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News on Lifetime ATF?

Discussion in 'E39 (1997-2003)' started by Pete540i, Jan 25, 2010.

    Pete540i guest

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    Has anyone else heard this from their dealer? My concern is with the auto xmsn in my 1997 540i (E39). I have 107K miles and have not changed fluid. I learned of the issue well after 50K miles. I want to keep the car but don't necessarily want to spend $5-7K for a new xmsn if this one goes. So the dealer just told me (today) that the new policy is to change the fluid but not to do a flush. BMW dealerships doing the lifetime fluid change (for $270)? The thinking is now that "lifetime" referred to the fluid and not the car. Anyone else heard of this and does anyone know of some results from doing the fluid change?

    ventsyv guest

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    It appears that the consensus among most BMW enthusiasts is that the ATF fluid is not a lifetime fluid (check bimmerfest.com for example). Apparently BMW have changed their policy at some point of time to say that ATF is not lifetime fluid and now recommend to be replaced every 100k miles.

    I had my fluid and filter replaced at 40K miles due to bent pan. I don't think you need a flush, but have it drained, change the filter and clean the pan as there might be metal shavings and/or gunk.

    I paid about $200 for my 03 330ci, but that included the filter and pan as well as the new fluid. I think $270 is a bit on the expensive side but not unreasonable. Try looking for a independent mechanic in your area that specializes in BMWs.
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    granthr

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    I changed the "lifetime" fluid in my wife's 328is at 90K. It was probably the first change the car saw. That was about 15k ago now. No problems, the car shifts great. I did take the car out for a high speed run in 3rd gear so that if any junk/gunk that did get displaced got sucked into the filter right away.

    I changed the oil myself and used the prescribed oil, which for my car was some Esso product. I would have to look at home to see what it was. It was not too tough of a job, just a little time consuming since I was taking my time to do it right. The trans needs to be warm to the touch and you have to be able to run the car while it is in the air. But don't allow the wheels to turn during full droop of the suspension, you could do damage to the half shafts.

    Pete540i guest

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    Thanks. I didn't consider the xmsn filter change and cleaning out the pan plus cover gasket and plug seal. $270 sounds more reasonbable than I first thought.

    Grant - is running the car at high RPM in 3rd (as opposed to 4th or other gear) a prescribed technique for quickly clearing any gunk out? Are you talking redlining it and for how long?

    BMWguy206 guest

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    At the shop I work at we do recommend to do full fluid and filter service on automatic transmission at or near 100,000 miles. For the fluid we use Redline D4 ATF. Been using that fluid for 5 years with no problems.

    However, I have never seen a BMW auto transmission go up to 200,000 miles without a rebuild. The transmission usually starts having problems and might require a rebuild between 100,000-200,000 miles.

    I do have a friend though with a 2001 740i and has 195,000 miles and still going. 2 transmission fluid services have already been done.

    On the newer BMWs, like the E60 5-series, the filter is integrated with the transmission oil pan which is over $200.00. I usually give the option to the customer if they want us to replace that or not.
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    granthr

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    The oil and the filter alone cost around $100.00. So $270 really isn't a bad price considering it is a bit involved compared to a manual trans fluid change.

    Keeping it in third keeps the rpms up and more fluid movement. This means more fluid is going through the filter and hopefully catching anything that came loose during the fluid change. So I would do this whether or not you change your own fluid.

    Pete540i guest

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    Grant - thanks. Sounds reasonable. I'll let you know how it works out.

    BMWguy206 - I guess I'll take my chances and have the dealer do the work. At least it will come with a limited warranty so if it kciks the bucket shortly after the fluid change I may have a leg to stand on or at least bargain with.
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    152531

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    Just to stir the pot a little ...

    I've got a '95 540i with the 5hp30 automatic. Shortly after I got the car in late 2005 with 85K miles on the clock, I changed the fluid to Pennzoil Multi-Vehicle ATF. I did so at the recommendation of a regional Shell Oil distributor (who I called to find a way around the BMW/ZF-specified fluid, Shell LA2634). Shell owns Pennzoil.

    The car now has 166,000 miles on it. I have changed the fluid three times, using the Pennzoil product each time and installing a fresh OE Filtran filter. At about 140K I rebuilt the valve body as preventive maintenance, and found no obvious wear or sediment. The new springs and valves, however, made the transmission a lot less prone to downshift out of overdrive at 45-55 mph. (That is a good thing, BTW.)

    I've read a lot of caveats about straying from the ridiculously expensive factory fluid, but I know of a number of people who are using Redline, Castrol, Valvoline and even lowly Pennzoil in the 5hp30 with no ill effects. The advice about using the Filtran filter is a good tip, though -- the average aftermarket filter is junk.

    BTW, the original poster never specified whether his car has the 5hp30 or the 5hp24 transmission, and I believe 1997 was a transitional year. So ymmv.

    Pete540i guest

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    All,
    Finished having my indy mech do the fluid/filter change. No ill effects after about 1K miles. Used Redline and OEM filter gasket kit. I had the indy do it since it was already in the air for an intake/diaphragm oil leak. The xmsn fluid change cost $270, same as what the dealer quoted (they price matched - cool). Thanks for the support. Ciao.

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