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Posted by on Oct 2, 2012 in Drivetrain, Maintenance | 0 comments

BMW E36 Differential Fluid Change Video

Changing the Differential oil in your E36 isn’t as complicated as you might believe.

Before you begin, you’ll need the following tools and supplies:


14mm Allen key

Red Line 75W140 Gear Oil


Heavy Duty Steel Jack Stands, 1 Pair

Low-Profile Garage Jack

Oil Drain Pan


This e36 DIY article covers the differential fluid change on all BMW E36 models. If your differential fluid has never been changed before, now is a good time. The good news is, this is a simple task on these cars and cane be done with out even putting the car on jacks.

Bad or old Diff fluid can cause excess noise and poor performance in your 3 series. While this DIY guide is meant specifically for the e36, most other BMW’s including E30’s, and E46’s are very similar.

The very first step in the process is to get the oil in the differential hot by driving it around the block, or performing this maintenance after running errands. This will speed up the draining process, as hot oil flows quicker, and will also aid the removal of more contaminants.

While you don’t have to jack up the car in order to change the diff fluid, it does make the task easier. Whenever you work under a lifted car, make sure the car is stable on the jack stands and any wheel still touching the ground have been chocked before you begin. You can never be too safe.

Once under the car looking towards the front, you will find two Allen bolts located on the differentia facing towards the rear. The drain plug is labeled as #2 in the picture, and the fill bolt is labeled as #1.

Place you oil catch pan under the diff and start by loosening bolt #1, than removing bolt #2. Be advised, once bolt #2 starts to loosen, oil will start draining from your diff, be prepared. Once #2 is removed, remove bolt #1 as well to avoid forming a vacuum within the diff as the oil drains. Let the oil drain for several minutes and use the oil pump to get any remaining fluid out.

Once the fluid is done draining, reinstall bolt #2, but not #1, as this is your fill location for the new oil. Use a pump like the one listed above, Harbor Freight sells them very cheap, to fill the diff with oil. You will need to purchase at least two quarts of oil. The Six cylinder models require 1.8 quarts of oil while the four cylinder models only require 1.2 quarts.  However pre measuring the amounts is not necessary, as you can simply fill the diff until it begins to overflow from the fill hole. Once full, reinstall the fill plug, clean up the mess, and take the car off the jack stands, your finished.

Depending on your mechanical ability and access to a lift, this job can take as little as 20 minutes, to an hour.

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