Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Gainesville, FL
My Ride: E46 330 and E30 325
**kpeng's Guide To Proper E46 Maintenance**
I haven't seen a real definitive plan laid out for the maintenance of our cars. Because of this, there has been way too many redundant threads on the issue of fluid changes, belts, pulleys, etc. So what I'm going to do here today is provide a bit of an idea of what my maintenance plan is, and just give everyone an idea of what kind of steps they should follow.
I want you to begin by just ignoring anything and everything BMW dealers have ever told you about maintenance. The lifetime tranny fluid claims, the 15K oil changes, the 100K sparkplugs...all a bunch of lies and ignorance. BMW does this for two reasons; A) To save them money when you're under warranty and B) To make your cars fall apart after the 50,000 mile mark (aka when warranty is over), and then they make their money by repairing your gunked up tranny and engine.
FOR ALL OEM PARTS, I RECOMMEND BUYING FROM TISCHER BMW
FOR INDEPENDENT SHOPS, I RECOMMEND FINDING ONE ON:
I must say though, this is nothing definitive and is merely the plan I follow. I think it's a pretty good schedule, and is merely here as a guide. Your driving style and conditions may vary. I am no professional, just an educated fanatic. If you have any concerns or technical problems, consult a trained professional like Seth @ J&B Eurotech Auto Service (one of our sponsors). His username is jbeurotech.
Oil Change - Every 6,000-7,000 miles
Now you might ask, why? Why not 15,000 mile oil changes like BMW recommends? Fact is, most synthetic oils will last that long, however...your oil filter won't. It's made of paper and will fall apart and let harmful little yuckies into your engine...and that's no good. I stick with Mobil 1 oil 5w30. However, you can run anything from OEM BMW Oil, to Castrol, Royal Purple, Amsoil, and Redline. Just make sure it is SYNTHETIC. Use only OEM oil filters (part #: 11 42 7 512 300)
Spark Plugs - Every 50,000-60,000 miles
I know BMW says you can go 100,000 miles without changing the plugs...and you probably can...if you baby the hell out of your car. Chances are, if you're on this site, you don't. I've swapped out my plugs at 50,000 miles, and they were corroded to hell. Stick with OEM plugs, there's absolutely no reason to deviate from them because there's nothing else out there that will yield any sort of gain or advantage (please stay away from the gimmick Pulsestar plugs). OEM plugs are NGK Laser Platinums, available at any local auto parts store. They are the BKR6EQUP, and is stock #: 3199 in most auto part places. Make sure you get some anti-seize too.
Air Filter - Every 10,000 miles
If you have a conventional airbox, then replace the filter with an OEM one. If you have a foam/cotton filter, then clean it. This is one of the most basic things you can do to maintain the car, yet most people overlook it. Filters get crude on them real fast and not only restrict airflow, but lets crap get sucked into your engine. All pretty common sense.
Fuel Filter - Every 30,000 to 40,000 miles
These get clogged up and you end up losing power. In some cases, it might even cause difficulties at startup. It might be overkill to change every 30,000 but it's inexpensive, and keeps your car running well. Very neglected part. Buy OEM.
Valve Cover Gasket - Before 60,000 miles
The valve cover gasket on our cars is known to go bye bye and let precious oil seep out into the engine bay or even worse, your spark plugs. This will cause misfires and all sorts of problems. At the very first sign of leakage, I had it changed out. Reading around and talking to people, most have had it fail around 60,000 miles or so. If you're past that point and haven't done it yet, do yourself a favor and do it asap.
Belts/Pulleys - Every 50,000 miles (or as needed)
You would be surprised at how easily the belts on our cars come apart. It's not much to maintain, and can prevent a potential catastrophic event. As a rule of thumb, I inspect the belts every time I do an oil change. If they have any premature wear, they're getting swapped out. But every 50,000 miles, they go bye bye anyways. Pulleys generally aren't an issue, but listen at startup, if you hear a loud whistling/whining noise from the front of the car, chances are that you'll need a new tensioner pulley. No worries, they go bad all the time, usually run around 50,000 miles.
Coolant - Every 2 years, check levels monthly
I usually use OEM BMW coolant mixed 50/50 with water every two years. Keeps the cooling system fresh and free of corrosion. I do open up the radiator cap every month though and add water if necessary.
Water Pump - Before 100,000 miles
The water pump on our cars is prone to failure because BMW used a cheap plastic propeller. On the later cars, I believe they switched to metal, but I still wouldn't chance it. I've yet to do this personally, because I'm still only around 70,000 miles. However, when the time comes, I will be switching it out for a Stewart High-Flow Water Pump from Turner. Also a good time to check and change your coolant system hoses.
Power Steering Fluid - Every 50,000 miles
Very neglected, most people wouldn't even bother. In fact, I know people who have ran on the same fluid for over 100,000 miles. It may or may not make a difference, but it's very inexpensive to do, and why not give your baby some fresh fluid? Our cars take ATF fluid instead of Power Steering Fluid. I used the Royal Purple ATF, but Mobil 1 will do too. Don't get the cheap stuff, make sure it's Dextron III approved. I've read instances where people have gone over 200,000 miles on the original rack & pinion/power steering pump by changing their fluid on a regular basis. You can bleed it by opening up a line, but I just use the turkey baster technique.
Brake Fluid - Every year (or before an AutoX)
When I bled my brake system, the brake fluid was disgusting and completely black. I recommend using ATE Super Bluid. If you brake hard or just over time, your brake fluid gets cooked. That's why I do it every year or before any AutoX event. Stopping power is important.
Brakes - As needed
I check my brakes every so often and make sure they have life in them. Like I just mentioned, it is super important and must be taken care of. I check if there is a lip on the rotors, and see how much pad I have left by taking the wheel off and looking at the caliper. When it comes time to replace the brakes, make sure to change pads/rotors at the same time. Reason being, if you change one and not the other, you run the risk of destroying the new part. Lips on old rotors can tear up a pad, and pads worn down to the metal will destroy new rotors. It's common sense.
Differential Fluid - Every 30,000 miles
I use Redline 75w-90 every 30,000 miles. You will need a little under 2 quarts, so you'll need two bottles.
Transmission Fluid - Every 30,000 miles & before 60,000 miles
This is for Steptronic transmissions ONLY. I have an auto, so I can't speak for the manual trannies. BMW says this is lifetime fluid, but that's a crock of horsepoo. I changed my step fluid before 60,000 miles. Reason being, that seems to be the general consensus "threshold" for step tranny failure. There have been many reports of people going to change their auto tranny fluid after 60,000 miles, and having instant failure. The reason being, by that time, sludge has built up, and putting fresh fluid in it will dislodge it and cause the tranny to fail. Do it before 60,000 miles, and you should be ok. After that, every 30,000 miles should be good. Again, this might seem like over kill, but as sensitive as our auto trannies are, it cannot hurt. I recommend Redline fluids once again, and changing the transmission gasket while you're at it.
Anyways, I hope this was of help. Again, this is what I do to my car, and what you choose to do to yours may be different. This is purely here as a guide. And like always, just check your car regularly and make sure everything's in good running shape. I've followed this maintenance schedule thus far, and plan on continuing to do so. I haven't had any issues with the car at all, and everything has been running smoothly and as they should. So I must be doing something right...right?
Last edited by kpeng; 07-28-2008 at 05:09 PM.