BMW Emergency Call System Malfunction: Causes & Solutions

bmw emergency call system malfunction

If you are a BMW owner, then probably once at a point you’ve faced the BMW emergency call system malfunction. And you may be wondering what can cause this issue, and can you fix it yourself?

The emergency call system is an essential component of your road safety, and it should be fixed as soon as you detect the issue. So, in this article, we’ll discuss everything about the BMW emergency call system malfunction, and its possible causes & solutions.

So, let’s delve right into it.

What is the Emergency Call System on BMW?

The Emergency Call System also known as Intelligent Call System is a very essential feature in BMW that works as an SOS. The main purpose of this system is to assist the driver in emergencies anywhere at any time.

When you’re in an accident, with only one click on the iDrive controller you could reach out to the BMW accident assistance. They will call you and direct you according to your situation like they will direct you to the nearby BMW Certified Collision Repair Centre, contact towing services, etc. However, the BMW assistance will only help you if you’re in real emergencies. In vehicle issues on the road, they will connect you to the BMW roadside assistance and guide you.

Also Read: How to Fix BMW DBC Malfunction? (With Step-by-Step Guide)

And if you’re in a big accident and the airbag has been deployed, crash sensors are activated then BMW’s emergency call system will automatically contact the BMW assist center. This call is processed through an accident-proof telephone unit system in the BMW.

While the call is made the data will be transferred like the airbag deployment, vehicle location, possible injuries, the damage in your car, and other relevant information. In situations like these, a trained representative will give you telephonic assistance (in your preferred language).

Then the representative will assess the situation and guide you with the necessary steps. They will contact police and EMT services to save crucial time and take necessary steps to guide you.

Symptoms of BMW Emergency Call System Malfunction

Here are some symptoms of BMW Emergency call system malfunction you’ll notice:

  • The SOS Call system failure/malfunction light illuminates the dashboard
  • In some models, the iDrive system will not respond/show errors
  • Warning chimes will be disabled
  • You could also see the “malfunction or limited functionality. Consult service center” message in your iDrive.

So, if you notice any of the symptoms on your BMW, you should contact your BMW dealership or any professional auto shop and get your vehicle diagnosed & fixed.

Causes & Solutions Of BMW Emergency Call System Malfunction

bmw emergency call system malfunction

The basic cause of the BMW emergency call malfunction is a dead battery, faulty wiring, or a broken telephone box, which triggers the BMW’s SOS light error.

However apart from these causes, many other common causes could lead the BMW emergency call system to malfunction. Here are some of the major causes & their solutions.

1. Dead Backup Battery

This is the major cause behind the BMW emergency call system malfunction. As with the main battery, the backup battery also has a lifespan of about 4-5 years. The system self-tests itself at every startup, and when the battery is dead, this system will show a malfunction error on the screen.


The solution for this issue is to change the old backup battery with a new one simply. And, this might not be as simple as changing the main battery, however, it’s an easy & manageable DIY change, that anyone could do with the right tools & little bit of patience.

To do that simply follow your vehicle owner’s manual to locate the backup battery according to your BMW model. Then take out the old battery and clip in the new battery. And you’re good to go.

Also Read: BMW DSC Malfunction: Causes & Solutions (Complete Guide)

2. Faulty Satellite Radio

A faulty satellite radio is one of the major causes of the emergency call system malfunction in your vehicle. Depending on your specific model the satellite radio is located under the trunk, on the side, or under the floor cover.

The faulty satellite radio can be repaired, however purchasing a new one, or a used working one is far more efficient than fixing the faulty one. If you don’t use the satellite radio, then another cheaper way is to install a universal fiber optic bypass loop.

Common symptoms of faulty satellite radio:

  • Weird crackling sound from the speakers
  • SOS malfunction error
  • Bluetooth phone malfunction
  • No or limited Channel Availability
  • Unresponsive or glitched iDrive
  • Can’t find any channels


First of all the best way to fix this issue is to diagnose the vehicle with an OBD2 diagnostic tool, which can provide the exact fault codes & information about the issue.

To fix this issue, there’s a DIY solution disconnect the main battery for 12 hours or overnight, it will automatically reset the malfunctioning MOST (Media Oriented Systems Transport) system.

By doing this the satellite radio system will also reset and may remove any normal issue.

If you’re getting confused, or not sure if you could do it or not, then simply contact a professional.

3. Faulty TCU

The TCU (Telematics Control Unit) is a vital component for your vehicle’s communication system, diagnostics, wireless tracking, etc. This system basically serves as the brain behind BMW’s telematic functions.

And if this system gets faulty, then the BMW owner won’t be able to reach out to the BMW assistance center.

This system basically controls the BMW Assist, Bluetooth, Teleservices, OTA (Over-The-Air) Updates, Remote functions (remote heating/ AC control, door locking/unlocking, etc.), BMW Online, etc.

Apart from these, TCU is used in communicating Emergency Call (E-call) crash notifications. As you can see this system controls the SOS emergency call, and when this system becomes faulty it triggers the emergency call system malfunction.


In this case, the best thing you could do is, take your vehicle to your nearest BMW dealership or Autoshop and get your vehicle diagnosed & fix the TCU system. If the TCU is faulty, then after the replacement the malfunction issue should resolved.

4. Water Leaked Into Shark Fin

On the top of your BMW, there’s something known as the shark fin. This shark fin comprises several antennas like Telematics, GPS Antenna, radio, and many more. These antennas comprise the tech that connects the radio call to the BMW emergency call system center.

As you know from the name this shark fin looks exactly like a shark fin. Over time the shark fin’s bottom seal can wear down & create little gaps. Water and dirt can easily get into the shark fin & damage the antennas. In this case, you’ll face multiple symptoms like the radio won’t work properly, the GPS will have trouble, and mainly it can trigger the emergency call system malfunction.


Here the best thing would be for you to take your vehicle to the nearest BMW dealership or professional autoshop. First, the shark fin needs to be removed, and then properly resealing the shark fin is not something you could do without good DIY skills.

I’ve seen many guys trying to do that and damaging the top of the car & the shark fin. You could also try to apply any automotive sealant in the bottom area of the shark fin as a temporary solution.

Also Read: BMW Passenger Restraint System Malfunction: Causes & Fixes

5. iDrive Issue (Defective head units)

bmw emergency call system malfunction
Credit: oooseun (bimmerpost)

The head unit, which includes CCC, CIC, and NBT can be defective and it could cause the emergency call system to malfunction. The BMW’s iDrive head units comprise the CCC, CIC, and NBT, which can develop problems over time. These problems could result in communication issues within the fiber-optic loop and some cases complete shutdown of the head unit.

This issue will trigger the SOS emergency call malfunction warning.


First, check the fuses on the backside of the unit, many times they are the reason for this issue.

One way to fix this issue is to re-initialize the iDrive, to do that press the DVD eject, CD eject, and CD volume buttons at the same time when the BMW’s iDrive screen has gone blank. After re-initializing the iDrive, remove your Bluetooth phone from the iDrive settings menu, then re-configure the iDrive. It will help to restart your phone before reconfiguration.

If this doesn’t solve the issue, you could simply reboot the iDrive system. Here’s how to do it:

  • Simply turn on your car, but don’t start the engine. (only the accessories should be on)
  • Then push & hold the volume button for 30 seconds until the screen powers down.
  • Then after the full 30 seconds release the volume button and then click the volume button back and turn on the iDrive system.

So, if you had any issue with the iDrive operating system the issue should be solved by now. If not you could try an iDrive hard reboot, by disconnecting the main battery for 10-15 minutes, then connecting the battery you can start your car, and the iDrive system should be fully initialized and completely rebooted. If you face any problem during this process contact any professional for help.

6. Faulty Amplifier

It is the same as the iDrive’s head unit when a faulty amplifier or Bluetooth module can shut down all the systems within this fiber-optic loop. These two modules can be found under the floor cover. You can also find the defective component through the fiber-optic bypass loop. You could also check the fuses at the side of the units for any damage.

When the amplifier becomes faulty it interrupts the communication with the BMW assist center. Which in turn triggers the emergency call malfunction error.

Symptoms of a faulty amplifier are:

  • No/very little output from the amplifier.
  • Poor sound quality 
  • Overheating
  • Sudden starts
  • A burning smell from the amplifier


Amplifiers are a pretty technical component, so you should take your vehicle to the nearest BMw dealership or any auto shop and get it fixed by a professional. The easy way to fix this is to replace the faulty amplifier.

7. Speaker & Microphone Wiring Issue

The BMW emergency call system needs a speaker and microphone to work efficiently. However many times the speaker & microphone wiring can get damaged while working near the speaker and microphone area accidentally knocking a cable loose.

This eventually triggers the emergency call system malfunctioning.


  • First, through your vehicle owner’s manual locate the speaker & microphones.
  • Then using any basic tools remove the housing around the speaker and microphones.
  • Inspect any loose or damaged wires.
  • Fix the loose wires by sampling plugging them back and removing the damaged wire.

To do this more efficiently you could diagnose the vehicle using an OBD2 scanner. It will show the errors/malfunctions in your BMW.

Also Read: BMW N52 Engine: All You Need To Know

The speakers & microphones are also prone to damage on rare occasions. However, they’re very technical and complicated components to replace. So, it’s better you get help from any professional in the situation of damaged speakers & microphones.

8. Software/programming glitch

The SOS emergency call system is a pretty complex system that is controlled by software. For various reasons, the programming can get errors which eventually results in emergency call malfunction.


The first thing you could do is try a soft reboot in your BMW. As suggested before in the iDrive malfunction section, which includes the process of pressing & holding down the volume button. Then check for any available updates.

If that doesn’t work simply perform a hard reset by disconnecting the battery for 10-15 minutes then again connecting the battery. It reboots the whole BMW system. If any of these works you should contact a professional technician.

9. Bluetooth Issue

The emergency call system uses the Bluetooth system to connect the system with the BMW owner’s phone. If the Bluetooth has any pairing issue between the system and the phone then it would prevent the system from working and trigger a malfunction error.


To solve this issue simply pair the device with the system again, by simply turning off the Bluetooth on your mobile and again connecting. You could also stop the car and then again turn on the car for reconnecting. You could also select forget the device and repair the systems.

If this still doesn’t solve your issue you should contact a professional help.

10. Damaged Fiber Optic Cable

The fiber optic cable should be the component you check because the fiber optic cables rarely get problematic or damaged.

However many times while working on the car the cable may get disconnected/damaged. Which disrupts the SOS system to work and eventually triggers the malfunction warning.


To do this process you’ll need a mechanical splice kit, with the splicing you can easily fix the damaged fiber optic cable.

  • Firstly Cut the damaged part of the fiber optic cable.
  • Then stip out both the cable jackets until the fiber strands are exposed.
  • Then put both ends of them in the splice and push the locking button.

If you’re not a DIY guy then you should contact any professional to do that for you.

However apart from these causes, other issues can trigger the issue such as faulty SOS control modules, faulty main battery, cellular and GPS technology issues, many sensors, etc.

So, before anything you should diagnose your vehicle properly for any damaged component or damaged wiring, then simply fix that. The SOS emergency call system is connected through a single fiber optic cable loop, and if anything happens in the loop the whole system will suffer.

So you should seek professional help to diagnose your vehicle properly and get the issue fixed. Because many issues could be very technical you won’t be able to do that so it’s better to get professional help.

Can You Drive With a BMW Emergency Call System Malfunction?

bmw emergency call system malfunction

Yes absolutely, the emergency call system malfunction doesn’t affect the vehicles driving.

The only thing is you won’t be able to use the SOS emergency call system. It is a very essential system in your BMW where with a single button press you can contact help on the roadside. In the situation of an accident, it can save many lives, where it automatically detects the accident and takes the necessary steps to send help as soon as possible.

So, if you’re SOS system is malfunctioning you should get it fixed as soon as possible and then drive your car. Because I’ve seen some of my close friends make the mistake of driving without an SOS system and they still regret it.

Also Read: BMW TPM Malfunction: Reasons & Solutions (Step by Step Guide)

It’s always better to be cautious than sorry. So, if you face an emergency call system malfunction quickly fix it as soon as possible, then drive your BMW without any worries.

How To Diagnose a BMW Emergency Call System Malfunction?

How To Fix Drivetrain Malfunction On BMW

The best way to diagnose the emergency call system malfunction is to use an OBD-II scanner. This device connects directly with your BMW computer system and retrieves the error codes.

This is the diagnostic device that mechanics use to read any error code in your BMW, and then fix the issue. So, simply purchase an OBD-II scanner connect it to your BMW, and find the exact error codes that are causing the issue.

The other way to diagnose is the hard way of checking every bit of component that is related to the component and finding the problem by trial and error.

However, if you’re not a DIY guy or don’t have much confidence about this issue, then we highly recommend you contact your BMW dealership or any authorized auto shop.


So, if you also have an Emergency call malfunction on your BMW, then don’t worry. Some basic problems can be resolved through DIY, however before making any significant modifications you should contact your BMW technician. Because some components seem easy to fix but can be very complex and a total headache.

However, most basic issues can be solved through a system reboot. So, for most of the basic issues like system reboot, you don’t need to contact your mechanic because you can easily DIY those stuff.


How to fix emergency call malfunction BMW?

The simple way is to restart your vehicle, update the system, reboot the system, or contact your BMW dealership.

How to turn off bmw emergency call malfunction?

To turn off the emergency call malfunction the temporary solution is to do a system reboot, however, to get rid of the malfunction permanently simply fix the issue behind this problem, then restart the system.

What to do when you accidentally press the SOS button?

You could simply end the call by pressing and holding the SOS button for a few seconds.

What does SOS call system failure mean?

The SOS call system failure means you can’t contact the BMW assist center in the time of emergencies.

Image Credit: Sterrico(

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