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E39 (1997 - 2003)
The BMW 5-Series (E39 chassis) was introduced in the United States as a 1997 model year car and lasted until the 2004 when the E60 chassis was released. The United States saw several variations including the 525i, 528i, 530i and 540i. -- View the E39 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 01-07-2010, 07:22 PM
Neversaynever Neversaynever is offline
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Oil Pan bolt near disaster

I am reluctant to post this as it shows yet again exactly what not to do during routine E39 maintenance.... but here goes.
I just did an oil change on the 525. When reinstalling the oil drain bolt, I over-torqued and sheared the bolt leaving the bolt shaft threaded into the pan. I then noticed that the bolt shaft stuck in the oil pan had the hollow shaft exposed. I found a compatible "screw extractor" (~1/4 diameter) in my drawer of rarely used tools, screwed it (counterclockwise) into the remaining bolt embedded in the pan. The bolt shaft backed out easily. The stealership had one one hand and I was back in business.
Lessons learned:
1. 18 ft lbs is for real. Do not over tighten your oil plan plug.
2. BMW may have had other reasons for the hollow core oil plan bolt (like expansion) but I choose to think they did that to save idiots like me from a ruined weekend and having to explain to my spouse and Fud.
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  #2  
Old 01-07-2010, 08:22 PM
tGunter tGunter is offline
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Lesson learned: Get a freakin' torque wrench.
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  #3  
Old 01-07-2010, 08:43 PM
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540 M-Sport 540 M-Sport is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tGunter View Post
Lesson learned: Get a freakin' torque wrench.
Or simply "calibrate" your wrist. Seriously, while I own a torque wrench, I have never used one for a drain bolt. Simply tighten until you feel the copper washer begin to yield, or crush, then stop. All good.

The other thing I do, is keep a spare oil drain bolt for each of my cars. They are cheap, and I have rounded them from slipping a socket wrench before. Get them online when you order a few oil filters...they are typically less than $2. I got in the habit after having an oil change performed at the dealer in Vancouver, BC. When I changed it next go around, they had tightened the bolt so much, that it was very hard to remove, and they had actually stretched the threads on the bolt so it was very hard to reinstall...it felt like it was cross threading when I installed it, from all the resistance. I used it since I did not have a spare, but replaced it next go around, and the new one threaded perfectly again.
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  #4  
Old 01-07-2010, 09:19 PM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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1+, Yeah calibrate your wrist haha!

Torque wrench? I am a big fan of torque wrench but let me tell you this: when you change oil at home with the front of the car on ramps (I made my own wood ramps), there is simply not enough room for the torque wrench.

I am going to tell you my secret (I actually measure this with a torque wrench and confirmed to be true): It is my trick of 5:30 o'clock to 7 o'clock deal.
When tightening the oil drain bolt:
- As soon as the 17-mm wrench stops moving (the bolts now buts against the oil sump)
- Now imagine you are looking directly at the bolt end on, re-position the wrench at 5:30 o'clock and tighten to 7 o'clock. This will create the proper torque without the need to use the torque wrench!

This works great for me the last 20 years through hundreds of oil changes in many many cars.
Never stripped a drain bolt ever.
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  #5  
Old 01-08-2010, 06:54 AM
540nj 540nj is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Neversaynever View Post
I am reluctant to post this as it shows yet again exactly what not to do during routine E39 maintenance.... but here goes.
I just did an oil change on the 525. When reinstalling the oil drain bolt, I over-torqued and sheared the bolt leaving the bolt shaft threaded into the pan. I then noticed that the bolt shaft stuck in the oil pan had the hollow shaft exposed. I found a compatible "screw extractor" (~1/4 diameter) in my drawer of rarely used tools, screwed it (counterclockwise) into the remaining bolt embedded in the pan. The bolt shaft backed out easily. The stealership had one one hand and I was back in business.
Lessons learned:
1. 18 ft lbs is for real. Do not over tighten your oil plan plug.
2. BMW may have had other reasons for the hollow core oil plan bolt (like expansion) but I choose to think they did that to save idiots like me from a ruined weekend and having to explain to my spouse and Fud.
I know it's a religious argument, but a good reason/justification to use top side extraction method. And tighten the oil filter by hand, leave the wrench in the tool box!

dave
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  #6  
Old 01-08-2010, 07:16 AM
KeithS KeithS is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Neversaynever View Post
I am reluctant to post this as it shows yet again exactly what not to do during routine E39 maintenance.... but here goes.
I just did an oil change on the 525. When reinstalling the oil drain bolt, I over-torqued and sheared the bolt leaving the bolt shaft threaded into the pan. I then noticed that the bolt shaft stuck in the oil pan had the hollow shaft exposed. I found a compatible "screw extractor" (~1/4 diameter) in my drawer of rarely used tools, screwed it (counterclockwise) into the remaining bolt embedded in the pan. The bolt shaft backed out easily. The stealership had one one hand and I was back in business.
Lessons learned:
1. 18 ft lbs is for real. Do not over tighten your oil plan plug.
2. BMW may have had other reasons for the hollow core oil plan bolt (like expansion) but I choose to think they did that to save idiots like me from a ruined weekend and having to explain to my spouse and Fud.
You are correct. The drain bolt is designed to shear off before destroying an expensive oil pan. Get a torque wrench!! It's the same setting for the oil filter cover.

One word of caution. Most aftermarket drain bolts that you will get at a place like Autozone or Pep Boys will be solid, NOT hollow. These can be tightened enough to damage the oil pan threads!
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  #7  
Old 01-08-2010, 08:09 AM
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Al's540i Al's540i is offline
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+1 on not using a torque wrench.

All you need to do is insert the drain bolt and tighten it BY HAND until you can tighten it no longer BY HAND i.e. bolt head is flush with pan. There should be no resistance when you are tightening by hand, if there is either your bolt is bad or your pan threads are jacked up. THEN, use your ratchet and tighten a quarter or a turn and nothing more.
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  #8  
Old 01-08-2010, 08:28 AM
Neversaynever Neversaynever is offline
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Okay boys. Thanks. I have two torque wrenches and just chose not to use either on this completely routine job that I have done a thousand times before. I will always use the torque wrench going forward. I do think the oil pan bolt was weakened by some prior over tightening, maybe even by me. What I have done in the past and this time (but not again), was to hold the 1/2" rachet very close to the head and tighten from there. I always felt that would not allow overtightening. But not anymore.
540 M-sport has the good and logical idea of having a spare plug in hand. I can't tell you how many times I wished for that. Maybe we should have a list of "spares" to have on hand for the E39. Probably are not too many things.
And Dave, do I not need the 32mm socket for the oil filter housing cover?? Can I really tighten this by hand only and it will not leak? That'd be very cool.
And I am not sure about the oil vacuum/syphon technique. Seems to be it is less thorough. Maybe I'm just hopelessly old school.
CL
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  #9  
Old 01-08-2010, 10:49 AM
540nj 540nj is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Neversaynever View Post
[...]
And Dave, do I not need the 32mm socket for the oil filter housing cover?? Can I really tighten this by hand only and it will not leak? That'd be very cool.
And I am not sure about the oil vacuum/syphon technique. Seems to be it is less thorough. Maybe I'm just hopelessly old school.
CL
I have owned e39s for 10 years now, and never used a wrench for the oil filter cover. No leaks for me. Now, everybody comes to me in my house to open jars, so I probably have a tight grip! When my cars were under warranty, the dealers did the oil change, but I did the in-between changes (2x factory recommended interval) and was still able to undo the oil filter cover by hand. So the dealers do not over-tighten. No guarantee if you use jiffy lube though.

As far as using topsider extraction, I use it on all my cars, makes the job very easy, especially in winter. People have tested the method by opening up the drain plug after extracting, and no additional oil came out. bluebee has an entire thread on this method and others' experiences. But I'm not trying to convert anyone, just saying what works for me.

dave
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  #10  
Old 01-08-2010, 12:21 PM
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540 M-Sport 540 M-Sport is offline
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I use a rubber strap wrench on the oil filter housing cover. But (on the 540) keep on hand one the housing itself, as too much stress can break the rubber mounts for the housing.
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Last edited by 540 M-Sport; 01-08-2010 at 01:03 PM.
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  #11  
Old 01-08-2010, 02:36 PM
BlueSkies10 BlueSkies10 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cn90 View Post
1+, Yeah calibrate your wrist haha!

Torque wrench? I am a big fan of torque wrench but let me tell you this: when you change oil at home with the front of the car on ramps (I made my own wood ramps), there is simply not enough room for the torque wrench.

I am going to tell you my secret (I actually measure this with a torque wrench and confirmed to be true): It is my trick of 5:30 o'clock to 7 o'clock deal.
When tightening the oil drain bolt:
- As soon as the 17-mm wrench stops moving (the bolts now buts against the oil sump)
- Now imagine you are looking directly at the bolt end on, re-position the wrench at 5:30 o'clock and tighten to 7 o'clock. This will create the proper torque without the need to use the torque wrench!

This works great for me the last 20 years through hundreds of oil changes in many many cars.
Never stripped a drain bolt ever.
Yep, it really doesn't take much to tighten these. It's not like your wrenching the bolts connecting the strut to the steering knuckle, lower control arm or anything. Just take it easy, no need to over tighten anything, especially that plug which is only holding oil in and not holding a ball joint in place or anything.

Last edited by BlueSkies10; 01-08-2010 at 02:52 PM.
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  #12  
Old 01-08-2010, 02:50 PM
300B 300B is offline
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Buy an oil extracror.
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  #13  
Old 06-07-2010, 11:45 AM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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By way of xref, my oil pan bolt sheared when I used a torque wrench!

What I used was a #4 extractor (1/4 inch) which fit perfectly in the hollow core hole of the bolt threads which remained in the oil pan.

After the panic subsided, it was pretty easy to extract the old bolt but price tag at StevensCreek BMW in San Jose at an overblown $10 + 10% tax started my heart beating fast again, not because of the overall price per se, but because of the 300% markup over BMW bolts available on the net.

GRAVITY METHOD:
Lesson learned: Stock up on an extra bolt BEFORE attempting the next oil change (screw plug PN: 11131273093)! See reference thread here ...

EXTRACTION METHOD:
Lesson learned: Don't use the Motive to extract oil! See reference thread here ...

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  #14  
Old 06-07-2010, 12:19 PM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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bluebee,

Regarding your broken drain plug. I was at the BMW dealer the other day, they laugh and say this happens all the time when the bolt is torqued too much.

All you need is a flat screwdriver to fit inside the hollow broken part of the bolt and twist it out! Something good to know for future reference.
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  #15  
Old 06-07-2010, 04:24 PM
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BigCo540i BigCo540i is offline
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Or vac it out and stay off the ground.
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  #16  
Old 10-07-2010, 10:24 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cn90 View Post
Regarding your broken drain plug. I was at the BMW dealer the other day, they laugh and say this happens all the time when the bolt is torqued too much.
It does seem to happen a lot!

For cross reference, from the VERY best of E39 Links:
- How to fix broken or stripped oil drain pan plug bolt threads (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12) (13) (14) (15) (16) (17)


Last edited by bluebee; 10-07-2010 at 10:25 PM.
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  #17  
Old 10-08-2010, 05:19 AM
wolfen wolfen is offline
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Oil extractor. Done deal. Never worry about that again.
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