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  1. #1
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    1999 e39 528i transmission problem--what to do now

    I have a 1999 528i with Automatic transmission and 140,000 total miles and the transmission fault code just activated this week. I took it to an independent service house who checked the code and reset it for me. He said the problem showed a bad torque converter. He said he could replace the torque converter with a new one ($1800 with labor) but recommended going with a new transmission ($3800 with labor) instead because the new torque converter would likely cause gear damage on a car this old. He reset the code and sent me on my way with the decision weighing on me of what to do, but it has been two days and the code has not come back on.

    SO, there are hundreds of threads on this forum on the Automatic Transmission issues with the E39, so not having the time to read each and every single one of them I am posting this question(s).

    I've already replaced/fixed many of the common issues on this car, including new front struts, joints, tie rods, complete air conditioner compressor ($1500), head gasket, crankcase ventilation valve (TWICE on this one at $400/pop), ABS module ($900), door handles (inside and outside), etc.

    I also had the automatic transmission fluid replaced by an independent service shop at 95,000 miles.

    I know that I have about $2,000 - $2,500 in repairs due on this car in the coming year for other things (Some rear end suspension problems and replacement of shocks, new brakes, new door seals, etc.). Now that I am looking at another $4,000 for a tranny I'm starting to think I should get rid of this car and use that $6,000-$7,000 on something new with a warranty. I was hoping to hand this car down to my 13 year old son in a few years, but by the time we get there I fear I'll be sinking another $8,000 into this car.

    Thoughts? Recommendations? Cut and run?


  2. #2
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    It really boils down to your relationship with...

    the car. If you are indifferent to it, dump it and buy something new. Your financial picture will also drive the decision, especially in the uncertain 2008 economic climate.

    If you still enjoy driving it, and like it, put money into it. It will take a good bit of repair costs to equal the finance and deprecation costs of a new car.

    Door seals are not a life-and-death requirement.

    BTW, I agree that replacing the trans is a good move. Statistically, the trans has outlived itself.

    I don't think this car is a good candidate for a teenager. He needs something cheap and underpowered.
    Ed in San Jose. BMW CCA member since 1980 (Nr. 62319). Golden Gate Chapter

    '97 540i 6 speed. Build Date 3/97. Aspensilber over Aubergine leather.

  3. #3
    Scott in Ft. Mill
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    I would have a dealer check the code

    Torque converter bad is a general fault that is thrown by cheaper code readers. Does he have a full blown DIS like the dealer?
    ...and if it's been 45k since the last fluid change I would do that....in fact, I would just change the 3 or so quarts that are in the pan. My wife's 528iAT has over 195k and the tranny is still beauceau strong...cuz I replace the pan fluid every 30k...make sure, for sure you use the recommended fluid...they were "all over the map" for a couple of years there...my car uses the standard dextron so I used standard ATF from Royal Purple. Amsoil also makes a good oil. www.bmwtips.com has a link to a chart to help you find your fluid. Good luck.

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    Re: 1999 e39 528i transmission problem--what to do now

    To me it sounds like all these repairs you mentioned were performed by shops and not by you (reflected in the price you said you paid). In this case, you are probably better off with a newer car. Cars with high miles are for people who can fix them for cheap, IMO.
    I agree with Ed, buy your son a Ford Focus or something like this, with lower miles.

  5. #5
    ron_va
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    Re: +1 Service tranny fluid/filter B4 giving up

    Did you get the generic TCC code by any chance? This code is thrown when the Torque Converter Circuit "senses" the wrong numbers. Basically if it receives values that are out of tolerance, it assumes slip is occuring. Too many service techs are quick to recommend a new tranny based solely on the mileage. I'd go for the trans service, using the correct bmw fluid and filter, and see what happens. You didn't mention any symptoms, like slipping, loss of power, etc, so it may just be a clogged filter, and worn out fluid.


  6. #6
    Eurodavid
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    Re: It really boils down to your relationship with

    "...I don't think this car is a good candidate for a teenager. He needs something cheap and underpowered..."


    Edjack, my Father once told me something-----when I first starting to drive (my first vehicle was a Volkswagon Squareback, interesting fun to drive in the winter with the rear engine and the gas tank in the front...lol)-------anyway, I remember him telling me:

    ".....David, I was not put here to be your "friend" and/or your "buddy". I am your Father. Big difference."


    I really never understood his logic at the time, in fact forgot most of it during my wild single days, but when I got married and my wife and I started our family, those words suddenly became the clarion call of my life. Thus, concerning transportation, the first car any boy of mine will ever get will decidedly be in the 4 cyl or sub range, and there will be no souping up and/or modifying anything for the first 2-3 years of driving. No argument.


    Eurodavid

    P.S. Daughters are different. First one is slated to get the 528i when she starts driving. Is Daddy sexiest? Nope. I just know for a fact that young girls have (for the most part) a whale load of more brains & common sense in the years between 16-19 than young boys can ever hope to have. Ever.

  7. #7
    Eurodavid
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    Re: 1999 e39 528i transmission problem--what to do

    MM,

    Id like to followup on something Ron_VA was trying to tell you. I own a 1996 BMW 528i, automatic, and I would wholeheartedly recommend a new fluid and filter change.

    You didn't mention in your message if your mechanic did a complete transmission fluid change. You do know from reading this board that just draining the oil out of the tranny pan and changing the filter only allows you to get out about 35-40% of the total tranny fluid in the vehicle? You should do the tranny change yourself, if at all possible, and do a complete fluid change (screw the idea of doing partial changes at this point---the tranny is already throwing codes at you).

    William735, a poster on this board, did an excellent writeup, complete with detailed instructions and great pictures, on how to do a complete fluid change. I also have written about (sadly, no pics though, one day here I am getting around to acquiring a dig camera) how to change your transmission fluid completely, and do it using the car's own internal tranny pump via disconnecting the oil cooler lines at the front of the vehicle.

    Try this first before giving up, and in my opinion, you can safely do a complete change using Valvoline, Royal Purple, Redline, and Mobil (yes, quite a few BMW owners here in Europe run Mobil-designated Mercon V tranny fluid in their BMWs (no matter what the spec is on thier tranny) with absolutely no problems (though, to be safe, they change it regularly, like every 25-30k).

    The point is, get some new fluid & a new filter in there, but keep it all the same fluid and don't mix the fluids (which can cause slippage, etc.). Ron_VA is right in that your tranny will best love you if you use the specified new fluid for that tranny (what did your mechanic use for just the tranny pan change?) but I think it is just super, super important, before giving up on any tranny that is throwing codes out, to do a complete fluid change and a new filter change, and do it properly & according to BMW procedure.

    Then, if the tranny is still spitting out codes, you can make the decision to either dump the whole vehicle or not. Btw, the Focus that Edjack mentioned is actually a decent vehicle, in my opinion; we also own a 2003 ZTW Focus wagon, and that thing just goes & goes & goes like the energizer bunny. Beats the 528i off the line every time, but that ain't saying much as 528is aren't an accelerating kind of vehicle, they're all about midrange power, imho. But that ZTW Focus, knock on wood, has been good to us, this considering that Belgium's roads here rival and/or surpass Chicago's (or any MidWestern city) in terms of pothole and overall degradation.


    Good luck.

    Eurodavid

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    Maybe, but girls are not immune from making

    really stupid choices. One of the most legendary crashes around here, and the one which was pivotal in spurring lawmakers to institute a provisional driver's license, involved four girls, a 325, a twisty two-lane country road, and a tree. (The tree won.)

    I wouldn't put my daughter in a BMW either. There was a discussion in the lounge about this recently, and I was outvoted, but it didn't change my mind that what makes the bimmer such a pleasure to drive is what makes it so dangerous for an inexperienced kid.

  9. #9
    Eurodavid
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    2 out of every 3 teenage driver acc. involves male

    cmybimmergo,

    When push comes to shove, I am going to support you over me every time in the argument about powerful cars and teenage drivers (male and/or female). Here are some stats maybe some will find interesting here, and/or possibly save a teen's life (and others) in the future by not parentally-wrecklessly putting a powerful vehicle like a BMW in the hands of a teenager.


    Teen Driving Stats
    http://www.dosomething.org/tipsheets/stats_you_should_know_about_teen_driving

    Driving with your friends? Statistics say that teens ages 16-19 are four times more likely to experience an automobile accident than older drivers, and of over half of these accidents there are more than one teen in the car. Because of this, teens are disproportionately involved in crashes as drivers and well as passengers.


    Fact 1

    14% of all deaths due to driving accidents are a teen driver.


    Fact 2

    53% of automobile deaths involving teenagers occur on the weekends.


    Fact 3

    45% of the time, teen drivers killed in automobile accidents also had a fellow teen or youth in the vehicle.


    Fact 4

    Of all teens that were fatally injured in a driving accident, 1/3 of those accidents were speed related. (Don't speed! Read here [How Traffic Tickets Work]

    Fact 5

    Teen drivers' lifestyle of staying up late cause teen drivers to have a higher risk of automobile accident due to drowsiness.


    Fact 6

    On the basis of current population trends, there will be 23% more 16-20- year-old drivers on the road in 2010 than there are today -- 26.1 million.


    Fact 7

    This age group makes up 7% of licensed drivers, but suffers 14% of fatalities and 20% of all reported accidents.


    Fact 8

    Crash rate per mile driven is twice as high for 16 year olds as it is for 18-19 years.


    Fact 9

    Teenage males are statistically at a higher risk for accidents than teenage females. Two out of every three teenage driver accidents involves a teen male driver.


    Fact 10

    Car crashes are the #1 cause of deaths for 16 year olds. Automobile crashes are the leading cause of teen deaths in the United States.


    Fact 11

    At 35 mph, a 2 second lapse in attention means you've traveled 100 feet without looking!


    Fact 12

    Teens have the lowest seat belt use rate of all drivers. This rate becomes worse when there are other teens in the car.


    Fact 13

    During the first year of licensed driving, 1-in-5 male and about 1-in-10 female 16-year old drivers will have a crash.


    Eurodavid

  10. #10
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    Yes | No

    Recent stats indicate that the accident rate for..

    girls is increasing at an alarming rate, and may soon equal that of boys. Ask your car insurance company.
    Ed in San Jose. BMW CCA member since 1980 (Nr. 62319). Golden Gate Chapter

    '97 540i 6 speed. Build Date 3/97. Aspensilber over Aubergine leather.

  11. #11
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    Re: 1999 e39 528i transmission problem--what to do now

    Very good advice from all. Yes I take the car to service shops for repairs--no time to do them myself though I would enjoy trying and spent a lot of time working on cars with my Dad growing up.

    I think the recommendation of changing the AT fluid and filter properly is the right way to go.

    I hadn't really thought through the concept of gifting this car to my son--I remember I wanted a hot truck (v-8) as my first vehicle and my Dad's comment that a truck like that would "run like a scalded dog" meaning I would probably wrap myself around a tree in it. Instead what did he buy me as my first car at 16? A 1975 Ford Mustang II (the standard 4-cyclinder 2300 cc version that had a top speed of about 72 miles per hour with the wind behind it).

  12. #12
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    Re: 1999 e39 528i transmission problem--what to do now

    Funny thing, although I advised against this car for your son, it's not because it's too fast. In fact, a lot of the small cars will probably be faster than a 99 528 (some might feel offended, but these are the facts). It's just that is too expensive to keep up with the carelessness of today's teenegers.

  13. #13
    Eurodavid
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    Re: Recent stats indicate that the accident rate f

    Edjack,

    The stats I posted below (in another message to cmybimmergo) come from a 2001-2006 auto insurance industry sponsored study. Contrary to what anyone might have heard, hard data suggests, again (as has been the case for the last 26 years of data the industry and also the NHTSA has kept) teenage boys are leading the charge in being the main cause of all teenage vehicular accidents---especially ones where vehicular homicide is involved (the rate is even more alraming, some 86% of all vehicular homicides involve teenage boys as the drivers).

    Anything else being said by anybody is just hearsay and/or made up; as I mentioned before, the data is also collaborated by the NHSTA. Both insurance companies and the NHSTA are for the most part very unbiased when it comes to these studies. Why? There is absolutely no incentive for the insurance industry to fabricate findings like this because teenage girls, as a percentage of the driver eligibility teenage overall population, teenage girls are growing at a 62% faster rate than teenage boys. This is a result of the the past 2 decades of girls being born at a far greater rate than boys. In other words, if anything, the insurance industry would fabricate findings in the other direction (across the teenage girls spectrum) so as to incur even a higher level of overall premiums collected.

    Sure, teenage girls accident rates may be increasing, but that is simply because they are a greater majority of the overall teenage driving population. Statistically, though, their collective accident rates are not and have not been increasing. The simple fact has been, for nearly the past three decades, teenage males are statistically at a higher risk for accidents than teenage females.

    There is no getting around this fact: Two out of every three teenage driver accidents involves a teen male driver. And ones in vehicular homicides? The rate goes up to 86%, once again, in favor of boys.

    I stand by my assertion that teenage boys, between the years of 15-19, don't have an ounce of even hillybilly brains and/or common sense when compared overall to girls of the same years. How else do explain things like a 16 yr old boy telling his Dad from his hospital bed:

    "....honestly, Dad, we had no idea the ski-tow rope would break...."

    Dad replies:
    "...you were doing what?!....................."

    Officer chimes in:
    ".....Sir, we clock them, him too, at over 60 in a 30mph residental zone...."

    Boy:
    "....but, but Dad, honestly, we had practiced so many times before and I never fell off....."

    Dad:
    ".....and you managed to hit a parked car in the process?....."

    Cop again:
    "....actually two parked cars, sir....."


    Boy:
    "....I hit two?.....no WAY?!..."


    Boy's soon to be dead best friends Brian and Tobey:
    "....WAY, dude!......2 Toasters FRIED..."

    Dad
    "...Brian, Tobey, I'd start running about right now...."

    Brina/Tobey:
    ".....you need us to pick up something, Mr. D?....."

    Dad, turning to officer:
    ".....Officer, may I borrow your gun......."




    grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

  14. #14
    joe2001-530ia
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    Eurodavid - Where is the link for the Tranny fluid

    You posted......

    William735, a poster on this board, did an excellent writeup, complete with detailed instructions and great pictures,

    I did a lookup for William735

    and only found one entry. Do you or does anyone have the link for the procedure.

    TIA

    joe


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    Yes | No

    Try searching william735i instead


  16. #16
    Eurodavid
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    Joe, let me look back through so

    Joe,

    LEt me search on this board so that I can find it. I did it two different occassions, both under reply posts where we were talking about transmission changes (though, as I said, no pics, sorry). If I can't find either one this weekend, I'll do a short writeup again. Understand William and I do everything the same, except that I use the oil cooler lines at the front of the car to do a complete fluid change and refill (of course, this is after the exact same pan dropping & cleaning, filter change & filter fill, and pan reinstall). Amazingly, the dang transmission oil cooler pump & line going to the front of the car to cool the oil (inside the oil cooler) will just pump its little heart out while you simultaneously sit at the front and return brand new fresh oil through the return line. There's very little muss & fuss, and after you are through, tyou only need to crawl back under the car once to check to make sure the fluid is at the proper level while the car is running, the gears have been cycled through 3-4 times, & the tranny is at the specified temp range. I've done it twice now, and it is great. I've also showed to 2 others that I am friends with and who also have automatic E39s, and both of them have done it (with great results). One of them, in my opinion, even improved on it, actually.

    Anyway, let me search this board off and on this weekend.

    Eurodavid

  17. #17
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    Yes | No

    Maybe I'm biased, living in The Land of Fruits...

    and Nuts. Probably 90% of teen-aged girl drivers I see in traffic are either texting or talking, as opposed to teen-aged boys (perhaps 25%). It seems there are more teen-aged girls stacking up cars and SUVs in my neck of the woods than there are boys, and I don't think the media is putting a spin on it to favor boys.

    The girls also drive like they just stole the car.
    Ed in San Jose. BMW CCA member since 1980 (Nr. 62319). Golden Gate Chapter

    '97 540i 6 speed. Build Date 3/97. Aspensilber over Aubergine leather.

  18. #18
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    Yes | No
    There is absolutely no links that come up when searching on william735i, why can't you guys just post a link to this fantastic tranny fluid change post?
    Reply With Quote Reply With Quote 173.53.85.173

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