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BMW 5-Series Maintenance and Repair



  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 16,395
    Since I'm considering buying an E39, I'd be curious as to the cost ofr the 60k service on a 528iA ('98-or '99). I'm no stranger to the high cost of maintaining German cars but would it be signicantly more
    than the Grand I coughed up at 60k on my A4 2.8? Can someone give me
    a ballpark?
  • div2div2 Posts: 2,580
    Figure @$800 for an Inspection II from the dealer; a good independent will run 25%-50% less.
  • rickbufrickbuf Posts: 3
    More good information shipo. Didn't know about the A6 tire issues, but I didn't know about BMW's either. I'm gotten more and better information from you than BMW Service or BMW USA combined. My feathered friends (my tires) are Continentals, but I've see as many internet compaints on Michelin's. Appears that a lot of folks have had better luck with Dunlop Sports, but lose some handling. I'm still waiting for my local BMW service group to give me an answer on what they plan to do about my situation. I'm now waiting on the regional BMW rep. who physically wants to see the tires. Trouble is, BMW service has no idea when this person is coming back in. I plan to provide detail feedback via this forum when my issue is resolved .. or completely discounted.
  • I own a 2004 530i purchased in march. This
    is my first BMW and actually my first
    really nice car and I was surprised
    to learn the specified oil change occurs after
    10K miles. This goes against all that training
    from 30 years ago
    my Dad instilled in me about changing the oil
    frequently in your car to make it last. Yes,
    I know this is synthetic oil (the benefits of
    which I know little about). Is there a benefit
    to my changing it at (say) 5K. I will have to pay for it, but would do so if it makes sense.

  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    Unless I'm mistaken, your E60 530i has the same oil change schedule as my E39 530i, which is not 10,000 miles but 15,000.

    Regarding whether the standard interval is acceptable, consider the following re-post of a post I made some time back:

    I have posted my views on the oil change schedule on BMW’s latest batch of engines here a few times over the last five years or so, however, I feel it may be worth repeating.

    When I started turning wrenches on cars back in the 1970s, 3000 miles was a good time to do an oil change. What with inefficient carburetors, leaded fuel and by today’s standards VERY low-tech dino-juice in the crankcase, a car of that era could easily expect to see the far side of 100K miles. In my case, my 1966 Valiant with the 225 Slant-Six went 211K on the original motor before I rebuilt it (it burned oil) and my 1970 Dodge Challenger with the venerable 340 made it to 187K when it was stolen.

    Fast forward 30 years and we now have very clean burning fuel, electronic systems to manage the fuel injection and ignition timing to make the combustion process even cleaner (ie. less particulate matter to suspend in the oil) and even good old dino-juice has been beefed up to last longer and protect better.

    Now consider the current crop of BMW engines:

    These engines are efficient enough to be certificated as Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEV), which reduces the combustion byproducts and as a result reduces the particulate matter that the oil must hold in suspension, yielding a longer oil change interval.

    BMW is using synthetic oil right from the factory; said oil has far greater abilities to keep contaminates in suspension with no appreciable loss in lubricity. Couple that with the ability of Synthetic oil to shrug off the effects of water (older Dino Juice used to react with water and form acids) without any loss in lubricity, and you have an oil that can withstand longer oil change intervals without ANY additional engine wear.

    BMW has also seen fit to nearly double the amount of oil the engine holds in its sump when compared to other comparably sized engines. Twice the oil means twice the already prodigious capacity of synthetic oil to hold particulate matter in suspension, lower oil temperatures (spends more time in the sump cooling), fewer passes through the oil galleries getting the #$*^%~!@ beat out of it, and a much greater margin of error for low oil. Yet again, longer oil change intervals are the result.

    Modern engine oil (once again, specifically Synthetic) is far more stable in extreme environments (high engine temps, high RPMs and extreme cold) than conventional oil, as such, it breaks down at a FAR slower rate when compared to the old stuff. Once again, this will reduce the necessity of frequent oil changes.

    If all of this is not enough, when I was working for MBUSA in the mid 1990s, MB was testing a number of cars with Synthetic oil. A few of those cars only had the oil changed when the chemical analysis of the oil indicated that it was starting to degrade below acceptable minimums. Do you know what the average mileage was between changes on those cars turned out to be? Glad you asked, 25,000 miles.

    Based upon the above items, I would not be surprised if the oil in our ULEV certified BMW engines could last 30,000 miles under normal driving conditions. Having said that, I will not be the first to raise my hand to try and find out, 15,000 miles is just fine by me.

    Best Regards,
  • riezriez Posts: 2,361
    duracellguy... You'll never go wrong changing your oil and filter more frequently than BMW recommends. You can always pay to change at say 7,500 miles. Or whatever you like. [Do keep in mind that for low mileage cars, BMW does recommend changing the oil at least annually, regardless of how few miles were driven.]

    Is interesting to see what happened to maintenance intervals after BMW started "paying" for "free" maintenance. Now they mysteriously have "lifetime" transmission and differential fluid. And Roundel (BMW CCA) and Bimmer magazines routinely discuss transmission problems occurring in the 80-120K mile range. [Many experts recommend you change these fluids at least every 30K.]

    It is amazing how little maintenance is recommended or actually done on today's BMWs during the first 50K or even 100K. Will be interesting to see how many of today's cars will still be on the road in 20-30 years.

    You should join BMW CCA, even if just for their magazine (if not also for parts and purchase discounts), as well as read Bimmer magazine. Neither subscribes to the 15K interval regiment.

    And whatever else you do, you absolutely must religiously change your brake fluid (2 years) and coolant (3 years).
  • div2div2 Posts: 2,580
    Good post-it's refreshing to hear the opinion of someone who actually has experience with regards to the subject matter being discussed.
  • rugby65rugby65 Posts: 81
    My grand daughter has a 1993 525 and the radio stop powering up. We have checked the fuse and it's not blown we can't remove the radio because the dealer says it takes a special tool, It looks like an ordinary allen screw but so far we can't find one that fits. The dealer won't sell us the tool, It seems that they want to make the money them self by pulling the radio.
    Does any one out there have any ideas on how to get the radio out?
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    Div2, thanks! ;-)

    Rugby65, I'd try a different dealer for the tool, or I would go to your friendly neighborhood tool dealer and see if you can find a driver head that will match up to the screw.

    Best Regards,
  • riezriez Posts: 2,361
    div2... You're absolutely right: "it's refreshing to hear the opinion of someone who actually has experience with regards to the subject matter being discussed." Always best to stick with the experts.

    I enjoy reading Mike Miller's responses to the plethora of routine maintenance questions he is asked as Technical Editor of both Roundel (BMW CCA) and Bimmer magazines. Some recent samples:

    Roundel, 1/04: "Oil-change intervals need to be appropriate to the product used...the otherwise absurd 15,000-mile BMW factory interval. I'd drain Mobil 1 every 5,000 miles. Always change the filter with the oil." and "I think 5,000 miles is an excessive tire-rotation interval. I do it once a year when I switch from summer tires to snow tires."

    Roundel, 4/04: "Unfortunately, since the advent of free scheduled maintenance and extended service intervals, 'dealer maintained' means that very little was done to the car beyond a list of checks and adjustments. If you're lucky, this car [a '97 E39 528i with 66K miles] has had four engine-oil changes, one air filter, one coolant change and three brake-fluid changes--but it's more than likely that it just had the engine-oil changes and the air filter."

    Roundel, 6/04: "Change your gearbox and differential oil every 30,000 miles."

    Bimmer, 8/04: "my best advice is to maintain the car. Change gearbox and differential oil no matter how loudly the dealer whines about 'lifetime fill' oil. Tell them you will trust lifetime oil when they give you a lifetime warranty."

    He is one of the best reasons to read Roundel and Bimmer!
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    Roundel, 1/04: "Oil-change intervals need to be appropriate to the product used...the otherwise absurd 15,000-mile BMW factory interval. I'd drain Mobil 1 every 5,000 miles. Always change the filter with the oil."

    Sorry, I cannot buy into that one. I've seen the research, I've seen the oil analysis numbers, I've seen the torn down motors. Unless the esteemed Mr. Miller knows something the engineers at Mercedes-Benz don't know (and can back it up with hard facts), I'll classify his comments more as "Religion" than "Science".

    Best Regards,
  • div2div2 Posts: 2,580
    Mike wasn't able to make the last Roundel staff meeting at TechFest East, but I discussed this issue with my friend Mark Calabrese as well as a few others. The "Change oil every 1000 miles" philosophy is not a majority opinion. I've known Mike for nealy fifteen years and he has been a great asset for many owners. That said, not every expert agrees with his opinions on servicing frequency. The extended service intervals have been in effect for nearly five years. Can anyone show me a BMW final drive, manual transmission, or engine that has failed due to following the BMW maintenance regimen?
  • riezriez Posts: 2,361
    div2... You note that "The extended service intervals have been in effect for nearly five years." and then ask "Can anyone show me a BMW final drive, manual transmission, or engine that has failed due to following the BMW maintenance regimen?"

    Would be interesting to see what percentage of E39s and E46s even have 100K let alone 150K?

    Is interesting to read all the discussions in Roundel and Bimmer about catastrophic AT failures in the 80-120K range. And how BMW dealers tend just to completely replace transmissions and differentials that have problems. Dealers don't appear to do much work on them any more. Just pull out the bad one and put in a new one.

    Thinking the original 3/36 "free" maintenance came out around MY1998. Can anyone explain why BMW extended service intervals when it started paying for the maintenance? Were they getting previous owners into paying for unnecessary maintenance? Are they trying to hold their own costs down?

    Since BMW's b-to-b warranty expires at 4yr/50K and even the CPO warranty (which you pay additional for) expires at 6yr/100K, skimping on maintenance won't cost BMW much. Few of today's buyers even keep the car past about 40 months of ownership. And look at the percentage that lease for only 2, 3, or 4 years and never even own their own vehicle. What do they care about the long-term future of their former car?

    Maybe the better questions will be, "What shape will E39 and E46 BMWs be after 150K or 10 years?" and "What percentage of E39s and E46s are still on the road in 2015 or 2020?"

    Not sure what you mean when you discuss "The 'Change oil every 1000 miles' philosophy is not a majority opinion." Don't think anyone is recommending oil changes every 1K or even 3K. But 5K or 7.5K is reasonable for ensuring healthy long-term life.
  • muddogmuddog Posts: 26
    Anybody have one of these? I cannot for the life of me figure out how to get the system to "accept" my attempt to "store" stations. It seems to do so, but where do they go? Where's the list? I go to SAT/Presets, and none is there in any kind of organized way to indicate I selected them.

    Also, with iDrive, is there no way to select a station by number? Instead, always have to scroll the list (unless I can figure out the store bit)?


  • div2div2 Posts: 2,580
    In my meager and limited experience(21 years of owning and maintaining most everything from a couple of 3.0S sedans, an M6 and an E39)ZF slushboxes have NEVER been particularly robust-fluid change or no fluid change. OTOH, the GM autoboxes have proven to be reasonably durable. My wife's 1997 528iA work hack has 104,000 miles on the clock and we have experienced no drivetrain failures. This matches the experience of most all the E39 Group owners. The AT and final drive fluid have been changed exactly one time-at 99800 miles. The engine sees 9000 mile oil change intervals using Mobil 1 0W-40 and consumes no oil between changes. Granted, this is one person's experience with one vehicle, but I still have yet to see evidence of even one BMW drivetrain component-excluding the ZFs mentioned earlier-that has failed due to a factory mandated extended drain interval.
  • designmandesignman Posts: 2,129
    When considering frequency of oil changes it should be remembered that not all mileage is equal. This cannot be stressed enough in my opinion. 15K miles on one engine could be equivalent to 5K on another, and 30K on yet another. Accordingly, the 15K interval means nothing to me. It's as if someone said the desirable weight of every human being should be 180 pounds. You will know an engine by its driver's itinerary and habits. Some driver's can go 30K without an oil change, others 5K.

    I believe the most significant factor contributing to engine wear is the cold start, the time at which most of the oil is in the sump as opposed to on the engine parts. Accordingly, this is why there has been a move toward lower-viscosity oils—the watery 0-40—to get the oil to the engine parts quicker on startup, to circulate more freely, and to get the oil to operating temperature more quickly.

    Compare the following two cars:

    Car A — has 150K miles and was driven by someone who cold-started it only thrice a day and was on the highway for most of the time

    Car B — has 50K miles, 8 cold starts a day, mostly stop-and-go traffic

    In my opinion Car B should clearly have a higher oil-maintenance frequency and that BMW should acknowledge driving conditions and freely adapt to them with their maintenance policies.

    All of this is much ado about nothing if you trade your car in every four years as this is a longevity issue. However, driver habit/maintenance comes into play significantly when buying used, even more so than mileage. Since resale values are mostly influenced by mileage, I have to believe the best car bargains can be had with high-mileage cars that fit the profile of car A. For instance, if a pristine 2001 M5 with 150K miles came along came at $27K and you could verify this type of usage, and that the engine was never oil-starved, it would be a bargain in my book. This car could go another happy 150K miles, and at the end of say a 10-year run you could just give it away.

    Shipo, with regard to those Mercedes tests. I clearly believe that oil frequency intervals can be extended versus what we have been used to in the past. However, I have to believe those tests are agenda-driven and narrow in scope. They serve to benefit Mercedes. Automotive tribology is not exactly an advanced science, and "overmaintenance" of cars is not exactly a religion, rather it is more a matter of scientific common sense. Not that I am criticizing the maintenance instincts of you and Div2, but I tend to subscribe to Riez' err-on-the-side-of-caution outlook. Engine oil is a critical fluid, the car's the lifeblood, yet fluid maintenance is not even a drop in the bucket compared to the overall cost of ownership.

    Furthermore, after knowing my wife and her cars for 25 years, I can tell you unequivocally that she exactly fits the Car B profile. Her cars have needed frequent oils changes and her 03 530 cannot make it to the 15k interval, that is unless I was willing to live with chocolate syrup on the dipstick. I don't care what an oil analysis would reveal, I am not willing to let that happen.

    Lastly, as someone who has owned several used cars over the years, I can also tell you that I have always been vigilant when profiling the owners of these cars and their driving habits. It's not hard to spot the abusers. On every occasion I have bought from people who echo what Riez has been trumpeting among other reasons. These cars have served me extremely well and without headache. As far as I am concerned, automotive gerontology is nowhere, and until I know more, there isn't anyone who can convince me that something as elemental as simple frequent oil changes isn't good practice.

    Just my proverbial 2 cents.

  • designmandesignman Posts: 2,129
    In fairness to BMW I have to mention that they did change my oil and filter for free at 9k miles. But after the 15k interval, let's see if they do it again at 22-23k. Indeed, I will be lobbying for this.
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    On the whole I agree with your dissertation on oil life. That said; I believe that there are two key points that you missed.

    1) "In my opinion Car B should clearly have a higher oil-maintenance frequency and that BMW should acknowledge driving conditions and freely adapt to them with their maintenance policies." Actually, they do acknowledge driving conditions to a point. The oil change intervals on our BMWs are not fixed, they are instead calculated by the OBC based upon how much fuel the vehicle consumed since the last service (and probably a few other factors as well) and as such, I have heard owners report oil service intervals as short as 11,000 miles and as great as 18,000 miles. In my own case, my 1999 328i never made it to 14K, and as it was primarily driven in and around the NYC metro area, I guess that's not too surprising. My 530i has spent much if its life shuttling me between southern NH and the NYC area, and as such it almost reached 16K for its first service and it looks like I'm on track to repeat that this time around. It is my understanding that the 15,000 mile interval is the target for the "Average Driver" driving in "Average Conditions" (ie. lots of stop and go with some long road trips thrown in).

    2) The properties of synthetic oil itself. I've spent a fair amount of time studying the differences between dino-juice and synthetic oil as they relate to the General Aviation community and have come away with quite a bit of knowledge that is applicable to the automotive industry. The biggest single boon to the automotive industry relative to engine oil is that synthetic oil does not react with engine contaminates (water, unburned fuel, and combustion byproducts) like dino-juice does.

    For the sake of my point here, let me present you with four identical cars, two with Synthetic oil in the crank case, and two with dino-juice. Then allow me to alter your scenarios "A" and "B" slightly to the following definitions:

    "Scenario A – 3 cold starts a day, mostly highway miles, 2 of the 3 trips are of sufficient length to get the oil up to a proper operating temperature"

    "Scenario B – 8 cold starts a day, mostly stop-and-go traffic, only 2 of the 8 trips are of sufficient length to get the oil up to a proper operating temperature"

    Then let us assume that we drive one synth and one dino car in each of the two scenarios and that we perform an oil analysis on each car every thousand miles. I submit that the dino juice car in scenario A would be able to drive well over twice the miles of its scenario B sister before the first required oil change. However, in the synth group I submit that the scenario A car would only be able to drive 20% to 30% further simply because of the stability of the synthetic oil and its ability to prevent acid formation that results from reaction with contaminates.

    Best Regards,
  • robopoprobopop Posts: 15
    I love your reasoning with regard to the engine oil and extended oil intervals and agree with the time schedule. Now what about the transmission (auto in my case - sorry) oil and its' "sealed for life" oil? My BMW service advisor says they will not change it even if I pay for it since they have had bad experience with leaking of the transmission after a change and no problems with cars in which they never change it. I'm now at 52000 miles and everything seems fine. Do I change the transmission oil myself?
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    Hmmm, regarding automatic transmissions, I don't drive them if at all possible, and don't follow their issues as a rule either. That said, I do remember a dialog here at Edmunds from a year or two back (I even think I remember Riez being involved in said dialog) that indicated that the life expectancy of a BMW automatic was somewhere just north of 100K miles, and that seemed to be regardless of whether the tranny fluid had been changed or not.

    Unfortunately I don't remember whether these issues were with the GM built transmissions or the ZF units. Furthermore, I'm unsure of even the timeline as to when each unit was used and which models were mated to which engines. Hopefully there are folks here that are more fluent in auto-speak than I am, and they can offer you a more definitive answer.

    Best Regards,
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