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Ignition and Recall Timing: A Tale of High Pressure Fuel Pump Failures

Interesting | October 27th, 2010 by 29
bmw_n54

Well the intertubes are all in a dither now that BMW has recalled cars for the failure of some High Pressure Fuel Pumps (HPFP) on …

Well the intertubes are all in a dither now that BMW has recalled cars for the failure of some High Pressure Fuel Pumps (HPFP) on its turbocharged direct injected engines.

To begin with the recalled cars have two fuel pumps, a primary low-pressure in-tank pump, and a secondary high pressure pump near the engine itself. The low pressure pump isn’t really all that low pressure, it’s a 5 bar pump (about 70 psi) and if you’ve ever dealt with carburettors you’ll know that’s about 10 times more than you’re used to.

The secondary high pressure fuel pump is the enabling technology on a gasoline direct injected engine. The really high pressures that pump develops can overcome the pressure of the turbocharged slug of air that is then further compressed in the cylinder. The timing sequence of fuel injection and spark is directly dependent on the high pressure fuel pumps operation.

Ignition and Recall Timing: A Tale of High Pressure Fuel Pump FailuresHowever, if the high pressure fuel pump fails, the engine can still operate on the 5 bar pressure from the primary fuel pump. What it can’t do, at that point, is utilize as much boost pressure or ignition timing that allows such high power from small displacement as its owners are used to. In essence it will still run, but it will run like a four cylinder, automatic transmission, Camry.

What BMW and the supplier of the high pressure fuel pump have been doing in the past year or so is isolating the cause of the failures, developing a workable engineering solution to the problem (that won’t introduce additional problems), testing the solution, and the deploying the fix into the field and gather feedback on its effectiveness.

BMW has told BMWBLOG that they have a revision of the HPFP that has been in service since March of 2010 and that they are satisfied that it is providing the reliability they expect.

That leads directly to the buzz surrounding the recall. Cars are not recalled because a couple of executives and a lawyer get scarred after a news story.

Responsible companies that have an issue with a defective part first acknowledge the problem. They then assure customers that they will provide a fix and possibly will reinforce the warranty on the defective part. They will then work closely to identify the cause of failure, engineer a solution, and thoroughly test it. At that point, with a proven solution in hand, they will issue a recall for the superset of potentially problematic parts.

This is what BMW has done. They acknowledged the problem with the high pressure fuel pump, and before they had a fix in hand, they extended the warranty on the HPFP. Then with a fix in hand, they worked with authorities (in the case of US cars,NHTSA) to issue a voluntary recall. At most, the news story pushed up the timing of the announcement.

There are 150,000 cars that are subject to recall, the actual number of defective HPFP is some subset of that. That being said, it’s much more fun to buy into the conspiracy theory that without the dogged pursuit of our media, nothing would have been done about this. But I can guarantee you that most in the media wouldn’t know what a HPFP is if it bit them in the keester. I still wouldn’t monkey with the Cuomo’s though .

To clarify and correct the article, the total number of cars involved in the HPFP recall are 130,000. There are 20,800 X5s involved in a
separate recall. The voluntary recall for the HPFP is coordinated with the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) since it involves systems in the ‘emissions’ stream.

Additionally, the total expected defective HPFP are in the 40,000 range, or about a third of the recalled number. As is usual, all
vehicles within a range are recalled regardless of whether or not every one is afflicted with a defective part.

  • M

    I opwn one of those pumps in a 2010 X6 35i….when it goes down it does not run like a camry, rather it runs like a bicycle with brolken chain…no power what so ever….I had this happen to me 3 times and I tell you, it is scary especially when cars are coming at you and honking their horns!!! also, have you heard the sound of the 35i engine….the diesel engine is quiet compared to it. so please enough with this crap about BMW doing what is right….I am in Canada and I did not hear nothing from BMW, I did not take my car to the dealer because I know that they had no solution.
    I am also a loyal BMW customer but my next year’s purchase will not be a turbo-charged BMW car…..iof they still make them!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000477069969 Hugo Becker

      Good luck with your next car, whatever it is . . . I have to say I hadn’t thought about the HPFP failing in something as heavy as the X6. You’re right, it would feel significantly different than an HPFP failure in a 335i (or the 135i I own).

      • BIMMER1

        When the pump in my 135 died the car wouldn’t go faster than 10mph even at WOT.

        • FreudeKing

          And to think that they are using all these turbo related technology in the coming M5, M6 and the next M3 (such high performance and demanding cars)…… if this is the track record of BMW turbo technology, then I guess customers should stay away from BMW turbo products!

    • Rob

      I have a 335 and it is on it’s 3rd pump (and is the latest and seems to be reliable). As for a Camry, when my car limps, it would get beat down by an auto 4 cyl Camry, it is terrible almost not drivable.

      However, when it works, it is one of the best engines in the world and I would buy it all over again even with the issue. Each time it has failed, dealer fixed it in a day and I drove something nice and new for the day!

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  • Ben

    I have always doubted the reliability of turbo charged engines. Too bad BMW (among others of course), are using turbos as a low cost solution to meet the ever stringent emission rules. More power, better mileage and no downside? Sounds too good to be true.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000477069969 Hugo Becker

      It’s not the turbos in this case, but the direct injection’s high pressure fuel pump. In specific it’s the volume controller on the HPFP that’s causing the problem. If you get a port injected turbo engine there won’t be a HPFP fuel pump to fail.

  • TONY

    I have taken my car in over 6 times for this same issue. They have replaced the fuel pump, spark plugs, fuel injectors, nothing has fixed it so far. This morning I started my car and it started to shake like it was about to explode. It always hesitates to crank and the idle is extremely loud and shaky. Bought my 335i brand new 4 years ago and I have been dealing with this issue the entire time. Car has stalled out on me several times and each time I take it in, I notice whatever changes they have done seem to make my car drive slower each time. Taking it in this week again, hopefully I can get a more permanent solution, if not I will be contacting BMW corporate to see if they can offer me anything.

    • FreudeKing

      It is all nice for BMW to say that they have been working on the solution throughout this time. But is it really the truth? Well, it seems like customers felt that BMW didn’t do enough to solve the solution and the dealerships certainly failed to fix the problem.

      What’s BMW’s response to their deliberate impairing of customers’ cars performance so that they do not notice the underlying problems??? Don’t tell me they were trying to decrease the possibility of failure till they find a solution (i.e. the recall).

      Do they know what a mess they have caused? People are now staying away from BMW’s turbo charged products and the rival dealerships are using this to their advantage when selling cars to their customers in this sector of cars! If BMW acted earlier, this massive damage would not have happened…..

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1355344571 Alexander Phillippe

    Is the same HPFP used on their diesel engines? If so, I wonder if they could just use that pump in place of it, unless theres some weird technicality that would disallow that.

  • RICK T.

    I HAVE A 2008 535I, WHICH HAS BEEN IN SHOP 5 TIMES, FIRST TIME WITH ONLY 2006 MILES, FOR THE SAME ISSUE. HPFP. STILL NOT FIXED. I DONT KNOW WHAT NEW FIX BMW IS TALKING ABOUT, BECAUSE IT SURE HASENT FIXED MY ISSUES. INITIALLY, BMW WAS CORRECTING THE PROBLEM, WELL COVERING IT UP, BY REPROGAMMING THE ONBOARD COMPUTER TO BYPASS THE PROBLEM. AS YOUVE READ, THIS ONLY DID NOT GIVE THE 535I ITS PROMISED PERFORMANCE, IT ALSO CUT BACK ON ITS HP AND DECREASED MPG’S. THIS WAS BROUGHT UP WHEN SAVEY BMW OWNERS HAD THIER CARS RETESTED ON A DYNO. BEWARE!! BMW HAS MADE ME A BUYBACK OFFER WHICH IS PENDING BECAUSE THEY WANT TO PENALIZE ME FOR 2006 MILES I PUT ON THE CAR BEFORE IT STARTED TO FAIL ON ME. BMW WILL NOT DO THE RIGHT THING AND GIVE ME THE EXTRA 916.00 DOLLARS THEY ARE TRYING TO TAKE FROM ME AFTER WANTING TO PAY EVERYTHING ELSE. CALL ME GREEDY, BUT TWO YEARS OF THIS CAR BEING A PAIN, 910.00 IS SURE A CHEAPER WAY TO GO THAN FIGHTING THIS IN COURT, WHICH IS WHAT IM PONDERING. PISSED IN SO. CAL.

  • …….

    No it is not the same hpfp as the diesel not even driven the same way as the 335 one of the problems the hpfp fails is the ethanol content in N america the alchohol is tearing up the seals in the pump and volume control valve. Just some 411 from Simone on the inside loop.

  • Rob

    I’m a 535xi owner, and I had to have my car towed two times because of HPFP failures. Further, after having the first failure, and later noticing long crank times, I told my BMW dealer that I thought the HPFP was again failing. They refused to replace it. The result? A few weeks later another HPFP failure on my way to work and having to get towed again.

    As for BMWBlog saying it drives like a Camry when the HPFP fails… that is simply wrong. It drives sluggish, slow and is dangerous. It’s disappointing to see BMWBlog sugarcoating the problem and saying the situation was handled properly. It was not handled properly. I’m just thankful that it didn’t fail when I was taking my son back to college (a 7 hour drive). It would be helpful for BMWBlog to understand the seriousness of the situation.

    Having said all that, I still love my E60, and look forward to a purchase of and F10 at some point.

    • http://www.bmwblog.com Horatiu B.

      I certainly believe we have an understanding of the issue, I personally own a 335i with N54 engine.

    • BIMMER1

      There are different degress of limp mode. Sometimes you will be able to cruise along at the same speeds just with less power. Sometimes you won’t be able to go faster than 10 mph. All depends on the circumstances and how bad the problem is at that moment in time. The last thing you want to do is run too lean, especially on a DI turbo engine. Otherwise, things would go boom pretty quickly if limp mode didn’t intervene.

      • FreudeKing

        Well then they shouldn’t have given us an impression that the Camry drive would be the worst possible outcome when it can be far worse. See, another way to try and beautify the problem. That’s just unethical in my books. I do not give credit to all the “working on problem” reason for the delay.

  • claud

    My HPFP on my 08 335i coupe failed at 23000 miles—while it was at the dealer getting serviced. I feel deprived to not having experienced “limp” mode.

  • Adam

    I love BMW, but I think if they had a fix for the problem they wouldn’t have changed the 2011 335i and 535i to a SINGLE turbo engine. The whole point of having twin turbos was to eliminate turbo lag, but for some reason they removed one of the turbos starting in the 2011 models. Connect the dots.

    • BIMMER1

      The N55 “dual scroll” single turbo engines still use the exact same 3rd gen HPFP that is used on the twin turbo N54’s. There’s no difference. I’ve already replaced two pumps on the N55’s, so that was certainly not the reason for the change. BMW has to pay fines for every MPG over a set limit from CAFE every year. Better economy means the fleet avg. goes up and the CAFE (basically Europe’s EPA) fines go down. The reason why they went to the N55 was strickly for emissions purposes. The N55 is 10% more efficient, although it’s not as tunable as it’s more restrictive when it comes to modding. That is why the N54 is still being used on the higher power 335iS/Z4 3.5iS/1M coupe, because it can handle the extra power and not increase lag. It will be interesting to see what kind of power numbers Dinan will be able to get out of the N55 and how it compares to the 384hp/421tq they got from the N54 with just a software update.

  • ToddJames

    BMW also went to the single turbo to better differentiate between the upcoming M,(twinturbo) cars and the non-M,(single turbo) cars ….

  • Kram

    Horatiu, Hugo,

    Do you know the part number for the latest revision HPFP? I think that it would help a lot people out there who have had this problem to compare pumps. I had my fuel pump replaced in April 2010 for my 335i and the part number ends in #943.

    • Bimmer1

      Actually, I just noticed a 4th number…the latest version apears to be 13 51 7 613 933.

      13 51 7 592 881 High-pressure pump original
      13 51 7 596 123 High-pressure pump Newer Forward Only
      13 51 7 594 943 High-pressure pump Newer Forward Only
      13 51 7 613 933 Rmfd high-pressure pump Newest

  • estes

    I am an owner of a 535xi in Canada. The fuel pump started acting up around 24000km. Starting the car was very difficult so i took it to the dealership and they replaced the HPFP right away, no questions asked. Now the car has been working great for the last few months but nfortunately they de-tuned the engine aslwell. The response of the engine feels much more sluggish compared to my dads 535xi. Does anyone have a suggestion. Should i take it into the shop?

  • Bryan

    I received the software update a few weeks ago, as part of this recall, and now the performance of the vehicle is very very different. I suspect BMW altered the horsepower to minimize long-term risk. I have a 2008 335i with 30K miles. Anyone else notice the newly sluggish performance? Worse, now there’s a nauseating smell of burnt oil or plastic, which I can’t seem to pinpoint.

    • FreudeKing

      @Bryan: Read other customers comments on this blog, with that software change, BMW has impaired the performance of your car so that the underlying manufacturing defect is covered up (according to most bloggers).

  • bluegear

    What baffles me is BMW’s decision to introduce its new line up[F10 and F25] with the same Engine/HPFP[ N55's are failing too]. Do they expect people to buy their new flawed product?How does BMW explain that? Corporate greed? Stupidity?
    Thanks BMWBLOG for such an unbiased article. You certainly have proven your point.

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