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transmission fluid

2930 Views 19 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  Tomvw
2005 Passat gls TDI
I just drained my transmission fluid and it looked like new motor oil or the color of new motor oil., it was also clean looking. Is there a transmission fluid that is the color of motor oil or was mine just burnt? When I dropped the pan it was clean and the magnets had normal mush on them and the fluid did not smell bad. I just bought the car and found a receipt in the owner's manual where the transmission was replaced in 2016.
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Trans fluid should be red colored, not brown. When it is black, it is burnt and bad. You can't get it all out unless the system is flushed. It was probably burnt before the last change, so the leftover bad fluid in the system colored the new red fluid brown.
The actual OEM fluid from the dealership is about the color of a light beer. Very light yellowish and clear. more like piss... A lot of other producers make all sorts of colors, but color doesn't matter. What matters is if it specifies that it is recommended for a ZF 5hp19 (or whatever specific transmission you might have) transmission. Go to the ZF website and look it up yourself, because most auto parts stores are more out to sell you anything they can, or they just don't know or care or have bad info. I tried to find a link to the PDF on the website, but my computer and my phone are acting up right now. Just go until you find the ZF website and download the correct info yourself. The specs are...ZF S671 090 170 (lifeguard 5 ) or VAG / VW 052 162 A1/A2/A6. Different brands of fluid can be mixed as long as these fluids are as specified by SPECIFICATION NUMBER REGARDLESS OF COLOR. Mixing isn't an issue.
If mixing was an issue the manufacturers would recommend you flush the old fluid out of your TC when you change the fluid and filter for warranty reasons. The lifetime fluid stuff is a myth unless you find out the hard way that your transmission get's roasted when your transmission fluid wears out, yeah...lifetime fluid...They claim it's not volatile too (evaporates) , but if it wasn't, you wouldn't be able to smell it.
Take the fact that you can smell it and realize in order to smell it that itty bitty particles of it have to go up into your nose and come into contact with your olfactory bulb up in your head between your eyes. Add on increased volatility when heated and it's obvious life-time fluid is a myth to sell you a new car or a new transmission
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Pentosin ATF 1, which is ZF compatible on Passats, is not red. I have always used Pentosin.

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Pentosin ATF 1 is frigging expensive...
I know that we are commenting on a 4-year old thread, but...Make it easy on yourself and fill with comparatively inexpensive Valvoline Maxlife synthetic ATF. I used that in my B5 A4, B5 Passat, and my current B6 A4 with over 280,000 miles.
Yeah...Some, but not all MAX LIFE meets recommended specs...Cheaper fluid than that can be found too, if you search online by specification number.
This is the reference I was trying to find. There are other manufacturers specs that may make it much easier to find the correct fluid.

The color of piss, sounds about right for an automatic transmission. :sneaky: Thanks for the edumacation.

Bottom line, whether it starts out red, blue, amber, purple or piss, if it is still translucent it's great, brown and opaque it's getting old, black it's long overdue, if it smells bad it's way bad. All the Passats I have changed the AT fluid on were over 100k miles and had black fluid, except for one. Always used Castrol Transmax in them and always shifted fine.
I'm in the process of doing one right now. The fluid is clear, but the color is brown like root beer.
It's what is stuck to the magnets and lying in the bottom of the pan after you take it down that can be most telling. If it is even slightly metallic or gritty and not on the magnets, like metal flake paint, that means it's non-magnetic and probably aluminum, that points out that you really should rebuild it. Metallic sludge like stuff on the magnets tends to be just bits of the ferrous driven rings that slowly wear down when the transmission does transmissiony things like transmissions do.
I see no metallic bits in mine (yet), and it smells only a little stronger than the new fluid I have on hand. I still have to take a look inside the screen/filter.
Inexpensive fluid that meets specifications is available from Safety Clean, I think it was, I will update that info later here if I am mistaken. $104.00 gets you about 6 gallons of it in a box kinda like a box of wine, and when you wait too long to change it, it turns into a box of "whine".
I haven't used this source yet because I have about 7 liters of Febi-Bilstien Nr. 14738 sitting in my kitchen by my front door (the reason my ex-wife wanted -a divorce)...(Yay!!)...(^&%^@_)([email protected]#$%@&@[email protected]#)
It says "only for russia and turkey" right on the bottle. I feel like such a criminal. I love it...


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Ah the joy of transmissions. Posting my experience here fwiw since I've spent a lot of quality time with these fluid changes. With my 2002 1.8T wagon I hit the pan on a steep gravel driveway and the fluid leaked, but by the time I figured it out and had it refilled the damage was done. Slipping in 3rd gear, slow engagement into P or R, and lots of bouncing into limp mode. I decided to go for a used transmission swap, and so far the car has been running really well. I asked the transmission guy about the burnt smell, and he said that isn't really a thing anymore with the synthetic fluids. Not sure if that is true, but with all my issues and fluid changes I've never noticed that type of smell.

With my 2001 1.8T sedan I did a fluid/filter change at 135K miles, and I went with Max Life as mentioned above (red). Previously I was using the OEM "beer" fluid but was tired of chasing it down as well as the cost. So far the car has been running great, and hopefully I'll just run this set of fluid for the second half of the car's life.

Also worth noting that a fair bit of fluid stays in there no matter what, so by the time the overflow starts the fluid will look a bit wonky. I'll leave it to the professionals on the nuances of the various fluids and mixes, but my goal has been to do the mid-life fluid change and (most of all) make sure the correct amount is in there.

You can get the OEM equivalent fluid through a company called "Safety Kleen". I found this source after finding Febi-Bilstien liters for just over $10 each from FCP Euro. The Febi-Bilstien matched up with the VW spec exactly by number/spec, and seems to work just fine so far. Back to the Safety Kleen...They supposedly offer up the exact specification of fluid I had already sourced at just over $100 for a 6 gallon box/bag.
The reason I changed out my fluid was covered in an earlier post I submitted here.
As a side note. The lower the temperature of the fluid as you pump it into the transmission, the greater amount of fluid goes into the transmission because of thermal expansion. I got mine all in there where it was dribbling out of the fill hole at about exactly 30C. The recommended temp is 35/45C some places, 30/40C according to others. There are even variances between those temps from one manual to the next one.
I have read online that there are issues with the type of pan gasket used because when I ordered my filter and fluid, the filter showed up with a plastic/rubber transmission pan gasket. I used it because it came with a Beck-Arnley filter, and I have never know Beck-Arnley to supply parts that don't work. A couple of places online stated that the rubber/plastic gaskets do not seal, and other places online stated that there are a couple of things you have to be sure of before using rubber/plastic gaskets. You just need to get the mating surfaces clean and oil free before mounting the pan, and torque it down twice. Mine hasn't leaked yet.
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Another step for the inclined is to loosen the valve body on the mounting bolts a few turns is all thats needed and let it drain. Quite an amount of fluid drains from the converter. Ive fitted a 40k trans cooler to the front and bypassed the factory set up. It sits in front of the condenser/
Next time I do mine, I think I'm going to drop that valve body completely down and replace any o-rings and other parts that are accessible. I have seen refresh kits for the 5hp-19 online in several places. I have a donor transmission left from an Audi that is a 5hp-19 also. It makes things so much easier when you can figure out how things are going to come off without being trapped under a car about a foot off the ground. I have had three 5hp-19's now, and noticed that they all have what feels almost like a notch in 2nd or 3rd gear even when you shift them manually.
Anyway...If anyone needs pics of something, like vents or linkage points, or where the coolant lines enter/exit etc., just gimme a holler. I have one out in the open.


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