BMW Drivetrain Malfunction Drive Moderately Problem

BMW vehicles may displayDrivetrain Malfunction Drive Moderately error message on the dashboard when an engine or transmission problem is present. 

This message often appears under heavy acceleration or when you are trying to pass a vehicle. It can also come up during cold weather or even under normal conditions. 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. 


iDrive Messages

When this problem is present, the iDrive screen may show one of these messages: 

  • 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 avaliable. Consult servie center. 

What does drivetrain malfunction mean? 

BMW Drivetrain Malfunction error message means that the engine control module (DME) has detected a performance issue with your engine. Maximum torque output is no longer available. This problem can be caused by a number of issues, see common causes section below. 

In most cases, your BMW will lose power, the engine will shake or die and may even go into the limp home mode (transmission no longer changes gears). This is a common BMW problem that affects many models especially 328i, 335i, 535i, X3, X5. 


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 start 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 highway
  • Drivetrain malfunction and the car won't start

What should I do? 

Ensure the engine is not overheating. Make sure the oil light is NOT on. Continue to drive with caution. Continue driving but don't drive vehicle too hard. Be easy on the accelerator pedal.
If the engine is shaking and there is reduced power or vehicle is in limp mode, it is not recommended to drive for more than a short distance. 

Restart Engine

bmw drivetrain malfunction x3

Find a safe place to park your BMW. Turn off the ignition and remove the key. Wait for at least a 5 minutes then restart the car. In many cases, this will temporarily reset BMW drivetrain malfunction and allow you to continue your journey.

Check Engine

bmw drivetrain malfunction x3
  • Check the engine oil level. 
  • Monitor engine temperature. 
  • Don't allow the engine to overheat. If it does, stop and turn off the engine.

Read Codes

bmw drivetrain malfunction car wont start shaking reset error with scanner

At your earliest convenience read the fault codes using a scanner such as Foxwell for BMW or Carly. Codes stored in the DME will tell you why the Drivetrain Malfunction error was triggered. For this step, you will need a BMW Specific Diagnostic Scanner. Generic OBD2 scanners won't be much help, as they can't read manufacturer fault codes. 

Follow this guide to learn how to read BMW fault codes yourself. 

Do not ignore BMW 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 good chance the problem will return.  

Common Causes

bmw drivetrain malfunction

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

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

A failed ignition coil can casue engine missifre 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

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

BMW drivetrain malfunction error message can also be caused by a clogged catalytic converter. This is more likely to happen in high mileage vehicle where the catalytic converter starts to clog and restricts the exhaust gases. 

Low Octane

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 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 air flow sensor, turbo issue, fuel injectors. While it is impossible to know what caused BMW drivetrain malfunction on your car without reading the codes, in most cases, this error is due to an engine misfire. 

Drivetrain malfunction when 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 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 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 engine oil on the engine

BMW 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 slowly
  • Drivetrain malfunction maximum output not available
  • Drive modertaly. Maximum drivetrain output not avaliable. Consult service center. 
  • Drivetrain malfunction drive moderately
  • Full performance not available - Have the problem checked by service - Error message


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user profile image
Afzal Agowan made a comment.
1 month 4 weeks ago

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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Travis made a comment.
1 month 3 weeks ago

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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TSaps made a comment.
1 month 2 weeks ago

I also have a 2013 BMW x3, nothing but problems i hate to say, i love the car, the service, the drive but since the warantee expired I had to pay for things "malfunctioning" very disappointing. 1. sensors to the ac/heat car was flashing on and off like crazy 1800 dollars, after that thermostat, BMW paid for that or should I say reimburse me. 2. another sensor broke , i dont recall something with the tires another $1800, but since I paid 1800 the time prior they took off $1000, how nice. I said so many malfunctions, why is this my fault? I hate the feel of insecurity the car brings, but now last week a "drivetrain" warning went on and I stopped, turned it on and off and has been good ever since. Scares me to read what you wrote about transmission, but really started to worry. The great drive it has nothing but issues that it should never have.

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Rich made a comment.
1 month 1 week ago

Hello my M5 went into drive train malfunction while sitting in traffic. Took it to BMW they are saying cylinder 5 is malfunctioning and upon further inspection that they need to replace entire engine! Does this make any sense? The car has 60km on it and was purchased second hand from two owners who took good car of it. The first owner did install a performance chip and exhaust but from what I know didn't beat on the car

user profile image
1 month ago

i own 320d 2015, my car engine starts but cant engage gears, it says only DRIVETRAIN PROBLEM really cant able to error code also

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T-Mike-T made a comment.
2 weeks 1 day ago

Is the timing chain. Is broken. Does not need a new engine, just a good mechanic to get the chain in and time it properly. Me engine rebuilds or anything.

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Dean Majidy made a comment.
3 days ago

Exact same problem happened to me, i was driving my friend on the highway when the message "Drivetrain Malfunction" popped up and the check engine light appeared, still drivable however with low output. Next day i take it to Baron BMW and they said "It looks like your timing belt broke, i could open it and see but I dont even know if it's worth our time so ill go ahead and send you the details for a new engine, which is just under 14k". Anyway fast forward a few days I took it to a mechanic shop, got it done just spending under 1k. Moral of the story....don't listen to BMW they're morons who will do anything for an extra dollar.

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T winney made a comment.
7 hours 17 minutes ago

I have the same message but the car has only done 7000 miles from new it’s a 2018 X1


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