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Oil light E46

Hello everyone,
I changed my oil in my E46 316i last week (this time with the correct oil). 500km later and my yellow oil light starts acting up. It goes on sometimes after I shut off the engine and it goes off after 10 seconds. Today for the first time in a week, it went on while I was driving but it turned off after a few minutes. I checked for leaks but there are none, except for one which is around the wishbone (front right) but that’s because the suspension on that side is pretty bad (lot of noise when going over bumps). I’ve been checking my oil everyday for a week and I haven’t seen any significant changes in level. Could this be the sensor that has gone bad ?

I always check my oil about an hour after parking it on even surface.

It could be, but the only way to tell is to hook a mechanical gauge to it to see.

An oil pressure gauge you say ?

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Yes, an oil pressure gauge that will give the numerical reading of your oil pressure. This need not be a permanent installation. This will help diagnose if it is an oil pump problem. Could just be the pressure switch or an internal engine problem.

Engine runs very, very smoothly and has no weird smells or fumes. Just checked the oil and the level is just below max.

I had this happen once. The oil light came on so I pulled over and checked the level. The engine had been running normally with no odd sounds. I opened the hood and found a mouse nest and some chewed wires. There may be a wiring problem or an actual issue with the engine that is killing your oil pressure.

I started feeding two stray cats that showed up pregnant of course because when a stray shows up it is ALWAYS pregnant. The mouse problem hasn’t been an issue since and I found good homes for all the kitties and had the mothers fixed.

I already checked the wiring and no signs of any animals. I’ve read that the sensors tend to go bad on the E46 and it’s a casual thing. I hope that it’s nothing too serious. And if the pressure is low, shouldn’t the engine be running rough, have less power, make weird sounds and the RED oil light be on ?

You’re the person who found a thicker oil in the car in a separate thread, right? If so, you probably just found the reason why the seller used a thicker oil than specified. You might simply have a worn-out engine here.

True but it did the same thing with the thicker oil…

if the pressure is low, shouldn’t the engine be running rough, have less power, make weird sounds and the RED oil light be on ?

That is why we are advising you to find out if the true oil pressure is correct. If you get to the point of “weird sounds” etc you could be looking at major repair costs.

I don’t have a pressure gauge, could a local mechanic have this in his disposal?

I have never heard of an oil light coming on after the engine is shut off. :confused:

My oil level is good and the car drives very good but the light just gets on my nerves and kills my mood I can’t stand lights on the dash

Then you need to put this thing in the shop and pay for a good inspection to find out what is wrong and what else needs attention. I think you are going to find out that this vehicle is going to require a lot of work.

You might say where you are located ( general not exact ) as most of the replies here are US based .


I live in Belgium, it’s a European spec car (Imported from Germany)

This is the oil level as of now
The dipstick takes some effort to put in but it does the job (I ordered a new OEM one)

Yes, they should. They can get the pressure readings and then proceed from there.

I’m going to get it checked out by an independent BMW specialist tomorrow after work. I’ll keep y’all updated

I have two high mileage e46s so I know a thing or two about the common problems in e46s.

The oil can shaped light in your dash has no direct relationship with your oil pressure. It is triggered by the thermal oil level sensor that is attached to the bottom of your oil pan. Your car does monitor oil pressure, but that is a different warning light.

These e46 oil level sensors are notoroiusly inaccurate, often illuminatting the warning light when the car is only 1/8 quart low, but just as likely to not show any indication when the car is two quarts low. There are a half-dozen different manufacturers selling replacement oil level sensors for e46, and so far as I have been able to determine, none of them are reliable.

The sensor is easy to replace while you are changing the oil, if you want to try a replacement, but the best practice is to remove the bulb from the oil level warning light if you ever happen to have your dash cluster out for any reason.

e46s tend to consume oil after about 120k miles due to a poor design on the oil scraper rings on the pistons. So the dipstick is your friend. There are several techniques for reducing oil consumption, but the only real fix is to replace the oil scraper rings with oil scraper rings from an older model BMW (e.g. e36). However, ring replacement is VERY expensive, so most of us just tolerate the oil consumption and cross our fingers that the ash from burning oil does not plug up the catalytic converters (that happened to me once - $2000 in parts).