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93 BMW 525i
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Alright, I'm not really sure what I'm asking for here. I'm pretty experienced in working on cars, but not a whole lot of experience with autotrannies. I'm familiar with fluids, flushes, and how to read the dipstick, so we'll skip all that. I'm just hoping someone can shed some light on my handful of hastily done diagnosises (sp?).

Alright, my GF and I are driving home from Tampa, about 80mph on the highway. Car runs/drives fine. When I get into traffic and have to slow it down, or am driving on a smaller road (say between 45 and 65 mph), I will get a hard shudder every once in awhile, almost like the trans is dropping from overdrive to 3rd, then back again very quickly. All the other gears shift just fine, although some of the shifts are a little harder than I would like, its nothing like a HARD shift. I can't make it happen all of the time, it will do it at the most random times, I'd say once every 10 minutes or so driving at 55mph. When I asked about it, my GF said its been doing this for awhile and that its been getting worse, but she thought it was normal :(

So I figured its one of 3 things - a misfire (don't think its this, but could be), the transmission is switching gears hard, or a problem in the suspension (REALLy don't think its this). We'll concentrate on the trans for now.

We got back home to WPB (about 4 hours away from Tampa) and pulled the car into my mom's driveway (10 degree incline approx) and check the level. It was a little difficult to read the level since the oil looked like it slanted on the dipstick (hard to describe), but it was AT MOST about even between the hot and cold areas (or a good deal below "LOW" on the hot scale, mabye 1.5x the distance between low and high on the hot scale below low). So we let it cool and drove it home to our house where I had some ATF in the garage. Color of the fluid was pretty dark.

We let the car cool for about 4 hours. I checked the level (now should be "cold"), but the level looked like it was at exactly the same point, so therefore OVERFULL if considered cold. The car is now level on the driveway.

I added 1 quart of Mobil 1 Synth. ATF fluid. I drove the car around for about 15 mins and parked it on level ground. I checked the level, and it was about the same distance between the low and high marks ABOVE full on the HOT side (which I would think after 15 mins of driving I should be reading the hot scale). Color was bright red, almost exactly the same color as the stuff I put in.

Okay, so, I guess I'm asking if any of these symptoms sound familiar to anyone. My GF drove the car to work this morning, but I haven't heard back from her to know if its still doing the shuddering. Does the funky trans oil levels sound normal to anyone (under full at hot, overfull at cold)? I know I was on an incline for the first reading, but its not THAT much of a difference.

Anyone have any experiences running the trans low on oil and what symptoms it first came up with? Thanks a bunch guys.
 

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93 BMW 525i
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395 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
cliff notes:

Car shudders sometimes with no noticeable loss in power, feels like it shifts down and up again very quickly.

Trans fluid way low when hot, same level when cold (overfull).

Added 1 quart, now slightly overfull when hot. Not sure if its fixed the problem, haven't heard back yet.
 

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93 BMW 525i
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395 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Oh, and the car is in my sig, but just for clarity - its a 98 4cyl auto, 165,000 miles.
 

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TN Pussy Man
Camry
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13,302 Posts
I would agree with you that it's the transmission and not a misfire. One reason also being that if it was a misfire, on multiple trips, it would then throw a CEL

as well, that's one of the strangest symptoms I have ever heard....that the fluid level goes opposite on hot and cold....

first thing I would do though, is do a drain and fill of the tranny and see if that makes a difference.

some trannys also have shifting problems, or jerky shifting when overfilled
 

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93 BMW 525i
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395 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Yeah, I also thought I would be getting a CEL if the car was misfiring.

One update, I guess I skimmed the manual too quickly on this one - the car needs to be idling to check the trans fluid. When idling, the levels are much more normal.

Now that I've learned how to correctly check the level, I can see that it is slightly overfull (after adding the 1 quart). My girlfriend said that she thought it was doing it less (twice on the way into work, only once leaving, before it was doing it every 5-10 mins), but Im not sure if its the placebo or "cell phone" effect.

Anyway, my GF has had the flu for the past few days, so I don't have any more data on how the car is running. Mabye I'll drive it around tonight. If its still doing it, I plan on draining the trans, cleaning the screen, and refilling this weekend. If it still does it after that...well..... those 01-03 Maximas are looking nice...
 

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Dave's
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1,946 Posts
If you've got the pan off to clean the screen, you may want to clean and even test the solenoids. Think it's one screw each to remove, < less than 60psi with a blower nozzle in the center hole and 12 volts to the wire and the case.
 

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hooRAH,
did you ever find a solution to your problem? My camry (98 v6) is having the exact same problem. I also have 160,000 miles. I went to a tranny specialist and he went for a ride with me. When he felt the shudder he immediately said it is due to a misfire. I changed my plugs and wires, but I still get the shudder. I found it is most noticeable around 45mph with about 1500-2000 RPMs. I'm interested to know if you ever resolved the issue.
 

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Toronto
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Not sure it may help, many experts here anyway.
Few years ago, my 93 camry got shift problem between 70km - 90km. Problem gone after I reset the ECU.

Wai
 

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93 BMW 525i
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
hooRAH,
did you ever find a solution to your problem? My camry (98 v6) is having the exact same problem. I also have 160,000 miles. I went to a tranny specialist and he went for a ride with me. When he felt the shudder he immediately said it is due to a misfire. I changed my plugs and wires, but I still get the shudder. I found it is most noticeable around 45mph with about 1500-2000 RPMs. I'm interested to know if you ever resolved the issue.
Youre lucky I caught this post - I haven't been on this board in awhile and was only checking quickly, I almost missed it.

Anyway, heres the main reason I was confused while checking the fluid level - the car has to be running to check the level. When I checked the dipstick with the car running, the level changes to something more inline with the markings if the car is hot or cold.

That said, the car was a bit low on trans fluid, I think (its been awhile).
I drained the trans, but I did not open up the pan. I refilled with about 3-4 quarts of mobil 1 synthetic ATF oil. The car is very slightly overfull when hot, but not anything thats going to cause any problems.

After doing all of that, there were a few times over the next day or so that I thought I still felt the car shudder, but it was very hard to tell. Within a week, it had stopped doing the shudder.

So yes, draining/refilling the trans with new fluid to the correct level did the trick.
 
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