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BMW R1200GS Brake Warning

This morning when heading off to work I noticed the brake warning light kept flashing and the ABS assist servos wouldn’t come on when I applied the brakes, leaving me with just the residual braking function (BMWs words, not mine).

Normally when switching on a BMW R1200GS the Brake failure light with flash quickly (4 times per second) for a few moments and then flash slowly (once per second) until the bike has started moving and the ABS self-test has completed. Also, during the bikes ignition start up, the brakes servo motors for start and then stop quickly, another self-test feature.

If there is a problem with the ABS system, the Brake failure light will keep flashing quickly (4 times per second) and the ABS servos will not start. This is what happened to mine this morning. Whilst the bike still has the residual braking function, i.e. no ABS and no power assist, it is still possible to ride the bike and the rider’s manual says to take the bike immediately to a BMW garage for them to run diagnostic tests.

However, experience has told me that BMW garages charge a lot of money and there is a simple 2 minute test you can run yourself to try to get the ABS re-enabled. Note: this should be done on firm level ground.

  1. Switch the bike off.
  2. Flick the brake levers (front and rear) several times.
  3. Switch the bike on.
  4. If servos still do not work:
  5. Switch bike off.
  6. Whilst pushing front lever out & holding rear lever up…
  7. Switch bike on.
  8. If servos still do not work:
  9. Switch bike off.
  10. Check the rear brake light switch by the back level, ensure there isn’t any grit in it.
  11. Switch bike on.

The reason for doing these checks is to ensure the bike doesn’t think the brakes are engaged when the bike is being switched on. As indicated in the rider’s manual:

Warning: Self-diagnosis is not performed unless both brakes levers are in their fully released positions. Only the RESIDUAL BRAKING FUNCTION is available until self-diagnosis is completed.

The mostly likely time for this to occur is during or after off-roading when dirt and grit can become lodged in the switches. However, I have known it to happen for seemingly no reason at all. So before you spend your hard earned money at a BMW garage, run a few simple tests yourself.

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About The Author

Adrian Ritchie

Aidy has been riding motorbikes since just after he left university in 2003. His first bike was a 1988 Suzuki GSX-R750 bought for £1000. His second bike was a Suzuki GSF600 Bandit, bought for his adventure to Norway in 2005. Two years later he sold the Bandit to Shane (for him to learn on) and upgrade to a BMW R1200GS... which was promptly trashed one month later by a SMIDSY. Having had the R1200GS repaired, Aidy has spent the next three years giving it a damn good thrashing off-road. 2011 saw the R1200GS take to the remote tracks and desert pistes of Morocco... it managed to keep up with the 650 enduro bikes that make up the rest of the group and made it back to Guernsey in (mostly) one piece. In January 2012, he traded in the R1200GS for a new R1200GS Adventure, planning to use the Pegaso 650 for off-road racing. However, the lure of smaller enduro bikes proved too strong and in April 2012 purchased a BMS G450X