Engine Oil

BMW: What Red Line Products Do I Need?

Red Line products have been a favorite of BMW enthusiasts since the beginning. Red Line is a popular brand because it has the most BMW cars outside of Germany. Red Line products have been helping BMWs of all ages perform to their full potential for nearly 30 years.

Red Line is a close partnership with many of the top BMW mail-order operations, performance tuners, and Bavarian Autosports, Bimmerworlds, BMP, Dinan and Turner Motorsports, to name just a few.

These experts are available to answer questions and provide feedback. These notes should be used as a guide. As always, we start by reviewing the factory’s lubricant specification and then see where Red Line’s product advantages are worth mentioning. We then assess from there.


BMWs, motor oil and the Castrol relationship at the dealership level have caused controversy in recent years. Red Line has a lot of respect for BMW, and many Red Line employees are BMW enthusiasts. However, photos such as the ones in this article show that consumers have concerns. Red Line recommends the 10W40 Motor Oil used on engines from 1998 up to and the 5W30 Motor Oil for those with engines starting in 1999. Red Line motor oils are preferred for their temperature stability. This is why many M-cars, track days, and other specialty applications use Red Line motor oils. Any increase in oil weight will likely result in a decrease in power and fuel economy.

E36 and E46 cars can run on 5W30, even with the most extreme aftermarket modifications. Many people question the need for 10W60 motor oils in M-cars (including Red Line, as we’ve seen customers use 5W30 in E46M3s with no issues). However, we now sell this product in North America as we have been selling this product in Asia for many decades. Bavarian Autosport is a smart company that recommends that Red Line customers use light weights appropriate for the season. That’s what we believe.

Red Line products have been adopted by tuning shops such as BimmerWorld for their customers and racecars. James Clay, race driver and owner of the shop, raised serious concerns about sludge problems on his cars after following BMW’s recommendations regarding drain intervals and oil supply.

These photos show a typical M54 motor, standard in E46 and E39 none cars between 1999 and 2005. Clay found that Red Line’s motor oils have shear stability and detergency, which helps keep sludge problems under control. Bavarian expert Gordon Arnold says that this sludge can cause piston ring land carbon and oil feed clogging. It can also deteriorate and clog crankcase ventilation and oil separators.

The BimmerWorld guys did motor oil testing on their SCCA World Challenge cars. They report that the oil weight has not affected the variable valve train control. Different viscosities do not cause any timing changes. Bavarian recommends that oil be changed every 7000 miles (due to contamination more than oil breakdown), and we tend towards agreeing. However, we have heard of customers who use our products for longer periods with their BMWs.


Experts and technicians are concerned about the long drain intervals on BMW automatics. Red Line D4 ATF has been a popular choice for customers who have noticed improved wear characteristics and performance. Red Line is well-known for making products that are specific to an application. D4 ATF can meet the needs of many late-model BMW models, including those with manual transmissions. This product is often available in 5-gallon pails by independent shops to be dispensed as an upgrade for customers.

It seems like a good idea to change it every 50,000 miles. You might end up with the same sludge as Gordon, our expert on 5-series oil pans. That’s enough.

Manual transmissions are a vast topic. However, the overwhelming feedback shows that our fluids improve cold operation and performance due to their stable viscosity, balanced friction (so synchros can slow down enough for them to match up), as well as more than sufficient antiwear additives.

RedLine uses a base closer to factory recommendations, while Mike Miller, a respected BMW tech expert (and Bavarian), confidently recommends MTL every BMW manual gearbox. Our MTL is a 70W80 GL-4 fluid.

It is slightly more complicated from 1986 to 1992 because three transmissions can be identified by the label on the bell housing’s passenger side. The green label with a 17mm hex drain connector uses MT-90. A red label with a 17mm plug and 17mm drain plug uses D4ATF. A no label with a 15mm drain socket uses MTL.

D4 ATF is recommended from 1993 to now (yes, ATF in manual transmission). The only late-model exception to this rule is the 2006 Xi trans, which uses D6 ATF.

That’s a lot of information to remember. These transmissions generally take less than two quarts. There are two exceptions to this rule: the 8-series cars from before 2000 (2.5 quarts) or the M5’s 7 speed (2005, 3 quarts).


It is difficult to make motor oil and transmission recommendations. However, it is easy to match Red Line GL-5+ gear oils up with a BMW diff. This is because so many of our 75W90s are used.

This gear oil contains the necessary extreme pressure additives to protect the ring and pin from extreme loading. It also has enough limited slip friction modifier to allow the LSD to work properly and prevent chattering. Our 75W140 is recommended for differentials with multi-disk LSDs (1992 and up). It also includes the friction modifier.


Our SI-1 Complete Fuel System Cleaner is a favourite of BMW dealers and independent technicians. It helps to maintain fuel injectors, combustion chambers and other areas affected by carbon buildup. Our customers say that a full bottle is sufficient to clean the fuel injectors every few months. It also helps cars with high emissions pass emission tests.

WaterWetter can also be used to control the temperature of your BMW since it is compatible with glycol antifreeze. WaterWetter is only one bottle. Two bottles are not always better.


This simple clinic will help you to understand which Red Line products we recommend for your BMW. We have included a list as a final shot to facilitate cross-references between what we have discussed here. Also, be sure to visit www.bavarianautosport.com and www.bimmerworld.com for more detailed tech info.



Through 1998: 10W40

Since 1999: 5W30

S54 (2001-2003) and other specific needs that Castrol RS oil or TWS Motorsports oil are: 10W60

Manual Transmissions

MTL through 1985

1986 to 1992: May have a label attached to the passenger-side bell housing

– Green Label: Mt-90

– Red Label: D4ATF

MTL – No Label

Transmissions with the red and green labels have a fill plug and an external hex drain of 17mm.

Transmissions that are not labelled have a fill plug and an internal hex drain of 17mm.

1993-on: D4ATF

2006 Xi Transmissions – D6ATF

Automatic Transmissions D4ATF

Differentials: 75W90

2002 with multi-disk limited-slip 75W140

Fluid Designations

Manual Transmission



Transmission by automatic:

Esso LT71141, Shell LA2634 & M-1375.4, Texaco ETL7045 & ETL8072B => D4ATF


SAF-XO & SAFX-LS => 75W90

SAF-XJ => 75W140


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