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      07-17-2010, 10:11 AM   #1
wolfe
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DIY: manual transmission and diff fluid change

Disclaimer: use any of this at your own risk. I'm not responsible for any damage, warranty denial issues, etc. caused by following this guide. The fluids used were my personal preference, and may not be officially approved or recommended for use in the car.

PLEASE DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH AND SELECT YOUR OWN CHOICE OF FLUIDS

My car is a 128i; the 135i procedure is probably similar but with some differences to capacities, bolt sizes, and torque specs. Likewise, other model year 128i cars may even have small differences, I don't know.

I did this service plus an engine oil and filter change on my car at 1200 miles. Apparently BMW used to do a 'break in' service on all cars, which went away with free maintenance and lifetime fluids. The amount of particles in the fluid that came out convinced me that this was worth the effort:

Factory fill transmission fluid after 1200 miles.


Factory fill differential fluid after 1200 miles.



Not relevant to this DIY, but interesting:
Factory fitted engine oil filter, after 1200 miles
Much of the white specks on the ridges and sides are camera flash reflection, though you can clearly see the amount of metal in the valleys of the filter.



Close-up of single oil filter pleat, after 1200 miles
Good to see the filter is doing its job but I still wouldn't feel good about letting that go 15k miles.




Tools & supplies needed:

~Gallon transmission fluid (I used redline d4 ATF) A gallon is a bit more than you need but is less messy than swapping pumps to multiple bottles.
~2 quarts diff fluid (I used redline 75w90)
Jack, jackstands or lift etc.
Sockets, extensions, wrenches.
14mm hex bit for socket wrench
low profile 8mm hex bit, or 8mm hex drain plug bit
breaker bar
fluid pumps compatible with fluid bottles
flexible tubing, just over 1/4" inside diameter
drain pan
torque wrench
new diff filler plug (optional) BMW P/N: 33117525064


This works best when the car has recently been driven so the fluids are warmer, thinner, and will drain more easily. I let it cool down a little so the chances of getting burned are lower.

First, the car needs to be raised up and level. My jacking procedure is a bit convoluted, because it's left over from my old BMW which had no real central jacking points.

Chocked the rear wheels, car's out of gear, and handbrake is on.


My jackstands won't clear the car when it's on the ground, so I have to use a floor jack to get it on blocks of wood.


Plywood 'pucks' which fit the jack and the car's jacking blocks without damaging either.



Make sure the jack/jackstand is securely located in the jacking point



Now the car should be off the ground and supported by all four jacking points. Having it level is important for complete draining of the old fluid and filling an accurate quantity of the new fluid.

REAR DIFFERENTIAL - 128i. 135i may be similar, I don't know for sure.


The diff only has a fill plug, no drain plug which makes this part a royal pain. It takes a 14mm hex bit, and if you're doing things by the book you should use a new plug when you refit it. The part number is 33117525064 and it's about 3 bucks. Have a drain pan in place because a little fluid will spill.

Rear diff drain plug. Luckily on this car access to it is good.


I couldn't move it with a regular 1/2" drive socket so I went for the breaker bar which made short work of it.


A bit of fluid will trickle out once you remove the plug, it was green/gray and looked dirty


Next, you'll need something capable of sucking out the old fluid. I've only done this once on a car with no drain plug, but I think something that can pull a constant vacuum would be much better than any kind of hand pump. I used this brake fluid extractor I got from Griot's Garage. I don't recommend this tool, it was useless for bleeding brakes, and not great for this. You pump it up to create a vacuum, then open the valve on the tubing to suck out the fluid. Some kind of air compressor driven vacuum pump would be ideal. A hand pump may do it but it would be hard to hold everything in place and still use the pump.

Fluid extractor


This diameter tubing turned out to be perfect. Here is a regular pencil for reference. I got this tubing on a rubber bulb hand pump at autozone. You want something that is wide enough to suck up the thick diff fluid, but narrow enough to fit through the fill hole and be moved around inside the diff.


You want to try and suck out as much of the fluid as possible, which is a challenge. I kept moving the position of the hose inside the diff until it was no longer sucking out any fluid. I re-pressurized the pump and redid this step about 5 times to try and get all of it. There may be better ways to do this, but I didn't want to risk dropping anything into the diff.


To refill the diff, I had ordered a fluid pump to fit quart size bottles from Amazon. This was incredibly hard to find, and as it turned out it was next to useless. It wouldn't pump 'uphill' very well and didn't fit the threads on the fluid bottle. I got two (quart) bottles of redline 75w90 fluid, as the BMW fluid is nearly impossible to get in small quantities and the redline stuff is reportedly very good. Partly due to the poor quality pump and some spillage, one quart would not have been enough even though I believe the capacity is just under a quart. I'm not certain on this though.

Note: Redline makes two versions of their 75w90 fluid: 75w90 and 75w90ns. I asked Redline about this and they recommended 75w90 for this application, as it would run a little cooler.

diff refill items



Put the pump hose into the diff fill hole and fill it until fluid starts coming out of the hole. Remove the hose and fit the drain plug, torque to 60NM / 44.2 lb-ft.





MANUAL TRANSMISSION - Again this is for the 128i. 135i would be similar but tools and torque specs are probably different.

Note: The A/C drain line is right next to this, so there will probably be water dripping from it. Watch your eyes.

Remove the central section of the splash shield. It's held on by about 7 or 8 self tapping screws, which have 8mm bolt heads.



There is also an angled catch, so after you've removed all the bolts you have to turn the splash shield as you remove it. The hole will then line up with the catch and the whole thing comes off easily.



Looking up at the transmission from underneath the car, you can now see the fill and drain plugs. On my car they took 8mm hex bits. I ordered new plugs for these too but they were different, so I reused the original ones. The plugs that came with the car were less tall, and didn't have sealing or crush washers so I assume it's safe to reuse them.

Transmission drain and fill plug locations



It's always good practice to remove the filler plug first. That way you don't drain all the fluid out and then find you can't remove the fill plug. Space is restricted on the fill plug, as you have limited room between the side of the transmission and the transmission tunnel. There was not enough room for an 8mm hex bit, and a 3/8" to 1/2 adapter plus the breaker bar. Once again these are on very tight from the factory. The fluid will come out VERY fast once the drain plug is removed, so have a drain pan ready and watch for splashing.

Limited space to get access to fill plug



I used an 8mm drain plug bit, which came from harbor freight in a set. It's much lower profile than a normal one, and fit in the space just fine.



For the transmission, I chose redline D4 ATF. In my last BMW with many more miles and some syncro wear, ATF gave the best shifter feel by far. However it may not be the best choice in a new BMW transmission. I will see how it goes in this car, and go back to the BMW fluid if need be. So far I like it though. I ordered a gallon, and I estimate I used just under 3 quarts. I got a gallon pump from autozone, and this one worked perfectly.



It's a tight fit, but if the car is jacked up high enough you can just about stand the atf container and pump up underneath. ATF smells horrible, so you want to avoid spilling it if possible.



With the drain pan in place, put the pump filler hose into the transmission filler hole. If I've bought plenty of new fluid, I usually give it two or three pumps with the drain plug still removed to try and flush out any remaining sediment.


Next, clean and refit the drain plug, torque to 35NM / 25.8 lb-ft

Pump fluid in through the fill hole, until it starts to come out of the fill hole. Re-fit the fill plug, and torque this one to 35NM / 25.8 lb-ft as well.

Put the splash shield back on, and lower the car to the ground. Take it for a short drive, then check for any leaks. If it's all good this shouldn't need doing again for 30k miles or so.

Last edited by wolfe; 04-12-2014 at 07:55 PM.
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      07-17-2010, 10:54 AM   #2
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Absolutely awesome write-up. Just exactly what I needed to know to do my own 128i.
Bravo!
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      07-18-2010, 08:42 AM   #3
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Excellent write up. I'll definitely be using this when the time comes!
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      07-18-2010, 09:00 AM   #4
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Good work, have been doing this to all of my other cars. I usually start to change these fluids at around the 12000mile mark.
FYI: about the first hand pump that did not work for you. The reason is that this particular pump can only be used with these "gear oil bottles" I've had this mobil1 bottle. This is how i get the diff fluid to pump "up".
Also about the Trans filling. I get from Home Depot a 4ft clear hose. I run the hose from the engine bay/fire wall, down to the trans fill hole. Connect a fill funnel at the top of the hose. Then i just poor the trans oil....let gravity work for you.
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      07-18-2010, 09:52 AM   #5
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I hope you didn't tell your wife that you used her ice cube tray! Nice write up.
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      07-18-2010, 05:04 PM   #6
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If anyone has the torque specs and fluid amounts for the 135 that would be benificial. I'm looking to do this next weekend and it would be great to have it.

Thanks!
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      07-18-2010, 06:21 PM   #7
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Great article! Pictures are very helpful. I've always used MTL in manual transmissions, however. I checked the Red Line website and they recommend D4ATF for newer bimmers but it doesn't seem right to me. Can you say how long you've had D4ATF in other bimmers?

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      07-18-2010, 06:31 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimD View Post
Great article! Pictures are very helpful. I've always used MTL in manual transmissions, however. I checked the Red Line website and they recommend D4ATF for newer bimmers but it doesn't seem right to me. Can you say how long you've had D4ATF in other bimmers?

Jim
Well... I have used Reline's D4ATF in my old e36 323i, 5MT (german specs). I changed it at 100K kms and then again at 175K kms. I sold the car at 230K. Never had any trouble with shifting gears. I also had a SSK from a Z4M on that car. Bang bang with the gears.
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      07-18-2010, 06:54 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimD View Post
Great article! Pictures are very helpful. I've always used MTL in manual transmissions, however. I checked the Red Line website and they recommend D4ATF for newer bimmers but it doesn't seem right to me. Can you say how long you've had D4ATF in other bimmers?

Jim
I was also a bit hesitant about using ATF in a manual transmission. Here's my anecdotal reasoning on why I went for it. Naturally, this is just my opinion based on my own limited experience:

Prior to the 128i, I had an e46 330i 6-speed. I bought that car certified preowned with 37k miles on it, and the transmission was a little crunchy from first to second, especially when cold. I replaced the transmission fluid with redline MTL, and immediately noticed an improvement. But, as soon as it turned cooler (and I'm not talking cold either, I'm in FL) again the shifter was crunchy, moreso when the car was cold. It became next to impossible to shift into first from a stop without a crunch, and the shifter required considerable pressure to push into gear. By no means was I slamming through the gears, and I always take care to shift more gently until everything's up to temperature.

I replaced the MTL fluid several times at very short intervals until the fluid came out perfectly clean (100, 200, 500 miles) on the advice of a very reputable BMW transmission rebuilder - he suggested I try this as a last resort before considering a rebuild. It didn't really help, sadly.

Then last winter, I had the car at an independent mechanic for some other work, and mentioned the poor shifting. The MTL was replaced with a quality ATF (didn't say which kind, may have even been D6), telling me that several other customers including one very picky guy had loved the change it provided. Sure enough, the improvement was massive. I had run MTL from about 40k miles to 58k, and then had the ATF from 58k to 70k which was when I sold the car. The ATF gave a consistent shifter feel the entire time, through winter and summer.

I also asked redline about this new car and what they'd recommend, and they told me D4 ATF.

This next part isn't something I'd put much weight behind, because it's impossible to say this for sure without any scientific testing. However, I feel that on my 128i since changing the factory fill BMW MTF LT-3 fluid out with the redline D4 ATF, again the shifter requires marginally more pressure to get into gear but it does so very smoothly. I paid very close attention to the shift feel right before I changed the fluid, and a very slight 'texture' was detectable through the shifter when shifting. By no means would I call it a crunch, but along the same lines only much, much less pronounced. Now the shifter just slots into any gear with a solid 'thunk', with no perceptable 'texture'.

I plan to keep a close eye on it over the next few thousand miles, and if I notice anything out of the ordinary I'll change the fluid back to MTF LT-3. In fact, I'll probably drain this out at around 10k miles to see how the fluid looks in terms of wear particles, then decide what to refill it with.

Based on how the transmission, diff, and engine oils looked after only 1200 miles, I'd suspect that changing the fluid is maybe more important than what it's changed with (within reason).

Last edited by wolfe; 07-18-2010 at 07:10 PM.
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      07-19-2010, 10:52 AM   #10
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This may only add confusion but I decided to send a note to Mike Miller who writes the column for the Roundel magazine asking which red line fluid to use. Mike's response is that he always uses MTL for his vehicles. Then I read the old school maintenance guide he also sent with his response. It adds some detail. The maintenance guide says:

"All the BMW gearbox rebuilders I know use Red Line MTL exclusively, regardless of model year or gearbox. The general consensus is that MTL is the better lubricant.

However, Red Line D4ATF will require less shifter babying during cold operation. I use Red Line MTL in manual gearboxes except where I can't trust the driver to shift properly when the gearbox is cold, in which case I use Red Line D4ATF."

I live in SC, it doesn't get very cold here, and have liked MTL in the two other vehicles (a Suzuki SUV and Mazda 626) I've used it in so I plan to put it in my 128i soon.

I also went out yesterday and got a set of hex sockets at Harbor Freight. The 8mm doesn't look like the photo here and may need to be cut down, we'll see. Maybe I will order up the lubricant from JEGS tonight and change the fluid next weekend.

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      07-19-2010, 11:25 AM   #11
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I remember asking the same thing a while back. Mike and a BMW transmission rebuilder both recommended the MTL, while redline recommended the D4 ATF.

The only reason I chose not to take this advice this time around was based on my own experience with both fluids in my last car. It's entirely possible that the ATF did more to improve a worn transmission than the MTL, and that the MTL could certainly be a better choice in a transmission that shifts perfectly already.

If you do go for the MTL, I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts on it in the 128i, especially when cold.

For the socket, the 8mm one in the photo was from a drain plug kit at harbor freight. It came in a blue plastic molded box, about 10" x 4" x 2" and included around 5 hex bit sockets and 5 square bit sockets for various different drain plugs. it's 3/8" drive.

The set of regular hex bit sockets they sell came on a small metal rail, and included the 14mm for the diff drain plug. I think the 8mm in that set may be too long, if you need to use a 3/8" to 1/2" adapter like I did to fit on the breaker bar.
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      07-19-2010, 12:51 PM   #12
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Thank you for putting this together. I didn't know how to do it so I took it to the dealer and they told me they had to charge me a lot of labor to open the case because there was no drain plug :-(

Now I know how to do it. Another project to the list!
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      07-19-2010, 02:03 PM   #13
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I figure I will briefly try the 8mm hex I now own from HF and if it is too long, I have a cut-off wheel for my grinder I can use to shorten it quickly. I'll have to keep it cool or it will not stay hard, however. The 14mm in my set is 1/2 drive - I have the adapter but will not need it. I also have a extendable 3/8 ratchet from HF that might give enough leverage - but I do not plan to use it on the rear end.

Did you consider pulling the cover off the differential to drain that way? Mike Miller apparently suctions it out like you did. It seems you could drain and clean better by pulling the cover, however. Any idea the torque spec for the bolts on the differential cover?

Jim
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      07-19-2010, 03:30 PM   #14
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ATF is definitely a compromize when it comes to AW properties. I prefer a good MTF. You dont need to use a 75w-90 MTF, but rather something that is a bit thinner.

I thin 9-10cSt at 100C is a good viscosity, and my 318i shifts perfectly using Amsoil MTF in the coldest part of winter.
I think redline MTF is similar in viscosity.

Redline D4 ATF would be my choice in an ATF because it does have a bit higher AW content than some others (GL-4 level versus just a standard ATF add pack), so good choice there, but if you can take the heavier fluid, Id get away from ATF, personally. No rush because you have about the best one you can in there...
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      07-19-2010, 03:31 PM   #15
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On another note, these fluids may live in there together for a long time. If I was changing fluids, Id want to try to remove the covers and get as close to 100% removal, as opposed to suction.

Suction is fine if replacing with the same BMW fluid.

Additive clash is not likely,but better safe than sorry.
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      07-20-2010, 08:56 PM   #16
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Did a bit more digging on that subject today, and from what I found it sounds like the ATF is great for syncros, but is perhaps not so good for the bearings - especially at high temperatures.

I also read what JHZR2 is saying too, that the additive package is weaker in ATF than manual transmission fluids.

I'm tempted to try the MTL now, I have enough left over so that I can change it two or three times and get any residual ATF out of there. Then, if I don't like it when it's cold I'll probably go back to the BMW fluid and chalk this one up to experience.

Seems like good shifter feel doesn't necessarily mean it's best for the transmission.

Some more information, gathered from oil analysis reports and product info. I'm not drawing any conclusions from this as it's beyond my understanding, but figured I'd share the information I found:

The viscosity of the BMW MT-LTF-3 is apparently around 6.1 cs @ 100 degrees. Redline's MTL is 10.6, and the D4 ATF is 7.5.

So I'm guessing that's at least partly what redline means by they recommend something closer to the factory baseline. The MTL is a good bit thicker than what comes in the car from the factory.

reportedly taken from a bmw operating fluids manual, in 2005:
MT-LTF-3 seems to be thinner than MT-LTF-2. Apparently 'all cars with a manual transmission and n52 engine got MT-LTF-3'.

Last edited by wolfe; 07-21-2010 at 07:33 AM.
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      07-21-2010, 12:16 PM   #17
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I ordered some MTF and 75W-90 weight for the rear end Monday night from Amazon. I went with the "free shipping" so it may not get here in time for the weekend but if it does, I should be able to tell you how my BMW shifts with MTF next week. If not, it will be the following week. I have to drive 0.6 miles at 25mph going through 3 stop signs just to get out of my development. So the first few shifts for me do not need to be done quickly. I will try to note the weight and any other "feel" difference. I don't know what was in my other two vehicles before I changed them to MTF but in both cases my perception and my late wife's perception was the effort level went down with the MTF.

Did you consider taking the cover off the rear end instead of suctioning the old fluid out?

Jim
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      07-21-2010, 04:27 PM   #18
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Great, I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts Jim, thank you.

Interestingly, I have a very similar drive to get out of my neighborhood.

I considered removing the diff cover but I think the top bolts have limited access. I don't believe it would be possible/practical to remove the cover without taking the whole diff out of the car.
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      07-22-2010, 09:21 AM   #19
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I got a similar reply from Mike Miller in response to an email. He is really responsive. He estimated it would take an experienced mechanic 5 hours to remove the cover, change the fluid, and replace it. I'll look at it again before I pull out the pump but it sounds like too much trouble. Mike says the differential cover is integrated with the suspension. That probably is consistent with your limited access comment. The lower bolts look temptingly accessable. But it only takes one inaccessable bolt for the job to be impractical.

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      07-24-2010, 03:04 PM   #20
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I changed mine today. I had a lot more trouble with the differential fill plug than with the transmission plugs. The differential plug has a green O-ring! I've never seen that before. My touble with the differential was the angle. I took it off with a break-over bar without out any difficulty. But when I need to torque it, my 1/2 torque wrench would not fit. I finally got it with an adapter and my 3/8 torque wrench but I messed around with wobble joints before that (which I do not like to use when using a torque wrench). Fortunately the plug was in and snugged so nothing was leaking while I figured out how to torque it.

I used blue loctite jell on the threads of all the plugs. I do not know if this helps but it makes me feel better. I clean them well with a paper towel first.

I used less than a quart of Red Line 58304 75W90 Non-Limited Slip Synthetic Gear Oil in the rear end. I used less than 2 quarts of Red Line 50204 MTL Synthetic Manual Transmission fluid in the transmission. I messed around for half an hour trying to get as much rear end fluid as possible out. But I think I added back less than a pint before it started coming back at me. I do not feel I got as much out as I would like. Both the rear end fluid and the transmission fluid looked good to me. They were green, not black, but I did not do anythiung more than just look at it while it was coming out.

I think the transmission shifts a little better, even when "cold" with the MTL (it was 95 when I took it for a test drive). There is definitely not a significant difference in the effort - it might be slightly less. The bigger change is what I call smoothness. Before it felt as if you could feel the gears engage. Not a terrible thing but a little more of this than I am used to in other, less expensive, cars. With the MTL, it feels like the gears slide together instead of clunking a tiny bit. May be in my head. It definitely didn't hurt anything and I like it better.

I had no clearance problem with the transmission plugs. It was a tiny bit of an issue to get the hose of the pump into the open fill hole but it seems like about the same as I've experienced before. It was easy to torque the transmission plugs.

Thanks again Wolfe for the pictures, it helped convince me to do this. I'm glad I did.

If you only bought the 3 quarts of Red Line you really need, you could do this for about $40 for the fluids delivered to your house by Amazon. Moving slowly (like I did), it shouldn't take you more than about 2 hours. I let the transmission drain for an hour, however, while I ate lunch. Hardest thing is getting the car on 4 jack stands.

Jim
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      07-24-2010, 05:59 PM   #21
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Glad to hear you got it all done without issue. I believe the fill capacity on the rear diff is really low compared to older BMW's, I think I've read somewhere (Roundel magazine perhaps) that it only takes around half a quart.

Your description of the gear change feel is exactly what I experienced too. I'm still undecided as to whether this gets a little less smooth with the ATF when the car is hot. If I remember, I'd really like to ask you how it does over the winter.
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      07-24-2010, 07:46 PM   #22
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I'll be happy to report it if I remember or you do. But the coldest it gets here is about 30 degrees F. But that is 60-70 degrees cooler than it is here now.

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