Nov 122008

As I wrote in an August 2 post, my 2001 530 was having trouble with its AntiLock Braking System (ABS) and traction control. The codes were lighting up on the console, signaling the system was out. I had cleaned and replaced the front sensors, and that seemed to work at first. Read the original post here.

Unfortunately the problem returned. Apparently it’s a common one in the E39 series, and the dealer quoted me a cost of $1,230 for a replacement! Yes, you read that dollar figure correctly. Clearly another option needed to be found.

Thanks (as usual) to my online cohorts on bimmerforums and bimmerfest, I was able to find the best solution of all and keep this a Do It Yourself experience. By reading posts from fellow owners, I learned about an aftermarket that has developed around the repair of these units. That in itself is clear evidence these things almost always fail.

There are two main providers —  Module Masters and BBA Remanufacturing.  It’s very easy to remove the unit from the car, only need to remove six screws. Then you need to package securely and ship it away to be repaired. There is nothing unsafe about driving the car without the module, but it is strange to have no speedometer or odometer.

BBA repaired the module and had it back to me in eight days, for $255 including shipping and with a lifetime warranty. Saving almost a grand and doing it yourself — it doesn’t get much better than that! I highly recommend anyone having similar problems contact BBA. The web site is a bit confusing but will walk you through the process:

Some pictures below. It feels really good to have this issue resolved at last — just in time for weather that might require some ABS.

Module Removed

Module Removed

Cover with foil for a few days

Cover with foil for a few days

Fixed and ready to go back in

Fixed and ready to go back in



  16 Responses to “DIY the Answer to ABS Problem”

  1. Modules can only be repaired about 25% of the time (per BBA and MM). They couldn’t repair mine. I bought a brand new one for $515.


  2. Mike:

    Thanks for checking out the post. 25% sounds pretty low. Where did you find that number? MM told me they had a 30-40% fail rate. BBA didn’t say anything along those lines.

    But regardless, it’s great you’re highlighting a much cheaper price for the unit than the dealer charges. I bet that helps a lot of owners out.


  3. What were your indications of a problem? My 2001 530i has an intermittent speedo/odom failure that also trigger the DSC, ABS and BRAKE lights to come on. Turning the car off and back on fixes it most times, and it only happens occasionally.


  4. Good Stuff. I’v been chasing this same problem on my E36 M3. Thanks for the excellent info.


  5. I have the exact same problem and your pictures and advice are excellent. We should mention that once the ABS/DSC/BRAKE lights go on, it isn’t always the ABS control module.

    It could be any of the 4 sensors in the wheels (the left rear sensor also controls the speedometer so if your speedo is working, you know you have at least one good sensor to test with a diode tester).

    It is also reputed, in these bimmerfest threads, that it could be any of the three steering angle sensors in the steering column.

  6. Donna — thanks for the comment. You are right re sensors, but the module is a known weakness. Hey, nothing is clear cut with these cars, right? I replaced both front sensors before replacing. And IIRC the error code can’t be read accurately, meaning you can’t identify the sensor.

    So with repair costing so much less than replacement, I’m suggesting go with module repair. Let me know how you resolve your issue.



  8. Hi there- brilliant article and pictures

    I followed your instructions including covering the exposed pump with silver foil – but I have one question – would that not short-circuit the terminals on the pump? Or am I being stupid?

  9. On my BMW 528i (97) ABS modul has a different view.The wire`s connector located vertically and I very confuse how to disconect it

  10. My mechanic said he wouldn’t send my ABS unit out to be rebuilt. Not reliable, he said. Has anyone had problems with the rebuilt units. If so, from which company? Thanks

    • Steve — none that I’ve heard of. Suggest you hit the bimmerfest or bimmerforum boards and search – much discussed topic.

      Curious why your need your mechanic — it’s six bolts to unscrew, and send the unit in yourself. What is your mechanic’s suggested solution? If he doesn’t have a good one, BBA Reman has a lifetime warranty on their repairs.

  11. He suggests the $1200 repair using a new Bosch unit. He talked about 1.5 hours to change out a $900 unit and program it. He said the rebuilders have no way of testing the repaired units, so it’s a crap shoot. $300 for a guaranteed rebuild sounds pretty good, though. I’ve seen new oem units onlinefor $575. Does that seem right?

    • Steve — it’s your call obviously but no way I’d go that route. BTW, Reman will tell you if they can’t repair — that’s what MM did for me, I went to them first and they said they couldn’t repair.

      Yes I’ve seen those prices, but check carefully. I think there is an additional charge, since the unit needs to be “coded” to your car, since it’s not original.

  12. So, if the existing unit is sent out for reman, does it have to be recoded? I’m assuming from your post, Chris, that it doesn’t.

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