47k miles / 75k km's Shell helix am-l 5w30 / Pennzoil euro L Review with pics

Messages
138
Hi guys,

I have been a longtime reader and finally decided to make an account and share my experiences with different oils.

Daily driver:

My daily driver for the past 4 years has been my 2005 bmw e91 325i automatic with the European N52B25 2.5l inline 6 with double VVT, valvetronic variable intake valve height, variable oil pump, two stage intake manifold, electric waterpump, oil/water heat exchanger, magenesium block and with 218 hp out a 2.5l with a 7000RPM redline so all in all this is a pretty high spec engine.

The car now has 223k miles/ 358k km. I have the full service history of the car, this still is the original engine, no works has been ever done to the engine except for regular maintenance and replacement of the VVT solenoids at 155k miles/ 250k km and I replaced the valve cover gasket due to broken alluminum bolts at 211k miles / 341k km.

According to the service history and with my use the car has had its OCI’s every 15.5k miles/ 25k km according to the BMW spec service interval.

This car is driven HARD, sees redline almost every day and is used for a lot of long trips and prolonged 120mph / 180kmh highway driving.

It is however always carefully warmed up for every drive, after startup I always wait about 10 seconds to make sure the oil is flowing every where in the engine, the lambda sensors are warmed up and the ECU’s switches to closed loop.

These engine’s are known for multiple oil leaks, oil consumption due to low piston ring tension, hydraulic tappet ticking, breaking alluminium bolts which need to be used due to the magnesium block, CCV systems failing.


The car has run on the following oils and as a said always with 15.5k / 25k OCI’s:

From new till 97k miles/ 155k km it was serviced at bmw with what I assume was Castrol 5w30 ll04 back then.

From 97k miles/155k km till I bought it at 158k miles/255k km it was serviced at and independent car shop with Total Ineo 5w30 MC3 LL04 approved oil.

From 158k miles/ 255k km till now 223k miles/358k km’s I first changed it with castrol C3 ll04 5w30 for the first 15.5k/25k km because I saw that the oil filler cap said castrol was recommended.
Before the next oil change I found out that around 2013 BMW switched to Shell/penzoil so for the next oilchange I went with Shell Helix AM-L LL04 GTL based oil. (according to MSDS 0-90% fischer-tropsch based base oil, fischer tropsch = GTL process)

The differences:

With Castrol the car used about a quart every 2200 miles 1l per 3500km, when first switched to Shell/penzoil after a couple of months it went to as high as a quart per 600 miles / 1l per 1000km.
I first blamed the shell GTL for it but I found out that the oil filter housing gasket was leaking (common problem on BMW N52 engines). After this the oil consumption stabilized again around a quart per 2200 miles / 1l per 3500km.

After the first oil change with the Shell/penzoil GTL oil I noticed that Shell oil was much more yellowish compared to the almost blood red the castrol oil became after a while, this has to do with the additive pack but maybe also with the GTL base oil which should be almost free of impurities.

I always cut open the oil filter after every service (paper insert filter) and I noticed that with the shell oil the filter was pretty dirty with almost mud/coal like deposits. This did not happen with the castrol filter which came out almost perfectly clean.

For me this tells me that the Shell add pack is really doing a good job cleaning the engine and taking the deposits into the oil filter.
This did not happen only the first time but also the two other times I did an oil change with Shell although it slowly seems to get better so I assume most of the heavy deposits are out.

I also look into the oil filler hole every time I need to add oil and during the use with Shell oil I could see that the engine got cleaner and more and more deposits came loose/broke off the valve cover inside. The reason why the valve cover has accumulated some deposits are because the crankcase ventilation hose was cracked, something I repaired in the beginning after I got the car.

I do notice some small particles in the filter every change, this is also common on the BMW inline 6s of this generation. This has to do with the valvetronic worm motor actuation.
When I changed the valve cover I could see that the gear had some slight wear because motor oil does not really reach it so I assume it comes from this spot. I also had it 2 times in a row that a mahle oil filter failed on me by cracking on the lower edge of the filter element, not sure if this happened while loosening or while operation.

I can not really comment on that the car runs better hot or cold with the Shell GTL oil compared to the Castrol.
It ran about the same on both brands. I can also not really comment on the influence on fuel consumption, for European standards this car always uses allot with its inline 6 :)
Also the oil consumption is about the same on both but this difficult to measure because i do not really have a conisistent daily drive route.

Verdict:
I will keep using shell because I like how well it cleans my engine with the dirty oil filter and I can visually see the valve cover getting cleaner.
I also like how the oil turns yellowish which also keeps the engine looking pretty new compared to the castrol which turned it brownish/reddish. (something I read more on BITOG)

Personally I really think Shell has created a great product line with their GTL base oils because as far as I know GTL should/could be considered as a synthetic, it is almost free of impurities, has better cold flowing properties and because it is made from natural gas which there is in excessive amounts it is pretty cheap I guess.

The prices for Shell in Europe (penzoil in US) are also really competitive compared to some other brands and I think some brands try to look good by sponsoring motorsports events etc… but their oils aren’t really that special. Shell is also one of the largest oil companys in the world and with Ferrari f1 and oem, ducati, bmw, Mercedes and hyuandai so I think they must be doing something well.

I also think that for small companies it is almost impossible to test as good as the large ones are capable with their fleet tests, engine tests, dyno runs, lab test etc….

Unfortunantly in europe there are almost no private sector oil analys labs so I can not obtain those.

I now will probably switch to 9k miles/ 15k km OCI’s because the car now has a pretty high milage.

I am not payed by Shell (however i am from Holland :) and this is not to bash castrol. Just my 2 cents after a lot of use of this oil.
This might be a bit longdreaded but hopefully it is usefull.

The VOA comes from a russian forum.
 

Attachments

  • 20201118_141015.jpg
    20201118_141015.jpg
    147 KB · Views: 225
  • IMG-20200808-WA0013.jpg
    IMG-20200808-WA0013.jpg
    115.2 KB · Views: 212
  • IMG-20200808-WA0017.jpg
    IMG-20200808-WA0017.jpg
    88.6 KB · Views: 237
  • IMG-20200808-WA0022.jpg
    IMG-20200808-WA0022.jpg
    138.5 KB · Views: 233
  • IMG-20200808-WA0009.jpg
    IMG-20200808-WA0009.jpg
    94 KB · Views: 237
  • Screenshot_20201118-165847_Adobe Acrobat.jpg
    Screenshot_20201118-165847_Adobe Acrobat.jpg
    98.3 KB · Views: 213
  • Screenshot_20201118-171050_Gallery.jpg
    Screenshot_20201118-171050_Gallery.jpg
    120.9 KB · Views: 209
  • 20201118_172229.jpg
    20201118_172229.jpg
    145.9 KB · Views: 212
Last edited:

Flyingdutchman

Thread starter
Messages
138
Where do you get "daily prolonged 120 mph highway runs"???
In Holland and Germany especially at night and outside of the rush hours. I also live in a pretty low populated part of the country.
BMW reduced the 15, 000 mile OCI to 10, 000 miles because of warranty claims on sized engines and turbo failures
I am aware that from what i know especially in the US but also other countries some engines can look like the pictures in the article you posted.

However i am almost convinced that the building up of sludge like on those pictures is formed by a combination of short trips where certain spots in the head do not reach temperatures of over 80 90 degrees/190F, this causes moisture which is released during engine warm up to accumulate in those areas. Also gasoline vapours which occour during the ''choke" part of the warm up and get in to the oil may be a mixuture of it.

Cars like mine that are often driven hard for longer periods or with trailer hauling tend to have oil temperatures on the warm side, especially during longer periods above 80 90 degrees / 190 Fahrenheit this vapours off the gasoline blowby and cold start moisture out of the oil and it gets sucked out by the CCV. Basicly it gets cleaned again.
This is also the reason why proper CCV is so important.

The real limit of the oil is when the TBN number is no longer acceptible and the add-pack is gone, shearing etc...
So i agree that the longer OCI's where mostly due to the maintaince cost price lowering battles, but i also think that the manufacturers underestimated the consequences on what happens when people drive short distances every day and with traffic rush hour driving.

I am not saying that my engine is as clean as some are on BITOG, but it is not like your engine will be 100% ruined if you maintain15k miles OCI's because my engine looks almost the same as the engine in the article where they did 5k OCI's.
So i think it also has to do with how the car is used.
 
Messages
11
Location
West Hollywood, CA
I've never felt bad winding out a BMW engine to redline every day since they are butter smooth, their I6 engines seem to be fine with high revs while still lasting a very long time.
 

Flyingdutchman

Thread starter
Messages
138
I've never felt bad winding out a BMW engine to redline every day since they are butter smooth, their I6 engines seem to be fine with high revs while still lasting a very long time.

Yeah this was their last normaly aspirated inline 6 before the turbo came so in order to get almost 100hp per liter out of it they where build with
race engine philosophy.

Square bore x stroke ratio, short piston skirt with low tension rings, hence why these burned oil so much.
Finger follower valve train to cope with the higher rpms and lower friction losses.

The usage of two DISA valves in the intake to get maximum cylinder fillage and better lower/midrange etc. etc..

I believe that this engine is mechanicly verry well build, as i said there has never been a repair on this motor in 223k miles / 358k kms.
However every thing around it is ****e and almost every thing is now replaced:censored:

In the US these motors where run on 5w40 while in Europe the bmw LL04 prescribes 5w30.
In general i am more of thin oil guy instead of going thicker just to be sure so i will stick to 5w30. Even thought of 0w30 but i think that is too thin.

The bmw m3 and m5 v8 and v10 engines had such a tight oil clearance and bmw prescribed 10w60, this caused the rod bearings to spin.
 
Messages
16,055
Location
Upper Midwest
In the US these motors where run on 5w40 while in Europe the bmw LL04 prescribes 5w30.
In general i am more of thin oil guy instead of going thicker just to be sure so i will stick to 5w30. Even thought of 0w30 but i think that is too thin.

The bmw m3 and m5 v8 and v10 engines had such a tight oil clearance and bmw prescribed 10w60, this caused the rod bearings to spin.
The 0W-30 and the 5W-30 are both 30-grade oils. The 0W-30 is not thinner, especially if you are talking about one with Longlife-04 approval. You seem to be knowledgeable in some areas, it would be a good idea to learn some things about approvals and grade designations.

All Longlife-04 oils require a minimum HT/HS of 3.5 so none of them regardless of grade (30 or 40-grade) are significantly thinner or thicker than another. Go by approvals not grade since it is largely irrelevant with this approval.

Also, the clearances and the oil grade for the engines you mention had nothing to do with the mechanical defects some of those engines may have had.
 

Flyingdutchman

Thread starter
Messages
138
Thank you for your comment, you definitatly seem more knowledgeable than me about the HT/HS ratings, i will look into that.
You think that switching to a 0w30 ll04 approved wil not make any difference? For the N52 only 5w30 was recommended.
Also, the clearances and the oil grade for the engines you mention had nothing to do with the mechanical defects some of those engines may have had.
I dont have any lab results about the BMW M engines which where common for rod bearing failures, it is so bad that it is not the case that if your engine will get it. It is more like when will your engine get it. It is common to change the bearings in advance every 80k miles or something.

I am familiar with high rpm n/a honda car engines and know their rod specs are pretty tight and most of the time 0w20 5w30 5w40 is advised.
The bmw M rods specs where even tighter than the honda ones, not by only a small percentage but they where about as tight as the honda bearings where allowed to be in their thightest spec.

This with the combination of 10w60 where held responsible for causing this, i dont own a car with these engines but have heard that owners and bmw specialists that switched to 5w40 had good results with curing/extending the wear.
Because the thicker 10w60 flowed so slowly that it could cavitate at high rpms and due the slow flowing it would get verry hot in the bearings which caused rapid deterioration of the oil.

It is almost not imaginable that a manufacturer with f1 experience would make such a mistake but apperantly they did.
 
Messages
11
Location
West Hollywood, CA
Yeah this was their last normaly aspirated inline 6 before the turbo came so in order to get almost 100hp per liter out of it they where build with
race engine philosophy.

Square bore x stroke ratio, short piston skirt with low tension rings, hence why these burned oil so much.
Finger follower valve train to cope with the higher rpms and lower friction losses.

The usage of two DISA valves in the intake to get maximum cylinder fillage and better lower/midrange etc. etc..

I believe that this engine is mechanicly verry well build, as i said there has never been a repair on this motor in 223k miles / 358k kms.
However every thing around it is ****e and almost every thing is now replaced:censored:

In the US these motors where run on 5w40 while in Europe the bmw LL04 prescribes 5w30.
In general i am more of thin oil guy instead of going thicker just to be sure so i will stick to 5w30. Even thought of 0w30 but i think that is too thin.

The bmw m3 and m5 v8 and v10 engines had such a tight oil clearance and bmw prescribed 10w60, this caused the rod bearings to spin.
Actually BMW has been running 5w30 since the turn of the century in the US and as of the last few years 0w20 in their non-M models. M models are spec'd 0w30 presently. There was a 0w40 oil for the earlier turbo M cars for a few years. This is what you would receive from the dealer in the BMW bottle.

From what I've understood the 60 weight oil combined with a lot of people not driving the car easy until properly warm was a big issue, a majority of the population buys a M car and doesn't think about these things. The engineers tried to educate with the variable redlines in the gauge cluster and such...but only so much they can do.
 
Last edited:
Messages
16,055
Location
Upper Midwest
Actually BMW has been running 5w30 since the turn of the century in the US and as of the last few years 0w20 in their non-M models. M models are spec'd 0w30 presently. There was a 0w40 oil for the earlier turbo M cars for a few years. This is what you would receive from the dealer in the BMW bottle.
Actually BMW has been "running" Longlife-0X oils that have a minimum HT/HS. Rarely is a grade ever "spec'd" by them but rather the approval.
 

Flyingdutchman

Thread starter
Messages
138
Actually BMW has been "running" Longlife-0X oils that have a minimum HT/HS. Rarely is a grade ever "spec'd" by them but rather the approval.
Okay so i did a little research and from what i understand my engine should then be a HTHS 3.5> higher "older" generation engine.

The newer engines where manufacturers advise 0w20 are then HTHS <3.5 fuel efficient engines.

I guess this tells alot about what the engineers take in consideration when designing an engine. Especially with bearing clearances.
 
Last edited:

SR5

Messages
5,718
Location
Down Under
Hi guys,

I have been a longtime reader and finally decided to make an account and share my experiences with different oils.
Welcome brother, with that as your first post you have come to the right place.

BTW I too think that Shell Helix Ultra (5W40 A3/B4) cleaned up my engine a bit more than the other oils I was running at the time. Just going by a non-scientific look down the fill hole.
 
Messages
16,055
Location
Upper Midwest
I guess this tells alot about what the engineers take in consideration when designing an engine. Especially with bearing clearances.
I would say that it says a lot more about oil additive technology than bearing clearances. Clearances may have greater importance when the HT/HS gets below 2.6, but many older engines are back-specified to this minimum HT/HS with (obviously) no change to the engine. This is not the case for some of the "ultra thin" oils now being recommended by manufacturers.

2.6 seems to be near the lower limit for acceptable wear in most engines.
 

SR5

Messages
5,718
Location
Down Under
HT/HS 2.6 seems to be near the lower limit for acceptable wear in most engines.
Good point, just look at the ACEA sequences
Their C1, C2 or A5 rated oil need HTHS above 2.9 cP but below 3.5 cP
Their C3, C4 or A3 rated oil need HTHS above 3.5 cP (and all their Heavy Duty Diesel Engine oils E4, E6, E7 & E9)
Their C5 oil is above 2.6 cP but below 2.9 cP
(Note lower limit is always “above or equal to”)

Similar minimum HTHS limits with SAE J300
8 grade oil, min HTHS 1.7 cP
12 grade has 2.0 cP (proposed ?)
16 grade has 2.3 cP
20 grade has 2.6 cP
30 grade has 2.9 cP
0W40 to 10W40 has 3.5 cP
15W40 and above has 3.7 cP

Given how many engines run fine on 0W20, which corresponds to the lower HTHS limit of 2.6 cP for both ACEA and SAE, it seems a good working lower limit for regular low stress applications.
 

Flyingdutchman

Thread starter
Messages
138
I dont think it would be wise to go to a thinner grade oil or lower hths spec than 3.5.

At 223k mostly hard driven miles the engine will probably have some wear.

The things i can visually see/hear is that sometimes there are a couple of little non magnetic flakes in the oil filter and at cold start in the winters there is what i think is a slight piston knock which lasts about 30 seconds. It is only very slightly hearable.

These engines are known for scoring their camshaft ledge bearings especially on the exhaust side.
After doing some internet research i assume that this is where the flakes can come from.

Engines can grow old with this which is what i will try. The exhaust cam holder with cam is replacable if needed.

However the engine does not show any of the symptoms known for camshaft wear so iam not sure.
Might also still be left overs from when i had to drill out two of the valve cover bolts and maybe some allumium drill material accidently came in the head which could be verry possible becuase it was a hell of a job that took a full day.

The pic i attached is not from my engine but from the internet. As i said my engine was never opened except for the valve cover.
 

Attachments

  • aSfh3rC.jpg
    aSfh3rC.jpg
    144.9 KB · Views: 38

Flyingdutchman

Thread starter
Messages
138
Nice to see another high mileage N engine here. Just hit 225k in my stock n54, in some ways higher tech but also lower tech.
Yeah i also love the engineering that goes in the n54, but it was bmws first turbo so it first is not always best.

Did you encounter any of the multiple n54 problems? in the 225k n54?

My brother now drivers 130miles a day commute in my car and i might be interested in an n54 e91 with 205k miles.
 
Messages
1,087
Location
Minneapolis
I've encountered all of the multiple problems with the n54, multiple times. The biggest problem for me was the rear main seal which went at 190k, and the oil pan gasket which went early on at 120k. I've replaced the injectors one by one. Haven't touched the water pump, but the head flange broke on me last month. The suspension is needier.
 
Top