Hot BMW Owners Are Hacking Heated Seat Subscriptions

Some BMW owners are bringing on the heat. They want their heated seats to be a free feature after the German manufacturer decided it must be paid for by subscription. BMW’s Operating System 7 update gave owners a gang of enhancements. But what BMW givith, it can also taketh away. And that’s what happened to heated seats. Now there is a paywall before reintroducing heat to your seat.

What is the BMW ConnectedDrive Store?

BMW seats
Activating BMW heated seats | Getty

BMW is hoping that its ConnectedDrive Store will be a significant revenue stream of locked features. Some of the features hiding behind the paywall include adaptive M suspension, unique exhaust sounds, and those heated seats. For its part, the company says that 90 percent of its vehicles sold in the U.S. have heated seats already. And it isn’t the only automaker eyeing subscriptions.

BMW is on the defensive, suggesting that the subscription system exists to offer “financial flexibility to those not willing to pay up-front for extra features.” Huh? Owners have had enough. Owners in the U.K., New Zealand, Germany, and South Africa, where the subscription service has been enacted, are doing something about it. 

How are BMW owners getting around the paywall?

BMW seats
BMW seat jailbreaking | Getty

The first approach has been to go to specialized companies that, for a one-time fee, will unlock the software-locked features. According to Slashgear, the U.K. tuner Litchfield Motors can unlock the features for under $50. It can also unlock the ability to show content on screens while the vehicle is moving. Slightly illegal, don’t you think?

With the advent of ECUs that restrict the functionality of certain features, the company says it is becoming a booming business. It told Slashgear the service is “extremely popular.” And while this would have been refused by tuners in the business of unlocking more power through software tweaks, they can no longer ignore its popularity.

How does one go about defeating the locked software? It used to be a lot easier than it is now. Because BMW uses Bosch’s encrypted ECUs, you need to be a little more crafty if you want to jailbreak one of these systems. It is similar to getting into a password-licked smartphone. If you wish to drill down on finding your hidden features, read on. 

How are owners jailbreaking the BMW software lock?

BMW seat
BMW seat jailbreaking | Getty

First, we don’t advocate jailbreaking your ECU. This is provided only to show how the shops that specialize in these services go about doing it. So let’s dig in.

FSC Code is what BMW uses for these locked software features. Specialists can generate a code that will permanently unlock locked features. But there are downsides to going this route. First, this could void your warranty. When BMW chooses to release software updates, this could be another problem. 

Yes, there will be workarounds if these issues arise, but that means shelling out more money for more services. As per usual, there is always the good and the bad when attempting to foil corporate revenue generation. In the end, it might be best to bite the bullet and pay up.

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