5 Causes Of BMW Parking Brake Malfunction

There are several reasons a BMW parking brake can malfunction. One of the gears inside the brake actuator is broken, the battery in the BMW is not as powerful as it used to be or the electrical connection is weak, or the BMW software has a glitch because there is an update available.

What Would Cause A BMW Parking Brake To Malfunction?

Here are just a few common reasons why the parking brake in a BMW will start to malfunction out of nowhere. Some of these issues are simple and can be fixed by the driver. But other issues require intense work performed by a trained mechanic.

The Software Is Glitching

Software glitches are incredibly common, even in BMWs. You never know when the software in a BMW will start glitching. There are multiple reasons why a vehicle’s software starts glitching, but it’s usually because the software needs an update. 

If your BMW’s computer system alerts you that there is an update pending, it needs your permission to install. When the update installation window appears, press the okay button. Manufacturers create software updates to fix previous bugs and glitches in the software.

The Tension Cable That Connects To The Parking Brake Is Too Tense And Will Not Release.

If the tension cable is old or damaged, there are times when it will not release. You’ll have to release the tension cable manually. Releasing the tension cable can be done in most vehicles by pulling the small lever that sits above the foot pedal.

Once you pull on this foot pedal, it will release the emergency brake. After releasing the tension cable manually, do not use the emergency parking again until you have the attention cable looked at by a mechanic.

The Actuator Is Broken Or Breaking down

What is the purpose of an actuator and how does it work with the parking brake? The brake actuator harnesses the energy used by the brakes to slow the vehicle and turns that energy into additional braking power. 

Here are the signs to watch for to know if the actuator is breaking: 

  • The brakes lock randomly when you press the brake pedal. It is possible the brakes can lock while you are driving. 
  • The ABS light will appear on your dashboard. This light is the warning light connected directly to the actuator. 
  • Pressing on the brake pedal does not slow your vehicle. You will continue to speed forward without slowing down. 

Replacing the actuator is not a simple job, as it will take at least 6 hours and two mechanics. When you take your BMW in to have the actuator replaced, do not wait. Uber back home or have someone pick you up. 

Although BMWs are quite expensive, it does not cost much to replace the actuator. The average price of a new actuator is around $300. However, the highest cost is the price of labor. Expect to pay your mechanic $500 for their time and energy.

When you discover an issue with your parking brake, get it fixed as soon as possible. You do not want to be without your parking brake in an emergency. There are certain situations where shifting your BMW into the park gear is not enough.

The Battery Is Dying

When the engine battery is getting old many of the functions around the BMW will not be as efficient as they used to be. The parking brake cannot release if the battery cannot provide the power for the braking system. 

Replacing the battery in your BMW will happen sooner or later, so it was only a matter of time. The battery of a BMW usually lasts no more than 5 years and that is if you take care of the vehicle as best you can. 

The average cost to replace a BMW battery is around $500. This includes the cost of the battery and the cost of labor. So purchasing a new battery isn’t too much money and definitely isn’t one of the most expensive repair jobs in a BMW.

The Wires Connecting The Battery To The Parking Brake Need Replacing

In order to power the many systems around the vehicle, the wires transport power from the battery to cylinders, sensors, rotating parts, the parking system, and the parking brake as well as other parts. 

If the wires connecting the parking brake to the engine battery are old or damaged, take your vehicle to a mechanic to have them replaced.

Replacing the wires in a BMW can cost a pretty penny. Wire replacement jobs will cost around $250. Replacing wires that connect to the battery will cost around $125.

How Does A Parking Brake Work?

The parking brake is a separate type of break controlled by the parking brake lever. When the driver presses down their foot on the brake pedal, they are not activating the parking brake. 

They are activating a separate braking system. The purpose of the parking brake, also known as the emergency brake, is two prevent the vehicle from moving backward or forwards. 

In certain situations, placing the vehicle in park is not enough to keep the vehicle from moving. The emergency parking brake activates a separate braking system which is usually connected to the back wheels. 

When the driver activates the parking brake in their vehicle, their vehicle isn’t going anywhere. The most common places for drivers to activate their vehicle’s parking brake before they exit the vehicle are on hills.


In order to update the existing software in a BMW, the vehicle will alert the driver that there is an incoming update. A malfunctioning actuator will need to be replaced or the parking brake malfunction will continue to happen. 

If the battery is the cause of the parking brake malfunctioning, it needs replacing. If you have the tools, you can diagnose the BMW parking brake malfunction in your own garage.

  • Eric Williams

    I'm the founder of Daily Car Tips. I wrote articles in the automotive industry for more than 10 years, published in USA and Europe. I love sharing my knowledge and insights with fellow enthusiasts. Join me on this journey as we explore the exciting world of cars together!

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