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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 01-15-2013, 04:22 PM
snapple112 snapple112 is offline
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Location: New Jersey
 
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Mein Auto: 97' 528i
Exclamation 97' 528i auto trans shifting problem, stuck in 1st

BMW is a 1997 528i, auto transmission about ~180,000 miles. Couple years ago when the car was at 100k miles, tranny was giving me some slipping issues as well as getting stuck in S3/S2 when it would rain/snow. At that time, a shop had added some non slip oil to the trans, which fixed the problem for the most part. Another mechanic had told me that the selector sensor located on the side of the transmission has gone bad, which is why it got stuck in S2/3 when it would rain/snow because moisture in the air would freeze the sensor. Though he sounded right, I never replaced that sensor.

At this time, the BMW will not shift out of 1st gear. For the past couple months, the tranny had been giving me slipping issues again, for example, when I would brake, make a left/right turn, go up/down a hill, or accelerate quickly the car would slip in and out of gear for a couple seconds and then knock back in. From my understanding, this means that the trans fliud is low, since sudden jerks/movements while driving would cause the little fluid thats left in there to shift from side to side, making the gears slip in and out.

Unfortunately I hadn't taken care of that problem since, and now the car will not shift out of 1st gear no matter what. Haven't been able to check the codes yet since the nearest autozone requires driving on the highway, but the check engine light is on (has been on for some time now, even before this problem)

Anyway, while driving if I keep the car in (D) Drive, i'll get halfway up the road and when I hit about 3-4k RPM (in first gear), the tranny will slip and the RPMs will rev very high until I let off the gas. At that point the car will not return to 1st gear, and the Transmission? light will come on (not check engine & not traction control, but it's a yellow light on the far right side that looks like a circle) and I have to shut the car off for about a minute and turn it back on before this light will go off and it'll go back into 1st.

So, instead of putting it in Drive, i'm having to put it in S1, which will obviously not let me go over about 25mph, but, the transmission doesn't slip at 3-4k like it does in D. This way I can avoid having that light come on and turning the car off and on.

Also, shifting into S2/S3 will still not let the car shift out of 1st. Reverse, Park, and Neutral all work normally with the correct letters appearing in the dash.

I'm really hoping that the tranny is not done for good. Being on a college student budget, maintenance for this car has just been eating away at the money i've attempted to save. What should I do in my case? Someone had suggested taking it to a tranny shop, and having them drain and fill the transmission fluid to start off with. Do you think this would solve my problem?
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  #2  
Old 01-15-2013, 08:51 PM
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diggyd357 diggyd357 is online now
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Location: Louisiana
 
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Mein Auto: 97 528I
Sounds like its time for a rebuild...your worst fears realized. However, I had a similar issue with the exact same car only I had the trifecta lights ....anyway, it was my front wheel speed sensor. You can also try a fluid and filter change. An oem filter and gasket kit is only $50 on ebay and its a fairly easy and straight forward procedure you can do yourself. So there are a couple things you can do yourself for under $200 ....although I doubt its gonna help, but it might...I've seen stranger. If you take it ro a transmission shop make sure they specialize in BMW . The average tranny repairman at your local AAMCO is gonna screw your car up worse and then charge you for it.
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  #3  
Old 01-16-2013, 04:55 AM
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Fleetman Fleetman is offline
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Mein Auto: '11 X5 35d & 98 Cherokee
I agree that it won't hurt anything but your wallet to try the fluid and filter change. One other thing you might try is to disconnect the ABS module....a bad module will affect transmission shifting....although you'll end up with a Check Engine light and no speedo, fuel calcs, etc, the trans should shift normally if it is in fact the module....worth a try IMO.
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  #4  
Old 01-16-2013, 07:10 PM
snapple112 snapple112 is offline
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Location: New Jersey
 
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Mein Auto: 97' 528i
First thing Friday ill be taking it to a shop to have them diagnose the fluid and filter levels. But, today I had disconnected the front passenger side wheel sensor, which to my understanding should have disabled the abs unit. Abs, brake, and acs light came on, but I still have speedo and the rest of the gauges working.

By doing that, did I properly disconnect the abs to determine if it would fix the trans problem?
Because afterwards when I attached the wheel and took it for a ride the same problem is still there, no change.

Though, I can say this; when the transmission issue first happened about a week ago, I've noticed that the steering wheel is a bit harder to turn left/right. As if there was more tension... So I checked the level of the ATF fluid under the hood (pink looking liquid) and it was at the correct level. Could this be effected by the same problem the tranny has being stuck in1st?

Last edited by snapple112; 01-16-2013 at 11:26 PM. Reason: Edit
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  #5  
Old 01-17-2013, 03:40 AM
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Fleetman Fleetman is offline
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Mein Auto: '11 X5 35d & 98 Cherokee
No, disconnecting the wheel sensor does not disconnect the ABS module. IIRC, your module is under the dash....the BMW experts will chime in soon I suppose. Anyway, disconnect the module itself...fairly large plug with many wires.

When my '99 528 module went bad, it affected shifting and a host of other things, to include the w/shield rain sensor. My first symptom was the transmission symbol on the dash....looks somewhat like a gear and the trans was starting off in, I believe, 3rd which made it appear to be slipping but it wasn't.

I don't think you have a trans dipstick under the hood....I think you had ahold of the PS dipstick....pink doesn't sound correct either...it should be red....if truly pink, it may be water contamination in the PS reservoir and if water, could/would cause "tight" steering.

Search previous threads by Bluebee, CN90, 540iman, and several others...they have a lot of knowledge and experience and Bluebees ABS DIY is priceless. I think many contributed to her DIY but she has it all in one thread...extremely helpful.

Good luck!

Note; I had to laugh at my "new" BMW dealer....I traded in a very well-used '99 528 on a 2011 X5. I was not a fan, nor even knew anything about BMW when I purchased mine a little over two years ago and paid $3k for it (actually the auctiondealer I bought it from (Freedom Auto, Manheim Pa) said to buy it, drive it for three months, and if I wasn't happy with it, return it and he would refund all of my money. I had very good luck with the 528 and it sold me on the value and comfort of a BMW. Anyway, yesterday I stopped by my dealer since I saw my old 528 on the used lot and thought I'd see what they were asking for it (was hoping something like $500 or $750 and I would have bought it back)....imagine my surprise and following belly-laugh when I discovered they're asking $5250 for it!!!!!! It's a nice 528 but not near THAT nice!!
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  #6  
Old 01-17-2013, 06:05 PM
snapple112 snapple112 is offline
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Location: New Jersey
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
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Mein Auto: 97' 528i
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fleetman View Post
No, disconnecting the wheel sensor does not disconnect the ABS module. IIRC, your module is under the dash....the BMW experts will chime in soon I suppose. Anyway, disconnect the module itself...fairly large plug with many wires.

When my '99 528 module went bad, it affected shifting and a host of other things, to include the w/shield rain sensor. My first symptom was the transmission symbol on the dash....looks somewhat like a gear and the trans was starting off in, I believe, 3rd which made it appear to be slipping but it wasn't.

I don't think you have a trans dipstick under the hood....I think you had ahold of the PS dipstick....pink doesn't sound correct either...it should be red....if truly pink, it may be water contamination in the PS reservoir and if water, could/would cause "tight" steering.

Search previous threads by Bluebee, CN90, 540iman, and several others...they have a lot of knowledge and experience and Bluebees ABS DIY is priceless. I think many contributed to her DIY but she has it all in one thread...extremely helpful.

Good luck!

Note; I had to laugh at my "new" BMW dealer....I traded in a very well-used '99 528 on a 2011 X5. I was not a fan, nor even knew anything about BMW when I purchased mine a little over two years ago and paid $3k for it (actually the auctiondealer I bought it from (Freedom Auto, Manheim Pa) said to buy it, drive it for three months, and if I wasn't happy with it, return it and he would refund all of my money. I had very good luck with the 528 and it sold me on the value and comfort of a BMW. Anyway, yesterday I stopped by my dealer since I saw my old 528 on the used lot and thought I'd see what they were asking for it (was hoping something like $500 or $750 and I would have bought it back)....imagine my surprise and following belly-laugh when I discovered they're asking $5250 for it!!!!!! It's a nice 528 but not near THAT nice!!

Ahh, I see. From the various posts i've read on here regarding disabling the ABS, I had noticed two different ways to do this. 1 being that you can disconnect the unit by taking off the electrical plug under the hood, then removing a few bolts and taking off the actual abs unit that has a few coils/springs within it. This method seemed easy, yet I didn't want to mess with that unit because if something had gone wrong in the process, it's another repair that I can't afford atm. 2 I was under the assumption that you could disconnect the speed sensor located behind the wheel in either the front or back passenger side. This is the method I took, being that it seemed a bit quicker and less harmful if something else had gone wrong. Though, I didn't actually take the entire sensor off, I just disconnected the electrical socket located in the "black box" within the wheel well.

Not too sure if that was correct, though, because a few of the postings I've seen had a blue connector that needed to be taken off, instead this connector was grey.

Anyways, I will reconnect that speed sensor since it didn't effect the tranny at all. Though, my question is... I haven't seen any posts that show you how to disconnect the abs from under the dash. The only ways i've seen was the speed sensor in the wheel well and from under the hood.

There is no dipstick for the tranny fluid under the hood. To my understanding the only way to check that fluid is from under the car on the sides of the tranny. And the ATF fluid that I can check under the hood is for power steering, I believe. It is a redish/dark pink color, but those resivours are known to leak and screw up. So there is a good chance moisture has found its way in the line and caused it to be tight when steering.

Last question... the one thing I haven't tried yet is disconnecting the negative terminal on the battery and leaving it off for a bit. Maybe this will reset something and possibly fix the issue? Let me know if you think I should give this a try, and for how long I should leave it disconnected.

Thanks everyone for your help by the way. I try to be as descriptive as possible when it comes to the BMW... which is why my posts are so damn long lol
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  #7  
Old 01-17-2013, 10:03 PM
hdman1ab hdman1ab is offline
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Mein Auto: 1997 and 2006 528i and xi
Transmission stuck in first gear

I have a similar but more unique problem. I say that because nobody else has mentioned the S 2 light. While driving with the transmission selector in D the D light on the instrument panel shows D as you would expect it to. However, while driving, the D light will extinguish and the S 2 light illuminates. This happens intermittently and sometimes very quickly. One thing for sure is that the transmission follows the lights. It downshifts when the S 2 light illuminates and releases the transmission to a higher gear when the D light illuminates. I've heard a lot of talk here about transmissions stuck in first gear. If I hadn't seen the S 2 light and the D light telegraphing back and forth, with the transmission following them, when in the failure mode, I would have thought that the transmission was stuck in first gear, or whatever gear allows about 40MPH at 4000 RPM. My assumption is that the circuit that lights D and S 2 is driving the transmission based on speed and request for power at the gas pedal. I say that because I don't feel that the transmission has the ability to change those lights. Only the shifter should. The one thing I do know is that if somebody can tell us where the signals come from to illuminate those two lights and I personally think it's going to be an interlock on the bottom of the shifter, that's where we need to focus. I'm going to start there and see if I can get to the bottom of the shifter without causing too much damage. I will get back to you all with anything I find. If somebody has a print and can provide a couple of test points to check and how to get at them I will do that and get back to everybody. I'm really hoping that this description is indicative enough of something that somebody has already seen or knows that can cause this and turns a light bulb on, somewhere other than my instrument panel. If anybody has any further questions or suggestions I will work with all of you to resolve this. Probably like all of you, I don't really have a choice, because it aint going to be a BMW Dealership.

John
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