Troubleshooting BMW Adaptive Headlights Problems

BMW Adaptive Headlight Malfunction

DIY Cost: $100-$250
Est. Time: 30 min - 2 hours
Difficulty: Intermediate
Here are some common causes of BMW adaptive headlight dashboard warnings and malfunctions. This guide is intended to help BMW owners troubleshoot BMW adaptive headlamp problems.  


bmw adaptive headlight problem warning light

BMW adaptive headlights problems can cost anywhere from $600 up to $1500 to repair at the shop. This guide will help you better understand some of the common issues and possible problems you can fix yourself.

BMW Adaptive Headlights Warning, Problem & Solutions


This is a list of possible symptoms that you may notice when BMW adaptive headlights fail.

  • Adaptive headlights only turn right, not left.
  • Adaptive headlights only turn left, not right.
  • Adaptive headlamp control malfunction message and warning light
  • Warning message: Adaptive headlight control malfunction. Have the system checked by your BMW center
  • The low beam stuck off-center.
  • Greenlight flashing by the headlight switch

Common Causes

The most common problems with BMW adaptive headlights are:

  • Stepper Motor Controler (SMC)
  • Water/Condensation in the headlight
  • Loose or damaged adaptive stepper motor
  • Failed Adaptive Headlight Module (AHL)

Possible Solutions

Replace the Adaptive Headlight Control Unit

bmw ALC Adaptive Headlight Drive Control Unit Lighting Module  locaiton

BMW Adaptive Headlight Module is located right under each headlight housing is the adaptive headlight module is often the culprit. It may also be referred to as the Stepper Motor Controler (SMC) or ALC Adaptive Headlight Drive Control Unit Lighting Module.
This is referred to as the Stepper Motor Controller - SMC. The controller often fails after heavy rain or if you recently went through a car wash.

The main reason why the adaptive module fails is that water shortens the module. A cracked headlight or a loose access door in the headlight's back will allow water to enter the headlight.

Because the SMC is at the lowest point of the headlight, water gets to the module and damages it, triggering the Adaptive Malfunction error message on the dashboard.

If that's the case, you will have a fault code stored in the AHL module.

To replace the headlight stepper motor controller, you will need to remove the front bumper and the headlight. The module can then be replaced with a used BMW Headlight Adaptive Module.

Software such as NCS Expert can be used to code the AHL module to the vehicle.

Repair Stepper Motor

bmw stepper motor

The motors that physically turn the low/high beam projector can break.

The stepper motor is located inside the headlight. It is controlled by the stepper controller module located below the headlight. The motor itself can fail, or the link to the low beam projector can fail.

Repair kits for BMW stepper motor are sold online if you are looking to fix this problem without replacing the headlight. Note that the headlight will need to be removed from the car to fix repair the stepper motor.

Headlight Seal

damaged seal

The access door behind the headlight has a seal. When you change a headlight bulb, you need to ensure the seal is seated properly. If not, it will allow water to enter the headlight and damage the adaptive headlight module.

Inspect the back headlight cover if you are noticing condensation inside the headlight. If water is present inside the headlight, remove the headlight.

Remove the stepper motor controller and allow it to dry for at least twenty-four hours. Install the headlight and make sure the headlight is airtight.

BMW AHL module will need to be replaced and coded to the vehicle.

How to Diagnose and Reset BMW Adaptive Headlamps

bmw adaptive headlight warning diagnosis

To determine why you are getting Adaptive Headlight Malfunction, you can read the AHL module's fault codes.

For this step, you will need a BMW scanner that can read codes from the AHL module. Generic OBD2 scanners won't help.


  1. Plugin the OBD-II scanner into the diagnostic port under the dashboard.diagnose bmw ~~~ fault code via obd2 port
  2. Turn on the ignition; don't start the engine.turn on bmw ignition to read ~~~ fault codes
  3. Turn on the scanner and select your BMW chassis. Next, Select the Control Units ~~~ control unit module reading codes
  4. Select Light Module 2 with the Adaptive Headlight Module.
  5. Once you enter the AHL module, you will be able to do the following.
    • Read Codes
    • Clear Codes
    • Perform Adaptations, Activations, Tests

Adaptive Headlight Delete

Even though we would not recommend deleting BMW adaptive headlights, we have seen many BMW owners go this route.

To delete BMW adaptive headlights, you need to code the vehicle with NCS Expert on eBay and configure it to think that adaptive headlights are not installed.

When this is done, the adaptive headlight functions are disabled. Low beams no longer move, adaptive high beams no longer turn on automatically. As in cars without adaptive headlights, your headlights will function normally. 

When deleting BMW adaptive headlights, you must manually perform headlight adjustment so that the low beams point in the proper direction.

Physically removing the adaptive headlight module does not delete BMW adaptive headlights.

Removing the module without coding the car will result in an adaptive headlight error on the dashboard.

What do adaptive headlights mean on a BMW?

BMW adaptive headlights actively move the headlight projector left and right to illuminate the part of the road the driver is turning.

With BMW adaptive LED headlights, the headlights adjust their light output based on incoming traffic. A light camera at the top of the windshield senses the light of the vehicles approaching.

Adaptive headlights also switch the high beams on and off, depending on the traffic. When following a car, adaptive headlights will adjust the high beams by moving the high beams outwards, reducing the light in the center. BMW adaptive headlights will also turn off the left high beam when a vehicle is detected in the incoming traffic lane.

In vehicles with xenon adaptive headlights, the fog lights will be turned on at slow speeds when turning left and right. The first generation of BMW adaptive headlights used xenon bulbs, while the newer BMWs use LED adaptive headlights.

How do I know if my BMW has adaptive headlights?

There is a couple of ways to determine if a BMW has adaptive headlights. One method is to park the vehicle but keep it running. You can look at the low beam move and right as a friend turns the steering left and right.

If the low beam projector moves, your BMW has adaptive headlights. If it doesn't, your BMW does not need adaptive headlights. The other method to verify if a BMW has adaptive headlights is to decode the VIN and see if the car can have Dynamic Xenon, Adaptive Headlights, or Adaptive LED headlights.

Adaptive headlights are disabled when turning the light switch manually to the on position. To keep the adaptive lights enabled to turn the light switch to Auto.

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