The Footwell Module, also known as FRM or Fußraummodul in ze Germany, is absolutely the least reliable control module ever installed in any BMW. In fact, it is so bad that BMW extended the FRM limited warranty from 2 to 8 years or 125,000 miles at the time.
FRM can fail when replacing the battery, jumpstarting, coding, programming, reading fault memory with a scanner, or when you just look at it in the wrong way.
The official BMW explanation is that the Footwell Module can fail during diagnosis (ISTA) or programming (software update) because of “compatibility issues with a certain combination of vehicle software (I-Level) and the Footwell Module hardware.”
All E Series BMWs with Footwel Modules are affected, including the E8x 1 Series, E9x 3 Series, E7x X5 and X6, and E89 Z4. The F07/F1x 5 Series, F01 7 Series, F25 X3, and F26 X4 are the F Series models with FRM; they are also known to fail, albeit considerably less frequently. Right now, I can’t even recall the last time I had to replace it on an F Series.
Personally, I’ve bricked a ton of FRMs without ever touching them. It has happened three times in recent months. A 2014 BMW X1 E84 FRM died as soon as I connected the battery following the engine repair. The next one died when I connected ISTA to read the fault memory for a woman who had just arrived to inspect her BMW before a road trip. The same happened for an E90 that came in for Bluetooth connectivity issues.
What is FRM And How Does it Work
The footwell module (FRM) is an electrical nodal point in the driver-side footwell. It controls the lighting and windows and receives door signals. The footwell module is also responsible for adaptive headlight control and serves as the interface for the instrument cluster.
Sensors and signals for the footwell module:
- Height sensors
- Reversing light switch
- Brake light switch
- Hazard warning flasher switch
- Light switch
- Driver’s door switch block
- Door contacts in rear doors
- Door contacts in front doors
- Driver’s door lock
The FRM controls the following components:
- Exterior mirrors
- Power windows
- Tail lights
- Fog lights
- Third stop lamp
- Auxiliary turn indicator light
- Front courtesy lighting
- Rear courtesy lighting
- Ambient lighting
- License plate lights
- Controllers for the adaptive headlight stepper motors
- Safety belt feeder controllers (only E92)
Why do FRM Modules Fail At Such a High Rate?
Obviously, this is both the hardware/software/compatibility design issue that I cannot fully explain. However, I know what happens when the FRM dies.
I’m positive that corrupt EEPROM data causes FRM to fail. I’m going to venture a guess that this typically occurs long before the FRM actually fails. The issue is that until the control unit reboots, FRM will continue to operate normally.
That’s why most of the modules will die only after disconnecting and reconnecting a battery, after jumpstarting a car with a dead battery, or during the test with a diagnostic scanner.
So, all the data FRM needs to operate are in fact intact, only the files needed to boot the module are missing.
I’ve also heard many times that hacked ISTA programs cause the problem, but not so. I killed most of the FRMs with the official BMW dealer ISTA setup.
You can imagine how challenging it is to explain this to the customer who brought their BMW or MINI because the check engine light was on, for a battery replacement, or just for regular maintenance.
Even though we are aware of this issue and have been experiencing it for more than a decade, today is only marginally easier.
This is the main reason I decided to learn how to repair the FRM module and make everyone’s involved life easier.
Besides, I had a big stack of all kinds of bricked FRMs just for training.
How to Repair Bricked FRM
Over the years I’ve accumulated a giant stack of bricked Footwel Modules. Then someone figured out how to repair them without exchanging any parts. I found all information online and via the forums.
The standard software update will most certainly fix a bricked FRM, but as the FRM now doesn’t have any communication with a vehicle network, you’ll have to reflash the EEPROM directly via the circuit board on the bench.
I struggled for months until I finally successfully repaired one bricked module. Remember, this was many years ago, and there were no “How to repair FRM” videos floating around the web.
If you decide to do it yourself, here’s a good guide on how to do it:
You’ll also need this very useful tool:
If you are not familiar with electronics and EEPROM flashing I strongly advise you to let some of the many specialized companies do it for you.
Anyway, besides replacing your FRM with a brand new module, repairing a bricked Footwell Module is usually the best solution. Most companies will charge you between $100 and $200 to repair your FRM.
As there are many different FRM versions, sourcing a used FRM can be challenging.
However, if you decide to source a used replacement FRM you should be very careful with the FRM version, as they are mostly not interchangeable. While there are many different versions between the model series and equipment setup, in the case of the E90 3 Series, the FRM3 MAX BROSE covers all of them.
If you decide to buy a new Footwell Module for the E90, you’ll get the MAX BROSE version which can be coded to work with any E90 lighting setup.
Here are the versions used in E90 3 Series based on a lighting system setup:
FRM2 E90 E91 LOW (without fog lights)
FRM2 E90 E91 NSW (with or without fog lights)
FRM2 E87 E9X XE
FRM2 E87 E9X LED XE
FRM3 MAX BROSE
FRM2 E87 E9X XE
FRM2 E87 E9X LED XE
FRM3 E87 E92 E93 XE
FRM3 E87 E9X LED XE
FRM3 MAX BROSE
AHL (Adaptive Xenon) Headlights
FRM2 E87 E9X AHL
FRM2 E87 E9X LED AHL
FRM3 MAX BROSE can be used with any lighting setup – halogen, xenon, or adaptive xenon.
Now, besides the lighting setup differences, you’ll also have to match the model series. For example, E90 FRM won’t work in E84 X1; just like E70 X5 FRM won’t work in E90. If you install the E87 5-door 1 Series version (not MAX BROSE) on an E82 1 Series Coupe, everything will work except the lowering of the door window when opening and closing the doors.
How to Replace Footwell Module
I was just about to write how easy is to replace the FRM module and then I headed to YouTube to embed a video on how to do it. Yes, replacing the FRM module is quite simple if you did it hundred times. I can do it in five minutes or less, blindfolded.
But most BMW owners will do it probably only once in life. So, give yourself about half an hour.
The FRM is located at the driver’s footwell on all BMW models no matter the RHD or LHD and is fastened with two plastic 10mm nuts to a body sidewall.
Although it is strongly advised to disconnect the battery when disconnecting any control module (ECU), however, I don’t do it for the FRM removal. The only reason you might want to disconnect the battery is to avoid fault memory entries as you can’t connect all three connectors at the same time, but they do not affect the function and can be erased later.
Besides, if you need to replace it, your module is already bricked anyways.
The lower nut is easy to remove, but for the upper, you’ll have to wiggle a bit through wiring. Here’s my ¼ ratchet setup I use for the past ten years, or more. Also, you don’t need to remove the nut completely as the module holder is cut so you can just slide it down.
Here’s the guide from BMW Fanatic (E90):
How to Encode Footwell Module
When you install either a new or used module you’ll have to encode it to your BMW. That is, you need to give your new FRM instructions on how to behave in your BMW according to a vehicle order.
Under the assumption you sourced the correct module, the encoding process is rather simple if you’re familiar with NCS Expert or have some of the BMW coding apps like ProTool, for example. With NCS Expert it will take just a few minutes.
If you are new to NCS Exper coding, you can check this comprehensive guide on E Series coding. (!!Under Construction!!)
Another option is to let the shop do it for you. If you choose a BMW dealer, the encoding will cost you about the same as the repair that doesn’t require coding.
Most BMW coders will offer remote coding services.
On some VERY RARE occasions, it’s actually possible that you stumble upon the FRM from the BMW with exactly the same options and vehicle order as yours. In this case, everything will work as it should without coding.
If you have the VIN of a donor car, you can look up the vehicle order and compare it with yours.
Help yourself here:
Footwell Module unreliability is just a fact of life and you never know when the module will lose its data and finally die at the next reboot. But saying that all FRM modules will die is a very stretched statement. I know many more BMWs that never had a problem with FRM than those who had. It’s just that the failure rate is quite above average.
I personally had only one FRM failure with my cars and it wasn’t caused by a corrupt software. Instead, my colleague didn’t glue the windscreen correctly after replacement and the water ingress killed it a few years later. I bought the new unit and installed it, but it was a long time ago when I didn’t know how to repair it.
From my experience, and I installed many new, used, and repaired Footwell Modules, we are talking hundreds, the most efficient route is to repair your own module. If they aren’t damaged by the water, they’ll work just like the new ones.
Today, most of the FRM-repair specialized companies offer same-day service, as it is fairly easy to repair the FRM once you have the experience and the right tools. And it’s definitely worth about two hundred bucks.
The price of a new module is about $600 plus replacement and encoding. BMW dealers will set you back about $1,000 or more for a full service, but you’ll get a 2-year warranty.