BMW X3 tail lights

BMW Lights Stay On While the Car Is off (This Is the Fix)

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve experienced a somewhat perplexing issue: your BMW’s lights won’t turn off after you’ve parked and turned off your car.

It’s a more common issue than you might think, and the good news is – it can be fixed.

In general, your BMW’s lights stay on because the car is in a ‘ready state’ instead of fully turned off or because the settings in your iDrive system aren’t correctly configured.

Let’s figure out together why your BMW’s lights have a mind of their own and what you can do to fix it!

Why do your BMW’s lights stay on while it is turned off?

Having your BMW’s lights stay on after you’ve turned off your car can be pretty puzzling, to say the least.

But let’s clear up some confusion here: this doesn’t necessarily mean something’s wrong with your car.

In fact, it’s a feature!

Yes, you heard that right.

BMW has a headlight courtesy delay feature designed to keep your headlights on for a short period after you’ve switched off your car, allowing you to get to your door safely at night.

However, if they stay on longer than a minute or so, that’s not the feature doing its job – that’s a problem.

So, how can you fix this issue when it happens? And, more importantly, how can you prevent it from happening in the first place?

5 Fixes for when your lights won’t turn off

If your BMW’s lights stay on for up to an hour or more after you’ve turned it off, here are five things you can do to fix it!

Note: Not all five fixes will work for every BMW. Likely, you’ll only need one or two to solve your problem. This mostly depends on the model and production year of your BMW!

1. Make sure to properly turn off the car before exiting

First, let’s ensure you’re turning off your car correctly.

It might sound like a no-brainer, but this mistake is common, especially for newer BMWs.

When you’re ready to park your car and turn it off, it’s essential to remove your foot from the brake and THEN press the stop engine button.

If you press the stop engine button while your foot is still ON the brake, your car slips into an ‘engine ready’ mode, not ‘off.’

And guess what? In this mode, both your exterior lighting as well as any ambient lighting stays on.

You might think the car is off because the engine isn’t running, but technically, it’s just waiting on standby.

Also, it can help to press the stop engine button before opening the door. (Rather than opening the door and then pressing the stop engine button.)

We highly recommend watching this short video below, which explains the operating states of BMWs:

2. Check the headlight courtesy delay in the iDrive settings

Your BMW comes with an impressive selection of features through its iDrive system, one of which is the headlight courtesy delay.

This is a useful feature, especially when coming home late at night.

The headlight courtesy delay feature makes your lights stay on for a short while after you’ve turned off your car, lighting up your path to the front door.

The catch?

If not configured properly, the headlight courtesy delay might be why your lights stay on too long.

Here’s how you can adjust it:

  1. Navigate to the iDrive menu on your car’s dashboard.
  2. Go to ‘My Vehicle.’
  3. Then, choose ‘Vehicle settings.’
  4. Select ‘Lighting.’
  5. Now, choose ‘Exterior lighting.’
  6. Here, you’ll find the ‘Pathway lighting’ or ‘Welcome lights’ setting (depending on your model, it may also be called ‘Home lights’).
  7. Select the desired setting or duration for how long you want your lights to stay on after you’ve turned off the car.
BMW X2 optional ambient lighting

Remember, while it’s normal for your BMW’s lights to stay on up to a minute or so after turning off the engine, anything longer than that will be caused by something else.

Another setting that might help with turning off the lights after exiting the car is the following:

  • ‘Car’ > ‘Settings’ > ‘Doors/Vehicle access’ > enable ‘Switch off after door opening’

This will turn off the car’s electronics (and lights) after you’ve opened the doors!

3. Check the position of the headlight switch

Sometimes, the most straightforward solutions are the most effective.

If your BMW has a headlight switch, have you checked its position?

BMW headlight switch - older models
BMW headlight switch – older models

The headlight switch is located on the left side of your steering wheel panel, and if it’s set to ‘A’ for automatic, then your headlights should turn off after the car is turned off and the driver’s door is opened.

If the headlight switch is in the ‘On’ position, your lights may stay on longer than expected after turning off your car.

BMW headlight switch - newer models
BMW headlight switch – newer models

4. Lock the car after exiting

Here’s another simple yet often overlooked step: locking your car.

You’d think locking your car is only about security, right? Turns out, it also has something to do with your lights.

For some BMW models, the lights remain on until the car is locked.

So, after you exit your car, make sure to lock it.

Not only will this keep your car secure, but it will also signal the vehicle to turn off all lights.

Remember, your BMW is smart – locking it sends a clear message that you’re done driving and it’s time to rest.

5. Manually turn off the lights

Sometimes, things don’t go as planned despite doing everything by the book.

For some reason, the vehicle’s electronics may stay on, including your lights.

In these rare cases, there’s a little trick you can do to manually turn off your BMW’s lights: press and hold the radio volume (VOL) button for two to three seconds.

Yes, it’s that simple! This manually shuts down the system and can be your quick fix if everything else fails.


There you go! Those were the five fixes for when your BMW’s lights won’t turn off after you’ve parked and turned off the engine.

Remember, it’s all about understanding how your car works and following the correct procedures.

Drive safe, take care of your BMW, and enjoy the peace of mind of knowing you’ve got this lighting issue sorted!

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