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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 05-01-2014, 05:49 AM
monkeyman_69 monkeyman_69 is offline
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transmission dying?

'97 528i automatic, 253K miles. It's my son's project car and in the last 6 months only put100-200 miles on it. During a test drive a few weeks ago, from a dead stop the tranny would 'thunk' at about 20 mph (reminded me of the center bearing going out on 320e.) Today drove it 50 miles at highway speed, no problems. When I got on surface streets the thunk was gone, but replaced by a shudder and slippage. Engine would rev, but no forward movement. Then it would take off (like a dying clutch). Started from the light a few times in S3 which helped slightly. Get to work and see smoke between engine and firewall. No codes, no fluid on the ground. Tranny was fine 6 months ago and we haven't touched it. This is the lifetime (sealed) version. Shifting is fine, highway speed is smooth, engine idles great. Doubt it's engine mounts; they wouldn't cause smoke. I do have a main seal oil leak; had it for years, but that can't be it. What's going on?
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  #2  
Old 05-01-2014, 07:49 AM
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bartelbe bartelbe is offline
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If you saw smoke then you have a oil leak somewhere. Torque converters and transmissions dont smoke even when failed. First thing to do is check the trans fluid level since some of the symptoms you described can be linked to low fluid level and seeing smoke would also point to this. The clunk is also not likely being caused by the trans but my gut would say ujoint, diff, driveshaft,etc..
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Old 05-01-2014, 08:22 AM
monkeyman_69 monkeyman_69 is offline
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Smoke was white and didn't smell like antifreeze. Recently changed VCG; will check again for oil leak behind cyl 6. I'll check on your options of u-joint, etc, too.
I like the low fluid theory. If it's a sealed system, can I add fluid? Is there a dipstick? Searching tranny fluid, on another thread someone wrote "It's a lifetime fill. Don't replace the fluid, replace the transmission." Other threads say remove a plug and fill until it runs out.
This is an automatic '97. I believe it's the original tranny and probably original fluid? I'm the 2nd owner.
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Old 05-01-2014, 08:32 AM
edjack edjack is offline
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The trans has both drain and fill plugs, but no dipstick. You'll be able to find the procedure on the web. BMW now recommends changing the "lifetime" fluid every 100k.

However, most BMW autos are pretty well worn out at that mileage, so you have nothing to lose, except some money, by changing the fluid.
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Old 05-01-2014, 11:06 AM
monkeyman_69 monkeyman_69 is offline
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Aamco just looked at it (closest option). Said first band in tranny is gone. The thunk at 20 mph is the first band not letting go so the 2nd band can take over. Makes sense, as the thunk feels like something is jerking or not smoothly moving. They said it's a GM tranny and needs a rebuild. $2000 (est), done in 3 days. Gotta talk to the wife and kid. He'll be bummed if we scrap the car. Mechanically rest of car seems to be in good shape. Would $2K for a tranny rebuild be worth w/ 253K miles? Or is time to throw in the towel?
Thanks to everyone for their input.
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Old 05-01-2014, 11:58 AM
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if the trans is your only issue, I would look for a better deal (swap, forums, etc) and see what you can do.
buying another car is just trading one set of problems for another (how I see it).
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Old 05-01-2014, 01:39 PM
djmjd djmjd is offline
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Aamco isn't the place I would take a car for diagnosis or any work. It sounds bad for that tranny but at a cost of only $30 in fluid (use the walmart branded Dexron 3 stuff) it would be worth a fluid change first.
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Old 05-01-2014, 01:42 PM
edjack edjack is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeyman_69 View Post
Aamco just looked at it (closest option). Said first band in tranny is gone. The thunk at 20 mph is the first band not letting go so the 2nd band can take over. Makes sense, as the thunk feels like something is jerking or not smoothly moving. They said it's a GM tranny and needs a rebuild. $2000 (est), done in 3 days. Gotta talk to the wife and kid. He'll be bummed if we scrap the car. Mechanically rest of car seems to be in good shape. Would $2K for a tranny rebuild be worth w/ 253K miles? Or is time to throw in the towel?
Thanks to everyone for their input.
Get a second opinion.
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  #9  
Old 05-01-2014, 07:06 PM
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bartelbe bartelbe is offline
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Bummer shes proably toast ill explain The gm 4l30e only has one band and it is engaged for first and stays engaged for 2nd along with 2nd drum clutch. Now for 3rd the band is released and 3rd clutch is engaged being that your symptoms are slipping and shuddering point to the 1st/reverse band being fried she probably also slips in reverse too but most dont hammer in reverse so may not be noticed. The band is controlled by the servo piston which is adjustable with out removing the trans.. Before I would drop 2k which is way overpriced considering a master rebuild kit runs about $250 so that would mean there charging you $1750 for labor. And rebuilding the gm 4L30e is very simple when it comes to a trans rebuild I just finished doing one on my 98 528i. This is what I would do drop the pan and check the pan for excessive debris if the band is the culprit you should see clutch material in the pan. While there adjust the servo piston it's real easy to do and you may get a couple thou miles out of her or pull it now and rebuild it with your son theres a very great detail diy I could provide if interested and since this is your sons project car or you can pick up a used gm 4l30e transmission for fairly cheap I can get one for $45 but shipping to you would probably cost more then you can find one locally or help your son swap it out can be easily done in a weekend.
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Last edited by bartelbe; 05-02-2014 at 03:06 PM.
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  #10  
Old 05-31-2014, 09:27 PM
monkeyman_69 monkeyman_69 is offline
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Bartlebe, this reply is primarily aimed at you. Son and I finally got around to the car. Donut/magnet in bottom of pan was coated w/ sludge, but no chunks or obvious metal pieces. ATF is dark, like used motor oil. Will replace gasket and filter, maybe solenoids. I see the servo cover. Read lots on the internet about adjusting this piston; torque to x in-lbs, back off 5 turns, etc. Feel like I can do it. We are VERY interested in your detailed DIY. Can you seriously get a used tranny for $45? Found a company in Calif that has 1 yr warranty on used ones for $600, +$150 UPS shipping. Local (TX) they are $700+. So $45 + 150 S&H is a good deal to me.
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  #11  
Old 05-31-2014, 09:53 PM
djmjd djmjd is offline
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It's completely normal to see "sludge" in the bottom of the pan and you'll even see very fine metal particles attached to the magnet. Clean the pan, put in a new filter (make sure the filter gasket matched the OEM one) and fill it up with fluid. You have to top up the fluid with the engine running (which is a pain since you have to be under the car). If reverse works and you don't see any chunks in the pan the trans is probably fine. I wouldn't try to adjust or replace anything just yet. It's likely that the trans is usable as is. As for spending $2k on a rebuild - you can buy a lower mileage e39 for that price.

Do you have any lights showing on the dash (such as the check engine light or the ABS/Traction control lights)? Does the computer have any stored codes?

Low fluid will cause slipping, are you sure you don't have any leaks?

If you find you have to replace it there are 3 LKQ pick a part locations around Houston and they sell transmissions for $139. Any '97 or '98 528i has a compatible transmission. Look for a wrecked car (only pull an engine/trans from a wrecked car) with low miles.

http://www.lkqpickyourpart.com/locat...le-235/prices/

Last edited by djmjd; 05-31-2014 at 10:02 PM.
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  #12  
Old 06-01-2014, 02:36 PM
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Ok. First I can get a auto trans for $45 but has no warranty and $99 with a warranty now these are you pull it type prices when I rebuilt my first one there was hard part damage "3rd gear clutch drum, planetary & center support" so since I was just using the salvage trans for hard parts I chose the $45 option. When I disassembled the salvage trans I found that it was in very good condition and I would have had no problems with just running it but the trans was out of a 96 328i so I wasn't sure if the ratios where the same and after I disassembled it found that the only difference between the 328i and the 528i was the output yoke and the shift position sensor. "528i is mounted on the side of trans and 328i is integrated in the console shift handle". Now the salvage yard that I use currently has a 98 528i in the yard but its been there a while and the last time I was there it still had the trans but its been a couple of weeks and being its summer my time is very limited so this option would take the longest possibly months and I would charge $150 to pull it. So you'd be looking at $345-$399. Now for the best option and that would be to just rebuild it. A full rebuild kit will run about $250-300 and includes both the friction plates and steel plates, band and filter along with all the seals, gaskets and orings. Tools required would be standard set of sockets some oring picks, small flat tip screw drivers, a bench top vice for compressing the piston return springs or better yet would be a small press and some bobbing pins. Here is a diy link it is vary informative on the process. .scottj.info/files/isuzu/4l30e.pdf

And yes this link is to a isuzu application but is identical to the bmws. The 4l30e was used on Cadillac, isuzu, bmws and some others so info, parts and salvageable ones readily available with very little differences internally "ratios or style of plantary set"

The link doesn't show disassembly of the trans so if you chose this path make sure to keep everything organized with how each component sits in its spot. "Which side faces up" Also since the rebuild kit comes with multiple gaskets depending on the application you will need to use the correct one it easy just line up the holes that match the valve body spacer plates. If you have any questions about taking it apart let me know. Oh ya there are roughly only 12-13 bolts which thread in from the bell housing side that hold this thing together once removed you can literally pull to gut right out of her after that its all snap rings from there to take each drum apart. The band sits at the very bottom so you will need to take the tail shaft housing off."6 more bolts and the output yoke nut which if memory serves me is 1 3/16 but am not 100% postive on that size .
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  #13  
Old 06-01-2014, 06:28 PM
alex5er alex5er is offline
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transmission dying?

:thumbup I had the same problems and a slipping tranny on my 1997 528i, every indy wanted to recpace the trany.. I did the ATF and filter about a year ago. This year the tranny had hard shifts and bangs, and started to slip. My fix was to replace all of the shift Solenoids and clean the valve body.. Paid $124.95 for a 4L30e transmission 4 pice solenoid shift, TCC band set on EBay .
This was my best $125.00 ever spent.. And not a very hard DIY at all. The results are perfect shifting smooth as new..

The hardest part was having the car level and toping off the new ATF..

This has been a good fix for many 5ers that have symptoms of hard shift and bangs also intermittent slippage. If your transmission dose not have big metal parts/ or metal shaving in the oil pan.. I would try this fix..

Last edited by alex5er; 06-01-2014 at 06:43 PM.
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  #14  
Old 06-07-2014, 10:37 AM
monkeyman_69 monkeyman_69 is offline
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Great info, thanks, guys. I did learn that Isuzu, Caddy, and others use this GM tranny. In fact, trying to figure out this problem I've searched those forums for advise.
Smart idea or not, I figured it was old fluid and likely a bad 1-2 solenoid in the valve body. Again, it's my son's car and this is an education. I could be wrong on the solenoid, but he got his hands dirty and learned something. Basically I'm doing what Alex5er did.
Reverse has always been fine, just forward, and only below 20 mph.
Only sludge on magnet, plus old fluid. No other problems I can see.
Anyhow, I f'ed up the neutral safety switch trying to remove it. I tried to unscrew it below the mounting bracket. That broke some wires. $300 later I have a new one.
Some new solenoids installed, gaskets replaced, neutral safety switch installed, and pumped in a few quarts, til it ran back out. Turned on car to warm it up and add ATF, but can't shift out of park. Figured I missed something on neutral safety switch. I've read about a plastic holding pin you have to shear...? I did not loosed any bolts or change anything. Direct replacement, no adjustments.
So right now I can't cycle thru the gears to get the ATF levels right. Help.
If this doesn't work, then we'll go for a new tranny. This was the inexpensive first shot.
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Old 06-07-2014, 10:45 AM
Burning2nd Burning2nd is offline
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leaking rear main.. cant possiably be oil on the exshuast
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Old 06-07-2014, 12:25 PM
monkeyman_69 monkeyman_69 is offline
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Burning2nd, my smoke problem near the exhaust manifold (another thread) resolved itself. Think I was burning leftover oil from a bad VCG.
I do have a rear main seal leak. Had it for years. Just dealt w/ it. If my current tranny problem gets more involved, I hope to take care of it, too.
As for my smoke/steam comment at the beginning of this thread, still don't know what it was, but could have been from the rear main. Not sure why I didn't notice it 5 yrs ago. Only noticed when the tranny started having a hard 1-2 upshift.
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  #17  
Old 06-09-2014, 11:14 AM
monkeyman_69 monkeyman_69 is offline
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I can't cycle thru the gears to get the ATF level right. She's stuck in park.
A few weeks ago I f'ed up the neutral safety switch trying to remove it. I tried to unscrew it below the mounting bracket, which broke the wires from twisting.
After new solenoids, pan gaskets, filter, and neutral safety switch, I pumped in a few quarts, til it ran back out. Want to warm up and top off ATF. Figured I missed something on neutral safety switch. I've read about a plastic holding pin you have to shear...? I did not loosen any bolts or change anything. Direct replacement, old one off, new one on.
If not the shear pin, what about alignment of the switch? It attaches to the tranny over a flat sided bolt, but the holes for the 2 torx screws that hold it on have some wiggle room. Should I try and rotate it a degree or 2?
The gear shift feels like it wants to shift. It starts to move like it's coming out of P, but then hangs and won't go to R
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Old 06-09-2014, 07:38 PM
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There is nothing on the trans that will prevent it from shifting assuming you assembled the valve body correctly. The lock is tied into the shift hand itself. Fyi The black box mounted on the side of the trans is the shift position sensor. What exactly did you all remove. "Might help me figure out whats going on"
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Old 06-10-2014, 11:31 AM
monkeyman_69 monkeyman_69 is offline
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Took the pan off, removed 3 bolts and filter, then the other bolts holding the valve body. On the driver's side of the valve body is a flat, u-shaped metal part, maybe 3" long and 3/4" wide (called manual detent roller and spring assy). 2 bolts pass thru it. One end of the metal part hooks onto the last tooth of the range selector lever (#60), a flat plat w/ 6 or so teeth on it. The neutral safety switch fits over the selector shaft, a rod that connects the outside of the tranny case to the range selector lever on the inside. (My terms are coming from Hans Verhoeven's 4L30E manual he wrote in New Zealand back in 2008. I'm in section 34 - main valve body assy.)
When I was putting the filter and valve body back on, the 2 holes of the manual detent roller didn't exactly line up. I did the first bolt, closest to the range selector lever, but the 2nd one was tight. I think I have the range selector rotated rearwards too much, which pulls the tooth away from the manual detent roller. That's why the hole didn't line up. I sort of snapped it on, then wiggled the 2nd bolt until it threaded together. I'm thinking it's under tension and that's why I can't get out of park.
I plan on releasing some tension by rotating the neutral safety switch forward (CCW) a bit. That'll let it pop off the tooth easier. I hoping I can do this all from the neutral safety switch side and not have to pull the pan, undo the 2 bolts to adjust the manual detent roller, then put it all back together.
I attached pictures. Hope they come thru.
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Old 06-11-2014, 08:23 AM
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I think I understand your thought process somewhat. The shift position sensor on the side of the trans is a sender and will only prevent the engine from starting due to it is also the sender that tell the dme its in park, neutral, or a forward , reverse gear. Is the shaft is keyed? " i have never disaassembled but the shaft is somehow coupled to the sender" to the sender so as the shaft turns it opens some circuits and closes others a sort of electrical code ex; a=open , b, c, d closed = park or a= open, b=closed, c=open, d= closed = reverse. So I wouldn't think a mis-adjusted sender would not prevent it from shifting out of park, a no crank, yes. Two things #58 in the pic MUST be installed correctly but can be installed backwards I have never tried to see what would happen if it was installed incorrectly so cant say if it would bind in a backwards postion. The second is more of a question did you remove #56 ?
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Old 06-11-2014, 10:28 AM
monkeyman_69 monkeyman_69 is offline
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Thanks, bartlebe.
I agree w/ your conclusions. Inside the neutral safety switch (NSS) are many elec contacts. I believe the switch is installed correctly. Turn the key and she starts - very normal. As for #58, the same New Zealand write-up warns about it fitting backwards. I'm positive I got that right.
There is a large central hole on the NSS that fits on the keyed shaft (#61). This shaft extends out of the tranny case and has flats on 2 sides. The only thing I removed from that picture is 58, because it came off w/ the valve body. Due to the flats, the only way to install the NSS is the correct way, or rotated 180 deg. If 180 deg off, the 2 torx bolts won't align, so I feel I got this right, too.
The gear selector acts like it wants to move. In fact, it seems like it goes halfway between P and R, then gets tight, like it's binding on something. I would not describe this as the interlock solenoid keeping it in P. My theory is I put the last tooth on #60 under tension when I bolted on the detent roller and from the shift selector I can't overcome the binding.

My question is can I loosen the 2 torx bolts and just rotate the NSS from the outside? This could release the binding so it'll shift out of P. Or do I have to remove the pan, unbolt the detent roller, rotate the NSS away, retighten the detent roller, put the pan back on, rotate the NSS until it stops, and tighten the 2 torx bolts? I'm hoping someone knows if the easier option will work.
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Old 06-11-2014, 10:53 AM
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Yes. According to page 104 & 105 you can simply loosen the two torex screws and adjust the postion sender.
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Old 06-11-2014, 10:55 AM
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One more thing if you removed the shift cable at the trans I know you can physically shift through the gears. By removing the cable you bypass the shift lock in the console shifter.
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Old 06-13-2014, 08:54 AM
monkeyman_69 monkeyman_69 is offline
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Possible good news.
I worked on this problem last night. If I disconnect the linkage at the neutral safety switch (NSS) I can move the shift lever inside the car just fine. I tried to align the NSS using a 3/32" drill bit, but it didn't solve my problem of shifting out of park if the linkage is attached.
I removed the pan to investigate further. Took off the manual detent roller, fiddled w/ the range selector lever (the toothed thing inside the tranny that is connected to the NSS), but it wouldn't budge. Everything looks normal and all fit together, except for the manual detent roller bolt holes not lined up right. (see earlier this thread.)
I think I put #58 in backwards. On 6/11 Bartelbe asked this, but I assumed he meant I switch the long end for the short end. I had it backwards the other way. I installed 58 in a way that pulled the piston and selector lever closer together. Nothing could move. The right way allows more gap. See my drawing attached.
If this works, it'll be a great weekend for me.

Last edited by monkeyman_69; 06-13-2014 at 09:23 AM.
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Old 06-13-2014, 10:21 AM
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you forgot the drawing
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