SureTrack Community Fix: BMW Gets The Shaft

Real Fixes from the SureTrack® expert information resource are documented issues from actual shop repair orders and community discussions. Read on to see how SureTrack can help you correct issues that are not easily diagnosed using OEM information alone. SureTrack is currently available free with the purchase of a current Snap-on® diagnostic software version.

When a drive shaft u-joint breaks it will usually disable the vehicle or cause some serious damage. This car kept on going. SureTrack community member bmaples had a BMW X3 where the front drive shaft fell out and was lost while the owner was driving and they needed help with what to look for when replacing it. They posed the question to the community, and with the help of fellow community member BMWTECH and others, they were able to resolve the issue quickly.

The following Community Fix summarizes the interaction between members of the community that led to the solution.

Vehicle
2004 BMW X3 30i 3.0L

Title
Drive shaft fell out, replaced and reset.

Complaint
Customer states that front drive shaft fell out while driving.

Diagnostic Steps Performed/Parts Replaced Customer was driving when the u-joint at the front differential broke and the drive shaft fell out and was lost. He was almost to work when it happened and kept on going. I want to replace the front drive shaft and service info is stating that the transfer case has to be recalibrated if the vehicle was moved with engine power and the drive shaft is removed. Has anyone dealt with this on one of these vehicles? Can the car be operated with the front drive shaft removed for extended periods or will it damage things? If we replace it is the calibration really needed? Any guidance or tips are greatly appreciated.

Best Answer from Community Member BMWTECH You should NOT operate it for any length of time with it removed. the transfer case motor will do a reference run every time you start the vehicle. So as long as there aren’t any codes stored in the transfer case, you should be fine to put a drive shaft in it and give it a drive. If there are codes, then it’s possible that there was damage to it before the drive shaft ever came out.

Cause
Replaced drive shaft and had a code for dirty transfer case fluid. Also had a random binding feeling/noise once it shifts up to 3rd+ gear and sometimes when in 2nd gear and accelerating. Found that was caused by mismatched tires.

Correction
New front drive shaft installed. Replaced rear tires. Changed transfer case oil and reset code with Zeus scan tool. Had to perform a few test drives to get system back to working without vibration issues.


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About the Author

Nick Taylor

Nick Taylor is the SureTrack Community Administrator and a Senior Applications Specialist at Mitchell 1 with over 25 years of experience with electronic repair data systems. Nick previously worked in the automotive dismantling and engine rebuilding industries.