This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Wayne's new book, 101 Performance Projects for Your BMW 3 Series. Replacing your oil is easy - BMW knows that this needs to be performed once about every 3000-5000 miles, and designed the car that way.
Despite some cars having a life-time fluid in the transmission, BMW did indeed give easy access to the bottom of the automatic transmission. This transmission fluid change was the very first project that I performed on this particular car (my wife's 1992 325is). When I purchased the car, I bargained the fellow down based on the problem with the transmission. With the car elevated in the air, you should be able to see the two lower sump chambers of the transmission that hold the transmission fluid. There is a drain plug on the rear left corner of the sump that can be used to empty most of the fluid contained inside (Figure 2). I have always found automatic transmissions fascinating, as they are one part of the car that almost no one ever sees.
With the car at the proper temperature, sit inside the car, apply the brake pedal, and slowly shift the transmission through all of its gears. Instead of just filling up the front cover and try to lift it into place by hand, I used the floor jack. Comments: I have a 1998 328i BMW with a GM Box and the oil has been changed at the local garage and now the transmission will turn the wheels but on the ground it will not drive. Comments: Hello I just did your procedure in about a quart of fluid came out after an automatic transmission shop allegedly filled it does this mean that it was overfilled I checked it in neutral at exactly 100A‚A° and ship it through all of the gears also the fluid that came out of it did not look healthy to me even though it has only been in there for 5000 miles could this be the result of overfilling it ? Followup from the Pelican Staff: First check the transmission fluid level to be sure it is correct.
Followup from the Pelican Staff: Even if equipped with lifetime fluid, it has a port to fill the trans. Comments: Hi, I have replaced the filter and the rubber sump seal on my 92 BMW 320i auto transmission.
Followup from the Pelican Staff: It's been a while, but I recall there being a fill plug on the trans pan, does your vehicle not have this? Comments: hi there i need help i have a 1998 bmw 318i when i put car in to drive it feels like i am taking off in 3rd gear if i manually shift the gears from first to drive it is fine. Comments: Hello I have a 1996 328is and was just wondering if you check the fluid hot if it is an inaccurate check? Comments: Hello I bought an 2012 f30, 335i 8 speed automatic transmission with 51,ooo miles on it. This page explains step-by-step how to increase the size of text, or make the entire web page larger, in the Google Chrome web browser running on Windows systems. You can change the size of web pages at any time by using the following keyboard shortcuts: press Ctrl and '+' (plus) to zoom in, and press Ctrl and '-' (minus) to zoom out.
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Note: If this does not work it could be because your computer settings cannot be changed due to local IT policies - contact your local IT support for further help. The book contains 272 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to timing the camshafts. On the other hand, the BMW transmissions used on the E36 were supposedly designed with a life-time fluid that did not need to be changed. On my 1988 Nissan Pathfinder, I was shocked when I found that I couldn't easily change the fluid without dropping some structural, and exhaust components.
A thorough inspection of the car had shown that the seller's wife had smacked the front of the car into a few parking blocks one too many times, and had damaged the underside of the car, right behind the radiator. Well, when you slam on the brakes, all of the fluid in the transmission flows to the front of the car and away from the fluid pickup, which is located towards the rear of the transmission.
I did take it to a qualified shop, and had them run the codes for the transmission (OBD I) to see if there were any fault codes.
The first step in replacing your fluid is to jack up your car so that you can reach the underside of the transmission. We are going to remove the sump so that we can replace the transmission filter, clean the sump magnet, and also remove all of the extra fluid that may be trapped inside. This sump doesn't have a drain plug, so you will have to be extra careful when emptying it. The front, smaller sump is the trickiest, because it needs to be filled with fluid when you install it. Keeping the sump perfectly level, carefully raise it up and install it onto the bottom of the car (Figure 14). You will use a transmission fluid pump for this operation, which you can find at almost any local auto parts store (Figure 15). Keep in mind that the transmission fluid can only be checked when the transmission temperature is within a semi-narrow range. This can be dangerous if the car is not secure on the jack stands - check them again before you continue.


If you hear anything amiss, or encounter any unusual problems, then shut off the car immediately.
When you've topped off the fluid, lower the car down off of the jack stands and take it for a short drive.
If you like what you see here, then please visit our online BMW catalog and help support the collection and creating of new and informative technical articles like this one. I am getting a transmission malfunction code and the transmission seems to go into limp modestuck in current gear. As mentioned in my query, I removed the original filter and rubber gasket to replace them with new parts.
If there isn't a fill plug on the pan, it should be near the shift cable, at the side of the bell housing. I would grab a repair manual. In other words, if the fluid in the small sump gets low, does it need to be filled by itself, or will fluid be distributed from the large one? Click on the Page Menu icon at the top right, as shown in Fig 1, or press Shift + Alt + T to access the toolbar, then press the right arrow key until 'Control the current page' is highlighted, and then press Enter.
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With more than 650+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any 3 Series owner's collection.
Despite the dealer's recommendations not to change or even mess with the fluid, I prefer to change mine every 3 years or 30,000 miles. Basically, when the car was stopped suddenly via the the brakes, and then the accelerator was immediately pressed, the transmission would slip, and then slam into gear, lurching the car forward. One of the transmission lines had been damaged, and was leaking a slow, but steady drip of transmission oil. With the fluid at the front of the car, the transmission loses fluid for a very short while. None showed up, so I presumed that the problem was relatively recent, minor, and could be easily fixed by replacing the transmission fluid.
Use the Pelican Parts Technical Article on Jacking Up as a reference, and elevate the car enough so that you can work underneath it. The main chamber is about one foot square, and the chamber in front of it is about one foot by three inches.
When the car is warm, a lot of the transmission fluid will be trapped within the transmission itself. You remove the sump by removing each of the small bolts that attach it to the bottom of the transmission. You empty this sump by removing all but one of the small bolts that attach it to the transmission.
Automatic transmission have many tiny passages that supply fluid and cooling - you want to make sure that you keep this exposed area completely clean and free of dirt and debris. Dexron is a registered trademark of General Motors Corporation and is a transmission fluid specification that is required for use in most 3-Series E36 BMW automatic transmissions. Fill the sump with new, clean transmission fluid (Figure 12) - but not too full, as it will spill out when you put it in place if there are components hanging down from the transmission. Use red Loctite 271 again, and torque the bolts to the same specifications that you used with the smaller sump. The oil is the recommended transmission oil and the correct procedure of filling was followed. It will have the procedure, special tools and torque specs. Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. Changing the tranny fluid is not an easy task, and you can probably bet that the previous owner of your car did not perform this task when they owned it - especially if it wasn't on the list provided by the dealer. Not really a good sign, but I had a strong suspicion that the transmission was low on fluid. From the looks of the car underneath, I could tell that this had been occurring for quite some time.
Automatic transmissions use the fluid both as a hydraulic fluid and a coolant - they won't work if there isn't any fluid running through them.
It is very important that the car be level - don't jack up just the front or rear of the car, make sure that it is as level in the air as it is on the ground.
When the car is cold, almost all of the transmission fluid has seeped out, and is trapped in the lower sumps. Once those are out, you should simply be able to pull on the sump cover and it should fall off.
You want to use a lint-free cloth, because tiny cloth fibers left in your transmission sump can clog the transmission and filter.
Remove the three bolts that attach it to the bottom of the transmission and carefully pull off the filter.
In fact, GM manufactured many transmissions for BMW (the 325is transmission featured in this article has a big 'GM' stamp on the side). Just make sure that you don't spill too much out - as you don't want to significantly lower the level in the lower sump. The transmission fluid should be pumped into the side of the main sump through the transmission fill hole (Figure 16).
You will need to make sure that you perform this outside (on level ground), or funnel the exhaust gases out of the tail pipe and out of your garage. You will need to let the transmission warm up until it is in the operating range indicated above.


If you were having problems with the transmission slamming into gear, then they should be gone by now. Some friends said that the problem is caused by the fact of the gearbox have no or having less transmission oil. I am able to stop and restart the car, this makes the code go away and transmission seems to shift normally.
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After the car stopped, and the fluid moved back towards the pickup, the transmission began to work normally. The reason for this is that you will be checking the transmission fluid by removing a drain plug and looking at the fluid. Wear safety glasses when you're under the car as you never know what small piece of dirt may fall into your eye. Note that this is opposite from the procedure for changing the oil - where you should empty it when the engine is hot. Be aware that there will still be some transmission fluid in the sump, that can spill out if you're not careful.
With an adequately large and wide container positioned below the small sump, slowly loosen the last bolt. There should be a side plate attached to the transmission that will indicate which type of fluid you should install. No gasket sealant is necessary here - if any sealant gets into the sump, it can clog the passages of the transmission. Remove the plug, place one end of the pump into a bottle of transmission fluid, and start pumping (Figure 17). I used a long, flexible aluminum tube that I purchased from Home Depot, that is used for venting gas dryers out to the atmosphere.
Can you please tell me the location of the transmission oil indicator and how to remove existing transmission oil and add new transmission oil? Check spark, fuel injector pulse and fuel pressure, volume, quality and engine compression. At this point, the small sump should be 'sticking' to the transmission because of the gasket that seals it.
Check the mounting surfaces where the sumps attach to the transmission, and remove any excess gasket material that may have been left there.
I recommend using red Loctite 271 on the bolts that mount the sump to the transmission (Figure 13). Pump into the filler hole in the side of the larger sump until fluid begins to run out of the filler hole, as shown in Figure 18. If you clamp this tightly to the end of your tailpipe, and run the other end out of your garage, you should be able to safely have the car idle inside the garage. I recommend that you use a standard body-temperature thermometer to check the temperature of the bottom sump - it should have enough range to be able to give you an accurate reading.
With the engine running, refill the transmission until fluid comes out of the fill hole (Figure 18).
Needless to say, after I replaced the transmission fluid and checked the levels, the transmission no longer had this problem. Pull down slightly on the small sump, and one end should drop down, emptying some of the fluid into your large and wide container located below.
On my car I found neither, but since it was a GM transmission, I used the Dexron fluid which has worked quite well. I use an electronic carbon monoxide monitor (also available from Home Depot) as an added measure for safety.
Again, it should take about 45 minutes or so to heat the transmission to this level, if the car is simply idling.
When you remove the plug, the fluid will not be pressurized, and will not come flying out of the hole. I use an electronic carbon monoxide monitor (also available from Home Depot) as an added measure for safety. Climb into the car, place your foot on the brake and start it. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience.
The previous owner had let it run down about 2 quarts low (the whole transmission takes about 5 quarts).
Working on the car when it's cold also assures that you will not be burned by hot exhaust, transmission or engine parts. Plastic cat litter boxes make excellent containers for catching fluid in these types of situations. Mixing and matching different types of transmission fluid can cause your transmission to fail.
Be careful though, as the fluid may be hot at this time (if you let it warm up considerably), and it could possibly burn you if you're not careful. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so. Driving for any more time with the transmission in this state would have led to substantial damage, and could have resulted in a wrecked tranny (replacement cost $2500 or so). They are wide and large enough to prevent you from making quite a mess on your garage floor. With a large amount of fluid removed from the small sump, remove the remaining bolt completely, and carefully remove the sump from the car. Again, it should take about 45 minutes or so to heat the transmission to this level, if the car is simply idling. With the car at the proper temperature, sit inside the car, apply the brake pedal, and slowly shift the transmission through all of its gears.



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