Best Ways to Spend Your 2018 Tax Refund on Your VW with ECS

Once again, the time of year where we are required to make a major decision is upon us: should we responsibly save our tax return, or does it become a race car stimulus package? Here at ECS, we expect you to make the proper decision. Naturally, we compiled a list of products on which to spend your government refund for your VW!


Of course, the easiest way to spend your tax return is on a shiny new set of shoes. New wheels for your car dramatically change the look and give you a new appreciation for your car every time you see it. Whether you just want your VW to look fresh or you need lightweight options to eliminate unsprung weight, there are several trusted manufacturers we support to provide whatever you need. Check out some of these fine companies to give your VW a makeover:

BBS Wheels



Flush Kits

If stock wheels are your game, but you are tired of the sunken fitment, ECS has you covered, too. Our Wheel Flush Kits provide everything you need to give your VW a wider and more aggressive stance. The discerning VW driver will pair a Wheel Flush Kit with lowering springs to achieve a hunkered look and flush fitment. While this may require some fender rolling, it is an excellent way to drastically improve the style of your VW without running through the entire tax refund in one go! We really do have your best interest at heart.

ECS Wheel Flush Kits

Eibach Springs

H&R Springs

Kohlefaser Luft-Technik Intake System

Maybe all the visuals on your VW are taken care of already and performance is your game? The ECS Kohlefaser Luft-Technik Intake Systems are a perfect choice for any VW. These attractive carbon fiber intakes both look the part and put down measurable power. If you are making your first improvements to engine performance or need an intake system that actually produces power, this is the best choice on the market. Our engineers spent excessive amounts of time designing and developing these induction systems and our Dyno sheets reflect those efforts. Check out our fitment and the specific power gains for your car below.

ECS Kohlefaser Luft-Technik Intake Systems


For the extremely practical VW drivers, the tax refund may be more like free maintenance money. ECS carries the best in performance and maintenance parts alike for your VW, and we have a few recommendations on how you can make sure your car is ready to hit the back roads with confidence this summer.

Hawk Performance brake pads are designed for aggressive braking forces and provide exceptional pedal feel and stopping power. Their selection of street and track-worthy compounds give you a wide range to choose from based on your driving needs to give you replacement pads with fantastic performance. Pair these pads with a set of ECS Performance Rotors and take care of your service with funding from Uncle Sam.

Hawk Performance

ECS Slotted Rotors

Finally, the ever important oil service rounds out our race car stimulus package. We highly suggest picking up a Schwaben Fluid Extractor to make fluid changes a breeze and changing your engine oil with LIQUI-MOLY oils and additives. LIQUI-MOLY has been named the best German oil for seven consecutive years for a reason: their unparalleled molecular friction control is the pinnacle of lubrication technology. Their additives are chemically and molecularly structured to safely de-gunk your engine during an oil cycle as well as restore overall performance to peak power. Make sure to include LIQUI-MOLY additives in your oil change, and give Molygen oil a try to spot those tough leaks thanks to the UV-reactive properties of this unique oil.

Schwaben Fluid Extractor

LIQUI-MOLY oils and additives

Whether you are expecting a quaint return or something grandiose, ECS is the right place to turn for exceptional products and vendors who can help you make that refund a go-fast package. Make sure your VW looks and drives the way it should this spring by taking the government’s returns and give your car the attention it deserves.





Best Used European Performance Cars Under $20,000

One major benefit we enjoy at ECS is seeing what our customers prefer to drive and modify. While we only cater to European vehicles, the distribution of makes, models, and trim packages is still incredibly diverse. There are, of course, clear leaders in each brand segment that tell us which cars are most popular by brand. This gave us an idea: with a used car buying budget of $20,000 or less, what used European vehicle is the best bang for the buck for modifying, making reliable power, and having a blast driving. ? What would we recommend right now to consider purchasing, why, and how much you can expect to pay for your next vehicle are all questions we will answer in this article.

Before we explore each of the cars preferred by our customers within each brand manufacturer, we need to set some parameters on the vehicle search. While anyone with enough money can go find the newest, fastest, highest-trim level enthusiast vehicle, finding a specific vehicle with the express purpose of driving and modifying can be a long journey. Ideally, the second-hand car we would suggest should be reliable enough to get in and drive daily, handle some light modification, and give you nearly instant gratification in your purchase.


To start our list we chose to look into what our Audi customers’ favorite car seems to be according to our records. The clear winner was the B8 A4, which was produced from 2008 through 2016. There was in 2012 a facelift to the nearly four-year-old B8 which made some aesthetic and safety changes but otherwise left the vehicle untouched.

Due to the eight years of production, the sheer volume of B8 A4s, and the incredible range of pricing and condition, we have narrowed down our search to the 2010 B8 A4 Quattro for our recommendation. We found an average price of $9,400 in an automatic Quattro or $11,000 for a manual Quattro, which allows you to jump into a well-sorted car without dropping serious cash. With the added benefit of AWD, availability in a manual transmission, and the incredibly popular 2.0T TFSI engine, the 2010 B8 A4 easily proves why our customers tend to gravitate towards the platform. If you are looking to make serious power for less than $12,000 in a second-hand Audi that will be a relatively worry-free, daily-drivable, and well-supported vehicle, we entirely recommend the 2010 B8 A4 2.0T Quattro with a manual transmission.

(Our figures were based on sixteen individual sales of 2010 Audi B8 A4 2.0T Quattros across the United States. All information on pricing and specific vehicles was found on,, and

A popular modification our B8 A4 customers usually make is to upgrade their intake to our ECS Luft-Technik Induction System. With this intake, you can expect awesome induction sounds and power increases while adding a tastefully styled aftermarket performance component to your 2.0T TFSI engine.

Shop our entire catalog for the B8 A4 right here on our site.


Our Bavarian segment was fairly surprising, especially for me, a BMW enthusiast and owner myself. While many would consider the E30 or the E36 to be the most popular platform, our data not only shows otherwise but points toward a more realistic daily drivable option. Our BMW customers generally prefer the E46 M3 over all other models. The E46 M3 was BMWs third generation of the incredibly successful //M division’s road-going race car. With a screaming S54B32 straight-six, 6-speed manual or SMG transmission, and availability of either coupe or convertible models, the E46 M3 is what we would call the quintessential BMW performance car.

The E46 M3 in recent years has dropped in price considerably, especially SMG-equipped examples. The well-known crank bearing failures and SMG pump failures have driven prices down to nearly E36 M3 money. While ideally, your second-hand performance car is ready for daily driving, the E46 M3 is too tempting to overlook even with these issues. Fortunately, the main crank bearing fix is a simple procedure, and parts are available here. For the SMG pump failure, we actually suggest purchasing an SMG car with the intention of manual transmission swapping for a true 6 speed. This method can actually grant you a well sorted, low-mileage, reliable M3 for far under what a factory manual transmission example would be priced. However, driven conservatively and serviced regularly, in our experience, the SMG transmission is reliable and incredibly engaging to drive.

With prices starting to become relatively affordable, even for clean ‘low-mileage’ M3s, the time to buy one is now. An SMG example will sell in a decent condition somewhere between $11,000 and $15,000, while a manual transmission version is going to sell between $16,000 and all the way up to one incredible sale found on Bring A Trailer, which went for $50,000. Realistically, budgeting $20,000 for a manual transmission E46 M3 coupe still yields the buyer what we consider to be BMWs ultimate M-powered car available stateside, and what is clearly the preferred model among ECS BMW customers.

(Sales Data sourced through

The Turner Motorsport Performance Engine Tuning Software for your E46 M3 is an incredibly popular choice to grant extra horsepower with little effort. Many of our customers equip their M3s with this performance upgrade.

Shop our entire catalog for the E46 M3 here on our site.


I know we are going to hear a lot of hate from Porsche purists, but we have noticed the 996 generation Porsche is not only one of the more popular generations our customers choose to modify, but also an unbelievably good idea to consider. This is especially true if you are in the used performance car market. Produced between 1998 until 2004, the 996 offers the usual range of Turbo, AWD, NA, and special packages seen on nearly every Carrera. The twist here is the unbelievable affordability of these amazing vehicles.

While the ‘cracked egg’ headlight design and bulkier body turned several collectors and enthusiasts away when the car was new, the 996 has become one of the best examples of an excellent ‘bang for your buck.’ Average value puts the once super-car expensive flat six Carrera priced right with E46 M3s and Ford Focus’ at a $22,000 average for a manual transmission coupe RWD naturally aspirated model. While cabriolet versions are less expensive and easier to find, we would not suggest owning a second-hand convertible as your only vehicle.

Yes, the Porsche 996 NA Boxer engines are known for their catastrophic IMS bearing failure, but no, that should not stop you from purchasing one. Clean, well maintained, even IMS-solved examples are incredibly affordable and reliable, being the first year of water-cooled Porsche Carreras. It still has mechanical power steering, a tactile manual transmission, and all the hallmarks of a traditional Porsche that make driving these cars such a thrill. For under $25,000, a reliable, fun, and fantastic investment can be made before the prices begin to climb once more.

(Sales Data sourced through

The ECS Luft-Technik Performance Intake adds considerable power to any 996 with a simple and cost-effective modification.

Shop our entire catalog for the Porsche 996 911 here on our site.


We have been heavily focused on this model in our more recent posts, so it should be no surprise our most popular enthusiast vehicle chosen by customers is the VW MK6 GTI. While we have outlined several popular modifications, upgrades, and services that would be fantastic for a second-hand purchased MK6 GTI, we have not outlined why that MK6 GTI price bubble is at the perfect time to take advantage of as an enthusiast.

With the first models still being under a decade old, the MK6 GTI is an affordable platform capable of achieving impressive power outputs. Not only is it a great platform to begin tuning, it has been a staple in name since its inception with the MK1 GTI in the ‘80s. With average pricing for even newer examples still sitting around $15,000, the MK6 GTI is a low mileage, convenient, and fun car to pick as your daily driver enthusiast vehicle.

In a previous post, we outlined all the necessary maintenance for purchasing a used MK6 GTI so you can be confident in joining the majority of our VW customers in choosing this platform as your car. Since their prices and condition have met that perfect ratio, we honestly encourage anyone looking for a second-hand European performance vehicle to heavily consider the MK6 GTI for it’s all around cost to benefit breakdown. For very little money, the MK6 GTI customer can purchase, customize, and fully enjoy this platform without ever touching close to a $20,000 maximum budget.

(Sales Data sourced through

See our post on all the best initial modifications for the MK6 GTI should you choose this car as your ideal daily driver.

Shop our entire catalog for the VW MK6 GTI here on our site.


There are several fantastic enthusiast vehicles aside our selection range. Those alternates include the Audi 8v A3, the Porsche Cayman S, the BMW E36/7 or BMW E36/8 M Roadster/M Coupe, or the MK6 GLI Jetta. Whatever your choice of vehicle is, sticking to this list means you will join several other enthusiasts who have recognized these vehicles as the best options in their classes. All your maintenance and performance needs can be found for this entire list right here at ECS Tuning. Of course, we would love your feedback on our selections as the most popular European performance vehicles by brand, and look forward to your questions, comments, and suggestions.

Best 5 Maintenance Needs for your Second Hand MK6 GTI

If you are in the market for a used hot hatchback, then you have undoubtedly put the MK6 GTI on your list to consider. Right now, the MK6 has entered that sweet-spot of being both affordable and available in excellent condition being that its oldest model year is within ten years old. As we explained in a previous post, the MK6 GTI has a great potential for making quick and easy power with a few bolt-on modifications and is a competitive little scamp with some basic suspension upgrades. Before you jump all over the fun modifications and improvements we mentioned in that post, however, we have compiled a list of simple do-it-yourself maintenance needs that your second-hand MK6 GTI will surely benefit from having serviced.

While we will not go in-depth into specifically how to replace each component in this post, check out our links to the parts and DIY articles we will include so you can be sure to make a confident purchase decision and know we are right here to help you make the MK6 GTI of your dreams become a reality!


Oil Service

As with any new-to-you vehicle, ECS Tuning’s VW gurus recommend an immediate oil change. Our Assembled By ECS Oil Service Kit is one of many which includes a new oil filter, gasket, Genuine Synthetic Factory Recommended Oil, and an ECS Magnetic Drain Plug to replace your existing plug. Replacing your oil ensures you are able to maintain the proper service intervals and can tell you a lot about the condition of your engine’s internal components. Check for excessive metal flakes in the oil as well as coolant or frothiness. These are signs of advanced wear and failing accessories or gaskets that we would recommend seeing a professional for diagnostics. However, nearly all MK6 GTIs will be in great shape, and looking for a stock example can help increase your chances of finding one that has not spent time banging off its rev-limiter.

Cabin Air Filter

Another simple replacement you can complete in minutes with minimal tools is to replace the Cabin Air Filter in your MK6 GTI. While fairly self-explanatory, the cabin air filter provides a critical service: this filters the air in the vehicle as it is introduced from the outside and prevents allergens, particulate matter, and even odors from permeating the air in your car. We use MANN Filters, who produce some of the most widely used and highest quality filters available and it is what we recommend using. They filter odors like nitrogen and sulfur, prevent conditions favorable to bacteria buildup, and trap allergens while keeping your interior fresh and clean to breathe.

Fuel Filter

Maintaining the filter motif, replacing your Fuel Filter is also a must. Over time, contaminants in the fuel system are trapped here. Think of how your body traps bacteria in lymph nodes: the fuel filter keeps particles and contaminants from clogging up your fuel delivery and robbing your car of performance. Since it can’t clear itself, replacing this filter as the car’s mileage increases is a seriously critical service. Once again, we choose a new fuel filter from MANN Filter to take care of our needs.

Spark Plugs

Moving back to the engine, Spark Plugs are always a recommended initial service on your previously enjoyed car. While these may seem fairly obvious, often we can make excuses for ourselves that everything is working fine right now, so there is no need to make any changes. Spark Plug replacements will guarantee proper engine performance and will allow you to make the most out of your 2.0T by assuring that all your original horsepowers are present and accounted for under the hood. We use NGK Iridium Spark Plugs to make sure that a powerful enough spark and correct gap for the electricity to arc across are within the factory expectations. Replacing your plugs regains lost power, fuel efficiency, and smoothes rough idles as a result of carbon buildup.

 Suspension Refresh

Finally, we encourage all new MK6 GTI owners to perform a suspension service. Our varying stages of suspension refresh kits account for the basic needs, or performance upgrades, available to interchange when performing this service. The Assembled By ECS Suspension Refresh Kits contain essential front and rear suspension components that will have undeniably aged and softened over the lifespan of your MK6 GTI. Important components like shock tower mounts, end links, and bushings are highly recommended. This is also a fantastic opportunity to achieve multiple goals at once by upgrading your suspension with some of our recommended cup kits or Coilover sets as we discussed in a previous post this week.


Drive and Enjoy!

With these services completed, your basic maintenance needs for a second hand purchased MK6 GTI will be addressed and you can enjoy your car the way its original owner did driving it from the Volkswagen dealership! Of course, no two used cars are alike, so we do suggest making observations to other functions of the car and perform suggested maintenance at appropriate intervals. More involved jobs, like servicing the timing chain and guides, are a stretch to tackle at home unless you are a seriously competent mechanic. We do, however, provide any of the maintenance needs, or performance upgrades you may want, right here at ECS Tuning. Let us know in the comments if you have any suggestions, questions, or comments.

Check out some more shots from our friend Ryan @ryan_vw_mk6 and his GTI on Instagram and the photographer @officiallogandonald for some great VW content.


Thomas’ BILSTEIN Equipped Audi B6 S4 Avant

Buying a used car can be scary for anyone. This used car story is about Thomas, a future European car enthusiast, who bought a non-running, fairly clean, and extremely rare car to make his own. At sixteen, his father allowed him to work and save to purchase a car that absolutely spoke to him. Thomas had settled on an Audi B6 S4 Avant with some missing aesthetic pieces and a blown engine to be the first car he would call his own. 


Unloading the newly purchased Avant

Thomas, however, had not chosen just any B6 S4. With careful searching and a bit of luck, he managed to find one of thirty produced Nogaro Blue exterior on Nogaro Blue interior, 6-speed Quattro Avant. An absolutely eye-catching car as is, Thomas eagerly went to work addressing everything: from the daunting task of swapping an engine, to the minutia of beauty covers, trim pieces, lights, and detailing. He completed his work under the watchful guidance of an incredibly skilled mentor, from whom he gained invaluable experience in mechanical and restorative automotive work. 

b6_audi_v8 b6_avant_v8_install

Freshly sourced motor being prepped and installed

Solving the issue of sourcing and replacing the Audi V8 turned into a much easier task than anticipated. With his mentor’s help, Thomas was able to install the new engine himself without being quagmired by excessive cost. This allowed him to focus on other aspects of the car he had decided to address. Most notably, Thomas felt that the Audi needed suspension capable of keeping up with the car. After careful consideration, Thomas decided BILSTEIN B14 Coilovers were the best choice to fit on his Audi to bring it closer to the ground and more enjoyable to drive.

The comparison between old and new is fairly drastic: notice the difference in shock/strut construction between the older suspension that was clearly not designed for the Avant. Some of these parts came from a Chevy Blazer, which explains the overall condition of the car when Thomas purchased it.

With his new BILSTEIN coilovers in hand, Thomas set to removing the extant suspension equipped to the car. Being that the car had a blown motor and was in the ‘first car’ price range, seeing less than ideal suspension components was to be expected. He removed some unnamed and poorly pieced together suspension components and replaced them with the B14’s, which ultimately support the Avant on its set of BBS RGR mesh wheels.



The lower and stiffer springs, which are actually designed for use in this Avant, sit right at home on their proper perches. The finished product looks incredible installed on the car!

Thanks to BILSTEIN’s unparalleled quality and performance, this Avant is now set up to ride comfortably and handle spirited driving with ease

Thomas purchased the car with BBS wheels already equipped and in fantastic condition, except the paint. He solved the paint issue  by powder-coating the wheels a muted silver and finished with brand new black and silver BBS center caps. Finishing off his immaculate daily driver are a tune and clutch from JHM to give it more power and better bite on the left-most pedal, as well as motor mounts from ECS to eliminate driveline deflection, and finally ZIZA lighting inside and outside the car to improve on the factory illumination. 

Any mechanic or automotive restoration expert would be floored by the absolute quality of work present in this build. Upon speaking with Thomas, you would be even more taken aback by his muted sense of pride behind his reserved tone, as well as in his humility and gratitude; both in his work and ownership of this rare example of a European sport-touring dream.


All in, the Avant is far from finished. Thomas already has plans for bigger wheels with a more aggressive offset, plans to go farther with the astoundingly clean V8 build, and definitely plans to enjoy his nearly brand new B6 S4 Avant for years to come. Future enthusiasts like Thomas remind us that every project is doable with enough determination, and thanks to high quality parts producers like BILSTEIN, we can all confidently approach even the messiest of situations and be rewarded with something truly unique and personal. 








Interested in Purchasing BILSTEIN Suspension or other components for your car?

BILSTEIN shocks, struts, and coilovers have been the industry preferred suspension since before the use of automobiles. Revamp the feel and enjoyability of your car with BILSTEIN suspension!



What to Know: Buying Your First BMW E30 3-Series

Regarded as one of the most successful and desirable enthusiast cars, the BMW E30 3-series offers a connected and dynamic driving experience in a vintage car without being overly expensive or difficult to maintain.

Known for their rear wheel drive, six cylinder, manual transmission variants, BMW continued their sport-compact segment with the new E30 3-Series in the early 80’s to provide a sporty coupe with the convenience offered in competitive sedans offered at the time.

Regardless of your familiarity level with cars, E30’s provide a fun and challenging ownership experience supported by a massive network of enthusiasts to help you every step of the way. In this post, we will specifically discuss what new enthusiasts should keep in mind when looking to purchase their first E30.

Before we get started

The biggest aspect you need to be aware of when looking for an E30 of your own is age. Even the newest E30’s are 25 years old. With that in mind, many of the key points we will cover in this post are going to be maintenance and age-related.

Before you are discouraged, however, remember we will be showing you what to look for and providing tips along the way to help mitigate or remedy some of these known faults. Ideally this, as well as other sources, will help you find the right E30.

In our experience, looking for an unmodified or unmolested E30 with a straight body, livable interior, running, driving, example is going to be a bit of a journey. The ideal purchase needs to be something that requires as little cosmetic attention as possible, is running and driving but may need some work, and is around a $5,000 budget. This should be doable with some discretion and a little searching.

Pick your E30 variant

There are a few versions available to most buyers:


We will cover the basics, which include early model (1983-88) and late model (1988-1992) coupe, sedan, and convertible 318i, 318is, 325e, 325i, 325ix and 325is. This article will not be covering what to look for specifically in E30 Touring models or in the E30 M3. The E30 M3 is not only the most expensive by a country mile but also shares incredibly few similarities with non-M3 E30s. Also tough to find are the E30 Touring, Baur, and Diesel models. For the purposes of simplicity, this post is focusing on the most common E30 variants.

So let’s take a look at the car we will be using as an example; my 325i cabriolet. The vert is a great car to provide some context as ’88 vert specifics allow us to make some observations about early versus late model, and will add to the inspection checklist.

The Inspection

A big issue on these cars can be rust. Depending on where the rust is and how extensive the problem, you can make a decision to move forward with the purchase or walk away.

Places to check for rust include: around the tail lights, around the license plate, in the battery tray up front, both sides of the trunk, under the trunk carpet, shock tower mounts, wheel wells, and floor pans.

For convertibles, a must check is the soft top. All vert soft tops original to the car are going to be in various states of Swiss-cheesery. Be sure to closely inspect the function and condition of the top, including the rear vinyl window, and note how the top seals around the windscreen and windows.

One place we have noticed can be a definite walk away rust spot are in the rear floor pans around the plastic drain seals. These have a tendency to rust out leaving an open hole through the chassis. The floor pan rust is incredibly important as new floor pans are unavailable and must be cut from an existing E30 lacking the rust issue.

Beyond the floor pans, other notable rust spots are the front battery tray (unused on all models except convertibles) and the rear battery tray in the trunk on the passenger side.

While this is not the factory M20, the battery sits in the factory location for convertibles. Make sure to take the battery out and check underneath for rust if you have a convertible. Rust is more noticeable there without the battery located in the front.

When we move to the trunk, be sure to note the presence and condition of the tool kit. My tool kit snapped its locking screw and is removed, but this is how far too many E30’s will look:

Check the trunk out for the notorious rust spots in the rear of the car. Don’t forget to look under the carpet and spare wheel if you can.

Lift the carpet to examine the metal beneath:

Check the battery tray, and the side opposite. Rust tends to hide underneath the carpets if your trunk seals are going bad:

The pictured vehicle is my convertible and you can see where some discoloration is starting. If tackled early, this rust can be prevented. Be sure to check both sides of the trunk and the spare wheel well for rust.

While still in the trunk be sure to take both tail light housings out and examine the inside and outside of the body for any rust around the bezels and check underneath the license plate.

Lastly, check the shock tower mounts in the rear. Pictured is the convertible shock tower mounts, which are located inside the convertible top compartment under rubber covers. In the rest of the E30 lineup the shock towers can be found inside the trunk underneath the carpet lining.


Interior functions

After you have examined the car for rust and found it to be worth moving forward, it is time to test the functionality of a few features known to be frequent issues.

First, check the door locks and central locking. The easiest way to test this is to lock and unlock the car from the trunk. If your central locking is out, we have the replacement BMW E30 Central Locking Control Unit at this link.

Pop the hood and check the coolant reservoir and the oil. Look for clean coolant. Milky or black will mean a head gasket failure, be prepared to replace the BMW M20 Headgasket. This is a time consuming but “DIYable” task. Make sure the oil is not sludgy or milky as well. If you notice that sludge, your potential E30 will need full service

Turn the key to accessory position and check the BMW E30 blinker stalk and wiper stalk to make sure they function properly. Both are known to fail but are fortunately easy to replace.

Check the windows and sunroof; window switches are a common fault in E30’s and can be easily replaced to fix a slow or non-functioning window. However, regulators are known to fail often enough that changing the switches and checking function is something we usually encourage if possible when looking at the car. Keep a good test switch around for this purpose. The BMW E30 Window Switches are available here.

Another noteworthy check is the circuit breaker switch; that BMW E30 Circuit Breaker Switch can be found here.

While around the window switches, give the shifter a few good throws to test the amount of play. There will most likely be some play in the assembly. Fortunately, you can find a new assembly and beefier bushing to replace it with here without too much effort. One can assume any E30 that hasn’t had its shifter refreshed – needs it. Upgraded bushings are available for a better-than-new-feel, even without replacing the entire shifter assembly. BMW E30 M40/M42 cars require this kit  ,  BMW E30 M20 up to 09/1989 take this kit, and BMW E30 M20 from 09/1989 need this one.

Now turn the car on to test the A/C and Heat. Heater cores are generally fine but A/C is a known problem in these cars. Some will have been converted to r134 but most will still be r12. If your r12 system is out of Freon, you will have a hard time finding someone to refill it and service the hoses unless you convert the fittings to r134. While testing the HVAC, listen for blower motor chatter; it can be anything from a catching vibration sound to a terrible screeching noise. These are not a fun replacement but they are not incredibly difficult either. Fortunately, we offer a solution for this as well! Replace a faulty blower motor with our BMW E30 Hella motor here.

While idling, make sure the temperature doesn’t creep up. This could indicate a bad fan clutch or thermostat. We generally recommend replacing the thermostat as part of your first maintenance after purchase, so we will just test the fan clutch. Go back to the engine bay and take a lightly rolled magazine to the spinning fan blades and see if the blades shred the magazine or slow to a stop. If they shred the magazine, your fan clutch is in good condition. If your fan clutch is on its way out, you can find a replacement BMW E30 Fan Clutch here.

The test drive

If you are satisfied with the condition so far, then it is time to take it for a drive. We suggest trying to take the car without the owner if possible. This gives you a chance to put the car through its paces without someone nervously sitting next to you.

Before you test the suspension and brakes, look at your odometer and all gauges on the cluster. SI boards tend to be a weak point; the SI Board replacement for BMW E30 clusters can be found here.

Odometer gears and all gauges tend to have issues. We will soon offer replacement gears to fix this issue. They are not difficult to replace, but definitely something worthwhile to have functioning. It is important to know what the actual mileage of the car is to prevent odometer discrepancies. If you have these problems, ECS offers the solutions!

Sometimes, the fuel level gauge will have a ground issue on the cluster itself causing it to jump based on throttle inputs. This can be often mistaken for a bad fuel sender, but is generally board or ground related.

When you are ready to go for a drive, test the feel of the clutch. A stiff feel with an engagement point nearer to the floor than towards the top of the pedal travel will indicate a working slave, master, and clutch disc. If you can start the car in third gear by just letting off the clutch, you know the disc is on its way out. If you feel the pedal has no resistance, chances are the slave and master are ready to be replaced. The factory replacement for a 2.5L car is here and the 2.7L can be found here, and our final M40/M42 version found here.

Next, get the car through the gears and up to highway speed. Let go of the steering wheel to see if the car drifts to one side. That will mean you need an alignment. Not a big deal, but keep it in mind as we are going to check quite a few suspension and brake components; if they are all bad, you could be looking at thousands of dollars in parts alone. Fortunately, all parts are readily available, but lets run this car through a series of tests first to find out what it may need.


After checking the alignment, we suggest giving the car a hard stop from about 60 mph. Listen for any grinding, make sure the car does not pull to one side, and also see if the ABS kicks on and functions properly or if your brakes lock and you skid to a stop. For brake service and upgrade, we suggest using the performance kits for BMW E30 which we feature here.

Definitely try out the cruise control. Often times the cruise function is not working for one reason or another. While it may not be the highest priority, knowing before you buy can be helpful.

We suggest taking the car to the red-line in a couple of gears. Both M20 and M40/42 motors are fairly stout and should be perfectly content being put through their paces. If there are any internal issues with the engine, this is where you will find them. Watch for excessive smoke, either white or dark, from the exhaust. Don’t forget to keep an eye on your temp. If your temp increases under hard driving and you didn’t notice any signs of a head gasket failure, then this can mean your water pump could be on the way out.

While driving, try to feel any vibration through the driveline. Sometimes this can be from wheels needing a new balance, but frequently in these cars the Center Support Bearing on the driveshaft, or the Guibo, can be worn out. Driveline vibration can also be caused by worn motor mounts, trans mounts, and subframe bushings. 

Finally, take some hard corners and hit some bumps or potholes. Grinding in corners could be a sign you are in need of new wheel bearings, which are generally expensive to purchase and to have pressed. Wheel bearings are near impossible to do on your own without the proper equipment. Check for blown struts/shocks by hitting those bumps. Clunks or wobbly bouncing can point to worn suspension components. A suspension refresh is something we recommend on any new to you E30. The suspension refresh kit can be found here.

Check for leaks

Lastly, if everything has passed your inspection, park the car and let it sit for a few minutes. After it sits, move the car and check the ground for leaks. The valve cover gasket for BMW m20 and for BMW m4x can be found at the provided link, BMW E30 rear main seal , BMW E30 rocker seals , BMW E30 oil filter housing, and oil pan gasket for BMW m20 and for BMW m42 are all common places to find oil leaks in these cars.

The pan gasket and rear main seal involve quite a bit of work, so those are the two most important places to check for leaking.

If the cosmetics, mechanical, electrical, and driving inspections are all within your parameters, then it might be time to make an offer!

If you do end up purchasing the E30, congratulations!

We hope this guide has proven helpful and insightful for your E30 search, let me know if you have any processes in your inspection we have omitted and stay tuned for a follow up post related to popular modifications and upgrades that can help you enjoy your E30 even more.

Thank you for reading, and look out for the upcoming E30 Maintenance Post and Top 10 Mods for your E30.


New Product: Audi B8 Chassis ECS Exact-Fit Clutch Line


Lots of attention is given to shift linkage feel, whether it’s replacing bushings, installing a short shift kit, or changing the height or weight of your shift knob. However, most enthusiasts don’t think twice about the feel of their clutch pedal. ECS Tuning intends to change that with the introduction of their Exact-Fit Stainless Steel Clutch Line.

Under heavy use your stock rubber clutch line can expand, resulting in a mushy pedal feel. This expansion is even more prominent in aged and weathered rubber lines. ECS Exact-Fit stainless reinforced clutch lines provide more confident and dependable shifting by maintaining consistent line pressure, long lasting corrosion resistance, and increased protection from failure. To provide a more direct and consistent pedal feel our line also eliminates the factory clutch delay valve. Our lines are reinforced with braided stainless steel mesh, affording superior expansion resistance. This resistance to expansion creates a firmer pedal, and a more direct clutch pedal feel. Our signature red polymer coating provides additional protection from the elements and abrasion.

The best part about ECS Exact-Fit clutch lines? They are manufactured to the highest possible standard. All lines are made on dedicated, specialized equipment and each is tested to 3000 psi before being shipped.

ECS Tuning stocks a large inventory of premium drivetrain components, including high-performance clutches, lightweight flywheels, short shift kits, upgraded bushings, and a wide range of shift knobs and pedal covers to suit your interior and your driving style. Everything you need to perform a professional quality transmission service, you can find at ECS Tuning.



Key Benefits:

    • Line expansion reduced results in consistent line pressure
    • Resistance to expansion provides a firmer pedal and more direct feel
    • Eliminates the factory clutch delay valve with no adverse effect
    • Each line tested to 3000psi
    • Full installation PDF available


  • Design:
    • PTFE inner core
    • Stainless steel mesh braid
    • Red polymer coated jacket


  • Performance:
    • More direct clutch pedal feel
    • Firmer pedal
    • Superior corrosion and expansion resistance
    • Removes the factory delay valve for a more direct and consistent pedal feel


  • Appearance:
    • OEM style grommet for passing through the firewall
    • Red polymer coated jacket
    • Clear bumpers added for additional wear resistance
    • ECS branded shrink tube on each end

Interested in purchasing?

ECS Exact-Fit Stainless Clutch Line

Improve clutch pedal feel with this simple, yet dramatic upgrade


Schwaben By Foxwell Scan Tools

Bring the capabilities of a professional scan tool to your personal garage and never have to pay hundreds of dollars at a dealership or shop again!

BMW/MINI Scan Tool

From basic oil service, light reset to the more advanced adaptation and actuation, this scan tool is industry leading. Plug the tool directly into your OBDII/EOBD BMW or MINI and learn all you can about your car!

The Schwaben BMW/MINI scan tool is the most cost-effective professional scan tool for enthusiasts, small garages, independent repairs, specialized garages and technicians by delivering OE-level diagnosis on all the electronic systems. It does not only include basic functions such as codes and live data, but also is capable of advanced functions such as actuation, adaptation, and programming. In addition, it lets you access the most commonly required service features such as oil service light reset, throttle body adjustment, DPF regeneration and much more.

  • Compatible with BMW from 1987 and MINI from 2002 to current
  • Compatible with the latest UDS protocol
  • Compatible with global OBDII/EOBD
  • Works on most systems
  • Reads and clear codes and turns off MILs
  • Requests and records live sensor data
  • Provides live data graphing
  • Merges graphs for easy and intuitive diagnosis
  • Displays freeze frame data
  • Performs most adaptations
  • Does active tests on systems and components*
  • Performs special functions, coding, security access**
  • Retrieves ECU information
  • Supports all 10 OBDII test modes
  • Resets oil service light
  • Sets inspection 1, 2 service interval
  • Sets (non) long life oil service
  • Sets inspection mileage
  • Deactivates and re-activates brake control system
  • Retracts calipers for brake pad replacement
  • Returns calipers to the original position
  • Initializes the wear indicator if new pads installed
  • Diagnoses EPB caliper functionality
  • Code troubleshooters for faster and easier diagnosis
  • Multilingual menu options and code definitions
  • Memory card for data backup and software update
  • Large TFT color screen and menu-driven operations
  • Also does Rolls Royce
  • Multi System Platform capable

Interested in purchasing?


Professional Scan Tool Tablet Platform

Running Windows 8.1 software on a Windows tablet, the Professional Scan Tool Tablet Platform delivers a faster and easier diagnostic experience than others. Supplied with an array of adapters, you’ll be able to service almost any vehicle.

What Can GT80 PLUS Do?

● Compatible with the latest 2015/2016 models

● Compatible with both OBDI and OBDII cars, SUVs, minivans, light-duty trucks sold worldwide

● Get access to powertrain, chassis and body systems

● Quick Test function to test most vehicle systems

● Read and clear diagnostic trouble codes and resets MIL

● View live vehicle sensors data in a text, graph, and gauge format

● Merge interactive live sensor graphs for easy and intuitive diagnosis

● Live data self-learning and alarm when live data over range

● Record and playback your data logs for offline analysis

● Read and clear freeze frame data

● Run component/system bi-directional tests

● Support adaptations and control module coding

● Key coding for several vehicles

● Support the most commonly required service features like brake deactivation, service resets, and transmission adaptations

● Multi-language menus and code definitions for an international marketplace

● Code troubleshooters provide you faster and easier diagnosis


Interested in purchasing?


VAG Scan Tool

Developed by the most distinguished experts of this industry, this VAG scanner is one of the most powerful aftermarket tools for VW/AUDI vehicles on the road today. It stands out in a variety of similar products by delivering OE-level diagnosis on most available control modules.

  • Compatible with VW/Audi from 1990 to Current Year
  • 1990 to 1996 requires special order cable (ES3136998)
  • Compatible with the latest UDS protocol
  • Compatible with global OBDII/EOBD
  • Works on most  systems
  • Reads and clear codes and turns off MILs
  • Requests and records live sensor data
  • Provides live data graphing
  • Merges graphs for easy and intuitive diagnosis
  • Displays freeze frame data
  • Performs most adaptations
  • Does active tests on systems and components*
  • Performs special functions, coding, security access*
  • Retrieves ECU information
  • Supports all 10 OBDII test modes
  • Resets oil service light
  • Sets inspection 1, 2 service interval
  • Sets (non) long life oil service
  • Sets inspection mileage
  • Deactivates and re-activates brake control system
  • Retracts calipers for brake pad replacement
  • Returns calipers to the original position
  • Initializes the wear indicator if new pads installed
  • Diagnoses EPB caliper functionality
  • Resets the brake pad thickness after AUDI A8 service
  • Code troubleshooters for faster and easier diagnosis
  • Multilingual menu options and code definitions
  • Memory card for data backup and software update
  • Large TFT color screen and menu-driven operations
  • Multi System Platform capable

One of the most powerful aftermarket tools for VW/AUDI vehicles on the road today. Know exactly what is going on with your vehicle with OE-level diagnostics, live sensor data, and even the ability to clear codes!

Interested in purchasing?


Professional Porsche Scan Tool

The Schwaben Porsche scan tool is the most cost-effective professional scan tool for enthusiasts, small garages, independent repairs, specialized garages and technicians by delivering OE-level diagnosis on all the electronic systems. Not only does it include basic functions such as codes and live data, but also is capable of advanced functions such as actuation, adaptation, and programming. In addition, it lets you access the most commonly required service features such as oil service light reset, throttle body adjustment, DPF regeneration and much more. For the first time ever, an independent enthusiast can diagnose and repair issues on their late-model Porsche, making the water-cooled cars more accessible and enjoyable for hobbyists.

  • Compatible with Porsche from 986/996 and newer, including Cayenne
  • Compatible with global OBDII/EOBD
  • Works on most systems
  • Reads and clear codes and turns off MILs
  • Requests and records live sensor data
  • Provides live data graphing
  • Merges graphs for easy and intuitive diagnosis
  • Displays freeze frame data
  • Performs most adaptations
  • Does active tests on systems and components*
  • Performs special functions, coding, security access**
  • Retrieves ECU information
  • Supports all 10 OBDII test modes
  • Resets oil service light
  • Sets inspection 1, 2 service interval
  • Sets (non) long life oil service
  • Sets inspection mileage
  • Deactivates and re-activates brake control system
  • Retracts calipers for brake pad replacement
  • Returns calipers to the original position
  • Initializes the wear indicator if new pads installed
  • Code troubleshooters for faster and easier diagnosis
  • Multilingual menu options and code definitions
  • Memory card for data backup and software update
  • Large TFT color screen and menu-driven operations
  • Multi System Platform capable

Interested in purchasing?

*Certain functions may be limited from the vehicle manufacturer due to the requirement of a special factory access code.
*Pre OBDII vehicles will have limited feature availability
This Scan Tool comes with free updates for life..
Schwaben recommends purchasing a Bentley Manual to use with your Scan Tool.
Note: Can only be updated on Microsoft PC’s not with Apple.
You will need to register your scan tool in order to receive update notice’s from Foxwell via E-mail
For support from Foxwell the address is    Make sure you use correct address


Easiest Oil Change Ever Courtesy of Schwaben Tools!


The Schwaben 6.5 Liter Extractor system is hand -operated for fast extraction of any type of fluid. Two different diameter extracting tubes are included to suit your particular application. The unit has a vacuum release button for quick and easy release. Displace 6.5 Liters ( 6.8 qts.) of fluid in minutes while maintaining a clean, oil-free workspace. Specially designed pour spout for mess-free emptying of the container.


  • Flip out foot for stability while using the extractor
  • Built in hose storage
  • 41″ Main tube 3/8″ OD
  • Two 35″ extension tubes 1/4″ and 3/16″ OD ( couples to the main tube).

Check out the video below:

Interested in purchasing?

Schwaben Fluid Extractor

Extract all types of oils and fluids the easy way


Differential Service Basic Theory and Procedure


Differential service, while quite often overlooked, is a routine service that is generally fairly easy, and can be completed in an afternoon. The differential(s) on your vehicle is a crucial part of the running gear and just like the engine or transmission, rely on their fluid for lubrication, cleaning, proper operation, and cooling. They are far more advanced than they used to be, and the fluids are increasingly becoming a more critical part of the differential operation on many of the modern AWD systems. Today, we’re going to cover the following topics: Basic differential construction, fluid types, maintenance intervals, tools, and service procedures. Thank you for looking to ECS Tuning for all of your performance and maintenance needs. We appreciate your business!

Changing your differential fluid is easy, but before you tackle the job make sure you have the correct fluid(s), and the correct tools. Some differentials can have more than one chamber and require two different fluids, some drain and fill plugs can require special tools, and in some cases, special filling equipment is required. Do your research first, and you’ll be able to get it done with no trouble.

Differential Construction:

These diagrams show the basic internal construction of a standard differential. Click on any component in the list below to highlight it on the diagram:

Differential Types and Operation:


The purpose of a differential is to allow the drive wheels to rotate at different speeds when going around a corner. When turning, the inner wheel is traveling around a smaller circumference than the outer wheel. As a result, the inner wheel rotates slower and the outer wheel rotates faster.
Power is transferred into the differential from the driveshaft to the pinion flange which is splined to the pinion gear. It travels through the pinion gear, and from the pinion gear into the ring gear. The ring gear is bolted directly to the differential carrier, which houses the spider and side gear set. The power is therefore transferred through the ring gear and carrier into the spider gears, and then finally from the spider gears through the side gears and into the axles or output flanges. The “differential” function of the spider and side gear set is what allows the wheels to rotate at different speeds.

Open Differential:

An “open” differential is the most basic type. The differential pictured on page 4 is an example of an “open” differential. Very basic and reliable, and only requiring a standard gear oil for lubrication, these are the most economical to produce. The disadvantage to an “open” style of the differential is that if one wheel loses traction, all power will be transferred to that wheel and it will spin freely. This is an extreme disadvantage on slippery roads or for hard acceleration when the traction of both tires is required.

Limited Slip Differential:

A “limited slip” differential is one in which a series of clutch discs and plates are located between the side gears and the differential carrier, and a spring pack keeps the side gears, clutches, and carrier pressed together. There are three keys to operation: 1: The plates are engaged into the carrier and the discs are splined to the axle or output shaft. When the clutches are engaged, the axle and side gears will turn with the carrier, eliminating the spider gears and “differential” function. 2: The spider and side gears are beveled and the more force that is applied to beveled gears, the more they attempt to push away from each other. 3: The spring pack keeps constant pressure on the clutches, keeping them partially engaged.

When turning a corner, speed and torque input is low, allowing the clutches to slip and normal differential action will occur. When one wheel is on a slippery surface, such as an icy road, the tire will slip and begin to spin. This is where the “limited slip” action takes over. Since a spinning wheel has no resistance, the force on the beveled gears on that side is low and the clutches will slip. On the side with traction, since the spring pack keeps the clutches partially engaged, a greater force is applied to the beveled gears on that side and they have pushed apart, applying the clutches and transferring power into the axle or output flange.


A transaxle assembly is a front or rear wheel drive transmission in which the differential is housed in the transmission case along with the transmission shafts and gears. The differential operation is the same, however, instead of the power entering the differential through the driveshaft and pinion gear, it is transferred from a gear on the transmission output shaft directly to the ring gear on the differential carrier.

AWD Differentials:

There are many different types of all-wheel drive systems in today’s cars, they are very sophisticated, and the differentials are an integral part of these systems. Much more than your standard open or limited slip differential, many of these new units will utilize clutch packs and planetary gear sets, the exact same components in an automatic transmission, as well as electric pumps to create the pressure to control these systems.

Transmission/Transaxie Types:

There are many different types of transmission and transaxle configurations in today’s cars. Both front and rear wheel drive vehicles can have either a transverse or longitudinally mounted transmission or transaxle. All wheel drive vehicles can have the same possibilities, with the longitudinal transmission containing an internally housed differential and an additional output in the tail shaft. A transversely mounted transmission on an AWD vehicle will typically have a small transfer case incorporated on the side of the differential to transfer power into a driveshaft. There are too many combinations to list, but the fluid is the most critical part of each one. Identify what your vehicle is equipped with so you do not overlook any fluids.

Differential Fluid:

What is the role of the fluid in your differential? It is much more than you might think. Of course, lubrication is critical, the bearings must be constantly lubricated, as well as the gears and clutches. The fluid carries debris and wear particles away from the critical surfaces, and leaves them deposited on a magnet, generally located in the differential housing or quite often on the end of a drain plug. It also transfers the heat build up from the gears and bearings into the differential case or housing, which is subsequently cooled by the air around it. Some differentials designed for higher performance applications will have additional cooling fins built into the housing which aid in dissipating excess heat from the differential when driving. The correct fluid is critical for proper clutch operation in limited slip differentials, and in modern AWD systems, the fluid is critical to system operation.

How often should you change the differential fluid? Every vehicle manufacturer will have a specified maintenance interval for changing the differential oil. In some cases, it is a very high service interval such as 100,000 miles. Synthetic oils make a lot of this possible, however, keep in mind that differentials do not have any filters or specific cooling systems, and can take a lot of abuse. A good general rule of thumb to follow is that you are not going to damage your differential by changing the fluid. You can only increase its lifespan.

Neglecting the differential fluid can lead to costly repairs. Differentials and transmissions require a number of special tools for proper assembly and set up, and many times you are faced with replacement with a costly used or rebuilt component. The fluid change is relatively easy, and
it can save you a lot down the road. It is a good idea to check the differential fluid level and condition during routine service, especially if any signs of leakage are detected around any of the seals.

Due to the complexity of today’s differentials and AWD systems, always be sure to use the fluid that is specified by the vehicle manufacturer, and be sure the fluid is kept at the proper level.

ECS Tuning offers a wide selection of differential fluids to meet your needs, including fluid kits that have the specified fluid for your vehicle as well as drain and fill plugs for your application.

Always be sure to use only the fluid specified by the vehicle manufacturer for your differential.

When selecting a fluid, keep in mind the following points:

• Be sure to get a fluid with the correct viscosity rating

• Be sure to get a fluid with the correct GL rating

Always be sure to use only the fluid specified by the vehicle manufacturer for your differential.

• Some fluids require an additional additive for limited slip differentials

• ECS Tuning offers a number of service kits specifically designed for your car that contain the fluid as well as new drain and fill plugs.

Differential Service Tools:

Oil Drain/Fill Plug Wrench:

This 8-n-1 drain/fill plug wrench features a swivel head with an assortment of hex and square drive bits that fit many differential and transmission drain plugs. The hex bit sizes are 10mm, 12mm, 14mm, and 17mm. The square drive sizes are 8mm, 10mm, 3/8” and 1/2”. It is available at as ES#2221248.

Drain Pan:

It’s essential to catch all the differential fluid as it drains and there’s nothing better to do the job than this Schwaben 8 liter drain pan. Sturdy construction, an anti-splash lip, and a 1” drain spout make it convenient to use. It is available at as ES#2748892.

Fluid Extractor/Filler System:

Some differentials are not equipped with drain plugs (they only have a fill plug), making this fluid extractor an essential piece of equipment. It also offers the convenience of pumping the new fluid back in. It features a manual pump, extendable foot step, hoses, and adapters. It can be used for manual and automatic transmissions as well. It is available at as ES#2774825.

Pig Mats:

These absorbent mats are excellent to place around your work area when draining fluid. They will catch and absorb any spills or splashes, keeping your garage floor clean. They are available at as ES#2137110.

Fluid Pump:

This Schwaben Multi-Function Fluid Pump Kit is perfect for the differential that is equipped with a drain plug. Simply drain the fluid, then easily refill it with this fluid pump. This kit is also compatible with all automotive fluids and comes with the adapters to use it as a pressure brake bleeder as well. It is available at as ES#2774836.


The standard service procedure for a differential is to drain the old fluid, then refill with new. It’s really that simple, however, some differentials do not have drain plugs, such as the example on the right.

For differentials without drain plugs, in some cases, you can remove the differential cover to drain the fluid, then reinstall it using a new gasket or sealant. On many of these vehicles though, the cover also has a differential mount cast into it making removal more difficult. This is the ideal time to use a fluid extractor to make short work of the job.

Many gear oil containers have a pointed spout, and you can attach a hose to the spout and squeeze the fluid in. The drawback to this method is that it is messy and usually very wasteful.

The transaxle on the lower right, with the differential housed in the case, has both a drain and fill plug.

Refer to the manufacturer’s info for the correct fluid fill level. In some cases it is level with the fill plug, in others, it may be a few mm below the opening for the fill plug.


  • Remove the fill plug BEFORE you remove the drain plug to make sure it comes out. In the event the fill plug is stripped or seized, you can plan the repair before draining the fluid.
  • When the fill level is below the opening for the fill plug, bend a piece of mechanics wire slightly longer than the fill level and use it as a dipstick.





Oil Change Fundamentals, Tools, and Procedures


The most essential of vehicle services, the oil change, sometimes raises the most questions. Most of us relate oil with lubrication, and it’s true that lubrication is its primary function, but it does a lot more than you think. There are many questions and theories about what type of oil to use and how often to change it. Here we will discuss the basics of oil, what it does, and why it is so important to extend the life of your engine. We will cover the different types of oil, filters, tools, and oiling systems and you will be prepared and confident to perform a successful oil change on your vehicle.

Oil Functions:


Lubrication – reducing the friction between two surfaces, is the most basic and widely known function of engine oil. Your engine oil is the only material between the surfaces of the moving parts inside your engine. The camshaft, crankshaft and connecting rod bearings rotate on an extremely thin film of oil. Cylinder walls, chains, and valve train components are all lubricated as well as fuel pump push rods and distributors. Anywhere any type of component moves, there is engine oil for lubrication.


As the oil circulates throughout the engine, it absorbs heat from engine components then dissipates it to cooler areas. Under normal operating conditions, this cooling effect can remain internal to the oiling system. In heavy-duty and high-performance applications, additional oil cooling may be required and can be accomplished by the addition of engine oil coolers which circulate the oil through either a cooler that transfers heat to the engine coolant or to the air. Some engines also have additional internal cooling in the form of nozzles that spray the engine oil at high-temperature areas, such as the underside of pistons.

Cleaning and Corrosion Resistance:

As a benefit of having the inside of the engine coated with lubricating oil, the metal parts are not exposed to elements that cause rust and corrosion. The engine oil also collects and suspends soot and ash particles, generated from the combustion process, that would eventually build up as deposits on the internal surfaces of the engine. The oil will then release these particles into the oil filter element as it passes through.

Modern engine oils, however, enhance and modify certain beneficial characteristics by including additives:
• Chemical cleaning agents neutralize the impurities that are constantly being generated through normal use. • Dispersants prevent the contaminate particles that are suspended in the oil from gelling.
• Antioxidants inhibit rust and corrosion by minimizing the oil’s ability to react with the substances around it.

Other additives include chemical substances that help the oil to reduce friction, minimize wear, and allow the oil to flow better at higher and lower temperatures, making today’s engine oil extremely complex and multi-functional.

Chemical Reaction:

Exposure to high temperatures over an extended period of time will cause the structure of the oil to break down on a molecular level. This breakdown will reduce the viscosity of the oil (increasing heat and wear through friction) and causes the oil to become more acidic, leaving the engine components exposed to corrosion.


Engine oil eventually becomes saturated with the contaminants that it is cleaning from your engine, and over an extended period of time the oil filter will become overwhelmed. The oil will no longer be able to release these contaminants and will instead leave them as deposits inside the engine.

Contamination also occurs from the lingering presence of water condensation, caused by the incomplete removal of blow-by gasses, or the engine not reaching normal operating temperature on a regular basis. The condensation will react with the oil forming sludge and harmful acids. One of the most common problems, the tan colored, sometimes milky looking sludge that you may see on the inside of your oil cap and valve cover is a sign of contamination from condensation.

Oil can also be contaminated by excess fuel in an engine that is running improperly or by coolant in an engine that is developing internal problems.

Oil Types:


Conventional engine oil is a petroleum based oil which is refined from, of course, petroleum crude oil. Even though the refining process is quite advanced from what it was years ago, there are certain impurities and molecular irregularities that are inherent to conventional oil. The end result is a chemical composition that can vary considerably depending on a number of factors including the refining process.

Conventional oil does, however, contain many cleaning and anti-corrosion additives and is rated and adheres to all of the testing and grading standards developed for engine oil.

Due to the inherent impurities and molecular irregularities, conventional oil will not perform as well as synthetic motor oil and will require more frequent oil changes.


Synthetic engine oil consists of the same molecular chain of hydrogen and carbon atoms as conventional oil, but with one distinct advantage: They are manufactured and chemically engineered to obtain a certain molecular composition with a precise and uniform structure. The final molecular composition of synthetic oils is designed and controlled with extreme precision, resulting in a final product that has predictable characteristics and consistent structural stability. For these reasons, synthetic oil will surpass the limitations of conventional oil, with qualities such as the ability to operate at higher and lower temperatures, resist breakdown caused by high temperatures, and remain cleaner by more efficiently collecting and releasing the contaminants in the engine.

Synthetic oil is rated and adheres to all of the testing and grading standards developed for engine oil.

Synthetic Blend:

Synthetic blends are exactly what you would think – a blend of conventional and synthetic oil. Why you ask? Synthetic oil has proven itself to be a superior performer without question, but it has a drawback, it is much more expensive. Synthetic blends are simply a way of providing an oil that is moderately better that conventional at a price that is more affordable than synthetic.

Oil Classification:

Quality standards and grades are established by independent automobile and oil industry organizations:

• The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) established a grading system using numbers to indicate how an engine oil flows at certain temperatures, otherwise known as the viscosity index.

• Associations such as the API (American Petroleum Institute), ILSAC (International Lubricant Specification Advisory Committee) or the ACEA (European Automobile Manufacturers Association) contribute to testing, technical standards, and ratings for engine oil.


Viscosity is how we measure the oil’s ability to flow at certain temperatures. It can be thought of as the thickness or “weight” of the oil.

The viscosity grade is critical to your engine’s performance and protection. Be sure to follow your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation for SAE oil viscosity.

The number with a “W” after it in a viscosity rating indicates the thickness or “weight” of the oil at 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

The number with no letter in a viscosity rating indicates the thickness or “weight” of the oil at 210 degrees Fahrenheit.

Oil rated with both numbers is considered multi-viscosity or multi-weight oil.

Service Ratings:

An oil’s service rating describes what type of engine and uses it has been formulated for.

Oil designed for cars, vans and light trucks falls under API’s “S” (Service) categories.

Oil designed for heavy duty trucks and vehicles with diesel engines falls under API’s “C” (Commercial) category.

Refer to the charts on pages eight and nine for service rating descriptions.

API Service Ratings for Gasoline Engines:

NOTE: The oil service rating is critical to your engine’s performance and protection. Be sure to follow your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation for the correct service rating.

API Service Ratings for Diesel Engines:

NOTE: The oil service rating is critical to your engine’s performance and protection. Be sure to follow your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation for the correct service rating.

Manufacturer Oil Specifications:

Most of the leading auto manufacturers have developed their own “terminology” or “codes” to identify the oil that they specify for use in their engines. They sell this oil through their parts department but keep in mind that all of their oil specifications meet current SAE, API, ILSAC, and ACEA technical standards and ratings. The following charts will help you “decipher” manufacturers “codes” when choosing oil for your car.

BMW/MINI Oil Specifications:

BMW Longlife-98 (BMW LL-98)
Special long-life engine oil, approved by BMW. Also meets ACEA A3/B3, API SJ/CD, EC SAE 5W-40. Usually required for BMWs manufactured before MY 2002. Obsolete since 2009.

BMW Longlife-01 (BMW LL-01)
Special BMW approval for fully synthetic long-life oil. Product meets ACEA A3/B3 and API: SJ/CD EC-II. Usually required for BMWs built after MY 2002. Can also be used where a BMW Longlife-98 oil is recommended.

BMW Longlife-01 FE (BMW LL-01 FE)
Fully synthetic long-life oil with fuel economy properties. Oils meeting this specification must have a low HTHS viscosity to meet the manufacturer’s fuel economy requirements. These oils are only suitable for the following engines: N1x, N2x, N54, N55, N63, N74.

BMW Longlife-04 (BMW LL-04)
Special BMW approval for fully synthetic long-life oil. Viscosities are SAE 0W-30, 0W-40, 5W-30 and 5W-40. Usually required for BMWs equipped with a diesel particulate filter (DPF). Can also be used where a BMW Longlife-98 or BMW Longlife-01 oil is recommended.

BMW Longlife-12 (BMW LL-12)
Special motor oil for certain approved gasoline engines and the following diesel engines only: Nx7K1, Nx7U1, Nx7O1 from the model year 2013. Not suitable for engines with 2 or 3 turbos.

BMW Longlife-14+ (BMW LL-14+)
Special motor oil for the following gasoline engines only: N20, Bx8 from the model year 2014. Not allowed for diesel engines.

Mercedes Oil Specifications:

MB 229.1
For petrol and diesel engines. Minimum quality required ACEA A2/B2 with additional limits on engine.
MB 229.3
For petrol and diesel engines. Minimum quality required ACEA A3 / B3 / B4 and MB 229.1. It can only certify 0/ 5 W-x oils.
MB 229.31
Multi-grade, low SPAsh engine oil, advised for both diesel and petrol engines of Mercedes-Benz, Smart, and Chrysler. Only low viscosity engine oils which can realize a 1,0% saving on used fuel in the M111 Fuel economy test (CEC L-54-T-96) can get this approval. In this test, the fuel savings are compared to the performance of the Reference oil RL 191 (SAE 15W-40).
MB 229.5
MB sheet for energy conserving oils for certain car and van engines. Approved oils must meet ACEA A3, B3 and B4 specification and some additional demands by Daimler Chrysler AG. Oil must be on the approval list.
MB 229.51
Low SAPS Long Life engine oil for diesel engines with particle filter meeting emission EU-4 -> standards.
MB 229.52
Oils meeting this specification must have lower ash content, at least 1% better fuel economy compared to the requirements of MB 229.31 and MB 229.51 and better oxidation stability for biofuel compatibility. Can also be used where an MB 229.31 or an MB 229.51 oil is required. Just like MB 229.5 and MB 229.51 this spec requires a long life oil.

Volkswagen/Audi Oil Specifications:

VW 500.00
Volkswagen specification for multi-grade engine oils for gasoline engines with SAE 5W-X/10W-X viscosity. This is an “old” oil specification and is applicable to engines built before the model year 2000 (up to August 1999). Oils with an approval made post-March 1997 were given an alternative, later VW specification.
VW 501.01
Conventional motor oils suitable for some VW engines built before MY 2000. This is an “old” oil specification and is applicable to engines built before the model year 2000 (up to August 1999). Oils with an approval made post-March 1997 were given an alternative, later VW specification.
VW 502.00
Oil for gasoline engines. The successor of VW 501.01 and VW 500.00 specification. Recommended for those which are subject to arduous conditions. It must not be used for any engines with variable service intervals or any which are referred to under other specifications.
VW 503.00
Long-life gasoline engine oil for VW cars with WIV (system for longer service intervals). Also meets ACEA A1, SAE 0W-30 or 5W-30 specification. VW 503.01
This specification is specifically for Audi RS4, Audi TT, S3 and Audi A8 6.0 V12 models with outputs of more than 180bhp, running with variable service intervals (30,000km or 2 years). Now superseded by the VW 504.00 specification.
VW 504.00
The VW 504 00 specification supersedes the VW 503 00 and VW 503.01 specifications. VW 504 00 oils are suitable for engines meeting the demands of Euro IV emissions standards.
VW 505.00
Passenger car diesel engine oil specification, minimum performance level CCMC PD-2. Lists viscosities SAE 5W-50, 10W-50/60, 15W-40/50, 20W- 40/50 requiring 13% max. evaporation loss and SAE 5W-30/40, 10W-30/40 requiring 15% max. evaporation loss.
VW 505.01
Special engine oil for VW turbo diesel engines with pump-injector-unit and for the V8 Common rail turbo diesel engines. Meets ACEA B4 SAE 5W-40 specification.
VW 506.00
These oils are suitable for diesel engines with extended service intervals of up to 50,000km / 2 years. Not for use on engines with a single injector pump. Oil change is indicated by the electronic service indicator. Viscosity is SAE 0W30.
VW 506.01
These oils are especially for “Pumpe-Düse” (unit injector or “PD” engines) running on extended service intervals (30,000 – 50,000km / 24 months). Oil change is indicated by the electronic service indicator.
VW 507.00
Low SAPS oils suitable for Euro 4 engines and almost all VAG diesel engines from 2000 onwards with extended service intervals, unitary injector pumps and also Pumpe-Düse (“PD”) engines. Excludes V10, R5 engines and VW Commercial vehicles without fitted DPF (diesel particulate filters) – these must use a 506 01 specification oil.
VW 508.00
This standard is not yet released. It will probably require a low SAPS oil with energy conserving properties.

Oil Change Intervals:

The age old rule has always been “every 3 months or 3000 miles”. This is quickly becoming an obsolete notion. Improvements in the refining technology of conventional petroleum based oils, synthetic oil technology, and advancements in engine design have extended the standard oil change interval.

Many modern vehicle oil change intervals are as high as 7500
miles, and some even higher. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommended service internal. Many vehicles have an advanced electronic system that calculates oil life depending on a number of factors including climate, mileage, speed, and even personal driving habits. These systems will warn you when you are approaching the target mileage for an oil change.

If you are ever uncertain if the oil should be changed or not, there are a couple of things that you can do:

1) Inspect the condition of the oil on the end of the dipstick. Clean oil will be transparent. As it gets dirtier, it starts to darken in color. If the oil is very dirty, it will be dark in color and no longer transparent. If it reaches this point, you have gone too long and it should be changed immediately.

NOTE: Diesel engine oil will typically be black in color, even immediately after an oil change. You will have to rely entirely on mileage to know when an oil change is due.

2) It never hurts to change your oil. If you are unsure of how long it’s been and it looks like the oil might be getting dirty, simply change it. It can only be good for your engine.

If your vehicle does not have an oil change interval calculator, keep track of them by using an oil change sticker, available at ECSTuning. com as ES#2808806.

Oil Filters:

All oil filters, regardless of type, consist of the same basic components:

Spin-on Filter:

A spin-on filter is one of the older, more common filter designs. Spin-on filters are one piece units with all components contained inside a metal outer housing. Most spin on filters have fluted ends which allow for
the use of a matching oil filter cup wrench for removal. Some spin on filters have special fittings on the end and matching tools that can be used for removal. The seal fits into a groove on the end, and tightening/ installation instructions are almost always printed on the side.


1. There are no reusable components to wear out or get damaged, you are replacing the complete filter every time.
2. Installation is performed by hand, no torque wrenches or tools are required.

3. Spin-on filters are generally the quickest and easiest style of the filter to replace.


1. They generate more waste and are more difficult to completely drain. 2. They can be very hot and difficult to hold during removal.
3. They can be easily overtightened or under tightened.
4. There is no provision for draining prior to removal, making them much messier.

Cartridge Filter:

A cartridge style of filter is one in which the filter media is a separate replaceable element inside a removable outer housing. The housings are made of either plastic or metal, and the bypass valve, support tube, and anti-drain back valve (if equipped) are either part of the housing or built into the element. Most housings have a built-in hex for easy removal, some are fluted on the ends requiring a cup style wrench, and many have drain valves. Cartridge filters were originally used years ago and were eventually replaced by the spin-on style of filter, but are once again becoming the more popular style of filter.


1. There is much less waste generated, only the filter element is replaced. 2. The housings are easy to remove due to a built in hex on the ends.
3. Replacement elements are typically less expensive than a spin-on style of filter.

4. They have a specific tightening torque and they seal much better with very little opportunity for leaks.
5. They have a provision for draining before removal, making them much cleaner.


1. Original equipment plastic housings can become worn or cracked. 2. A greater number of tools is required for service.
3. Replacement housings can be expensive.

Drain Plugs:

Most original equipment drain plugs are made of steel and utilize an aluminum or copper sealing or “crush” washer. Some drain plugs are made of billet aluminum for weight savings and some also have a magnet in the end to pick up metal particles in the oil.

The aluminum or copper sealing washers are designed to crush slightly when the drain plugs are torqued to their proper specification. This not only creates a seal between the drain plug and oil pan but also prevents wear on the oil pan since the drain plug will be removed and installed over and over again.

In order to obtain the proper amount of crush on a sealing washer, it
is extremely important to always torque the drain plug to the proper specification published by the vehicle manufacturer. It is for this reason as well that the sealing washer should be replaced with each oil change.

Another reason to always torque the drain plug is that the threads are only designed to withstand the torque specification. If the drain plug is over torqued, the threads will begin to stretch and eventually damage the threads in the oil pan. Oil pan replacement can be expensive and time-consuming so it’s best to avoid it using proper service procedures.

When using a magnetic drain plug, always wipe the metal particles off when performing an oil change.

Always inspect the threads on the drain plug when you remove it. If they show any signs of wear or if the drain plug does not spin out easily, it is a good idea to replace the drain plug.

Crush washers are available separately, and also in kits with new drain plugs. It’s best to buy a “handful” at a time so you always have them when you need them.

Oil Service Tools:

Oil Filter Cup Wrenches:

Oil filter cup wrenches are designed to lock onto the fluted end of a “spin- on” oil filter or cartridge filter housing. They have a 3/8” square drive on the bottom so you can simply insert a 3/8” ratchet or extension for turning. They are available in many different sizes to fit the filter or housing on your application and are very effective for quick removal.

This 4-piece kit, available on our website as ES#1892107 covers many of the most common sizes on European cars. Some cup wrenches are available separately as well, visit our website to confirm the correct size for your application.

Oil Filter Pliers:

Oil filter pliers are designed to grip and remove “spin-on” style oil filters. They work well on all filters and eliminate the need for many different tools. They will, however damage the housing of the filter during removal, so if you will be reusing the oil filter, you will have to remove it by hand or use a cup wrench.

The pliers shown here are available on our website as ES#2748880 and have adjustable jaws to work in tighter locations.

3-Jaw Adjustable Oil Filter Wrench:

These adjustable oil filter wrenches work great to grip and remove a “spin- on” style of oil filter. The fit a wide range of sizes, eliminating the need
for many different tools. They have a 3/8” square drive on the bottom so you can simply insert a 3/8” ratchet or extension for turning. These will, however damage the housing of the filter during removal, so if you will

be re-using the oil filter, you will have to remove it by hand or use a cup wrench.

The wrench shown here is available on our website as ES#2748752.

Specialty Tools:

Many of the large MANN or MAHLE “spin-on” styles of oil filters have a removal slot on the end of the filter and this tool can be used for quick and easy removal. It has a 3/8” square drive on the bottom so it can be turned easily with a 3/8” drive ratchet or extension.

The specialty tool shown here is available on our website as ES#2185250.

Filter Housing Sockets:

Many newer vehicles are equipped with a “cartridge” style of oil filter. The housings for these filters are equipped with a large 6-point head on the end for removal. Quite often they are located in tight areas, requiring a large and very shallow socket. Filter housing sockets are designed exactly for that job, with a 3/8” square drive in the end for easy use with a 3/8” ratchet or extension. The most common sizes, 32mm and 36mm, are available on our website, check your application for the correct tool.

32mm Filter Housing Socket: ES#2730723

36mm Filter Housing Socket: ES#240945

Filter Housing Drain Tool:

Some of the filter housings for the “cartridge” style of oil filters are equipped with a spring loaded valve which will allow you to thread in this tool and drain the cartridge before removal. This makes the job a lot cleaner and prevents messy spills.

The drain tool shown here is available on our website as ES#8616.

Multi-Size Drain Plug Wrench:

This multi-size drain plug wrench has eight different 6-point sockets incorporated into one tool. Sizes 12mm through 19mm will fit most drain plugs, and save you time when you only need to grab one wrench and know you have the size you need to get the job done.

The wrench shown here is available on our website as ES#2221249.

Drain Pan:

The most essential tool for the oil change. This 8-liter oil pan will handle the capacity of most engines and has a spout for easy pouring to transfer the used oil into a seal-able container.

The drain pan shown here is available on our website as ES#2748892.


Standard funnels are very useful for filling your engine oil while preventing spills on the top of the engine and to allow you to leave the oil bottle upside down to drain completely.

The funnel shown here is available on our website as ES#1899379. It comes with a screen and a removable 12” flexible neck.


The form-a-funnel is a very useful tool. It is made out of pliable nitrile rubber and can not only be formed into the shape of a funnel, but it can also be formed over frame cross members, hoses, lines, and cooled exhaust components to keep oil off of them while draining.

The form-a-funnel shown here is available on our website as ES#2184828.

Basic Oil Change Procedure:

Step 1:

Run the engine until it reaches operating temperature, then shut it off. This will ensure that all of the old oil completely drains out.

Step 2:

Safely raise and support the vehicle, and remove any insulation panels or skid plates, depending on how your vehicle is equipped, to allow access to the oil filter and drain plug.

Step 3:

Loosen the drain plug using a wrench of the exact size, so you do not risk stripping the or damaging the head of the drain plug.

CAUTION: Do not use a crescent wrench, any style of adjustable wrench, or vise grips to remove the drain plug, or damage to the head of the drain plug will occur.

Step 4:

Place a drain pan underneath, then unthread and remove the drain plug. Allow the oil to completely drain out until there is no longer a stream of oil, only an occasional drip. This may take 5-10 minutes.

Step 5:

Clean the drain plug and replace the crush washer. Be sure to inspect the threads on the drain plug for damage, and replace it if necessary. If you have a magnetic drain plug, be sure to wipe the collected particles off the end.

Step 6:

Wipe the opening of the oil pan clean, then reinstall the drain plug and torque it to the manufacturer’s specification.

Step 7:

Cartridge Filter

If your filter housing is equipped with a drain plug, remove it at this time and allow the oil to drain.

NOTE: Some cartridge style of filters may be located on the top of your engine, sometimes under the engine cover.

Step 8:

Cartridge Filter

Loosen the filter housing using the tool that corresponds to the style of housing that you have and unthread it until it becomes loose enough to spin by hand. Here we are using a 6-point housing socket.

Step 9:

Cartridge Filter

Unthread and remove the filter housing and drain the rest of the oil out of the housing.

Step 10:

Cartridge Filter

Pull the old filter element out of the housing.

NOTE: Some filter elements have a “top” and “bottom”. The new element should be marked, but it is a general good rule of thumb to look at the top and bottom of the original element as you remove it and note any differences.

Step 11:

Cartridge Filter

Remove the seal from the filter housing using a small pick or needle nose pliers.

On the housing shown here, the seal is on the inside and has a small tab that can be gripped with pliers. Some housings will have the seal located in a groove on the outside.

Step 12:

Cartridge Filter

Thoroughly clean the seal groove of the filter housing.

Step 13:

Cartridge Filter

Apply clean engine oil to the new seal included with your filter, and install the seal into the groove in the housing.

Step 14:

Cartridge Filter

Slide the new filter element in place into the housing.

NOTE: Some filter elements have a “top” and “bottom”. They will be marked accordingly and there is generally a noticeable difference that you will see the top and bottom. If your filter element has no markings and is the same on both ends, it can be installed either way.

Step 15:

Cartridge Filter

Thoroughly clean the filter housing base located on the engine.

Step 16:

Cartridge Filter

Thread the filter housing with the new element in place back onto the base and torque it to the manufacturer’s specification.

Step 17:

Cartridge Filter

Reinstall the housing drain plug (if equipped) and torque it to the manufacturer’s specification.

Step 18:

Spin-on Filter

Remove the filter using the correct tool, making sure to catch all of the old oil in a drain pan.

The photo on the left shows a spin-on filter with a special boss on end, using the corresponding tool for removal.

The photo on the right shows a spin-on filter with a fluted end, using a cup wrench for removal.

Step 19:

Spin-on Filter

Check the sealing surface to make sure the old filter seal did not stick to it, then clean the surface thoroughly.

Step 20:

Spin-on Filter

Apply clean engine oil to the seal on the new filter.

Step 21:

Spin-on Filter

Install the new filter and tighten it according to the instructions printed on the filter. Typically, once the seal contacts the base, you will tighten the filter an additional 1/4 turn by hand. Do not over tighten these filters.

Step 22:

Fill the engine with the correct capacity and type of oil as recommended by the manufacturer. Use a funnel to prevent spilling.

Step 23:

Start the engine and make sure the oil light goes out or the gauge registers pressure so you know that the oil is circulated through the filter. Check the engine oil level on the dipstick. It should be at “operating level”. Refer to your owner’s information if you have any questions regarding the proper reading of the dipstick.

Step 24:

Some vehicles do not have a dipstick and require you to use the onboard electronic system to check the oil level. Be sure and consult your owner’s information for the proper procedure.

TECH TIP: Always check your drain plug and filter for leaks before driving the vehicle.

Common Oil Filter Locations:

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