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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 02-04-2011, 07:59 AM
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What are the key factors that govern (all) our decisions when it comes to E39 fluids?

I belatedly realized today, in the age-old gasoline discussion:
- Shell v-power

Where there was the typical ...
- Gas is gas!
- No it's not!

... combined with the inevitable 'what oil' and 'what coolant' discussions ...

... that there may be an underlying set of key factors which, I propose as an hypothesis, essentially govern our decisions about 'which fluids to use in our BMW E39'.

What are these key factors?

I propose, for discussion (and revision), these as the key factors that influence our decision on the dozen fluids to use in the E39:
- Mechanical experience
- Marketing gullibility

- Chemistry understanding


I ordered the list and chose the words carefully so as to encompass what factors were important.

For example, we all may understand engines but those with decades of experience with fluids are strongly influenced by their experiences. Similarly, the job of marketing is to make people choose one product over another (i.e., the "big lie") so the gullibility to outlandish claims and spurious arguments must influence many decisions (they don't spend millions on gasoline ads for nothing). And, belatedly, I realized the fundamental understanding of chemistry plays a key role in our decisions, day to day, about what fluids to put in our beloved E39s.

However, I might not be correct (that we all make our fluid decisions based on those three key factors).

What do you think?

Last edited by bluebee; 02-04-2011 at 03:18 PM.
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  #2  
Old 02-04-2011, 08:41 AM
franka franka is offline
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Understanding the chemistry in these fluids is way above a couple classes in chem. These fluids are designed in large labs staffed with multiple Chem Phds.

Sure there is some basic stuff we can understand, but the subtle differences is what sets the brands of these fluids apart and probably is over our heads. At least the why part.

So and so may have chem x, y or z and advertises it but that is about as far as we can go.

I can (easily) be wrong but those are my thoughts at the moment.
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  #3  
Old 02-04-2011, 08:42 AM
franka franka is offline
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Are we discussing all fluids or just gasoline? Or some other fluid?
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  #4  
Old 02-04-2011, 10:04 AM
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I direct any questions I have to my indy and go with his advice. He's got more than 30 years experience with Bimmers.
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  #5  
Old 02-04-2011, 12:48 PM
franka franka is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tedm View Post
I direct any questions I have to my indy and go with his advice. He's got more than 30 years experience with Bimmers.
I get it and agree.

Still there are many indys with long Bimmer experience that will not agree on any number of things.
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  #6  
Old 02-04-2011, 02:46 PM
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One major factor that governs my decision is recommendations. Ferrari recommends shell and that's why I used to use v-power. In guessing shell payed alot of money to use Ferrari's name at the bowser and I bet it pays off!


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  #7  
Old 02-04-2011, 02:53 PM
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Ever noticed what's on your oil cap? "BMW recommends and used castrol".

Ever wondered why it is there?
It's all marketing and it works a treat and I personally believe everybody gets sucked in.
Somebody out there is getting paid big banana's to work out ways to lure people in.

Now I'm trying to think of other factors.......


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  #8  
Old 02-04-2011, 03:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by franka View Post
Are we discussing all fluids or just gasoline? Or some other fluid?
The dozen fluids specifically in the E39, namely:
- BMW E39 fluid summary printout for your glovebox (1)

But, looking at that list, I think there might be two categories (slightly tongue in cheek):
- CONTENTIOUS FLUIDS:
- UNCONTENTIOUS FLUIDS:

I think the most contentious fluids might be:
- Gasoline choice
- Motor oil choice
- Coolant choice

Some (but most wouldn't) may argue about this set:
- Transmission fluid choice
- Power steering fluid choice
- Brake & clutch fluid

I think these are the non-contentious fluids (do you agree?):
- Differential fliud
- Battery electrolyte and water to use to top off
- Air conditioner gas/fluid
- Windshield washer & wiper fluid & intensive cleaning fluid

Quote:
Originally Posted by franka View Post
Understanding the chemistry in these fluids is way above a couple classes in chem....the subtle differences is what sets the brands of these fluids apart and probably is over our heads.
Hmmm... I wonder. I really do.

I don't profess to know the answer ... but understanding chemistry a bit must help (I think).

I mean, how many people actually think there is appreciable iso-octane in gasoline (which they erroneously think is somehow related to the "octane rating")? Or, how many people think "Techron" is some sort of magic chemical that isn't already in every single drop of gasoline in the USA today?

And, when a fluid is said to need to be phosphate free (for Europe's high-mineral-content water), amine & nitrite/nitrate free (for USA long-life requirements), & low-silicate or silicate free (for Japan requirements) ... do people actually know what phosphates are, what nitrates are, and what silicates are? Isn't that just gibberish to some people?

My opinion is, that those who best understand chemistry, make better decisions (everything else being equal). So, while it can't hurt, the question is whether or not it makes a difference to understand automotive chemistry.

For example, I don't need to understand any chemistry to put into the car the fluids BMW recommends ... but the question becomes could I select an alternative fluid better or worse with the knowledge of chemistry in hand.

I don't know. Maybe all that matters is adherence to standards (e.g., GL5, API SM, SAE 10w40, BMW LL01, etc.) ... so maybe chemistry understanding doesn't really matter.

What worries me is the advertisers don't spend hundreds of millions of dollars trying to differentiate their gasoline or oil or lubricant from everyone else's for no reason though.

Given that, what arms us (if it's not the three things I stated) to make an "intelligent" selection of fluids for our BMW E39?
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  #9  
Old 02-04-2011, 09:28 PM
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[QUOTE=bluebee;5825314]My opinion is, that those who best understand chemistry, make better decisions (everything else being equal). So, while it can't hurt, the question is whether or not it makes a difference to understand automotive chemistry.

For example, I don't need to understand any chemistry to put into the car the fluids BMW recommends ... but the question becomes could I select an alternative fluid better or worse with the knowledge of chemistry in hand.

I don't know. Maybe all that matters is adherence to standards (e.g., GL5, API SM, SAE 10w40, BMW LL01, etc.) ... so maybe chemistry understanding doesn't really matter.

What worries me is the advertisers don't spend hundreds of millions of dollars trying to differentiate their gasoline or oil or lubricant from everyone else's for no reason though.
QUOTE]


I am not sure having a general chemistry background or technical training makes much difference unless you are a specialist in a particular field. There just isn't enough information given on packaging or a fuel pump to justify any choice based on technical rationale. Technical knowledge definitely can't hurt but I don't think it adds much value in this case because every application (e.g. lubes vs. gas vs. coolant, etc.) is different. Which is why standards are used, not just in automotive but many consumer applications. It simplifies what the minimum capabilities of a specific product are to the consumer (and keeps advertisers honest). Manufacturer recommendations represent the baseline for all decision making. However, while BMW recommends LL01 rated oil, their recommendation is based on a 15K interval between oil changes. If you change at shorter intervals, this recommendation should not apply, allowing you greater choice. Ultimately, I think common sense should rule when it comes to making choices about anything.

And advertisers spend money to differentiate their products for one reason: to sell more product. Bottom line: Ignore ALL advertising.
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Old 02-04-2011, 09:45 PM
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So you chem dudes..whats the difference between Shell gas and Exxon gas? And why should I use one over the other?
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  #11  
Old 02-04-2011, 10:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fudman View Post
There just isn't enough information given on packaging or a fuel pump to justify any choice based on technical rationale.
Point taken.

I think you and Frank have sufficiently explained that a good chemistry understanding doesn't really help all that much when it comes to fluid choices in the contentious area (i.e., motor oil, gasoline, & coolant mostly, with perhaps transmission fluid thrown in to the category for good measure).

So I'll back off on that as a key factor governing our decision on fluids (and, partially explaining why we have a different set of dogmatic camps because of the way we make decisions).

So what's left to explain why we have these dogmatic camps?
- Mechanical experience
- Marketing gullibility

- Understanding
or belief in the appropriate standards or specs?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fudman View Post
why standards are used...It simplifies what the minimum capabilities of a specific product are to the consumer (and keeps advertisers honest).
I'm all for standards. All gasolines, for example, meet federal standards. All motor oils in the USA that we'd put in our car have clearly defined SAE and API standards marked on every can. Manual transmission fluid has GL-5 and MTF-LT-1 standards, while the similar differential fluids (with hypoid gears though) are marked to the GL-6 standard. Brake fluids in the USA have DOT4 & ISO6 markings. Automatic transmission fluid has a plethora of company-branded standards, e.g., GM's Dexron III & Dexron VI, Texaco ETL 8072B, Shell LA2634, ESSO LT 71141, etc.

Unfortunately, I don't know of the appropriate marked "standards" for antifreeze (hence that might be one reason for the difference of opinion).

I guess, that the problem is that in some cases, BMW doesn't specify a "standard" so much as it specifies a particular brand.

Take the case of coolants. BMW doesn't specify a 'standard' (that I know of) but they do specify certain brands (and we have read the TIS which explains their rationale from a chemical perspective). So those of us disinclined to "only" select from the BMW-approve list are left to ponder what standards we should meet.

Likewise, in the case of gasoline, BMW again specifies an octane "recommendation", but no particular "standard" other than the so-called "top-tier" type listings (whose web site is, IMHO, chock full of marketing propaganda).

The "standards" problem is different in the case of motor oil. Here, BMW clearly specifies LL01; however, very few oils in the USA are marked to the BMW long-life standards - and - much worse - BMW is known to make marketing claims (e.g., "Use Castrol") that clearly show their penchant for the 'big lie' when it comes to motor oil recommendations (as pointed out by DominguesE30).

In contrast, there is less debate about brake fluids (most use DOT4 synthetic) and almost no debate about power-steering fluids (most use Dexron VI nowadays, which is the successor to Dexron III) and just a little bit of debate on automatic transmission fluids (which list the standards they meet on the can).

Now that I continue to ponder the prior set of responses, "most" of the confusion, I belatedly realize, seems to be in the areas where BMW doesn't specify a standard that is clearly and easily listed on every container in the USA.

Case in point (the "contentious" ones):
- Coolant choice --> BMW doesn't seem to specify any specific quality standard to meet.
- Motor oil choice --> The BMW didn't specify using the commonly accepted quality standard in the USA (e.g., API SM)
- Gasoline choice --> There are no quality "standards" printed on the pump (although all US gasolines meet all federally & state-mandated standards)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fudman View Post
Manufacturer recommendations represent the baseline for all decision making.
Yes and no (as you aptly already explained, as did DominguesE30). Sadly, that fact tends to make us question the BMW recommendations - and just adds confusion to the decision (where there was enough FUD already).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fudman View Post
common sense should rule when it comes to making choices about anything.
Maybe I should add that as a key criteria (instead of chemistry understanding)???

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fudman View Post
advertisers spend money to differentiate their products for one reason: to sell more product. Bottom line: Ignore ALL advertising.
You and I might say that. But, advertisers spend those millions of dollars hoping for a payback. They play on FUD. And they live off of people who "read the words" but who don't (as you said) "use common sense". It turns out almost nothing written on the bottles of any fluid are meaningful (except the standards, and perhaps the ingredients). But most people, I'd wager, actually believe what is written on the outside of the bottle.

So certainly marketing affects "their" decision making.

In summary, how does this sound as a revised list of what affects our decision to choose one fluid over another for our BMW E39?

- Common sense (versus marketing gullibility)
- Mechanical experience

- Appreciation
of the appropriate & available standards or specs?
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  #12  
Old 02-05-2011, 07:57 AM
franka franka is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
Maybe I should add that as a key criteria (instead of chemistry understanding)???
Please do. Thanks.
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  #13  
Old 02-05-2011, 11:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by franka View Post
So you chem dudes..whats the difference between Shell gas and Exxon gas? And why should I use one over the other?
I get the point!

I've removed "chemistry understanding"!

But it still helps!

I, for one, have four years of chemistry schooling (two in high school and two in college, including organic chemistry).

So what does that mean with respect to gasoline, in general?

It means, to me, that I can read (and mostly understand) a Wikipedia article on gasoline; and most of the FAQ on Gasoline. Certainly the octane rating is thoroughly understood, since it's merely a measure of the burning of a "test fuel" of so-called 'iso-octane' and normal heptane.

So, it's quite clear to me (knowing the properties of the branched 2,2,4-tri methyl pentane versus the straight alkane of similar carbon count) that the LOWER the octane rating, the 'better' the burning (it's not "that" simple ... but the point is the same!).

It seems to me this fundamental understanding is NOT universal.

Or is it?

The chemistry understanding also allows me to see the BS in marketing claims (especially those that use 'fancy' trade names that are actually meaningless or even worse, misleading).

And, the knowledge of cracking and distillation allow me to better understand that every single batch of gasoline is "different" from any other batch of gasoline - but that - in the aggregate - they're all the same!

So, while the chemistry understanding will not help me accurately ascertain the difference between Shell and Exon fuels, my background in chemistry allows me to say "all gasolines are the same anyway - so why would it matter".

But, directly to your point. No. A thorough understanding of chemistry (particularly organic chemistry) will not allow one to differentiate between Shell and Exxon (at least not without reams of additional data points).
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Old 02-06-2011, 08:11 AM
franka franka is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
- but that - in the aggregate - they're all the same!

So, while the chemistry understanding will not help me accurately ascertain the difference between Shell and Exon fuels, my background in chemistry allows me to say "all gasolines are the same anyway - so why would it matter".
I disagee with "they are all the same".

Many here, including me, swear by Shell V Power. Though I do use other brands on occasion and I'm not a gasoline fanatic. Or any other kind of fanatic. At least that I'm aware of.

Have they all just been duped by Shell's advertising?
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Last edited by franka; 02-06-2011 at 08:13 AM.
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Old 02-06-2011, 09:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by franka View Post
I ...swear by Shell V Power
I've got absolutely nothing against any Shell gasoline either.

Nor, for that matter, any Exxon gasoline, or Chevron, or ...

Well, I don't like "Rotten Robbie" gasolines all that much because I hate waiting in line behind fifty people getting cigarettes and soda when all I want is to pay for gasoline.

In fact, I wish more would use the NJ model of "only gas; only full-serve gas".
Aside: NJ is the only state where "true" self-serve is illegal and it's still the cheapest in the nation!".
Note: Oregon does not have "true" self serve (as compared to New Jersey).

So, personally, I swear by New Jersey gas! But the question is mostly in "how" you and I make that decision.

BTW, before we go down a rathole, don't even get me started on why Californians are, in general, rather styupid, 'cuz they "think" they have "freeways" yet they willingly pay a "toll" tax on every gallon of gasoline nearly double most (if not all) other states (details in other threads).

But let's get back to the factors that govern our fluid decisions!



Last edited by bluebee; 02-06-2011 at 09:25 AM.
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Old 02-06-2011, 09:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by franka View Post
I disagee with "they are all the same"
And, that's OK.

It seems we all fit into a small set of "gasoline" camps.
- What are the dogmatic gasoline "camps" we all fit into when it comes to our BMW E39

The jury is still out on the definitions of the camps; but currently it goes something like this:
  1. Gas is gas only if it's top-tier gas!
  2. Gas is gas but octane is important
  3. Gas is gas and octane is overrated
Not surprisingly, I'm in the third camp (gas is gas and octane is overrated). The good news is I accept the premise of #1 and #2; I just don't feel like it's all that valuable to be 'limited' by those premises.

But, let's not argue too much ... since we can't easily cross religions.
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Old 02-06-2011, 09:56 AM
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There's no arguing here, yet. You started this thread to have this dicussion so that is what we are doing. Not sure why you even brought that point (argue) up?

The camps depend on what you are driving and how you drive. If you are a slower driver of a 6 cyl then it really doesn't matter much about octane.

If you drive a, modded for power, V8 then yes octane is very important. Or it doesn't have to be modded at all to want your 6 or V8 to realize its max power by using the proper octane.

There are a lot of variables, maybe too many, to simplify into 3, very short, roughly descriptive, camps.

Someone else needs to get into the conversation.
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Last edited by franka; 02-06-2011 at 09:58 AM.
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  #18  
Old 04-01-2011, 11:06 PM
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Philosophical observation:

Someone recently asked whether the choice of E39 batteries also falls into a dogmatic set of sharply delineated camps (post #34 of this thread):
- Has anyone replaced your car's battery by yourself

Quote:
Originally Posted by UsedBits View Post
BlueBee, is this an indication of yet another 'In which camp do you fall ...'?
After having thought about it, and having read scores of 'what battery' threads, my tentative thoughts are that batteries do not fall into the same sharply defined dogmatic camps as do, for example these 3 fluids:
  • E39 motor oil (1) (2) (3)
  • E39 coolant (1)
  • E39 gasoline (1) (2) (3) & additives (1) (2)
I think the two main reasons for the sharply defined dogmatic camps is the fact that BMW doctrine clearly specifies 'select' fluids while in all three situations, perfectly acceptable commonly available alternatives abound.

That dichotomy (doctrine-defined fluids versus widely available alternatives) is the fundamental cause, I believe, of the dogmatic camps.

By way of explanation, take the discussion of power steering fluid. There really isn't much. I think the reason is that there is far less of a dichotomization between BMW doctrine & availability (which includes price comparisons).

For a different reason, transmission fluid also isn't greatly broken into dogmatic camps. In the case of transmission fluid, the penalty for making mistakes (e.g., mixing the wrong fluids) is severe, so BMW doctrine holds sway, and the frequency of replacement is so low that lack of availability is also less of a concern.

All the other fluids seem to have much less of a delta between BMW doctrine and common availability; hence, my hypothesis goes, they are hardly contentious at all in comparison to gas, oil, & coolant:
  • E39 Manual transmission fluid (1) (2)
  • E39 Automatic transmission fluid (1) (2) (3) (4)
  • E39 Power steering fluid (1) (2)
  • E39 Brake & clutch hydraulic fluid (1)
  • E39 Brake-job fluids (1)
  • E39 Air conditioner refrigerant & PAG oil (1)
  • E39 Rear differential hypoid gear oil (1)
  • E39 Battery (1) & battery electrolyte (1)
  • E39 Windshield washer fluid (1)
  • E39 Intensive cleaning system fluid (1)
  • E39 Tire pressure (1) & the claimed benefits of nitrogen gas (1) (2)
  • Best product for cleaning wheels (1)
  • Window glass cleaner fluids (1)
  • Interior cockpit & dashboard cleaners (1)
  • etc.
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  #19  
Old 08-13-2014, 05:25 PM
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Windshield washer fluid: I deleted my windshield washer system because I clean my windows obsessively by hand and hate the accidental spray.
Air Conditioning Coolant : Make sure it doesn't contain sealant.
Coolant: Never put sealant or stop-leak in radiator. Never put hose water in the radiator (a rule I have broken so many times but still like to keep written for when I can avoid it.)
The rest of em' don't get my blood boiling.
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