Article updated on July 29, 2021. Original publishing date Jun 9, 2016
Seeing engine oil anywhere except on the inside of the engine is enough to get the heart rate going. This is especially true for BMWs. If you own an M50/M52/M54 inline-6 engine or any of its derivatives, you need to pay extra attention to one particular area under the hood.
The oil filter housing gasket is a small, but important part that often gets overlooked when there is an oil leak. It’s in a tight spot, so when your BMW needs an oil filter housing gasket change, you’ll want to do it carefully to not damage anything.
Diagnosing a Faulty Oil Filter Housing Gasket
The oil filter housing gasket is a rubber gasket that sits between the engine block and the oil filter housing. It’s there to make it airtight and prevent any oil from leaking out. When it fails, you’ll have to get it fixed before it causes more issues.
Doing so involves removing the oil filter housing and a few other steps we’ll talk about later in this guide. Overall, it is a fairly simple job that you can DIY in your garage since you won’t be needing any specialized tools.
That being said, before you can get started, you have to catch the problem. Here’s how to troubleshoot the leaking oil filter housing gasket issue.
Your car will give you 3 distinct indicators that there’s an issue with your oil levels. Although
these can mean a lot of things, they can also point to a faulty oil filter housing gasket.
The Engine Oil Light
Your BMW is equipped with a Low Engine Oil Light and a Low Oil Pressure Light that illuminates on your dashboard when there is an issue with the engine’s oil level. A faulty oil filter housing gasket will most likely cause an oil leak, so your lights could come on when the level drops below minimum values.
Oil Leak Under the Car
Oil spilling from the filter is another clear indication that the oil filter housing gasket needs to be replaced. When this happens, there is usually a pool of oil underneath the car.
However, keep in mind that your skid plate could catch the leak, thus masking the issue until the pool of oil starts grows pretty large. Take a flashlight and inspect the oil filter housing gasket if you notice a puddle of oil under your vehicle.
Oil Pressure Drop
Engine oil is under slight pressure to assist it to reach where it needs to go all around the engine. If the oil pressure gauge on your instrument cluster starts to drop, the oil filter housing gasket may be at fault. Any significant and persistent drops in oil pressure should be treated seriously. If you get a low oil pressure warning, immediately pull over and turn off the engine. Running an engine with no oil pressure can cause irreparable damage to key engine internals.
Oil leaks are a problem in any engine, however, BMW’s inline-6 engines are particularly susceptible to this issue. We’re talking about the M50, M52, M54, S50, S52, and S54.
The latter S series engines are high-performance, low tolerance engines that won’t tolerate the lack of lubrication. Either way, it’s important that you get on top of any oil leak on time.
Tools and Parts Needed for Oil Filter Housing Gasket Change
Taking the oil filter housing apart and removing it from the engine might look like a difficult process, but you’ll only need basic tools and a few parts to get the job done.
- Socket wrench
- 10 mm socket
- 13 mm socket
- 16 mm socket
- 17 mm Box wrench (for Alternator)
- 19 mm Box wrench (for VANOS line)
- T50 Torx (for the belt tensioner)
You will have to disconnect the VANOS oil line, accessory belt, and AC belt while changing the oil filter housing gasket. Because of that, it’s a good idea to replace these parts as well, since you’re already in there. However, this is definitely not mandatory. You should also think about changing your oil and oil filter.
- Oil Filter Housing Gasket
- VANOS Oil Line
- 4 VANOS Line Crush Washers (2 if you’re not replacing the VANOS line)
- Accessory Belt
- AC Belt
- Oil Filter
How to Perform the Oil Filter Housing Gasket Change
During this repair, you’ll be disconnecting your alternator, so remember to disconnect your battery. This is the most important first step whenever you’re messing around with an engine, especially if you’re working with any electrical components. Disconnect the battery before taking anything off the engine.
Forgetting this step might have a very dangerous outcome. With that out of the way, here are the step-by-step instructions on how to get a new oil filter housing gasket on your car, by yourself!
Step 1 – Remove the Accessory Belt
Remove the cap on the belt tensioner pulley first. Using the T50 Torx, turn the center of this pulley counterclockwise. This should take most of the tension off the belt and you should be able to pull the belt off of the pulleys.
Step 2 – Remove the Alternator
The alternator is connected to the oil filter housing with two 16 mm bolts. They need to come off. The lower bolt is held in place by a 17 mm nut that is located behind the alternator. Get a box wrench and use it to hold the nut in place while you undo the 16 mm bolt.
You should be able to rotate the alternator to get to the wires on the back and remove them. Remember to unbolt them before removing and don’t worry about mixing them up since the positive and negative terminals are of different sizes.
Step 3 – Move the Power Steering Pump Aside
Two 13 mm bolts are used to hold your power steering pump in place. There is another bolt between the pump and the oil pan, but you should leave that one in place since the pump is still connected to the power steering system.
Step 4 – Remove the Oil Filter
Now onto replacing the gasket. First, remove the oil filter. This will let the oil drain into the pan, and you will avoid making a mess.
Step 5 – Remove the Air Filter Box
The air filter box is kept in place with two 10 mm bolts, but you shouldn’t forget to take off the Mass Airflow sensor clips. After that, you should be able to pull the box out easily.
Step 6 – Disconnect the Oil Pressure Sensor
You will find the oil pressure sensor at the back of the oil filter housing. You should be able to pull it out by squeezing the wire sticking up from the clip and pulling the whole thing out.
Step 7 – Disconnect the VANOS line
Remove the banjo bolt holding the VANOS line in place at the front of the engine using the 19 mm box wrench. The other end is attached to the oil filter housing and will come out with it.
Step 8 – Remove the Oil Filter Housing
You need to remove six 13 mm bolts that hold the oil filter housing in place. Don’t mix these bolts up because they have different lengths, so they will only fit their original hole.
Step 9 – Clean-up the Engine Bay
At this stage, you should clean up any spilled or leaked oil from your engine bay, so you can easily tell if there is a new leak when you are done.
Don’t forget to shove a rag in the openings from the parts you took apart, otherwise, debris might end up in your engine block while you are cleaning.
Step 10 – Replace the Oil Filter Housing Gasket
Remember to lubricate the gasket using a small amount of oil for it to not pinch during reassembly.
Step 11 – Swap the Lines on the Oil Filter Housing
When you put in the banjo bolt, swap the lines on the oil filter housing, putting new crush washers on each side of the line, but don’t tighten it until everything is lined up perfectly.
Step 12 – Attach the Oil Filter Housing
Using six different lengths 13 mm bolts, attach the oil filter housing to its place.
Step 13 – Attach the VANOS line
Put the VANOS line back in on the front of the engine using your new crush washers. Don’t forget to use new crush washers at the back as well if you are replacing your VANOS line. Tighten them all firmly but don’t push too hard.
Step 14 – Attach the Oil Pressure Sensor Wire
The oil pressure sensor wire will attach easily to the back of the oil filter housing.
Step 15 – Attach the Power Steering Pump
Using two 13 mm bolts, attach the power steering pump to the oil filter housing.
Step 16 – Connect the Alternator
First, connect the power leads to the alternator and bolt them. Afterward, connect the alternator to the oil filter housing using two 16 mm bolts.
Step 17 – Fix the Accessory Belt in Place
You should get the accessory belt around all of the pulleys other than the tensioner pulley first. After that, move the belt over the tensioner pulley while pulled and tighten it afterward to get the tension.
Step 18 – Reconnect the Battery
Connect the wires of your battery and start your engine. Remember to look for oil leaks in your engine bay to determine if you have done the job correctly.
Where to Get the Parts for Oil Filter Housing Gasket Change?
Using the information provided above, you should easily diagnose if your BMW needs an oil filter housing gasket change. If you do, simply head over to our store, and you’ll find the largest selection of quality gaskets and parts for your BMW!
Select your car’s year, make and model from the drop-down menu, and you will be directed to a list of parts specific to your vehicle. Remember to use only genuine, OEM, or quality aftermarket parts on your car!