How to Change Engine Oil in a BMW 3 Series E90

Changing the engine oil in your E90 is a key part of regular maintenance. 

To change the engine oil, you’ll need a few essential tools and materials. Always check your owner’s manual to ensure you’re using the correct oil for your specific model. Or this guide on engine oils for the E90.

Never work with a hot engine to avoid burns, although slightly warm oil eases the process. Prevent spills whenever you can. Dispose of old oil responsibly, as it can be harmful to the environment.

Step-by-step guide on doing an oil change

Ready to get your hands dirty? Changing the engine oil in your BMW isn’t rocket science, but you do need the right tools and parts.

What You’ll need

  • New engine oil, around 6.5-7 liters / 7 quarts
  • Oil drain pan that can catch more than 6.5 liters / 7 quarts of oil
  • Oil filter wrench – a special tool needed for loosening the oil filter housing cap on BMW engines. It is an 86mm 16 flute wrench that fits perfectly over the cap.
  • New oil filter kit, usually includes:
    • New seals / O-rings for the oil filter housing cap
    • New oil filter
    • New crush washer for the drain plug

It’s also a good idea to have some rags or paper towels on hand to clean up any spills.

Make sure you have everything ready before you start to make the process as smooth as possible.

FCP Euro explaining how to do an oil change on your BMW e90

Steps to take

  1. Use an oil filter wrench to loosen the oil filter housing lid until you can see a sealing O-ring. This allows the oil that is still inside the filter housing and filter to drain into the oil pan. If you do not do this first, you will leave old engine oil behind
  2. Locate the drain bolt under the car. There is a plastic cover that hides it. Looks like a trapdoor, the correct bolt is behind that cover. 
  3. Remove the drain bolt. Keep your drain pan near because the oil will start draining once you loosen it.
  4. Fully remove the cap of the oil filter housing, using your special wrench.
  5. Take out the old filter from the cap.
  6. Remove the seals from the housing cap. Use your fingers or a flathead screwdriver carefully. There’s 1 big seal around the edge of the cap, and 1 small seal at the narrow end of the cap.
  7. Place the new seals back in the same place. Lube them a bit with old oil that is still on the cap.
  8. Grab your new oil filter and put it into the oil filter housing cap.
  9. Screw everything back onto the oil filter housing, making sure it’s securely in place.
  10. Get underneath the car and replace the drain bolt. Make sure you swap out the old crush washer with the new one. Tighten it by hand with a normal wrench.
  11. Refill the rest of the engine oil via the top of the engine, and fasten the cap when you’re done.

It’s a good idea to check for any leaks after you’re done to ensure everything is sealed up tight. 

Afterwards, be sure to check the oil level with the (digital) dipstick to ensure you’ve added the correct amount.

Where is the Oil Filter and what does it do?

The oil filter in your BMW 3 Series E90 is not as elusive as you might think. For the most common gasoline engines it’s located at the front of the engine, near the intake manifold.

It’s housed in a cylindrical canister that’s easy to spot once you know what you’re looking for.

engine bay of an e90 where the oil filter housing is marked
Oil filter location for gasoline e90’s

The oil filter is a small but vital part of your BMW’s engine. It’s responsible for filtering out any dirt, debris, and contaminants from the engine oil.

This ensures that only clean oil circulates through the engine, reducing wear and tear on the engine components and helping to maintain optimal performance.

By regularly changing the oil filter, you can ensure that your engine stays clean and runs smoothly.

Special Considerations for Diesel Models

While the process for changing the oil filter and engine oil is largely the same for all E90 models, there are some differences when it comes to diesel models. 

These models require a different type of oil, and the oil filter is located in a different place.

e90 diesel oil filter housing
Oil filter location for diesel e90’s

For diesels, the oil filter housing is located more towards the back in the engine bay. It is still to the side of the engine, just not as much to the front as with the petrol engines. 

You need a regular 28mm socket to be able to unscrew a diesel oil filter housing cap, instead of a special socket.

The oil change procedure itself is pretty much the same as for petrol engines stated above.

Diesel engines require a higher viscosity oil to ensure proper lubrication. And there is a different oil filter needed for diesels.

Check check double check

Whether it be for diesel or gasoline models, always check your owner’s manual to ensure you’re using the correct oil and filter for your specific model. If you are unsure of what you’re doing, consult a mechanic.

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