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View Poll Results: What is your BMW auto transmission maintenance experience?

Voters
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  • Followed BMW Lifetime ATF recommendation, did zero maintenance and auto trans. is fine.

    630 47.05%
  • Followed BMW Lifetime ATF recommendation, did zero maintenance and auto trans. failed.

    159 11.87%
  • Did an ATF drain/refill w/ BMW specified ATF fluid and auto trans. is fine.

    227 16.95%
  • Did an ATF drain/refill w/ BMW specified ATF fluid and auto trans. failed.

    52 3.88%
  • Did an ATF drain/refill w/ non-BMW ATF and auto trans is fine.

    254 18.97%
  • Did an ATF drain/refill w/ non-BMW ATF and auto trans failed.

    17 1.27%
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Thread: Collecting Statistics on BMW auto transmission and Lifetime ATF

  1. #1
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    Collecting Statistics on BMW auto transmission and Lifetime ATF

    sparked by someone in the e46 forum who posted their experience doing an ATF drain/refill on their 330i, I've been doing a lot of digging into this issue of whether to followin BMW's Lifetime fluid recommendation, perform an ATF replacement anyway, and what ATF fluids to use. I know there's been a lot about it posted here and other places (I've read a good portion of them already). there have been postings of various stories, people's speculation of BMW's Lifetime ATF, some really good information, and some misinformation.

    personally, i think it would be valuable to have some statistical information about the effects of BMW's maintenance recommendation with Lifetime ATF, and the effects of those that decided against it and did an ATF drain/refill anyways.

    so, i'm hoping that this poll will provide that type of information as it collects data from other members.

    Moderators: I don't know if this information would be worthy of a "sticky", but in my opinion, i think it would be valuable to keep around so that others may continue to contribute data to the poll. Can you make this stick?

    For each response, please also let us know additional information:

    * if you followed BMW's Lifetime fluid recommendation, and your auto transmission is still running great, please state: model year, car, and current mileage

    * if you followed BMW's Lifetime fluid recommendation, and your auto transmission failed, please state: model year, car, and mileage when transmission failed. Any additional details of your story if you'd like to share is good.

    * if you decided against BMW's recommendation and did an ATF drain/refill with BMW specified ATF, and your auto transmission still runs great, please state: model year, car, mileage when you did the ATF change, and current mileage.

    * if you decided against BMW's recommendation and did an ATF drain/refill with BMW specified ATF, and your auto transmission failed, please state: model year, car, mileage when you did the ATF change, and mileage when the auto transmission failed.

    * if you decided against BMW's recommendation and did an ATF drain/refill with non-BMW ATF, and your auto transmission still runs great, please state: model year, car, mileage when you did the ATF change, current mileage, and which ATF fluid you used.

    * if you decided against BMW's recommendation and did an ATF drain/refill with non-BMW ATF, and your auto transmission failed, please state: model year, car, mileage when you did the ATF change, which ATF you used, and mileage when your auto transmission failed.

  2. #2
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    1998 328i
    my 98 328i (104K miles) shifted much better after i changed my tranny fluid (@60K). nothing lasts forever and nothing is complete sealed imo.

  3. #3
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    E39 M5, 525..e34 525 x3
    My car is a 2002, 525 with 27,000 miles.
    No problems so far. I've never changed the fluid.

  4. #4
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    Auckland, New Zealand
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    e36 323 Coupe
    e36 98' 323i auto, 92000km, did zero maintenance and runs fine so far.

  5. #5
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    528i bmw, 05 Yamaha R6
    my 97 528 now has about 103K miles i don't know how many times the ATF has been changed but i know i've never done it. i've noticed that compared to when i first got the car it doesn't shift as smooth as it used to. this may be unrelated or a seperate problem with the tranny but i also noticed the engine revs further into the red under hard acceleration. the tranny also holds it there longer than when i first got it. sometimes it feels like it has no intentions on shifting until i back off the trottle. so if i'm on the highway and i floor it, the tranny shifts to 2nd instead of 3rd leaving the engine bouncing off the rev limiter. but thats only when i floor it.

    i've been thinking it's time for me to change the ATF. i don't think this is true but it could also be that i don't notice i drive the car harder.

    " I refuse to tiptoe through life, Only to arrive safely at death."

  6. #6
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    Nothing has been done to my 92 525i, but I am pretty sure it doesn't have too much life left in it. It has almost 190,000 miles.. I am thinking about changing the fluid and servicing it, but I would like to see what the rest of these people say first.

  7. #7
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    16 Cooper S Countryman
    I changed mine at 109k and now have 157k.

  8. #8
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    Folks, Thanks for responding and participating in the poll. I see a few responses where people have used non-BMW specified ATF fluid. If you don't mind, please share with us your model year, car, and which ATF fluid you used at what mileage. It would be extremely helpful for others considering doing the same.... Thanks.

  9. #9
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    1995 318i and I used Mobil ATF and Lubegard in the red bottle.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by dport135
    1995 318i and I used Mobil ATF and Lubegard in the red bottle.
    Was the the Mobil 1 Synthetic ATF? Or another Mobil ATF? Thanks... What is Lubegard?

  11. #11
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    Yes synthetic. Lubegard is an automatic transmission fluid additive. It prolongs seal life and keeps the fluid flowing as a fluid at higher temps, in case of an overheating problem or during a period of heavy duty use.

  12. #12
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    Nov 2004
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    E21,E30,E36

    I've done nothing!

    100k

    But I am seriously considering it. I mean, changing fluids is good, right? How can it hurt.

  13. #13
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    '02 Z3 3.0i/'10 Cooper S
    2001 Z3 3.0i--only purchased 6 months ago. I've not changed fluid, but I don't know what the previous two owners did. No problems.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
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    My Cars
    2000 Z3 2.8
    2000 2.8l Z3, which comes with the General Motors-built 4-speed.

    I have 87,000 miles, with quite a few autocrosses. Shifts like new (knocks on wood.)

    I am a big believer of changing fluids. Especially "lifetime" fluid. My diff has "lifetime" fluid and I've changed that twice already. I change my oil TWICE as often as the dashboard lights say. I looked into the transmission fluid issue myself.

    I spoke with Bullet Performance (in Costa Mesa, CA) about changing my AT's "lifetime" fluid with a new batch of BMW's expensive AT fluid. (Bullet is a very highly regarded indie shop in So Cal. Perhaps the best.) They said they would be happy to do it, and charge me at least $400 in parts and labor (the fluid is very expensive), but...

    In their opinion, the items likely to fail in this transmission would probably still fail even if the fluid was regularly changed. Therefore, they said, save the theoretical $1200 in fluid replacement money over 150,000 miles (one change every 50,000 mikes), and apply that money to a new transmission, if required, down the road.

    I have a lot of respect for Bullet for being honest about this. I followed their suggestion.

    Here's my thoughts. If there's one thing General Motors can make correctly, it is automatic transmissions. I've had several GM cars spanning 5 decades. Some went past 200,000 miles. All had automatics. NOT ONE ever had their tranny fluid changed. NOT ONE ever had tranny problems either.

    I know this is purely anecdotal evidence and totally non-scientific, but that's what I'm going with. If I had the newer ZF-build 5-speed tranny, I'd be feeling a lot worse about this decision, but ironically, with the GM 4-speed, I feel better about it.

    Food for thought.

    -Llama

  15. #15
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    Interesting poll - there's a lot of paranoia over these trannys and the fluid they require.

    2001 750iL, 135,000 miles. First trans fluid change @ 90,000 miles with Redline D4. Dropped pan @ 100,000 to ensure everything was still good and refilled. Third fluid change @ 125,000 miles with D4, no problems whatsoever.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trnsprtr
    Interesting poll - there's a lot of paranoia over these trannys and the fluid they require.

    2001 750iL, 135,000 miles. First trans fluid change @ 90,000 miles with Redline D4. Dropped pan @ 100,000 to ensure everything was still good and refilled. Third fluid change @ 125,000 miles with D4, no problems whatsoever.
    I would agree, but I think it is automatics in general. I worked for six years in the wholesale transmission parts business. Most people ignore their transmissions until it starts to act up. Then they try additives, gimmicks and DIY tricks to try and fix it. As a last resort they do a fluid and filter change and then when the transmission fails shortly after that they blame the fluid change. We all know that had they been performing a fluid and filter change at regular intervals the transmission would likely still be operating normal.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by bimmerZ5
    * if you decided against BMW's recommendation and did an ATF drain/refill with BMW specified ATF, and your auto transmission still runs great, please state: model year, car, mileage when you did the ATF change, and current mileage.
    Shifts were A LOT better afterwards.

    BMW 1996 328i. Changed out at ~120k and I'm sitting at ~150k

  18. #18
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    99 540i
    99 540i sport, changed at 86,000 miles with Esso mfr. fluid. Still OK at 89,000 miles.
    1999 540i Sport

  19. #19
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    Feb 2005
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    Dubai
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    BMW Z3 3.0i 2001, MCS 2006
    2001 Z3 3.0i. 87 000 KM (54K miles) Never changed tranny fluid, but are seriously considering it. My problem has been that the local dealer here has told me that it is a bad idea to change the fluid in the transmission. They talked about seals collapsing and the like. With my limited knowledge of transmissions, i have no idea if that is true or not, but that just doesn't sound right.

  20. #20
    Join Date
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    95 m3+, 03 ZHP, Mk4 Tdi
    1995 325is - car came to me at ~74k no evidence of fluid change prior to my ownership. changed fluid since at 30k mile intervals and have had absolutely no problems with the transmission. The changes have always been done with a non-BMW but acceptable fluid - I'd have to look it up....
    '95 325iS - auto to manual swap done!

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Llama
    I spoke with Bullet Performance (in Costa Mesa, CA) about changing my AT's "lifetime" fluid with a new batch of BMW's expensive AT fluid. (Bullet is a very highly regarded indie shop in So Cal. Perhaps the best.) They said they would be happy to do it, and charge me at least $400 in parts and labor (the fluid is very expensive), but...

    In their opinion, the items likely to fail in this transmission would probably still fail even if the fluid was regularly changed. Therefore, they said, save the theoretical $1200 in fluid replacement money over 150,000 miles (one change every 50,000 mikes), and apply that money to a new transmission, if required, down the road.

    I know this is purely anecdotal evidence and totally non-scientific, but that's what I'm going with. If I had the newer ZF-build 5-speed tranny, I'd be feeling a lot worse about this decision, but ironically, with the GM 4-speed, I feel better about it.

    -Llama
    Thanks for sharing your opinion and thoughts. I want to clear up one common misconception however. I've been doing a LOT of research into this issue, and I plan on posting ALL the information I've found in the near future. I posted this poll to collect additional data for what I'm about to post.

    The misconception I'm talking about is that BMW's Lifetime ATF is expensive. That is not 100% true. Yes, indy shops and dealerships will quote anywhere from $350-$700 for the ATF flush and justify it by saying that the ATF fluid is expensive. The truth is however, over the years, there have been at least 4 different types of ATF specified by BMW to be used as Lifetime ATF. What's interesting is, only ONE out of the FOUR of these ATF is actually expensive. Two of the FOUR are about the same price as a boutique ATF like Redline D4 ATF (approx $8-$9/qt), and the VERY FIRST Lifetime ATF that BMW specified was nothing more than a high quality Dexron III(D). The very first BMW specified ATF that was specified as Lifetime was in fact no different than the ATF that was specified prior to this Lifetime ATF specification in 9/1995.

    The ATF fluid that is truly expensive, is the ESSO one used in ZF auto transmissions. It can cost around $22/qt. However, in my research, I believe there may be cheaper alternatives that meet the same ATF specification as the BMW specified ESSO fluid. There is also a VW alternative that meets the same specifications and is about half the price @ $12/qt. There are even cheaper alternatives too.

    Most indy shops and dealership quote the price they would charge if they used the ESSO fluid. I've called several dealerships and indy shops in southern california. When I ask them specifically, that my transmission DOES NOT take the ESSO fluid and that it takes the Texaco fluid, the quotes for the ATF flush dropped dramatically.

    By the way, depending on your production date, your 2000 Z3 2.8 either was factory filled with a Dexron III ATF or Texaco ETL 7045E. A high quality Dexron III (perhaps synthetic) should do, or to replace the Texaco ETL 7045E, AMSOIL claims to have a compatible ATF.

    In any case, if this topic interests you, please stay tuned as i correlate all the information i've found. my objective, by the way, is to free some of us from the fear, doubt, and misinformation that about BMW auto transmissions.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by bimmerZ5
    Thanks for sharing your opinion and thoughts. I want to clear up one common misconception however. I've been doing a LOT of research into this issue, and I plan on posting ALL the information I've found in the near future. I posted this poll to collect additional data for what I'm about to post.

    The misconception I'm talking about is that BMW's Lifetime ATF is expensive. That is not 100% true. Yes, indy shops and dealerships will quote anywhere from $350-$700 for the ATF flush and justify it by saying that the ATF fluid is expensive. The truth is however, over the years, there have been at least 4 different types of ATF specified by BMW to be used as Lifetime ATF. What's interesting is, only ONE out of the FOUR of these ATF is actually expensive. Two of the FOUR are about the same price as a boutique ATF like Redline D4 ATF (approx $8-$9/qt), and the VERY FIRST Lifetime ATF that BMW specified was nothing more than a high quality Dexron III(D). The very first BMW specified ATF that was specified as Lifetime was in fact no different than the ATF that was specified prior to this Lifetime ATF specification in 9/1995.

    The ATF fluid that is truly expensive, is the ESSO one used in ZF auto transmissions. It can cost around $22/qt. However, in my research, I believe there may be cheaper alternatives that meet the same ATF specification as the BMW specified ESSO fluid. There is also a VW alternative that meets the same specifications and is about half the price @ $12/qt. There are even cheaper alternatives too.

    Most indy shops and dealership quote the price they would charge if they used the ESSO fluid. I've called several dealerships and indy shops in southern california. When I ask them specifically, that my transmission DOES NOT take the ESSO fluid and that it takes the Texaco fluid, the quotes for the ATF flush dropped dramatically.

    By the way, depending on your production date, your 2000 Z3 2.8 either was factory filled with a Dexron III ATF or Texaco ETL 7045E. A high quality Dexron III (perhaps synthetic) should do, or to replace the Texaco ETL 7045E, AMSOIL claims to have a compatible ATF.

    In any case, if this topic interests you, please stay tuned as i correlate all the information i've found. my objective, by the way, is to free some of us from the fear, doubt, and misinformation that about BMW auto transmissions.
    wow, do you know what is ok to use in a 92 525? should be the same as the 325, but not sure. I would like to do a service very soon and would like to make the best choice on fluid, so what would you recomend for a tranny that has 190k miles?

    If you don't know off the top of your head etc don't worry about it, but I thought I'd ask.

  23. #23
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trnsprtr
    Interesting poll - there's a lot of paranoia over these trannys and the fluid they require.

    2001 750iL, 135,000 miles. First trans fluid change @ 90,000 miles with Redline D4. Dropped pan @ 100,000 to ensure everything was still good and refilled. Third fluid change @ 125,000 miles with D4, no problems whatsoever.
    Awesome E38 by the way, the 2001 750iL would be the ultimate E38 I would love to own one day.

    Question for you: When you did the ATF change w/ Redline D4 ATF, did you have the torque converter flushed completely? Or, did you just drain, drop the pan, and refill with the D4 ATF? What I'm getting at is, did you end up mixing the Esso fluid that you had originally from factory with the Redline D4?

    There have been some concerns about mixing factory ATF with non-BMW specified ATF. Since, without a torque converter flush, there is old ATF that remains there and in the transmission cooler.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by dport135
    I would agree, but I think it is automatics in general. I worked for six years in the wholesale transmission parts business. Most people ignore their transmissions until it starts to act up. Then they try additives, gimmicks and DIY tricks to try and fix it. As a last resort they do a fluid and filter change and then when the transmission fails shortly after that they blame the fluid change. We all know that had they been performing a fluid and filter change at regular intervals the transmission would likely still be operating normal.
    I think that's a really good point. There seems to be this fear, that no one so far has been able to explain to me in a rational way. The fear is that, if you do an ATF flush, your transmission will die if it is high mileage. There are various "theoretical" reasons, but I've never heard of someone that took apart their transmission to find the exact cause of failure and be able to pin point it down to the ATF flush. Perhaps I haven't heard from the right folks... but the correlation between high mileage ATF flush and actual transmission failure almost seems like a myth. (time to call Myth Busters?)

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by BMWALDO
    Shifts were A LOT better afterwards.

    BMW 1996 328i. Changed out at ~120k and I'm sitting at ~150k
    What ATF did you use? If it was non-BMW, did you completely flush the torque converter and transmission cooler? Or, did you end up mixing some old fluid with new ATF? Thanks...

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