Emission Light 2011 BMW 535i

Dear Readers,

The emission light on the dash illuminated. The car has around 2K miles. What would trigger this signal? I have been using the premium gas. Is it now dangerous to drive? Are emissions covered by the warranty?


You need to have the codes pulled to see what it means. Since the car is under warranty, you could just take it to the dealer and have them figure it out. One thing you could check is whether the gas cap is tight. A loose cap will trigger an emissions failure.

The gas cap seems properly secure, as it takes a simple twist.

It’s a warranty issue so it’s just an matter of inconvenience. You COULD have the codes read (most parts stores will do this for free) then at least you will know the REASON for the light. You can then compare your newly gained knowledge with what the dealer tells you…If it’s something SERIOUS, the light will start blinking…

“Are emissions covered by the warranty?”

With the exception of wear and tear items, like brakes and clutch, EVERYTHING on your car is covered by warranty for the period stated by the manufacturer. And, the Federal Emissions Warranty lasts longer than either the Bumper-to-Bumper or Powertrain Warranties.

May I suggest that you take the time to open the glove compartment, take out the appropriate booklet, and read the details of your multiple warranties? You should really become familiar with the various warranties that came with that car.

I took the car to a BMW service department. Let’s see what code they pull.

I appreciate everyone’s advise on this and other topics!

The BMW service reported that the fuel tank ventilation shut-off valve is triggering the code.

What does this part do, and is it a common problem? Is it an expensive repair?

It should be a no cost repair, covered by warranty, unless you really have 2000k miles, vs 2k assumed!

Yes, it’s 2 thousand, not 2 million miles. Thanks for catching the typo.

I wonder if it would be an expensive repair were I paying for it?

Yes, why don’t you ask BMW dealer what the charge would have been if the repair had not been covered under the warranty. Getting access to fuel tank and the evaporator system is often difficult, but this is car brand and model dependant. I’d guess $500+ for a non warranty repair.

Be sure NOT to top off your gas tank when filling with gas. As soon as the pump nozzle clicks off, that’s it the tank is full - no more gas. If you live in NJ where an attendant pumps the gas, don’t let them “round up” by adding more gas after the pump clicks off. If you routinely fill the tank to the very tippy top, then that would trigger the code again and the dealer might not cover the repair under warranty. They would claim this was the driver’s error and they would be correct.

“If you live in NJ where an attendant pumps the gas, don’t let them “round up” by adding more gas after the pump clicks off”

Or, you could simply get out of the car while the tank is filling, and tell the gas attendant, “That’s all–no more”, when the pump clicks off. In some stations, I use my limited Spanish language skills to say, “Bastante–no mas”. In other situations, like at the Costco gas station, after the attendant starts the pump, I simply tell him/her, “I will finish it up when it clicks off. No need to return to the car”.

I have never had a gas attendant object to my actions.

By actually taking charge of the process, I accomplish a few things:

No overfilling
No gas spills on the rear fender
The gas cap is properly secured

Even in NJ and Oregon, the two states that do not allow self-service, you can still exercise a good amount of control if you just bother to get out of the car during the fill-up process.

I have never heard of nor owned a car whose emission light would be activated by ‘topping-off’ the gas. How Bizarre!! I’ve done this at times with car or various makes in my life and never had an engine light issue. Now another matter of anxiety getting in the way of enjoying this car!! I wonder if the Car-Talk guys have discussed this one before?

What is the problem for the BMW? Salespeople should review this point with new owners without question, and the mfg should have a separate insert along with the manual.

The service agent noted how my car was full of gas, but never finished his point. Now I know. Thanks UncleTurbo for sharing!

Every car made after 1996 has a computer-controlled evaporative emissions system in it that is designed to recover gas vapors even when filling the gas tank to prevent gas fumes from leaking into the air. Topping off the tank can send raw gasoline into this system and mess up sensors and valves designed to handle vapors only. With the car brand new with only 2,000 miles on it, let the dealer fix it for free. The emissions system is covered by a Federally mandated 8-year, 80,000 mile warranty.

Prior to 1996, many systems had very rudimentary vapor control systems that relied on more mechanical systems. Not as efficient, were much more tolerant to topping off. Before 1976, most systems simply vented gas vapors to the air.

Thanks for the easy to understand explanation, BK!

So ‘topping-off’ is bad for any new car with today’s technology, or are some brands more sensitive than others?

BTW, I talked to the service agent today and he was not alluding to the topping-off point, but wanted me to make sure than the gas cap was properly locked shut.

What do I win???

The only emission control components covered by 8 year/80,000 mile EPA warranty are the catalytic converter(s) and the engine management computer. All other emission control components are only covered for 2 years/24,000 miles.


But the car has a 4 year 50k miles warranty. I am confused.

For the definitive answer, you need to read the details of ALL of your multiple warrranties–as I suggested a while back.

How many different warranties are there with today’s new vehicles?

Most likely, you have at least 4 different warranties, each covering different systems, for different periods of time. There could even be 5 separate warranties.

But…until you actually open that warranty booklet and read the details for yourself, you won’t really know.