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How does the change oil light system work and does it matter what type of oil you use for it to work properly?

Starting last August, I am currently leasing a BMW 328i coupe. Before that, I had only had older used cars - I'd never owned a car with less than 100,000 miles before this BMW. It being my first new car, there are some things I've been surprised about coming from cars that I've had to be intricately involved with in maintenance and repair.

I misread the "miles until next oil change" computer readout as "miles driven to get your oil changed" so mistakenly brought it to the dealership to get it changed. The service guy mentioned that he'd seen people have to bring it in anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 miles (or some such numbers, can't remember exactly). I drove away, and then thought: "wait, does the car know that"?

So, long story longer is my car monitoring how my oil is doing and telling me when I need to go in based on that instead of just by mileage or time lapsed since the last one?


Many new cars do in have "a sensor system that constantly monitors oil viscosity, conductivity, temperature and electrical parameters." See here: http://www.sensorland.com/AppPage064.html

GM for example has been incorporating these into its Camaros, the Lambda platform, various Buicks, and more.

Here is another link that might prove helpful to you: http://forums.bimmerforums.com/forum/showthread.php?t=954499

If anyone else could provide actual mechanical data (i.e. part numbers, wiring diagrams) I think that would help answer the question better. I haven't been able to find any myself.

  • Also the GM Epsilon I platform, as my sister's Saab 9-3 has this feature. – jzd Jul 29 '11 at 16:29

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