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1999 BMW 3 series - 1 quart oil consumption in 4500 miles


I had my 1999 BMW 3 series (E46) at the BMW dealer today and they added 1 quart of oil. It had been a little over 4500 miles since the last oil change. The car has 110K on it, and I have always used full synthetic, as did the previous owner. Is this something to be concerned about?

Keep an eye on it, but 1 qt/4,500 miles is well within the normal range. If it rapidly increases there’s a problem, of course.

If you go to a non synthetic oil it should use less.

A quart is excessive in my book for a 110k miles engine but it’s not that bad all things considered.

The car has comparatively low miles for a 13 year old vehicle. From the sound of things you may be going too long between oil change intervals and even worse, it sounds like you are relying on the oil level to remain fine between changes without checking it yourself.
This is recipe for disaster if that is the case.

(Note that extended oil changes on light use driving can cause oil sludging or coking problems with piston rings. This could be the cause of the oil consumption.)

Actually, when I saw the title of this thread, I thought 1qt/4,500mi sounds pretty darn good for a 12-yo car with six figures on the odometer.

Just monitor the oil level, and take action if the oil consumption rate goes up dramatically in a short amount of time.

I agree with meanjoe75fan.

On a fairly new car, it is considered to be “within normal limits” for an engine to consume 1 qt every 1,000 miles. While that rate of consumption may not be desirable, it is also not unusual.

After 12 years and 110k miles, I think that the OP should be very happy that his engine only consumes 1 qt in 4.5k miles. However, I do agree with ok4450 that the OP needs to check his oil far more often.

It should not be up to the dealership to discover that the engine is low on oil. Checking the engine’s dipstick every few weeks is a normal and expected owner car care function.

A quart every 4500 miles for an engine with 110K on it is excellent. It’d even be very acceptable for a new engine.

All engines burn a wee bit of oil. They have to. The oil rings’ function is to wipe the cylinders down and leave a slight film of oil in the imperfections in the cylinder walls to lubricate the compression rings as they go by. That film in the wall imperfections then gets burned in the combustion process, which the film is confronted with immediately as the compression rings pass. New cylinders are even “honed” with visable scratches in a controlled pattern to hold that film of oil. Without honing a cylinder will not break in properly. The walls will be scored from dry rings dragging dry cylinder walls.

As the piston rings get pounded with millions of hot, hard poundings from the explosions over the miles, the metal in the rings loses some of its springiness in addition to wearing. And the cylinder walls wear. The fact that these things combined still only allow that much oil past the compression rings after 110,000 miles is a testament to good maintenance and a healthy engine.

You do not have a problem. Now learn to check your oil periodically. That’ll help keep a problem from developing.

How often do you change the oil? If it’s every 5000 miles, then a small increase in oil use could cause this. You might have not needed to put in a quart between changes, but it could have been close to a quart low.

You should not try and conclude from the Dealer adding 1 qt that it used 1 quart in that time period. Don’t you find it rather coincidential that the car just happened to be exactly 1 quart low?

Were you standing there when the stick was pulled and they said “look at where the oil level is now, this means your car used a quart in the last 4500 miles” I think not, I bet you just got the car back with a charge for 1 quart of oil on the repair order. When you picked up the car did they say,“we need to talk about your cars oil consumption”? For all we know they only put a half quart in, charged you for the full quart and kept the other half for themselves.

Nothing to worry about. One quart in 4500 miles is nothing of any concern in any engine.

Along the lines of checking the oil on a regular basis I could pose the following question.

With the pretty much total dispensing of gasoline by self-serve outlets can anyone actually remember ever seeing anyone in a gas station, quick shop, travel center or what have you with the hood up to do just that?

People stand there watching the numbers roll by, texting, or rearranging their hair in the car while waiting for the nozzle to click off but I can’t think of seeing anyone actually devoting 60 seconds to checking under the hood.

Lately I’ve been standing there moaning as I watch the dollar signs roll past…

Your point is a good one, however. That’s a good time to check under the hood.

“If you go to a non synthetic oil it should use less.”

Not necessarily. Probably the opposite. My car went from using 1-1.5qts of oil between 3,000 mile oil changes with dino oil to using less than a quart in 5,000-6,000 mile oil changes when I switched to Mobil-1 synthetic.

It’s a lot harder to check the oil when the engine is hot. I’d much rather do it in the morning at home.

In addition to the other comments, it is not impossible that the oil level was not exactly on the full mark immediately after the last oil change. The full oil level mark is a somewhat elusive target. I get the best results after parking the car all night after the engine has been run after an oil change, not immediately after an oil change.

How often do you change it?? Do BMW’a have to go back to the dealer to have a quart of oil added?