Protecting their vehicles and ensuring the end customer receives a new car in optimum condition is vital to BMW’s reputation as a company. The method of transporting by land alone is the subject of an 88-page manual dictating all the procedures to ensure the car arrives in good condition.
So, it is no wonder that BMW has mechanisms in place to protect new vehicles during transportation. Unfortunately, some of these same mechanisms can become problematic when they are not properly turned off ahead of the delivery of the vehicle.
BMW transport mode is designed to protect the car during predelivery transport and storage. It reduces the battery load while restricting the maximum engine revolutions and disabling several accessories. If your BMW is in transport mode, you will likely need a mechanic to disable it using diagnostic equipment or you can purchase diagnostic software for less than $200.
Although transport mode is designed to protect your new BMW, if the dealer hasn’t disabled it, the experience can cause some frustration. Diagnosing the problem is not always straightforward as the dealer typically assumes that the pre-delivery inspection has been fully complied with.
What Does Transport Mode Do?
All recent model BMWs have two modes designed for the vehicle to protect the cars while being delivered and displayed in the showroom.
Predictably these modes are called:
- Transport Mode
- Showroom Mode
Transport mode is set at the manufacturing plant in all BMW vehicles in order to:
- Reduce battery drain on the car while it sits idle during shipping to customer delivery
- Protect the car from rogue transport of dealer staff overrevving and speeding
- All sensors (such as the tilt, hood, open door, etc.) are disabled, so if the car is jolted during transport either in a cargo container or on a tow truck, the alarm doesn’t go off and drain the battery
The dealer should disable the mode using BMW diagnostic equipment as part of the pre-delivery checklist. When transport mode is set, the following conditions apply:
- The central locking system is disabled from the interior and the exterior. The car still locks and unlocks from the outside when the manual key is inserted into the door
- The remote key fob doesn’t activate the car
- The keyless engine start is disabled
- The interior lights do not work
- The liftgate automatically closing and opening function is disabled and requires the manual key to be inserted to unlock and lift
- The engine is restricted to between 4,000 – 4,500 RPM depending on the model BMW.
- The oil pressure reading is disabled
- In the case of hybrid vehicles, the electric engine is disabled while the vehicle is in transport mode
Certain cars from the BMW stable, such as Roll Royce, have particular instructions on how the vehicle is to be driven while in Transport Mode. BMW group cars with an air suspension system installed also have specific requirements in Transport Mode. The staff must run the vehicles for at least a few minutes before using the air-powered lift system because the systems are degraded while in transport mode.
Are There Any Other Situations Where Transport Mode Can Come On?
If your dealer did not disable transport mode then it could potentially turn on when your vehicle’s battery gets very low or after changing the battery. The easiest tell-tale sign is that your A/C suddenly does not work or is only functioning at a low setting.
If transport mode comes on out of the blue make sure that you let the mechanic or dealer know that they should disable the mode, not just turn it off. That way you will not have to deal with this annoying problem again.
How Do Dealers Diagnose Whether Transport Mode is On?
Unfortunately, while some models will display the problem on the screen with the message “TRA MODE”, on other models, the computer does not display an error when the vehicle is in transport mode.
On customer review sites, a relatively common comment from New BMW owners is:
“It needed two visits to the service department before a mechanic said – oh, they forgot to take your car out of transport mode.”
“If you do go to the dealer, make sure they disable transport mode from being able to be turned on again. It was supposed to have been done on the PDI so that folks wouldn’t have to deal with it, but obviously, there are still many Z4s out there who never had it disabled.”
How to Switch the BMW Out of Transport Mode
The joy of taking delivery of a new BWM before a weekend or in anticipation of a vacation is ruined when you find that transport mode has not been disabled. You cannot enjoy the new engine’s power, and none of the accessories or additional components will work.
Getting The BMW Dealership To Disable Transport Mode
The guaranteed way to switch transport mode off is to return the vehicle to the dealer and hope that they don’t spend too long or climb down rabbit holes as they diagnose the problem. Disabling transport mode is a standard part of the pre-delivery checks, and therefore it is not the first place dealers will typically check.
Using Third-Party, Non-Dealer Software
If no dealer is close to you, check with your local independent European mechanic as they should have the diagnostic tools capable of disabling transport mode.
Tools that are known to work include:
- Carly OBD Scanner
- Autologic Vehicle Diagnostic Tool
- BMW DIS diagnostic software
- BMW ISTA diagnostic tools
- BMW OPS GT1 Hard Disk DIS V57 SSS V41
- An IPNAK+DCAN cable is fitted between the OBD2 port on the car and a computer using BMW OPS GT1 software
- JB4 Mobile Smart Phone wireless connection connected to a sender unit in the OBD2 port
- Autel MaxiSys Elite diagnostic system
Here is a video on disabling Transport Mode:
Trying To Do It Yourself
Several YouTube videos claim that pressing various controls in a set-out sequence removes the transport mode setting.
Although these self-help videos only use a single BMW model as an example, it is worth trying.
The most credible method seems to be detailed in the following steps:
- Press the computer access controls mode using the steering wheel buttons
- Select option 4 on the speedometer (40MPH)
- Select option 3 on the rev counter(3000RPM)
- Confirm your selection by hitting the VOL button up or down once
It may work for your model BMW, but realistically the best option is to take the car to an authorized BMW dealer, an independent European mechanic, or purchase the proper software/diagnostic tool.
BMW’s Showroom Mode
BMWs with digital cockpits have a display mode called “showroom mode”.
When activated, the showroom displays an animation of the speedometer, tachometer, and various computer functions.
It is an effective sales gimmick that is easy to activate and deactivate.
To access the showroom mode menu, follow the steps below:
- Press the start-stop button
- It will result in a message on the iDrive screen ‘Diagnostic Mode Active”
- Hold down the upper computer select button for 20 seconds on the left-hand stalk
- The menu screen will appear on the instrument cluster display
- Press the computer select button four times
- Depress this button down for 10 seconds until the menu item “showroom” mode is displayed.
- Press the menu item for ten seconds
- The iDrive screen displays two empty tick boxes headed “Autom. Presentation” and “Simulation On Displays”
- Selecting both tick boxes starts the animation
Follow steps 1- 8 and deselect the tick boxes to disable showroom mode
Here is a video on disabling showroom mode:
BMWs transport mode is designed to protect the vehicle until the customer takes delivery. It achieves this by minimizing the electric draw on the battery while also restricting the engine’s operation and other power devices that control the car.
If the dealer has omitted to cancel the transport mode as part of the regular Pre-Delivery checklist, they are at fault and must be called upon to rectify the situation. If you believe this is the case, provide the dealer with a comprehensive fault list, which will hopefully clearly signal the issue.