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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, dudes,
I'm new here. Be gentle. Here's my story.

I'm a motorhead. Love cars. But never had a Bimmer. So. I researched Bimmers, and got schooled about the 530i's - E39 models. They looked great. So. I shopped a bunch, and finally found and bought a gorgeous black 2003 (last year of the legendary E39s) 530i. Man, it's a honey. Perfectly garaged, not a scratch, and EVERYTHING works beautifully. It's got 94k on it -- but ALL maintenance records. Everything's been done. Previous owner was a lady. She pampered this machine. I don't have to tell you how beautiful a black 530i is that's been taken well care of. Lordy I love this car.

But within two days, I noticed that the automatic tranny has squirrely shifts (sometimes) under power -- and even starting from a stop, in normal acceleration the tranny can 'hunt' for a gear.
When really going through turns in the canyons here, sometimes the power band wavers a little.

Now this is SUBTLE, guys -- but it's there. I didn't pick it up on my flat as a pancake test drives through Pasadena. But here in the hills of Malibu -- eech! My wife hasn't really felt it on her drives, but I do.

Now I love this car. I really do. Please don't tell me I'm gonna die over this tranny. I realize a new one is probably 5k, yes? At least? But I want to start by asking any of you for your transmission expertise (and if you know a good indie mechanic on LA's West side - or even NON West Side.)

I'm gonna start with a tranny fluid change, yes? To see if we can get a throttle bodies unstuck?

I'd love some advice and help. Thanks, guys!
 

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Older than old school
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It might be the torque converter, which may be the best you could hope for. There's a shop in SoCal that is one of the few that specializes in ZF transmissions. I don't remember the name of it, but search the forum for something like "ZF transmission repair" or "Steptronic transmission repair." It's been discussed here.

Did you get a pre-purchase inspection? If so, you might take it to that shop to see what they say. If not, well...
 

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Older than old school
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I bought a '99 with 107K that had no reverse. After a few hundred miles, it is starting to have problems with the lower gears slipping. Not sure what exactly is wrong with it (fluid is full and clean), but I'm in the process of rebuilding another one to swap it with.
 

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The Usual Suspect
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Don't be too nervous (yet) OP, you just started driving the car, the e39 transmissions shift patterns are adaptive, I read somewhere that the number of shift patterns are infinite (gurus?).

One thing that you could try is resetting the trans (do a search), this will erase the patterns of the previous owner and learn "your" driving style .

Some agree with BMW and leave the original fluid in for the "lifetime" of the trans but I recommend changing it every 50k to 70k.

Sport mode is better suited for the Canyons too.
 

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Don't be too nervous (yet) OP, you just started driving the car, the e39 transmissions shift patterns are adaptive, I read somewhere that the number of shift patterns are infinite (gurus?).

One thing that you could try is resetting the trans (do a search), this will erase the patterns of the previous owner and learn "your" driving style .

Some agree with BMW and leave the original fluid in for the "lifetime" of the trans but I recommend changing it every 50k to 70k.

Sport mode is better suited for the Canyons too.
+1, my 530i did the same until it adapted to my driving style.
 

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Another thing to add--clean the MAF--for some reason that does help the shifts on these trannies. Is the tranny slipping, or does it seem to not shift but stay in one gear too long to suit you.
Have you tried to drive it in the manuel mode, if so does it slip then?
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Today I drove it in manual mode, and after a couple of minutes I heard a beep and saw the message FAIL SAFE TRANS on the computer display, and the transmission shifted from 2 to 3...huh, not sure what that means...but it looks a tad alarming...

also, when I turn off the car, and turn everything off, and take out the key, the P on the shift console remains lit up.

I am going to take it to Culver City Transmission repair tomorrow here in LA...this car is beautiful, handles like a dream, has perfect exterior and interior, everything works -- I mean every little light and whistle -- so I'm not gonna freak out -- yet. :) since the real funny stuff seems to happen mostly on inclined hills, there may be hope before I have to spend 6 k on a new tranny -- I hear the rebuilds are squirrely, too, so...probably best to get a new one...still, I won't go there yet... I'm going to think positively -- do I need to have them change the ATF TWICE? And should I have them clean the pan, et cetera?
 

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the torque converter is notorious in these cars to go out, most likely thats what it is ... to bad you're not in phoenix because I have a guy here that works only bimmers and is super awesome and most of the time can diagnose a problem over the phone ... pm me if you want his number so you can at least call him and he most likely will tell you what it is ... GL
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Thanks for the offer! I'm actually going to drive it to San Diego to an indy bimmer mech place called DOSE -- all on the reccomendation of folks on this site. But sure, give me the guy's number if you would -- that'd be aces.
I love this car in every way -- except the transmission slip. I'm hoping an ATF change will do it, if not, the TC is next on my list. Any idea how much that costs to fix? Thanks again.
 

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another "old lady" purchase a ?
have you ever see "old lady" under open hood ??
:D
Hah! That's funny as my aunt (who is 82) still bucks bales by herself to her 10 horses, changes the oil on her Dodge Dakota truck, and literally yelled a few "choice words" at a lady at Wal-Mart who attempted to help her load her groceries into the back of her truck. Let's just say sh'e not a "typical" 82 year old lady...:yikes:

To the OP - as others have indicated, I hope it's a fluid change that's all that's needed. Good luck, sounds like a very nice car! Photos?
 

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Today I drove it in manual mode, and after a couple of minutes I heard a beep and saw the message FAIL SAFE TRANS on the computer display, and the transmission shifted from 2 to 3...huh, not sure what that means...but it looks a tad alarming...

also, when I turn off the car, and turn everything off, and take out the key, the P on the shift console remains lit up.

I am going to take it to Culver City Transmission repair tomorrow here in LA...this car is beautiful, handles like a dream, has perfect exterior and interior, everything works -- I mean every little light and whistle -- so I'm not gonna freak out -- yet. :) since the real funny stuff seems to happen mostly on inclined hills, there may be hope before I have to spend 6 k on a new tranny -- I hear the rebuilds are squirrely, too, so...probably best to get a new one...still, I won't go there yet... I'm going to think positively -- do I need to have them change the ATF TWICE? And should I have them clean the pan, et cetera?


I suggested to do a ATF and filter change. The filter might be clogged if the ATF was never changed. This will lead to the TC symptom, but it's not - you're starving the tranny from fluid, and eventually you destroy the tranny, then you will have the TC issue. Read this
 
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