Bmw 318 1st gear problem please share views

I am unable to shift into 1st gear as there is a resistance.however, i can from 2nd gear or when i am already in motion. this problem occurrs when i am shifting from neutral. I had gear box fully serviced and clutch plate replaced but problem remains. it appears the pressure plate problem after doing some research but not too sure. dealers are unable to diagnose and i am spending a lot of time and money. please someone share some views

Is the resistance the same if the engine is shut off?

When you say ‘clutch plate replaced’ I’m hoping you mean complete clutch replaced - replacing just the clutch plate is the falsest of economies.

Assuming that the complete clutch (driven plate, pressure plate & throw out bearing) was replaced, I can only think of 4 possible causes that could create this problem :

  • Insufficient gear oil.
  • Incorrect clutch adjustment - if applicable.
  • Leaking or air locked clutch hydraulics.
  • Worn first gear synchro ring.

These are listed in order of simplicity, can you give any indication if any or all of these have been investigated by your dealers?

Here’s an update - Service Bulletin from BMW:

Service Information - Bulletin Number 23 01 99

SUBJECT: Manual Transmission Difficult to Shift - Diagnostic Tips
MODEL: All with Manual Transmission
SITUATION: Transmission may be difficult to shift especially first gear engagement and/or gear shift linkage is binding. Note: Field observations have indicated that a transmission which is difficult to shift (especially into first gear) is primarily a clutch related problem and only in isolated cases a failure in the transmission itself.


Verify the customer complaint:

Note: Engage the parking brake and assure that no people or objects are in the vehicle’s path.

  • Run the engine at idle speed
  • Press the clutch pedal to the floor
  • From the neutral stick shift position engage first gear

If first gear is difficult to engage, hold the stick shift at the resistance point (approximately half of the total stick shift travel) with constant force.

Then switch the ignition off with the other hand.

If first gear now engages completely, i.e. the stick shift moves to the end position without any additional pressure applied, there is a problem in the clutch system.

Because the clutch does not uncouple completely, a residual torque is transmitted to the transmission input shaft when the engine is running. This inhibits the release and meshing of the sliding sleeve, in the transmission, at the end of the synchronization process. Turning the engine off relieves the input shaft of this torque thus simulating a completely uncoupled clutch.

If the stick shift remains at the resistance point, there is a problem in the external gear shift linkage or in the transmission.


Possible causes for a clutch problem as per Diagnosis 1 above are:

  • Input shaft taper splines not lubricated properly/grease dried out.
  • Clutch disc difficult to move on transmission input shaft.
  • Clutch disc wobble.
  • Air in the hydraulic system of clutch mechanism.
  • Release bearing defective or difficult to move on the guide sleeve.
  • Clutch disc or pressure plate broken/worn out.

Possible causes for gear shift linkage binding and/or internal transmission problems as per Diagnosis 2 above:

  • External gearshift linkage binding (shift rod joints stiff).
  • Stick shift bellows boot incorrectly installed (positioned too high or too low on the stick shift lever).
  • Sound deadening between the outer gear shift linkage and the body incorrectly installed and/or distorted.

Possible causes inside of the transmission:

  • Faulty synchronization.
  • Internal gear shift linkage binding.
  • Water in the transmission fluid. (rare)


318=e-30 mid eighties 3 series,correct. More buyers remorse over 318i than any other. Or is this e-36 318?. In anycase problem sounds hydraulic in nature. Have assistant press clutch what happens at slave?

Gear box fully serviced= new gear oil,correct

Do not dismiss a installation error with your recent “clutch plate” job. These were a very easy car to do a clutch on. It was very easy to remove and replace the trans alone with no jack.

Never saw a problem caused by bearing in end of crank that trans mainshaft runs on but possible some hanging up going on here.

What year BMW? move specific info would help. A BMW dealer you brought the car to couldn’t give a diagnosis?

Something is not allowing the clutch to disengage completely. There is drag in the clutch so the transmission is spinning when you try to put it into 1st gear. The 1st gear synchronizer makes this very “stiff” and is not allowing you to get into 1st gear. I’m not sure how you manage to get the car moving, but engaging 2nd or 3rd gear is a bit easier. Regardless you are still challenging your sychronizers for those gears too.

A warped pressure plate, bad bearings, cable out of adjustment (if it uses a cable) or a problem in the hydralic system, some worn or bent part can all contribute to this problem.

Who fully serviced the transmission and replaced the “clutch plate”? You had this problem before taking it to have this work done? If it was fine before, then someone did not reassemble the clutch properly. If not OK before the service, the clutch plate was not the problem and they didn’t diagnose the problem correctly in the first place. Not a good outcome if this was done by a professional mechanic.

Thanks a lot for replying. I have checked their invoice and it says clutch kit replaced, gear box oil changed. recently they sent gear box to a specialist who seviced gearbox and confimred all ok with gearbox.

I have noted your points , very handy. I am going to see them tomorrow and perhaps please throw some more helpful info so that I can ask them to diagnose the problem.

once i drive around it gets easier but remains and usually stiff resistance in 1st gear is met in mornings when i start to go to work.

Folks thanks a lot for all your help so far. this bmw is 2003 one and 318i. at the resistance point in 1st gear, i switched off ignition and it goes perfectly in 1st gear. the car dealer is very renowned and is not a bmw dealer. it annoys they are unable to diagnose the problem so far. there is a definite clutch problem or some part has been worn out. recently on my second complain this dealer sent the gear box to a speacialist and they reconditioned the gear box saying all okay but replaced some parts. on my earlier first complain the dealer replaced clutch kit, changed gear box oil etc (this was done following bmw dealer report to me). after reading all comments it is clear something is not being picked up by their technicians. since i am a layman with cars, they have tried to be sweet by giving a warranty for 12 months on the parts replaced on gearbox but do not mention as to what they did. everything else with car is perfect and smooth but i suspect some major problem will crop up soon…i have already spent ?500 on the car in 2 months and the car is all smooth except this 1st gear problem…will ask the dealer to sort out, and if not, will take action…guys thanks once again


bmw dealer fully serviced and advised me that either gear problem faulty or clutch kit need replacing and gear oil change suggested. i gave this report to the dealer where i purchased. so they have reconditioned the gear box -with some parts replaced which i do not know. put a new clutch kit and also changed gear oil. I suspect something is not picked up by them but will tell them to inspect the following 4 points as suggested by you. i paid ?330 to bmw dealer to et serviced and report on the problem. i wish the problem is minor and not major one… will take back to car dealer again where i purchased and ask them to sort out…thanks

Since some of the possible diagnoses involve clutch or shift linkage problems, be sure to have the motor mounts and transmission mounts checked. Misalignment due to a faulty mount can cause linkage problems, and could be cheap to fix.

Friends it appears to be battle for me all this time… the car dealer has now confirmed that problem of stiffness in 1st gear is because of flywheel… they are going to replace…after reading all the messages there is no mention of flywheel in this board… I suspect again the dealer is wrongly diagnosing… please please friends it’s a patience game for me … the car is with dealer for a month now… WHAT IS A FLYWHEEL AND IS THERE IS A POSSIBILITY IT COULD CREATE PROBLEMS FOR 1ST GEAR…THANKS

I fail to see how a flywheel could cause this problem except under one very special circumstance.
(A flywheel is a heavy disc onto which the clutch assembly is mounted)
That circumstance would be if the thrust surface on the engine crankshaft bearing is badly worn and this is allowing the crankshaft end-play to become too great. This in turn allows the crankshaft/flywheel/clutch to move back and forth against the throw-out bearing, which is what disengages the clutch assembly. This can be easily checked but I’m not convinced at all this is the problem; only pointing out a very fuzzy possibility.

Since the clutch was replaced, difficulty shifting would point to either a weak clutch hydraulic system (clutch master or slave cylinder, or both) or a problem in the transmission 1/2 synchronizer assembly (hub/sleeve/inserts/etc.) Odds are are the former.

JMHO, but I’m not buying this flywheel thing at all. Do you know if anyone there has verified if the clutch is operating properly? There should be a certain amount of free-play in the pedal, the clutch should engage at a certain point when the pedal is released, etc, etc.
Hopefully the clutch disc was not installed backwards. (Don’t laugh, that’s happened more than once).

The only service to be done to the flywheel is surfacing it flat if it is warped or burnt and this should have been done when the clutch plate was replaced. Nonetheless, the flywheel is not likely the cause unless it’s the oddball exception I first mentioned.

If clutch operation is fine then I would suspect a hydraulic problem and this is more noticeable in 1st gear because the lower gears normally have straight or near straight cut gear teeth rather than beveled ones. The straighter the teeth the more critical it is that the clutch be disengaging properly. Hope some of that helps.

I wonder if the Dealer knows these flywheels were machined to the wrong specs and BMW just replaces them. This is one of those Quigly Downunder type of long shots.

I also don’t see how a flywheel problem could cause this problem. Perhaps the Dealer thinks he will find or already knows real problem and feels this is easiest handled via a flywheel defect.