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Just completed a 10,000 mile roadtrip in my 2009 X5 35d. Here are things I worried about and how it turned out. As a note, we drove from Houston to Alaska and back with some ferries in the mix. The trip took 5 weeks.

1. Run flat tires. I was really worried about the run flat tires. Before leaving, I bought a new tire and a new rim to carry in the luggage compartment (did not get the TPMS installed in the spare as it was not clear it would not confuse the monitoring system). Removed the rear luggage floor cover to have extra room for the tire (along with bags and such for two adults/two kids). On two occasions, we had low tire pressure messages for the back right tire. We refilled with air each time and problem went away. Had the tire checked at the end of the trip and a small nail hole was found in the side wall resulting in a slow leak. Tire was replaced. Net result: Delighted, no real tire problems during the trip. Keep in mind that for some parts of the trip we were over 1,000 miles from a BMW dealer.

2. SUV too small for 10,000 miles. For two weeks on the trip, we had 5 people in the vehicle (plus spare tire and assorted bags). If we had driven the whole trip like this, we would have probably killed each other. As it turns out, for four people, the vehicle is quite comfortable.

3. MPG. Averaged 26.7 miles per gallon. Having owned an LR3 before this, which got 18 MPG on the highway, this was awesome. We only needed to fill once a day at most.

4. Driving. What a great way to drive to Alaska. The X5 felt great and was fun on alot of the curvy hilly mountainous roads you find on the way. It was nice to have a nimble car to quickly respond to various roadway hazards (animals on the road, construction, frost heaves, potholes and traffic accidents).

5. Ultra low sulfur diesel availability. I was worried about availability of ultra low sulfer diesel on the road trip. I would say 90% of the stations we went to had diesel and they were all ultra low sulfur. A few stations had very strange tips on the diesel pump which made it difficult/impossible to insert the pump into the vehicle. I think this must be a remnant of prior diesel pumps. It was obvious that the stations had tried to fix this by using pliers to reform the pump heads. Some of these worked and some did not. In Oregon, where full-service fuel is the norm, I was lucky that they gas station attendant asked me about premium vs unleaded so that I could correct him to using diesel. Just not many X5 diesels on the road yet.

6. Diesel exhaust fluid. This was just an unknown for me. Before leaving, the BMW serivce advisor in Houston suggested buying and carrying some of this with us. I thought that was a bad idea and thought that since they had "topped off my fluids" that the diesel exhaust fluid would be good for the 10K trip. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Got the 1,000 miles before your vehicle won't start message outside of Salt Lake City. Stopped at Boise BMW. Boise BMW said that since the vehicle was not due for service yet, they would would have to charge for fluid and labor and encouraged me to just buy from parts department and fill myself. No problem, bought two containers and with their guidance added it to the front reservoir. 200 miles outside of Anchorage, warning returns. I set an appointment with Anchorage BMW for service and diesel exhaust fluid. Before the appointment, I used the remaining bottle of fluid to get rid of error message until the service appointment. At service appointment, was notified that since car did not officially require service, that I would have to pay for an oil change and that since the error message was gone, I would have to pay for the diesel exhaust fluid. In this case, I made a very clear request to Anchorage BMW to fill the primary and secondary reservoirs so that I could make the rest of the trip. They claimed and double claimed that they filled every reservoir. Wrong again. 910 miles outside of Edmonton, Canada the warning message returns. I should note that I should have learned my lesson and bought backup bottles. Since I had not bought backups, I continually checked gas stations between Fairbanks and Edmonton for Diesel Exhaust Fluid to no avail. Fortunately, Edmonton was before 1000 miles or I would had to have the fluid shipped. Edmonton Bavaria BMW, finally someone who understood the problem and my car was finally due for its regular service based on the mileage interval. I scheduled an appointment for the oil change and diesel exhaust fluid refill. Bad news. The no cost preventive maintenance coverage is not valid in Canada. Hah! Now that was some interesting news. Between the oil change and a drain and refill of the diesel exhaust fluid (note: at each major service the fluid has to be drained and refilled as the fluid becomes stale before 1 year), I was looking at about $1,000. The Edmonton service advisor, feeling sorry for me talks to the diesel tech and all agree that I should just buy 4 bottles of diesel exhaust fluid and not worry about running over the oil change mileage indicator by 3000 miles. I buy the fluid, add two bottles on site and head off. Arrive in Houston without new error messages, get complete service all covered. This is one area that those of us who are pioneers with clean diesel are getting our share of arrows in the back. I noticed on a trip to Europe recently that "AdBlue" was easily available at every major highway road stop for easy refills. Until the service stations in the U.S and Canada catch up to this, carrying diesel exhaust fluid is probably a good idea for very long drives. Also note that the BMW manual suggests that driving in high elevations will use the fluid more quickly than specified. Perhaps this was a contributing factor for us though the Alaska highway rarely exceeds 4,000 feet above sea level.

6. Overall, a great experience. With some reservations about the diesel exhaust fluid, I am delighted with the car. It is clear to me that most service advisors and techs are undereducated about the diesel vehicles. Kudos again to the Edmonton Bavaria Tech who actually seemed to know what was going on.

7. A funny note, on a ferry ride between Prince Rupert and Haines, AK I was actually parked next to another identical X5 diesel (the first other X5 diesel I had seen on the road - even counting one year of driving in Houston).
 

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Great write up, and thank you for sharing your story about the DEF!

I am about to receive my 2011 X5 diesel, and thinking about buying some DEF bottles for just such occasions. So, couple of questions for you:

1. How much did you get charged per "BMW DEF" bottle? How large is each bottle?

2. How many bottles does each reservour take?

3. As you were adding more fluid (I presume it is a straight-forward DIY), how did you know the reservours were full? Did it just stop flowing? Was there any risk/chance of spillage?

Thanks !
 

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Great write up, and thank you for sharing your story about the DEF!

I am about to receive my 2011 X5 diesel, and thinking about buying some DEF bottles for just such occasions. So, couple of questions for you:

1. How much did you get charged per "BMW DEF" bottle? How large is each bottle?

2. How many bottles does each reservour take?

3. As you were adding more fluid (I presume it is a straight-forward DIY), how did you know the reservours were full? Did it just stop flowing? Was there any risk/chance of spillage?

Thanks !
search for DEF Urea refill from a post by BJKBERG. (post 459473) Pictures on refill plus more info...

Great original post by the way, thanks for sharing. Any pictures?
 

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Just completed a 10,000 mile roadtrip in my 2009 X5 35d. Here are things I worried about and how it turned out. As a note, we drove from Houston to Alaska and back with some ferries in the mix. The trip took 5 weeks......
Thanks for the great write up! It's nice to know that your 35d lived up to it's promise of being a great road vehicle for long trips. But it's really a shame that the DEF issue marred what appears to have been a very nice trip.

One really has to wonder whether BMW understands how inept they look to potential 35d buyers. How hard can it be to require every authorized BMW dealership to train at least a couple of techs to understand that there are 2 DEF tanks and it takes 6.5 gallons to fill both of them? Generic DEF is actually pretty cheap. BMW should make it a policy to just fill both tanks any time they "top up the fluids".

In the mean time early adopters like us need to know the facts and force our dealers to do the DEF service correctly by checking the paperwork and verifying that they actually put at least 6.5 gallons in the tanks.

As I've posted previously I have not had a single issue with DEF. But maybe that is because I made it very clear to my SA that I knew exactly how much DEF was required and would be checking the paperwork for the part numbers BEFORE I singed anything.

Funf Dreisg
 

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Where can I find out more about Diesel exhaust fluid? (how long will a full tank last? Do i have to pay each time?, etc.) I am torn between the gas and diesel X5, but if this DEF is a pain I will go with gas. Thanks.
 

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I have had similar experiences and now carry a canister of the exhaust fluid. I also had to pay for the fluid at the parts counter which I thought was a little cheezy - the fluid was only $18 per bottle so I didn't complain too much. You can buy the fluid now at many HESS stations but the tip is not the BMW tip and it won't fit. So you need to carry an empty BMW bottle, pour the Hess fluid in it and then into the car. I am not sure if BMW recommends the HESS fluid and I have not used it but I will ask my dealer if it is OK to use.

I have the run flats so I am storing the spare fluid and two spare quarts of oil in the well, its double bagged and in a plastic tub so nothing spills or makes a mess if one gets a leak or a cap comes loose.
 

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Sounds like a handful if you ask me. I want a lux suv to enjoy and not to takecare of it like a little child. Oh man I can just see the anti diesel name callings coming my way***8230;***8230;
 

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I have had similar experiences and now carry a canister of the exhaust fluid. I also had to pay for the fluid at the parts counter which I thought was a little cheezy - the fluid was only $18 per bottle so I didn't complain too much.....
VW sells the same size and style (no spill) bottle for $6. It even has the BMW part number on it. Do a search on Bimmerfest for a picture of the container posted by a member who has used it with no problems.

Funf Dreisig
 

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Where can I find out more about Diesel exhaust fluid? (how long will a full tank last? Do i have to pay each time?, etc.) I am torn between the gas and diesel X5, but if this DEF is a pain I will go with gas. Thanks.
There is a long thread on DEF in this forum. The bottom line is that the vast majority of the problems that 35d owners have reported are due to:
1 - untrained / incompetent dealer techs who have only filled the smaller tank (fix is for dealer to train techs and owners to be aware of the correct amount of DEF and check thier paper work)
2 - the larger tank freezing when exposed to sub freezing weather for extended periods of time (fix is to park it in a warm garage at least one night every 1,000 miles or top up the small tank for $6 until the weather warms up a bit)

If your dealer techs fill the DEF correctly (i.e. 6.5 gals between the two tanks) DEF is a non-issue. And if 6.5 gals of DEF doesn't quite make it to your next "free' oil change, you can top up the DEF with a gal you purchase from VW for $6 (in the same no spill bottle). It is about as cheap/easy as topping up your windshield washer fluid.

Funf Dreisig
 

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There are lots of posts and discussions about the DEF.... I've tried to [unsuccessfully] search regarding the DEF fill ups - are the both tanks/reservous get filled up when using the refiller opening under the hood? Or is there another refiller cap somewhere else ? I am going to do this as DIY, just want to know how to refill both tanks...
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I think these posts hit the nail on the head. If the techs know how to refill the DEF, then this is much less of an issue for the customers. The BMW policy as best I can tell is that they will only refill the DEF (under the preventive maintenance program), when your car is due for its regular service. Outside of that, it is the owner's responsibility to pay for the fluid. If the tech in Boise or Anchorage had known how to refill the DEF appropriately, I would have paid more, but would not have any other issues the entire trip. Overall, I love the Diesel and no regrets at this point. By the way, filling the primary tank (which is under the hood) is easy though it helped to have someone show me how to do it. First off, their is a funny looking tool in your trunk tool kit that has a square head which you can use to open the reservoir cap. It takes a bit of pressure, but not too much. Once the lid is open, you insert the BMW DEF fluid bottle and then screw it into place (without the BMW bottle this would be a pain). Once screwed into place, press down on the bottle which opens up the fluid to drain into the reservoir. It is supposedly impossible to overfill (though a tech in Boise suggested that it could be overfilled as the liquid expands when it gets hotter). As I was so low on fluid, I was at no real risk of overfilling with one bottle. Given the ease of refilling and the incentive to delay a full refill until BMW pays for it, I would just put one or two bottles in at a time with the goal of making it to the next service. I will say that a minor change to the BMW preventive maintenance program to allow the dealers to refill DEF when the warning light is on would be appropriate given the cost of the vehicle and the expectations of the ownew under the preventive maintenance program.
 

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Sounds like a great trip, minus the DEF issues.

Bavaria is an excellent dealership, good guys and they know their stuff. :thumbup:

We do have the free maintenance up here, but they don't honor US vehicles, just like ours don't get honored when we're travelling down south.

I am surprised that your US dealerships make you pay for DEF, especially if it's low before the scheduled maintenance. I had the warning come on once at only 6000 km, took it to Calgary BMW and they filled it for free. Then when it went in for it's regularly scheduled maintenance again, they filled it as part of the free maintenance. :thumbup:
 

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I've posted this several times previously but...

There are two DEF tanks with a total volume of 6.1 gals (see diagram of the DEF system).

The smaller 1.6 gal 'active' tank is heated and it's filler connector is that funny black thing on the passenger side of the engine (see photo).

The larger 4.5 gal 'passive' tank's filler connector is identical but it is partial obscured by the corrugated plastic air intake on the driver side of the engine. FWIW The air intake tube is fairly easy to remove without tools. So a complete DIY DEF refill (using the $6/gal DEF in the spill proof bottles from VW) would not be a big deal for anyone who can refill their windshield washer fluid.:angel:

When the active tank is low, DEF is pumped from the passive tank to top it up. So they are connected. BUT they must be filled separately. A fact that seems to escape some BMW dealer techs :tsk::tsk:

Funf Dreisig
 

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I think these posts hit the nail on the head. If the techs know how to refill the DEF, then this is much less of an issue for the customers. The BMW policy as best I can tell is that they will only refill the DEF (under the preventive maintenance program), when your car is due for its regular service. Outside of that, it is the owner's responsibility to pay for the fluid. If the tech in Boise or Anchorage had known how to refill the DEF appropriately, I would have paid more, but would not have any other issues the entire trip. .....
Exactly! This is the main issue with DEF in a 35d -- inadequate training/experience of techs at some (perhaps many) BMW "authorized" Dealers.

When the dealer techs do DEF right, there are zero hassles (e.g. our 35d). When the techs do it wrong..... I won't go there AGAIN :mad:

Funf Dreisig
 

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I've posted this several times previously but...

There are two DEF tanks with a total volume of 6.5 gals (see diagram of the DEF system).

The smaller 'active' tank is heated and it's filler connector is that funny black thing on the passenger side of the engine (see photo).

The larger 'passive' tank's filler connector is identical but it is partial obscured by the corrugated plastic air intake on the driver side of the engine. FWIW The air intake tube is fairly easy to remove without tools. So a complete DIY DEF refill (using the $6/gal DEF in the spill proof bottles from VW) would not be a big deal for anyone who can refill their windshield washer fluid.:angel:

When the active tank is low, DEF is pumped from the passive tank to top it up. So they are connected. BUT they must be filled separately. A fact that seems to escape some BMW dealer techs :tsk::tsk:

Funf Dreisig
Excellent !!!! Thank you very much! Oh boy, I am going to drive SA crazy ;)
 

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Calling the DEF expert - Funf Dreisig AG... :)

So the total system capacity is 6.5 Gal. What are the capacities of the active and passive tanks individually ?
 

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Calling the DEF expert - Funf Dreisig AG... :)

So the total system capacity is 6.5 Gal. What are the capacities of the active and passive tanks individually ?
Actually I remembered the total volume incorrectly. According to a BMW press release originally posted by Penguin in another thread. The smaller active tank is only 1.6 gals and the passive tank is 4.5 gals. So the total is just over 6 gals..

Funf Dreisig
 
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