Troubleshooting BMW Drivetrain Malfunctions: How to Identify and Diagnose the Issue

The drivetrain is vital in any vehicle, not just a BMW. The work of a drivetrain is to transfer power from the engine to the wheels. If you want to experience the performance of a BMW vehicle, then its drivetrain has to be in good condition. However, you may also experience BMW drivetrain malfunction like any mechanical system.

When you see the message “Drivetrain Malfunction” in a BMW, it means a problem needs addressing. Also, you may experience warning lights, loss of power during acceleration, and much more.

We will go deep into the BMW drivetrain malfunction issue and help you see the best way to address this problem and resolve it for the best performance of your BMW vehicle. We also share details on the causes so that you can prevent the problem from happening in the first place.

BMW Drivetrain And Its Components

A drivetrain is not just one component. It is a combination of the transmission, driveshaft, and differential. So, if there is a problem, these are the main components you should look at.


The transmission is essential for transmitting the power from an engine to the wheels through several gear ratios. You may have come across it also being referred to as the gearbox. It can either be manual or automatic.

When the gearbox or transmission is working efficiently, you should also have smooth power delivery to the wheels at different speeds.

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You would also come across a driveshaft as a component of the drivetrain. This is the rotating shaft connecting the transmission to the differential.

Its job is to transfer the rotational power from the transmission to the differential, which distributes the power to the wheels. As you can see, the driveshaft is key in maintaining the direct connection between the wheels and the transmission for smooth power transfer.


The differential’s main function is to evenly distribute the power from the driveshaft between the wheels. The wheels can rotate depending on how much power the engine generates.

The other functionality of the differential is to also make the wheels rotate at different speeds during turns, making it easier to make turns. That is why your BMW would have the best maneuverability if the drivetrain components were working as expected.

Symptoms of a BMW Drivetrain Malfunction

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The BMW is expected to work in a certain way. If that does not happen, then there could be a drivetrain malfunction in the vehicle. So, what are some of the BMW drivetrain malfunction symptoms? Here are some that you should know about.

Drivetrain Malfunction or Transmission Fault Warning Message

You may want to take note of the warning messages on the dashboard. A good example is seeing the warning message “drivetrain malfunction” or “transmission fault.”

Seeing these two messages means that there is something wrong with the drivetrain that needs addressing. So, consulting a professional can help know what should be done to get the vehicle running right once again.

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Loss of Power

You would be enjoying a drive with the full power of the BMW engine; then suddenly, you experience loss of power. Losing significant power is a common symptom of drivetrain malfunction.

The vehicle may also struggle to accelerate or lack responsiveness each time you decide to drive aggressively. This is definitely frustrating and can be dangerous, especially when you need to overtake faster.

Shifting Issues

The BMW may start to have erratic patterns in shifting gears. It can happen in both manual or automatic transmission systems.

You will experience grinding noises in a manual vehicle even though you know how to drive a manual. As for the automatic transmission, you would experience erratic shifting behaviors such as harsh gear changes, unexpected upshifts, and more.

So long as it is anything from smooth gear operation, then the transmission could have an issue.

Unusual Vibrations From The Drivetrain

Having unusual vibrations from a drivetrain is another signal that there could be other underlying issues with the vehicle.

Common noises include humming, whining, grinding, and clunking. You may also experience a shuddering sensation or vibrations through the seats, steering wheel, and pedals. These issues show that there is a problem with the transmission, driveshaft, or differential.

Causes Of BMW Drivetrain Malfunction

Once you understand what could lead to BMW drivetrain malfunction, you would know how to handle the issues. Here are some of the potential causes of drivetrain issues in a BMW.

Faulty Solenoids, Fluid Leaks, and Worn-out clutches

Solenoids are essential for controlling the flow of transmission fluid and ensuring the specific gears are engaged properly. In case the solenoids are not working, then there will be improper shifting or failure to change gears.

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If the clutch is worn out, it can lead to the transmission slipping. This means having difficulty changing gears or still the loss of power when changing gears.

As for fluid leaks, it can easily lead to low lubrication or insufficient hydraulic pressure in the transmission system. As such, expect erratic shifting and sometimes overheating of the transmission.

Differential Problems

Since a differential is a mechanical part, it can also end up having worn parts. This includes the bearings and damaged bearings.

Worn bearings increase friction and noise, making it hard to transfer the power to the wheels. Bearings fail because of low lubrication or high mileage.

Damaged gears can happen because of excessive force or because there is a lack of lubrication. You will hear a lot of vibrations and noise from the differential.

Faulty Sensors Or Wiring

Sensor malfunctions can happen over time. This is because the sensors may be exposed to the elements that might damage them. If the sensors do not provide the necessary information to the control modules, then the drive train would not work as expected.

Wiring issues can also disrupt the proper transmission signals between the control modules, sensors, and other drivetrain components. Of course, the drivetrain performance is affected if there is erroneous data transmission.

Improper Maintenance

High mileage and improper maintenance can easily lead to drivetrain malfunctions over time. The drivetrain components also need proper maintenance, including fluid changes, replacing filters, and inspections. If you do not do the recommended maintenance, you can easily end up with issues with your drivetrain.

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Here is a video with more details

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Potential Solutions And Repairs

Since you now have all the vital information about the BMW drivetrain malfunction, how best can you resolve such issues? Below are the ideas to keep in mind for repairing the BMW drivetrain.

  • Repair any minor issues before they become a big problem. An example is replacing the sensors or damaged solenoids in time to keep the transmission working.
  • We also recommend doing regular maintenance practices such as fluid checks and changes, filter replacements, and regular inspections to know which parts might need repairs or replace.
  • Sometimes major repairs are necessary. This includes transmission and differential replacement. This requires a specialist who understands how to replace these components correctly.


Is it safe to drive a BMW with the message drivetrain malfunction?

It is not safe to keep driving such a vehicle. Getting this error message means you should pay attention to the vehicle’s drivetrain to find out what could be the issue and have it fixed as soon as possible.

How much will it cost to repair the BMW drivetrain malfunction?

It depends on what could be broken in the drivetrain system. If you have to replace the powertrain control module, you might spend up to $2000, and labor cost will be $150. So, the parts can be quite expensive.

How do you know the drivetrain is damaged?

The BMW drivetrain often starts to vibrate or shudder, indicating issues with the drivetrain. We recommend taking it to a mechanic rather than ignoring the vibrations, which sometimes make repairs expensive sometimes.

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BMW drivetrain malfunction can lead to low performance of the vehicle. When you notice a problem with the vehicle’s transmission, we recommend addressing the issue promptly to keep the vehicle driving as expected.

Some notable symptoms include seeing a warning message on the dashboard, unusual noises from the vehicle, or shifting issues. We always recommend working with a professional mechanic to diagnose and repair the issues with the drivetrain.