HELP! I Broke my new BMW


So, I get my dream car-- a 330i ZHP (performance package). Love it. Had it a month or so.

Over that time there are a few times that the amber oil light would come on after the car was shut off. I thought it was odd. I checked when the oil needed to be changed next and the car said that it had over 10k left before a change—so i ignored.

Today, I went to drive and the amber light came on WHILE I was driving. Very worried, I pulled over and consulted the manuel.

So now, I understand the amber light coming on after the car is off indicates that the oil is getting low. The light on while driving is the oil is VERY low.

At Target (where I pulled over), I bought a Qt of the oil closet to what BMW recommended and put it in. The car was driven less than a mile with the light on. The light is now off. I’m taking it in tomorrow to have them change the oil, look for leaks, analyze the oil filter for metal and analyze the oil. The latter to being ideas I got from the internet that I hope the dealership can/will do.

So, my question is did I cause serious damage to my car’s engine? I often work the car kinda hard… I’m worried the engine is permanently damaged (not that there is much that can be done if it is.)


Probably not. That light is there to protect you from damaging this expensive car. On most cars when the oil light comes on, the damage is being done. On your car, they installed a warning system that doesn’t allow the oil level to get so low where engine damage can occur. And it worked! When that light came on and then stayed on that caused you to look in the owners manual. And now you know what that light means.


Just wondering… how come oil level goes so low (to activate the warning) in a 2 months old car, unless there is a leak? Could it be a faulty sensor?

Agreed with tester. The oil light is there to warn you of a problem not to inform you that it is too late. So let me pose the next question to you. Where did the oil go? are you leaking? Did you buy the car new? If so did you follow the break in rules?

I would be concerned about the oil consumption as well. You’re either burning oil at an excessive rate, or leaking. German cars will burn oil (my VW burns 1 qt every 2000 miles) but something isn’t right.

“I checked when the oil needed to be changed next and the car said that it had over 10k left before a change—so i ignored.”

Your car TALKS to you?? 10K between oil changes?? Have you ever checked the oil level with the dip-stick?? How many miles on the car??

Hi Rsultan, I used to work on BMW’s so maybe I can ease your fears. Your particular car has a capacity of 7 quarts of oil and has a drop in style oil filter. Running one quart low on this car is actually not a big issue to be honest. BMW likes big capacities on these engines, and given the oil change intervals it’s not surprising.

Now I’m going to offer some advice on that car. Change the oil before the light tells you to-trust me. It’s going to have you drive 14-15K miles before it says you need service, but ignore that. Cut the service in half and change the oil every 7500 miles on that car and tell them not to touch the service display. If you don’t know when the oil was last changed do it now and start with a fresh count on your meter.

Now as for the oil to use in that car-don’t put in regular 5W-30 synthetic oils like Mobil 1 unless it’s an emergency. The reason being although BMW uses a 5W-30 in its cars-it’s a very thick 30 weight which almost borders on a 40 weight, and it has an A3 rating. Basically it has a very sturdy HTHS. I recommend that if you need to top off use the oil from the dealer (which should actually be cheaper than Mobil 1 depending on your dealer) or use Mobil 1 0W-40 or another A3 rated heavy 30 weight synthetic.

Some last general notes since you say you work the car hard:

  1. Don’t run the car hard or floor it until the engine is fully warmed up.
  2. Don’t peel out with the car if you don’t want expensive welding repair done to the subframe.
  3. Don’t speed shift the car.
  4. Don’t use a K&N air filter.
  5. Most importantly always watch the temp gauge like a hawk. If you see the engine run hot (3/4 or higher on the gauge) pull the car over immediately and tow it to the dealer. These cars warp cylinder heads so fast your head will spin and the factory water pump, radiator and thermostat are weak spots.

Good luck.

The only thing I’m going to comment on here is some of your wording.
You’ve “ignored” the oil light a number of times and “often work the car kinda hard”.

One should develop the habit of raising the hood every couple of weeks and checking the oil level, along with other fluids.
This should be done even if the amber lamp never comes on at all.

Wow, great answer!

In addition to Dave G.'s excellent response and OK4450’s additional helpful comments, I want to add something that should be obvious, but perhaps has not yet become obvious to the OP:

One should also develop the habit of reading the Owner’s Manual for the car as soon as possible after buying it, and should also re-read the relevant section of the manual when something specific crops up, like the sudden appearance of a warning light.

Anyone who wants his/her car to last a long time should be fully aware of what is contained in that manual, and in the Maintenance Schedule, but someone who admittedly “works that car kinda hard” is extremely foolish to ignore the manual as the OP has done.

Well there is one variable in this car that is not in the old. There are a twin set of turbo’s that cannot run low on engine oil. If they do they will be destroyed in short order.

There’s no turbos on this car.

So basically you’re not supposed to drive the BMW like The Ultimate Driving Machine? You’re saying if you lay down rubber with this car the unibody will break? What happened to German engineering?

They are the ultimate driving machines for the money make no doubt. I find the handling and steering magical on these cars and the 3 series to be brillant. However being designed to excel on a track and at a dragstrip are two different things. The BMW demographic (especially on non-M models) isn’t exactly buying these cars to do burnouts and donuts. The American fascination with drag racing, abusing cars and smoking the tires doesn’t really take center stage in the design of the suspension and underbody of these cars. You can drive these cars as hard as you want on a track, but if you’re going to rev the motor and dump the clutch at a standstill on a car with good grip like this you’re going to start stressing things. It’s the same for a Porsche 911-you don’t do burnouts-period.

Besides, I was trying to offer advice to keep the car running smoothly and trouble free for a long time. I don’t care what car you own-if you run it hard enough something will break eventually.

I don’t think your car has a dipstick for the oil,does it?

It does. Any E46 model (3 series from 99-05) should have a dipstick. BMW did away with it on its newest cars. Lots of speculation as to why, but to be honest most owners don’t know or care.

Doesn’t the launch control on the M3 SMG basically do the same thing?

He said “new” so I thought E-90.How id you pick-up it was E-46? 330iZHP Designation?I cant remember this oil level light on E-46,I also worked for BMW

Confusingly, isn’t the E90 3.0 l non-turbo 3 called a 328i? So the only 330i would be the E46, right?

If you worked for BMW you should pick up on this too. The 330i with a ZHP package was sold from 2003-2005 on the E46 cars. The current lineup doesn’t even include a 330i, only the 328 and 335 designations. So it’s not actually possible to buy a “new” 330i-only new to him.

The 328 now gets the former top motor and the 335 gets a complicated twin turbo engine. I feel bad for anyone buying one of these 10 years from now. These cars were expensive enough to repair, just wait till they see 135/335 bills out of warranty.