E36 Oil Change

December 3rd, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

Oil Change

This is the maintenance procedure that will separate you from the rest of the wanna-be snooty BMW drivers. WHAT?!? A BMW OWNER WHO ACTUALLY DOES HIS/HER OWN BASIC MAINTENANCE?!?!?! Yes, it happens and there are people out there who do it. This should work on any E36 car, just be sure to check on oil capacity if it’s not the 3.0 liter M3.

Why: Changing out oil is probably the #1 easy thing to do to prolong the life of your car. That is, if you care. Having chunks of engine metal recirculating through your engine is usually a bad thing. When to do it? That’s up to you, I usually do it every 3500-4500 miles. Nowadays the stealer will change it every 15k+ miles or more.

Cost: $5-$13 for the Mahle (OEM) oil filter (mail order is cheapest, $13 from the stealer), $14-$56 for seven quarts of oil (quality varies–I use Mobile 1 5W-30 for $4/quart, you can go cheaper, but don’t get too geto on the oil–it is, after all, a $40,000 car!). So that’s about $35 for you doing it, about $155 for a full oil service from the stealer!

Time: 15 min – 45min, depending on how much oil you spill on the driveway

Skill level: If you can jack up the car correctly and have half a brain, you’re off to a good start.

Torque Specs:
Oil drain plug 18 ft-lbs
Oil canister bolt 15-18 ft-lbs
Tools needed:
Jack w/ jack stands & wheel chocks
Socket wrench
17mm socket for the oil drain plug
13mm socket for the oil canister bolt
Mahle brand oil filter–BMW P/N 11-42-1-730-389
oil collection pan
7 Qt. oil–that’s for a 3.0L M3
funnel for the oil and a buncha paper towels

Here’s an exploded view from the official parts CD from BMW for your viewing pleasure. Cool!


Step 1: This is where the oil filter is located in an E36 engine (yes, in the silver canister). You should probably be aware of this since this is what you’re trying to get to. You should also chock the back wheels, put on the parking brake, jack up the car, and then put some jack stands under the car to support it. The Bentley manual sez to warm up the oil first before draining. It’s up to you.


Step 2: This shot is underneath the engine on the passenger side. Note the bolt that the arrow is pointing at–this is the oil drain plug, the plug that keeps the oil in the oil pan. Pull this out and the oil falls out. Kinda self-explanatory. Oh yeah, and unless you have a convertible or an M3 LTW, you won’t have all them bars underneath the oil pan, so don’t get worried that you’re missing parts.


Step 3: Put your oil drain pan underneath the plug, and then slowly loosen the plug with your 17mm socket, until oil starts coming out. Remove the plug completely and let all of the oil drain out. Remember to get a pan that can hold AT LEAST SEVEN quarts of oil (Remember kids: that’s for the S50B30 US 95 M3 motor; I dunno for others). Wait till it’s all drained out.


Step 4: Undo the bolt on top of the filter canister with your 13mm socket wrench, and then pull off the top to reveal….the oil filter! Woo hoo!


Step 5: The parts that come with the filter are shown on the right side–the filter itself, a small O-ring, a big O-ring, an aluminum crush washer, and a copper crush washer. The small O-ring goes on the end of the long-ass bolt, the aluminum washer also goes on the long-ass bolt, the big O-ring fits on the bottom of the filter lid, and the copper washer goes on the oil drain plug. Remove the old O-rings, wipe some oil on the new ones (gives a better seal and keeps ‘em from drying out) and then put ‘em where they should be. Wipe some oil on the rubber on the filter and put it in the filter canister. Tighten the filter bolt down to 15-18 ft-lbs, and then tighten the oil drain plug to 18 ft-lbs (NOTE–don’t over-tighten the drain plug because you will break off the head! Then all of your friends would make fun of you for using a torque wrench on your drain plug and call you a dumbass). You should probably pour oil into the filter before putting back in the car, but I never do cuz it gets everywhere.


Step 6: Pour in your oil. For the 95 M3s with the 3.0L engine, it’s 7 quarts, for others I don’t really care ‘cuz it’s not my car. Get whatever oil you want, I like Mobile 1 5W-30 ‘cuz it pours by itself (see picture). Your choice of oil weight and quality depends on tons of things like weather, driving style, how cheap a bastard you are, etc. (BTW BMW used 20W-50 when I used to have the stealer do it). After you’re done pouring, ta-da! You’re done! Check the oil drain plug and the filter canister after about a day to see if anything’s leaking but that’s about it.

I forgot to mention that illegally dumping oil or throwing it out can get you busted by The Man. Better play it safe and recycle it with a garage or somethin’.

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