June 25, 2024

Causes and Solutions for BMW Emergency Call System Malfunction

If you own a BMW, chances are you’ve encountered issues with the emergency call system at some point. You might be curious about what causes this problem and whether you can resolve it on your own.

The emergency call system is a critical component of your vehicle’s safety, so it’s important to address any malfunctions as soon as they arise. In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about BMW emergency call system malfunctions, including their potential causes and solutions.

Let’s dive right in.

What is the Emergency Call System on BMW?

The Emergency Call System, also known as the Intelligent Call System, is a crucial feature in BMW vehicles that serves as an SOS in times of need. Its primary function is to assist drivers in emergencies wherever and whenever they occur.

In the event of an accident, a simple press of a button on the iDrive controller allows you to contact BMW accident assistance. They will provide guidance based on your situation, such as directing you to a nearby BMW Certified Collision Repair Center or arranging for towing services. The BMW assistance team will only intervene in genuine emergencies, while for vehicle-related issues on the road, they will connect you to BMW roadside assistance.

In the case of a major accident where the airbag deploys and crash sensors are activated, BMW’s emergency call system will automatically reach out to the BMW assist center. This call is made through an accident-proof telephone unit system within the BMW.

During the call, data such as airbag deployment, vehicle location, possible injuries, car damage, and other relevant information will be transmitted. A trained representative will then provide telephonic assistance in your preferred language and coordinate with emergency services as needed.

Symptoms of BMW Emergency Call System Malfunction

Here are some common symptoms of a BMW emergency call system malfunction:

  • The dashboard illuminates a warning light for SOS call system failure/malfunction.
  • In certain models, the iDrive system may become unresponsive or display errors.
  • Warning chimes may be disabled.
  • You might see a message on the iDrive screen stating “Malfunction or limited functionality. Consult service center.”

If you notice any of these symptoms in your BMW, it’s advisable to contact your BMW dealership or a professional auto shop to diagnose and repair the issue.

Causes & Solutions of BMW Emergency Call System Malfunction

A dead battery, faulty wiring, or a broken telephone box are common causes of BMW emergency call system malfunctions, leading to the SOS light error.

In addition to these causes, several other factors can contribute to the malfunction of the BMW emergency call system. Here are some major causes and their solutions:

1. Dead Backup Battery

The primary cause of BMW emergency call system malfunction is often a dead backup battery, which has a lifespan of approximately 4-5 years. The system performs self-tests at every startup, and when the backup battery dies, a malfunction error appears on the screen.


To address this issue, simply replace the old backup battery with a new one. While changing the backup battery may be more complex than replacing the main battery, it is manageable with the right tools and patience. Refer to your vehicle owner’s manual to locate the backup battery in your specific BMW model, remove the old battery, and install the new one to resolve the issue.

2. Faulty Satellite Radio

A faulty satellite radio can be a significant cause of emergency call system malfunctions in your BMW. Depending on your model, the satellite radio is located in various positions such as under the trunk, on the side, or under the floor cover.

Repairing the faulty satellite radio may involve purchasing a new or used working unit, as this is often more effective than trying to repair the existing faulty one. If satellite radio is not essential, you can consider installing a universal fiber optic bypass loop as a more affordable alternative.

Common symptoms of a faulty satellite radio include:

  • Strange crackling sounds from the speakers
  • SOS malfunction error messages
  • Bluetooth connectivity issues
  • Limited or no channel availability
  • Unresponsive or glitchy iDrive system
  • Inability to tune into channels


Diagnostics with an OBD2 tool can provide specific fault codes and information about the issue, aiding in resolving the problem. To address this issue, you can attempt a DIY solution by disconnecting the main battery for 12 hours or overnight to reset the malfunctioning MOST (Media Oriented Systems Transport) system.

This reset process may resolve issues with the satellite radio system. If you are unsure or uncomfortable with performing these steps, it is advisable to seek professional assistance.

3. Faulty TCU

The Telematics Control Unit (TCU) is a vital component of your vehicle’s communication system, handling functions such as diagnostics, wireless tracking, and BMW’s telematic features. When the TCU malfunctions, it can prevent the BMW owner from contacting the BMW assistance center, leading to emergency call system errors.

The TCU controls various functions such as BMW Assist, Bluetooth, Teleservices, OTA Updates, Remote features, and BMW Online services. It is also responsible for communicating emergency call (E-call) crash notifications. Any issues with the TCU can trigger emergency call system malfunctions.


In cases of TCU malfunction, it is recommended to take your vehicle to a BMW dealership or authorized auto shop for diagnosis and repair. Replacing the faulty TCU should resolve the emergency call system malfunction after the replacement is completed.

4. Water Leaked Into Shark Fin

The shark fin on the top of your BMW houses several antennas, including the Telematics, GPS Antenna, and radio components. These antennas enable communication with the BMW emergency call system center. Over time, the seal at the bottom of the shark fin can deteriorate, allowing water and dirt to enter and damage the antennas, leading to various system malfunctions.

Water ingress into the shark fin can impact the radio and GPS functions, potentially causing emergency call system malfunctions.


To address this issue effectively, it is advisable to consult a BMW dealership or professional auto shop. The shark fin must be removed to properly seal it, a task that requires technical expertise to avoid damaging the vehicle or the shark fin. In some cases, applying automotive sealant to the bottom area of the shark fin can provide a temporary solution until professional assistance is sought.

5. iDrive Issue (Defective Head Units)

bmw emergency call system malfunction
Credit: oooseun (bimmerpost)

Defective head units, which encompass CCC, CIC, and NBT systems, can result in emergency call system malfunctions. The BMW iDrive head units are essential components that can develop issues over time, affecting fiber-optic communication and resulting in system shutdowns.

Issues with the head units can trigger emergency call system malfunction warnings.


Start by checking the fuses on the back of the unit, as they are often a common cause of problems. To address the issue, you can attempt to reinitialize the iDrive system by pressing the DVD eject, CD eject, and CD volume buttons simultaneously when the iDrive screen is blank. This process can help reset the iDrive system and address any underlying issues.

If the problem persists, consider rebooting the iDrive system by following these steps:

  • Turn on the car without starting the engine, ensuring only accessories are powered.
  • Press and hold the volume button for 30 seconds until the screen shuts down.
  • Release the volume button after 30 seconds, then press it again to turn on the iDrive system.

If you encounter issues with the iDrive operating system, these steps should help resolve the problem. For more complex issues or if you are unsure, consider contacting a professional for assistance.

6. Faulty Amplifier

Similar to defective head units, a faulty amplifier or Bluetooth module can disrupt communication within the fiber-optic loop, leading to system malfunctions. These components are typically located under the floor cover and can impact connections to the BMW assist center, triggering emergency call system errors.

Common symptoms of a faulty amplifier include:

  • Lack of or minimal output from the amplifier
  • Poor sound quality
  • Overheating
  • Sudden shutdowns
  • A burning odor from the amplifier


Given the technical nature of amplifiers, it is recommended to seek professional assistance at a BMW dealership or auto shop for repair or replacement. Simply replacing the faulty amplifier can resolve the emergency call system malfunction effectively.

7. Speaker & Microphone Wiring Issue

The BMW emergency call system relies on speakers and microphones to function properly. However, damage to the wiring connecting these components can occur, potentially leading to system malfunctions if cables become loose or disconnected accidentally.

This can result in emergency call system malfunctions, necessitating inspection and potential repairs to the wiring.


  • Refer to your vehicle owner’s manual to locate the speakers and microphones.
  • Use basic tools to remove the housing around these components.
  • Check for loose or damaged wires.
  • Reconnect any loose wires and replace damaged ones as needed.

For a more thorough diagnostic process, consider using an OBD2 scanner to identify any faults or malfunctions in your BMW. While rare, speakers and microphones can also sustain damage, requiring specialized tools and skills to replace. If unsure, seek professional assistance with damaged speakers and microphones.

8. Software/Programming Glitches

The BMW SOS emergency call system relies on software to operate effectively, and programming errors can lead to malfunctions. Various factors can contribute to software glitches, resulting in emergency call system errors.


Begin by attempting to perform a soft reboot of the system, which involves restarting the vehicle, updating the system, or rebooting if necessary. If issues persist, a hard reset by disconnecting the battery for 10-15 minutes can help reboot the entire BMW system. If these steps do not resolve the problem, professional assistance may be required to address software or programming glitches effectively.

9. Bluetooth Issues

Bluetooth connectivity is crucial for the emergency call system to function correctly by connecting the system with the BMW owner’s phone. Pairing issues between the system and the phone can disrupt functionality and trigger malfunction errors.


To resolve Bluetooth issues, attempt to re-pair the device with the system, turn off Bluetooth on your phone and reconnect. Restarting the car can also help establish the connection. If problems persist, consider removing and re-pairing the devices for a fresh connection. Seek professional assistance if Bluetooth issues persist despite these efforts.

10. Damaged Fiber Optic Cable

Fiber optic cables are rarely problematic or damaged, but accidental disconnection or damage during maintenance work can disrupt the emergency call system, triggering malfunctions.


Repairing damaged fiber optic cables requires a mechanical splice kit for effective repairs. By following the splicing process to reconnect and repair the damaged fiber optic cable, you can restore system functionality.

  • Cut the damaged section of the fiber optic cable.
  • Strip both cable jackets to expose the fiber strands.
  • Place both ends into the splice and secure them by pressing the locking button.

For those not confident in DIY repairs, professional assistance may be preferred to ensure the proper repair of damaged fiber optic cables.

While these are common causes of BMW emergency call system malfunctions, other issues like faulty SOS control modules, main battery issues, cellular and GPS technology problems, and sensor malfunctions can also contribute to system errors. Before attempting any repairs, it is advisable to conduct a thorough diagnostic assessment of your vehicle to identify and address any damaged components or wiring.

Given that the SOS emergency call system operates through a single fiber optic cable loop, any disruptions in the loop can affect the entire system. Seeking professional assistance for proper diagnosis and repair is recommended to address technical issues effectively.

Can You Drive With a BMW Emergency Call System Malfunction?

bmw emergency call system malfunction

Absolutely, driving with a BMW emergency call system malfunction is feasible as it does not impact the vehicle’s operation.

While you may not be able to utilize the SOS emergency call system, which is crucial in emergencies, it is essential to address the malfunction promptly before continuing to drive. Safety features like the emergency call system are designed to save lives and provide assistance during accidents, making it crucial to ensure proper functionality.

Addressing the emergency call system malfunction and restoring its functionality should be a priority to benefit from the safety features of your BMW while driving.

How To Diagnose a BMW Emergency Call System Malfunction

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