Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Transmission slipping - how serious is it?

My 2008 BMW X5 has 11500 miles on it and the transmission is slipping. Only happens every now and then and appears to be in 1st or 2nd (automatic). Either the tach runs up and the car doesn’t move that quick or the car feels delayed in response to acceleration.

I’m doing a 4000 mile road trip in a week. Can I trust the transmission to not die during that trip? I am having my dealer look at the car, I just trust you guys more. The car has already been through three fuel pumps.

Each time the transmission slips, there’s damage being done to the friction components (clutches/clutch plates). I would hold off on that 4,000 mile trip until it’s determined what’s causing the slipping. Otherwise you might not make it to your destination or back.


If your BMW dealership is an honest and competent one, and if they find defects in your transmission–as I think they will–you will be getting some extensive, free repairs done on that transmission by them. Since it is under warrranty, this should cost you not even one thin dime.

That being said, it is possible that repair work might not be completed within a week. And, the dealership probably does not want 4k put on one of their loaners.

In unlikely event that they tell you there is nothing wrong with your transmission, then you need to contact BMW’s customer service people at the corporate level for assistance, and you also need to avoid taking this vehicle on an extended road trip.

Any way that you look at it, I would suggest that you cancel that road trip, or rent a car for that trip.

Have you checked the condition and level of your transmission fluid? That is where I would start. If the fluid is low, fill it up and see if it gets any better. If the fluid isn’t low, you will probably need a new transmission.

You should rent a car for your upcoming trip. You can get some good unlimited mileage rentals, just make sure they know you intend to take the car out of state.

some times BMW owners think the tranny is slipping when in fact the fluid level may be low in some of the partitioned tranny pans. The way to test is to accelerate and then brake and then see if it slips. If not, it is the fluid getting sloshed back into the proper valve body for pressurization and driving the tranny. I had a similar problem with my wifes 328Ci until it was pointed out to me by an honest independent who could have ripped me, but just properly filled and tested the fluid for proper temp. expansion (no dip stick!). Ran great after that.

Thanks everyone. After all your comments I called the dealer and asked them to try to get to the car sooner so it is back there now. They are going to check a number of things over. I’ve decided not to take the car on my trip unless it is completely repaired. All the comments really helped.

Isn’t BMW one of the manufacturers that “thoughtfully” eliminated the transmission dipstick so that only the dealership (or a very determined owner) can get underneath to check the fluid level?

Maybe if they had concentrated on just plain old-fashioned reliability, instead of the hated I-Drive system and the elimination of things like dipsticks, then their quality on certain models–like the X-5–would be better.

A few years ago a friend of our’s bought a little Pontiac but couldn’t find a dip stick for the transmissiion. Well we decided to check the manual and sure enough, there is no dipstick for the transmission.

Yea, it makes for a great experience when buying a used car. When was the ATF changed? Never. How does the fluid look? Don’t know!

I keep forgetting that BMW made such a boneheaded move. I guess on some level I don’t want to dedicate memory capacity to something so idiotic.

their effort to eliminate the owner from being able to do anything without the dealer, and related to the so called lifetime auto fluid, so you don’t NEED to check. but all related to a failed sales technique of paying for scheduled maintenance, of course they then set the schedule, which is not adequate.