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E39 (1997 - 2003)
The BMW 5-Series (E39 chassis) was introduced in the United States as a 1997 model year car and lasted until the 2004 when the E60 chassis was released. The United States saw several variations including the 525i, 528i, 530i and 540i. -- View the E39 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 03-15-2016, 09:58 AM
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seemyad seemyad is offline
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BMW Lawsuit - Seeking documentation of BMW claim their ATF should not be changed.

I contacted two law firms that specialize in class action, manufacturing issues seeking compensation for costs associated with their claim of "lifetime" ATF.

Here is the message I submitted to the two law firms via their online contact form.

"I own a 2002 BMW 530i. I recently spent approx. $2300 to replace a faulty Torque Converter, which is part of the Automatic Transmission. Thousands of other 530i owners have suffered a similar experience. This issue was 100% avoidable and is a direct result of false or misleading advertisement by BMW. BMW publically claimed that the Automatic Transmission Fluid was "lifetime" and would never require changing, as a selling point. Due to this false or misleading claim hundreds of thousands of BMW owners have followed BMW's claim and did not change the fluid, which has led to several avoidable premature failures costing owners several thousand dollars in repairs

I would like BMW to be held accountable for their false claims. They have since changed their claim to state the fluid should be changed at 100,000 miles. This change has come many years too late. I am a member of BMW forums and the BMW Car Club of America. Many owners would be interested in legal representation to have BMW either reimburse those of us who have paid for repairs OR pay to have our automatic transmissions replaced or rebuilt at a certified BMW maintenance facility.

Thank you."

One law firm responded so far with the following request.

"Thank you for contacting Quantum Legal regarding BMW. We are interested in investigating claims concerning your BMW. (as you may know, we are investigating other claims concerning another BMW issue.) At this time, we have not concluded whether or not there is a claim that can be brought.

If you would like to assist us with investigating the claims against BMW, please provide any documentation that you have that will help us in our investigation. We will continue our investigation of this claim and contact you if we conclude that a case should be brought."
Does anyone have or know of official BMW documentation suggesting their ATF does not need to be changed in our or any BMW series? If so, attachments or links will be appreciated.

Thank you.

.
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  #2  
Old 03-15-2016, 10:30 AM
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TheAngryBear TheAngryBear is online now
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Seemyad

Think you are looking for something like this out of the owner's manual for the e39. http://www.e38.org/2001Manual-5Sedan-SportWagon.pdf



Also want to check the BMW Service Information Booklet that came with the cars. Mine doesn't have one but am looking online to see if available.

And you better cover ALL e39s, not just the 530.
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Old 03-15-2016, 10:36 AM
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TheAngryBear TheAngryBear is online now
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And from my actual owner's manual. 2003 540iA


Upside down but whatever.
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  #4  
Old 03-15-2016, 10:43 AM
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seemyad seemyad is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheAngryBear View Post
Seemyad

Think you are looking for something like this out of the owner's manual for the e39. http://www.e38.org/2001Manual-5Sedan-SportWagon.pdf

Also want to check the BMW Service Information Booklet that came with the cars. Mine doesn't have one but am looking online to see if available.

And you better cover ALL e39s, not just the 530.
That is exactly the type of offcial BMW documentation I had in mind.

In addition, you are correct regarding ALL series that have been impacted by this issue.

Additional documentation is always welcomed.


QUESTIONS for everyone:


I have heard that BMW now recommends ATF change at 100,000 miles.
  • Is this true?
  • Any documentation?
  • If so, is it the same ATF they once claimed did not require changing?

.

Last edited by seemyad; 03-15-2016 at 12:29 PM.
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Old 03-15-2016, 10:47 AM
lesguy lesguy is offline
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question: Has it been definitively proven that the failure was caused by fluid that no longer had the properties to protect the converter and/or that a fluid change at some preset interval, would have prevented the failure? If not...could be challenging to prove negligence on BMW's part..
Also, class actions can literally take years to finish and the law firms end up profiting the most, by far. The affected persons may end up getting a coupon for a free oil change.

Another option to consider: Filing a claim yourself in small claims court in your state against BMW. you'd need to find their legal agent's address for BMW in your state (they have to have one in order to do business in your state) and have the agent served.
For the amount you are seeking, you may find yourself on the other end of a phone call from a lawyer representing BMW in your state asking you "how much to make this go away" to settle out of court.

It's happened before....

Last edited by lesguy; 03-15-2016 at 10:53 AM.
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  #6  
Old 03-15-2016, 10:48 AM
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Service booklet for 2000 MY showing inspections and maintenance intervals. Note: transmission only checked for leaks and under road test. No fluid/filter changes. http://cache.bmwusa.com/pdf_3256fd26...f-4eab3b052a86
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Old 03-15-2016, 11:13 AM
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I can't remember too well but either BMW or ZF redacted the Lifetime-fill statement and implemented a 10yr/100k interval. (Post E39 production of course)
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  #8  
Old 03-15-2016, 11:31 AM
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Brandon002 Brandon002 is offline
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Good luck, as technically the fluid does last the lifetime of the transmission.
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Old 03-15-2016, 12:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brandon002 View Post
Good luck, as technically the fluid does last the lifetime of the transmission.
Well you arent wrong


Quote:
Originally Posted by lesguy View Post
question: Has it been definitively proven that the failure was caused by fluid that no longer had the properties to protect the converter and/or that a fluid change at some preset interval, would have prevented the failure? If not...could be challenging to prove negligence on BMW's part..
Also, class actions can literally take years to finish and the law firms end up profiting the most, by far. The affected persons may end up getting a coupon for a free oil change.

Another option to consider: Filing a claim yourself in small claims court in your state against BMW. you'd need to find their legal agent's address for BMW in your state (they have to have one in order to do business in your state) and have the agent served.
For the amount you are seeking, you may find yourself on the other end of a phone call from a lawyer representing BMW in your state asking you "how much to make this go away" to settle out of court.

It's happened before....
+1 Give them a call and if you have records of all service and repairs done by qualified bmw technicians and with quality parts and havent done anythibng to void warraanty theyll be happy to give you some cash to shut you up. Many corporations do this already
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  #10  
Old 03-15-2016, 12:08 PM
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seemyad seemyad is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brandon002 View Post
Good luck, as technically the fluid does last the lifetime of the transmission.
Lifetime refers to the vehicle. Why?
  1. The vehicle was the purchased product, not the transmission.
  2. The Owner's Manual is for the vehicle. If this statement was in a stand-alone BMW AT owner's manual then they could try to make that claim. No judge would ever buy it though.
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Old 03-15-2016, 12:23 PM
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seemyad seemyad is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lesguy View Post
question: Has it been definitively proven that the failure was caused by fluid that no longer had the properties to protect the converter and/or that a fluid change at some preset interval, would have prevented the failure? If not...could be challenging to prove negligence on BMW's part..
Also, class actions can literally take years to finish and the law firms end up profiting the most, by far. The affected persons may end up getting a coupon for a free oil change.

Another option to consider: Filing a claim yourself in small claims court in your state against BMW. you'd need to find their legal agent's address for BMW in your state (they have to have one in order to do business in your state) and have the agent served.
For the amount you are seeking, you may find yourself on the other end of a phone call from a lawyer representing BMW in your state asking you "how much to make this go away" to settle out of court.

It's happened before....
Thanks for the suggestions. I have considered small claims court (as a backup).

However, this isn't about me. Its about what is right. It is easy to just sit back and accept the status quo. I fought for American freedoms and American values in the USAF. Thus, I choose to exercise those freedoms when doing so has a slight potential of producing positive change. BMW "apparently" lied in this instance. Let's see if the Judicial Branch is willing to hold them accountable on behalf of its citizens. My plan "B" is the State Attorney General's Office (I have used them before. Our tax dollars pay their salaries). Don't forget the recent VW debacle, which did not end well for VW. That did not take much time at all.

If it does take time. That is okay because time is going to pass regardless.

Again, thanks for the input.

Last edited by seemyad; 03-15-2016 at 12:26 PM.
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  #12  
Old 03-15-2016, 12:33 PM
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Looks like BMW is already dealing with a Mini claim on the same premise. Started in 2013 but don't know what the status is. http://abcnews.go.com/Business/mini-...ry?id=20579484
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Old 03-15-2016, 12:34 PM
chatcher chatcher is offline
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The deeper you get into this you will find life time as a term defined with different lengths of time depending on the product. For example life time warranted shingles are warranted for 30 years. The life time of a car could be a short as a decade as defined by their attorneys not your "life time". If you wish for the transmission to last longer than they're life time estimates then YOU must maintain it IE changing the filter and fluid. If you bought it brand new from BMW you may get lucky on a good will repair but if you bought a used car outside of warranty it is what it is and you are just wasting your time.
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  #14  
Old 03-15-2016, 12:44 PM
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I honestly don't expect anything to happen but if Seemyad is willing to give it a go then I can at least give some info I have readily available.
And asking doesn't hurt. Hard to "prove" either way but again, seeing the art of possible. Am I on the Mike Miller plan now? Yes. Did I have failure? No, but it would be nice to have a little "safety catch" if it does and if I can get that for 10 mins on the Internet assisting Seemyad? Why not?
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Old 03-15-2016, 01:02 PM
AH673000 AH673000 is offline
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Technically the fluid is " lifetime".

Unfortunately the transmission itself is not lifetime. Old fluid or replaced fluid will not result in a lifetime transmission.

Auto transmissions last between 150-250 k miles these days. My Jeep transmission is at 185k on original fluid. Still shifting fine .

I personally do not think there is a case here.
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Old 03-15-2016, 01:18 PM
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If you're talking about the automatic trans would that not include the E38's as well and any other BMW of the era with an auto trans?

Come to think of it, Jaguar had the same issue on their X and S type cars - It's one of the most common failures... (Lifetime trans fluid) Maybe you need to go to their forum as well and get documentation. IDK if Mercedes had the same issue but I'd guess it wasn't just BMW and Jag who had these issues.

While it's a nice idea to have the manufacturers pay for damages that they allegedly caused, the attorney's have to be able to make their money for them to find it "feasible" to pursue. Since, I'm guessing folks would like a class- action on a contingency basis, you'd expect the firm to front all of the costs involved to litigate this claim... The firm needs to be able to recoup their expenses, get at least a minimal settlement for the claimants AND also make a profit. Fighting against big corporate manufacturer is tough because they have the funds to stay in the game a long time...
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Old 03-15-2016, 01:58 PM
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seemyad seemyad is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chatcher View Post
The deeper you get into this you will find life time as a term defined with different lengths of time depending on the product. For example life time warranted shingles are warranted for 30 years. The life time of a car could be a short as a decade as defined by their attorneys not your "life time". If you wish for the transmission to last longer than they're life time estimates then YOU must maintain it IE changing the filter and fluid. If you bought it brand new from BMW you may get lucky on a good will repair but if you bought a used car outside of warranty it is what it is and you are just wasting your time.
I would agree if not for their additional claim "no fluid change required". They did not just state the term "Lifetime fluid" they state "Lifetime fluid, no fluid change required".

Based on the premise you laid out (good premise btw), they could say the same of the oil as in "Lifetime oil, no oil change required". If the owner takes that in good faith and does NOT change the oil and the engine seizes at 40,000 miles, your premise suggests BMW is not liable because the term "Lifetime" can mean any duration. If I misunderstood you it is not my intent.

I would argue the term "Lifetime" equates to the life of the drive-ability of the car. Based on BMW's claim of "...no fluid change required", that tells consumers if you own the car for 300,000 miles and maintain it according to the manual/maintenance schedule, you should never change the ATF and the AT will not be adversely impacted by not changing the ATF . Since I do not believe this to be the case (not changing ATF does no harm), culpability for purposely misleading consumers is worth, at least, looking into. It may be a dead end but I don't want to jump to that, or any, conclusion.

This is basically a "doesn't hurt to ask" inquiry. My opinion is pretty worthless when it comes to the law. However, the opinion of certified/authorized experts in the field is a whole other story. In addition, tangible damages have occurred. The only real challenge is linking those damages to not changing the ATF (which I think is doable). All we can do for now is place the information in the hands of the experts and see what they think.

Good discussions, all.

- UPDATE -

I sent the Law Firm AngryBear's manual image and a link with contact information for a BMW Authorized ZF Transmission shop that I spoke with some time ago. If the BMW authorized transmission shop specialists state that the ATF should be changed every 30,000-60,000 miles, I think BMW would have a lot to answer for. In addition, I suggested testing used ATF in a high mileage vehicle to see if it maintained its original properties.


Thanks for the image AngryBear

.
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  #18  
Old 03-15-2016, 05:41 PM
NJJediZ NJJediZ is offline
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I finally did an AT fluid change and filter replacement at 16 yrs/250k miles. ('99 528i) and the color of the original ATF was an oak brown with lots of **** and some metal shavings sticking to the bottom of the tranny pan. Took me an hour to clean it all off. I left the pan off over night to let as much as possible drain out of the tranny into an aluminum roaster cooking pan("borrowed" from the wife - lol). After replacing the trans filter and putting in new BMW ATF (a messy procedure btw), there was a marked improvement in the shifting.

Interestingly, after about 500 miles on the newly serviced AT, the car threw a transmission error code and went into "limp" mode, which had never happened to me before after almost 170k miles. I pulled over, shut the car down for 5 mins., restarted and it ran fine. It's been almost 4k miles since then without a repeat of the trans error code. My thought is the transmission computer may have become "Acclimated" to the old crappy ATF and didn't know what to do with the fresh ATF. I'll post pics of the trans pan mess if I can find them.
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Old 03-15-2016, 05:42 PM
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Old 03-15-2016, 07:24 PM
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Tutti57 Tutti57 is offline
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There is a sticker on the bottom of the pan that says it's life time and I believe it actually says not to change it. 99 540.

Go for it if you want. I've got some seepage from the bell housing that will need to be addressed at some point, hopefully won't include a new tc.

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Old 03-15-2016, 07:38 PM
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Sounds like you are still a little low on transmission fluid. Make sure the car is level on jackstands before you add more ATF
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Old 03-15-2016, 09:25 PM
NJJediZ NJJediZ is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alex5er View Post
Sounds like you are still a little low on transmission fluid. Make sure the car is level on jackstands before you add more ATF
Thanks alex, I did the refill on leveled jackstands, but will check ATF level this weekend just in case. On the plus side, the trans has been pulling and shifting like a champ since I did the ATF/Filter change back in October (cept for that one blip).

Last edited by NJJediZ; 03-15-2016 at 10:38 PM.
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Old 03-15-2016, 09:58 PM
GreenTiger GreenTiger is offline
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Mercedes did not use the ZF transmissions. They manufacture their own transmissions.
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Old 03-16-2016, 07:21 AM
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GM & ZF tranny chart that show the models that BMW used during the "lifetime fill" years:








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Old 03-16-2016, 12:01 PM
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seemyad seemyad is offline
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Quote:
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GM & ZF tranny chart that show the models that BMW used during the "lifetime fill" years:
Great intell. Thanks.
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