Description
Uncommanded opening of the rear hatch while the vehicle was in motion. This has happened on four occasions. The first time was on md route 29 near the route 175 intersection. The second was on goshen view dr gaithersburg md. The third and fourth were on goshen rd, gaithersburg md.
CategoryBack Over Prevention: Sensing System: Camera, Electrical System
DateJun 04, 2019
StateTX
Description
Tl* the contact owns a 2018 bmw x3. While reversing the vehicle, the rearview camera spontaneously blacked out intermittently. The failure recurred four times. The vehicle was taken to advantage bmw clear lake (400 gulf fwy s, league city, tx 77573, (281) 557-7000) where they informed the contact that the software was updated. The vehicle was repaired; however, the failure persisted. The vehicle was taken back to the same dealer where it was diagnosed that the camera needed to be replaced. The vehicle was repaired; however, the failure recurred. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 20,600.
CategorySteering
DateApr 19, 2019
StateCA
Description
Bmw 2018 x3 steering wheel ***went out of control*** for unknown reason and took over my driving on hwy 84 when I was going about 62 miles, it geared to left on its own. The car eventually hit center divider during the course of trying to avoid otherwise possibly severe collision. X3 entire left side damaged, called 911, car towed. Contacted bmw na and local dealer in fremont california, car tested, reported back with no problem. Bmw offered no explanation of why it happened. Nor did any remedy offered for car damage, estimated repair cost of 000, aside from stress caused after such a traumatizing incident. The black box which supposed to record car actual status, bmw replied found no error code. I believe there were manufacture defects because the x3 went thru one recall and then trunk pop opened on its own, sent in again for service to repair. Soon after, the steering wheel went out of control. It's such an obvious safety issue that people might lose lifes on it. It's been over 9 months and till now, we still don't know how it happened and what'd trigger it to lose control in the future. It's difficult for an individual to obtain justice from such a big corporation. Grateful that I'm alive and have a chance to file this complaint so this incident has a chance to be noticed or be further investigated.
CategoryLatches/locks/linkages:doors:latch
DateApr 08, 2019
StateCT
Description
Tl* the contact owns a 2018 bmw x3. While driving 70 mph, the driver's door opened and all the warning indicators illuminated on the instrument panel. The contact attempted to hold the door closed while the vehicle was in motion. The contact pulled the vehicle over to the shoulder of the road and attempted to close the door. After turning the vehicle off and back on, the door shut. The dealer (bmw of mamaroneck, 236 w boston post rd, mamaroneck, ny 10543, (914) 908-5088) was contacted. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was not contacted. The failure mileage was 15,000.
CategoryService Brakes
DateJan 05, 2019
StateCA
Description
Traveling east bound through an alley in order to make a right turn onto a south-north running city street. Brake was first applied approximately two-car length (distance wise) before the intersection. I noticed the vehicle was acting funny: instead of slowly coming to a stop, it picked up speed. I felt as if something was disengaged and the car was flying off without gravity. I hit the brake again as the car was dashing into the intersection. The vehicle was again accelerated on its own, completely out of control. At that moment a trash truck was traveling south bound. Both the driver and the passenger in the trash truck were looking at me in disbelief (that my vehicle was dashing out into the main road). We were eyeballed at each other, approximately at an 45 degree angle, for several seconds, before the two cars were collided. The outcome could have been fetal if the time and angles of the collision were off by a split of second. My vehicle was totaled though.
CategoryElectrical System, Exterior Lighting
DateNov 21, 2018
StateCO
Description
As I was making a 10 minute drive, on a highway about 30 minutes before dark, it just started to snow. Suddenly all of the front sensors started to flash "trouble" on the dash. I checked the front of the car and ice had formed over the sensors and headlights. That rendered the car unsafe to drive in the dark since the headlights could not shine through the ice. As for the distance sensors, I guess that is a desigh flaw as a function of how snow passes over the sensors. I believe that the led headlights do not generate enough heat to prevent ice from forming on the lens of the headlights.
CategoryAir Bags, Seat Belts, Steering
DateNov 09, 2018
StateCA
Description
2018 bmw x3 m40i: upon start up the vehicle displays a warning 'seatbelt restraint system malfunction.' the car the enters a limp mode and says to drive to the nearest bmw service center and that some safety features are unavailable. Power assist steering no longer works, and the vehicle defaults to 4wd mode. Additionally, it further states airbag functionality is limited, and crash avoidance is unavailable, but that driving is still possible! What's disturbing is that I discovered that many other late model bmw owners are reporting this same issue. The few that have had it resolved said it's a sensor failure in one of the front seats. This sensor is tied to the restraint system and the airbag. Bmw service center has attempted to fix this malfunction on my x3 on three separate occasions without success. I am worried that my airbags or seatbelt will fail in a collision.
CategoryUnknown Or Other
DateOct 13, 2018
StatePA
Description
The vehicle is equipped with blue tooth, thus it is supposed to be hand-free to handle smartphone call or text while driving. This blue tooth worked properly for previous years models, and even 2018 same model but with the option being slightly different than mine, such as, the one equipped with wireless phone charger. For my vehicle, it does not notify while blue tooth connected when new text comes. I complained to bmw north america. They admitted that it was a firmware bug, but did not commit to update firmware to fix the the bug. This bug could side track the driver if he tries to check the message while driving since he knows the text message notification in the vehicle is not working.
CategorySteering, Suspension
DateOct 12, 2018
StateFL
Description
At between 52 mph and say 60 mph steering wheel buzzes and shakes. Seems to be something with lane depart system even when shut off. Excessive front pass tire wear also. No fix from dealer yet?
CategoryElectrical System
DateAug 13, 2018
StateNY
Description
Tl* the contact owns a 2018 bmw x3. The contact stated that the speedometer displayed the incorrect speed. The dealer (gault auto sport bmw, 2311 north st, endicott, ny 13760, (607) 748-9875) informed the contact that there was no remedy for the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The failure mileage was approximately 5,900.
CategoryUnknown Or Other
DateMay 18, 2018
StateVA
Description
The blind spot detection does not work on the passenger side. When passing a vehicule that is in the right lane the detection light in the passenger mirror only comes on about 30-40 % of the time. Even when passing a large truck. This means you do not have knowledge of the location of a vehicule as it passes into your blind spot or when ample space in available to return to the right lane after passing. Also if a vehicule approaches from behind on your passenger side you are not aware it's in your bind spot. My dealer in charlottesville va. Stated that several more owners have complained about this but no fix is available. I called bmw usa and expressed my concern that some one was going to get hurt and if that had not already happened. "alex" said they would look into it but promised nothing. ( this is a costly option on the car and it does not work)
CategoryService Brakes, Unknown Or Other
DateFeb 09, 2018
StateIL
Description
The vehicle was moving and when I tried to stop because the car in front of me stopped. My car had a brake failure and caused an accident. Abs and/or the collusion deterrent system engaged to avoid this accident.

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Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 20 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

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