BMW Transmission Malfunction: Causes & Warning (Fixed!)

BMW Transmission Malfunction

BMW transmission malfunctions are an incredibly common problem for some BMW models, although they can occur on pretty much every BMW vehicle that is capable of displaying the warning.

But, what happens if you are faced with a BMW transmission malfunction? How do you fix the problem?

Can you even fix it yourself? On this page, we are going to tell you how to fix a BMW transmission malfunction. We will also let you know when it may be wise to head to an expert instead.

What Is a BMW Transmission Malfunction?

Your vehicle’s transmission is absolutely vital for the functioning of your vehicle. After all, it is the transmission that takes the power from your vehicle’s engine and drives the wheels.

As you can imagine, when a component is being put under a lot of pressure like this, issues can happen.

When you have a BMW transmission malfunction, it means that there is something wrong with the transmission. It could be a minor problem (e.g. minor overheating), or the entire transmission system could have failed.

All you really know from the warning is that there is a problem with the transmission somewhere. 

Can You Drive With a BMW Transmission Malfunction?  

Perhaps. Obviously, the transmission is a vital part of your vehicle. You really don’t want it to fail. However, a lot of BMW transmission malfunction warnings are designed to be premature.

They tell you before there is a serious problem with your vehicle. This means that you should be able to drive for a while, but you may want to make a beeline for your local BMW dealership as soon as you possibly can.

Obviously, if your transmission is not working at all i.e. you are finding it difficult to switch gears (if you have a manual vehicle) or your automatic seems to be struggling to get into the right gear, then we wouldn’t recommend that you drive your BMW.

It is going to be unsafe. In fact, your vehicle may not even drive at all. 

Read also >> Does Transmission Fluid Need To Be Changed? (Here Is Why)

Read also >> Drivetrain Malfunction: How To Fix? (Step by Step)

How Do You Diagnose a BMW Transmission Malfunction?

The problem with any warning in a vehicle, BMW or otherwise, is the fact that the warning is rarely descriptive. It simply says ‘Transmission Malfunction’. This means that you will need to get to the bottom of the problem.

Shortly, we will give you more of an idea of what to be on the lookout for when diagnosing a BMW transmission malfunction. For now, if you want to make your job simpler, then get yourself an OBD-2 scanner.

This gadget will plug straight into your vehicle’s computer, allowing you to read the various error codes on your vehicle. Armed with this information, you will know the exact problem and whether you can fix it yourself. 

How Do You Remove a BMW Transmission Malfunction Warning?

The only way to remove a BMW transmission malfunction warning is to fix the problem. There are rare cases where the issue may only be temporary (normally due to a software glitch), but if the problem keeps returning or doesn’t go away, then you need to fix the problem.

No amount of covering up the malfunction warning will actually fix the transmission problem, after all. 

Here Is How To Fix a BMW Transmission Malfunction

We are going, to be honest here; most BMW transmission malfunction issues can’t be fixed with little mechanical knowledge.

The transmission is an incredibly complicated system, so if you don’t know what you are doing, then it may be worth leaving things in the hands of qualified professionals.

We will walk you through how to diagnose and fix some of the simpler problems, but anything more complicated than this can’t be fixed without sourcing some expensive parts and, at that point, you will probably want to know what you are dealing with so you don’t spend a ton of money on the wrong thing! 

Refilling Your Transmission Fluid

Every 3 to 6 months, you should be checking the transmission fluid levels on your vehicle.

One of the most common reasons behind the BMW transmission malfunction warning will be low transmission fluids. Refill the transmission fluid, and the problem will be fixed.

First things first, make sure that you buy the right transmission fluid for your vehicle. The type of transmission fluid that you need will be listed in the manual. Once you have the fluid, follow this process:

  1. Locate the transmission fluid reservoir.
  2. Turn your vehicle on and allow the engine to warm up for a few minutes.
  3. Use the transmission fluid dipstick to measure transmission fluid levels.
  4. Using a funnel, refill the transmission fluid until the ‘max’ line. Do not overfill.
  5. Replace the transmission fluid cap.

Replacing Your Transmission Fluid 

If your transmission fluid hasn’t been changed over in 6-12 months (or you only ever refill and never change), then it may be wise to completely drain the transmission fluid.

Old transmission fluid can cause a BMW transmission to malfunction. 

  1. Locate the transmission fluid pan under the vehicle (consult your vehicle’s manual for the exact location)
  2. Place a large drip pan under the fluid pan.
  3. Undo the bolts. Let the fluid drain out completely.
  4. Replace the bolts.
  5. Refill the transmission fluid as discussed previously. 

Checking For Transmission Fluid Leaks  

If you are noticing a red or pink liquid under your vehicle, then you may have a transmission fluid leak. Check all seals, gaskets, and tubes to make sure there is no break.

If there is a break, then replace the component. It shouldn’t be too expensive. Obviously, how you do this will depend on the component that needs to be replaced, but most can be replaced with very little mechanical knowledge.

Old Transmission Fluid Filter 

Your transmission fluid will run through a filter. The job of the filter is to prevent dirt or grime from getting into your vehicle’s transmission.

Every 6-12 months, the filter will need to be replaced. If you don’t, then your transmission can fail as little transmission fluid can get through the filter.

Consult your vehicle’s manual to know where the transmission filter is. Drain all old transmission fluid before you remove the filter.

Once the filter has been removed, replace it with the new one, and refill the transmission fluid as per the previous steps.

Faulty Adapter For Mechatronic Bridge Seal

One of the most common reasons for a long-term BMW transmission malfunction is a damaged grommet around the mechatronic bridge seal.

This is a simple and cheap component designed to stop a loss of pressure in the BMW transmission. It regularly fails on certain models.

The mechatronic bridge seal is located in the valve body. The valve body can only be accessed by removing the transmission fluid pan underneath the vehicle. Once you have accessed the valve body, you should look for a broken plastic adapter.

This adapter can be removed and a new one placed. If you can, we suggest that you get a metal adapter instead.

They are less prone to breakage. Any major BMW car parts supplier will sell them.

Bad Battery

If your battery drops below 11 volts, a failsafe will be triggered. This can stop the vehicle’s transmission from functioning properly.

If the battery is the reason behind your transmission woes, then there may be other issues in your vehicle i.e. low battery warnings on your dashboard. 

If your battery is more than 5 years old, we suggest you replace it. If your battery is newer, then put it on charge. 

Reset The Transmission Settings

This is something that may only work on certain BMW vehicles. Your goal here is to restore the transmission settings to the default.

  1. Turn on the vehicle, but not the engine. You want the dashboard lights lit up only.
  2. Push the gas pedal and hold it to the floor for thirty seconds.
  3. Release the gas pedal. 

In many cases, this will work.

Switch To Winter Mode

If the issue only seems to occur when you are in first gear, then you can switch to winter mode. This will start your vehicle in 2nd gear instead.

It isn’t a long-term solution, but it should make your vehicle easier to drive until you get the problem fixed.

You can switch to winter mode from your vehicle’s dashboard. How you do this will depend on the BMW model that you own, so make sure that you read through your vehicle’s manual for the step-by-step guide!

Serious Vehicle Vibrations

If you have a BMW with two turbochargers in it, and the malfunction doesn’t occur until an hour or two into your drive, and only when you are driving over 50mph, then it is likely that the system has overheated.

There is no real ‘fix’ here other than letting the BMW’s transmission cool down. Your vehicle should be safe to drive temporarily, though.

If your vehicle is regularly overheating, then you should head to a mechanic. Regular vehicle overheating may indicate worn components or an engine fault. 

Other Issues

For any other issues, you should probably talk to a specialist. This is because you shouldn’t be thinking about the transmission system if you don’t know what you are doing.

Quite often, if the previous solutions don’t seem to work, then you will likely need to replace major components in the transmission system, sensors, or even your vehicle’s computer.

So, you probably want to be 100% sure of what you are dealing with before you go wiring up new systems. 

BMW transmission malfunction error does not go into gear not work right does not shift properly >> Check out the video below:

Final Thoughts

A BMW transmission malfunction isn’t the end of the world. In 90% of cases, you can fix the problem yourself.

This may mean draining the old transmission fluid, refilling the fluid, or fixing any leaks. In other cases, your vehicle may just be overheating, and you need to let it cool down.

It is incredibly rare that you will need to visit a mechanic. 


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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