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Bavarian E34 interloper arrival...gearbox fixed!


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I really shouldn't read the ebay tat thread. I have no need for this and don't really have anywhere to put it. You know the rest! No pez shot as it didn't even need any.






It was on ebay with a badly listed auction that was failing to gain any momentum as it didn't actually specify what car it was. I arranged to go look at it and it's ended up coming home with me. It's a 520i SE Auto and seems very good for its 26 years. Wafts along very nicely, though with 150bhp quite sedately but still has a nice 6 cyl soundtrack. It's been very little used it's entire life really having covered 67k miles with every old MOT to back it up. Not that much in the way of service history but you can tell it's been cared for. I've also found a receipt for a replacement auto box from 2015. Here's some of its finer points




Interior is very clean other than the usual worn cloth on the driver's seat base from many arses getting in and out




OBC (currently doesn't seem to be working but not messed with it) and aircon (just needs a regas m8 obvs). 10CD changer in the boot, full brace of electric mirrors, electric sunroof and electric lumbar support on the seats




It's done about 6k in 10 years




Bimmer mats




Gingercators supplied






And some of its less fine points




Ugly sill repair. The other side's seen some action too but looks a lot better




Patch of laquer peel on the bonnet. The roof is nowhere near as bad as that but it's just starting to go too.


And that's about it, that I've found up to now. I'm hopefully going to give it a good polish tomorrow so I'm sure I'll find a bit more as I'm going. I can't see this staying with me very long, as like I say I've no use for it so if you like it, look out for an advert in the fairly near future.

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Very nice! I had a 525 about 10 years ago, it was a ropey one but still a great car.


IIRC the OBC has a bulb that illuminates the display - I'd check that first as it could be the reason it appears not to work

Thanks, I shall have a look


First issue found. The fucker won't kick down. I did have a drive of it but I only bimbled about. I nipped out in it before and thought it would probably benefit from an italian tune up but the gearbox will not hold on longer than about 3500rpm and it won't kick down on the pedal. I've just read the handbook and it turns out what I thought was a pixellated display for the transmisson is actually a star indicating there's an error with the electronic shift pattern, which makes sense as the button next to the selector doesn't seem to do anything (and doesn't light up like everything else at night). It feels like it's stuck in economy mode.


I mentioned there's a receipt for an auto box so I'm thinking maybe it needed the ECU from that box as well or something and didn't get it? I shall have a google and see what I can find out. I remain fairly hopeful as in all other respects the box is operating fine. Although I'm imagining reading error codes on this could be a pain in the arse, I can't see it being OBDII. There's always fucking something ain't there.

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From memory (a few years ago now) there are 3 settings for the auto trans - 'star' is like a 'winter/ice/snow' setting where it starts off in 2nd and doesn't kick down. Fine for driving about, just a bit lazy and not very responsive. The other two are a 'normal' mode and a 'S' sports setting where it holds onto the gears a bit more. The star display is not a 'fault' display.

Check the console selector switch itself first, it could be full of crud/crisps/vinyl cleaner, etc. Maybe it's not switching through lack of use. My rear window switches used to stop working sometimes. The switches just prise up from the console. Unplugging / replugging the connector may fix it.


I may still have a US-published 'Bentley' workshop manual for these. (US only got e34s in 525 upwards but lots of interesting info in the manual). It would be in some stuff I have over at my dad's. If it's still there you can have it for free, will have a look next week.

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That would be great, thanks! Doing some reading I’m pretty much 100% sure it’s in “trans prog error” not just in winter mode as it’s backlit orange. I’ll have a faff with the selector switch later and see if anything’s doing.


It had a new battery and battery lead a few weeks ago and that can upset it apparently so I shall have a look there as well

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Just had another play with this. It is displaying an error (albeit pixellated) as when only the ignition is turned on, it displays the gear selector position and what mode it's in. When it's started this changes to a sort of cog and remains backlit orange. Proper pissed off about this as I asked the guy about the light and he said it's meant to be the gear selector display but it's on the blink and you can't see it properly which seemed plausible as it drove ok under normal conditions and it is a bit pixellated. There's no way he didn't know, but there you go, you try and and believe not everyone is a fucking scammer, turns out the vast majority are.


Reading some forums suggested the selector switch can get gummed up and make it throw a wobbler so I had that apart and cleaned with contact cleaner, but no difference. I did notice that the selector doesn't lock into position, you can select any gear position with or without the engine running without needed to push the button on the selector.


I checked the battery and it's a 56AH. The handbook says it needs a 65AH. I tried starting it with a jump pack attached in case there was too much of a voltage drop when starting but that made no odds and the car starts on the button with the 56Ah battery fitted so I can't see it being that.


Took it out for a drive to properly see what's what. Virtually everything I read about this trans prog error says that it locks it in 3rd gear, but this is changing through 1-4 fine. It isn't locking up/changing into 5th (not sure if it's meant to be 5th or lockup). Through 1-4 it changes up at around 3200rpm even when floored and it won't kickdown. Once in 4th it revs beyond that fine. Basically, unless you cane it, it feels normal.


I can't really be arsed going much further with this. It needs the codes reading but trawling garages trying to find someone with the kit to read a 1993 BMW gearbox ECU does not appeal to me. It's a shame as it's a nice example for it's age other than this and low mileage. From how it's driving I'm fairly bloody certain that the actual box is fine and it's some daft electrical issue. I'll do some more reading today but I think I might just cut my losses with it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Remember this old heap? After sulking for a bit, I started asking for some help on some BMW forums. An absolute star of a guy offered to read the fault codes on the gearbox ECU for me as he had the right kit for pre-OBDII, so I drove it over to Oldham the other week and he had a look (wouldn't even take some beer money for it!). This is the code it's generating:




Code 40: Engine Intervention


Which is helpfully vague! This guy had a load of BMW literature so he offered to have a look into it and emailed me back to say that code 40 referred to pin 40 of the gearbox ECU. This connects to pin 14 of the engine ECU. Pin 14 of the engine ECU supplies throttle position, indicating a fault with either the throttle position sensor or the wire connecting pin 40 to pin 14.


I tested the TPS (using some further info he sent me - what a guy!)  which did appear to be very slightly out of spec, but changing this today hasn't solved the fault. I've now ordered a new multimeter as my old one was less than a fiver and was utterly utterly shit, so I can have a go at finding the fault, although I'm about as useless as possible with electronics so I'm not holding my breath.


It's frustrating as I'm 100% convinced there is nowt wrong with the box. It changes up/down fine, it just seems to be stuck in 'E' due to some electrical glitch. You can change the gearbox mode with only the ignition on, but as soon as it's started the cog appears (indicating a fault) and you can't change the gearbox mode anymore.

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Frustrating indeed but stick with it, these are great old cars.


I had a look for that American-published workshop manual last weekend and it's not where I thought it was. However, my dad wouldn't have thrown any of my old stuff out so I think it's still there somewhere.

I've asked him to keep an eye out for it, if it turns up I'll let you know. It was bought long before I was online and was handy at the time.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Still on with this. It had half the sand from sub-saharan africa deposited all over it due to it just languising on the drive so I gave it a proper clean today to try and maintain my mojo for it. I also dismantled half the dash to remove the OBC to see if changing the bulbs gets that working. Youtube reckoned you just tugged on a little lever next to the radio aperture and the OBC would come out. Well I can assure you that after 26 years immobile, that lever needs a fucking great wallop and much dismantling to get the room!






It's a nice colour when it's clean, has a bit of a pearlescent effect that the camera doesn't really capture




After looking at some other E34s I've also realised it's meant to have plastic sill covers fitted which would do a nice job of hiding that bloody awful welding repair, so I'm on the lookout for some of them.


Investigations into the transmission error continue. Between me and matey on the forum, the whole input side of the TPS circuit has been eliminated. I've tested one of the pins on the ECU for voltage at idle and it's meant to be giving out a maximum of 5v but it's giving 9v so something's wrong somewhere. I'm going back to him to read the codes again this week just to eliminate a couple of other things but it's looking increasingly likely that it may be faulty ECU. It's the type of thing where I could really do with known good unit to swap to test it but the chances of finding another for test purposes are about as likely as it fixing itself overnight.

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I've just done some searching on google images and you could be right. It looks like the sills are a different shape on the cars with sill covers - convex with a row of clips along the top, but it seems totally random as to which had covers and which didn't. Naturally, mine doesn't, just has colour coded metal sills, flat not convex. ARSE

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