Having grown tired of getting clonked on the head by the cargo hatch on our 2000 e39 touring wagon I decided to replace the trunk lid dampers (also called struts or simply shocks). I’ve had the struts in my parts crib for over a year but didn’t feel brave enough to attempt the job until recently. Our wagon is currently not drivable so I was able to undertake the task while free from pressure to finish it immediately.

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.

Regarding The DIY

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.

Installation Notes

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
T-20 Torx
T-50 Torx
Metric Hex Wrenches
Trim Removal Tools
Flat Micro Screwdriver
Socket Driver
Needlenose Pliers

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.

  1. Prop open your cargo hatch with a broom stick or something. I used an adjustable closet rod. Also remember that the hatch is extremely heavy without the shock and would probably kill you if it fell on your head so PLEASE use some secondary support such as a tether or some other method of keeping it from closing on you. I tied it to a hook that happened to be in the ceiling.
  2. IMG_0960

  3. Remove the carpet covered sidewall access panels in the trunk on both sides to reveal the CD player and battery respectively.
  4. Remove the rear pillar trims. There are 2 screws and 3 snaps. One of the screws is in the sidewall hatch (which is why you removed the access panels). I started pulling the trim at the top and used a trim tool to work the 2nd snap out rather than just yank on the pillar. Watch out, you may have some NAV equipment in this area on the driver’s side of the car. The 3rd snap is released by pulling the bottom third of the trim towards the middle of the cargo hatch sill. The very bottom of each pillar connects to the cargo hatch sill. I could not release these clips without breaking the tabs so it’s advisable to leave the bottoms connected and just work around them.
  5. e39 touring wagon rear pillar removal
    e39 touring wagon rear pillar removal
    e39 touring wagon rear pillar removal broken tabs

  6. Pull off the weather stripping on the hatch. This will afford access to the headliner shortly and you need all available space to pull out the struts and work the new struts in.
  7. Remove the plastic water channel cover that spans between the two cargo hinges on the vehicle side. It is clipped in 4 places and it’s advisable to use a trim tool to pop each tab loose or you’ll tear the water channel cover. Mine was already torn by some previous owner.
  8. e39 Touring remove water channel guide from hatch

  9. Remove the outer most hinge covers from driver and passenger side using your T-20 torx driver. Be careful of wiring in this area. This will allow access to the end of the strut that is fixed by bolt and circlip to the trunk hinge.
  10. e39 touring hinge cover removed
    e39 touring hinge cover removed

  11. Lower the back half of the headliner. First remove the rear light. Then start pulling down the headliner in the centre where a single clip holds it, then use a trim tool to pop the clips on either side of each speaker. I removed the rear screen hooks behind the D pillars using a hex key. I also removed the D pillars but that was probably not necessary. You only need to get access to the T-50 torx bolts next to the speakers.
  12. removing e39 touring headliner
    removing e39 touring headliner clips next to speakers
    removing e39 touring headliner
    removing e39 touring d pillar

  13. Remove the T-50 torx bolt that is furthest away from each speaker (see my photo below). This is the ball end that the damper / strut is attached to. You’ll hear and feel a pop the ball end comes loose so total removal may not be necessary. If you’re going to try to use a long, strong flat screwdriver to pop the ball end loose then of course you would have skipped most of the steps until now except for steps 3-4. Of course the risk of damaging something by blindly sticking a screwdriver in there and levering it around is high but it’s your choice. Obviously you need to do this for both sides.
  14. Removing the T-50 torx next to the e39 touring speaker
    e39 touring strut damper ball replacement

  15. Once the ball end is free you can remove the circlips and shafts holding the shocks in place. These circlips do not have holes for clirclip pliers but can be rotated with needle nose pliers and pushed off with a pair of small, precision screwdrivers.
  16. Remove the old strut by pushing the ball end towards the outside of the car so it is on an angle, pushing the strut forward to clear the hinge and then pulling it out entirely. This is the same way you will insert the new strut.
  17. IMG_0981
    e39 touring wagon trunk lid strut damper removal

  18. Reinstall the ball using your T-50 torx if you haven’t already. I didn’t have a torque spec for this but you’ll know once it’s torqued. It won’t tighten any more. Insert the new strut as described above (angled towards the outside of the car), then using your large screwdriver (not the pry bar) insert it below the strut and try to lift the heavy end of the strut up and onto the ball. Some tape on the end of the screwdriver will help protect wires and other things in the strut area. Once it’s on the ball it will resist gentle backwards movement. You may now remove the large screwdriver and switch to the pry bar.
  19. I tried several “large screwdrivers” as mentioned in the DIY and had no luck. I applied a stupid amount of force to no effect and the screwdriver often slipped around. There is probably no way way to use a 16″ or even 24″ screwdriver to actually seat the strut on the ball. Eventually I got a $8 Harbor Freight pry bar which is about 3 feet long. This did the trick nicely. A few notes on pressing the ball into the strut. First, cover the end of the tool in tape to prevent damaging other surfaces. Always be careful of wires in this area and try to move them out of the way. Light will not help you here, there is no room to see. Insert the pry bar on the inside side of the strut with the bent tip pointing towards the ball. You can probably feel your way along the side of the strut, then feel it come to rest on the ball. Now rotate the pry bar around the strut so that it is on the top. Using the trunk hinge as a fulcrum press down on the ball socket while pulling the handle up. If you are applying a lot of force and the ball is not seating then something is wrong. Check the alignment of the ball socket and ball and try again.
  20. e39 touring trunk lid correct pry bar tool for seating the strut damper on ball
    e39 touring trunk lid correct pry bar tool for seating the strut damper on ball
    e39 touring using pry bar screwdriver to install trunk struts

  21. Put the bolt through the end of the strut and the hinge and reinsert the circle clip. You’re done this side, now do the same for the other side.
  22. Replace all the trim and clean up.

November 25, 2014 e39 touring, mechanical, Uncategorized

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

BMW e30 thermostat housing stat temperature
BMW e30 top radiator hose temperature
BMW e30 lower radiator hose temperature

October 16, 2014 coolant, e30, mechanical, radiator, temperatures

All-aluminum radiators are a popular choice for race applications and cars with modified engines. My daily driver with stock m20 motor fits neither category but I’ve been diagnosing the common jumpy temp gauge and wanted to make sure my radiator is flowing freely and providing maximum cooling. Also, the super clean appearance of aluminum radiators appeals to my sense of aesthetics so I basically convinced myself to do this upgrade.

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.

e30 Mishimoto radiator in box

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.


Build Quality and Fitment

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.

mishimoto e30 radiator mounts wrong fitment

Above: This post for the radiator mounts is angled incorrectly which caused improper fitment.

mishimoto e30 radiator fitment adjusting mounts with knife

Above: Cutting the passenger side rubber radiator mount for fitment.

Installation Notes

  • Installation was easy. It took 30 minutes to remove the hood and old radiator and another 45 minutes to install and reconnect the new radiator including the time it took to solve the problem with the radiator mounts. From start to finish including bleeding it took me 3 hours. I ran into no problems because my hoses are all fresh and flexible. Older hoses may cause more problems.
  • Don’t forget to buy high temp teflon tape for your fan switch. The radiator ships with an aluminum delete plug for the switch port.
  • The Mishimoto drains directly from the bottom of the rad. Draining will splash coolant off the radiator support and make a big mess. Some kind of petcock with a 12mm x 1.5 would help but there’s not much room to fit it.

Mishimoto radiator installed in my late model 1989 BMW 325i e30
Mishimoto radiator installed in my late model 1989 BMW 325i e30

Above: Mishimoto radiator installed in my 1989 BMW e30.

October 5, 2014 diy, e30, mechanical, mishimoto, radiator, repairs

I bought a Ireland Engineering Strut Tower Brace several months ago (over a year?) and put off installing it because I wasn’t entirely sure it would fit. A test fitting indicated it might not fit without jacking up part or all of the car to move the strut towers further apart. But with last month’s steering rack swap it seemed like a good time to put the bar on and have an alignment done.

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]).”

1989 BMW e30 with IE Ireland Engineering Strut Tower Bar or Brace Installed
IE Ireland Engineering Strut Tower Bar or Brace rubbing intake manifold

And this is where I’ll review the product:

  • Once installed the product performs it’s intended function, though I should drill another hole in the strut towers and utilize the 3rd bolt hole to maximize stability.
  • The bar arrived with numerous scratches in the powder coating, some of which were covered up with permanent marker. This should have been a warning sign that build quality is low.
  • The round cut out on each brace end does not match the round extrusion on top of the strut tower. If it was just a little wider it would fit better, instead I had to rely on the strut bolts to pull the bar over that lip.
  • And as mentioned above, the bar will not clear a stock m20 intake manifold. I didn’t buy this bar expecting to mod it myself.
  • 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.

    Tools for modifying IE Ireland Engineering e30 strut tower brace
    cracked powder coating on strut tower brace

    The next project related to this will be sorting out the cruise control cable.

September 29, 2014 e30, mechanical, strut tower brace

At my two most recent BMW CCA autocross events the typical comment from my instructors (i’m still a ‘novice’) has been “wow, you’re pretty smooth even though you have to shuffle steer.” It became clear that the stock 4-turn e30 steering rack was slowing me down and needed to be swapped out.

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:

  1. Test fit everything “on the ground” before the day of install. This includes checking bolt fitment in new parts and final assembly. Don’t assume all parts were shipped.
  2. Check all available photos and diagrams for parts and examples of how final install should look before the day of install.

I started my research by asking for some opinions which fell into two categories:

  1. The e36 z3 rack is too twitchy, go with a 95 e36 M3 rack with a lock to lock of 3.0 turns.
  2. You can handle it, go for the e36 z3 rack with a lock to lock of 2.7 turns.

e30 rack vs z3 rack

Above: Comparison of Racks. (Photo Source)

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.


  • Rack was clean, painted
  • They called to confirm that I wanted e36 tie rod arms vs. e30 (there is a difference)
  • New copper crush washers were included but just for the rack, not the pump
  • Shipping was quick


  • Paint chipped horribly during install especially on some of the plastic hoses
  • Some important nuts and lock clamps for tie rods were not included which delayed install
  • High core charge not refundable except for identical core return

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:

My Updated 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.

BMW e36 tie rod clamp ring parts
BMW e36 tie rod clamp ring parts

Above: Clamp rings and chunky nuts required but not mentioned in the DIY.


Above: The tiny nut shipped with the e36 z3 rack that is not suitable for this swap.

Additional Tools:

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.

BMW e30 e36 Two kinds of tie rod pullers

Above: Two different styles of tie rod end pullers.

BMW e30 e36 Tie rod puller in use how to

Above: The clothes pin style of tie rod puller in use.

Notes and Addendum to the DIY:

  1. Disconnecting the ball joints and tie rods was impossible for me without using a puller. A hammer and block of wood only resulted in destroying the wood. Tie rod removal also required the removal of the brake calipers and loosening the dust plate to make enough room for the puller.
  2. BMW e30 tie rod end arm puller removal

    Above: The U style puller. Notice how much room it requires next to the dust shield.
  3. I used zip ties and plastic bags to keep the hoses from dripping after disconnecting them. Keep your work space clean.
  4. Take photos of where the old hoses run so you can run the new hoses along the same pathway.
  5. Removing (and installing) hoses on the rack need to be done in order: there is not room to remove the upper banjo bolt while the lower bolt is in place.
  6. The DIY called for bending the rack tabs on the center cross member to make room to drop the rack. In retrospect lifting the motor or bending these tabs the very smallest amount required would be advisable. I spent 2 hours working the tabs back into place with a bottle jack and some folks posit that bending the tabs weakens them.
  7. Plan to soak the knuckle to rack spline in PB blaster over night. The knuckle to steering column spline slipped right off but I could not remove the knuckle from the steering rack and ended up sourcing a donor knuckle while waiting for the PB blaster to work. I finally got the knuckle off by standing on the old rack and pulling. I can deadlift 300 lb. so that says something about how seized up the splines may be. Also note that the bolt on the rack side of the knuckle must be completely removed as it passes through a slot in the spine that holds it on. You cannot remove the knuckle with the bolt merely loosened.
  8. If modifying your current knuckle i.e. not using a pre-fabricated knuckle then you need to remember that the kit or shortened spacer is used to make the knuckle shorter NOT longer. You will need to enlarge two of the holes on the knuckle to fit the bolts through. A 23/32 drill bit was the right size for me but you should use a bit gauge to measure your bolts.
  9. I needed to tap the knuckle onto the rack spline using a hammer. Actually a friend with more experience did it for me. This should not be necessary but if you simply can’t work the knuckle on by hand then be very sure that the splines are not binding and are lined up properly before gently tapping it onto the spline. Go slow, you’re not driving a nail.
  10. The rack and knuckle need to connect to the steering spline when both are centered (this is mentioned in the DIY). I used a protractor and made a measuring tool to count the number of degrees in a complete lock to lock rotation, dividing the total by 2 and then finding that middle point in the racks rotation. In my case middle was 510 degrees. This is very accurate and does not require the removal of the boots, etc. to measure the tie rod ends. I marked this middle point on the rack and spline using a white paint marker for reference during install but marked it on the side I couldn’t see: make your marks so they are visible when the spline is on your left.
  11. Using rubber bicycle inner tube to protect splines
    e30 rack swap how to center rack
    e30 rack swap how to center rack

    Above: Finding the center of the rack.
  12. Even after finding center I still had to disconnect the rack and knuckle and move it over a single spline tooth. If you put a peice of tape at dead center on your wheel and turn it all the way to the left and right you should see that the terminal position of each is the mirror image of the other. My first attempt found it to be 2″ off (about the amount of a single spline tooth).
  13. The DIY reads “if there is binding use your Dremel to grind the knuckle joint.” You should assume that the knuckle will bind and grind it down on your bench where you have maximum control NOT when it’s installed in the car like the DIY shows. I recommend using a cutting bit not a grinding bit as the amount of metal you need to remove is significant. I removed metal from the U but in hindsight grinding down the edges of the fork may have been tidier and resulted in less cutting.
  14. Dremel cutter grinder bit for shaving down steering knuckle in e30 z3 swap
    Dremel cutter grinder bit for shaving down steering knuckle in e30 z3 swap

    Above: The correct Dremel cutter bit used for shaving down the knuckle to prevent binding.
  15. The DIY calls for tapping the cross member tabs into place with a hammer. This is impossible as the tabs will bounce and absorb all the force of the hammer. Using vice grips mangled the tabs. I recommend using a bottle jack and wood blocks under the tabs to bend them into place but be careful not to lift the car by accident. Putting the rack and spacer on the tab while bending the tabs up will help make sure you don’t bend the tabs too far the other way.
  16. bmw e30 z3 rack install bending cross member tabs back into place

  17. If you use the hoses called for in the DIY you can bend the new high pressure hose into place using your hands, or a little heat and your gloved hands. Using a vice or bender should not be required. Only the pump side should require bending. Study my photos and try to match what I’ve done.
  18. BMW e30 steering rack swap high pressure hose bends
    BMW e30 steering rack swap high pressure hose bends
    BMW e30 steering rack swap high pressure hose bends

  19. The new hoses are a tight fit. The new high pressure hose will need to go over the motor mount arm. Just make sure there is a finger’s width between each hose as you tighten it down because rubbing hoses will eventually spring a leak. Two sets of hands can be helpful here.
  20. During bleeding of the steering rack do not press the brakes because you may over extend the brake piston. If you do this by accident you may be able to use a c-clamp to compress the piston back down. Otherwise a bleed and flush will be required.

BMW e30 e36 z3 rack swap tie rod arm bolt and clamp
1989 BMW e30 sedan blue on flat bed recovery vehicle

Above: Towing my e30 to Bavarian Motorsport in Milpitas, CA for an alignment.

1989 BMW e30 alignment at Bavarian Motorsport

Above: My 1989 BMW e30 on the alignment rack at Bavarian Motorsport in Milpitas.

August 29, 2014 e30, mechanical, rack, repairs, steering, swap

Standard equipment on the US market BMW e36 M3 is a 4-spoke steering wheel with airbag. Aesthetically the wheel is mediocre presenting not a full colour but only an embossed logo on the airbag in contrast to the m colour stitching.

e36 Steering Wheel Options

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:

  1. Standard 4-Spoke Wheel
  2. Sport 3-Spoke Wheel
  3. Euro 3-Spoke Wheel

BMW e36 M3 Standard 4 Spoke Steering Wheel with Airbag

Above: BMW e36 M3 Standard 4 Spoke Steering Wheel with Airbag.

BMW e36 Sport 3 Spoke Steering Wheel with Airbag

Above: BMW e36 Sport 3 Spoke Steering Wheel with Airbag.

BMW e36 Euro Sport 3 Spoke Steering Wheel with Airbag

Above: BMW e36 Euro Sport 3 Spoke Steering Wheel with Airbag.

Sourcing Euro Wheel and Parts

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.

Install Notes

I followed the install instructions from Bimmerforums.The instructions there are complete enough but here are my point form notes from the install:

  1. I needed to remove all the screws from the steering column trim cover before I could remove those pieces. The instructions make it sound like you can remove one and then the other.
  2. The steering column trim covers separated for me by pulling the sides of the bottom piece out while pulling down (while simultaneously balancing the wheel in my lap). You can see the fasteners once the wheel is off which helps you understand what you’re trying to unclip. There are probably other ways.
  3. When removing the top steering column cover you really will think you’re going to break it, or be unable to put it back. I don’t know how it’s possible but it doesn’t break and it does go back in.
  4. Removing the old steering column bracket required putting pressure on the top clips (there is a pair of clips like teeth on either side of the bracket) with a screw driver. I could not remove the bracket with simple downward pressure. Two sets of hands would help here.
  5. Installing the new steering column bracket was impossible no matter how much force I used. Eventually my force broke one of the clips (or teeth) and I was able to get the bracket seated. Even with a broken clip the bracket felt secure and I was decided to proceed with the install.
  6. Try to salvage the horn button connector instead of using Radio Shack connectors. Looks more OEM.
  7. The longest part of the job was soldering the wire and connector for the horn button.

BMW e36 Euro Sport Wheel Install

Above: Underside of the steering column.

BMW e36 Euro Sport Wheel Install

Above: Part of the clip that fastens the steering column covers.

BMW e36 Euro Sport Wheel Install

Above: The new bracket, not yet seated.

BMW e36 Euro Sport Wheel Install

Above: The wheel after splicing the horn button connector.

BMW e36 M3 with 3-Spoke Euro Sport Wheel

December 2, 2013 e36 m3, mechanical

Installing a clutch stop is an extremely cheap performance mod. Basically, the clutch stop allows you to set how far you can depress the clutch pedal before you cannot depress it any further. This decreases the throw distance of the clutch and instinctively you will shift as soon as you feel the clutch pedal stop moving thus shaving fractions of a second off every shift.

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:

  1. Remove the old clutch stop which is located directly behind the clutch pedal. No tools should be required.
  2. Put the nut first, then the washer on the new clutch stop.
  3. Thread it into the hole where the old clutch stop was by hand until it is finger tight.
  4. Test it but depressing the clutch pedal and seeing if you can still shift. On the e30 you will need to do this with the engine running.
  5. Unthread more of the clutch stop bolt and adjust the nut and washer until it is long enough that the clutch just engages when the pedal is fully depressed. This is the ideal length and will result in the fastest shifts.
  6. If you cannot shift you need to set the clutch stop to be shorter.
  7. 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.

    e36 m3 oem factory clutch stop location

    e36 m3 oem factory clutch stop

    uuc big boy clutch stop

    uuc big boy clutch stop installed

October 22, 2013 e30, e36 m3, mechanical

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.

BMW e30 with Ireland Engineering red performance plug wire set

BMW e30 m20 with black ignition wires

October 19, 2013 e30, ignition, mechanical, wires

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:

BMW e30 M20 Engine Bay

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:

BMW e30 hood liner

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:

  • BMW makes black foam insulating panels for some models but enthusiasts report that it falls apart after a few years of use and soaks up oil and grime. Part numbers are not noted on RealOEM but the set is available.
  • The other solution is mylar covered foam.
  • I bought my panels from BMP Design. They have a complete DIY on how to install the hood liner which is helpful.


    Now a few comments about the product:

    • It’s recommended that you “test fit” the panels before installation. Once the contact cement is applied you really only get 1 shot at installing the panel so plan how you will place it (which end will go in first, etc.)
    • You may find that the panels do not fit exactly. I suggest *returning* them if they don’t fit. I tried to cut mine with a ruler and knife, then scissors and it is very difficult to cut cleanly.
    • Even if your panels fit you will find ragged edges where the mylar has been torn. Clean these up with scissors before installing.
    • The panels come with an adhesive backing. This is not strong enough to affix the panels without contact cement.
    • No fault of the product, but it does tend to show wrinkles if not applied perfectly flat on a surface. The e30′s hood has some bends and curves so some wrinkles are inevitable.


    Installation was straightforward once I trimmed down the panels:


    • Cover the entire engine bay in plastic.
    • The Weldwood adhesive is supposed to be workable for about an hour after application – if it’s applied thickly. I decided to apply it thinly using a foam roller which made application quick, although the roller produced some spider-webs of contact cement that had to be tamped down or pulled away from other surfaces. This saved time but also reduced workability to seconds once the panel and the hood were contacted.



    BMW e30 m20 engine bay with BMP Design mylar hood liner

August 26, 2013 guide, mechanical