BMW Service Lights Explained

There is a lot of confusion about which BMW dashboard warning lights require immediate attention and which can be temporarily ignored. We at North Bay Bavarian know that our customers respond to vehicle issues in different ways. We’re here to give our customers the scoop on their BMW warning lights, so each customer can better assess the severity of the issue.

Three Typical Responses to BMW Alert Lights

  1. BMW warning lightsDriver immediately pulls over, turns the vehicle off, and calls a mechanic or a tow truck service.
  2. Driver sees the warning light, does nothing about it for months or years, and continues to drive the vehicle, undeterred.
  3. Driver falls within the same group of people who keep up with their regularly scheduled BMW vehicle maintenance. They react by driving more cautiously, attempting to discern differences in how the vehicle feels or sounds, and taking the vehicle in to a professional as soon as they can.

For most situations where a warning light comes on, it’s this third reaction that is most appropriate. However, there are times when pulling over immediately is the correct course of action.

In case anyone’s wondering, doing nothing for years on end is never the right choice.

Which BMW Service Lights Are Most Urgent?

Depending on which warning light has come on, there are certain appropriate actions to take.

If the ever-ambiguous check engine light comes on, there could be any number of things happening. Your fuel mixture could be off, perhaps signaling a larger problem, or you could have simply left your gas cap unscrewed.

A check engine light in and of itself is not a great reason to immediately pull over to the side of the freeway. Instead, you should try to gather more information about what’s going on with your vehicle. Did it start performing or feeling differently? Did it start sounding differently? Is it smoking?

If your car feels the same and isn’t sputtering or making loud noises, you’re generally in the clear to continue driving cautiously and take it in to see a professional as soon as you can.

If there’s an indication of a more serious problem, try to get to a gas station or at least a lighted, safe area. Then, call a friend and then a mechanic or tow truck depending on the situation.

Other lights, like the traction control light and the supplemental restraint system (SRS) light, indicate an immediate change to the general safety of your vehicle but not necessarily a reason to immediately pull over.

The electronic traction system (ETS) in your vehicle helps it stay on the road in harsh conditions, like ice or gravel. While it is extremely effective at what it does and increases the safety of your vehicle dramatically, it isn’t a key system. You can drive cautiously while the ETS light is on; just make sure you’re very aware of your surroundings, especially if you’re already in harsh conditions.

The SRS light is a bit more serious, as it indicates that the airbags in your dashboard are not functioning correctly. This is an extreme safety hazard, and should be met with extreme caution. Airbags save countless lives every year and without them you’re at high risk for personal injury.

While you don’t have to pull over if you see this light or the ETS light come on, it’s recommended that you drive very cautiously and get your vehicle to a professional to correct the problem as soon as you possibly can.

Potential Emergency BMW Warning Signs

Finally, there’s the lights that actually do necessitate immediately turning the vehicle off.

Both the oil light and the coolant light are these types of warning light. Either of these lights can indicate a possible leak in a key system of your vehicle.

Ignoring one of these warnings can result in catastrophic failure in your engine, and possibly lead to expensive repairs or replacements.

It’s best to pull over as soon as you safely can, then attempt to remedy the situation. In these situations, a tow truck may be your only option.

Remember to always call a friend or family member to let them know where you are and what’s going on. If you can manage it, always pull over in a lighted area for safety.

Finally, no matter what warning light comes on in your vehicle, get it checked out as soon as you can. There’s no need to risk safety and expensive repairs.