Skip to main content

Can Low Fuel Cause My BMW To Show a Check Engine Light?

A BMW owner recently asked us if her BMW can show a check engine light simply due to low fuel. We were surprised by the answer.


Is it possible that having a low level of fuel in one's tank can result in a check engine warning in a BMW? We were asked this by the owner of a 2014 BMW X3 this week and did a little digging. Surprisingly, the BMW may, in fact, display a warning if the vehicle is low on fuel, and no, we are not talking about the low fuel warning, but an engine fault warning.

The fault specifically instructed our BMW driver to drive slowly and have her vehicle evaluated as soon as possible. She did so and the BMW service advisor asked her just one question; "Was the vehicle low on fuel when the engine fault light and message appeared?' Indeed it was, and the result of the service visit was a quick explanation from the service advisor that "We see this all the time."

Digging a little deeper we have found this topic to be widely discussed on BMW forums. Toby Shultz, a mechanic with 13 years of experience explains the problem here, saying that it is a fault due to a misfire. when the tank is near empty the fuel pump and system can lose prime briefly and the resulting misfire "throws a code."

The obvious workaround is to not let your BMW go below a quarter tank. If you do have a warning light and message and are near empty, don't panic. Get gas and call your BMW advisor.

Related story: We put BMW run-flat tires to the test and give them a thumbs-down