Over the years many BMW ETK catalogs have popped up which allow us to search for the exact part number we are looking for. ETK stands for Ersatzteilkatalog in German, which means spare parts catalog appropriately. Coming from aviation, we used illustrated parts catalogs from the manufacturers to find the exact part we needed fast. These catalogs first break down by your year, type, and model, then break down by the section of the car (engine, transmission, interior etc). They use pictures to quickly sort through all of the parts in that section.
Over the last 15 years, I have been using Real OEM for this application, as I feel its the quickest and least intrusive. So let's dive into this and see what it can all do.
First head over to www.realoem.com. When you land at the home page, there will be a large blue font that says "Click here to enter BMW catalog." If you have an Audi, Mercedes, Porsche, Saab, or Volkswagen, there is a link below this to enter those ETKs, but this is a BMW site, so let's get into the BMW catalog.
From here you can search for parts 3 different ways.
Enter the VIN number of your car - the website has a vin decoder built in, so if you have your BMWs VIN number, you can enter it and it will find the exact year, make model, and options that you BMW came with.
Part Number Search - If you know the part number already, you can reverse search with this option to see where it goes. This can be helpful if you have a part number laying around and don't know where it goes or what BMW it goes on to.
Enter the info through the drop down tree - this is what I mostly use as I do not have my VIN handy. This is a simple tree where you choose your series, body, model, production month, and year. Keep in mind there are two catalogs now. A current and classic catalog. As of now E36 and older are in the classic catalog, but as chassis's become older and older, Real OEM, tends to move them into the classic catalog. I assume E46 will be very soon.
Once you choose your BMW, the next page brings us to an array of options broken down by areas in the car. Some of these options are engine, fuel supply, radiator, clutch, transmission, driveshaft, lighting and so on. Hopefully you know the relative location of the part you are looking for. Sometimes it can be tricky as BMW hides parts in sections you would not think they are in, so some trial and error is necessary at times.
Let's choose a part and walk through the process. On the BMW E36 chassis with the 6 cylinder engines, the oil filter housing gasket seems to dry out causing leaks. Let's dig into the ETK to find the part number for this gasket.
I know that the gasket is on the engine and part of the oil system. The oil filter housing gasket makes an oil tight connection between the side of the engine and the oil filter housing. So my best guess as to where this part would be located is in the engine section.
After clicking on the engine section, we are offered another drill down of various sections within the engine. Some of these include: engine housing, cylinder head, valve train, exhaust manifold etc. At this point you will just need to scroll through these pictures and try to find the most appropriate location for the part you need. I know that our oil filter housing has something to do with the oil system, so I found a section called "lubrication system." This seems like the best fit for me.
Inside the engine category, and then inside the lubrication system category, there are another two choices:
Lubrication System Oil Filter
Lubrication System/Oil Pump with Drive
Looking at the pictures for both of these, it looks like my best option would be the first, as it has to deal with the oil filter. Let's click that.
We are now shown an exploded view of that section of the engine. From here you can look on the picture for the part you need, or start reading through the table below it to see if you can find the description you are looking for. The exploded view has numbers next to each part that you can buy. Since I have done this gasket in the past, I know what it looks like, and it is number 8 in the picture. Scroll down through the table and find number 8. This simply says gasket. If you look to the right you can see the part number of the gasket, "11421719855." Real OEM will also give you an approximate price, but these vary so much with different vendors that I would not go off of this. This would also be the BMW price, but there are many aftermarket companies out there that make these parts and you can find the price much lower.
Before we end this there are a couple more things that you can do. Some of the parts actually have a little camera icon. You can click this and it will show you what the actual product looks like in real life. The last feature that I find I use quite often, is that you can click on the part number itself. This will bring you to another page where it will show you all of the BMWs that use this part number. This comes in handy for No Longer Available parts. If the part you need is is not made anymore, you can cross reference the part number and maybe find the part on a different car at the junk yard. Pretty slick huh.
After you found your part number, you can copy and past that part number into your favorite online parts supplier.
Don't forget that we (Race German) have access to tens of thousands of OEM and aftermarket parts. Even if they are not on our website, contact us and we can get you the part you need at a great price!
This tool is very handy and something I use weekly, if not daily. Happy hunting!