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Thread: ZHP Steptronic Owners Guide to ATF

  1. #1
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    ZHP Steptronic Owners Guide to ATF

    The premise of this post is to share my experience with ATF on my most recent maintenance item.

    Car: 2005 BMW 330i ZHP 5-speed GM transmission
    Label Part No: 83220024359 (Texaco ETL 8072B fluid)

    I'll try and add some information/guidance on the pros/cons I saw while performing my first ATF change on my steptronic ZHP with GM 5-speed transmission (Part# on my green/blue label was 83220024359 which calls for Texaco ETL 8072B fluid.

    I searched countless forums about which fluids to use, the horror of using non-OEM fluid, transmission failure, internet opinions flying left and right, and recommendations from several oil manufacturers. I ultimately decided to use the ECSTuning kit since it was in one package (OEM filter kit with Redline D4 ATF). Redline D4 seems to be a winner on most bimmer sites and seems to mix well with the OEM fluid based on countless people who say they've tried it. Now, that being said I did not experience the same love for Redline D4.

    I did a one time drain/filter/gasket/fill ATF change resulting in ~6.5-7 qts of new D4 fluid in the transmission (~9.5 qt capacity). I took it for the test drive afterwards and it felt like a dream. Shifts were hardly felt and selecting P/R/N/D was seamless. Now my transmission only had 83k miles so it felt great to begin with. The only change here was the shifting felt even better. There was one problem...From a stop with moderate throttle so the car would shift around 3-4k RPM I had a slip (between gears 1-2 or 2-3). All other operation of the car was flawless. This really irritated me, freaked me out, and made me dream about my car blowing up - resulting in my first manual transmission swap.

    I even saw a 6-speed ZHP manual transmission with a few goodies on e46f.com classifieds. However, I didn't really want to go that route just yet considering I had a perfect transmission a week earlier and I didn't want to empty my wallet.

    Even more research into the fluids and it seems that the Texaco ETL 8072B fluid was superseded by Dexron VI. Now there are plenty of people willing to argue about the correct fluid and I'm here only to state what I experienced first hand and what I used personally in my own car. Xoutpost.com was a great source as well as Bentley manual, parts counter, and other internet searching. I popped down to the local Oreilly Auto and picked up some Valvoline Dex VI full synthetic to flush out the Redline D4 I had put in previously. I did the drain/fill and got about 4.5 qts in. This meant I had roughly 47.4% Dex6, 36% D4, and 16.6% Tex ETL. A pretty f'd up mixture if you ask me and I'm waiting for the transmission gods to spite me and blow my car to smithereens.

    Test Drive:
    - Still had the 1-2 slip with moderate throttle.


    ATF by seanpippin1, on Flickr

    So my next step was another drain/fill (4.5 qts, fluid pump dying, trip to Walmart, button it up). This means my transmission concoction is now ~72% Dex6, 19% D4, and 8.7% Tex ETL. I'm getting closer and starting to loose patience.

    Test Drive 2:
    - A lot less noticeable slip.
    - Driving around today I found it incredibly difficult to recreate the problem I was seeing before and the car feels like it did before the ATF change...beautiful.

    Next steps:
    1. Do a drain/pan drop/fill to hopefully get 6.5 qts in and make my mixture ~91% Dex6.

    Lessons learned:
    - I would do a 6.5 qt drain/fill (leaving the old filter in tact)
    Replace old gasket/pan drive for a bit.
    Do a 2nd 6.5 qt drain/fill (replace filter and gasket)
    This method allows for pretty much all fluid to be swapped to the new fluid
    - I would use Valvoline Dexron 6 on a ZHP GM tranny.
    - I might even try Royal Purple MaxATF, but only if there were data showing how much better it was than Dex6 because Valvoline Dex6 is pretty cheap and in my mind quality.

    Looking back I wish I had picked up the filter package from Autohausaz.com and grabbed the fluid at a local Walmart. I would have been done sooner, not had lucid dreams about my lovely ZHP blowing up, and a lot less stress.

    Edit: OEM fluid notes:
    - The fluid was a dark brownish color and smelled nasty. It didn't seem burnt or terrible, but it definitely wasn't opaque. The magnet did the job and had a small layer of metal, but not exaggerated. I now understand why ATF changes are important and I will be doing them more regularly (~30k miles).

    Something else I'd like to understand is why Dex6 is a thinner (less viscous fluid) yet seems to work better than the D4. It could just be that D4 and Tex ETL didn't mix well I guess. Either way I thought that the transmission would've liked a more viscous fluid allowing it to function better. I do know that the Dex6 may be a thinner fluid but it has a tighter spec not allowing it to degrade as much as Dex3 could throughout its life. It's also supposed to provide better mpg because it is less viscous.
    Last edited by Pip; 02-27-2013 at 08:31 PM.

  2. #2
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    I used Redline D6 ATF when I did mine.

    A trick you need to do in order to completely fill the system is as follows:
    drain, drop pan, pull filter/pan gasket, let every last drop come out of the tranny, install new filter, install new gasket and pan, add new ATF until it starts coming out of the fill hole, close.

    This is the important step! - start the car and go through all 5 gears + reverse (I did this with the rear wheels off the ground with the car on a lift so it made it much easier for me)

    open fill hole and add more fluid until the transmission is now topped off.

  3. #3
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    Great info Sean!
    Randeaux/Rando/John/jr - '06 Cic ZHP; Southern California
    "ZHP or not, I still like you"


    ZHP Performance Package, Cold Weather Package, Leather, Jet Black/Black/BlackCube, NAV
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    Note: Actual car no longer resembles signature picture

  4. #4
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    OP: your experience (using Dex VI ATF) jives with what I've researched ahead of doing an ATF flush on E46 325i with a GM automatic.

    I also have notes that Redline D4 is not appropriate for this particular GM automatic. Good to see there is now a D6.

    And I like your idea of a 2nd drain and flush prior to filter change.

    Another good oil for this GM automatic is Lubro Moly Top Tec 1200. 5L bottles avail at Bavauto.

    Note: this info may not apply to early E46 models with the ZF automatic.

  5. #5
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    Actually, if you want to flush the entire system you tap into the atf cooler lines. You start the car and the tranny will pump out the old while you pump in the new. You know you are done when the atf coming out changes color. I did this on my Tacoma and did all 12 quarts that way. Very simple and no wasted fluid.

  6. #6
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    Wow that is some serious tranny info. It's funny how you experienced some issues shifting. My ZHP is smooth as butter and I drive it pretty hard. Strange...
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  7. #7
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    After some more research and more time under the car I'd like to clear things up. I believe that redline D4 is most likely a great fluid for the zhp gm tranny and that my problem was between my ears and inability to follow directions.

    When they said car needed to be level I thought cool jack stands same height - wrong. That only works on level ground. Now I also thought about that and used a level on the pan of the tranny...seemed like a good idea at the time. Well the tranny pan isn't level and it sure seems like it is from below. To et the car level I had to use a level on the bolts that attach the tranny pan. This was truly level and allowed extra fluid into the transmission.

    Follow the steps and I'm certain that D4 is a wonderful fluid as seen by members here. Don't follow the steps and you'll waste time and money and learn along the way.

  8. #8
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    Thanks for the further explanation.
    Randeaux/Rando/John/jr - '06 Cic ZHP; Southern California
    "ZHP or not, I still like you"


    ZHP Performance Package, Cold Weather Package, Leather, Jet Black/Black/BlackCube, NAV
    ESS Stage 1 Twin Screw Supercharger, Sprint Booster, BMW Perf Intake, Magnaflow Exhaust, Dinan TB & STEP S/W, Ground Control Coilovers, UCC Sway Bars, Apex EC-7 18x8.5 ET38
    Dynavin D99+, Hardwire V1 (w/V1 Connection), BSW Stage 1 Speakers, Kicker Amp/Subwoofer
    BMW Performance Strut Brace, Orion V2 Angel Eyes, No-holes License Plate, SMG Paddle Shift Mod, Besian VANOS, Gold DISA, Fan Delete, M3 Side Mirrors
    Note: Actual car no longer resembles signature picture

  9. #9
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    To those using this as a reference, ATF oils rated Dexron VI superseded the discontinued factory-spec Texaco product (which some BMW dealers still have at $50+ per liter).

    This applies to the GM automatics with part numbers ending in -390R and -360R, which were used in the E46 as of March, 2002.

    Does not apply to earlier ZF automatics.

    More here and do NOT do what the guy reported doing in post # 104. Damn near a Ferris Buehler disaster for that guy:

    http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=443800

  10. #10
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    Autozone.com
    ^+1 just wanted to add that some of the issue might have been me and not fluid.

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