BMW Adaptive Headlight Malfunction

BMW Adaptive Headlight Malfunction

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

BMW Adaptive Headlights Warning, Problem & Solutions

Symptoms

This is a list of possible symptoms you may notice when BMW Adaptive Headlamps 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 Headlamps 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, 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 or the link to the low-beam projector can fail.

Repair kits for BMW stepper motors are sold online if you want to fix this problem without replacing the headlight. The headlight must be removed from the car to repair the stepper motor.

Headlight Seal

damaged seal

The access door behind the headlight has a seal. You must ensure the seal is seated properly when changing a headlight bulb. If not, it will allow water to enter the headlight and damage the adaptive headlight module.

Inspect the back headlight cover if you notice 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

You can read the AHL module’s fault codes to determine why you are getting Adaptive Headlight Malfunction.

You will need a BMW scanner to read codes from the AHL module for this step. Generic OBD2 scanners won’t help.

Procedure

  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 menu.bmw-control-unit-module-reading-codes
  4. Select Light Module 2 with the Adaptive Headlight Module.

Once you enter the AHL module, you can do the following.

  • Read Codes
  • Clear Codes
  • Perform Adaptations, Activations, Tests

Adaptive Headlight Delete

We would not recommend deleting BMW Adaptive Headlamp.

  • To delete BMW Adaptive Headlights, you need the scan the code. Use NCS Expert on eBay and configure it to think that adaptive headlamps are not installed.
  • When this is done, the adaptive headlight functions are disabled. Low beams no longer move, and adaptive high beams no longer turn on automatically. Vehicles without these headlights will still operate normally.

When deleting BMW Adaptive Headlamp, you must correctly point the low beams by manually performing headlamp adjustment.

Physically removing the adaptive headlight module does not delete the BMW Adaptive Headlight.

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

What do the “Adaptive Headlamps!” mean on a BMW?

BMW adaptive headlight actively moves the headlight projector left and right to illuminate the driver’s direction.

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

  • The adaptive headlight switches the high beams on and off and depends on traffic.
  • When following a car, it will adjust the high beams by moving them outwards, reducing the light in the center.
  • BMW Adaptive Headlight will also turn off the left high beam when a vehicle is detected in an oncoming 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 used LED Adaptive Headlight types.

How do I know if my BMW is equipped with an Adaptive Headlight?

  • There are several ways to determine if a BMW has Adaptive Headlights. One method is to park the vehicle but keep it running. You can see the low beam move when you turn the steering wheel left and right.
  • If the low beam projector moves, your BMW is equipped. If it doesn’t, your BMW is not capable of this function.
  • The other verification method is to decode the VIN and see if the car can have Dynamic Xenos, Adaptive Headlights, or Adaptive LED Headlights.
  • Adaptive Headlights for BMW are disabled by manually turning it to the ON position. To keep it activated, turn the light switch to Auto.

We hope you find the BMW Adaptive Headlight Malfunction guide helpful. Check these troubleshooting and repair guides for more help on your BMW.

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9 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    I have xenon adaptive headlights and when I turn headlights on, I noticed that driver’s headlight lens moves to the left and stays there so it looks kind of funny. Service guys told me it was normal, but it didn’t make much sense to me because wheels are standing still and pointing forward. I have no other 2012 x3 to compare so maybe they are right?!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Not sure, but I went into to see why only ONE of my Angel eyes cuts on in bright weather or when I lock the car (with Auto lamps on).

    It works fine when turned to “ON” or turned to “PARKING LAMPS” and both Angel Eyes work in every situation.

    BMW Recommendation: We don’t know what’s wrong but we could order an entire new headlight assembly (5k), retest and THEN see if that fixes it.

    They weren’t even able knowledgeable about the functionality to turn on only one side of the Parking Lamps when parked on the side of the road for safety. ITS IN THE IDRIVE CAR MANUAL!)

    Strangely, when I teuren this mode on it forces both Angel Eyes on during in all modes but when I try to exit the car I get a warning that says “Parking Lights” are on even when I turn it to automatic.

    I would take their word as the only solution! Also, look for salvaged parts. I saw TONS of OEM adaptive HID’s for cheap but I unfortunately was misinformed and my car had crappy halogens. Jeremy F10
    538i

  3. Anonymous says:

    One thing to note: When you buy a BMW in the USA, and your car includes the “552 Adaptive Full LED Lights”, BMW NA first “deprograms” your car with a mandatory option “5AP Decoding for no-dazzle high-beam assistance”. This means they TURN OFF that fantastic “BMW selective high beam” function that works so wonderfully in Europe (watch the video of that feature on YouTube). They did this on my 2014 435xi and my 2020 X3. So while your headlights will still turn into the left or right corners when when you turn the steering wheel, they will no longer move or turn on/turn off to block out an area covering traffic you are following, or traffic coming toward you. So in the USA, if you leave your headlights on hi-beam, you will blind the people in front of you, and the oncoming cars. So sad we still live with an outdated NTSB.

  4. Anonymous says:

    One thing to note: When you buy a BMW in the USA, and your car includes the “552 Adaptive Full LED Lights”, BMW NA first “deprograms” your car with a mandatory option “5AP Decoding for no-dazzle high-beam assistance”. This means they TURN OFF that fantastic “BMW selective high beam” function that works so wonderfully in Europe (watch the video of that feature on YouTube). They did this on my 2014 435xi and my 2020 X3. So while your headlights will still turn into the left or right corners when when you turn the steering wheel, they will no longer move or turn on/turn off to block out an area covering traffic you are following, or traffic coming toward you. So in the USA, if you leave your headlights on hi-beam, you will blind the people in front of you, and the oncoming cars. So sad we still live with an outdated NTSB.

  5. Anonymous says:

    You dont need to remove the bumper to take out the headlight, just make sure you have enough sack on the bolts on the lower mountings, remove with a magnet on a stick if need be so that you have enough room to move and then just gently tease it out, it can be tricky to find the right angle but as long as you dont force it you wont damage anything and eventually you will find the right angle but as i say if you are having a problem it is likely because it is caught up on the lower mountings somaking sure they are very loose or removing the bolts completely will make it easier if you are struggling.
    It may also get caught up on the rubber drain hose which can be maneovered out of the hole first if need be.
    When refitting put the bolts back in before the headlight but leave them as loose as possible to give you the maximum amount of clearance but refitting is not so difficult as you arent fighting against the bolts when you are trying to push it back in the bracket will flex slightly and pop into place but the reverse is true on removal, its like one of those Chinese finger traps.

  6. Anonymous says:

    So I took My bumper off and headlight assembly out, and all the wires seem to be missing insulation at random points! Is there replacement wiring or do I need A new assembly? Also, why would wire fray like that?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for good information. Found out that my BMW523i got condensation inside the headlight. It will cost $5000 to repair it since they have to change all the lights and the control unit/headlight module. Do you know if such defect is coved by the insurance?

  8. Anonymous says:

    Great article, very helpful.
    Thanks!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Do I need to change just the the adaptive headlight control module or also the H.I.D ballast or just the adaptive headlight module