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Hexhead Gearbox Oil


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The latest issue of the RA magazine, OTL, has an article about BMW oils. The article states that BMW lubricants are now made by Castrol, and that Castrol SAF-XO is the recommended oil for the final drive and transmission for non water-cooled models. Has anyone else seen a recommendation to use SAF-XO in the gearbox? My copy of the RepROM (admittedly several years old) says to use hypoid gear oil, SAE 90, API GL 5.


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Use hypoid gear oil, SAE 90, API GL 5. I use Valvoline's version cause it's available locally. My fork seals are still intact after lots of miles.

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Do remember BMW NA supplied a syn in two viscosities for the gearbox that was made by Spectro from Exxon Mobil base stocks.

I use the 140, others thr 90. Doesn't matter much. There is nothing magical about XO other than its finally available at a sane price without going to a Rover dealership.

IIRCD it was an FD recommendation only but need to check my manuals to be certain

The key is the GL5- the spec for heavily loaded gear face applications.



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Morning Karl



I don't have in my possession, but have seen, a BMW bulletin stating that the Castrol SAF-XO 75-90 gear oil CAN be used in the older 1200 (hexhead) transmissions.


In fact I ran it in one of my 1200RT's for a while. Trans shifted great BUT I picked up a slight trans front seal seep so switched back to a different gear oil that stopped the seepage.


I have heard of other oil seepage issues using the SAF-XO in the BMW trans but have no idea if they would have seeped anyhow even with a different gear oil choice.


In any case, not much in the 1200 trans to be harmed by about any type of gear oil choice, no yellow metals to be effected by the gear oil additives, most bearings are sealed & use their own internal grease, the gears themselves are not loaded very heavily for their size & tooth count, so about any gear oil will suffice there.


The only effect gear oil choice seems to have on the 1200 transmissions is SHIFT QUALITY & LEAKAGE.


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This is what BMW uses locally.

It's more or less an advanced version of what Castrol has produced for decades for two stroke transmissions. It's API GL-5 rated so nothing wrong with it. Except I am thinking of switching to Motul because it's just too damn expensive. :grin:


SAF-XO (now known in Europe as LongLife 75W-90) is normally used by BMW on non-limited differentials and it also carries and API GL5 specification, meaning it has been cleared for use on hypoid gears in high torque, low speed conditions. So nothing wrong with using it.


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The BMW SAF-XO for many years was the recommended lubricant for the transmission and final drive- if I recall correctly, and I think I do… but….


The funny thing was that most of us found it crazy expensive at the dealership so we went with other variants. The story was that the SAF-XO was in-fact Castrol 75W-90 but Castrol was not available in the Us market in that spec due to some lawyerly licensing situation. But… if you go to a Land Rover service department you can buy their gear oil which is actually the same oil. (BMW as you may recall owned Land Rover at the time)


For what its worth, I used Land Rover Gear oil for years then switched to Amsoil 75w-90 and still think it serves me well.

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There was a BMW 75W/90 that came in their gray plastic bottles that I used to use in both FD and tranny. From what I understand (may be similar to Hopz' recollection) it wasn't the SAF-XO but was obviously BMWNA equivalent. May have been dino. Last time I went to get some it had been discontinued and replaced by something horribly expensive - around $40/L if I remember correctly. So I picked up a bottle of some other 75W/90 API GL-5 synthetic, smelled equally as awful as the stuff I had been using. I've used it for the last couple of fluid changes.


But - within the last several months Castrol SAF-XO has become available as a branded item, and it's not terribly expensive. So I bought a liter of that and will try it next time I change FD fluid, which is in about 3K miles.


I didn't notice any difference in either gear noise or shifting switching between the old BMW stuff and the new whatever-it-is. A "snick" is still a "snick".


And yes, in any event (getting back to OP's question), the tranny and the final drive use the same fluid.



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SAF-XO was originally recommended by BMW for the hexhead final drive, not the transmission (though as dirtrider points out above, there may well be a more recent tech service bulletin saying that it can now also be used in the transmission). It certainly was not the recommended fluid for the transmission on my '06 RT. As for SAF-XO, it is indeed a Castrol product, readily available in Canada in litre bottles. That's what dealers, and my independent tech, used (and still do) in the FD.

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I use the 75w 140 in the gear box. That was the original recommendation.

Some of the experts said use 75w-90.

Now BMW has changed it to same as the rear end.

That should tell you that probably none of it matters that much. If you have anything in there.


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Afternoon David


Who's recommendation was it to use 75/140 in the hexhead trans? I haven't ever seen that recommendation in any BMW manuals or BMW bulletins.


My manuals (on the hexhead) still show the original BMW recommendation of -- "Brand name hypoid-gear lubricant SAE 90 API GL 5".


There was that bulletin that I saw a while back on OK to use the SAF-XO but that is a 75/90 gear oil.


I know a lot of riders have used the 75/140 I just haven't seen that from any BMW info or BMW source.

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It was the dealer.

And I did verify that with a number of riders on advrider.

I see my reprom says use SAF-XO.

Which I thought was a newer recommendation. But I may have an updated version of the reprom.

I do know that when I first went to the stuff, the shifting became much easier and smoother. So I was happy with it.


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Evening David


OK, that makes sense, BMW dealers are known to make things up as they go along. They have a lot of 75/140 on the shelf so that is what they recommend.


Bet that dealer that recommended the 75/140 can't back that up with any BMW documentation.


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Yeah, but I wouldn't much care if they did or didn't. (They give me a discount)

Only they don't have any more of it.

So I went with Valvoline synthetic.

I will ask you about motor oil, tho'.

The BMW stuff is blend. I want full synthetic.

But I also want 15w 50. So what should I get, Motorex, if I can find it, or Repsol?


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BMW calls for SAF-XO.


The criteria for this spec is:




Fully Synthetic

Conventional axles (NON-Limited Slip)

As long as any manufacturer meets this criteria it is acceptable to use. For some reason BMW does NOT want us to use a gear oil that HAS the additive for limited slip differentials.

That would fall under the SAF-XJ but that spec also calls for a 75w/140 SAE type oil.


My opinion is that if the bike is still under warranty, use the correct gear oil. After the warranty expires use what you feel is best.

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