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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 Malfunction...drive 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


Afzal Agowan, 2019-03-25

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.

Travis, 2019-04-01

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.

TSaps, 2019-04-08

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.

Rich, 2019-04-11

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

I don't think you need to change the whole Engine. That costs a lot and is probably not worth it. How old is your car and how much has your Engine driven? 60,000 km? that is not a lot to be honest

If the Cylinder has malfunctioned, they should be able to change it. Yes it will be costly but far less than your engine

sreedhar---- i…, 2019-04-18

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

T-Mike-T, 2019-05-07

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.

Dean Majidy, 2019-05-20

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.

T winney, 2019-05-23

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

Hessu, 2019-05-31

Mine 2015 520xda wen't to a limp mode with drivetrain error message. I checked the fail code with ista and it asked to check intake manifold pressure sensor. I took a one from my wifes x1 and tested it to my 520 and whole car runs fine. Then putting the old one back and the engine light turns on when starting. So it is worth to try this one...

Mikey-1991, 2019-06-02

I got a second hand vehicle from a BMW 1 series M sport just a few weeks ago ( late 2016 model) and I’ve just had this message pop up randomly this morning. Says I can continue to drive but should get it serviced. After reading the comments above it’s got me fearful of when my warranty runs out

Busi, 2019-06-03

mine did the same thing two days ago:(:(..luckily my car is still under warranty...

Lucky, 2019-07-05

Hi did you take your car to BMW and did they repair under warranty.

JAM, 2019-06-04

I have a 650. Took car initially because of engine oil needed. They checked it and told me the turno coolant hoses were leaking. I paid 3500 and picked it up saturday. Driving home today it started shaking badly and message said drivetrain malfunction. I had paid 200 for having a complete diagnostic and this never came up. I almost feel they sabotage the cars there. Every time i do it something else comes up at peter pan bmw service. Anyone has ideas ?

BgrayLovesBMW, 2019-06-15

I found my answer here which I knew it had to be mechanics fault. I had oil changed and waited for it. Said I was good to go and car was running out front. The second I got into vehicle the Drivetrain Malfunction drive moderately was on. I always check my dash because this isn’t my first rodeo with a mechanic error. I immediately told the mechanic who claimed to be a foreign car specialist and he of courses wouldn’t except it was possibly something he did. When you take a vehicle in for simple maintenance and get it back with error codes it really hacks me off. My suspicion was he spilled oil on engine. A month ago I had new plugs put in. It wasn’t shaking or riding rough. He told me he didn’t have time to assess the problem and I would have to bring it back another day.

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
He didn’t even put the correct oil in it. There’s more to story but at least my assumption is correct. Thank you for posting the information

Visitor, 2019-06-24

Actually yes I started experiencing problems after seeing a mechanic

BMW , 2019-06-17

Hi . My car bmw 520d 2010
Yesterday showed drivetrain fault.
what can i expect?

K Mahlatji, 2019-08-20

Expect trouble going forth. Nice to have but once it ages it's dollars out the pocket all the way.... Off motor plan is a huge issue, then all hell breaks.....

Eyad batal, 2019-06-20

I have 7 series bmw 2011 milage 20000km. I had this message when i start the car some times and it starts shaking. I have to turn it off for 5 minutes and restart again. Some times it does not show the message but still can feel the shake in the engine. I send the car to bmw service and they changed the spark parts as it is the cause but i still have the same problem although they tested on the error codes scanner. What do you advise me to do and what do you think the problem cause??

Daniel Ivanov, 2019-11-30

What ended up happening? I've had the same shake for a few months now, but tonight it just threw the drivetrain malfunction iDrive code.

When the shake started I took it to a mechanic, he didn't see any codes on his scanner and told me to wait until it gives me an iDrive code, which just happened moments ago (I am assuming it's related to the shake).

I am wondering if there's any updates to your situation, since we both have engine shake.

Darius Horne , 2019-06-24

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.

tumiso matsaung, 2019-06-29

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

Angel j, 2019-07-01

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?

den, 2019-07-31

i had exactly the same problem on my 2013 528i xdrive? did anybody solved this problem.

the car is driving fine

johns, 2019-09-09

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?

Tj, 2019-07-04

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.

Samuel Blanco, 2019-07-23

The BMW is known for electrical issues. Thats what I am thinking

Mark, 2019-07-06

I have a 2013 528i 179k miles that I bought from a friend. His wife was driving it and it stalled wouldn't start back up, it displayed the drivetrain malfunction warning long story short I bought it from him not running and replaced the following. Oil change, camshaft position sensor, plugs, coils and it still wont start it cranks and about every 3 try to start it trys to bust off I know its getting fuel.

deb, 2019-07-11

So mine is a diesel. I had my car towed to the BMW dealer. It was the fuel pump malfunction. I only have 20k miles on the car so luckily it's still under warranty. But they told me it's likely a defective part but what happened is this malfunction caused metal pieces, whatever it was that malfunctioned, so the whole entire fuel line has to be replaced. It was a week today it was towed and I won't have the car back until next week, end of the week. The service guy said it would cost about 10k to fix. They had to hook my car up to a computer in Germany to diagnose it. I am leasing so now thinking, not sure if I want to keep it as I was thinking about it because I love the car. Anyway, it's kind of crazy. Wish I knew more details, I don't, just telling my story.

Randy, 2019-07-18

2013 328xi with 133K miles. Get the error often, usually after I run it for a short time and then restart I immediately re-start the engine and it runs fine. This has been going on for a few months. Changed the plugs didn’t help

Lesli, 2019-07-18

I have a 2012 528i - 60k miles. I was driving with no issue then took a turn and slid a little on some gravel on the road...the drivetrain message came up...thought it was due to the slight skid...stopped, turned the car off and let it set for 5 minutes... the message still up. I've had no previous issues - only thing different is that I got gas the night before. I have put in gas dryer as and the rough idle when sitting has smoothed out but still rough when I took a test drive and drivetrain message hasn't cleared. The engine is not heating up...at all, no smoke, no oil light - oil is at an optimal level, new battery, not stuck in gear, timing belt looks good.

Kim, 2019-07-22

I have had this come up on my car today but seems to only come on when the air con is on.

GL, 2019-07-25

So can i drive the car even though its only changing on 2 gears? here in my country we cannot take it directly to the mechanic (bmw) we need to book the schedule. and sometimes it will take a while.

Randy, 2019-07-27

Read somewhere that an old battery could be the culprit.

Caiphus, 2019-12-12

I hope mine is the Battery ( It's six years old now )

J-Dawg, 2019-07-28

I test drove a 2012 550i xDrive and this error message popped up, accompanied by moderate shaking, engine stall on the freeway, smell of smoke, and grinding on the transmission. I'm lucky this happened when it did, otherwise I would've ended up with a maintenance nightmare driving a lemon with the BMW logo on it. Utterly disappointing!

Cynthia, 2019-07-31

Finally the myth is solved! I bought a brand new 330E M sport 2 weeks ago, the drivedrain malfunction happened just a few days after I collected the car. BMW service centre here never encounter this kind of problem before. They checked the error message and couldn’t find it. So they just brush it off without the initiative to identify the problem and dismiss me. After I make a complain again they are very reluctant to check throughly and still unable to Identify the problem. They insist the car is working perfectly and intend to dismiss me once again. Now I found this article and I will forward to them. Hopefully, they will read and get the idea how to fix my car. It is very disturbing and disappointed with the kind of attitude they served customer.
Is BMW workshop now adopt DIY troubleshooting ?!

Visitor, 2019-08-01

I have had this message on and off for at least two years. I have had the car scanned and no faulty codes appear. I keep my 2012 528i now at 85k miles, on a regular maintenance schedule. I do no notice any performance issues when the Drive Train message appears and the warning light disappears when I restart my car. I’m at a loss. I put premium gas in it. I just had it serviced today and told my mechanic of issue, he could not find anything wrong.

Lois, 2019-08-07

I had the drive train malfunction would come and go. Finally I could not get the error to go away. BMW said I needed a new engine. I cant afford one so I took it to where I bought it originally. He said it only needed a new waste gate. $295.00 job. Two years later I just started to get the error again but the car runs fine. I did have the timing chain and oil pump chain replaced it was rattling. I will be going back to the good mechanic and hope its nothing.

Kat, 2019-08-26

My drive train malfunction warning came on again after receiving a low oil warning. Do they have any correlation?

VIC, 2019-09-30

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

Desirae , 2019-10-02

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.

carlosgonzalezdel, 2019-10-10

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!.

Lisa Sheppard-…, 2019-10-13

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.

ERNIE V., 2019-11-06

Wow it seems to me a lot of us are having the same issue . This drive train malfunction has been a total nightmare for me. Left me stranded and took the car to a bmw mechanic shop. Prior I change the spark plugs and ignition coils after it still gave me problems. Took it to a shop and they said it needed to be reset by a special scanner. Work ok for about two weeks (not great) then the drive train message came again. This time it wouldn’t let me accelerate and was shaking. Now the car is in a shop and will be changing the fuel pump, sensor and supposedly it needs the original ignition coils. Total cost $1700 😩, it’s a 2014 bmw 528i with 90,000 miles.

Mike 203, 2019-11-13

Hello guys... I'm driving 2012 320i f30. I went out to start my car this morning but it failed to start up display this message :drivetrain. Drivetrain moderately and other one battery discharging when stationary... I wanna know whats the real problem any help is greatly appreciated

Mfusi, 2019-12-02

At BMW they dont know exactly what is the cause of this problem or maybe the do but they wont tell cause it's their fault.

BMW 528i, 2019-12-03

Own a 2013 BMW 528i which has been having the Drivetrain Malfunction problem now for over 2 months. In the BMW Shop three times now replacing High Pressure Oil Pump; Low Pressure Fuel Pump and just today and Eccentric Shaft Adjustment. Over $3500.00 so far with Mechanics telling me that the diagnostics are coming back different each time but cannot reassure me that the parts replaced were in fact faulty. This is my third BMW and may be my last given this experience.

Jhon, 2019-12-15

Hello, i have a bnw 523i 3.0 gasoline, and i have this drive train problem, no one mechanic can tell me what is the problem exact, but on the diagnosis ita appear to be cylinder misfire on 5 and 6. I replaced the sprk plugs and the coils, but it still the same, the problem appear just when the engine is cold(morning). When heared car goes normal.
Anyone can help me ?

Frances, 2019-12-16

I’m driving from Arkansas to Texas and the drivetrain Malfunction went on. It’s telling me that I should drive Modertaley. Can I still travel for 700 miles? I’m really nervous about this. My car is a 750 LI
It has 100120
Miles. What should I do?? Help!!

By YOUCANIC on Apr 4, 2019


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