E30 325i - They broke my transmission - what to do?

Looking for some ideas -
My '89 325i convertible with ~143K mi was fine when I took it to WB Motors, Pickett Rd, in Fairfax VA. They did some simple things -
replaced a couple brake hoses, balanced front tires, attached the muffler heat shield, and some bulbs. I went to pick it up, and couldn't put the car in gear. It turns out the 5spd manual is mysteriously stuck in reverse, although the shifter is in the neutral position. They claim it was fine when they drove it out of the shop, and had no idea there was this major damage to the car. They rolled it back in and determined that the external linkages are fine, something is jammed inside the transmission, although somehow the shifter is not in reverse and will not move into any gear.
So first, I wonder what my options are to fight with them about it. They offered 10% off to fix it with a 100K mi used transmission, at $1650 w/ clutch, this was not satisfactory. And my trust was broken with them anyway, so I didn't go ahead with that. Is there any point arguing this?
Towed to next shop closer to home, they confirm the problem, quote $2500, and again can only replace it, not open it up to find the problem. This isn't worth doing on a $2400 car, I think.
I feel like my best option is to get the transmission opened and looked at. Can anyone recommend a transmission place in Northern Virginia that can open up a BMW transmission and possibly fix it?
Thanks! -Alex
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Looking at the work you said they carried out, there is nothing they could have done that would have damaged your gearbox internally.

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How many miles did they put on the car?
Some kid went joyriding perhaps?
Although they were the ones that obviously put the gearbox in this state physically, they have no liability. The car could have burst into flames and absent some negligence on their behalf they're off the hook. Sucks, but it's the way it is.
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I don't follow that logic. If the car went into the garage with a perfectly working g/box, which was broken when the owner went to pick it up. It seems obvious to me that the garage must have broken it. They can argue that it was not their fault, that it was simply a coincidence. That the g/box could have broken at any time, and that it just happened to break whilst it was in their care, but I don't see how they can deny all liability at this stage.without knowing exactly what is wrong with it. Another point is, did the garage tell the owner the g/box was broken before he went to pick the car up. If they didn't, why not? It seems a little far fetched to believe the car was perfectly OK when it was parked ready for collection. Methinks someone needs to have a word with the driver who parked it. From what the OP said, if it were me, I certainly wouldn't accept what the garage is saying as conclusive. After all it is in their interest if they can convince the owner they are not responsible. Mike.
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Acts of god are not the garage's problem. That is if in reasonable and customary actions if something breaks it's not their fault. Say in this case some part inside the transmission broke - if they were shifting normally and it just snapped then it's not reasonable to say they broke it - it would have broken no matter who shifted gears.
But, if they forced it hard to get it into gear that's negligence and a (small claims) court would make them pay.
Joyriding is the wildcard. If you can show it has like 20 more miles on it than it should a judge owuld raise his eyebrows and go "uh yeah, riiiight" and pretty much automatically assign blame to them.
If it were me I'd have the car towed someplace else, have them pull the gearbox (it's gotta come out anyway) then open it up and see what failed and WHY.
The original dealer wll lie if left to do this.
If it turns out as suspected they they forced the thing into gear really hard and that's the only way this could have happened then pay a laywer a little bit to write them a letter explain they'll pay or they'll see you in (small claims) court. If it just broke, well at leastthe gearbox it out. http://car-part.com will find you another tranny cheaper then anywhere else.
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A g/box breaking can hardly be described as an act of god. I suggest you re-read my reply, which covered the possibilities you point out.
What I disagree with is your statement that even though the damage occured when the car was in the garages possession, "they have no liability". Which is simply not true. 'Maybe' they haven't, but without more information about how it was treated whilst in the garages care, the possibility that the garage 'were' directly responsible for the damage occuring at the time it did, can't be ruled out.
As I see it, it's up to the garage to prove it wasn't their fault, rather than for the owner to prove it was, and the only way I can see to do that with any degree of certainty is for the g/box to be checked to see exactly what is wrong with it.
Speaking as an engineer, it's often possible in the case of breakages to see signs that a component was previously cracked, and ready to break at any time. If that were the case with the OP's g/box, it would let the garage off the hook. Just one example of how a check of the g/box could help in establishing if anyone in particular could be held responsible for it's failure.
I don't see any point in the rest of your reply We could all speculate how the damage actually occured but that is irrelevant to the point I am making. The point is whether it was caused by the garages negligence, or whether it was a weakness in the g/box, that was ready to fail at any time. Mike.
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Well, there's a happy ending to the story. I did take it to another shop, the one that quoted $2500, and they were pretty useless and left the linkage disconnected after two hours.
Teetering on the brink of pulling the plug on my Terry Schaivo of a car, I followed the advice earlier in the thread and checked out bimrs.org. Turns out I remembered one of the shops nearby was where the previous owner took the car, and that he highly recommended them. So I had it towed to this third shop, praying that the instrument cluster parts from the first shop and the tranny linkage parts from the second shop would follow along with this unsupervised tow. (Checking for a joyride is hard with the cluster in North Carolina!)
Turns out, this was a stroke of luck. Grant at Alexandria Bavarian Motor Service http://www.alexandriabavarian.com/ knows his stuff backwards and forwards, and they were able to fix it in 20 minutes, he said. From what I understand, a bolt related to the selector shaft had worked its way loose over time, allowing the shifting rods to move out of place. I guess it couldn't get back into gear because the selector was not aligned with the rods and was pushing uselessly against something. They were able to access the "Shifting rods" above the gears without dropping out the transmission, take out the springs (#16 from http://www.realoem.com/bmw/showparts.do?model 13&mospidG309&btnr#_0171&hg#&fg ) and put the selector back in place, fixed up the naughty bolt and kept it in place with some grippy paste stuff.
He also had the prior repair records, showing the clutch is only 3 years old, and didn't replace it, even though I had already conceded it would be necessary. That's a class act for a shop.
I think it's a minor miracle, and also means that WB Motors is cleared of any wrongdoing, as it seems like a slowly caused problem. Joe at WB has always been very attentive and thorough, so I hope this post doesn't hurt their business. Apparently it's a common problem for this car, so I hope this thread can help someone else out.
Thanks!
Richard Sexton wrote:

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Glad it is resolved. You're welcome.

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Leroy wrote:

...except the "test drive" afterward.
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-Fred W

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Try www.bimrs.org and see if any are near you.

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I have a speculation as to what may have happend to your transmission. If the guy taking your car out of the shop couldn't find reverse and applied an extreme amount of force trying to move the shift lever to the left and aft instead of to the left and forward as he should have, he may have managed to shear the pin that locates the shift fork on the shifting rod. See the exploded view on http://www.realoem.com/bmw/showparts.do?model 13&mospidG309&btnr#_0171&hg#&fg to see what I am referring to. When he forced the gearshift aft trying to put it into reverse what would actually happen is that the shifting rod would move forward but the shift fork would not move because it can't go in that direction. The shift fork would become mislocated on the shaft. Then when he moved the gearshift back to neutral the shifting rod and the shift fork would move aft putting the transmission into reverse gear. Now you have the situation you describe with the gearshift in neutral and the transmission in reverse. I don't know what kind of relationship you have with the shop that did this but you might try to convince them that they are responsible.
I also think there may be some small chance that you could restore funtion to your transmission by trying to reverse the damage done. If you move the gearshift lever over to the left and try to move it forward it probably won't go because the transmission is already in reverse gear. But if you apply and extreme amount of force trying to move the gearshift forward you may actually be able to get the shift fork to slide on the shifting rod and move back to it's original position. The locating pin would of course still be broken but if you're really lucky, the gouges on the shfting rod caused by the broken pin might be severe enough to hold the shift fork in position. It might be worth trying as you have very little to lose at this point. Good Luck Jack

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Wow, that's a fantastic amount of detail, thanks! I had no idea the dealer's parts app was available on the web. I'm studying this now and I'll stop by the shop in the morning to get their take. I imagine even if I forced the shift fork back to the right position on the rod, it's still likely to come out of position sometime in the future, and since reverse is shared with 5th, I'll be going fast...
I know I don't have much chance of holding them liable, and it's not something they could have broken while working on it, but some hasty carelessness could cause the situation you describe.
Thanks!
Jack wrote:

http://www.realoem.com/bmw/showparts.do?model 13&mospidG309&btnr#_0171&hg#&fg
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On 9 Nov 2006 11:23:08 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

sue them -- if you really drove it there and they drove it about - check the mileage - you did keep a note of the ingoing mileage didn't you? Oops = Shit happens.............
Sir Hugh of Bognor
The difference between men and boys is the price of their toys. Intelligence is not knowing the answer but knowing where and how to find it!
Hugh Gundersen snipped-for-privacy@h-gee.co.uk Bognor Regis, W.Sussex, England, UK
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