BMW Fire Fear Recall—Owners Advised Not to Park in Garage

BMW owners are in a “thermal state” as reports of car bursting into flames have led to over a million Beemers being recalled. Automologist MAC brings us the heated news. 

BMW describe this as a “thermal event”, so I suppose the nice men with the hose are in fact thermal reduction experts undertaking a thermal drenching operation…This particular fire, though, was a rather new i3, which is not covered by the recall. It is easy to get blasé about recalls these days, but if you ignore the most recent one from BMW, you may well get a blaze in your garage. Apparently, the danger is so bad that owners in the UK have been warned not to park their cars in the garage—for fear of burning down the entire house—until the car has been repaired. In total in the UK alone, there will be some 1 million vehicles recalled.

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There are in fact two separate recalls that may cause a spot of fire under the bonnet. The first recall is primarily for the BMW 3s built between 2006 and 2011, whereby there are issues with potentially faulty wiring of the climate blower fan. The second concerns a number of different models that have the six-cylinder engine built between 2007 and 2011 and is said to relate to a problem with the heater valve.

Okay honey, the BBQ is on…

In a carefully worded press statement, a BMW spokesperson said: “Due to irregularities in the manufacturing process, the wiring could corrode and in extremely rare cases may lead to a thermal event”…A thermal event? I think you mean a freaking fire, don’t you? Let’s face it, any fault of this nature that requires you to have to park your car outside for fear of it leaving you homeless is a bit more dramatic than a limp-wristed thermal event.

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Looking for a new home after a BMW thermal event.

It has taken quite a while for this event to be publicised, so why now. Well, a little while ago, we wrote about the problem that a number of manufacturers (particularly from Germany) were having with their biodegradable wiring, made from soya products becoming food for city rats. This has now got me wondering if the drive to make cars increasingly biodegradable is really at fault here. Perhaps BMW thought that all cars of that age would be off the road by now.

Read: Cars are now Rat Food

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But I was hungry.

So, just how does a parked car catch fire; after all, it is switched off right? The answer is that even after you switch your car off and take the keys from the ignition, it is never really off. There is still a lot of power going to things like the security systems and electrical locks, and many of the controls, even the high pressure fuel pump. All you need is a small short circuit and you could be looking for a new house.

This problem is not restricted to the UK. BMW in North America issued a rather down-beat statement after being badgered by ABC News reports, in which they bleat on about engineering excellence and low instances of fires compared to the number of cars that they have on the road (full text following), indicating that the majority of fires are caused by unauthorised modifications; well, they would wouldn’t they. However, the statement refers to similar incidents in Korea, so perhaps this problem is a lot more widespread than BMW would care to admit and perhaps, just perhaps, BMW’s reputation for engineering excellence will follow Volkswagen’s reputation onto the proverbial scrap heap.

Statement by BMW North America:

“We at BMW empathize with anyone who has experienced a vehicle fire. We understand it is a traumatic event and the safety of our customers is of utmost importance to us.

BMW has a long reputation for engineering excellence and is known as a pioneer in safety technology. We have full confidence in our products and strive to always provide the best possible owner’s experience.

With approximately 4.9 million BMW vehicles on U.S. roads, fire incidents involving BMWs are extremely rare. BMW takes every incident very seriously and has a dedicated team prepared to work with BMW owners, insurance companies and authorities to investigate vehicle fire incidents brought to our attention.

We have investigated and in some cases inspected the vehicles identified by ABC News. These vehicles span an age range of 1-15 years, accumulated mileage of up to 232,250 miles, multiple generations and model types.  In cases that we have inspected and are able to determine root causes, we have not seen any pattern related to quality or component failure. Vehicle fires can result from a wide variety of external reasons and can range from improper accident damage repair, previous vehicle flooding, lack of, or improper preventative maintenance, rodent nesting, unauthorized aftermarket modifications (such as remote starters, stereo installations, etc.) and even arson.

Our Customer Relations team will be happy to assist customers with any additional questions or concerns about their BMW and can be reached at [email protected] or at 800-831-1117.

BMW of North America cannot normally comment on incidents outside of the US. However, we can say that as in the US, the incidents in Korea have been investigated and it was determined that the majority were caused by unauthorized aftermarket modifications.” 

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