Your brake fluid in your BMW needs to be changed at least once every two years, and if you don’t have a maintenance plan, you probably will have to figure out what brake fluid your car needs because a brake fluid change can range in the hundreds of dollars and doing it yourself will save you a ton of money.
Every BMW since 2003 has a DSC system and requires a DOT 4 low viscosity liquid brake fluid and a DOT 5 if you are using your BMW on the race track. You can also use a DOT 5.1 low viscosity liquid, but it is a glycol-based fluid, whereas a DOT 4 is a synthetic silicone-based liquid. BMW-specific OEM brake fluid is not required, and you may use any brand.
We will discuss BMWs and if they really do need OEM brake fluid or if any other brand can be used without fearing any repercussions. We’ll also take a look at the various types of brake fluid and which you are able to use for your BMW, depending on your driving habits; and finally, we will briefly discuss if you can change the brake fluid yourself.
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BMW brake fluid overview
You would think that because a BMW is one of the most luxurious sports cars renowned across the globe and with their tag line being the ultimate driving machine that you would need particular top quality parts and products that only BMW offers. Perhaps this would even relate to something as minuscule as brake fluid. Well, if you thought this, then you would be wrong; however, you wouldn’t be far off from the truth.
Although a BMW does not require specific brake fluid manufactured and made for BMW cars specifically, they do need particular brake fluid. If you are an average everyday driver, you probably did not know this, but there are different types of brake fluids, and depending on how you drive, you would require a specific type of brake fluid that caters to your car’s needs.
Even though your BMW may need a different type of brake fluid, you should change your brake fluid at least once every two years, no matter how you drive and which model you have for any car, as a matter of fact. If you use your BMW as a sports performance car, taking it out to the track every so often, you will definitely need to replace it more often than that.
Types of brake fluid
We have said that your BMW does not need specific brake fluid from BMW specifically; however, the type of brake fluid it will need will probably be a DOT 4, DOT 5, or DOT 5.1 type of brake fluid (Discussed below). This is due to the fact that a BMW will use normal or a low viscosity brake fluid.
Low viscosity brake fluid is typically used on any BMW that has DSC, which means Dynamic Stable Control. Lucky enough, if you are wondering which BMW models have this system in place, it is pretty much every single BMW since 2003.
BMWs used on the track or any other BMWs that do not have the DSC system in place will typically use normal viscosity liquid, and this is your DOT 5.1 brake fluids. However, you should note that some DOT 4 liquids can also be normal viscosity.
The DOT rating refers to the dry and wet boiling temperatures of the brake fluid. A dry rating is taken from a fresh bottle of liquid, while a wet rating is brake fluid that has been susceptible to moisture and has absorbed it over a period of one year. Basically, the higher the boiling point of brake fluid, the higher the DOT rating will be.
DOT 3 brake fluid
This type of brake fluid you will not use in your BMW. It is typically used on standard vehicles and has the lowest boiling point out of all the brake fluids. This break fluid is fine for standard cars because it is made for cars that drive at average speeds and do not need to stop quickly.
DOT 4 brake fluid
If you do not use your BMW on the racing track, then your best bet is to go with the DOT 4 variant of brake fluids. DOT 4 brake fluid is used for vehicles with a more complex braking system such as your BMW and classified as semi-synthetic. Every single BMW from 2003 and any other that uses an ABS braking system will use this fluid.
DOT 5 brake fluid
This type of brake fluid is made specifically with vehicles that travel at a fast speed in mind. DOT 5 fluid is made from synthetic silicone-based products, and you will need to use this brake fluid if you use your BMW on the racing track.
While DOT 5 is your silicone-based liquid, DOT 5.1 is reserved for your low viscosity glycol-based brake fluids. This means that if a normal viscosity liquid has a boiling point that reaches that of a DOT 5 level, it will be classified as a DOT4/5 or, in other instances, a “super DOT 4”.
Which type of brake fluid do I need in my BMW
We briefly touched on which brake fluids you will need if you have a BMW. For an average everyday driver, a DOT 4 is fine, changing it once at least every two years, but if you use it for the racing track, you should opt for a DOT 5 and change it regularly. In terms of which brand you can choose, there are many.
Many individuals who own a BMW have used everything from the OEM standard to ATE and Valvoline. The best thing you could do is check out some reviews, see which brands people have used for their specific BMW model, and then use it for yours if it’s the same. Personally, I typically just go with the cheapest at my local autoparts store. As long as it is labelled DOT 4 the variations in quality will be miniscule.
Can I change my BMW brake fluid myself?
You need to ask yourself after you have purchased your brake fluid if you can change it yourself. Most automotive shops can charge anything from $150 upwards for a simple brake fluid change which is an astronomical price. It would be much easier to buy two liters yourself and perform the brake fluid change.
Going into detail on how to change the brake fluid is beyond this article’s scope; however, here is a video detailing how the process is done in changing and flushing the brake fluid from your BMW. Furthermore, this method applies to almost every single BMW out there and any other car, for that matter.
In terms of the tools you will need to perform this operation, you will only require specific wrench sizes for your vehicle, an optional compact drill with the lugnut specific key, a catch can (this catches the dripping oil), a tube of sorts, your oil, dirty rags, gloves, jack stands, and a jack.
We concluded many people do not know much about brake fluid, especially if they are just regular drivers and even if they own a BMW. Even though BMW is a superior automobile, it does not necessarly mean that every single part you require has to come from BMW, which includes your brake fluid.
You are more than capable of purchasing almost any brake fluid from any branded manufacturer that makes it. However, we found out that just because you can use any brand does not mean you can use any break fluid because there are different types.
These are, namely, your DOT 3, 4, 5, and 5.1 types of brake fluid. Your BMW will always use either a DOT 4 or DOT 5 variant of brake fluid, depending on your model and how you drive your car (causal everyday use or racing track).
For your specific model, all you will need to do is check the owner’s manual, online forums or contact your BMW dealer, and they will be able to tell you what DOT variant you require for your car. Be sure to take how you drive the vehicle into consideration, though, when choosing your brake fluid.