BMW Issues ‘Dire’ ‘Do Not Drive’ Recall for Older 3 Series and 5 Series Models With Airbags That May Explode

By Jonathan Spira on 6 May 2023
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A 2003 BMW 530i at the Freimann European Delivery Center in Munich Germany in the fall of 2002

If you own a BMW from the early 2000s and haven’t had the vehicle already inspected and repaired, please park it now and don’t drive it.  BMW and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration issued a recall for all BMW E46 3er Series vehicles manufactured in the 2000 to 2005 timeframe as well as for the E39 5er Series made from 2000 to 2003 and the E53 X5 manufactured from 2000 to 2005, all equipped with front airbag inflators from Takata.

“The risk to vehicle occupants is dire,” the NHTSA said in a statement.

BMW said that “[O]wners of affected BMWs that have not had their vehicles inspected and repaired should not consider them safe to drive.”

“If you have a model year 2000-2006 BMW with a recalled Takata air bag, get it repaired immediately – for free. These inflators are two decades old now and, with every day that passes, they become even more dangerous as they can rupture even in a minor crash,” said NHTSA Deputy Administrator Sophie Shulman.

Takata’s airbag inflators are made using volatile ammonium nitrate to inflate the airbags in a crash. However, the ammonium nitrate can deteriorate over time when exposed to heat and humidity and blow apart a metal canister, thereby hurling shrapnel that can injure or kill drivers and passengers.

In 2019, BMW recalled some 116,000 automobiles manufactured between 1999 and 2001. The move came after a new and distinct problem was uncovered in air bags made by Takata, which in 2017 filed for bankruptcy after being at the center of the world’s largest auto safety recall.

Like the newer problem, however, the issue discovered in 2019 was said to cause airbags to explode and hurl shrapnel, which could result in the injury or death of drivers and passengers.

At the time, BMW said that the airbag problem had resulted in at least one death and one injury.

The recall covered certain BMW 3er Series models sedans manufactured between March 1998 and July 2000, 3er Series coupes manufactured from February 1999 to June 2000, and 3er Series wagons manufactured between September 1999 and May 2000.

At the time, BMW said that approximately 8,000 vehicles definitely had faulty inflators and should remain parked, while the rest could still be driven. 

(Photo: Accura Media Group)