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Old 05-03-2016, 02:29 PM   #1
JonHarrison
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E46 330D 2000 M57D30 A5S390R auto transmission woes

To summarise I'm having problems with the automatic transmission in my 2000 reg E46 330D with 150,000 miles on the clock. I've had it for a couple of months and apart from a slight thump when selecting 4th gear the transmission has been trouble free until ...

A few weeks ago on a particularly cold night I came to drive home and my transmission unexpectedly went into 'limp' mode. With the A5S390R / GM 5L-40E transmission this means that all the solenoids are disabled which selects 5th gear but without the torque converter lock up clutch engaged. I dropped it into the garage the following morning to check the fault codes and BMW code 54 P0734 incorrect 4th gear ratio had been stored. Through experiment I determined that if I didn't idle for long enough to allow the transmission fluid to warm up before driving off it would go into 'limp' mode on shifting from 3rd to 4th gear. Once the transmission had warmed up however it would drive without fault. It would also generally drive without fault after the fault had occurred by power cycling the ecu by switching off the ignition and waiting a few seconds.

This lead me to google E46 330d auto transmission problems which threw up a long list of horror stories about this transmission. realoem says I have the 390R rather than the 360R which is at least some good news.

As a precaution against solenoid failure I ordered a replacement set of 5 from the US and whilst I waited for them to arrive I had the fluid and filter replaced. 4.5litres of stinking burnt original Texaco ETL7045E fluid and a grotty filter came out and back went a clean filter a 4.5litres of Febi 32600 Dexron VI. Brake cleaner was sprayed liberally around the sump pan and transmission to clean off as much old fluid and gunk as possible. The magnet had streaks of grey 'stuff' on it and was replaced with a new magnet. Both fill and drain plugs were replaced as was the gasket all with genuine parts. After this the gear shifts seem a little smoother but the cold start 4th gear issue remained.

The solenoids arrived and back to the garage the car went. More burnt fluid came out to be replaced with more new Febi Dexron VI. This time though they took the valve body off the transmission to replace the 5 solenoids. More liberal use of brake cleaner and back together it all went with another new filter and gasket. Unfortunately for some reason it now shows 4th and occasionally 5th and 3rd gear ratio fault codes even when the transmission has warmed up. The garage have spoken to a local transmission specialist who've told them that it has a slipping clutch and will require a complete rebuild (well they would wouldn't they) but as I say this has only happened after the solenoid change and more new fluid in so I want to rule out that as a possible cause and just a coincidence first.

Has anyone had similar issues? Any thoughts about where I go next with this issue or what to check / try before committing to having a very very expensive rebuild done.
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Old 05-03-2016, 03:38 PM   #2
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"4.5litres of stinking burnt original Texaco ETL7045E fluid and a grotty filter came out and back went a clean filter a 4.5litres of Febi 32600 Dexron VI. Brake cleaner was sprayed liberally around the sump pan and transmission to clean off as much old fluid and gunk as possible. The magnet had streaks of grey 'stuff' on it and was replaced with a new magnet."

Sure sounds like a rebuild is in order, all of this "gunk" is fine metal shavings and clutch material. It's the last thing you want to find when replacing fluid/filter.

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Old 05-03-2016, 03:39 PM   #3
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I have the same transmission on my 330 (gas, not diesel, but it doesn't matter) -- I changed the fluids to Dex VI (from the very old and original Dex III) and it's been smooth.

I would recommend you go to another BMW tranny shop and see what they say, but don't tell them about the previous shop. For all you know they'll say it's a $50 transmission flange (yes, I made that up).

Oh, also, the trannies on these cars seem to be very sensitive to undervoltages -- is your battery or alternator old? It could be as simple as that.
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Old 05-03-2016, 03:51 PM   #4
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chesthing, the pan was pretty clean, it was just the magnet that had the gunk - in lines perhaps 1-2mm 1/16" high. My mechanic wasn't surprised with a transmission of that mileage and didn't seem overly concerned by it. If it does need a rebuild then it's going to be very expensive
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Old 05-03-2016, 03:53 PM   #5
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Sicily1918, thanks for the links and the tip on the battery. I've only had the car for a couple of months and I'm afriad I don't know how old the battery is but I'll certainly check the alternator voltage and have a look at the battery. It would be great if it's that simple, I don't understand why changing the solenoids and fluid again seems to have triggered it.
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Old 05-03-2016, 04:18 PM   #6
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Sicily1918, thanks for the links and the tip on the battery. I've only had the car for a couple of months and I'm afriad I don't know how old the battery is but I'll certainly check the alternator voltage and have a look at the battery. It would be great if it's that simple, I don't understand why changing the solenoids and fluid again seems to have triggered it.
They could be highlighting an existing problem, since you had an issue first, however:

On my 325, a dying battery (it was over 7 years old) took out both of my front wheel speed sensors AND the camshaft position sensor (weird, but true); I replaced it with a new Bosch battery (as well as all sensors) and it's been smooth sailing. Sometimes the problem with these cars -- if one can call it that -- is that a trunk battery doesn't suffer from extreme heat, thus staying in the 'dying' stage much longer without any real symptoms.

Still, I'd look for another reputable shop and see what they say -- you never know.

Oh, lastly, see if the shop (or a dealer) will flash the tranny's firmware; that may fix all your woes, too.
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Old 05-03-2016, 06:20 PM   #7
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I would think you need more fluid in the transmission. 6-7 quarts for a fluid change. 4.5l seems low.
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Old 05-03-2016, 06:45 PM   #8
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I would think you need more fluid in the transmission. 6-7 quarts for a fluid change. 4.5l seems low.
That's a good point... I've never used less than 6 quarts. That could very well be it.

OP, the procedure for the ATF fill is you let it dribble out the fill hole, then plug it and (with the car level), bring the temp up to between 30 and 50C, change gears a couple of times, then, with the engine running (in Park), open the drain plug... you'll need to put in another liter or so, until it dribbles out again.
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Old 05-04-2016, 01:00 AM   #9
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BMWCaptain, Sicily1918, unfortunately they only managed to get about 4.5litres out - the rest was still in the torque converter and the pipes to the heat exchanger etc. I would have liked to have got it all out but that wasn't possible. They put back in roughly the volume that they got out so I don't think it's underfilled. The second change was clearner than the first but the second change still smelt burnt which I took as indication that they got more of the old fluid out the second time which is good . I estimate that 1/4 of the original fluid is still in the transmission (1/2 out the first time and then assuming the old and new mixed 50/50 on the second change another 1/4 of the original out leaving 1/4 left with 3/4 new fluid).
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Old 05-04-2016, 03:43 AM   #10
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BMWCaptain, Sicily1918, unfortunately they only managed to get about 4.5litres out - the rest was still in the torque converter and the pipes to the heat exchanger etc. I would have liked to have got it all out but that wasn't possible. They put back in roughly the volume that they got out so I don't think it's underfilled. The second change was clearner than the first but the second change still smelt burnt which I took as indication that they got more of the old fluid out the second time which is good . I estimate that 1/4 of the original fluid is still in the transmission (1/2 out the first time and then assuming the old and new mixed 50/50 on the second change another 1/4 of the original out leaving 1/4 left with 3/4 new fluid).
This is not the first time I've heard this story. I think they underfilled it because it seems like it was already low on fluid. If you look at my sig, Ti330's thread talks about shops screwing up by "putting in as much as they took out" and hosing the tranny because it was not enough fluid.

The 390R transmission takes 9 liters of fluid, only about 3 of which remain in the torque converter (trust me, I've changed the fluid on GM and ZF E46 transmissions many times and they all end up taking about 6 quarts (5.6 liters). Hell, I just did the change on my ZHP 3 weeks ago, and in went just under 6 quarts of Dexron VI. Even at 5.5qt, that's 5.2l so you're still 700ml low, so about 10%

Judging by what you experienced, I'd bet that's exactly what's going on with your tranny.

Again, the ONLY way to know for sure if you're at the proper level is to do as I described earlier, and it's a fact that a cold tranny will start to dribble when it's about 1 quart low. If your shop doesn't know that, you will hose the tranny -- all owners manuals in the US (the capital of ATs) even mention that you measure your ATF level "warm" and "idle in Park" (or some derivation of those words). It's a pain with these cars because there's no dip-stick, but such is life.

The good news is that the shop only needs to raise the car while the tranny's warm and then finish filling it... no need to drop the pan or do anything else.

Check out these videos -- #2 shows exactly how to fill the tranny:
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Last edited by Sicily1918; 05-04-2016 at 03:48 AM.
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Old 05-04-2016, 05:58 AM   #11
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It is not only what fluid you got out, rather what is the capacity. I have done many a 5l40e or 5hp19 trannys and they have all took 6 plus quarts of fluid.
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Old 05-04-2016, 10:50 AM   #12
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Again, the ONLY way to know for sure if you're at the proper level is to do as I described earlier, and it's a fact that a cold tranny will start to dribble when it's about 1 quart low.
I think you have that backward. The fluid expands as it warms up. The tranny will take more fluid cold than warm.
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Old 05-04-2016, 02:57 PM   #13
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It is not only what fluid you got out, rather what is the capacity. I have done many a 5l40e or 5hp19 trannys and they have all took 6 plus quarts of fluid.
Yes! Listen to this guy.
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I think you have that backward. The fluid expands as it warms up. The tranny will take more fluid cold than warm.
I wasn't suggesting that ATF doesn't expand, I was stating the fact that if you fill an auto tranny while cold, it will be low; the tranny takes another quart after it's been warmed up and put through the gears, and it's even shown in the video I posted.
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Old 05-04-2016, 03:58 PM   #14
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Watch the video again. It's not that the tranny is cold versus warm. It's that the engine is off versus on, cycled through the gears and iding in park. That's when it takes more fluid.

As a matter of fact, if you have the engine idling in park when it's cold it will hold more fluid than idling when hot. If you fill it idling in park when it's cold and let it warm up it will continue to pee fluid the hotter it gets. You should be monitoring the transmission temperature can cap it off when it hits the proper temp. Otherwise it will dump fluid as it gets hotter and you will be under filled.
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Old 05-04-2016, 05:33 PM   #15
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Watch the video again. It's not that the tranny is cold versus warm. It's that the engine is off versus on, cycled through the gears and iding in park. That's when it takes more fluid.
I know; we're arguing semantics, though. I didn't want to get into the minutia, just to let OP know that he's about a quart low.
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As a matter of fact, if you have the engine idling in park when it's cold it will hold more fluid than idling when hot.
Overfilling -- a great way to blow your seals
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Old 05-05-2016, 02:34 AM   #16
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I'm still waiting for them to get back to it so I don't know how much fluid they'll get into it but I'm hoping they have underfilled it.

Why would overfilling blow the seals, I thought one of the solenoids regulated the pressure ?
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Old 05-06-2016, 03:19 AM   #17
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The garage have tried to get more fluid into the box but they couldn't. Started it from cold, ran through the gears and left it idling in park, opened the fill plug and the fluid came spurting out. They think it's full unfortunately
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Old 05-06-2016, 11:36 AM   #18
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I wouldn't let them do a rebuild. Much cheaper and easier to simply swap in a used tranny and be done with it.
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Old 05-06-2016, 02:27 PM   #19
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I wouldn't let them do a rebuild. Much cheaper and easier to simply swap in a used tranny and be done with it.
Try to get a used oNE with a warranty.
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Old 05-06-2016, 04:40 PM   #20
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Aw, I've seen all kinds of used transmissions with 30-day warranties!
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