Dedicated drivers know there is only one sporty luxury brand that will meet their power and performance standards: the BMW. You see it zip by you on the highway, and it’s enticing, but maintaining a BMW is different than with other cars.
With proper maintenance, you can have your beautiful BMW and make it behave, too, even after 8-10 years on the road.
The Secret Is in the Service
The secret to keeping a BMW functioning well over 100,000 miles is careful maintenance. We find BMW’s Condition Based Service System falls short for drivers looking to maximize the car’s performance and life. First, while it includes a basic maintenance service schedule, it surprisingly lacks some important considerations.
HG Performance is a firm believer in providing preventative care that helps you avoid costly repairs. The recommended maintenance schedule below applies to most BMWs built starting in 2001, but we have specific recommendations for each year and model. If you reach out to us with your make and model, we’re happy to provide our custom, carefully considered recommendations to service your BMW, M, or Alpina vehicle!
Replacing the Fluids in Your BMW
First, be wary of BMW’s tendency to claim that some of its fluids are “lifetime fill.” Call Germany to ask what they consider to be a lifetime, and they’ll tell you 100,000 miles. With Toyotas, Subarus, and Hondas easily reaching 300,000 miles, it’s past time BMW recognized that drivers now expect more longevity from their vehicles.
At HG Performance, we not only recommend more frequent fluid changes, but we also urge owners to consider products that exceed BMW’s standards. After 52 years in business, we’ve found that owners who go with higher quality products change them less often and enjoy a better performing car for several years longer than those who choose the less expensive products.
Since 2001, BMW vehicles in the US have been filled with BMW LongLife-01 approved engine oils that need to be changed once every 15,000 miles or one year. Our experience has shown that this only works well for the first 50,000 miles of a vehicle’s life.
After this point, however, bearing wear and sludge buildup starts to become problematic. The oil just stays in these vehicles for so long. In 2016, BMW revised its recommendation down to 10,000 miles or one year, and we feel that this is a suitable interval for earlier BMWs, as well. Our recommendation of oil type and viscosity varies depending on the specific engine in your vehicle and is based on that engine’s factory recommendation.
For the BMW automatic transmissions built by ZF, we follow ZF’s guidelines carefully for their proper care. The ZF published recommendation is to replace the fluid and filter every 50,000 miles or eight years.
BMW models with automatic transmissions supplied by General Motors use different fluids & filters than the ZF transmission. GM also recommends replacing the fluid and filter every 8 years / 50,000 miles.
BMW manual transmissions come from either ZF or Getrag but their service needs are similar. A manual gearbox is a low pressure, low temperature, and relatively clean environment compared to an engine or automatic transmission. This unique build means far less stress on the fluid. Some newer BMWs use automatic transmission fluid or dual-clutch transmission fluid in the manual transmissions to improve fuel economy. Automatic transmission fluid reduces fluid drag, and ATF and DCTF are lower viscosity fluids than a traditional MTF.
Our preference is to exceed the capabilities of all three fluid types with Torco gear oils because they combine the higher levels of gear & synchronizer protection of a proper MTF with even better fuel economy than ATF or DCTF. Their additives have been proven to significantly reduce friction inside the gearbox. With Torco gear oils, BMW owners can enjoy transmission longevity AND fuel economy. Manual transmission fluid should be changed every 60,000 miles.
The M-DCT fluid should be changed at every 50,000 miles. The M-DCT is a wet clutch gearbox so the clutch material that wears off of the friction discs over time remains in the fluid.
Differential fluid should be changed when the manual, automatic, or DCT fluid is changed. The majority of BMW models have an open rear differential which takes Castrol SAF XO 75w-90. M model BMWs with the M Active Rear Differential take Castrol SAF XJ 75w-140.
BMW differentials are extremely durable and not prone to any common problems so the factory BMW / Castrol fluid works well. We also offer Torco SGO gear oil for track cars or customers with very high horsepower modified vehicles. These drivers tend to put a lot of heat or shock load through their differentials and the Torco SGO gear oil helps reduce operating temperatures.
The majority of BMW models should have their spark plugs changed every 45,000 to 60,000 miles. Spark plug replacement interval are not shown in the BMW Condition Based Service screen in your vehicle. Instead, you have to find it in the vehicle key memory.
For most vehicles, the spark plugs are due at the 3rd or 4th scheduled oil change. Those who change the engine oil more frequently per our guidance should use the 45,000 to 60,000 miles guide for a spark plug change. If your vehicle is modified or uses alternative fuels, spark plug choice and replacement interval becomes critical to safe engine operation so please contact us for a personalized recommendation based on your current and future performance goals.
The next BMW maintenance you should consider are your air filters. Learn more below:
Engine Air Filters
Change your BMW engine air filters every 30,000 miles. Beyond this mileage, the filters become clogged with dirt, which reduces airflow into the engine and robs you of horsepower and miles per gallon. The dirtiness of an air filter is visible, so we check filters while servicing a vehicle to give you a head’s up about whether you’ll be replacing the air filter sooner or later.
Interior Air Filters
The charcoal-activated cabin filters keep the air coming through the air conditioner clean. They will eventually become clogged, blocking the flow of air into the car. Old cabin filters can also allow unpleasant odors into the vehicle. You should change the interior air filters every second oil service, about every 20,000 miles, or every two years. We offer the same charcoal-activated cabin filters as the originals. If you’d like to upgrade, we have multi-layer filters that eliminate mold, pollutants, bacteria, pollen, and allergens as well.
Replace your fuel filter every 60,000 miles to ensure uninterrupted fuel flow to the engine. Like any other filter, debris in the vehicle’s fuel supply will clog up the fuel filter and eventually restrict the amount of fuel that can flow through. Ignoring the fuel filter for too long will eventually lead to a car that can’t start, either due to a dead fuel pump or simply from too little fuel making it past the filter.
Preventative, Custom BMW Maintenance Is Money Well Spent
As meticulously German-engineered as it is, your BMW is a machine with many moving parts functioning outside in the elements. Fluids work hard to keep gears turning smoothly but can get depleted. Filters stop dirt from entering the engine and the car.
At HG Performance, we know your bimmer is your baby. We treat each one as one-of-a-kind and provide custom recommendations to keep it ripping up the roads whether it’s two years or 12 years old.
To get top-of-the-line BMW maintenance, don’t hesitate to reach out at 858.943.0891 or leave us a message on our online contact form. We look forward to getting to know you and your special BMW!