In total, the job took 4 hours but I spread it out over 2 days because of interruptions, family, life and of course going out to buy tools. I’ll talk more about tools shortly because having the right tools is critical to completing this job.
I called a shop that I trust (Bavarian Motorsport in Milpitas, CA) and was quoted ~$200 for doing this job if I got stuck. I presume that price would be labor only and require my parts. It was reassuring to have a fallback option if things went wrong. That is a little less than the cost of the special BMW tools so if your local shop is as cheap you might consider just having them do it for you. My motivation for doing this job myself, besides just fixing my sagging cargo hatch, was to survey the condition of this area and make additional repairs. As evidenced by broken and missing trim bits I could tell that someone had worked in this area at some time the car’s past and I wanted to take stock of and replace whatever was missing.
In addition to replacing a half dozen trims I also took the opportunity to clean all the trunk gutters, find some important places where screws were missing, replaced some broken lights, fixed one of the reading light switches and cleaned some spots the kids left on the headliner. These kinds of “while you’re at it” tasks are exactly why I like to do things myself.
If you’re planning similar improvements you should order any obviously broken or cracking parts well in advance as I found that most of what I needed was back ordered from Germany for 3-5 weeks. Apologies in advance for blurry, low light photos but that’s all I got.
The DIY I followed is posted on Bimmerfest and has been supplemented with some scans from the e39 Bentley service manual. The DIY is brief but actually quite accurate. Where it falls short is on those ever helpful details that give the novice the courage and smarts needed to actually do the job. Hopefully I can fill in the blanks below.
I replaced only the tailgate struts, BMW part number 51248220072 (see RealOEM for diagram). The dampers for the glass lid of my car are fine so I did not replace them. For the sake of cost and time I elected to do the job without the special BMW tools and everyone seems to agree that for the hatch struts the special tool is not required. However, a long and thin pry bar is absolutely required! More on that tool later.
If you’re interested, the special tools are well referenced in this for sale thread and photo set. If you wanted to replace the glass struts it’s possible to fabricate a tool from PVC pipe instead of buying the BMW tool. I could only find this tool described in vague terms so I’m on no help to you on that topic.
The toolset is BMW part number 83 30 0 492 604.
The toolset consists of 3 pieces:
5 12 153 Plastic Protector (small sheet of plastic)
5 12 152 Windows Strut Tool (aluminum tube)
5 12 151 Tailgate Strut Tool (aluminum bar with collar and fulcrum pin)
16″ Large Flat Screwdriver
24″ Harbor Freight Pry Bar with Handle
Metric Hex Wrenches
Trim Removal Tools
Flat Micro Screwdriver
Note: It’s possible to do this without removing the rear pillars and headliner. If you have the BMW tool or are able to use a screwdriver to pop the struts off their ball connectors without damaging the car then you can skip all of those steps.
I am not an electronics specialist. I do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any information published herein and I shall not be responsible for any errors, omissions, or damages arising out of use of this information. I accept no responsibility for the content of the external sites linked from this page or for products offered or purchased from participating companies. You further acknowledge and agree that I shall not be responsible or liable, directly or indirectly, for any damage or loss caused or alleged to be caused by or in connection with use of or reliance on any such content, goods or services available on or through my site. Proceed at your own risk.
Last year I bought several “Canbus Error Free” license plate LEDS trying to find some that would not actually generate an error on the OBC of my 1998 BMW e36 M3. I’ve since learned that canbus means nothing in this context. I even bought the top dollar, guaranteed error free lights from JLeviSW which are the same as sold by BavAuto. And while those lights worked for a few weeks error-free eventually they too generated an failure message.
I did some research and found a DIY that recommended soldering a 0.47 ohm 10W resistor across the contacts in the OEM light housing to reduce the current across the circuit enough to fool the OBC into thinking that there was a normal, functioning bulb. I’d even read about soldering a bulb somewhere into the circuit which would work but sounds like a kludge at best.
What I wanted was a snap-in solution that would not permanently alter any of my wiring or parts. I also wanted it to work with my expensive lights. But no such circuit existed. So I researched, trawling through RealOEM, website and forums to find the parts required to make a true, snap-in error canceling circuit.
Red and Black 18g Wire
Heat Shrink Tubing
2x BMW 8 Connector, Male 61-13-1-378-149 $2.50 each
2x BMW Pin Conn. Blk, Female 61-13-1-378-106 $1.50 each
2x Circular Contact with Cable, 0.5-1.5mm 61-13-1-376-191 $1.50 each
2x Cable Socket, Round, Female 61-13-1-376-202 $1.50 each
2x 0.47 Ohm 10W Resistors $0.45 each
Optional 6x Heat Sinks
Optional 1x Thermal Adhesive
2x Green 10 Watt 47 Ohm 5% Aluminum Shell Wire Wound Resistor $5.30 each
Total cost if you use the green resistors is $19.30 each. This is not a cheap project.
Note: You will notice that I list two different styles of resistor. The green resistor has a built-in heat sink which I didn’t use but would negate the need for gluing on heat sinks. Remember, this circuit will generate as much heat as a light bulb so consider placement carefully.
Before you proceed you must read and accept the disclaimer and warning at the top of this article and know that you proceed at your own risk. I am not responsible for anything that happens and I’m not an electronics expert. If you mess this up you could start a fire, electrocute yourself or any number of other calamities. I’m not advising anyone to do this, this is not a DIY project.
Essentially, I’m going to insert the resistor into the license plate light circuit making sure that the resistor is in series with the circuit. This is a little tricky with such a large resistor but possible.
Now with the car turned off connect the new circuit to the license plate light wiring and see if an error is generated. No error should be generated. Everything goes into the trunk cavity through the holes for the license plate housing.
The following page was very useful to my in researching this project: http://www.unofficialbmw.com/all/electrical/all_contact_pins.html
a month or so after I made ‘version 1’ of this error cancelling circuit the failed light message appeared on the OBC of my M3. Inspection revealed that one of the wires on a resistor had broken off where I had bent it sharply. The resistors I used are clearly meant for circuit board applications and not in the manner that I am used it.
I clipped the expensive plugs off to reuse and soldered in one of the green resistors that I sourced earlier. The result seems more robust and compact.
I compiled the following list of cooling system temperatures to establish a baseline for monitoring temperature issues and I’ve posted it here in case it’s useful to anyone else. I’m assuming that my car is running at a “normal” temperature and I’m not accounting for ambient air temperature.
In my experience there is no change in readings when switching from OEM to the Mishimoto radiator but the only way to state that confidently would be to account for ambient temperature and engine load.
Thermostat housing temperature varied +/-10˚C over my tests and should not be considered accurate.
65˚C – Thermostat Housing +/-10˚C
80˚C – Top Radiator Hose
73˚C – Water Pump to Thermostat Housing Hose
75˚C – Bottom Radiator Hose
The jumpy needle can indicate a loose ground in the cluster, a fault in the wiring harness or might even indicate a cooling issue such a failing head gasket. I swapped in a performance radiator because I wanted to ensure maximum cooling but to solve the jumpy needle I needed to check the other possibilities.
When troubleshooting anything I always start with the easiest, simplest solution just in case it proves correct. In this case that’s the ground on the temperature VDO gauge. I decided to check it, and do a few other cosmetic things on the cluster while I was in there:
After removing the cluster I used a 7mm screwdriver socket bit that I got with a euro toolkit to tighten the nut. It’s not a common tool so you may have to buy a thin wall socket just for this job. On my cluster it appears that someone already tightened the fuel gauge nut but used some pliers which damaged the plastic around the nut. The PO is always the worst person.
I used light pressure to tighten the nut until it felt about as tight as the fuel gauge nut. The cluster is mostly plastic so over tightening would be a terrible thing. I’m happy to report that it looks like this has fixed my jumpy temperature gauge entirely.
Replacing the bulb is straight forward. Now I need to diagnose my non-functioning ABS which is causing the bulb to light. In the above picture the anti-lock bulb socket is just a plastic hole. The bulb is actually attached to the harness. More on that in another blog entry.
The previous owner put ABS plastic rings around the instrument gauges and even though they are kind of ricey I admit that I’ve grown fond of them. I ordered two sets of real metal rings from Bavarian Restoration (I ordered mine via R3vlimited): polished aluminum and brushed metal. The brushed metal appeared to bright to me so I opted for the polished aluminum.
Fitment of the Bavarian Restoration rings was excellent and required only firm, even pressure to snap into the cluster. While I had the cluster I also used some red Sharpie to touch up the PO’s sloppy paint job on the gauge needles.
My criteria for the replacement radiator was improved cooling and OEM fitment. I set on the Mishimoto e30 / e36 radiator after recommendations from friends and finding only positive reviews in online BMW forums. Mishimoto offers a lifetime warranty which is comforting.
However, my decision shouldn’t be taken as endorsement and I haven’t run this radiator long enough to provide a real product review. After I installed this my close friend and local e30 expert Eric Berger told me that he knows several people who have had these radiators fail. In some cases the failure resulted in motor damage: it’s “buyer beware” as always. For the record Eric recommends Behr.
Because of Eric’s emphatic warning I’m going to monitor this radiator very closely especially as it approaches the first year of service. I did some further internet searches and found few reports of failures with the Mishimoto products. Mostly I found complaints about fitment. The few cases I found of failure were related to running straight water (no coolant) for long periods of time and in some cases not even using distilled water. Since coolant lubricates the moving parts of the cooling system and iron in water reacts with aluminum I blame careless owners for those failures I read about. I’m not sure what the issues were with the other local guys who had failures.
I found the quality of the Mishimoto radiator to be good and I would rate it a 9/10. It loses points for two reasons. Firstly, some of the fins were bent and a couple near the top were sheared off out of the box. Radiators are delicate but I’d expect it to be perfect on arrival. There’s a tool that can fix bent fins so I guess I’ll buy one.
Secondly I found fitment to be imperfect. One of the support posts was angled slightly outward. From post edge to post edge the radiator should be 26″ across but because of this defect my Mishimoto radiator was 26.15″ across. The solution was to cut down one of the rubber radiator mounts so that it would still seat to the radiator support. I don’t like this solution as it looks sloppy and failure due to a weakened mount is a concern.
Not necessarily a show stopper but there’s no fan shroud for a mechanical m20 fan that fits on the Mishimoto. I mean, you can throw one on but there’s no where to zip tie or clip it onto the rad. I’m still researching that.
Install was easy and required only minimal wiggling with the car on the ground but there were two problems: The brace was touching the intake manifold. And when I took the brace off there was a scuff mark to prove it. Also the cruise control bowden cable was crushed under the bar. I was mostly concerned about the the contact between the bar and manifold so I emailed Ireland Engineering and the response was basically
“It is just kind of parr for the course, but you can bend the bar slightly there (or a decent wack with a hammer [after heating up the bar to a good couple hundred degree’s right there as to keep the p.c. from cracking]).”
And this is where I’ll review the product:
If you’re looking for a bar that should fit and have better build quality then I will pass on the recommendation I received, which is the UUC Strutbarbarian. This bar has a bracket to reroute cruise control which shows some thoughtful design. Though I have heard horror stories about UUC build quality (specifically brand new parts breaking during track events) but I believe that the strut bar is a simple enough thing that it can be trusted not to break.
Hindsight is always 20/20. I got my tools and set about modding the bar. I’m not experienced with fabrication but after only a couple of hits I realized that the powder coating was not going to stay on the bar and I’d have to touch up with regular paint. Thankfully this part isn’t visible because it’s between the bar and the intake manifold.
The next project related to this will be sorting out the cruise control cable.
At the outset I thought this project would take a day, maybe two at the most. It actually took 3 weekends to complete because of missing parts and tools. I also wasted a lot of time researching various steps and confirming that I was doing the right thing. Hopefully my experience will help you with your own steering rack swap. I learned some valuable lessons about this kind of work:
I started my research by asking for some opinions which fell into two categories:
I heard so much praise for the z3 rack, like “best mod ever for an e30″, that I decided to pursue it. Next I started researching the method: most of my web searches turned up the same DIY (posted on R3vlimited) time and again so I decided to follow it. Going with the DIY seemed like the only option but was my first and most costly, time consuming mistake.
I want to put a very fine point on this: If you are planning to do an e30 steering rack to e36 m3 or e36 z3 steering rack swap you should buy a complete kit. There may be other retailers but the kit used by people I know is available from Zionsville Autosport. The pros to buying the complete kit is substantial savings over buying the component parts and the kit is complete requiring no retrofitting or fabrication to install unlike the DIY procedure. I wasted a lot of time blocked because of missing tools, fiddling with retrofits and installing things incorrectly. Save yourself the trouble and buy the kit.
But I didn’t know about the complete kits when I started so I set about ordering the parts I’d need. Web searching led me to The Rack Doctor who I ordered from because I felt most confident that I was getting the rack I wanted. On a scale of 1-5 I’d say my experience was a 3.5.
The DIY I referenced listed out the following parts:
2x 7/16 Bolt 2 Inches Long
2x Bolt M10x50 26111226737
2x Self Locking Nuts 07129964672
4x Copper Seals 14×20 32411093596
4x Copper Seals 16×22 32411093597
4x Self Locking Nuts 07129922716
1x Power Steering Reservoir 32411097164
1x High Pres. PS Hose 32411141953
1x Spacer 72118119268
2x Spacer 72111847480
2x Nut 721119779250
2x LP PS Return Hoses
1x Bottle of ATF
Some of these parts are NLA or the author just didn’t list part numbers. I have crossed out the list entirely because I don’t think you should reference it. Here’s my recommended parts list:
4x Copper Seals 14×20 32411093596
4x Copper Seals 16×22 32411093597
1x Power Steering Reservoir 32411097164
1x High Pres. PS Hose 32411141953
1x LP PS Return Hose 32411135936
1x LP PS Return Hose 32411133401
1x e30 to e36 Steering Knuckle Kit (either RPKIT or the kit from here)
1x *e36 Left Ball Joint 32111139313
1x *e36 Right Ball Joint 32111139314
2x *Clamp Ring 32111136179
2x *Nuts 32111136494
1x Bottle ATF Fluid
*Necessary only if you get the e36 ball joints and these parts are not included. e30 tie rods require a different locking nut and may be reused from your old rack. Probably.
Two 15mm wrenches (for the knuckle)
8mm and 6mm extended hex bits (for installing the knuckle kit around the parts of the knuckle – you’ll see!)
Tie Rod Puller
Bottle Jack (for flattening the rack tabs)
C-Clamps (for depressing brake cylinders)
A note about tie rod pullers: There are two styles. The most common style you’ll find at your local auto supply store features a single U shaped clamp with a bolt through the center. This bolt has a pointed tip that seats in the top of the ball joint bolt. The bolt must have a divot in the top for this tip to seat in otherwise it will not work, and it should be noted that the e36 arms do NOT have this divot. Also note that in order to use the U shaped puller you will need to take off the rotors and loosen the dust shield. It’s really loud when the bolt finally breaks loose but a little less violent than banging on it with a hammer or a pickle fork. The other kind of puller looks like a metal clothes pin and a bolt is used to close the jaws of the pin, again pushing the ball joint bolt out. This tool works by pressing down on the ball joint bolt with a flat surface and therefore works on bolts that do NOT have a divot in the top. Like e36 tie rods and ball joints. So if you have the choice get the clothes pin kind of tool since it’s more versatile.
It seems this blog is getting traffic mostly from e30 searches people are making on Google. I’ve been just enjoying my car and doing other stuff instead of blogging but rest assured that I will make some posts soon. Things that will be covered (here or on bmw.iamgary.com):
Plus lots of random pictures from fixes and car events over the last 9 months. Come back soon!
Total cost for the window with installation was a mere $275 and I saved a little bit by reusing the window weather strip. The black metal spacer (called a cup) and the flexible metal trim are always reused.
I was very impressed with the window tech’s knowledge of european cars and we talked about e30s the entire time he was working. I was especially interested in his technique for replacing the metal gasket which you can see in one of the photos below. I’ve seen this done with soapy water and hand pressure but the diamond shaped loop tool he used made it look easy.
I recorded this time-lapse video on the last drive I took in my 1989 BMW 325i before leaving the country for the Christmas break. I travelled south on California Hwy. 1 from Pacifica to Santa Cruz expecting to view sunrise at the halfway point but the mountains delayed sunrise by about 15 minutes. The video is as much about showing the great colours of the early morning sky as it is about the road and other scenery. I wish I could have driven the entire distance without stopping but I needed to text my wife and let her know where I was… and also find my sunglasses.
Please watch it in HD for the best viewing experience.
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