A BMW vehicle may display Drivetrain Malfunction Drive Moderately error message on the dashboard when there is an engine or transmission problem.

This message often appears under heavy acceleration, going up on a steep incline, taking off from a stop sign, or when trying to pass another car. Drivetrain Malfunction Drive Moderately can also come up during cold weather or even under normal driving conditions.

In this guide, you will learn more about this subject and how to diagnose the problem with a BMW scanner

What does drivetrain malfunction mean?

BMW Drivetrain Malfunction error message means that the engine control module (also known as DDE ECU ECM or DME) has detected an engine or transmission issue.

The maximum torque output is limited by the ECU to prevent damage.

To diagnose the problem you can use a BMW scanner which will allow you to read the fault codes from the Digital Motor Electronics (DME) module and transmission (EGS)  module.

Symptoms

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
  • 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
  • Transmission stuck in gear
  • Drivetrain malfunction while trying to pass on the highway
  • Drivetrain malfunction and the car won't start

In most cases, your BMW will lose power, the engine may shake or die and transmission can go in the limp home mode (no longer changes gears). 

What should I do?

A few basic steps that one can take when the BMW Drivetrain Malfunction error message comes up. 

Restart 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 5 minutes then restart the car.

In many cases, this will temporarily reset BMW drivetrain malfunction and allow you to continue your journey.

Inspect Engine

bmw drivetrain malfunction x3

If restarting the engine didn't fix Drivetrain Malfunction Drive Moderately park the vehicle in a safe location and turn off the engine again.

Pull the hood release under the dashboard and inspect the engine for leaks and unusual smells which can indicate 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 oil light is on. 

Read Codes with a BMW Scanner

bmw drivetrain malfunction car wont start shaking reset error with scanner

Codes stored in the DME will tell you why the Drivetrain Malfunction error was triggered.

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

  1. Locate diagnostic port under the dashboard. 
  2. Plugin your scanner. 
  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. 

If the engine is shaking and there is reduced power or vehicle is in limp mode, it is not recommended to drive. 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 have your BMW diagnosed as there is a very high chance the problem will return.

Common Problems

BMW drivetrain malfunction is often caused by 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 read the fault codes yourself before you start replacing any parts.

Spark Plugs

bmw drivetrain malfunction

Worn spark plugs are often the cause of drivetrain malfunction on BMW vehicles. When you change the spark plugs, replace all of them at the same time.

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 1 misfire.

Swap the ignition coils for cylinder 1 and cylinder 2. Clean the codes with an OBD-II scanner. Run the car until the check engine light comes back on. If the code is posting to cylinder 2 misfire (P0302), it indicates you have a bad ignition coil.

High-Pressure Fuel Pump

HPFP

BMW drivetrain malfunction can be caused by a fuel pump that is not generating the required fuel pressure. Especially if the error message is coming up when you are accelerating.

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

Catalytic Convert

Catalytic Convert

BMW drivetrain malfunction error message can also be caused by a clogged catalytic converter.

This is more likely to happen in high mileage vehicles where the catalytic converter starts to clog and restricts the exhaust gases.

Low Quality Fuel or Octane Rating

Catalytic Convert

This problem can be caused if you recently filled up the car with low octane gasoline. Make sure to use premium gas on your BMW, 93 or higher octane.

If you accidentally used low octane, consider adding Octane Booster to the fuel tank to bring up the octane level of the gasoline that is in the tank.

Fuel Injectors

One or more damaged fuel injectors can cause BMW to drive moderately reduced power.

If your mechanic determines that the fuel injectors are the problem, it is recommended (but not required) to replace all of them at the same time.

Other possible causes of BMW drivetrain malfunction include blown head gasket, mass airflow sensor, turbo issue, fuel injectors.

While it is impossible to know what caused BMW drivetrain malfunction in your car without reading the codes, in most cases, this error is due to an engine misfire.

FAQ

Drivetrain malfunction on cold weather

If you are getting drivetrain malfunction when you first start your BMW in the morning, there is a good chance that you:

  • Have a battery that is old
  • Have spark plugs that weren't changed at the recommended interval
  • Have too many electronics plugged into the auxiliary outlet

Drivetrain malfunction comes up when accelerating

If you are trying to pass another car in the highway and while you are accelerating get Drivetrain Malfunction message, chances are that you:

  • Have a bad high-pressure fuel pump
  • Clogged fuel filter
  • Damaged or dirty fuel injector.

Drivetrain malfunction came on after an oil change

If you get BMW drivetrain malfunction after you change the engine oil, there is a very good chance that:

  • A sensor got unplugged by accident
  • You spilled oil on the engine

iDrive Drivetrain Malfunction Error Messages

This is a list of possible error messages that you may get. The exact wording of the message can vary between models.

  • Drivetrain Malfunction...drive slowly
  • Drivetrain malfunction maximum output not available
  • Drive moderately. Maximum drivetrain output not available. Consult service center.
  • Drivetrain malfunction drive 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 not available. Have the problem checked by service.
  • Drive Modertaley Maximum drivetrain output not available. Consult service center.

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Thank you! 

Visitor
Member since 2020-09

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.

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Visitor
Member since 2020-09

I've noticed every time I use my start to stop function is when that same experience comes up, once it's turned off doesn't then it's fine.

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Visitor
Member since 2020-09

Actually yes I started experiencing problems after seeing a mechanic

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Visitor
Member since 2020-09

Den, did you every get an answer to your issue. I had the same problem and BMW replaced my engine (said it was the timing belt issue) and now the same issue with the warning but now BMW says the turbo needs to be replaced - I have not had any performance issues (not even the first time the warning light came on). Any insight you can offer?

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Visitor
Member since 2020-09

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?

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Visitor
Member since 2020-09

My BMW 330d has a hard start and is telling me the the drivetrain malfunction, so what could be the cause?

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Visitor
Member since 2020-09

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?

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Visitor
Member since 2020-09

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.

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Visitor
Member since 2020-09

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.

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Visitor
Member since 2020-09

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.

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Visitor
Member since 2020-09

i have a Battery problem for so long, BMW 3 SERIES 2013. so i used to see those massages steering stabilization drive on moderate speed. but the confusion was this massage was only displayed more especially in the mornings when ma car refuses to start because of the Battery, sometimes when you start it will display battery charge reduced when stationary and the battery has powder acid smell like thing. i am due to service oil but still need to travel 3700km, i do check my oil levels all the time. today morning it was very cold but i did start well the engine when i am on my way it showed i must drive on moderate speed drivetrain not fully activated. switched off engine then restarted massage was gone. as the day continued and was raining it refused to start but started then showed a massage that must drive on moderate speed and avoid hard braking and must take the vehicle to BMW. It once vribrated a little long time ago after i bought an oil from Total garage n i took it back same day thinking may be they put the wrong oil. am i on danger m starting to Panic now

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Visitor
Member since 2020-09

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.

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Visitor
Member since 2020-09

My car is giving me the drivetrain problem. At times, the car starts, then the engine is off and gives drive train message. It further says automatic start disactivated and the engine does not start even pressing and holding the start button.

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Visitor
Member since 2020-09

I have a 2015 320i and have had the drivetrain malfunction light come on 3 times already within the passed 15 days. But every time I turn off the vehicle and turn it back on the light goes away and drives fine... no loss of power or anything. the first 2 times it happened, I was low on gas so thought that was the case since I filled up and hasn't happened until just yesterday, which would be the 15th day since it last happened, but I was at half a tank this time. Car turned on after I cut it off a few seconds, car is driving fine again.. what could it be?

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Visitor
Member since 2020-09

Was accelerating my BMW 428xi in wet conditions to pass a car on the interstate and received this error. Car immediately went into limp mode a decelerated to 60mph. Went to a gas station turned the car of for 10 minutes, restarted. Kept the rpm's under 2,000 and mph under 70. Made it to the shop and turns out it was a sensor error possibly due to driving in rain for 7 hours the mechanic said.

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Visitor
Member since 2020-09

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.

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Visitor
Member since 2020-09

I have a bmw 328i 2012 f30...I was having drivetrain malfunction issue so I changed my spark plugs, coils , low pressure fuel pump and also high pressure fuel pump but drive train malfunction still keeps showing.

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Visitor
Member since 2020-09

Hi, Almost same issue with my BMW X3 2013, 84k miles. I got "Drive moderately. Maximum drivetrain output not available. Consult service center" on 3/29/2019 night while I am out. It allowed me to drive to restaurant. After 15 minutes I tried to start car and showed up "Do not switch off engine, engine restart will not be possible. Consult nearest service center." I got it towed it to BMW service station. Next day they told that timing chain broke and its pieces spoiled the engine and need to replace entire engine. My car warranty expired long back. My extended maintenance expired 4 months back. I was told that it costs around $14k (current price of car is almost same) and I have to pay it since there is no warranty. My car is always serviced in BMW service station and no symptoms of this or any problems so far.

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Visitor
Member since 2020-09

This happened to me about a week ago. After reading comments I didn't want to take my car to official BMW services as they may suggest change engine! which I already did once due to other problem, but my car was still under warranty, now it's not. Take my car to another BMW service and it was an injector problem. Change injector number 4 and fix the problem, $150 USD repair!.

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Visitor
Member since 2020-09

This happens to me when the gas in my car is not good. I always put premium but have learned to stay away from sketchy gas stations. Ince I refuel with quality gas the engine shaking stops.

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