BMW X5 Suspension Issues Explained(+5 Tips)

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

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

The most common BMW X5 suspension issues are:

  • Front Knocking or Creaking
  • Steering Vibration at High Speed
  • Creaking and groaning noise
  • Squeaky and Bouncy Suspension
  • Clunking Noise in normal driving
  • Clicking Noise when turning
  • Self-Steer under acceleration

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. 

In the G05 generation, Air suspension comes as standard with every X5 (with the exception of the M50i) along with adaptive Dampers instead of 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.

Front Lower control arm failure

  • Knocking or Creaking noises while going over bumps coming from the front suspension
  • Additionally there is Popping and Clunking noise coming from the front suspension when Steering the wheels in parking or slow speed

Troubleshooting Front Lower control arm bush failure

Knocking or Creaking in the front suspension could be either due to :

  • Worn Out Thrust-Arm Bushings
  • Worn Out Thrust-Arm Ball-Joint 
  • Worn out Top Strut Mount Bushing and Bearing

Worn out Thrust-Arm Bushings

  • The Lower control arms, also called “Forward/Rearward Tension Struts”, is prone to Bushing failure
  • The Lower Forward Control arm handle the longitudinal forces coming onto the wheels when driving. 
  • The Thrust arms are designed such that the longitudinal wheel forces directly load the thrust arm bushings.
  • These control arm bushings are ‘hydraulic + rubber’ type of isolators, because of their dual role of taking load as well as reducing noise and vibration.
  • If you find a viscous brown fluid oozing out of the control arm, then it is confirmed that the Lower Control arm bushings have failed due to Rubber rupturing and leaking Hydraulic fluid.
  • This failure results in a popping or clunking noise when the wheels are turned. 

Worn out Thrust-Arm Ball Joint

  • The lower control arm ball-joints are also subject to wear and tear.
  • The deterioration is usually initiated as a crack or rupture in the rubber boot around the ball-joint
  • This leads to loss of lubrication and finally to complete wear out
  • The wear out causes play or movement accompanied by knocking noise. The play in the ball-joint is one of the reasons for the vehicle steering feeling value
  • You can easily check for Ball-joint condition by this simple procedure:
    • Get the car Lifted by the body
    • Lock the steering wheel
    • Hold the front tire with both your hands in a 6 o’clock position and try to swing the wheel up and down
    • If you hear a ‘Knock’ or ‘Click’, then it is very much likely that the noise is due to a play in the Ball-joint
  • For a vehicle that has crossed 70K miles, the best course of action would be to replace the whole Lower control arm since it comes with a new bushing and a new ball-joint all pre-assembled

Pro-Tips for Thrust Arms

  • The Hydraulic Fluid Bushing generally fails beyond 40K-50K Miles, but it may be worthwhile to replace as soon as you notice suspension noise.
  • While replacing the Thrust arm, it would be wise to look for a good aftermarket solution that would give more service life than the 50K miles or so offered by Rubber-Hydraulic bushes.
  • You could either go for a ‘Solid’ Rubber bushing or a Mono-Ball type of Bearing instead of the Rubber-Hydraulic Bush

Worn out Top Strut Mount Bushing

  • The suspension strut is attached to the body through the top Strut mount Bushing. 
  • These top strut mount bushing is designed to support part of the load of the front suspension and also provide isolation from road impacts.
  • Once the bushing rubber has weathered and deteriorated, the strut becomes noisy and no longer provides isolation. 

Front Shock Absorber Strut failure

  • The car feels bouncier than usual at the front end
  • Suspension squeaks knocks for minor road undulations
  • Explained as seen on the BMW X5 F15 (2014-2018 model years)

Troubleshooting Front Shock Absorber Strut failure

  • If you notice that the suspension has increased bounciness, it could be a case of shock absorber failure. The failed shock absorber can no longer dampen the suspension’s ‘Bounce’ motion.
  • A suspension Strut that has a binding or frozen piston rod on the shock absorber tends to squeak for even minor movement
  • The easiest thing to first do is to inspect the shock absorber body, and look for signs of oil that would indicate a seal failure.
  • A failed shock absorber need not necessarily leak when it fails. If it has reached its end-of-life and worn out internally, it could also lose all its damping action and eventually seize.

Broken Coil Spring

  • The front or rear suspension gives a creak or groan Noise while going over bumps.
  • Suspension sits lower at one corner/side

Troubleshooting Broken Coil Spring

  • The Creak and Groan noises often come from two Broken pieces of spring binding and making contact as the spring compresses.
  • In order to replace a broken spring, you would need a spring compressor tool to fix the new spring.
  • In the interest of safety, Always use a Hydraulic or a Pneumatic Strut removal fixture to compress and Decompress the Spring whilst dismantling the front strut assembly.

Pro-Tips:

  • If a strut removal fixture isn’t available, then use a Lead-Screw Type of Spring Compressor that is a heavy-duty design. The important safety point is that the compressor spring jaws are sturdy enough and properly seat onto the spring. Use a Bench Vise to secure the strut for added safety.
  • In low quality spring compressors, the spring hooks have a risk of slipping out of the spring leading to potential damage and injury since the spring is likely to burst out due its pre-load.

Clunking Noise in normal driving

  • ‘Clunking’ noise during normal driving especially on bad and rough road patches that cause the vehicle to “Roll” more.
  • The same ‘Clunk’ noise reduces on smoother roads

Troubleshooting Clunking Noise in normal driving

  • For most car suspensions, a ‘Clunk’ Noise is more related to the Bushings or Ball-joints within the Anti-roll Bar assembly of the suspension

Failed Anti-roll Bar Bushings

  • The Anti-Roll bar (ARB) bushings are the isolators between the ARB and the vehicle’s chassis. The bushings also ‘secure’ the ARB in place and restrict excessive movement so that the ARB can properly function
  • The ARB is under torsional loads while the car is undergoing “Roll” motion either during cornering or Rough Roads. 
  • In these situations, when the ARB undergoes torsion, the mounting bushes also share part of the road loads.
  • Bushings that have aged, hardened, or simply worn out and become loose tend to cause noise as they allow unnecessary movement of the ARB.
  • The Bushings can be lubricated with vaseline or an Anti-seize, as prescribed by  BMW, to the ARB bushing contact surface periodically.
  • The ARB-to-suspension connection is done using ARB end links. 
  • On the front axle, the end links use a sealed ball joint design that has a significant range of motion sufficient for the various movements of the front suspension.
  • The rubber boot that protects the end link Ball-joints can tear, allowing the joint lubrication to seep out and exposing the ball joint to corrosion. The result is a clunking noise from the worn joint. 
  • If the end links’ mounting fasteners have loosened on either end, it could result in clunking noise.
  • On the rear suspension ARB end links, rubber bushings are used instead of ball joints. These end link bushings can age and then start to squeak. 
  • Use of Lubricants could temporarily solve the squeaking sound problem. But it is always recommended that new end links be fitted.
  • The front suspension components utilize ball joints at the control arms and tie rod ends. The big advantage with ball-joints is that they allow an extensive range of motion. 
  • By design, ball joints are quite robust and meant to last; however, tearing of the rubber outer boot can lead to entry of dust and moisture into the joint leading to premature failure
  • This ball joint Failure would often be followed by a clunking or knocking noise. 
  • There is an easy way to check ball-joints without removing any of the suspension parts. Firmly grasp on a front wheel, with both of your hands at six o’clock position.  Now try to swing the tire up and down. If you sense that there is excessive ball joint play then these ball-joints have failed.

Clicking Noise when turning

The noise happens when the car is parked and you are trying to rotate the steering wheel.

Troubleshooting Clicking Noise

CV Joint Failure

  • In some models with xDrive (All-Wheel Drive system), you may experience a clicking noise coming from the front suspension when turning
  • This sound is most likely due to a worn front CV joint. CV joints can wear, especially with a torn outer rubber boot exposed to dirt and moisture. Apart from seepage of lubrication, the failed CV joint will also begin to develop a click sound. 
  • These clicks will become more obvious if you rotate the steering wheel while the vehicle is parked.

Self-Steer Under Acceleration

  • Under Hard acceleration, it feels as if the vehicle’s rear end is steering itself
  • Uneven or excessive rear Tire-wear

Troubleshooting Self-Steer Under Acceleration

  • The rear of the vehicle’s tendency to spin out is an indication of a Toe-change at the time of acceleration
  • This means that the Toe-link of the rear suspension is unable to control the Toe under acceleration
  • This means the Toe-link bushings might have worn out and therefore need replacement
  • Another reason could be that you have lowered the rear suspension and not used an adjustable Rear Camber Arm to adjust for the Camber gained due to lowered height.

Conclusion

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

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