The following article shows how to perform steering angle sensor repair on a 2005 BMW 530i. This procedure can be used on any vehicle with an “analog” steering sensor including all E60/E61 5 series and E63/E64 6 series vehicles with a production date up to September 2005. All vehicles with a production date after 09/2005 use a different sensor than the one repaired in this article.
A BMW E60 steering angle sensor repair involves a simple cleaning of the steering angle sensor located behind the steering wheel. If you are getting a “DCS malfunction: drive carefully” error message as soon as you turn the steering wheel, a brake warning light in the instrument cluster, and turn signals that wont reset after you complete a turn, then you most likely have a steering angle sensor that needs to be cleaned.
***Please note that this article only deals with the steering angle sensor repair for vehicles with a production date up to September 2005. In 2006 the BMW E60 steering column switch housing (SZL) changed from a analog style sensor to a digital LED optical sensor. This article only deals with cleaning the analog style sensor found in BMW E60/E61/E63/E64 5 and 6 series vehicles.
The BMW E60 steering angle sensor is part of the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system of the vehicle, also known under more generic terms as the car’s Electronic Stability Control (ESC). When a BMW’s DSC detects loss of control of your vehicle, it will automatically apply the brakes to help “steer” the vehicle back on course. Braking is applied to individual wheels depending on which direction the car is off course. In order to execute the correct wheel braking, the DSC is constantly monitoring your BMW’s steering and vehicle direction. If the vehicle starts to travel in a path that does not match the direction (or angle) of your steering wheel, then the DSC will quickly apply the appropriate wheel brakes to recover and put you back on a straight line.
The BMW E60 steering angle sensor, which is mounted on the BMW’s steering switch unit (or SZL), is located directly behind the steering wheel. It detects what direction (angle) you are pointing the steering wheel and feeds that information to the DSC. It is an integral part of your DSC system, and a failure will cause an array of error messages and lights, including “DSC malfunction: drive carefully” on your iDrive screen and the “brake” warning light on your instrument cluster. Steering angle sensor failure will also cause your turn signals to malfunction: when you complete a turn with your turn signal on, it will not reset and turn off.
Which Steering Angle Sensor Do I Have?
First…look in the door jamb of the driver’s side door. You will see a VIN sticker that will have the production date of your vehicle on it.
There were two different types of steering angle sensors manufactured for the BMW E60 series of vehicles. The analog sensor, which is basically a metal brush that spins freely on the sensor disk, was used on all cars with a production date up to September 2005. The analog sensor was replaced with an optical sensor after that. The optical sensor replaced the metal analog brush with a small laser that spins on the sensor disk. This repair article only deals with the E60/E61 5 series and E63/E64 6 series vehicles that use the analog steering angle sensor.
If you are just going to clean your sensor, then there are no parts needed for this repair.
If you have determined that your sensor is damaged and is beyond repair, then now is the time to replace it. You can purchase a new one by clicking one of these two options:
- Disconnect negative terminal from battery and wait 5 minutes before starting the BMW E60 steering angle sensor repair. It’s also a good idea to cover the exposed terminal with a rag to avoid accidental contact during the repair. Since you will be removing the air bag from the steering wheel, it is very important that all of the electrical voltage has dissipated from the vehicle.
- Using a small flat tip screwdriver, disengage the airbag from the steering wheel. There is a small hole on the bottom of the steering wheel where you can insert the screwdriver and push up on the release spring. This is often a very difficult step! Don’t get frustrated! Some people have had better luck using a small torx bit, but we find using a micro flat blade screwdriver is the easiest way once you get the hang of it. Tip – if you can’t get the airbag to pop off the steering wheel, try gently pulling on it while you push on the spring with the screwdriver.
- Remove the two electrical plugs from back of airbag.
- Using an impact wrench and a 15mm deep socket, remove the steering wheel from the steering column. There are two electrical plugs that will need to be removed that connect the steering wheel controls to the steering column. Make sure to note their color and location before removal.
- Using a T9 torx bit, remove the screws anchoring the three steering wheel switch stalks to the BMW E60 steering column switch unit (SZL).
- Remove plastic phillips head screws from top and bottom of plastic steering column trim. Gently unsnap trim and remove.
- Using a T20 torx bit remove the SZL from the steering column. Unplug the three electrical connections from the back of the SZL.
- Gently lay SZL unit on a workbench or table. Using a metal pick, carefully release the three tabs holding the clockspring to the SZL. Remove the clockspring.
- With the clockspring removed, you will now be able to finally see the culprit causing the error messages: the steering angle sensor disk. Over time, this disk becomes covered with dust and grime, making it impossible for the steering angle sensor to recognize the position of the steering wheel. Cleaning this disk will solve the issue.
- Using cotton swabs and CRC Electronic Cleaner, thoroughly clean the sensor disk. When you start cleaning you will notice a large amount grime on the end of the cotton swab. Keep cleaning until the swab no longer gets dirty…this could take a while. We spent about 30 minutes cleaning this disk.When you have finished cleaning, follow the above steps in reverse for reassembly. Please note that the torque value for the steering wheel nut is 62.5 Nm (46 lb-ft).