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E46 (1999 - 2006)
The fourth generation 3 Series (E46 chassis) was introduced in 1999 and set the standard for engineering and performance during it's years of production including being named to Car & Driver's 10 best list every one of those years! ! -- View the E46 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 12-26-2012, 01:17 PM
sun3301 sun3301 is offline
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Question Accidentally drove with low oil levels

Guys, I have the common yellow oil level light come on at start-up and then go out on my 2001 330ci, 5 speed. The sender unit is bad. I had the car in the dealer last year for some work and they saw the light was coming on even after they changed the oil. But didn't change the unit because they had just buttoned it up.

So the car has about 7 thousand miles on from that oil change. Because I was so busy recently, I didn't check the oil till yesterday and saw that I was below the dipstick! I added a quart and that got the oil level up to the stick, but halway, so I need another 1/2 quart of so.

I know its my fault for not checking, but I hope I didn't do any permanant damage to the engine. With the oil level sensor being questionable, hopefully it not turning red meant that oil pressure levels were still at the ragged minimum before I added the oil. The engine sure sounds better. But I didn't have any issues before I added oil, except at highway speeds I could hear some noise that I thought was tire noise. The engine has 86,000 miles on it and driven for most part very easily by this original owner. No jack rabbit starts and speeds at 65 when no traffic.

I may for the first time change the oil myself on this car and do the sending unit too. I've changed the oil regularly on my vintage Mustang myself, but not on this car. It scares me a bit!

Thanks for any insight. I hope the engine is pretty tolerable to the low oil level.
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  #2  
Old 12-26-2012, 01:39 PM
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Fast Bob Fast Bob is offline
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Changing the oil SCARES you ???? You gotta be sh!ttin` me

You NEED to start working on your car....maybe you`ll pay a little more attention to it, thereby avoiding disaster.

BTW, the oil should be changed every 7,500 miles. Buy yourself a Mity-Vac and a 36mm socket (which will pay for itself in 2 oil changes).
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  #3  
Old 12-26-2012, 01:48 PM
usaret usaret is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sun3301 View Post
Guys, I have the common yellow oil level light come on at start-up and then go out on my 2001 330ci, 5 speed. The sender unit is bad. I had the car in the dealer last year for some work and they saw the light was coming on even after they changed the oil. But didn't change the unit because they had just buttoned it up.

So the car has about 7 thousand miles on from that oil change. Because I was so busy recently, I didn't check the oil till yesterday and saw that I was below the dipstick! I added a quart and that got the oil level up to the stick, but halway, so I need another 1/2 quart of so.

I know its my fault for not checking, but I hope I didn't do any permanant damage to the engine. With the oil level sensor being questionable, hopefully it not turning red meant that oil pressure levels were still at the ragged minimum before I added the oil. The engine sure sounds better. But I didn't have any issues before I added oil, except at highway speeds I could hear some noise that I thought was tire noise. The engine has 86,000 miles on it and driven for most part very easily by this original owner. No jack rabbit starts and speeds at 65 when no traffic.

I may for the first time change the oil myself on this car and do the sending unit too. I've changed the oil regularly on my vintage Mustang myself, but not on this car. It scares me a bit!

Thanks for any insight. I hope the engine is pretty tolerable to the low oil level.
Your car is fine as long as your oil pump didn't suck air which I'm sure it didn't only being that low. You would have gotten an oil pressure light if it had. Changing the oil in a BMW is easier than most other cars. There are undoubtedly dozens of video's on YouTube on how to do it.
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  #4  
Old 12-26-2012, 02:03 PM
sun3301 sun3301 is offline
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Thanks! Sure hope it didn't suck any air into the oil pump!

I'm not afraid to work on the car. Being such a sophistated car compared to a simple American car from the 1960's is the challenge. And I'm sure I am mechanically inclined enough to handle it. I'll do some reading up on it and collect the necessary parts and supplies and try it.
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  #5  
Old 12-26-2012, 02:19 PM
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cwsqbm cwsqbm is offline
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You need to check your oil more frequently. The car could have simply used 1.5 qts in 7000 miles - that would be far from extreme usage, which is more of the 1 qt per 1000 miles.

Changing the oil on these cars is no harder than any car. In fact, I'd say easier, as the oil filter isn't going to drip all over the frame or suspension like many American cars I've had. Resetting the OBC's counter is easy too.
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  #6  
Old 12-26-2012, 02:55 PM
sun3301 sun3301 is offline
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cwsqbm, Your post is appreciated!
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  #7  
Old 12-27-2012, 05:20 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Start here:
Cn90 How to change your oil; and Bluebee how NOT to change your oil!
How to choose the right motor oil for your E39 (by quality, cold-start, warm viscosity, slipperiness, and cost)
You never get what you pay for ($18 Fram oil filter)
etc.
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See also: E39 Bestlinks & How to easily find what you need
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  #8  
Old 12-27-2012, 05:37 PM
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MMME30W MMME30W is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sun3301 View Post
Thanks! Sure hope it didn't suck any air into the oil pump!

I'm not afraid to work on the car. Being such a sophistated car compared to a simple American car from the 1960's is the challenge. And I'm sure I am mechanically inclined enough to handle it. I'll do some reading up on it and collect the necessary parts and supplies and try it.
I'm sure you will be fine.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cwsqbm View Post
You need to check your oil more frequently. The car could have simply used 1.5 qts in 7000 miles - that would be far from extreme usage, which is more of the 1 qt per 1000 miles.

Changing the oil on these cars is no harder than any car. In fact, I'd say easier, as the oil filter isn't going to drip all over the frame or suspension like many American cars I've had. Resetting the OBC's counter is easy too.
+1

Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
This a great DIY for E39s, but for an E46 a mityvac will actually get more oil out of the sump.

http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...hlight=mityvac

OP, For E46s, we actually have a Wiki which is specific to this model of the 3 series that will be directly applicable to YOUR car.

http://www.bimmerfest.com/wiki/index.php?title=BMW_E46
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  #9  
Old 12-27-2012, 06:07 PM
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halltristan halltristan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cwsqbm View Post
You need to check your oil more frequently.
+1

I check mine every two weeks and sometimes I feel that even that isn't enough.
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  #10  
Old 12-27-2012, 09:30 PM
sun3301 sun3301 is offline
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You might not believe it, but I'm actually very anal at keeping my cars up to spec. But in recent years, life situations change and they are not as high priority. Though I still try to maintain them.

I'm aware of the wiki and will review it.

Last time I was at the dealer, they also suggested it was a good idea to change out the coolant hoses the next time. In looking into it, it looks very involved and not simply a upper and lower radiator hose swap. They estimated $1000.00. I wasn't sure this one I wanted to tackle. An indie shop I know might hear from me soon. Unless there's a DIY thread on that. I haven't found one yet.
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  #11  
Old 12-27-2012, 11:26 PM
Dave @nz Dave @nz is offline
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Hi,
If you manage the Mustang oil change the BMW will be no problem to you, just take your time and recheck the the important things like the oil filter cap oring and sump plug for tightness when done.

I would advise you to purchase all the coolant hoses then one at a time replace them, again allow plenty of time and if you get stuck take some photos and post up on the forum.
Doing it your self will be more rewarding and out of the $1000.00 you will have plenty left over for a well deserved beer.
Dave.
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  #12  
Old 12-28-2012, 07:30 AM
GoForthFast GoForthFast is offline
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Stop being intimidated by this car. It's done by so many on this board who started by just reading here with no prior experience. Not rocket science.

And guaranteed running with 1.5 quart low will affect nothing. Could drive all day like that with no problems.
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  #13  
Old 12-28-2012, 10:09 AM
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jvr826 jvr826 is offline
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The dealer has done a great job of brainwashing you into thinking your E46 is some techno gadget hand carved out of unobtainium.

An oil change is an oil change. In fact, you can do this car without lifting it or even getting your hands dirty if you buy a mity-vac.



There are plenty of DIYs on the cooling system refresh. It's not hard either, just messy.
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Last edited by jvr826; 12-28-2012 at 10:10 AM.
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  #14  
Old 12-28-2012, 03:35 PM
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halltristan halltristan is offline
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Bavauto sells an oil extractor, which is the same thing as the mitivac, but it's smaller and less expensive. I've used it for a year now with no troubles.
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  #15  
Old 01-02-2013, 02:29 PM
sun3301 sun3301 is offline
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This past weekend, I replaced a total of 2 1/2 quarts of oil to get the level between the high and low marks on the dipstick.

Upon further inspection of the engine, I found evidence of an oil leak that looks like the valve cover gasket. It's visible on the front of the engine and on the passenger side of the front with oil dripping down to the lower radiater hose and coating the parts of the front of the block and the air conditioning compressor.

I found a DIY to replace the gasket. Any insights for you who may have done this?
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  #16  
Old 01-02-2013, 04:02 PM
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G. P. Burdell G. P. Burdell is offline
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Consider overhauling the VANOS seals while you're in there:

http://www.beisansystems.com/procedu..._procedure.htm
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  #17  
Old 01-02-2013, 04:22 PM
QAfred QAfred is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sun3301 View Post
This past weekend, I replaced a total of 2 1/2 quarts of oil to get the level between the high and low marks on the dipstick.

Upon further inspection of the engine, I found evidence of an oil leak that looks like the valve cover gasket. It's visible on the front of the engine and on the passenger side of the front with oil dripping down to the lower radiater hose and coating the parts of the front of the block and the air conditioning compressor.

I found a DIY to replace the gasket. Any insights for you who may have done this?
If you have never changed the Crankcase Ventilation Valve (CVV) you may want to test it to, as at 85000 miles it is due, and if not operating properly will cause excess crankcase pressure and may have actually caused your oil leak.

BTW- I also have a 2001 330ci and burn a quart of oil every 1000 miles and has since I bought it in 2004.
So keep an eye on your oil level even after your fix all of your leaks as you are probably using more than you think.

Last edited by QAfred; 01-02-2013 at 04:24 PM.
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  #18  
Old 01-02-2013, 10:53 PM
sun3301 sun3301 is offline
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Thanks for the suggestion about the VANOS seals and the CVV. I had heard about the CVV, but not issues with the VANOS seals!
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  #19  
Old 01-02-2013, 11:18 PM
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Fast Bob Fast Bob is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sun3301 View Post
Thanks for the suggestion about the VANOS seals and the CVV. I had heard about the CVV, but not issues with the VANOS seals!
CVV, VANOS, and VCG are all interdependent, which is why the ideal situation is to replace them all at the same time. Doing so insures that your engine has a solid foundation.
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