BimmerFest BMW Forum banner

1 - 20 of 65 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
408 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Decided to change the ATF on my 97. It has 42K on it and figured why not, after 10 years of it being there it must be degraded.

I drained it easily enough. Pumped new fluid in and took it for a ride. Immediately i noticed....The torque converter whine! WTF? I drove for another 15 miles and it was whinning between 1K and 1.8K RPM.

Got the cold shiver down my back with a " what have i done " thoughts going through my head. Went back home parked the car and started research and realised 2 things.

1. One, i under filed the tranny by NOT starting the engine while doing it. It turns out that when you start the engine, about 3 quarts of fluid gets sucked up from the pan. So in effect i was able to refill with 3 more quarts. It was way way low. Total refill was about 6.5 quarts.

2. Two, the ATF fluid thing. I started sweating because i pumped in Synthetic ATF from Mobil 1. It's not the BMW required fluid. So i thought this may have something to do with it too.


I started calling dealers and doing research on the BMW ATF. Let's say that most dealerships are clueless. One dealer i called told me that:

1. they don't know what fluid it's supposed to take.
2. they don't have a data base to reference.
3. they don't sell it to the public
4. i May have to bring my own container.

The price was priceless! I CAN pay what they wanted, but why piss away money?

My research continued. I decided to call a local AAMCO. I figured all they do is transmissions, from EVERY make and model. So i ring them up and speak to the manager, told him what i did and he let me speak to a tech.

I got the AAMCO tech on the phone and this is what he said after looking the BMW 540 in his database.

"The 4.4L 540 has a GM tranny. All GM trannies can run Dexron fluid. Some imports with GM trannies have import fluids, BUT they can be replaced with a Dexron fluid from today. They are backward compatible, especially synthetic fluid, EVERY GM tranny we build and rebuild get's Dexton fluid"

So there it was, from a transmission builder.

So my transmission got refilled with Mobil 1 ATF, the result? The shifts are much much crisper. The car pulls harder and feels like a reduction in parasitic losses took place. The acceleration is definitely quicker.

The overall Impression is that the tranny is much much better. It shifts better with more "crisp". I would say that it now performs like a BMW tranny should.

I would highly recommend it to anyone with a Auto as it runs like it has a shift kit in it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
408 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
It's been a few days now and the car still runs just great. The tranny performs much better and pulls much harder. The cold performance is better also. It shifts much better and smoother when bone cold.

I highly recommend this very very simple procedure, arguably as easy as changing the oil your first time.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
70 Posts
What did the fluid look like after 10 years? I am not a believer of "lifetime" fluids ....
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
462 Posts
So do I understand correctly that you did not pull the pan and change the filter during this process? It seems to me that this is kind of like changing the oil in your car without changing the filter. I recognize that it's much more complicated than changing the oil filter but it is just as important.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
408 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
The fluid looked surprisingly fine. But when the remains were coning our of the pan there was some definite muck in there. The magnetic plug has some mud on it, which were fine metal shavings.

I did not pull the pan for several reasons.

One, i was looking for simplicity
Two, the filer is not a filer but just a metal screen.
Three, since it is a lifetime fill, i will change fluids only.

All the above is for a normally functioning tranny with no defects and low mileage. Mine has only 42 K on the odo.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,775 Posts
Good info there. I would do it if I had an auto trans, so I'm with you in spirit.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
368 Posts
It's great everything worked out for you:thumbup:! Trannies are so unpredictable with fluid changes and I'm still so hesitant to do it. I have 116,000 miles and it still shifts smooth and crisp so I'll leave it alone for awhile.

BTW, I thought the 540's had the ZF auto Tranny while the 528's had the GM Tranny:dunno::)!?
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
7,647 Posts
Well, just goes to show that even transmission shops don't know what they are talking about. Depending on the year and engine, there were both GM AND ZF transmissions, requiring different ATF fluids. BTW, it says that ALL 540 E39's had ZF transmissions, not GM like the transmission shop guy said.

I cannot direct link the site, so go here:
http://www.bmwtips.com/

You will need to drill down to find the section on the top left for transmission fluid info.
 

·
Stimulus Package
Joined
·
4,245 Posts
"Use of any other oil will cause a non-warrantable transmission failure."
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
408 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
HEAR ME OUT AND PLEASE PLEASE SCHOOL ME IF I'M WRONG.

It does not matter. Just about all trannies work on the same principle and use their fluids to do the same thing. Just like engines with engine oil.

For some reason trannies have this mystique around them. Engines used to be the same way. People used to argue with a fever that you can only use this or type of oil. Use this type of oil and your engine will cease etc etc etc.... Then there were always people that backed this up by stating that they ren such and such oil and their engine started to consume oil.

Trannies use fluids to:

1. transfer torque
2. lubricate
3. cool the tranny.

10 years ago when the tranny was filled it could have been a semi synthetic fluid. At the time there were no synthetic auto tranny fluids and all that was in the stores were dyno fluids. Things have changed since then and lubrication technology came a long way.

The ONLY consideration with fluid types is the following:

Some metal components in the tranny like it's clutches or valves or whatever can be made from metals like bronze, copper, stainless steel, aluminum etc etc... Some trannies have combinations of these different metals. So fluid type becomes important because trannies can't have ANY varnish buildup or it will start to fail.

Tranny fluids are very high in additive packages that may corrode some of the metals and cause premature failure. This is the SINGLE most important reason why there are different fluid specifications.

Incidentally it's the same with Manuals. Use the wrong fluid formulation in a Manual and it can eat you synchros if they're made of bronze. Use the correct fluid and it will run for a long time.

So, as long as you use a Synthetic fluid In there, you have nothing to worry about. The new synthetic tranny fluids will not react or corrode any metals in the tranny because they don't have to have the additive packages to keep them from causing varnish buildup because they are fully synthetic.

This is why the NEW purely synthetic fluids are now regarded as almost universal in their applications. Mobil 1 ATF, AMSOIL Universal ATF are to be used with with no worries.



UPDATE:

My tranny seems to be transferring torque much better as the days wore on. Currently when i come to a stop and accelerate while turning my traction control always kicks in. Before it rarely did in the same turns, with the same level of pedal pressure and the same ambient temps. The synthetic ATF makes the tranny behave like a different animal. Akin to a very mild shift kit. The shifts are so much more crisp and authoritative.

I put my money where my mouth is and used logic to change to new synthetic fluids in the tranny and it runs great and there is no reason for it not to.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,775 Posts
wolfen I put my money where my mouth is and used logic to change to new synthetic fluids in the tranny and it runs great and there is no reason for it not to.[/QUOTE said:
Make good sense to me. You'll find out, one way or the other, in a year or less.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
958 Posts
Oil is different, just like fuels are different. Sure gasoline explodes, octane can technically cool the process of combustion, etc. Diesel also explodes, and has an octane rating. Would you use diesel to make your car run? Point is, while I don't think ESSO is the holy grail of tranny fluids, especially at that rediculous price, you took a pretty pricey risk. I hope it works out for you bro.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,372 Posts
Trans fluid matters, aamco aka the place that tells you that you need a complete trans rebuild no matter what is wrong with it when you take it in, isnt the best place to check with :)

The fluid requirements are on a sticker on the bottom of the tran's pan.

Straying from that can lead to failure in the long run. Im not going to say such and such fluid sucks or any of that stuff. But some fluids while seeming to make the car perform better when first changed might not hold out to well in the long run. If I remember right most of the research I did found the mobile 1 atf not to do so hot in zf trans applications.

As for all gm's requiring dexron, erm nope. The gm trans that bmw sourced isnt your average gm trans and the clutch material isnt the same. Also depending on what a manufacturer specs for the clutch material determines what you must run for fluid. If a car company desides you will run blue cheese for trans fluid, you will run blue cheese or you will walk. Its pretty much that simple.

Heres an example of fluid type being important. If you take an old car say 1970 or older with all drum brakes that are not even power brakes and dump power steering fluid in place of brake fluid in them you will experience awesome brakes. They will stop with very little brake pedal pressure and you will love the change. It will be a miracle improvement. For a week or so :)

Then every seal in every brake piston will let go and you wont have any brakes at all till you replace every part in the entire brake system with new parts. Why? Wrong fluid.

A little dramatic but true. An automatic trans isnt really that complicated and is pretty easy to rebuild. Kits are not even expensive. My 2000 323i has the 5 speed and requires a fairly expensive kit and its only about $300 for the kit. But its time consuming to do. Use the wrong fluid and its rebuild time alot sooner than it would of been. Think of it this way, it may cost a bit more to buy the recommended fluid, but its not like it burns it as gas. Its something you dont change but every 70k to 100k miles. Not that expensive over that period of time.

I have almost 250,000 on my original automatic in my bmw and it works great. I changed the fluid but it has the correct fluid in it as recommended by the stick. I highly recommend changing the fluid and filter but I also highly recommend using what came in it and not something to improve on it.

Remember one of the oldest trans shop sayings "If it shifts better suddenly, its about to die."

What this saying means in reality is if anything changes greatly from the way it was doing then something wrong. A good trans shop will drop the pan again if they change your fluid and it starts shifting harder from the fluid change.

The clutches are designed to slip x amount during engagement. If they dont slip enough, it will shorten the life of the clutches. If it slips to much it will shorten the life of the clutches. If it is just right the clutches still take some wear and tear but thats where you get the longest life.

So to sum up all this over typing I just did. I recommend changing it again to whatever the sticker on the bottom of the pan calls for and not "wing" it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
408 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Trans fluid matters, aamco aka the place that tells you that you need a complete trans rebuild no matter what is wrong with it when you take it in, isnt the best place to check with :)

The fluid requirements are on a sticker on the bottom of the tran's pan.

Straying from that can lead to failure in the long run. Im not going to say such and such fluid sucks or any of that stuff. But some fluids while seeming to make the car perform better when first changed might not hold out to well in the long run. If I remember right most of the research I did found the mobile 1 atf not to do so hot in zf trans applications.

As for all gm's requiring dexron, erm nope. The gm trans that bmw sourced isnt your average gm trans and the clutch material isnt the same. Also depending on what a manufacturer specs for the clutch material determines what you must run for fluid. If a car company desides you will run blue cheese for trans fluid, you will run blue cheese or you will walk. Its pretty much that simple.

Heres an example of fluid type being important. If you take an old car say 1970 or older with all drum brakes that are not even power brakes and dump power steering fluid in place of brake fluid in them you will experience awesome brakes. They will stop with very little brake pedal pressure and you will love the change. It will be a miracle improvement. For a week or so :)

Then every seal in every brake piston will let go and you wont have any brakes at all till you replace every part in the entire brake system with new parts. Why? Wrong fluid.

A little dramatic but true. An automatic trans isnt really that complicated and is pretty easy to rebuild. Kits are not even expensive. My 2000 323i has the 5 speed and requires a fairly expensive kit and its only about $300 for the kit. But its time consuming to do. Use the wrong fluid and its rebuild time alot sooner than it would of been. Think of it this way, it may cost a bit more to buy the recommended fluid, but its not like it burns it as gas. Its something you dont change but every 70k to 100k miles. Not that expensive over that period of time.

I have almost 250,000 on my original automatic in my bmw and it works great. I changed the fluid but it has the correct fluid in it as recommended by the stick. I highly recommend changing the fluid and filter but I also highly recommend using what came in it and not something to improve on it.

Remember one of the oldest trans shop sayings "If it shifts better suddenly, its about to die."

What this saying means in reality is if anything changes greatly from the way it was doing then something wrong. A good trans shop will drop the pan again if they change your fluid and it starts shifting harder from the fluid change.

The clutches are designed to slip x amount during engagement. If they dont slip enough, it will shorten the life of the clutches. If it slips to much it will shorten the life of the clutches. If it is just right the clutches still take some wear and tear but thats where you get the longest life.

So to sum up all this over typing I just did. I recommend changing it again to whatever the sticker on the bottom of the pan calls for and not "wing" it.
The reason that brake system failed is because or two reasons.

1. Tranny fluid is not to operate at those temperatures. It will expand in the caliper (thermal expansion) and give the impression of needing a lot less pedal pressure. All this Because the fluid itself is expanded to the point of taking the slack out of the pedal.

2. Tranny fluid has detergents meant to prevent any buildup of residue on the valves and clutches in the tranny. Those detergents can dissolve any petroleum based substance. Rubber seals will literally get eaten away by it like acid. Especially at those high temps. It's even used as an engine flush to dissolve oil deposits. Put that together with the extreme pressure from thermal expansion and boom, you blow out caliper seals. A real No Brainer.

Consider this:

All in all this will equal the situation you described. So in essence you're right. But it's important to understand the exact reasons WHY? Understating is very important or else you will base your decisions on "parables" or stories designed to sway your thinking in a certain direction. Much like the Story you presented.

In regards to automatic trannies needing a certain ammount of slip in the clutches. I strongly disagree. A little slip is for the comfort of the driver. Makes the shift smoother. But it does not in any way alter that fact that a certain amount of power will have to transfer through the clutches.

Smoother shift = longer clutch engagement = more wear = less drive line shock
Rougher shift = shorter clutch engagement = less clutch wear = more drive line shock

So the clutch thing is a very arguable point. Take auto's with shift kits in the tranny. Bigger valves allow the clutches to engage more forcefully and quicker and gives autos much firmer shifts and can extent the life of the tranny due to that very fact. This was taught to me by a tranny builder that built mine. It was a 700R. It ren for 60K and was flawless until i sold it. Shifted by chirping the tires into 2nd. So shorter clutch engagement = less wear.

On a 5 speed, longer clutch engagement = burning the clutch, we all know that. Same principle.

Now as to the fluids.

There is a world of difference between synthetic and mineral based oils. They're not even in the same categories. I used Mobil 1 synthetic multi vehicle ATF. Mobil 1 is very very conservative in it's claims. But for all intent and purposes the Synthetic atf is universal. Just like AMS OIL tranny fluid. It's always been universal but it's not until recently that they actually started calling it "universal". Much of it has to do with marketing and gaining a customers trust.

Trannies use fluids to:

1. transfer torque, keep clutch faces clean
2. lubricate
3. cool the tranny.

As long as the fluid does not have additives that may "react" with a certain manufacturers internal component or components it will be just fine. Like one tranny having brass valves and another using only stainless steel. The brand with brass valves will have different needs from a fluid. Hence the different types of fluids. But with universal SYNTHETIC ATF, this is a thing of a distant distant past. The fluid is engineered to be non reactive and completely neutral.

over 600 miles later the tranny runs perfectly. Even when cold, it runs just great and healthy. I can tell a when a shift is not healthy, too firm and too jerky after a fluid change.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
324 Posts
Atf

I changed the lifetime fluid in my MIL's (mother in law's) 95' 540i with Royal Purple's ATF. Her car experienced the same improvements as yours. Crisper shifts, less losses, etc. Somewhere I found an oil chart and relative specs. Royal Purple exceeded them all, so I felt confident that the flush would be beneficial. She's put 30k miles on a car that now has 140k miles on it. The auto trans is plenty healthy.

I decided to do the same in my 01' Land Rover Discovery II. Dumped the fluid, put Royal Purple Synthetic ATF, and noticed an immediate difference. If you ask me, the leaders in Synthetic oils make a good product. IMHO, you should drain and fill ATF every 40 - 60k miles for optimal performance.

Do lifetime oils exist, yeah maybe, but so does Magic. Both are built on fooling you, so you decide if you should change your lifetime oil. I'll be changing mine every 40 - 60k.

I'm doing the same in my Manual Trans. I'm using Royal Purple Syncromax every 40k miles. I have 140k miles on the odo, I've changed my MTL twice now with Royal Purple Syncromax.

I like the idea of paying now, instead of paying later. Same reason I run premium fuel in a car that requires premium fuel. Pay now or pay dearly later.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,781 Posts
I put my money where my mouth is and used logic to change to new synthetic fluids in the tranny and it runs great and there is no reason for it not to.
The Mobile 1 fluid may be OK, but I can't get past the fact that you changed the fluid without doing any research beforehand on what kind of fluid the car was supposed to take or even what brand transmission you had. That doesn't sound like you used logic to me. Then after things didn't sound right after changing the fluid, rather than look in your owners manual or check here where the issue has been discussed countless times, you called Aamco and were incorrectly told you that you had a GM transmission which takes a different kind of fluid than the ZF transmissions.

Now it sounds like you're trying to convince others (and perhaps yourself) that you still did the right thing because your car is shifting better in the first 600 miles since changing the fluid for the first time in 10 years. You saved a few bucks, but as others have pointed out, it's not something you do every day. The $ you saved probably amounts to less than the cost of a Starbucks coffee once a month over 10 years. I'd rather use the recommended fluid to be on the safe side. :dunno:

EDIT: BTW, here's a source for Esso fluid at about half the retail price usually charged by dealers and indy shops ($13 vs. $25 per liter).
 

·
Stimulus Package
Joined
·
4,245 Posts

·
Stimulus Package
Joined
·
4,245 Posts
Well, in the interest of settling this, I did a little research on the mfr web sites.

Mobil 1 ATF is stated to meet the following specs:

Mobil said:
Specifications and Approvals

Mobil 1 Synthetic ATF has the following builder approvals:

Allison C-4
Ford Mercon
Ford Mercon V
ZF TE-ML 04D,14B,16L
http://www.mobil.com//USA-English/Lubes/PDS/NAUSENPVLMOMobil_1_Synthetic_ATF.asp

So it apparently meets some ZF specs. But I went to the ZF web site and found this:

ZF said:
The list of lubricants TE-ML 11 Edition 08.01.2007 replaces all previous editions.
http://www.zf.com/na/content/media/...ruck/car_driveline/products/oil_list_2007.pdf

And is Mobil 1 ATF is listed in either 11A or 11B? No. (Esso LT 71141 is on 11B.)

And the ZF ATF FAQ containts these choice bits of information:

ZF said:
Q: What type of oil do I need to use in my ZF automatic transmission?
A: Each transmission needs a specific type of transmission fluid to operate properly. The use of incorrect transmission fluid may cause extensive damage to internal parts of the transmission and may bring the transmission right back to your shop. For a complete list of ZF recommended lubricants please refer to the lubrication list.

Q: Can I fill my 5HP30 transmission with ATF Dexron II instead of the oil specified? Why?
A: It is not recommended by ZF to use any lubricant other that those specified (see lubrication list). Use of any lubricant other than those specified by ZF may cause extensive damage to the clutch (friction) plates inside the transmission and the torque converter.
http://www.zf.com/na/content/en/imp...ransmissions/FAQ_Automatic_Transmissions.html

Me, I think I'm sticking with the approved stuff.
 
1 - 20 of 65 Posts
Top