August 19

2010 BMW X5, 3 Ltr Diesel DPF



Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Remarkable Speaking. I'm here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience. 24 time winners, best auto repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. And we're talking cars. How you doing Bernie? 

Bernie: Doing very well. 

Mark: So today's victim is a 2010 BMW X5 which had a three litre diesel filter problem. What was going on with this BMW? 

Bernie: Yeah. So the car came to our shop. The owner's complaint was at he was on a trip to Osoyoos. If you're a local person, you'll know where that is, it involves a pretty long highway drive, especially uphills. And when he hit the uphill portion, all of a sudden the vehicle had lost all its power and it was very, very sluggish. So just imagine going up a mountain road, a long mountain drive and having a vehicle that barely goes anywhere. You can feel the owner's pain. Anyways so that was basically the complaint. Vehicle had lost power and the check engine light was on.

Mark: So what testing and diagnosis did you do? 

Bernie: Well, first step is to road test the vehicle, verify the client's concern. We certainly noticed it right away. As soon as I put the pedal down, it barely moved. I was still able to get up to highway speeds, but it took a very, very long time.

So next step, of course, scan the vehicle, see what trouble codes are present. There was about at least 10 or 12 codes stored. The next step in this case is to clear the codes, we record them, then clear them and, and go for another drive and see what's coming up. What are the most important things? What's happening right now? Because a lot of times codes will be stored for things that aren't really relevant at the moment. So cleared them and I think about 10 codes came back pretty much after one road test. So there was a lot of stuff going on here. Yeah, so that was basically the sort of initial first part of the test. 

Now from there, of course it's a matter of deciphering, okay what is actually causing this problem? Is it all 10 items? No, it's not usually the case. There were some codes for glow plugs. Well, glow plugs aren't gonna cause a lack of power issue. But nonetheless, it is an important thing to fix at some point. There was codes for the EGR system. There was codes for diesel particulate filter. I can't remember the exact code, but basically it indicated that there was a flow problem through the particulate filter. There's a throttle body issue. The throttle body on these usually works with the EGR system.

But nonetheless, you know, these are all codes and things that need to be fixed, but of course, you know, right away looking at that, I'm thinking, okay, that's like 10,000 bucks at least worth fixing, with a particulate filter and EGR system and glow plugs and throttle body. And you know, of course it's a lot of money to chew off. So we're, you know, thought, okay, how do we prioritize this? That was kind of our next step. 

Mark: So you ended up deciding on the particulate filter first. What kind of repair options do you have with that? 

Bernie: Yeah, so the particulate filter we figured was obviously the biggest cause of the issue because it wasn't allowing exhaust to flow. So there's three ways to go on that. There's a chemical cleaning we can do, we can access the filter, removing some sensors. We can spray a chemical cleaner in there, run it through. It's a two part process. Decided not to do it in this case because the filter was so badly plugged chances of the chemical cleaning working were pretty slim. You know, if it worked, it might work for a week or two, and that would be about the best. 

So we found that probably a good preventative maintenance service, but not really a good service to do once there's warning lights and, you know, the system's actually gone into, I'll say failure mode.

Next two options replace a filter with a brand new unit. And then the third option is to actually remove the filter and send it off to a company that specializes in cleaning DPS. And we opted to do that in this case because due to cost and availability, the particulate filter, from what I remember, I think it was like four to $5,000. This is in Canada. And not available, I believe it was on a back order. So, you know, maybe not available for a month or two. 

So the cleaning seemed to be the only option available and, you know, substantial fraction of the price. So what happens is with the cleaning, we remove the filter, we send it to the company, they actually cut the particulate filter open. They bake it. They remove all the soot and flow test it. They weigh the filter before and afterwards to make sure they've actually got all the soot out and they send a report back when they do it too. So it's a pretty good thorough job. 

Mark: So for you, what's kind of work is involved in removing and installing the DPF filter?

Bernie: Well, I can say from personal experience, cause I did the job, it's horrendous. This is not, this is not designed nicely for the technician to work on. I mean, all these diesels, everything's compact and thrown in, but the particulate filter sits, so this is a straight six engine in the sort of traditional BMW sense that they don't make V6s, they make a straight six.

So the particular filter sits on the right hand, the passenger side of the engine, it's bolted right up to the side, right behind the turbo charger. There's an awful lot of stuff in the way. It's just wedged right in there. You know, involves removing engine mounts, EGR valve, EGR coolers. I mean, it's methodical in one thing after another. Exhaust system has to come out and it's an awful lot of work to remove it and put it back in. 

Let's have a look at some pictures. So this is a picture of the particulate filter as it returned, cuz it has our name written on there and I guess, a work order number for the company. But this is what the particulate filter looks like. And the particulate filter material is located inside. I'm just gonna moving my mouse pointer around here, if you can follow it located right here. On this end here, this bolts up to the turbo charger. There are various holes here you can see, these are for an oxygen sensor.

2010 BMW X5, 3 Ltr Diesel DPF

There are pressure sensors are connected to these pipes here. There are temperature sensors, and all these, you know, going to the computer and make assessments on when to run the regenerations. You know what the condition of the filter is. And the EGR cooler bolts up to this part here. And then this of course goes to the rest of the exhaust system. So got to handle this with care too. 

This little flexible joint here, this woven piece, this tends to break on a lot of vehicles. It's a part that we repair on any vehicle, gasoline or diesel. So we're very careful taking this apart because you know, if this breaks, trying to weld a new piece on and line it all up would be a real nightmare on this particular vehicle. So it took a lot of extra care to remove it and put it back together and actually tested it to make sure it wasn't leaking beforehand because the last thing I wanna do is install a filter, then find, oh no it leaks, afterwards. It would've been a horrible situation to go through. So that's that piece. 

Now let's have a look at some other pictures here. 

2010 BMW X5, 3 Ltr Diesel DPF

Mark: What does this filter do? 

Bernie: So if you look at any old diesel or one where someone's removed it, you get black smoke and soot that blows out a diesel. It's one of the combustion components of diesel, is soot. And so this traps, the soot particles, and it holds them basically on the substrate and suspension for a while. This is actually looking at a view of the cleaned filter. So the particles will be held in this material for a certain amount of time until the computer realizes it's sort of filled up and then it runs a regeneration where it actually burns the particles up and they don't come out as soot. They come out clean. And that's not a very scientific explanation, but that's kind of what the process is.

The high level view, that's the high level view. There's the scientific view is available on the internet. But yeah, that's basically exactly what it does. So this is why, you know, modern diesel engines don't blow black smoke and they don't stink. This is sort of part of the process. So it adds a lot of complication to the system. 

People remove these, not legal, probably not even ethical, but people do it. And I can see why, because with the price of these components, it's understandable. Anyways, my little environmental rant of the day. 

But then anyways, this is what the filter looked like. And I should have taken a picture of it beforehand, before it was clean, you can even see this wiring material it was all black.

And I think we have one more picture. This is a top view of the engine. You wouldn't really recognize this if you open the hood, but because it's a big plastic cover over top of this, but the oil filler cap is something you would recognize, if you look under the hood. And when you remove the cap, the DPF, that unit sits right down here where I'm moving the mouse pointer way buried down under here. So very much shoehorned in there. 

2010 BMW X5, 3 Ltr Diesel DPF

Couple interesting things here that we repaired while we were at it is there's a number of vacuum hoses, which is kind of a strange technology to be using on a, I think on a modern diesel engine, but they have a number of vacuum hoses that operate certain things like the EGR system. They even use vacuum on the engine mounts, believe it or not, which is to adjust the engine mounts or cushion the mounts, which is kind of strange. But these hoses and you can't really see 'em too well in this picture, but you can see these hoses are rotted. So we replaced a number of these vacuum hoses while we had this cover off. Bit of extra work, but something worthwhile doing. I was hoping would work towards solving some of the EGR codes. It didn't actually do that, but it was important to do it while this was all out. So there's our show for the day. 

Mark: So once you've removed, cleaned and reinstalled the DPF, how did the cleaning go? How did it run after everything was done? 

Bernie: Well, it ran a lot better than when it came in. As I like to think it was compared to when it came in, it was an enormous improvement and compared to how it's supposed to be, it was a bit of a disappointment.

So all those other codes and other issues, there's definitely some other things going on. We did verify by looking at pressure sensor data that the DPF was definitely flowing well. It was clean. It worked well. But there's definitely something else going on with the system, because when I went to accelerate initially, it was better, but still pretty slow. But once you get up to a certain speed and then you put the pedal down, it really went like a bat outta hell, I like to say. So it really moved well under certain conditions, but not perfect. 

And so you know, at this point, the owner of the vehicle is gonna need to do some more work. I figured probably removing the intake manifold, maybe doing the glow plugs next, even though glow plugs, aren't gonna affect the power, maybe inspecting the intake manifold for blockage cuz this kind of stuff happens. It soots up, it carbons up. That would probably be the next place, cuz it seemed to me like it's probably an airflow type of problem. Maybe do the throttle body at the same time and see if those issues solve the concern. 

Unfortunately again, it's another bout of a lot of money, but which brings me to the lesson with the diesel. And that is if you own one of these cars and any diesel vehicle, North American, European, if you have a trouble code and the check engine light on, bite the bullet, fix the car, fix each item as it comes up. Because if you let things accumulate, it just ends up becoming a nightmare.

Things have to be working properly for this to run a regeneration. So it's possible that had the owner fixed other things first. And we don't know, this is a new customer. I don't know the history, but had the person fixed one thing first. It may not have plugged this DPF up, you know, to the point that it need to be replaced, yet. You know, it's hard to know. It's difficult to say, but it's just best to fix things as they come up. It ends up being cheaper in the long. 

Mark: So given that, how are these BMW X5 diesels for reliability?

Bernie: Well, I wanna say they're not fantastic. I think in the early years, you know, the first five, this is 2010. So what are we looking at 12 years, first five to seven years you're probably pretty good. After that, you're gonna have stuff that goes wrong. And to me, as I've said this many times with diesels, it's about usage. If you're just driving around the city, doing short little trips, you're gonna end up spending a lot of money on repairs, cuz things carbon up. You're doing long hauls. It's good. This vehicle, I think it had 160,000 kilometres. It's really not much for a 12 year old vehicle with a diesel.

So you need to know what you're using it for, before you buy it, I think. If you're doing lots of long trips, you know, if you're driving from here up to the Okanagan all the time, that's probably a good use. But if you're just driving around town to picking up groceries and dropping your kids off at school, it's gonna end up costing a lot more in the long run.

Mark: They have to be worked hard in essence.

Bernie: They have to be worked hard, yeah. I only drive a few kilo-meters to work out a diesel pickup truck and it makes me nervous because I know, especially in winter, the engine doesn't even get warm, driving it to work. And so I know that's bad for it, but on the same token, I do a lot of highway trips too. So that'll end up burning stuff out. So as long as you're balanced, as long as you do some good highway drives probably than short trips, you're good. 

Mark: And maintain, you have to maintain a diesel they're dirty. 

Bernie: They are dirty. And all this technology that goes after, you know, like all these after treatments are super expensive on these vehicles. You know, the engines are expensive, but the exhaust systems are worth as much as the as the engines. So you know, you wanna make sure that what you're putting into the exhaust system is as clean as possible. So it lasts a long time. 

Mark: If you want expert repairs for your diesel, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at (604) 327-7112 to book your appointment, or you can book online at Give 'em a call. Thanks for watching and listening. We appreciate it. Thanks Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks for watching. Thanks Mark.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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