Oct 27, 2016 update to the BMW M3 project car

Fresh Red Line Fluids for Our High-Revving M3

Red Line 75W110 gear oil for the diff, 15W50 oil for the engine, and D4 ATF for the gearbox.
For the brakes, Red Line's new RL-600 brake fluid.
And finally, we have Red Line SI-1 Fuel System Cleaner and, for the cooling system, WaterWetter.

The E46-chassis BMW has a bit of a bad secret, and it lies near its heart: rod bearings. Some early cars suffered engine failures caused by rod bearing issues, and that news still reverberates through our motorsports world.

Were we about to open a door into hell with our latest purchase?

On the plus side, our car was built in 2004 and BMW upgraded the rods the year before. Also, despite 138,000 miles on the odometer, as far as we could tell our car had lived a fairly easy life, one with routine oil changes and much love.

Still, we were concerned. Before the purchase we discussed the car with BimmerWorld founder James Clay. We’ll check out the car after you purchase it, he said. And he did, listening closely and not hearing any telltale signs from the bottom of the engine. The oil on the dipstick didn’t look shiny, but he stressed that a used oil analysis will tell the whole story.

Red Line Synthetic Oil’s Cameron Evans joined the conversation. His advice: The BMW-recommended 10W60 oil is too thick for these engines, as it takes too long to warm up and offer the necessary protection. While Red Line makes a 10W60 oil, he recommends their 15W50 oil for the S54-spec engines found in the E46-chassis M3.

So that’s we’re going to run. Red Line’s 15W50 is a fully synthetic, high-zinc oil that should keep our bearings happy and healthy.

“Higher zinc is a thing certainly, but I think the biggest benefit is the higher grade of base stocks—group V full PAO-ester based—that provide better shear strength,” Clay adds. “That is the key in keeping bearings happy.

“The additive packages in motor oil that protect hard, hot metal and that track contaminants need to get hot in order to work,” Evans adds. “Using the thickest viscosity of motor oil means you are driving around without those benefits for longer than you should.”

While the car is on the lift we’ll treat it to the rest of the Red Line lineup, with Evans and Clay also speccing these products our application. The transmission will get Red Line’s fully synthetic D4 ATF. Even though our car has a six-speed manual, the transmission takes ATF. Red Line D4 ATF is also appropriate for T-5, T-45 and T-56 manual boxes.

BMW ZF and Getrag transmissions in E36s and E46s have tighter clearances that requires a thinner viscosity than the old E30 boxes where you were using MTL,” Evans notes. “D4 ATF is the only PAO-based ATF of its type in the marketplace–read as super-stable viscosity.”

For the differential we have Red Line 75W110 gear oil, a relatively new product containing the friction modifiers favored by clutch-type, limited-slip differentials.

“The 75W110 is an intermediate-viscosity compared to the common 75W90 and the 75W140 that BMW recommends,” Evans explains, noting that Red Line offers all three of those viscosities. “The PAO-ester base gives you the protection of cheaper, OEM-approved 75W140 with lower drag and more consistent LSD operation.”

But wait, there’s more.

We’ve been hearing the rumors for a while, and Red Line now offers their own brake fluid: RL-600. It’s DOT 4-rated and has a dry boiling point of 604 degrees—that’s higher than many other favorites out there. It’s fairly priced, too, as a 16-ounce bottle retails for $16.95. It’s compatible with other DOT 3, 4 and 5.1 fluids, so we don’t need to completely flush the system.

To keep our cooling system happy we have some WaterWetter–and Clay recommends just half a bottle for our car. This old favorite uses magic (well, science) to make water more “wet” so it can better fill all of the cooling system’s nooks and crannies. End result: a more efficient cooling system.

Last on the list is SI-1 Complete Fuel System Cleaner. It’s designed to clear deposits and gunk from injectors, valves and combustion chambers.

The car goes into the shop very soon, so we’ll report back on that used oil analysis shortly. It the data says that it’s time to change the bearings, then we’re okay with that.

Fingers crossed, though.

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Comments

View comments on the GRM forums
Huckleberry
Huckleberry MegaDork
10/27/16 5:16 p.m.

Is this just an ad for Redline fluids? It reads like one of those shills that Howard Stern does for Steven Singer Jewelers. At least try to hide the product placement just a little will you? To keep the illusion that you are all here for the love alive just a little bit.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
10/27/16 6:45 p.m.

I'll be honest: When we got this car, I figured that we'd use the recommended oil along with MTL in the gearbox--the stuff that we have been using for years. After talking to Cameron and James--two guys who know a lot about BMWs and oil--we learned a few things. It's a unique application and some of the Red Line recommendations vary from the BMW specs, so hopefully there's some good info in here for other E46 M3 owners.

The "advice" that we found online was all over the place. We decided to go to the guys who know way more about this stuff than we do.

Slippery
Slippery Dork
10/27/16 9:01 p.m.

I just got my oil analysis info back from Blackstone on my 2004 M3. Lead shoot up, it was already high 5k miles ago, and now its showing copper.

I am at 95k miles.

Tomorrow I'll order new bearings along with a bunch of while in there parts. Will make for an interesting Thanksgiving weekend.

Spend the $30 on an oil analysis and keep an eye on the results for lead/copper.

Slippery
Slippery Dork
10/27/16 9:05 p.m.

pointofdeparture
pointofdeparture PowerDork
10/27/16 9:19 p.m.

When I was messing with newer BMWs still I settled on a 50/50 mix of the D4 ATF and MTL instead of one or the other in the gearbox. ATF alone just seemed to be too thin under really strenuous use, and lots of guys running track events seemed to concur.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
10/27/16 9:19 p.m.

Oh yeah, oil is getting changed any minute, and a sample will be sent to Blackstone asap. I voted to change the rod bearings just for peace of mind, but everyone said to get the oil analysis report first. Who knows, maybe it's all in spec. And if the report says to change them, we won't cry.

Huckleberry
Huckleberry MegaDork
10/27/16 10:20 p.m.
pointofdeparture wrote: When I was messing with newer BMWs still I settled on a 50/50 mix of the D4 ATF and MTL instead of one or the other in the gearbox. ATF alone just seemed to be too thin under really strenuous use, and lots of guys running track events seemed to concur.

Yeah, same here. The D4 is too thin. It runs really hot and it spits out all over the place from the vent. I have always used MTL for track work (and street) in the BMW ZF boxes. That is 4 street cars, 3 race cars for anyone counting. It's a little stiff shifting when really cold (well below freezing) but after a short warm up it's perfect.

If you (OP: David) are doing HPDE or TT with this car maybe mention it to them. The Redline guys are BMW CR sponsors and decent guys. They showed up at a few race weekends and did some handshaking. I'd be interested in what they have to say - having already had this conversation with them in the paddock at the Glen ;)

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
10/28/16 11:15 a.m.

Right now the plan is to keep the car on the streets.

JBasham
JBasham Reader
10/28/16 3:24 p.m.

Don't know about D4 in ZF boxes, but it's great for manuals that require ATF only because of carbon composite internal bits or the like. I'm thinking Ford T5 here.

I myself am a victim of 10W-60 self-doubt and anxiety, though in my case it's the S65 V8 that keeps me up at night. Some owners have lost their main bearings at 50k. There are two generations, both with tight tolerances but at least I have the second which is the less-tight of the two.

It's not a street car like yours, and it sees a LOT of sustained high-rev driving on the track. Really, the only limitation I've found on the car is that I can get it to 3/4 on the oil temp gauge, which is the point at which it starts flashing warnings at me. (Well, the other limit is the times when I slide it through the turns so hard that it tries to call BMW Assist. Glad I've never had an active cell phone link when that happened.) So I stick with the 60, warm the car up with care, and hope for the best about the bearings. Blackstone reports too (though the main bearings aren't lead-based, so it's only useful to see if the viscosity is staying up to snuff).

Slippery
Slippery Dork
10/28/16 3:33 p.m.
JBasham wrote: Blackstone reports too (though the main bearings aren't lead-based, so it's only useful to see if the viscosity is staying up to snuff).

E46 M3 are copper and then have a lead layer.

What are the S65 ones made of? I know my brother is tracking both lead and copper on his. Do I need to tell him he is doing it wrong?

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
10/28/16 3:51 p.m.
JBasham wrote: I myself am a victim of 10W-60 self-doubt and anxiety, though in my case it's the S65 V8 that keeps me up at night.

We should form a self-help group. Yes, seriously.

Next time anyone here sees James at BimmerWorld, ask him about my e-mails asking about oil and bearings. There was a lot of wisdom shared and hands held. Fortunately once Hurricane Matthew set its sights on us, I could obsess about something else.

Tyler H
Tyler H UltraDork
10/28/16 4:19 p.m.
David S. Wallens wrote:
JBasham wrote: I myself am a victim of 10W-60 self-doubt and anxiety, though in my case it's the S65 V8 that keeps me up at night.

We should form a self-help group. Yes, seriously.

In that case, can we add rear trunk floor tearout member support group? Maybe some cognitive based therapy would help?

BTW, congrats on getting a great deal on the most car for the money going!

(Even though no visible cracks, the scale on the spot welds is a tell -- they are being flexed.)

On this episode of Cribs...

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
10/28/16 4:35 p.m.

Oh yeah, trunk floor worriers are also invited. So are the VANOS peoples.

Seriously, I figure this car will let us discuss these popular issues.

Fun stuff.

Tyler H
Tyler H UltraDork
10/28/16 4:40 p.m.

Only half-jokingly: If your friends describe you as a pessimist (I prefer to consider myself a realist,) then the WORST that can happen is that you're right all the time.

That said, I have had a very positive BMW ownership experience.

series8217
series8217 Reader
10/29/16 3:42 a.m.
Slippery wrote:

Nice data point. Unfortunately it looks like you're ready for new rod bearings!

What is your cold startup driving like? How hot do you let the oil get before going up to XXXX RPM? For example "I keep it below 4000 RPM until the oil is at least 120*F".

Slippery
Slippery Dork
10/29/16 8:11 a.m.
series8217 wrote:
Slippery wrote:

Nice data point. Unfortunately it looks like you're ready for new rod bearings!

What is your cold startup driving like? How hot do you let the oil get before going up to XXXX RPM? For example "I keep it below 4000 RPM until the oil is at least 120*F".

Bearings have been ordered along with a bunch of "while in there" parts and the car has been grounded until Thanksgiving weekend.

The car never sees over 3500 RPMs until oil temperature is around 180 deg F. I believe my biggest problem is that the car has seen a few track days.

Also of note is that my experience with these cars is that you have to drive them to get the oil up to temperature, you cannot turn it on and leave it idling outside your house and expect the oil temp to rise much.

vbM3
vbM3
11/3/16 9:25 a.m.

Think what you like about this being a commercial but I have never had an engine failure on the street or the track and although I cannot say Redline oil is the reason that is reason enough for me to stick with it. I think the guys are trying to share good info.BTW I tracked an E46 M3 for 4 years and now a Spec E46 both using the Redline.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
11/3/16 9:28 a.m.

Today's update:

323A6737

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
11/4/16 12:22 a.m.

And I need to thank Nancy for putting postage on the Blackstone bottle so it gets there. I don't even know where we keep our new postage machine.

JBasham
JBasham Reader
11/4/16 11:53 a.m.
Slippery wrote:
JBasham wrote: Blackstone reports too (though the main bearings aren't lead-based, so it's only useful to see if the viscosity is staying up to snuff).

E46 M3 are copper and then have a lead layer.

What are the S65 ones made of? I know my brother is tracking both lead and copper on his. Do I need to tell him he is doing it wrong?

If it's an earlier production model, he has typical lead/copper. It's only the later production models that switched to some bimetal aluminum composite.

S65 motor bearing tech info

Slippery
Slippery Dork
11/4/16 12:06 p.m.
JBasham wrote:
Slippery wrote:
JBasham wrote: Blackstone reports too (though the main bearings aren't lead-based, so it's only useful to see if the viscosity is staying up to snuff).

E46 M3 are copper and then have a lead layer.

What are the S65 ones made of? I know my brother is tracking both lead and copper on his. Do I need to tell him he is doing it wrong?

If it's an earlier production model, he has typical lead/copper. It's only the later production models that switched to some bimetal aluminum composite.

S65 motor bearing tech info

Yes, I checked after your post. His is a 2009. I believe the changeover was in 2011.

Slippery
Slippery Dork
11/4/16 12:08 p.m.

Post the results once you get them David!

Huckleberry
Huckleberry MegaDork
11/4/16 12:09 p.m.
David S. Wallens wrote: Today's update: 323A6737

Yech. I just chugged one of those based on your advertisement here and it gave me the squirts.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
11/4/16 12:33 p.m.
Slippery wrote: Post the results once you get them David!

I shall. I'm guessing I'll know something in a week or so.

Slippery
Slippery Dork
12/1/16 5:52 p.m.
David S. Wallens wrote:
Slippery wrote: Post the results once you get them David!

I shall. I'm guessing I'll know something in a week or so.

Any news?

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/1/16 6:13 p.m.
Slippery wrote:
David S. Wallens wrote:
Slippery wrote: Post the results once you get them David!

I shall. I'm guessing I'll know something in a week or so.

Any news?

Yes! In fact, look for an update soon. The short answer: I should find something else to fret about.

Slippery
Slippery Dork
12/1/16 6:16 p.m.

Awesome!

john_byrne
john_byrne
5/3/17 9:25 p.m.

This doesn't add up. You say the advice was that 10W60 is too viscous before it warms up, and the solution is to use 15W50 instead. But 15W50 is more viscous when cold than 10W60 (15 vs 10). It's only less viscous when it's hot (which is precisely when you don't need it to be, according to the article).

What gives?

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