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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 01-19-2011, 01:52 AM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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The three "oil" camps (no, this is not another "what oil should I use" thread)

EDIT: Added Fudman's fourth type!
EDIT: Renamed the 2nd type (quite a few times as it's the hardest to pin down)
EDIT: Renamed the KISS camp as per Franka's suggestion
EDIT: Updated the identify-your-dogma approach as per pangolin.
EDIT: Updated the three 'faiths' as per franka's suggestion.
  • BMW approved oils only
  • BMW approved oils and similar oils only
  • BMW approved oils and similar oils and quality oils only
START POINT:
I was trying to give advice after a recent "Can only the BMW dealer change my motor oil" thread ... where I told the guy to simply use good sense to have "good motor oil" used in his E39.

Then ... suddenly ... I belatedly realized there are fundamentally different religious dogmas when it comes to choosing "good motor oil" for your E39.
  1. The "Use only what BMW marketing recommends" dogma (KISB ... keep it simple, BMW)
  2. The "Keep to the SPIRIT of what BMW intended" know-your-specs dogma (i.e., the devil is in the details, bob is the oil guy type)
  3. The "My engine is no different than any other engine" dogma (KISS ... keep it super simple and use what works for everyone else)
  4. The "Undecided or unsure" camp
So, before we can suggest to someone which oil to use (and hope for them to believe us), we might want to do two things first:
  • Identify, beforehand, what dogma we subscribe to, and, perhaps even
  • Ask them what dogma they most seem to innately identify with
Once we know dogma predilections, suggesting which oil to use is less contentious (and devoid of needless conflicting arguments as there is room for all the dogmas ... and it's the recipient's prerogative to choose which dogma they prefer).

If you're knowledgeable about motor oil, then (the hypothesis goes), you're already in one of these religious doctrines listed above.
  • Do you think this hypothesis is going in the right direction?
  • Do you think the camps outlined are reasonably correct?
  • Do you personally (at least loosely) fit into one of these three camps?
NOTE: This is not another "what oil should I use" thread nor how frequently to change oil. This is a discussion of the categories knowledgeable people seem to make their decisions by.

Last edited by bluebee; 03-18-2011 at 07:26 AM.
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  #2  
Old 01-19-2011, 02:20 AM
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Thinking about it philosophically why there are so many "what oil" threads & how to answer the (inevitable) question of "what oil should I use", here is my initial fleshing out of the fundamental religious oil doctrines.
EDIT: I added Fudman's FOURTH type (i.e., "undecided and/or confused").
EDIT: Removed all negative-sounding caste distinctions as per dms540i recommendations.
EDIT: Added pangolin's concept of risk tolerance to each of the four descriptions (needs further discussion though).
EDIT: Added pangolin's depiction of risk tolerance for the undecided group as being similar to group 2 but more lazy.

1. The "Only what BMW marketing approves" doctrine:
These people argue for only the exact brands (e.g., BMW approved oils) and exact viscosities (e.g., Mobil1 SAE 0w40 but not Mobil1 SAE 10W40), and exact specifications (e.g., LL01/ACEA A3/B3 but not LL04) that BMW literally lists on a sheet of paper somewhere (specifically for the E39). The whole decision tree is cut and dried. You're either using one of the listed oils or you're not. It's that simple.
  • RISK: They don't feel the risk of using any oil outside that list is worth the effort to stray outside the list, even down to the exact viscosity ratings.
2. The "Use what BMW intended, not limited to only what BMW says" datasheet doctrine:
These people select by understanding what BMW intended in its specifications; this often takes a myriad of datasheet details. Often, this dogma gets down to the very detailed technospecs of the oil, (e.g., they might notice that Castrol Syntec European Formula 0w-30 also acts almost like a 40 weight when hot, and probably just misses the spec to be a 0w-40). This group generally thinks the BMW-approved list is just fine; but that small list is missing out on some fine oils; yet they feel that simply using loose SAE/API ratings is missing the mark by a lot.
  • RISK: They mitigate (or eliminate) risk with intelligent selection relying on datasheet specifications which meet (or exceed) BMW specifications.
3. The "My E39 engine is no different than any other engine" doctrine:
The people generally have no problem with an oil in either of the first two categories above, however, since those oils are generally hard to find (or hard to decipher), this group selects their oil based on commonly accepted quality & performance metrics that are printed on every can in the United States... namely API quality ratings & SAE viscosity ratings. If ACEA and LL01 (or LL04) ratings were printed on the can, they'd use that information also; but all too often those ratings (which BMW uses) are hard to find in the USA; and this camp doesn't bother searching far and wide for hard-to-find oils. This camp has nothing against the BMW-only crowd, nor the Bob-is-the-oil-guy crowd either; but this camp keeps it simple and buys what everyone else on the planet buys for similar engines. Statistically, this crowd is most likely to use commonly available synthetic API SM oils such as Mobil1 of any desired viscosity such as SAE 10w40 or SAE 10w30, not just SAE 0w40.
  • RISK: They fundamentally feel there is no risk in the first place; so they simply use what everyone else uses for aluminum engines with non-ferrous cylinder liners (i.e., API SM & any common viscosity range).
4. The "What oil should I put in my BMW" doctrine:
These people are undecided and/or unsure about what oil to put in their BMW. Most likely they've seen the BMW-approved list of oils somewhere, that innately tells them the BMW is "different" ... but they're not sure if that's marketing hype or if the BMW engine really is very different from all other engines. So, they're just not quite sure. They may have seen the "Use Castrol" admonishment on the oil-filler cap; and they may have heard to only use "synthetic" or only-BMW-approved oils; so, they ask because they're quite unsure what to do. These, for the most part, are the people asking "what oil should I put in my BMW" or "is oil A better than oil B for my BMW".
  • RISK: Same risk tolerance as group 2, those who try to meet or exceed BMW specs (only they aren't as industrious as the group 2s when it comes to research).
Part of the hypothesis is that the reason for the plethora of "what oil" discussions is partly due to the fact that all three camps are actually right (in their own way) since there is a lot of overlap.

However, much, if not all of the "what oil" discussion is where the three overlapping camps DO NOT OVERLAP!

OVERLAP:
  • Those in the third camp, the KISS crowd would likely have no problem putting a BMW-approved oil in their BMW (from the first camp), and not much of a problem putting any "equivalent" oil not specified on the BMW list in their E39 (from the second camp). They'd also have no problem with Mobil1 10W40 which is likely not on the first two lists. Basically, they buy what is easily accessible to them, and which meets minimum USA SAE viscosity & API quality specifications at the top level.
  • Likewise, those in the second camp, who use what BMW intended, would almost certainly have no problem with the first camp's BMW-approved oils but probably wouldn't put an oil in that didn't come close to BMW specifications, that the third camp might use.
  • The first camp, use only what BMW specifies, is probably the most dogmatic, yet best placed in the "argument hierarchy" and you can't beat the simplicity of their decision making (which rivals that of the KISS crowd). The main problem with this dogma (according to the other two camps) is that perfectly good oils are left out of the equation, and, that it's hard to find (in most cases), the BMW-specified oils.
Since most (if not all) the discussion is where the camps DON'T OVERLAP, whenever a newbie asks 'which oil', the theory goes, the best way to approach the answer is to ask THEM which dogma they wish to subscribe to.

It's important to establish the 'desired dogma' early on, since the oils chosen (both the brand, and the viscosity range) will differ depending on which religious camp the requester identifies with.

Once we know the dogma they wish to subscribe to, then it's easy to provide them with a list of acceptable oils (or to compare two otherwise similar oils).

So ...
  • Do you think this hypothesis is going in the right direction?
  • Do you think the camps outlined are reasonably correct?
  • Do you personally (at least loosely) fit into one of these three camps?

Last edited by bluebee; 01-25-2011 at 10:15 PM.
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  #3  
Old 01-19-2011, 04:24 AM
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Um, how is this not another "what oil should I use thread?" It's motor oil. There is no right answer. This has been covered an infinitum, Blue, camps or no camps . . .
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Old 01-19-2011, 05:01 AM
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An interesting question for the tribe. Your characterization of this issue as dogma, doctrine and religion is PERFECT!! People believe what they believe in (WRT e39s) for any number of reasons. Oil is no different than struts, brake pads, tires, gas, etc. Ask any five people and you'll get six different opinions (because the sixth guy is always on the fence and gives multiple answers! ). You can get very technical about anything on these cars. The bigger question is "Can you tell the difference?" I'd say absolutely yes for shocks, tires and pads. Much less so for gas & oil. Which is why i typically don't pay much attention to oil and gas threads.

Do you think this hypothesis is going in the right direction? Yes.

Do you think the camps outlined are reasonably correct? Yes, although a fourth camp is always the undecided, can't make up their mind folks or those that don't care at all.

Do you personally (at least loosely) fit into one of these three camps? I fall into the the third category, primarily because I regard oil as a commodity, similar to gas. Are there differences in oil brands: Yes. Will those characteristics make any performance or durability difference: No on the former, hard to say on the latter. Are they pretty much all priced the same? Yes, all in the same ballpark, when comparing the same type (synthetics) bought at an auto store. Do I think the other camps are wrong? No, I simply think that oil is oil (of the same comparable quality) and that I don't want to spend time seeking an alternative. If the OEM specified brand works fine and has a relatively small cost impact, I'll use it. Since I DIY, the labor savings goes into the parts cost.

My philosophy is that change interval is more important than oil brand (assuming same weight and type). Hence, I change oil at the half recommended interval (7,500 miles) using the recommended oil. If I get lazy, I can let it slip for a couple of months and there is no issue as I drive less than 1K per month. BTW, I stick with synthetics on all my cars due to NE winters. I have had leakage issues changing between synthetics and dino oil in the past. These may be due to older formulations. Anyway, I now stay with a single type to avoid possible issues and to have consistent change intervals.

Last edited by Fudman; 01-20-2011 at 04:33 AM.
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Old 01-19-2011, 07:17 AM
kyle540i kyle540i is offline
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Being an engineer, I tend to side with the manufacturers recommendation if practical.
I also try to understand the reasoning behind the manufacturers choice - then, if I need to change, hopefully, I can at least make an informed choice.

When it comes to oil, you won't know if you've been using the wrong oil until after the expen$ive damage is done. . . .
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Old 01-19-2011, 08:06 AM
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I was looking to buy the genuine BMW synthetic oil i seen online and at the dealer and I noticed it is 5w 30. Does anyone know which brand it is. I only see that it is a black bottle with the BMW logo. I thought that the approved oil by BMW was 0w 30 or 0w 40? The more I read the more confused I am.
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Old 01-19-2011, 08:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sergdman View Post
I was looking to buy the genuine BMW synthetic oil i seen online and at the dealer and I noticed it is 5w 30. Does anyone know which brand it is. I only see that it is a black bottle with the BMW logo. I thought that the approved oil by BMW was 0w 30 or 0w 40? The more I read the more confused I am.
Castrol. At least it used to be. 5w30 is OEM rec for most applications/environments for our cars.
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Old 01-19-2011, 08:27 AM
Bob Michaels Bob Michaels is offline
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We tend to make things more complicated than necessary (myself included), but as long as the oil meets the manufacturer's spec you're not likely to encounter any oil related issues or excessive wear. That said, I've found that the Rotella T6 (formerly Rotella T Synthetic) 5w40 to work great - it isn't spec'ed for my car, but at 12 years after build it isn't that important to me. BITOG is a great specialty forum, but even the most avid "experts" over there will agree that any reputable oil that meets the manufacturers specs almost always will be an excellent choice.

As to "how is this not another "what oil should I use thread?", who cares? I find it more interesting than the myriad of "Hey here's what I put on my car, can I get some approval and compliments from everybody" threads....
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Old 01-19-2011, 09:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Michaels View Post
We tend to make things more complicated than necessary

As to "how is this not another "what oil should I use thread?", who cares?
You just answered your own question. Not everything on this board requires a 5000 word encyclopedic entry. A FAQ is supposed to be as clean and as easy to understand as possible, especially since it's designed for newbies. Hey, I appreciate BB's valiant efforts as much a the next E39 owner, but there is such a thing as too much information. It makes simple things needlessly complicated and confusing.

IMO, that's the case with this issue. YM (and opinion) MV, of course,
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Old 01-19-2011, 09:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Michaels View Post
I find it more interesting than the myriad of "Hey here's what I put on my car, can I get some approval and compliments from everybody" threads....
+1 on this!!!!
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Old 01-19-2011, 10:14 AM
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bmw_n00b13 bmw_n00b13 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Josh P. View Post
. A FAQ is supposed to be as clean and as easy to understand as possible, especially since it's designed for newbies. Hey, I appreciate BB's valiant efforts as much a the next E39 owner, but there is such a thing as too much information. It makes simple things needlessly complicated and confusing.
,
+100. FAQ thread is starting to get rather out of hand...
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Old 01-19-2011, 10:38 AM
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Why?
Why?
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Old 01-19-2011, 11:51 AM
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I'm Jewish.

Therefor my religion dictates that I use only Kosher oil.

Whatever "Moishe is the oil Rabbi" says (www.moisheistheoilrabbi.oyvey.god), I follow.

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Old 01-19-2011, 12:34 PM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Let's have an academic discussion rather than "what oil to use" thread.

The engine metallurgical design has not changed much during the last 40 years.
For the most part, the block is either iron or aluminum (lined with harder material in case of Al).
The piston rings are made from hardened alloy to withstand the heat and detonation:
http://www.aa1car.com/library/ar293.htm

In 1950s, people use single grade oil such as SAE30, then multi-viscosity such as (5W30) came about.
Synthetic oil was already there but only used in aircraft which were exposed to extreme temps (40C on the ground and minus 60C at 35000 feet).
Also during those years, synthetic oil was too expensive to be used in cars.

When I bought my 1991 Volvo 240, the owners manual specifically stated: "Do not use synthetic oil as this may cause damage to the engine".
This was because synthetic was introduced in 1990's and no car makers knew the long-term outcome, so they themselves experimented with synthetic oil.

I have seen Honda and BMW with 300K miles running on standard oil.

As new oil technology comes out, mfg's make new recommendation because of the "Wow" factor more than anything else.
If you look through history of oil, API SE, SF, SG, SH or SJ motor oils have somewhat different properties.

- A 1991 BMW "certified" for SE because only SE was available back then, you can always put SH in this car, no issues.
- A 2011 BMW "certified" for SH, well, if you put SE oil in there, I bet money nothing will happen because the difference among these specifications is so minute that I'd say "who cares".

Then as synthetic became more accepted, we embrace it at a cost.
If we compare apple with apple, then my guess is:
- Standard oil, change every 5K miles, well-maintained car, engine lasts ? 350K
- Synthetic oil, change every 5K miles, well-maintained car, engine lasts ? 500K

The bottom line is very few cars go beyond 250-300K miles because something else will happen:
- accidented
- the owner sells the car
- the cooling system blew up
- the steering rack goes etc. etc.
i.e. something else happened to the car before it reached 250-300K mark.
In fact, very few Americans own cars past this point.

Having said that BTW, I belong to camp #3! K.I.S.S.
Oil is something I don't get excited about because no matter what brand of oil, your car will be fine.
I change my oil every 5K miles.

- WINTER: Synthetic 5W30 for easier start
- SUMMER: Standard 10W30, any brand I find at the store, whether it is Autozone brand, Castrol, Quaker State etc. it does not matter to me.

End of my 2 cents.

Last edited by cn90; 01-19-2011 at 12:37 PM.
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Old 01-19-2011, 08:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fudman View Post
a fourth camp is always the undecided, can't make up their mind folks or those that don't care at all.
Hi Fudman,

I don't disagree ... so ... I added the fourth camp to the first two posts above!

Interestingly, it's probably the fourth camp who asks most of the questions, and then you hear the first three camps chiming in ... which ... if the fourth camp doesn't realize what's going on ... they get confused ... and end up asking more questions!

If everyone realized these four camps will always exist, then the discussion takes on a more philosophical tone, rather than dogmatic.

I'll bet we can tell which camp someone is in merely by knowing what oil they use (I use Mobil1 10w30 or Mobile1 10w40 because that's what Costco sells in bulk that's synthetic and meets SAE & API specifications).

Obviously, I'm in the KISS camp (so my bias may show through); but that's why I'm not the only one on this forum!
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Old 01-20-2011, 04:44 AM
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...the discussion takes on a more philosophical tone, rather than dogmatic.
Frankly, I like it when we have academic or philosophical disccussions. Always learning something new (like the proper spelling of Giubo!). Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks!
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Old 01-20-2011, 09:30 AM
UsedBits UsedBits is offline
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Great thread. Thanks for bringing it up.

Having only recently purchased my first BMW (July, 2010), I'm a complete idiot with respect to all BMW matters. Therefore, I'm in camp 4 "Undecided, unsure, or totally ignorant."

The important part is not *that* there are multiple camps, but *why*. Are members of camp 1 there because they know the BMW recommendation is best, or because they're totally ignorant and simply believes that BMW won't steer them wrong?

What differences are members of camp 2 seeking?

Do members of camp 3 actually understand that an engine is an engine is an engine, or do they rely on a manufacturer's reputation to not sell something that will damage our engine?

Camps 1 and 3 can be subdivided into "those who know" and "those who follow". Camp 2 can be divided into the set of characteristics for which they seek.
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Old 01-22-2011, 09:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Josh P. View Post
It's motor oil. There is no right answer. This has been covered an infinitum
I can see you're in the KISS camp (and that's just OK).

The KISS camp says "it's motor oil" so almost anything on the market is just fine to use, whether it's the SAE viscosity rating, or the brand, or the API service rating.

However, what's DIFFERENT about this thread is that, from now on, whenever I get asked which oil to recommend (it just happened to me today, over here), I will first ask the requester WHAT DOGMA they wish to subscribe to.

If they identify with the Keep-it-simple-BMW dogma, then there is a definitive list of oils to provide to them.

If they subscribe to the devil-in-the-details dogma, then any equivalent oil, by specifications, will be acceptable to them.

If they're in the Keep-it-simple-stupid religious camp, then almost any oil on the market will work just fine for the recommendation.

So, there are THREE "right" answers, of which the requester needs to decide which dogma she wishes to subscribe to - and then there is a much smaller subset of "right" answers.

What's different about this thread is the realization and fleshing out of the dogmatic camps - and then the technique of asking the requester what dogma they wish to subscribe to.

Or, has this technique been covered ad infinitum before?
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Old 01-23-2011, 07:16 AM
UsedBits UsedBits is offline
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Bluebee,

Your posts are spot on, right up there with QSilver's. And this post is among your best.

The most important aspect being 'teased out' is the significance of camp membership of the advisor versus the advisee.

To wit:
Quote:
... whenever I get asked which oil to recommend ...
With this, you remove all bias from the advice, a dramatic departure from a majority of advisory posts found here and elsewhere.

Now sufficiently neutered, the advisor need not worry about my earlier concern as to *why* a particular advisee is in any particular camp.
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'03 fr. and r. bumpers, front air ducts, and spoiler
18" Staggered MPars (style 37)
Dinan exhaust
shorter springs
European center console arm rest
VECTOR radar detector (non-working)

....-------------------.
[ /.....................\ ]
.|(oOO)\(lll)(lll)/(OOo)|
. \o\0=======|=======0/o/
...|__|.............|__|
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Old 01-23-2011, 07:26 AM
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At the end of the day oil is like tyres, petrol and women. Every man has his own and thinks everything else is far from good.

It is something that we have to accept that not everybody is going to agree on one thing


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Old 01-23-2011, 07:30 AM
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DominguesE30 DominguesE30 is offline
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I might like fully synthetic oil but John my next door neighbour prefers mineral oil. I love my wife but Charlie across the road prefers to be single and fornicate with who ever whenever. I love my border collie but James the check out guy at woolworths might love his German Shepard. We are all different.


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  #22  
Old 01-23-2011, 07:54 AM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DominguesE30 View Post
I'm bob the oil man type. What are you?
This thread is really about 'how to approach the question' of what oil. It's not about what oil to use.

But, since you asked, here is a succinct answer (where I already detailed how "I" choose motor oil):
- How to logically choose the right motor oil for your E39

Clearly, I'm KISS. I'd use any oil available "good" oil that anyone else would use, which means any oil that meets API quality and almost any commonly available SAE viscosity spread.

But who I am isn't the point (other than to perhaps explain any inadvertent bias that creeps into my analysis).

What's important is the APPROACH of determining what a REQUESTER is BEFORE recommending what oil someone ELSE should use.
Also what's important is to better UNDERSTAND that the oil discussions revolve mostly (perhaps exclusively) where the three main dogmatic theories DO NOT OVERLAP.

That's the revelation that is important here ... not what camp any particular person is in.

Last edited by bluebee; 01-23-2011 at 10:11 PM.
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  #23  
Old 01-23-2011, 08:17 AM
UsedBits UsedBits is offline
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Bluebee,

Don't be too hard on Dom's30. I think he's highlighting your original contention that there are multiple camps, as well as highlighting my concern as to *why* one might be in a given camp.

His explanation simply exploits the 'ignorance' sub-group of camps 1 and 3.

He reveals his membership in the "I don't care which stink'n oil is in my car" group.
Quote:
At the end of the day oil is like ...
Next, he supports this thread by highlighting your desire to get past this:
Quote:
not everybody is going to agree
While most ineloquently phrased, he, nevertheless, makes valid points.
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2002 e39 (540iA) with factory 'sport package' modified with:
'03 fr. and r. bumpers, front air ducts, and spoiler
18" Staggered MPars (style 37)
Dinan exhaust
shorter springs
European center console arm rest
VECTOR radar detector (non-working)

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  #24  
Old 01-23-2011, 02:45 PM
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DominguesE30 DominguesE30 is offline
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I personally want what is best for my car. I will start research oil's and what brands offer what and which ones offer the best protection in te critical start up phase where most of the wear and tear occurs. I'm just saying we are not all going to agree. We are all different anyways back to topic I'm bob the oil man type. I just need to get the Internet at home to start researching!

What are you?


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  #25  
Old 01-23-2011, 02:50 PM
franka franka is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bob michaels View Post
we tend to make things more complicated than necessary (myself included), but as long as the oil meets the manufacturer's spec you're not likely to encounter any oil related issues or excessive wear. That said, i've found that the rotella t6 (formerly rotella t synthetic) 5w40 to work great - it isn't spec'ed for my car, but at 12 years after build it isn't that important to me. Bitog is a great specialty forum, but even the most avid "experts" over there will agree that any reputable oil that meets the manufacturers specs almost always will be an excellent choice.

As to "how is this not another "what oil should i use thread?", who cares? I find it more interesting than the myriad of "hey here's what i put on my car, can i get some approval and compliments from everybody" threads....
+1
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