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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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Old 06-06-2013, 07:43 AM
Jaffi34 Jaffi34 is offline
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180,000 mile ATF change

Just got a 1998 528i, the guy I bought it from was the second owner. He got it with 60k miles so I'm assuming the ATF wasn't changed for him. He also was a firm believer of BMWs lifetime tranny fluid so he never had it changed. Now the car has 180,000 miles, and has yet to see an ATF change. I talked to my mechanic about it, he says he wouldn't even touch it. He said its not even worth dropping the pan and replacing that fluid. Has anyone changed the fluid at such high mileage before? What happened? I would like to drop the pan and put in some new fluid and a filter but what does everyone else think?
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Old 06-06-2013, 07:57 AM
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Is there a reason you want to change the fluid? Any transmission issues?
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Old 06-06-2013, 08:02 AM
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mr magoo mr magoo is offline
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145k

I did this at approx 145K after debating for 40Kmiles if I should and reading lots of posts.
No issues at all except doubts about what is level and what is the correct temp of the fill. I did it again after 1000 miles and had the same doubts. No issues in 10K since. For the record, the outgoing 145K oil was dark but there were no deposits on the pan or magnets. I guess I feel better. The proper level at the proper temperature is a hard to validate since there is no dip stick.
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Old 06-06-2013, 08:38 AM
timarnold timarnold is offline
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I strongly suspect there is a considerable amount of "Urban Legend" in the changing out of transmission fluid leading to transmission failure. It definitely won't reverse wear on components, but I can think of no fact based scenario that a drain & replace would dislodge & move particles more than the pump that is circulating fluid at 2-3 Gal/min.
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Old 06-06-2013, 08:52 AM
edjack edjack is offline
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Here's a excerpt from Mike Miller's copyrighted maintenance schedule. You make the call. BTW, the trans may die some time soon, whether on not you change the fluid. Methinks your mechanic is probably correct.

"It is risky to drain a previously un-maintained automatic transmission with high mileage,
even though if it were my car I would probably chance it. Still, I have seen it happen too
many times, where a well-meaning owner or technician performs an ATF and filter
service on a neglected but well-shifting automatic, and then all of the sudden it starts
slipping. I can't explain it, but my feeling is the fresh ATF flushes a bit of sludge from a
place where it was doing no harm to a place where it does do harm. Overfilling, underfilling,
and cleanliness are also issues in ATF and filter servicing, but these should not be
problematic for a professional BMW technician, dealer or independent.

"BMW has backed off its lifetime fill mantra for automatic transmissions, currently
recommending an ATF and filter change every 100,000 miles for the current BMW
models.

"My inclination is to tell people to change "lifetime" ATF and filter every 60,000 miles.
However I have seen BMW automatic transmissions that were maintained break anyway.
In that event, say it happens at 90,000 miles, you would like to have the money you spent
on the ATF and filter change to put toward your new automatic transmission. And if I
told you to spend it on maintenance you're probably not going to be very happy with me.
On the other hand, I have seen maintained automatics last 200,000 miles. I have also seen un-maintained automatics last 200,000 miles, although both are very rare. There's just no
predicting with these transmissions. When you choose to buy an automatic transmission,
you also buy into the vagaries of the darn things, which is one reason technicians hate
them. Whether to maintain a modern BMW automatic is up to you."
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Last edited by edjack; 06-06-2013 at 09:03 AM.
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Old 06-06-2013, 09:20 AM
Jaffi34 Jaffi34 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BentValve View Post
Is there a reason you want to change the fluid? Any transmission issues?
It's a little ify, even my mechanic said its not perfect. Putting it in reverse makes the car shake some, but it still shifts ok. Just thought it might help
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Old 06-06-2013, 09:56 AM
Mikes530 Mikes530 is offline
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Mike Miller's advice is very sound and I took it into account when making my decision. I had 120K on the tranny and it was fine except that the shifts were slightly harsher than I remembered from new and there was an occasional very slight shudder when reversing up a grade.

The clincher was that OE fluid is semi synthetic and I decided to upgrade with Amsoil full synthetic. Did an oil & filter change followed by a simple drain & fill about 3 months later. Shifts are now imperceptible and the shudder in reverse has disappeared. In my case the coin flip worked out.

EDIT Just as an FYI I did the tranny service about 2 1/2 yrs ago

Last edited by Mikes530; 06-06-2013 at 12:17 PM.
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Old 06-06-2013, 10:38 AM
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I am a bit OCD and change the trans fluid (and diff) every 30k, and filter every 60k (since new). I would go ahead and risk it and get the full service, and do as Mikes530 did and do another drain and fill a week or two later.
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Old 06-06-2013, 06:03 PM
bmw528ia bmw528ia is offline
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I've been debating this myself. I'm at 120k and the trans seems fine. But...
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Old 06-06-2013, 06:14 PM
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Studawg Studawg is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edjack View Post

On the other hand, I have seen maintained automatics last 200,000 miles. I have also seen un-maintained automatics last 200,000 miles, although both are very rare.[/I]
So it is rare for one of these automatics to last 200k, whether it was maintained or not? If that is true, and you have 180k, I would save your money, because you are going to have to replace it soon anyway.
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Old 06-06-2013, 06:23 PM
occhis occhis is offline
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I did my first fluid/filter change at about 120K mi. Subsequent drain/fill at aprox 30K. Now have 208K and have no problems. After the first change, shifts were noticeably smoother. No regrets. Have the GM 4 speed, so I use Maxlife Dexron 3.
Side note: Did a first drain/fill on my 2006 A6 (ZF 6 speed) with 99K. Used Lifeguard 6. Smoother shifts and no problems 5K later.
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Old 06-06-2013, 07:23 PM
Jaffi34 Jaffi34 is offline
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I've been researching a lot on this and I think I'm going to chance it. From what I gathered, fluid does not determine if a transmission fails. How the tranny was treated is the biggest factor (casual driving vs constant lead foot). I'm going to change the filter and replace the pan fluid, then check the filter after a week or two and replace some more fluid. Ill put an update here on how it goes.
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Old 06-06-2013, 08:43 PM
edjack edjack is offline
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Yes, do it, and report back. You'll need to do three drains/refills to get all the fluid out of the torque converter.

As a Jewish mother would say, "It couldn't hoit."
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Old 06-07-2013, 06:26 AM
dvdlkd dvdlkd is offline
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after nagging doubts about "lifetime" fluid, i changed my 97 528 trans fluid and filter at 180k. There was a slight sludge around the magnet, but no chuncks. At 220K, i changed the fluid agian, no filter. Did this because you only get 1/3 of the fluid out with simple pan drains (unless to drain the converter or flush), I now have 257K and am going to do filter and fluid again some time this summer. GM trans so i use Castrol D6.


\\\
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Old 06-07-2013, 08:29 AM
Jaffi34 Jaffi34 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dvdlkd View Post
after nagging doubts about "lifetime" fluid, i changed my 97 528 trans fluid and filter at 180k. There was a slight sludge around the magnet, but no chuncks. At 220K, i changed the fluid agian, no filter. Did this because you only get 1/3 of the fluid out with simple pan drains (unless to drain the converter or flush), I now have 257K and am going to do filter and fluid again some time this summer. GM trans so i use Castrol D6.


\\\
So you mixed Dex VI with the Dex III that was in it? I have Dex VI but I'm debating going back and getting some quality Dex III, not sure what the consequences would be.
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Old 06-07-2013, 08:48 AM
timarnold timarnold is offline
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D6 & D3 are supposed to be compatible with D6 an improved spec to D3. I replaced my GM transmissioned X3 fluid with D6 2 years & 30k miles ago with no repercussions.
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Old 06-12-2013, 12:41 PM
Jaffi34 Jaffi34 is offline
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To give everyone an update, it was finally a nice day out to change out the transmission fluid and filter today. Got the car jacked up to find I could not get the fill plug to budge. I tried a socket wrench, combination wrench, pliers, even an impact wrench couldn't make it move. That being said, I'm going to leave it alone seeing that it still shifts ok. Thanks for the replies.
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Old 03-13-2016, 08:39 AM
Bob Michaels Bob Michaels is offline
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Not to resurrect an old thread, but for anyone who might be searching about doing an ATF/filter change on an older bmw I wanted to add some info. The Maxlife ATF is good for the GM AS310 transmission (even has recommendations for most of the other BMW ATF specs). The technique is fairly straightforward, but I encountered two time-consuming issues:

1. Breaking the pan free from the transmission was unexpectedly difficult. It felt glued on there. I didn't want to gouge the transmission mating surface so I used pry tools. Still difficult, since finding a good fulcrum point is hard.
2. Once the pan came off, about 80% of the gasket was essentially welded to the transmission housing. The paper had turned to something akin to plastic. I spent at least and hour and a half scraping that thing off (and my neck is still sore). Between the torque converter pan and transmission, there is only about an inch wide clearance. I had to cut razor blades and use a small vice-grip to get in that narrow area. Go slow so as to not damage the aluminum surface.

I had quit a bit of metal fines on the magnet, and the fluid was fairly dark reddish-brown. No burnt smell. This was at 105K miles.

Once everything was cleaned up everything was fairly easy. Couldn't find any torque specs for the 3 bolts that secure the filter to the housing (it was on pretty tight when I removed it). Also, used a cheap infrared thermometer to measure the pan temperature for final top off (Bentley said between 85-120 deg F - I did it when the pan read 90 deg).
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Old 03-13-2016, 09:38 AM
javarithms javarithms is offline
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I did the ATF change on my 530i yesterday and I could tell immediately the shifting was much more smoother. It was very notchy before. It's still my least favorite maintenance because it's very dirty, smelly and uncomfortable (laying on your back).
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Old 03-13-2016, 02:01 PM
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seemyad seemyad is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jaffi34 View Post
I've been researching a lot on this and I think I'm going to chance it. From what I gathered, fluid does not determine if a transmission fails. How the tranny was treated is the biggest factor (casual driving vs constant lead foot). I'm going to change the filter and replace the pan fluid, then check the filter after a week or two and replace some more fluid. Ill put an update here on how it goes.
Not changing the ATF for fear of it failing is like not having a prostate exam for fear of being diagnosed with cancer. Makes zero sense unless you do not intend to keep the car. If you intend to keep the car, NOT changing the ATF will likely cause more damage. Here are some possibilities.
  1. Change the ATF and the AT works much better and lasts years longer than it would have if not changed.
  2. Change the ATF and the AT remains working as is and lasts years longer than it would have.
  3. Change the ATF and the AT degrades in performance but still works.
  4. Change the ATF and the torque converter fails and needs to be replaced (likely going to fail anyway).
  5. Change the ATF and the AT fails (I need to see some data on this versus word of mouth and suspicion).
  6. Don't change it and it last for a while before complete failure [put $4500 aside (not sure how much to be honest) to replace it if you intend to keep her].

The longer you wait, the greater the chances of the worse case scenario.

If it concerns you, do small partial changes. As in three quarts at a time. This will require you reusing three quarts of the old ATF mixed with the new ATF. Doing that and changing the filter will be a step in the right direction. That said, psychologically it will be hard to look at the old ATF and reintroduce it back into the AT. Many people do a "complete" drain and fill, which is about 6 quarts I believe. An additional 3 quarts or so of the old ATF remains because it is in the ATF cooling housing and hose. They drive her a while and do another drain and fill, which further increases the ratio of new ATF to old ATF. With the first drain and fill the new filter should allow the fluid to flow better (my wild guess as I have never even seen one).

I have never done a drain and fill so I am no expert on the subject. My fluid was 100% flushed by an indy AFTER my torque converter went out (around 130,000 miles). MY TC had two symptoms. First it was sticky when I tried to shift into Drive. Three weeks later she threw a code. The entire cost for replacing the TC and flushing the fluid was around $2200. I was told if there were debris in the pan I would need a new transmission versus just a new torque converter. Since I have every intention to keep my car for years to come it was well worth the cost.

Last edited by seemyad; 03-14-2016 at 01:40 PM.
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Old 03-13-2016, 02:19 PM
timarnold timarnold is offline
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For all of the fears about destroying the transmission by replacing the fluid after >100k miles, I don't think there is a single post of anyone who actually had a problem. New fluid won't fix old wear, but there really isn't a good logical reason why old fluid would be better than new fluid. If it was important to the function of the transmission to keep circulating old dirty fluid, why would there be a filter at all?
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Old 03-14-2016, 08:58 AM
vavet5308 vavet5308 is offline
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I've heard only one logical explanation for the sudden demise of auto transmissions after a fluid change - ATF has detergent in it. If the suddenly new and clean ATF starts cleaning away a chunk of debris, it could get lodged in a small passage where it can do some harm. That chunk would've been fine where it was and it never would've worn away because the old fluid was staurated with dirt already and the detergent additives were old and weak. The new detergents were eager to fix something.

I think of it as being similar to a stroke in a mammal. A clot of something breaks off in your artery and plugs an artery downstream, depriving the area fed by that artery of the oxygen and nutrients and allowng waste products to accumulate.
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Old 03-14-2016, 01:48 PM
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seemyad seemyad is offline
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Originally Posted by vavet5308 View Post
I think of it as being similar to a stroke in a mammal. A clot of something breaks off in your artery and plugs an artery downstream, depriving the area fed by that artery of the oxygen and nutrients and allowng waste products to accumulate.
IMHO if BMW did not LIE about "lifetime" ATF as a selling point, we would not have to deal with ATF Apprehension Syndrome (AAS) on high mileage vehicles (I just identified a new illness).

I don't blame anyone for being apprehensive and seeking guidance on this issue, when I consider the manufacturer sold buyers a bill of goods. I fell victim to the great lie too. BMW should offer, at a minimum, a 50% AT replacement/rebuild rebate on ALL models they claimed had lifetime ATF. Then those who would like to can pony up half the cost of completely replacing or rebuilding their AT at a certified BMW repair facility. Only serious BMW owners (who had the money) would take advantage of such an offer.

I will contact an attorney to see if this is feasible due to false or misleading advertising or a non-starter. Although it may be a non-starter I have learned that it never hurts to ask. Especially following the Volkswagen emissions scandal. Timing is everything.

A class-action lawsuit may help a lot of BMW owners to keep their vehicles much longer than they anticipated. If anyone has a copy of BMW's official claims of "life-time" ATF that would be a good place to start. I am certain their hundreds, if not thousands, of certified and non-certified BMW mechanics that can prove otherwise.
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Old 03-14-2016, 04:43 PM
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Dio///M Dio///M is offline
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My Bmw indy specialist did my ATF change and software update a couple of months ago and jokingly informed me that Bmw "lifetime ATF" is strictly correct in that the oil will last the lifetime of the transmission, which ever short or long period that maybe....:rofl :rofl
.....so in that sense, maybe Bmw didn't lie...

Last edited by Dio///M; 03-14-2016 at 04:44 PM.
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Old 03-14-2016, 04:48 PM
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seemyad seemyad is offline
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I just contacted two law firms that specialize in class action, manufacturing issues. Based on their feedback, which may take a couple of days, I may start a new thread. If the issue appears to be a non-starter I'll just post it here.

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."
We'll see how they respond.

One of the two law firms list the following on their website:
"...successfully represented individuals and consumers in matters involving:
  • Defective consumer products <=== ( my note: Is the ATF defective causing it not to last??? )
  • Defective electronic devices
  • Defective computers
  • Qui tam actions
  • Consumer fraud
  • Insurance company overcharges
  • Telephone/cell phone company overcharges
  • Improper Credit Card practices (improper fees)
  • Improper banking practices (improper late fees)
  • Predatory lending practices
  • Wage and hour violations
  • Failure to pay overtime
  • Automotive industry practices (auto dealer vs. manufacturer actions)
  • False advertising <=== ( my note: If the ATF is not defective, did BMW mislead consumers by advertising lifetime ATF??? )
  • Antitrust violations..."
I am looking forward to hearing back from them.

BTW, a similar suit against BMW was tried in 2013 and failed in 2014, which may actually be good news.
"BMW Cruises Out Of Class Action Over Mini Cooper Defects"

"U.S. District Judge James Donato dismissed the second amended complaint lodged by Michael Callahan and four other named plaintiffs without prejudice, ruling that their allegations that automatic transmissions in Mini Cooper S model cars tend to fail prematurely were too broad and that they hadn't sufficiently alleged a plausible..."

http://www.law360.com/articles/59901...cooper-defects
I say this may be good news because:
  1. It was determined to be a viable suit by a major law firm.
  2. A second lawsuit can learn from the mistakes of the first one.
  3. Consumers paid three times more for a BMW vs. a Mini Cooper.
  4. Decision makers may be BMW owners and have experienced this issue first hand or have family members who have.
  5. The VW emissions scandal (that happened after the first lawsuit) shows a German manufacturers' willingness to deceive and defraud the public.

.

Last edited by seemyad; 03-14-2016 at 06:41 PM.
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