BMW Service Over The Years

When I bought my first BMW, it was a 1988 535i. The maintenance schedule was straightforward but regimented. It was in appx 7k increments (based on fuel economy) The first service was an “oil service,” and then the next service was an Inspection service. BMW figured at “X” miles, or every year it needed the following items.

The second oil change, now at appx 14k miles, was called an Inspection I; it consisted of an oil change, a valve adjustment, suspension check, and adjustments, as well as fluid levels. Brakes checked and cleaned, hubs lubed, wiper blades replaced, battery checked and serviced.

We are up to appx 21k miles, and the third service is just an oil change, called appropriately enough “oil service.”

Now we are close to 30k miles and the dreaded “Inspection II” this was “The Big” service that everyone dreaded, this was an oil change, valve adjustment, belts replaced, brake fluid changed, coolant changed, on specific models, the transmission fluid had to be changed.

This cycle keeps repeating; the second Inspection II added even a few more items, which started the term in the used car market, “all the books stamped,” which resembled something like a well-worn passport by the time you reached the100k mile mark.


Next comes 1999. BMW offered the Ultimate Maintenace Plan, complimentary service as part of the new car sale. With BMW paying the bill, initially, service was the same cycle, but the interval stretched out to appx 15k miles or two years. BMW has switched over to full synthetic oils, and based on their testing, this was adequate, and timing chains replaced timing belts. In my opinion, this pushed the envelope, and if you were a little late between oil changes, sludge built up FAST, if you took your car to a “quick lube” and they did conventional oil. It was even a bigger mess! But through all of this, BMW followed the “oil service, Inspection I, oil service, Inspection II” maintenance schedule.


The 2002 BMW 745i forever changed the automotive landscape; radical new design, revolutionary new way of operating systems in the car (Idrive) tons of modern safety enhancements, in-car networks, and data busses. Which also brought a new type of service called CBS, or Condition Based Service. This system (still in use today), although slightly modified, looks at the services and breaks them down to more specific needs. Oil changes now are still based on fuel economy as well as a particular number of startups and oil temperature. Originally this was still on the two-year, 15k targeted interval, but after the turbo engines came out, BMW lowered the target to every 12 months or 9k miles. The Vehicle Check replaced the Inspection service every 30k miles. Coolant and Brake fluid replacements increased to every 24/48-month intervals, spark plugs at 80k to 100k. The “lifetime” trans fluid was introduced, as well as the electronic brake pad thickness measurement system, which was supposed to figure out the thickness of the pad, and compared it to the miles driven. This was just an estimate on how many miles are left on the brake pads. The system even tracked when your registration and state inspection was due. M cars added a few more items.


2017 brings more changes. BMW decided to drop the brake mileage from CBS since it never seemed accurate. BMW also decided to start bundling stuff to try and eliminate multiple trips to the dealer. Now on most cars, very third oil change gets spark plugs and air filters; every other oil change gets cabin filters. Brake fluid is now three years, coolant, and transmission fluid is now “lifetime.”

Ok, based on 23 years of experience, I feel qualified enough to give an opinion on the subject. If you are doing a three-year lease and plan on turning your car in, the factory schedule maintenance is adequate. But if you bought your BMW for the “long-run” or a used BMW, I would recommend changing the oil every 5k miles or when your CBS data gets to the “halfway point,” change the oil and don’t reset the service counter. The other option we (Autoscope) can change the countdown to a lower mileage to make life easier and to stay on track.

Pat Arnold




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