BMW Active Steering Inactive Troubleshooting

In this guide, we take a look at how to troubleshoot BMW Active Steering problems. Learn what Active Steering module does, common problems and what you can try yourself to reset BMW active steering inactive warning. If all fails, watch video on how to read/clear codes from Active Steering module and perform tests yourself.

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BMW Active Steering Inactive - Checklist

bmw active steering failure

If you are getting BMW Active Steering inactive on the dashboard, try the following: 

  1. Turn off the vehicle. 
  2. Check the power steering fluid level. Add the recommended power steering fluid if the level is low. Most BMW use CHF 11S hydraulic fluid
  3. Re-initialize of steering angle sensor. Start the vehicle. While the vehicle is in park, turn the steering wheel all the way to the left. Next, turn the steering wheel all the way to the right. Bring the steering wheel back on center. Learn more about BMW steering angle calibration.
  4. Check battery age. If the Active Steering warning doesn't disappear, check the battery. Many auto parts stores perform battery testing free of charge. If the battery needs to be replaced follow this guide on how to replace and program a BMW battery. 
  5. If the message remains, read fault codes using an OBD-II scanner that can read Diagnostic Troulbe Codes (DTC) from the active steering module. 

What is BMW Active Steering? 

BMW active steering makes your BMW easier to steer at low speed and more stable at highway speeds. Active steering makes it easier to turn the wheel when parking or turning at low speed. On the highway, it decreases the response so you don't drift with small movements of the steering wheel.

The rack on active steering has a planetary gear between the input and the rack. When you are driving at lower speeds small steering wheel movements, cause significant front wheel turn which makes turning left and right or getting out of a parking spot much easier.

At highway speed, the Active Steering system adjusts the steering ratio to become less responsive. This helps to make the vehicle more stable at highway speed. In cars without active steering, even a small movement of the steering wheel can cause the car to change lane. BMWs with active steering adjust the steering so that small movements don't have as much of an impact on the front wheel. 

Active Front Steering (AFS) or Active Steering (AL) first appeared in the BMW 5 series in 2003 and has had many improvements over the years.

Overview of BMW active steering. 

Symptoms 

bmw yellow steering wheel exclamation mark on dashbaordList of possible symptoms you may notice if the Active Steering module or one of its components fails. 

  • Malfunction message on iDrive CCC/CIC screen
    • Active steering inactive
    • A change in steering behavior or steering wheel offset is possible. 
    • Steering behavior altered
    • The steering wheel may be at an angle
    • Possible to continue the journey
    • Steer with care
    • Active steering fault
  • No response from AL control unit
  • Steering wheel light on the dashboard
  • Yellow steering wheel with an exclamation in the dash
  • Extremely hard to turn the wheel
  • Hard to turn the wheel

The active steering fault light may come on after wheel alignment when performed by mechanics not familiar with BMWs.

Common Problems

Possible problems that can trigger fault codes in the Active Steering module. 

  • Active Steering Control Module - The active steering module on many BMWs is mounted on the floor (under carpet) on the passenger side. Water from clogged drain lines or damaged door weather strip can make it to the module. Water to the active steering module will damage the unit. This may be the problem if you are getting an error code stating that there is no response from the active steering module or are getting CAN error messages on the DSC module. One indication that water damage has occurred is corroded pins at the active steering module. 
  • Power Steering Fluid - The first thing you should check if you are getting the active steering inactive on your BMW, check the power steering fluid. 
  • Battery - Low battery voltage from the battery can also trigger BMW active steering malfunction. If your BMW battery is over 7 years old, you should have the battery tested. If the battery is not holding a proper charge replace the battery.  
  • Steering angle sensor SZL - BMWs with active steering there are sensors mounted on the steering column. The steering angle sensor can fail cauisng active steering to malfunction and the DSC light to come on as well.
  • Accident - If you get involved in an accident it is common to get the active steering malfunction on the dashboard. Bend tie rods can throw BMW steering wheel calibration out of alignment. 
  • Other possibilities - Bad active steering rack, issues with the DSC module, yaw sensor, steering angle sensor. 

How to read / clear Active Steering Fault Codes

If you are experiencing problems a good starting point is to read fault codes from the Active Steering module. If any code is showing PRESENT status the problem needs to be fixed before the code can be cleared. 

What you will need

A diagnostic scanner that is capable of reading, clearing and performing bi-directional tests on BMW vehicles. You must verify that the scanner that you use supports your BMW model and year. Full system scanners that are known to work on BMW vehicles can range in price from $150 to $800 USD.  

List of scanners that read and clear BMW Active Steering fault codes.

These are only a few examples. Many diagnostic scanners allow you to read and clear BMW Active Steering fault codes. To learn about OBD2 scanners that work on BMWs check the article on Choosing the best OBD2 scanner for BMW. 

Instructions

  1. Plug in the OBD-II scanner into the diagnostic port under the dashboard. diagnose bmw Active Steering fault code via obd2 port

     

  2. Turn on the ignition, don't start the engine. turn on bmw ignition to read Active Steering fault codes

     

  3. Turn on the scanner and select your BMW chassis.  Next, Select Control Units menu. bmw Active Steering control unit module reading codes

     

  4. Select Chassis then AL Active Steering Module.bmw active steering diagnostic with obd2 scanner

     

  5. Once you enter the Active Steering module, you will be able to do the following. 
    • Read Codes from Active Steering Module
    • Clear Codes from Active Steering Module
    • Perform Adaptations, Activations, Tests

Adaptations

This is a list of test and sensor activations that you can perform via the Active Steering module. 

TIP! Your scanner must be able to perform bi-directional tests to carry out these adaptations. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How to tell if a BMW has active steering? 

  • Many BMW owners will often ask: "Does my BMW have active steering? ". The best way to verify if your BMW has active steering is to decode the VIN number. Use a free BMW VIN decoder and look if the AL Active Steering was installed on your BMW. BMW that came with active steering include: E60, E61, E63, E64, E70, E81, E87, E90, E91, E92, E93. 

 Will I loose steering if BMW active steering fails? 

  • No. If your BMW active steering fails, the active steering motor is automatically disabled in the locked position. When this happens, you are relying on a mechanical link between the steering wheel and the wheels. This causes the steering to function as a conventional system with no support from the active steering system. 

Additional Resources

  1. BMW e60 active steering initializing by Jeremy Brovage 
  2. The adjusting the active steering by Micro Tronik
  3. 5 Series Active Steering drama by Boytie
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