BMW Charging Malfunction (Here Is How To Fix)

bmw charging malfunction

Modern BMW cars come with a huge amount of tech that can sometimes be a little difficult to decipher. A “charging malfunction” is one of the more common error messages that might appear on the dash, but what does it actually mean?

The BMW charging malfunction message means that a fault has occurred and the battery in the vehicle is no longer able to charge itself, which will inevitably lead to it draining completely.

Here are a few steps you need to take to fix the BMW charging malfunction, which includes:

Step 1: Check for Alternator Electrical Malfunction

Step 2: Check Drive Belt Failure

Step 2: Check for Dying Battery

Step 4: Check Wiring or Connection Issue

Read ahead to discover all you need to know about this message and what you might need to do to solve it.

What is the Charging System?

Before we can really understand what the specific cause of this error message might be, and how you can get your BMW working as normal again, we need to know what the charging system actually is.

The charging system in your car is what gives power to the battery so that it is able to run all of the electrical components in the vehicle. Modern cars are designed to charge the battery as they move so that it does not drain completely. If the charging system fails, then there will be no additional power being sent to the battery.

Charging systems are typically comprised of a number of components, including:

  • Battery. This is where the power is stored and from where the power is sent to the rest of the vehicle.
  • Alternator. This is where the power is generated in order to charge the battery.
  • Voltage Regulator. This automatically maintains a constant voltage output from the alternator.
  • Electronic Control Unit (ECU). This is the computer that receives inputs from the vehicle and controls all of its electronic functions.
  • Wiring. All of these elements are connected by wiring that enables them to operate.

Charging Malfunction: What Does It Mean?

So, what does it actually mean when you get the “charging malfunction” error message?

If your BMW tells you that it has a “charging malfunction”, then that means that the charging system is not operating normally. Therefore, power is not being provided to the battery and it is not charging. In some BMW vehicles, the error message will include “Battery not charging”, which is a little bit clearer.

This is obviously a relatively significant problem, although you might not actually notice any issues as soon as the message pops up.

If it is not charging, then your battery will slowly be draining, and you will eventually lose power to all the electrical components of the car.

If your battery dies completely, then you will not even be able to start the car and you will need to replace it or charge it directly. Of course, if you don’t solve the charging system malfunction, then the new or freshly charged battery will simply drain away again.

Causes and Fixes for BMW Charging Malfunction

You won’t be able to tell exactly what has caused the error message straight away, as there are quite a few different things that can cause your BMW’s charging system to fail.

To help you get to the bottom of the problem, though, here are some of the most common reasons why you will get a “charging malfunction” error message:

1.    Alternator Electrical Malfunction

Since the alternator is what generates the electricity to charge your battery, it shouldn’t be a surprise that a malfunction here is one of the primary reasons why the whole system stops working.

Typically, a malfunction in the electrical system of the alternator would lead to it generating low voltage and not delivering enough charge to the battery.

How To Fix: You can first try measuring the voltage coming out of your alternator using a digital multimeter to see if this is the problem. Actually fixing an alternator is a job that’s best left to a mechanic, and you may find that it will need replacing either way.

2.    Drive Belt Failure

There are a number of different belts that connect elements within modern engines. The serpentine belt that connects the alternator to the engine is crucial for allowing it to generate power, and they do tend to wear down over time.

If this belt is frayed, snapped, or loose, then the alternator will not be able to rotate and it won’t be producing any power at all – which will obviously mean that your battery will not be charging.

How To Fix: If the belt is loose it might be able to be resituated and keep running as normal, but any level of wear will mean that it should be replaced entirely.

3.    Dying Battery

Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when you see this message would be a problem with the battery itself, and that can be the case. All batteries, no matter what size or type, can lose their ability to hold a charge as they get older, and this might be what’s causing the error message to show up.

How To Fix: You can test your battery using a digital multimeter but, if it isn’t holding charge anymore, it will need to be replaced with a  new one.

4.    Wiring or Connection Issue

Another relatively common-sense issue that could be leading to battery charging problems would be any fault with the wires that allow the whole system to run. The wires might have become loose, they might have become worn or damaged, or the connections might be dirty and the power might not be traveling the way it should.

How To Fix: First, investigate all of the wires and connection points carefully. Check them for damage and make sure they are clean and tightly in place.

Read also >> BMW Engine Malfunction Light (Causes + Solutions)

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Charging malfunction BMW no power steering

If you are experiencing a charging malfunction error and lost power steering on your BMW X5, it could be caused by a bad alternator, a failing drive belt, or loose or corroded cables.

To prevent the car from stopping unexpectedly, turn off all accessories and contact a qualified mechanic immediately.

Before visiting the mechanic, you can inspect the serpentine belt to see if it is loose or off, and measure the output voltage of the alternator.

How long can you drive with a charging malfunction?

it is not safe to continue driving with the battery light on, as the electrical system can stop working at any time. If a BMW charging malfunction error message appears on the iDrive display screen, it means that the car battery is not charging and all electrical systems and accessories run solely on battery power.

In such a case, it is not safe to drive the car as it may stop unexpectedly. If the issue is not resolved, the battery won’t be able to recharge and it will soon run down, leaving you with a dead battery.

How much is a BMW alternator?

The cost of a BMW alternator can vary depending on the model and year of the car. The average cost for an alternator repair for a BMW 328i is $318, with $223 for parts and $95 for labor.

Meanwhile, the average price to replace an alternator in a BMW 528i is $619. However, it’s essential to note that these prices are just estimates and may vary based on the location, service provider, and other factors.

If you’re experiencing issues with your BMW’s charging system, it’s recommended that you take it to a qualified mechanic to diagnose the problem and provide an accurate estimate for the repair costs.

How do I reset my BMW battery?

To reset your BMW battery, follow these steps:

  1. Turn off all electrical accessories, such as the radio or air conditioning, to avoid any electrical surges.
  2. Disconnect the negative battery cable from the terminal. This will reset the battery and clear any error codes.
  3. Reconnect the negative battery cable to the terminal.
  4. Register the new battery with the onboard ECU using a diagnostic tool. This will ensure that the battery is properly recognized and prolong its life.

First, you need to turn the ignition key to the accessory position and press and hold the “Trip” button until the red light comes on. Then press it again until “Reset” appears and press it a third time to reset the computer.

However, if you have recently replaced your BMW battery, you should also consider registering it with the onboard ECU, which adjusts the running of the alternator to prolong battery life and boost fuel economy.

Skipping this process can decrease fuel economy and significantly shorten the service life of the new and unmatched battery, resulting in spending more money in the long run. It is important to consult with trained technicians to ensure warranty standards are met.

Charging malfunction BMW X5

the charging malfunction message in a BMW X5 could indicate a problem with the alternator, drive belt, or cables. It is recommended to turn off all accessories and contact a qualified mechanic immediately to prevent the car from stopping unexpectedly.

The potential causes of the malfunction include a bad alternator, a failing drive belt, and loose or corroded cables. It is not safe to drive with a charging malfunction as the car may run solely on the battery, which may cause it to die.

Before visiting the mechanic, the serpentine belt should be inspected, and the output voltage of the alternator should be measured using a digital multimeter.

BMW Charging Malfunction, Can It Drive? >> Check out the video below:


So, what is a “charging malfunction” on a BMW? This error message means that the battery is not charging in the way that it should, which means that it will slowly drain away until it dies – unless you get it fixed.

This is usually caused by alternator problems, a faulty drive belt, a dying battery, or an issue with the wiring and connections that keep the system powered.

You may find that you can reset a loose wire or belt, but you will probably have to replace a faulty component if one has failed.

Steve P.

Steve is an automotive technician, technical writer, and Managing Editor. He has held a lifelong passion for cars, with a particular interest in cars like the Buick Riviera. Steve is based in Boise, Idaho.

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