Towing a Trailer with a BMW 525i

I have a 2002 525i, 100k miles, automatic transmission, overall good condition. I also have a BMW 1150 motorcycle, which I would like to tow when going on vacations. The total weight of the trailer and motorcycle combined is about 1000lb. When I asked the BMW dealership about putting a trailer hitch on the car, they said don’t do it; that you sholdn’t tow with a BMW sedan. But some research online would indicate hat people in Europe tow with their BMWs all the time. I talked to the local Uhaul dealership and they said they have a towing hitch they can bolt to my car.

Any thoughts or warnings?

You will know the extra 1000 pounds is there, especially with the car loaded up with all your other vacation stuff…

The weak link is the transmission…At 100K miles, it’s no spring chicken and it might not take kindly to carrying this extra load. I would find out what it costs to replace the transmission in this car before I towed with it, just so you know what is at stake. If you decide to it anyway, Have an external transmission cooler installed to give yourself a fighting chance and have the transmission serviced.

Also, those folks in Europe are probably towing with diesel BMWs, many with manual transmissions, nothing like your 525i. I wouldn’t.


In addition to the good advice from Caddyman and texases, I want to comment on the OP’s statement, “the local Uhaul dealership…said they have a towing hitch they can bolt to my car”.

Just because U-Haul is willing to sell you a towing hitch does not mean that towing is recommended for this car. U-Haul is in the business of selling these devices, and has no liability whatsoever for failure of a transmission.

Just something to think about…

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Before installing a hitch and towing I’d recommend you get the prices on used, rebuilt, and new transmission for your car. If you are OK with a plan to replace the transmission you can risk towing. The transmission and rear end gears will bear most of the workload of towing. BMW makes technically sound parts but to reduce weight they are not all that robust.

I think your car would tow, handle, and brake ok towing a trailer as long as you don’t pile on more stuff in addition to the cycle. Surge or electric brakes on the trailer would help.

I have towed a 500 lb motorcycle in a lightweight trailer on mostly flat terrain with a manual trans VW for a couple of hundred miles with no problem. I have towed a 500 lb. tent trailer from the Midwest to the New England states and back with a 1.9 liter German car also with a manual trans with no problem. I suggest that you accelerate gently with your BMW and don’t let the transmission “hunt” between the final lockup gear and back if that is possible. If you accelerate gently, it is possible that most of the time your trans will not know that a trailer is in tow; that’s my personal theory. A trailer in tow might be similar to driving into a headwind and nobody that I know fears for their trans when driving into a headwind.

Towing any trailer of any weight is never as safe under any condition as not towing a trailer. Your car becomes less maneuverable when starting, stopping and turning and especially so if an emergency situation presents itself. This means, of course, that you must drive more cautiously and with a longer view ahead with a trailer in tow.

Sure, you can do it…it will shorten the life of your car but IMO, you can minimize the issue if you drive slowly. Make sure you balance the cycle correctly, don’t overload the car and make sure the total weight is within range of the weight capacity including the hitch weight. Heed Uncle’s good advice over all.

Don’t even think about it!!! If you blow the transmission (a good possibility) you will come close to scrapping the car. As pointed out, in Europe they would do this with a standard shift. If you wear out the clutch, it will not break the bank.

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No problem. If it breaks down on your trip, you’ll still have the bike to get home with.

Does your owner’s manual have anything to say on the subject?

Personally, I don’t really think you’ll have a problem. I’ve owned several BMWs, some with automatics, and three with only two wheels. Some of the cars have gone over 200K miles with no major driveline issues. That said, I’ve never towed a trailer with any of them. I like Caddyman’s idea of installing an external transmission cooler just to be on the safe side.

Back in the olden days, many households had a car and a trailer. Almost no one had pickup trucks. I know folks who pulled trailers all over the country with six cylinder cars, some with automatics, some not. I even know of an original Model T Ford that had a hitch on the back. I don’t know what they towed, and it couldn’t have been fast, but the fact is they weren’t squeamish about doing it. I know a retired couple who tow a 24’ travel trailer with a Subaru Legacy. They even tow it through the Colorado Rockies. I don’t know what it weighs, but it’s bigger than the car.

I note that the one in this ad has a small receiver, and is only rated for 200/2000 lbs. That should handle your bike.

Have a nice trip.

The BMW manual says that you need to figure out how much weight is transferred from the trailer to the car. That weight, your cargo weight, and passenger weight should not exceed the maximum cargo weight for your car. You should check your manual to make sure what your load maximum is. For the 2004 525i, the max load is 1105#.

I’m surprised MG McAnick was the first in the thread to suggest checking your owner’s manual.
That’s where I’d start; by looking at the owner’s manual.

The OP’s question is the same as mine. How much can I pull with my 1995 BMW 525i. I have a teardrop that weighs 900 pounds and was wondering if I could pull her. She does have a newly rebuilt transmission and she is manual and not an automatic vehicle. Just curious if she’s tough enough to pull.

Kim , the old post you tagged on has good advice . Look in your owners manual for towing specs . If you don’t have one a Google search will let you find a free download .

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Hard to say, we used our Volvo that was rated @ 2,000lbs to tow a 1,600lb boat, struggled on the hills and got stuck on the launch ramp. Could do it but you may end up upgrading as we did.

If I were going to do much towing at all I think that i would want to install an aftermarket transmission fluid cooler. Roughly 50 to 100 bucks all depending.
Coolers are comparatively cheap, easy to install, and will prolong the life of the transmission. They also eliminate that potential problem of an internal leak in the radiator trans fluid cooler which can allow engine coolant to mix with the transmission fluid and which will do in an automatic quickly.


Kims car has a manual trans.

The OP said it’s a manual transmission.