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E46 (1999 - 2006)
The fourth generation 3 Series (E46 chassis) was introduced in 1999 and set the standard for engineering and performance during it's years of production including being named to Car & Driver's 10 best list every one of those years! ! -- View the E46 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 10-29-2012, 11:58 AM
Variocam Variocam is offline
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Engine races about one mile after starting

My daughter's 04 325i Steptronic (116K miles) is exhibiting the following symptoms:

After starting it up, she drives it about one mile till she comes to the stoplight leading out of our neighborhood. As she pulls away from the light, the engine races up to a high rpm (5-6K, indicated on the tach), but the car doesn't accelerate commensurate with the engine speed. If other words, if it were a manual transmission car, it's as if she pressed in the clutch, and floored the accelerator.

It does this for about as long as it takes he to complete the turn, and then everything returns to normal. It doesn't do it again on the rest of the drive. I've tried to duplicate the symptoms, but so far, it hasn't done it for me. She says this has been happening for about two weeks. I'll have the codes read asap. Any ideas? I did a search under "engine racing", but nothing turned up. Thanks.
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  #2  
Old 10-29-2012, 02:58 PM
ian11gti ian11gti is offline
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Sounds like your transmission is experiencing a loss of prime. Is the fluid level correct?
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  #3  
Old 10-30-2012, 06:57 PM
Variocam Variocam is offline
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What do you mean by "loss of prime" (never heard that term before). I did a transmission fluid drain & fill about a year ago, and I *think* I topped it up correctly - I added fluid until it started coming out the fill hole, with the engine running, after running it through the gears. There's no sign of a leak. Why would it do this strange thing only once, only one mile from where she starts it from, and then never again on the rest of the trip?
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  #4  
Old 10-31-2012, 05:53 AM
Starless Starless is offline
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Sounds like a "computer" problem to me. I'd try upgrading the engine software to the latest version (if available) and resetting the transmission adaptations ( I did it in INPA), but see if there are any stored codes.
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  #5  
Old 10-31-2012, 07:28 PM
Variocam Variocam is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Starless View Post
Sounds like a "computer" problem to me. I'd try upgrading the engine software to the latest version (if available) and resetting the transmission adaptations ( I did it in INPA), but see if there are any stored codes.
Starless,

Thanks for the suggestion, but I understood everything you said right through "Sounds like..." .

Seriously, I haven't the foggiest idea how I would go about doing what you're suggesting, nor do I have a clue what INPA is. And I wouldn't know a stored code if it gave me a full frontal dope slap (which would actually be pretty appropriate). Sounds interesting, though.

I called a BMW specialty shop today, and before I completed two sentences, the guys said it sounds very much like my problem is caused by the transmission fluid being low. I did a drain & fill in June of 2011, and looking back, I was perplexed as to why significantly less fluid went back in than what I measured as having drained out. But there was no way I could add any more without it spilling out front the fill plug hole. His theory is that I got the transmission (and therefore the fluid) too hot during the procedure, causing the fluid to expand, and appear to be full, when it really wasn't. He said this is a common mistake that he has sen many times. This, combined with a possible small leak, could explain my symptoms. He recommended simply topping it up with everything cold to see how much I can add, and if it's a significant amount (say, half a quart or more), this could be my problem. Crossing my fingers...
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  #6  
Old 11-01-2012, 09:29 AM
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I am thinking it is the issue some 04 models had where the pump doesn't "prime" (to quote another poster) enough to get the fluid sufficiently moving about the valve body. Let me ask you this, has it started since it got cold out?
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  #7  
Old 11-01-2012, 06:45 PM
Variocam Variocam is offline
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Originally Posted by smolck View Post
I am thinking it is the issue some 04 models had where the pump doesn't "prime" (to quote another poster) enough to get the fluid sufficiently moving about the valve body. Let me ask you this, has it started since it got cold out?
Yes, absolutely, we had a bit of a "cool snap" about a week and a half ago, and that's exactly when it started. It warmed up again (this is central Texas, after all...), and hasn't done it since, although I asked her to not drive it the last two days.

If this is the problem, what's the remedy? Thanks.
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  #8  
Old 11-01-2012, 08:35 PM
Variocam Variocam is offline
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Crap. Well, the transmission isn't low on fluid. I put the car up on four jack stands, as level as I could make it, carefully removed the fill plug, and fluid immediately came gushing out. I replaced the plug very quickly, so I lost very little fluid, but the "low on fluid" theory seems to be dead. Anything else, before I start looking for someone locally who can rebuild one of these units? Can anyone elaborate on the "pump priming" theory, and what's involved with diagnosing this? Thanks.
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  #9  
Old 11-01-2012, 08:40 PM
Starless Starless is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Variocam View Post
Crap. Well, the transmission isn't low on fluid. I put the car up on four jack stands, as level as I could make it, carefully removed the fill plug, and fluid immediately came gushing out. I replaced the plug very quickly, so I lost very little fluid, but the "low on fluid" theory seems to be dead. Anything else, before I start looking for someone locally who can rebuild one of these units? Can anyone elaborate on the "pump priming" theory, and what's involved with diagnosing this? Thanks.
Wait, did you check the fluid with the car running and transmission temperature between 30 and 50 Celsius?
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  #10  
Old 11-01-2012, 09:15 PM
Variocam Variocam is offline
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No, I just did it cold, because when I filled it, I did it using the prescribed method of warming up the transmission fluid by running it through the gears, and it was full to overflowing. I suppose I don't have anything to lose by trying that again.

Question - how did you determine the transmission was at the correct temperature? I ask because, and this is pretty embarrassing, but when I read, "shift the transmission through the gears to warm it up," I took it very literally, and ran it through ALL the gears, with the car in jack stands, which required me to run it at a very high effective speed to get it into fifth. I was sure the car was going to fly off the stands! So, I think I may have gotten the transmission too hot, thus the theory that the fluid expanded, and gave a higher indicated level than would have been shown if it were at the correct temperature.

Another question - what is it about warming up the transmission that lowers the fluid level? I would have thought that just sitting would allow the fluid to settle at its lowest possible level.

Edit: I read back through your procedure, and see that you say that running the engine sucks fluid up into the transmission from the pan, which reduces the amount of fluid left in the pan, obviously. OK, makes sense.

So, could you please describe the exact method you used to get the transmission to the correct temperature, and how you confirmed that it was at the right temp? I'm definitely willing to try anything at this point. Thanks.

Last edited by Variocam; 11-01-2012 at 09:24 PM.
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  #11  
Old 11-01-2012, 09:54 PM
cvx5832 cvx5832 is offline
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When I fill mine I have it hooked up to INPA. To get to operating temp of 50degC, all it takes is to start the car (from sitting overnight, filled in the morning), shift through the gears for 3 seconds each (or however long until it kicks it back down), top it off again, shift through the gears again and close it up. It doesn't take long. It would probably take even less time being in Texas.

Screenshot below taken right after I closed it up, right before I killed the ignition.

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  #12  
Old 11-01-2012, 09:57 PM
cvx5832 cvx5832 is offline
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Procedure per TIS.

ZF :
http://tis.spaghetticoder.org/s/view.pl?1/04/54/27

GM :
http://tis.spaghetticoder.org/s/view.pl?1/04/80/64
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  #13  
Old 11-02-2012, 06:41 AM
Variocam Variocam is offline
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Thanks for all the replies.

So INPA is some sort of diagnostic tool, which I don't have. Maybe I'll try using a kitchen liquid thermometer, and bending it to reach the fluid through the fill hole.

And as far as shifting through the gears, it sounds like all I need to do is put it in manual mode, and while at idle, shift into each gear, and let it kick back down. When I did it during the drain & fill, I rev'd the engine enough to allow it to hold each gear, even 4th and 5th, without kicking down, allowing me to control which gear it was in. I didn't catch the 30C - 50C temperature target, so I'm sure I got the trans fluid way too hot.

OK, I'll report back how much, if any, fluid I have to add.
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  #14  
Old 11-02-2012, 09:04 AM
Variocam Variocam is offline
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OK, here's what happened. I followed james2538's procedure, in which I started the car, turned on the A/C, and shifted through P-R-N-D five times, holding it in each selection for five seconds, and let it idle a few more minutes in Park until the pan became warm to the touch. This took a good ten minutes, but I'm confident I didn't get the fluid too hot. Then I removed the fill plug, and what came out was a very frothy, brown liquid, not what I was expecting. I let it drain a few seconds to see if its character would change, and it didn't. I caught the liquid in a pan, and after a few minutes, the bubbles evaporated, and it looks like normal auto trans fluid. It doesn't smell burnt, or look strange in any way.

Did I not allow the fluid to get warm enough? It definitely didn't feel hot to the touch, just warm. The last time I did it, I seem to recall it being blazing hot. Is it possible that I somehow OVER-filled the trans when I did the drain & fill in June of 2011 (hard to imagine how this would be possible)? Through this recent process, I've now drained out a total of 250 ml of fluid. Any advice on where to go from here would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Last edited by Variocam; 11-02-2012 at 09:08 AM.
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  #15  
Old 11-02-2012, 09:28 AM
cvx5832 cvx5832 is offline
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Variocam - you mentioned "frothy brown liquid" when you opened the fill plug. Just to be safe, inspect your coolant reservoir. If the coolant and transmission fluid are mixing via a (broken) transmission heat exchanger, that could account for some goofy transmission behavior for sure.
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  #16  
Old 11-02-2012, 10:49 AM
Variocam Variocam is offline
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cvx - Interesting theory. I was just thinking that if this were engine oil I was inspecting, I would conclude I had a blown head gasket, allowing coolant to mix with the oil. The liquid that was coming out of the fill hole was very bubbly, more brown in color that ATF, and also quite thin and watery, so you may be on to something.

I checked the coolant level, and it's very low (surprised the car isn't running hot), which supports your theory. So, if I understand correctly, there's a heat exchanger that allows the engine coolant to heat up the auto trans fluid when the car is first started, and once the auto trans fluid hits the target temperature, the thermostat, located in the bottom of the coolant reservoir, shuts off the flow of coolant. So, you're saying I might have a situation in my transmission heat exchanger which is allowing coolant to get into the trans, which would account for the frothy liquid coming out of the trans fill hole.

I looked on realoem, and couldn't find a picture of the transmission heat exchanger. Do you know where it is? Any idea by what mechanism a broken transmission heat exchanger could allow coolant to get into the transmission? Thanks.
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  #17  
Old 11-02-2012, 12:09 PM
cvx5832 cvx5832 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Variocam View Post
Any idea by what mechanism a broken transmission heat exchanger could allow coolant to get into the transmission? Thanks.
The failure is internal, a crack between the fluid and coolant paths. No externally visible signs will be apparent.

Don't assume this is the issue just yet. Inspect and check it out. Search the boards too, as with a 12-yr old platform I'm sure this issue has been documented before.
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  #18  
Old 11-02-2012, 12:48 PM
Variocam Variocam is offline
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Yes, I did a drain & fill at 98K (18,000 miles ago), and the fluid that drained out of drain hole at the bottom of the pan was very clean, and sediment free. What I'm seeing now coming out of the fill hole is brown, thin, and frothy, but still clean. So I just drained a little from the drain hole, and it looks like very clean ATF - no trace of coolant in it, which argues against the coolant-in-the-trans theory, since coolant is heavier than ATF, and should settle on the bottom. But the fact that there's so much of this brown frothy liquid coming out of the drain hole is very strange, although I agree that I'm not going to assume a compromised AT heat exchanger is the problem without further investigation. Also, the fact that the coolant level is low is suspicious, although of course that could just be a coincidence.

To answer your question, the car has the GM-sourced G4 transmission. It has 96025458 written on the green tag on its side. After a lot of research, I went with Valvoline Max Life DEX/MERC ATF. On its bottle, it says it's recommend for use in transmissions that use GM Dexron II, III, and VI, and BMW LT71141, so it appeared to be acceptable stuff. Other people on the forum had used it as well. Hopefully this wasn't a mistake, but I'm skeptical of the "BMW magic special fluid" argument, especially when it's a GM-sourced transmission.
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Old 11-02-2012, 12:06 PM
cvx5832 cvx5832 is offline
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It definitely warrants a closer inspection. In the same thread at E46F, you mentioned changing out the fluid at 98k, and what came out was clean and sediment free. Now, only a few thousand miles later, it's brown and frothy. Maybe ATF does that, I don't know. But the fact it's now brown when the outgoing 98k fluid was clean means it became brown on the last fill. To further eliminate other possibilities, what transmission is this and what fluid was used?

Heat exchanger is at the bottom of the radiator. You can see it from the engine bay and has a couple hoses connected to it.

http://realoem.com/bmw/showparts.do?...46&hg=17&fg=05
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Old 11-02-2012, 12:48 PM
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I can net it out simple. Change your trans fluid. My fluid was brown on my 323 when I changed it because it was OLD. Old fluid takes longer to flow where it needs to when cold, theres your problem. Change fluid and filter and go on with life.
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  #21  
Old 11-02-2012, 01:00 PM
Variocam Variocam is offline
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Originally Posted by smolck View Post
I can net it out simple. Change your trans fluid. My fluid was brown on my 323 when I changed it because it was OLD. Old fluid takes longer to flow where it needs to when cold, theres your problem. Change fluid and filter and go on with life.
Smolck,

I'd be more than happy to go that route, except I did a drain & fill & filter change 18K miles ago, and the fluid that came out was incredibly clean and sediment-free. It even smelled new. Nothing like the horror stories I had read about with nasty smelling fluid, and pans filled with silt. It looked like it was drained out of a brand new car.

And to clarify, the ATF I drained out of the drain plug (I drained a little out to look for signs of coolant in the bottom of the pan) is reddish in color, like normal ATF. The stuff coming out of the fill plug when the engine is running and everything is warmed up has a brownish appearance, but I think that's because of all the bubbles in it.

Bottom line, here's where I'm at:

- Car is acting like ATF might be low
- Opening fill plug with engine running and everything warmed up produces a thin, frothy liquid, so it's acting as though it were OVER-filled, but I don't see how that's possible

Last edited by Variocam; 11-02-2012 at 01:17 PM.
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Old 11-02-2012, 02:50 PM
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I did a drain & fill & filter change 18K miles ago
That was an important piece of information don't ya think?
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  #23  
Old 11-02-2012, 09:04 PM
Variocam Variocam is offline
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See Post #3:

"I did a transmission fluid drain & fill about a year ago"

And #5:

"I did a drain & fill in June of 2011"

And #13:

"When I did it during the drain & fill..."
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  #24  
Old 11-04-2012, 08:17 AM
Variocam Variocam is offline
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It turns out the local BMW indy I talked to was right about the ATF being low. He recommended I use the following procedure to top it up:

- Loosen the fill plug to where it just barely prevents the ATF from leaking out
- Start the car, dive under the car, remove the plug as quickly as possible, and start pumping fresh ATF as fast as possible. If you wait too long, the fluid flowing in the transmission will start to start frothing over and out of the fill hole due to cavitation.
- As soon as a significant amount of fluid starts spilling out of the hole, stop pumping, and put the plug back as quickly as possible.

While this procedure flies in the face of the accepted methods, I think it actually makes sense, because I measured how much I drained out with I did the drain & fill in June of last year, and how much I put back in, and there was a difference of about half a quart. This puzzled me, but I figured I must have made a mistake measuring. Now what I think happened is a combination of two things: 1) I think I got the fluid too hot during the procedure, causing it to expand, and appear more full than it actually was, and 2) I suspect I had the car at an angle, with the left side lower than the right.

I added just under 3/4 of a quart this time, which is close to the discrepancy when I did it last year. Is this enough to fix the slipping symptom? It didn't do it when I tested it this morning after topping up the fluid, but I'll have to wait for it to cool off (going to be a balmy 82 degrees again today) to know for sure. Fingers crossed...
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