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E39 (1997 - 2003)
The BMW 5-Series (E39 chassis) was introduced in the United States as a 1997 model year car and lasted until the 2004 when the E60 chassis was released. The United States saw several variations including the 525i, 528i, 530i and 540i. -- View the E39 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 09-18-2008, 10:12 PM
oaksenov oaksenov is offline
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Strange transmission/engine sound

Hi All, I have found lately that my 525i sounds too loud. The car is 2003 E39 with M54 engine, manual gearbox and 52000 miles on it.
The sound is mostly noticeable when I apply gas slightly in second, third and forth gears. I think I do not hear it in fifth gear or first or whenever it is in neutral or whenever gas is not applied. Also when I push it to floor I do not hear it either, I think.

Here it is the Unusualy loud sound/whining sound I recorded while I shifted from first all the way to forth gear.

I thought it was the transmission, but now I think it can be sound from engine and sound/vibration just gets transferred via gearbox or something like that.
I have changed transmission and differential fluids just in case. It did not improve the situation at all. I think I also here how engine kind of growls on second gear. It is like valve chatter, but very soft one.

Here is what was done during last couple of months and I think there was no sound before, but I took long vacation in between so I am not sure about that now:
  • Engine oil changed. BMW OEM oil and filter used.
  • Air filters changed.
  • cabin microfilter changed
  • Wheel alignment done

Does anybody have any ideas what that can be?
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  #2  
Old 09-18-2008, 10:23 PM
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I used to have an E46 with the same engine/transmission (5spd) 2006 coupe, even same mileage and I never heard that. I was going to guess fan clutch... the M52 uses an electronic fan right? So it can't be that. You should have someone stand over the engine bay as you rev it up. Maybe ask a smog station if you can borrow their dyno rollers so you can drive through the gears. Pay for a smog check.
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  #3  
Old 09-19-2008, 12:34 PM
oaksenov oaksenov is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by synenergy52 View Post
I used to have an E46 with the same engine/transmission (5spd) 2006 coupe, even same mileage and I never heard that. I was going to guess fan clutch... the M52 uses an electronic fan right? So it can't be that. You should have someone stand over the engine bay as you rev it up. Maybe ask a smog station if you can borrow their dyno rollers so you can drive through the gears. Pay for a smog check.
It is M54 engine here with mechanical fan clutch. I also have E46 with M52TU engine also with mechanical fan clutch.

The one more thing I can feel by hand light know-knock-knock sound on cover of double VANOS on this car. Compared it with E46 and it does not do it on ever there.
The strange thing to me is that it coincidentally started after just another engine oil change. I even started to read about VANOS seals replacement procedure.

Dyno rollers is good idea or even having it on lift would help.
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Old 09-24-2008, 12:30 PM
oaksenov oaksenov is offline
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I took the car to Curry's Auto for state inspection and also asked them to see if they can guesstimate what the problem is. They said it is probably one of transmission bearings.

So I wonder is it possible to DIY the bearing replacement? And how much would it cost? What do you think?
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Old 10-27-2008, 10:06 AM
oaksenov oaksenov is offline
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Hi,
It is me again :-). I am looking to replace entire transmission for another used one, but without the problem.

But where would I get one? Does anybody knows somebody who parts his e39 after the accident perhaps?

BTW, Do I need the same kind of transmission like I have Getrag now on my 2003 525i, but will ZF from let's say 530i. And do I even need to care what year of the vehicle is or can I take transmission from any 525 e39 ?
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Old 09-18-2008, 10:33 PM
jchung9825 jchung9825 is offline
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Last time something like this happen to me was the water pump. The engine fan was wobbling at idle and I thought the fan was loose, but that is where the water pump is tie to. It vibrates when I apply little throttle, but when I push little more, it vibrates less, but make louder noise. I am not quite sure if you have the same problem.
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Old 10-27-2008, 10:10 AM
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I'm no expert but it would seem most of the BMW 5-spd manuals would fit. Any similar year E46/E39 trans (getrag) should bolt right up! dont quote me though... That sounds pretty terrible to replace the trans because of a noise.. how bout having it looked at by a trans shop? or at least rebuild it.. thats a weird problem. Transmission bearings?? doesnt sound common at all..
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  #8  
Old 10-27-2008, 10:11 AM
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BETTER YET, pay a couple hundred and have BMW dealer diagnose it. PLEASE do that before replacing the entire trans!!!
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  #9  
Old 10-27-2008, 11:28 AM
oaksenov oaksenov is offline
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I took it to pretty good independent shop. They do not work on transmissions themselves, but at least they confirmed my guess that the noise is coming from transmission. They also called transmission shop that they usually work with. So the next thing they say is to figure out exactly what is wrong with it and how much it is going to cost to rebuild, but they will have to remove and take it apart.
Here is why I think replacing it with used one will be more cost effective than rebuilding it. I hear that street price for such transmission is around $700. That could be a little off since I just could not find exactly the same transmission on either ebay or craigslist. But the transmission shop quoted something $2500 to rebuild and $3100 for factory remanufactured one. Given that price difference I would rather spend a little more and factory rebuilt one.
But if you compare even $2500 to $700 it make a lot of sense getting used one. Of course there is also a risk of getting totally screwed up piece if garbage, but I hope that if person is known here on forums his reputation will be my warranty.

So I guess it is also possible that the local transmission shop is charging too much or that it may not be a really good shop so I wonder. Do you guys know any transmission shop on Internet that is very good?
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Old 10-27-2008, 08:51 PM
pinkslip1 pinkslip1 is offline
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one time on my 528i i heard a similar noise it ended up being bad motor mounts.
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  #11  
Old 10-27-2008, 09:23 PM
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- is it happening when you gas during idle/neutral?
if yes then not tranny issue

- is there any code being thrown?
this car checks itself all the time. if there is a tranny problem it's likely it would be detected.

- does it do the same when you reverse?
i know it's hard to drive reverse that fast. but just checking it in an empty parking lot probably won't hurt

- anyone drove it during your vacation?
you will be pissed if someone else screwed it up..lolz.
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Old 10-27-2008, 10:02 PM
oaksenov oaksenov is offline
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Nope it does not do it in neutral. It even does not do it when gas is not applied. It also does not do it in fifth gear and probably first as well. Although I am not so sure about first one now. There are no codes either. I checked with reader some time ago.
I did not notice anything in reverse either. Although you are right I did not drive it fast in reverse. I'll try tomorrow. Although driving forward in second gear does not required any significant speed for sound to appear. It is almost immediate once gas is applied.

Nobody drove it while I was off. I think I noticed it even before I went on vacation. I probably did not pay attention to it. As I said there were only two things done to car during the period. I changed engine oil, and had all tires replaced by local shop. Well they test drove it after that.

pinkslip1, regarding bad engine mounts. When mount were bad did you see a problem when not in gear? What are other symptoms of bad engine mounts? I visually inspected mine and did not see anything suspicious.
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Old 11-07-2008, 10:35 PM
pinkslip1 pinkslip1 is offline
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with me it only happend in gear while applying the gas. the engine would lift and the fan would hit the fan shroud.
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  #14  
Old 10-10-2011, 11:31 AM
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aa240sx aa240sx is offline
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Reviving this thread and hoping to connect with OP. It appears I may be having the exact identical symptoms with my slush box (manual 5 speed). I have had the car looked at by a tech, but this person is not a transmission expert. They do seem to think it could be internal to the transmission, specifically the input bearings which would still require either a rebuild of existing tranny or purchase a rebuilt used tranny. I've also seen several posts in my research that seem to suggest the tranny whine as yet another quirk of BMW E39's that some owners simply put up with and choose not to repair such as, seat twist, steering wheel shake, valve clatter, engine inefficiency due to bad vanos, etc. I did perform a fluid change on the tranny and diff about a year ago (documented on this forum) using redline (no record of previous owner doing a fluid change). For added measure, the tech also performed a fluid change to just the tranny, but the sound remains.

The symptoms I have started appearing last week. My 2003 BMW 525i manual has 130K miles and I get a whining sound when

- car is in 3rd and 4th gear and slight acceleration (load)
- no sound in first or 5th or neutral

that said, today, i did notice that when I am in neutral and coasting with no acceleration I can just barely hear (above the road noise and engine idle), an almost indiscernable sound like marbles in a washing machine filled with styrofoam.

Anyway, hoping the OP sees this and can shed some light on what he ultimately ended up doing about 3 years ago.

As of now, I am considering putting into the tranny some time of additive like TransX, Rislone or Lucas to quiet the whine and just living with it. The tech ruled out center shaft bearing, wheel bearings, diff and guibo. A strange comment my tech made is 'well we did do a fluid change and in some of my customer's experience, the sound actually went away'. My optimistic side is really hoping for this one. :shrug
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Last edited by aa240sx; 10-10-2011 at 11:59 AM.
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  #15  
Old 10-10-2011, 10:29 PM
oaksenov oaksenov is offline
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I am still driving that car with the same transmission.
At the time I talked to BMW dealer service department. They said they'd not repair transmissions. They would have to replace it.
I also took it to really good (based on Internet reviews) independent transmission shop in our area. They said it was most likely the bearing on one of the shafts in the transmission although they could not tell more without disassembling it. Although they said it does not make sense to take it apart because they did not have parts to repair it. And I kind of knew that taking it to their shop. They just comfirmed my findings.

What I read was that those are the Getrag transmissions and Getrag did not make any repair kits or any spare parts. The only way to fix it is to send it back to a factory. In other words to buy factory remanufactured transmission.

At the time I figurred if needed I would buy new tranny for like $2-3K from the dealer and would replace it by myself. In meanwhile I have decided to drive it as is until it breaks or becomes much worse. I also played with idea of doing the repair myself, but I could not find any parts as well. And I would probably not start the repair until I had another transmission laying around. Also there are few things in there that require like 30 ton press. That I did not have.

Well it has been over 30000 miles since then. The noise it still there. It does not get any better nor worse. But it is annoying.

I did check for metal shavings in the transmission fluid when I changed it couple of months ago. I did not find any. So it gave me some confidence. Also I always used OEM fluid. And I think I changed the fluid twice already since that time.
Last time I have put in some additive. I do not remember the name of it. But it did not change anything so it does not matter. If situation ever improves I will dig out the name from some place and will report over here.
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Old 10-11-2011, 12:30 AM
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aa240sx aa240sx is offline
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Thanks for the update Oaksenov. Glad to hear that your tranny is still working since 2008 and 30K miles later! While I'm certainly encouraged that the 'leave it alone and just drive it' option seems very doable, your car's transmission is really only around 90K miles. My Tranny is currently at 130K and is just now starting to experience this sound...hope I can at least get it to 160K.

Also see that you continue to change the fluid at the recommended intervals. I changed the fluid myself about a year ago and when it was at the bmw mechanic (for good measure), he changed it as well this past week. When he did, he said the fluid looked totally normal, had no metal shavings or particles and no burnt/rancid smell. He did comment that he's had customers simply ignore the whine and drive their BMW another 100K miles (without even commenting on what actually did or didn't happen once those miles were put on).

I'm 100% sure we have the same transmission since well, we have the same car, 2003 E39 BMW 5 speed. I listened closely to your .wav file and it really sounds exactly like my tranny and it's uncanny that you only experience it in the same gears I experience in as well.

If any other 5 speed owners out there have similar experiences, maybe we should just post to this thread with those symptoms.

By the way, I have an appointment with AAMCO this Wednesday at 9am. They will diagnose the issue and give me essentially a second opinion on the matter. Let me know what additive you tried using. I plan to use Rislone or Trans X and have not read too many good things about Lucas Oil Stabilizers.

May I ask if the additive didn't really do anything, did you only add it once early in the 30K miles since driving with the whine? Did changing the tranny fluid do anything? Lastly, does the whine still only occur in 3rd and 4th?

Again, really appreciate you getting back to me on this one.
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- 2008 R350 Mercedes Wagon
- 1998 M3 Coupe - Manual Tranny, completely stock


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  #17  
Old 10-11-2011, 10:24 AM
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Stop worrying about it, and just drive the car....if the trans fails completely (highly unlikely), THEN you have something to worry about. BMW`s manual trannies (like their inline 6s) are hell for stout, and rarely suffer catastrophic failure....
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Old 10-11-2011, 02:06 PM
oaksenov oaksenov is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aa240sx View Post

By the way, I have an appointment with AAMCO this Wednesday at 9am. They will diagnose the issue and give me essentially a second opinion on the matter. Let me know what additive you tried using. I plan to use Rislone or Trans X and have not read too many good things about Lucas Oil Stabilizers.
Let us know what AAMCO says. Regarding the additive. I think it is FriktionTek for manual transmission. Again I do not see any change after I used it. But it has only been couple of months, and instructions said it has to pass like 2000 miles or so. I used it since I personally know the guy who uses that brand for all of his cars and he claims that it helped with similar noise issue in his Subaru.

Quote:
May I ask if the additive didn't really do anything, did you only add it once early in the 30K miles since driving with the whine?
No it did not. I used it recently.

Quote:
Did changing the tranny fluid do anything? Lastly, does the whine still only occur in 3rd and 4th?
Nope. Fluid change did not do anything either. I have been doing fluid changes about every 30000 miles or so.
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Old 10-12-2011, 11:35 AM
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Okay - Just got back from AAMCO. Good news and not so good news.

Although I still don't think they really understand BMW's at this shop (didn't know this particular Getrag tranny doesn't have a rebuild kit), they do know tranny's. AllData charges 6.5 hours of shop time to remove and reinstall the tranny.

This shop scoped and test drove the car and came to the same conclusion that my mechanic has come with, Oaksenov, and this forum. Whine is coming from the bearings in the transmission. The good news is they did confirm the noise is not diff, driveshaft, or wheel bearing related. Also, they said the clutch was working fine and gear shifts were perfect. Even more good news, they believe it would not be a good idea to have the tranny replaced at this time. The owner says in all his 25 plus years of being in business, he's never seen a bearing explode in a transmission that was properly topped off with spec fluid. He further showed me a couple spare bearings and began to explain that these bearings are put around gears which are so tightly spaced in terms of tolerance, that they could never have the opportunity to explode. He also said that the sound that I am hearing is probably either some pitting in the bearing races or the balls themselves being pitted from metal to metal contact. He said worst case the sound will eventually get so loud that the car can't be driven, not because of the tranmission but only because of the noise it will make. Best case, depending on whether you go with a thicker gear oil, the noise could also be completely eliminated. Truth be told though, he also said he was speculating because he's never had one come in with that condition.

The fact that the OP continues to drive his 5er 3 years since posting this and now 30K miles later, and not noticing any change in tranny behavior good or bad, seems to verify that this statement has merit.

As for the use of oil or metal chemical additives, he didn't seem to encourage or discourage the use of it.

One final question he asked is if I knew of any TSB's or recalls on the transmissions. I said I didn't know and he proceeded to check into it and came up with the following comment,

'MTF-LT2 superseded MTF-LT1. MTF-LT2 is not yet available in the US market. In the interim MTF-LT1 can be used.'

Anyone here know what the oil properties are for LT2. Is it thicker or thinner? I definitely plan to change out my fluid for this one or possibly add an additive to it.

Oaksenov - Any update on the additive, did it quiet down 3rd or 4th gear for you? I actually plan to use this stuff, Lubro Moly MoS2 Anti-Friction For Gears. Looks like it's specifically for transmissions and for reducing friction and/or whine.
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- 2008 R350 Mercedes Wagon
- 1998 M3 Coupe - Manual Tranny, completely stock


Last edited by aa240sx; 10-13-2011 at 11:25 AM.
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  #20  
Old 10-12-2011, 11:48 AM
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Interesting issue with the 525i Getrags.

Has anyone had similar issues with the ZF? My second to third shift can be a little crispy on cold days if I change gears quickly but after it warms up, that particular gear change is fine no matter how fast I do it.
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Old 10-12-2011, 12:02 PM
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Interesting issue with the 525i Getrags.

Has anyone had similar issues with the ZF? My second to third shift can be a little crispy on cold days if I change gears quickly but after it warms up, that particular gear change is fine no matter how fast I do it.
Next time you change trans fluid, you might want to try a 50/50 mix of RedLine MTL and RedLine ATF (Yes, it IS a RedLine-approved blend).
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Old 10-12-2011, 12:09 PM
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Next time you change trans fluid, you might want to try a 50/50 mix of RedLine MTL and RedLine ATF (Yes, it IS a RedLine-approved blend).
Sounds good Bob. I'm running straight Redline D4-ATF right now and noticed a nice improvement from the factory fill. I'm thinking maybe the PO was a little hard on the 2nd-to-third synchro. I just shift normally for a few miles on really cold days and then everything seems to "mesh" correctly. It only happens on cold mornings.
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Old 11-10-2011, 03:20 PM
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Almost a month has passed now. Just a quick update. The Lubro Moly MoS2 Anti-Friction For Gears didn't do squat for my tranny whine. The good news is the noise basically remains the same. I only hear it in 2nd, 3rd and 4th gear and does seem to quiet down when the engine warms up. I know I'm driving a ticking time bomb here, but so far so good. I've already got three different tranny sources to go to once it fails and will be tackling my biggest mechanical job to date - a transmission drop and replace only when this current tranny does fail. Hope to do this at a local shop that rents out garage time.

In the meantime, I'm definitely going to try a thicker transmission oil to see if that does anything to quiet it up. Oaksenov - How did your mystery oil work out for you?
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- 2008 R350 Mercedes Wagon
- 1998 M3 Coupe - Manual Tranny, completely stock

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Old 11-10-2011, 03:56 PM
oaksenov oaksenov is offline
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How did your mystery oil work out for you?
No change so far.

What are you transmission sources if you have to replace? What are the prices I wonder?
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