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Topic Review (Newest First)

  • 08-04-2010, 11:23 AM

    Re: Don't know

    The early 4 speeds used Dexron. Later units used a BMW specific Texaco ETL product.
  • 08-03-2010, 09:53 AM

    Don't know

    $700 labor + $100 parts. Don't know what fluid they used. A GM transmission so should be normal ATF no?

    Car shifts nice and smooth!Read "Through The Esses" on

  • 08-02-2010, 06:23 PM


    What fluid did the shop use for the refill?

    Just for future reference, did you have a break down of the bill as far as parts and labor for the seal versus the labor of removing and installing the tranny?
  • 08-02-2010, 03:53 PM

    Transmission FIXED!

    Just needed front seal. Mechanic said pan was spotless - no gunk or other signs of a problem. $800 cash and I am back in the driver's seat!

    WOO-HOO! Yipee! Mint! TADA! and every other expression of happiness you can think of!!Read "Through The Esses" on

  • 08-01-2010, 12:39 PM

    Repairs are underway...

    Took the car to a transmission shop recommended by friends and he confirmed front seal is leaking. Will pull tranny, replace all seals and give it a cleaning/servicing. Cost estimated at under a thousand.

    Note: After dealer topped off fluid, car ran normally getting over to the tranny shop. Fingers crossed no 'gunk in pan' issues found during repairs!

    Thanks for all the great info and comments. I should have the car back Tuesday and I will let you know the outcome.

    PS - Anyone going to the Saratoga Auto Museum / Hemmings BMW SPorts and Exotic Show this coming weekend? I hope to be there with my newly rebirthed little bug (and my lovely wife)!

    Read "Through The Esses" on

  • 07-30-2010, 10:06 AM

    At the front or rear of the transmission?

  • 07-29-2010, 08:33 PM

    Gald to hear it worked out!

    See my posting above.

    As others have noted, transmission fluid leaks are no joke on these cars.

    If it goes too low on fluid, it will take out the whole tranny.

    See if you can fix the leak, or at least keep a sharp eye on it.

    With a dipstick on the transmission, this would not be an issue, would it?

    Good Luck..
  • 07-29-2010, 08:31 PM

    Sorry to be a bearer of bad tidings..

    The problems with BMW automatics are well documented in other forums, such as the E36 forum.

    Many BMWs of that era used a GM Hydromatique du France automatic, including the E36, the Z3 and even the early X5.

    GM makes a helluva automatic transmission that can last for 200,000 miles or more, if it is serviced properly. This means not overheating it, checking the fluid level and condition regularly, and changing the fluid every 50,000 miles, if not more often.

    Unfortunately, BMW took this robust transmission, removed the dipstick, and then told owners the fluid was "lifetime" and didn't need to be changed.

    Um, OK.

    Without a dipstick, you can't read the fluid level, so you don't know if it is going low on fluid. With a dipstick, you could keep adding fluid to a leaky transmission - for years sometimes - without damage. But without a dipstick, well, Ouch.

    When the fluid level goes low, the torque converter churns the fluid, causing it to foam and the car to slip. The fluid heats up and turns brown (again, something you can tell WITH A DIPSTICK!). Once it is brown, it loses all its lubricity and the transmission catastrophically fails shortly thereafter.

    Rebuilt transmissions for these cars usually run $3000 plus installation, from the dealer. For many older BMWs, this, or an overheating scenario, is the deathknell. The cost of repair exceeds the book value. No matter how pretty the car is, it is not cost-effective to repair it and many people junk these cars at this point.

    You may be able to repair the car more cheaply at an independent shop. But it will still be pricey. Frankly, you should not be taking decade-old cars to a dealer for service - it is just too darn expensive.

    If the fluid has gone bad and taken out the tranny, chances are it needs a total rebuild. And it is possible it may not be rebuildable.

    Another cheaper alternative is to find a used tranny from a low mileage wrecked BMW. I would look into that alternative first, then look into a 3rd party rebuild - all from an independent mechanic, not the dealer.

    Transmission fluid leaks are no joke on these cars. If you see fluid, find the leak and fix it. If the car is slipping, have the fluid level checked right away. The E36 board had a number of sob stories from folks who "noticed it slipping" and let it go for a month or so, only to later have to install a rebuilt tranny.

    Sorry to hear of your misfortune. Good Luck!

  • 07-28-2010, 08:13 PM

    I think I would still take it , get a 2nd opinion

    98 Z3 1.9 ; HMS strut tower brace, antisway bars, and roll bar; Supersprint cat back exhaust; Dinan chip; Whalen Shift Machine; Strong-Strut Butt strut; FOGGED air box, Downing Atlanta Supercharger.
  • 07-28-2010, 03:21 PM

    Assuming you've never had it topped off before, it

    sounds like a very slow leak. You have about 9qts in the system, about 4qts of those in the pans and rest in the torque converter and cooling system. I would clean the area at the bottom of the bell housing and check for color changes there.

    I'm still a little confused as to whether BMW "thought" it was leaking in the front or they "knew" it was leaking from the front seal?

    I would clean the areas at the rear of the tranny as well as the side accumulator cover (on passenger side) to check for leaking as well.

    As for driving it, I probably would and keep an eye on the amount it leaks especially if you park it at work during the day, etc. However, I accept no liability that it will not cause you any further issues versus letting it sit parked. Just wanted to add that disclaimer....

  • 07-28-2010, 02:06 PM

    Second update after dealer

    The car has been in the driveway a few hours now. Pulled out the cardboard from under it and I see one quarter-size fluid stain. It appears to be a single 'drip' as it isn't really 'wet' or dark. Does this suggest it is a slow leak and one not requiring immediate attention....or am I just deluding myself (and my wallet)?

    Read "Through The Esses" on

  • 07-28-2010, 12:18 PM

    Update - after dealer

    They topped off trans fluid - said it was down a quart. Drove the car home and it shifted very smoothly and as it should. Actually, shifted better than before so I assume (careful with that word!) no real damage done inside tranny.

    I have the car in the driveway now and a large piece of cardboard under it to see if anything leaks. Is it possbile that the leak is a slow one and that the quart of fluid leaked out over a very long period? Do you think I need to get it to a transmission shop now or can it wait, given that all seems back to normal now? (By wait I mean a week or two, not a lifetime!)


    And as I have said many times before on this board THANK YOU!Read "Through The Esses" on

  • 07-28-2010, 10:40 AM

    It depends on the collateral damage of having

    low fluid. If the clutches are burned, then a complete rebuild would be needed. After the top off of the fluid is it shifting okay?

    Referencing this link:

    GM 4L30e Exploded View and Parts List

    I suspect that seal 070 is bad. 074 could be bad as well.

    Removing and re-installing the transmission costs the same whether it's a new tranny or seal replacement on your original. The difference is the seal cost and labor cost of replacing the seal versus the cost of used/rebuilt tranny. I'd really want to know if the internals are okay before considering just a seal replacement.
  • 07-28-2010, 09:25 AM

    Re: Not likely, usually the shaft seals are the

    If the shaft seals are to blame, should a tranny shop be able to make repairs at a reasonable cost vs new transmission?Read "Through The Esses" on

  • 07-27-2010, 10:40 PM

    Not likely, usually the shaft seals are the

    culprit behind low fluid (or an improperly done fluid level check). Usually the rear or output shaft seals go first. The accumulator cover can leak as well.

    Are you the original owner? I've seen some photos of some transmission additives that did a job on the pump gasket and seals before.

    Always ask the shop how they are going to check the fluid level. To get max fluid level - trans fluid temp should be at 85 deg F, A/C should be ON and car running and level. Most tranny shops won't be able to check in the fluid temp (sensor is in the wiring in the large valve body) without having a BMW diagnostic setup. Using an IR temp meter and the valve pan at about 80 deg would probably get you pretty close. This is typically ambient air temp in the summer, so most BMW dealers cool the tranny with fans before doing the check.
  • 07-27-2010, 10:04 PM

    Re: The pump seal will require the transmission to be

    I intend to take the car back from the dealer tomorrow and take it to a transmission shop. I have no idea how long fluid may have been leaking, but I suspect it only started recently as I don't see any significant amount of liquid on the garage floor. I'll let the transmission pros give me a second opinion.

    Any chance the fluid being low is just a normal issue attributable to the fact that the car has close to 100,000 miles on it, with a sealed transmission that has never been serviced? I mean, could the fluid have simply boiled away or otherwise evaporated? You can tell I am not a mechanic with these questions! Read "Through The Esses" on

  • 07-27-2010, 06:31 PM

    Re: Read on

    It sounds like you have it in hand, if you were near San Carlos Ca I have a friend with a tranny shop.
  • 07-27-2010, 04:53 PM

    The pump seal will require the transmission to be

    dropped to fix. You won't need a complete rebuild unless you've had low fluid for many a mile.....
  • 07-27-2010, 03:57 PM


    Dealer said fluid level down and what was in the trans was dark. I told him to top it off and I will take it to a transmission shop for a second opinion. Dealer said probably a leak at seal where engine meets transmission. Again, I will take elsewhere for second opinion.

    Thanks all!!Read "Through The Esses" on

  • 07-27-2010, 03:52 PM

    If you can, post the codes that the dealer found

    The GM 4L30e has different case variations. If you're looking used, try to find one that has the same case designation (two letters on the serial number plate - you can also find it in
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