BMW iDrive Controller Not Working? Here’s What to Do


When iDrive was first launched by BMW in the 2001 7 Series, it received a mixed reaction as the early systems were slow and cumbersome and involved the driver taking eyes off the road to manipulate the control. Over the years, however, it has grown into a slick central control that places all of the BMW cabin functions into a single system. That being said, the Drive system utilizes a lot of electronic components and things do go wrong from time to time.

If the BMW iDrive controller is not working, it may be a faulty iDrive circular dial or the central iDrive control computer is defective. If the button or iDrive controller unit is defective, cleaning or re-soldering the motherboard pins may fix it; however, it will need to be professionally repaired if the computer is defective.

The iDrive computer is generally referred to as the “navigation” and this article will use this term even though it provides much greater functionality than merely the navigation function. It is the heart of the system, and if there is a fault, it probably is within this unit.

What To Do If The iDrive Controller Is Not Working?

As explained later in this article, the term “iDrive Controller” often refers to one of two devices.

  1. The round iDrive controller unit installed between the two front seats.
  2. The iDrive computer (named the navigation) which controls the system.

Issues with the iDrive controller

The circular control device develops a fault. This is one of the most common issues with iDrive controllers, as by its very nature of being installed in the center of the vehicle it is vulnerable to all kinds of drinks and debris getting into the controller.

The iDrive Knob Becomes Sticky Or Tough To Turn

If the iDrive knob becomes sticky and difficult to turn, it may be because a sugary drink has been spilled on it or the connections on the iDrive motherboard are bad.

Possible Solution: Remove the iDrive Controller and check for any damage to the motherboard. The good news here is that the iDrive Controller is straightforward to remove. You will need a plastic pry tool, a rachet, and a set of small metric sockets.

Once you have the iDrive Controller removed, the most common issue is that the important connecting points need to be re-soldered. You don’t need to be an expert at soldering to complete this, but if you do not feel comfortable you can purchase a replacement iDrive Controller for under $200.

Here is a great video on iDrive Controller removal and repair.

You should also be aware that iDrive Controller failure is a known fault in certain units which suffer an internal break. BMW issued service bulletin SI B65 03 19 in January 2019, which advised that “the iDrive controller knob sticks to the left after regular actuation.”

The iDrive Knob Selects The Wrong Items

Another possible problem is that the iDrive knob randomly selects some items at times and other items it won’t select.

If this occurs, there may be debris in the mechanism.

Possible Solution: Remove the knob and spray compressed air around the control module. If this does not work, you can try replacing just the knob as they are relatively inexpensive (around $50).

Lastly, if this does not resolve the problem you will likely need to take the vehicle to a qualified mechanic as the iDrive Navigation Unit likely has a problem.

Check out the above video on iDrive Controller repair, as he removes the knob with a plastic pry tool before doing anything else. You can also check out the below video, as this is a great in-depth video on cleaning the controller.

The iDrive Computer (Navigation Unit) Is Faulty

If the navigation computer suffers from any of the following issues, it is faulty:

  1. The Navigation Unit reboots continuously, and the LCD screen cycles between the BMW logo and a black screen.
  2. The Navigation Unit does not start and remains locked on the BMW logo.
  3. The iDrive functions on some days and not on others.
  4. The Navigation Unit works when the car is cold but fails to work when the vehicle is warm.
  5. The Navigation Unit does not function, and the LCD screen says black.
  6. The cooling fan of the Navigation Unit remains on and drains the car battery.
  7. The iDrive Controller buttons and lights remain on.

If the Navigation Unit suffers from any of the following issues, it is likely faulty:

  1. The Navigation Unit is slow in executing user commands.
  2. The LCD Screen makes an intermittent sound.
  3. The Navigation Unit randomly freezes, and the iDrive Controller spins freely.
  4. The Navigation Unit resets a few times but then starts and works.

Keep in mind that any one of the following problems can also cause odd symptoms in your iDrive System:

  1. The CCC has trouble reading the CD. Try removing the disks and test again.
  2. The Bluetooth module (MULF or MULF 2) and the sound amplifier (TOP-HIFI, also known as Logic 7) are faulty.
  3. Another module is faulty and prevents the proper functioning of the CCC iDrive.

What Is iDrive?

The purpose of iDrive is to unify all cabin control functions in a single system that has a central computer controlling various peripherals such as:

  1. Bluetooth.
  2. Video units.
  3. The Radio tuner.
  4. The audio system and the channels.
  5. The Lights.
  6. The climate controls.
  7. The navigation system.
  8. The communication system.

The iDrive system consists of three main components:

The iDrive Controller

A round controller is installed between the two front seats in the center console.

The controller serves the same function as a pc mouse in that it enables the user to access the functions of the system.

The LCD Screen

The system has an LCD in, or above, the dashboard, and as the central control (iDrive knob control) is manipulated, various menus appear on it.

The iDrive Computer

The iDrive main computer is generally installed in the dashboard and is accessed through a front panel by a few control buttons.

Depending on your BMWs model year, the iDrive computer is a.

  1. CCC (Car Communication Computer)
  2. CIC (Car Information Computer)
  3. Next Best Thing (NBT)

The system is used in all BMW group vehicles including.

  1. BMW uses iDrive.
  2. Rolls Royce uses iDrive.
  3. Mini cars in which the system is called “Connected.”

When someone uses the name iDrive, they think the problem is the circular control unit without realizing that the system consists of three components.

Although the controller is the most apparent component, the computer is frequently the root of the problem unless something is wrong with the controller.

What Model Drive Do I Have?

The following table will help you identify the model iDrive installed in your vehicle.

Since the iDrive was first launched in 2001, there have been six generations installed in various models of BMW.

GenerationVersionsModels Installed
Generation One iDriveNAV01, NAV02, NAV03BMW 7 Series (E65, E66)
Generation Two iDriveMASK / MASKII – option 606A     BMW 5 Series E60/61, BMW 6 Series E63/64, BMW X5 E70, BMW X6 E71 BMW 1 Series E81/E82/87/88 BMW 3 Series E90/91/92/93
Generation Two iDriveCCC – option 609 (Navigation System Professional)1-Series E81/82/87/88 – June 2004 – Sept 2008 3-Series E90/91/92/93 – March 2005 – Sept 2008 5-Series E60/61 – Dec 2003 – Nov 2008 6-Series E63/64 – Dec 2003 – Nov 2008 X5 E70 – March 2007 – Oct 2009 X6 E72 – May 2008 – Oct 2009
 CCC iDrive Update 2 – option 609 (Navigation System Professional)1 Series E81/82/87/88 March 2007 –  Sept 2008 3 Series E90/91/92/93 March 2007 – Aug 2008 5 Series E60/61 March 2007 – Aug 2008 6 Series E63/64 March 2007 – Aug 2008 X5 E70 manufactured until 2010 X6 E71
 CCC iDrive Update 2 – option 609 (Navigation System Professional)BMW 5 Series E60/61 BMW 6 Series E63/64
 CHAMPExtremely rare
 Radio professional CD This iDrive model does not come with a display. It only has a small orange screen where it displays two lines of text,Certain 3 series models
Generation Three iDriveCIC – option 609A (Navigation System Professional) |   CIC MID – option 606A (Navigation System Business) | Alpine with navigation function – option 606A (Navigation System Business) | Alpine without navigation function – option 663A (BMW Professional Radio)   CHAMP 2 (also named   HU_ENTRY) – option 663A1-Series F20/21 – Sept 2011 – March 2013 3-Series E90/91/92/93 – Sept 2008 – Oct 2013 3-Series F30/31/34/80 – Feb 2012 – Nov 2012 5-Series E60/61 – Nov 2008 – May 2010 5-Series F07 – Oct 2009 – July 2012 5-Series F10 – March 2010 – Sept 2012 5-Series F11 – Sept 2010 – Sept 2012 6-Series E63/64 – Nov 2008 – July 2010 6-Series F06 – March 2012 – March 03/2013 6-Series F12/13 – Dec 2010 – March 2013 7-Series F01/02/03 – Nov 2008 – July 2013 7-Series F04 – Nov 2008 – June 2015 X1 E84 – Oct 2009 – June 2015 X3 F25 – Oct 2010 – April 2013 X5 E70 – Oct 2009 – June 2013 X6 E71 – 10/2009 – Aug 2014 Z4 E89 – April 2009 – present
Generation Four iDriveNBT (also called CIC HIGH) – option 609A (Navigation System Professional)   NBT MID – option 606A (Navigation System Business)   Alpine with navigation function – option 609A (Navigation System)   Alpine without navigation function – option 663A (BMW Professional Radio)    1-Series F20/21 – March 2013 – March 2015 2-Series F22 – Nov 2013 – March 2015 3-Series F30/31 – Nov 2012 – July 2015 3-Series F34 – March 2013 – July 2015 3-Series F80 – March 2014 – July 2015 4-Series F32 – July 2013 – July 2015 4-Series F33 – Nov 2013 – July 2015 4-Series F36 – March 2014 – July 2015 5-Series F07 – July 2012 – present 5-Series F10/11/18 – Sept 2012 – present 6-Series F06/12/13 – March 2013 – present 7-Series F01/02/03 – July 2012 – July 2015 X3 F25 – April 2013 – March 2016 X4 F26 – April 2014 – March 2016 X5 F15 – Aug 2014 – July 2016 X5 F85 – Dec 2014 – July 2016 X6 F16 – Aug 2014 – July 2016 X6 F86 – Dec 2014 – July 2016 i3 – Sept 2013 – present i8 – Sept 2014 – present
 HU_ENTRY NAV – option 606A (Navigation System Business) |BMW was manufactured between August 2014 – May 2017
Generation Five iDriveNBT EVO ID 4 – option 609A (Navigation System Professional)   HU_ENTRY NAV2 – option 606A (Navigation System Business 
Generation Six iDriveNBT EVO ID 5 – option 609A (Navigation System Professional)   NBT EVO ID 6 – option 609A (Navigation System Professional) 

Conclusion

When the system works, iDrive is an extremely user-friendly and worthwhile interface between the user and the cabin controls.

When it fails, it is incredibly frustrating and, in most instances, can only be fixed by the BMW dealer (who will replace the unit at a substantial cost), or preferably a specialist company who can repair the unit at a much more reasonable price.

Hopefully, this article has helped you in diagnosing any problem that your iDrive may be having. There are a lot of minor issues that occur in the IDrive Controller that you can fix yourself, but unfortunately, when there is a problem with the Navigation Computer you will need to take the vehicle to a specialist.

Stephen Metellus

I am a BMW enthusiast and owner of abetterbmw.com! I have been repairing, flipping, and parting out BMWs for nearly ten years. I love these vehicles and I hope you will find my articles and YouTube channel helpful for whatever BMW project you have in store!

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