One of the most common questions asked by “do it yourself” home mechanics is what brand and grade BMW engine oil should they be using in their vehicle.
We get a lot of email from our wonderful readers here at the BMW Repair Guide. The most popular question by a longshot is what brand and grade BMW engine oil do we “suggest” they should use during a DIY oil service. As basic as this question may sound, it is actually an excellent one. We have a lot of money invested in our cars, and we want to make sure we are servicing them correctly to achieve the best performance and longevity out of the engines (and not void the factory warranty for you newer car owners).
The BMW is a marvel of German engineering and its engine parts have been designed using unique metal alloys with very strict tolerances. Many of the complex systems within a BMW engine, most notably being the infamous hydraulic lifters, must be lubricated with the correct oil in order to operate correctly. BMW has spent countless hours on engine design technology to make sure their vehicles meet today’s rigorous emissions and fuel economy regulations without compromising performance. In order to achieve this, BMW has specified strict oil formulations so their engines perform at the highest possible level.
So what brand of engine oil should I use?
Besides the argument over what type of fuel you should use in your BMW (we only use Shell 93 octane by the way), no other topic conjures up more controversy like the BMW engine oil debate does. We have watched friends lambaste each other on forum threads over the issue. There is plenty of online rhetoric that may persuade you into thinking some brands of engine oil are better than others. But that is just a writer’s personal opinion, and is simply not true. The fact is as follows: you can use any brand of engine oil that meets the oil rating standard specified in your owners manual. If you do not have the owner’s manual for your vehicle, you can download it at the BMW USA owners manual download site (the oil specifications are always listed under the “FAQ” tab). We also strongly suggest you visit BMW USA and download a copy of the Service and Warranty Information Book for your model vehicle. It is full of critical service information including service intervals and what type engine oil is approved for your vehicle.
So what does all of this mean? Say for example you own a 2013 BMW 328i and would like start servicing your own engine oil. If you referred to your owners manual, you would find that for the 2013 328i, you can service your vehicle with any brand engine oil that meets the following specifications: BMW Longlife-01 or BMW Longlife-01 FE. Any brand of engine oil that has one of these certifications printed on its container is approved for use in your BMW.
Just doing a quick search brings up several quality brands that meet these specifications and can be purchased online*. All of them are perfectly acceptable to use in your 2013 328i (or any other BMW model with a LL-01 rating):
* BMW continually updates their list of approved oils. Always verify a product meets your specifications before purchasing.
BMW M Vehicles – high performance engines.
BMW M cars (and SAVs) have high performance engines that require different oil grades than non-M models. We only use Original BMW M Twin Power Engine Oil in our M cars at the BMW Repair Guide. There are other motor oils on the market that meet the rating and grade of original BMW M oil, but we strongly suggest that DIY home mechanics think twice before using them.
Always plan ahead
One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a BMW home mechanic is rushing out at the last minute to try and find an engine oil that meets the specifications of your vehicle. Take our advice…chances are you won’t find what you need (or want) at your local auto parts store. You will end up getting frustrated and filling your BMW with an unapproved engine oil because you have to finish your car “today”. That’s poor planning. Order the correct engine oil ahead of time at the local parts store, or purchase it online. Just don’t be in a rush and use unapproved oil…it’s not worth the damage that could be done to your BMW’s engine.
Take your time and choose the brand of BMW engine oil that you want. If you were brought up in a family that only used Pennzoil in their vehicles, then find the Pennzoil product that is certified for your car. Perhaps you are a purest and only want the engine oil that they use at the BMW dealership…no problem. Factory BMW engine oil is easily purchased online as well. At the end of the day, as long as your brand has the correct BMW approval stamped on its container, then you are good to go.
I have an older vehicle that requires BMW Longlife-98 (LL-98) but cannot find it in any store.
BMW Longlife-98 has been obsolete since 2009, and can now be replaced with any brand of oil rated Longlife-01 (see chart below). By the way…if you find any dusty bottles of Longlife-98 laying around, don’t use them in your engine. Oil has a shelf life and using them may cause serious harm to your vehicle.
Can I substitute any other BMW rated oils for the one that is recommended for my vehicle?
The short answer is yes. Below is a very handy chart showing the different rated BMW engine oils, their intended uses, and any suitable substitutions. For example, it is perfectly acceptable to substitute a brand rated BMW LL-04 in any vehicle that specifies BMW LL-01 (but not the other way around). Be careful with substituting oil ratings; we still highly recommend only using what your owner’s manual specifies.