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Transmission fluid black as night with only 25K miles.

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Old 04-26-14, 10:07 AM   #16
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If the ATF goes bad way before its normal life, the trans has a problem. For modern cars, the trans malfunction light will come on with an error code(s).
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Old 04-26-14, 10:19 AM   #17
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Yeah ^^^. Bad fluid= transmission problem. No way the fluid is that bad, and the transmission is still in good shape. Something caused the fluid to turn dark like that. Any debris floating in the fluid like little flakes of clutch material or metal shavings?
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Old 04-26-14, 11:46 AM   #18
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sorka
that trans. fluid started a nest. I to have rebuilt many trans. before and that some nasty trans. fluid.
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Old 04-26-14, 01:22 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by sorka View Post
Different kind of transmission and totally different kind of fluid. There's a reason why 2006+ are sealed and don't have dipsticks. Consumers would freak out if they saw how quickly the atf ws fluid turns dark from the factory.

My 2009 Prius, which I bought new did something similar. I change the atf ws (but in this case it's a complete drain so you get all the fluid) at 30K miles. It was the same black as black can be. I changed it again at 90K miles, so twice as long, but it came out looking brand new even though it had twice as many miles on it. Almost certainly it was darkened by breakin material.
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Old 04-27-14, 01:28 AM   #20
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I'm not having any issues with the transmission. Shifting is perfect and smooth. The car doesn't have more miles when I bought it with 11K. There are too many records showing a progression towards 11K (dealer services and smog checks) so I really doubt it could have had huge miles put on it in such a short time and then rolled back before the next odometer check.

I also fully expect that once the fluid has been mostly swapped out that it would stay clearer for longer since the initial breakin contaminants will be gone.

Now that said, if you put fluid from the dark bottle on the right on a paper towl, it's fairly pink still. The thing about putting it in a bottle is that it's about 10,000 times thicker than what you see when you spread it out on a thin piece of paper or a dipstick and as a result, contaminants appearance are amplified a lot. If I showed you the new fluid and the old side by side on a white piece of paper, nobody would think it looked that bad. That said it's still darker than Dexron would be at that mileage.

I did check the diff fluid. It's perfectly clear.

It's amazing how clean and new looking the undercarriage is even with 25K miles on it.
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Old 04-27-14, 01:31 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Moonstruck View Post
I changed my fluid last fall before storing the car for the winter. My car has 64,000 on it and the fluid looked almost like the new fluid I added. My thinking is that your car has more mileage, or you have a transmission problem.
Had you *ever* had a trans flush before that? Are you saying you had perfectly pink looking fluid in a bottle like the one I showed at 64K miles. And when I say bottle, I mean did you actually put it in a bottle or did you just put some one your finger or spread out on a white surface. Seriously doubt it. In fact, nothing you could say would make me believe it.
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Old 04-27-14, 05:02 AM   #22
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sorka
there must be a filter in it when they do rebuild them. check on this an change the filter to be safe. like I said I never seen fluid like that ever.
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Old 04-27-14, 07:40 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by sorka View Post
Different kind of transmission and totally different kind of fluid. There's a reason why 2006+ are sealed and don't have dipsticks. Consumers would freak out if they saw how quickly the atf ws fluid turns dark from the factory.

My 2009 Prius, which I bought new did something similar. I change the atf ws (but in this case it's a complete drain so you get all the fluid) at 30K miles. It was the same black as black can be. I changed it again at 90K miles, so twice as long, but it came out looking brand new even though it had twice as many miles on it. Almost certainly it was darkened by breakin material.
I'm almost wondering in both cases, if originally an error was made and transmission fluid was not used at all, hence the reason it's black. It almost looks like used motor oil. Once changed it stays new looking for a long time, very odd and again it points toward the wrong fluid or oil being initially used.

Last edited by sixonemale; 04-27-14 at 01:04 PM..
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Old 04-27-14, 01:29 PM   #24
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Trans fluid color and smell have nothing to do with its usable life.

Toyota says the ATF WS can go 100k miles and their engineers are right indeed. Do you believe a reputable car maker's recommendation or trust your own amateurish feel?
Where do I start?

First, for as long as automatic transmissions have been around, professionals (I mean professional mechanics, automotive transmission engineers and especially tribologists) have used both color and smell as an initial guide in determining if ATF is in good condition, and in turn if the transmission itself is likely healthy. This is true for ATFs with base stock derived from petroleum and base stock manufactured synthetically. To say otherwise suggests that you have had no exposure to automotive professionals, and/or don’t read much.

But the fact that you made the statement, and then in the next sentence accused someone else of “amateurish feel” (used in your context to mean acting in an unprofessional or unskilled manner), is laughable.

Second, to make the statement that “Toyota says the ATF WS can go 100K miles”, and then assume that it is fait accompli for all situations, suggests a painfully acute level of naivete.

The useful life of any lubricant in a machine is dependent upon many factors, and while the written advice of the lubricant manufacturer or machine manufacturer should be used as a guide, true professionals (and knowledgeable amateurs) know that there is great variance in operating conditions and/or machine tolerances and generally employ one of two paths (testing or conservative drain intervals) for fluid maintenance, depending upon the scope of the maintenance.

For commercial or industrial situations where there are large numbers of machines (say a fleet of taxis), or where down time is critically expensive (industrial process machines or hydroelectric generators) nearly all engineers involved in preventive maintenance take advantage of lubricant testing labs both to insure that the lubricant is still additive rich and doing its job (fighting moisture, foaming, oxidation, component rusting, fuel dilution and shear down), while extending or maximizing drain intervals so as to reduce cost.

Conversely, nearly all of us on this forum are maintaining a small number of personal vehicles and our primary focus is to avoid expensive repairs while having our vehicle operate with optimum performance. And comparing the cost of the two most expensive components of the vehicle, the engine and transmission, to the relatively inexpensive cost of lubricants today, suggests that conservative drain intervals are very cheap insurance indeed.

Setting aside the issues of temperature extremes, operator driving habits and towing, vehicle mileage by itself is not a particularly good measure of lubricant wear. Both engine oil and transmission fluid deteriorate primarily based upon hours of operation, not miles driven, with heat being the number one cause of deterioration (which is why all industrial machinery and many commercial vehicles have hour meters to accurately measure hours of operation).

As an example of extremes, the commuter who averages 60mph in an hour long commute puts the same number of hours on the engine as a stop and go commuter who averages 10mph for a one-hour commute, yet the highway commuter puts six times the number of miles on the car during the commute as the stop and go driver. If both cars run synthetic oil and change the oil at 15,000 mile intervals (something I would never suggest), the highway commuter will have run the oil 250 hours (near the reasonable limit for engine oil), whereas the stop and go commuter will have run the oil 1500 hours. The difference in the level of additives (most of which are sacrificial) left in the two oils will be dramatic, with the 1500 hour oil worn out and likely heavily acidic. The same ratios are also true for the ATF in both vehicles. And for warm climates like LA, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Houston or Miami in the summer it is readily apparent as to which vehicles lubricants (highway or stop and go) will be exposed to more heat. Stop and go driving is brutal on fluids. Excellent lubricants are dirt cheap these days.

The following are my personal observations and maintenance habits. They are not applicable to everyone as their driving habits, climate, objectives and even if they DIY, are likely different. I generally buy my vehicles new and usually drive them to 100K + miles. For those who lease or purchase new and turn their vehicles over every 3-4 years, the equation and objectives are obviously very different.

For engine oil, I do not espouse any one brand of oil as being perfect. Engine oils today are outstanding in terms of performance and there are many good oils available, both petroleum-based and synthetic. I have used Mobil 1 in all of my cars for 30 years with a perfect success record so that is what I stick with. Also it is cheap. But if you like another name-brand oil because the jug is purple or some other feature claimed then by all means use it. ANY name brand oil will work well IF you change it while the additives are still present.

I use Mobil 1 0W-40 in my SC430, 5-series BMW and my daughter’s Altima coupe. It is very cheap ($25 at Walmart) for a 5 quart jug and it holds up well to heat (important in Phoenix). For the SC 5.5 quarts and an oil filter is just over $30. For the 8-banger BMW, 8.5 quarts and a Hengst or Mann oil filter is around $55. My drain intervals are usually 5K miles, but never more than 6K miles. If I had 300 taxis I would take a different approach, but for just three cars and not wanting to keep track of hours of operation, IMHO 5K-6K drain intervals is simple to keep track of and dirt-cheap protection.

For ATF, T-4 (my SC430 is a 2002) is around $8 per quart. At 50K mile intervals I disconnect the return line from the ATF cooler in the radiator and run the engine to dump a quart of used fluid into a marked container, and then add a quart of new fluid to the dip stick neck. Woo-hoo, eight quarts cost a whole $64 dollars!! What does a rebuilt transmission for an SC430 cost? $3K? $4K? Plus the hassle of visits to the repair shop and down time for the car.

I also use 50K intervals, for my BMW ATF. Lifeguard 6 for the ZF transmission is much more expensive at $20 per quart, with two drain and fills putting about 85% new fluid in at around $240. Basically the same drain and fill procedure as the later model SC430s with the sealed transmission and no dip stick. For the BMW after the drain and fill, get out the cable and reset the trans adaptation (the transmission computer then goes through a period of measuring and adjusting the flow of fluid through electronically controlled solenoids to compensate for existing wear on mechanical parts of the transmission to achieve proper shift points) and you are done. But again, DIRT CHEAP compared to a rebuilt tranny.

Incidentally, for those worried about exactly hitting the proper temperature range before replacing the overflow cap, on the transmissions without dip sticks, don't be concerned. The temperature range is designed both to insure that the transmission fluid is hot enough to lower the viscosity so as to insure all portions of the transmission are penetrated (why stirring the gears is important) to prevent an underfill, while at the same time preventing the mechanic from being exposed to scalding fluid temperatures as the plug is replaced. Simply keep a finger in the overflow stream until it begins to become slightly uncomfortable to the touch and then replace the cap. While the temperature change does relate to the expansion coefficient of the fluid, the change in fluid level within the transmission sump for a 20 degree temperature range is measured in thousandths of an inch and is meaningless to proper transmission operation. This is not brain surgery.

Interestingly, BMW used to recommend ATF drain intervals of 50K miles. Then their marketing department decided that in order to argue TCO (total cost of ownership) bragging rights with other auto brands, they started paying for fluid changes during the warranty period. Suddenly, when they had to pay for fluid maintenance, engine oil changes are suggested via a dielectric measurement of the oil (proven useless via lab testing), often extending to 15K miles between drain intervals and ATF fluid is called lifetime. ATF that lasts the life of the warranty period? Yes, easy, a no-brainer. Add the additional warranty period if the car is a CPO? Getting on shakey ground here based upon conditions, but BMW gambles the odds and goes with it. 100K miles across the board for all situations, driving habits and conditions? Hardly a good bet in any knowledgeable person’s book. And for the knowledgeable who follow tribology publications, a statement that any lubricant can last a lifetime (forever) is ludicrous.

I like sorka’s and others approach of changing 1 or 2 quarts of fluid with every oil change. This is a very valid approach to keeping the ATF fresh, and follows closely the Cummins Centinel lubrication management system’s technique used in diesel tractor’s that is designed for 525,000 mile engine oil-change intervals (no that is not a typo – a half million miles between engine oil changes). They run a generous sump size, but also have a makeup tank with fresh oil. At regular intervals a measured amount of used oil is withdrawn from the sump automatically and added to the diesel fuel tank to be burned along with diesel fuel. At the same time a matching amount of fresh oil from the makeup tank is added to the sump to replace the burned oil, replenishing the critical oil additives in the sump. Oil filter changes are required at 75K intervals but the sump need not be drained.

For those fellow DIY warriors using conservative fluid maintenance practices: IMHO keep up the good work! Check your fluids regularly and change them often.

Sorry for so long a post, but I try to write my posts so that even the newest newbie can follow the subject and gain knowledge. I realize that for many knowledgeable readers I am preaching to the converted.
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Old 04-27-14, 03:01 PM   #25
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SC43052, Back the original question, sorka's SC is a 2007 with 25k miles, irregardless of how it was driven, his transmission fluid seems over-the-top dark in color, far from normal in my opinion. Are you saying it's possible to get this type of discoloration in so few miles driven on new transmission? Assume sorka's average speed for the first 25,000 miles was 50 mph in a geographical warm section of CA, that would only yield 500 hours of operation on his new transmission, not many hours for this kind of discoloration from a new transmission that is working properly.
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Old 04-27-14, 04:39 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by sixonemale View Post
SC43052, Back the original question, sorka's SC is a 2007 with 25k miles, irregardless of how it was driven, his transmission fluid seems over-the-top dark in color, far from normal in my opinion. Are you saying it's possible to get this type of discoloration in so few miles driven on new transmission? Assume sorka's average speed for the first 25,000 miles was 50 mph in a geographical warm section of CA, that would only yield 500 hours of operation on his new transmission, not many hours for this kind of discoloration from a new transmission that is working properly.
Yes, I was not addressing the OP, but rather the value of short drain intervals.

Based on the color I'm guessing that you agree that his fluid should be changed.

Even if during the entire life of the vehicle the average speed were only 20 mph, one wouldn't necessarily expect that dark a color on 1250 hours of transmission operation. But this is an example of why it is important to check fluid condition regularly.

The OP indicated that he is not the first owner, therefore cannot attest to how the vehicle was operated for 11K miles. The fluid is also 7 years old, unusual in a car with only 25K miles. But if we assume that the mileage of the vehicle is accurate, if the fluid in the transmission is the factory fill, and if no other foreign fluids were added to it, then we have answered the "is it possible?". His fluid is proof.

Why it was so dark is worth reflection. Was the transmission abused (example - rocked excessively when stuck in snow or mud), did the previous owner tow a boat in the mountains, was the car driven in a hilly city and the transmission loaded with the gas pedal to hold the car in place going uphill (instead of the brake), was the engine overheated (which overheats the transmission fluid), or was there a problem in the transmission causing it to overheat internally and blacken the fluid. He may never know the exact cause(s). It will certainly be wise for him to sample it again in 10K miles, assuming he suffers no symptoms before then.

As I remember, my BMW fluid wasn't too far off his color at approximately 1800 hours. The ZF fluid isn't red, but rather a light golden color when new, so how valid the color comparison is, or how good my memory is begs the validity of the comparison. Suffice to say my fluid was significantly darker than new fluid, in a sealed system with no dip stick that had not been abused or experienced severe duty.

Last edited by SC43052; 04-27-14 at 04:46 PM..
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Old 04-27-14, 10:47 PM   #27
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Huhh, you must be one of those "old timers" on the BMW forums, who propose unnecessary short interval fluid changes with no benefits at all.

Those decades old "wisdom" has no place in today's advanced fluid technology. To say that BMW's 100k mile ATF change interval is a marketing plot is simply ignorant and naive. So to save a few dollars (in your analysis), BMW is willing to sacrifice its trans life and reputation (causing its trans to blow up prematurely). This logic is just absurd.

But old (bad) habits are hard to die.
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Old 04-28-14, 01:59 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by jzwu View Post
Huhh, you must be one of those "old timers" on the BMW forums, who propose unnecessary short interval fluid changes with no benefits at all.

Those decades old "wisdom" has no place in today's advanced fluid technology. To say that BMW's 100k mile ATF change interval is a marketing plot is simply ignorant and naive. So to save a few dollars (in your analysis), BMW is willing to sacrifice its trans life and reputation (causing its trans to blow up prematurely). This logic is just absurd.

But old (bad) habits are hard to die.
Instead of childish name calling respond to the facts.

1. Automotive professionals assess transmission fluid based upon color and smell.
2. Severe service can cut even modern highly engineered lubricants to a fraction of their normal lifespan. And changes in automotive technology (engine piston squirters for instance) can have a dramatic, unintended effects on lubricant life.
3. Maintenance professionals regularly monitor and measure the quality of lubricants, regardless of manufacturer's claims for longevity. It is almost always cheaper to keep a machine running than to repair it.

Regarding BMW
1. The vast majority of BMWs sold are leased vehicles. They pay for maintenance until the warranty runs out. Why would they care if an out of warranty car with 100K miles on it (average 8 years old) has a well maintained transmission? More work for their shops. After the warranty period has run out they really don't lose sleep over how long any one component lasts. Finally ZF, out of embarrassment, had to come out and say that the fluid should be checked regularly and should be serviced between 50K and 70K miles, and never more than 8 years.
http://www.zf.com/media/media/docume...hselkit_EN.pdf
2. Did you know that if you have a leak on your BMW transmission and take it in for warranty repair work, that the dealer is instructed by BMW to drain the transmission fluid and keep it to be put back into the transmission once the leak is fixed, no matter the age or condition of the fluid?
3. BMW's reputation is built on superior handling and cutting edge technology, not reliability. BMW as a whole has been below average for new car reliability in the last 10 years, with some models almost dead last in certain years. Contrast that with Lexus and Japanese vehicles in general, which are known for superior reliability.
4. Do you really read the BMW forums or just skim them? Have you counted the number of major component failures that have been talked about repeatedly on the forums for months or years before BMW finally fesses up and does a recall. You must not be reading very much.

Is BMW alone in ignoring problems? By no means. Look at Porsche's IMS bearing failures on both 996 and Boxster 3.4L engines that they have never come clean on. Thousands of failed engines because a fault sealed bearing leaks, looses its grease and takes out the whole engine. Or the recent disclosure of GM's ignition switch failures that they hid from the public. People were dying and they lied about it. And you still don't think BMW would stretch the truth on lubrication life to save some money?

I am going to venture a guess that you don't do your own maintenance on your vehicles. Have you changed an alternator, or starter or done spark plugs? You will learn a lot getting your hands dirty.

And reading car brochures and oil ads won't teach you what technical lubrication publications will regarding state of the art lubricants, modern base stock technology, ad packs and lubricant failure modes.

Try this website and read some of their articles. Educate yourself.
http://www.stle.org/

Last edited by SC43052; 04-28-14 at 02:05 AM..
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Old 04-28-14, 11:05 AM   #29
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Using fluid color/small for assessment is not very scientific. Do you agree? That's the rudimentary method used decades ago on the fluids belonging to that era.

Has anyone smelled the new ATF? It smells really bad when brand new. Color alone cannot be used to assess how usable the fluid is, either.

Blackstone lab has done many engine oil analyses on Mobil 1 synthetic oils from many different owners. I have never seen one report stating that the oil was bad within 10k miles. Changing synthetic engine oil at 5k miles is a total waste.

And Yes, I do engine oil change, ATF change, differential oil change, coolant change and spark plug change, among other car work, myself indeed.
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Old 04-28-14, 12:58 PM   #30
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I also use synthetic oil and completely understand your thoughts for not changing it at 5k miles due to no deterioration of it's chemical constituents and properties, but because the oil and filter get dirty at around 4-5k miles, I change mine out. It's completely based on preference, but I'm not a fan of chemically good, but dirty motor oil and filter.
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