BMW X3 Drivetrain Malfunction [Reasons & Solutions]

The BMW X3 displays a drivetrain malfunction due to reasons such as an overheated engine, faulty spark plugs, damaged ignition coil, clogged catalytic converter, or lower fuel quality. 

Temporary fixes include restarting the engine or checking and changing fuel quality. For permanent solutions, you need to conduct professional diagnosis and repairs that may cost ranging from $66 to $1200.

To know how to solve the BMW X3 drivetrain malfunction in detail, continue reading the entire article.

bmw x3 drivetrain malfunction drive moderately

BMW X3 Drivetrain Malfunction: Quick Overview

Before jumping into each reason and solution, let’s get a quick overview of what causes the BMW X3 drivetrain malfunction and the possible solutions. 

Overheated EngineRestart the engine after a 10-minute rest.
Faulty or Old Spark PlugsReplace the old spark plugs. 
Damaged Ignition CoilChange the faulty ignition coils.
Clogged Catalytic ConverterCheck and clean the catalytic converter with a suitable solution.
Faulty Fuel PumpReplace the old fuel pump.
Defective Fuel InjectorsReplace damaged fuel injectors.
Lower Fuel QualityCheck and change the fuel quality if necessary.

What Is “Drivetrain Malfunction” On A BMW X3? 

As stated, drivetrain malfunction on a BMW X3 means that the car has experienced some troubles in its engine or transmission. 

Whenever the Engine Control Module (ECM) detects an error in the drivetrain, a drivetrain malfunction error message will appear on its iDrive screen. 

This Engine Control Module or ECU in BMWs is also known as the Engine Control Unit (ECU), or Digital Motor Electronics (DME). It is a small electronic device that controls the engine’s electrical systems.

When it tracks a problem either in the transmission or engine, it triggers the check engine light and shows the error message on the dashboard. 

At this moment, the ECM will also switch the BMW X3 into safety mode to prevent further damage due to malfunctions. 

What Are The Symptoms Of Drivetrain Malfunction On BMW X3? 

There is a great variety of symptoms of drivetrain malfunction that may appear as warning waves to the car driver. Here are some of the most common symptoms of drivetrain malfunction in BMW X3:

  • The check engine light comes on
  • Excessive smoke coming from the car’s exhaust
  • BMW X3 may start stalling frequently
  • The transmission gets stuck in the gear
  • iDrive showing the error message 
  • The car suddenly stops or refuses to get started
bmw x3 drivetrain malfunction causes

Reasons for The Drivetrain Malfunction On BMW X3 & Easy Solutions

Just like the BMW 328i Drivetrain Malfunction, the BMW X3 faces the same issue for several different reasons. Some of the leading causes of drivetrain malfunction on the BMW X3 are the following: 

Reason 1: Overheated Engine 

When the BMW X3 runs for longer without rest, it can often overheat the engine. Once the engine is overheated, drivetrain malfunction may appear on the BMW X3. 


The quickest solution that anyone can try for this error is restarting the engine. So, turn off the ignition and let the engine rest for at least 10 minutes. Then restart the car. 

Note: It will fix the error temporarily so one can finish the journey without any trouble. So, the problem must be diagnosed and fixed permanently by a professional BMW mechanic. 

Reason 2: Faulty Or Old Spark Plugs 

If the spark plugs are damaged or worn out, the engine won’t function properly, and the ECU will trigger the drivetrain malfunction on the BMW X3. 

So, when this error is set, and the engine starts idling or misfiring, it means that the spark plugs may be at fault. 


In this case, the only solution to fix this problem is to replace the old spark plugs. In general, it will cost between $66 and $200. Labor cost will be between $50-$100, while a set of spark plugs will cost $16-$100. 

Reason 3: Damaged Ignition Coil 

A defective ignition coil can also cause the drivetrain to malfunction BMW X3. ignition coils provide electricity to the cylinders and allow them to work properly. 

So, if the ignition coil is damaged for a specific cylinder, the cylinder may experience frequent misfires, and the drivetrain malfunction error will be detected. 


The most effective solution for this problem will be changing the faulty ignition coils. 

On average, the replacement cost for a BMW X3 ignition coil is between $110 and $325. The parts will cost from $35 to $225, while the labor cost is estimated at $75 to $100. 

Reason 4: Clogged Catalytic Converter 

The catalytic converters in a BMW X3 convert the harmful gasses into less-harmful gasses in the exhaust. While doing this, a catalytic converter can be clogged with pollutants, and it can reduce the exhaust emission rate.

For this reason, a clogged catalytic converter can also be a major suspect for the drivetrain malfunction error message on BMW X3 cars. 


Check the catalytic converter and clean it with a good cleaning solution if it is blocked. 

Reason 5: Faulty Fuel Pump 

A faulty fuel pump is responsible for malfunctioning the car’s transmission. Fuel pumps are used to transfer fuel from the fuel tank to the car’s engine. 

Thus, it allows the engine to be accelerated properly. So, if the drivetrain malfunctioning BMW X3 appears while accelerating the car, there may be a defective fuel pump in the car.


For this situation, the most impactful remedy will be removing the old fuel pump and installing a new one. 

A new BMW X3 fuel pump costs $350 to $599. The labor cost can be between $100 and $275 per hour to replace it. 

Reason 6: Defective Fuel Injectors 

If the fuel injectors in a BMW X3 get damaged, it can cause a loss of power, and the engine will stall, misfire, or vibrate. 

In this case, the ECM will also trigger the drivetrain malfunction error on the dashboard.


A quick replacement of bad fuel injectors will remove the error message and fix the problem. 

The average cost for replacing damaged fuel injectors can be between $1000 and $1200. Labor cost is estimated at $185 to $225, while the parts will cost between $700 and $1157. 

Reason 7: Lower Fuel Quality 

Lower fuel quality is another strong cause of getting the drivetrain malfunction message on BMW X3 cars. 

If the octane used in the fuel tank is of low quality, it can affect the transmission system of the car. 


When the malfunction is detected on the screen, check the fuel quality and change it if necessary.

How to Clear the BMW Drivetrain Malfunction Message?

To clear the BMW drivetrain malfunction notification, utilize an OBD2 scanner to retrieve error codes. This will help you identify the underlying issue. After that, restart the engine and conduct a brief inspection of the engine. 

Here’s a more comprehensive step-by-step guide to dealing with the BMW drivetrain malfunction message:

Restart Motor: Pull over safely and turn off the engine. Wait for 5-10 minutes and restart. Skip this if the drivetrain enters limp mode.

Inspect Engine: Quickly examine the engine for visible issues, such as leaks. Identify any obvious faults that may need immediate attention.

Scan Codes: Use a compatible OBD2 scanner on the vehicle’s port beneath the dashboard. Turn the key On (without starting the engine), select your BMW model on the scanner, and read codes from both the DME and EGS/AGS modules.

Read Codes: Note the trouble codes and understand the issues. Seek professional help if you lack a compatible scanner.

Repair Faults: Based on the codes, perform necessary repairs. Costs vary depending on the complexity of the issues. 

For more intricate problems, consult a professional mechanic to ensure accurate diagnosis and resolution.

Bonus: You may also be interested in how to fix malfunctioned BMW emergency call 

What Are the Possible Reasons for Drivetrain Malfunction On and Off?

If your BMW X3 displays a drivetrain malfunction warning that intermittently comes on and off, it’s crucial to address the issue promptly. 

Despite a clean ECU scan, potential problems with the EGR or DPF systems could be at play. 

To pinpoint the issue accurately, consider investing in a BMW-specific diagnostic scanner that allows you to read live data while driving. Clear existing codes and monitor which ones reappear during the fault occurrence. 

You may also consult a knowledgeable BMW specialist equipped with proper diagnostic tools. This will ensure a comprehensive assessment and prevent potential complications in the drivetrain system.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Is The Drivetrain Included In The BMW Warranty?

Yes, the drivetrain is included in the BMW warranty. The BMW warranty, known as the New Vehicle Limited Warranty, safeguards against defects in material or workmanship for the entire warranty duration. 

Can I Drive My BMW X3 With A Drivetrain Malfunction? 

You can drive your BMW X3 with a drivetrain malfunction if it has been switched to safety mode. Otherwise, it’s better not to drive the car until the malfunction is fixed because it can cause the car to break down completely. 

How Long Does A BMW X3 Drivetrain Last? 

The average lifespan of a BMW X3 drivetrain is between 1500 miles and 3000 miles. Careful driving and regular maintenance can also let it last for a longer time than is estimated. 


Fixing the drivetrain malfunction in BMWs is a very sensitive task and requires a wealth of DIY knowledge. So, it’s better not to try to fix this error at home. Hand over the task to a professional mechanic.

Proper maintenance is very essential to prevent such problems. As this kind of malfunction can be very costly and damage various significant parts of the car, it’s good to monitor those parts regularly and service them as necessary.  

Throughout this article, I have discussed the drivetrain malfunction of the BMW X3, its causes, and its solutions. Though dealing with a drivetrain malfunction is very irritating, proper knowledge and understanding can be very useful.

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