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

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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 at any time but is more likely to pup 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 yourself using a BMW scanner

What does drivetrain malfunction mean?

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

Common Symptoms 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
  • Transmission stuck in gear.
  • Drivetrain malfunction 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 in the limp home mode (can't shift gears). 

What should I do?

When the BMW Drivetrain Malfunction error message comes up first restart the engine. 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. 

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 five minutes, then restart the car.

In many cases, this will temporarily reset the 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 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. 

Read Codes with a BMW Scanner

bmw drivetrain malfunction car wont start shaking reset error with scanner

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. 

If the engine is shaking and there is reduced power or limp mode, driving is not recommended. 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 there is a high probability it will return.

Drivetrain Malfunction Common Causes

Drivetrain malfunction warning can come up for a number of reasons ranging 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, read 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


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 all of them simultaneously.

Other possible causes of BMW drivetrain malfunction include 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 duing 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 an old battery
  • 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 on the highway and, while you are accelerating, get a Drivetrain Malfunction message, the 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 a BMW drivetrain malfunction after you change the engine oil, there is a perfect chance that:

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

Common 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 slowly.
  • Drivetrain malfunction maximum output not available
  • Drive moderately. Maximum drivetrain output is not available. Consult 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 service center.