BMW Service & Maintenance – The Ultimate Guide [infographic included]

There is a reason BMW’s motto is “The Ultimate Driving Machine.”  

If you have a BMW, you have felt the power and smoothness when driving one.

To keep that powerful and flawless driving experience, you need to maintain your car by following a proper BMW maintenance and service schedule.

The following is a guide from the Autohaus Social team to help you maximize your BMW’s lifespan, health, and efficiency.  We want you to love driving your car while minimizing the headaches associated with vehicle maintenance and repair

If you are in the Atlanta area, we offer BMW services in Atlanta with A-level technicians, genuine OEM or better parts, and the ethical service you deserve.  

Enjoy learning about the service and maintenance guidelines to keep your BMW the ultimate driving machine!

The Importance of Routine BMW Service

Maintaining a vehicle is a lot like maintaining your personal health. 

Just like your body needs exercise and proper nutrition to live a long and healthy life, so your BMW needs regular care. 

Your vehicle has many different systems needed to perform properly, not only individually but also with the other car systems. 

Each of these systems is made up of multiple parts and fluids, and as we all know, all parts and fluids eventually break down and fail.

Thus, it is critical to monitor the health of the multitude of parts and exchange or “flush” the fluids at predetermined mileage intervals.  Following a recommended service schedule maximizes the health of your vehicle and minimizes the need for repair.

Monitor the heath of your BMW

For more information on why routine maintenance is important, please read our blog on why European autos need regular service.

The Ideal BMW Service Schedule

Every engine designed by the BMW Group is slightly different, but the baseline schedule for each is similar. 

The following are examples of BMW’s suggested schedules for the proper maintenance of their exceptional products.  These are also the schedules we recommend and follow here at Autohaus Social. 

Keep in mind that each engine and vehicle engineered by BMW may differ slightly.  You should always refer to your owner’s manual or call a trusted automotive facility for guidance, especially if you are uncertain about something. 

It is never worth jeopardizing your BMW when a phone call or some reading provides the correct answer.

Your BMW is like an athlete

As a safeguard, BMW cars are equipped with the CBS system (Condition Based Services).  This system alerts you via the dash screen if a scheduled service is due.

Oil Changes

Oil changes should be performed every 5,000 miles in BMWs regardless of the manufacturer’s claims of longer service intervals.

In recent years, many manufacturers have increased oil change intervals for cars.  However, for the engine’s long-term care, oil changes should be performed more frequently than most manufacturers recommend.

At Autohaus Social, we suggest an oil change every 5,000 miles regardless of accumulated miles.

Why do we recommend this?

Your BMW is under rigorous demands with a performance engine.  

Because of BMW’s oil distribution methods in the engine (using a Vanos system), it isn’t uncommon to have engine issues if the oil change schedule isn’t followed.  This includes problems with the PCV (crankcase pressure) system and problems with excessive oil consumption.

Regularly change your BMW's oil

Engine Inspections

BMW requires a full inspection of the vehicle approximately every 20,000 miles, and your car will alert via the CBS when due. 

This full BMW inspection requires about an hour and is more complicated than a simple visual inspection.  Your local BMW garage or specialist should perform this visual inspection.

Air and Cabin Filters

BMW recommends changing the air and cabin filters about every 20,000 miles.  As an extra safety feature, the CBS system notifies you when a new air and cabin filter is due.

At Autohaus Social, we suggest inspecting the status of these filters every service to determine their health instead of replacing them solely upon mileage.

Why should air filters be inspected more than every 20,000 miles?

It’s simple:  Air needs to pass through multiple systems to keep a functional engine.  However, if the filters become clogged, air cannot pass properly through the engine, resulting in potential failure and engine problems. 

Brake Fluid

Your BMW’s Brake fluid should be exchanged and flushed every 30,000 miles or every three years (whichever comes first). 

If you have a performance or track BMW, then the fluid should be exchanged more frequently due to extensive heat and pressure. 

Coolant & Antifreeze Replacement

Coolant, also known as antifreeze, should be replaced and flushed every 40,000 miles or whenever a coolant system part is replaced.

Coolant system parts include the radiator, thermostat, hoses, heater core, etc. 

Small particles of debris form over time within the coolant system, and if left alone, they begin to clog and restrict the flow of coolant.  If left unchecked, this results in extensive damage. 

If part of the coolant system experiences failure, we advise flushing and cleaning the entire coolant system to protect and prolong the existing and replacement parts.

Spark Plugs

Replacing spark plugs in your BMW depends on your engine - BMW has a recommended schedule for different engine types. 

Why is it essential to follow the spark plug schedule for your car?

Spark plugs play a vital role in the engine running and firing correctly.  If spark plugs begin to become worn or fouled, they begin “misfiring.”  This means they don’t ignite and fire properly.

There are many reasons a spark plug misfire is dangerous to a BMW engine: 

The most serious issue is the catalytic converter becoming damaged due to the misfires.  Replacing a catalytic converter is a costly repair usually avoided by simply following the engine’s spark plug replacement schedule. 

Replacing a BMW catalytic converter is a costly repair

Timing Belts & Chains

Timing belt replacement is one of the most critical services on a BMW based on a specific mileage interval. 

Failure to adhere to a timing belt’s recommended replacement interval causes major engine damage if the belt breaks. 

Thankfully, most engines go 80,000 - 90,000 miles before needing a new timing belt. 

Going over the suggested timing belt change interval can result in serious damage to your engine if the belt breaks.

A timing chain failure is typically less damaging than a timing belt failure.  

What makes timing chains less dangerous to your car if they fail?

Most BMWs display a fault or trouble code if the timing chain faults, allowing you to replace it before severe damage occurs to the engine.  

There are also physical symptoms indicating worn chains and guides, such as clicking noises from the engine or your car running roughly. 

Transmission Services

Transmission services vary broadly based on the particular type of your BMW’s transmission. 

For this reason, check your owner’s manual or contact a trusted facility for the correct interval. 

Tire Rotation

To extend the life of your BMW’s tires, we suggest the following rotation schedule:

  • Standard BMWs:  Rotate your tires every other oil change.
  • Crossovers and BMW SUVs, including the BMW X series:  Rotate the tires at every oil change.

Rotating your tires at a consistent interval promotes even tread wearing and helps maintain proper vehicle traction, handling, and safety.

rotate tires for even tread wearing

Sunroof Drains

Most dealers won’t recommend a scheduled cleaning of a car’s sunroof drains.  Sadly, the reason is that there is significant money to be made after the damage is done.

After all, water damage to a BMW’s interior and electrical systems is a major cost to repair.

At Autohaus Social, we do not agree with this unethical approach. 

Instead, we recommend scheduled cleanings of sunroofs based on the following:

  1.  If you park outside, especially if there is a lot of tree canopy, the drains should be cleaned every spring before the spring rains. 
  2.  If the vehicle is garage-kept, then sunroof cleanings should happen every 2 or 3 years. 

Why do we recommend regular sunroof cleaning?

Your sunroof was not designed to be completely water-proof.  There are tracks within the frame allowing excess water to travel to the front (left and right) and rear (left and right) drains.

Failure to keep these drains clean results in costly water damage to the interior of the vehicle. 

Not only can water accumulate on the floorboards, but also in the electrical and mechanical systems inside the BMW’s cab. 

One hour, once a year, can literally save you thousands of dollars of damage!

Choosing Proper Fluids for your BMW

At one time, automotive fluids were universal.  What worked in one car or engine could work in a different brand. 

Today, things are different.

In fact, if you see a fluid claiming to be universal, do not put it in your car! 

Today’s modern car engines require specific oils that must meet the manufacturer’s specs, and they can no longer be interchanged without making sure they meet all the requirements. 

For example, if you mix Ford antifreeze with BMW coolant, you can cause severe damage to your BMW’s cooling system. 

Or if your vehicle calls for 5w40 synthetic oil, but you use the wrong oil, you potentially void your car’s warranty. 

It is critical always to use the correct fluids in your BMW!

The following are some of the things to follow to keep your BMW running smoothly without voiding your warranty. 

only use approved fuels in your BMW

Proper Oil In Your BMW

Each engine has two specific requirements when choosing the correct oil:  the oil’s weight and the “Add Pack” designation. 

With the oil’s weight, it is vital to use the correct weight for the engine to maintain the proper crankcase pressure (the engine’s inside pressure when running). 

Equally vital for long term care is the Add Pack designation. 

An Add Pack is the designated amount of additional chemicals in the oil to improve the oil’s performance.  

Add Pack additives include corrosion inhibitors, detergent additives, anti-oxidation additives, friction modifiers, anti-foaming agents, and more. The use of these additives helps the engine perform better for longer. 

The Add Pack designation is found on the oil container/bottle. 

Be careful in using generic or cheap oil brands if the vehicle is to be maintained properly and retain warranty coverage.  

Gas & Fuel for BMWs

A common question the Autohaus Social team hears is, “What is the proper fuel to put into my BMW?”

Most vehicles have the minimum octane rating either on the gas cap or on a decal inside the fuel door. For BMWs or any European car, even if the label or cap states a particular octane rating, it is advised to use a higher octane or premium fuel (91 or 93). 

Why should you purchase a higher octane fuel for your BMW?

It’s simple: the higher the octane rating, the cleaner and more efficiently the fuel burns. 

It may cost slightly more at the pump, but it is well worth the added cost to maintain the vehicle in the long run!

premium fuel is worth the investment

Along with using a higher octane fuel, it is important to purchase good, clean fuel. A good rule of thumb is to buy fuel from a busier station because the longer fuel sits in the below-ground tanks, the more contaminants are likely to be present in the fuel. 

And finally, purchase “top tier” gasoline when possible. If the station does not display a decal claiming top tier fuel, you may want to look elsewhere. 

What about retail giants with cheaper fuel for their members (Walmart, Costco, Kroger, etc..)?

Do your research before buying gas at these places.  They are not all the same, and the quality of fuel often changes from one retail giant to the next.

As far as BMW diesel engines, quality and source are just as critical, and the above recommendations for gas engines should be followed.

BMW Coolant & Antifreeze Fluids

The only coolant or antifreeze to use in a BMW is blue. 

It is critical never to mix coolants in your car! 

Why is this a big deal?

There are several reasons, but the most important one is because each coolant has a unique “boiling point.” 

When you mix coolants, it results in pressure irregularities within the vehicle’s system.  This can result in ruptures or weak parts breaking in the coolant system. 

If you need to add fluid due to a slight leak before a repair is performed, use distilled water. 

Transmission Fluid in BMWs

The transmission fluid designation depends on your BMW’s year and model. 

Caution: Using the wrong fluid in the transmission can cause immediate failure!  

We highly recommend not servicing or adding transmission oil yourself.  Instead, transmission services on BMWs should only be performed by a professional technician and with OE+ (factory) fluid. 

transmission services should only be done by certified BMW technicians

Brake Fluid

BMW brake fluid must be a DOT4 full synthetic brake fluid.  Getting the “right brand” is not as crucial as other fluids as long as it is DOT4 full synthetic.

Power Steering Fluid

BMW cars use a mineral-based hydraulic fluid (CHF-11) for their power steering systems.  This is not a typical ATF-type fluid.

Non-scheduled BMW Service & Repairs

Just like any other manufacturer’s vehicle, you should expect and plan for other necessary maintenance.  This includes wear items like tires, brakes, suspension bushings/components, and batteries.

It also includes services not based on a schedule, such as tire alignments and intake carbon cleaning services. 

Any reputable BMW repair facility should forewarn you before these wear items are at a critical state and help you anticipate what additional maintenance measures are due at your next BMW’s scheduled service.  

These non-scheduled maintenances are required of any vehicle, and some are not as predictable as others.

However, if you follow the recommended schedule for routine maintenance and BMW fluids, as outlined in this article, you significantly reduce the risk of costly expenses that can usually be avoided. 

Regular BMW maintenance is important
Conclusion

We have covered a lot of material!

The good news is you now have a better understanding of how to properly care for your BMW by following a recommended schedule and using proper fluids, fuel, and parts.

Remember - the better you care for your BMW and the more proactive you are, the longer your car lasts, and the less expensive long-term ownership becomes!

If you are looking for local BMW service in Atlanta, then contact the Autohaus Social today.

Schedule your appointment online or by calling us at (404) 304-4382.

We provide a variety of European auto services for various cars including Audi, VW, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, and many more European brands!

By the way, check out our blog for more auto tips and tricks, including our extensive guide to Audi service & maintenance.

Schedule your appointment today, and see why we are the premier auto service center in Atlanta for European cars!

Autohaus Social employes certified BMW technicians

BMW Service & maintenance Infographic

2 Comments

  1. Aaron Crain on July 26, 2021 at 5:48 am

    This was a great and very well-written blog on the maintenance of BMW. Especially the summary, in the end, that’s even better. A great one!

  2. Levi Armstrong on August 26, 2021 at 10:52 am

    It’s great that you mentioned that every engine designed by the BMW Group is slightly different, but the baseline schedule for each is similar. My dad bought a new BMW for his birthday and will need to learn about its maintenance routine to keep it in good condition. I’ll share this with him since this could help him maintain the car. Thanks!

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