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 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
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.
Substituting a non-airbag wheel seems like a bad idea for a car that’s also a daily driver. But airbag equipped options are limited. Aside from the slip ring and OBC controls the e36 and e39 Sport wheels are identical. While I considered that wheel a good upgrade for our wagon I don’t find the thumb rests beneficial. Steering wheel options are:
I ordered my Euro wheel from eBay user Tainik who is well known in the BMW community. I decided on non-perferated leather without thumb rests. Alcantara is popular but does not resist wear so I opted for plain leather. The airbag arrived from England about a month after I paid for the order and the wheel arrived a week later. The wheel’s diameter is a little larger than I prefer but is such an improvement both functionally and aesthetically that compromise is easy. The quality of Tainik’s work is excellent.
To fit the wheel a steering wheel bracket is required which is part number 32311162088. This is the bracket that holds the signal and wiper stalks. The only other things I required were some wire, shrink wrap and tools.
I followed the install instructions from Bimmerforums.The instructions there are complete enough but here are my point form notes from the install:
My wife is learning to drive manual transmission and she finds it difficult to get the clutch pedal all the way to the floor, which is the only way to reliably know that you’ve pushed the pedal in far enough. I think the new clutch stop will help.
The clutch stop on the M3 is completely plastic and only about 1/2″ in length. The clutch stop in my e30 was slightly more engineered (like everything e30) and featured a 3/4″ bolt with a plastic disc on the top. Both are too short to make a noticeable change in the throw of the clutch pedal.
I ordered the UUC Big Boy Clutch Stop, which is not specifically for the e30 but installed and works fine. Both my M3 and e30 now have this clutch stop installed.
Installation is simple:
The first time you drive after installing the clutch stop you will be surprised how short the clutch throw feels. To me, I felt like the throw was 1/2 of what it was before even though the distance is only 1 1/2″ shorter.
I sold my Ireland Engineering M20 Performance Wire Set and installed my old “spare” set until a set of black Bremi wires comes next week. They are great wires I just didn’t love red that much.
If you look at photos of the intake manifold on a BMW M20 engine in an e30 you’ll see a recurring spot of wear illustrated in this older photo of my car:
This is caused by the black fibreglass hood liner which sags slightly and rubs against the manifold. You can barely see it in this photo:
Also note the red tape that’s being used to protect the powder coated intake manifold which is at best a temporary solution. The permanent solution is to remove the hood liner:
The unadorned hood isn’t ugly but it does allow more noise to escape the engine bay and some armchair mechanics postulate that the heat from the motor will cause the paint on the hood to bubble or wear poorly.
There’s two solutions for this:
Now a few comments about the product:
Installation was straightforward once I trimmed down the panels:
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