Modern BMWs are overflowing with features that run on electricity and are designed to make your drive all the more safe, comfortable, and smooth. But at its most essential function, your BMW requires an electrical system to get it started and keep it running. If the electrical system is not in good working condition, all the convenient features and even the engine may become unusable. Learn more about your BMW's electrical system, so you can get the most out of it and know what to look for if you suspect it is giving you issues. And with over 4,000 new and used electrical parts for your BMW ready to be shipped from Japan, you will have no problem finding replacements at BE FORWARD should the need arise.
Your BMW's Electrical System
The electrical system is made up of three main parts, which work together to produce the power demanded by your BMW — they are the battery, the starter, and the alternator.
The battery stores electrical energy to operate the starter, as well as to keep certain parts like the clock and radio running when the engine is turned off. The battery additionally supplies the necessary power for the ignition and fuel injection parts. Because it is not designed to supply power for long, it can quickly run out of power.
Some larger BMWs, such as the E31 8-Series and the 7-Series come with two batteries. While components might still be able to run with only one charged battery, they might be underpowered. In certain instances, they might not receive any power and be unable to work altogether.
The starter is powered by the battery and is needed to get the engine running. It contains a small gear that is connected to the engine's flywheel, delivering power to it, and this, in turn, starts the engine. Needless to say, your BMW will not be able to start unless the starter is functioning properly.
Once your BMW's engine is running, it is the alternator that keeps the engine and all other electrical components powered. Unlike the starter, which converts electrical energy into mechanical energy, the alternator converts mechanical energy into electricity with the help of a drive belt that connects the engine to the pulley of the alternator.
Potential Electrical Issues with BMWs
While some electrical issues are common across all makes and models, BMWs also have unique electrical issues that you should be aware of.
General Electrical Issues
A variety of electrical issues can plague your BMW. These can range from minor inconveniences, such as a certain electrical part not working in isolation, to major ones where your BMW cannot be started or becomes inoperable. For example, a faulty alternator or battery can result in a combination of your BMW having difficulties starting and/or stalling, lights dimming or flickering, or strange smells.
Electrical Issues Specific to BMWs
Problems with individual electrical parts have been known to develop in BMWs. Power windows might become slow to adjust or stuck altogether, signaling either an issue with regulator clips or the possibility of an impending problem with the electrical system at large. Door locks in BMWs have also been prone to problems. The cause of this could be anything from a malfunctioning key fob to bad connections. Likewise, seat adjusters can stop working as intended as a result of isolated issues or problems with the electrical system.
Newer BMWs are equipped with the CCC iDrive navigation and control system, which is notorious for being prone to malfunctions. For example, the system's fan and console lights might remain on and drain the battery, or the system might reset continuously.
Instead of mechanical water pumps, BMWs use electrical ones that are more susceptible to problems. Wear and tear and improper coolant usage can all take their toll on your BMW's water pump, resulting in the engine overheating.
Finally, the most common problems that occur with certain BMWs like the 328i are electrical. These could be anything from problems with heating and cooling systems to even electrical fires.
How to Maintain Your BMW's Electrical System
You can take several steps to maintain your BMW's electrical system and reduce the likelihood of the above problems occurring. One easy step is to preemptively replace your car's battery after four to five years of use. Doing so can reduce the likelihood of your car suddenly failing.
Another measure you can perform is to regularly check and clean the battery and battery cables using a mixture of baking soda and water to prevent buildup.
Finally, you can have a trusted mechanic do a routine check on the condition of your wires and connections to ensure proper current flow to the different electrical parts. Additionally, BMW recommends having a dealership or a specialized BMW mechanic perform regularly scheduled maintenance called a "BMW Inspection 1" or a more comprehensive "BMW Inspection 2", both of which include checking whether or not various components of the electrical system are working properly. You should bring your BMW in for these inspections every 15,000 miles for pre-1991 model years, every 20,000 miles for 1992-1999 model years, and every 30,000 miles for post-1999 model years.
Are BMWs Expensive to Maintain?
Thorough maintenance can require quite a bit of knowledge and elbow grease. Not only that, premium cars come with premium parts. Replacing electrical parts on your BMW can be costly when compared to other makes and models, so do not be surprised if your BMW's maintenance bill is higher than what you expect. With that said, your mechanic might charge a premium for authentic BMW parts, so it can be more affordable to source them yourself. Here at BE FORWARD, we offer well-maintained, genuine BMW electrical parts at affordable prices, so do your shopping with us now!