BMW X1 Problems: 8 Common Issues

The BMW X1 is the smallest SUV in the BMW stable and competes against other small premium SUVs like the Mercedes GLA and Lexus UX. While on J.D Power consumer rating it’s first in its class, we, and many others have come to find that the BMW X1 does have some problems.

The BMW X1 suffers from a smelly AC, shifter defect, lower control arm defect, wind noise, uncomfortable ride, loose sunroof shade cover, unwanted auto closing tailgate, and squeaky armrest.

To help you make a more informed decision, we’ve broken down all of these common issues and looked at some BMW X1 recalls you need to be aware of (especially if you have one of these models).

2023 Utah Orange metallic bmw x1 xdrive23i on 20” bmw individual rims next to a mountain on a gravel parking spot

8 Common BMW X1 Problems

1. Smelly Airconditioner

The BMW X1 has a minor issue of holding moisture in the car’s HVAC system; over time, it can cause it to mold and start smelling.

Many owners have tips and tricks to prevent the unpleasant odor from happening; the one tip is to always keep the auto function on so that there is always fresh air moving in all the vents.

Another owner advised using an aircon purifier aerosol can that removes all fungi and bacteria from the HVAC system.

These cleaners are very easy to use, as demonstrated by BMW Doctor in this video:

Meguiars Whole Car Air RE-Fresher How To Get Rid Of Bad Smells In Any Car Easy And Effective

2. Shifter Defect

The Automatic BMW X1 was known to throw an error message on the iDrive system, indicating a transmission error.

This error was caused due to a spring inside the shifter assembly that broke, and couldn’t place an electronic switch on the right contact points when shifting through the gearbox positions.

At first, BMW replaced parts of the gearbox to no avail; luckily for most owners of the X1, it happened during the vehicle’s warranty phase.

Mike.x1 on Bimmerpost shared a very informative post on what exactly breaks in the shifter assembly and how to fix it.

3. Lower Control Arm Defect

In the first years of production, the BMW X1 was fitted with front lower control arms with a manufacturing defect causing clucking and noise when driving over bumpy surfaces.

BMW supplied the fix by revising the design and structure of the rubber mountings on the lower control arms.

The owners noticed the clunking and suspension noise very early, usually before the first service was due.

4. Wind Noise

Wind noise is one of the most irritating sounds while driving, and the BMW X1 had two locations where it could originate from.

The most common spot is from the tailgate area around the glass, and the second is around the sunroof.

So far, there aren’t definite fixes to this, but some owners were lucky enough to eliminate the sunroof wind noise with an aftermarket sunroof wind deflector.

5. Uncomfortable Ride

The BMW X1 had two factors that caused its terrible ride quality: the factory-fitted run-flat tires and the premium adaptive suspension.

The run-flat tires had no give in the sidewalls, so they transferred a lot of road vibrations into the vehicle’s chassis and cabin.

The adaptive suspension, while being adaptive, made the ride bumpy and vague, and many owners recommended taking the non-adaptive M-package suspension instead.

6. Loose Sunroof Shade Cover

Like most vehicles fitted with a sunroof, the BMW X1 has a sunroof shade cover that you can manually move, but it is a common issue for the guides running in the rails to fail.

When these guides fail, the cover starts drooping and looks very bad, and the only way to fix it is to remove the entire headliner and replace the guides.

This is a very tedious and lengthy job and costs an arm and a leg if done by a workshop or BMW dealership.

7. Unwanted Auto Closing Tailgate

BMW installed a nifty feature on the X1 with the auto open and closing tailgate, where you swipe your foot under the rear bumper to open it and do the same for closing.

This is quite handy if your hands are full and you want to open or close the tailgate, but many owners got a surprising bump to the head when the X1 randomly closed the tailgate.

One owner’s mother and wife were hit on the head by the tailgate in the Bimmerpost forums.

The fix is to get someone who can alter the code of the X1 to disable the auto-closing of the tailgate.

8. Squeaky Armrest

Many BMW X1 owners complained about their front center armrest squeaking while driving, and it was a simple flaw that BMW did not think of.

The decklid of the armrest has no rubber isolators on the bottom between the lid and the center console resulting in plastic-to-plastic contact and making a horrible squeaking noise.

The fix is as easy as using regular cabinet rubber bumpers, as shown by jrveron on the Bimmerpost forum.

BMW X1 Recalls

While recalls fix vehicle issues, there is still a chance that some cars never got fixed.

Either the owner did everything DIY or took it to a private mechanic who never knew about the recalls.

So it is advantageous for you as a potential buyer or owner of a BMW X1 to learn about these recalls. 

And if you already own an X1, take your vehicle to a dedicated BMW dealer or trustworthy mechanic as soon as possible to rectify these problems.

2014 Recall

2013 to 2014 X1 sDrive28i and xDrive28i models, the vacuum pump that supplies power assistance to the brakes can fail due to insufficient lubrication resulting in a reduction of braking performance.

2015 Recall

2015 model-year vehicles, the parts inside the steering gearbox may have been manufactured incorrectly, resulting in steering malfunction and loss of vehicle control.

2016 Recall

2013 to 2015 X1 sDrive28i, xDrive28i, and xDrive35i models, due to excessive internal pressure in the airbag during deployment, the inflator can rupture, resulting in metal fragments flying around in the cabin of the vehicle and causing injury or death.

2017 Recalls

2016 to 2017 X1 sDrive28i and xDrive28i models, the ELR (Emergency Locking Retractor) locking mechanism for the driver seat belt may not work as intended, causing the driver to move forward under heavy braking or causing an incident before locking the seat belt.

2017 X1 sDrive28i and xDrive28i models may have defective side seat-mounted airbags that fail to deploy during a crash.

2016 to 2017 X1 sDrive28i and xDrive28i models’ instrument panel will cause the passenger front airbag not to deploy correctly.

2014 X1 sDrive28i, xDrive28i, and xDrive35i models, the positive battery cable (B+) has high resistance in the connections to the fuse box resulting in loss of electrical connection and causing the engine to stall and not able to restart.

2019 Recalls

2018 to 2019 X1 sDrive28i and xDrive28i models may have a crankshaft position sensor with the wrong firmware resulting in the sensor not being able to process inputs from the reluctor ring on the crankshaft and the vehicle stalling.

2015 X1 sDrive28i, xDrive28i, and xDrive35i models, the original airbag inflator may explode due to the propellent degrading after long-term exposure to high humidity and temperature cycles resulting in sharp metal fragments entering the cabin and can cause severe injury or death.

2018 to 2019 X1 sDrive28i and xDrive28i models have contaminated hardware that causes the brackets of the taillight housing to crack and possibly detach from the vehicle.

2016 to 2019 X1 sDrive28i and xDrive28i models, the B-pillar may not absorb enough of the impact of the occupant’s head during a crash if stricken, thus failing to comply with the standards of the FMVSS (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard).

2018 to 2019 BMW X1 sDrive28i and xDrive28i models may have a tie rod assembled incorrectly that can wear out faster than expected and break, causing a loss of vehicle control.

2020 Recalls

2013 to 2015 model-year vehicles that were part of the previous airbag recall, the new front airbags containing phase-stabilized ammonium nitrate may explode due to propellant degradation due to humidity and temperature fluctuations resulting in sharp metal fragments entering the cabin of the vehicle.

2020 X1 sDrive28i and xDrive28i models, the head airbag and seat belt pre-tensioners may not activate in a rollover crash due to a problem with the rollover sensor in the airbag control unit.

2021 Recall

2021 X1 sDrive28i and xDrive28i models, the ALR (Automatic Locking Retractor) on the passenger seat may deactivate early, resulting increased risk of injury during a crash.

2022 Recall

2022 X1 xDrive28i models may leak fuel due to a crack in the engine compartment’s high-pressure fuel rail, increasing fire risk.


2012 red bmw x1 edition powder ride in an artic enviroment

Final Thoughts

The BMW X1 may have the highest consumer rating on J.D. Power in the small premium SUV segment, but it still has some problems to look out for.

The best thing to do if you own a BMW X1 is to take it to a BMW dealership and have them check for any recalls that haven’t been completed.

If you are in the market for a used X1, get a full vehicle history report and avoid any models with an outstanding recall.

Hopefully, you found this article helpful, and you can go to your next BMW X1 test drive knowing what to look out for.


Considering all model years, the quality and reliability score on J.D. Power is average at 79 out of 100 with the consumer ratings.

The 2022 model is deemed the most reliable, with a score of 86, and the 2020 model is the worst, with a rating of 71 out of 100 on J.D. Power consumer ratings.

With a yearly estimated maintenance cost of $1,864, the BMW X1 is the second most expensive in its class, just behind the Mercedes GLA with $1,866.

The cheapest vehicle to maintain in the compact premium SUV class is the Volvo XC40, with an estimated yearly maintenance cost of $1,180.

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Jaco Schrader

Jaco is the automotive heart of our platform. Born and raised in Namibia, he began his journey in the automobile sector in 2012. Launching his own automotive repair business in Africa and fitting a Toyota 1UZ-FE V8 in a Ford Sierra, Jaco brings over six years of hands-on automotive experience. He’s a self-taught expert in various mechanical and electrical aspects of vehicles.

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