bmw drivetrain malfunction

BMW Drivetrain Malfunction (Meaning, Causes & Repair)

A BMW has advanced computerized systems that can detect and warn the owner about any form of malfunction within a few seconds. These intelligent systems will reveal the problem and provide more insights into it.

In short, The leading causes of BMW drivetrain malfunction are damaged spark plugs, faulty fuel injectors, ignition coil failure, and fuel pump malfunction. Other minor sources are damaged catalytic converters, transmission fuel leaks, and low-quality fuel.

The drivetrain malfunction on your BMW will not lead to an automatic breakdown. But the computerized systems will provide the symptoms of the impending problems to allow the owner to fix them immediately. Let us discuss the causes and solutions to BMW drivetrain malfunction.

What Is a Drivetrain Malfunction?

It is a message or signal detected by the Engine Control Module to indicate a transmission or engine issue on a BMW.

Understanding the causes of these drivetrain malfunction warnings will help save money by fixing the problem in advance.

The Engine Control Module is also known as Digital Motor Electronics (DME) or Engine Control Unit (ECU). It is a computerized system that detects drivetrain malfunction and limits maximum torque output to prevent impending dangers.

The drivetrain malfunction warning usually appears during heavy or fast acceleration, steep inclines, or when trying to pass.

BMW Drivetrain Components


It is the last point where power transfer occurs before being transmitted to the wheels. It is also the housing of the axle gears.

Constant Velocity Joint

It allows the drive shaft to transmit power via variable angles. These joints also help connect the transmission with the wheels.

Universal Joint

It is a joint connecting the rigid shaft to enhance rotational motion in the drivetrain. It is also known as universal coupling or U-joint. Driveshaft It is a long steel tube that connects the wheels and transmission. It is ideal for transferring power from the engine to other parts.


The transmission allows the driver to shift gears depending on the situation. It also transfers the engine power to the four wheels.


The heart of the vehicle, the engine is responsible for producing power through combustion and transferring the power to the transmission in order for the car to move.

How to Tell BMW Drivetrain Malfunction

In most cases your BMW will alert you with a “Drive train please drive moderately” message once it senses there is an issue with the vehicle.

A drivetrain malfunction on BMW won’t cause an instant breakdown. But the buildup will result in expensive repairs in the long run.

The BMW drivetrain malfunction is associated with a lot of warning signs. These symptoms will help you determine the root causes and rectify measures to adopt.

Below are some of the drivetrain malfunction symptoms to note:

  • Rough idling
  • Constant vibration
  • Check engine light display
  • The car starts and begins shaking
  • The car stops and won’t start again
  • Excess smoke coming out of the exhaust
  • The transmission gets stuck when shifting gears
  • iDrive screen displaying drivetrain malfunction error

Causes of BMW Drivetrain Malfunction

The drivetrain malfunction on BMW can be due to one or more of the following causes. I recommend taking the time to read through the article to identify the exact cause leading to your BMW drivetrain malfunction:

Damaged Spark Plugs

A spark plug is a circuit with an arc that helps produce sparks. It is responsible for raising the voltage in the BMW.

Faulty spark plugs will alter with electricity circulation leading to engine misfiring, rough idling, and engine refusal to start.

The inefficient spark plugs will trigger a warning message on your BMW iDrive. Replacing the damaged or worn-out spark plugs with new ones will help resolve the problem. Avoid driving your vehicle with worn-out spark plugs to prevent severe damage.

Faulty Fuel Pump

A fuel pump is a vital component that enhances fuel transfer from the injectors to the gasoline tank. The fuel pump relies on pressure and ignition to perform its function.

The low fuel supply to the engine is the cause of the drivetrain malfunction. Replacing the faulty fuel pump will help resolve the sudden surge on your BMW after pressing the gas pedal.

I also recommend using clean fuel to prevent contaminants from accessing your engine components.

Damaged Catalytic Converter

A catalytic converter plays a crucial role in enhancing the BMW peak performance of the emission system. It helps reduce exhaust emissions and smell to the environment.

A clogged catalytic converter will inhibit its efficiency. The issue will affect the engine performance and fuel economy if not fixed. So you will need to fix the damaged catalytic converter.

Besides that, the drivetrain malfunction will result in other hidden problems that need immediate correction to prevent further damage.

Ignition Coil Failure

An ignition coil is responsible for proper engine combustion timing since it sends power from the spark plugs to work. A faulty ignition coil will result in inappropriate engine combustion timing leading to a misfire.

The ignition coil failure occurs due to exposure to extreme heat and vibration. If you fail to fix the issue, it will hurt the engine and ruin your BMWs overall performance.

I recommend replacing the ignition coil every 20,000 to 25,000 miles.

Transmission Fluid Leaks

Transmission fluid helps to cool and lubricate the BMW’s transmission system. Any leakages will result in reduced performance and damage to other vital components.

Every driver should use a dipstick to check the transmission fluid level. Leaking transmission fluid will cause drivetrain malfunction, such as strange sounds and grinding gears.

I recommend visiting your local mechanic shop for assistance from professional mechanics.

Low-Quality Fuel

BMWs are high-end vehicles that require premium gasoline. Filling your BMW with low-quality fuel will compromise its performance and trigger drivetrain malfunction.

The manufacturer recommends using a 90% octane rating fuel or an octane booster to clean the combustion system.

Worn Out Fuel Injector

A worn-out fuel injector due to aging or clogging happens to be the potential cause of drivetrain malfunction. It hurts the overall car performance and triggers the emission of gases that pollutes the environment.

The issue will lead to engine misfire, rough idling, and poor fuel economy. I recommend replacing the fuel inject every 50,000 to 100,000 miles to enhance peak performance.

The drivetrain malfunction error occurs due to high fuel demand from the engine.

Broken Timing Chain

The timing chain on a BMW ensures a synchronous movement of the crankshaft and camshaft. It is the only movement that enhances a systematic opening and closing of the engine’s valves.

The chain requires proper lubrication to promote BMWs peak performance.

Rough idling, check engine light display, and vibrations are the leading indicators of timing chain problems. If these issues persist, it will trigger a drivetrain malfunction error on the iDrive screen.

Old Differential Fluid

Differential fluid in the BMW helps lubricate the gears and reduce heat to enhance higher performance on the road. But exposing the differential fluid to extreme heat and contaminants will make it less effective.

Old differential fluid is the leading cause of the drivetrain malfunction. I recommend changing the differential fluid every 20,000 to 50,000 miles.

It will help keep your BMW at peak performance with minimal issues.

Faulty Constant Velocity Joint

The CV joint is a crucial drivetrain component in a BMW since it helps connect the transmission to the drive wheels. Any faulty with the CV joint will break the link to trigger the drivetrain malfunction message. Visit a mechanic shop nearby to resolve the problem.

Conclusion on BMW drivetrain drive moderately error

A BMW drivetrain malfunction message is an indicator of an underlying problem. We recommend identifying the exact causes using the symptoms from your BMW and resolving them immediately to avoid severe damage.

Be sure to use a BMW scanner to diagnose the problem from the error codes. In case of a mechanical issue, hire a professional mechanic with BMW experience to fix them. Feel free to share your experiences or views in the comment section below.

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