Cheap ATF fluid, worth the risk?

Discussion in 'Engine' started by Martyn_n, Jan 27, 2011.

  1. Martyn_n

    Martyn_n Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    I'm sure I know what the majority of opinions will be, but here goes anyay!!
    Halfords are currently selling 5ltrs of Comma ATF fluid for £15 which means I can change the fluid in my car for £30 (plus filter and gasket). The fluid is DEXRON 11/11D/11E/111 spec so should be up to the job. Has anyone used it, or would you all be prepared to pay approximately 70% more for the best prices I have seen for similar (but better branded) fluid?
    I have no Idea when the fluid was last changed and I have the filter / gasket ready to go so any advice asap would be appreciated. By the way it is for a 168k mile W124 E320.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2011
  2. steve333

    steve333 Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    Hi,if the atf meets the spec in your owners hanbook & bearing in mind the cars done 160k+ i'd say go for it at that price:thumb:
     
  3. jonathanc

    jonathanc Active Member

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    I wouldn't take the risk. I do think that there is a degree of paranoia and scaremongering around the must use MB oil message however the cost difference isn't big enough to test out my theory! Although MB make a huge markup on their oil, this halfrauds alternative is cheap for a reason.
     
  4. jaymanek

    jaymanek Authorised Forum Sponsor Authorised Forum Sponsor

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    that fluid is more than fine for your car.
     
  5. grober

    grober MB Club Veteran

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  6. OP
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    Martyn_n

    Martyn_n Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    Normally I would agree but at the moment the list of things that need doing on the car (a car I don't really need, jusy want!) seems to keep growing and every penny counts. I try to get as much as I can from the dealers, I was in there today spending £230 on parts, but even the parts guy there agreed that there are cheaper acceptable ATFs (he even gave me a list of alternatives to their fluids to give me an idea of what I need).
     
  7. neilrr

    neilrr MB Club Veteran

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    The spec is the spec. The ATF (or oil or whatever it is) either meets it or it doesn't.
     
  8. SilverSaloon

    SilverSaloon MB Club Veteran

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    the comma oil from halfords will be fine. In fact, i may get some for my own cars - i need to change the gearbox oil in all 3 auto's.
     
  9. OP
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    Martyn_n

    Martyn_n Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    If you are getting some I recommend reserving it online as I do not know what price it is in store.
    I've bit the bullet and ordered some to pick up tomorrow.
     
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  10. OP
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    Martyn_n

    Martyn_n Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    Update: I've just been to collect the fluid, very efficient service, and would advise you to order on-line if you are getting some as it is still priced at £24 in store.
     
  11. jonathanc

    jonathanc Active Member

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    Hi Martyn

    I guess my concern would be that higher mileage cars I would expect to be more impacted by lower quality oil due to the increased wear and greater tolerances. Happy to be corrected on that of course but perhaps next time go for the Fuchs alternative as suggested earlier as a price/risk compromise ( IIRC Fuchs make the MB branded ATF anyway.)?
    I know where you are coming from on the costs front, when they get to that mileage a lot of stuff seems to wear out at the same time:(

    I am sure it will be fine, it has to be better than the old oil in there!

    Regards

    Jonathan
     
  12. johnsco

    johnsco Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    I tend to the view that:
    1. Wear and tear tolerances are wear and tear tolerances.

    2. ATF that meets the spec is ATF that meets the spec.

    I'm not sure that one really interacts with the other.

    It would be equally-invalid to suggest using only the very best ATF in a badly-worn transmission.
    I don't think so.

    The stuff you've bought will be fine.
     
  13. jonathanc

    jonathanc Active Member

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    Fair point but bear in mind that the spec is a minimum, it doesn't mean that oils are equal and that a more expensive oil doesn't exceed that spec ( although of course there is no guarantee that is better )

    As the gearbox gets older there is less "life" left in the materials (eg bearings, friction surfaces etc) so anything that minimises this wear will help the worn items to last longer before they need replacing, so you could say that it is more economical in the long run to use the best oil available to delay the need for major work.

    It may also be true that the differences between wear rates using different oils are so small as to make the above statement irrelevant.

    Of course this is all about managing the risk against the costs, this is subjective and is about our individual assessment of that risk and how much we are prepared or are able to justify mitigating it. There is no right answer, just a personal view.

    Cheers
     
  14. expat

    expat New Member

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    Use the cheap stuff if . . . .

    My experience, by no means exhaustive, is that if all the specs meet or exceed manufacturer's then go ahead.

    The one caveat I'll lay on the table is that with fluids changed often, i.e. engine oil. Even when all the specs are met I've found that if you're changing brands every time you change your oil, because of the different formulations and additives each mfg. uses, there may be a bit of incompatibility which could create gunk and sludge.
     
  15. johnsco

    johnsco Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    I've used Millers or Morris Oils Dexron III for years in my W126 and then in my E300TD (W210).
    The auto-trans on the W126 was rough when I bought it and only slightly-rougher 50,000 miles and 8 years later when I sold it.
     
  16. Aoraki

    Aoraki Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    Who's to say that the MB oils "exceed" their own minimum spec?
     
  17. jonathanc

    jonathanc Active Member

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    No one did, the point is that a spec is a minimum, an oil can exceed a spec. I don't know if mb oil exceeds these specs and have never claimed otherwise.
     
  18. OP
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    Martyn_n

    Martyn_n Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    An update. Changed the fluid yesterday with the halfords stuff. All went well. Or so I thought, came out this morning to find the car sitting in a shiny red puddle! Glad I noticed it before I drove off (thank you frosty windscreen for giving me the time to spot it whilst scraping). Not had a look under car yet so don't know what I have done wrong. Whatever it is it's probably an easy fix but it's caused me to misss my train and god only knows what the drive will look like. On that point does anyone know how to clean oil off tarmac?
     
  19. grober

    grober MB Club Veteran

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    Did you use a new gearbox pan gasket when you changed the filter? There are several problems associated with removing the gear fluid oil pan when changing the internal fluid filter. The first are seized steel bolts in the gearbox alloy casting due to galvanic corrosion---but since you didn't mention any problems I guess that went OK. The other is distortion of the fluid pan mounting flange due to over-tightening the securing bolts. This is a the start of viscious cycle where the bolts need be tightened even further to achieve a seal making the problem worse next time or impossible to achieve a good seal. Only easy solution is a new pan.

    MY guess then is you have some sort of pan gasket leak which may be cured by reseating it or tweaking up the bolts slightly but if the pan flange is badly distorted that may not be possible.

    ps I take it you tightened up the 2 drain plugs [ pan and torque convertor ] with new washers? Other possibility is you have a leak in one of the pipes/banjo unions that lead /return from the front transmission fluid heat exchanger in the radiator.
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2011
  20. jaymanek

    jaymanek Authorised Forum Sponsor Authorised Forum Sponsor

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    you have over tightened the sump, i would put money on it.

    I have done it a few times, its easy to do as grober says, as the ears get bent over time.
    A new sump pan is £30 from the dealer and will make it more difficult for you to over tighten... The torque setting for those bolts is 8nm - not tight!.
     

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