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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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Old 10-19-2012, 07:56 AM
YinD YinD is offline
Officially Welcomed to the 'Fest
Location: Denton Texas
Join Date: Apr 2012
Posts: 162
Mein Auto: 2003 540iA M-Sport
03 540 ia transmission quit working

Help. Driving to work this morning, got about 3 miles from the house and the TRANSFailSafe message popped up on the cluster.

I decided to turn around at the next stop sign (which was about 2 blocks away) to go back home. I did not make it home. The car would not move, I did not get a limp home gear. The deputy helped me push the car into a nearby parking lot in our neighborhood.

Car is 2003 E39 540ia. Has about 134,800 miles on it. Original tranny was replaced by BMW at 81,4668 at Desert BMW Nevada per Carfax. PO never changed the tranny fluid, neither have I. In the last week, I have noticed a sutle high pitched noise when I put the car into park. Somewhere between a belt squeal or a vacuum leak. I was going to look into it this weekend. Well...hell.

Unlike all of the posts I have read about transfailsafe, I did not get any warning lights on the dash, the dash gauges all work accordingly. Turned the car off and back on with no change. When I shift into RN or D, there is no change in the idle or vibration to let me know that the transmission has shifted into a gear. When I shift back into park, I get this sound like a electric drill makes when it over torques a screw. (or a plastic gear not engaging). When I opened the door, I smelled some burnt fluid, I assume it was tranny fluid.

I tried reving up the engine (to 3k) thinking that maybe I have a 3rd gear, but that did not do anything.

Checked the battery 30 mins later, battery read 12.5 V. Pulled codes with an OBDII reader, no codes. Car starts and runs fine.

And, now when I turn on the car, the transfailsafe message does not appear.

At this point, I will check to see if any electrical connections got disconnected, check the ATF level and color, disconnect the battery negative terminal and re-attempt (hopefully get it home), and make sure I don't have a rear axle/driveshaft issue (which I don't think I do because I did not get an rpm spike.) I want to read a bit more about this A-drum...

I am a little stumped. The transmission hasn't been slipping or jerking. It does kick a little under hard acceleration but not enough to signal any issues. Does this sound common? Any advice will be appreciated.

2003 BMW 540i A M-Sport with factory Navigation and CD changer; winter package
1997 Toyota Landcruiser 40th anniversary edition

~split personality~
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