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bluebee 05-26-2010 07:36 PM

How not to change your oil in your E39 (stripped drain plug)
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I really screwed up my oil change today (car fell off ramps, filter broke at a seam, torqued down the filter cap too tightly, and broke the oil drain plug when I tried to torque it in).

This is my worst oil change in my life!

Obviously my almost-new torque wrench is not working right because I had it set for 18 ft lbs on the 36mm filter cap and 21 ft pounds on the 17mm drain plug and both were put on too tightly - such that the 17 mm oil drain plug broke in half.

Need to find where the missing half is; and I need to find a quick replacement oil drain plug (pictures later as the stores might close soon).

bluebee 05-26-2010 07:43 PM

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Originally Posted by bluebee (Post 5214258)
Do you think it is a 14mm drain plug? What are the threads?

Found the oil pan plug size in RealOEM under "engine cover" (pics later). Looks like it's an M12x1.5 (P/N: s11131273093); but it doesn't say how long it is... May need to head over to Kragen or AutoZone before they close ... to see if they have it in stock.

I should have known it was going to be the worst oil change in my life when I drove up and then right over the ramps, hanging on the other side, unable to move forward or backward! :(

plninc 05-26-2010 07:54 PM

One word...Mityvac...

bluebee 05-26-2010 07:59 PM


Originally Posted by plninc (Post 5214308)
One word...Mityvac...

Maybe now's not the time to mention I made a lot of mistakes in my first oil change with a vacuum extractor!

Only this gravity-feed oil change disabled the car so it's (currently) even more of a fiasco than my Motive vaccum extractor oil change was.

The first oil change merely had a bad pump, a collapsed Motive vacuum tank, and a broken shut-off valve.

cn90 05-26-2010 08:01 PM


You may have inherited the problem from the previous owner.

Most drain plugs are 20 mm long.

The exact spec is M12 x 1.5 x 18 mm
M12 = diameter of bolt is 12 mm
1.5 = the distance between 2 adjacent threads is 1.5 mm
18 mm is the length of the threaded portion (not incl. the head).

Anyway, I use:
1. Woodramps (3 layers)
2. The Oil Filter Cap: tighten until it stops and tug with 2 fingers and that is it. Personally I think 25 Nm is too much for this plastic cap.

When I have time I will write a DIY with the Title: "changing oil made ridiculously simple!".

PS: BTW, buy 2 drain plugs from dealer (keep one in the glove box as spare!).

pangolin 05-26-2010 08:01 PM

Do you have a click type torque wrench?
I helped a friend of mine take off his wheels, I thought his lug nuts nuts were on incredibly tight. But as I watched him use his torque wrench I understood what was going on. He would torque past the click, at least an additional 45 degrees. You need to stop when it clicks, otherwise the beam/needle type are much better in this situation.

pangolin 05-26-2010 08:09 PM

chiefwej 05-26-2010 09:02 PM

I don't remove the drain plug, I use a MityVac to extract it from the engine.
The plastic filter cap need to be only hand tight.

So the only tool I need for an oil change is the MityVac, no wrenches, jacks, jack stands, or ramps required, and I can do it in about 20 min without even getting my hands dirty.

GSXRYDER 05-26-2010 10:14 PM

LOL...first oil change? Those are rookie mistakes? Oh well gl, we've all done dumbsh&t before.

bluebee 05-26-2010 11:23 PM

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Originally Posted by cn90 (Post 5214328)
The exact spec is M12 x 1.5 x 18 mm

Thanks for your help (this has NEVER happened to me before!).

18mm is about 0.71" which is 11/16ths or roughly 3/4" long. There's about 1/4" left on the bolt head, so, I'm worried where that 1/2 inch of threaded metal is right now.

Luckily I was trying to write up an oil-drain DIY to be a companion of the oil extractor DIY so I just looked at the 150 pictures I took for the oil-change DIY.

I think the missing 1/2 inch is still there, only it seems like it's pushed inward when I tried to extract it. It must have collapsed so that it's no longer threaded in.

How should I get this thing out? Or should I just leave it there?

pangolin 05-26-2010 11:39 PM

Go to Harbor Freight and get an extractor set, or the left handed drill bits. The extractor size you want should be slightly larger that the hollow portion of the remaining bolt.
Do not twist that thing clockwise. I like the left handed drill method, but it has the adverse effect of metal shavings. That will be bad for the oil pump, I believe it is before the filter. Flushing the oil sump with solvent is that horrible to do, though.

GSXRYDER 05-26-2010 11:44 PM

Id think a magic finger...I think that bolt is aluminum so a magnet won't help - to find the 'threaded piece' that is missing. But you may end up dropping the oil pan. It would be damned near impossible to take back out. So you may want to cut your losses, remove the oil pan and get it out of there...No way to leave in in there and risk the damage it could create for you.


bluebee 05-27-2010 12:19 AM

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Originally Posted by GSXRYDER (Post 5214723)
I think that bolt is aluminum so a magnet won't help

This neodymium magnet from an external disk drive shows the bolt to be magnetic.

The oil pan itself seems to be aluminum, but this extremely powerful magnet will still stick to the underside (probably due to metal inside).

spydrz 05-27-2010 04:12 AM

Yikes! Sorry to see this happen to any E39er...but I second/third the Mityvac. Used it for years now, on several cars. I know that doesn't solve your current issue though.

Fudman 05-27-2010 04:37 AM

This really sux. Two ways to fix this.

1. Remove the sump pan (PB Blaster the 21 bolts first) and then remove the remaining bolt segment from the sump pan with a screw extractor. A bit of work but this is not really that hard. You'll need a new gasket for the sump, maybe some new sump pan bolts and you may need a new torque wrench. Something is definitely wrong if you sheared the bolt.

2. You can try to remove the bolt segment with a screw extractor while leaving the sump pan installed. It depends how tight the bolt segment is stuck in the sump. Since the drill bit turns clockwise and the bolt goes into the sump clockwise, you may wind up pushing the bolt segment into the sump. If you do this, then try #1. If you cannot drill the proper hole, you may be able to use the existing hole in the bolt segment. Looking at the drain bolt, the tip is coned. That should mean that the portion remaining in the sump has the opposite inverse cone. A screw extractor might fit this hole but it does not look deep enough.

I know the feeling. I spent 5 hours trying to remove the front struts on my Explorer two weekends ago. I broke a 1/2" drive socket and an extension trying to loosen the control arm strut bolt. I finally gave up and spent 3 hours reassembling everything, 1/8 a turn at a time. :mad: It's always something... Good luck and please post on your final solution.

wyowolf 05-27-2010 04:38 AM

Dropping the oil pan is really pretty easy , just grab a new gasket, drop it, then you can easily get the bolt out...

spydrz 05-27-2010 04:56 AM

IIRC the oil pan drop requires removal of the subframe in the I6's.

wyowolf 05-27-2010 04:57 AM

Opps my mistake... was thinking this was a 540i... its still early :)

Fudman 05-27-2010 06:07 AM

Damn, it's always something.

Waveho 05-27-2010 06:24 AM

I like to use ramps over jackstands when possible because of the convenience. But man, those are some really cheapass ramps! I wouldn't get under my car with those. It's virtually impossible to over-drive quality ramps, which are designed to drag with the wheels when at the pinnacle (at least for RWD cars....). Also, go and get a flexible magnet or something narrower to stick up the hole to fish around from the inside.

AnotherGeezer 05-27-2010 06:24 AM

Ouch. Just plain ouch.

doru 05-27-2010 06:52 AM

It looked as if the remaining part is still there. A bolt extractor "should" do the trick.

Also, make sure you buy the OEM replacement - just like the one you broke. The hole in the shaft is made so you can still drain the oil if it breaks, but also to "easily extract the remainder". The bolt itself is made to shear if too much torque is applied to the bolt, and thus to save the thread of the oil pan, which it was mentioned earlier is a pain to remove on the i6.

Fudman 05-27-2010 06:57 AM

Not sure what your situation is but if you really need your wheels, here is a Plan B to get your car running again. Your picture of the drain plug hole seems to show a lot of threads. If those threads are not damaged, get a new drain plug bolt and wrap the tip with teflon tape. Insert the new bolt into the drain until it butts up against the other bolt end. That should hopefully keep oil from leaking out. That will allow you to drive around temporarily to get parts and stuff until you can figure out the best way to remove the other bolt.

bluebee 05-27-2010 07:04 AM

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Originally Posted by spydrz (Post 5214909)
IIRC the oil pan drop requires removal of the subframe in the I6's.

I don't know what a "subframe" is, but, there seems to be a bar that goes right across where the oil pan lies, so, that's probably the subframe.

- Today I'll try to get the left-over 1/2" bolt segment out; I have two ideas:

1. If it's not actually threaded in, I'll bend a wire in a hook and try to pull it out (I think the threads might have collapsed).

2. If it's still threaded, then I'll pick up backward-threaded screw extractors (I realized belatedly that what I thought was a screw extractor yesterday was really a tap so I was turning it clockwise when I should have been turning counterclockwise).

3. Any other ideas to remove the 1/2" bolt segment?

PS: How dangerous would that bolt segment be in my oil pan?
Can I just leave it there in the back of the oil pan drain hole?

Johnny Canada 05-27-2010 07:09 AM

I recall reading that BMW's drain plugs should only be used once (the hollow plug design makes them susceptible to Bluebee has discovered). Also, BMW's torque rating for their drain plugs are too aggressive: I guess those torque rating are for dry assembly. If using a torque wrench, reduce the torque rating by 20% to compensate for the oily lubricated threads.

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