Drivetrain Malfunction on BMW – All You Need To Know

The BMW drivetrain malfunction is a warning light that usually comes on when the engine is under load, like when you’re pulling away while overtaking or driving up a steep hill.

Possible Causes of a BMW Drivetrain Malfunction

1. Overused Spark Plugs

Spark plugs are responsible for igniting the fuel in the combustion chamber. They should be replaced every 30,000 miles or so but if you’re not changing them at regular intervals, your engine might misfire. If this happens, it’s time to change immediately. Overused spark plugs could result to a BMW drivetrain malfunction.

drivetrain malfunction bmw - overused spark plugs
Overused Spark Plugs

2. Old Ignition Coils

One of the symptoms of a BMW drivetrain malfunction is a misfire. In such a case, your ignition coils are likely to blame. They are located on the cylinder head and are responsible for sending high voltage to each spark plug in order to ignite the air-fuel mixture inside it.

Coils can wear out over time, causing misfires. If you suspect that this may be the case with your vehicle, have your car inspected.

drivetrain malfunction bmw - old ignition coils
Old Ignition Coils

3. Failed High-pressure Fuel Pump

If you are experiencing a failed high-pressure fuel pump in your BMW, it is likely that the engine will not start. You will see a warning on the dash and may hear a pump running noise when you turn on the ignition.

You can check if your high-pressure fuel pump has failed by removing the fuel cap and attaching an analog tire pressure gauge to it. If there is no pressure reading, then your high-pressure fuel pump is malfunctioning and needs to be replaced immediately.

drivetrain malfunction bmw - failed high pressure fuel pump
Failed High-pressure Fuel Pump

4. Clogged Catalytic Converter

A catalytic converter is a device that converts exhaust gas into less harmful gases, including carbon dioxide and nitrogen. It is located under the car, often in a pipe that connects to the lower part of your muffler or exhaust system.

Carbon build-up in catalytic converters can cause misfiring or drivetrain malfunction because it stops/slows down your exhaust emission rate, building pressure in the exhaust unit.

Carbon build-up can be caused by low-octane fuel or not using high-mileage oil (which breaks down over time), which should be replaced after around 5k miles on any vehicle regardless of make or model.

drivetrain malfunction bmw - clogged catalytic converter
Clogged Catalytic Converters

5. Damaged Fuel Injectors

If your fuel injectors are damaged, they will leak fuel into the combustion chamber. This can lead to a loss of power and misfiring. You will need to replace them in this case.

drivetrain malfunction bmw - damaged fuel injectors
Damaged Fuel Injectors

Read: Car Shakes in Reverse

How to Tell if Your BMW Has Drivetrain Malfunction

1. Check The Car Service History

First, look at the car’s service history. Drivetrain malfunctions can be noted in a vehicle’s maintenance record, so it’s important to look through this first before taking the car in for repairs.

2. Warning Lights Are On

Check your lights. If the check engine light is on, it means that there’s a problem with your engine or emissions system. The first thing you should do when this happens is to read the code to see what exactly needs fixing so it can be addressed immediately.

Most importantly, keep in mind that while some warning lights are normal and simply mean that there’s something wrong but not urgent enough to pull over right away, other warning lights indicate serious problems with your car that need immediate attention. Because of this distinction, always take caution when driving around with any warning lights illuminated.

3. “Drivetrain Malfunction” Error On The Screen

The “drivetrain malfunction” error is usually indicated via the dashboard. The light will come on when the vehicle is in motion and flash to indicate a problem with the transmission.

When this happens, drivers should pull over safely and turn off the engine so that they can investigate the issue. If you don’t fix it right away, your car may not shift properly or stop suddenly due to an impending transmission failure.

You can prevent this from happening by having regular maintenance performed by trained professionals at BMW dealerships.

4. Transmission Issues

Transmissions can experience a number of issues that could impact your vehicle’s performance. This could be a way for you to know that there is something wrong with your car’s drivetrain. I

In some cases, shifting may be jerky or delayed as it tries to find the appropriate gear for acceleration and deceleration.

If you’re experiencing rough shifting in either direction, the transmission might be about to fail altogether. The transmission will need immediate attention if there’s fluid leaking out of it; otherwise, it could cause extensive damage to other components before repairs can be made.

5. Engine Misfiring Or Car Refusing To Start

One of the symptoms of drivetrain malfunction is that the engine will misfire or the car will not start. If your vehicle does not start, you should check to make sure that all necessary accessories are turned on and that no lights are flashing on your dashboard.

If these are both correct, you might want to try jumping and starting your vehicle.

If it still doesn’t work, then it is probably time to look into getting your car serviced, diagnosed, and repair any issues with your vehicle’s drivetrain system.

6. Too Much Smoke From the Exhaust

You should check your drivetrain as soon as you see smoke coming from the exhaust. This is a sign that something is wrong with your drivetrain and it needs to be fixed immediately. If you wait too long and continue driving, this could cause serious damage to your vehicle.

How To Fix Drivetrain Malfunction On BMW

1. Restart The Engine

The first thing to do is find a safe place to pull over. Turn off the engine and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Then turn the ignition key to the “on” position, and start the engine. If you’re lucky, after restarting the car, the drivetrain malfunction message could clear from the dashboard.

2. Check The Engine For Abnormalities

If restarting your car doesn’t work, you should inspect your engine. Look for any leaks, smoke, or weird noise. If the engine has been sitting idle for a long time, it might not start due to a low battery. In this case, jumpstarting the engine might be the best option.

3. Scan the Vehicle

If you want to know the exact problem or if you suspect something is wrong with your vehicle, you need to get a checkup. For this purpose, an OBD II scanner (commonly referred to as an OBDII code reader) can be used to retrieve and display error codes in your vehicle’s computer system. To use one of these devices:

  • Connect the scanner’s proper cable connector into the port under your dashboard marked “OBD”. The cable will only fit in one way; it cannot be inserted incorrectly.
  • Turn on the engine and wait for about 3 seconds for all systems inside /the car to start working properly before beginning the operation of your device. If this does not happen, shut down immediately and check out other potential issues such as battery life before proceeding further with diagnosis/repair work.

FAQs on Drivetrain Malfunction in BMW

What Does Drivetrain Mean in a BMW?

Drivetrain in a BMW refers to components that transmit power from the vehicle’s engine to the wheels. They include the transmission, driveshafts, differentials, and the wheels themselves. The drivetrain is responsible for converting the engine’s power into motion, causing the vehicle to move.

How Serious is BMW Drivetrain Malfunction?

The severity of a BMW drivetrain malfunction can vary depending on the specific issue. Some drivetrain malfunctions may cause only minor inconvenience, while others can result in significant damage to the vehicle or compromise its safety.

However, it’s important to have a drivetrain malfunction diagnosed and repaired promptly by a BMW mechanic to avoid further problems.

When Do BMW Transmissions Go Out?

On average, a BMW transmission can last between 100,000 to 150,000 miles. Some BMW transmissions may fail sooner, while others may last longer. The lifespan can vary based on driving habits, maintenance practices, and the vehicle model.

Why Does BMW Drivetrain Light Come On?

The BMW drivetrain light, also known as the Check Engine Light, can come due to different reasons. Some of them include:

  • Malfunctioning oxygen sensor
  • Loose or damaged gas cap
  • Misfiring engine
  • Transmission problems
  • Problems with the mass air flow sensor
  • Issues with the catalytic converter

Is Drivetrain Covered Under BMW Warranty?

Yes, the drivetrain is covered under the BMW Powertrain Warranty. In the event of any damage to the drivetrain throughout the length of your warranty, your vehicle will be protected.

Can I Drive with BMW Drivetrain Malfunction?

I don’t recommend that you continue driving your BMW with a drivetrain malfunction. This can cause further damage to your car and compromise its safety.

We recommend that you have a BMW mechanic check it out as soon as possible.


If you’re experiencing a drivetrain malfunction on your BMW, don’t panic. It’s likely that there is an easy fix for it, and in most cases, the fix could be made at home with simple tools.

There are several reasons why your car would start showing the BMW drivetrain malfunction. Some of them are; a damaged fuel injector, a clogged catalytic converter, overused spark plugs, old ignition coils, and a failed high-pressure fuel pump.

You’ll know there’s a drivetrain problem when there is too much car exhaust, transmission issues, engine misfiring, warning lights are on or there is a drivetrain malfunction message on the dashboard.

The first step in fixing this issue is troubleshooting. As long as this malfunction is detected early, you have less to worry about.