BMW Steering Malfunction Warning: Essential Insights for Drivers

Understanding BMW Steering Malfunction Warning

Concept of Steering Malfunction Warning

The Steering Malfunction Warning in BMW vehicles is a safety feature designed to alert drivers of potential issues with the steering system. This warning can be triggered by several factors, including low hydraulic fluid level, a malfunctioning steering angle sensor, or a fault in the control module1. It’s crucial to understand the root cause of the warning to ensure the vehicle’s handling and stability are not compromised during a journey.

The steering system in a BMW is vital for maintaining control over the vehicle and ensuring a smooth and safe driving experience. A malfunctioning steering system can lead to decreased handling capabilities, impacting the vehicle’s overall performance and increasing the risk of accidents.

Importance of Prompt Response

Addressing a BMW Steering Malfunction Warning as soon as it arises is essential for maintaining the vehicle’s safety and performance. Ignoring the warning or postponing repairs can result in further damage to the steering system and potentially lead to a loss of control while driving2.

As soon as a Steering Malfunction Warning appears, drivers should carefully bring the vehicle to a stop and inspect the steering system for any visible issues, such as low hydraulic fluid levels3. If the cause of the warning is unclear, the vehicle should be taken to a qualified technician for further diagnosis and repair. Acting promptly upon receiving the warning can help prevent more severe problems with the steering system and ensure a safe and enjoyable driving experience in your BMW.

Common Causes of Steering Malfunction Warning

Issues with the Steering Wheel

A common cause of steering malfunction warnings in BMW vehicles is an issue with the steering wheel itself. This can be due to a malfunctioning steering angle sensor, which is responsible for detecting the position of the steering wheel and sending that information to the vehicle’s control module. If the sensor is not functioning properly, it can lead to inaccurate readings and trigger a warning message. A weak battery or faulty alternator can also cause issues with the steering wheel, as they affect the power supply to the sensor and other components.

Problems with Steering Column

Another potential cause of a steering malfunction warning is a problem with the steering column. In some cases, the electronic steering lock (ELV) might fail to disengage, resulting in the inability to unlock the steering column. This is typically caused by insufficient power supply, which can be attributed to a worn battery or a defective IBS sensor1. In rare instances, issues with the CAS module, responsible for controlling the steering lock, can also contribute to steering column problems2.

Alarm with the Steering Rack

The steering rack is a critical component of the steering system, as it translates rotational movement from the steering wheel into the lateral movement of the vehicle’s wheels. Any issue with the steering rack, such as wear and tear over time or damage due to a collision, can cause an alarm to trigger a steering malfunction warning. It is essential to have the steering rack inspected and repaired or replaced if necessary to maintain safe and accurate steering control.

Affect of Low Power Steering Fluid

Low power steering fluid levels can be a significant cause of steering malfunction warnings in BMW vehicles3. Insufficient fluid levels can result in improper functioning of the hydraulic system that operates both steering and suspension components. This may lead to reduced steering performance and eventually trigger the warning message. Regularly checking and maintaining appropriate fluid levels with recommended hydraulic fluid types, such as CHF-11S, can help prevent the occurrence of such warning messages4.

How to Identify Steering Malfunction Warning

Fault Codes and Dashboard Signals

When a BMW steering malfunction warning occurs, it’s usually accompanied by specific fault codes and dashboard signals. By paying close attention to these cues, drivers can quickly identify when there’s a problem. Common fault codes related to steering malfunction warnings include problems with the steering angle sensor, control module, or low power steering fluid levels. These faults are often displayed on the iDrive system as a combination of alphanumeric symbols, such as “DSC 71” or “DSC 351.”

For some BMW models, a yellow or red steering wheel icon may also appear on the dashboard, indicating a potential issue with the steering mechanism. In some cases, the icon may blink, suggesting an urgent or severe problem that requires immediate attention. It’s vital to address these signals promptly, as steering malfunction warnings can seriously compromise vehicle safety.

Using Diagnostic Scanner

To accurately diagnose the specific cause of a steering malfunction warning, mechanics often use a diagnostic scanner, such as an OBD-II diagnostic scanner. This tool is designed to read and analyze diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) from various vehicle modules, including the SZL and DSC modules. A BMW-specific scanner, like ISTA, can provide more detailed information for a specific BMW model.

To use the diagnostic scanner, first plug it into the vehicle’s OBD-II port, typically located under the dashboard. Next, turn on the ignition (without starting the engine) and wait for the scanner to establish a connection with the vehicle’s modules. Once connected, use the diagnostic scanner’s menu to select the relevant module (such as SZL or DSC) and press ‘Read Codes.’ The scanner will then display the diagnostic trouble codes, helping users identify and address the root cause of the steering malfunction warning.

In conclusion, being aware of fault codes and dashboard signals is crucial for early detection of steering malfunction warnings. Using a diagnostic scanner, drivers can analyze these codes and take the necessary steps to resolve potential issues and maintain a safe driving experience.

Dealing with Steering Malfunction Warning

The Role of BMW Technician

A BMW steering malfunction warning can occur due to various factors, such as a malfunctioning steering angle sensor, a fault in the control module, or low power steering fluid levels1. When faced with this issue, it is crucial to consult a knowledgeable BMW technician and take appropriate steps for troubleshooting. A BMW technician has the necessary skills and expertise to diagnose the root cause and ensure your vehicle is functioning optimally3.

Navigating to Your BMW Dealer

When dealing with a steering malfunction warning, it is in the best interest of you and your vehicle’s safety to promptly visit your local BMW dealer for a thorough inspection. The dealership typically has certified technicians who can effectively diagnose and address the issue2.

At the dealer, you can expect your vehicle to undergo a series of diagnostic tests. This may include checking the hydraulic fluid level in the steering and or suspension system3, re-initializing the steering angle sensor4, and possibly performing a software update5.

To make the process as smooth as possible, it is advisable to call your local BMW dealer to schedule an appointment, ensuring that they have the necessary resources and personnel available to address the steering malfunction warning.

By utilizing the expertise of a professional BMW technician and taking your vehicle to a certified BMW dealer, you can rest assured that the steering malfunction warning is addressed promptly and accurately, ensuring the safety and performance of your vehicle.

Steps to Fix Steering Malfunction Errors

DIY Troubleshooting Tips

To fix steering malfunction errors, start by turning off the vehicle and checking the power steering fluid level. If the fluid is low, top it off. Next, re-initialize the steering angle sensor by starting the vehicle, turning the steering wheel to the left and then right, and ensuring the vehicle is in park. If the problem persists, consider performing diagnostic checks using a multi-system diagnostic scanner. This can help identify the root cause of the malfunction and provide further guidance on how to address the issue.

Battery and Sensor Checks

In some cases, a low battery or a faulty integrated battery sensor (IBS) can cause steering malfunction errors. Inspect the battery and its connections for any visible damage or corrosion. If the battery is damaged or weak, replace and register a new battery, or repair the IBS fault.

Monitor the sensors by connecting a diagnostic scanner to your vehicle’s control module. Check for any error codes related to the steering angle sensor, as well as other sensors within the steering system. If an error code is present, follow the appropriate troubleshooting steps to resolve the issue.

Remember to be cautious and consult a professional mechanic if you are inexperienced or unsure about any of these troubleshooting steps. Performing checks and fixes on your vehicle’s steering system requires knowledge and understanding of its components. By following these steps and addressing any underlying issues, you can confidently fix steering malfunction errors in your BMW.

BMW Models and Relevant Steering Malfunction Warnings

Mini Steerings

One common steering malfunction warning among BMW models, particularly in Minis around 2007, is the red warning light with a steering wheel and padlock symbol. This issue is generally caused by the steering lock. To fix this problem, you can follow a guide on how to fix the BMW / Mini Steering lock warning.

Another possible steering malfunction in Minis could be related to the steering angle sensor. This sensor is integrated into the SZL unit, which, when it fails, can trigger warning lights or cause switches to stop working. To address this issue, consider replacing the BMW Steering Angle Sensor.

All-wheel Drive Steering Warnings

BMW’s all-wheel drive models may experience an “Active Steering Inactive” problem, which can be attributed to various factors. A malfunctioning steering angle sensor, a fault in the control module, or low power steering fluid levels can lead to this issue. To properly troubleshoot the BMW Active Steering Inactive problem, it is important to understand and address the root cause promptly.

In some instances, a message might state that the malfunction warning is due to low hydraulic fluid level in the steering and/or suspension system, such as in a case reported on a BimmerFest BMW Forum. In this situation, it is crucial to have the vehicle checked by a dealer or professional mechanic.

By paying close attention to these steering malfunction warnings and addressing them promptly, BMW owners can ensure the safety and performance of their vehicles.

Special Features and Steering Malfunction Warning

Active Roll Stabilization

Active Roll Stabilization (ARS) is a feature in BMW vehicles that helps minimize body roll during cornering and ensures improved vehicle stability. By using smart sensors and hydraulics, ARS adjusts the vehicle’s suspension based on its position, speed, and the road conditions. However, if there’s a steering malfunction warning, this feature may become less effective. A possible reason could be low hydraulic fluid levelsin the steering and suspension system. Keep in mind that driving a car with a malfunctioning ARS might be unsafe; consult a technician before hitting the road.

Steering Wheel Angle Sensor

The steering wheel angle sensor plays an essential role in the functioning of a BMW’s steering system. It helps measure the position of the steering wheel and relays that information to the car’s electronic control unit (ECU). However, if there’s a steering malfunction warning, the steering angle sensor might be malfunctioning. This can cause the system to become unresponsive or display inaccurate information on the dashboard. To avoid potential safety risks, it is important to troubleshoot the issue and fix the steering angle sensor promptly.

Steering Lock Warning

Another BMW feature that can be affected by a steering malfunction warning is the steering lock. This security measure prevents the vehicle’s wheels from turning when the key is not in the ignition. In some cases, a steering malfunction warning may indicate a loss of hydraulic fluid in the steering system, which could affect the lock’s functionality. Furthermore, it could also imply a problem with the steering lock mechanism or the ECU that controls it. To ensure your car is safe and functional, it is crucial to diagnose and address steering lock issues immediately.


  1. BMW Active Steering Inactive Problem – YOUCANIC 2 3
  2. Steering Malfunction Warning… | BimmerFest BMW Forum 2 3
  3. Steering Malfunction Warning | BimmerFest BMW Forum 2 3 4

Georg Meier

BMW technician since 1996. I began my automotive journey in 1993 as an apprentice mechanic at Automag, the world's oldest BMW dealership in Munich. With years of experience and dedication, I garnered a wealth of knowledge about the intricacies of BMW and MINI vehicles. The love/hate relationship with the brand led me to found BIMMERIST where I share expertise and insights with fellow enthusiasts.

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