Understanding the BMW 4×4 Light: Causes, Solutions, and Reset

Tim Miller

Wondering what the 4×4 light means and what to do when it appears on your BMW dashboard?

In this guide, I will help you understand the meaning of the 4×4 warning light, its causes, and essential steps to diagnose, fix, and reset it, ensuring your BMW stays in peak condition.

Let’s dive into it!

What Does BMW 4×4 Light Mean?

BMW 4x4 light

The 4×4 light on BMWs indicates a malfunction in the xDrive system. This system often works in conjunction with the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system to enhance traction, stability, and performance in various driving conditions. Based on road conditions and driving inputs, the xDrive system varies power distribution between the front and rear wheels.

When this light comes on, it’s essential to have the system inspected and repaired as soon as possible.

For a quick and accurate diagnosis of the 4×4 light issue in your BMW’s xDrive system, I highly recommend using a BMW scanner. It will help identify the problem efficiently, ensuring prompt and proper repairs for safe and optimal performance.

Can You Drive Your BMW with the 4×4 Light?

Yes, you can still drive your BMW with the 4×4 light on, but it’s advisable to do so cautiously. When the 4×4 light is on, it means that the xDrive system may not be functioning correctly. This can impact your vehicle’s traction and handling, especially in adverse weather conditions, such as rain, snow, or ice. It’s best to drive at reduced speeds and avoid aggressive maneuvers until the issue is resolved.

What Could Cause the 4×4 Light to Come on?

Steering Angle Sensor Errors

The steering angle sensor aids the xDrive system in understanding the vehicle’s direction. Electrical issues or glitches can disrupt this sensor’s position or memory, triggering the 4×4 warning light.

Solution: Resetting the steering angle sensor can often resolve the problem.

Battery Problems

A weak or failing battery can cause electronic systems, including the xDrive system, to malfunction. If the battery voltage drops below a certain level, it can lead to sensor errors and trigger the warning light. 

Solution: Ensure the battery is in good condition and maintains the correct voltage level.

Transfer Case Motor Failure

The transfer case motor is responsible for engaging and disengaging the front and rear axles in the xDrive system. If the motor fails, it can disrupt the system’s operation and trigger the warning light.

Solution:  To address this, the motor may need replacement or repair by a certified technician.

Faulty Sensors

Various sensors in your BMW, such as wheel speed sensors, rotational rate sensors, and others, monitor different aspects of the vehicle’s performance. If any of these sensors fail, it can provide incorrect data for the system and the activation of the 4×4 light.

Solution: Identify and replace any failed sensors to restore proper functionality.

How to Reset 4×4 Light on BMW?

Step 1: Reset the steering angle sensor

Occasionally, electrical issues can cause the steering angle sensor to lose its position or memory, necessitating a reset procedure:

  • Begin by starting your engine.
  • While the engine is running, turn the steering wheel all the way to one side until it stops and can’t turn any further. Hold it in this position for a moment.
  • Slowly turn it all the way to the opposite side until it reaches its limit. Again, hold it there briefly.

After completing these steps, check if the warning light has gone out. If not, follow the next step.

Step 2: Check the battery

Verify the condition and voltage of your vehicle’s battery:

  • Use a multimeter to check the battery voltage. It should meet the manufacturer’s specifications.
  • If the battery is weak or failing, consider replacing it to ensure proper electrical system operation.

Learn more: How To Test A Car Battery With A Multimeter

Step 3: Read diagnostic trouble codes

Use a BMW scan tool to read the diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) stored in the Check Control system. These codes will provide insights into the specific issue causing the 4×4 warning light:

  • Connect the diagnostic tool to the OBD-II port in your BMW.
  • Turn the ignition to the “On” position.
  • Establish communication by selecting your vehicle’s make and model on the scanner.
  • Retrieve the DTCs.
  • Use the scanner’s library or OBD2 Codes Lookup to interpret the codes.

Step 4: Repair

Based on the diagnostic trouble codes and the information gathered, proceed to repair the specific problem:

  • Replace faulty sensors with new ones
  • Replace damaged wiring or connectors
  • Repair or replace the transfer case motor 
  • Address any other identified issues related to the xDrive system.

For DIYers, watch the video below to learn more about how to repair the transfer case motor.

Step 5: Clear the codes to reset the system

Once the repairs are complete, use the diagnostic tool to clear the diagnostic trouble codes from the Check Control system. 

After that, turn off the ignition and restart the vehicle to see if the 4×4 warning light remains off.

If you encounter difficulties during the diagnosis and repair process, or if the 4×4 warning light persists, consider seeking assistance from a qualified BMW technician or visiting a BMW service center for a comprehensive evaluation and resolution of the issue.

What’s Next?

By comprehending the BMW 4×4 light and following the provided steps, you can maintain your vehicle’s performance and safety. 

If you found this guide helpful or have any questions, we’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below to share your thoughts and experiences.

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Information sourced from the owner's manual.