Drivetrain Malfunction BMW. 7 Reasons for the Error Message

Drivetrain Malfunction BMW. 7 Reasons for the Error Message

Last Updated on November 10, 2023

Are you seeing the dreaded “Drivetrain Malfunction” error message on your BMW dashboard? This error message can be alarming, but understanding what it means and how to fix it can help. So, what exactly is the BMW drivetrain malfunction error?

The BMW drivetrain malfunction error is caused by a problem with the engine or transmission. When the car’s ECU detects a problem, it puts the vehicle into limp mode. This protects both the engine and transmission from damage. You may notice the car shaking, rougher ride, even cutting power completely.

As a BMW car owner, you know that they can provide an unbeatable driving experience. But at some point in time, even your beloved BMW may hit a roadblock and give you a check engine light related to drivetrain issue.

But don’t panic, understanding what this warning means is the first step towards getting back on road quickly.

In this guide, we’ll explain what the drivetrain malfunction is exactly. Then we’ll touch on when it’s safe to drive with this error message. And finally, what you need to do if this error message appears and won’t go away. Let’s get into this!

What Are the Top 7 Causes of the Drivetrain Malfunction BMW Error Message?

Right off the bat you should know the most common reasons for the dreaded “drivetrain malfunction” message that appears on your iDrive screen is due to one of the following:

  • Bad tank of gas
  • Faulty ignition coils
  • Faulty spark plugs
  • Faulty Diverter Valve
  • Faulty fuel injectors
  • Faulty fuel pump
  • Dirty or faulty catalytic converter

If you’ve recently refueled and the error message appears, it’s possible you might have received a poor quality batch of fuel.

Believe it or not, low-quality fuel can cause a myriad of fault codes:

  • Bad fuel can cause engine misfires due to poor combustion, clogged fuel injectors, uneven fuel-air mixtures, and premature ignition (knocking).
  • Engine misfire can lead to decreased power, irregular performance, increased emissions, and can harm the engine and exhaust system.

Additionally, if your BMW has clocked over 140,000 miles and the ignition coils haven’t been replaced, there’s a strong likelihood of a failing coil.

What Is a Drivetrain Malfunction BMW Error Message?

A drivetrain malfunction is an error code that is triggered when the computer detects a problem with the drivetrain components of your vehicle.

The drivetrain consists of all the parts that help your car move — the engine, transmission, and other components related to generating and transferring power.

When one or more of these components fail to work as intended, a drivetrain malfunction error code can be triggered by your car’s onboard computer.

In fact, you may see this error message pop-up on your dash: “Drivetrain Malfunction: Drive moderately. Maximum drivetrain output not available. Consult service center”

When this happens, the car’s computer switches into safety mode to prevent from any further damage.

Can I Drive my BMW With a Drivetrain Malfunction?

Yes it’s safe to drive the car, but for only a very short distance. Because the car’s onboard computer has switched into limp mode – reducing the engine’s power to protect the drivetrain from costly damage.

However keep in mind, a drivetrain malfunction doesn’t always result in the immediate break down of the car. So you may be able to continue to drive for several miles.

However, it’s recommended you get to a BMW service center as soon as possible.

What Should You Do If You See This Error Message?

Turn off the engine and let it sit for 5 to 10 mins. This will reset the drivetrain malfunction error code temporarily. Then after a few minutes, restart your car and drive back home or to a BMW service center.

If the car fails to restart, give it a few more minutes then try again.

Is Drivetrain Malfunction Serious?

Not necessarily. In most cases, this error code is a result of low quality fuel. Filling up with a quality fuel and driving 50 to 100 miles may resolve the problem.

Or, the error message may also be caused by a faulty ignition coil or bad spark plugs. Problems with one or more ignition coils and/or spark plugs will provide inadequate spark for the combustion reaction in one of your cylinders.

But the BMW drivetrain malfunction error can also be an indication of a more serious issue. For example, problems with the ignition or catalytic converter.

However, if you see this error code on your dashboard display, it’s important to take action as soon as possible.

It’s best to have a qualified mechanic scan the vehicle’s computer for trouble codes. The sooner you diagnosis a drivetrain malfunction, the better.

Why Does It Happen in BMWs?

BMW vehicles are equipped with advanced onboard computers that monitor all aspects of performance. If the system detects any issues with the engine, transmission, or emission system, it will trigger a drivetrain malfunction error code.

While the drivetrain malfunction error may seem inconvenient, it’s designed to protect your BMW from costly damage.

What are the Common Causes For The Drivetrain Malfunction BMW Error?

Common causes for this error code include: damaged fuel injectors, faulty spark plugs, faulty fuel pump, faulty ignition coil, faulty diverter valve, clogged catalytic converter, or low quality fuel.

It’s possible you may get several error messages on the dashboard at once.

As an example, you may also see a drivetrain malfunction error with a transmission fault warning light, the brake system drive moderately message, or a chassis stabilization error.

Additional BMW error codes

But no need to panic, seeing multiple error messages along with the drivetrain malfunction will help the mechanic pinpoint the root of the issue much faster.

What Are The Common Symptoms of a Drivetrain Malfunction Error?

Your BMW might display a variety of symptoms when the drivetrain malfunction error message appears. From reduced engine power, shaking or vibrations, to even occasional smoke from the exhaust.

The most common symptoms BMW vehicle owners report are:

  • “Drivetrain malfunction” error message on dashboard screen/iDrive screen
  • Noticeable shaking or vibration
  • Engine warning light is illuminated
  • Reduced engine power while accelerating
  • Rough idle
  • Transmission stuck in one gear
  • Car will not restart
  • Smoke from the exhaust

Anyone of these symptoms can be a sign that something isn’t right with your BMW.

Can Low Fuel Cause Drivetrain Malfunction?

Yes, low fuel pressure will result in the loss of power – triggering the drivetrain malfunction error code.

This can be the result of dirty or bad fuel injectors, overheated fuel pump, or a bad fuel pump.

Is Drivetrain Malfunction Covered Under BMW Warranty?

Generally yes, as long as your BMW is still under the 4 yr/50,000 mile powertrain warranty.

The standard BMW powertrain warranty covers problems with the engine and transmission. However, this warranty typically does not cover fuel system or wiring problems.

In any case, check your BMW owners manual for complete powertrain coverage.

BMW Drivetrain Malfunction Error FAQs

What does the BMW Drivetrain Malfunction error mean?

Simply put, “Drivetrain Malfunction” error indicates a problem with the vehicle’s drivetrain system.

What are the common causes of a Drivetrain Malfunction error in a BMW?

Common causes can include issues with the transmission, engine, sensors, electrical system, or other drivetrain components.

Is it safe to drive with a Drivetrain Malfunction error?

Typically it is not recommended to drive the vehicle with a Drivetrain Malfunction error. It’s best to have it inspected and repaired by a qualified technician.

Will the Drivetrain Malfunction error prevent the car from starting?

Yes, in some cases the error may prevent the car from starting. However, the error can also occur while the vehicle is already in operation.

Can I continue driving my BMW if the Drivetrain Malfunction error goes away?

Yes, if the error goes away and the vehicle operates normally, you can continue driving. However, it’s advisable to have it checked by a professional to identify the underlying cause.

How much does it cost to fix a Drivetrain Malfunction error in a BMW?

The cost of repair can vary depending on the specific issue and the model of your BMW. It’s best to consult with a technician to get an accurate estimate.

Can I reset the Drivetrain Malfunction error myself?

Some minor issues may be temporarily resolved by resetting the error codes using a diagnostic tool. However, it’s important to address the underlying problem for a permanent solution.

Will disconnecting the battery reset the Drivetrain Malfunction error?

Yes it’s possible that disconnecting the battery might clear some temporary error codes, but it’s not a guaranteed solution for all cases. It’s recommended to have the vehicle diagnosed by a professional.

How can I prevent the Drivetrain Malfunction error from occurring?

Generally, regular maintenance and servicing, including checking fluid levels, replacing worn-out parts, and addressing any warning signs promptly, can help prevent the error from occurring.

Can a Drivetrain Malfunction error be caused by a faulty sensor?

Yes, a faulty sensor can contribute to a Drivetrain Malfunction error as it provides vital information to the drivetrain system.

Does the Drivetrain Malfunction error affect the vehicle’s performance?

Yes, the error can impact the performance of the vehicle. It may result in reduced power, limited acceleration, or other drivability issues.

How long does it take to fix a Drivetrain Malfunction error?

The repair time depends on the specific cause of the error. Some issues can be resolved quickly, while others may require more extensive diagnostics and repairs.

Can I still drive my BMW if the error occurs intermittently?

It’s not advisable to continue driving if the error occurs intermittently. It’s essential to have it inspected to prevent potential damage or safety hazards.

Can a software update fix the Drivetrain Malfunction error?

In some cases, a software update can address certain issues that trigger the error. However, not all instances can be resolved with a software update alone.

Are all BMW models susceptible to the Drivetrain Malfunction error?

Yes, the Drivetrain Malfunction error can occur in various BMW models.

Is the Drivetrain Malfunction error covered under warranty?

If your BMW is still under warranty, the repairs for the Drivetrain Malfunction error may be covered. However, if you have missed regular maintenance items, it may void your warranty.

Vehicle reliability research tool.

Final Thoughts: Drivetrain Malfunction BMW

The “Drivetrain Malfunction” error code is an indication that something has gone wrong with one or more components within your car’s powertrain system.

If you suddenly see this error message pop-up on your BMW dashboard, pull off to a safe spot and turn the car off for 5-10 minutes. This will reset the error code temporarily so that you can get the vehicle safety home.

And remember, it’s best to get your BMW to the nearest service center for a check-up as soon as possible.

Have you experienced any drivetrain malfunctions with your BMW? Let us know in the comments below👇

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5 thoughts on “Drivetrain Malfunction BMW. 7 Reasons for the Error Message

  1. Avatar
    October 22, 2023 at 4:50 pm

    I have a BMW 520D , F10 , 2011 … Done 179000 Km , I time to time get a drivetrain on my screen , however the has not give me any issue in the performance, this message comes and does time to time in a few weeks … Whenever I show it to my machanic he just simply deletes the error with his scanner … What could be the couse of this & what should I do.

    1. Christopher Rossen
      Christopher Rossen
      October 23, 2023 at 12:50 pm

      Have them check charge pipe/intercooler hose. It may have slight damage.

  2. Avatar
    August 16, 2023 at 9:54 am

    I bought a brand new BMW ix 40 sport. On the 13th day it stopped on the highway with the drivetrain error. The car has been with bmw for the last 4 weeks. They say it’s a minor issue and won’t replace it refund the car. They took out the front n rear motor and awaiting for part to continue diagnostic. They say it will take another 3weeks for the part to come before they can continue. Is it really a minor issue

  3. Avatar
    July 20, 2023 at 1:54 pm

    Hello. I had a drivetrain error message on my bmw 420d car display. Complete loss of power as engine went into neutral almost immediately and engine cut out. From the moment the message appeared to the time it took me to stop circa 25 seconds, my car had filled with smoke and went up in flames.

    1. Christopher Rossen
      Christopher Rossen
      July 20, 2023 at 2:23 pm

      Phil, sounds like you may of had a defective component that resulted in a short circuit. Report back here when you learn more.

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