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Old 02-11-09, 11:49 AM   #1
Michigander
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BMW "Lifetime" transmission fluid???

My friend has a 96 BMW. I was helping him replace the spark plugs the other day, and he tells me that the transmission fluid is good for the "lifetime" of the car. How on earth is that possible? Isn't that a bit like having a lifetime diaper?

Granted, the car has gone 170,000 miles with no flush and filter change. But still, shouldn't it be flushed from time to time? My suspicion is that if it'll go 250,000 miles on the same worn out and dirty transmission fluid, it could probably go a million with regular fluid changes. I mean, it couldn't possibly hurt anything to put clean fluid in, nor with the laws of physics could it be good for it to have dirty fluid.

Am I missing something here? Does BMW do something extra special with their transmissions?
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Old 02-11-09, 11:52 AM   #2
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I've never changed tranny fluid. I drive my cars 250,000 mi and have never had an issue.
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Old 02-11-09, 11:53 AM   #3
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Even the Bimmer guys cannot agree on this one.

http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=110226

http://www.unofficialbmw.com/e36/dri...ion_fluid.html
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Old 02-11-09, 11:56 AM   #4
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I've never changed tranny fluid. I drive my cars 250,000 mi and have never had an issue.
What kind of cars have you done this with?
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Old 02-11-09, 11:58 AM   #5
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Hopefully people here can.
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Old 02-11-09, 12:02 PM   #6
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An increasing number calim lifetime fluid and don't even have a dipstick to see if it's low. The system is sealed so you can't add it easily.
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Old 02-11-09, 12:06 PM   #7
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I was told that the development of the dipstick lacking transmission was developed by GM to cut costs.

I've seen Ford claim you don't need to flush their transmissions, resulting in a blow out within 140,000 miles, and rubber parts that should be soft turning as brittle as a dry stick. Can't help wondering if BMW is up to the same thing.
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Old 02-11-09, 12:15 PM   #8
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An increasing number calim lifetime fluid and don't even have a dipstick to see if it's low. The system is sealed so you can't add it easily.
Late model Grand Am.

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What kind of cars have you done this with?
Detroit iron. GM
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Old 02-11-09, 12:24 PM   #9
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I'm actually going to help my brothers friend work on her Grand AM in the next few days. It's got about 160,000 miles on it, and it's having shifting trouble. This one does have a dip stick, and the oil I pulled out smells burned.

I'm gonna try a new filter, type F fluid, and half a pint of brake fluid. If that doesn't work, time for a new transmission.
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Old 02-11-09, 12:31 PM   #10
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I'm actually going to help my brothers friend work on her Grand AM in the next few days. It's got about 160,000 miles on it, and it's having shifting trouble. This one does have a dip stick, and the oil I pulled out smells burned.

I'm gonna try a new filter, type F fluid, and half a pint of brake fluid. If that doesn't work, time for a new transmission.
I drove my daughter's hand-me-down 94 Grand Am 60 miles with no tranny fluid after a line blew. I repaired the line and refilled it and drove it afterward wth no trouble. If I remember right, this car had 238,000 when the fuel pump went and I finally pulled the plug.

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Old 02-11-09, 12:32 PM   #11
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change the trans fluid and the diff. fluid while you're at it. you need one of those fluid pumps for both and possibly a special 14mm hex bit for the diff plugs. Open the fill plug before opening the drain plug, in case you can't get the fill plug off My trans plugs had some kind of loc-tite or sealant stuff on them (yellow i think). Given the limited space underneath with the car on jackstands, I put a bottle jack under the wrench to break it free.

i'm pretty sure BMW went from 60k (?) replacement intervals to "lifetime" when they started including lifetime maintenance.

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Old 02-11-09, 01:34 PM   #12
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Well with the way I drive, you KNOW I change my fluids.
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Old 02-11-09, 02:08 PM   #13
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I've never changed my transmission fluid, save once. The one time I did change the transmission fluid, I was told by one of them oil change guys that routine maintenance specified a certain frequency for tranny fluid changes. The transmission then started slipping and eventually failed completely within a few months.
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Old 02-11-09, 02:15 PM   #14
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I've never changed my transmission fluid, save once. The one time I did change the transmission fluid, I was told by one of them oil change guys that routine maintenance specified a certain frequency for tranny fluid changes. The transmission then started slipping and eventually failed completely within a few months.
That makes sense if, and only if, they did the common oil change routine and sucked a bunch of fluid out, and added new fluid, leaving the old filter in. That will destroy transmissions from time to time.
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Old 02-11-09, 02:17 PM   #15
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An increasing number calim lifetime fluid and don't even have a dipstick to see if it's low. The system is sealed so you can't add it easily.
correct. No way to add it.
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Old 02-11-09, 02:39 PM   #16
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There should be no reason to change tranny fluid if everything is working properly.
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Old 02-11-09, 03:06 PM   #17
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There should be no reason to change tranny fluid if everything is working properly.
I disagree strongly. As the fluid gets older, it breaks down. The newer the fluid, the better its ability to protect the transmission.

If you go almost overboard, and pull 4 quarts of fluid from your tranny, and add 4 fresh quarts, and do that every 10,000 miles, plus change the filter at proper intervals, you could have an exceedingly long life span for your transmission.
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Old 02-11-09, 03:17 PM   #18
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I disagree strongly. As the fluid gets older, it breaks down. The newer the fluid, the better its ability to protect the transmission.

If you go almost overboard, and pull 4 quarts of fluid from your tranny, and add 4 fresh quarts, and do that every 10,000 miles, plus change the filter at proper intervals, you could have an exceedingly long life span for your transmission.
I'm not so sure. What would be the mechanism that would cause it to breakdown? There is no heat to speak of as with engine oil. If age were the case wouldn't transmission fluid come with an expiration date? The fact that it's sloshing around in there should not be a problem. I also don't think the shear force of the fluid that gets in between the gears in enough to break down the molecules.

However I could see fine metal particles from normal wear getting in the fluid, bit I'm not so sure that would lead to catastrophic failure.
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Old 02-11-09, 03:19 PM   #19
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I disagree strongly. As the fluid gets older, it breaks down. The newer the fluid, the better its ability to protect the transmission.

If you go almost overboard, and pull 4 quarts of fluid from your tranny, and add 4 fresh quarts, and do that every 10,000 miles, plus change the filter at proper intervals, you could have an exceedingly long life span for your transmission.
This still applies to newer cars?
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Old 02-11-09, 03:26 PM   #20
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I've never changed my transmission fluid, save once. The one time I did change the transmission fluid, I was told by one of them oil change guys that routine maintenance specified a certain frequency for tranny fluid changes. The transmission then started slipping and eventually failed completely within a few months.
I was reading on the BMW forum linked to on here and found this. No saying I think its true or not but interesting.

Here is an answer I finally got from some techy transmission dudes, may explain lifetime fluid in the tranny.


Actually, changing the transmission fluid is not always a good idea. In many cases, the friction material that wears away can help the clutches and steels grip each other. When you replace the fluid with new fluid, it then loses this added ability. This can cause excess transmission slippage and eventual transmission malfunction. I have personally seen those transmissions go 200,000+ miles without a fluid change.

Summit racing
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Old 02-11-09, 03:27 PM   #21
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Automatic or manual transmission?
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Old 02-11-09, 03:28 PM   #22
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Automatic or manual transmission?
mine is auto
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Old 02-11-09, 03:29 PM   #23
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Mich, the only people that change their tranny fluid are people who get suckered at the Jiffy Lubes and similar chains, and maintenance flakes like BMW Club members. That's not entirely true of course, but you get my meaning.

The reason your diaper analogy doesn't work is because a trans doesn't house combustion chambers like your engine. The engine oil is indeed a diaper, as some exhaust makes it by the rings on every stroke. But no such doings in the trans.

The technology is in place and in use for lifetime trans oil, coolant, fuel filters, struts, spark plugs, and the list goes on.
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Old 02-11-09, 03:44 PM   #24
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Okay you guys are talking about transmissions being sealed and no dipstick and such. Perhaps I'm thinking of the older muscle cars that have the dipsticks. I was always told to check the color (should be pink) and the smell. If it smells burnt, it should be changed.
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Old 02-11-09, 03:48 PM   #25
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I, too, had a vehicle's transmission fail within 10,000 miles after having its transmission flushed. The dealer recommended it so I went along, at that point it had 140,000 miles and I thought it was shifting fine. Live and learn. My current car has over 160,000 miles, never flushed and never will be. I am religious about oil though, for reasons others have pointed out.
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