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DIY: Do It Yourself
Post here to share or improve your wrench turning skills! All BMW E46 DIY tips, tales, and projects discussed inside. Learn to work on your car and know the right BMW parts you will need!

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Old 08-06-2010, 02:59 PM   #101
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Can i just drive the car up the rams instead of using the jack.
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Old 11-06-2010, 02:41 PM   #102
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Originally Posted by james2538 View Post

This is a Frequently Asked Questions guide for draining and refilling your Automatic Transmission Fluid in your BMW.

Why should I change my ATF?

What would make you want to deal with the hassle of changing your ATF? Well, to begin with, if you plan on keeping your car past 100,000 miles it is an excellent idea. Changing the fluid extends the life of AT just like it would any other component. Not maintained, these ATs have a high rate of failure.

Changing the ATF also results in much smoother and quicker shifts. It will bring your car to feeling like new! Reverse will engage quicker and you will prevent those embaresing moments when reverse doesn't work.

It will also save you money if you don't have to change out the transmission every 100,000 miles.

When should I change my ATF?

Before the "lifetime" fluid, BMW recommended 60,000 mile ATF and MTF changes. I suggest following this recomendation. If you are a little more strict on maintainence and aren't using the OEM fluid (this stuff is expensive to do often and was designed to last a long time) then you can go on 30,000 mile intervals.

If your car has never been changed and you are past 60,000 miles, then now is the perfect time to change out the fluid.

If your vehicle has already started having symptoms of a dead AT it might be too late. Do not expect a miracle to happen if your reverse goes out. It might be worth a shot, but keep in mind that the money spent on a ATF change could have gone towards a new transmission (Use cheap fluid if your transmission is doomed). Please do not blame it on the fluid change if your AT ends up dieing.

I heard changing my ATF can cause "non-warrantable transmission failure", is this true?

This is pure bogus. Since when does preventative maintainence hurt anything? If it can cause failure then why do certain dealers change it?

There are some examples where people have decided to do an incomplete fluid change, their transmissions fail, and they blame it on the change. If you follow all the steps carefully, replace the filter, and use the correct fluid you will be fine.

I heard it is a bad idea to change the ATF on a high-mileage vehicle, is this true?

Better late than never. If your transmission has started descending downhill you might want to pass, but plenty of people have changed there high mileage ATs with superb results. The highest mileage change currently recorded is a 160,000 miles.

Be aware there is a greater risk with changing at higher mileage as the AT has been running on poor quality fluid and has more gunk inside.

If it should be changed, then why does BMW call it "lifetime" fluid?


If BMW can have customers believe that the transmission never needs to be maintained for the life of it, people will be more inclined to purchase the car (BMWs have a reputation of being expensive to maintain).

*BMW has recently revised this lifetime policy to be 100,000 miles.*

What is the difference between the ATs?

Different ATs were used through out the production of the E46 design. They were produced by either ZF or GM. To find out your specific AT, look at the bottom of your ATF pan. There will be a color-coded label. Use the link "Transmission Guide" to match up which AT is in your vehicle. You can also use the link to figure out which model you have by build date (However, this is less accurate).

Since different ATs were used in the E46 chassis, different fluids and filters were as well. Once you figure out your AT model you can find out the supplies. The tools used in this DIY also differ among ATs.

Where should I get my ATF changed?

You can do it yourself right in your driveway! If you have read over the DIY and the task intimidates you too much or you would prefer not to have a runnning vehicle over your head, then take it to your independent BMW mechanic. If you do not have one, now is the perfect time to find a reputable one in your area. This is a service that dealerships will generally charge ~$500 for, if they are willing to do it at all (most dealerships believe strongly in the "lifetime" fluid). AVOID QUICK CHANGE PLACES AT ALL COSTS. This is not a jiffy-lube service, your transmission will almost certainly die.

Which ATF should I choose?

Many different ATFs are available on the market. BMW warns against using non-OEM fluid in the transmission, as it can apparently cause transmission failure. The problem lies in that the BMW OEM Fluid is $$$. There are alternatives to the fluids but I will not go into depth here. Research yourself and choose what risks (if any exist at all) you are willing to take. Decide on a fluid that is right for your vehicle.

I personally chose to stick with the BMW OEM fluid, as it is impossible to get all of the fluid out in a drain-and-refill service. The torque converter will always contain some. Ways to get around this include a flush (possibly loosen gunk), back flowing with new fluid, or multiple drain and refills. There is as much controversy surrounding the fluid choice as there is the change itself.

I would also not recommend going against the BMW OEM fluid if you are doing the service under warranty, as BMW states "Use of any other oil will cause a non-warrantable transmission failure!" If you are out of warranty, do whatever the hell pleases you!

Excellent Fluid Discussions:
"Lifetime Fluid"
Redline D4 ATF vs. OEM

How do I change my ATF?

Follow my DIY! If you do not have a GM Tranny there are links to multiple other DIYs.

Help! My AT died, what should I do?

It has finally happened to you. Your choices remain between:

1) AT path again
2) Manual Retrofit

If you choose to go the AT path again, you can pick up rebuilt units for around $2000. It is not advised that you service the transmission.

If you choose than manual retrofit path, be aware you are taking on a massive project. There is more than just the transmission that needs to be changed. It is a general $4000 estimate for the switch.

There is alot of information on this subject so search around.
I have 170k on my e46 have not changed the AT fluid I might just do it now. Thanks for the write up.
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Old 11-13-2010, 03:09 PM   #103
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"Once the pan is re-attached we are ready to start the fill process! Calculate the total amount of fluid drained from the transmission from your catch container. I got roughly 5L. Using the fluid pump, fill the car with the same amount of fluid you drained from it. Once you finish insert the new or old fill plug finger tight."

Can't I just fill the AT Fluid from the top in the engine bay? There is a cap that says ATF fluid . i need to get this done asap!
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Old 11-13-2010, 05:00 PM   #104
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Nicely done DIY. When I changed the fluid on my ZF transmission, I used VW fluid, which is the same as BMW/LT 71141, which I found for around $15/liter. ZF has a bulletin out which details what oils are acceptable for the transmission, which provides some other options.
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Old 11-16-2010, 07:00 PM   #105
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Originally Posted by Fobanginvtek View Post
"Once the pan is re-attached we are ready to start the fill process! Calculate the total amount of fluid drained from the transmission from your catch container. I got roughly 5L. Using the fluid pump, fill the car with the same amount of fluid you drained from it. Once you finish insert the new or old fill plug finger tight."

Can't I just fill the AT Fluid from the top in the engine bay? There is a cap that says ATF fluid . i need to get this done asap!
The E46 doesn't allow ATF fill from the engine bay. The cap that says ATF fluid is your power steering.
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Old 12-08-2010, 02:02 PM   #106
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Originally Posted by SolidBMW View Post
Can i just drive the car up the rams instead of using the jack.
Using the jack to get it on the ramps is MUCH more difficult; trust me, I know.
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Old 01-12-2011, 03:26 PM   #107
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Thumbs Up 01' 325Ci ATF & filter

Did the ATF & filter at 87k miles. I will first say that my AT functioned as it should have, with the exception of 'hunting' gears when coasting. It seemed as though the TC would lock and unlock for no reason when decelerating.
The fluid was terrible, black and lots of sludge - residue around the magnets. Pan itself remained clean. I used Esso fluid on my ZF gearbox with green label. From start to finish, roughly 5 hours and I took all the time in the world I thought i needed and then some. No rushing this job.
My very fist drive: quicker shifts, very smooth shifting (smoother than prior to fluid change) and the gear 'hunting' dissapeared.
I will also add that I did an ATF & filter change on all of my past BMW's as well (old 318i, 325i and X5). Each and every time there was a noticeable improvement in shift speed and smoothness.
I do not believe in 'life-time' fluids. The oil simply has to start breaking down at some point and then wear also accelerates.
Tools, time and patience is all you need.
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Old 01-12-2011, 09:11 PM   #108
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Has anyone ever used Royal Purple Oils/Fluids?
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Old 01-12-2011, 09:32 PM   #109
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Originally Posted by kondzik View Post
Has anyone ever used Royal Purple Oils/Fluids?
Dunno. However, you have to use the same spec that matches the original.
2001 BMW 330xi
2009 Lexus IS-F
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Old 01-12-2011, 09:41 PM   #110
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Originally Posted by Rickna View Post
Dunno. However, you have to use the same spec that matches the original.

I know I know, just asking if anyone has used this oli brand
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Old 01-30-2011, 10:46 PM   #111
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Did mine today, 93k miles. 2000 323i. I have the GM 360R transmission.
Used Fuchs Titan 4000 ATF, $ 9/liter - 7 liters + the new filter kit was $93 delivered from KO performance. By the way, on the Fuchs ATF bottle it says Dextron III g.

Got to say thanks for the awesome DIY, would never have tried this myself.

For me the worst part was getting the car jacked up high enough. Tried to lift the front from the center jack point but ended up doing one side at a time, I could get a higher setting on the jack stands that way. Rear end was a relative breeze, used the U-brace in front of the differentialand lifted both sides at once.

2nd worse part was the refill, just really messy (I'm a klutz, and didn't have help).

Finally, getting that damn fill plug out and then in sucked. I didn't have the L-shaped t45 torx wrench, used a 5/16 box wrench over a 3/8"drive torx socket bit (this was demonstrated on the diy on the wiki). Pulling on it did nothing, but a couple shots on the wrench with a hammer, and it loosened up. I was shocked, my plan B was to just go to AAMCO to change the fluid/filter for me if I couldn't get the plug out. No way for me to get a beaker bar under there. My advice is to get the damn L-shaped tool.

The old atf was dark, but didn't smell burned. Got about 5.5 L out.

I decided to change mine because a couple weeks ago when it was cold (for texas-30's), I got the transmission warning, and the shifts to first and second were VERY hard. The problem cleared when it warmed up, but after researching and reading the boards, decided to change it.

Anyway, I'm really thankful for these boards, I've never done any work on my car (not even oil), so by my count the awesome Diy's and contributors have saved me about $ 700 in shop labor in less than a month (Thermostat/lower radiator hose change, Ac belt tensioner and belt, drivers side window regulator, and Atf fluid/filter change).


Sent from my DROIDX using Bimmer App
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Old 02-05-2011, 09:46 AM   #112
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Change your fluid

After having transmisson issues with two previous high mileage cars (735 and 550) and reading all the info I could find, I decided to service my 2005 330ci with 43,000 miles (GM tranny). I was influenced to do it at this low mileage by Mike Miller's maintenance guide, who advised caution as to the wisdom of doing this service on cars with higher miles. I ordered filter/gasket and purchased Valvoline Dexron full synthetic (any high quality full synthetic ATF is good). I had a reputable transmission shop do the service. They replaced the fuel filter and serviced the rear diff (redline gear oil) at the same time. The transmission took 7+ quarts. Although the transmission seemed to be shifting fine prior to servicing, I immediately noticed smoother, quicker, seamless shifts after the service. It was very suprising, but satisfying, to be able to feel a seat-of-the-pants driveability benefit to this preventative maintenance service.
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Old 02-28-2011, 11:51 AM   #113
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ATF Change DYI - Completed Change

Just finished following the above DIY instructions and changed the ATF fluid and filter at 50k miles. Worked great. Quick steps:
1) drained 4 qts fluid;
2) added 3 qts. of fluid & shifted through the gears several times then drained again (went in bright red, came out brown);
3) dropped & cleaned pan, replaced filter;
4) added 3 qts & it started dripping;
5) shifted through gears and added more;
6) shifted gears and added more unit it dripped out again;
7) confirmed all bolts & plugs were tight. Done.

Confirmed: gather all tools & and confirm filler plug can be removed before starting project. Mine wouldn't and had buy a new tork wrench at Sears (first wrench broke).

Lessons learned: do not over tighten the 20 pan bolts, torque wrench suggested. Wish I has used a L shaped tork wrench (available on ebay) for the drain plug instead of a socket (there is not much space to insert wrench).

Suggestions: instead of using a pump to refill the pan, which is tedious and messy, I used a 4.5 foot length hose, 1/2" diameter, with a funnel (very) secured to one end. The funnel & hose was secured to a nearby storage rack and the other end into the ATF refill hole. Gravity is friendly and this method was easy and clean (but slower). Also, attaching a 10mm socket to a drill made removing the old & installing the new 20 pan bolts quicker and easier. Careful not to get AFT fluid on paint, it's been known to remove paint.

Hints: Before starting I visited a local dealer to figure out what kind of fluid to use on my July 2005 325Ci - ended up being Dextron VI (six). Dealer price for 5 qts of Texaco brand was $110. I bought Castrol at Advanced Auto for $60 (plus 3 extra qts. for the flush). Castrol is licensed by GM to make and sell Dextron VI. Whole project took about 5 hrs.

Results: Before starting the fluid change my trani shifted smooth, but immediately afterwords is clunked when shifting from park to reverse. Drove the car a few miles and it's perfect again - the fluid just needed to get into all the little nooks and crannies. Man, I was nervous that I somehow screwed up, but all is well!
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Old 02-28-2011, 04:28 PM   #114
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congrats on a job well done! Thanks for posting this.
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Old 03-15-2011, 11:16 PM   #115
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Awesome Info OP and everyone. Thank you!
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Old 04-13-2011, 09:32 AM   #116
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Originally Posted by james2538 View Post
This is my first DIY. Let me know what you think! It took awhile to write up. I'll post the FAQ up later.

Don't let the length scare you
My car is a 2004 330xi AWD Auto, is it still safe to turn on the car while on jack stands to get it to operating temp as suggested above, is there any possibilities due to the ABS that the car might slip or drop, car on lifts will engage the ABS therefore might cause the car to jump !!!! .....

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Old 04-15-2011, 09:34 PM   #117
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Originally Posted by jaydeep View Post
Which GM dealer? I am in CT too and wnat to change fluid.

Were you able to get the fluid from the GM Wallingford dealer? I live in Ct. And Wallingford is close to me. How much did they end up charging you? How did it go after you changed the AT fluid, any problems?

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Old 04-25-2011, 02:23 AM   #118
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ATF DIY vs the local dealer.

I've enjoyed reading this thread in regards to BMW's B***S**T theory on their "lifetime" Fluid. About 10K miles back, around 80K Miles the 2006 330ZHP started getting a little funky on the shifting and was also making a "Growling Noise". The better half dropped by the dealer (we have probably the WORST RIP OFF DEALER in the country, here in Bend, Oregon!) and they drove it around the lot and told her it was time for a $7,300.00 transmission! AND they told her it was going to be an additional $2,300.00 for a new rack an pinion steering gear!

She called me and I told her to take it home and "park it".

Couple days later, I'm back in town and decide to service the transmission myself. Not much to lose I figured.....A few hundred bucks and if it's still FUBAR - then it's transmission time.

Lucky for me, I was able to procure a T-Tech Trans Flush Machine (BTW - I'm a total gearhead on this end - have to have my toys in my home shop)

Dropped the pan, cleaned it out, installed new filter, buttoned it up and topped off the trans with Red Line D4. Next, I loaded up the T-Tech with the 18 quarts of D4 and hooked up. The trans cooler lines are a snap! Just push then on a little further, then reach up and gently push the plastic clips up into the hose to release and pull the line off. "Voila" - you are unhooked. Very similar in design to ford Fuel Injection lines. Did the flush of the trans.

Next, I unhooked the return line to the Power steering reservoir and did a 7 quart flush there. Fluid exchanges QUICKLY, so be johnny on the spot to crank the wheel from stop to stop a couple times to flush all the old out. Again, Used Red Line for this.

Ever since this was done, all transmission issues have vanished, steering is perfect and quiet.

All in All, I spent the following:

T-Tech Trans Machine from Craigslist: $500.00
3 Cases of Red Line D4 ATF @ $120.00/case: $360.00
Trans Filter Kit from ECS Tuning: $24.00
Total Expendature for this project: $884.00


RESOLD the T-Tech on Craigslist for: $1,000.00.

FOUND 2 More T-Tech on Craigslist for: $250.00 each for a total of $500.00. Sold One for $500.00 and am keeping the last one for my home shop!

So with a little patience, perseverance and wheeling and dealing, I was able to service the vehicle (as well as several of my other vehicles) with little to no cost out of pocket.

Had I listened to the service vultures here at Carerra Motors here in Bend, I would have shelled out $9,600.00

So my advice? If at all possible, if you can do this stuff yourself - DO IT! Not sure what to do? Just do the posting and asking. Great DIY articles in here and a great BMW Community.

If you are a CCA member, make sure to get included in the "Friends of BMW" directory with the club. It's really neat to find people who live in your area with expertise that you can get to know through the club.

For those of you who live up around my area, look me up. I'm the "Central Oregon Regional Events Coordinator" (Translation - "A Highly Paid Volunteer Position!) for the newly formed BMWCCA Oregon Chapter! .....
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Old 05-04-2011, 02:57 PM   #119
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Nice DYI
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Old 05-11-2011, 10:04 PM   #120
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Hi everyone!
I have a '02 325i with 175k miles on it, majority comes from a weekly 3-hr commute each way. I've never changed the ATF and hear that it is a bad idea to change it for the first time at such a high mileage like mine. Should I go with the change or not? I plan to keep the car for a long time. Any suggestions or advice is welcomed. Thank you so much in advance!
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