BMW X5 E53 Air Suspension Issues Explained(+5 Tips)

In this brief article we are going to discuss the different BMW X5 E53 Air Suspension problems, what the causes are, and their troubleshooting Tips.

What are the most common air suspension issues in a BMW X5 E53? 

The most common BMW X5 E53 air suspension issues are:

  • Rear End Sagging
  • Suspension Error Message

BMW X5 Suspension Set-up

The X5 is BMW’s mid-size crossover luxury SUV. It was launched in 1999 on the E53 chassis platform in the first generation of X5 made upto 2006. The subsequent platforms of the X5 were E70, F15/F85 and G05.

In the X5 Platform, the Front suspension set-up is a Double Wishbone set-up with a coilover Strut. There are 2 separate Lower Control Arms and therefore 2 Lower Ball-joints for wheel Spindle with a Torsion bar & coil springs. 

The Rear suspension of the X5 is a 3-link independent suspension (lower control arm, Upper control arm and a Toe control arm) with Torsion bar & coil springs. The lower control arm was a 2-in-1 link with 2 bushing joints to the subframe and for this reason the trailing arm was eliminated.

In the E53 generation, 2 versions of self-leveling air suspension were available as an option in certain model years. The 3.0 and 4.4 models were offered with the optional EHC II (dual axle Self Leveling Suspension or SLS) from the 2002 model year onwards. In the E53 4.6is only the rear SLS (or EHC) was offered as an option. The rear suspension would have the same layout as the standard suspension, but with the coil spring replaced by an air spring.

Rear end Sagging

  • Rear suspension loses ride height completely
  • Driving in this condition feels like there is no suspension

Root Causes:

  • Rear air suspension sags due to loss in air pressure
  • The air pressure loss could either be due to 
    • A failed compressor, or
    • A leakage in the air suspension system

Preliminary observation:

  • First make sure the car is parked on a surface with no slope.
  • Now measure the vertical distance from tire top to the bottom of the fender on the sagging side as well as the non sagging side

Troubleshooting Rear end Sagging: Air Compressor

  • First listen to see whether the compressor turns on 
  • If the compressor does not turn on there is a high probability that the compressor fuse might be blown
  • Check the compressor fuse (orange 40A fuse) within the fuse box located under the dashboard in the glove box
  • If the Fuse is blown it most probably means that the compressor has failed
  • In a majority of cases, the car will be unable to raise itself, even if the compressor runs. You can easily check by replacing the Relay and the Fuse and seeing whether 
    • There is compressor working noise
    • The suspension starts to raise

If this fails to happen, then it is almost confirmed that the issue with the compressor

  • Replace the compressor in your suspension system
  • You will need to test whether the new compressor responds to the system

For this you need to access the Air-suspension control unit located behind the rear seat inside of the trim panel

  • Once you access the fuse-box, reset the air suspension by pulling out and refixing the red 10 Amp fuse.
  • Once the reset has been done, if the compressor works properly, it will cause the rear suspension to rise in height.

Troubleshooting Rear end Sagging: Air Spring

  • If there is loss of suspension height in spite of a properly working air compressor, then the air leakages could be the next thing to suspect.
  • Air leakage related suspension sagging generally is seen when the car is parked overnight and sometimes even over a period of days.
  • Air springs are known to wear out and crack at the rubber bellow surface gradually after accumulating mileage. They generally would last 70K to 80K miles depending on usage
  • In a high mileage vehicle, the air springs would be the first place to check for leakages.
  • Leakages can be found by using a soapy water spray over the surface of the air spring bellow.
  • Make sure that the Air bellow already has air pressure. This can be done by starting the vehicle and waiting for it to raise itself.
  • Pray the soapy water solutions and wait to see if there are whilte foam bubbles that stay at one spot even after wiping it with a finger.
  • If you cannot detect the leak in the air spring then you will need to spray the soapy solution at the valves and air lines as well to see where the leakage might be.
  • In cases where the leak of major, you even hear hissing noise coming from the leakage point and be able to locate it by ear
  • Before removing the air spring, be sure to relieve the air pressure from it at the valve block, which is located in the underbody on the passenger side.
  • Relieve the left or right air spring valve by loosening the connector gradually. If this is done suddenly, then you could damage the O-rings within the air connector.

Pro-Tip:

  • Aftermarket replacement bellows tend to give a higher service life as compare to the OE parts
  • Some aftermarket parts also come with a lifetime warranty instead of limited warranties offer by BMW

Suspension Error Message

  • When turning ON the ignition the center console displays an error saying ‘Suspension Auto-Level Inactive’
  • Air suspension stops working
  • Vehicle is in limp-home mode and cannot be driven

Troubleshooting Suspension Error Message: Compressor Fault

  • Firstly, See whether the connections are corroded
  • If the connections seem OK and still there seems to be an error, it might be the sensor itself that is defective
  • In order to confirm this, replace the sensor then check if the error persists. If it does then further investigation using a diagnostic tool is necessary
  • In a Diagnostic tool, Go to the module EHC (Electronic Ride height Control) 
  • Among the available “Data Streams”, select the Air suspension accumulator pressure sensor to see if it is accumulating the correct pressure
  • Start the vehicle and see how much pressure builds up within a span of 10 minutes
  • Ideally, the pressure should build up to 15.7 bar
  • If this pressure level is not achieved then it seems that the compressor has worn out and either needs to be rebuilt or replaced

Troubleshooting Suspension Error Message: Ride Height Sensor and Control Module fault

  • Diagnostic tools shows DTC (diagnostic Trouble Code) ‘Ride-Level Sensor’ Front/Rear Left/Right’
  • Inspect the particular corner ride level sensor to check for physical damage or corroded connectors or any broken wiring
  • Replace the sensor/connectors where necessary and diagnose once again
  • If the error still persists, you need to check the ‘Data Stream’ for “Deviation ride level, front/rear right/left”, which is basically a reading that tells the ride height value that the sensor is reading at each suspension corner
  • Zero value means that the sensor signal is not reaching the control module. If the sensor has been replaced and connectivity voltages are already checked, then it could be an issue with the Suspension Control Module (EHC II) circuit itself.
  • You confirm this by swapping the left and right side sensor at the ‘Zero reading’ side and once again check the diagnostic ‘Data Stream’. If you get the same zero reading on the same corner after swapping, it means that the sensors are working and that either:
    • There is an issue with the wiring between the sensor and the EHC II control module, OR
    • There is an issue with the EHC II control module circuit itself
  • You can access the circuit diagram using the Diagnostic Tool interface for each sensor and troubleshoot the continuity in the connection interface by using a probe and shorting the appropriate electrical signals
  • If it is confirmed that there are no issues in the wiring, then the only variable left is the EHC II Control module.
  • The suspension control module is located underneath the glove compartment

Conclusion

In this brief article we have discussed the different BMW X5 E53 Air Suspension problems, what the causes are, and Troubleshooting Tips.

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