BMW HP Synth oil vindication.

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Just recently did a valve cover gasket replacement on my 01 330i @67K. Slight leak from some of the rubber hold-down bushings, but the gasket itself was ok abeit a bit stiff. History-Previous owner had done ~15K oil services at the dealer and they used the BMW High Performance Synthetic 5W-30 (verified through dealer service records). It had about 13K on the current fill of "dealer oil" when I bought it. UOA right away showed pretty decent results despite the higher mileage OCIs. Regardless, I did an ARX treatment and then went onto GC with 7500 mile OCIs. Now before I get the "this thread is worthless without pics" banner, I did not take any. You'll just have to trust me . I pulled off the cover with a bit of trepidation, expecting to see at least some evidence of deposits. Especially with all the controversy about the BMW oil and all the horror stories. Well......it was absolutely spotless. Only area that had any of the typical reddish deposits was the filler area of the valve cover. Even that was minimal and wiped right off. This area gets the deposits from moisture and lack of air flow (highest point in valve cover area). There was a slight gold "patina" on all of the parts, but this is probably from some additive in the BMW/Castrol oil that stains the metal. It is purely cosmetic and is in the metal, not a film that could be wiped/cleaned off. No harm. Now, even with the ARX and subsequent GC use, I would expect to see at least some telltale deposits in the nooks and crannies if there was any "sludging", especially around the VANOS unit. Nothing. Bearing cap bolts? Nada. Cam journal castings? Zip. So is this the end all to the BMW oil debate? Heck no. But in this car, for 42K of dealer servicing (read: minimal), this oil did fine. I was able to contact the previous owner and he was very happy to answer my plethora of questions. Particularly about the oil service and his driving use/conditions. He said most was highway miles and he didn't "beat" on the car. Spirited runs, yes, but no flogging. I'll say it before someone else does, this probably has alot to do with the oil's condition. Even he claimed that had he driven more urban miles, he would have the oil changed at half (~7500 mile) intervals at his expense. Take this FWIW, but in this case at least, it seems all good.
 
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A couple of comments: First, your observations aren't of BMW oil, it's of BMW oil followed by ARX and GC. If you had done this work before running ARX and GC it would have been a more powerful statement. Second, you're in a fairly warm climate (at least compared to mine) and you've stated that the OP did lots of highway. You said it first, but I'll say it again :) Short trips and/or lots of cold starts may have had different results. Oh, and this thread is worthless without pics Sorry, couldn't resist. In general BMW 5W30 has led to fairly good UOA results, but often falls down in areas not shown but UOAs. My dad's very well cared for 2002 540 running BMW 5W30 at half the OLM interval at <100,000km (<60,000mi) had lower end knock ("common" on M62s to some extent), lots of HLA chatter, red deposits visible in the filler cap area and the timing chain and lots of other noises. I put GC in and 2/3 of the noises were gone somewhere between instantly and a couple hundred km. I've also used LC20 which cleaned up the HLAs a bit more. Eventually we did a full round of ARX with dino on clean and rinse and have been using ARX maintenance dose in GC ever since. Now at around 130,000km he won't go near BMW 5W30 and there's only the slightest bit of bottom end knocking when an oil change is due and the AC is off so the idle is around 500rpm. On a diet of BMW 5W30 twice as often as required this like-new condition M62 vehicle sounded like a diesel. Based on UOAs we're sticking with GC at 10,000km intervals and it's nice and quiet again. The dealer once tried a BMW 0W40 (one of the Castrol products) which helped somewhat but they charged $25/L for it or something crazy. My M52 has never seen BMW 5W30 except for possibly the factory fill. I'll probably never touch the stuff... I guess the moral of my story is that there's more to oil than UOAs.
 
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Great report, shortyb. The history of my car mirrors yours pretty closely. I picked it up at around 46K and went through the Auto Rx thing. No noticeable results: clean and rinse oil looked normal, filters were spotless. Put the Mobil 1 in there to see if that made any difference--no difference to report. I put about 450 miles a week on this car, about 80% easy highway miles. So what to make of this anecdotal evidence? Maybe the engineers know what they are doing. Unless you're in a real "severe service" environment, follow the service indicator. I'm aware that there are cases of owners having VERY different experiences with this oil and maintenance routine. I have no explanation for the variation. I haven't removed the valve cover. No reason to do so at this point. I might when I change the spark plugs, but they don't call for that until 100,000 miles. I'm thinking about just leaving them in until thereabouts, unless I notice a reason to do so earlier. I asked the local BMW mechanics about the "lifetime" coolant. "What's the real scoop?", I say. Ought to be fine until you have a need to change a thermostat, they say. They say don't worry until 100,000 miles, and then consider some preventative maintenance on the cooling system. Save your money for that, they suggest. I'm feeling like the Maytag repairman here. Just a very different maintenance regimen that your typical BITOGer with a little gray hair who is old enough to remember when cars demanded alot more. I have a co-worker with a Honda Civic. That thing isn't calling for very much in the way of maintenace, either. Well, gentlemen, is this the wave of the futrue, and the future is here? I'll change the belts, just to make myself useful, at around 60K. There is a little wear on them, but they look like they are capable of a little more than that.
 

shortyb

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Craig-Alright, alright, TECHNICALLY it is my observation after BMW oil, ARX, GC. Maybe I should have emphasized a bit more on the part regarding telltale signs even AFTER the ARX, GC etc. I know that ARX is great stuff and will use it as long as it's available. But I know it probably won't get things THIS clean if there were the "typical" deposits found using this oil and severe service/long intervals. Seriously, there was NOTHING, not even a trace around areas that ARX would have a tough time cleaning. Secondly, it has spent most of it's life in colder climes. First owner lived in Northern Ohio (gets kinda cold there if I remember correctly) and drove it year round. Since I bought it, and until October of last year, she resided in Northern VA. This I know can be quite cold (I lived there, duh) and except for one winter, was driven year round too. You're right about UOAs and how oil works in your particular vehicle. My Tacoma was on GC for awhile, got great UOAs, but idled rough, had cold start knock like crazy, and was kinda sluggish on pick-up. Switched to a "thinner" 5W-30 and al that went away. UOA stayed pretty much the same. So, I agree with your moral basically. Jett-You sound the same, right down to gray hair and "good ole days" cars and all. Just some food for thought re: the M54 engines in the 3 series. First, never heard of the coolant being "Lifetime" (hate that phrase anyway). First schedules called for replacement every 2 years, now (with BMW picking up the nickel) its every 4. I'd stick with every 2 and use either the OE fluid or a similar G-05. And I'm not sure which water pump your production date has. I know up until 2/2000 they used a plastic impeller. After that, it was an "improved" plastic, but some still grenaded. They switched to metal impellers sometime in 02 but some cars still showed up with plastic. Now they offer a composite or metal impeller depending on vendor. Some say change at 60K as preventative, other say wait til showing signs of failure. Very few catastrophic failures, usually they will tell you well in advance when they are going bye bye. And when you change the belts, change the tensioners too. Kinda like doing the water pump on a Honda when you do the timing belt. It WILL start leaking soon after evrything is buttoned back up. Same regarding "Lifetime" fluids in the tranny and diff. Every 60K at minimum, 30K would be better for more severe use. And I did plugs when I changed the gasket. Easy to do once everything was apart but not necessary to remove cover to do plugs. Mine looked ok at 67K, but were starting to show some erosion around the insulatior. Also, the resistance of the connector boots (they have a built in resistor) was going up. Specs called for 2K ohms, all were above 2.5K. Again, mileage and time taking its toll.
 
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 Originally Posted By: shortyb
Craig-Alright, alright, TECHNICALLY it is my observation after BMW oil, ARX, GC.
I win, I win! Seriously, though. It sounds like we think alike in many ways. I can't dispute that some people get great results (UOA and observations) with BMW 5W30 and others terrible results (UOA, observations, sludge). I've seen enough personally, not just Internet anecdotes, that I won't be using it. I won't, however, turn down a great used BMW in the future just for using it.
 
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OK my two cents. I have a 'new' 2001 325CI which I believe has an M52 engine (corect me if I'm wrong). 1,100kms into RX clean with Shell Helix Ultra 5W40 Grp III and it's dirtier than M1 0W40 at 8,000 kms that shop drained. Something is happening as engine runs much better. In 4-5,000kms there will be major changes imo. Aso I'll never use an oil that doesn't meet HTHS 3.5 spec.
 
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 Originally Posted By: sprintman
OK my two cents. I have a 'new' 2001 325CI which I believe has an M52 engine
That would be an M54, I think, first introduced with the 330/530 in 2001 model year. If it's still M52 it would be an M52TU. Watch those VANOS seals. Fixed seal kit
 
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shortyb: I did drain the original fluid out of the manual transmission and the differential. Let me tell y'all something, that drain plug on the bottom of the transmission was VERY tight. But after some creative cussing, it did yield to the pressure. To the naked eye, the fluids that came out didn't look that bad. I've seen some that looked 10 times worse. Not sure what coolant they are putting in at the factory. May be a different coolant than comes in the jugs? Might have been a changeover in 2004, don't know. I am pretty sure in 2004 they changed that recommendation to lifetime, which these mechanics say is good "until it needs to come out due to a repair." Service advisor, who as a class are usually not shy about urging customers to pay for maintenance, says don't sweat it. Two services they do push are brake fluid changes and yearly alignments. They believe in those. A local indie mechanic who specializes in Audi/Porsche/BMW does things I don't want to take on. I'm going to get his views as a second opinion on all this. I'm aware of all the angst drivers have about water pumps and coolant reservoir. I used to have an 1989 E30, so I'm not new to BMW, by any means. Now that car required some attention. Kid in the neighborhood who admired the car made me an offer I couldn't refuse. Not like Michael Corleone, just a fair price. Guess he didn't want a Honda Civic like all the others his age. Compared to that, it's taking some getting used to a much more luxurious type ride. Very different car. Time marches onward.
 
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shortyb

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 Originally Posted By: Craig in Canada
 Originally Posted By: sprintman
OK my two cents. I have a 'new' 2001 325CI which I believe has an M52 engine
That would be an M54, I think, first introduced with the 330/530 in 2001 model year. If it's still M52 it would be an M52TU. Watch those VANOS seals. Fixed seal kit
M52TUs had single VANOS and in the E46s, the M52TUB25 was in the 323s while the M52TUB28 was in the 328. All M52 engines destined for the US had iron blocks while the "world" engines received aluminum. Both M54B25 and B30 debuted in MY 2001 and featured Double VANOS. Sprintman's is most likely the M54B25. To my knowledge, no E46 325s came with the M52 engine.
 
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Double VANOS I believe but no VANOS 'rattle' which is good. I'll import a VANOS unit from Dr. VANOS in the U.S if I need to. And this engine will never see XW30. These engines need HTHS 3.5 or higher, any 5W30 meet that?
 
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M52s have single VANOS (I own one) and were in use until 9/98 build dates. M52TUs came to the E39 along with the release of the E46 after 9/98 build date, have double VANOS and have seal degradation issues that the factory will not fix (friends have them). M54s also have double VANOS and the same seal problems. In 2001 the 530 and 330 were rolled out with the M54 engine. At this same time the 323/328/523/528 were dropped in favour of 325/330/525/530 model designations. This is why I feel that the 325 is an M54 E46. The kit I linked to is seals only that get installed into your present VANOS unit. The developer of the kit is an active member of the E39 community that I'm a part of and I know his kits work. I'm not sure if Dr. VANOS uses revised seal material that won't degrade or not.
 

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 Originally Posted By: Craig in Canada
M52s have single VANOS (I own one) and were in use until 9/98 build dates. M52TUs came to the E39 along with the release of the E46 after 9/98 build date, have double VANOS and have seal degradation issues that the factory will not fix (friends have them).
My bad, typing before my brain sends the message . M52s had single VANOS, TUs came along in 98 and brought us Double VANOS. These, along with their seal problems, carried over into the M54s.
 
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I wish BMW would give us lifetime suspension parts instead lifetime fluids!!! The fluids are much easier to change. I highly recommend changing the coolant every 2 years and the water pump at around 60-70k miles. Also at the 100-110k mile range it's time for a radiator, thermostat, hoses and expansion tank along with fresh coolant, belts and idlers. Stewart Warner is supposed to make an uber waterpump that will last over 100k miles so one of those is on my list. My 330ci has had all that and more ( just got done installing Power Flex LCA bushings and am coming up on another exp tank replacement). In the 110k miles she's covered, there's a pile of parts and expended various fluids left in the 'ol girls wake. Unlike most owners who claim they are easy on their BMWs, I am not - I hammer her a lot; it's good therapy for the both of us! The car has never set me to walking and has never gotten hot in all the flogging she's endured in this hot Houston climate. Before I forget, it's 5k oil changes with GC and BMW filters. So what next? A UUC short shifter, spark plug set #3, valve cover gasket and upgraded vanos piston seals. Around 150k I expect a clutch and another round of control arms and Koni FSD's along with any other drive line parts that are getting soft. At 250k I think maybe I'll treat her to a Metric Mechanics engine. It goes without saying that I really like the E46 series BMWs. Cheers all !!
 
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I wish BMW would give us lifetime suspension parts instead lifetime fluids!!! The fluids are much easier to change. I highly recommend changing the coolant every 2 years and the water pump at around 60-70k miles. Also at the 100-110k mile range it's time for a radiator, thermostat, hoses and expansion tank along with fresh coolant, belts and idlers. Stewart Warner is supposed to make an uber waterpump that will last over 100k miles so one of those is on my list. My 330ci has had all that and more ( just got done installing Power Flex LCA bushings and am coming up on another exp tank replacement). In the 110k miles she's covered, there's a pile of parts and expended various fluids left in the 'ol girls wake. Unlike most owners who claim they are easy on their BMWs, I am not - I hammer her a lot; it's good therapy for the both of us! The car has never set me to walking and has never gotten hot in all the flogging she's endured in this hot Houston climate. Before I forget, it's 5k oil changes with GC and BMW filters. So what next? A UUC short shifter, spark plug set #3, valve cover gasket and upgraded vanos piston seals. Around 150k I expect a clutch and another round of control arms and Koni FSD's along with any other drive line parts that are getting soft. At 250k I think maybe I'll treat her to a Metric Mechanics engine. It goes without saying that I really like the E46 series BMWs. Cheers all !!
 
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 Originally Posted By: shortyb
 Originally Posted By: Craig in Canada
 Originally Posted By: sprintman
OK my two cents. I have a 'new' 2001 325CI which I believe has an M52 engine
That would be an M54, I think, first introduced with the 330/530 in 2001 model year. If it's still M52 it would be an M52TU. Watch those VANOS seals. Fixed seal kit
M52TUs had single VANOS and in the E46s, the M52TUB25 was in the 323s while the M52TUB28 was in the 328. All M52 engines destined for the US had iron blocks while the "world" engines received aluminum. Both M54B25 and B30 debuted in MY 2001 and featured Double VANOS. Sprintman's is most likely the M54B25. To my knowledge, no E46 325s came with the M52 engine.
The 2.8 M52's in the Z3 had the aluminum blocks and the dual vanos M52's were aluminum blocks also.
 
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