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Thread: ZF says transmission fluid is lifetime. (As of 03/2014)

  1. #1
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    ZF says transmission fluid is lifetime. (As of 03/2014)

    Updated 8/30/15

    Old link below no longer good. New link here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRrgmfM8VlQ

    --------------

    Set aside the discussion of what "lifetime" means.

    This post is to clarify what ZF actually recommends.

    I have seen some misinformation regarding what ZF claims about our ZF 6HP transmissions. Specifically I have seen people claim that ZF does not agree with BMW's lifetime fluid claim and that ZF claims the fluid should be changed at 50k miles. That simply isn't what ZF recommends for normal operation:

    Official ZF educational video from 03/2014:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n50alGUdp3k

    "A lot of discussion has occurred on the topic of oil change intervals for ZF transmissions. It is important to adhere to your vehicle manufacturer specified change interval and it is very important to use authorized fluids. ZF Lifeguard fluids are designed and tested to retain characteristics through normal lifetime operating conditions; per the OE vehicle manufacturer specifications."

    It is true that ZF also says:

    "In instances of extreme driving conditions, special environmental considerations, and driving factors which place an increased load on the transmission, it is advisable to perform a drain and fill between 50k and 75 miles, or 8 years."
    Last edited by S197GT; 08-30-2015 at 09:30 AM.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by S197GT View Post
    ... our ZF 6HP transmissions. ...
    Does ZF mention anything about the 8HP in the F3x?

  3. #3
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    http://www.zf.com/media/media/docume...hselkit_EN.pdf


    Well this article published by ZF states 80-120Kms or 8 years which to me isn't lifetime.
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  4. #4
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    Since very few vehicle are operated in conditions that aren't considered "extreme", it looks like ZF is recommending that everyone change their trans fluid at 80k.
    Quote Originally Posted by B4SH View Post
    If anyone knows, it's this guy who knows literally nothing about everything.
    Quote Originally Posted by fcvapor05 View Post
    Do you even OT? The mean 401k around here is probably about $6, what with all the shiny cars and $1,000 watches and donations to get other members' Volvos running.


  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Critter7r View Post
    Since very few vehicle are operated in conditions that aren't considered "extreme", it looks like ZF is recommending that everyone change their trans fluid at 80k.
    This, any driving involving all 4 seasons and stop and go traffic is considered extreme.
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  6. #6
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    Update
    Youtube video from ZF

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n50alGUdp3k
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  7. #7
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    Helpful thread. Glad to see that video. I am still thinking it best if I change my fluid and filter on my ZF tranny every 50k miles. And of course will only use ZF fluid and filter (pan).

  8. #8
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    Actually, that isn't what it states, you left out a pretty important qualifier, the "depending on driver style":

    At very high operating temperatures, the oil ages faster than under normal conditions.

    Examples:
    - Many trips at high speeds
    - Many trips with a trailer in tow
    - Sporty driving

    Depending on the driver style, ZF therefore recommends a transmission oil change every 80k-120k km, or after 8 years at the latest.


    It is a poorly written and much less clear than the newer link and video that I posted.

    What is clear is that it says oil ages faster under abnormal conditions. It then lists examples of conditions that aren't normal: many high speed trips, trips with a trailer in tow, sporty driving.

    It then says, "depending on driver style... ZF recommends an oil change..."

    the articles does not say, "ZF recommends oil changes in all cases."


    Quote Originally Posted by fun2drive View Post
    http://www.zf.com/media/media/docume...hselkit_EN.pdf


    Well this article published by ZF states 80-120Kms or 8 years which to me isn't lifetime.
    - - - Updated - - -

    Says who?!

    Quote Originally Posted by Rudolph320i View Post
    This, any driving involving all 4 seasons and stop and go traffic is considered extreme.
    - - - Updated - - -

    let's step out of our own world of enthusiastic owners/drivers and realize that, in the real world outside of this forum, most drivers of leased 3-series don't drive sporty. they don't tow, and unless you live in montana, utah, or texas, they probably don't see extended high speeds.

    most non m-cars are simply commuter cars. most owners are probably like my wife and her 330.

    Quote Originally Posted by Critter7r View Post
    Since very few vehicle are operated in conditions that aren't considered "extreme", it looks like ZF is recommending that everyone change their trans fluid at 80k.
    people can do what ever it is that they want to do.

    but if people are gonna throw their opinion out why not label it properly as such? i don't know how people are so comfortable mis-quoting other people. in my job i have to interview a lot of people and then make reports and i am VERY careful about quoting people, to the point that when i am writing a report i won't put something in quotes unless it is a very short statement i remember clearly or i have it recorded where i can play it back and get it exactly right.

    at least critter7r says, "it looks like ZF is recommending...."

    that at least indicates a personal interpretation.
    Last edited by S197GT; 06-21-2014 at 09:06 AM.

  9. #9
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    On car forums, I think one will usually find 95% opinion and 5% fact.

    I take the tact that it's totally opinion unless backed it with an associated link which I can examine separately for credibility.

    Lots of folks want to help, and lots of folks THINK they are helping, but too many times they're just passing along bad information that was given to them.

  10. #10
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    I hope this is the correct thread for this posting. I just wanted to state my opinion and experience with servicing a transmission having the life-time fill transmission fluid. I have a 2003 325xi with 121k miles and the GM A5S-390R. This vehicle has not been driven hard, just a normal day-today driver. I did some research into servicing the transmission and have received various opinions regarding changing the fluid. I'd say about half of the persons I queried for an opinion have been to leave the fluid as is and not do the servicing. I noted some DYI videos on the web and that convinced me to do the change as well as a DYI video by Bavarian Auto Parts. They have a number of excellent videos as does Pelican parts. Both sites recommend fluid changes. As a technical person with a chemical engineering degree and having reasonable common sense, I see this task as totally necessary. So, I spent a lot of time making sure I obtained the correct fluid. The part number on the transmission pan sticker has been superseded by another number. Anyway, I did not want to use the improper fluid. After much investigation I made two calls to Pelican. The first person recommended the Fuchs Titan ATF-4000 fluid. I did not feel comfortable with this suggestion, so I called back a few days later and went through the exercise again. The woman checked the part numbers and said she could get me the original BWM Dextron VI fluid. That was it, so I ordered the fluid and the filter kit. I went to the Fuchs site and saw that the Titan ATF-4000 is a Dextron III fluid. So, it pays to be patient and go with your instincts.

    Today I performed the servicing task in my driveway. I got the vehicle into a fairly level state by driving the car onto ramps and jacked up the rear under the differential case. I used another floor jack to jack under the front differential to lift the front of the vehicle to match rear vehicle elevation. I placed jack stands at the rear and started the job by removing the underside plastic shields. I first made sure I could loosen the fill plug which was a 17 mm bolt plug. The drain was a torx style plug. I placed a drain pan beneath the transmission and removed the drain plug. The fluid was dark and grayish looking, but still somewhat red. After waiting for about 20 minutes or so, I removed the pan bolts and the pan. I needed to insert a screw driver between the side of the pan to get the pan off the case. Inspection of the pan showed a surprisingly clean pan base with minimal debris on the magnet. I cleaned the magnet and used carburetor cleaner to clean the pan interior. The next step was to remove the filter and I just pulled hard to extract it from its mount. As expected, the two plastic seals needed to be extracted from inside the transmission case. Once that was done, I put a little fluid on the new filter pickup tube and pressed in the filter with the proper alignment. Following that, I placed the new metal pan gasket on the pan and got the bolting sequence started with one bolt on one end and another bolt at the other. Then I just inserted all of the new bolts and carefully tightened them using a 3/8 in drive ratchet and a 10 mm socket with a three in extension. The next step was supposed to be easy, but my fluid hand pump would not fit into the plastic transmission fluid bottles. So, I needed to find a wide-mouth plastic container. I found a 1 L BMW transfer case fluid bottle and thought that would work. Unfortunately, the threads were a mismatch for the pump cap threads. Thus I had to do this by pouring a liter of fluid into the larger mouth container and just use it as a reservoir holding the hand pump above the bottle being careful not to knock it over. The fill tube has a black plastic nozzle which fit nicely into the transmission fill port. Once the container was nearly empty I repeated the cycle until I pumped in about 4 liters or so before the fluid started to drain out. I inserted the fill plug and started the car. Once started, I shifted through the gears a few times and left the engine running. I went back under the car and removed the fill plug. I pumped in more fluid. I needed to get the fluid to the correct temperature (55C), so I just used my touch of the pan to determine the warmth. I also felt the degree of warmth of the fluid coming out to determine the end point. I replaced the fill plug and waited a while longer for the fluid to heat up. I removed the fill plug and noted that the fluid that poured out was warm enough so I let it run out until it was just trickling out. I replaced all of the under plastic protective panels and dropped the car to the ground. I drove the car to test it out and to get the fluid into full action. Transmission felt very smooth. I am happy I did this task and feel confident I have extended the life of the transmission. Note: Some DYI may drain the fluid and repeat the process. If you do that make sure you have around 11 L of fluid. I bought 9 L, but for now I'll just run it as is and hold on to the extra 3 L I have on hand. It was warm out, I had coveralls on and the job took me about three hours, so I had had enough.
    Last edited by msknet1; 06-22-2014 at 05:31 PM.

  11. #11
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    Nice write-up Msknet1. Hopefully it is inspire others to get on with it. Feels good to treat a fine machine well.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by S197GT View Post
    Actually, that isn't what it states, you left out a pretty important qualifier, the "depending on driver style":

    At very high operating temperatures, the oil ages faster than under normal conditions.

    Examples:
    - Many trips at high speeds
    - Many trips with a trailer in tow
    - Sporty driving

    Depending on the driver style, ZF therefore recommends a transmission oil change every 80k-120k km, or after 8 years at the latest.


    It is a poorly written and much less clear than the newer link and video that I posted.

    What is clear is that it says oil ages faster under abnormal conditions. It then lists examples of conditions that aren't normal: many high speed trips, trips with a trailer in tow, sporty driving.

    It then says, "depending on driver style... ZF recommends an oil change..."

    the articles does not say, "ZF recommends oil changes in all cases."




    - - - Updated - - -

    Says who?!



    - - - Updated - - -

    let's step out of our own world of enthusiastic owners/drivers and realize that, in the real world outside of this forum, most drivers of leased 3-series don't drive sporty. they don't tow, and unless you live in montana, utah, or texas, they probably don't see extended high speeds.

    most non m-cars are simply commuter cars. most owners are probably like my wife and her 330.



    people can do what ever it is that they want to do.

    but if people are gonna throw their opinion out why not label it properly as such? i don't know how people are so comfortable mis-quoting other people. in my job i have to interview a lot of people and then make reports and i am VERY careful about quoting people, to the point that when i am writing a report i won't put something in quotes unless it is a very short statement i remember clearly or i have it recorded where i can play it back and get it exactly right.

    at least critter7r says, "it looks like ZF is recommending...."

    that at least indicates a personal interpretation.

    I don't know about everybody else, but when reading stuff on forums, I assume that EVERYTHING written is an opinion, unless it's followed by some sort of source that can be fact-checked.

    As far as not seeing extended high speeds .... does 30 minutes at 75mph count? I drive that far and fast twice every day.
    Quote Originally Posted by B4SH View Post
    If anyone knows, it's this guy who knows literally nothing about everything.
    Quote Originally Posted by fcvapor05 View Post
    Do you even OT? The mean 401k around here is probably about $6, what with all the shiny cars and $1,000 watches and donations to get other members' Volvos running.


  13. #13
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    Thanks Cochise. I'm glad I finally got motivated to get the job done. With a lift it is much faster and easier on the body positions, etc. I wanted to see first hand how the old oil and pan actually looked after 121k miles. As I said, the cleanliness of the pan was better than expected, but the minimal metal sludge on the magnet was a total surprise. Anyway, I've got a new filter and new fluid albeit diluted the old stuff to some extent. When I get a chance, I will drain some out and use the remaining 3L I have on hand. Car feels nice and psychologically I feel this was absolutely necessary for peace of mind and reliability. Transfer case fluids are another fluid that is neglected. I do mine regularly. I also have a 2011 335i xdrive. I plan to treat this vehicle the same when the time comes.


    Quote Originally Posted by cochise325 View Post
    Nice write-up Msknet1. Hopefully it is inspire others to get on with it. Feels good to treat a fine machine well.
    Last edited by msknet1; 06-23-2014 at 07:38 PM.

  14. #14
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    155k miles on our transmission.

    no atf change.

    i was talking to my 74 year old father. he has owned numerous cars over the years.

    "i only ever changed the auto transmission fluid on one of my cars and that was when it had a problem."t

    the new youtube link is:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRrgmfM8VlQ
    Last edited by S197GT; 08-30-2015 at 09:26 AM.

  15. #15
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    E46 Transmission Service - update

    A few years ago I submitted a post regarding the servicing of the automatic transmission. At that time, I had around 118k miles on my 2003 325xi with the original transmission fluid. As stated in my first write-up, I performed a full service using the BMW fluid for that transmission (GM I believe) at that time.

    Last week, I dropped my vehicle off to a BMW specialist in town to have some other work done and asked him to do the service for me. After he began working on the car, he called me to state I had the wrong fluid for the transmission and it should be a Dextron IV. He was proposing to use a Red Line fluid and a request that I sign off on the transmission service releasing him from liability. He recommended I do no servicing. I told him I had already performed this service previously at the 118k mark. Anyway, I omitted this task from the list for him to do.

    So, on April 13, at 208k miles, I performed another full transmission service using the BMW filter and pan gasket with new bolts and the BMW part numbered fluid I had on hand . I also replaced the fill and the drain plugs. As a side note, the original fluid part number has been superseded two times and the Dextron Vi is now the correct fluid. So, I had the correct fluid and I know when I am right. I also stick by my philosophy of transmission servicing.

    When I drained the transmission pan, and examined the interior surfaces, the fluid was brown, but the interior of the pan was excellent and the magnet at the pan base had a light layer of metallic residue. Overall, things looked very clean.

    The car drives great and I expect to service my other BMW vehicles. Up next is my 2006 326xi with 120k miles. I expect to do that service over the next couple of months.

  16. #16
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    I've done mine every 50k

  17. #17
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    About to do the 2012 328 with 80k miles. Went through this a few years back when looking at jaguar xk8s and the BMW Range Rover L322 with the zf5HP24. We determined BMW meant lifetime of the warranty. Then the complaints with 80-100k mile transmissions crapping out. So they change the recommended interval to between 60 and 80k miles.
    Knowing all this I bought an 04 Range Rover (AKA fancy X5) with 119k miles on it. I had this rumble at certain speeds like the sound going over those highway strips when you drift off the right lane. After debating with some, including PO, that changing the fluid will dislodge particles an then cause valves to clog exploding the transmission I decided to do a filter change and fill. Not doing the machine full drain and fill.
    I used Febi fluid with the same specs. The torque converter rumble lessened quite a bit. After about 5k miles I drained the pan and refilled without a filter change. The rumble was almost imperceptible. Another 7k and I did it again. Fluid cleaner but still not clean. Rumble all gone. I've put another 25k on it since and I have another filter and Pentosin fully synthetic going in next.
    I have a theory that some transmission specialists agree with and others not as much. Like any other solution there is a point of saturation. As the fluid becomes dirty its properties change. It flows different and its thermal properties change. With the temps and pressures these transmissions run dirty fluid fails. I think it is causing cavitation in the torque converter. Left unchanged this damages the TC. Not to mention possibly passages being clogged or solenoids jamming.
    I did the change in steps with the theory that a full flush may dislodge bigger pieces of crap stuck in corners or caked on wall causing a transmission "stroke".

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Critter7r View Post
    Since very few vehicle are operated in conditions that aren't considered "extreme", it looks like ZF is recommending that everyone change their trans fluid at 80k.
    That's all you need to know.

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