bmw-oil-change

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 having an oil change performed at 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 access to the necessary tools.

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. Before starting, it is important to mention that it is best to perform an oil change while the engine oil is still warm (but not hot to avoid injury), as warm oil is less viscous and will drain more completely than cold oil.

Tools Needed For An E46 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 inferior quality and aren’t much cheaper, so just buy the Mann filter.
  • 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 crucial 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 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. Put the car in park and apply the parking brake once the vehicle is stationary. This will ensure that the vehicle does not roll backward off of them.

If you are using 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 can be seen in the picture below. After jacking up the front, 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, 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. A picture of that point is included below. Once the rear is at an even level with the front, put your rear jack stands under the rubber jack points on the frame in front of the rear tires. The jack can then be lowered from the rear central jack point.

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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, draining the oil is the next step. Before crawling under the car, remove the oil filler cap in the engine bay to release pressure in the system (making sure to put the filler cap in a safe and memorable location). Then, gather the oil collection tray, 17mm socket, and wrench and 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. Make sure to have a good grip on the plug and rotate it out of the oil pan the rest of the way by hand. Take care to not drop the plug 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, the oil filter can be removed. 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 compartment. Using the 36mm socket, turn the housing cap counterclockwise until the last thread. Grab a plastic bag or several 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. The filter cap O-ring can be removed by using a flathead screwdriver to gently pry it up from its resting position and rolling it off by hand.

e46-oil-filter-gaskets

New oil filters come with a new replacement O-ring in the box that can be slid onto 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 the smaller oil filter seating gasket is worn or cracked, it should be replaced 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 18.5 ft-lbs or 25Nm.

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

By this point, the oil should have emptied completely into the oil collection pan underneath the car. If it is still dripping, wait for the dripping to stop. Before crawling back under the car, grab the 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 to not overtighten it at the risk of snapping it off in the oil pan. The OEM torque spec is 18.5 ft-lbs or 25Nm.

The next step is to refill the car with oil. If changing the oil on a non-X-Drive model (i.e. 325i, 328i, 330i), the car has a 7-quart oil capacity. If changing the oil on an X-Drive model (i.e. 325xi, 330xi), the 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, the oil change procedure is complete. 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, the E46 needs to be lowered back onto the ground, doing the reverse procedure of raising it.

Once the vehicle is on the ground, 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 the 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 to reset the service indicator light on the dash. The indicator measures the number of miles until another oil change needs to be performed. Perform the following procedure to reset the service indicator light:

  • Make sure the vehicle’s ignition is in the ‘off’ position
  • Hold down the left instrument button (also known as the trip odometer reset button)
  • While holding the key, turn the ignition to position 1 (which should engage the radio)
  • A test menu will appear on the dash
  • 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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