Engine Shutoff when Shifting into Gear

E28 technical advice asked and given! Troubleshooting, modifications and more.
Post Reply
fancyganci
Posts: 20
Joined: Jan 14, 2023 5:31 PM
Location: CT, USA

Engine Shutoff when Shifting into Gear

Post by fancyganci »

Hey all,

I'm new here so bear with me. I recently acquired an 86 535i with an automatic transmission. From what I know, it was parked for approximately a decade and possibly started sporadically throughout those years. It was driving (up and down the driveway) prior to me picking it up and no major issues were reported. Today, I started the vehicle with some new coolant, new fuel, new battery and cleaned out the air filter. The car started beautifully and was idling perfectly.

We let it sit for a little bit to get all the juices flowing back through the engine. Once it had been running for a while, we wanted to shift it into reverse to get it into our garage. As soon as I shifted it into gear, the engine shut off. After the shutoff, I put the car back into park and removed the key from the ignition. We tried to restart the engine, but it only cranked and didn't turn over. We tried to start the engine a few more times, but the engine would just crank and not fully turn over and we gave it a break. The engine then started a couple hours later, but the same result happened when we tried to shift it into gear.

Has anyone else experienced this or heard about this? I have absolutely no idea what it could be or what could be causing this to happen. We did check the transmission reservoir and saw that it looks like there's minimal fluid in there. I don't know if that would be the cause? How would shifting the transmission into gear shut the engine off? Help?? *nervous laugh*
Mike W.
Posts: 26148
Joined: Feb 12, 2006 12:00 PM
Location: California Whine Country

Re: Engine Shutoff when Shifting into Gear

Post by Mike W. »

Welcome to the group Fancy.

First. Terminology. Turning over and cranking means the same thing, the starter turning the engine regardless if it starts or fires or tries to start. Firing means something is happening, but perhaps not actually starting. I'm guessing you meant the starter is turning it over, but it wasn't firing. So. Going with that.

An auto car dying when shifting from park/neutral into either F or R isn't unusual, especially if it's not quite running right. No big deal, it's one of those little things that's difficult for the FI system to do. But it should start right up again, that is a problem.

There is no transmission reservoir, besides the pan. I'm guessing you were looking at the power steering reservoir, which also supplies the power brake booster system and uses ATF. It shouldn't be empty, but it can only really be checked with the engine off, after pumping the brake pedal repeatedly, like 20 times or so. There is a pressure accumulator, AKA the bomb, which holds fluid under pressure, until released by pumping the pedal. The tranny should be checked warm and in neutral/park, running, via the dipstick.

Why won't it restart. Difficult. Likely causes include bad reference sensors or AFM, maybe. Check the dist cap and rotor, and replace if they look at all suspicious. Possibly the ECU. Intermittents are difficult in person and even more so via a keyboard. Could even just be basic wiring and when you shift something moves, tweaks a wire and so on.
Shawn D.
Beamter
Beamter
Posts: 21662
Joined: Feb 12, 2006 12:00 PM
Location: Alpharetta, GA
Contact:

Re: Engine Shutoff when Shifting into Gear

Post by Shawn D. »

I see it's your first post -- welcome! Please read and heed the Forum and Tech FAQ sections.

Look at the security/condition of major wiring, such as the grounds (strap across right motor mount and small one at back of head to firewall) and connections at the coil. Movement could cause intermittent connections.
fancyganci
Posts: 20
Joined: Jan 14, 2023 5:31 PM
Location: CT, USA

Re: Engine Shutoff when Shifting into Gear

Post by fancyganci »

Mike W. wrote: Jan 15, 2023 12:53 AM Welcome to the group Fancy.

First. Terminology. Turning over and cranking means the same thing, the starter turning the engine regardless if it starts or fires or tries to start. Firing means something is happening, but perhaps not actually starting. I'm guessing you meant the starter is turning it over, but it wasn't firing. So. Going with that.

An auto car dying when shifting from park/neutral into either F or R isn't unusual, especially if it's not quite running right. No big deal, it's one of those little things that's difficult for the FI system to do. But it should start right up again, that is a problem.

There is no transmission reservoir, besides the pan. I'm guessing you were looking at the power steering reservoir, which also supplies the power brake booster system and uses ATF. It shouldn't be empty, but it can only really be checked with the engine off, after pumping the brake pedal repeatedly, like 20 times or so. There is a pressure accumulator, AKA the bomb, which holds fluid under pressure, until released by pumping the pedal. The tranny should be checked warm and in neutral/park, running, via the dipstick.

Why won't it restart. Difficult. Likely causes include bad reference sensors or AFM, maybe. Check the dist cap and rotor, and replace if they look at all suspicious. Possibly the ECU. Intermittents are difficult in person and even more so via a keyboard. Could even just be basic wiring and when you shift something moves, tweaks a wire and so on.
I see you said there's no transmission reservoir besides the pan. So in theory, there's no way to check the fluid without removing the pan? Is that accurate? How would I go about putting fluid into it then? Excuse my ignorance, I've never been a true mechanic, just learning as I go and trying to learn from others. Also, "FI system," what does that stand for? I started the car today and got it to shift quickly into neutral without issue, but again, when put into R, died. I'm going to check the ground wire like Shawn has suggested as well. Any other "ballpark" thoughts of what I should check next to diagnose the issue? Thanks again for everyone's knowledge!
Galahad
Posts: 353
Joined: Sep 06, 2016 9:08 PM
Location: Beverly/Worcester, MA
Contact:

Re: Engine Shutoff when Shifting into Gear

Post by Galahad »

FI = Fuel Injected
Pull the dipstick when it's running. If the idle doesn't change much you have vacuum leaks
fancyganci
Posts: 20
Joined: Jan 14, 2023 5:31 PM
Location: CT, USA

Re: Engine Shutoff when Shifting into Gear

Post by fancyganci »

Galahad wrote: Jan 24, 2023 10:39 PM FI = Fuel Injected
Pull the dipstick when it's running. If the idle doesn't change much you have vacuum leaks
Thank you for clarifying that. Vacuum leaks = Engine dying when put into F or R?
Galahad
Posts: 353
Joined: Sep 06, 2016 9:08 PM
Location: Beverly/Worcester, MA
Contact:

Re: Engine Shutoff when Shifting into Gear

Post by Galahad »

fancyganci wrote: Jan 24, 2023 10:46 PM
Galahad wrote: Jan 24, 2023 10:39 PM FI = Fuel Injected
Pull the dipstick when it's running. If the idle doesn't change much you have vacuum leaks
Thank you for clarifying that. Vacuum leaks = Engine dying when put into F or R?
not necessarily but it's possible. My car ran like crap until I replaced nearly all the vac hoses
Mike W.
Posts: 26148
Joined: Feb 12, 2006 12:00 PM
Location: California Whine Country

Re: Engine Shutoff when Shifting into Gear

Post by Mike W. »

fancyganci wrote: Jan 24, 2023 10:30 PM

I see you said there's no transmission reservoir besides the pan. So in theory, there's no way to check the fluid without removing the pan? Is that accurate? How would I go about putting fluid into it then?
No, unlike newer BMWs, there is a dipstick for the tranny which is also how you add fluid. Check fluid level with it warmed up, running and in park or neutral.
fancyganci
Posts: 20
Joined: Jan 14, 2023 5:31 PM
Location: CT, USA

Re: Engine Shutoff when Shifting into Gear

Post by fancyganci »

Mike W. wrote: Jan 25, 2023 1:13 AM
fancyganci wrote: Jan 24, 2023 10:30 PM

I see you said there's no transmission reservoir besides the pan. So in theory, there's no way to check the fluid without removing the pan? Is that accurate? How would I go about putting fluid into it then?
No, unlike newer BMWs, there is a dipstick for the tranny which is also how you add fluid. Check fluid level with it warmed up, running and in park or neutral.
Ah, ok sounds good thank you for that info. Do you happen to have a diagram or photograph of the correct dipstick? If it's the one I thought it was, then it 1000% needs fluid and the fluid was almost non-existent. However, I'd like to make sure
1st 5er
Posts: 21415
Joined: Jun 13, 2008 12:15 AM
Location: Cypress
Contact:

Re: Engine Shutoff when Shifting into Gear

Post by 1st 5er »

fancyganci wrote: Jan 24, 2023 10:30 PM
I see you said there's no transmission reservoir besides the pan. So in theory, there's no way to check the fluid without removing the pan? Is that accurate? How would I go about putting fluid into it then? Excuse my ignorance, I've never been a true mechanic, just learning as I go and trying to learn from others. Also, "FI system," what does that stand for? I started the car today and got it to shift quickly into neutral without issue, but again, when put into R, died. I'm going to check the ground wire like Shawn has suggested as well. Any other "ballpark" thoughts of what I should check next to diagnose the issue? Thanks again for everyone's knowledge!


•There's a dipstick for the tranny fluid just like there is for the motor oil. There are only 2, oil is forward, tranny is aft.
•Fluid goes in via the dipstick tube. You'll need a funnel.
•Check out my signature for an Acronym list thread.
•Did you try raising the RPM just a tad before shifting into gear? (Make sure your foot is firmly on the brake and e-brake is engaged.)
•Re: Galahad's suggestion, what is idle RPM and is it steady or erratic?
fancyganci
Posts: 20
Joined: Jan 14, 2023 5:31 PM
Location: CT, USA

Re: Engine Shutoff when Shifting into Gear

Post by fancyganci »

1st 5er wrote: Jan 25, 2023 8:55 AM
fancyganci wrote: Jan 24, 2023 10:30 PM
I see you said there's no transmission reservoir besides the pan. So in theory, there's no way to check the fluid without removing the pan? Is that accurate? How would I go about putting fluid into it then? Excuse my ignorance, I've never been a true mechanic, just learning as I go and trying to learn from others. Also, "FI system," what does that stand for? I started the car today and got it to shift quickly into neutral without issue, but again, when put into R, died. I'm going to check the ground wire like Shawn has suggested as well. Any other "ballpark" thoughts of what I should check next to diagnose the issue? Thanks again for everyone's knowledge!


•There's a dipstick for the tranny fluid just like there is for the motor oil. There are only 2, oil is forward, tranny is aft.
•Fluid goes in via the dipstick tube. You'll need a funnel.
•Check out my signature for an Acronym list thread.
•Did you try raising the RPM just a tad before shifting into gear? (Make sure your foot is firmly on the brake and e-brake is engaged.)
•Re: Galahad's suggestion, what is idle RPM and is it steady or erratic?
Perfect, thanks for the location. The dipstick at the rear of the engine, last time I checked, was pretty bone dry. I'll try to add some fluid to it. Any specific amount just to see if that was the issue? One container's worth? I did try that yesterday, got it into about 1500ish RPM then put into R and dead. Idle RPM hovers ever so slightly above 1k, I'd guess maybe 1100, and stays perfect at that the entire time. Engine never overheats and stays at approx. the first 1/3 of the temp gauge. As for the acronyms, I knew I saw them somewhere on here, but couldn't remember where ha! Thanks for the reminder!
Mike W.
Posts: 26148
Joined: Feb 12, 2006 12:00 PM
Location: California Whine Country

Re: Engine Shutoff when Shifting into Gear

Post by Mike W. »

fancyganci wrote: Jan 25, 2023 8:05 AM
Mike W. wrote: Jan 25, 2023 1:13 AM

No, unlike newer BMWs, there is a dipstick for the tranny which is also how you add fluid. Check fluid level with it warmed up, running and in park or neutral.
Ah, ok sounds good thank you for that info. Do you happen to have a diagram or photograph of the correct dipstick? If it's the one I thought it was, then it 1000% needs fluid and the fluid was almost non-existent. However, I'd like to make sure
No I don't have a pic, but it's in the owners manual which I'll post. But it's not too hard to tell, there are two dipsticks, one, with a smaller tube is more towards the center of the engine, you can see it going into the block and is for the engine. The A/T one is larger and back by the firewall. IIRC and I might not, there are two small round spheres towards the bottom of the dipstick. Warm, running at idle and in park, it should be between those two marks. You need a funnel, but can add fluid thru the dipstick tube.

Image
fancyganci
Posts: 20
Joined: Jan 14, 2023 5:31 PM
Location: CT, USA

Re: Engine Shutoff when Shifting into Gear

Post by fancyganci »

Mike W. wrote: Jan 25, 2023 1:07 PM
fancyganci wrote: Jan 25, 2023 8:05 AM

Ah, ok sounds good thank you for that info. Do you happen to have a diagram or photograph of the correct dipstick? If it's the one I thought it was, then it 1000% needs fluid and the fluid was almost non-existent. However, I'd like to make sure
No I don't have a pic, but it's in the owners manual which I'll post. But it's not too hard to tell, there are two dipsticks, one, with a smaller tube is more towards the center of the engine, you can see it going into the block and is for the engine. The A/T one is larger and back by the firewall. IIRC and I might not, there are two small round spheres towards the bottom of the dipstick. Warm, running at idle and in park, it should be between those two marks. You need a funnel, but can add fluid thru the dipstick tube.

Image
Thank you a million! The A/T dipstick is what I thought was the correct one. Yeah, that was was almost non-existent last time I checked at idle and after running for a while in park. I would almost surely assume having little to no fluid could absolutely be the root cause of this issue, no? Key word, *could* be. I'm sure it could be other things, but turning a gear with no fluid would make sense that its locked up. From what I've researched, Dexron III is the fluid to use? How much should I put in for now if it is indeed almost empty?
1st 5er
Posts: 21415
Joined: Jun 13, 2008 12:15 AM
Location: Cypress
Contact:

Re: Engine Shutoff when Shifting into Gear

Post by 1st 5er »

fancyganci wrote: Jan 25, 2023 1:19 PM How much should I put in for now if it is indeed almost empty?


I'd start with a quart, check it, and keep adding 1/2 quart at a time until to the full mark.

Allow time, 5 to 10 seconds, between each add to allow the tube to fully empty before re-reading. At this point insert and pull the stick, note level, wipe it clean and then reinsert a second time to get an accurate reading. As the stick slides down the tube it'll rub on the sides and possibly give an inaccurate reading the first time down.

Your owner's manual, I believe, has capacities listed.
Post Reply