Modern BMW cars use automated adaptive headlights to improve nighttime and low-light driving and safety. However, as with all additions to cars, while the benefits are great, it does mean that there is an additional car component to maintain. Because of this, we’ve put together this handy article to help you learn more about your BMW’s automated headlights, how they function, and where to go for help if they don’t work properly.
BMW’s headlights are commonly referred to as adaptive headlights because they are able to move the light projector to the left or right reflexively as you drive. This allows the driver to clearly see the part of the road they’re turning towards, helping to reduce accidents and blind spots.
Some BMW models take this a step further and use automated LED headlights, which are able to change their brightness when faced with incoming traffic. This is done by the use of a light camera, which can detect the lights of the approaching vehicle. This is great for resolving the problem that has enraged drivers for years: being practically blinded by high-beams when oncoming drivers don’t dim them.
BMWs can also forgo LED lights for adaptive xenon headlights. This allows the fog light to illuminate at slow speeds when making a turn. Xenon headlights are typically seen in older BMW models, with most modern BMW vehicles using the LED variant.
If you bought your BMW on the secondhand market, you may not be aware if it features automated headlights. You can check if your BMW has this great feature by parking your BMW but keeping the engine running. Have a friend turn the steering wheel to the left or right and watch the lights response.
As with almost all types of part failure, there are a variety of reasons why your BMW’s automatic headlights may fail. Let’s take a look at the usual suspects.
The adaptive headlight module is found under the headlight housing. It is also commonly known as the Stepper Motor Controller (SMC) or the much less catchy Adaptive Headlight Drive Control Unit Lighting Module (ALC). The main cause for the failure of the adaptive headlight module is water. This can happen for many reasons, such as driving through heavy rain or flooding, or going through a car wash. When this happens, the adaptive malfunction error message will display on the dashboard of your BMW.
Your BMW’s headlight access door has a seal to prevent water from entering the headlight. It is important to make sure this seal is secure after replacing or cleaning a bulb. Otherwise, you are likely to suffer the consequences that come from mixing water and electricity.
The stepper motor is what turns the beam projector when you corner. It is found inside the headlight and is powered by a control module found underneath the headlight. The motor can become worn out. Its connection to the projector that it controls can also become severed.
As you’d be working with delicate electronics, motors, and modules, it’s best to avoid working on your headlights, aside from general maintenance such as cleaning and switching out a bulb. Just remember to secure the headlight seal!
Poking around with electronic systems when you’re not sure what you’re doing is a recipe for disaster. You might end up giving yourself an electrical shock or causing a chain reaction of short circuits. There are lots of maintenance tasks you can definitely undertake at home, but trying to repair malfunctioning automated headlights isn’t one of them.
Leave the tricky work of repairing automated headlight malfunction to our team of experienced technicians. As our name might suggest, we are obsessed with all things BMW. We have extensive knowledge and seek ongoing education in regard to the BMW brand of models, components, systems, and parts. BMW drivers of Carrolton and Dallas, TX and surrounding areas can be confident in the work we perform, because we take pleasure in maintaining the ultimate driving machine. Call us at your convenience to schedule an appointment. Ultimate Bimmer Service looks forward to meeting you and serving you for years to come.
* BMW Car image credit goes to: DarthArt.