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ESA Shocks replacement problem


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Last week the factory ESA shocks on my '05 RT stopped allowing me to change the preload. I could cycle through the options, but the display no longer flashed and there was no change in height as had always occurred since I purchased it new.


The bike has about 71K miles on it, so I went ahead and installed another set of OEM shocks. The process went smoothly, but I still can't adjust the preload. I double checked all my connections, and, yes, I am trying to make the adjustment with the bike idling in neutral. I tried reving the engine a bit to increase the voltage, but no joy. Do I need to have the dealer flash the computer in order for the bike to recognize the new shocks?



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Afternoon Jay


That might be a problem for you. Early on (pre hall sensor shocks) even the dealers had a dickens of a time getting the computer to recognize replacement shocks. There were some software updates tried, new ZFE flashes tried, even replacement ZFE modules tried. I know of one riding acquaintance of mine that had an early 1200RT that had the rear shock go bad and the dealer had the bike about 2 weeks trying get the bike to accept the new rear shock, I believe the dealer ended up replacing the ZFE with the latest firmware and finally installing the later hall type rear shock. Once they got it fixed it worked till he sold the bike.


I wish I could tell you to do this or that but I have no idea what will work for you.


I guess if I was trying to get my early 1200RT to recognize a new shock I would start by disconnecting the battery for about 15 minutes or even 1 hour. The ren-connect everything and see what happens. If still no workie I would do the battery disconnect again but this time try also disconnecting the rear shock, then reconnect the battery, then start the engine for a short time, then shut it off, reconnect the rear shock the see what happens.


Hopefully someone else has been through this and can help you out with ideas. Otherwise it is probably a trip to the dealer.


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Thanks dirtrider. Good suggestions; unfortunately they didn't work. If no one else comes up with other ideas, then I'll plan a visit to my dealer. I wonder if the new Asheville dealer will be open soon? If not, then it sounds like I'll be making a short trip to Greenville or Knoxville or Chattanooga...



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Do you know what position the original shock was in when it failed? If the original was in 2 riders with luggage and the new is set to 1 rider could it be confusing the controller due to a different sensor feedback reading then expected? Maybe if you power the shock motor to get the shock in a position to match the display setting it will reset.

Just a WAG.

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Newblue may be on to something; I recall reading somewhere that when you send your ESA mechanism in to one of the aftermarket shock mfgrs. you have to make sure it is set to a specified setting before unplugging and removing it; otherwise it won't work on your bike when they put it on the new shocks. Was it Wilbers???

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Do you know what position the original shock was in when it failed?


Yes, but I don't know what position the replacement shocks were set to. I guess I should have compared their uncompressed height to the old ones, but it is too late for that now. It took me several hours to R & R them, and I'm not inclined to take them back off.



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I took my RT to Touring Sport BMW in Greenville this morning. They hooked their computer to the one on the RT and it took them only about half an hour to get the bike to recognize the new shocks. They brought me back and showed me how the display now flashes when it is supposed to when cycling through the preload options with the ESA button. They then cleared a "burned out bulb" code from the computer which I had already fixed a few weeks ago, confirmed that there were no ESA fault codes, put the seats back on, and wheeled the bike out of the shop. Total charge - nothing!


I was so pleased that I purchased a few maintenance parts that I otherwise might have ordered online, and suited up for the ride back to North Carolina.


Unfortunately, my happiness was short-lived. I decided to test the preload adjustment in the parking lot. Sure enough, the electronic indicators now work as they ought, but there was no corresponding mechanical change in the ESA system. I notified the techs, and they came out and agreed that nothing was happening. We scratched our collective heads but no one had any new ideas. In the end they invited me to bring it back when they have more time and they will call their technical support team at BMW for help if they can't figure it out.


It would have been nice if they could have gone ahead and done what was necessary to solve the problem while I was there today, but I felt well-treated nonetheless and will let them try again when I have time to bring it back.

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I have a service bulletin that I can send you. Unfortunately, I cannot upload it in .pdf format.


I think it describes your problem.


Send me you email via PM.



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More than likely the replacement shock was fitted with the hall effect sensor which is calibrated differently from your original shocks that used the resistive potentiometer type.


I believe the ZFE needs to be updated to recognize and recalibrate the new style shock.


Have them check which type of shock they are trying to calibrate and see if it agrees with the calibration routine they are attempting to use.

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Is that a hardware or a software update??


It should only require a software update but that depends on the shop/tech.


My dealer had the same issue when the new style shock was fitted. They could not determine the problem and replaced the ZFE which required reprogramming anyway. Hopefully, you have a different experience.

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Mine had the same symptom this winter. The dealer reprogrammed the shock, but by the time I got home the preload would not adjust again. I chose to ditch the ESA completely and go went with Ohlins. The ride is far superior to stock and far more reliable without all the electronics.

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