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General E46 Forum
This is the place to get answers, opinions and everything you need related to your E46 (sedan, coupe, convertible and wagon) BMW!

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Old 08-25-2009, 11:38 PM   #1
uniquecustoms
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1999 323I Automatic Transmission Problems

I have been reading a lot on how the E46 automatic trans is no good. I am fearing that maybe mine is going out. Under hard acceleration it makes a funny noise and almost pulses, or hesitates. The check engine light just came on yesterday and recently the exclamation point comes up on the shifter indicator (then goes into limp mode). I had it to a BMW mechanic about a month ago to have the speedo sensor replaced and he cleared all the codes. I dont know anything about BMW so any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks,
-Matt
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Old 08-26-2009, 12:20 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by uniquecustoms View Post
I have been reading a lot on how the E46 automatic trans is no good. I am fearing that maybe mine is going out. Under hard acceleration it makes a funny noise and almost pulses, or hesitates. The check engine light just came on yesterday and recently the exclamation point comes up on the shifter indicator (then goes into limp mode). I had it to a BMW mechanic about a month ago to have the speedo sensor replaced and he cleared all the codes. I dont know anything about BMW so any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks,
-Matt
No codes, no help, you're asking people to find a needle in a hay stack. The main problem with the automatic tranny is no reverse not what you are describing. Next time it happens have the codes read then I'm sure people will be able to guide you in a better direction.
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Old 08-26-2009, 10:31 PM   #3
Bodo61
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Had the same thing happen to me about 35K ago (with warning lights) . Drove it for 10 miles, shut the car off and the next day all was good. It's been ok since. No idea why it did it or what corrected it.

How many miles on the tranny?
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Old 08-27-2009, 12:05 AM   #4
ryanwhite74115
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when i get the gear symbol i turn the car off for 10 seconds with the keys out and turn it back on...poof done...fixed...i personally have a short in the torque converter short on the sensor so it every once in a while (once a month on average) it throws the gear symbol
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Old 08-27-2009, 01:32 AM   #5
bheidelburg
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If you have a 1999 then you most likely have a GM tranny not the ZF with the no reverse problems. They switched from the GM to the ZF on the 323 in mid year 2000 and I think they stayed with GM on the 328s. Call your local BMW dealer and give them the VIN. They can tell you which tranny you have. I have heard the GM was worse than the ZF for everything except the reverse problem... both are ECT so if it not slipping or grinding, it is most likely in the electronics... My ZF slipped in reverse for about a week and then kaput, no reverse...
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Old 08-27-2009, 01:43 AM   #6
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when i get the gear symbol i turn the car off for 10 seconds with the keys out and turn it back on...poof done...fixed...i personally have a short in the torque converter short on the sensor so it every once in a while (once a month on average) it throws the gear symbol
thats exaclty what it says in my original owners manual
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Old 08-27-2009, 09:24 AM   #7
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Old 08-27-2009, 09:42 AM   #8
Richy_Boy
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If the car is pulsing then this suggests something is probably up with your torque converter, just like a manual clutch wearing out.

The BMWs ECU should log new errors if it's playing up though, they have sensors everywhere...
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Old 08-27-2009, 09:45 AM   #9
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You probably need a rebuilt tranny. Just make sure you go to a reputable trans shop and get a good warranty. Ask how much more for the "lifetime" warranty. I paid $300 more to get lifetime. Total cost of my rebuilt trans $2,900. No more worries about trans...priceless.
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Old 08-27-2009, 09:50 AM   #10
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Why would you want to rebuild a tranmission where the torque converter is failing? That's like rebuilding your manual gearbox when your clutch wears out?

Get it diagnosed at a gearbox specialist.

Rich
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Old 08-27-2009, 09:53 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Richy_Boy View Post
Why would you want to rebuild a tranmission where the torque converter is failing? That's like rebuilding your manual gearbox when your clutch wears out?

Get it diagnosed at a gearbox specialist.

Rich
Why spend $$$$$ on the toque converter when you get an entire transmission rebuilt (including torque converter) for a little more money. The last thing you want is to fix the torque converter then the solenoids break (one at a time) then valve body goes...etc etc etc....get it all fixed with a good warranty and no more worries. Don't do this piece meal. Please post updates whatever your decision is so we can all learn from this.
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Old 08-27-2009, 09:56 AM   #12
Chriztofor
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By the way this is from experience! My solenoids went and after they replaced it something else broke and my trans guy allowed me to just pay the difference between solenoids and lifetime warranty...total cost $2,900 and peace of mind.
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Old 08-27-2009, 10:35 AM   #13
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I have the GM transmission (5L40E, aka A5S-360R) sitting on my garage floor while I am replacing the engine out of my '99 323i. Just yesterday, I opened up the trans to replace the filter. Not knowing any history of the car and not even having driven the car yet, I was concerned about what I would find in the pan. What I found was nothing but dark colored fluid and the typical grey "gease" on the magnet. Now, as far as I know, the transmission has 150k miles on it and it seems in good shape. I also replace the input shaft seal, o-ring and gear selector shaft seal (what a PITA to remove!). Also, the transmission did not have any stored faults when I checked before pulling the engine/trans.

Not sure of the point of this post except to maybe indicate that the GM transmission may not be all that bad. I think the durability of automatic transmissions is like most other parts...if you treat them right, they just might last awhile. So, change the fluid, go easy on the high rpm shifts, etc.

What I do know is that many trans shops will not touch the 5L40E so you need to find a specialty trans shop...probably one that is not afraid of the ZF transmissions. Otherwise, replace with used or remanufactured unit.

The symptoms described by the OP indicated torque converter lock-up clutch issues as others have surmised.
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Old 08-27-2009, 09:49 PM   #14
uniquecustoms
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Thanks for all the information guys. I had the codes read and it was indicating rapid misfire on all four cylinders. The next day I got in my car the check engine light was off and hasn't come on since. BUT there is still a funny noise under hard acceleration....it honestly sounds like you are spinning your tires in gravel...but your not haha.
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