When your BMW doesn’t perform as expected, a warning message may appear on your iDrive screen. You might see warning lights appear on your dashboard.
Although any warning can cause your adrenaline to surge, nothing gets the heart racing more for BMW drivers than a drivetrain malfunction alert.
This generalized warning can be triggered by several different problems. There could be one or more issues causing error codes to be sent through the system to notify you of the issue.
When you discover what could be causing the BMW drivetrain malfunction issue, it’s much easier to estimate the repair expense. The eventual cost is based on several factors, including where you live.
How Much Does It Cost to Fix a BMW Drivetrain Malfunction?
A BMW drivetrain malfunction causes the vehicle’s engine control module (ECM) to automatically limit the maximum torque available to drivers. When it fails, the cost to repair the components is greater than $2,000 because of the complexity of the issues involved to clear the warning message.
When you see the details of the warning, you’ll get the picture of a wrench next to the words “Drivetrain Malfunction.”
The most common message says the following.
“You can continue driving. No Roadside Assistance required. Reduced engine performance. Have the problem checked by your service center.”
A box appears below for the service request.
That’s different from other messages that appear, including the drive moderately warning.
The BMW Drive Train Malfunction Drive Moderately Problem creates a significant issue for drivers. It can cause several signs and symptoms that you might notice before the warning appears on your iDrive notification or dashboard.
If you experience one or more of the following issues with your BMW, you should have it looked at by your dealership or a qualified and certified mechanic.
- You have smoke (blue, black, or white) coming from the exhaust system.
- The BMW experiences more shaking, especially when accelerating rapidly.
- You have the engine stop or stall while driving or idling.
- Your automatic transmission doesn’t shift to a higher gear while going up a steep including.
- The vehicle refuses to start, and it may not turn over at all.
- There is a lack of acceleration power, even on straight stretches, like when you attempt to pass.
Once any of these issues occur, you may have a BMW drivetrain malfunction to address. When this problem develops, the transmission could go into safe mode.
You could look at every part the ECM receives information from to determine what triggered the BMW drivetrain malfunction warning. A better option is to use a code reader.
What Code Reader Do I Need for a BMW?
BMW vehicles produce unique codes that a standard OBD-II scanner won’t recognize. That’s why you can drive it to some auto part stores and receive a clean bill of health even when there’s a warning message on your iDrive screen. You need something that speaks the same language as your vehicle.
A great choice for diagnosing your error codes at home is the ANCEL BM700 BMW Full Systems Diagnostic Scanner. It not only reads your BMW codes, but it also comes with several additional features that help to maximize the value of this investment.
- You can use the tool to read standard OBD-II codes on other vehicles with a compatible port (usually found under the dash on the driver’s side).
- It takes care of the oil reset after you’re notified it’s time for a change.
- It provides EPB, BMS, and ETCS resets.
The BMW scanner also performs OBD-II test modes, including the EVAP system test, VIN retrieval, and I/M readiness.
The only way to restore functionality is to fix the malfunction. How much that costs will depend on what the problem is with the vehicle.
What Are the Causes of a BMW Drivetrain Malfunction?
Several issues can cause the BMW drivetrain malfunction warning to occur. Each one may co-exist with others, which is why it is helpful to have a scanning tool that can pick up the error codes produced by the vehicle.
Here is a closer look at the various issues that can cause the warning to appear without having the drive moderately language included on the iDrive screen.
1. Spark Plug Malfunction
One of the primary culprits of the drivetrain malfunction warning is the spark plugs. You could have one or more of them not taking care of their job as expected.
Spark plugs create sparks by having a circuit with an arc present. This process raises the voltage, causing the electricity to jump.
When they get old, they don’t function as well. Inefficient spark plugs can cause a warning message to appear. If you replace them (and potentially the cables), your BMW can function as expected.
You can use a compatible BMW OBD-II scanner to clear the error code.
2. Ignition Coil Failure
The ignition coils on BMW vehicles have a notorious reputation for shaking loose. If you hit a speed bump too quickly, that can be enough of a jostle to cause the drivetrain malfunction warning to appear.
You can also experience this warning when a cylinder misfires because of a coil malfunction.
The ignition coils on older BMW models have an average lifespan of approximately 140,000 miles. Once they receive enough vibration and heat, they’ll stop working as expected. You may notice less gas mileage and stalling problems develop when this issue is present.
When you push limits with your BMW, they can wear out faster. Most drivers need the ignition coils replaced between 50,000 to 75,000 miles.
If you find a loose coil, try tightening it and clearing the codes to see if the drivetrain malfunction continues. It could be necessary to replace your coils, especially on an older vehicle.
3. Fuel Pump Malfunction
The fuel pump on BMW vehicles is a common issue that causes the drivetrain to malfunction because even a small hiccup can trigger an error code. Something as simple as a small bubble in the line can be enough to create issues.
As the vehicle ages, contaminants from the fuel tank bottom eventually get sucked into the fuel pump. Those unwanted particles can also trigger the warning.
If you don’t receive the drive moderately advice, you might consider cleaning the fuel system to see if the car’s performance improves. It might also be necessary to replace the entire component.
4. Catalytic Converter Problem
Catalytic converters work to reduce emissions and pollution while driving. It converts the gases from the combustion process into something less harmful to the atmosphere while reducing smells in the cabin.
A functioning catalytic converter is a mandated component for American drivers. If it is not operating correctly, it must be repaired.
As time passes, the exhaust gases can cause the catalytic converter to get clogged. Less airflow occurs through the system, preventing the engine from performing at its maximum capabilities.
When the airflow restriction is severe, the vehicle might not operate at all.
Although it is possible to clean some catalytic converters, most are too damaged for that repair when the drivetrain malfunction occurs. At that point, the primary solution is to replace the old part.
You’ll see this problem develop on high-mileage BMWs and older models more often than newer ones, but it can happen at any time.
5. Transmission Leak
The F30 drivetrain from BMW has a reputation for leaking some as it ages. When there isn’t enough fluid in the system for the gears to change efficiently, it can cause a warning to appear on the iDrive screen.
Although some drivetrains have this issue occur more often than others, it is possible for any BMW vehicle to develop this problem.
If you’re unsure about the vehicle’s transmission fluid levels, you can check on them by using the dipstick. Wipe it down after pulling it, re-insert it, and then take your reading for an accurate result.
The fluid levels should be within an acceptable range. BMW transmission fluid should be clear or pink. If it is brown or dark red, it needs to be replaced.
A full transmission flush is necessary to purge the old fluid so that the new stuff can work as expected.
Some BMW models have grinding or screeching sounds when the gears change. That’s another indicator that a transmission leak has happened, causing the drivetrain malfunction warning to appear.
If the transmission is starting to fail, this issue might also be present. It is more likely that the drive moderately warning would appear, but an early issue could trigger than lesser notification.
Most transmission fluids require changing after 50,000 miles.
6. CV Joint Problem
The CV joint is a critical component of BMW’s drivetrain design. If you receive a malfunction warning, it could be responsible for the notification.
It’s part of the axle assembly, connecting the drive wheels to the transmission. Once a problem develops, you won’t have the same link between those components. That’s why you receive the malfunction warning.
Diagnosing a CV joint problem can be challenging. You might not receive error codes that indicate this issue is happening. Try to listen to the vehicle as you drive. If the sound profile is different, especially when making a turn, you know that this part might be responsible.
The only way to correct this issue is to replace the worn-out CV joint. It’s a good idea to replace them all at once to ensure your handling remains responsive and balanced.
What Can I Do if the BMW Drivetrain Warning Message Appears?
When the BMW drivetrain warning appears, it is essential to review recent choices and activities to determine responsibility. Newer vehicles can experience this warning when using the wrong fuel, while older models can have wear-and-tear issues to repair or parts to replace to correct the situation.
My first encounter with the BMW drivetrain error came between the cities of Weed and Mt. Shasta on I-5 in California. I’d just pulled off the road, had an empty tank, and was shocked by the cost of fuel.
I didn’t know anything about the 93-octane rating recommendation for my vehicle. At least, I didn’t remember if I’d been briefed on it.
I picked the cheapest gas possible, spent a small fortune, and continued on the drive.
It took about ten miles for the warning message to appear. I won’t lie – it freaked me out! Once I discovered that low-quality fuels could trigger the notification, I began to breathe easier.
At the next stop, I picked up an octane booster. Whatever performance issues might have been there with my choices quickly disappeared.
It isn’t fun to encounter this warning, but it isn’t the end of the world either. When you have a BMW OBD-II scanner and a plan to follow, you can find a solution to this problem pretty quickly.