E46 323i no reverse update

Some of you may recall that a few months back I reported that my 2000 323i (inevitably) developed the "no reverse" problem. Fortunately for
me, my car was built before March 2000, so has the GM tranny.
Here's a good write-up on the issue.
http://blog.bavauto.com/13206/bmw-automatic-transmission-the-other-no-reverse-a5s-390r-a5s-360r-5l40e/
I drove the car for several months with this intermittent problem. Sometimes it would work fine for weeks. I back into parking spots, so that I know that I can get out.
I was taking my time because the car was still usable, and it took some time to get a solution figured-out. BMW told me that they don't work on transmissions - they replace them. Assholes. Calling some transmission chain like Kennedy was out of the question. I know what those assholes would have told me - remove and rebuild the tranny.
A local German-car repair shop told me that they don't work on transmissions.
I called an independent place that looked good, but they claimed to be skeptical that the TCC solenoid could be the problem, and wanted to dig into it themselves.
God forbid, when there is a known problem with a known solution like this, that a mechanic would just agree to do what you ask. What a world!
Anyway, I lucked-out and got a mechanic friend of a friend to do it for me. I bought the solenoid, filter/gasket kit, and fluid from bavauto.
So, last week, we finally got it done. The solenoids (five of them) are visible once the pan is off, but he valve body needs to be removed before the TCC solenoid can be removed.
The TCC solenoid is one of the four smaller ones, and is next to the big one, on the opposite side of the valve body from the other three small ones.
The job seems fairly straightforward, with just a couple glitches. Getting the drain plug off the pan was difficult, and snapped his wrench. He was able to chisel it off. I would advise having a spare plug (with a nice hex head on it, preferably), and taking it off while the pan is off.
The most surprising thing that we encountered was that my old TCC solenoid did not have an outlet filter (or the black plastic thing that would hold the filter in place)! The other three small (supposedly identical) ones did, but the one did not!!!
http://blog.bavauto.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/2013-01-02-13.19.11a2.jpg
There was no obvious issue with crud or particles or broken filter screens or anything. So, what we did was remove the little rod that is pushed-on by the TCC solenoid and acts as the valve, and lightly sanded/deburred it. We put things back together with the new solenoid. A pump is needed to pump new fluid into the drain hole - a messy pain in the butt. Top off, run car forward and reverse to fill torque converter, top off again.
The job took him about 3 hours. With a lift, it could probably be done in half that time.
I've had no problems since then, but, because of the intermittent nature of the problem, it may take a month or two before I'm confidant that the problem is fixed. So I'm still backing into parking spots. For a total cost of less than $400, it was worth the try, in any case.
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I don't remember you posting troubles, but I found the same solution as you -- the TCC Solenoid -- 3 or 4 years ago. I took my car to my mechanic to change the fluid and filters AND (and this is the main reason) to replace the solenoid. He did not replace the solenoid and he told me so. The car worked pretty well for a few weeks, maybe two months, and then went back to not shifting into R. I went back and asked that he replace the solenoid, but this time he not charge because that was all I really wanted him to do the first time. I agreed, of course, that I should cover the part, but I objected to the labor because it was the labor that he already did when changing the filters and screens and such. But I digress, the solenoid fixed the trouble of No Reverse in my GM5 transmisison installed in my '00 323i with a production date of 03/00.
I actually bought my car because of the No Reverse problem. The seller was dumping it because he was told it had to have the transmisison replaced. I got the car for pretty much the normal value, minus the price of the transmission. When I read that there was a solenoid that I could get for 80 bucks, I jumped on the deal for my daughter.
And, you're right, the job goes much faster on a lift as opposed to laying on the floor with the car on jack stands. The mechanic pulled the pan, changed out the filters and screens, put the pan back on and filled it in less than an hour and a half. He coulda put the solenoid in in another 15 minutes or so, if he had done it the first time like I asked.
I do most of my own work on my car, and the car went to Texas for a year or so, so I have not been into the shop for a lonng time. I needed some diagnostics done for a failed smog on my E36, so I called for an appointment. The woman that answers the phone said, "We were just talking about you!" They had a GM5 come in with No Reverse, and my insistance on the solenoid came to mind, and they got the customer fixed up for a fraction of the cost that had been quoted by other shops.
Bottom line, if you have a GM5 transmission and cannot get a reliable Reverse gear selection, you probably need the TCC solenoid. If you have the ZF, and NEVER get Reverse to work, then you need the Reverse Drum. Either way, you do not need a new transmission, and if you can work on your car at home then your parts cost is very low -- less than $100 for the GM5, but I don't recallwhat the reverse drum runs.
The E46Fanatics forum has an excellent write up on the transmissions used and the fluids each one takes. Check it out, http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?tp6809
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I contemplated selling mine, years ago when I first heard of the problem. That damn noreverse.org site with countless 323i owners complaining... What a poor site - nowhere (that I saw) do they clarify the GM vs. ZF issues, even though they show the service bulletin that shows the change to ZF in March of 2000. Lots of people cursing GM up and down for what is really not a big deal, if you can do the work yourself, or convince someone to do it.
Obviously I stuck it out, and I was able to rack-up 140,000 miles before the problem started. Then, some people that I know advised me to sell the car while it still mostly worked, but that's not my style.
Of course, part of the problem is that no one since has made a car as good as the E46. 8)

The reverse drum is, of course, a major repair to the transmission.

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Well, 17 days after the "fix", I had another no-reverse event. Damn it. This could spell the end, for this car, because I'm not putting thousands of dollars into a transmission for it.
I feel that after almost 13 years, I've gotten my moneys-worth out of it, but it looks like I'll be shopping for a replacement. I guess it wouldn't kill me to buy a new car, once every decade or so... I did really enjoy my little 323...
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I've experienced the No Reverse issue and researched it the best I could be fore I bit the bullet for the repair. I have the GM Tranny, so I changed o ut the solenoid and they did some work on the valve body. One week later a nd the reverse is intermittent again. I'm at a crossroad because I really love this little car, but can't see investing so much in her. Has anyone d iscovered the definitive answer besides swapping out the tranny?
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The problem is that a lot of different things can fail to cause the same symptom. You have dealt with the two most common failures, but there are still plenty more (including the normal issues with tiny hydraulic channels clogging that have many different possible symptoms).
Think of this as an opportunity to drop in the 5-speed Getrag that this car really deserves. Yes, I know it's a whole bunch of linkages that need to be installed and carefully tweaked but you'll never regret doing it. --scott
--
"C'est un Nagra. C'est suisse, et tres, tres precis."

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Scott Dorsey wrote:

I still get a no reverse event once a month or so. I'm going to get a new car but, I think, keep the 323i as a "beater". It's still usable, making sure to back into parking spaces and stuff so you know that you can get out.
Occasionally I've had to push it out of my garage, where, once rolling, there's enough of a slant to get me out into the street.
Not really acceptable, as a primary car. I may be cheap, but I'm not that poor. 8)
Out of principle, I neither want to invest the $thousands to fix it, nor do I want to dump the problem onto someone else.

That's pretty extreme, for a car that may be nearing the end of it's service life, may be starting to rust, etc.
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