How to Solve Common BMW Adaptive M Suspension Problems? (Expert Guide)

In this brief article, we are going to discuss the different BMW Adaptive M Suspension problems, what the causes are, and their troubleshooting Tips.

What are the most common BMW Adaptive M suspension issues?

The most common BMW Adaptive M Suspension issues are:

  • BMW VDM/CDC/Dynamic Damper Fault
  • BMW Adaptive Electronic Damping Control Error
  • BMW Adaptive Damper leakage

BMW Adaptive M Suspension

The BMW Adaptive M suspension is an electronically controlled Damping system that changes Damping ratios according to a variety of Sensor inputs like vehicle velocity, lateral acceleration, suspension movement, etc.

Conventional Dampers have damping characteristics that are a constant and narrow range for each speed of damper movement in bump and rebound. The dampers are set to cover only daily driving needs on average, which is a compromise between softer damping for ride comfort and stiffer damping for spirited high-speed handling precision.

BMW’s Adaptive M suspension is an active system that continuously changes Damping settings according to the inputs that the system receives from the sensors. The optimal damping setting is calculated every few milliseconds and constantly and seamlessly adjusted. The adjustment of damping forces happens via electro-magnetic valves in the dampers.

The system has 4 basic modes: ECO PRO, COMFORT, SPORT, and ADAPTIVE

While the first three modes fix the driving behavior, the Adaptive mode is a fully automatic self-adjusting mode.

When selecting the Adaptive mode, the BMW Chassis management system is allowed to automatically adjust throttle response, steering response, and shock absorber damping settings based on the instantaneous driving condition. 

The Adaptive mode registers the driver’s driving style to automatically preemptively adjust the vehicle settings for the upcoming situation. The Chassis Management automatically and smoothly switches between the suspension + steering settings and drivetrain configuration of the Eco Pro, Comfort, and Sport modes.

If the system detects that the driver demands a sporty configuration, the adaptive mode reacts appropriately.

VDM/CDC/Dynamic Damper Fault

  • Explained as seen on the 2011 BMW X6
  • Unable to switch to Suspension ‘Sport’ setting
  • Center Console displays “Dynamic Damper Control Failure”

Troubleshooting VDM/CDC/Dynamic Damper Fault

  • On hooking up to a Diagnostics Tool, the DTC (Diagnostic Trouble Code) generated shows 

“D76A Message (Status, damper satellite, rear left)”

  • The damper satellite is the independent control unit of each damper which also contains the accelerometer sensor at each corner. It operates independently and communicates with the VDM (vehicle Dynamics Management) Control Unit which manages all 4 corner suspensions. The Fault Code points to a COMMUNICATION error between this unit and the VDM
  • There are 2 possible reasons for this error:
    • Wiring harness breakage
    • An internal issue with the Damper Satellite Control Unit
  • You can use the Diagnostic tool to run a test and see whether there is communication between the individual dampers and the VDM system. Identify the damper/s where the communication test has failed.
  • The Wiring diagrams for the VMD system would be available in the Diagnostic Tool. With this information, for the non-communicating damper units, wiring harness damage can be checked using a multimeter and Scope for electrical as well as data transmission continuity.
  • If it happens to be an electrical continuity problem, find out the source of the problem and replace the faulty connector/portion of Wiring
  • If it is a data continuity problem then check the connectors in the path of the faulty data line and replace them where necessary
  • If there is no issue with either electrical or data continuity, it is confirmed that the Damper control unit has an internal issue and needs to be replaced.
  • If the control units are not available as separate, you may end up replacing the while EDC shock absorber unit, which comes as an assembly.

BMW Adaptive Electronic Damping Control Error

  • Error Appears when turning on the ignition
  • Explained as seen on the BMW 235i (M2)

Troubleshooting the BMW Adaptive Electronic Damping Control Error

  • There are a variety of reasons for this error to occur.
  • Before getting into diagnostics, you could first look into the mechanical components that are prone to corrosion
  • Among the mechanical components, the most failure-prone would be the ride height sensors that have a height arm with ball-joints
  • The sensor along with the arm mechanism comes as a unit
  • The mechanism has one end bolted to the subframe and the lower end bolted to the suspension lower control arm

BMW Adaptive EDC Shock Absorber Leakage

  • One of the most common issues with even normal shock-absorbers is leakage failure. Once the shocks leak, they have failed and need to be replaced.
  • If you try to replace the adaptive suspension Shocks with non-adaptive Shocks of the same matching fitment, then you will end up with a permanent suspension warning on your dashboard, which would be difficult to get rid of.
  • Because the replacement shocks cost about $1000 per piece to replace without labor and taxes added, many people look to alternatives. As it turns out, it is also possible to refurbish the Adaptive Shocks but that would mean your damping increased up to 40% compared to stock because of a change in viscosity of the oil during refurbishment.

How do I know if my BMW has Adaptive M Suspension?

Press the driver control switch which is located on the center console of your BMW (It shows modes ECO PRO, COMFORT, and SPORT). If your car has the Adaptive M suspension, the system will ask you on the iDrive screen if you want to modify ‘Chassis & Drivetrain’. Cars that do not have the Adaptive M suspension will not display the chassis option (suspension).

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In this brief article, we have discussed the different BMW adaptive M Suspension problems, what the causes are, and Troubleshooting Tips.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do BMW adaptive dampers work?

The Electromagnetically controlled valves located inside the damper pistons enable the compression as well as rebound valve settings to be adjusted in a stepless manner. As a result of the damper valve adjustments, the damping forces generated by the dampers are also adjusted steplessly. 

In the situations where the Adaptive ECU decides that damping needs to be reduced, like on a rough road condition, certain valves in the piston are opened. Increased oil flow happens through the piston and the damping force gets reduced. In this way, the chassis can keep itself level more effectively over uneven roads. The ultimate goal of the Adaptive system is to increase driving comfort.

Does the M340i come with adaptive suspension?

According to several reviews of the M340i, the general consensus is that the M Sport models have a really sporty but stiff suspension setup, which is the tradeoff for giving the M Sport razor-sharp handling. But if you do desire comfort along with the sporty character, BMW M340i M Sport models do give the optional adaptive suspension to help soften the ride. The Adaptive Suspension is part of the M Sport Pro Package (the M Sport Pro Package is standard when buying the M Sport Pro trim and on the M340i and M340d). The Adaptive suspension gives the best of both worlds; it allows the user to either stiffen or soften the ride at the touch of the button.

How to choose between the BMW M, M Sport and the M Performance?

The BMW M, M Sport and M performance are all M models and Sporty in general, but distinctively different in terms of the performance and tuning. The hierarchy in terms of lowest to highest performance would be:

  1. BMW M Sport: The M Sport is a package available on all BMW series starting from the 2-series right up to the 8-series. M Sport is more about sporty looks and putting the  badge all over the car, both interior as well as exterior. The M Sport package also includes an Adaptive Suspension and a sportier steering setup, for example, in the 3-series and the X5.
  2. BMW M Performance: As the name suggests, the BMW M Performance package is actually about performance and speed. The way to distinguish is the M prefix to the model name. The 340i M Sport package will be badged on the boot lid as “340i”, whereas the 340i M performance badge will read “M340i”. The most noticeable change is that the engine is bigger in the M performance; a 3.0 liter 6-cylinder engine as opposed to a 2.0 liter 4-cylinder standard that comes in the 340i. Along with this comes M Sport exhaust, M Sport Brakes, large wheels, racing tires and selectable drive modes.
  3. BMW M: While the M Sport and M performance are packages, the BMW M is considered as a different model and not a package. They are badged differently like the M3 and the X5M. The M performance package was tuned for in the intended use on normal road driving conditions. The BMW M, on the other hand, is track-oriented with a totally different level of performance upgrades compared to the M Performance.