BMW Recalls ActiveE Over Insufficient Gear Shaft Lubricant


BMW recall notice posted on NHTSA.

BMW recall notice posted on NHTSA.

There are several ways to approach posting on a vehicle recall, but we think it most useful to provide information directly from the source.  In this way, nothing is lost in translation.

What you see here (above) is a recall notice issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the 2011 BMW ActiveE.

This recall involves approximately 360 of the 700 ActiveE vehicles on US roads.  The issue is described in detail both above and below, so if you’re an ActiveE lessee, or simply interested in what’s wrong, then be sure to read all three notices.

Dealer notice.

Dealer notice.

This notice (above) is self explanatory.   The only info worth pointing out is that BMW will install an “improved seal” after the other work is completed.

Additional dealer notice.

Additional dealer notice.

Here’s where it gets a bit more interesting.  Since the ActiveE is a limited production vehicle, parts seem to be nearly non-existent.  Note the mention of “limited availability of parts” and the mention of “higher-priority” versus “lower-priority” vehicles.  Additionally, there’s a chance that the entire electric motor will be replaced.  That’s not mentioned in the official NHTSA recall notice.  Down time seems to be rather lengthy too, as even BMW openly states “extensive repair time.”

Additional bulletins and notice can be found by following this link to the NHTSA’s website.

And here’s a link to a detailed PDF that explains exactly how and when BMW first became aware of the issue and the actions the automaker took to try to evaluate, diagnose and remedy the problem.

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6 Comments on "BMW Recalls ActiveE Over Insufficient Gear Shaft Lubricant"

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Note To Self:

Don’t participate in a pilot research program and expect the
car to be my daily driver.

Flawless for me, guess I’m one of the lucky 340 drivers 😉

Again, (they seemed to have problems with this a year ago now), it seems to me that this is one of the disadvantages of modern German cars in general. All this concern over a shaft spline instead of just putting in a spline that works. And these days VW’s are notorius for burning oil and being of poor reliability in general. How unlike my ’64 VW Bug.

Reminds me decades ago of the American Nema standards compared to the European IEC standards. We used to have equipment where the Nema stuff would just keep working whereas the IEC stuff would constantly break.

Of course, nowadays since everyone copies everyone else’s bad ideas, the American ‘world compatible’ stuff is now equally bad.

Like Airton, my car isn’t involved in this either. Bill, the gear splines are fine and aren’t being redesigned or anything. The whole issue was some of the cars had a faulty seal where the motor mates with the gear reduction trans. This allowed the grease that was supposed to be sealed in the gear to keep it lubricated to leak out. Once enough of the grease leaked out the gear splines would begin to wear and shear leading to failure. The fix just keeps the grease sealed in there and resolves the problem. The motor and trans are fine, the whole issue was a bad batch of faulty gaskets – probably a $10 item!


Yeah I think you said or someone said they’ve had the car in several times… They should have identified the gasket problem earlier. I’d also think there is a bit of a “Design to the Limit” problem (such as is the case with my Roadster), but they’d never admit that, unless you can prove it with hard numbers.

Actually Bill, I’ve been one of the lucky ones and haven’t had to have the car serviced much. I have 37,000 miles on it in a year and two weeks so it couldn’t have been in for service much!
These are conversions that will never been made for sale, never see a 2nd generation, etc they are truly a test car to get some of the components that they will use in the i3 some real world usage. That plus I’m sure BMW didn’t mind getting the CARB credits! They are just for this closed two year program and they also offer the MINI-E customers like me a bridge to the i3, so we didn’t need to go back to gas for two years until we could get an i3. I’m happy to have one, it’s been great for me so far and the unlimited mile lease is the best for me. I’ll hand it back next January with 70,000 miles on it after 24 months.