“Charging Malfunction” is one of the most common problems when it comes to Beamers. In this article, I will explain what this means, the leading causes, and how to fix and reset the charging malfunction message on your BMW.
What Does Charging Malfunction on a BMW?
Before I explain what causes this fault, I want to explain what the message “Charging Malfunction” means.
The charging system involves receiving power from the alternator, charging your BMW battery, and converting the rest of the power into electricity your Bimmer uses.
When anything involved in the charging system breaks/malfunctions i.e your BMW ECU will display a “charging malfunction” message on your dashboard. (This is a very common fault that can be fixed, so don’t worry!)
If this system breaks down, then your battery will not charge. When you turn on the engine in your BMW, it should start up immediately without any problems. However, if there is a fault with the charging system, then the battery will discharge and a lot of electronics will malfunction.
What Causes BMW’s “Charging Malfunction” Message?
Now, let’s look at the main causes of this issue.
1. Broken Serpentine Belt (Drive Belt):
The most common cause of the “charging malfunction” message on BMWs is a broken serpentine belt (or drive belt).
A Serpentine also known as a drive belt is responsible for driving a number of components in your BMW.
It drives the alternator, water pump, power steering, and air conditioning compressor.
If this belt breaks, then all these components will stop working. The result is that your battery does not charge anymore and you will get a “Charging Malfunction” message on your dashboard.
Serpentine belts are known to break on BMWs over time due to normal wear and tear or a fault belt tensioner.
Since this belt is made from rubber. The general rule is a Serpentine belt on your BMW should be changed every 50 000 – 100 000 miles for maximum performance and longevity.
A good way to tell if the changing malfunction is caused by a broken serpentine belt is by looking underneath your BMW (or opening your Hood) and checking for a broken belt. If the belt is broken or cracked, then you should definitely get it replaced by a professional.
Fortunately, the drive belt is relatively inexpensive and a quick fix for most BMW models.
2. Failing Battery:
Another common cause for this problem is a failing battery most BMW batteries will last 3-5 years. Before needing to be replaced.
A bad battery won’t be able to hold a charge, this will trigger the charging system to constantly check the battery and try to charge it. As a result, you will get a “Charging Malfunction” if your BMW battery is older than 3 years then I recommend having it replaced.
3. Bad Alternator:
The third common cause for the “Charging Malfunction” error message is a bad alternator.
The alternator is responsible for supplying power to your BMW’s battery and other electrical systems, if it fails the battery will charge but the rest of the electrical system will not work properly.
A Good way to check if you have a bad alternator is to have the battery tested with a multimeter, if it’s below 12 volts then you will need to replace the alternator.
You can have the alternator itself tested and checked at any BMW dealership or by any qualified auto repair shop
4. Loose/Dirty Battery Terminals:
This is often overlooked by most Beamer owners but the proper connection of your battery to the car’s electrical system is crucial for operation.
Check the battery terminals and make sure they are clean and tight (not loose).
If they are corroded or loose, chances are the battery won’t charge as it should and the system will think there is an issue with the charging system and trigger the charging malfunction warning light.
How to Fix and Reset “Charging Malfunction” on a BMW?
Here is my advice on how to solve the problem.
- Check the Serpentine Belt: The first I recommend that you do is check the Serpentine belt, if it is broken then have it replaced.
- Change the Battery: If the serpentine belt is OK, then it’s time to change your battery. I recommend that you go with a quality AGM Battery (Don’t forget to register/code it). These are available at most auto parts stores or you can get one at your nearest BMW dealer.
- Get the Alternator Tested: Next, take your car to a mechanic and have them test the alternator. If it is not working properly, then have it replaced. You can also do this yourself if you know how to use a multimeter.