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Troubleshooting BMW DSC ABS Problems

When the BMW ABS (Anti-lock braking system) module fails it triggers warning lights such as ABS, Brake light, and DSC warning lights which is one of the most common BMW problems. In a few cases, the speedometer stops working.

ABS and Brake orange or red warning lights come on at the same time due to this problem.

DSC problems at first may be intermittent such as only coming on when driving over 30 mph or only when the engine is hot. Other symptoms include ABS pump constantly running, draining the battery. 

In this article, we discuss most common BMW DSC problems, symptoms, causes, possible solutions and how to reset the DSC light on a BMW yourself.

bmw dsc light on

Reading the codes will help you pinpoint why your BMW DSC and ABS are staying on. 

If the DSC light comes on as soon as you start to drive, this typically indicates a problem with one of the wheel speed sensors. But it can also be an issue with the wheel speed sensor wire or the ABS module. 

Can I drive my BMW if DSC light is on? 

BMW DSC & Brake Warning Lights

While you can still drive your BMW even if the DSC light is on, you may be more likely to get into an accident under extreme maneuvers or inclement weather conditions. Do not drive if the BRAKE light stays on. 

It is unlikely that you will cause any further damage to your car by driving with the DSC system disabled.

Diagnose your BMW as soon as possible if BRAKE light stays on. A problem with the brake system could result in a fatal accident. 

What is BMW DSC?

bmw dsc abs dtc brake warning light on red or yellow

DSC stands for Dynamic Stability Control. Its main purpose is to monitor the vehicle and help keep it stable and driving in the intended path. The DSC system is always enabled by default. Under normal operation, the light DSC light on the instrument cluster should be off.

DSC system monitors input from several sensors of your BMW to determine if the vehicle is driving in the intended path.

For example, the DSC analyzes data from the steering angle sensor, yaw rate sensor, ABS wheel speed sensor, automatic transmission, brake pedal etc. If it detects that the vehicle is losing traction or wheels are spinning, it will apply brake pressure to help keep the BMW on the right path. 

Diagnose BMW DSC Problems

how to turn of dsc dtc light off BMWDSC is always working to help you be safe on the road. If you want to partially disable the DSC, you can do so by pressing the DTC button on the dashboard. Hold the DSC / DTC button pressed for at least 3 seconds.

When the DTC is disabled, the DSC light turns on in your instrument cluster. What this means is that the DSC system will not interfere with your driving unless there is a critical condition. Some systems will still remain active (such as electronic locking differential) even when the DSC is turned off. 

Manually turn off DSC

The first thing you should try is press and hold the DSC button on your dashboard. The button may have been pressed accidentally and disabled the DSC. 

turn off dsc

Check the brake fluid level

The next thing that you can check yourself without any tools is the brake fluid level. Low brake fluid level can trigger the DSC, ABS and Brake lights.  If you notice that the brake fluid is low add OEM BMW brake fluid if you can or use Pentosin DOT 4 LV Brake Fluid which is the recommended brake fluid used on BMW and cost less. Don't use old brake fluid as brake fluid that has been sitting for a long time. Moisture can cause the brake fluid to become acidic over time. 

Disconnect the wire harness from the ABS module

ABS pump might randomly malfunction and set a fault code in the DSC module. Try unplugging the ABS pump and reconnect it. Make sure the key is removed from the ignition when you do this. Restart the car and check to see if the DSC light has turned off. 

unplug abs dsc pump wire harness

Read DSC DTC Fault Codes

If any of the tips mentioned above didn't turn off the DSC light, you need to read the fault codes. There could be a thousand reasons why the DSC light has turned on in your BMW and without the proper diagnostic you be just guessing. 

You will need a BMW specific OBD2 scanner. Most OBD2 code readers you find online won't work.

Two very affordable scanners that can read and clear DSC does from BMW such as E39, E90, E46, Z3 etc are Carly for BMW and Foxwell NT510 for BMW. If you would like to learn more about BMW specific scan tool read this article on Choosing the Best Scanners for BMW.

How to read BMW DSC codes 

The following scanners are capable of reading and clearing codes from multiple BMW systems, not just the ECU. Our recommendations are:

  1. Foxwell NT510 for BMW
  2. Carly for BMW (Requires $60 app purchase on top of the adapter.)

Both these scanners are affordable and can read and clear BMW DSC fault codes. 

  • Step 1

Locate the OBD2 port on your BMW. It is under the dashboard next to the hood release. Plug your BMW scan tool.

location of obd 2 port on bmw
  • Step 2

Turn on the ignition but do not start the car. Key should be in position II. All dash lights will turn on when the key is position II.

turn on igntion to potion ii
  • Step 3

Read codes from the DSC module. Research the error code online. Consult an independent BMW shop or the BMW dealer if necessary to get a better understanding of the problem, causes, and possible solutions. 

read codes from dsc unit
  • Step 4 

Address the problem. Once you fix the problems reconnect the BMW scanner and clear the fault codes. Drive the BMW for a few minutes and rescanned to check if any of the codes came back. 

erase dsc light code bmw

How to reset DSC light on BMW 

Let's watch a video on how to read and clear codes from the DSC module using Foxwell NT510 for BMW.

You won't be able to clear the fault codes until you fix the issue that triggered the code in the first place. Codes that have been triggered in the past but currently are not an issue or active will be saved as a shadow or stored codes. Those can be erased. 

If the module doesn't respond it is possible that the ABS module is "frozen" for lack of better word. Try unplugging the wire harness from the ABS module and reconnecting it. Otherwise, you may have a defective ABS unit. 

Check steering wheel angle sensor

Make sure that the steering wheel angle sensor isn't defective. The only way to find out if that's the case is to use a BMW specific diagnostic scanner. You will be able to check if there are any fault codes that point to a defective steering wheel angle sensor. In some cases, you may need to perform a steering angle sensor calibration. 

Drive the car. Rescan for codes

Drive your BMW even if it is for a few minutes to see if the DSC light will come back on. DSC light is generally triggered as soon as you start to drive especially if there is a problem with the ABS pump or the wheel speed sensors. That's why you should always drive your BMW and verify the DSC light doesn't come back on. Once you perform a test drive, rescan for codes just to be sure. 

Common Causes

Here is a list of typical BMW problems that can trigger the DSC / ABS/ Brake lights. We strongly recommend that you read the fault codes before you replace any parts. Always read the codes and consult an auto mechanic that specializes on BMWs or the dealer for more help. 

Wheel speed sensor

bmw dsc light on due to bad abs wheel speed sensor

The wheel speed sensor (or ABS wheel sensor) is one of the most common problems that can cause the DSC light to come on. These sensors fail due to water damage, dirt or metallic particles collected on the magnetic part of the sensor. 

You shouldn't replace the wheel speed sensor without first confirming it is the culprit. Replacing a wheel speed sensor is easy on a BMW but don't throw parts at your beemer if it doesn't need it. Read the codes before you replace the wheel speed sensor. 

If you replaced the wheel speed sensor and are still getting the same error related to wheel speed sensor failure it is possible that the wires to the sensor are damaged, or the ABS Control unit is the problem. 

One way to confirm that the sensor itself is the problem and not the wires or the ABS module is to start by reading the codes. Let's say it points to a bad right rear wheel speed sensor. Swap the two rear sensors and drive the car.

Did the error move to the other wheel? If it did, then you know the problem is the wheel speed sensor because the error moved with the sensor. If the error is still pointing to the right rear wheel then you may have a cut wire or a bad ABS module. 

When replacing BMW wheel speed sensors, it is strongly recommended to stay with OE BMW wheel speed sensor. Aftermarket BMW wheel speed sensors tend not to last as long and in some cases don't work properly. 

ABS Control Unit Module Malfunction

bmw control unit module problem failed location

The ABS pump may fail and trigger the DTC / ABS / Brake lights. In most cases, if you scan your BMW you will get code descriptions such as "control unit internal failure." At first you may notice these lights intermittently, but eventually, they will come on and stay on consistently.

In some cases, the yellow warning lights come on when the car warms up and may go away when the car cools down. These symptoms are often caused by broken solder joints in the ABS module circuit.

You can try unplugging it and reconnecting to see if that fixes your DSC problem. If you are getting "Communication Error" when you try to scan the ABS module that's a sign that the module may be defective. 

If your ABS module fails one of the cheapest ways to fix it is to use a BMW ABS rebuilt service. These are shops that specialize fixing these common problems on BMW ABS modules.  removed bmw abs dsc moduleA BMW ABS rebuilt service can cost under $200 and doesn't require any coding.

A new ABS pump costs over $600-$850. On newer BMWs installing a new ABS pump will require coding to your VIN. If you take your car to any BMW dealer, this repair cost in the $1000-$1500 range. When you rebuild your existing ABS pump, there is no need to pay money for coding. You may need to clear stored codes though.

You can do that yourself using a scan tool that can read and clear BMW fault codes. If you don't have a scanner, read our article on choosing the best BMW scan tool for DIY auto repair.  

There are third party companies that provide BMW ABS Module rebuild.  Within 6-10 days you will typically get back your repaired ABS unit. Install it back on your BMW. Clear the stored fault codes and you are ready to go

Cars back in the 1990s didn't have ABS and your BMW will be in the same situation. The speedometer and odometer will also not work with the ABS module removed. Neither will your instrument cluster record any added miles. You will also trigger additional fault codes that will require a BMW specific OBD2 scanner to be erased.

If you remove the ABS module it is recommended to cover the ABS block to avoid the environment to cause any damage or corrosion. 

If you have an older BMW, you may be able to get away installing a used ABS hydraulic unit without coding. Newer models need coding unless it is the original unit or you will get errors such as PT-CAN chassis number wrong or ECU not initialized. 

ABS Pre-charge Pump Motor Failure

abs pre charge motor failure bmw location

The pre-charge ABS pump may fail. This is common if your BMW has high miles and you notice the lights at high speed such as over 30 mph or when you drive your car as if you stole it. Eventually, the lights will come on and say on all the time. When you scan your BMW, you will get error codes related to the pre-charging pump. 

The reason why this happened is often the worn brushes inside the ABS pump. The more miles on the BMW, the more likely it is for these brushes to wear out. 

To check if this is your problem try accelerating very slowly. If the lights don't come on this may indicate that the precharge pump is the problem. Always read the fault codes to verify that the pre-charge pump is the culprit before you replace it. 

To replace the pump you will need to bleed the brake system. Remove the pump and install the new one. Read this article on how to replace BMW ABS pump. Some BMW pumps may not be replaceable.

Since the pump is simply an electrical motor, installing a used pump would be fine as long as it is the same part number. Another alternative would be to open up the motor and replace the brushes yourself. 

DSC and brake light on BMW

bmw dsc light on due to bad pressure sensor

If your BMW has the DSC and the brake light on, it is very likely that the problem may be the pressure sensor mounted in the brake cylinder. In most cases, the ABS light does not turn on, only the DSC and brake light. Codes that may present when you scan the DSC module include: 

  • 5E24, 5E20 - Pressure Sensor 1 Faulty
  • 5E21 - Pressure Sensor 2 Faulty

To verify the sensor is the culprit you can swap the two sensors. Let say the error code pointed to Sensor 1 but after the swap it now moved to Sensor 2 location you know that the problem is the sensor. If you are still getting the error code pointing to sensor 1 it is likely that the problem is the ABS unit and not the sensor.

Low Brake Fluid Level

bmw dsc and brake light on due to low brake fluid level

Low fluid level can trigger the brake light and in some cases the DSC warning light as well. Open the hood of your BMW and locate the brake fluid reservoir.

Look at the translucent reservoir and identify the Max and Min marks. If the level is below the LOW mark, you need to add brake fluid. Always use the recommended BMW brake fluid

If you are getting error message Brake Fluid Level Low the brake fluid level sensor may be defective or disconnected. 

Steering Angle Sensor 

Steering angle sensor located in the steering column under the steering wheel can also be the cause of DSC light on.
This is a less common problem but worth checking. To check the power steering angle sensor you will need a scanner such as Foxwell NT510 for BMW that can display live data from the steering angle sensor.

Brake Light Switch

location of brake light swtich
The brake light switch may also fail and triggered the DSC light on. The brake light switch is mounted above the brake pedal and can be removed in less than fifteen minutes.

Low Voltage 

High voltage or low voltage may trigger the DSC light and other lights on BMW.

This can be caused by a faulty alternator, bad voltage regulator or a defective BMW  battery. BMW cars are extremely sensitive to low voltage.

If that is the problem, you may notice other problems such as BMW going into limp mode

Related Codes

  • Pressure Sensor Not Plausible
  • Wheel Speed Sensor Front Right Start Recognition
  • Error Number such as 17FE
  • Control Unit Internal Failure

 

This problem can affect all BMW models including 3-series, 5-series, 7-series, X3, X5, Z-series.

Comments

I got code 5EF4, with yellow Triangle and circle on and currently my car is not braking on time right. The brake pedal goes all the way to the floor loose and then it does not brake well. I recently replaced the brakes and brake sensor before this.

I have a 08’ e91 and the abs kick on at any speed slow or fast especially in snow I can be going 2 mph tab the brakes  and they kick on. I have no lights on and can hear a  gobbling (like a turkey)  noise coming from under the hood.... anyone had or have this? 

Songsangwoo, 2019-04-03

I got a code 005DF0, 005DF1 with yellow triangle how can i do?

Craig Bowman, 2019-05-10

Driving at 60-70 on a dry straight road the front left brake will out of the clear grab for a split second and release the warning abs light and brake light will come on. after stopping and turning the car off and then back on the lights go off until this happens again, about every 600-700 miles.

Mohammed Khan, 2019-07-22

I've been getting the same problem- any solution yet? My mechanic said it's most likely the driveshaft.
Thanks

Faizan bhutta, 2019-05-23

I have problem in E53 bmw.abs light is getting on and when i go to check the break fault on scaner i can,t read the abs scaner shows abs is not equiped please tell me its solution thanks.

KT, 2019-05-28

My 2005 e60 goes into limp mode when I accelarate with the enging at 4500 RMP for more than10-15 seconds.

Dago Barreda, 2019-07-08

I have 2009 x3 e83 that I took to BMW dealer in Bay Shore New York, they changed the steering Angle sensor and some other parts $1700, Brake, 4x4 and airbag light are back on, now they are telling me that DSC unit needs to be change another $2700, the car only have 90 thousand miles, anyone can give me any tips, i do not want keep putting so much money into this car. Thanks

Herman , 2019-07-27

Could heavy rain cause my 3 series bmw indicator lamp to malfunction

Chris, 2019-08-01

Wow, great write-up and explanations of symptoms and causes. This article is awesome! Thank you for you sharing of knowledge.

Khalid, 2019-08-09

All you people have to do is change the abs wires ..you need to open the wheels and change the abs cables and problem solved :)

Analystguy, 2019-08-11

Terrific write-up! I have an e38 740iL with DSC and Park Brake lights on but no error codes show using EDIABAS. INPA shows speed sensors all working as they should. Brake fluid level is full. I will check pressure sensors and disconnect ABS unit to see if that has an effect.

Alex Lung, 2019-09-22

I have a 2010 F11. Recently I changed the front brake discs and pads but not the brake pad sensor as it seemed fine. Reset the brake and the count down was reset to some 60K KM left before next change. Lately when I started the car the count down changed to only few hundred KM left. I reset the brake wear sensor again and this time the counter only showed 10K KM left, few days later same thing happened. It now just happened every few days and I have to reset it every time. My garage friend told me it’s not the brake wear sensor but more like the ABS module failing.

I really want know if that’s the case? I have no warning light at all except the brake pad monitoring reminder telling me I should change my pads in another hundred KM, which I just changed 2 months ago.

Many thanks.

Robert Williamson, 2019-10-14

I have a 2001 BMW 325i, I constantly have the ABS/DSC light on yellow and the E-Brake light also yellow. I have a Foxwell OB2 and can't clear the code for the ABS/DSC. The code I'm getting is 5E26 Sensor Power Supply. I have replaced both sensors on the master cylinder and removed the DSC unit and sent in for repair with Module Master. It has been repaired and voltage regulator replaced, no more faults and returned to me. I reistalled and still have the warning lights and the same code 5E26. All fuses have been tested for current flow and continuity. I have also tried to reset steering angle sensor and the Foxwell is equipped and programed to do that function and is unable to communicate with the steering angle sensor. I've done the lock to lock and driven the vehicle over 20 mph and no joy. I had replace the rack and pinion steering and had the code 5E26 before the rack and pinion was replaced. Foxwell 610 read, is cable connected and key turn on when attempting to retain the steering wheel sensor? I did unplug the connector for the steering wheel sensor and spray de oxit on the connection and reconnect, no change. any advice would be helpful. Thanks don't want to go through the process of replacing the steering wheel sensor if possible

By YOUCANIC on May 28, 2019

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