Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

2004 BMW 330ci - Won't drive


I just bought a 2004 BMW 330ci yesterday and when I put it in drive this morning it wouldn’t go. Finally after 3 tries it went into drive. It seems to be driving fine now and started up and drove fine twice today. Should I be concerned and what could have caused this? It has 56k miles on it.

Please clarify. Are saying that when you put the selector into drive and step on the gas all it does is rev the engine and nothing happens?

Take a look at and do a search. If you don’t find it you may need to join to get a good answer.

Automatic or manual transmission? If automatic when was the transmission fluid last changed (not flushed)? I suspect a linkage adjustment issue.

I suspect operator error here as I am sure the car you just bought was inspected for problems before you bought it, you did have the car inspected did you not?

With BMW’s of the year you speak of (and most other years) mechanics do very little maintenance (it is not called for by the manufacture, we don’t want to be suggesting service that is not in the manual do we?) and adjusting the linkage (which I don’t think is possible) may only be called for only after the very, very rare transmission replacement.

With BMW’s SMG (sequencial manual gearbox, or “paddle shift”) transmission, there are several safety features that prevent the car from being able to move if circumstances like the hood is not fully latched but you don’t say this is a SMG transmission.

Yes…I brought it to have the transmission “reprogrammed”. They said it was fixed, but it did the same thing the next morning. They are now saying it needs a new transmission.
Which seems strange since once I put it in manual drive and back into drive it drives fine.
Also, nothing is leaking…Any thoughts?

It is NOT operator error. It does this every morning. If I switch from automatic to manual mode it drives fine. And it drives fine the rest of the day.
The dealership reprogrammed the transmission, but it is still doing it… they are now saying I need a new transmission.

Since switching it from automatic to manual and back makes it work, I would drive it like this for a long time before I would even consider transmission work.

BMW says that this transmission fluid is permanent. That is not true, but it is long-life synthetic fluid and is very expensive, so I generally suggest changes only at 100k mile intervals. That reminds me - the wife’s '04 330i is approaching 100k…

Does this car have its original battery? If so, you are approaching the end of the expected lifespan of the factory battery. The computer that controls this transmission is quite sensitive to dips in system voltage. Though I have never heard of this particular symptom, quirky transmission behavior in BMWs is often the first sign that the battery is reaching the end of its life.

It is hard to dispute conclusions from technicans that can actually see the car. Since they tried a reprogram (even though that did not work) they are following procedure. My suggestion is a second Dealer for an evaluation.

Since I know the training these guys get I don’t think it is possible a TSB was missed (BMW calls them "Service Information) but you can ask if “TSB’s were checked”. You can also ask “how often do these transmissions fail like this at this mileage”? and see if they look you in the eye when answering.

“Automatic to manual” is the OP speaking of Triptronic or is this a SMG transmission? I do not know if a SMG was even a option in the 2004 330i, so I ask, or if “triptronic” has been replaced with something more current.

If the transmission responds by “changing modes” then it’s not the transmission…It’s something in the control system for the transmission.

When gimmicky “features” like this go haywire, repairing them can be VERY difficult…It’s all servos and solenoids and micro switches located in inaccessible areas…Somebody spills a little Coke down the shifter gate and it takes $8000 to cure the damage…Good Luck…

Triptronic is an aging but very reliable “automatic that can make believe it is a manual” and the SMG is a complex but very workable design.

Is the seller a BMW dealer? If “they say it needs a new transmission”; who is “they” and is the new transmission on you, or covered fully (or partially) under warranty?