Photo Source: Bimmerforums

Last year I put together a list of holiday gift ideas for the e30 lover (or BMW enthusiast) on your list. But a new year welcomes new ideas and so I present my 2013 Gift Guide. Happy shopping!

Gift Suggestions

  1. BMW Fabric Wallets: makes simple billfold style wallets in popular BMW fabrics that any enthusiast will recognize and appreciate. The Mtechnic fabric is represented here as well as Alpina. Priced under $60 for a billfold and matching keychain or $20 for a card wallet this gift is classy and budget friendly. There are officially licensed versions available from BMW or Amazon but the WalletWerks billfolds have classic charm and no faux-chrome.
  2. Keychains: BMW leather keychains are NLA (no longer available) from retailers like Turner Motorsport but they can still be found on eBay as reproductions or NOS (new old stock). A search on Ebay for BMW leather keychain will turn up some vintage items. Don’t wait to the last minute to order or your may not get it by Christmas.
  3. Driving Gloves: Last year I recommended cheap gloves which I use myself but this year go all out and get the Lowly Gentlemen gloves.
  4. Diecast Models: There is a limited range of BMW models available but the BMW M3 will be popular with every e30 fan. Check Amazon for other options.
  5. Fender Mat: The real deal with a BMW logo would come from a mechanic who doesn’t need it. They are very rare. But you can make one by ordering a plain black fender mat from Amazon or the Griot’s Garage red fender mat and adding a BMW iron-on patch from an Etsy seller to the bottom corner.
  6. BMW Car Blanket: BMW swag can be hit or miss with the vintage enthusiast but a car blanket is a timeless classic. These are no longer available on Amazon but can be found on Ebay and Etsy. They are probably not officially licensed. BMW club members can buy official licensed picnic blankets through the club shop.
  7. That’s my 2013 list. There are a couple other good ideas on last year’s list so be sure to check that out. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

December 4, 2013 e30, gift, guide, holiday, lover

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

1989 BMW 325i Sedan Avus Blue

As my co-worker points out, my e30 could basically fit inside the BED of that truck parked next to it.

November 17, 2013 photos

If you want people to know you take care of your car then you show them by replacing all the old, yellowed fluid reservoirs with new minty white containers. For older bimmers these things are fast disappearing from the BMW warehouses so now if ever there was a time to buy an expensive plastic bottle with no functional improvement over the one you already have, this is that time.

The first step is to empty the old reservoir. If I lived somewhere where washer fluid was actually useful I’d probably wait until the reservoir was almost empty and then install the new one. But living in California I used a siphon and pail.

how to drain e36 washer fluid reservoir

Once the reservoir is empty removing the fluid level sensor and washer fluid pump requires no tools: both pieces just pull out with gentle pressure and a little wiggling. The rubber gaskets are pressure fit in place only so these also come out without tools. This is a good time to clean the gaskets with Vinylex or some other rubber treatment and also clean hoses, wires, sensor and pump and the area under the tank. The tank itself is held on with 1 plastic nut.



e36 washer fluid reservoir plastic gaskets

Compare the old tank and the new one.

e36 m3 washer fluid reservoir part number 61-66-8-370-834-M9

Install is the reserve of removal. Be sure to install the fluid level sensor with the plastic float on the bottom or it will always incorrectly report that fluid is low.

e36 m3 engine bay

November 17, 2013 cosmetic, e36 m3

I’m torn: I love the warmth of incandescent bulbs but I love the piercing brightness and white point of LED lights. I especially love LED for license plate illumination because I think the brightness makes the the entire car seem better cared for, like a well-lit porch on a dark street.

For the e36 I ordered what should be a complete kit. This is not a top-of-the-line kit and the price reflects that; less than $30 for everything. Unfortunately my kit was short 2 bulbs so I used and extra LEDs I had lying around. I didn’t feel like wasting time taking it up with the vendor.

e36 LED Interior Light Kit

Some of the light panels come off with finger pressure but most will require some help from either a screwdriver or a trim removal tool. Generally the Bimmian guide is accurate. A few notes:

  • You will need a screw driver to remove the footwell lights. However, if you have trouble with the driver’s side you can open the OBC port to get access to the clip that secures the light if for some reason the screwdriver cannot reach it.
  • The dome light has a circuit board that needs to be removed to replace the map lights. Ideally this requires three hands: push both plastic clips inward while simultaneously backing the circuit board off it’s connectors.
  • Be very careful removing the rear C pillar lights. Bracing the C pillar with your hand whenever you pull on the lights will avoid accidentally pulling the C pillar trim off and breaking it’s retaining clips. A trim removal tool works best to work the engine-facing side loose, then working on the other sides by hand.
  • Installation of the C pillar LEDs was very difficult because the socket portion is a couple millimetres too long but trust me, it can be done.
  • The LED license plate lights were supposed to be “error free” but generated an error on the check panel. A lot of cheap mods generate errors but I’m a detail oriented fellow so this bothered me.

BME e36 M3 License Plate Light Fail

To solve the license plate light issue I decided to gamble on some top-of-the-line lights. I say gamble because no one likes it when expensive parts generate errors. I ordered the WeissLicht LED License Plate Illumination Upgrade from JLeviSW which is the same as Bimmian. I ordered the upgrade for the e36 M3 and our e39 touring. The lights appear well made and are complete housings and lenses, not just bulbs.

WeissLicht LED for BMW e36

Above: e36 version.

WeissLicht LED for BMW e39

Above: e39 version.

The lights were installed on the e36 first. I noticed that the connector plugs into the back of the LED housing instead of the side like OEM. This reduces the slack in the wire but is not a problem.

BMW e36 License Plate WeissLicht LED vs. OEM

BMW e36 License Plate WeissLicht LED vs. OEM

If you have OEM lights you may find that the new lights are a little loose: this isn’t a fitment issue, it’s just that the rubber seal on your old lights was probably stuck to the car creating the illusion of better fit.

The lights are held on more but the trunk handle than anything else, so once the handle is re-installed fitment should not be an issue.

BMW e36 License Plate WeissLicht LED fitment

It’s very important with these kits to install and test right away: warranty is usually 30-90 days but if you want to claim a warranty on a DOA part and save shipping costs you usually need to report it within 5 days of receipt. Unfortunately one of the lights has a short in it, but thankfully I just received these 2 days ago.

Until I get a replacement I’ll have one really bright light and one dim one.

BMW e36 License Plate LED WeissLicht vs. Other LED

I also installed the e39 version for our 2000 540i touring. They look great but fitment was difficult: the left side light kept crushing the bulb contacts which required some adjustment (bending) until they would contact properly.

October 24, 2013 cosmetic, e36 m3, e39 touring

I found some cheap but apparently good condition all-red tail lights and picked them up. They have no markings on them and the clear coat seems good. Installed these and a UUC clutch stop this morning.

bmw e30 all red tails tail lights

bmw e30 all red tails tail lights

bmw e30 all red tails tail lights

bmw e30 all red tails tail lights

October 23, 2013 cosmetic, red, tail lights

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

BMW e30 Size Comparison to Dodge Ram

October 17, 2013 dodge, e30, ram, status

I went to the BMW Club’s September Autocross event and while I was there I took a lap as a passenger in someone else’s car. When I got in and went to buckle up I found this strange attachment on the seatbelt and asked about it.

It was a CG Lock and after the driver showed me how to buckle up the benefit became immediately apparent: the CG Lock stops your lap belt from slackening or tightening. If it’s tight then you are firmly connected to the car and therefore more aware of what the car is doing.

I ordered one, installed it (it clamps on with only 2 small bolts) and tested it while driving around today: works great, feels good. We’ll see how it really performs at autocross tomorrow.

CG Lock in 1989 BMW e30 325i

CG Lock in 1989 BMW e30 325i


The CG Lock was an excellent addition to my autocross set up and made me feel considerably more “connected”. However, by the end of the day the clamp that attaches the CG Lock to the belt buckle started becoming loose and the whole thing ended up in my glove box. I don’t feel comfortable using it for every day driving but I expect to use it again next time I autocross.

October 11, 2013 e30, interior

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