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BMW E46 Oil Change Guide

Austin Parsons

Meet Austin

Austin graduated from the University of Colorado Denver in 2021 with a degree in technical writing and remains in the Denver area. Austin brings tons of automotive knowledge and experience to the table. Austin worked as a Technical Product Specialist at BMW for over 5 years and drives a heavily modified E30 325i with a stroker kit, all of which he built from the ground up.

Today’s guide will cover a bit of DIY, specifically focused on how to perform an oil change on your M52 or M54-powered E46. Performing an E46 oil change yourself is one of the easiest ways to save money on BMW maintenance, especially when compared to the dealer. While certified BMW repair centers typically charge around $100-$150, you can get the whole job done for around $65-$70 and 30 minutes of your time if you already have some tools lying around.

This oil change guide is applicable across the entire North American E46 model range and can pretty much be applied to any BMW fitted with either the M52 or M54 engine.

Tools Needed For An E90 Oil Change

Parts Needed for E90 Oil Change

  • OEM BMW Oil Filter – Part # 11427512300
    • This part # will fit all M52 and M54 E46 models including 323i/323ci (1999-2000), 325i/325ci/325ix (2001-2006), 328i/328ci (1999-2000) and 330i/330ci/330ix (2001-2005) . The OEM brand is Mann – the aftermarket versions are like $1 cheaper so just buy the Mann filter. If you use the one in the link, you should be good to go!
  • 7 Quarts / 8 Quarts (for iX models) of 5W-40 Castrol Edge Euro (BMW LL-01 approved) Oil
    • While the is a ton of back and forth on forums about the best oil for M52 and M54-powered E46s, it is important to choose a BMW LL-01-approved oil. It is also important to mention that iX models take an additional quart (8 instead of 7) of oil due to their oil pan design.

Steps To Performing A BMW E46 Oil Change

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1) Drive the car onto the ramps or jack the vehicle up and lower it onto jack stands

Ramps are going to be the easiest method of raising your E46 high enough to perform an oil change. To get started, center both ramps under the front two tires. Slowly apply gas until the car reaches the flat part of the ramp. Make sure that you apply the parking brake once the vehicle is stationary. This will ensure that the vehicle does not roll backward off of them.

If you have a jack and jack stands, use the front reinforced jack point to lift the car. The jack point is located on the front subframe crossmember which you can see in the picture below. After jacking up the front, you can put jack stands under the rubber jack points found on the frame behind the front tires.

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E46 Front Jack Point

Once the front is supported on jack stands, you can lower the jack from the front jack point and move to the rear. The rear central jack point is directly in front of the rear differential on the rear differential support. I’ll also include a picture of that point as well. Once the rear is at an even level with the front, put your rear jackstands under the rubber jack points on the frame in front of the rear tires. You can then lower the jack from the rear central jack point. Voila! Almost like magic, your E46 is off the ground.

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E46 Rear Jack Point (in front of rear differential)

2) Place the oil collection tray under the oil drain plug and remove the plug itself

Once the car is in the air, the next step is to start draining the oil. Before you crawl under the car, remove the oil filler cap in the engine bay to release pressure in the system (making sure to put it in a safe and memorable location.). Then, you’ll need your oil collection tray, 17mm socket, and wrench with you as you crawl under the car. Locate the oil drain plug (which is sometimes located under a small removable cover behind the front skid plate) and place the oil collection tray under the plug accounting for the arc that the oil pressure will create initially.

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E46 Oil Drain Plug Location

Using the 17mm socket, turn the drain plug counterclockwise until the plug is loose. Making sure that you have a good grip on the plug, rotate it out of the oil pan the rest of the way, making sure not to drop it into the oil collection tray. Store the plug in a safe and memorable location while the oil drains. 

3) While the oil is draining, remove and replace the oil filter

While the oil is draining, you can get busy with the next order of business. Crawl out from under the car and revisit the engine bay. Locate the oil filter housing in the front right (facing the car) of the engine bay. Using the 36mm socket, turn the housing cap counterclockwise until the last thread. Grab a plastic bag or a number of shop rags, unscrew the filter the rest of the way, and quickly transfer the cap/filter assembly to the bag/rags making sure to not drip too much oil onto any engine components.

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Oil Filter Location

Once the oil filter cap/filter assembly is out, simply slide off the old filter from the cap assembly. Once the filter is off, there is an oil filter sealing gasket that needs to be replaced at the bottom of the cap assembly. You can remove the filter cap O-ring by sliding a flathead screwdriver under it and rolling it off with your hands.

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The new oil filter that you purchased has a new replacement O-ring in the box that you can simply slide into the groove where the old one sat. Dip your finger in oil and lightly rub the new O-ring with a thin layer of oil. If you notice that the oil filter seating gasket is worn or cracked, you should also replace that gasket at the same time.

Finally, slide the new filter onto the cap assembly with firm pressure. Put the housing top with the filter now on back into the aluminum housing on the engine block. Tighten the housing top to 25Nm or until it is “good and tight”.

4) Reinstall the oil drain plug and pour in new oil

By this point, the oil should be barely dribbling out of the drain hole. Before you crawl back under the car, grab your oil drain plug and replace the copper crush washer with the new one included in the new oil filter box. Crawl back under the car and reinstall the drain plug with the new washer. The E46 oil drain plug is hollow so it’s crucial that you don’t overtighten it at the risk of snapping it off in your oil pan. The official torque spec is 18.5 ft-lbs, but just get it nice and snug without going overboard.

The next step is to refill the car with oil. If you have a non-X-Drive model (i.e. 325i, 328i, 330i), your car has a 7-quart oil capacity. If you have an X-Drive model (i.e. 325xi, 330xi), your car has an 8-quart oil capacity. Use a funnel to pour the appropriate amount of BMW LL-01-approved oil into the oil filler cap. Replace the oil filler cap and check under the car to make sure there isn’t a leak from the drain plug.

5) Lower the car and check the oil level on a flat surface

Once the drain plug and filler cap have been installed, that’s it as far as the actual oil change procedure is concerned. However, there is one crucial step left which is to make sure that your oil level is good after running the engine for a bit. First, you’ll have to lower your E46 back onto the ground, doing the reverse procedure of what you did earlier to raise the care.

Once rubber is touching cement again, get in the driver’s seat and start the engine. Let the engine run for around 3-5 minutes and then turn the vehicle off again. After letting your E46 sit for another 10 or so minutes (to let the oil collect back into the oil pan), check the dipstick to make sure that the oil level falls close to the top line. If it isn’t, continue to add small amounts of oil to the engine until the level reaches the line.

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What Correct Oil Level Looks Like

6) Reset the service indicator light

The final step of the process is the reset the service indicator light on your dash. The indicator measures the number of miles until you need to perform another oil change. In order to reset the light, follow this procedure:

  • Make sure the car is off
  • Hold down the left instrument button (the trip odometer reset)
  • While holding the key, turn the ignition to position 1 (radio)
  • You will see a test menu
  • Keep holding the button
  • After around 10 seconds, the word “reset” will appear
  • Let go of the button and press again
  • The indicator is reset

That’s All There Is To It!

Once you reset the service light, that’s it! Not too bad, huh? Performing your own E46 oil changes is one of the most cost-effective and time-saving maintenance items that you can do to your E46. For just 30 minutes of your time and around $65-70, you’re saving around half the money that you’d be charged by the dealer and likely around an hour and a half of time. It’s a pretty simple process without very many steps and once you’ve done it once, you’ll continue to get faster every time you do it. 

If you enjoyed this article and are looking for more E46-related content, take a look at our Common BMW E46 cooling System Problems Guide or our BMW E46 Coilover Upgrade Guide. I’ll see you in the next one!

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