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Lee, BMW Technician
Category: BMW
Satisfied Customers: 366
Experience:  BMW STEP Custom Training, Cert. BMW Diag. Tech, ASE Master
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99 BMW 323I: Auto, Sedan, 145,000 miles, 6 cil..engage..reverse gear

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I have a '99 BMW 323I, 4dr, Auto, Sedan, 145,000 miles, 6 cil. GE engine.
In the last 5 to 6 months, several times, the transmission will not engage in the reverse gear (only). All other gears are smooth and there is no other problem with the car. My local mechanic, specializing in german cars maintenance, can't identify the issue. He checked the car, drained the transmission fluid, but could not find any residues and there is no other kind of explanation. Now the symptoms seem to be more often. Otherwise the ride is great and would be a shame to no longer enjoy this car.
Is there a solution to this problem with the engaging in reverse.

Unfortunently this is a very common problem on the 323i.

Depending on the transmission in your vehicle (if you have a ZF or GM trans) the problem could be due to a loss of the reverse drum, or a bad reverse solenoid.

There has been bulletins issued by BMW to check fluid levels and just replace the transmission. No recalls on this matter have been issued.

There is a website created over the last few years about all the complaints of the No reverse problem. They are trying to create a class action lawsuit.

There has also been a possible fix created by a member at, but only for the GM trannys.

Here is that website:

Lee and 2 other BMW Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Thank you for your reply. Great information. In my case I have a GE trans. I may have a small chance in replacng the solenoid; however the car is not shifting in the reverse after driving through the parking lot, etc. as explained by one of the (forum-fanatics) website entry comments. Thank you again.
I'm not sure what you mean by GE trans. Just a typo?

On the E46 323i transmissions, the A5S360R (GM) trans should be installed in the 323i from 6/98 to 3/00. The A5S325Z (ZF) trans should be installed in the 323i from 3/00 to 9/00. So depending on your production date in your vehicle you may have a GM trans.

Your mechanic should be able to tell you for sure which trans you have by looking for the identification tag on the trans case.

let me know if you need anymore help

Edited by Lee on 12/29/2009 at 4:56 AM EST
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Yes! this was a typo... The '99 BMW 323i has a GM trans A5S360R.
I followed the forum chat re: no-reverse issue, recommending a solenoid replacement as a simple "fix"; but with NO result in our case. My local mechanic is suggesting opening the valve body however he's also concerned that the original gasket will be compromised in the process. A rebuilt VB is anywhere between $500 to $600, but I have no guarranties this new exercise will work. So, now I have a dillema: I would go-ahead with the repair attempt if I know that this will lead to the transmission reverse problem fix; or I may have to part with this fun car...
Any suggestions? Is there a way to buy only the VB gasket part and accessories without spending a fortune for an entire rebuilt valve body?
Thanks, Dan
Hi Dan, So you have tried replacing the reverse solenoid?

The thread in the forum said that this was just a possible fix to the no reverse problem. If this didn't help then unfortunately It may be that your reverse drum is bad.

I don't see any valve body gaskets available in the factory BMW parts catalog. There may be other sources for a valve body gasket but I would not know who as we don't tear down the transmissions. BMW does not want their transmissions rebuilt at the dealership so they don't offer many internal parts.

Your best bet would be asking a transmission shop that specializes in rebuilding import transmissions in finding a valve body gasket. I'm sure they are available straight from the companies that make them for BMW.

Is there a reason your mechanic wants to open the valve body up?

I would not recommend spending more money if your mechanic is not sure it will fix the problem. A full transmission rebuild with 145,000 miles on it will definitely not be cheap.

If you check out,The typical cost to replace just the reverse drum and seals is around 1,600 dollars. This is assuming nothing else is found to be bad.

If you could find a used transmission at a salvage yard and have it installed, this is always another option.

Edited by Lee on 1/12/2010 at 6:02 AM EST