BMW Charging Malfunction: Causes and Solutions

What does it mean if a BMW charging malfunction error message pops up on the iDrive display screen? How do you fix the problem?

BMW charging malfunction may also trigger battery light. It means your car and electrical systems are running on battery power, and the battery is not charging.

Read on to find out what causes it and what to do when the charging malfunction message.

Is it Safe to Drive with the Charging Malfunction Message Popping Up?

No. It is not safe to drive with the BMW charging malfunction message or red battery symbol on the dashboard. When your car may stop unexpectedly, you can be stranded in the middle of nowhere.  

It is not advised that you keep driving when the BMW Charging Malfunction message appears. Credit:

The time you can safely drive with the error message depends on the battery strength and the running accessories. Unfortunately, it won’t be long before your machine turns into a big, unresponsive metal junk.

What does BMW Charging Malfunction mean?

The BMW charging malfunction message on the iDrive display means the car battery is not charging, and all the electrical systems and accessories run solely on battery power. The best action to take is to turn accessories off, pull over when it is safe, and check the battery charging system.

Your battery is not charging properly and you should contact the nearest mechanic to get help.
Credit: Mandingo (

Note that the engine may fail to start after stopping it when the charging malfunction message appears.

Signs of BMW Charging Malfunction

The battery charging system comprises an alternator, battery, connecting wires, and electronic control unit (ECU). Newer BMW models use a monitoring system and alert the driver if there is a fault. When a charging malfunction occurs, you are likely first to see the following signs:

  • A red battery light comes on the dashboard
  • The charging malfunction message shows on the iDrive display screen

These first signs may be followed by other symptoms such as flickering instrument clusters, power windows responding slowly, stereo system shutting down, etc. In general, you will get electrical malfunctions.

Read more: How Much Does It Cost to Change Brake Fluid in Your BMW?

What to Do When You First See The BMW Charging Malfunction Message?

It’s necessary to turn off all the electrical systems whenever you get the message. Credit:

You should do the following when the BMW charging malfunction error message first appears:

  • Turn off all accessories. 
  • Remove any phone chargers, turn off the AC system, rear defroster, heated seats, and don’t use power windows.

What causes the BMW Charging Malfunction? 

It can result from many issues. Fortunately, you can fix some of them by yourself. But if you don’t have the DIY skills, contact your mechanic to help you out.

There are some related problems that you can fix yourself like Loose Cables or Corrosion.

The following are the possible causes of BMW charging malfunction:

Bad Alternator

An alternator is a generator that charges the battery. It is an electrical machine that produces electricity when driven by the engine. The electric power generated is used to charge the battery.

No electricity will be created to charge the battery if the alternator goes bad.

The alternator malfunctions if there is a problem with the alternator, such as a short circuit in the stator or rotor windings. In other words, no electricity comes from it. So, how do you know if the alternator is the culprit? Measure its output voltage as follows:

  • Get a digital multimeter and set it to at least a 20V DC range.
  • Connect the red probe to the positive terminal of the alternator and the black one to the negative terminal. Ensure all the alternator terminals are not dusty or rusty. You should get a reading of about 12.6V.
  • Start the engine and let it idle.
  • Read the voltage displayed on the digital multimeter.

The correct voltage across the alternator terminal when the engine is running should be 14.2-14.7V. Anything outside that range indicates a fault. If that is the case, you may require a mechanic to conduct further tests on the alternator and fix it. Sometimes you will need to replace it.

Damaged Serpentine Belt

Before you go through the process of testing the output voltage from the alternator, you may first need to inspect the serpentine belt. This belt transfers power from the engine to the alternator. It can wear out over time and become loose or snapped altogether.

If the serpentine belt is loose or snapped, the alternator will not rotate, and no electrical power will be generated. The output voltage, if tested, can be zero or significantly low. You may need to buy a replacement and change it yourself or pay a few bucks at an auto repair shop for labor.

Weak Battery

A car battery has individual cells that wear out every charging and discharging cycle. Over time, they can become too weak to hold an electrical charge. This will trigger the battery charging system monitor to illuminate the battery light on the dashboard.

A car battery becomes weak gradually. Credit:

Once again, you need a digital multimeter to test your battery. Proceed as follows:

  • Connect the red probe of the digital multimeter to the positive battery terminal and the other black probe to the negative battery terminal.
  • Read the voltage, which should ideally be 12.6 volts or more. A reading of 12.2V indicates the battery is 50% charged, and anything lower shows the battery is discharged.
  • Turn the ignition key once without starting the engine. That turns on the accessories that draw power from the battery. Read the battery voltage once again. If there is a significant voltage drop, the battery is weak and needs replacement.
  • Start the engine and see the battery voltage decreasing to around 10V. If your voltage witnesses a drop to 5V, you obviously need to replace your car battery.

Loose Battery Cables

If the battery cables are loose, there can be trouble in charging the battery. That will be evident in the flickering instrument cluster or other accessories behaving abnormally.

Cable clamp tightening can fix the problem. Just ensure you don’t have any loose battery cables.

Corroded Battery Terminals

Battery terminals often corrode over time. Corrosion increases resistance at the battery terminals, eventually cutting off electricity to the battery.


Inspect the battery terminals and clean any corrosions. You may need to unscrew the cables connected to the battery terminals to give you a better room for cleaning.

Bad Ground Wire

Ground wire, also known as a ground strap, connects the negative battery terminal to the chassis. High temperatures and other elements can degrade it over time. In case the ground wire is not working in good conditions, the battery might not be charged properly.


BMW charging malfunction occurs if the monitoring system determines that the battery is not charging. An error message pops up on the screen, and the battery light turns on. The problem can be a weak battery, faulty alternator, or connection issues. If it happens in your car, pull over when it is safe to check the problem and fix it if you can, or call your mechanic.

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