Drivetrain – First break-down

Our i3 was one of the first delivered and it is now five years ago the first post about the new shiny revolution was published on this web site. The i3 has served us well and there has not been any major issues. Until now.When trying to leave for work a morning last week, the only sign of life the i3 wanted to give was “Drivetrain. Stop carefully”. The BMW engineers are not generous with information. Imagine a computer that had a similar error message – it would not be acceptable. Also, the part “stop carefully” is interesting when the car is just started. The light was red and the car refused to go anywhere. It was not even possible to put in a gear.

As always, first some advice was searched from i3 blog publishers, forum writers, and the like. Possibly the error could stem from condensation, so I decided to use the Connected app to schedule a departure four hours later with preconditioning turned on. This way I was sure it would also warm up the battery and maybe condensation would go away. No avail. Same error message.

After discussing with the BMW workshop, it was clear that tow truck was the only option. First a large tow truck came but it was too big to manoeuvre into the villa driveway. A couple of hours later there were two tow trucks outside – one small to pull the i3 into the larger street and a large that could lift it to a flatbed. Here the disadvantage of a construction that prohibits the i3 from being towed after another car becomes very apparent. Had it been a normal car I could have towed it myself to the workshop but with the i3 it requires large and expensive equipment. That said, I believe everything is covered by BMW Mobile Care.

The i3 has now been at the workshop for more than a week. Despite several calls there has not yet been any analysis from BMW what caused the error nor any plans how to fix it. I keep you updated.

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19 thoughts on “Drivetrain – First break-down

  1. Very interesting and thanks for sharing! Our i3 is only 2 years old and has approx 30 000 km on the clock, no such bad experiences so far.. May I ask how many km’s you had when the drivetrain broke?

  2. Is your car a Bev or Rex? Seems to be more problems with the Rex models but then there are more of them about. Also, were are you located? I’m in the UK.

    1. It is a BEV in Sweden. One of the arguments for choosing the BEV was that it is simple and very few things that need service and that can break. We will see if that analysis was correct.

  3. Sorry to hear.
    Please keep us posted on the progress.
    We have 105 000km on our 16 and it still run ok. The only issue is that the range is 145 km during summer and 115 when temperature is below 7 C.

  4. I have a 2014 i3 REX. 52,000 miles
    I have had that error a 3 times in the 1st 3 years, towed it in & it was fixed.
    BUT, that was under warranty.
    Real curious to see they find, as mine went out of warranty 2 months ago.
    I’m in the US – Texas.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Mark. Do you know what they “fixed”?
      If it happened again it sounds like it was only temporary.

      Since our error did not happen when driving, but when the car was parked, it sounds like a pure electric error. The information I read that it could be related to condensation made sense. The days just before it happened were very wet in Sweden with fog, drizzling rain and only a few degrees on the plus side (Celsius).

      Must admit I fear they put the car in a warm garage, do same checks, think all is ok, and say they “fixed” it.

      1. I bought a used 2016 REX and just got this drivetrain message @ 15,000 miles. Waiting on a tow truck now.

        We did have a big rain weekend here on the East coast US. However, who wants a car that can’t get wet?

        Anyone else get detail on what is meant by “fixed”? I want to be ready with knowledge if they start throwing nonsense excuses my way.

      2. My i3 totally crashed with the motor mount – they replaced everything under warranty but BMW in Sweden needed some 3 months. A few weeks after I got it back there was “drivline error” this time the car was parked. Trying to get in gear gave strange crunching noises … the came and fetched and rang the next morning saying it was ready and I had been given a buggy software version.

        Since then (30 months) I’ve had no problems at all. I have had it since early 2014.

  5. So what happened? I am curious to hear the reason and the cost, mine just showed the same symptoms as yours and I am very worried since there is no warranty

    1. For my 2016 i3 Rex it required replacing the SME (battery controller) and ~3 weeks in shop. I am under warranty so not aware of how much it actually cost.

  6. Hi guys!

    I’ve experienced that “sweets” just today too. The car shut off at once and i had to stop carefully.
    But everything became working in a few minutes.
    These days was -10 degree in Kyiv and car has stayed two days outside.
    And i’ve got this warn in 30mins of driving past.

    Two years ago was smth similar but YELLOW and i could continue driving. After chicking the errors, the report was the high voltage cable issue. I purchased the cable but problem has gone itself while cable has been delivered.

    But now it really scared me. Something is going wrong.

    To light of Engine Check i already used to!! It just wishes me good day)) then shuts down…

    2014 BMW i3 REX

  7. Sorry about the slow follow-up on this.

    After about two weeks I was told by BMW that they had done troubleshooting and that the fault was due to an old 12V battery. After replacing the battery everything worked.


    If this really was the main problem I am really concerned about the BMW error handling. A simple 12V battery can be replaced relatively easy by most people and if a 12V battery problem instead results in “Drivetrain. Stop carefully” and an immobilized car that cannot be driven and has to be towed to a workshop, leaving me 2 weeks without a car, well then I am dissatisfied to say the least.

    Alternately the root cause of the problem was due to something else (like condensation). Perhaps the problem then caused 12V battery problems. Perhaps root problem disappeared when the car was put in a warm garage and systems were reset by BMW. I do not know.

    Either way it is not satisfactory.

    1. Hmm, funny enough I put my ICE car battery on charge the other day and wondered if I should do the same for the i3 Rex, never consider it normally.

  8. I have had my i3 exactly 5 years and the USB port for charging my phone has stopped working, along with voice commands and the heated seat function. Has anyone else experienced failures such as these?

  9. my first drive train notification on my i3BMW. The first time this happened it said something about the battery and the engine light went on. I was able to start the car after it shut itself off and it drove normally. It happened again yesterday when in stop and go traffic. It needed to be powered off and turned back on and it drove normally. I suspect it is related to the gas motor on the Rex that I never use. I am interested that 50% of the 2014 cars had this particular problem and wonder if there is a class action suit? Electric cars should be disease free and the gas engine if it is only used when it decided to cycle on should last more than 4 years without problems.

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