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BMW and MINI – Will Not Shift, Go Into Gear – Clutch Will Not Disengage

November 27, 2012

This answer is applicable for many BMWs in addition to the one listed below.

Q
car year: 1989 car model: 535i I can’t get the car to go into gear…..But when it’s not running it goes into gear easily.

A
The clutch on most BMWs  with normal manual transmissions (all, from the mid ’70s on) is operated by a hydraulic system.  When you push on the clutch pedal this operates a hydraulic master cylinder, which pushes fluid through a hose to the hydraulic slave cylinder.  As the fluid fills the slave cylinder, this pushes a piston outward.  This piston pushes on the clutch release arm and releases, or disengages, the clutch allowing us to shift or to sit with the engine running with the transmission gears engaged.

If you cannot shift into any gear with the engine running, but you can when the engine is off, the most  likely issue would be that you have a problem with the hydraulic system.  Either the master cylinder is worn out and cannot push the fluid to the slave cylinder with enough pressure to operate the slave cylinder, or the slave cylinder is worn out and cannot push the piston out against the clutch release arm.  When this happens, the clutch pedal may feel lighter than normal, but not always.

In this case, with the age of the car, we would recommend replacing both the master and the slave cylinders.  We do have all of the parts in-stock as well as the special tool for proper bleeding of the hydraulic system after the install of the new parts.  We also offer the Bentley repair manual.  This will guide you through the installation.

Clutch hydraulic system parts (ID your model to see applicable master, slave and tools):

Bentley repair manuals:

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