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BMW 5-Series Maintenance and Repair



  • 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,
  • riezriez Posts: 2,361
    If you have to err, err on the conservative side. You will NEVER go wrong over-maintaining your car. What is the worst case with over maintenance? You spent an extra 1% of the total lifetime costs on preventative maintenance??? Big deal. Don't think the extra oil, oil filters, air filters, etc. will break the bank when you spent $30-60,000 on the car to begin with.

    And if you sell to a private party and have all your receipts, bet you can recover some of the extra costs. Who wouldn't want to buy a used car that has been taken care of very, very well and has the documentation to prove it?

    Differential and transmission (esp. manual) fluid do need to be changed. There is no such thing as "lifetime" oil!

    robopop... You might check with another BMW dealer. Check with an independent garage that services BMWs. At 52,000 miles the car is out of the b-to-b warranty and BMW, unlike Lexus or Infiniti, does not offer an extended powertrain warranty.
  • manybmwsmanybmws Posts: 347
    I thought Sirius for the E60 was months away?
  • muddogmuddog Posts: 26
    It took awhile to get the "kits" in, but BMW Center in San Antonio has them, and now so does my 545i. It's cool, but I'd like to know more about how to customize it for me.

  • tuckpanatuckpana Posts: 20
    I have a 2003 525i. Front wheels are pitted up pretty bad. Does anyone know a way to get the brake dust out of the pits? Thanks
  • cotmccotmc Posts: 1,081
    The car battery on my 2000 528i is needing to be replaced. When I talked to my BMW service advisor, he indicated I will need to replace it with another BMW battery, which costs about $250 installed.

    Aren't there other aftermarket batteries I can use that will do a suitable job? Does anybody here have any experience with replacing batteries in the newer BMWs? (E39, E46, etc)
  • riezriez Posts: 2,361
    cotmc... Don't believe the dealer! There are replacement batteries.

    You should read all the battery-related comments in Roundel (BMW CCA) and Bimmer magazines the past couple years. According to them, BMW's replacment batteries are expensive and short-lived. Believe they recommend Interstate Batteries. Unlike the OEM batteries, which tend to last 4-6 years, the dealer replacement ones have high failure rates in 2-3 years.
  • cassidymcassidym Posts: 108
    Muddog, do you have Nav?

    Also, what other options do you have with your 545i? My 1986 325eS had a near death experience this week and, although I've got it back on the road with a new water pump, the mechanic found so much else wrong that I can no longer put this off. I am trying to hold out till the 05's come out in hopes they will have solved most of the new model blues by then. What's you experience been?
  • mdstatmdstat Posts: 7
    I mistakenly put few gallons of 89 octanes on my
    525-01 . ( Yes, some idiot before me , swap hoses at the pump).

    Now the reader on my dash , mark only 5.9MPG and would not change from there. The car if giving me the normal MPG that Im use to.

    Any word of advise???
  • cotmccotmc Posts: 1,081
    Riez: Thanks for confirming my suspicions!

    I have also heard good things about Interstate batteries, but I ended up buying a Duralast battery from my local Auto Zone store this morning. (I'll be selling the car in a few months, anyway.) Even though the battery is tucked deep behind the rear wheel well, it was a fairly easy process to replace it. The toughest part was lifting it out. That is one big, heavy battery! In fact, my replacement battery is rated at 1000 Amps!
  • riezriez Posts: 2,361
    cotmc... Make sure your battery is appropriate for a BMW. There are some venting issues. Not all batteries of the right size really are appropriate.
  • wchrisawchrisa Posts: 1
    No answer, but my 545i was not factory prepped for Satellite Radio and the dealer is telling it can NOT be installed in an integrated fashion after the fact other than through a radio signal to the AM/FM (like a rental car). Does anyone know the facts on this? I really want it, but don't want the screw up the iDrive. HELP!!
  • jasjas Posts: 115
    This issue may have been fully covered, but a here are my 2-cents worth on tires:

    BMW's, since the beginning of time, on the sport packages have a angle to the tire (forget the exact term) that can easily be seen by looking at the rear. This is great for handling, but bad for tire wear. With the rim size and tire clearance setup on the sport packages you are typically limited to the Z-rated tires that are extremely soft - resulting in 25k miles (8000 miles IS a problem). I ran into this on my wifes Volvo 850 turbo. I was able to go to a +1 tire size and get a all-season Michelin tire that goes 50k miles (she does not need the handling).
    Further, these Z tires can not be switched left-to-right (uni-directional) and in some cases the rear tires are a different size from the fronts.
    I checked out the tire options before ordering my 545i and from what I can tell you are stuck with a Z rated tire - not sure I would want to change anyways, I am buying this car for it's handling.
    I did find that the Michelin A/S has a higher treadwear rating than the factory Dunlops. Also a recommendation from my local tire dealer is that they are putting alot of Yokahama's on the Bimmers. They are a good value ($/mile)- they have a higher treadwear rating than the factory tires and the price is substantially lower than the Michelins. The wet and dry road friction ratings seem to be decent. A buddy of mine has just installed them on his 540i and seems to be happy.
    So, bottom line is the BMW sport package is designed for handling even though most of us are comuting in it, and the price you pay is tire replacement.
  • jasjas Posts: 115
    I could not agree with you more - reiz.
    When it comes to engine and transmission, I cut the recommended maintenance in 1/2. Probably overkill, but I keep a vehicle 10 years. Case-in-point: my 90 blazer had 200k miles, towed a boat for 20% of it's life and still had a solid transmission (except for torque converter change at 198) and did not burn oil - and that was an American vehcile - completely different class than my Bimmer.
    The cold start and driving style (start/stop, hills...) also has alot to do with it.
  • cassidymcassidym Posts: 108
    jas, I'm also contemplating a 545I (probably wait till the 2005's are available) and am worried about the tires as well. Like you say, I'm buying the car for its handling but will use it mostly for commuting (50 miles a day in Northern Virginia). The weather gets just sloppy enough here in Winter to make driving a car with this sort of power and performance tires a concern. Plus I have no room to store a separate set of wheels and tires.

    Do you know how the Michelin A/S does in the snow?

    One of the rationales I'm using to talk myself into this purchase is this: If you get the Z rated tires but do buy a separate set of wheels and winter tire and run those from Nov to April, you are actually extending the life of the Z-rated tires since you only be on them half the year. Okay, it's not rock solid reasoning but it is helping me talk myself into a six-speed 545.

    What options do you plan on getting?
  • riezriez Posts: 2,361
    cassidym... You can afford a $60,000 545i but can't afford to store a set of tires?

    If you get a 545i6, in your area you should be driving summer tires in spring-summer-fall and dedicated snow tires in winter. Don't skimp on mediocre all-season tires. (If you go down the skimping road, why buy a 545i6? Will you skimp on gasoline, oil, fluids, etc.? Don't try to save a few bucks this way. If you need to do that, then buy a less expensive car. Say a 330i.)
  • jasjas Posts: 115
    cassidym, fortunately I now live on the left coast, so snow is not an issue and when it is I take the Yukon. My brother-in-law in WI does the two sets of tires on his Lexus. The problem is finding low profile all-weather tires. In his case, his winter tires have a smaller rim size. I agree with your justification of the investment in the winter tires extend the life of your summer ones. I am not really crazy about down grading the look of the car for winter though.

    I have not fully researched the tires, but I wanted to get a good idea of what I was in for before I purchased - after the dealer said the stock tires last about 20-25k.

    The Pilot Sport A/S is an all weather tire and available in the 245/40 & 275/35 18's (which are on the 545 sport package). This would solve your winter/summer problem without having a second set of tires.

    I was interested in them since they have a treadwear of 400 instead of 200 or so for the factory Dunlops or 220 for the Pilot Sport. You do knock down 1 point on the handling but they are better in wet conditions and are more quiet. Since I am not driving on a race track, it seems to be a pretty good tradeoff between increased life and traction in the elements with minimal change in handling. And, with everybody talking about noisy tires, I am thinking this may be the route I go for replacement.

    I am not sure if this tire is a 'run-flat' like the factory, but I am willing to live with the risk.

    I am not sure about the Yokohama's. The ones I had looked at where not an all-weather tire, but they had a treadlife of 280 which is better than the sport michelins or dunlops. It is possible that there are other tire options out there.

    If I was in your shoes, I would try the Pilot A/S and not worry about switching tires/rims every 6 months. Besides, I think the 545 sport rims are the best in the series, but that is just personal opinion.

    FYI - I have a set of SUV michelin pilot sport M/S on my Yukon and although it is not nearly as aggressive of a pattern as my old 4x4 tires (BF Goodrich A/T), I was extremely impressed with the traction. You can also 'sipe' the tires which DOES void the tire warranty, but is supposed to help with snow. I would talk to someone at Discount tires (Americas tire company in CA). Don't let the name fool you, I have gotten some really good info from these guys. I am not sure about the adverse affects of 'siping' on a performace tire that does not run flat on the pavement but they could probably tell you. I think if you couple this tire with your traction control system, you will be fine.

    If you do not get your questions answered, they have a facility right next to my office and I would be happy to do some further research if needed, as I will have to do this eventually.

    I was going to wait for the 2005's but since they will probably not be delivered until November (545's) I went ahead with a 2004 order. I am not getting Navigation or satelite, so 2005 was not a big concern as I think these are the only upgrades you will see. Besides, I liked the current rims and I did not want to run the risk of them changing.

    Since I have been seriously looking at them since January, the waiting is killing me. August 15th is the date.

    Good Luck.
  • jasjas Posts: 115
    FYI - riez has a very good point about mediocre All Season tires. You don't want to wreck a car by saving a few bucks.

    Just from experience, and granted my SUV tires where on a different vehicle, when I go to the snow, it is to the mountains with steep hills/turns and traffic and it snows in feet, not inches. I think I had better traction in all aspects from my high-end michelins than a very, very aggresive A/T tire. I did sipe these tires and I have no idea how much impact this actually had.

    I also do not know how much you loose in handling with the All-Season version. According to michelins ratings, it is only 1 point (out of 10) lower.

    You can go to the michelin website and get all the detailed specs. Don't type in your car, just search on tires. For some reason, michelin will not say they have a tire for your car, which may have something to do with the run-flat feature.

    I know I should boycott French products, but when it comes to tires, they have some of the best.
  • riezriez Posts: 2,361
    - Road salt, ice, winter grime, etc. are hard on alloy wheels. Buying a cheap set of steel wheels is a better deal than ruining a good set of alloy wheels.

    - Taller, narrower tires actually work best in snow. So downgrading a size is best. And they are less expensive. Never upgrade (Plus Size) winter tires!

    - Don't think anyone needs a WINTER speed rating in excess of 130 miles. So H-rating fine. If anyone out there is driving over 130 mph in winter, may God have mercy on you and the other drivers around you. (Can't say I think anyone should drive more than 90 or 100, tops, in winter. Rock, sand and other winter road debris can really do a number on your windows!!!) Save any high speed driving for the right seasons. You have the rest of the year to put the car thru its paces. Winter is all about getting through without ending up in a ditch or being rear ended by someone else.

    Dedicated winter tires are best in their season. Dedicated summer tires are best the other three seasons. Treat yourself and your car right. Buy and drive the right tires year round.
  • manybmwsmanybmws Posts: 347
    Pilot Sport A/S is what I use other than winter time on 17" BMW wheels. Great tire - ride, handling, longevity, quietness - all with very good handling. In fact I recommended them to a family member with a new 545i on BMW 18" wheels, and it is great also.

    Work unbelievably well in the rain. I have tried them in light snow but was not overwhelmed. I use Michelin Pilot Alpins on BMW 16" wheels in the winter. I have not had any winter problems in 5 years driving two different E39s - one with DSC and one without.
  • cassidymcassidym Posts: 108
    Thanks everyone for the excellent advice. Based on your inputs, I plan on getting a separate set of 16 or 17 inch rims and putting a set of Michelin Pilot Alpines on for the Winter. I live in Northern Virginia where we don't get lots of snow (some years virtually none) but we do get enough slop that, combined with my daily 50-mile round trip around the dreaded Beltway, having the proper tires is damn important.

    New subject: anyone got any idea what changes the 5-Series will get? Someone mentioned Nav and Satellite radio. I assume this is not an upgrade to these options but merely the fix that will avoid the interference that now prevents the two from operating together.
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