BMW Head Unit Pixel Display Failure

Today we are covering a common failure with our cars, the head unit display/radio. My 135i is a 2008, and ever since I bought it I had noticed the pixel display on the head unit and radio would fade in and out sometimes. Sometimes it was perfectly fine, other times you couldn’t make out a single thing on it, and often it was somewhere in between. Head unit pixel display failure is popular on these cars:

  • E90, E91, E92, E93 3-series BMW’s
  • E81, E82, E87, E88 1-series BMW’s
  • Model CD73 Radio

The head unit and radio failure is common on all models, not just N54’s, but is more common on older cars. Also, cars which are parked outdoors constantly are more prone to this issue. It is also more common for this to happen to cars that are driven in hot states (such as Texas for me). Luckily the fix is relatively easy, and is a lot less expensive than replacing the whole head unit.

How do I know if my BMW Head Unit is Failing?

Well, its pretty simple. Here are various picture of what it looks like on my E82 135i:

This is how it looks on a really hot day:

Bmw 135i Head Unit Display Failure

This the head unit when the temperature is a little more mild:

BMW E90 Head Unit Display Failure


What Causes the BMW Head Unit Radio Pixels to Fail?

Heat. Excessive heat inside the car causes the LCD Display to become dilapidated and faded. It doesn’t cause any issues with the functionality of the radio or other features, it simply causes the display to begin to fade, making it hard to see the time, radio station you are on, etc.

The display gets more faded when the inside of the car is at its hottest. Hence why it is common in cars that are not garage-kept, and cars that live in hot and sunny states. As the interior temperature of the car cools down, you will notice the display getting more clear. If your display does not improve when the temperature decreases, then your whole LCD Display has likely failed.

What Are My Options to Fix the Display?

It depends on your personal preference, but you can either fix the display, or just wait until it completely fails if you don’t mind it. If you live in a cool area for the majority of the year, you might not mind the display getting a little out of whack during the summer months. In that case, just leave it and don’t replace it until it fails. For people like me, who live in an area that gets to 110+ in the summer, and is still hot in the winters, here are your replacement options:

  • Dealership Warranty!! If you still have factory warranty, they will replace it for free. Some people have even gotten upgraded HiFi head unit’s under warranty

Most of us, like me, who have older cars are out of luck on the warranty. Here are our options:

  • Replace it yourself (DIY): it’s not an overly complex DIY, and it only costs about $130 (check the product links below)
  • Pay the dealership or someone else to fix it: probably not worth paying for labor on it, in my opinion
  • Upgrade your entire head unit: there aren’t a whole lot of aftermarket options, but its a possibility. I will write a guide on this soon and link it here

Repair the LCD Display Yourself

For people with the CD73 Head Unit you need this: CD73 LCD Display Repair

The above link works for 2006+ E90-E93, and all 1-series BMW’s.

For 2009+ 3-series BMW’s: 2009+ E9x LCD Display


DIY Guide:


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Jake has been active in the BMW industry and community for years and has a passion for blogging about all things BMW. He currently drives a 2008 BMW 135i and has build plans for 600whp. Follow this blog to keep up to date on his progress!