What kind of motor oil do I need for my 1997 BMW 318i Sedan (97,000 Miles)?

What type and also any good company/brand preferences?


I just received this car and I do not know what the previous owner used.

5 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Use a Euro spec oil of the recommended viscosity shown in the owner's manual. The use of the Euro spec oil is important, even though I know there will be objections to this.

    While the SAE viscosity ratings are the same, each rating (0, 5W, 10W, 15, 20, etc.) represents an acceptable range.

    Because of the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards in the U.S., and the need to comply, American cars are built with very tight bearing tolerances to permit the use of very thin oil. So a 5W-40 U.S. spec oil will be noticeably thinner (particularly when hot) than a Euro spec oil of the same viscosity rating.

    Here's an excerpt from the m3forum post referenced below:

    "Of course, BMW does recommend their High Performance Synthetic, which is a 5w-30, but the viscosity specs show that this oil is a viscous 30 weight. A 30 weight can run from 9.3-12.5cst@100c, the BMW oil is approximately 12.2cst. This is close to many 40 weight oils, therefore, it's the exception."

    I made the mistake of getting the best Castrol synthetic, in the specified viscosity, but didn't check for the ACEA rating or the BMW LL-01 rating. While no damage was done to the engine, I had a thermostat stick and the engine became hotter than normal. Again, not into the indicated "HOT" range, but above its normal running temperature. This seemed to cause a flickering oil pressure light at dead idle. That would be in line with the oil's cSt (centiStokes) being outside the range on the low side, which would also match up with the need for thin oils for U.S. engines.

    Find the recommended ACEA (European automaker's association) grade (A3 is typical), and if possible, look for the BMW LL-01.

    Mobil 1 Euro Spec meets these standards, and is available at AutoZone and Pep Boys. German Castrol (not U.S. or Canadian or even English, from my research) will do as well.

    The reason for this is simple enough. The BMW engines use a wider clearance for the bearings, as they don't have to meet CAFE standards in their home market (or elsewhere in the world), and are building a performance car. Looser clearances mean higher revolutions are possible, and my M54 engine has a redline 500 RPM higher than that of my C5 Corvette with the LS1 engine.

    Oh, more good news! A lot of posters on the bimmerfest and bimmerforums websites indicate that the "normal" BMW oil, sold at dealers, is really less expensive than the Mobil 1 I run in my daughter's car.

    My car goes for long distances at moderately high speeds, so the local dealer advised my independent mechanic to use the Castrol TWS 10W-60 oil in it. To the mechanic's credit, I had done the change with the Castrol synthetic, but we were both amazed at the concept of a 60 weight oil. Of course, the 10W notation is important, and the oil has worked very well. But it is expensive - on the order of US$12 per liter, vs. less than US$6 per liter for the more mundane BMW oil. The TWS is actually spec'd for the S54 ///M engine, but works well in my M54. You probably have the M52 engine.

    Finally, here's an excerpt from the bimmerfest wiki article linked below:

    "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, a) ACEA A3, or b) BMW LL-98 or LL-01.

    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.

    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 tempuratures of -35c- -20c (depends on the grade). The lower this first number the thinner the oil is at LOW tempuratures. The second number (30, 40, 50) refers to oil thickness at 100c (operating tempurature). 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 tempurature. Compare this to Mobil 1 Xw-30 which is close to a 20 weight oil at 100c."

    References to 100c are 100* Celsius, or 212* Fahrenheit.

    For filters, try Autohaus AZ. There are a lot of other online euro car parts stores, as well.

    And to directly answer your question, here are my preferences:

    MOBIL 1 Euro Spec (AutoZone or Pep Boys)

    BMW Castrol TXT (BMW dealers)

    TOTAL/Elf (http://www.autohausaz.com)

    Filter - Mahle-Knecht OEM filter (http://ww

  • Anonymous
    4 years ago

    Bmw 318i Specs

  • 4 years ago

    1997 Bmw 328i Specs

  • brod
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    Open the front hood and look at the decal showing what type of engine oil to use.

    BMW requires 5w/30 full synthetic oil, and the actual brand that BMW uses is Castrol.

    But you can use any reputable oil brand.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Use what you've been using. I haven't changed from Exxon Super-flo, and I'm past 121K miles

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