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Metallic Particles in Engine Oil - BMW S52 #5323909 01/15/20 09:14 PM
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Zipway Offline OP
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Greetings, everyone,

I recently purchased a 1998 BMW M3 on Bring A Trailer that had an admittedly "sordid" history (the auction comments are quite amusing, by the way). After driving it about 1000 miles I've begun to change all the fluids (the selling dealer's service documentation does not show any fluid changes under their watch). Changing the transmission fluid with UUC's recommendations to reduce lightweight flywheel induced transmission rattle made a huge difference in noise and shifter feel.

Having gotten around to changing the engine oil, I discovered to my dismay that the used oil has a fine but thorough metallic sheen, looking similar to metallic paint (see attached photo).

The day after draining I collected a sample of the used oil after stirring up the bucket it was drained into. I just received my Blackstone analysis back and it shows somewhat elevated aluminum, iron, and copper, but the analyst seems to think this isn't of major concern and I should check back after 3,000 miles (see attached report).

Any thoughts? Am I safe to drive another 3000 miles or is there any further diagnosis I could perform? According to the dealer, the compression test was OK and it's "one of the healthiest S52's they've ever seen" but now I'm not so sure about that sentiment. The car has also recently developed an oil leak on the passenger side of the engine (maybe from the oil pan?) I'm going to be trying to figure this leak out soon, the oil pan doesn't look like an easy job on this car, but I'm not sure what else could be leaking on the passenger side.

Thanks for the help!

IMG_20200109_204317.jpgOilAnalysis.PNG
Last edited by Zipway; 01/15/20 09:18 PM.
Re: Metallic Particles in Engine Oil - BMW S52 [Re: Zipway] #5323917 01/15/20 09:26 PM
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JHZR2 Offline
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Wow, that looks pretty bad if it’s truly metallic. UOA wouldn’t pick,up shavings, but I’d think that if there were particles like that, and they were abrading away bearings, Pb would be higher.


Re: Metallic Particles in Engine Oil - BMW S52 [Re: Zipway] #5323921 01/15/20 09:28 PM
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OVERKILL Offline
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IIRC, these engines have a reputation for eating rod bearings and if the material is big enough, it won't show up in the UOA. I'd be quite concerned and probably drop the pan and expect to put rod bearings in it.


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Re: Metallic Particles in Engine Oil - BMW S52 [Re: OVERKILL] #5323927 01/15/20 09:36 PM
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Zipway Offline OP
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I was afraid that rod bearings would be the answer. I actually bought this M3 as a long overdue replacement for a 1995 M3 (S50 engine) that I had for a short time about 10 years ago which ended up with a rod-related hole in the engine block. Looks like it's just my fate to replace rod bearings in one of these cars.

If I were to do (or have done) the rod bearings, what other "while you're at it" work would you recommend I prepare to do given the history of the engine?

Last edited by Zipway; 01/15/20 09:37 PM.
Re: Metallic Particles in Engine Oil - BMW S52 [Re: OVERKILL] #5323929 01/15/20 09:39 PM
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d00df00d Offline
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Originally Posted by OVERKILL
IIRC, these engines have a reputation for eating rod bearings and if the material is big enough, it won't show up in the UOA. I'd be quite concerned and probably drop the pan and expect to put rod bearings in it.

This generation ate head gaskets, not rod bearings. wink

But yes, very important to point out that these UOAs don't catch big particles.


2008 BMW M3 Sedan 6MT
Re: Metallic Particles in Engine Oil - BMW S52 [Re: OVERKILL] #5323932 01/15/20 09:42 PM
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edyvw Offline
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Originally Posted by OVERKILL
IIRC, these engines have a reputation for eating rod bearings and if the material is big enough, it won't show up in the UOA. I'd be quite concerned and probably drop the pan and expect to put rod bearings in it.

S52? I thought rod bearings were issue later? Not that it cannot happen.

Last edited by edyvw; 01/15/20 09:42 PM.

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Re: Metallic Particles in Engine Oil - BMW S52 [Re: Zipway] #5323938 01/15/20 09:47 PM
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d00df00d Offline
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Originally Posted by Zipway
I was afraid that rod bearings would be the answer. I actually bought this M3 as a long overdue replacement for a 1995 M3 (S50 engine) that I had for a short time about 10 years ago which ended up with a rod-related hole in the engine block. Looks like it's just my fate to replace rod bearings in one of these cars.

If I were to do (or have done) the rod bearings, what other "while you're at it" work would you recommend I prepare to do given the history of the engine?

First of all, welcome to BITOG!

There's really no telling where the glitter came from without tearing the engine all the way down. Other than the head gasket (which wouldn't cause this issue in isolation), I don't think this engine has a single likely point of failure the way later M engines do. And even if it did, you'd have no way to know in advance if something else was failing as well.

My advice: First, decide whether you can live with the possibility that the engine might seize or blow up on you at some point. If you can, go ahead and run it with short OCIs and see if it keeps making glitter. If not, tear it down ASAP.


2008 BMW M3 Sedan 6MT
Re: Metallic Particles in Engine Oil - BMW S52 [Re: d00df00d] #5323961 01/15/20 10:13 PM
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OVERKILL Offline
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Originally Posted by d00df00d
Originally Posted by Zipway
I was afraid that rod bearings would be the answer. I actually bought this M3 as a long overdue replacement for a 1995 M3 (S50 engine) that I had for a short time about 10 years ago which ended up with a rod-related hole in the engine block. Looks like it's just my fate to replace rod bearings in one of these cars.

If I were to do (or have done) the rod bearings, what other "while you're at it" work would you recommend I prepare to do given the history of the engine?

First of all, welcome to BITOG!

There's really no telling where the glitter came from without tearing the engine all the way down. Other than the head gasket (which wouldn't cause this issue in isolation), I don't think this engine has a single likely point of failure the way later M engines do. And even if it did, you'd have no way to know in advance if something else was failing as well.

My advice: First, decide whether you can live with the possibility that the engine might seize or blow up on you at some point. If you can, go ahead and run it with short OCIs and see if it keeps making glitter. If not, tear it down ASAP.


Solid plan thumbsup


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Re: Metallic Particles in Engine Oil - BMW S52 [Re: Zipway] #5323962 01/15/20 10:17 PM
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Bjornviken Offline
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What spec/approvals did your oil carry?

Re: Metallic Particles in Engine Oil - BMW S52 [Re: edyvw] #5323974 01/15/20 10:42 PM
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ammolab Offline
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Originally Posted by edyvw
Originally Posted by OVERKILL
IIRC, these engines have a reputation for eating rod bearings and if the material is big enough, it won't show up in the UOA. I'd be quite concerned and probably drop the pan and expect to put rod bearings in it.

S52? I thought rod bearings were issue later? Not that it cannot happen.


Yes, S54 3.2 liter M engines were the power plants with many Rod bearing failures. OA on mine had plenty of lead and copper @ 60,000 miles. Rod bearings bad but $2000 replacement saved my engine.


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Re: Metallic Particles in Engine Oil - BMW S52 [Re: Zipway] #5323986 01/15/20 10:53 PM
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Marco620 Offline
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If its a fun car aside from this then I would try to get it repaired. Im still looking into the 318 or 328's for putting around in.


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Re: Metallic Particles in Engine Oil - BMW S52 [Re: Zipway] #5323990 01/15/20 10:59 PM
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Chris142 Offline
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Is that shiney stuff magnetic?


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Re: Metallic Particles in Engine Oil - BMW S52 [Re: ammolab] #5324000 01/15/20 11:15 PM
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edyvw Offline
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Originally Posted by ammolab
Originally Posted by edyvw
Originally Posted by OVERKILL
IIRC, these engines have a reputation for eating rod bearings and if the material is big enough, it won't show up in the UOA. I'd be quite concerned and probably drop the pan and expect to put rod bearings in it.

S52? I thought rod bearings were issue later? Not that it cannot happen.


Yes, S54 3.2 liter M engines were the power plants with many Rod bearing failures. OA on mine had plenty of lead and copper @ 60,000 miles. Rod bearings bad but $2000 replacement saved my engine.

Yeah, that was my thought. Not that it cannot happen on any engine.


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Re: Metallic Particles in Engine Oil - BMW S52 [Re: OVERKILL] #5324024 01/16/20 01:38 AM
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Originally Posted by OVERKILL
Originally Posted by d00df00d
Originally Posted by Zipway
I was afraid that rod bearings would be the answer. I actually bought this M3 as a long overdue replacement for a 1995 M3 (S50 engine) that I had for a short time about 10 years ago which ended up with a rod-related hole in the engine block. Looks like it's just my fate to replace rod bearings in one of these cars.

If I were to do (or have done) the rod bearings, what other "while you're at it" work would you recommend I prepare to do given the history of the engine?

First of all, welcome to BITOG!

There's really no telling where the glitter came from without tearing the engine all the way down. Other than the head gasket (which wouldn't cause this issue in isolation), I don't think this engine has a single likely point of failure the way later M engines do. And even if it did, you'd have no way to know in advance if something else was failing as well.

My advice: First, decide whether you can live with the possibility that the engine might seize or blow up on you at some point. If you can, go ahead and run it with short OCIs and see if it keeps making glitter. If not, tear it down ASAP.


Solid plan thumbsup

I concur. This is the reason why I shyed away from the M's when purchasing my relic below.

As for the oil leak, I agree with that others said about head gaskets. I had an external oil leak from the passenger side front corner of my M20 for years that SLOWLY got worse and worse.
I had several oil pan gasket changes and valve cover gasket changes with little to no improvement. Only once I bit the bullet and had the head removed, cleaned, valve seals replaced etc. did the problem finally go away. I still pinch myself in disbelief that I own a 30+ year old BMW that doesn't burn or leak a drop of fluid. A testament to the design and reliability of these old machines.


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Re: Metallic Particles in Engine Oil - BMW S52 [Re: ammolab] #5324035 01/16/20 02:54 AM
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d00df00d Offline
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Originally Posted by ammolab
Yes, S54 3.2 liter M engines were the power plants with many Rod bearing failures.

The S62, S85, and S65 are known for excess rod bearing wear, too (though actual failure rates are unclear).


2008 BMW M3 Sedan 6MT
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