BMW Emergency Call Malfunction: Causes and What to Do?

As a BMW owner, you may have noticed the BMW Emergency Call Malfunction warning at some point. If you wonder what it means and why it happens,  you’ve come to the right place. Before I proceed further, here are the common causes of this problem:

  • Bad TCU
  • Faulty satellite radio 
  • Defective head units (iDrive)
  • Wrong Amplifier 
  • Damaged fiber optic cable 

In this article, I will elaborate further on the causes of the Emergency Call failure issue. Also,  its symptoms and what to do in the event of this problem will be discussed. 

If this catches your attention, read on.

What is Emergency Call on BMW?

BMW Intelligent Emergency Call

As the term “Emergency Call” implies, it is a feature installed in your BMW that serves as an SOS. This system is also known as Intelligent Emergency Call. In the event of an accident, you can reach out to the BMW Accident Assistance. All it takes is one click on the iDrive controller, and this will connect you to the BMW assist call center. Once a connection has been made, the person on the other end of the call will direct you to the closest BMW Certified Collision Repair Centre. Also, you can arrange for towing if necessary. Keep in mind that using the BMW SOS button is for only real emergencies and the BMW assist center will only offer assistance in such cases.

If your vehicle’s airbag is deployed, your BMW’s emergency call feature will automatically reach out to a BMW call center. This emergency call is carried out by an accident-proof telephone unit installed in your BMW.

Once the call goes through, trained personnel will contact you before informing the emergency services of your situation. The personnel now proceed to offer you support via telephone (In your language of choice). Furthermore, the emergency call/intelligent emergency call is designed to help rescue services quickly prepare, and provide the needed assistance for accident victims. 

Symptoms of BMW Emergency Call Malfunction

Here are some major symptoms of the BMW emergency call malfunction:

  • A struck-out SOS call malfunction warning light illuminates
  • iDrive system not responding (some models)
  • Disabled warning chimes
  • An error message on your iDrive reading “malfunction or limited functionality. Consult service center.”
message on iDrive
Credit: Sterrico (

Read more: BMW Charging Malfunction: Causes and Solutions

BMW Emergency Call Malfunction: Causes and What to Do

causes of bmw emergency call malfunction
Apart from some preceding causes, a dead battery, a broken telephone box, or bad wiring can also cause your BMW’s SOS light to illuminate.

A dead battery, a broken telephone box, or bad wiring can cause your BMW’s SOS light to illuminate. Luckily, your BMW mechanic can code out the SOS function to prevent the emergency call malfunction message from appearing on your dashboard. Let’s discuss the major causes in detail. 


The TCU (Telematics Control Unit) is an embedded inboard system responsible for diagnostics, wireless tracking, and communication. 

TCU's principle of operation
Vehicle owners can’t reach out to the BMW assistance center in case the car’s TCU goes bad.

This system controls :

  • Bluetooth
  • BMW Assist
  • BMW Online
  • Remote functions (remote heating/ AC control, door locking, etc.)
  • Teleservices

Among other things, the TCU system is used in E-call (Emergency Call) crash notifications. Additionally, TCU helps increase the vehicle’s connectivity by using more modems to aid communications from the cloud to the car and vice versa. Seeing as it controls the SOS emergency call, damage to this system will trigger the emergency call malfunction warning. 

What to Do:

Take your vehicle to the nearest skilled mechanic for a TCU replacement

Faulty Satellite Radio

satellite radio
Using a BMW scanner may help you fix the faulty satellite radio. Credit: matebo (

Defective satellite radio is one of the major causes of the Emergency Call Malfunction. Depending on your BMW model, you can find the satellite radio of your BMW on the side or under the floor cover of your trunk. Although a faulty satellite radio can be repaired, you may find that purchasing a new one or a working used model is more convenient due to the hassle of trying to fix one. Alternatively, if you don’t make use of the satellite radio, you can install a fiber optic bypass loop as a fix, provided you don’t use the satellite radio. 

Symptoms of a faulty satellite radio include:

  • Malfunctioning Bluetooth phone
  • Crackling sound from speakers 
  • Radio works but no sound
  • SOS malfunction error 
  • BMW iDrive keeps returning to the home screen 

What to Do:

Disconnect the battery of your BMW for 12 hours. This helps reset the malfunctioning MOST (Media Oriented Systems Transport) component. As another option, you can leave the battery disconnected throughout the night. Doing this will force the components to reboot (satellite radio included).

Besides, having a BMW scanner also goes a long way in fixing your satellite radio. With the scanner, you can easily read fault codes. If this sounds like too much trouble, paying a visit to the nearest BMW garage is another option. 

Read more: BMW Engine Malfunction Reduced Power: Symptoms and Causes

iDrive (Defective head units)

iDrive BMW
When some head units, such as CIC, CCC, and NBT go wrong, it could cause BMW Emergency Call Malfunction. Credit:

Your BMW’s iDrive controls most of the secondary vehicle systems in your car. Unfortunately, several iDrive head units can develop problems. Some of these head units include the CIC, CCC, and NBT. Additionally, damage to these head units can result in communication issues within the fiber optic loop or cause a complete shutdown of the head units. If this happens, the BMW SOS light will activate. Also, ensure to inspect the fuses on the backside of the unit. 

Here are the signs of a defective iDrive: 

  • Crashes while downloading 
  • Noise
  • Damaged applications 

What to Do:

If your BMW’s iDrive screen has gone blank, push the DVD eject, CD eject, and CD volume buttons at the same time. This action should re-initialize the iDrive. Once you have re-initialized the iDrive, proceed to remove your Bluetooth phone from the iDrive settings menu. Turn off the computer (Not necessary, but in some cases, it can help). To continue using the iDrive,  proceed to re-configure it to use the iDrive (It would help to restart your phone before reconfiguration).

In addition, for minor iDrive system malfunctions, a reboot should fix the problem. Here’s how to reboot your iDrive:

  • Make sure your car’s engine is off. Only the vehicle’s accessories should be on
  • Push and hold the volume button for thirty seconds until the screen powers down
  • Make sure you hold the button for the entire thirty seconds after the screen has gone off.
  • Release the volume button after the thirty seconds are completed and push it again to reboot the system.

Congratulations, you’ve successfully rebooted your iDrive system. Keep in mind that this procedure is intended to resolve problems with the operating system. If the above steps don’t solve the issue, the problem may not be from the iDrive. 

Wrong Amplifier

BMW factory amplifier
Once the amplifier becomes defective, it could cause all the systems within the fiber-optic loop to go wrong. Credit: Aprater17 (

Similar to the iDrive’s unit heads, a wrong/defective amplifier or Bluetooth module will cause all the systems within the fiber-optic loop to shut down. You can find both the amplifier and Bluetooth module beneath the floor cover of your BMW. A fiber-optic bypass loop can be used to identify the defective part. Also, don’t forget to check the fuses beside the units for signs of damage. 

Symptoms of a bad amplifier are:

  • Reduced sound quality 
  • Excessive distortion 
  • No output from the amplifier 
  • Slapping/popping noise from the subwoofer 
  • Overheating 
  • Amplifier starts randomly 
  • A burning smell comes from the amplifier 

What to Do:

Amplifiers are audio tools made with delicate components. You are better off getting a replacement for a defective amplifier. Take your BMW to the nearest BMW repair store for a complete replacement. 

Damaged Fiber Optic Cable

Damaged fiber optic cable
This cable should be one of the last things you should check. Credit: Djetaine (

Sometimes, the fiber optic cable may accidentally get disconnected while you are working on the car. When diagnosing your BMW for the emergency call pop-up error, this cable should be one of the last things you should check. This is due to the fact that fiber optic cables are rarely problematic. 

What to Do:

You can quickly fix a damaged fiber optic cable by splicing. To do this, you will need a mechanical splice kit.

  • Cut out the damaged part of the fiber optic cable. 
  • Strip back the jacket of both cables to the point you can see the exposed fiber strands. 
  • Put both ends of the cable into the splice and then push the locking button. 

Apart from the causes mentioned above, a wide range of factors such as software bugs, problems with Bluetooth pairing, and a faulty SOS control module can trigger the BMW SOS light. To thoroughly diagnose the error, you should conduct an internal inspection of the E-call/SOS components. For starters, you should pay attention to the wiring system to find defective wires. If you find any, you should fix or replace them. 

Besides, you should know that all the units of a BMW Emergency Call are linked through a single loop by an optic cable. This helps minimize noise and interference. 

While the single looping is a good thing, it will interfere with the entire system if one component is defective. 

Read more: What Is DME on a BMW? Symptoms and Causes of a Faulty DME


Getting a BMW emergency call alert isn’t the end of the world. Depending on the severity of the problem, you may or may not need to call a technician. With some minor faults, you can address yourself. However, I recommend contacting your BMW mechanic before attempting to make any significant modifications to your BMW. 

Remember that sometimes all your vehicle’s system needs to be back on track is a system reboot. Thanks to the information in this article, rebooting your system won’t be an issue. This way, you don’t have to call a mechanic for everything. 

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