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X3 E83 (2004 - 2010)
Talk about the E83 BMW X3 in this forum!

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Old 01-18-2015, 05:38 PM
dukedkt442 dukedkt442 is offline
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Mein Auto: 08 E83; '86 442; 84 GMC
Oil Filter Housing & Heat Exchanger Gaskets DIY

Vehicle: 2008 BMW X3
Engine: N52
Mileage: ~97,000

Tools required:
-E-torx sockets (E10, E12)
-10mm socket
-allen socket set
-ratchet, short & long extensions, wobble extension
-E10 & E12 ratcheting wrench
-T-47 (probably T-45) tor-x socket
-oil absorbent pads
-Tor-x driver set
-flat head screw driver
-needle-nose pliers
-2-3 12" lengths of thick wire

helpful tools:
-telescoping mirror
-telescoping magnet (for lost bolts/tools)
-torque wrench (I have several, but lacking torque specs, just torqued until comfortable tightening steel into aluminum.)

Let me start out by saying I am quite pissed; I had planned to make a thorough, step-by-step DIY for the oil filter housing gasket, heat exchanger gasket, and VANOS solenoid o-rings for the X3 with N52, but all my pictures got deleted while transferring to my computer so this will be marginal at best. While searching in the past, I'd found information on the X3 with M54, or E90 with N52, but nothing for X3 N52.

That being said, I will try to make my words create the picture for you. I will take pictures showing what I can again, but obviously will not repeat the entire procedure.


1) Remove the radiator shroud cover by removing the 4 10mm bolts atop the radiator. Mine were heavily oxidized, so replaced them with stainless steel bolts available from the local hardware store. Remove shroud cover.

2) Once removed, you'll find the 4 Tor-X bolts required to remove the intake snorkel from the air filter assembly. The square tube running from the intake snorkel to the air filter housing simply slips into place at each end, so both are removed.

3) Remove the fan. There is an electrical plug at each side. The fan is held in place with a tor-x screw on the passenger side, and a plastic rivet on the driver's side. *This step ensures ample work space. Once removed, examine the expansion tank (use a telescoping mirror to examine the underside) for leaks. *THE COOLING SYSTEM BLEEDER SCREW IS NOW ACCESSIBLE*

4) Open up the cabin air filter housing located at the base of the windshield. There are 3 "push-and-twist-90*-left" buttons to open the lid. Remove cabin filter. You can now access the 4 Tor-X bolts required to remove the filter tray.

5) With tray removed, you now have access to all 4 allen bolts to remove the engine cover. There are 2 visible up front, one aft towards the center-line of the cover, and one down on the passenger side along the edge of the cover. It is NOT necessary to remove the strut tower brace. I removed the cover simply for more space to work with, and to clean beneath it.

6) Wrap the alternator and belts with oil absorbant pads ("diapers"). As I'd forgotten them at my house, I used aluminum foil. I also created an aluminum foil tray sitting on the lower engine tray to catch any fluid.

7) Remove the 2 Tor-x bolts that hold the power steering fluid reservoir in place. I think they are size T-45, but since I had left my Tor-x socket set at home, I used a T-47 at an angle in order to remove these. This step will give you more access for removing the filter housing bolts later on. Pull the reservoir to the side and wire out of the way.

8) Remove the sensor wire from the brown sensor located atop the filter housing by pressing down on the metal wire/clip and pull the plug off the sensor. Locate out of the way.

9) The heat exchanger is the aluminum rectangular box located forward of the oil filter cap. It it held on by 3 E12 E-torx bolts; there are 2 on either side, and one on the bottom side just to center of the lower hose that runs into the heat exchanger. You can use the E12 socket and ratchet. While removing the 3 bolts, try and keep the heat exchanger pressed up against the oil filter housing to minimize fluid spillage. Once the 3 bolts are removed, quickly pull the exchanger towards the front of the car and flip towards you, opening it up. Do not drop the exchanger lower than the top of the radiator, or coolant will be lost. Likewise, if you squeeze the coolant hose, coolant will be lost. Use a piece of wire to hold it up in position, out of the way. You can leave the gasket in place at this time, and use a rag to wipe out any oil from the filter housing.

10) Now it is time to remove the oil filter housing; I've read warnings of getting to the 3rd "hidden" bolt on the back side of it, but I am telling you that you do NOT have to remove the intake on the N52; people claim you have to on the N55, but I doubt that.

The 3 bolts are E10 E-torx. You'll want to also have an E10-E12 ratcheting wrench. Start by removing the top bolt (the longest bolt). You can remove it all the way. Next, loosen the front, lower bolt (shortest bolt) using the ratcheting wrench, but do not loosen too much OR THE WRENCH WILL BACK OUT WITH THE BOLT AND WEDGE AGAINST THE HOSE FLANGE ON THE CYLINDER HEAD AND YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO REMOVE THE WRENCH.

Now, work on the "hidden" bolt. You can use the E-10 socket, a swivel attachment, and long extension to use a ratchet, but I used the ratcheting wrench. Note: you can NOT use the wrench from the front. Instead, slip the wrench down between the runners of the intake with one hand, while with the other hand slip fingers towards the bolt head, past the oil filter cap. Use this hand to put the head of the wrench on the bolt and hold it there. With the hand atop the intake, you can reach your fingers through the runners to operate the wrench up and down. The entire wrench will be beneath the intake, and be operated between the intake manifold and the engine block, so don't drop it! If necessary, bent a piece of strong wire through the E12 side of the wrench and fashion a handle on the top of the wire, and use the wire to pull the wrench UP to loosen the filter housing bolt. I'm 6'-1", 200lbs and would not classify my hands as "small", so you should be able to reach through the intake runners just fine. Remove the bolt.

Now, you can pull the filter housing out, while using the ratcheting wrench on the front, lower bolt. Keep bolt head close to seated on the flange so the wrench does not get stuck. Remove bolt. Pull filter housing up and away, flexing the upper coolant hose.

11) Use a pick to pull out the old gasket. Be careful as the pick is steel and the housing is aluminum. I cleaned both mating surfaces using brake cleaner and scotchbrite, which worked well. Be careful that bits of scotch brite do not break off and fall into the oil/cooling passages.

12) Install new gasket by pressing into place.

13) Reinstall filter housing is the reverse of removal. Be sure to start all bolts by hand to make sure they are not cross threaded. I snug bolts until the wrench/ratchet stops, if I'm operating the tool with my hand on the wrench/ratchet on top of the bolt, not the end of the handle. Do all 3 to this point to ensure equal compression of the gasket. Then, tighten another ~1/8-1/4 turn.

14) Remove/replace the heat exchanger gasket and clean mating surfaces the same as listed above.

15) Installation of the heat exchanger is the reverse of its removal.

16) Plug in sensor wire removed in step #7, and reinstall the power steering fluid reservoir.


17) Locate the 2 VANOS solenoids located beneath the center line of the valve cover. Unplug both wires, following the same "press and pull" method used on numerous other BMW electrical plugs.

18) Remove the 10mm retaining bolt for the UPPER solenoid first. DO ONE AT A TIME TO ENSURE BOLTS DO NOT DROP INSIDE THE HEAD OR YOUR LIFE WILL SUCK. Twist and pull solenoid out. Use a pick to remove the gray o-ring as it is probably still seated in the head.

19) Clean or replace the solenoid; I cleaned mine with carburetor cleaner, but will probably replace them anyway because 100k miles. Slide the black plastic sleeve away from the head of the solenoid and replace with new.

20) Coat new grey o-ring with new oil, and seat in place in the head. Install solenoid (twist as you press into the head) until fully seated. Reinstall bolt.

21) Repeat steps 18-20 for the lower solenoid.

22) Reinstall engine cover, cabin filter tray, and then filter. Remove diapers/aluminum foils being careful not to lose fluid.

23) Check coolant level on tank dipstick. Note: a loss of only a few table spoons will not be noticeable.

24) Start engine. Use a flashlight to check for leaks/dash lights. Pull car to the location in which you perform oil changes and engine cleanings and shut of engine. Spray front of engine/inner side of block beneath intake manifold and use old toothbrush to clean oil off engine and belts. Spray with hose.

25) Start engine. Let run for a few minutes to warm oil. Shut off.

26) *Oil Change. Probably not necessary, but I waited to do this job until I was due for one 1) just in case, and 2) remove any scotchbrite bits/coolant that may have fallen into oil passages of heat exchanger/filter housing.

27) Reinstall fan. Remember to plug in both electrical connectors. Leave snorkel off until the end.

28) Start engine. While bringing up to operating temperature, turn cabin temp. up to max (91*). After running a few minutes, loosen bleeder screw on upper coolant tank house until clean fluid (no bubbles) spits out.

*NOTE: I did not follow the electric water-pump bleeding procedure that is mentioned in pretty much every thread concerning the cooling system. Work here was performed a top of the cooling system (where any air would be), the system was not drained, and only a tiny amount of coolant was lost. Personally, I also think that guys get entirely too OCD about bleeding the cooling system anyway.

29) Tighten bleeder screw. (you can repeat bleeding for peace of mind if desired) Let engine come up to operating temperature to ensure success.

30) Reinstall air snorkel.

31) Have a beer!

Again, apologies for lack of pictures (I had at least 1 for every step).

Last edited by dukedkt442; 01-18-2015 at 08:08 PM.
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Old 01-19-2015, 06:32 AM
rav31 rav31 is offline
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Mein Auto: 2001 540i/6 Tisilver/gray
Very good write up duke! Thanks for sharing. For others that want additional info on this, here's a video of the (2) OFH gaskets on a N52 X3: Maybe you could tell how your's was compared it.


BMW CCA #132981 Tarheel Chapter,
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Old 01-19-2015, 07:09 AM
dukedkt442 dukedkt442 is offline
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Location: Upstate, NY
Join Date: Feb 2013
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Mein Auto: 08 E83; '86 442; 84 GMC
Mine was pretty much exactly how it was in the video.

Thanks for looking; I'm hoping between the 2, guys will tackle the job themselves and NOT do more work than is required. My BMW dealer wanted $700 to do the work, which I can't understand even with $125/hr labor, unless they priced the labor for both items separately. Most importantly, no need to pull the intake or drain the coolant, or even remove the oil filter.
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Old 01-19-2015, 07:51 AM
jlex jlex is offline
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If there was something wrong with your memory card that deleted the pix on your camera, you may want to hunt around for a program that will restore the pix. Had something similar happen to mine a few months ago. Use google to find a good reliable program to help you. They're not very expensive & may be free to try on a trial basis.
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Old 01-19-2015, 09:01 AM
dukedkt442 dukedkt442 is offline
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Location: Upstate, NY
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 243
Mein Auto: 08 E83; '86 442; 84 GMC
Originally Posted by jlex View Post
If there was something wrong with your memory card that deleted the pix on your camera, you may want to hunt around for a program that will restore the pix. Had something similar happen to mine a few months ago. Use google to find a good reliable program to help you. They're not very expensive & may be free to try on a trial basis.
Nah, this was operator error. Tried to erase a separate, individual folder off the memory card, ended up deleting everything. Note to self: transfer files first, then delete.
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Old Today, 06:06 PM
dukedkt442 dukedkt442 is offline
Officially Welcomed to the 'Fest
Location: Upstate, NY
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 243
Mein Auto: 08 E83; '86 442; 84 GMC
Update: the heat exchanger gasket I bought was a URO, and when I replaced it, it didn't feel much more pliable than the failed gasket that I was replacing, which had me raising an eyebrow. Sure enough, it started leaking again within a month. However, the fine folks at ECS credited me the cost of the gasket, and I ordered and installed a BMW gasket. The BMW gasket was far softer and more pliable than the URO, so I'm knocking on every piece of wood I can find that I don't have to do this again.
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