DIY: E39 Changing engine oil made simple (how to do it in 30 minutes and not crying!)
I believe in simplicity so I put together this DIY for everyone to make life simple for you.
There are literally hundreds of threads on engine oil so I won't go into it but this is a brief DIY to help you get out of trouble. Some DIYs say lift the car put on jackstands yada yada yada etc. but so far I am not aware of any simple DIY on oil change!
To digress a bit: a simple oil change can turn into disaster! Here is a "disaster" story to learn from (lots of good info in there LOL):
The following simple DIY will show you how to stay out of trouble!
- I hate jacking the car up and down for a simple job like this, so if you do not have a set of ramps yet, then it is very cheap ($10-20 total for lumber) to build some wood ramps using 2x10 lumber.
- In the real world, 2x10 in the lumber world means 1.5" x 9.25". So 3 layers gives you 4.5" lift which is enough for many jobs; width of 9.25" = 235 mm, good for many cars. Sure you can use 2x12 if you wish (I use 2x10).
- Put a wood stopper at the end of the ramps to prevent the car from driving "over the cliff"!
- Another trick is drive the car until it barely touches the ramps, then measure how much it needs to travel to go to the top of the ramps, let's say it needs to go another 24". Then place some bricks about 22" in front of the REAR tires to prevent the car from going over the cliff. This is what you don't want to end up, car went over the cliff!
2. What oil to use?
There are hundreds of threads on oil and all that LL-01 blah blah blah. If you have time then read the LL-01 blah blah blah…......
Anyway, I live in Nebraska so the winter is cold down to -20F. This is what I do, which I think is the "best bang for the bucks". I change my oil every 4-5K miles:
- Winter: synthetic 5W30
- Summer: dino 10W30
- I use 7 qts.
3. Oil Filter Brand?
- Stay away from STP (bad O-ring) and Purolator (filter element falling apart after 4-5K miles). Best is to stock a few (maybe 4-5 filters) Oil Filters at home all the time. Use only Mann (this is what I use Mann HU925/4x), Mahle, or BMW brands.
4. The Oil Filler Cap (where you add oil):
- The rubber gasket is not sold separately, so if it leaks there, get entire new cap from dealer for $6-8.
5. The Oil Filter Housing Cap (where the Oil Filter resides):
- PN is 11421744000 ($27 at dealer). This is used in many models E36, E39, E53, E60, E83, E83, Z3).
- My Oil Filter Housing Cap cracked when removed at 90K (previous owner torqued it too much!). Best is to tighten it by hand until it stops, then tug it with 1 finger and that is it.
- The sealing is accomplished by "sideway" squeezing of the O-ring. So even if you don't torque the cap at all, the sealing is already tight by the time the cap is snug against the housing.
- The two tiny O-rings PN 11421744001 ($1 at dealer). Discussion was here:
When I removed my cap at 90K miles, these 2 O-rings were still good. Anyway, you may want to change these 2 tiny O-rings every 5-6 years/50-60K miles.
- These two tiny O-rings perform a simple function: they block oil from draining down to the crankcase during normal operation. When you change oil, by removing the Oil Filter Cap, the tiny O-rings are lifted from the center channel ---> oil flows down to the crank case to be disposed off. Another person experienced "low oil pressure", and as it turned out the mechanic who changed the oil broke the tip (where the green tiny O-rings are located) of the Oil Filter Cap and still installed this defective cap. Sure enough oil is pumped to both the engine and down the crankcase, where it is supposed to pump oil only to the engine!
6. The Drain Bolt:
- PN is 11131273093 ($2 on line, $4 at dealer).
- The exact spec is M12 x 1.5 x 18 mm; M12 = diameter of bolt is 12 mm; 1.5 = the distance between 2 adjacent threads is 1.5 mm; 18 mm is the length of the threaded portion (not incl. the head).
- The washer is PN 07119963151, it is supplied with the new Mann Oil Filter. In many cars that I have owned, I have re-used the washer for more than 10y/100K miles without any issue. Just make sure the washer faces the same way when it comes out and comes back in. Anyway, since the Mann kit has the new washer, use it.
7. To drain or not to drain. Call me old-schooled but I drain from the drain plug!
The debate on "MightyVac" is here:
1. Oil should be changed with oil warm, not hot. So if you just went somewhere, wait 1h until the engine cools down. If you can touch the oil pan with your bare hand then it is OK to change oil. If you start out in the morning, then run the engine for a few minutes to warm the oil up and suspend any contaminants for drainage.
Wear rubber gloves ( I took the rubber gloves off to use camera so you see my bare hands just for the pics!).
2. Car Front tires up wood ramps.
Chock Rear wheels especially for Man Trans (many of these old E39s have bad Parking Brake, so when running engine, it can slide down the ramp!).
*** Be careful not to drive car over the cliff!!! This is what happens when you drive over the cliff (courtesy of "bluebee" on bimmerfest.com):
Again, see trick in General Notes above:
3. Using 36-mm socket, open the Oil Filter Cap:
- Change the Oil Filter.
- Inspect tiny O-rings for any damage. replace if you wish.
Also by removing the Oil Filter Cap now, it allows oil to drain from the housing into the oil pan.
- I believe in priming the oil filter before starting.
The discussion The Importance of Priming Oil Filter at Oil Change is here:
- The design of the E39 makes it difficult to prime oil because unless the cap is seated in, the oil simply drains down the crankcase! This is what I do: I assemble the oil filter on the oil filter cap and O-ring (wet the O-ring with oil) in the right place and get ready. Then pour fresh oil down the Oil Filter Housing until it is almost full, then quickly install the oil filter cap to minimize oil draining out of the housing.
- Make sure you install the new the O-ring as shown to avoid being squished!
- Then using 1 finger to tug the 36-mm ratchet. No need to use 25 Nm as the book says (risk of damaging the Plastic Cap):
4. When draining oil and to avoid the initial gush, place the catch pan to "predict" the flow.
- Avoid windy days!
- Also, I do NOT remove the drain plug completely, when it is just about to come out, I usually hold the drain plug against the oil pan and bevel it up 45 degrees for about 30 seconds to tamper the flow, this way the flow is more controlled. Once the flow is slowed down, then you can remove the drain plug completely:
5. At home, the ground clearance is low (car not on lift like mechanic shop), so it is very difficult to use a torque wrench. I use this "5:30 o'clock to 7:00 o'clock" for 25 years in many cars, not a single problem. Basically gently tap the socket (or wrench) with rubber hammer to tighten the drain bolt from 5:30 o'clock to 7:00 o'clock:
6. Check for leaks:
- Do not drive car off the ramps yet!
- Start the engine (there are many old E39 cars with manual trans and bad parking brake, now you know why you need to chock the REAR tires!) and watch for the dash oil light: it should go out in about 4-5 seconds after an oil change.
- Check for leaks at drain plug & at oil housing cap!
7. Lastly, don't forget to dispose of your engine oil properly. By law, any autoparts that sells oil is required to take old oil. My local Valvoline Oil Lube Shop takes old oil.
That is all boys and girls, not that much drama if you stick to these tricks!!!
Last edited by cnn; 05-30-2010 at 12:36 AM.
Great write up like how you made your ramp makes clearance issues a thing of the past with that setup.
Great write-up cnn. But I would like to say, since our drain bolts are not facing the rear end of the car and facing to one side, I would personally get the whole car level instead of just raising the front end. By raising the front end, some of the oil flows to the back of the oil pan. Just my belief.
Understeer is when you hit the wall with the front of the car and oversteer is when you hit the wall with the rear of the car.
Horsepower is how fast you hit the wall, torque is how far you take the wall with you.
What about resetting the service indicator lights?
On the photoshop bit, who cares if it was chopped up. Ive seen people drive over the ramps before and its nothing nice. Grab a block, jack the car up and start over. And when I say "seen people", Yeah... tragically its happened to me lol.
http://bmwtips.com/tipsntricks/reset-plug/reset.htm. And this and much more can be found using the search function.
E39 BMW 528iT * 2002 Dodge Durango * 2007 Hayabusa *Blackbirds are for girls and small children =) *
Thanks for the info and link.
And regards to having my ass digitally kicked... having someone spout off in an online forum because he/she has owned a bmw longer than another is no skin off my back, as I am sure said person has had the same questions once upon a time. But you are also correct, I could have use the "search" but as this post is a DIY istructional, it should have the full instcuctions listed including the reset.
Thanks again. J.
Quick update to what may be out of date information. My 2001 530i six-cylinder sedan developed an oil leak at the oil filter housing to cap joint. I removed the filter cap, and at first I couldn't even FIND the o-ring. Over time, it had deformed to the point where it was nearly square in cross-section, rather than round, so it just filled the groove in the filter cap, and was flush with the adjacent surface. No wonder I had a leak.
A bit of research revealed that you can, in fact, purchase this o-ring separate from the filter housing cap. BMW Part # 11421741000 will get you there, although this part has been superseded with a new part #. Cost me $9.04 plus tax.
To prevent burning your skin!
Hot oil is HOT (I don't know the temp but look it up).
If coolant temp is 90-100C, I'd not be surprised is oil temp is 120-140C.
On the other hand, if you have thick enough gloves, you can do it HOT but be very careful.
And Yes I have almost burned my skin before many years ago.
what oil brand is good to use on a e39? since on the engine bay it does say "bmw oil only" or can i just go to a regular autozone and pick up any name brand fully synthetic oil ?
Last edited by jamesdc4; 04-19-2011 at 12:42 PM.
This is exactly what I am doing right now!
[QUOTE=siny528i;21819030]This is exactly what I am doing right now!
how much did you spend on that? where did you by it at? web site? thanks
I only use Synthetic in Winter.
WINTER: 5W30 Synthetic Oil.
SUMMER: 10W30 Standard Oil.
In the summer, it costs me exactly $20 for an oil change:
- Mann Oil Filter: I usually buy online; 4 filters (with other items to save shipping cost), good enough for 2 years supply.
Each filter $6.
- I use 10W30 Standard Oil, on sales @ $2.00/qt, so 7 qts = $14.
Total $20 for summer oil change.
Winter oil change costs a bit more because of synthetic.
i just did valve cover gasket job and also removed all the ugly oem failed finish and repainted it. the inside finish was peeling bad, though i scrapped off most. i think oil filter will catch any unlucky bits of finish that falls off and end up in the oil.
now the mobile 1 in the car still only has 2k miles on it so it has alot of life in it but i want to change oil filter only just incase very very soon. can i open the oil filter casing without draining the oil or will oil spew out everywhere if i do?
2001 540i 6speed metallic silver
A quick thank you to OP for the detailed instructions.
Have done plenty of oil changes in Honda's, Nissan's, Toyota's, but this was the first on the E39 and was just as easy if not easier.
A couple of 'cheats' - (1) used mityvac and hardest part was figuring out how to clean the hoses after job completed. (2) did not have a 36mm socket so used a wrench <yes, I know I'll get flamed for this
I'm not clear as to why you would add oil to the oil filter housing (priming), install the new filter & cap and THEN drain the old oil... Seems like wasting the new oil... Why not do this step after the oil has completely drained and you've put the drain bolt back on?
1. Drain oil from drain plug.
2. Remove old filter, by removing the oil filter cap, more oil is drained downward into the crankcase.
3. Re-install the drain plug.
4. Install new oil filter/add oil to prime it.
5. Add oil to filler cap area.