Drivetrain Malfunction On BMW: Drive Moderately Problems

Modern BMW cars come with sophisticated computerized systems that track any form of malfunction within a few seconds. Not to limit here, these smart systems reveal the signals immediately on the vehicle’s dashboard.

One commonly displayed issue is the drivetrain malfunction. It is an indication of a problem that can be costly to repair if not taken as a matter of urgency.

A drivetrain malfunction in BMW does not result in the car’s breakdown automatically. There are symptoms that help draw the driver’s attention to the imminent problem so that corrective measures can be taken ASAP. So, what does drivetrain malfunction mean?

What does Drivetrain Malfunction mean?

Understanding the meaning of a BMW drivetrain warning will save you a lot of trouble from the problem. A drivetrain malfunction message or signal on a BMW is an indicator of a transmission or engine problem detected by the car’s Engine Control Module – ECM.

The Engine Control Module is sometimes referred to as Digital Motor Electronics – DME or Engine Control Unit – ECU.

Once the BMW’s computerized system detects a drivetrain malfunction, the Engine Control Module automatically limits the car’s maximum torque output to prevent any imminent damage.

bmw drivetrain malfunction

Symptoms of Malfunctioning Drivetrain

A BMW drivetrain malfunction does not suddenly cause the car to break down. If this occurs, there would be no need for the car’s computerized systems designed to update the driver about any recent developments in the car’s operations system.

So, there are a number of symptoms that herald a drivetrain malfunction to serve as warning signs to the driver or the car owner. And they take necessary and immediate measures to rectify any problem that the ECU has detected. Some of the symptoms of a drivetrain malfunction include:

  • Check engine (CE) light display
  • iDrive screen displays a drivetrain error message
  • Rough idling
  • Constant vibration
  • The engine cuts off when the gear is engaged.
  • The transmission gets stuck in the gear
  • The car stops and won’t start

What Causes Drivetrain Malfunctions?

A BMW drivetrain malfunction is traceable to a couple of causes. If you are asking, “What causes drivetrain malfunction in BMW?” Sometimes, it can be due to one or more of the causes working hand-in-hand, outlined below:

Damaged fuel Injectors

When one or more of a BMW car’s injectors are faulty or damaged, it automatically affects the engine and reduces the power and performance. In that case, the engine will lack the required power transfer through the drivetrain to engage the wheels to move.

Other causes along this line include; mass airflow sensor, blown head gasket, or defective turbo.

Faulty spark plugs

Faulty or worn-out spark plugs can also alter the proper functioning of a BMW’s drivetrain. Worn-out spark plugs result in different malfunctions in cars, including engine misfire, rough idling, engine refusal to start, etc.

The remedy to this challenge would be to replace all the spark plugs in your BMW with a new set. Replacing some and leaving others behind may still hinder the proper functioning of the car’s engine. So, it would be best to replace everything.

High-pressure/faulty fuel pump

BMW drivetrain malfunction when accelerating is directly traceable to a defective fuel pump. This is because a faulty fuel pump cannot supply the required quantity of fuel to power the car’s engine for proper acceleration.

Faulty ignition coil

A faulty ignition coil is another culprit to a BMW’s drivetrain malfunction error signal display on the iDrive screen. It can also result in an engine misfire.

A cylinder misfire indicates that the ignition coil attached to that cylinder is bad. Ensure to swap the coils in that particular cylinder with another to see if the problem persists.

Clogged catalytic converter

If your BMW’s catalytic converter is clogged, it will cause the car’s iDrive screen to display a drivetrain malfunction signal.

This problem is common with high mileage cars with a clogged catalytic converter that hinders the exhaust gases from releasing appropriating.

Low octane/low-quality fuel

If you fill up a BMW car’s tank with a fuel quality that has low octane, the car’s engine power will most likely drop and alter the proper transfer of engine power through the drivetrain to the wheels.

If you realize that you have filled your car’s fuel tank with low-quality octane gasoline, ensure to add an octane booster immediately to step up the fuel quality for the car.

drivetrain malfunction bmw

How Do You Diagnose and Fix Drivetrain Problems?

Diagnosing a drivetrain malfunction in a BMW 535i or any other modern BMW car is pretty easy with an OBD II Scanner. If you are contemplating how to fix the drivetrain malfunction in BMW, it would be helpful to first restart the car’s engine before proceeding with an OBD II scan.

Restart the BMW engine.

  • Step 1: Identify a safe location and park the car.
  • Step 2: Turn off the car’s ignition and remove the car key
  • Step 3: Allow the car to stay for at least 5 to 7 minutes and restart the engine.

Properly inspect the BMW engine.

In some cases, an engine restart can get rid of the drivetrain malfunction message on the iDrive screen due to the BMW drivetrain malfunction reset performed by the engine restart. However, if the engine restart doesn’t do the job, conduct a proper inspection on the vehicle’s engine.

  • Step 1: Park safely and turn off the BMW’s ignition.
  • Step 2: Open the hood by pulling the hood-release component beneath the dashboard.
  • Step 3: Observe the car’s engine temperature.
  • Step 4: Check the car’s engine oil level.
  • Step 5: Check for any coolant or oil leak and defective serpentine belt.

Read the drivetrain malfunction error code with an OBD II Scanner.

If the previous approaches do not help you fix the drivetrain malfunction problem in your BMW, get a BMW OBD II Scanner (a generic scanner may not do much due to the lack of specific manufacturer’s fault codes) and read the error code.

  • Step 1: Identify the OBD II Scanner port beneath your BMW’s dashboard.
  • Step 2: Plugin/connect the scanner to the port.
  • Step 3: Turn the ignition to the “ON” position (do not start the engine)
  • Step 4: Turn on the OBD II Scanner and select the BMW code
  • Step 5: Read the codes displayed from the car’s engine and transmission.

Once you’ve read the codes, you can go back to the manufacturer’s manual to find out what they mean and take the corresponding action to fix the issues immediately.


Can I drive a BMW with a drivetrain malfunction?

A car’s drivetrain malfunction is quite problematic and must not be taken lightly or with levity. Therefore, it is a no-no! Never try to drive your BMW with a drivetrain malfunction.

In fact, the engine of a vehicle generates power and transmits such power through the drivetrain to the vehicle’s wheel to enable it to move. In that case, when your BMW’s drivetrain malfunctions, it will be practically impossible for the engine power to reach the wheels.

So, if you perceive that your BMW’s drivetrain is defective, contact your dealer immediately or a professional auto mechanic to check it out and fix the problem.

How much does it cost to fix the drivetrain malfunction in BMW?

If you own a BMW 328i and you are experiencing a drivetrain problem, the cost of fixing the problem is relatively inexpensive. Drivetrain malfunction on BMW328i can be fixed with an estimated cost of $2,068 to $2,108.

Parts cost is estimated at around $1,913, while labor cost is about $155 to $195. BMW drivetrain malfunction repair cost is relatively cheaper than fixing both the drivetrain problem and any other issues that come along with neglecting the drivetrain for too long.

Problems are always cheaper to resolve initially than when they have escalated. So, it would be best to fix a vehicle’s malfunctioning drivetrain immediately after the problem is identified.

What does it mean when the drivetrain light comes on?

Drivetrain light display is common with automatic transmission cars (and not applicable to vehicles with manual transmission).

When the drivetrain light illuminates on the dashboard, it is a sign that the car’s computerized system has detected a problem in the car’s transaxle or automatic transmission.

If you suddenly see your BMW X3 dashboard drivetrain light illuminates, it is crucial to take the issue as a matter of emergency. Drivetrain malfunction on BMW X3 can be costly to repair if a symptom such as a drivetrain light illumination is ignored for a long time.

What is the BMW 1 Series drivetrain?

A BMW 1 Series drivetrain is the component that transfers the car’s engine power to the wheels to enable the car to move.

A malfunction in a BMW1 series drivetrain indicates that there is a problem with the vehicle’s automatic transmission or its transaxle. And so the fix requires immediate action.

A drivetrain malfunction is problematic in any car, irrespective of the brand or model. Whether it is a BMW 1 Series or any other car, it is important to pay close attention to symptoms of a defective drivetrain, diagnose the problem and get it fixed immediately.

So, whether it is a drivetrain malfunction on BMW 528i or any other BMW series, take any perceived drivetrain issue with seriousness until you have resolved the issue.

How long does a drivetrain last?

A vehicle’s drivetrain is expected to last around 1,500 to 3,000 miles. However, the expected lifespan of a car’s drivetrain depends on the driver’s driving and maintenance style.

A careful driving style coupled with regular maintenance of the drivetrain will prolong the lifespan of the part.

On the other hand, a reckless driving style with a random maintenance style cannot guarantee the possibility of a car’s drivetrain reaching its expected lifespan. So, it is vital to subscribe to a careful driving style, as well as regular maintenance for your car and all its components.

Final Words

A drivetrain malfunction on BMW can be very frustrating if you do not know the cause and how to fix the problem. On the contrary, you now know what to do if a similar challenge occurs to your BMW car.

If you have someone battling with this same problem at the moment, why not refer them to read this article? I assure you, it would be a lifesaver for that fellow.

For those experiencing a drivetrain malfunction, endeavor to contact an expert auto mechanic immediately if you can’t fix the problem yourself.

Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a certified mechanic with over a decade of experience in the mechanic garage, and he has over five years of experience in the writing industry. He started writing automotive articles to share his garage experience with car enthusiasts and armature mechanics. If he is not in the garage fixing challenging mechanical problems, he is writing automotive repair guides, buyer’s guides, and car and tools comparisons.

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