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Steve, BMW Expert
Category: BMW
Satisfied Customers: 22846
Experience:  BMW Expert
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BMW x5 shows trans. failsafe prog when I switch it on

Customer Question

hello, my bmx x5 shows the following message when I turn the engine on (for around 10 seconds) AND when I turn it off (again for around 10 seconds):

> trans. failsafe prog <

The message disappears after the 10 seconds.

Does my transmission have a problem? Or is this a standard program run to check the car's transmission at startup?

Is it a serious issue? If I take it to a garage how quickly can they repair it?
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: BMW
Expert:  Steve replied 6 years ago.
Hi there, are there any drivability issues with the car at all? Is it sluggish?
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Hello Steve,


I only got the car yesterday, and it was the first time I drove an x5.


Yesterday I thought it was fine (but the message was there already). Today I felt it was a bit sluggish when starting to move the car. Once it gains speed it seems ok though.

Expert:  Steve replied 6 years ago.

Hi there,


It sounds as thought your transmission is in failsafe mode if it is sluggish to drive. It could also be a programming issue though.


Failsafe can be caused by a faulty sensor, high or low battery voltage or a bad transmission solenoid. When the transmission goes into failsafe mode it locks itself in third gear to protect itself from damage.


The only way to determine the cause accurately is to read the fault memory with a BMW diagnostic tester. This will cost about an hour labor to have done. I suggest going to the dealer as their test equipment is more advanced than aftermarket equipment, but a reputable BMW shop will also be able to help you.


Please let me know if you have any further questions.


I hope that helps. If so, please press the green ACCEPT button below so that I am paid for my time and effort. I will continue to answer any follow up questions should they arise. I do not receive any credit for my work until you press accept.


Thanks and good luck.



Expert:  Steve replied 6 years ago.

Sorry, forgot to touch on the cost issue.


I don't suspect you have a major problem, so I would estimate a few hours of labor charges, and around $100 should you need a new sensor. If it turns out to be a major transmission issue (doubtful) or a problem with your car's voltage, it could be a bit more costly.


Hope that helps,



Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thanks for the feedback. I've read that I can easily reset the transmission's computer. If I reset it and the warning does not come up again after restarting the car, does it mean that there is no issue and I won't need to take the car to the garage?
Expert:  Steve replied 6 years ago.

Hi again,


You can try to reset the transmission, yes, but if you are experiencing sluggishness as you said, this will most likely require the diagnostic work I outlined above. If you are able to reset it and the message does not return, you should be in the clear!


Let me know if you have further questions. Cheers,



Edited by slamb333 on 2/25/2010 at 8:29 PM EST
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Hi Steve,

Is this the correct procedure to reset the computer?


- Hold gas pedal down.

-Turn the key to the number 2.

- Continue to hold the gas pedal down for 30 seconds.

- Release the gas pedal and press the gas pedal for 10 seconds.

- Now Turn the vehicle on.





Expert:  Steve replied 6 years ago.

That sounds right for your X5, yes.


Newer vehicles have this procedure, so if yours doesn't work try this:


Key to position 2
Hold down pedal 30 seconds
You will hear a noise and the process is done.




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Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Hi Steve, it worked. Thank you
Expert:  Steve replied 6 years ago.
No problem! Let's hope it doesn't come back!