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Go Back   Bimmerfest - BMW Forums > BMW Model Discussions > 3 Series / 4 Series > E36 (1991 - 1999)

E36 (1991 - 1999)
The E36 chassis 3-Series BMW was a huge hit among driving enthusiasts from the first moment the car hit the pavement. The E36 won numerous awards over the years it was produced and is still a favorite of many BMW enthusiasts to this day! -- View the E36 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 07-31-2015, 08:50 PM
AlexxRyzhkov AlexxRyzhkov is offline
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Buying a Auto E36 to swap into a manual

So I'm looking to get a second weekend car to learn how to wrench on, and I decided I wanted to get either an E30 or E36. I really want to learn how to drive stick, as my main car is an auto 06 BMW 530xi, and I want something I could mess around with, and maybe learn how to do some mods.

Only problem is, I literally can't find any decent manuals in my area. I have a budget of around $2000 (not looking for anything clean, and high miles don't scare me at all), and the only cars within 200 miles from me are a couple 318s, which I've heard are very slow, and everyone tells me to go for the 6 cylinder ones since they're much faster apparently. The cheapest 6 cylinder E36 is $2900, while there are plenty of Auto E30/E36s for around $1000-$1500 that all run fine.

I'm wondering, is it worth buying an auto to swap into a manual later, or should I just save up more money and wait till a decent manual comes by? Also how difficult is it to swap in a manual? I've read that the parts cost anywhere between $500-$1500.

It's just that I've been scoping out craigslist for about a month, and I'm not finding any cars I can afford, or are in working condition.

Also I'm wondering, what would be easier to swap a tranny on, E30 or E36?
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  #2  
Old 07-31-2015, 10:02 PM
u3b3rg33k u3b3rg33k is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexxRyzhkov View Post
So I'm looking to get a second weekend car to learn how to wrench on, and I decided I wanted to get either an E30 or E36. I really want to learn how to drive stick, as my main car is an auto 06 BMW 530xi, and I want something I could mess around with, and maybe learn how to do some mods.

Only problem is, I literally can't find any decent manuals in my area. I have a budget of around $2000 (not looking for anything clean, and high miles don't scare me at all), and the only cars within 200 miles from me are a couple 318s, which I've heard are very slow, and everyone tells me to go for the 6 cylinder ones since they're much faster apparently. The cheapest 6 cylinder E36 is $2900, while there are plenty of Auto E30/E36s for around $1000-$1500 that all run fine.

I'm wondering, is it worth buying an auto to swap into a manual later, or should I just save up more money and wait till a decent manual comes by? Also how difficult is it to swap in a manual? I've read that the parts cost anywhere between $500-$1500.

It's just that I've been scoping out craigslist for about a month, and I'm not finding any cars I can afford, or are in working condition.

Also I'm wondering, what would be easier to swap a tranny on, E30 or E36?
find a non-decent any-make manual, learn to drive that PoS, then get a manual BMW. you can thank me later.
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  #3  
Old Yesterday, 05:35 AM
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dc_wright dc_wright is offline
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Save your money and buy a decent manual tranny E36. The auto to manual swap is more than just exchanging transmissions. You're swapping out everything in the drive train from the engine back including the differential. You also have to swap in a new pedal cluster, a new master cylinder, and you have to swap the DME because the DME for the auto is programmed different that the manual. If the car is a build date of January 1995 or later you also have to deal with the EWSII anti-theft system. On a scale of 1-10 the difficulty on this swap is a 9-10.
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  #4  
Old Yesterday, 07:22 AM
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Agreed. Just save your money and buy a manual trans E36 from the onset. It's just so much easier for a number of reasons. And yes, the 318s are slow. But if you just want a car to tinker with and learn to drive stick, they may not be a bad option. It's just that the 6-cylinder engines really wake these cars up a lot, and they sound cool, too.
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  #5  
Old Yesterday, 03:50 PM
AlexxRyzhkov AlexxRyzhkov is offline
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The thing is, there are plenty of parts cars on craigslist for $300-$700 that I could buy, strip the parts off, and just part everything I don't need out, and keep the parts that I do need.
For example there is a 328is that has quite a bit of mods and it's in great condition, only problem is the head gasket is blown, and there's a auto 325i for $1200 in decent condition that runs perfectly.

Could I just swap everything I need from the 328is (along with some new parts), and then just part out the rest of the car?
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  #6  
Old Yesterday, 06:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexxRyzhkov View Post
The thing is, there are plenty of parts cars on craigslist for $300-$700 that I could buy, strip the parts off, and just part everything I don't need out, and keep the parts that I do need.
For example there is a 328is that has quite a bit of mods and it's in great condition, only problem is the head gasket is blown, and there's a auto 325i for $1200 in decent condition that runs perfectly.

Could I just swap everything I need from the 328is (along with some new parts), and then just part out the rest of the car?
I would be more incline to fix the 328is than swap everything into a auto 325i. Fixing a head gasket is going to be easier than a manual swap.
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  #7  
Old Yesterday, 07:29 PM
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ZeGerman ZeGerman is offline
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^This. Plus you'd end up with more 14% more torque with the M52B28 in the 328is.
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  #8  
Old Yesterday, 07:30 PM
rochleeg rochleeg is offline
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I don't know about the head gasket is any easier the a manual swap. I have done both this passed year. For the head gasket you will have to spend around $200-$300 in specialty tools. Get the head cheeks for cracks and machined that is another $200. And if the head is bad well then you have buy remanufactured head.

As far as the manual swap you DO NOT need to replace the DME. My E36 runs better then it ever has after the swap. My E36 is an OBD2. You don't need any specialty tools just invert torque sockets. It took me 2 weeks to replace the head gasket because of the Machine work
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  #9  
Old Yesterday, 07:31 PM
rochleeg rochleeg is offline
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On the head and 10 hour to do the manual swap
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  #10  
Old Yesterday, 08:00 PM
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Originally Posted by rochleeg View Post
I don't know about the head gasket is any easier the a manual swap. I have done both this passed year. For the head gasket you will have to spend around $200-$300 in specialty tools. Get the head cheeks for cracks and machined that is another $200. And if the head is bad well then you have buy remanufactured head.

As far as the manual swap you DO NOT need to replace the DME. My E36 runs better then it ever has after the swap. My E36 is an OBD2. You don't need any specialty tools just invert torque sockets. It took me 2 weeks to replace the head gasket because of the Machine work
The car will run OK on the auto tranny DME but If you don't reprogram the DME to a manual tranny the trans fault light will be on in the instrument cluster because the TCU will either be removed or sending a continuous fault message to the DME. You may also find you can't rev past 5500 rpms which is the shift point for the auto tranny when it's not in sport mode.

Although both are complex the reason I say the head gasket is easier is because it's disassembling and reassembling the same parts, while the swap is putting in a bunch of different parts and making new wiring connections such as for getting the reverse lights to work, etc. For someone without a lot of mechanical experience or who can't read wiring diagrams the swap can be much more difficult.
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  #11  
Old Yesterday, 08:53 PM
rochleeg rochleeg is offline
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Originally Posted by dc_wright View Post
The car will run OK on the auto tranny DME but If you don't reprogram the DME to a manual tranny the trans fault light will be on in the instrument cluster because the TCU will either be removed or sending a continuous fault message to the DME. You may also find you can't rev past 5500 rpms which is the shift point for the auto tranny when it's not in sport mode.



Although both are complex the reason I say the head gasket is easier is because it's disassembling and reassembling the same parts, while the swap is putting in a bunch of different parts and making new wiring connections such as for getting the reverse lights to work, etc. For someone without a lot of mechanical experience or who can't read wiring diagrams the swap can be much more difficult.

Yeah I see your point.
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  #12  
Old Today, 08:54 AM
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Plus, doing a drivetrain swap on jack stands will suck terribly, whereas doing a head gasket replacement from above in the engine bay is a lot more friendly for a garage DIY'er.
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