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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 06-16-2019, 12:08 PM
Bmwe39528i Bmwe39528i is online now
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Transmission DIY flush - How?

I've been reading about this topic for a couple of weeks. Lots of talk about what fluid to use, whether to flush or drain and refill, how many times,whether to change it at all, change the filter once or twice etc.
I've found limited information about how to actually do the flush...
Has anyone done it themselves? I don't want to use a shop where they pressure flush it, just DIY.
The two lines that go to the transmission cooler, I cant seem to figure out how to remove the bolt that holds them in place. There's very little space and the bolt being in between the lines, I cant seem to get the ratchet there to turn the bolt. Is it 13 mm? I was at a scrap yard where the whole front was disassembled and I had easy access to the transmission cooler and I actually didn't manage to take off the bolt. I should maybe use some PB Blaster...
How did you remove this bolt? Did you remove the fan, radiator, air filter? Did you remove it from under the hood or under the car?
An easier option seems to be to disconnect the return line from the transmission and put the car in drive (on Jack stands). While the run is pumping out transmission fluid from the return line, you pump new transmission fluid into the transmission through the hole where the return line was removed (or fill hole?)
Would really appreciate feedback from people who actually did this.
Pictures are helpful and video would be absolute gold as there's no video on DIY flush on E39, only drain and refill or removing the pan and changing the filter.
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  #2  
Old 06-16-2019, 12:12 PM
528iAut 528iAut is offline
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  #3  
Old 06-16-2019, 12:26 PM
Bmwe39528i Bmwe39528i is online now
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Thanks for the help but I've read this post before. He does drain and refill and drops the pan to change the filter. No actual flush. He did not disconnect any transmission cooler lines / hoses.
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  #4  
Old 06-16-2019, 12:44 PM
CSMBlack-540i CSMBlack-540i is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bmwe39528i View Post
Thanks for the help but I've read this post before. He does drain and refill and drops the pan to change the filter. No actual flush. He did not disconnect any transmission cooler lines / hoses.
I've done this link method of drain and refill with filter change in between each one. 1st one was done at 110k miles about 8 years ago using Castrol Multi-Import ATF which was LT 71141 back then. I drove around for ~1000 miles to have the new filter and ATF fluid "clean" out the system and then did another drain and refill with another new filter and one new pan gasket. 15K miles later, still runs and shifts smoothly.

I am in the camp that does NOT suggest a flush as it can dislodge stuff to get clogged in the system. IMHO, a drain and refill with filter change after 500 miles is a form of gentle flush using the new fluid detergent. Removing transmission lines and such is simply adding more complexity and possibly dislodging something to get caught in the valves.

LT71141 certification keeps changing based on viscosity range and certification fees so what may be certified one year can change back and forth each year. I think your 528 has GM not ZF tranny so fluid is different but process would be the same.

Best tip I can offer is to measure what comes out and refill with same fluid amount you took out so as to minimize the warm up to temperature and shift through gears routine to get it to the same fill level as before. This obviously assumes it's never been serviced before and was at the proper fill level prior.

Now maybe if you can explain why you think a flush is safer/better or more desirable than a simple 2x drain and refill, it might help with the discussion.

Last edited by CSMBlack-540i; 06-16-2019 at 01:01 PM.
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  #5  
Old 06-16-2019, 02:27 PM
Bmwe39528i Bmwe39528i is online now
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You're right my transmission is GM's (4L30e) and it uses dextron iii. I don't want to use dextron iv or v as I've read it's thinner and even if it says backwards compatible, dextron iii is better. Keep in mind it's not a pressurized flush and not a back flush. Nothing would be dislodged anymore than what would be dislodged by normal operation of the transmission. You're simply adding fluid as it's being drained from return hose.
I would prefer this method as I think it will completely get rid of the old fluid and it's more time effective than dropping the pan multiple times. You simply wait until new fluid starts coming out of the return hose and you know there's no more old fluid in the system.
I don't think drain and refill is very effective and I don't like it.
1st drain you would get rid of 4l of the old fluid. Lets say it's 8.8l total capacity. Now you have 45% new fluid, 55% old fluid.
So you have 4l of new fluid and 4.8l of old fluid.
You do a second drain and drop the pan once more. You get 4 more liters out, ratio 55/45.
The fluid that you drained from the 4l would be as follows: 2.2l old, 1.8l new.
So inside the car you now have 2.2l of new fluid and 2.6l old fluid.
You add 4 more liters of new fluid.
Now you have 6.2l of new fluid and 2.6l of old fluid. So after two drops of the pan, 30% of the fluid is still old!
Are you gonna do a third drop?
The ratio of new to old is now 70/30.
You drain 4l more.
2.8l of it comes out new, 1.2 comes out old. You have inside 3.4l of new fluid and 1.4l of old fluid. You refill with another 4l of new fluid. You have 7.4l of new fluid and 1.4l of old fluid. 3 flushed, you now have 85% new fluid, 15% old fluid. Now you've reached the point of diminishing returns that its cost prohibitive to get more of the old fluid out.
Even if 15% of old fluid is not much, you've dropped that pan 3 times which is so time consuming! If you don't drop the pan and just drain and refill, the ratio of the old fluid that stays inside will be higher because without dropping the pan less fluid would come out.
This is why I think flushing is a better approach.
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Old 06-16-2019, 02:55 PM
4thBMW 4thBMW is offline
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What does a new , rebuilt auto trans cost these days? Less core

and with shipping of course?
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  #7  
Old 06-16-2019, 02:58 PM
Chedley Chedley is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bmwe39528i View Post
Ö.
Even if 15% of old fluid is not much, you've dropped that pan 3 times which is so time consuming! If you don't drop the pan and just drain and refill, the ratio of the old fluid that stays inside will be higher because without dropping the pan less fluid would come out.
This is why I think flushing is a better approach.
Wrong conclusion. The risks of flushing far out weight its benefits.

Best approach is to do a simple drain-and-fill 2 or 3 times, within a few weeks or months intervals, with changing the filter and pan gasket once.
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Old 06-16-2019, 03:10 PM
CSMBlack-540i CSMBlack-540i is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bmwe39528i View Post
So after two drops of the pan, 30% of the fluid is still old!
Are you gonna do a third drop?
If you don't drop the pan and just drain and refill, the ratio of the old fluid that stays inside will be higher because without dropping the pan less fluid would come out.
This is why I think flushing is a better approach.
Good analysis. But I'm not quite certain why anything less than 2qts or more than 80% is not acceptable in the big picture? One can argue even a simple engine oil change you may only get about 95% with a simple drain? For example on a 6 qt engine, there can easily be 1 pint of oil left throughout the engine unless you let the car sit overnight. That's only 92% Is that acceptable?

When I did my ZF which required 10.5qts total, after 2 changes, I calculated I was 82% changed with 6qts out each time. As an absolute number 82 is not 100 but in the ratio of 18% of 10.5qts I was at less than 2 quarts old out of 10.5qts total.

While not 100%, even 50% is better than 11 yr old ATF from 1997 which is "supposedly" lifetime fill and by now 22 yrs old if it was all still original ATF in there. IMHO, oil technology has gotten better over the years and after reviewing the LT71141 specs vs Castrol Multi-Import at that time which was LT71141 certified, I felt <2quarts old is acceptable.

Since it is still shifting fine 8 years, the next change will mean 92% changed out accounting less than 1 qt out of 10.5qts.

Like any other "oil thread" people will have their preference. I provide to you feedback on my long term results that drain and refill twice is workable. Trying to find people to provide long term 1st hand results on a 2 decade old car is going to get harder and harder. As you can see from your research, people may post their DIY and then years later, sell the car leaving you to wonder "did it work?"

Take it for what it's worth.

Last edited by CSMBlack-540i; 06-16-2019 at 03:52 PM.
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  #9  
Old 06-16-2019, 03:15 PM
4thBMW 4thBMW is offline
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Humm, if you go back through my posts on auto trans. fluid change

somewhere I have listed the BMW part number for pan hex head bolts that replace those bolt heads that are prone to stripping. Good for people who hate having to spend any more time underneath ATF. Just looked at my notes and see on 3/29/19 I dumped 5.5 quarts of ATF from the ZF with filter change. Color was red but opaque vs new and smelled about the same. Almost forgot that awful experience trying out an electric fluid pump from HF.

Last edited by 4thBMW; 06-16-2019 at 03:25 PM.
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  #10  
Old 06-16-2019, 05:23 PM
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Transmission DIY flush - How?

When I did my homework here a year ago, a flush was a huge risk and why it is makes complete sense. OP, it seems you read all the debates and information here, including the one that say do nothing, leave it sealed and you are only asking for trouble changing the fluid.

I got this from at least three indies and the dealer- if it ainít broke donít break it.

The indie that did mine said if I had 150k miles on it, he would recommend leaving it be. I had 95k when I did and he recommended it. Not sure where your miles are at.

If there is one take away I got from all the threads and direct feedback was NEVER do a flush. It makes sense. I did a drain, refill and filter. I changed all the pan bolts. I havenít gone back yet for the second drain and refill. Iím thinking 20k more miles for that.

Not sure I trust the math on whatís left percentage wise. Thatís a crap load of new fluid that goes in.

Tranny fluid drain and refill should be done on a completely cold car.
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  #11  
Old 06-16-2019, 05:54 PM
Bmwe39528i Bmwe39528i is online now
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Thank you for answers guys.
I think that drain and refill is completely acceptable. However I think flushing is a better option. Just realize the flush I'm talking about is not the pressure flush with a machine. You're simply adding fluid as its draining by itself after disconnecting one of the lines...
Where do you see the danger in it? My car is at 180km which is around 110 miles so it should be fine ***x1f642;
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Old 06-16-2019, 07:39 PM
CSMBlack-540i CSMBlack-540i is offline
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Originally Posted by Bmwe39528i View Post
Where do you see the danger in it? My car is at 180km which is around 110 miles so it should be fine ***x1f642;
Well if you see no danger in it, why not try it yourself and report back your finding and pay it forward by posting a video of your DIY?
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Old 06-17-2019, 04:33 AM
540fan 540fan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bmwe39528i View Post
Thank you for answers guys.
I think that drain and refill is completely acceptable. However I think flushing is a better option. Just realize the flush I'm talking about is not the pressure flush with a machine. You're simply adding fluid as its draining by itself after disconnecting one of the lines...
Where do you see the danger in it? My car is at 180km which is around 110 miles so it should be fine ***x1f642;
Don't over think it with 20 year old cars. I did my first drain/ filter at 109k miles in 09, just did another one at 204k miles same car. It drives fine, shifts fine. When they let go, they're done. Flushing verses drain/fill is the same as what is the best engine oil to use....

Driving habits, environment, neglect, and maintenance have more to do with how long the car will run. Thinking through 80% new and 20% old fluid etc.... is just mind math in a virtual world. Change the oil and filter and drive....

If you lose a transmission and like the car, get a rebuilt or used one and swap it out. 2 buddies can do it in a driveway on a Saturday. Better if you have a lift and transmission jack.

Last edited by 540fan; 06-18-2019 at 02:38 PM. Reason: Grammar
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Old 06-18-2019, 11:57 AM
djbecker djbecker is offline
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A "flush" is a way for a shop to sell low-skill, low-labor services. They only have to disconnect a cooler line, hook it up to a machine, and come back when it's finished. A tech can work two or even three bays at once. It avoids the labor and vehicle-specific complications of a drain and refill (which sometimes requires a pan drop), and the shop can even charge more because "flush" sounds better than "change".

You aren't going to see the same benefit with a DIY flush. It's going to take more time, more fluid, and still result in a worse job.

Your critical goal for an ATF change is setting the proper fluid level. Fresh fluid is good, but secondary. You are never going to completely change the fluid. Especially not with a flush, which is only going to flow in the circuit that is active, while primarily discarding that same fresh fluid. The old fluid in static chambers and inactive circuits will only slowly be freshened.

Last edited by djbecker; 06-18-2019 at 11:59 AM.
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Old 06-18-2019, 05:27 PM
ken2116 ken2116 is offline
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Transmission flush

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bmwe39528i View Post
I've been reading about this topic for a couple of weeks. Lots of talk about what fluid to use, whether to flush or drain and refill, how many times,whether to change it at all, change the filter once or twice etc.
I've found limited information about how to actually do the flush...
Has anyone done it themselves? I don't want to use a shop where they pressure flush it, just DIY.
The two lines that go to the transmission cooler, I cant seem to figure out how to remove the bolt that holds them in place. There's very little space and the bolt being in between the lines, I cant seem to get the ratchet there to turn the bolt. Is it 13 mm? I was at a scrap yard where the whole front was disassembled and I had easy access to the transmission cooler and I actually didn't manage to take off the bolt. I should maybe use some PB Blaster...
How did you remove this bolt? Did you remove the fan, radiator, air filter? Did you remove it from under the hood or under the car?
An easier option seems to be to disconnect the return line from the transmission and put the car in drive (on Jack stands). While the run is pumping out transmission fluid from the return line, you pump new transmission fluid into the transmission through the hole where the return line was removed (or fill hole?)
Would really appreciate feedback from people who actually did this.
Pictures are helpful and video would be absolute gold as there's no video on DIY flush on E39, only drain and refill or removing the pan and changing the filter.
I have done this with early '90';s Volvos and a 2006 Subaru 5EAT, but not your model, so best to defer to those who have. That being said:

Materials and tools: Proper quantity of the specified ATF (system capacity plus ~ 2-3 quarts extra). Any filters and gaskets you may need. A fill funnel with a fine mesh screen (stuff can drop in), a means to support it, and tubing to couple to the fill tube (sliding inside it). Wrenches. ~ two 5-6 ft. lengths of tubing (I use vinyl like Tygon) , couplings, and hose clamps for splicing into a transmission supply or return line, two clean containers of at least 1 gallon (a 3-5 gal. bucket is better) marked at 1 qt. intervals for holding what flows out, and secondary containment for the jugs to protect your driveway (or lawn!) Supports (tripods, etc.) to safely suspend the car with the drive wheels off of the ground - don't use jacks when you're going under it, in fact, don't go under or in front or behind it while it is running.

Drain the transmission pan, measuring what came out. Better to drop the pan, and it and the screen (and internal filter, if equipped) if you can. Remove the old gasket residue and replace. If he pan is of soft metal, remove any distortion around the bolts. There will be less mixing if you start with fresh fluid in the pan. Replace the pan and add as much fluid as you drained from it.

Rig your fill funnel or system, checking to assure it is in a clean place, can be covered, and will be physically stable with up to a quart of fluid in it. Select a line to tap into. The rubber lines to the transmission cooler worked well for the Subaru, the Volvos' lines were metal and disconnected at the radiator, with the extension lines connected by matching fittings (but I could have cut into one, being careful of loose burrs, later splicing with transmission fluid hose). Connect the extension lines, running each to a jug. Start the car leaving it in park while monitoring the lines to the jugs, shutting off the engine as soon as fluid runs through one of them. Plug the open lines (to keep out dirt, bugs).

Now you're ready to go. Have an helper operate the engine (I've kept it in Park with parking brake on) while you simultaneously monitor the quantity of fluid going into the jug while endeavoring to pour a matching quantity into the fill funnel. This goes fast and you'll probably find it necessary to stop the engine several times while picking up new bottles, easier if you have a second helper to hand you open bottles and change the waste jugs as they fill (larger jugs make this easier). Try to keep the quantity added approximately equal to what has come out and probably better to be slightly on the low side. You're done when the fluid coming out looks new, or nearly so.

Remove the flushing lines, reconnecting the regular lines. Check fluid level following the manufactures procedure, allowing for fluid temperature. Run the car to operating temperature, checking level frequently and refilling as necessary. Clean up your mess.

Last edited by ken2116; 06-18-2019 at 11:30 PM.
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Old 06-18-2019, 10:21 PM
stutsman stutsman is offline
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Trans fluid change

DO NOT DO IT!! I thought it would be a good idea too when I pulled the pan and flushed the torque converter. You can remove that bolt with a 1/4" drive socket- it fits between the tubes going into the aluminum block by the way. The trans had 90,000 miles on it with no fluid change and was working well. After replacing maybe 8 quarts of fluid- and checking the level per factory recommendations (proper temp, fluid just coming out of fill plug, etc.) the trans worked great for about 10,000 miles then blew a front seal with my wife driving it. She managed to drive until the terrible noises caught her attention and the damage was done. I THINK that the new fluid affected the rubber- maybe the additives were just too strong for the old, well worn seals, who knows. IF you have changed the fluid every 30k miles, you might be OK. But if the "lifetime" fluid has been in for a long time, LEAVE IT ALONE. Just my experience.......
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Old 06-19-2019, 02:18 AM
Bmwe39528i Bmwe39528i is online now
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I decided to just drop the pan for now as I'm not sure how to disconnect the lines for transmission cooler. Changed the filter, gasket and cleaned the magnet.
I saw a line that goes from the transmission to the cooler. It looks easy to disconnect at the transmission. I'm wondering if it's a return line or not. If so, I can disconnect it and drain from it while the car is running in neutral. During this time I would simply pump new fluid into the fill hole of the fluid pan. If it's the inlet line, I can pump in though this line while draining through the drain plug in the oil pan (or I can drain through the fill plug, this way the fluid will never drop too low.
Anyway looks like I drained 3L and maybe some more while I was cleaning the oil pan.
I actually added 4L because I thought I drained 4. So overfilled by 1L. I'm gonna drain it because I don't want to blow any seals.
I still have 6L left. I think I will do 2-3 more drains just through the drain/fill plug, without dropping the pan. Looks like it's all good for now, maybe will do a flush after a few years when it's time to change the fluid again.
The one thing I'm sure I screwed up was the torque. What tool do you guys use to tighten the oil pan? 6 is pretty light and precise torque. I'm sure I over-tightened all 16 bolts. Will see if the gasket leaks.
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Last edited by Bmwe39528i; 06-19-2019 at 02:38 AM.
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Old 06-19-2019, 02:44 AM
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You seem very adept at draining and refill. Why risk a flush?


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Old 06-23-2019, 09:24 AM
CSMBlack-540i CSMBlack-540i is offline
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OP, did you flush twice? You also posted about your flush in another thread with different pictures and procedures in a 9 year old thread here:

https://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sh...d.php?t=454179
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Old 06-23-2019, 05:27 PM
Bmwe39528i Bmwe39528i is online now
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The thing is, I dont see any risk in flushing ***x1f642;
For now I dropped the pan once and then after driving a bit did two more drain and refills without dropping the pan. I used a multimeter probe to get the proper fill level at 40C temperature.
Then I had 2 more liters of transmission fluid left over.
I thought why dont I use it to flush the power steering.
I couldn't find much on flushing it by a single person with pictures so after I did it, I posted pictures on how I did it in the power steering flush thread in case it might help someone
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Old 06-23-2019, 06:51 PM
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I just surpassed 300k miles on the original transmission on my 540. My maintenance has been to change the trans fluid every 30k, and every other time change the filter and gasket. Once I hit around 180k, I started changing fluid and filter every 50k. I always used either factory fluid (when using the BMW dealer) or Mobil LT71141, until the Mobil was no longer easy to obtain in the USA and switched to ZF Lifeguard 5 the last few changes. This is what has been working for me.
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Old 07-03-2019, 07:59 PM
Bmwe39528i Bmwe39528i is online now
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Ahhh no flush but transmission went into limp mode/fail say or whatever you wanna call when I woke up this morning and went to work. Have that gear light on.
I dont know if changing the fluid/filter had anything to do with it...
Actually last night I took apart the middle console because I was adding wireless charging and USB ports through soldering a car charger to cigarette lighter wires for power.
I should have taken more pictures because there was one wire that stayed unplugged and i dont remember ever unplugging or plugging it.
Can you guys let me know if your wire is plugged? I've included a pucture
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  #23  
Old 07-04-2019, 02:37 AM
Chedley Chedley is online now
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Location: Beaverton, Oregon, USA
 
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Mein Auto: 2001 E39 540i
In the process, you have probably discharged the battery of your car, which caused the transmission to go into limp mode.
Recharge the battery of your car.
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  #24  
Old 07-04-2019, 02:43 AM
Bmwe39528i Bmwe39528i is online now
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Join Date: May 2019
Posts: 75
Mein Auto:
It's the stupid connector that was in my previous picture!
I disconnected it by accident and it was so small it went under a piece of plastic and I forgot about it and didnt see it.
I watched a bunch of videos and saw people taking apart the center console had that wire connected. So I went back at 2 a.m. and took everything apart cuz I just couldn't sleep. Found that little wire, connected it, limp mode gone! Easiest fix for the limp mode ever!!
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