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Old 03-25-2010, 09:48 PM
Starless Starless is online now
Location: STL, MO
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 1,590
Mein Auto: 2002 325i Auto
Arrow DIY: ATF change GM A5S-390R

At 85K on the odometer I decided to service my transmission, id est change oil and filter.

I was following this wonderful DIY by james2538 from E46f:

I took my own pictures and did the write-up below. Later I'll either update this thread or do a separate DIY on how to put the car on 4 jack stands.

My 02 325i is equipped with GM transmission, A5S 390R-ZP in the BMW nomenclature or 5L40E in the GM nomenclature. The pan has a blue sticker with the oil part #: 83220024359 which is Texaco ETL 8072B oil. I decided to use the original type of oil and did not regret it and let me explain why. First of all I need to say that getting hold of ETL 8072B oil is getting more and more difficult since dealerships do not carry it any more because it has been replaced with Dexron VI oil. Some dealerships still have some of 8072B in stock though. The closest to me in St. Louis is Plaza Motors and they had about 9 litres left in stock, $ 9,11 per half litre. Mark, the parts guy brought the 25 L container to the counter (and I had a chance to make sure the big container had the right label "Texaco ETL 8072B" and the correct part #) and sold me 6 litres by pouring it into my own containers (I had three 2L containers with me). No wonder they do not recommend mixing this oil with other types! The color of this oil is dark brown with a tint of gold and not red like most of the ATF I've seen before. The viscosity of it looked to me thicker than the Dex fluid and more like that of motor oil. Mark and me compared this oil and GM Dexron VI at the sales counter and they did look like 2 different types of fluid based on visual observation of color and viscosity. That's all I base my opinion on, I have neither time nor interest to investigate into chemical composition of BMW oil versus other ATF. I do not regret buying the original, more expensive oil for the peace of mind. If my transmission fails some time in the future at least I'll know it's not because of the wrong fluid in it.

The evening before starting on the process of ATF change I put the car on 4 jack stands. I put the front wheels on ramps and jacked up the rear under the U-brace in front of the differential. Put the jack stands under the rear jack points and lowered the rear of the car onto the jack stands. Then I jacked the front of the car up under the right front point of the "frame rail" and put 2 jack stands under the front jack points and lowered the front.

First thing to do was to unscrew the fill plug. I used a T-45 socket and an 8mm combination wrench. The torque of this plug is 15 ft. lb (20nm), so using the open end was not enough to loosen it up, it kept coming off the torx bit. But I was successful with using the box end of the wrench inserted onto the torx bit and an extension for the additional leverage. The drain plug (T-40) presented no problem to unscrew, so in 10 minutes the oil was partially drained. Some still remained in the pan and inside the filter. At this point I put the drain plug back in and torqued it to 15 lb. ft. The next step was to remove the pan (unscrew all the bolts using a 10mm socket and pry it with the flat screwdriver if it's stuck), let all the remaining oil drip into the pan, remove the filter by pulling down on it with both hands, drain the oil in the pan and inside the filter into the drain container for the final estimate of the amount of evacuated oil. A note on the condition of the drained oil. The old oil was not completely black as many report. Definitely looked like a used oil after 85K but still retained some of its golden brownish color. If you compare it to a bright red AFT like Dex III or VI, it does look bad, but comparing it to fresh 8072B the difference is not that dramatic. I'm not sure about lifetime, but I got the impression it could easily last till 100K when BMW recommends it to be changed.

The amount of oil I was able to evacuate is as follows. The car was absolutely cold when I was doing the procedure. About 1.5 L drained after opening the fill plug. About 2.5 L came out with the drain plug removed. That's 4 liters. 1 litre was in the pan after I dropped it and waited till all the oil dripped into it from the filter. That's 5 litres. The old filter still contained about 0.25 L of oil when I removed it and tilted in the drain container. So the total amount was 5.25 L of oil.

The pan needs to be cleaned thoroughly. Mine did not look awful after 85K but still needed a good cleaning job, especially around the magnet. I used paper towels and a rag. When I removed the old gasket there was some rubber stuck to the edge of the pan. I removed it with some brake cleaner and then wiped dry with a rag. The idea is to not introduce any debris, lint, etc into the transmission.

It's time to replace the gasket lubing it with some ATF and start assembling everything back together. First goes in the new filter. When the old one came out the orange sealing ring is likely to have remained stuck in the transmission in which case it needs to be pried with a screwdriver, removed and discarded. With the new filter in place reattach the pan using new bolts. The torque of the bolts is 8 ft. lb, so there is hardly any need for a torque wrench but I did return to each bolt at least 3 times to make sure everything was tight.

Filling the transmission with new oil. The amount of oil I used to fill the transmission was 5.5 L, but the actual amount that came in was about the same as I drained 5.25 L. This is due to the fact that no matter how careful you are during the filling process, there will be some spillage.

This is how my filling process looked like. 5.25 L of oil came out. The transmission was still cold when I started pumping the fresh fluid in. I filled my pump bottle with a pre-measured amount of 2 litres of new fluid at a time. 4 litres came in and it began overflowing. Some spillage occurred at this point. I screwed the fill plug back in (hand tight), started the car and shifted through the gears 5 times to let the oil get sucked into the transmission from the pan. In about 5-10 minutes the pan became warm to the touch. I opened the fill plug and nothing came out (as I expected, remember 5.25 L came out and only 4 L came in so far). I started pumping the oil again. Taking into consideration the amount spilled and the amount that would be spilled when it overflows this time I poured 1.5 L in my pump bottle instead of 1.25 L. The pan was becoming a little bit warmer but still far from hot, so I was still good. I was right in my estimate of the amount of oil spilled because when I was almost done with my bottle filled with 1.5 L it started overflowing and I put the fill plug back and tightened it really good using the extension on my 8mm combination wrench for additional leverage. That's it. Not a difficult but messy project.

If there is a tricky part about this DIY, that definitely would be to be able to estimate accurately the amount of oil spilled during the filling process. Provided the transmission never leaked and still has the original (filled at the factory) amount of fluid, the same amount needs to filled into it as drained. When the transmission is at the right temperature and the oil overflows, it's the indicator it's ready to be plugged up. However when it happens you still want to be sure the amount filled is the same the amount drained, provided last time it was filled at the factory. Such a simple thing as a transmission dip stick would eliminate the need for any guess work, but alas.

After I'm done with this DIY I've come to a couple of conclusions for myself. First, now I do not share the opinion that some people have that the information BMW gives us on the type of oil to use and its changing interval is a marketing conspiracy. To me ETL 8072B did look different than the red colored Dexron ATF. So I personally would not mix it with Dexron unless I know how to displace all the oil to the last drop and replace it with a different type. And, second, regarding the changing interval, judging by the condition of the drained oil that still remained some of its original color, I'd say it is good enough at least till 100K without a change.

EDIT: Ok, after reading this diy at least one person was confused as to when you need to put the fill plug back in. I agree I should have made this point clearer in the write-up. So here we go. The transmission is at the operating temperature (30 50 C) and you are doing the final fill. As soon as it starts overflowing you are done and need to put the fill plug back in. Yes, there will be some oil spilling out, making a mess. That's fine. It means you've reached the correct level providing the temperature is still between 30 and 50 C. My advice is to have the drain pan ready and fill plug handy when overflowing happens. It took me a little while to get everything together so I plugged it up when the overflow was reduced to dripping. To me it seems better to do it when the oil is still trickling rather then dripping out. Also when the oil started overflowing I still had some a small amount of ATF that had to (according to my calculations) go in. So I kept on pumping for a little longer despite the fact that it was already overflowing and then when all ATF was used I put the fill plug in.
Hope this edit helps to clarify this point.

Last edited by Starless; 04-21-2010 at 08:51 PM.
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