D. Gilson is a writer and author of essays, poetry, and scholarship that explore the relationship between popular culture, literature, sexuality, and memoir. His latest book is Jesus Freak, with Will Stockton, part of Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 Series. His other books include I Will Say This Exactly One Time and Crush. His first chapbook, Catch & Release, won the 2012 Robin Becker Prize from Seve...

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has appeared on legaladvice.com, themanifest.com, and vice.com.

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer

UPDATED: Jan 19, 2021

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BMW M5s have a defect that can cause them to go up in flames.
BMW M5s have a defect that can cause them to go up in flames. (wikipedia.org)

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has released details of the United States side of things regarding a worldwide recall of 1.3 million BMW 5-series and 6-series sedans, coupes and wagons. 367,682 models are being recalled in the U.S. over a manufacturing defect involving a battery cable connection in the trunk.

The issue involves a bolt that connects the positive battery cables to an insulated bulkhead connector in the vehicle’s trunk. In rare cases – BMW says they expect less than 1 percent of the units being recalled actually have this defect – the connector may have been incorrectly attached, and given time and the vibrations of the road, the bolt can loosen, causing an increase in electrical resistance.

BMW lays out three scenarios that can occur in units that have the manufacturing defect:

  • Loose connection can cause an increase in electrical resistance, and cause the connection to overheat.
  • Humidity and moisture can collect, causing current leakage, again causing the connection to overheat.
  • Either of those overheating conditions can heat up the floor mat in the trunk, leading to a condition where it melts and smolders. And that can ultimately lead to a BMW that’s not simply a smoking hot ultimate driving machine, but one that’s on fire, burning to the ground.

Due to the way the electrical system works, the condition can occur even without the key in the ignition or the car running. We’re guessing there aren’t many owners who want to see their BMW go up in flames. BMW says there have been “incidents” in both Europe and the United States, but no injuries as a result.

Here’s how those 367k cars break down, by model:

2004-2010 5-Series Sedan – 300,419

2006-2010 5-Series Sports Wagon – 9,223

2004-2010 6-Series Coupe – 15,374

2004-2010 6-Series Convertible – 27,034

2006-2010 M5 Sedan – 8,788

2007-2010 M6Coupe – 3,572

2007-2010 M6 Convertible – 3,272

BMW will be notifying owners by mail. BMW dealership service centers will inspect and secure the battery bolt cable connection if required, free of charge. The recall is scheduled to begin in April.

BMW owners with concerns or questions can contact BMW customer relations toll free at 1-800-525-7417 or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration vehicle safety hotline at 1-888-327-4236, reference campaign ID number 12V126000.