Follow this DIY at your own risk, I assume no responsibility for anyone messing up their transmission.
This is applicable to the E39 540i’s equipped with the 5HP24 transmission. This would also probably be similar for most other BMWs equipped with automatic transmissions.
BMW used to recommend transmission fluid changes every 30,000 miles, but since changing to the free maintenance program BMW now says that their transmission are lifetime fill and they may only change the fluid after 100,000 miles. I like using BMWs old school maintenance schedule. When I bought this car last year it already has just over 40,000 miles so I knew I was going to change the transmission fluid as soon as I could and I will do so again at 60,000 miles.
The ZF 5HP24 units came filled with Esso ATF LT 71141 fluid. While many people use generic automatic transmission fluid I believe that unless you are planning on replacing all of the fluid (i.e. completely removing the transmission from the vehicle) that you should use the same fluid as what was already inside of it.
I purchased the transmission filter kit and 10 bottles of Esso ATF LT 71141 transmission fluid from bavauto it cost $300 shipped to my door ($85 of that was shipping to Hawaii). The kit includes everything you need; transmission filter and o-ring, transmission pan gasket and new drain and fill screws.
Tools necessary for the job:
8mm allen attachment
T27 Torx attachment
A collection container (for the old fluid)
A hand pump (to get the fluid into the transmission)
I also used a cordless screw gun to make removing all of the pan screws easier, but it is not required.
After driving the car to warm up the transmission fluid put it up on a lift if you have one available to you or on jack stands.
Once the car is up in the air, place the fluid catch container under the drain hole and remove the drain screw. (The Esso fluid is a light brown color almost like a light beer, which is surprising as most transmission fluid is red.)
Unscrew the plug from the fill hole.
Once the fluid stops dripping, you can disconnect the transmission cables from the clips that secure them to the side and front of the transmission pan.
Then you can begin to unscrew the pan bolts. Work your way around the pan breaking the bolts loose. Once they are all loose carefully unscrew them all until you can remove the pan completely. Be careful the fluid is hot and more fluid will come out once you get the pan loose.
Remove the pan and continue to let the fluid drip out of the transmission.
I used a solvent tank to clean the pan and the four magnets inside of the pan.
If you don’t have a solvent tank available you can use brake cleaning fluid.
The magnets will look kind of like little balls of fur as they have small metal shavings attached to them. Make sure to clean them thoroughly.
While the magnets and pan are drying you can remove the two screws securing the filter to the transmission. Again be careful as you remove the filter more fluid will come out of the transmission.
You can also remove any remnants of the transmission pan gasket that may be stuck to the edge of the pan mating surface.
At this point I used brake cleaning fluid and a clean paper towel to wipe down the surface where the gasket sits.
Once all of the fluid stops dripping from the transmission, you can wipe down the valve body with a clean paper towel.
Install the included o-ring on to the transmission filter.
Install the filter with the two screws you removed earlier.
Now put the new gasket on the transmission pan and put the magnets back into the four corners…
and while holding the pan against the transmission install a few of the transmission pan bolts.
Install the remaining bolts into the pan, just hand tight at this time. Then get the torque wrench and set it to 7ft lbs. and work in a crisscross pattern and torque all of the pan bolts.
Reattach the cables into the clips on the driver’s side and front of the transmission pan.
Then install the drain plug and torque it to 23 ft lbs.
Now you can use the hand pump to pump fluid into the transmission through the fill hole. Once fluid begins to flow back out of the fill hole, you start the car and continue pumping fluid into the transmission.
Once fluid begins flowing back out from the hole, the transmission is full and the fill plug can be installed and torqued to 26 ft. lbs.
Take the car for a test drive running through all of the gears.
Put the car back up on the lift and open the drain plug again. Once fluid stops flowing out of the drain plug you can reinstall it and torque it to 23 ft lbs.
Open the fill plug and again pump fluid into the transmission until fluid flows back through the fill hole. Start the car and continue pumping fluid into the transmission until it again flows back out. Install the fill plug and torque it to 26 ft lbs.
I like to drain the fluid twice to help change out the fluid that stays inside of the torque converter.
Congratulations your transmission service is now complete, sit back have a beer and admire your work.
I will be the first to say thanks to an awesome writeup! Kudos!
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Lovely write-up! Mahalo for taking the time and effort
2008 Lexus LS460
2016 Lexus NX200t
Island Elites - West Coast Elites
2002 540iA Sport (SOLD)
1998 M3/4 (SOLD)
Thanks so much for graphic instructions a lay person like myself can actually follow. If I can get access to the tools, I may actually give this a go myself instead of paying my indy by the hour.
great a-z of fluid change after reading this might give it a go myself
Wish I had access to a lift. It would be slot easier then putting the car on jacks and redoin it again. Great writeup!
tell me if i'm being daft i'm going to tackle this d.i.y in a few days and was wondering why a hand pump is used to pump new fluid into the transmission and not threw the filler neck for atf fluid in the engine bay
turns out that it was a silly question the cap i was talking about was the power steering filler cap which happens to say on the cap "atf fluid only " thats what was throwing me off
Excellent write-up. Not too many for the auto v8 folks.
Great write-up! My next service this spring, when the snow melts. Thanx!
Well, there are a few more details left out for those of us that want to do it by the book.
Per the factory procedure, the car needs to be level, in park, with the AC/lights on to boost the idle speed a bit. You need to have a digital thermometer in the fluid stream as it's dribbling out since it needs to be between 30 and 50 deg C only. I don't think I'd got out driving it before getting the fluid level right as he suggested. Just run it thru the gears for several minutes stationary.
Any issues with removing the fill bolt?
On other Bimmers, especially the I-6's alot of people said they needed a special short Snap-on 8mm allen attachment to remove the fill bolt, and that a regular one was too long, causing clearance issues with the ratchet. Did you have any issues with that?
Thanx for the info.
I'm getting a fluid/filter change this weekend using the Esso stuff for about $250 while I am having some suspension work done, and the car is on a lift. A good deal tough to pass up, but I was thinking of doing another fluid only change in a few weeks/months.
can this be moved to the DIY section for some reason I didnt realize that it was there...
Please review my thread: http://www.bimmerforums.com/forum/sh...o-Improve-Ride
Great write-up ronin009..I have been wanting to do this myself and was debating whether at 100K a flush is better or a conventional drain, filter and fill. I was leaning that way and now I will do it for sure. I have a couple questions: How much old fluid do you think stayed in there and does it concern you? Did you entertain a quart or two of any of the good additives that are out there?
Thank you for going the extra mile doing the write-up!
there is mention on another thread to not flush...
I'll check with another 540 owner at work who has done the first drain and refill... but a lot stays in there...maybe only 3-4 quarts comes out...
the question I have is for just a bit more detail on proceedure to get the fluid temp. up and then have it dribble out.. I guess just fill a bit at a time and when overflowing when the engine is running measure the temp.... if temp. is in range.. you're done. Stop everything and button'er up.