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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 01-25-2007, 09:10 PM   #1
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Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Atlanta
Posts: 1,448
My Ride: Sold
Exclamation ATF Change DIY/FAQ (Pictures)


This is a step-by-step guide (with pictures) for draining and refilling your Automatic Transmission Fluid in your BMW. The procedure is based off of a 93,000 mile BMW 323i Steptronic with the GM A5S360R (same as A5S390R) transmission. Your vehicle may vary. I assume no responsibility for users following this DIY.

Materials -
  • BMW ATF Fluid (7 Liters, Texaco ETL 7045E, PN: 83220026922)
  • BMW AT Filter Kit (Includes filter, gasket, and bolts; PN: 24117557070)
  • T40 Socket (For drain plug)
  • T45 Socket (For fill plug, must be L-shape)
  • 10mm Socket
  • Socket Wrench
  • Socket Extension (Short)
  • Screw Driver
  • Automotive Jack
  • 4 Jack Stands
  • Fluid Pump
  • Gloves
  • Safety Glasses
  • Container with Liter Measurement (Up to 6 Liters)
  • Lint Free Rags/Towels
  • Ramps/Wood (My vehicle is too low to fit the jack under)
  • Torque Wrench (For use with drain plug)
  • Scan Tool (For accurately measuring AT temperature)
  • Catch Pan/Kitty Liter (ATF stains driveways)
  • Creeper (Makes being on your back a lot easier)
  • Fill Plug (PN: ?, contains a gasket which prevents leaks but, is rarely changed)
  • Drain Plug (PN: 24117533937, contains a gasket which prevents leaks but, is rarely changed)
Difficulty - 4/10
This is not a 1st DIY for sure but it is feasible. The DIY can be accomplished in about 2-3 hours for the first time. Most of the job occurs below the vehicle. It can be accomplished by one person but, an assitant is helpful. Be aware however, this tune-up requires the vehicle to be running at times while working underneath.
Procedure -
  1. Begin by gathering all the materials needed to complete the project. Be sure you have an open work space, as the vehicle will be running at certain points. The vehicle will be out of commision for roughly 2-3 hours.

  2. We will start by jacking the vehicle as high into the air as possible. Drive your vehicle up onto a set of ramps or wood, to clear the jack. Put the car in park, engage the emergency brake, and chock the rear wheels. Then jack up the front end using the center jack pad. (See "Jack/Lift Points for E46") Place jack stands underneath the two front jack pads and lower it carefully. Repeat on the rear, jacking up on the U-brace in the rear, placing jack stands, and lowering slowly. Now try your best to knock the vehicle loose before you get underneath it.

  3. Now we are ready to begin the ATF change. The ATF should be drained when the vehicle is cold. Place the catch pan underneath the AT area and have your catch container (with liter measurement) ready. We will begin by unbolting the fill plug (don't wanna empty the fluid without knowing we can fill it, right?). It takes a T45 torx L-shape to fit into the small area that the fill plug is located. You might need to use a pipe or other various tool to provide you with enough leverage to loosen the plug. Unscrew the plug but be prepared to have fluid come out.

  4. Once all the fluid has come out, place the fill plug in a safe location (throw it away if you are replacing it). Now using the T40 Torx socket unscrew the drain plug. Be sure you have the catch container directly below the drain plug, otherwise it could get messy. Also, be careful not to drop the drain plug into the catch container or you will have to fish it out of nasty ATF. Once all of the fluid has dripped out, screw the new or old drain plug back in (discard the old plug if you are replacing it). Torque the drain plug to 14 ft-lb if available.

  5. Move your catch container off to the side, in a location where it won't spill. We are now going to remove the AT pan to replace the filter. Begin by unbolting the 22 10mm bolts holding the pan up, using a socket extension. You can discard the screws. If the pan is stuck to the bottom of the AT pry at the rear driver's side corner with a screwdriver. Once the pan is off place it off to the side. Discard the old pan gasket.

  6. We are now ready to remove the old filter. Put both hands on either side of the filter and pull down firmly. It should come down fairly easy. Discard the old filter. *Check to see if the sealing ring remained in the transmission.* (see picture below) If so, using the screwdriver push up on one side of the ring so it moves vertically and pull it out with the screwdriver. Discard the ring.

  7. Find the new filter kit. Open and remove the filter. Install the filter by grasping both sides and pushing up until the sealing ring is out of site. The white cap should be at the base of the transmission.

  8. Now it is time to clean out the AT pan. Pour the excess fluid into your catch container. Now wipe out all of the old fluid and gunk around the magnet using lint free cloths (can't introduce debris into the AT). Be sure to also wipe down where the gasket will make contact on the pan as well as the AT.

  9. Once the pan is clean it is time to re-install it on the vehicle. Remove the gasket from the filter kit, as well as the screws. Coat the gasket with some ATF. Now get ready for the hardest part of the job. You must hold the AT pan over your head, while being sure that the gasket is seated properly, and screwing in the bolts. Once you get a few bolts in it is all downhill. The bolts are only torque to 7 ft-lb, so it isn't necessary to break out the torque wrench.

  10. 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.

  11. Now we must start the vehicle to get up to temperature. If you have the scan tool go ahead and plug it in, after you turn on the car. The goal here is to get all the fluid in the nooks and crannies of the AT and allow the AT to reach normal operating temperature. From here on out the engine must be on. Turn on the car and put the A/C on (increase idle speed). Shift between gears several times (P->R->N->D, 5 times back and forth) and pause briefly between each gear (5 secs).

  12. With the vehicle in park, check the temperature. It should be between 85 and 120 degrees F. If you don't have the scan tool, touch the bottom of the AT pan. If it is warm and you can maintain steady contact, it is roughly the right temperature.

  13. *Be sure you are wearing gloves. The ATF coming out of the fill plug will be HOT.* Have your catch container ready. Unscrew the fill plug. If fluid is coming out, the AT is at the correct fluid level. If not, use the fluid pump to fill until it overflows. Screw the fill plug back in as tight as possible, it is too small an area for a torque wrench.

  14. Turn the vehicle off. Congratulations! You have done the impossible and changed the ATF on your BMW. Double check to make sure everything is screwed in tightly and not leaking. If you got any ATF on the exhaust, wait till the vehicle cools and use some degreaser, otherwise you will smell it every time you run the car.

  15. Take the vehicle off of the jack stands and be sure to place kitty liter over any spilled ATF. Take your vehicle for a test drive and enjoy your "new" AT. Be sure to safely dispose of your used ATF and ATF covered supplies.
Links -
Information:E46 DIYs:Other DIYs:ETC:
Results -
The car shifts A LOT better. Shifts between gears happen faster and smoother than before. Reverse engages faster as well (Immediately as opposed to several second delay, if at all). In the morning when the vehicle is cold, there is no issues whatsoever.

The fluid coming out of the AT was completely black. I strongly suggest anyone planning on keeping the car past 100K miles to change out the fluid. If you are considering on waiting until the AT gives you problems before changing, it will be too late. This talk of changing your ATF causing transmission failure is only in certain situations (AT was already failing, not replacing filter, incorrect fluid).

I will keep this thread updated with my experience every so often and will notify immediately if the AT fails. I am probably going to change the fluid and filter again every 30,000 miles (might eventually switch to non-BMW fluid). If you plan on going through with this service I strongly suggest researching as much as possible.

Good luck if you choose to change your ATF. You are welcome to post your experience (positive or negative) or other BMW ATF related links.

ATF: Automatic Transmission Fluid, AT: Automatic Transmission
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