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kristinahm 01-19-2013 11:57 AM

2004 4.4 X5 transmission nightmare
Hello! We are in the midst of a transmission (?) nightmare with our 2004 4.4 X5. In November we took it in to our mechanic after the transmission crapped out (revving engine, creaking when putting it in gear/park - undriveable). They replaced the transmission. I drove it for 3 days (under 25 miles) and had the same issue and was nearly stranded on a freeway off ramp with my 3 year old in the car. Which isn't important except to express how incredibly annoying and frustrating that was.

SO, had the car towed back to our mechanic. They replaced the transmission a second time (at no charge), thinking it was a faulty transmission. Had the transmission specialist thoroughly examine each instance of shifting (sorry for the untechnical lingo), and weren't happy with the way it was performing. Ultimately, through process of elimination (at least that's my understanding), they decided it was the transfer case. So we replaced the transfer case. After another week of testing, they were still not happy with the way it was performing so had it towed to the BMW dealership where we purchased the car to have their mechanics evaluate it. The dealership claimed that they just needed to reprogram the transfer case, and though our mechanic said they had already done that, we all decided to go with the dealer's rec. Following their work, one of the dealer mechanics drove it home for the night (he lives 40 miles away) and back. After 80 miles of driving they assumed it was good to go. We got it home last night. This morning I drove it 1 mile to get coffee and it broke again as I was pulling into a parking spot. Exact same symptoms. Undriveable, not even holding in park unless the e-brake was set. So now we've had it towed back home and 2 months and $8,000 later, we're in the exact same place we were when we first had the issue.


I can't believe this car is an unfixable boat anchor at this point. It's not even 10 years old and is only at ~90K miles! I understand (via internet research) that it's not uncommon to have to replace the tranny on an X5. I could handle that if it fixed the problem. But at this point no one seems to have any idea what's wrong with the car. I would be so grateful for any ideas.

Bimma Lova 01-19-2013 09:19 PM

I understand your frustration
I have 2 E53 X5 4.4 my 2004 X5 has 160,000kms and I have had issues with my tranny too. Whenever I come up to say a stop sign and dont come to a complete stop say. I find the tranny is shifting back to 1st gear quick enough, if I get on the accelerator then the tranny does this clunk thing and aggressive shift and then goes. I brought it to a 4th Top Master Mechanic in North America for BMW and he checked and erased adaptive codes that the DME puts into truck and then it ran properly until months later it comes back again. My other X5 a 2002 4.4 with 238,000kms I have absolutely no trouble with tranny.
Did BMW update the software for the tranny? Our trucks are known for tranny issues unfortunately.

jhuerter 01-20-2013 09:00 AM

Don't throw it away! It can be fixed.
Sound like you are experiencing intermittent transfer case failure. The park gear is on the output shaft of the transmission and when the vehicle quits moving and will not hold in park indicates that the failure is behind the transmission (transfer case, front or rear differential or axle shafts). There are two differentials and four axles, if one fails the transfer case will transfer power to the other and keep you moving. Most differential and axle failures are not intermittent and are associated with grinding type noises. This leaves the transfer case as the most likely component that is failing. This would be an internal mechanical failure within the transfer case. When you take your vehicle to the shop make sure you mention that when it fails it will not hold park. This is vital information to the diagnosis.

kristinahm 01-20-2013 09:06 AM

Hey, thanks so much @jhuerter! Great information. The thing is we've HAD the transfer case replaced. So do you think that it's the front differential or one of the axles? I'll mention the car not holding in park to our mechanic today and ask if they can carefully inspect the axles and differentials.

jhuerter 01-21-2013 11:59 AM

I also have a 2004 X5 4.4i. If your is the same as mine it should have the xDrive. After doing some research I found this transfer case is always connected to the rear differential and does not have an open transfer case like I first thought. This means the front differential, front drive shaft or front axles have nothing to do with park. If it will not hold park it has to be some thing behind the transmission back to the rear wheels (trans output shaft splines, transfer case input shaft splines, internal transfer case failure, rear drive shaft, rear differential, or rear axles. It has to be a mechanical hard part failure not an electrical issue. Not holding park is a serious liability issue. If you park on a hill it may roll away and some one may get hurt! SO let them know when it quits working it does not hold in park.

upallnight 01-24-2013 07:03 AM

Replacing parts is a hit or miss solution to fixing the problem. Did they inspect the old trans once it was removed from the car? Are they using the right ATF for the trans? Different trans were used in the X and each trans require a different fluid, so they need to use the correct fluid. Did they clean the trans cooler that is integrated with the radiator? The cooler may have metal shaving from the old trans and if they fail to flush out the fluid you will be adding the bad fluid back to your new trans. Did they inspect the radiator/trans cooler to see that water from the radiator is not getting into the trans cooler? Finally did they replace the Torque Converter?

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