Takata Airbag Recall - Dealership Broke My Light/Rain Sensor and Refusing to Fix

A couple of days ago I took my car in to get the airbags replaced due to the Takata airbag recall. I went to a large dealership in Melbourne but will not name which one just yet.

The airbag replacement was free. When I drove away from the dealership I noticed that my automatic headlights are always on when they should be off if there's light outside. When I informed the service consultant of this a day later, he told me that sensor would have not been touched and that it will be a $270 fee just to diagnose the problem.

I have dash camera footage of them working in the week leading up to the recall, and that they don't work afterwards. Additionally, when I first arrived at the dealership they scanned my FOB and found no faults with the car, and I'm almost certain that sensor faults like that are logged in the FOB.

I've emailed them basically saying "I have dash camera footage of it working up to the moment it was serviced by you - please advise when I can take it back in and have that sensor plugged back in" but slightly more polite, but haven't heard back from them.

Has anyone ever had this type of experience when dealing with the Takata airbag recall? What are my options here? I don't want to name and shame just yet, but I find it to be a horrible practice that straight away they denied any culpability when it's obvious that a wire was forgot to be plugged back in or that they broke the sensor in the process.

Edit: They agreed to look at the car, found the problem and wanted $270 to further diagnose it (not fix).

The place which ruined a part of my car when I went for an airbag recall is BMW Southbank in Melbourne.


  • +16 votes

    Ring and ask to speak to the service manager directly and not to a service advisor. Always remain calm and polite but firm. Spraying off will get you a negative result. Failing that, ask to speak to the centre manager and plead your case to them. Throw in the old "well, I was looking to trade up soon, but if this is how I'm going to be treated…" politely and see how that goes.

    Failing that, ring the vehicle manufacturer head office and ask to speak to someone in their PR department. Explain that you have footage of the lights working pre-recall and not working post recall. They may be able to ring the dealer on your behalf and deal with them.

    The other things is, some air bag recalls require dash out, some do not. I don’t know what your car involved, so it is possible that what they did had nothing to do with your sensor. On my Toyota recently, the airbag recall took 30 mins. There is no way they could get a dash out, replace the airbag and refit the dash in that time.

    • +7 votes

      I'd go with:
      Service Manager
      Dealer Principal/General Manager

      Before dealing with head office (who will just call the dealership anyway to try to resolve it).

      But yeah, get on the phone or go into the dealership. Emails won't have the quickest result.

    • +3 votes

      Thanks, getting through to them now.

      It’s a European car and it took 4 hours for the airbag recall + another blower valve recall.

      EDIT: They are looking at it now, thanks again.

      • +7 votes

        Oh ok, Sounds like a dash out or major disassembly then. Possible they could have just knocked the plug off or didn’t plug it back in. I dont know why some service departments are so pig headed over things like this. would take a few mins to check and isnt worth the bad publicity and word of mouth for such a simple check.

        On a side note, (removed personal attack), please, feel free to tell me where I was that wrong that it required you to neg me. What would you have done differently to what I outlined?

        • +3 votes

          That’s what I thought and mentioned to the service consultant.

          After looking at it they confirm that the sensor isn’t working anymore but want $270 to look into it further.

          So they got me to come in for them to look after I told them I had dashcam footage, found the problem and still wanted another $270 on the spot to look at it further, despite telling me to come in so they could have a look.

          They ran a FOB test which doesn’t show details for that sensor, so they are claiming it was broken when I came to them which as my dash cam shows isn’t the case.

          The place is BMW Southbank in Melbourne. I’m disgusted with their conduct.

          • +5 votes

            @c0balt: They are just being stubborn. Usually BMW dealers aren’t to bad with this type of issue, especially if you have proof it was working pre recall.

            Don’t pay, stand your ground and start pushing it up the chain. Service manager, center manager, until you get to the DP.

            Once that is exhausted, then take it up with BMW Australia.

            Having worked in that area of prestige vehicles, it’s just wrong that they treat anyone like that. I would expect this from MB or Audi/VW, but not BMW. Make enough noise and they will come to the party eventually.

        • +1 vote

          "On a side note, to the drongo that negged me, please, feel free to tell me where I was that wrong that it required you to neg me. What would you have done differently to what I outlined?"

          +1 to counter the haters.

          • +7 votes

            @burningrage: Cheers. I don’t mind the negs, what I don’t like is people who neg and hide without making a counter point or pointing out where mine was flawed.

            The other thing I don’t like is people I call out as bullshitters or prove them wrong, and they just go over my comments feed and find random comments to neg because they are butt hurt.

            If I’m wrong, by all means, neg me, but at least have the decency to at least make a comment for a better solution

            • +2 votes


              what I don’t like is people who neg and hide without making a counter point or pointing out where mine was flawed.

              But you just block people when they attempt to make a counter-argument that you disagree with? That kind of behaviour doesn't exactly motivate people to do anything but passive-aggressively neg you.

  • +2 votes

    Just a quick sanity check - you should be able to see where the light sensor is for your auto-headlights; is there anything blocking them?

    • +1 vote

      Yeah nothing blocking it. It’s part of the rear mirror assembly and the windshield is clear.

  • +1 vote

    I have dash camera footage of it working

    How does a dash cam capture the exterior of a vehicle?

    • +3 votes

      Probably dashcam of the headlights turning on/off when it's dark/not dark

    • +2 votes

      I very often go in and out of an underground car park. Maybe 40 times it can be seen on my dash cam that the lights always come on and go off in the same spot over the last few weeks. Also there’s no audible clicks that are heard when the switch is activated manually, it’s a very clicky loud switch.

      • +2 votes

        Make sure they didn't remove/knock your dashcam during the service and then put it back up in a slightly different position.

        I know my dashcam if sitting 1 cm to the right will block the sensor on my mirror assembly causing my mirror to dim. Might be a similar thing in your car getting in the way of the headlight sensor

    • +3 votes

      Depending on what car he drives, he may have a mirror on the wall of his garage.

  • +4 votes

    Not sure about your car but in mine for the auto light/wiper to work, the light/wiper control located on the levers needs to be in auto position. Did you check for this?


      Would be funny if that was it

      • +1 vote

        LOL….I once rang a Honda dealership on faulty front and reverse sensors that were no longer working only to be asked to see if it turned on at the switch. Lo and behold, it was in the OFF position, compliments of my partner.

        • +2 votes

          Many moons ago when I first started driving, I called NRMA because I couldn't turn the key in the ignition…the steering wheel was locked…NRMA guy wasn't impressed…my bad.


            @John Kimble: I only had to get Dad to have a look rather than NRMA, but definitely still remember the first time my steering wheel locked and I had NFI what was happening.


          Yeah had the same, daughter rang me up in a panic saying she couldnt turn the key in the ignition. Steering lock was on!

          • +1 vote

            @sleepy le beef: True story : I recently drove my brother's car for the first time and after parking it, I put the foot brake on (no handbrake with his model). He and later his wife couldn't figure out why they couldn't get the car to drive when they tried to use it next.

      • -1 vote

        It is a good find though. It may have just been moved in the recall process. I just assumed that OP had already checked that.

    • +3 votes

      Mines the same. I can confirm that the light sensor isn’t working but I can’t really test the rain sensor at the moment as no rain, and no access to a hose.

      They have accepted now to look at it now so here’s hoping they find an unplugged cable and just plug it back in.

  • +1 vote

    Not sure about Euros (as I avoid working on them) but with most other vehicles, light sensors are located on the dash, sometimes in the middle, sometimes behind the driver's instrument binnacle. The sensor on the mirror is generally for the electrochormatic functionality of an auto dimming rear view mirror.

    If the airbag recall has involved the passenger side airbag, for most vehicles it's a dash out job. If this is the case, and you have a sensor on the dash, they probably just forgot to reconnect the sensor on the dash. If it does have a light sensor on the windscreen next to the rain sensor, then same principle, probably forgot to plug it back in somewhere.


      In BMWs only the X5 is a dash out job. All others are are simple change over after disconnecting the battery.

  • +11 votes

    Thanks for the replies all.

    The car was just looked at and they confirm the auto headlights are no longer working. They refuse to take it any further and want $270 to diagnose it, but offered a 50% discount to diagnose - but not fix.

    So they broke my car and want hundreds of dollars to assess the damage they did. The service guy even tried telling me because my car has aftermarket headlights that’s the reason they don’t work - despite them being car when I purchased it and working fine the last 5 years until BMW Southbank had their hands on it, and that the problem is the sensor not the lights.

    The dodgy place is BMW Southbank.

    I’m going to contact their head office and failing that small claims.


      The service guy

      Did you talk to a Service Manager, or just a Service Advisor and then walked out?

    • +13 votes

      "Sir, your problems are all because of the dodgy headlamp."

      "Oh, I didn't realise you refer to your mechanics as headlamps".

    • +2 votes

      Thanks for this, because of your post I will never buy a BMW especially from Melbourne.


        I believe Melbourne BMW is owned by Autosports Group so you might need to add a few more brands to your do not buy list.

        “Autosports Group was first established in 2006 and has over 36 retail businesses throughout Sydney, Brisbane, and most recently, Melbourne. We maintain strong relationships with a range of automotive manufacturers, including Audi, Bentley, BMW, Fiat Alfa, Honda, Lamborghini, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz, MINI, Volkswagen and Volvo.”

  • +6 votes

    They are on google reviews. Have you tried giving them a bad google review that explains how they broke it and are refusing to fix it? This can be a good way to get a company to take things seriously.


      Good idea I’ll do that now, thanks!

      • +3 votes

        No, get it resolved before that.

        You should've spoken to the Service Manager, and Dealer Principal. If you haven't tackled those steps, don't leave a review.


          Why's that?

          I haven't left one yet, I can hold out till next week.

            • +13 votes

              @Spackbace: Well I don't work at a dealership like you and I'd wager than the far majority of people don't know every position in the chain of command at these places and the internal procedure for escalation with these issues. I've already spent half a day being treated like crap by them and tried to escalate it while there but was knocked back and they didn't tell me about other people to take the problem to.

              That's why I'm asking advice…

                • +15 votes

                  @Spackbace: Well yes as even if it's fixed by them I've had a very bad experience in the first place. I just spent half an afternoon in the dealership being stuffed around. I'm not happy about it, it's been a negative experience.

                  I also said I hadn't left the review and just wanted to know why. I don't think you needed to be accusatory of me that leaving a bad review for bad experience is "saying something about me", apart from the truth.

                  • +5 votes

                    @c0balt: My experience with dealers is that if they fail to behave, head office would tend to intervene.

                    Just continue escalating until all has been exhausted then contact/write to BMW Australia which I think is in Springvale Road, Mulgrave VIC.

                    From experience, you should gain better traction going this way rather than going straight to review if that's what you are about to do next.

  • +4 votes

    I wouldn’t go too hard on them in case they mess with the car

    I would pay 50% and fight like hell after they’ve fixed it to get the money back wouldn’t go return to them

    Then it’s bad reviews, Twitter, face book, small claims etc etc stop harassing them when they about to get an AVO out on you


    before you escalate this. Read your manual cover to cover, and make sure EVERY switch in the car is working.

    Recently there was a thread on WP where the person was adamant someone was using a sophisticated hacking tool to steal change from their car, only to find they didnt understand how auto lock works - and left the car unlocked most of the time.


      It's a base model 3 series from 2006 and I know the car well, there's a few things I can test like the cruise control and sunroof but apart from them it's really bare bones.

      The automatic headlights/washers are about the only additional feature the car has.


        "I know how to lock my car" "I'm sure it's locked" said the person in the thread

        I'd be testing even the clock


        The consensus in this discussion seems to be that the dash doesn't require removal on your model car to do the airbag replacement. Not sure about the blower valve. Have you asked the dealership if they had to take out the dash?

        If you know your way around wiring diagrams, you could possibly ask the dealership to show you the one pertaining to the rain / light sensor and how it connects into the rest of the car's systems. I don't know how things are wired on all cars, but I'd expect those sensors to somehow tie into the switch on the multi-function switch / stalks next to the steering wheel and therefore be part of a large connector harness which would then impact more functions than just the sensors if it was left unplugged, but that's a theory at best without knowing the specific model of car you have (you mentioned a 2006 3 series but not the specific model).

  • -3 votes

    Where are the memes?

    No bikies?
    No questions about whether it was a high yield investment vehicle?

    Or is that a 2018 thing?

    • +14 votes

      Don’t know your memes very well then…

      Bikies meme is for "what should I do about X doing/did Y to my Z" posts…

      High Yeild Investment Vehicle meme is for "What do you think is the best car to buy on my ridiculously over-quoted yearly salary" threads. (AKA: Do you work for Westpac? meme)

      MS Paint meme is for "I had an accident, who is at fault?" threads

      AMG A200 meme is for any "humble brag" thread.

      What did your ??? says about it when you asked them? meme is for people asking questions they should have asked police/insurance/council about first (For bonus points, the correct meme answer to this is "they told OP to ask what OzBargain thinks…")

      Have you tried turning it off and on again meme is for these types of threads where it may be a simple fix.

      Eneloops meme is for "What should I buy to…." threads

  • +2 votes

    I have found BMW customer care team very good. If you have given up with the dealer just contact them and explain the issue.

    Phone: 133 BMW (133 269)
    Email: info@bmw.com.au

    Just FYI, the 3 series is a pretty simple airbag swap and the dash does not need to be removed, so I understand why the dealer would push back. However, as a customer I would be frustrated as hell if I had the same issue as you and the dash cam should be enough to show you are not trying to pull one over them.

    Contact the customer care team, they are pretty good and should at least give you a straight answer. It is ok to be firm, but just be respectful as no one likes to solve an issue for someone who is rude.

  • -2 votes

    The fact OPs automatic headlight sensor is no longer working could be PURE COINCIDENCE.

    One would have to prove the sensor was tampered with during the airbag replacement.
    Probably being on the outside of the vehicle this is highly unlikley.
    OP would need to seek advice from persons knowledgeable in this job.
    i.e. From servicemen in other dealerships.

    Merely saying the sensor worked prior to the airbag replacement does not consititute any evidence of misconduct.

    If the job involved removing the dashboard this involves many disconnections and reconnections.
    It would be very easy to miss one as happened to me during the passenger airbag replacement in my 2007 Mitsubishui Lancer.

    So the big questions is….
    Did the airbapg replacement involve disconnection of the automatic headlight sensor OR power to the same?

    OP has mentioned the issue to service with this reply
    "the service consultant ….. told me that sensor would have not been touched"
    Whilst this is probably the case, power to the sensor may have certainly been disconnected!
    This is probably a second question that OP should ask and check if there is still power to the headlight sensor. Checking that may not be so difficult to ascertain.

    Suggest OP check the fuse box first.

  • +6 votes

    Similar incident happened with Toyota. My dashboard started to melt. Replacement was free. But later found that, the air condition was not working on the way back to home. They mentioned that they don’t need to touch that. (Email response)

    It was winter period so I fixed them and paid 750. (Same dealer)

    I’ve put complaints with consumer affairs. They specified that lodge the official complaint with the dealer first and give them 5 working days to respond. And if you Are not happy then inform to the case officer.

    Further I contacted Toyota hotline for technical team and asked, about the way they will replace. He mentioned that they have to remove the a/c too. In this case the dealer lied to me. (Had evidence via email.) later they refunded the money and offered one free service. I refused the service. (Can’t believe these mechanics)

    But make sure you action politely.


    I had part of my dash damaged by Cardiff toyota. Solution was to paint the damaged part. The heating on someone I knew speed working do they had to go back in a week later.

  • -1 vote

    If the auto light sensor is in the rear view mirror housing then how would the dealer have caused it to fail by replacing the airbag? They wouldn’t have gone anywhere near handling the sensor.

  • +1 vote

    My wife is currently pursuing compensation from a Kia dealer. Took it in for a 3000 km check and picked it up with a cracked windscreen ($750 to replace). The only result she has so far is blatant lies contradicting previous lies. Management at the dealer weren't interested - I think she's still trying to find her next level contact.

    I look forward to hearing how you proceed. Good luck.


    My entertainment unit in my MB once failed to power on, and found out that it was a loose fuse. Check the fuse?


    Did you have a relationship with the dealership before this? any mechanics here can confirm if any chance replacing a airbag could in any way cause the issue described?

    What year / Model is your car?

    I've had 3 New BMWS have an Audi now, but the Last one 320D 2008 wasn't in recall or 99 318i I can't remember rego of third to check that one

  • +1 vote

    A few years back I had my radiator fans disconnected while getting serviced, The car overheated on the way home from the service yet the service place (a large dealership) was adamant they did not remove or disconnect them and it must have already been like that (yeah right) or I had done something after leaving. Had to escalate it all the way up through their management before they conceded it must have been them and they paid all my costs.

  • +2 votes

    Bought a mustang interstate. Arrived with dents and scratches. Also turned out they didn't honour certain promotions. They stuffed around with me for months, probably because I was interstate. I made one phone call to head office and one week later everything was fine.

    So yeah, I like the advice about calling head office. Facebook is also a good place to raise the issue.


    Sorry to hijack the post, but I got a letter saying my corolla Takata airbag is scheduled to be replaced in December 2019. I thought this was odd, do I really have to wait until then? The call centre says I do but seems pretty risky to wait.

    • +1 vote

      Well, the problem lie in the airbag inflator which could cause metal fragment to shot out and potentially injuring or killing the driver. This problem only arise when the airbag is old and expose high temperature and humidity. Because there are so many air bags needed to be replace, they have to do so in order so it is not uncommon for them to prioritise riskier older vehicle first. I am no expert so i can't really give you any advice.

      You can visit these website for more information about it.




      They repalced my corolla airbag within 1 week of my call (twice…)

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