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  1. #1
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    Another question about oil /fluid for 2003 540/6

    Hi Group,

    I have read a lot of past threads in the archives and I am still left wondering about the "correct" specific fluid/oils to put in my MANUAL transmission.

    First, there's only 37k miles on the clock but I want to change all fluids since I just bought the car, to have a baseline for my own schedule going forward.

    I've read that this fluid is lifetime fluid

    I've read that this fluid could be some secret factory fluid lol

    I've read that this fluid could be thicker and much slicker then normal

    I've read that we shouldn't put thin fluids in place of a thick oil (and vice versa of course)

    I've read multiple threads where trans damage might occur due improper fluid uses (not sure though ... this may apply more to auto trans)

    So ... what have you specifically learned over these past years concerning recommendations for a 2003 6 speed?? Have any real problems been discovered by folks using aftermarket products??

    Why shouldn't I just buy whatever the dealer has for me when I walk up to the parts counter? What are the benefits of aftermarket fluids like Red Line or Royal Purple if anything for "my" circumstances?

    I DO NOT want to initiate the old "lifetime vs routine changes" debate, I only want to ask about information gained over the years for my specific car/trans. We are a lot deeper into the life cycle and experience with these cars now ...

    I live in Maryland where we do not see many 0 degree F days (and if we did I'd never be driving my car in it ;-) I don't track or race it but I'd like to run it hard every once in a while on the back roads.

    I don't think I need to be as concerned about the other fluids in the car, but the trans question has me stumped.

    I ask forgiveness in advance for even bringing this subject up again, but there are so many year and drivetrain combination's represented here on the board that it is hard for me to keep all the old information sorted out and apply it to my situation.

    Oh ... btw ... my local independent shop stocks and recommends/uses Valvoline synthetics for trans and R/E gears. I am inclined to not let him use that and just buy BMW oils/fluids unless the group has better recommendationsMichael in MD

    2003 540i 6-speed
    Sterling Gray / Black


  2. #2
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    Yes | No

    Many of us BMW freaks use RedLine products >>

    MTL in the manual trans, and 75W90 Gear Lube in the diff. I run these, and have, in both 5-series cars I've had. Quite satisfied, however, the trans tends to be a little stiff on cold mornings, but I have an E39 M5 shift lever.

    Others swear by Royal Purple products.

    BMW specified ATF for the 6-speed, I think, for easy cold weather operation.
    Ed in San Jose. BMW CCA member since 1987 (Nr. 62319). Golden Gate Chapter. '97 540i 6 speed. Build Date 3/97. Aspensilber over Aubergine leather.

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    LOL ... that's where I left off in the archives ;)

    Thanks Ed,

    So nothing has really changed or come to light after all these years about success of particular fluids in our 2003 540/6 speed trans ... MTL, ATF, R/L, RP, BMW lifetime etc etc ... all are equally recommended by their various supporters

    The thing that bothers me most (meaning doesn't make sense to me) is the suggestions to use either MTL or ATF in the same transmission.

    Aren't these fluids two entirely different thicknesses, and/or with different properties?

    Michael in MD

    2003 540i 6-speed
    Sterling Gray / Black

  4. #4
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    Yes | No

    Trans lube

    BMW has been filling its manual transmissions with a synthetic D4 ATF since the introduction of the E39. It "solved" the problem of slow synchros when cold (you cold beat the synchros on a cold day and get the dreaded GRAUNCH from the gearbox with the older lubricant). It's also not quite as good protection for the trans as a slightly thicker lube would be.

    Any good quality synthetic ATF will suffice for an OEM replacement. Redline or Royal Purple might be a better choice, perhaps a case of better vs good enough.

    If you're more concerned with best possible lube for the box, Redline MTL is hard to beat. It's the recommendation of Mike Miller (BMW CCA maintenance guru and also does a column in Bimmer magazine). It's also what most trans rebuilders will put in for a first fill. When using MTL, you must be a bit more deliberate with shifts until a cold box (say below 30 ambient) warms up. No big deal.

    Old school recommendation is to change the fluid every 30K. I'm doing it every 36 because it fits in better with my own oil change and Insp 1/2 intervals. Certainly should be changed after 50K, that's the longest I'd go if I intended to keep the car for a long time.

    As you're doing the trans, don't forget the diff (approx 1.5 qts of 75w90) and PS (D4 ATF).

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    Thanks Guys

    I think I'm finally catching on ... especially after you've all repeated the same info for what must seem like the 100th time ;-)

    One last question ... do any of the suggested solutions have problems when replacing the factory fluid for the first time? Or will they all mix in with left over fluids about the same, with the second change making the cycle complete (obviously using OE would mix in best with the undrained portion that remains)

    Michael in MD

    2003 540i 6-speed
    Sterling Gray / Black

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    Not a problem

    The residual fluid is so small an amount, it's not going to reduce the effectiveness, compromise, or contaminate the new lubricant.

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    BMW specified ATF for the manual boxes.>>

    We freaks have found better solutions. They've been borne out via a million miles or more.

    Bear in mind that BMW wants the original owner to have a pleasant experience, so he'll pony up for the next new model. BMW cares apparently little about second and third owners, or zero maintenance and "lifetime" fluids would not exist.

    It's your car, you can do with it what you will.
    Ed in San Jose. BMW CCA member since 1987 (Nr. 62319). Golden Gate Chapter. '97 540i 6 speed. Build Date 3/97. Aspensilber over Aubergine leather.

  8. #8
    Craig in Canada
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    Re: BMW specified ATF for the manual boxes.>>

    My MT doesn't specify ATF, it specifies MTF-LT-x which is thicker than ATF. I can't remember if it was LT1 or LT2 (probably LT1 in '98) but they are both in the same ballpark.

    This thicker viscosity is in the 9.x cSt range @100C which is a match for Redline MTL and Amsoil MTF. Standard ATF is in the 6-7 cSt range and can shear down from there (the one time I ran RP Synchromax it came out noticeably thinner than it went in, and it went in already thinner than LT2).


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    Yes | No

    +1, If I were goint to use RP again I






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  10. #10
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    Ugh...enter key. As was saying if I was going (m)

    to use RP again I would only use it is cold weather to make it easier to shift. I'd then switch back to Redline MTL then the temps were above freezing.
    Redline is better than the factory fill, however last week when it was 8°F in PA, the shifting was a little slow to drop into 2nd. The factory fill would have made shifting a chore.
    Actually everything was slow, the brakes felt a like the fluid was molasses, the steering was a bit harder, and I heard some strange noises when I depressed the clutch that I've never heard before. Think it was the throwout bearing revolting from the cold.

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