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Replacing Your Oil Level Sensor
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

Replacing Your Oil Level Sensor

Nick Czerula

Time:

2 hours2 hrs

Tab:

$200

Talent:

**

Tools:

Set of sockets, wrenches, screwdrivers, drain pan

Applicable Models:

BMW 323Ci Coupe/Conv (1999-00)
BMW 323i Sedan/Wagon (1999-00)
BMW 325Ci Coupe/Conv (2001-06)
BMW 325i/xi Sedan/Wagon (2001-06)
BMW 328Ci Coupe (1999-00)
BMW 328i Sedan (1999-00)
BMW 330Ci Coupe/Conv (2001-06)
BMW 330i/xi Sedan (2001-06)

Parts Required:

Oil level sensor, engine oil, oil filter, fasteners

Hot Tip:

Work with a cool engine.

Performance Gain:

Car will display correct oil level

Complementary Modification:

Change oil and filter at same time.
Engine oil is the essential lubricant that maintains low friction among engine moving parts and additionally cools the engine. Your engine requires a minimum level of oil in its sump in order to circulate sufficient volume and pressure throughout the engine oiling system. For the health and longevity of the engine, it is critical that you monitor engine oil level periodically using the oil dipstick as well as the electronic oil level sensor, which displays oil level information in the instrument cluster.

Keep in mind that when your car was serviced before, parts may have been replaced with different size fasteners used in the replacement. The sizes of the nuts and bolts we give may be different from what you have, so be prepared with different size sockets and wrenches. 

Protect your eyes, hands and body from fluids, dust and debris while working on your vehicle. If you are working with the electrical system, disconnect the battery before beginning. Always catch fluids in appropriate containers and properly dispose of any fluid waste. Recycle parts, packaging and fluids when possible. Do not work on your vehicle if you feel the task is beyond your ability. 

Vehicle models change and evolve, as they grow older, so the vehicle shown in our illustrations may vary slightly from yours. If something seems different, let us know and share your info to help other users. Do you have questions or want to add to the article? Leave a comment below. When leaving a comment, please leave your vehicle information.

All BMW E46 models utilize an oil level sensor (yellow arrow) located in the oil pan (red arrow).
Figure 1

All BMW E46 models utilize an oil level sensor (yellow arrow) located in the oil pan (red arrow). The sensor is prone to failure in two ways; it can fail electrically and it can leak oil. When it fails electrically, you will see a yellow oil warning light on the instrument panel. If a yellow oil warning light illuminates on your instrument panel; immediately shut engine OFF and check engine oil level. If oil level is OK and the warning light is ON, your sensor has likely failed. The DME (engine control module) will likely have a fault code for the faulty sensor.

When servicing, have a suitable container to drain and catch dripping engine oil. Have rags to clean any engine oil that is spilled and always wear eye protection and gloves. Start by raising and supporting the front of the vehicle safely. While working beneath the front of your vehicle, remove the plastic splash shield (if equipped) to gain access to engine oil pan. If equipped, remove the reinforcement plate and discard the fasteners. The fasteners on reinforcement plate are single use and must be replaced each time removed. Do not drive the vehicle with reinforcement plate removed as you can damage your chassis. See our Pelican Parts Technical Article on Removing Your Engine Splash Shield and Reinforcement Plate for more information.
Place your container (with a volume of 7 quarts of engine oil capacity) under the engine oil pan.
Figure 2

Place your container (with a volume of 7 quarts of engine oil capacity) under the engine oil pan. Remove engine oil drain plug and allow the engine oil to drain into container. If you plan to reuse your engine oil, be sure container is clean and free of debris however we recommend you change the oil at this time unless the oil in the crank is very fresh. Once the engine oil is fully drained, reinstall engine the oil drain plug and tighten, be sure not to over tighten it as you can strip the threads on your oil pan, which can be costly and time consuming to replace.

Clean the area around the oil level sensor thoroughly.
Figure 3

Clean the area around the oil level sensor thoroughly. Working with the oil level sensor, disconnect the electrical connector (yellow arrow).

Then remove the 3 mounting nuts from oil level sensor (green arrows).
Figure 4

Then remove the 3 mounting nuts from oil level sensor (green arrows).

Remove oil level sensor from oil pan, be prepared to catch any dripping oil.
Figure 5

Remove oil level sensor from oil pan, be prepared to catch any dripping oil. Once the sensor has been removed from the oil pan, clean the oil level sensor mounting area thoroughly.

To install: Apply a small amount of new engine oil to the oil level sensor seal.
Figure 6

To install: Apply a small amount of new engine oil to the oil level sensor seal. Install the oil level sensor into oil pan. Tighten the 3 nuts (torque according to your vehicle's specs) and reconnect the electrical connector. Fill the engine with oil per your manufacturer's specifications. Start the engine and allow it to run for 1 minute. Then inspect the oil level sensor for leaks. Once you are sure no leaks are present, reinstall the plastic splash shield or reinforcement plate; depending on equipment.

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Comments and Suggestions:
kreaglewon Comments: Hello, I have a 2003 BMW 330xi. If the car sits overnight and I check the oil, it is fine. If I start it for a few seconds and then check it, it is very low on oil. like The oil light comes on randomly and because the level is always either empty or full, it is difficult to really know the level of oil. I do not burn any smoke out the exhaust and have to add a quart of oil every 500-1000miles. Their are also no leaks under the car. Have you ever came across this problem ? I don not understand why it will go from full to empty upon being started and where the oil goes if it isn't burning out he exhaust nor leaking underneath.
November 11, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Are you checking it with the engine running or off? It shouldn't change that much unless the oil filter housing is not holding oil and allowing it drain back. That would give an incorrect reading when cold. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Shukran Comments: I have a Bmw E46, My engine suddenly goes off especially when my tank is mid level fuel. when i crank it goes back on but threatens to stall and shows a red battery light when its about to stall. also a yellow oil light shows. anyone experienced this ?
September 4, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Your fuel level sender may be faulty and the tank actually empty. Or an issue with the siphon jet pump in the fuel tank. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
#330icharlie Comments: would a faulty oil level sensor cause the ccm readiness monitor to not set? 2003 z4 2.5
i got all the readiness monitors except evap and ccm to set.
July 30, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If you have a fault code, you should remedy it. If the monitors will not run, the issue may be engine temp not in spec or a faulty sensor not allowing the test to run. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
cindy Comments: Hi. I have a 92 BMW 325I. I went to start my car one day and it cranked but would not start. A friend told me to check the oil, and it was bone dry- nothing on the stick. I had bought the vehicle 6 months prior, and there was all kinds of notifications, but I never got any notifications about oil issues, and never checked it! I filled it up, but it still does not start. The car did not sound bad or run hot up until this point. Could it be the oil sensor?
May 20, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The oil pressure switch will not prevent your engine from starting. I can't help without knowing what is missing from the system when you are trying to start it. When your engine doesn’t start you’ll want to check the basics. Check spark, fuel injector pulse and fuel pressure, volume, quality and engine compression. Are there any fault codes? Once you figure out what is missing, it will be easier to diagnose.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
john Comments: I never get an Yellow low engine oil light even if the oil is low, but get a red oil light when engine idles regardless of oil level. Red Light goes away when driving. Oil pressure is good and oil is full. Oil Sensor???
March 14, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You didn't mention what vehicle you have. But yeah, it could be the sensor. Check the vehicle for fault codes to start. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Mujib Comments: I have recently purchased a 330ci with 69,000 Kms on dash.
And after driving it for about a month, i got the engine check on and the oil check too..
after driving it for some days the engine stall on the highway i parked on the road side tried to Restart the engine, It starts and then Turns back off.. and it turns on after a day or so.. and it mostly happens when fuel tank is on Half.
Anyone who has the same type of a problem?
March 7, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I can't help without knowing what is missing from the system when you are trying to start it. When your engine doesn’t start you’ll want to check the basics. Check spark, fuel injector pulse and fuel pressure, volume, quality and engine compression. Are there any fault codes? Once you figure out what is missing, it will be easier to diagnose.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Tricky Comments: My red oil light comes on when at idle.If you slightly increase revs by 100rpm the oil light goes out.Is this a common fault and what do you advise me to do?
November 26, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: This could be a problem with engine oil pressure, or a faulty switch. FIrst confirm the oil level is correct. Then check engine oil pressure. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
330Ci 2002 Comments: No related fault codes picked up by my PEAKE code reader have 'map controlled t-stat and post-cat O2 codes popping up currently. I've read in places that plugging the sensor in and turning the key to the ON position might cook the device. I did do that to see if it would detect a low oil condition. Test doesn't really work since the oil pressure sensor trumps the low oil sensor, so LED was red while key is in ON position. Is it possible to fry the sensor by turing key to ON with no oil in the sump? Seems unlikely. Also, would a broken wire throw a fault code or low oil? Or does a broken wire give no indication i.e. oil level is fine? This would be a bad design, of course.

Thanks for your help!

Scott
November 2, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I don;t see how turning the key on would ruin the sensor. It is tougher than that.

Maybe a wiring issue to the DME. - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
330Ci 2002 Comments: I had a faulty sensor and replaced last year on my 2002 E46 33Ci. Since then I haven't got a low oil warning at shutdown even when the car was over a quart low..would have got the yellow light with the old sensor. Just replaced again today with Hella sensor and same deal. To test, I filled the oil back up so that it was at least a quart low and ran the engine a few minutes then shutdown. No light. Any ideas? If the wiring was bad, Would I get a code? Thanks for your help.
October 31, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would imagine there would be a fault code. I would start by checking the DME to see. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
e46 Comments: "The sensor is prone to failure in two ways; it can fail electrically and it can leak oil."
I have an E46 2005, I think the oil sensor has failed because I run out oil couple of times with the oil light off. Is this one of failure mode of the sensor or is there something else? does it always turn on the light when It fails? Please ignore the previous post
August 31, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The oil level sensor is probably not your problem. Check the engine for an oil leak or smoke coming out of the tail pipe. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
e46 Comments: "The sensor is prone to failure in two ways; it can fail electrically and it can leak oil."
I have an E46 2005, I think the oil sensor has failed because I will run out oil couple of times with the oil light turning on.is that a failure mode of the sensor or is there something else. does it always turn on the light when It fails?
August 31, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The oil level sensor is probably not your problem. Check the engine for an oil leak or smoke coming out of the tail pipe. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
ricardo Comments: I replaced the oil level sensor two months ago. Since then I noticed that my car started leaking oil from the sensor. I removed the sensor, and notice that sensor is leaking from the connector. Do you believe somehow the sensor is broken inside? thanks for your help
July 9, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Sensors can leak internally, I have seen this many times. Before condemning the sensor, be sure the oil pan isn't rusty, causing the leak. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
George H Comments: My oils sensor light came on so I checked the sensor. I found the wires on the connector were broken/cut. I have NO idea how that happened. Is that a part I can replace or do I need to splice them back together?
July 7, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You will need to replace the wiring, or reconnect it. Depending on how bad the damage is. You may need pigtails or a new connector.

Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can figure out what part or repair kit you need.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
grandpa Comments: 640d Oil level showing well over max.drained all oil & replaced with 6.25 litres. gauge still showing to top of scale, well above max. no lights showing on dashboard to indicate any problem. will replacing oil level sensor rectify this? thaanks
June 19, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Maybe. Have you checked the vehicle for fault codes? - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Tenshi Comments: Hi, I am about to undertake this repair on a 2001 E46 M3. I wonder if you could give me the part numbers for the fasteners I need to replace on the reinforcement plate because I am having trouble reconciling them with the information I have.
Many thanks, kind regards.
May 25, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I am not the best with part numbers.

Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can figure out what part or repair kit you need.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
mohmoh Comments: does electicaly fail of the sensor affect engine circuit
May 8, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: On what type of vehicle? Likely not on older models. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Fazel Comments: Hi, is it possible that a electrically faulty oil level sensor affect the fuel consumption of the vehicle. The orange light only appears for a few seconds when vehicle is started and goes off and the oil level is fine. Thanking you in advance.
April 28, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Not likely. The oil level sensor does sound faulty though. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Mauricio Comments: 2006 m6 . Be the Change the oil level sensor and continues without measuring either the level or temperature, is there any step after the installation of the sensor?
April 25, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: On an M6, I don't believe so. Start by checking for fault codes. If it requires initialization, a fault code may be stored. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
TTA Comments: Good morning,
After replacing the sensor is there any additional steps? Do you need to configure or adjust the sensor to work the OBD II or is it plug and play? The article above makes the process look fairly straight forward - just unbolt, replace the o-ring and rebolt.
Thanks
-TTA
February 24, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: On E46 models, plug and play. Just be sure your oil level is correct. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Evangelist Comments: What does this Thermal oil level sensor do and is it important to replace? And is the part cheaper than $208.13?? Young's Foreign Car Repair
Charges $208.13 for part!! Please get back to me ASAP!! Thanks God bless
October 7, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: They are likely referring to the part in this tech article, the oil level sensor. To see what the part cost is, enter your vehicle info and locate the sensor. Labor and parts prices vary depending on region, keep that in mind.- Nick at Pelican Parts  

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