• Previous-generation 5 and 6 Series affected
  • More than 365,000 are on American streets
  • Owners being notified in April

BMW has issued a worldwide recall on 1.3 million of its cars. The issue is related to a battery cable cover in the previous-generation 5 Series sedans and wagons and 6 Series coupes and convertibles, built between 2003 and 2010.

In a notification to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), BMW believes approximately 367,682 cars in the U.S. fall under this recall, the vast majority - around 300,419 - are sedan versions of the 5 Series. But even the high-performance M versions are also affected.

The problem involves the positive terminal cable from the battery located in the trunk. This connects to another cable that goes to the engine bay. At this connection point is an insulated bulkhead and a bolt. "In rare cases," says BMW's correspondence with NHTSA, "the connector may have been incorrectly attached. Over time, this can lead to a loosening of the bolt." If that happens, the electric current could produce heat that might ultimately lead to a fire, even if the ignition is off.

So far, the company is aware of nine incidents - three of those occurring in the U.S. - but has not received any reports of accident or injury caused by this issue. The first instance happened in 2006, but it's taken some time to discover the root cause.

"BMW will contact U.S. owners of affected vehicles starting in April, by first class mail, advising them to contact their authorized BMW center to arrange a service appointment," said Dave Buchko, spokesman for the company's North American operation. "The insulated bulkhead connector of the battery cable bolt connection will be inspected and secured as necessary. In addition, protective grease will be added to the area and the battery cable plastic cover will be replaced with a new version."

The whole fix is expected to take about 30 minutes and will be carried out free of charge to BMW drivers. Consumers can contact BMW Customer Relations at 1-800-525-7417 or email customerrelations@bmwusa.com for more information.

The NHTSA's vehicle safety hotline is 1-888-327-4236. Its website is safercar.gov and the campaign number to lookup this BMW recall is 12V126-6601.

What it means to you: If you own one of the affected vehicles, be sure to follow BMW's instructions to have it repaired. If you're shopping for a used BMW 5 or 6 Series, check to make sure the repair has been completed.

author photo

Colin Ryan has driven hundreds of cars thousands of miles while writing for BBC Top Gear magazine, Popular Mechanics, the Los Angeles Times, European Car, Import Tuner and many other publications, websites, TV shows, etc.

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