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3-Series (E36) Chat relating to the BMW 3-Series from 1992-1999. Autodoodad Specific models include: BMW 316i, BMW 318i, BMW 318iS/ti, BMW 320, BMW 323, BMW 320, BMW 324, BMW 325, BMW 328.

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Old 05-01-2008, 11:02 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Power Steering Fluid? Refill to line? or Flush and Replace?

How often do you replace it? I don't mean refill it to the line, but flush the enitre system out and replace all the fluid.

My mechanic wants $50 to do this and tells me I need it.

The Bently & Chilton Manuals seems to say you only need to refill it to the line when necessary at Oil Inspection 1 and 2. But they don't seem to diffrentiate between Power Steering Fluid and Transmission Fluid-which is LifeTime on later Automatic E36s.

The manuals seem to call both fluids ATF!!??

I'm confused and my steering has in fact been a little stiffer than before.

This is for my 1995 318i auto.
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Old 05-01-2008, 11:34 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I flush the system every 35000 miles. And yes, your power steering uses Automatic Transmission Fluid, NOT power steering fluid.
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Old 05-01-2008, 11:44 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I flush the system every 35000 miles. And yes, your power steering uses Automatic Transmission Fluid, NOT power steering fluid.
Is it usually $50 to flush the system out and replace the fluid?

He charged me $90 for something called a "Power Motor Flush" which is basically flushing out the old oil completely during basic oil change process.

I would assume the Transmission Fluid flush would cost more. But $50 for a flush still sounds pricey since that Power Steering Resovoir isn't even big enough to hold a proper pint of Lager in it.
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Old 05-01-2008, 11:45 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Delmarco View Post
Is it usually $50 to flush the system out and replace the fluid
Actually, it's usually more than that.
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Old 05-01-2008, 11:49 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Actually, it's usually more than that.
so when I go back I need to make sure he is flushing the entire system and not just that little PS reservour?
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Old 05-01-2008, 11:56 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Here is what I have done to save me the hassle of doing the flush, yet not having to pay to get it done:

1. Open the reservoir, pump out all the ATF (I use a turkey baster).
2. Refill with fresh fluid.
3. Put cap back on.
4. Turn car on. Turn the wheel from lock to lock several times. Drive around the block if you feel like it.
5. Turn car off.
6. Repeat steps 1 through 5 three to five times until fluid in reservoir is clean.

The idea is that you dilute the old fluid from the P/S lines with the new fluid and eventually have pretty much all new fluid in the system. You probably get about 85-90% of the benefits of a full flush (depending on how thorough you are) and you're only out a few bucks and 20 minutes to an hour of your time. You can probably even extend this process over an entire week (you'd change the fluid in the reservoir once or twice every day and use your regular driving as the "mixing" action).

With regards to intervals, doing a flush every third year or anywhere from 30k to 40k miles should be fine. There really isn't much to it.

Oh yeah. DO NOT put power steering fluid in your car.
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Old 05-02-2008, 05:01 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by drz View Post
Here is what I have done to save me the hassle of doing the flush, yet not having to pay to get it done:

1. Open the reservoir, pump out all the ATF (I use a turkey baster).
2. Refill with fresh fluid.
3. Put cap back on.
4. Turn car on. Turn the wheel from lock to lock several times. Drive around the block if you feel like it.
5. Turn car off.
6. Repeat steps 1 through 5 three to five times until fluid in reservoir is clean.

The idea is that you dilute the old fluid from the P/S lines with the new fluid and eventually have pretty much all new fluid in the system. You probably get about 85-90% of the benefits of a full flush (depending on how thorough you are) and you're only out a few bucks and 20 minutes to an hour of your time. You can probably even extend this process over an entire week (you'd change the fluid in the reservoir once or twice every day and use your regular driving as the "mixing" action).

With regards to intervals, doing a flush every third year or anywhere from 30k to 40k miles should be fine. There really isn't much to it.

Oh yeah. DO NOT put power steering fluid in your car.
Thanks Bro.
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Old 05-02-2008, 05:25 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Why can't you use power steering fluid? I had that put in when the guy flushed my powerstering pump.
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Old 05-02-2008, 05:35 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by MEDSTUDENT87 View Post
Why can't you use power steering fluid? I had that put in when the guy flushed my powerstering pump.

Actually. Power Steering Fluid can also be the name of the brand but it usually is ATF. I'm not sure there is something just called Power Steering Fluid that would replace ATF in that PS Reservour. The fluid is used for power steering, like "coolant" or "antifreeze" is used for the radiator we just don't call it "radiator fluid" and if we saw a store brand called "Radiator Fluid" we would assume it has the same ingredients as Coolant. Which is fine for other cars but BMW engines require BMW brand coolant...same as Power Steering Fluid. We require BMW Recommended ATF and not just regular ass Power Steerig fluid.

that is what I'm getting here.
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Old 05-02-2008, 07:43 PM   #10 (permalink)
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MEDSTUDENT, this is for the E36. As always, it is best to check the caps and or labels on one's car to be certain. Perhaps the factory spec for this system was different for the E34.

ATF = automatic transmission fluid. At some point BMW decided to use Dexron III® ATF in their PS system. Some people say that hydraulic fluid is hydraulic fluid is hydraulic fluid, but if that is the case, I'd rather just use what the cap says. I do think the two have different properties -- whether different viscosities, or heat conductivity, etc., I couldn't tell you -- so maybe BMW chose it on that basis.

Also, Del, I discovered while perusing my Bentley service manual that the procedure I recommended is what they list on their book (actually what I said is more thorough). Don't spend $50. Buy a $5 thing of ATF in AutoZone and DIY ftw!
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