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Go Back   Bimmerfest - BMW Forums > BMW Model Discussions > 5 Series > E39 (1997 - 2003)

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 02-02-2016, 06:36 PM
ChristophCobb ChristophCobb is offline
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Mein Auto: '98 528i
98' 528i 191k miles, ORIGINAL TRANS FLUID. Let's discuss.

So I bought this car about a couple months ago with 187k on it. I know for a fact the transmission fluid has not been changed since the previous owner bought the car (10 years ago, 30k miles roughly)

I don't for a second think that there exists a magical lifetime fluid. And my first instinct was to jump right on top of that. But soon further research, it would seem that that could cause more problems than fix.

Here is where I'm at. I don't like the way the car shifts. And I guess it's important to note it's an automatic. When I accelerate quickly, it kinda jerks into 3rd from 2nd. When driving slowly it doesn't really give me much guff. However when slowing down (coming to a red light or stop sign) as the car is downshifting itself, it sometimes clunks into the lower gears. I can literally hear the knuckley sound it makes as it comes back to from the higher gears. Clunk....clunk...

So just want to see what everyone's opinions here may be. I'm looking suggestions, advice, ect. I'm leaning more towards doing something about it, rather than just riding it out. Let me know!
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  #2  
Old 02-02-2016, 08:04 PM
occhis occhis is offline
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I see very little downside to doing it. You already have shifting issues. Though I had hard shifting issues only when cold, I did my first change (removed both front and rear pans and installed new filter) at about 120,000 and the change did seem to help. I now change (drain/fill) at about 60,000 intervals.
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  #3  
Old 02-03-2016, 02:34 PM
ChristophCobb ChristophCobb is offline
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That's what I would like to do. Change the fluid about every 50 to 70k
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  #4  
Old 02-03-2016, 03:22 PM
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Flybot Flybot is offline
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The transmission on my '98 528 had to be rebuilt a few years ago at about 160K. One of the first things the tech asked me was if I had recently changed the fluid. I had, about 5000 miles earlier. However, once it was apart it was clear that the failure wasnt due to any fluid change, but just a failed clutch basket. I asked him how changing the lifetime fluid late in the game could cause any damage. His reply was that the close tolerance parts, like shuttle valves, solenoid plungers, etc, build up a varnish as they get "loose". New fluid cleans away all the varnish, thus increasing the clearances and causing too much slop. Then, somehow, that causes parts to fail.

I thing its garage lore myself. I used redline fluid and it did make the shifts a lot better. But BMW did a great disservice to the longterm owners of their products with the whole "Lifetime" fluid BS. Its pure poppycock that any hard working fluid will last forever. But it will last as long as the vast majority of first owners of the car. Now that Im on a clean slate rebuild, I plan on changing the fluid every 60k.
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  #5  
Old 02-03-2016, 03:47 PM
ChristophCobb ChristophCobb is offline
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Location: New jersey
 
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Mein Auto: '98 528i
98' 528i 191k miles, ORIGINAL TRANS FLUID. Let's discuss.

Yeah. Correct me if I'm wrong, but lifetime was more in reference to the cars production and sales period. Once the new car came out, people would bring in their e39s and get the new car. At least in an ideal world. For dealers that is. But seeing as that I'm now on the cusp of 200k miles on it, I'm worried about the longevity of the transmission. A rebuild would essentially cost more than the cars value and I don't want to be in that situation. I certainly would not flush the transmission. But maybe taking some fluid out and putting some new in. Doing a partial replacement might do it some good. 200k mile old TRANS fluid is definitely a sight to behold and if I do decide to do something with it in the near future I'll be sure to post pictures. I just can't help to stand by while I know the transmission is chewing itself up slowly by having junk oil in it. I'm no expert, but I know that that oil can't be good in there.

Last edited by ChristophCobb; 02-03-2016 at 03:48 PM.
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  #6  
Old 02-03-2016, 04:15 PM
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seemyad seemyad is offline
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Location: Seattle WA
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChristophCobb View Post
So I bought this car about a couple months ago with 187k on it. I know for a fact the transmission fluid has not been changed since the previous owner bought the car (10 years ago, 30k miles roughly)

I don't for a second think that there exists a magical lifetime fluid. And my first instinct was to jump right on top of that. But soon further research, it would seem that that could cause more problems than fix.

Here is where I'm at. I don't like the way the car shifts. And I guess it's important to note it's an automatic. When I accelerate quickly, it kinda jerks into 3rd from 2nd. When driving slowly it doesn't really give me much guff. However when slowing down (coming to a red light or stop sign) as the car is downshifting itself, it sometimes clunks into the lower gears. I can literally hear the knuckley sound it makes as it comes back to from the higher gears. Clunk....clunk...

So just want to see what everyone's opinions here may be. I'm looking suggestions, advice, ect. I'm leaning more towards doing something about it, rather than just riding it out. Let me know!
Change out the ATF. BMW lied about the ATF lasting forever. Treat it as you would any other ATF. Either do two or three drain and fills 750 miles or so apart, OR take it to an indy or the dealer for a complete flush. It is well worth the cost.

There is nothing magical about BMW ATF. If you do not change the ATF, you will eventually be changing your Torque Converter (or the entire transmission) if you drive your car in the spirited manner it was designed to be driven.

This may help: "Should I change the ATF in my Honda Accord?" If the answer is "yes" to this, BMW is no different. No one would try to rationalize not changing the ATF in any other car on the market. BMW transmissions were not built with alien technology. BMW ATF was not created by Zeus on Mt. Olympus.

If you change it and, by chance, something fails, it was going to fail anyway (maybe six months to a year later but so what). If you don't change it, it isn't a matter of if something fails because something is guaranteed to fail. BMW messed up telling consumers their ATF lasts forever. Although, that gimmick may have gotten them additional sales on the front end. I wonder how many BMWs have been permanently sidelined as a direct result of that claim. I learned the hard way.

Learn from my lesson and change the ATF. If it had been changed at least every 60k I would not have had to replace my torque converter (~$2100) at around 130,000 miles. I felt the knob catching whenever I tried to put my car in drive. This went on for a couple of weeks before she threw a code. I took her in to get looked at and was told the torque converter was bad. They said if they found flakes/debris in my tranny pan they would not bother changing the torque converter because the tranny would have been on its way out too. I was told that my pan was surprisingly void of any debris.

Most people recommend changing the ATF every 30k. I think, if done from the moment it left the showroom floor, that 30k is the min and 60k is the max mile interval between changes. Used and never changed up to 90k+ miles, I'd go with 25k min and 45k max mile intervals between changes. Just my two cents.

That said, it is never too late to change it for the first time. Sit some money aside just in case something fails (doubt anything will). When it doesn't fail within 5k miles, spend the money on a well deserved vacation.

Last edited by seemyad; 02-04-2016 at 11:31 AM.
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  #7  
Old 02-03-2016, 06:49 PM
Luvinit Luvinit is offline
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Just after Ibought my car at 174k the torque converter wobbled and spun the race just behind the forward seal. I changed the TC and pump cleaned all the clutches and exterior of valve body and replaced 100% of the fluid with pentosin fluid. It is a ZF transmission 5HP-19.
39K miles later and it works just like it did before I fixed it, perfect, just no leaks after a hard drive. I imagine the old fluid was original.
It has been a few yrs since I have read up on the ZF trans but I am thinking I read something about bench testing the solenoids and replacing as required for hard shifts. Keep searching you will find something on it.
I-also believe in changing all of the fluid if possible. On a tow vehicle I had that used much cheaper fluid I would flush all of it out through a cooler line in about 20 minutes and then change out the filter every other flush. Had a 95 gran Marquis that had a drain plug on the TC! Wish all cars had that!
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  #8  
Old 02-04-2016, 05:41 AM
ChristophCobb ChristophCobb is offline
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Location: New jersey
 
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Mein Auto: '98 528i
Not really looking to replace the torque converter unless it's absolutely needed. I do have a question however? Does this car use Solenoid packs? Or are they individual Solenoids? I'm thinking either way, maybe it'd be good to change all of them but it's an important distinction. I'll research this transmission a little further..
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  #9  
Old 02-04-2016, 06:32 AM
Luvinit Luvinit is offline
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Location: Oklahoma
 
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Mein Auto: 03 525i
Sorry for the confusion. Was not saying to change your TC. Was saying that is how I came about to changing all of my fluid. The solenoids come seperately. I am sure searching this forum you will find people talking about hard downshifts. I have seen them but do not remember what the fix was. CTS out of Ca. has parts....
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  #10  
Old 02-04-2016, 07:03 AM
ChristophCobb ChristophCobb is offline
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Location: New jersey
 
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Posts: 54
Mein Auto: '98 528i
98' 528i 191k miles, ORIGINAL TRANS FLUID. Let's discuss.

General consensus so far is to change it. And I'm totally with it. I guess the purpose of this post would be to see what objections anyone might have to changing it. My mechanic. Who is an ASE certified BMW mechanic, who works for BMW says not to change it. He has 3 e39s. One of which has around the same mileage as mine and he says he's never changed the fluid either. I think his stance is that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" and I get it. But the last thing I want to happen is it does end up breaking. It's giving me signs that there is something funky, and id like to fix it rather than just wait to see what might happen. I'm all for changing it out about every 40k.

Last edited by ChristophCobb; 02-04-2016 at 07:04 AM.
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  #11  
Old 02-04-2016, 09:46 AM
BMW4RE BMW4RE is offline
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Mein Auto: '99 528ia
Quote:
Originally Posted by seemyad View Post
BMW transmissions were not built with alien technology. BMW ATF was not created by Zeus on Mt. Olympus.
Agreed. And just think how mad GM car owners would be if GM held out on them by not putting that alien technology, and "forever fluid", in their Malibus, Impalas, etc.
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  #12  
Old 02-04-2016, 11:26 AM
ChristophCobb ChristophCobb is offline
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Location: New jersey
 
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Mein Auto: '98 528i
Previous owner says the transmission is a GM. Which is entirely possible. I've been told this car has the ZF transmission in it. I'm at work, so I can't go out and check the car right this second but I was hoping maybe one of you guys would know? It's a US 98 528i.
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  #13  
Old 02-04-2016, 01:34 PM
lesguy lesguy is offline
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changing fluid that's been in there for over 100k, is a risk. That's because the friction material that was once on disks in the clutch packs is in the old fluid. When the old fluid is removed, so is the friction material. May not cause an issue at all, but there is some level of risk.


http://mdhmotors.com/transmission-fl...-transmission/

When not to flush your transmission
Before draining or flushing you should look at the fluid. If it is dark, burnt smelling, and you see little flakes or speck in it, DO NOT FLUSH IT. The fluid and transmission possibly has hard part damage, but the transmission just has not figured out it should die yet. If you flush a transmission in this condition it could fail right away. Real strange, but that is what seems to happen. If your transmission is in this condition just drive it while you save for a replacement transmission. There is no way of telling when it will fail. It might be today, next week, or next year, but it is doomed.

The goal here is to flush the transmission BEFORE the fluid gets contaminated. What you are taking out should look like what you are putting in. Do not wait for a color or smell change. Most manufacturers calls for transmission fluid change at 30,000 mile intervals. The industry standard is two years or 24,000 miles whichever comes first. It is your vehicle, you decide what is best for you.
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  #14  
Old 02-04-2016, 04:47 PM
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seemyad seemyad is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChristophCobb View Post
Previous owner says the transmission is a GM. Which is entirely possible. I've been told this car has the ZF transmission in it. I'm at work, so I can't go out and check the car right this second but I was hoping maybe one of you guys would know? It's a US 98 528i.
Go to Real OEM and put in you VIN

http://www.realoem.com/bmw/enUS/select

It will at least show you the options that were available on your car.
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