How damaged is the engine from not getting oil changed?

Call us stupid, but my spouse and I are considering buying a 2005 BMW 325xi with 28,500 miles on it that has only had its oil changed ONCE, at 13,500 (the list price on it was only $40k+, perhaps chicken feed? Go figure.) How damaged might the engine be from such poor maintenance? We think the miles on it are mostly in town, rather than freeway miles. Other than that (and some easily fixable things), it’s an appealing vehicle.

I believe BMWs of that vintage have an oil change light that relies on computations of engine temp, miles, etc. I think the oil change interval can be as high as 15K, depending on these factors. SO there might be no damage at all. But I would be a little leery of any car that was apparently neglected like this one might have been.


Although BMW is stretching out the oil chnage interval, one oil change in 28,500 is way too long, for ANY oil! European manuafcturers are under government pressure to lengthen the oil change interval for environmental reasons. So the oil specifciation is for a “special” oil for Mercedes, Volkswagen, BMW, etc.

IF this car was only used to drive across the country at moderate speeds, and no cold starts, and the high spec BMW oil was used, it would be barely acceptable. Other posters will concur that for stop and go city driving the oil should have been changed at least every 5000 miles, so the car should have had 6 oil and filter changes by now. You can be sure other things have been neglected as well.

In case you wondered, if a typical car is driven normally without any oil or filter changes, just topping up, the ENGINE WILL SEIZE UP IN ABOUT 65,000 miles! That same engine with regular maintenance will go nearly 300,000 miles before excessive wear takes place.

In view of the fact that no other maintenance appears to have been done, and some things need to be fixed, I would say the owner basically neglected this vehicle, and caused considerable ACCELERATED WEAR.

This is a very high risk purchase!

NYBo is right; I believe BMW owner’s manual allows for 15K mile intervals. I think this is one of the few times I would get a used oil analysis on a sample of the oil before making my decision. Blackstone and other companies provide this service for $20-30 and it may be instructive to review the results before spending $40K.

BMW recommends changing oil at 15,000 mile intervals with synthetic oil; check the owner’s manual to confirm this for a 2005. The factory does not consider this poor maintenance. They also provide free service for the warranty period.

On the subject of synthetic oil: Mobil warrants Mobil 1 for 15,000 miles. You can change oil as often as you like, but the car seems to still qualify for the new car warranty. If it is a BMW dealer, make sure the warranty is still valid. If not, take it to a dealer and make sure.

If the price is appealing enough and warranty not voided due to lax oil change habits(check) I would pay an independent BMW specific or BMW dealer mechanic for a pre purchase inspection. Pulling the valve cover will tell you lots about this engine and how the oil change effected it.

In town miles especially short hops are MUCH harder on oil than freeway miles.

If you see this RUN!!!

If the price is appealing enough and warranty not voided due to lax oil change habits(check) I would pay an independent BMW specific or BMW dealer mechanic for a pre purchase inspection

I seriously doubt ANY inspection will reveal any problems that were caused by not changing the oil.

However I think a oil analysis will give you the BEST test to see what state the engine is in.

Thanks to all who took the time to post a reply! Just wanted to clarify the original list price paid was the $40k+, we’re looking at buying it (if we do) for a lot less than that. FYI, our mechanic who checked the car out echoed your sentiments.

Why would you consider a car that has been subject to such Neglect. Avoid that thing like the plague.

It’s not necessarily neglect, it could easily be right on schedule, and BMW dealers have been known to refuse to change the oil before the indicator goes off, because it’s covered under the warranty. The oil change indicator takes into account miles, temperature, and, to some degree, type of driving, so it’s not just a mileage flag.

the 6 cylinder bmw engine is very tough,and bmw do quote 15,000 mile oil change intervals,so buy the car and get the oil change done now.its just due now for an oil change because its done 15,000 miles since the last 28,500 miles,its bearly run in!!!so dont worry.

I agree with NYbo’s first statement- for cars with factory recommended oil change intervals of well over 10,000 miles this scenario is not uncommon. My Mercedes has a recommemded oil change interval of 12,000 miles. Many people never hear of these large service times because they do not have any interaction with these cars. So to most- yes, one oil chane in 28,500 miles will sound ludicrius- when infact the car is just due for its second oil change service~

It’s those other “easily fixable things” that have me a bit concerned. What are they, DK?

Personally I would not worry. Since it appears that it is within the manufacturer’s specification and assuming they used an oil with the right specifications and that there is no known problem for this specific engine related to oil, … I would not loose sleep over it. I might use it as a bargaining tool to maybe get a little better deal however.

I used to work for BMW so I’m going to chime in here. BMW recommends that the oil be changed once a year or when the service indicator says it’s time-which is usally around 15 thousand miles. Now from what I’ve seen, and from speaking with other techs you can get away with this if you put lots of miles on the car, but it’s still not ideal. BMW knows people don’t keep their cars too long anymore and trade up after 5 years so ther service they recommend covers you on their idea of a lifetime (100K miles). However, the problems really start to show up once you get more mileage on the car. Even with 28,500 and one oil change this vehicle isn’t damaged.

I recommend that owners cut their service interval in half and replace the oil and filter at 7500 miles which is adequate for folks who aren’t racing or take frequent trips to Mexico (gas has more sulfur). I also recommend people use the BMW brand oil because it’s both an affordable synthetic ($5) and has shown good performance in oil analysis. I do NOT recommend Mobil 1 in the 5W-30 weight, as it’s too light. BMW 5w-30 is actually a borderline 5W-40 to be honest. These engine likes a thick 5w-30 or light 5w-40 with an A3 rating.

In summary to the original poster: my problem is with you saying it needs things that are “fixable” This is a 3 year old car with only 28k miles-it shouldn’t need anything fixed really-not to mention it’s under warranty. If you really want it-buy it, but I recommend the following: change the oil and filter immmediately and then again 4,000 miles later. After that every 7,500.

I’d avoid it like the plague. Speaking from experience, I’ve seen probably half a dozen vehicles that went through the same type of neglect and all suffered major engine damage. Several of the engines were not even repairable and were consigned to the scrap iron or aluminum bin.
A valve cover can be removed and the valve train eyeballed for sludge. Any sludge deposits - run.

JMHO here, but time is a very important factor in regards to oil changes. It’s not just mileage. Environmental conditions (humidity, cool weather, etc.) combined with short hop in-town driving is very hard on an engine. In conditions like this the oil should be changed about every 4-6 months or 4-6k miles. In some cases it may need to be changed even more frequently than that.

You consider the vehicle “appealing” right now. Faced with engine problems a year after you buy it the “appealing” part of the car may vanish pretty quickly.

If someone neglects a basic like an oil change then one can safely assume they’ve neglected every single thing on the car.

I would personally avoid this vehicle, not because of this oil issue, but because this car is a luxury car that will cost a lot of money to maintain and repair. If you can afford to maintain and reapair a luxury car like this, go for it. But don’t come here to complain that it costs $3,000 for a single service appointment.

I ran the sludge question by my BMW Master Tech best friend (Auto Nation bought the store,I am glad I’m not there,maybe the are also,well anyway) he is seeing the sludge in cars that are only 4K overdue.

For the first 80k miles, I would change the oil in my Saturn every OTHER oil change light, about 11,000 mile intervals. I used Wally world SuperTech 10w30 Synthetic. I’ve used whatever is on sale ever since at each oil change light (5500-6000 miles). The car has 165k miles on it now, uses a quart of regular oil about every 2k. I think if a Saturn can take it, maybe a BMW should too. BTW, no sludge build up. I do drive mostly highway miles though.

“…he is seeing the sludge in cars that are only 4K overdue.”

But wouldn’t that imply that sludge would devlop if the oil was changed at 17,500 to 19,000 miles? It appears that the oil change was not overdue if it was done at 13,500. What does your friend think the interval should be?