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Old 06-05-2009, 05:16 PM   #1
Makakio
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STEP fluid change protocol for ZFs + info (FYI)

Passing this on for those of you DIY folks who service your no-service ZF trannies. Got the information this morning from Brandon at Dose BMW down in San Diego (awesome guy). They are one of about fifteen ZF factory certified SERVICE centers in the United States (not to be confused with a parts distributor) -- and as such they service and rebuild a ton of the problematic ZFs that fail (reverse drum - it's the solenoids on the GMs that fail). Based on our conversation, I'd have these guys work my ZF -- if they weren't 500 miles away.

Anyhoo, here's what he told me (and Brandon if you see this, thanks a lot for the info). If you're going to DIY, or if Dose BMW is located too far away from you it might be worthwhile to take this to your indy:

PARTS

* always use the Esso fluid. If unavailable, the Esso fluid has been rebranded as "Lifeguard 5" fluid as well - same exact chemistry. Don't use redline, purple and especially stay away from pentasin. (I doubt I spelled any of those correctly).

* always use a ZF replacement filter.

PROCESS

It's a drain and fill procedure. He says there's no point to anyone claiming to 'flush', as you can't really replace all the old fluid anyway because all fluid passes through the torque converter, which is like "a washing machine" where everything mixes.

1) The tranny must be stone cold. He said they often open up the trans at night to start it draining and let it drain all night long. At a minimum, he said it should be allowed to drain (car level and cold) for 90 minutes. Drop and clean pan and magnets of course. Pull and replace filter with ZF OEM. Put pan back up.

2) Filling procedure is key as there is no dipstick and you'll get operational problems with underfill and overfill. So it's all about taking the temperature of the trans while doing this.

Their process is to fill it, hook up a temp scanner to the trans, start the car, then (on stands) they run through all gears, coming back to park, then they keep the car idling until trans temp is between 30 and 50 C degrees (scanning continuously and adding fluid as needed). Then when it reaches temp they turn it off, top the fluid level off and close it up.

OF NOTE

I also asked him (as he doesn't have a financial stake in servicing my car) about whether or not they recommend opening up the tranny at 100k miles for the first time -- or if leaving it closed due to the high miles -- is a best strategy. He said:

1) ZF recommends fluid / filter changes every 50k miles. BMW's original service recommendation of 'never' changing, then later changing 'at 100k miles' was solely BMW's recommendation, not ZF's.

2) He would not hesitate to open up a tranny at 100k and change fluid and filter. He says that in the old days of Dextron and similar trans fluids (circa pre 1992), the fluids would varnish up surfaces a lot over 100k miles and putting fresh fluid in would strip the varnish, clog fluid channels and lines and often cause transmissions to burn up. He reports the newer fluids don't varnish up unless they get exceptionally hot (way outside the temp ranges of what he called "hard driving") - and they haven't seen a single example of a 'varnish' failure like this on high-mileage first changes. He went on to say that the fluid is so good that at higher-mileages it is actually still pretty intact (chemical properties), but due to wear of clutch plates and the filter only being able to do so much it gets to be - at a microscopic level - an abrasive slurry the longer it sits unchanged.

They charge $400 for the service. www.dosebmw.com

Hopefully and FWIW this is maybe useful to a few of you here. If you need more details you might call 'em as this is all I can recall from a short conversation. I learned more from him about this transmission in ten minutes than all of a handful of dealer and indy techs have ever been able to tell me. Combined.
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Old 06-05-2009, 06:35 PM   #2
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Great post!
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Old 06-05-2009, 08:01 PM   #3
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That is a good post, so ZF is recommending its changed out. That cements it for me. Diy next weekend
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Old 06-05-2009, 08:17 PM   #4
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nice!

i have yet to change my fluid, i'm at 73k... i've been procrastinating... i will do it before 80k though...
i have no idea if mine is a ZF or GM
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Old 06-05-2009, 08:18 PM   #5
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$400? That's steep.

I've taken mine (and my 00 Audi) to a local transmission shop that has had extensive experience with ZF experience and they charge $150 for the same service, using the Esso fluid. Can't vouch for the filter, but so far so good.

I am well aware that few shops are competent with these units, but this shop has earned my trust.

Did the first service on the Audi's 5hp19 (quattro) at 114k, second at about 130k. That car is now at 150k and doing great.

First serviced the 325Ci at 133k. Only at 134k, but so far so good!

I would never hesitate to service any modern trans at any mileage. The old "don't service if more than 60 or 100k" is just a myth. Better late than never!
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Old 06-05-2009, 10:06 PM   #6
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Thanks for the info!
What is the exact Esso fluid to be used?
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Old 06-05-2009, 11:40 PM   #7
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Wait so ZF ISN'T the one that has reverse drum failure? OMG dude you just made my week, THANK YOU!
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Old 06-05-2009, 11:46 PM   #8
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Old 06-07-2009, 12:02 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iDriftYou View Post
Wait so ZF ISN'T the one that has reverse drum failure? OMG dude you just made my week, THANK YOU!
No it says zf is the one, Gm has solenoid probs. My question is, is changing out the fluid really gonna do anything to help prvent reverse drum failure???
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Old 06-08-2009, 01:23 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by giver13 View Post
My question is, is changing out the fluid really gonna do anything to help prvent reverse drum failure???
Nope - here is what I've been told:

The reverse drum failure has to do with ZF under-engineering metal fatigue/failure when they designed the tranny and outsourced that part. Some are made of too-thin aluminum (brittle) and others are made of too-thin steel (weak - what some call pot-metal). The replacement drums used for rebuilds today are designed thicker and made of high-strength alloy steel. The OEM drums for the 2002-2004 years (after ZF reportedly noted the problem and made a supplier change on the drums) are higher-quality (stronger) steel, but weren't designed thicker, so in rarer instances you can still get the reverse failure in 2002+ models.

My understanding is that coming to a complete stop before changing in/out of reverse and letting the tranny fully engage/disengage reverse before giving throttle is the best way to prolong the reverse drum. But it is a design flaw, particularly present in the 99-01 models.

On another note: I've been researching and researching and researching trying to figure out whether to change fluid or not, as a lot of people have told me "if it runs well, don't mess with it at this high mileage as varnish issues / detergent issues (etc) will kill it. Talking with these guys I can say that I'm over the decision at this point and will have it changed.

$400 is what I hear from everyone here in Calif (except for dealer, who says $550). My understanding is that the oil alone costs somewhere b/t $150 - $180, so I'm wondering where you're getting Esso, the filter and all the labor for $150. MN is cheaper than CA, but material costs are material costs. Please reply.
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Old 06-08-2009, 01:36 PM   #11
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Does this still apply to GM trannys? Apparently my 01 330ci has a GM and not ZF tranny...I'm looking to do this but the whole over and under filling kinda scares me. Where exactly can we find this Esso fluid?
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Old 06-08-2009, 01:40 PM   #12
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I had mine done at my BMW shop for 200, OEM Texaco lifetime fluid for the GM and OEM filter and gasket.
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Old 06-08-2009, 05:17 PM   #13
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That would explain why it is hard to find 2002 and up built year failures on noreverse.org
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Old 06-08-2009, 06:22 PM   #14
Makakio
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BM5: I don't know what fluid GM trannys use. You need to go find that out. It may be something different than the Esso or Lifeguard5 stuff. Do a search.

n2bimmer: That sounds like a sweet deal. You're in Cali. Where do you take your car? Share.

Strel: I did some searching at noreverse.org for my year (2003) and there were very few '03 and '04s that had anything like the NR issue. Mainly '99 - '01s and I've got a lot more miles on my '03 (98k) than most of those trannys failed at. I've also had just about every tech I'e asked tell me it was a defect primarily affecting 99 - 01 model years. Maybe 1998 too? At any regard, I WANT to agree with you seeing as I'm keeping the car for another 50k miles. Ha...
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Old 06-08-2009, 06:29 PM   #15
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Hamlets BMW in Glendale. Not sure if he will give you the same deal, I know him.
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Old 06-08-2009, 07:34 PM   #16
Makakio
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Quote:
Originally Posted by n2Bimmer View Post
Hamlets BMW in Glendale. Not sure if he will give you the same deal, I know him.
Sounds like you got a bro deal. Maybe you should have said that to begin with.

They quoted $350, saying it was mostly labor but it "could be a little closer to $400 depending on the cost of the fluid as it varies".
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Old 06-08-2009, 07:58 PM   #17
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[QUOTE=Makakio;10083904] * always use the Esso fluid. If unavailable, the Esso fluid has been rebranded as "Lifeguard 5" fluid as well - same exact chemistry. Don't use redline, purple and especially stay away from pentasin. (I doubt I spelled any of those correctly). QUOTE]


Did he specify why redline won't work? Thanks.
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Old 06-08-2009, 09:06 PM   #18
dh0licious
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Where can you get Lifeguard 5??!
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Old 06-08-2009, 09:19 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by muniz_ri View Post
Did he specify why redline won't work? Thanks.
The problem is not the Redline itself. I think it has more to do with mixing different fluids. For one, you're not flushing out the entire system, just drain and fill. Second, even if you did flush, there are still remnants of the old fluid here and there, and most importantly at places that you can't get it out. So mixing fluids that may not be compatible with each other might cause one to disintegrate and lose its effectiveness.
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Old 06-09-2009, 07:14 AM   #20
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Does anyone know if those of us with GM trannies can use the Dexron fluid from GM if we change it more often, I assume the factory BMW fill is long life, maybe Dexron would be fine if we were changing every 30 to 50 thousand miles?
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