Oil Change

I would like to share my experience of changing the oil in my 2006 BMW 325i (e90) with sport package. My car has only 2300 miles on it, but I thought I should do a post break-in period oil change. (More on this later.) It took a bit longer than expected (~1 hr) because I didn’t know where everything was, especially the drain bolt. The job itself was simple – something I would do in about 15 minutes next time.

Equipment and Tools:
Rhino Ramp
17mm Socket Wrench
Strap Wrench

Supplies:
BMW Oil Filter ~$15
BMW Synthetic 5W30 Oil, 7 Quarts (6.5 L), ~$5/Quart

Lifting the car:
One of the most difficult parts of my oil change was raising the car. I have a hydraulic jack, but I had two problems. 1) The jack couldn’t slide underneath the lift point, even though I would hardly classify my jack as being high. The clearance under the front of the car was minimal with the sport package. I could slip the jack underneath the rear of the car, but I needed to raise the front. 2) Even if I were to raise the front of the car with my hydraulic jack, there weren’t any lift points where I could place my jack stands.

Frustrated, I went to buy some Rhino ramps. Unfortunately, the Rhino ramps had their own problems. While fellow forum member HRC didn’t have a problem (HRC, do you have a non-sport package e90?), I had a problem with the ramps slipping on my concrete garage floor. The culprit turned out to be the low hanging rubber flaps just ahead of the front wheels as shown below:

While the flaps are flexible, they scrape the ramps enough to push them forward. This was quite frustrating. I finally solved the problem by putting the ramps on top of rubber floor mats I had lying around. They provided enough friction to prevent the ramps from slipping.

Removing the oil cap and filter:
Removing the oil cap was simple. Just turn the square cap clockwise and you’re done.

Removing the oil filter was simple, too. I couldn’t turn the oil filter cap by hand, so I used a strap wrench. The exposed filter element is shown below:

Removing the drain bolt:
This took much longer than anticipated, simply because I didn’t know where it was located. The first thing you notice looking underneath the car is that plastic shields cover nearly the entire underside. Conspicuously, there is a large exposed bolt right where you think the middle of the engine is.

I don’t know what this bolt is for, but IT IS NOT THE DRAIN BOLT. Fortunately, I didn’t loosen it because of heads up by fellow forum member HRC. BMW, in its infinite wisdom, made this bolt 17mm in size, same as the drain bolt. So if you’re looking for something that fits a 17mm socket in search of a drain bolt, this is it. However, don’t remove it.

Even after some search, I still couldn’t locate the drain plug. I was in the process of removing the bolts securing the plastic shield underneath the engine (while cursing BMW and their poor design), when I came across this trap door just behind the bolt.

When I opened it – Eureka! – I found the drain bolt!

From here on, it was easy. Loosen the bolt and drain the oil into a pan. About 7 quarts (6.5 L) will drain out.

Replacing the Filter:
Let the oil drain for a few minutes. Meanwhile, you can replace the oil filter. The old oil filter next to the new filter is shown below.

Inside the filter box, there should be two rubber O-rings (small and large) and one copper crush washer.

Remove the two O-rings and the filter from the filter housing, and insert the new ones. It’s a little tricky removing the O-rings, but don’t use a screwdriver since it can damage the housing. The new assembled filter housing should look like this:

Putting it back together:
Screw the oil filter cap back on. Be sure the rubber O-rings, especially the large one, are in their correct grooves. I accidentally placed the large one inside a wrong groove once, and oil started gushing out of the housing.

Go underneath the car again, and screw the drain bolt back in. Make sure you pry off the old crush washer, and use the new copper crush washer. Secure the trap door.

Finally, put ~6.9 quarts of BMW Synthetic 5W30 oil in.

Once finished, secure the oil cap.

Start the engine and check for any leaks. Drive off the ramp and drive for a few miles because the on-board computer needs a few minutes to get an accurate reading of the oil level. Check the oil level through the on-board computer, and top off as needed.

You’re done! Simple!

Postscript:
Again, it should only take ~15 minutes to change the oil once you get the car on the ramps. It is a very simple procedure.

Now, the question of whether it was necessary to do a post break-in oil change: I’m going to be somewhat diplomatic. Quite frankly, the used oil appeared to be pretty clean (I did not see any metal shavings nor notice significant change in its viscosity). In my professional judgment (Ph. D. in engineering), I would say that my oil change at 2300 miles was overkill. The evidence isn’t convincing enough to support the need for one. However, in my personal judgment (a person who is obsessive about his new car and wants it to last forever – and quite frankly, who isn’t on this board?), it was worth the reassurance that there won’t be a nagging question in the back of my mind always wondering whether I should’ve changed the oil after the initial break-in period. Would I again change the oil after my break-in period, given what I now know about the state of the oil after 2300 miles? Absolutely! You can’t always be rational about a car – otherwise we would all be driving Toyotas.

Edit: For some reason, my account where I hosted the images disappeared. I the meantime, I attached as many relevant pictures as possible. If anyone can help me out finding an appropriate host for the original images, please let me know. Thank you.

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