Audi Pre-Sense System Malfunction: Meaning, Causes, and Fixes

New Audi car models are equipped with an Audi Pre-Sense system that ensures the safety of the driver and passengers. This system is a lifesaver! It detects imminent collisions and intelligently activates safety features, including brake application. However, it can also malfunction.

The Audi Pre-Sense is an in-house technology using a network of sensors. It relies on radars and cameras mounted at strategic points on the vehicle to monitor other cars and objects on the road. Since it is a highly sophisticated system, the chances of something going wrong is high.

Read on for detailed information about the causes of Audi Pre-Sense malfunction and how to fix them. We will also talk about other things you should know about this technology.

What Does Audi Pre-Sense Malfunction Mean?

The Audi Pre-Sense system malfunctions if there is an issue with any of the sensors, actuators, or circuitry that connects the components. It can be a more serious problem requiring immediate service or a simple one such as a dirty sensor.

Audi Pre-Sense System Malfunction

Let’s break it down by discussing the individual causes to understand them better.

Debris Around the Sensors

Sensors are the eyes of the Audi Pre-Sense System. They include cameras and radars mounted on the vehicle to monitor the road and detect vehicles and other objects. The data from these sensors go to the control system, which processes it and generates an appropriate signal to drive the actuators.

If it detects an object or there is an imminent collision, the Pre-Sense System activates brakes. It may also roll up windows, fasten safety belts, activate hazard lights, close the sunroof, etc.

The control unit gets erroneous data if the sensors are faulty or covered with debris. It then turns on the Pre-Sense warning light on the dashboard to alert you.  

Windshield Replacement (Camera Needs Recalibration)

The Audi Pre-Sense City uses a windshield-mounted camera that operates at a speed of up to 52.8 mph. According to the manufacturer, this camera scans 328.1 feet ahead of the car. It then alerts the driver if it detects any danger.

Replacing a windshield may mean you should recalibrate the camera to give the control system correct information. If that is not done, a Pre-Sense warning light may be turned on to warn you about the malfunction.

Faulty Heat Sensor of The Camera

The Audi Pre-Sense System uses thermal cameras that capture the infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The thermal energy emitted by objects within the field of view is converted into electronic signals for controlling the actuators.

In other applications, the generated electronic signal is processed to produce an image. That is the case with night-vision cameras.

If the heat sensors inside these cameras fail, the control unit will not get any usable data. That forces it to turn on the Pre-Sense warning light on the dashboard.  

ESC Is Restricted or Switched Off

The Audi Pre-Sense System uses an Electronic Stabilization Control (ESC) to detect skidding or hard braking. The system uses the information to pretension the seatbelts of the driver and front passenger to prepare them for the impact.

At the same time, it applies brakes to reduce the severity of the collision. Other safety intervention includes closing windows and sunroof and turning on hazard lights to warn other road users.  

Restricting or turning off the ESC interferes with the system’s operation. It will fail to detect skidding or hard braking, which triggers a warning.

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Damaged Brake Lines

The Audi Pre-Sense System relies on the brakes to enhance your safety on the road. Sensors signal the control unit if they detect a possible collision or danger. An automatic brake application follows to slow down or stop the vehicle. That is not possible with the damaged brake line.

If the brake lines are damaged, the response will not be proportional to the signal applied. The vehicle will continue to move regardless of the brake application. The system detects that as a fault and turns on the warning light. It also applies to other actuators that do not respond to the input signal from the Audi Pre-Sense.

You should ensure all your brake lines are in good condition before every journey to stay safe on the road. Do it to save your life and not for the Audi Pre-Sense System.

Electrical Faults

The sensors, actuators, and control unit are connected by electrical wires. Information from the sensors goes to the control module for processing and generates an appropriate signal for activating actuators. There are also fuses and other components in between.

A short circuit or corrosion in any of the lines can tamper with the operation of the Audi Pre-Sense system.

For example, there is a 5V wire that connects to a sensor under the passenger seat. It is for triggering an airbag in a frontal collision. If accidentally pinched, a short circuit known for activating the Pre-Sense occurs.

Loose connections, corroded wires, and electrical shorts can lead to Pre-Sense malfunction.

How Can You Fix the Audi Pre-Sense System Malfunction?

Fixing a system malfunction involves finding the problem and solving it. But an Audi Pre-Sense System may have a glitch fixed by restarting the system. Consider the following as possible fixes:

Try Restarting the System

No guarantee restarting the Pre-Sense System can fix the problem. It is a gamble that sometimes pays out. Doing so may force it to recalibrate itself and solve the issue. So, before looking for expensive repairs, try out this approach first.

Have The Dealership Recalibrate the Camera

Camera recalibration should be your second approach if you recently replaced the windscreen or other cameras the Pre-Sense System uses. Take your Audi car to the nearest dealership for assistance.

Use An OBD Scanner and Check for Codes

An OBD scanner is the truth meter. Your car usually stores codes that pinpoint the possible cause of the fault. If you have an auto diagnostic tool, hook it up to the port and read the diagnostic trouble codes.

The code stored can direct you to the sensors, brake lines, or an actuator that does not respond as it should. You may need to replace the faulty parts. But for cameras and radars, try cleaning them first if they are dirty. Excess dirt or dust on them can compromise their functions.

Find an experienced mechanic to help you replace faulty brake lines or a technician to check the electrical connections. You can also do them yourself if you are an advanced DIYer.

Related content: Chassis Control System Error: Causes and How to Fix

Can I Drive the Car With the Audi Pre-Sense System Malfunction?

An Audi Pre-Sense System malfunction will not stop you from driving the car. You won’t benefit from this feature, meaning you will need to pay more attention when driving. From a mechanical point of view, the vehicle remains fully functional even if you have this warning on your dashboard.

The Audi Pre-Sense system or similar safety features from other manufacturers does not mean that you should rely on such a feature and not pay attention to the road. You should always be aware of any possible hazards when driving.


Let’s go through some more questions you might have if your Audi comes with this safety feature.

How Do I Reset My Audi Pre-Sense?

Resetting the Audi Pre-Sense warning light can be done through the OBD using a diagnostic tool with that ability. But doing so will not last since the vehicle scans all systems every time you turn it on. If the fault still exists, the warning will turn right back on. If you want to permanently reset the warning light, you will need to fix the root cause of the problem.

Where Is the Audi Pre-Sense Sensor Located?

The Audi Pre-Sense System uses sensors mounted on different parts of the vehicle. The radars are located on the front and rear bumpers and the sides. A camera is also mounted on the windshield for cars with the Audi Pre-Sense City system. Let’s mention that the Pre-Sense System is divided into different packages. A vehicle may have one, two, or all of them. The Audi Pre-Sense 360 is the most comprehensive package with all safety features.

Is Audi Pre-Sense Covered Under Warranty?

Yes. The Auto Pre-Sense System malfunctions are covered under warranty but not alignments or calibration problems. These can result from collisions, and you should pay for fixing from your pocket.

If anything knocks the sensors out, the system will not function as it should until you do the necessary repairs. Take the vehicle to the dealer to realign and recalibrate the sensors but, of course, at your own cost.

Can I Turn Off Audi Pre-Sense System?

The Audi Pre-Sense System can be turned on or off, but we don’t see the reason for switching it off. This system is a crucial safety feature that saves lives and reduces the severity of any accident. But if you are sure to turn it off, go to the infotainment system.

Follow these steps: MENU button > Car > Left Control Button > Driver Assist > Audi Pre Sense.

However, the system will turn back on when you switch the car off and back on. The only exception is the Audi Pre-Sense Front package. If you switch it off, the information is stored in the ignition key and remains off until you turn it back on again.

Do All Audis Have a Pre-Sense System?

No, the Audi Pre-Sense system was introduced in 2011 as a safety feature to save you, your passengers, and your car. As of now, the system does not come as standard, and it is only available in select models manufactured after 2011.

In Summary

The Audi Pre-Sense System is a safety feature that intervenes when the driver does not have the right reaction time. It will attempt to prevent or minimize the result of an accident. Having the system deactivated will not prevent you from driving the car.

Some drivers prefer to turn it OFF, as in some cases, the car might brake when you don’t want it to.