Modern vehicles come with sophisticated computerized systems. With all the data a car produces while driving, it’s not unusual for the software to detect potential malfunctions within a few seconds of them occurring.
The goal of today’s best smart systems is to reveal the information to the driver as soon as possible.
One of the most common warnings that drivers see, especially when they own a BMW, is a drivetrain malfunction. It tells the driver to use “moderate” activities to lessen risks to the vehicle.
When this warning appears twice within a few months or flashes on and off repetitively, it can be a scary experience. If you know what the car is trying to say, it’ll be easier to develop a repair plan that makes sense.
Drivetrain Malfunction Twice in a Few Months
BMW vehicles show a drivetrain malfunction warning light on the dashboard with an accompanying alarm. This message indicates an engine or transmission problem exists, and it occurs most often when rapid acceleration is necessary. It’s not unusual to have it appear and disappear.
When you have a recurring issue in this area with a BMW, you might receive a drivetrain malfunction drive moderately problem.
Whenever a BMW undergoes a stressful acceleration curve, the risk of having this malfunction appear increases across all models. Some drivers in colder climates see it happen more often when temperatures drop for the winter.
If the drivetrain malfunction warning displays, it means the ECU (Engine Control Module) detected a problem with the engine or transmission. It’s sometimes referred to as the DME, or “Digital Motor Electronics.”
The computerized system detects the malfunction, triggers the warning, and automatically limits the engine’s torque output to prevent damage.
BMW has a unique ECU setup where your OBD-II scanner must have configuration options for the automaker.
That’s why I rely on the AUTOPHIX Enhanced BMW Diagnostic Scan Tool to ensure I’ve got a good read on what is happening with my drivetrain.
This portable tool can go with you anywhere, delivering an eight-inch screen that’s simple to use and understand for all BMW models after 1996. It provides a complete overview of your systems to find out why you have a warning light or message.
The scanner reads the fault codes that triggered the drivetrain, which lets you know if it’s time to take your BMW to the shop.
What Are the Symptoms of a Drivetrain Problem?
When the drivetrain malfunction warning occurs, it could be a false alarm – or a real problem. That’s why an understanding of the signs and symptoms of a genuine malfunction is essential for today’s driver.
Several issues could develop simultaneously to let you know that your BMW drivetrain isn’t performing as expected. It is also possible that only one of the following issues is detectable when the warning appears.
Here are the most common symptoms your BMW will display if it has a drivetrain malfunction.
- The vehicle stops while operating, and you cannot restart it.
- You cannot get the transmission to shift into a different gear.
- When the gear is engaged, you hear the engine cut off.
- Your car has rougher idling than you remember, or there is constant vibration while driving.
- The iDrive screen displays the drivetrain error messages that says to drive moderately.
- You have the check engine light display.
These symptoms occur because one or more components may not be working correctly. If you see the warning appear and disappear, that means the parts only fail when placed under significant stress.
It helps to have a complete inspection of your drivetrain system if your malfunction warning light appears more than once in a few months. That behavior indicates that a complete failure could be right around the corner.
What Causes the BMW Drivetrain to Malfunction?
Although every vehicle is different, there are a few common causes of a drivetrain malfunction worth exploring. If you see the warning at random intervals or coming on and off during high-stress situations, the following areas are the ones to check first.
1. Spark Plugs
If the spark plugs become faulty or they just wear out, it causes the BMW drivetrain to stop functioning correctly. It can lead to rough idling, engine misfires, and even a refusal to start.
Should this issue be the cause of your warning light concern, the best option is to replace all the spark plugs in your BMW.
The Shuji Performance Plus spark plugs provide a straightforward replacement opportunity for those who drive BMWs from the 1996 to 2006 model years.
You receive a ceramic frame that offers fantastic resistance to high temperatures while receiving a durable center electrode that can help the warning message stop bothering you.
2. Fuel Injectors
If your fuel injectors received damage or have become faulty due to natural aging, the engine won’t receive the correct amount of gasoline.
That issue causes the power transfer to the drivetrain to change, resulting in a malfunction notification.
When the engine lacks enough power to engage the wheels, you might notice less acceleration when stomping on the pedal. It could be harder to start the vehicle, and it might even result in it failing to engage.
If the fuel injectors look good upon inspection, you’ll want to take a look at everything along the line to see what could be triggering the warning.
It might be a defective turbo, a mass airflow sensor problem, or even a blown head gasket.
3. Fuel Pump
When you see the warning light appear whenever you accelerate your BMW, the most likely culprit for that situation is a malfunctioning fuel pump. When there isn’t enough gasoline to power the vehicle’s engine for proper acceleration, the car throws up the warning light right away.
You’ve probably noticed changes to your vehicle’s performance if the fuel pump is the problem. This component doesn’t tend to fail suddenly. You’ll have seven potential signs included as part of the overall driving experience.
|Fuel Pump Symptom
|Description of the Fuel Pump Symptom
|The fuel pump causes the engine to sputter on starting or when reaching highway speeds when it malfunctions. This symptom happens because the engine isn’t getting what it needs to operate. Spark plugs can also cause this problem.
|When the fuel pump starts to die, it can cause the engine to run hotter than normal. This issue begins as a small change at first, but it can eventually cause the cooling system to burst or the engine to stall.
|Fuel Pressure Problem
|A fuel pump that starts to malfunction may not provide enough pressure within the system. You’ll need to have a gauge that detects this data to determine if you have a potential failure to manage.
|When the fuel pump fails, it can stop sending gasoline to the engine. That event causes the vehicle to stop operating.
|A fuel pump can start sending more gas to the engine instead of less when it starts to fail. You’ll notice small surges when the engine works, picking up and dropping RPMs right away.
|If you’re filling up the tank of your BMW faster than before, this symptom could be due to a fuel pump problem. This issue can also happen when your relief valve isn’t working as it should.
|When the fuel pump stops working, it can cause your engine to fail to start. Before giving up all hope, try checking the fuel lines to see if they’re clogged.
The Delphi fuel pump is an excellent choice for BMWs that need this part replaced. This brand has more than eight decades of providing OEM parts for different makes and models.
Once installed, the new product withstands a broad temperature range to ensure you don’t keep getting that drivetrain malfunction warning.
It helps to replace the strainer and filter whenever a fuel pump replacement is necessary.
4. Ignition Coil
If your drivetrain malfunction error comes and goes on the iDrive screen, it could be due to a faulty ignition coil. This problem often triggers the engine to misfire.
The misfire tells you that the ignition coil to that cylinder has probably failed. You can verify this information by swapping the bad coil with one you know works well to see if the problem persists.
Additional designs are available if your car falls outside that window. It delivers a corrosion-resistant connection to ensure a long service life while meeting or exceeding the automaker’s specifications.
5. Catalytic Converter
If your BMW develops a clogged catalytic converter, the result is often a drivetrain malfunction warning on the iDrive screen. You’ll see this issue happen more often when you have a high-mileage vehicle.
When clogging occurs, the catalytic converter no longer works to reduce emissions, often hindering the exhaust gases from leaving the vehicle.
If it isn’t seriously clogged, you can pour a cleaning agent into the fuel tank to potentially reverse the error. When you’re not getting much exhaust gas out at all, you’ll need to remove the part and manually clean it.
Extreme cases might require a replacement.
6. Poor Fuel Quality
If everything seems to be working on your BMW, the reason for the drivetrain malfunction could be due to the fuel you used.
Most BMWs prefer a higher octane rating to ensure the engine power it needs is available. Some states sell 85 octane fuel or less, which could cause this problem.
After running through your tank, put in a 90+ octane fuel to see if the performance improves. If the drivetrain malfunction warning shuts off, you should be good to go.
If not, there are other issues to address. Reviewing the other common failure points is a great place to get started on that journey.
Can I Fix My BMW If It Has a Drivetrain Malfunction?
The drivetrain malfunction warning is an indication that something could be wrong with the vehicle. It requires a thorough inspection to determine what is wrong to determine what repair is appropriate for that situation.
When I had a drivetrain malfunction occur, it was due to the fuel pump failing. In retrospect, the part was not at its best for a long time. A loud whine could be heard coming from it, but for a long time, I dismissed it as engine or road noise.
It was on a trip to the grocery store when it failed. That’s when my warning light appeared – not once before.
With a full trunk of frozen food, I had the car towed to the local mechanic. After going back and forth on the price, I paid the tow truck driver extra to take me home with the vehicle to fix myself.
Although replacing the fuel pump wasn’t easy, it wasn’t impossible. It took most of a Saturday to complete. Once the work was finished, my car drove like new once again.
If you see the drivetrain malfunction light or warning, I encourage you to take it seriously. It’s usually cheaper to repair problems earlier than later.