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E46 (1999 - 2006)
The fourth generation 3 Series (E46 chassis) was introduced in 1999 and set the standard for engineering and performance during it's years of production including being named to Car & Driver's 10 best list every one of those years! ! -- View the E46 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 01-09-2009, 03:55 PM
robbw robbw is offline
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How do I check the transmission fluid level? (2003 330ci)

How do I check the transmission fluid level on my 2003 330ci? Unfortunately, if it doesn't have a visible tank with a marked cap, I'm at a loss (sad, I know). My transmission light is one, but I still have drive, reverse, etc. However, there's no pick-up speed at all. I'm hoping the transmission fluid is just low, but I don't see where I can check. Thanks.
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  #2  
Old 01-09-2009, 04:03 PM
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Unfortunately, you *can`t* check it....there have`nt been dipsticks on BMW autos for ten years now....they want us to believe that all critical fluids are "lifetime"....(whatever that means )
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  #3  
Old 01-09-2009, 04:04 PM
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smolck smolck is offline
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knock on the trans housing and see if it sounds hollow or not
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  #4  
Old 01-09-2009, 04:04 PM
robbw robbw is offline
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Yikes, so there's no way to tell at all? Bummer.
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  #5  
Old 01-09-2009, 04:05 PM
robbw robbw is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smolck View Post
knock on the trans housing and see if it sounds hollow or not
I will try that, thanks.
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  #6  
Old 01-09-2009, 04:06 PM
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smolck smolck is offline
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Originally Posted by robbw View Post
I will try that, thanks.
For me I was getting a warning light and so I just changed the fluid and it went away.
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  #7  
Old 01-09-2009, 04:12 PM
robbw robbw is offline
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Originally Posted by smolck View Post
For me I was getting a warning light and so I just changed the fluid and it went away.
How do you change the fluid? I assume you have to drain it somehow and then add more? ....or do I just find where to add fluid (don't know) and do that.

Also, I am getting the sluggish symptoms still - and not just the light. Could low fluid cause this?

Thanks all.

Robb
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  #8  
Old 01-09-2009, 04:20 PM
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smolck smolck is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robbw View Post
How do you change the fluid? I assume you have to drain it somehow and then add more? ....or do I just find where to add fluid (don't know) and do that.

Also, I am getting the sluggish symptoms still - and not just the light. Could low fluid cause this?

Thanks all.

Robb
Lots of things could cause that. The trans has a drain and fill plug clearly visible. You have to buy a $5 hand pump to pump the new fluid into the trans like you would on a manual trans. I used Valvoline Max ATF and have been decently happy, but another fester used Castrol Multi Import Forumla with better success It isn't hard, here are some pics of mine.....
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  #9  
Old 01-09-2009, 04:30 PM
jcourcoul jcourcoul is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robbw View Post
How do I check the transmission fluid level on my 2003 330ci?
BMW sez "lifetime fluid", where "lifetime" really means "until the darn thing breaks down" and needs to be replaced for muchos dollars. Now, if you must check to satisfy your curiosity/angst/whatever, you need a way to get under the car first. Once there, you'll find two plugs screwed in the tranny: top is fill, bottom is drain. Only way to check for proper level is by carefully unscrewing the fill plug and seeing if oil seeps out. If level is low, be sure to put in exactly the same as the original fill: tranny fluid cocktails are definitely a no-no.

As an aside, this morning I dropped off my Bimmer at the dealer and had to take the supervisor out for a test ride so he could hear what was bugging me about the car. Casually, I asked him about a tranny fluid change at 50K. The man was aghast! "No! The high quality fluid used by BMW lasts forever!!" When he saw that I wasn't gonna buy that official crap, he tried a different tack: "you have to understand that as the fluid ages, viscosity changes and the computer automatically adjusts for this, so if you change the fluid all of a sudden, you are going to have sssudden breakdown since the computer won't know how to compensate for the fresh fluid. Hence, it is a lifetime fill..." **Sigh** Something tells me that I need to be finding some way to get the fluid exchanged for when the time comes....

Last edited by jcourcoul; 01-09-2009 at 04:40 PM.
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  #10  
Old 01-09-2009, 04:46 PM
jcourcoul jcourcoul is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smolck View Post
It isn't hard, here are some pics of mine.....
Forgot to add comments to the pix, Smolck! First one is the transmission with the pan removed after having drained the fluid. If you do change the fluid, it is important to drop the pan so you can check if there's a lot of debris in there (bad sign). Which takes us to pic #2, a look at the drain plug from the inside, plus the magnet. Pic #3 is a closeup of the magnet, whose function is to attract and hold metal shavings so they won't circulate with the fluid. Cleaning this magnet is the reason why you want to drop the pan.

You need a new seal for the pan, which you then screw back on using a torque wrench to specification.
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  #11  
Old 01-09-2009, 05:45 PM
dfn dfn is offline
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You may want to do something immediately about the light. You may have a minor problem that could turn into something major. It doesn't make sense to me that the transmission fluid is good for life just like I don't believe the BMW Castrol oil can go 17 to 20,000 miles. I have the dealer change my oil every 10k and I plan on changing the trans fluid at 150 or 200k miles. The BMW dealer in Austin Tx seems fairly reasonable for oil changes and offers 20% off if you go on Saturday. I've also looked at going to the dealer in San Antonio but they tend to give out several different prices and can be twice as high. If all of the dealers in your area suck, there should be someone in your area that is reasonable. I'm sure it's going to be expensive but it will cost a lot less than a transmision. I can do a lot of the maintenance myself but I like the idea of the dealer looking at the car and I get the added benefit of discussing other issues with the car. good luck.
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  #12  
Old 07-27-2011, 08:34 AM
A Del Checcolo A Del Checcolo is offline
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My 2002 325XI does have an ATF dip stick but no markings for "FULL" / "ADD" levels. How do I check for the correct level?
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  #13  
Old 07-27-2011, 09:22 AM
jcourcoul jcourcoul is offline
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Yeah, it IS indeed ATF, even says so on the cap. But that has NOTHING to do with the transmission.

If the "dipstick with no markings" was removed from a round can up front on top of the engine, you have just discovered the power steering reservoir! It uses good ole regular ATF, and the proper level is between the end of the stick and the first concentric "step" halfway up the shaft.

BMW automatic transmissions built this century are completely sealed and have no means of checking the level, other than removing the fill plug and seeing if the fluid is at the level of the hole. AND they do NOT use regular, standard ATF.
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  #14  
Old 07-27-2011, 04:49 PM
shanneba shanneba is offline
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Here are some BMW TIS links on how to check / top up the auto trans fluid-

BMW TIS - 00 11 500 Checking/topping up fluid level in automatic transmission (A5S 360R / 390R, A4S 200R / 310R)
http://tis.spaghetticoder.org/s/view.pl?1/04/80/64

BMW TIS - 00 11 500 Checking/topping up fluid level in automatic transmission (A5S 325Z)
http://tis.spaghetticoder.org/s/view.pl?1/04/54/27
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  #15  
Old 07-27-2011, 06:21 PM
veli510 veli510 is offline
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I hate BMW transmission. I'm going through some issues with mine. I am very upset.
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  #16  
Old 07-27-2011, 10:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A Del Checcolo View Post
My 2002 325XI does have an ATF dip stick but no markings for "FULL" / "ADD" levels. How do I check for the correct level?
You`re a *funny* guy....gonna have to change your handle to "Del Chuckle-O"....
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  #17  
Old 08-19-2011, 04:07 PM
WOLFN8TR WOLFN8TR is offline
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Hey guys I have a question for ya. I just got this BMW a few months ago and it runs and shifts great. But on the way home today getting on the freeway it wouldn't shift out of fourth gear. It eventually did but it's got me worried something isn't right. I do have changing the tranny fluid on the list of things to do but I'm waiting for cooler days to do this. It's about 107 here in Vegas. Could the high temps cause shifting issues? Any info would be appreciated. Thanks...
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  #18  
Old 09-09-2013, 11:04 PM
Gbm3i Gbm3i is offline
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Hello from gbm3 first time beer and loving it I am disabled so I had to tree for what would allow slot of learning to do and some bugs to work out on my 330i but feel I will get there if you don't know ask I am sure with help from nice and knowledgable people like you'll I will get there.as of now I know nothing. You have my email at G_Mathis@ymail.com general info welcome don't have owners manual. Being disabled funds are limited but piece by piece and part by part I will stride forward.2003 330i love it greatly.
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  #19  
Old 09-09-2013, 11:13 PM
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Fast Bob Fast Bob is offline
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Originally Posted by Gbm3i View Post
Hello from gbm3 first time beer and loving it I am disabled so I had to tree for what would allow slot of learning to do and some bugs to work out on my 330i but feel I will get there if you don't know ask I am sure with help from nice and knowledgable people like you'll I will get there.as of now I know nothing. You have my email at G_Mathis@ymail.com general info welcome don't have owners manual. Being disabled funds are limited but piece by piece and part by part I will stride forward.2003 330i love it greatly.
Most importantly, read the E46 Wiki, it contains a lot of very useful info, and also has a link to the online Owner`s Manual.
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When faced with choosing between two evils, always go with the one you`ve never tried before....
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  #20  
Old 09-10-2013, 09:02 AM
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ahull ahull is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gbm3i View Post
Hello from gbm3 first time beer and loving it I am disabled so I had to tree for what would allow slot of learning to do and some bugs to work out on my 330i but feel I will get there if you don't know ask I am sure with help from nice and knowledgable people like you'll I will get there.as of now I know nothing. You have my email at ******* general info welcome don't have owners manual. Being disabled funds are limited but piece by piece and part by part I will stride forward.2003 330i love it greatly.
Dude you need to get out more often. Great car btw.

A few things: E46 wiki as Bob mentioned - link above your post above. And realoem.com to find schematics for parts and part numbers. furiousmethod.com to find good prices. Try to stick to forum sponsors - i'll recommend oembimmerparts, pelican parts, and fcpeuro.

Use a little more punctuation in your posts and correct the typos - otherwise it's hard to read and people will skip it.

Personally, I'd remove your email address (edit button on the thread) as there's plenty of opportunity for people to communicate by posting responses to your posts/threads and private messages through the forum.

Welcome to the Fest!
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DIY On deck: Rear Diff bushing. UUC SSK, clutch job eventually, Wavetrac LSD

Last edited by ahull; 09-10-2013 at 09:04 AM.
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  #21  
Old 11-11-2014, 10:08 AM
Tomas37 Tomas37 is offline
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what after market product besides rims can make the car look cooler?
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  #22  
Old 11-11-2014, 11:54 AM
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Fast Bob Fast Bob is offline
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Originally Posted by Tomas37 View Post
what after market product besides rims can make the car look cooler?
You are in the wrong place, and responding to a thread from almost six years ago. Please start your own new thread, stating your question in the thread title.

Read the E46 Wiki !
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When faced with choosing between two evils, always go with the one you`ve never tried before....
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  #23  
Old 11-11-2014, 03:04 PM
RivMcLean RivMcLean is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomas37 View Post
what after market product besides rims can make the car look cooler?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fast Bob View Post
You are in the wrong place, and responding to a thread from almost six years ago. Please start your own new thread, stating your question in the thread title.

Read the E46 Wiki !
For entertainment sake, Dual Port Shades have always made my cars cooler...
I know I know old thred... Btw running over freeway crap took out my trans pan, so this is how I ended up changing my fluid. NOT RECOMMENDED.
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