BMW Drivetrain Malfunction – Drive Moderately Explained

bmw drive moderately error message

A drivetrain malfunction in a BMW refers to a problem with the car’s power transfer system, which includes the transmission, driveshaft, and differentials. This warning message may appear in the dashboard display. Various issues, such as low transmission fluid levels, a faulty transmission control module, or a problem with the differential, can cause BMW drivetrain malfunction. It is best to use a full system scanner to diagnose the specific cause of the malfunction as soon as possible, as driving the vehicle with a malfunctioning drivetrain can cause further damage and make the repair more expensive.

Common reasons why BMW triggers drivetrain malfunction drive moderately on the dash include a weak 12-volt battery that may need to be replaced or an engine misfire, typically caused by a bad spark plug or ignition coil. In the following video, we show you how to use the YOUCANIC full system scanner to find out why a BMW is showing a Drivetrain Malfunction error.

Drivetrain Malfunction message on BMWs may appear:

  • under heavy acceleration,
  • going up on a steep incline,
  • taking off from a stop sign,
  • trying to pass another car.

Drivetrain Malfunction Drive Moderately can show any time but is more likely to pop up during cold weather if you have an old battery or come on under extreme driving conditions. This guide will learn more about this problem and diagnose it using a BMW scanner.

What does drivetrain malfunction on a BMW mean?

drivetrain malfucntion BMW

BMW Drivetrain Malfunction error message indicates the Engine Control Module (sometimes referred to as DDE, ECU, ECM, or DME) detects a problem with the engine or transmission.

To prevent damage, the engine control unit limits the maximum torque output. The YOUCANIC scanner can diagnose the problem, allowing you to read the fault codes from the Digital Motor Electronics (DME) and transmission (EGS) modules.

Common Symptoms of Drivetrain Malfunction

BMW Drivetrain Malfunction due to engine problem

While the symptoms can vary depending on the problem that caused the error, here are what most BMW owners usually notice:

  • Drivetrain malfunction error message on the iDrive screen
  • The car starts to shake.
  • Check engine light comes on.
  • Vehicle cuts off / dies when idling or placed in gear (D)
  • Smoke out of the exhaust
  • Vehicle idles rough
  • The transmission is stuck in gear.
  • The drivetrain malfunctioned while trying to pass on the highway.
  • The drivetrain malfunctions, and the car won’t start.

In most cases, your BMW will lose power, the engine may shake or die, and the transmission can go into a limp home mode (can’t shift gears).

How to Reset Drivetrain Malfunction on a BMW?

bmw YOUCANIC SCANNER

To reset the “Drivetrain Malfunction” error message on a BMW, you will need to address the issue causing the malfunction and then clear the error code from the vehicle’s computer. Here are the steps to reset the drivetrain malfunction message:

  1. Determine the cause of the drivetrain malfunction and repair or replace any faulty components as necessary.
  2. Connect the YOUCANIC diagnostic tool to the vehicle’s OBD-II port under the dash and retrieve any error codes that may be stored in the engine control unit (DME).
  3. Fix any fault codes showing as CURRENT or ACTIVE in the Engine Control Unit or DME.
  4. Clear the error codes from the vehicle’s computer using the YOUCANIC diagnostic tool.
  5. Disconnect the diagnostic tool and start the vehicle to see if the drivetrain malfunction message has been reset.
YOUCANIC UCAN2 Scanner Quick Scan Control Units

If the drivetrain malfunction message persists after attempting to reset it, it is possible that the issue has not been properly addressed. It is recommended to have the vehicle inspected by a BMW dealer or a mechanic to diagnose and repair the issue. Ignoring a drivetrain malfunction or continuing to drive with a malfunctioning drivetrain could result in costly repairs and potentially unsafe driving conditions.

Troubleshooting BMW drivetrain malfunction

BMW M Engine

To fix a drivetrain malfunction on a BMW, it is necessary to diagnose the specific issue causing the malfunction. The drivetrain system of a BMW consists of the components that deliver power from the engine to the wheels, including the transmission, driveshaft, and differentials.

Here are some steps that a mechanic may take to diagnose and repair a drivetrain malfunction on a BMW:

  1. Perform a visual inspection of the drivetrain components for any visible signs of damage or wear.
  2. Connect a diagnostic tool to the vehicle’s computer to retrieve any error codes stored in the system. These codes can provide clues as to the cause of the drivetrain malfunction. See the instructions below.
  3. Test the transmission, driveshaft, and differentials to see if they function properly. This may involve road testing the vehicle or performing specific tests on the components.
  4. Clear any error codes from the vehicle’s computer and road test the vehicle to ensure that the repair has been successful.

Following the manufacturer’s recommendations and guidelines is important when repairing a drivetrain malfunction on a BMW. If you are not comfortable or experienced with working on vehicles, it is recommended to have a mechanic diagnose and repair the issue. Ignoring a drivetrain malfunction or continuing to drive with a malfunctioning drivetrain could result in costly repairs and potentially unsafe driving conditions.

1. Restart the Engine

bmw drivetrain malfunction x3
  1. Find a safe place to park your BMW.
  2. Turn off the ignition and remove the key.
  3. Wait for at least five minutes, then restart the car.

In many cases, this will temporarily reset the BMW drivetrain malfunction and allow you to continue your journey. Restart the engine when the BMW Drivetrain Malfunction error message comes up. If the message doesn’t clear, test the battery. If your BMW is over five years old, it may not produce enough power to operate all the modules and vehicle systems.

2. Inspect the Engine for Leaks

bmw drivetrain malfunction x3

If restarting the engine didn’t fix Drivetrain Malfunction, Drive Moderately, park the vehicle safely, and turn off the engine again.

Pull the hood release under the dashboard and inspect the engine for leaks and unusual smells, indicating a damaged serpentine belt, oil leak, or coolant leak.

  • Check the engine oil level.
  • Monitor engine temperature.
  • Do not keep the engine running if it overheats or the oil light is on.

3. Read Codes with a BMW Scanner

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Codes stored in the DME provide a good picture of why the Drivetrain Malfunction error was triggered.

For this step, you will need a BMW Scanner. Generic OBD2 scanners won’t help much, as they can’t read manufacturer fault codes.

  1. Locate the diagnostic port under the dashboard.
  2. Plug in an OBD-II scanner into the diagnostic port.
  3. Turn on the ignition but don’t start the engine.
  4. Turn on the scanner and select your BMW model.
  5. Read codes from the engine (DME) and transmission (EGS) module.

Driving is not recommended if the engine is shaking and there is reduced power or limp mode. Call your dealer or mechanic. Do not ignore a drivetrain malfunction warning. Get the BMW serviced as soon as possible. Even if the drivetrain error disappears, you should still have your BMW diagnosed, as it is highly likely to return.

Most Common Problems that Trigger BMW Drivetrain Malfunctions

Drivetrain malfunction warnings can come up for several reasons, from a weak battery to an engine misfire. Most likely, your issue will be due to one of the issues below. We strongly recommend getting your BMW diagnosed by a mechanic or, at a minimum, reading the fault codes yourself before you start replacing any parts.

1. Spark Plugs

bmw drivetrain malfunction

Worn spark plugs are often the cause of drivetrain malfunction in BMW vehicles. When you change the spark plugs, replace all of them simultaneously.

2. Ignition Coils

Ignition Coils

A failed ignition coil can cause engine misfire and BMW error message drivetrain malfunction on iDrive.

If you are getting a cylinder misfire for one particular cylinder, there is a chance that the ignition coil to that cylinder is defective. Let’s say you get cylinder one misfire.

Swap the ignition coils for cylinder one and cylinder 2. Clean the codes with an OBD-II scanner. Run the car until the check engine light comes back on. You have a bad ignition coil if the code moves with the coil.

3. High-Pressure Fuel Pump

HPFP

BMW drivetrain malfunction can also be caused by a fuel pump that does not generate the required fuel pressure, especially if the error message is coming up when accelerating.

The fuel pump may fail to create enough pressure, especially when there is a high demand from the engine.

4. Catalytic Converter

Catalytic Convert

A clogged catalytic converter can also cause a BMW drivetrain malfunction error message.

Catalytic converter failure is more likely to happen in high-mileage vehicles where the catalytic converter clogs and restricts the exhaust gases.

5. Low-Quality Fuel or Octane Rating

Catalytic Convert

This problem can be caused if you recently filled the car with low-octane gasoline. Use premium gas on your BMW, 93 or higher octane.

If you accidentally used low octane, consider adding an Octane Booster to the fuel tank to bring up the octane level of the tank’s gasoline.

6. Fuel Injectors

One or more damaged fuel injectors can cause BMW to drive with moderately reduced power. If your mechanic determines that the fuel injectors are faulty, it is recommended (but not required) to replace them simultaneously.

Other possible causes of BMW drivetrain malfunction include a blown head gasket, mass airflow sensor, turbo issue, and fuel injectors. While it is impossible to know what caused the BMW drivetrain to malfunction in your car without reading the codes, this error is due to an engine misfire in most cases.

Frequently Asked Questions


Drivetrain malfunction error message during cold weather?

If you receive a “Drivetrain Malfunction” error message on your BMW during cold weather, it is important to stop the vehicle in a safe place as soon as possible and not continue driving. Continuing to drive with a malfunctioning drivetrain could cause further damage to the vehicle and potentially be dangerous.
Cold weather can affect the performance of a vehicle’s drivetrain in several ways. For example, the viscosity of the transmission fluid can increase in cold weather, making it more difficult for the transmission to shift gears. Cold weather can also cause components of the drivetrain, such as the driveshaft, to contract and potentially cause problems.
To determine the cause of the drivetrain malfunction, it is recommended to have the vehicle inspected by a BMW dealer or a mechanic as soon as possible. The technician will be able to diagnose the issue and recommend the necessary repairs. Ignoring the drivetrain malfunction message or continuing to drive with a malfunctioning drivetrain could result in costly repairs and potentially unsafe driving conditions.

Drivetrain malfunction comes up when accelerating.

Suppose you receive a “Drivetrain Malfunction” error message on your BMW while accelerating. In that case, stopping the vehicle in a safe place as soon as possible is important so as not to continue driving. Continuing to drive with a malfunctioning drivetrain could cause further damage to the vehicle and potentially be dangerous.
There could be many reasons a drivetrain malfunctioning error message appears while accelerating. Some possible causes could include problems with the transmission, driveshaft, or differentials or issues with the engine or other components of the drivetrain system.
To determine the cause of the drivetrain malfunction, it is recommended to have the vehicle inspected by a BMW dealer or a mechanic as soon as possible. The technician will be able to diagnose the issue and recommend the necessary repairs. Ignoring the drivetrain malfunction message or continuing to drive with a malfunctioning drivetrain could result in costly repairs and potentially unsafe driving conditions.

BMW drivetrain malfunction after an oil change or service?

If the “Drivetrain Malfunction” error message appears on your BMW after an oil change, there may be a problem with the vehicle’s drivetrain system. However, it is also possible that the oil change may not be related to the drivetrain malfunction.
It is recommended to have the vehicle inspected by a BMW dealer or a mechanic as soon as possible to determine the cause of the drivetrain malfunction. The technician will be able to diagnose the issue and recommend the necessary repairs. It is also good to inform the technician about the recent oil change, as this information may be relevant to diagnosing and repairing the drivetrain malfunction.
Ignoring the drivetrain malfunction message or continuing to drive with a malfunctioning drivetrain could result in costly repairs and potentially unsafe driving conditions.

How much does it cost to fix a drivetrain malfunction BMW?

The cost to fix a drivetrain malfunction on a BMW will depend on the specific issue causing the malfunction and the extent of the repairs needed. The drivetrain system of a BMW consists of the components that deliver power from the engine to the wheels, including the transmission, driveshaft, and differentials.
Repairs to the drivetrain can vary widely in cost. For example, replacing a faulty transmission or driveshaft can be very expensive, while repairing a minor issue with the differentials may be relatively inexpensive.
It is difficult to provide a specific cost estimate for drivetrain repairs without knowing the specific issue causing the malfunction and the extent of the repairs needed. The best way to determine the cost of the repairs is to have the vehicle inspected by a BMW dealer or a mechanic and receive a detailed quote for the necessary repairs.

How to clear drivetrain malfunction BMW?

To clear the “Drivetrain Malfunction” error message on a BMW, you will need to address the issue causing the malfunction and then clear the error code from the vehicle’s computer. Here are the steps to clear the drivetrain malfunction message:
1. Determine the cause of the drivetrain malfunction and repair or replace any faulty components as necessary.
2. Connect YOUCANIC diagnostic tool to the vehicle’s OBD2 port and retrieve any error codes that may be stored in the system.
3. Clear the error codes from the vehicle’s computer using the diagnostic tool.
4. Disconnect the diagnostic tool and start the vehicle to see if the drivetrain malfunction message has been cleared.
If the drivetrain malfunction message persists after attempting to clear it, it is possible that the issue has not been properly addressed. It is recommended to have the vehicle inspected by a BMW dealer or a mechanic to diagnose and repair the issue. Ignoring a drivetrain malfunction or continuing to drive with a malfunctioning drivetrain could result in costly repairs and potentially unsafe driving conditions.

What does drivetrain malfunction mean on BMW x3?

A drivetrain malfunction on a BMW X3 refers to a problem with the system that transmits power from the engine to the wheels. This includes the transmission, driveshaft, and differential. A drivetrain malfunction can cause various issues, including difficulty shifting gears, reduced power or acceleration, and strange noises coming from the transmission.
If you see a drivetrain malfunction warning on your BMW X3’s dashboard, it is important to address the issue immediately. Continuing to drive the car with a malfunctioning drivetrain can cause further damage to the transmission and other components, which can be expensive to repair. It is recommended to have the car checked by a professional mechanic to diagnose and fix the underlying issue.

What is a drivetrain on a BMW?

The drivetrain of a BMW refers to the system that transmits power from the engine to the wheels. It includes the transmission, driveshaft, and differential. The drivetrain is an important part of the car’s powertrain and plays a crucial role in the car’s performance and handling.
The transmission is responsible for transferring power from the engine to the driveshaft, which delivers power to the wheels through the differential. The differential is a mechanical component that allows the wheels on a car to rotate at different speeds, which is necessary when turning corners.
A drivetrain malfunction can occur when there is a problem with any of these components. This can cause various issues, including difficulty shifting gears, reduced power or acceleration, and strange noises coming from the transmission. It is important to address drivetrain malfunctions as soon as possible to avoid potentially damaging the car’s transmission or other components.

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

The cost of repairing a drivetrain on a BMW will depend on the specific issue that needs to be addressed and the complexity of the repair. Some common drivetrain problems, such as faulty transmission, can be expensive to repair, often costing thousands of dollars. Other issues, such as a worn-out driveshaft or differential, may be less expensive to fix but can still be significant.
It is best to consult a professional mechanic to get a more accurate estimate of the cost of repairing a drivetrain on a BMW. They can diagnose the specific issue and provide a detailed quote for the repair. Remember that it is often more cost-effective to fix a drivetrain issue sooner rather than later, as ignoring the problem can lead to further damage and more expensive repairs.

iDrive Malfunction Error Messages

Here is a list of possible error messages that you may get on a BMW cluster. The exact wording of the statement can vary between models.

  • Drivetrain Malfunction…drive slowly.
  • Drivetrain malfunction maximum output not available
  • Drive moderately. Maximum drivetrain output is not available. Consult the service center.
  • Drivetrain malfunction drives moderately.
  • Full performance not available – Have the problem checked by service – Error message.
  • Drivetrain Malfunction Drive Moderately Maximum Drivetrain Output not available
  • Drivetrain Continue the journey at a moderate speed. Full performance is not available. Have the problem checked by service.
  • Drive Modertaley Maximum drivetrain output not available. Consult the service center.

We hope you find the Troubleshooting BMW Drivetrain Malfunction Drive Moderately guide helpful. Check these troubleshooting and repair guides for more help on your BMW.

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71 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    I have a 650I w/53700 miles on it. My warming about the Drivetrain Malfunction happen yesterday. I immediately drove to and dropped the car at the dealer.

    My question: BMW just pulled my engine less that 4000 miles ago. There was a recall to do a valve job on the car. In order to do the recall work my engine needed to be removed. Could that be in relation to this drivetrain malfunction now? I find it odd that this is happening pretty close to the major recall work. Please advise me on your thoughts.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I had this exact problem and it went on for about 1 year beginning about 75,000 which was 300 miles after the warranty ended. I have a 2014 BMW X3 and I got stranded on the freeway, towed it to BMW and they had the car for 3 weeks. Replaced the spark plugs and 1/2 of the fuel injectors. Got it back and in less than 12 hours, I was stranded again, same problem. Towed back to the dealer who replaced the rest of the fuel injectors and the coils. It was fine for a year and then I received the drive train malfunction error multiple times over 3 months but the warning would come on sporadically and then the warning would randomly go off.

    This time I took it to my BMW mechanic (not the dealer), and he tested and replaced the battery because it failed all tests – seriously in a 4 year old car… Got it back and the drivetrain malfunction came on again, this time as I was going out of town on a long road trip. Back to the mechanic and this time they worked on troublehooting with BMW and they figured out that it was the turbo waste gate. Replaced the part and it runs like a top. Too bad, it took so long to figure this out.

    This car has been a huge disappointment and I’ve been a BMW owner for 20 years. Ask your mechanic to check the turbo waste gate before you do all of the other expensive repairs.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I recently got an oil leak fixed on my BMW 535i which required the mechanic to remove a lot of parts from under the hood. After the oil leak was fixed I got an error message: DRIVETRAIN MALFUNCTION: DRIVE MODERATELY. MAXIMUM DRIVETRAIN OUTPUT NOT AVAILABLE. CONSULT SERVICE CENTER.
    This occurs every time I accelerate to pass another car or accelerate on the freeway. This error NEVER happened prior to getting the oil leak fixed. I am concerned that the mechanic may have forgotten to connect something or knocked a sensor out of place. The error comes and goes and I do not have any shaking or anything. The car drives normal.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I have a 2011 BMW X3 and have the same problem with the DriveTrain Error coming on right after I spent $2800 on service (new fuel pump & full maintenance etc.)due to the Engine light coming on for high temperature and Get Roadside Assistance. I finally picked up the car after 2 days and immediately I get the DriveTrain error and subpar performance. And its not the 1st time. Always after service. Something is very wrong at BMW. I’ve only owned BMWs since 1991 but will trade this lemon in this year for something else.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I have a 2015 BMW X3 Diesel. About 3 months after I drove it off lot, it went into limp mode while driving from Wa to Ca. Had to spend one night and got a rental. Two weeks later got car back. Then similar stuff happened. Have 75k miles. Recalls and one on Monday, now back in shop today waiting for Drive Train message diag. Not under warranty. $200 to diag and he just said maybe it is the EGR diesel? Not confident driving this car. Could have bought 2 Subarus.

  6. Anonymous says:

    My BMW x1 has 83000km on the clock, I recently experienced a drive train error that disappeared afterwards. I am now told that the error was caused by a failed battery. I’m finding this hard to believe, can anybody give some expert on this?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hello, I recently installed a high flow catted down pipe (200 cell), a charge pipe, an intercooler, and a jb4 tune . Now every time I drive the car for more than 5 minutes I get the “Drivetrain malfunction: drive moderately. Maximum drivetrain output not available. Consult service center”. I am wondering if this is most likely because of the downpipe installed or if I need to upgrade my spark plugs for the higher power the engine is now making?

  8. Anonymous says:

    Mine is a 2012 328i. The drivetrain malfunction message would usually appear when I am slowing down for less than 10 seconds and then disappear on its own. The car will function as normal and I am able to accelerate after the message disappear. No error codes detected! Strange indeed.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Hi, Mine is Active Hybrid 5 series. I am getting the Drive Train error. I am out of warranty. Any suggestions

  10. Anonymous says:

    Hi Mike, how did you fix the problem? Mine also have the same problem and I’m worried a lot so can you please assist on how your car was fixed .

  11. Anonymous says:

    Hey there- what was the fix for this? I have the same issue