Faulty BMW Seat Heater Burns a Little Boy and Melts His Sweatshirt and Blanket

BMW is well-known for providing a luxurious and sporty experience to folks, but sometimes, there’s just too much of a good thing. Heated seats can be a great feature for owners who have to deal with harsh winters, and they’re widespread on luxury cars like BMWs. Unfortunately, a faulty BMW seat heater did too much heating and did some significant damage to a family’s car, and even slightly burned their child. 

BMW logo on the front of a blue car.
BMW logo | Getty Images

How heated seats work

While heated seats used to be a luxury feature that few people had access to, they’re far more common nowadays. This isn’t too surprising, since heated seats are pretty simple. Heated seats will have a heating element sandwiched between the cushion and the upholstery. That heating element does all the work, as it converts electricity into heat.

From there, it’s just a matter of sending electricity to the heating element so that it can do its job. Of course, things can malfunction. It’s not unusual for heated seats to get too hot, which can cause burns. If something gets too hot, then it can also catch on fire. That’s exactly what happened with a family’s 2013 BMW X5.

The case of the faulty heated seats in the 2013 BMW X5

According to WWNY, a mother and her 6-year-old child were driving from Pennsylvania to their home in Massachusetts. Her son had turned the seat heater on before he fell asleep in his car seat. Somewhere along the way, she smelled smoke, and her eyes started to burn. She was concerned, so she pulled over to check the car and fill up on gas. 

According to WWNY, when she checked on her son, she moved the pillow that he was sitting on. Suddenly, the car started filling with smoke. This caused her to panic since she was filling her BMW up with gas, and clearly, something was burning. So, she immediately got her son out of his seat and away from the car. Then, she pulled the pillow away completely and discovered that it had been burned onto the seat.

WWNY said that there was actually a hole in both the pillow and the seat itself. Fortunately, her son didn’t sustain many injuries. His sweatshirt and his blanket had melted together, and he got a small burn on his hand. The mother said that if she hadn’t done what she did, her son would’ve probably sustained more serious injuries. 

For now, the family has retired their Beemer and will drive a loaner car until the dealership can figure something out. While heated seat malfunctions can happen, they are not the only potential issue with heated car seats.


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Are heated seats bad for you?

The worst-case scenario is that a heated seat can cause burns in people who have no feelings in their legs. Since these folks can’t feel anything in their legs, they may not know that they turned the heat on. Automakers can try to prevent that from happening by including an automatic shutoff, but not all cars have that feature. 

Another issue that heated seats may have is leading to Toasted Skin Syndrome or TSS. This happens to people who use heated seats a lot, and it can take a while for symptoms to appear. But, when symptoms do appear, that’s when folks know that they have some serious damage. The easiest way to minimize the risk of TSS is not to use heated seats too often.