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598 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·

I would like to change the trans oil along with the filter and pan gasket.
As there is not so many workshops specializing in automatic transmissions
in poland, i have few questions. My local BMW dealership has given me some
ridiculous quote plus they really stand behind the myth that newer transmissions
have lifetime oil filling. Which is of course not true, because even the original
manufacturer of these transmissions claim that they DO need oil and filter

My first question is how to properly identify the transmission? ETK shows
three different possibilities; ZF transmission, GM transmission and some
Japanese AS300J. The car is 1996 528 with Steptronic. Which one of them
requires this "special" oil?

Secondly, most of the workshops i've called claim that they will fill it
with Dexron III. Which i don't think is correct. Wouldn't it sooner or later
cause damage to the transmission?

Last but not least, what is the expected quantity of the oil change with filter?
Transmission does not have dipstick; at the dealership they probably use
computer to prove oil level. Is there another way to go?


Premium Member
5,938 Posts
"Lifetime Oil" is a bit misleading if you think about it. Let's say you put 200,000 km on the transmission and it fails. What do you conclude? "Yep, I guess the fluid lasted the lifetime of the transmission."

Let's say you put 10,000 km on the transmission and it fails. What do you conclude? Same thing!! :)

So, in light of that, I would change the transmission fluid regularly. It doesn't have to be as often as the engine oil but doing it every 50,000 - 60,000 km woudln't be such a bad idea.

I can't help you with the first two questions but determining your transmission type will go a long ways.

Now it's been a while since I had a car with an automatic transmission or worked on a car with an automatic transmission but they all had dipsticks so you could read the level of the fluid. Manual transmissions do not have dipsticks. The way you tell in those cars is to simply fill it up to the fill plug level and when it starts dripping out, it is full! Of course, your car must be level to properly fill and check the level of fluid in a manual transmission.

Premium Member
2,324 Posts
my_e36 said:
To ID your gear box, you need to get under the car and look at the text on the gearbox housing (probably on the pan).
I agree, get under there and check the label.

2/96 - 8/99 production 582i and iT models should have a THM-R1 transmission. (Also known as A4S 270R). They use Dextron III fluid. (I don't own a 526i so please double check this information.)Approved oils:
Unical Dextron III - D- Multi-purpose ATF,
Castrol Dextron III Mercon,
Texaco ATF Mercon - Dextron III

I am not sure how much that fluid costs, but I don't think it is as expensive as the Esso fluid in the 540iA and 740s. I'd plan to do the "lifetime" change at about 75-80K miles since people seem to think a BMW "lifetime" quote is 100K miles. (The longest they will warranty a car, under CPO, is 100K miles.)

You should have a capacity of 7.8 liters without torque converter, 8.8 with.

598 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
thanks, A/T service solved

Thanks to everyone who replied. Sorry for delay but didn't have time to respond earlier.
Have completed the A/T service some two weeks ago.

It turned out that my car has ZF transmission (which, apart from expensive oil, i like
because here in Europe german ZF transmissions have much better reputation than
GM units built into euro cars). It has a green plug saying that it can be filled only
with "lifetime" (what a bs....) oil filling, ESSO LT711741 or equivalent. Filling this
type with DxIII is absolutely prohibited and will sooner or later lead to damage of
internal components. Not all shops i've called were aware of that.

As the oil was rather dark and there was lots of deposits on the magnets that sit
in the oil pan, i've decided to go with "extended" service which includes flushing
out sludge from valve unit, torque converter and oil lines. Total amount of
oil used was slightly less than 8 liters (7.5 USqt).

I've replaced the filter with the original BMW one (i was told that aftermarket
filters tend to either clog or pass bigger particles over the time, depends on
the filter type).

As there was nothing actually wrong with the transmission, there is no dramatic
improvement in the way it works, but indeed, shifts are somewhat quicker and
softer and the reaction to downshift(kickdown) is faster now.

In the service manual i see that on this type of trans the only available method
to check the oil level is either diagnostic unit or thru the fill plug - they did the
latter one, including several checks and corrections after warming the car up.

I hope that this will prolong life of the transmission.
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