Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Touchy "Door Ajar" Warning Light an Issue With Early i3 Builds

If you already drive an i3, you've probably seen this warning pop up on the dash.
The rear coach doors have been one of the more talked about features of the i3. Most people seem to favor conventionally opening rear doors, especially when they are considering hauling the kiddies around in the back as it can be difficult to open the doors in tight parking spaces.

Surprisingly, the feedback I've gotten from many early i3 owners has been generally positive in regards to coach doors, (or at least there haven't been any complaints!) so perhaps in practice they aren't as cumbersome as many predicted they might be. However there does seem to be a problem that has popped up with regards to them. As soon as the first i3's hit the roads I heard from a few of the first owners that the rear door ajar warning light would come on often during cornering. I didn't report on it since it was only a couple people and there are always minor build issues with new models. I figured BMW would get it sorted out quickly and I wouldn't hear anything more on it.

Close me first!
That doesn't seem to be the case. We are about seven months into production and I've now had more than a dozen i3 owners tell me they experience this regularly if they don't close the rear coach doors very hard - in other words slam it shut. Some of these people have only taken delivery very recently, so they aren't driving some of the first cars off the assembly line. They don't believe it's a safety concern, and the door is not in any danger of opening as it is securely locked. There doesn't appear to be a physical switch in the door jamb, so it would seem the sensor is some kind of magnetic switch inside the door that needs to make contact and is extremely sensitive. So much so that it loses contact when the car is in a tight turn or goes over a bad bump in the road.

This really isn't anything alarming and not completely unexpected. The i3 is a brand new model and BMW is using materials and manufacturing processes they have never employed before. There will likely be some minor issues like this, however it does need to be corrected. As I'm sure many of you can attest it's quite annoying to have one of these warning lights turn on and off all the time, especially at night when the display is brightly illuminated. I'd hate to have to resort to the decades old "black tape over the annoying warning light" solution on my brand new $56,000 urban mobility pod!


  1. Thanks for the tip. Now I won't be worried when I see that happen in my i3 that I'll be collecting shortly!

  2. I can confirm that is an occurrence whilst turning, particularly on the roundabouts

  3. Hey Tom..
    When people say, "Oh, it's an electric car! It'll catch on fire!" what do you normally tell them?

    1. I can honestly say nobody has ever said that to me.What I do get asked a lot is "What do you do when you run out of charge?" to which I answer: Well what do you do when you run out of gas?

    2. Can you give me some information about the subject? It's such a PITA to constantly explain.

    3. This note from Tesla is a little long, but applies to a car with a battery bank 3 to 4 times the size of the i3:


      Bottom line is that "... you are 5 times more likely to experience a fire in a conventional gasoline car than a Tesla."

    4. Also, a surprisingly good summary of pretty much every EV fire to date:


    5. Thanks, ultraturtle.
      Hey Tom...
      Are you gonna put the license plate frame "My other car supports international terrorism!" on the i3?

    6. I'll probably put it on for special occasions like EV meets, but not leave it on all the time.

  4. Maybe this is an opportunity to make the doors optional, Twizy style! ;)

  5. That false alarm is most likely due to the flex by the door assembly on the door on the outside of the turn. An easy fix would be to raise the door point where the switch touches the front door by mounting a rubber or plastic 2-3mm high disk (like the ones sold at home improvement stores in the furniture section).