BMW Drivetrain Malfunction Message

Drivetrain Malfunction/Drive Moderately Message On BMW

Why does the drivetrain malfunction message pop up on the BMW dashboard? What does it mean, and what causes it?

Your BMW car is a sophisticated machine with a network of monitoring systems that check the functions of every part. It reports any detected or imminent problem to you within seconds of occurrence.

Indeed, the BMW drivetrain malfunction indicates a problem with the engine or transmission. Read on to find out what causes it and how to fix it.

BMW Drivetrain Malfunction Message
BMW Drivetrain Malfunction Message

What Is The Drivetrain Malfunction Message On BMW?

A drive moderately error message may pop up on your message display. This BMW drivetrain malfunction indicator shows an imminent problem with either the engine or transmission of your BMW car.

When the Engine Control Module (system monitoring computer) detects a problem with your engine or transmission, it alerts you by showing the message and also limits the torque or power. Your BMW car will automatically switch to a limp or safe mode.

The safe mode means you cannot accelerate even if you step on the gas pedal to the floor. You only get just enough power to drive home or to a nearby authorized BMW dealer. It is necessary to avoid dangerous situations.

When does a drivetrain malfunction message appear on your BMW car? Most users reported the error popping up on the screen under stressful acceleration conditions, such as going up a steep slope or starting from a stopping point. But it can also appear when overtaking another car or in cold weather.

Some BMW car owners also experience this problem under usual driving conditions. Regardless, take immediate action when you see the error message.

Symptoms Of Drivetrain Malfunction On BMW

The symptoms of this problem vary significantly. However, the most common ones include the following:

  • Drive Moderately error message appears on the display
  • Excess vibration in the cabin or rattling noise
  • Reduced engine power or the car switches to limp mode
  • Rough idling
  • Check Engine Light may come on
  • Smoke coming from the exhaust can become darker and thicker
  • The engine fails to start
  • Transmission stuck in one gear
  • Engine stalls when you engage gear

What Are Common Causes?

Causes of BMW drivetrain malfunction relate to fuel, spark plug, ignition coil and catalytic converter
Causes of BMW drivetrain malfunction relate to fuel, spark plug, ignition coil and catalytic converter.

There are many possible causes of your BMW drivetrain malfunction. It can be one or a combination of any of the following faulty parts:

Spark Plug

Faulty or worn-out spark plugs significantly affect the functionality of a drivetrain. It results in engine misfiring, which causes intermittent power from the engines. That is what causes jerking when driving or rough idling. In severe cases, the engine fails to start.

If spark plugs are the casualties, replace all of them at once. Your BMW car should be ready to drive smoothly after that.  

Ignition Coils

Like spark plugs, a faulty ignition coil will cause misfiring. It is also a common culprit that makes the BMW drivetrain malfunction message appear on the screen.

An ignition coil is responsible for producing an electric plug to ignite the compressed air-fuel mixture in the cylinder. If one or more are faulty, respective cylinders will misfire. Once again, there will be intermittent power from the engine., which will cause jerking and rough idling.

Test all the ignition coils and replace faulty ones.

Fuel Pump

A fuel pump is the heart of every automobile. It supplies the required amount of fuel according to the demand. A faulty fuel pump cannot keep up when accelerating. So, if the drivetrain malfunction message appears when accelerating, your fuel pump should be the first suspect.

Since the engine is not getting enough fuel, the ECU limits its power. In the worst cases, the engine shuts off. If your BMW car enters a limp mode, it can be due to the limited fuel supply. ECU detects reduced power or reduced fuel flow and displays the error message.

You can diagnose the problem yourself or take the car to an authorized BMW dealer who should pinpoint the cause. The fuel pump should need repair or replacement.

Fuel Quality

Fuel quality is a primary factor contributing to the power you get from the engines. BMW cars use high-quality or high-octane fuel. If you fill the tank with anything below the recommended, your engine will have reduced power.

Low-quality fuel has many impurities that are likely to obstruct or block fuel injectors. That limits the amount of gas getting into the engine. Apart from the reduced power, your car may fail to start. The ECU detects that as an engine problem and displays the Drivetrain error message.

If you realize that your tank is full of low-quality gasoline, add octane boosters immediately to improve fuel quality. Better still, you can bleed the fuel and refill the tank with high-octane gas.

Catalytic Converter

A catalytic converter can clog over time. The restrictions in the passages will block exhaust gasses from freely flowing out, which is like choking your engine.

For an engine to run at maximum efficiency, it needs to breathe freely. This means taking in oxygen-rich air and fuel mixture and giving out the burned products as exhaust. If that is not the case, there will be reduced power or engine stalling and failing to restart.

ECU detects it as a problem and alerts you by illuminating the Drivetrain error message on the dashboard. You can fix this problem by cleaning and replacing the catalytic converter if it is the culprit.   

Fuel Injectors

Damaged or faulty fuel injectors directly affect the engine’s performance in any car, and BMW is no different. There will be limited fuel to burn as needed to supply power to the rest of the Drivetrain. In cases of severe fuel injector damage, engine flooding may occur, which permanently damages the engine.

Due to reduced engine power, ECU senses a possible problem and sends the Drivetrain error message to the dashboard.

How To Fix

There are a few steps you should follow to clear BMW drivetrain malfunction message.
There are a few steps you should follow to clear BMW drivetrain malfunction message.

The Drivetrain error message indicates a problem that requires immediate attention. How do you fix the problem? Is it possible to use a DIY approach, or does it need expertise? You can go about the issue in the following ways:

Step 1: Restart The Engine

This first step often helps reset the system if the error is temporary. So, before taking your BMW to an auto repair shop, consider restarting the engine. Do that by following the procedure below:

  • Safely pull over by the roadside and turn off the engine.
  • Remove the key if your BMW model does not use a push-start-engine button.
  • Turn off all other systems that may be using the battery and wait for at least 5 minutes.
  • Restart the engine and see if the error message goes.

As mentioned, engine restart only resets temporal error where no mechanical problem exists. If the problem persists, proceed to the next step.

Step 2: Inspect The Engine

  • Shut down the engine again and open the hood to inspect it.
  • Check for possible leaks or unfamiliar odors that indicate oil or coolant leaks. Also, look for any signs of a damaged serpentine belt.
  • Use your dipstick to check the engine oil level. If it is okay, get back into the car.
  • Restart the engine and check for engine temperature. If it overheats or sees an oil light dashboard symbol, shut it off again.

The inspection results define your next course of action. If there is physical damage, address it as appropriate. But if it is negative, proceed to the next step.

Step 3: Read Codes With A Scanner

Reading codes is the last step in diagnosing the cause of the Drivetrain error message on your BMW. It involves using a good BMW OBD2 scanner. The tool reads codes stored in the computer system of the car. When any fault occurs in drivetrain, a respective code that defines it remains in the memory of your car’s computer.

An OBD2 scanner will read the code. Fortunately, some devices have code definitions that will help you understand the exact cause of the problem and suggest a possible fix.

  • Plug the OBD2 scanner to an OBD2 port located beneath your BMW’s dashboard.
  • Turn on the ignition but don’t start the engine, and then turn on the OBD2 scanner.
  • Select the BMW code on the interface to read the engine and transmission code.  

Using the code displayed by the OBD2 scanner, identify the problem and fix it. You may need the help of a qualified BMW mechanic to help you if it involves a complex procedure.


Why Does The Message Pop Up When Accelerating?

The drivetrain error message may pop up when accelerating if the engine is not getting enough fuel to produce the power demanded. The likely culprits are the clogged fuel injectors, faulty fuel pumps, or clogged catalytic converters.

Why Does The Message Come After An Oil Change?

Oil can spill on the engine during an oil change. The mechanic may also fail to plug back some sensors, which may trigger the error message. An engine clean-up or plugging back all the sensors can solve the problem.

What Should I Do If The Message Shows Up After A Wash?

During an engine wash, there is a possibility of water causing temporary connections or short-circuits that alter the voltage read by Drivetrain modules. As a result, the ECU triggers the error message in response to that. Dry the engine and the message will go away.

How Much Does It Cost To Fix A Drivetrain Malfunction On A BMW?

The cost of fixing a BMW Drivetrain malfunction depends on the car model and the actual problem. Typically, your budget should be about $2,000. That is for replacement parts and labor.

The Verdict

A drivetrain malfunction on your BMW needs an immediate fix. The drive moderately error message appears on the screen accompanied by some symptoms. Don’t drive your car over a long distance with it. Instead, contact a mechanic to help fix it if you cannot do it yourself.

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