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Hard to shift into Reverse, 1st and 2nd

Discussion in 'E36 M3 (1995-1999)' started by motolord, Mar 30, 2010.

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    motolord

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    My 1997 E36 M3 has recently developed an annoying/troubling problem. It's sometimes difficult to shift into reverse, 1st or 2nd gear. This has been going on for a while but recently it's gotten much worse. Yesterday, I was in a parking lot trying to back into a space and I could not shift into reverse for the life of me. Some cars started coming down the row and I decided to forget it and drive around to the next row instead of blocking traffic. I tried shifting into first and could not. I tried second; no good. It shifted into third with no trouble. I drove around the row and shifted into 2nd and 1st along the way with no trouble. I tried to back into a space again and, once again, I could not get into reverse. Cars started piling up again so I decided to drive off once more and the same sequence of events happened, no first or second, drove off in third. All in all I went through this three times. Later that day I got in my car and drove off and all the gears shifted normally. As I continued to drive, first and second got harder to shift into and I had a hell of a time getting into reverse to back into my driveway. Anybody have any idea what's going on here?
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    bcweir

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    If you don't mind me asking, when was the last time you changed your transmission oil

    If it's hard to shift into reverse, 1 and 2, then shifts normally once the car has been driving for a while, that would be the first thing to take a look at.

    What kind of fluid do you use in your transmission?

    How about the shift linkage?

    It's also possible that your gears and/or synchronizers might be failing. In that case, it might be time for a transmission rebuild or replacement.
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    motolord

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    I've never changed the transmission fluid. I've owned the for two years but it wasn't driven for half that time..
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    bcweir

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    If you're not the original owner, how do you know when it was last changed?

    How long you have driven the car since you acquired it has no bearing on the car's maintenance requirements. That previous owner may have NEVER changed the fluid for all we know. That doesn't mean the fluid isn't the problem.

    That's like saying replacement parts for my 750iL should be discounted by 21 years of depreciation. Needless to say, I won't get very far with the parts counter guy on that one. :p

    If the fluid has NEVER been changed, 13 years is a long time to be running what is probably the ORIGINAL fluid. There's no telling what kind of debris and metal particles are now circulating inside your gearbox.

    I also mentioned checking the shift linkage.

    Last but not least, it may simply be that time for either a transmission replacement or rebuild. The internal components of a transmission do eventually wear out, and there's no hard and fast rule that says they all have to last indefinitely or to a specific mileage or time point.

    If the fluid isn't dirty and has no debris in it, and the shift linkage is in good shape (the original linkages in the factory shift linkage use rubber bushings that eventually dry out and crack apart), then you have some wear and tear going on with your transmission. Time for a rebuild or replacement, and only by removing and tearing into the transmission can you find out for sure.
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    CRKrieger

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    This is symptomatic of a failing layshaft bearing (although I would try everything else first before tearing into the box). The largest bearing is at the end where reverse, first, and second gears are. When that bearing comes completely apart, you are left with no reverse, first, or second gear. DAMHIK. :(
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    bcweir

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    Good call CR!

    That sounds pretty serious, Motolord. Best advice here is that you're officially on borrowed time with that transmission until you get it fixed. As CRKrieger said, try the other options first, and if those don't fix it, it's probably best to have the car towed, not driven, to someone that can repair that problem for you.

    Chances are, your mechanic will find several other service "opportunities" also, such as possibly replacing your clutch and transmission mounts while the transmission is out of the vehicle.
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    CRKrieger

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    Well, as serious as it is, it isn't a lockup fatality-producing kinda' thing; it's a 'gotta drive it in third and fourth or maybe walk home' kinda' thing. At least that's what happened when my 2002 did it. When the bearing pukes its balls (Yes; literally - the balls from the bearing.), the shaft drops down where the big gears at that end don't engage. The little ones (third, fourth, fifth) at the other end do, though, so you can maybe nurse it home. But it does require a full teardown to replace it.
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    bcweir

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    I recommended towing as a precaution, and only if he can afford it

    I was actually alluding to the possibility that there may be other items going on in the transmission that's he's not even aware of. Problems that he's aware of may be unknowingly linked to issues he's not.

    I was erring on the side of caution when I recommended it not be driven, but I think we do agree that the car needs transmission service ASAP.
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    327350

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    Couldn't hurt to try some MTL

    If it were me, I'd get hold of some Red Line MTL and drain and refill the trans with it. If that doesn't help, probably best to start saving your money. Good luck and let us know how you do!
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    bcweir

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    Redline MTL is great fluid, but it's not a miracle worker

    DAMHIK = Don't Ask Me How I Know

    If CR Krieger's diagnosis is accurate. and I have no reason to believe that it isn't, Redline (or any other) MTF is probably not going to resolve it at this stage. My concern is that motolord stated he's the second owner of this car, he never changed the fluid in the two years since he bought it, and has no indication of whether or not the previous owner has EVER changed the MT fluid in the car prior to his purchase of it.

    That's a pretty scary thought if you think about it - 13 years of the original debris-laden and particle-laden MT fluid being pumped around the gears and bearings. That fluid is going to be in some really nasty condition if it hasn't been changed by now. I heard of Redline MTL doing some amazing things, but repairing a failing layshaft bearing would be a new one to me.

    Nice photo by the way!

    cwbiii guest

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    I would suggest a stick or something becoming wedged in up in there but in my experience BMW linkage systems are not exposed.

    Chuck
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    327350

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    I hear you, but I'd still try the MTL route before a trans rebuild

    As an interesting note, on another BMW message board, a poster mentioned a similar problem (perhaps not to this degree though) and his mechanic replaced some shot motor and trannie mounts and it appeared to resolve his issues. Just trying to keep someone from the expense of a trans rebuild. If this were happening to me, I'd try these little low cost things first before diving into a high $$$$ repair.
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    bcweir

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    He probably needs to change out the tranny mounts anyway, but...

    The problem the OP is facing is a problem that seems to be INTERNAL, not EXTERNAL to the transmission. He's going to have to pull the transmission to service it anyway -- why not change out the tranny mounts at that time? They're likely to need replacing anyway.

    His transmission is on borrowed time. I very seriously doubt worn tranny mounts are going to have anything to do with problems shifting into reverse, first or second. If it were, why just those gears instead of all of them being affected?

    I might also remind you that he has no idea when or if the fluid was changed, and he drove it for two years without changing it at all.
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    CRKrieger

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    Well, it's a remote possibility. R-1-2 are all on the left side of the shift pattern. I've seen other cars with sloppy linkage that required the shifter to move too far to the side for some external travel bumpers that were mounted on the floor of the car. An adjustment there allowed the shifting to improve, although the basic problem (bad shifter bushings) remained. This could be worth a look. I'd sure try MTL as well. At worst, it makes no difference and you yank the box. Drain the MTL and put it back in when you're done - so it's not even wasted.
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    bcweir

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    Wouldn't the MTL coming out of the car be contaminated?

    The OP did say he had the car for two years since they bought it without ever changing the fluid? If it's really that filthy in there, I sure wouldn't want to put that fluid back into the car's transmission.

    At minimum, I'd say the transmission needs a thorough cleaning and flushing. I bet the interior bottom of the car's drain pan is particularly nasty.

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