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Old 10-07-2018, 10:48 PM
Join Date: Jun 2014
Location: Omaha, NE
Posts: 1,089
cn90 is on a distinguished road
DIY 2004 X3 (also X5 E53) E83 ATF SIMPLE Drain/Refill using Gravity!

My 2004 X3 with 84K runs fine. This is just preventive ATF maintenance.

I post this in X3 and X5 forum simply b/c of the Gravity Fill trick!

NOTE: if you have an X5, search forums etc. but I think the principle is the same for X3. GM (France) trans uses Dexron-VI. Fluid capacity for X5 may be a bit more (I may be wrong) than my X3.

Useful videos:



- The ATF at 84K is dark (can ran fine, no issues).

The BMW ATF Drain/Refill is never fun because:
1. There is no dipstick tube!
2. Refilling is done with engine running and HOT Exhaust right next to fill bolt!

I found an easy way, I have been using gravity fill for a long time as I dislike the "Suction Gun" (messy).


- For simple Drain/Refill: 4.2 ---> 4.5 quarts, depending on the car is tilted or not.

- I used Valvoline Synthetic Dexron-VI (Menards hardware sells it for $5/each qt).

- You can repeat this step 2-3 times if you wish (just run engine in between Drain/Refill).

- Thick Dishwashing Gloves (Hot Exhaust nearby).

- Tiny Funnel that fits inside clear tubing.

- Clear Tubing I.D. = 3/8", get about 4 feet at local hardware store.

- Torx 50

- 17-mm 6-point 3/8"-type socket + 3/8" breaker bar.

- Wood Ramps.


- Watch the videos to be familiar with the pros and cons.

- I drove the RIGHT side on ramp. The purist would say I overfill it a bit this way.
If you are a purist, then drive all 4 wheels on 4 wood ramps.

- I know I drained 4.2 quarts, this is from factory. With the RIGHT side on ramps, it takes
4.5 quarts before it runs out of the Fill hole. Alternatively, if the right side is on ramps like my photo, then fill until 4.2 ---> 4.3 qts, then stop. Nothing will drip out if the right side is tilted up.

- ALWAYS open the FILL bolt first, just in case you stripped it, it is not the end of the world.
When you are down there, it is very easy to get disoriented between CW vs CCW. Make sure you turn it CCW.
There is an O-ring, don't lose it.
The O-ring got stuck on the Trans, so I left it there during the whole process.

- Drain the ATF and re-install the T-50 plug. Finger-tight then twist a bit (I don't know the torque).

- The clear tubing: I pour a tiny amount of gasoline in there to clean the inside.
Then TAPE shut both ends because when you tunnel the tubing through the Engine ---> Exhaust ---> Trans, dirt can get inside the tubing. And dirt is the #1 enemy of Trans!

- Once you are happy with the tubing (place a breaker bar or some metal between exhaust + tubing to avoid damage to tubing from heat).

- Engine OFF: Exactly 3 quarts will start to drip out of fill hole.

- Now turn engine ON: the Transmission Pump will suck ATF from the pan and pumps it into the Torque Converter.
Now, you can add either:
a. 1.2 quarts, then stop, nothing will drip out of the hole (b/c the car is tilted a bit).
b. 1.5 quarts like I did.

- Now wear thick gloves and gently install the Fill Bolt (Don't lose the O-ring).

- Turn engine OFF, allowing Exhaust to cool down a bit.

- Now tighten the Fill Bolt: just finger-tight then turn it a bit (I don't know the torque).

- Test drive the car.

Now you can see that using Gravity Fill is a much better technique than "Suction Gun".

Hope you like this DIY!!!


1998 E39 528i 5sp MT
2006 E53 X5 3.0 6sp MT
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Old 10-08-2018, 09:24 AM
Emory39's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2014
Location: Boise ID
Posts: 542
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It's a different way to do it for sure. Minus the burns.
E36 M3 95-sold
E30 318i 91-sold
E39 528i 00-rebuild at136K - sold
E36 M3 98-sold
E53 X5 4.4 05-the beast
E53 X5 3.0 5M/T 01-sold
R56 Mini Cooper S 07-sold I should have keept it
E83 X3 3.0-the wife's
E36 M3 97 - The new project - sold
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Old 10-09-2018, 10:03 AM
Join Date: Feb 2016
Location: Florida
Posts: 165
trentcdrums is on a distinguished road
This looks like way too much work but very interesting. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 10-09-2018, 10:41 AM
Join Date: Jun 2014
Location: Omaha, NE
Posts: 1,089
cn90 is on a distinguished road
Gravity Fill (using funnel + clear tubing) is much easier than Suction Gun (messy).

Once you use Gravity Fill, you don't want to go back to Suction Gun.
1998 E39 528i 5sp MT
2006 E53 X5 3.0 6sp MT
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Old 10-10-2018, 07:30 PM
Join Date: Aug 2018
Location: Chicago, IL
Posts: 11
JMF1956 is on a distinguished road
I recently replaced the fluid and filter in mine. Although this is interesting way to do it I used one of those pump up garden sprayers in which I added a shut off valve to the output hose. Fill the container with ATF, pump it up and open the valve

you may as well drop the pan and replace the filter while you’re at it.

I would also buy a new filler and drain plug. They’re cheap and you will thank me later. The drain plug was fine but the fill plug was slightly rounded and had a heckuva time breaking it loose

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Old 10-10-2018, 11:46 PM
Join Date: Jun 2014
Location: Omaha, NE
Posts: 1,089
cn90 is on a distinguished road
- I had no issues with re-using the Drain and Fill Plugs.

- I usually TIGHTEN the bolt a tiny bit (yes tightening it), then turn CCW, it came right out. Also I used 6-point socket for the Fill Bolt. You don't want to use 12-point socket for the Fill Bolt.

- At 120K or so, I will drop the pan and replace the filter. I was too busy and only interested in doing a drain and refill at 84K.
1998 E39 528i 5sp MT
2006 E53 X5 3.0 6sp MT
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Old 10-11-2018, 04:23 AM
Join Date: Aug 2018
Location: Chicago, IL
Posts: 11
JMF1956 is on a distinguished road
Good points.

I learned a neat trick from my mechanic friend. I just purchased my X5 and was using his lift to do maintenance .The fill plug was slightly rounded so I asked for advise. he took a six point box wrench and a prybar and used the prybar to force the wrench against the plug which prevented it from slipping and was able to crack it loose.

I know all of us are careful with the full plugs it’s the previous owners that we have to deal with LOL

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Old 10-11-2018, 04:39 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2015
Location: South Island, New Zealand
Posts: 2,311
wpoll will become famous soon enough
Nice write up, cn90. I used this exact method when I changed the fluid in both my diffs last year. Worked a treat...

However, I went with the hand pump when I did the xDrive fluid - it's too expensive to spill everywhere... !

AND... as my trans (6HP26X) has a bottom-fill only, I'll need a hand pump for that anyway, so it was worth buying one.
2005 BMW X5 3.0d (b 02/05)
2001 BMW F650GS Dakar (b 06/01)

Last edited by wpoll; 10-11-2018 at 04:47 PM.
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