BMW E36 Blog

What type of oil should I use for my BMW E36?

22nd April 2007

What type of oil should I use for my BMW E36?

posted in Engine, Performance, Technical Info |

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Hi Guys,


Oil types make me feel sick because I usually don’t understand them. What weight is better?! operating temperature! thick oils and how this will affect the performance and the age of my engine. Anyway, today I felt like reading about these stuff to make sure I won’t feel sick next time I hear someone talking about this. I think you should read this article because it will definitely add something to your knowledge that you just didn’t learn (well, or hear about before). The article was found here. Thanks Cary for the article (the author).



Disclaimer: Use this info at your own risk!! I’m not responsible for your mistakes man! 😀

1) New BMW’s require synthetic oil. As far as weight, only certain production dates of M3’s and M5’s require the use of Castrol TWS 10w-60.


2) The Factory BMW Synth 5w-30 is a version of Castrol TXT Softect sold overseas. A few important things about the BMW oil:

  1. It is a Group III hydrocracked oil which cannot be called synthetic in Europe.

  2. It is a heavy 30 weight (30 weight can run from 9.3-12.5cst@100c, the BMW oil is about 12.2cst).

  3. It is a ACEA A3 oil which means that it is approved for longer change intervals and has a HTHS (High Temperature High Shear) measured at 150c of greater than 3.5.

3) In the US, the only Group IV PAO Synthetics that are available are

  1. Mobil 1.

  2. Amsoil (but not the Xl-7500).

  3. Royal Purple.

  4. German Castrol 0w-30 (it has the red label and says on the back, “Made in Germany). Redline is a Group V PolyEster based oil. All other Castrol, Quaker State, Pennzoil, Valvoline “synthetics” are a Group III hydrocracked oil. It is debated how much better Group IV base oils are than group III, but generally they are considered better.

4) When looking for oil for any BMW that does not require Castrol TWS 10w-60, you want to purchase an oil that has either/both of the following ratings:

  1. ACEA A3.

  2. BMW LL-98 or LL-01.

5) Note that Mobil 1 0w-30, 5w-30, and 10w-30 are NOT ACEA A3 or BMW LL approved oils. This is because they all are thin 30 weight oils (approximately 9.8-10 CST@ 100c) and have HTHS of approximately 3.1. Mobil 1 0w-40 and 15w-50 are A3 rated and the Ow-40 is BMW LL-01 approved. For 99% of climates and users 0w-40 or 5w-40 is the appropriate grade. There are some 0w-30 and 5w-30 oils (like the BMW 5w-30) that are formulated on the heavier end of the 30 weight scale and are accordingly rated A3. These oils will work well also. LOOK FOR THAT ACEA A3 rating. If the oil doesn’t have it, pass on it.


6) Some people seem confused about how oil thickness is measured. The first number (0W, 5w, 10w, 15w, etc) is a measurement of how thick the oil is at temperatures of -35c- -20c (depends on the grade). The lower this first number the thinner the oil is at LOW temperatures. The second number (30, 40, 50) refers to oil thickness at 100c (operating temperature). 30 weight can be from 9.3-12.5 cst, 40 weight from 12.6-16.2 cst, 50 weight from 16.3-22cst (approximate). So you can have two oils, one called a 5w-30 (i.e. bmw oil) another 0w-40 (Mobil 1) that are very similar thicknesses at operating temperature. Compare this to Mobil 1 Xw-30 which is close to a 20 weight oil at 100c.


7) BMW’s recommended interval of 12,000-15,000 miles is too long. Used oil analysis has shown the BMW oil is generally depleted at 10,000 miles. Running it longer results in excess wear. It is highly recommended that you change your oil once between each BMW recommended interval (approx 7000-7500 miles). If you want to run your oil the BMW recommended interval, I would suggest that you use Mobil 1 0w-40 or Amsoil 5w-40 and change the oil filter at 7500 miles. I would encourage a full oil change at 7500 if you want your engine to last.


8) If you want to spend a few hours learning about oil, go to! But it’s like a different language…. so which one do you suggest if you were going to change your oil?



Unless you have an M3, in the following order:


  1. Mobil 1 0w-40.

  2. Mobil 1 0w-40, and

  3. Mobil 1 0w-40.


If you can’t find the 0w-40, the Mobil 1 SUV 5w-40 is a great oil. Can’t find either of these, then go to your dealer and get the BMW 5w-30.


The Mobil 1 0w-40 is a great oil, widely available (Walmart, Checker, Kragen, Autozone), and moderately priced. It is factory fill in Mercedes AMG, Porsche, and Austin Martin.

Wait for more from . . . BMW E36 Blog


Best regards,

Tony Sticks.

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There are currently 56 responses to “What type of oil should I use for my BMW E36?”

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  1. 1 On September 19th, 2011, Tony said:

    Hi fascinating information on oils, I mean that sincerely, fantastic but this question of what oil to use shouldn’t arise unless we are speaking of a 28 Bugatti or a Lanchester or something rare.Some people just have to fiddle thinking the manufacturer who spends hundreds of millions over a series with development and who is ultimately responsible for warranty…can’t know as much as someone on internet, the local speed shop or…….. The fact is they recommend oils after huge testing of all major brands in their own product under the most arduous conditions. What they recommend is not only what you should use will safeguard you in the event of a warranty claim.Under ridiculous conditions such as drag racing no manufacturer will recommend as they may attract liability however that’s where the auto engineering scientists can assist…not a question to ask of people who ‘love’ some particular brand. Cheers Tony

  2. 2 On September 20th, 2011, Victor said:

    Thanks for the info!!I’ll keep using what i use. Its been doing great so far… Thanks!!

  3. 3 On September 26th, 2011, Scott said:

    Hi guys, … I have a BMW E36 328iSE Touring ’98…
    It’s now on 160k miles and been driven quite hard for last 30k.
    I live in UK where temps range from -10c to +28c seasonally.
    I’ve been using Castrol 5w30 year round. My only problems have been my valve cover and PCV getting full of sludge. Had to replace hoses too. I expect this is just down to mileage and not the oil grade. I’ve been trawling the web recently in search of more opinions on correct oils for BMW’s and found this amazing info which will help most BMW owners choose the right oil for the climate in which they live.. Hope this helps as it did me; – Click on the link below;

  4. 4 On September 26th, 2011, Tony said:

    Hi 160K miles is getting up there..heading towards 300K. There’s “hard driving” and then there’s HARD driving..flogging a car which has minimal maintenance etc etc…Your history is minimal…but indicative…Moisture will build up in sump in such wide temperature range (down to 10 below)and exhibit as sludge unless mileage marms engine well. Hard driving over short distances will not help. Oil may need changes more often, filter changed and sump cleaned and attention paid to the dominant temperature…you may be experiencing a worn engine with other problems PCV valve fault etc….Sludge in hoses and vents doesn’t help. For me, I’d do compression tests properly, the typical polluiton gear checks to see crancase pollution gear working well…..drop the sump and clean it….replace oil and filter with advice from BMW itself, not the local expert, and take the car often for and hours casual driving. By the way probaly hundreds if not thousands of V6 engines have been replaced when the problem is blocked hoses…..sludge is a problem. Cheers

  5. 5 On October 17th, 2011, Sal said:

    I’m really skeptical about running synthetic oil in my bimmer (92 325i E36 – 177,000 miles). I purchased it a few months ago and it’s due for a change…. but, I’ve heard about synth oil leaking through the seals and gaskets in engines with a higher mileage or older in general. I came across this site which explained why oil tends to leak and how synthetic oils play a role, “Pros and Cons”

    The decision of weather to use conventional or synthetic oil is really a difficult topic to disscuss. I called up the dealer ship, and they said to use 15W-40 which they sell, they also carry 5W-30 which is for newer BMW’s (Both Synthetic BMW Brands). I’ve read that 15W-40 is a register/trademark oil by and for only BMW, (to be verified), which can pressure you to buying it from them because that’s where you’ll find it. I’m still undecided as other BMW owners recommend Castrol GTX High Mileage 10W-40. Castrol seems to be the oil supplier for BMW Oil. (also to be verified).

    Any Suggestions or Experiences?


  6. 6 On October 18th, 2011, Tony said:

    There seems to be a chasm here with oils.Once upon a time Castor Oil was a great asset in racing cars. Today’s mineral and orther oils are not “either-or.”

    There are not just Synthetic OR non Synthetics and a part of the problem is pople not comprehending tha Synthetics ARE found leaking after replacing standard oils with pure Synthetics. Viscocity seems poorly understood and made an eclusive registry…thus statements like “5w-30 seems to be the most popular/ recommended etc”.

    That quasi recommendation is totally irrelevant without a raft of environmental and mechanical issues being considered.

    Yes one could improve engine life with oil changes at 1000kMs and in some condiitons that becomes essential. It makes no sense to say BMW recommend oil changes too long…the fact is they strike medium views on a whole range of environments and THEY control warranty not someone in these columns. The first port of coil for oil recommendations is the manufacturer of the vehicle.

    Not all oils are 100% one type or another and when using synthetic rather than the standard oil you should check with the manufacturer or second at a major BMW servicentre and ask specific questions…not vague ones leading to support of something contra to the manufacturer which you read somewhere.

    All my cars are turbo’s and I practice what I preach. That’s not through sheepishness or ignorance …As a young man I built very high performance street negines (and gearboxes) including Pontiac flat head, Sidevalve Ford , later other Fords, Holden, Oldsmobile, Buick 8 Fiats of various types Alfa Romeo, later SAAB and Cosworth. None ever died from oil problems of any type….except for a 13:1 compression Pontiac 357 built for me by a qualified mechanic posing as a “Pontiac expert” at Granville NSW who was utterly ignorant of high performance engine demands…I was 19 and knew vastly more about the needs required of mechanical alterations than he did as it eventuated..and he was a qualified mechanic, about 40 with a shed full of GTO’s, Furys etc….Te story of the results of his ignorance and his criminal incompetence and his lies would stagger you….

    My first port of call for the oil needs in increasesof power, all co-ordinated and changes to bearing clearances etc was the vehicle maker.If they will help…and don’t give up easily, they are your best source of information. If they don’t seek far and wide but analyse the info and realise you are taking a gamble which cacn lead to considerable expense and to early engine destruction. That’s all I have to say on the subject. Cheers Tony