BMW vehicles are known for having outstanding and steadfast transmissions. However, to maintain the optimum performance of your precious BMW, you’ll need to change the transmission fluid at regular intervals.
Different BMW cars have different transmission systems. Using a fluid that’s not compatible with your transmission can wreck the entire engine. Therefore, you need to choose one that’s recommended by BMW for your specific vehicle.
BMW has ten series and hundreds of different models that include various transmissions. This makes picking the right transmission fluid a difficult task. Don’t worry. In this guide, I’ll discuss the best transmission fluid for BMW available in the market.
Read on to find out everything you need to know about them.
What Type of Transmission Fluids Are Suitable for BMW
BMW transmission fluid type varies based on the transmission you have on your BMW. It’s important to first know which transmission you have and choose a fluid accordingly.
Vintage 5-speed BMW transmissions take both manual and automatic transmission oil. Check the transmission labels to be sure. Some vintage cars require special fluid that can be hard to find.
Most 5-speed and 6-speed BMWs from 1990-2000 call for Dexron III ATF that has high temperature withstanding capability. The 6-speed 2000-2010 M series cars originally come with MTF claimed as lifetime fluids. But you do need to change them with BMW LT-2, LT-3, or LT-5 after 30,000 to 40,000 miles.
For the double-clutch transmission system, BMW requires specific fluids that won’t thin out under high temperatures. You can replace the OEM DCT fluid with Trans fluid from Pentosin Company as they produce OEM oil for BMW.
Almost all of the BMW automatic transmissions accept Dexron III. However, the 8-speed auto transmission calls for Dexron VI for optimal performance.
So, you see how different transmissions require different fluids for proper functionality. Carefully check your owner manual to find out which transmission liquid your car calls for.
Quick Comparison of 5 Best Transmission Fluid for BMW
Castrol has been producing high-quality automotive lubricants for over 33 years. Their Castrol – 03520-3PK 03520C TRANSMAX ATF is no exception to the legacy. Let’s get to know some of its excellent features.
This fluid has exceptional lubricating properties and friction durability. The intricate parts inside the system stay well lubricated and protected from friction. As a result, the collision between parts gets reduced, and overall engine life gets extended.
Castrol has used a unique low viscous formula for this transmission oil. This formula provides better fluidity and smoother shifts. Moreover, it doesn’t break down under pressure or temperature.
Therefore, the fuel efficiency of the engine gets improved allowing the transmission to use the minimum amount of fuel per mile. If you want to minimize your fluid change cost, this one is a winner.
If you have a BMW that calls for older Dexron fluids that are less available now, definitely check out this Castrol fluid. It meets both Dexron Mercon requirements.
Moreover, you can use it on transmissions that call for Dexron, Dexron-II, Dexron-III, Dexron-IIE. This backward compatibility is a blessing for older BMW cars. That’s not all, it’s compatible with BMW’s that call for Dexron VI fluids such as BMW e46 transmission fluid and BMW x5 transmission fluid.
Looking for the proper BMW ATF fluid for your 6-speed ZF transmission? Then, go for this Pentosin 1058207 ATF. It’s a perfect combination of advanced performance and enhanced protection.
Extended Oil Life
Having good friction control is essential for safe driving. Pentosin gives you just that. It comes equipped with enhanced friction modifiers that give you complete control over the shifts.
Moreover, the modifiers reduce friction and in turn unnecessary heat. On top of that, oxidation control prevents oil breakdown. So, with this oil, you will receive long-lasting excellent service.
6-speed ZF transmissions require specific fluid for providing optimum performance. This ATF from Pentosin includes lower viscosity especially formulated for automatic 6-speed transmissions. Furthermore, the anti-wear additives make sure your precious BMW stays protected from heat and stress. When suitable and reliable fluid is used, you’re bound to get optimized performance from your vehicle.
You can buy this fluid in a five-liter jug. This user-friendly jug will last you at least three to four transmission changes. What’s more, it’s suitable for both the initial fill and service refill of your BMW.
When talking about BMW Trans fluid, you can’t skip Valvoline. They produce one of the finest transmission fluids available on the market.
Their Valvoline Multi-Vehicle ATF is another example of high-quality ATF that’s compatible with vehicles that call for 2008 BMW 528i transmission fluid, BMW 328i transmission fluid and many more BMW’s.
This oil consists of an immaculate blend of quality synthetic base and agents. You will receive a viscosity of 5w30 grade with this which will enable you to drive efficiently in both high and low temperatures. This stable viscosity will ensure better lubrication and reduced friction.
The advanced agents mean the fluid will work effectively even under high pressure. They not only stop leaks but also maintain performance. So, you get to enjoy top-grade transmission breakdown resistance and velvety shifting for a longer period.
The full-synthetic formulation of this fluid provides heightened lubricating properties that protect from wear and tear. As a result, the transmission lifespan expands. Moreover, the high-quality seal conditioners preserve seal elasticity. So, there is no risk of leaks even during high mileage driving.
The Royal Purple-ROY01512 TRANSFLUID is an excellent choice for manual transmission BMW cars that call for ATF. So, if you’ve been looking for a light viscosity oil that’ll provide you with smoother shifts, definitely check this one out.
Royal Purple’s innovative synerlec additive technology makes this one of the top BMW automatic transmission fluids. This technology allows the oil to reduce the temperature up to 20°F. Your transmission stays cool and oil doesn’t break down prematurely.
This is a synthetic light viscosity fluid that keeps your transmission properly lubricated. Light viscosity allows the fluid to flow efficiently to all the delicate parts and protects them from corrosion. Moreover, the friction modifiers provide protection against wear and tear.
You’ll notice exceptionally smooth shifts after you put this fluid in your transmission. Users say this is even better than the OEM fluids. Furthermore, the shift stays consistent under a wide range of temperatures.
This MTF-3 has an SAE 75 viscosity. As a result, your fluid stays flowable up to -40°C. This allows the fluid to resist thickening and permits reliable shifting even during the lowest temperatures. No more struggling to start the car on a snowy morning.
Elevated Transmission Protection
If you want to provide the ultimate protection for your transmission, there’s no better option than this oil. It will keep the transmission lubricated even under high temperatures and extreme stress. That’s not all, this minimizes oxidation and reduces oil breakdown.
Outstanding Cleansing Property
When the fluid stays clean, it can work effectively for longer.
That’s what this RAVENOL MTF-3 does best. It includes exceptional EP properties that prevent sludge and pollution buildup.
Moreover, the low foaming feature prevents excessive foaming. As a result, the fluid stays fresh for longer and the oil needs to be changed less frequently.
Next, I’ve another leading Tranny fluid manufacturer that is popular among BMW owners due to their high-quality fluids. It’s none other than the ACDelco 10-9395 Dexron VI ATF.
This ATF has been formulated with highly durable additives. The aeration, foaming, and friction control additives help to improve the performance of the engine. Moreover, it effectively lubricates the internal parts of the transmission and reduces the risk of damage due to excessive friction.
One of the major causes of transmission failure is overheating. The unique viscosity of this fluid ensures optimal thermal stability and lowers the operating temperature of the BMW. The improved thermal stability allows the engine to operate efficiently at different temperatures.
This Dexron VI liquid offers outstanding backward compatibility with the previous Dexron fluids. So you can use this fluid in BMW models that originally require Dexron II, III, and other older versions. It is also suitable for transmissions that call for BMW e60 transmission fluid and 2004 BMW 530i transmission fluid.
While different vehicles call for different transmission fluids, there are some primary factors you must keep in mind before choosing one. To help you, I’ve discussed those principal aspects here.
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know to choose the best gear oil for BMW.
1. Transmission Type
The first thing to do before choosing a transmission fluid is to check which transmission system your BMW has. Fluids that work for manual transmission won’t work for automatic ones and vice versa.
As most new models have automatic transmissions, ATF is easier to find. Therefore, if your car has a manual transmission, you may face some difficulty in finding the right MTF.
Some manual transmissions also take ATF. So, check your BMW for figuring out which transmission it has. If you are confused, check the owner’s manual to be sure.
2. Mineral Or Synthetic
Synthetic transmission oils possess higher heat withstanding capability. Therefore, you can use them at high temperatures for a longer period without losing the lubricating effects.
However, synthetic oils are more expensive than mineral ones. Mineral oils do break down faster in high temperatures but they are pretty inexpensive. Also, many older vehicles do not support synthetic transmission fluid.
Hence, if you are on a budget or you’re driving an older car, mineral oils might be more suitable for you.
3. Fluid Type
Fluid type is the most significant thing to consider because using the wrong fluid can result in transmission failure. Almost all the BMWs call for Dexron or Mercon. But some models require specific transmission oils for proper performance.
Always make sure to check your vehicle’s manufacturer’s recommendation for determining which fluid type is compatible with your transmission.
4. Heat Resistance
This is crucial as transmissions generate extreme temperatures while the engine runs. If the oil doesn’t possess high heat resistance, it’ll break down faster under temperature. When the oil breaks down, it loses lubricating properties. As a result, friction gets increased and transmission faces high wear and damage.
Therefore, look for a fluid that has high heat tolerance to protect your transmission from wear.
Transmission fluids that have low viscosity have better fluidity. When the fluid flows through the delicate transmission parts, they function properly. However, if the fluid doesn’t possess winter-grade viscosity, it’ll freeze during low temperatures. If you live in a colder climate, make sure to buy a fluid that has high winter viscosity.
Therefore, it is advised to change the fluid when you’ve hit 50,000 miles to keep the transmission working properly.
Sometimes you may need to change the fluid before this period. So, how to check the BMW fluid to determine if it needs replacement? Normally, the fluid is red. When it turns brown, you know it’s time for a change.
If the fluid starts smelling like burnt rubber, it means something is wrong. Noisy and slippery shifting is also an indication of soiled transmission fluid.
If you have been noticing one or more of these symptoms, it is time to change the fluid. Changing the transmission oil in your BMW can be tricky and errors during change can result in serious transmission problems. On top of that, different transmission systems require a slightly different process of fluid change. Therefore, BMW recommends changing fluids by professionals.
However, you can also do it at home. I’ve discussed some steps that’ll help you in doing the job properly.
Step 1: Gather The Tools
Before starting the change, you need to collect the necessary tools. Here’s a list of the tools required to perform a successful fluid change: Torx socket & bit set, a ratchet set, drain pan, and oil transfer syringe. Also, a new high-quality transmission fluid according to your BMW Trans fluid capacity. Lastly, get the BMW auto transmission service kit.
Step 2: Elevate The Vehicle
Park your BMW on a level surface and elevate it using either lift or jack stands. Make sure the car is secured in place before doing anything else.
Step 3: Remove Heat Shield & Skid Plate
Now, make sure your car has cooled down as you’ll be functioning around the exhaust for removing the heat shield. Take out the bolts that keep the transmission skid plate in place. Then, remove the skid plate. You can use an 8 mm socket for this.
You may need one 10 mm and one 13 mm socket for taking out the bolts that hold the heat shield.
Step 4: Remove The Drain Plug
First, loosen the transmission fill plug so that the old oil can flow out freely. Put an oil catch pan under the transmission, take out the drain plug and drain the fluid.
Step 5: Take Out Transmission Pan
This pan is attached with 24 screws. You’ll need a T40 Torx bit for taking these screws out. After this, remove the oil pan and the O-ring.
Step 6: Install New Oil Pan
If you’ve got the service kit, you’ll get a new transmission oil pan along with a filter. Lubricate the O-ring and put the pan back on using the Torx bit. Make sure all the screws are tightened properly.
Step 7: Fill In New Fluid
Check if your new drain plug is in place. Fill the oil transfer syringe with the new fluid and start injecting it into the fill plug. Continue until the fluid begins to overflow. Reattach the fill plug.
Step 8: Check The Gears
Remove the jack stands or lifts that were used to lift the car. Place the car on the ground. Now, using the brake pedal, put your transmission in gear. Run through all the gears until the car reaches optimal temperature.
Step 9: Final Fill
Elevate the car again and continue to fill the transmission until oil overflows. Then attach the skid plate and heat shield in place and you’re done!
If you take your car to the BMW service center, a transmission fluid change will cost somewhere between 150 to 180 dollars. Changing fluid in a general automobile workshop or by yourself will cost less. But it is advised to take professional help as little errors during change can result in huge damage in your transmission.
How Often Should I Change The Transmission Fluid?
According to BMW, their transmission needs to be changed after 100,000 miles. However, vehicles of the M series require more frequent oil changes.
Where Is The Transmission Dipstick On A BMW?
If your vehicle is rear-wheel drive, check behind the engine fluid dipstick to find the transmission dipstick. In the case of a front-wheel drive, the dipstick is located on the transaxle at the front.
What Is BMW Lifetime Transmission Fluid?
BMW started using a special fluid in their 2000-2010 6-speed M series and SMG manual transmissions. As this fluid has greater breakdown resistance than conventional transmission liquid, they termed it a lifetime fluid.
How to Check BMW Transmission Fluid?
At first, keep on the engine for a few minutes and then park the vehicle on flat ground. Locate and remove the lipstick and then inspect it for fluid level. If the fluid is full of contaminants or it has a burning smell then it’s time to change the fluid.
Changing the transmission fluid at regular intervals is crucial for conserving the performance of your BMW. With so many types of transmissions and a variety of fluids, it’s challenging to find out the right one. Also, the fact that the wrong fluid can cause transmission failure and lead to engine damage makes this process more terrifying.
To make this easier for you, I’ve picked out the best transmission fluid for BMW in this article. That’s not all, the knowledge you gained from my fluid buying guide will further help you in choosing the perfect liquid for your BMW. If you’ve further queries, check out the “People Also Ask” section to resolve them. Always remember to check the manufacturer’s recommendation before making the final decision.