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BMW 3-Series routine maintenance guide (1998 to 2006 petrol engines)

BMW 3-Series routine maintenance guide (1998 to 2006 petrol engines)

Do you own a BMW 3-Series and have questions about its routine maintenance, such as when to change the oil, or even what oil type to use? Perhaps you've been wondering how often to change the fluids in your 3-Series or how often to get it serviced, check the brakes and perform other common jobs.

Our BMW 3-Series routine maintenance guide comes straight from our best-selling manual for 1998 to 2006 petrol engines and has all the information you need! 

Modern cars and vans need much less maintenance than the vehicles of 25 years ago, but they still have needs. You no longer have to do a service every 6 months, or change the oil every 3 months, but regular fluid changes are still essential to your vehicle’s longevity. 

What follows is our quick reference guide to many of the recommended routine maintenance tasks, most of which you can do yourself at home. If you need more guidance, or step-by-step instructions, check out our video tutorials in the online manual, or get our traditional printed manual.

BMW 3-Series Oil Change

Engine Oil Type BMW long-life oil* SAE 0W-40 or SAE 5W-30 (fully synthetic) to ACEA A3/B3, API SJ/CD, ECII (M43TU, M52TU and M54 engines)
  BMW long-life oil* SAE 0W-30 (fully synthetic) to ACEA A3, API SJ/CD, ECII (N42 engines)
  BMW long-life oil* SAE 5W-30 (fully synthetic) to ACEA A3, API SJ/CD, ECII (N46 engines)
Engine Oil Capacity (including oil filter) 4.25 litres (1796 cc engine - codes N42 B18 and N46 B18)
  4.0 litres (1895 cc engine - codes M43TU B19)
  4.25 litres (1995 cc engine - codes N42 B20 and N46 B20)
  6.5 litre (6-cylinder engines - codes M52TU and M54)
Oil Drain Plug Torque 25 Nm (M12 plug)
  30 Nm (M18 plug)
  60 Nm (M22 plug)
Oil Filter Housing Cap Torque 25 Nm

* Refer to your BMW dealer for brand name and type recommendations

BMW 3-Series Transmission Fluid Change

Manual Transmission Fluid Type BMW Lifetime transmission oil*
Automatic Transmission Fluid Type BMW Lifetime transmission oil*
Manual Transmission Fluid Capacity 1.5 litres (5-speed transmission)
  1.75 litres (6-speed transmission)
Automatic Transmission Fluid Capacity 3.0 litres
Manual Transmission Fluid Drain Plug Torque 50 Nm
Manual Transmission Fluid Filler/Level Plug Torque 50 Nm
Automatic Transmission Fluid Drain Plug Torque 25 Nm (4-speed transmission)
  35 Nm (5-speed transmission)
Automatic Transmission Fluid Filler/Level Plug Torque 33 Nm (4-speed transmission)
  40 Nm (5-speed transmission)

* Refer to your BMW dealer for brand name and type recommendations

BMW 3-Series Coolant Replacement

Coolant Type 50/50 mix of water and Long-life ethylene glycol based antifreeze (refer to your BMW dealer for brand name and type recommendations)
Coolant System Capacity 7.0 litres (1796 cc engine - codes N42 B18 and N46 B18)
  6.0 litres (1895 cc engine - codes M43TU B19)
  7.0 litres (1995 cc engine - codes N42 B20 and N46 B20)
  8.4 litres (6-cylinder engines - codes M52TU and M54)

Other fluid types for the BMW 3-Series

Brake And Clutch Fluid Type DOT 4 brake fluid
Final Drive Unit Fluid Type SAE 75W/90
Power Steering Fluid Dexron III

Other torque specs for the BMW 3-Series

Roadwheel Bolts 100 Nm 
Spark Plugs 23 Nm (M12 thread)
  30 Nm (M14 thread)
Cylinder Block Coolant Drain Plug 25 Nm
Front Caliper Guide Pins 35 Nm
Front Brake Caliper Mounting Bracket Bolts 110 Nm
Rear Caliper Guide Pins 35 Nm
Rear Caliper Mounting Bracket Bolts 67 Nm 
ABS Wheel Speed Sensor Bolts 8 Nm

BMW 3-Series Service and Maintenance Schedule

The maintenance intervals in this manual are provided with the assumption that you, not the dealer, will be carrying out the work. These are the minimum intervals recommended by us for vehicles driven daily. If you wish to keep your vehicle in peak condition at all times, you may wish to perform some of these procedures more often. We encourage frequent maintenance, since it enhances the efficiency, performance and resale value of your vehicle. 

If the vehicle is driven in dusty areas, used to tow a trailer, or driven frequently at slow speeds (idling in traffic) or on short journeys, more frequent maintenance intervals are recommended.

All E46 3-Series models are equipped with a service display in the centre of the instrument panel, which shows the type of service next due, and the distance remaining until the service is required. Once that distance is reduced to zero, the display then shows the distance since the service was due. Two types of service are specified, an 'Oil Service' and an 'Inspection Service'. For more details, refer to the Owner's Handbook supplied with the vehicle. 

There are two different inspection services, Inspection I and Inspection II, these should be carried out alternately with some additional items to be included every second Inspection II. If you are unclear as to which inspection schedule was carried out last time start with Inspection II (including the additional items). 

To reset the service interval display indicator on some models a BMW service tool is required (see Section 8 ). Aftermarket alternatives to the BMW tool are produced by several leading tool manufacturers and should be available from larger car accessory shops.

Every 250 miles

  • Check the engine oil level
  • Check the coolant level
  • Check the screenwash fluid level
  • Check the brake/clutch fluid level
  • Check the power steering fluid level
  • Check the tyres and tyre pressures
  • Check the condition of the battery
  • Check the condition of the wiper blades

Oil service

  • Renew the engine oil and filter 
  • Check the front brake pad thickness 
  • Check the rear brake pad thickness 
  • Check the operation of the handbrake 
  • Renew the pollen filter 
  • Reset the service interval display 

*Frequent oil and filter changes are good for the engine. We recommend changing the oil at least once a year.

Inspection I

Carry out all the operations listed under Oil service, along with the following: 

  • Check all underbonnet components and hoses for fluid leaks 
  • Check the condition of the auxiliary drivebelt(s), and adjust/renew if necessary 
  • Check the steering and suspension components for condition and security 
  • Check the exhaust system and mountings 
  • Check the condition and operation of the seat belts 
  • Lubricate all hinges and locks 
  • Check the headlight beam alignment 
  • Check the operation of the windscreen/headlight washer system(s) (as applicable) 
  • Check the engine management system 
  • Carry out a road test 

Inspection II

Carry out all the operations listed under Inspection I, along with the following: 

  • Renew the spark plugs 
  • Renew the air filter element 
  • Check the condition of the driveshaft gaiters 
  • Check the condition of the handbrake shoe linings 

Every second Inspection II

  • Renew the fuel filter 

Every 2 years, regardless of mileage

  • Renew the brake fluid 

Every 4 years, regardless of mileage

  • Renew the coolant