BMW E36 1992-1999 Info, FAQ's, DIY's, and Helpful Tips
Launched at Miramas in the South of France, the third generation 3 Series range, codenamed E36, was offered for the first time as a four-door saloon at launch in 1990, reflecting the growing popularity of four door variants in the E30 range. Growing again in size over its predecessor, practicality was also improved with up to 30mm more rear legroom for rear seat passengers.
The initial saloon version was followed in 1992 by a new model variant: the former two door was now renamed Coupe for the first time to reflect its subtle, yet extensive, design differences. The 3 Series Coupe was followed by the Convertible, Touring and, a new model, the Compact.
The E36 3 Series range carried forward the tradition of four- and six-cylinder engines. Offering a range of engines that all exceeded 100bhp for the first time, the 316i was the entry model offering 102bhp with the flagship six-cylinder 325i delivering 192bhp as a result of double camshaft and four-valve technology. Later, VANOS, a new technology that adjusted the timing of the inlet camshafts was introduced, developing peak torque earlier and improving fuel economy. Evolutions of the VANOS technology continues on all modern BMW cars.
The halo of the range, the new M3, was launched in 1992 as a Coupe, 1993 as a Convertible and 1994 as a Saloon with a 286bhp, six-cylinder M engine. In 1995, the ultimate E36 model, the M3 Evolution was launched delivering 321bhp through its six-speed manual or Sequential Manual Gearbox.
With its range of no less than 31 different models, this 3 Series range, comprising Saloon, Coupe, Convertible, Touring and Compact models reached a grand total of 2,745,773 - 69,794 of which were M3 variants.
E46 – The Fourth Generation1998 saw the introduction of the new most recent 3 Series, codenamed E46. Initially only available as a Saloon, the E46 followed the pattern set by its predecessor in additionally offering Coupe, Convertible, Touring and Compact variants.
The Saloon version again grew in size by four centimetres and, when compared to the original 3 Series of 1975, was 12cms longer. Rear seat passengers also enjoyed a further 10mm of legroom over the outgoing E36 model.
Again, four- and six-cylinder engines were offered, with the range starting with the 318i delivering 118bhp. Although the entry model, the 318i benefited from the latest technology including balance shafts that reduced engine vibration and consequent cabin noise levels by 10dBA. Six-cylinder 323i and 328i models now featured double-VANOS, controlling the inlet and exhaust camshaft timing for enhanced engine efficiency.
Joining the Bimmerfest E36 Community
In the world of import automotive high performance, the kind of answers you get to your technical questions depends as much (or more) on the way you ask the questions as it does on the difficulty of developing the answer. This guide will teach you how to ask questions in a way more likely to get you a satisfactory answer.
The first thing to understand is that a lot of the technical people you'll find around here actually like hard problems and good, thought-provoking questions about them. If we didn't, we wouldn't be here. If you give us an interesting question to chew on we'll be grateful to you; good questions are a stimulus and a gift. Good questions help us develop our understanding, and often reveal problems we might not have noticed or thought about otherwise. "Good question!" is a strong and sincere compliment.
Despite this, a lot of us oldschool guys have a reputation for meeting simple questions with what looks like hostility or arrogance. It sometimes looks like we're reflexively rude to newbies and the ignorant. But this isn't really true.
What we are, unapologetically, is hostile to people who seem to be unwilling to think or to do their own homework before asking a question. People like that are time sinks - they take without giving back, and they waste time we could have spent on another question more interesting and another person more worthy of an answer.
We realize that there are many people who just want to drive the car, and who have no interest in learning technical details. For most people, a car is merely transportation, a means to an end; they have more important things to do and lives to live. We acknowledge that, and don't expect everyone to take an interest in the technical matters that fascinate us. Nevertheless, our style of answering questions is tuned for people who do take such an interest and are willing to be active participants in problem-solving. That's not going to change. Nor should it; if it did, we would become less effective at the things we do best.
We're volunteers. We take time out of busy lives to answer questions, and at times we're overwhelmed with them. So we filter what we answer. In particular, we don't reply to questions from people who appear to be "time sinks" in order to spend our question-answering time more efficiently, On people who will use the information we provide & will learn from it...
If you find this attitude obnoxious, condescending, or arrogant, check your assumptions. We're not asking you to genuflect to us -- in fact, most of us would love nothing more than to deal with you as an equal and welcome you into our culture, if you put in the effort required to make that possible. But it's simply not efficient or practical for us to try to help people who are not willing to help themselves. It's OK to be ignorant; it's not OK to be stupid.
So, while it isn't necessary to already be technically competent with the car to get attention from us, it is necessary to demonstrate the kind of attitude that leads to competence - alert, thoughtful, observant, willing to be an active partner in developing a solution. If you can't live with this sort of discrimination, we suggest you stop working on the BMW, sell it and buy a Honda Civic (they are cheap & reliable if left stock) instead of asking us to personally donate help to you.
If you decide to come to us for help, you don't want to be one of the "time-sinks". You don't want to seem like one, either. The best way to get a rapid and responsive answer is to ask it like a person with smarts, confidence, and clues who just happens to need help on one particular problem.
Before You Ask
Before asking a question do the following: • Try to find an answer by searching this website. • Try to find an answer by reading the Bentley Manual. If you don't have one, buy one, you are going to need it. • Try to find an answer by skimming bimmerdiy.com and pelicanparts.com – both of these are excellent resources you should familiarize yourself with. • Try to find an answer by inspection or experimentation.
When you post your question, display the fact that you have done these things first; this will help establish that you're not being a lazy sponge and wasting people's time. Better yet, display what you have learned from doing these things. We like answering questions for people who have demonstrated they can learn from the answers.
Search! This might well take you straight to a thread answering your question. Even if it doesn't, saying "I searched on the following phrase but didn't get anything that looked promising" is a good thing to include in your post requesting help.
Prepare your question. Think it through. Hasty-sounding questions get hasty answers, or none at all. The more you do to demonstrate that having put thought and effort into solving your problem before seeking help, the more likely you are to actually get top shelf help.
Beware of asking the wrong question. If you ask one that is based on faulty assumptions, someone is quite likely to reply with a uselessly literal answer while thinking "Stupid question...", and hoping the experience of getting what you asked for rather than what you needed will teach you a lesson.
Never assume you are entitled to an answer. You are not; you don't pay us for the service. However you can (and will) earn an answer, by asking a substantial, interesting, and thought-provoking question - one that implicitly contributes to the experience of the community rather than merely passively demanding knowledge from others.
On the other hand, making it clear that you are able and willing to help in the process of developing the solution is a very good start. "Would someone provide a pointer?", "What test am I missing?", and "What should I have searched for?" are more likely to get answered than "Please post the exact procedure I should use." because in the former examples you're making it clear that you're truly willing to complete the process if someone can just point you in the right direction. In the last you want someone to read you the manual. Go buy one.
How to Search
Search with key words related to your issue. Read the threads that are returned. Modify your search to include new terms you learned from the previous results. This will yield more/different results. Do this, until you have exhausted the variety of terms applicable, and you may just find the answer before you make a new thread. This works on forum searches and Google searches. Try it.
Use Meaningful, Specific Subject Headers
On forums, the subject header is your golden opportunity to attract qualified experts' attention in 50 characters or less. Don't waste it on babble like "Please help me" (let alone "PLEASE HELP ME!!!!"; messages with subjects like that get discarded by reflex). Don't try to impress us with the depth of your anguish; use the space for a super-concise problem description instead.
One good convention for subject headers, used by many tech support organizations, is "object - deviation". The "object" part specifies what thing or group of things is having a problem, and the "deviation" part describes the deviation from expected behavior.
Smart: Engine running rough at idle
Smarter: Engine running rough at idle after CAI install
The process of writing an "object-deviation" description will help you organize your thinking about the problem in more detail. What is affected? Does it idle roughly or die with throttle applied? Someone who sees a good subject line can immediately understand what it is that you are having a problem with and the problem you are having, at a glance.
More generally, look at the thread list in a forum. Note that just the subject lines are showing. Make your subject line reflect your question well enough that the next guy browsing the forum with a question similar to yours will be able to follow the thread to an answer rather than posting the question again.
Do not simply hit reply to a list message in order to start an entirely new thread. If you are going off in a different direction, search for a thread that applies to that subject. If you don't find it then post a new question. Changing the subject is not a good way to do things. Once a thread has a title it does not change even if you change the subject of your individual post. This makes it harder for people to find.
Make It Easy To Reply
Never end your post with something like "Please send your reply to firstname.lastname@example.org". If you can't be bothered to take even the few seconds required to come back and check your thread, we can't be bothered to take even a few seconds to think about your problem. On forums, asking for a reply by e-mail is outright rude, unless you believe the information may be sensitive (and somebody will, for some unknown reason, let you but not the whole forum know it). If you want an e-mail copy when somebody replies in the thread use the "subscribe to this thread" option.
Most of us believe solving problems should be a public, transparent process during which a first try at an answer can and should be corrected if someone more knowledgeable notices that it is incomplete or incorrect. Also, helpers get some of their reward for being respondents from being seen to be competent and knowledgeable by their peers.
When you ask for a private reply, you are disrupting both the process and the reward. Don't do this. It's the respondent's choice whether to reply privately - and if he does, it's usually because he thinks the question is too ill-formed or obvious to be interesting to others.
Write in Clear, Grammatical, Correctly-Spelled Language
Most of us have found by experience that people who are careless and sloppy writers are usually (there are exceptions) careless and sloppy at thinking and working on cars. Answering questions for careless and sloppy thinkers is not rewarding; we'd rather spend our time elsewhere.
So expressing your question clearly and well is important. If you can't be bothered to do that, we can't be bothered to pay attention. Spend the extra effort to polish your language. It doesn't have to be stiff or formal in fact, the car culture values informal, slangy and humorous language used with precision. But it has to be precise; there has to be some indication that you're thinking and paying attention.
Spell, punctuate, and capitalize correctly. Don't confuse "its" with "it's", "loose" with "lose", or "they're" with "there". Don't TYPE IN ALL CAPS; this is read as shouting and considered rude. (All lowercase is only slightly less annoying, as it's difficult to read.)
More generally, if you write like a semi-literate boob you will very likely be ignored. Writing like a l33t script kiddie hax0r or a gangsta from the ghetto is the absolute kiss of death with us and guarantees you will receive nothing but stony silence (or, at best, a heaping helping of scorn and sarcasm) in return.
If you are asking questions on our forum and English is not your native language, we will give you a reasonable amount of slack for spelling and grammar errors - but no extra slack at all for laziness (and yes, we can usually spot that difference).
Be Precise and Informative About Your Problem
Describe the symptoms of your problem or project carefully and clearly.
Describe the car in which it occurs (1994 325is 5-spd with ASC). List any mods or recent work you may have done to your car clearly in the post – or, provide your full mod list in your sig.
Describe the research you did to try and understand the problem before you asked the question.
Describe the diagnostic steps you took to try and pin down the problem yourself before you asked the question.
Describe any possibly relevant recent changes to your car. After 10 posts and queries it's maddening to see "oh yea, I forgot to mention I swapped out the fuel pump the day before".
Do the best you can to anticipate the questions a people will ask, and answer them in advance in your request for help.
Volume Is Not Precision
You need to be precise and informative. This end is not served by simply writing a long winded description of the date you were on, or what had for dinner into your help request. If you have a large, complicated situation, try to trim it and make it as small as possible.
This is useful for at least three reasons: 1. Being seen to invest effort in simplifying the question makes it more likely you'll get an answer 2. Simplifying the question makes it more likely you'll get a useful answer. In the process of refining your post, you may develop a fix or workaround yourself.
Describe Your Problem's Symptoms In Chronological Order
The clues most useful in figuring out something that went wrong often lie in the events immediately prior. So, your description should provide precisely what you did, and what the car did, leading up to the blowup. "I stopped to get gas and then problem x happened" can save us all a lot of work.
All E36s have diagnostic codes. Check the ECU for them before posting a question. Include any codes you got in your description.1992-1995 models use OBDI, and codes can be obtained using the pedal trick. 1996+ models are OBDII and you will need an OBDII code reader to pull the codes.
If your post ends up being long (more than about four paragraphs), it might be useful to succinctly state the problem up top, then follow with the chronological tale. That way, people will know what to watch for in reading your account.
Describe the goal, not the step
If you are trying to find out how to do something (as opposed to reporting a problem), begin by describing the goal. Only then describe the particular step towards it that you are blocked on.
Often, people who need technical help have a high-level goal in mind and get stuck on what they think is one particular path towards the goal. They come for help with the step, but don't realize that the path is wrong. It can take substantial effort to get past this.
Stupid: How do I make 400RWHP on my M50?
Smart: I want to run 12 second ¼ times, is 400RWHP enough to make an otherwise stock car run them?
The second version of the question is smart. It allows an answer that suggests a tool or part better suited to the task.
Be Explicit About Your Question
Open-ended questions tend to be perceived as open-ended time sinks. Those people most likely to be able to give you a useful answer are also the busiest people (if only because they take on the most work themselves). People like that are allergic to open-ended time sinks, thus they tend to be allergic to open-ended questions.
You are more likely to get a useful response if you are explicit about what you want respondents to do (provide pointers, suggest parts, check your install method, whatever). This will focus their effort and implicitly put an upper bound on the time and energy a respondent must allocate to helping you. This is good.
To understand the world the experts live in, think of expertise as an abundant resource and time to respond as a scarce one. The less of a time commitment you implicitly ask for, the more likely you are to get an answer from someone really good and really busy.
So it is useful to frame your question to minimize the time commitment required for an expert to field it - but this is often not the same thing as simplifying the question. Thus, for example, "Would you give me a pointer to a good explanation of VANOS?" is usually a smarter question than "Would you explain VANOS, please?".
Prune Pointless Queries
Resist the temptation to close your request for help with semantically-null questions like "Can anyone help me?" or "Is there an answer?" First: if you've written your problem description halfway competently, such tacked-on questions are at best superfluous. Second: because they are superfluous, people find them annoying - and are likely to return logically impeccable but dismissive answers like "Yes, you can be helped" and "No, there is no help for you."
In general, asking yes-or-no questions is a good thing to avoid unless you want a yes-or-no answer.
Courtesy Never Hurts, and Sometimes Helps
Be courteous. Use "Please" and "Thanks for your attention" or "Thanks for your consideration". Make it clear you appreciate the time people spend helping you for free.
To be honest, this isn't as important as (and cannot substitute for) being grammatical, clear, precise and descriptive, etc.; We would all in general would rather get somewhat brusque but technically sharp posts than polite vagueness. (If this puzzles you, remember that we value a question by what it teaches all of us.)
However, if you've got your technical ducks in a row, politeness does increase your chances of getting a useful answer.
Follow Up With A Brief Note on the Solution
Post after the problem has been solved; let everyone know how it came out and thank everyone again for their help. I can't stress how important this is.
Your followup doesn't have to be long and involved; a simple "Hey! It was a failed fuel pump! Thanks, everyone. - Bill" would be better than nothing. In fact, a short and sweet summary is better than a long dissertation unless the solution has real technical depth. Say what action solved the problem, but you need not replay the whole troubleshooting sequence.
For problems with some depth, it is appropriate to post a summary of the troubleshooting history. Describe your final problem statement. Describe what worked as a solution, and indicate avoidable blind alleys and wastes of time after that. The blind alleys and wastes of time should come after the correct solution and other summary material, rather than turning the follow-up into a detective story. Name the names of people who helped you; you'll make friends that way.
Besides being courteous and informative, this sort of followup will help others searching the forum to know exactly which solution helped you and thus may also help them.
Last, and not least, this sort of followup helps everybody who assisted feel a satisfying sense of closure about the problem. If you are not a techie or mechanic yourself, trust us that this feeling is very important to the gurus and experts you tapped for help. Problem narratives that trail off into unresolved nothingness are frustrating things; we itch to see them resolved. The goodwill that scratching that itch earns you will be very, very helpful to you next time you need to pose a question.
Consider how you might be able to prevent others from having the same problem in the future. Ask yourself if a sticky or addition to the FAQ would help, and if the answer is yes, ask a mod or admin to stick or copy to the FAQ.
We really like to see this, and this sort of good followup behavior is actually more important than conventional politeness. It's how you get a reputation for playing well with others, which can be a very valuable asset.
RTFM and Search! - or - How To Tell You've Seriously Screwed Up
There is an ancient and hallowed tradition: if you get a reply that reads "RTFM", the person who sent it thinks you should have Read The F*cking Manual. He or she is almost certainly right. Go read it.
RTFM has a younger relative. If you get a reply that reads Search!, the person who sent it thinks you should have searched the site. He or she is almost certainly right. Go search it. (The milder version of this is when you are told "Google is your friend!") In fact, someone may even be so kind as to provide a pointer to the previous thread where this problem was solved. But do not rely on this consideration; do your searching before asking.
Often, the person telling you to do a search has the manual or the web page with the information you need open, and is looking at it as he or she types. These replies mean that he thinks (a) the information you need is easy to find, and (b) you will learn more if you seek out the information than if you have it spoon-fed to you.
You shouldn't be offended by this; by our standards, your respondent is showing you a rough kind of respect simply by not ignoring you. You should instead be thankful for this grandmotherly kindness.
Sometimes an answer will be "Bentley – EWD 153" - this means your question is answered in the Bentley in the Electrical Wiring Diagram section on page 153" - if you don't have a Bentley, buy one. (There are PDFs of it online, but we'd rather see you pay for that copyrighted material to encourage our manufacturer to keep printing the manuals.
If You Don't Understand...
If you don't understand the answer, do not immediately bounce back a demand for clarification. Use the same tools that you used to try and answer your original question (The Bentley, DIYs, the Web, skilled friends) to understand the answer. Then, if you still need to ask for clarification, exhibit what you have learned.
For example, suppose I tell you: "It sounds like you've got a dirty MAF; you'll need to clean it" Then: here's a bad followup question: "What's a MAF?" Here's a good followup question: "OK, I read the Bentley and page and I found the MAF, but it doesn't say anything about cleaning it. Can you point me to directions for the best way to clean the MAF?"
Dealing With Rudeness
Much of what looks like rudeness in our circles is not intended to give offence. Rather, it's the product of the direct, cut-through-the-bullsh*t communications style that is natural to people who are more concerned about the tech and solving problems than making others feel good about themselves.
When you perceive rudeness, try to react calmly. If someone is really acting out, it is very likely an admin like me on the forum will call him or her on it. If that doesn't happen and you lose your temper, it is likely that the person you lose it at was behaving within the community's norms and you will be considered at fault. This will hurt your chances of getting the information or help you want.
On the other hand, you will occasionally run across rudeness and posturing that is quite gratuitous. The flip-side of the above is that it is acceptable form to slam real offenders quite hard, dissecting their misbehavior with a sharp verbal scalpel. Be very, very sure of your ground before you try this, however. The line between correcting an incivility and starting a pointless flamewar is thin enough that even moderators and administrators themselves not infrequently blunder across it; if you are a newbie or an outsider, your chances of avoiding such a blunder are low. If you're after information rather than entertainment, it's better to keep your fingers off the keyboard than to risk this. We do ban people for using this as a form of entertainment. Please don't do it.
In the next section, we'll talk about a different issue; the kind of "rudeness" you'll see when you misbehave.
On Not Reacting Like A Complete Loser
Odds are you'll screw up a few times on the forum - in ways detailed in this article, or similar. And you'll be told exactly how you screwed up, possibly with colorful asides. In public.
When this happens, the worst thing you can do is whine about the experience, claim to have been verbally assaulted, demand apologies, scream, hold your breath, threaten lawsuits, complain to people's employers, leave the toilet seat up, etc. Instead, here's what you do:
Get over it. It's normal. In fact, it's healthy and appropriate.
Community standards do not maintain themselves: They're maintained by people actively applying them, visibly, in public. Don't whine that all criticism should have been conveyed via private e-mail: That's not how it works. Nor is it useful to insist you've been personally insulted when someone comments that one of your claims was wrong, or that his views differ. We don't have time to teach everyone on a one on one basis. If you get slammed in public, everyone learns from it.
There have been forums where, out of some misguided sense of hyper-courtesy, participants are banned from posting any fault-finding with another's posts, and told "Don't say anything if you're unwilling to help the user." The resulting departure of clueful participants to elsewhere causes them to descend into meaningless babble and become useless as technical forums. We don't want that to happen here. Grow a thicker skin.
Motivations for Calling You on Your Bad Behavior
Remember: When that someone tells you that you've screwed up, and (no matter how gruffly) tells you not to do it again, he's acting out of concern for (1) you and (2) his community. It would be much easier for him to ignore you and filter you out of his life. If you can't manage to be grateful, at least have a little dignity, don't whine, and don't expect to be treated like a fragile doll just because you're a newcomer with a theatrically hypersensitive soul and delusions of entitlement. We don't have time for it.
Sometimes people will attack you personally, flame without an apparent reason, etc., even if you don't screw up (or have only screwed up in their imagination). In this case, complaining is the way to really screw up.
These flamers are either idiots who don't have a clue but believe themselves to be experts, or would-be psychologists testing whether you'll screw up. The other readers either ignore them, or find ways to deal with them on their own. The flamers' behavior creates problems for themselves, which don't have to concern you. Trust us, the administrators and moderations staff will handle these people.
Don't let yourself be drawn into a flamewar, either. Most flames are best ignored - after you've checked whether they are really flames, not pointers to the ways in which you have screwed up, and not cleverly ciphered answers to your real question (this happens as well).
Good and Bad Questions
Finally, I'm going to illustrate how to ask questions in a smart way by example; pairs of questions about the same problem, one asked in a stupid way and one in a smart way.
Stupid: Where can I find out stuff about the M50 intake mani swap for an M52? - (This question just begs for "Search..." as a reply.) Smart: I used search to try to find out about the M52 -> M50 intake mani swap, but I got no useful hits. Where can I find out how it affects low end torque ?
Stupid: I'm having problems with my car. Can anybody help? - (The average response to this is likely to be "Yes, if you'd tell us what is wrong..") Smart: I tried X, Y, and Z on on my car. When that didn't work, I tried A, B, and C. Note the curious symptom when I tried C. Obviously the ignition isn't getting power, but the results aren't what one might expect. Anybody got ideas for more tests I can run to pin down the problem?
The second person here seems worthy of an answer. He/she has exhibited problem-solving intelligence rather than passively waiting for an answer to drop from on high.
In the last question, notice the subtle but important difference between demanding "Give me an answer" and "Please help me figure out what additional diagnostics I can run to achieve enlightenment."
If You Can't Get An Answer
If you can't get an answer, please don't take it personally that we don't feel we can help you. Sometimes the members of the asked group may simply not know the answer. No response is not the same as being ignored, though admittedly it's hard to spot the difference from outside.
'Bumping' your question more than once every 24 hours is a bad idea. This will be seen as pointlessly annoying. Have patience: the person with your answer may currently be asleep, in a different time-zone, on vacation, etc.
There are also plenty of commercial companies you can go to for help, both large and small. Don't be dismayed at the idea of having to pay for a bit of help! Mechanics & shops exist for reason.
Participating: How To Answer Questions in a Helpful Way
Be gentle. Problem-related stress can make people seem rude or stupid even when they're not. Sometimes they are just freaked out that this car they have dumped thousands of dollars into is now dumping on them!
If you don't know for sure, say so! A wrong but authoritative-sounding answer is worse than none at all. Don't point anyone down a wrong path simply because it's fun to sound like an expert. Be humble and honest; set a good example for both the querent and your peers. If someone corrects you, accept it with good grace.
If you can't help, don't hinder. Don't make jokes about procedures that could trash the car - the poor sap might interpret these as instructions. I've seen this happen!
Ask probing questions to elicit more details. If you're good at this, the querent will learn something - and so might you. Try to turn the bad question into a good one; remember we were all newbies once.
While just muttering "Search" is sometimes justified when replying to someone who is just a lazy slob, a pointer to documentation (even if it's just a suggestion to search for a specific key phrase) is better.
If you're going to answer the question at all, give good value. Don't suggest crappy workarounds when somebody is using the wrong tool or approach. Suggest good tools, the right parts - Reframe the question.
Help your community learn from the question. When you field a good question, ask yourself "How would the relevant documentation or DIYs have to change so that nobody has to answer this again?" Then contact a mod or admin for a sticky or consider framing your answer into a new DIY.
If you did research to answer the question, demonstrate your skills rather than writing as though you pulled the answer out of your butt. Answering one good question is like feeding a hungry person one meal, but teaching them research skills by example is teaching them to grow food for a lifetime.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and showing an interest in being a valuable part of our community. We all look forward to interacting with you, helping you, and learning from you.
On behalf of all of us here at Bimmerfest, Regards, -Chad Thompson
Credit: Original Text – Mike Donohue, "Supracentral" on SupraMania.com Edited & Adapted for E36 use – Chad Thompson, "E36 Phantom" on BimmerFest.com
Should You Buy an E36? And What to Expect if You Do
Let's first understand what the car is and where it came from. 3 simple points to make about the car...
-The E36 M3 was originally designed in the early 90s (as a bit of an afterthought, though that's beyond the scope of this thread) as a higher performance version of BMW's normal 3-series cars. With a price tag of around $40,000 or higher throughout its production period, the car had a target demographic that consisted of people that likely have/had more disposable income than you or I. They were able to afford taking it to the dealer for service and paying insane amounts of money to maintain the car. To put things into prospective, the previous owner of my car spent more money at the dealership service department than the amount of money I paid for the car when I bought it.
-Another fact about the car is that unlike a lot of automobiles on the road, the recommended service life of its components is not to be taken lightly. The original owner of the car likely drove it for 50-60K miles, or maybe 100K miles at most and unloaded it right around the time major cooling system components, suspension components and other things were at or past their recommended service life. This leaves you and me with a great car that probably happens to require a good amount of attention in the 2nd leg of its life if we intend to drive it without catastrophic failures.
-A third fact about the car (that will lead us to the point i'm trying to make here) is that it's a BMW. Parts are not cheap.
If we add these 3 things together, we can extrapolate one simple thing that will give you a bit of insight into E36 ownership: Despite the fact that these cars have become very cheap to buy, there were never designed to be cheap to own. A general rule to live by is that the lower the purchase price of the car, the more maintenance you have to catch up on after you buy it. The car will be very reliable if the maintenance is kept up to speed and you keep a proactive approach to maintenance by replacing things before they break. This requires one of 2 things: 1) Deep pockets to pay a shop to maintain the car for you. Or 2) A lot of knowledge to do it yourself.
THE E36 M3 YOU'VE SEEN ON AUTO TRADER/CRAIG'S LIST/ETC FOR A NICE PRICE WILL *NOT* BE AN EXCEPTION TO THE RULE.
Every noob that stumbles in the forum seems to be under the same delusion. Let go of the hope that you will not have to maintain the car like everyone else, right now. The car will cost money. You will have to replace parts, or they will break. You will have to learn the chassis pretty well, and stick around here to know exactly what failures you'll need to watch out for. If you're the type of buyer that's clicking "sort by cost: low to high" when you run AutoTrader searches...ask yourself if you honestly think the cars you'll be looking into will be a different ownership experience than every other car owned by every other person on the forums here. Plan on doing work on the car and spending money to keep it running. It comes with the territory. The E36 M3 is not a Honda or Toyota. It's a very very rewarding car to own and is a very reliable car *if* maintained properly. But at this point, it's basically a car to be owned by enthusiasts that don't have a problem wrenching on their own car, and don't have a problem owning a car that's a little more needy than average, in exchange for a more involving ownership experience than average.
There's a reason BMW's have such a dedicated following. But, there are prices to be paid for the positive aspects of the car that draw people to it. Nothing is all pros and no cons. You're here reading this to get an understanding of if that list of pros and cons is something you're willing to deal with.
Is the E36 M3 fast? The E36 M3 imported to North America is stocked with a 240HP inline 6 that has a nice amount of torque. Coming from a Honda Civic, Acura Integra, or the like, the M3 will seem like an absolute monster. It's a reasonably powerful rear wheel drive sports car, and should be treated as such. It has enough power to get a driver into trouble if they're not intimately familiar with the handling dynamics of a rear wheel drive automobile. That being said, the E36 M3 is not a drag racing car. It wasn't built to race WRX's on the highway, or to stoplight race the new Civic Si. The car was designed around balance and overall driving experience. Power isn't *that* abundant, and extra power above stock numbers comes at a premium. GO fast mods generally yield paltry horsepower per dollar returns. If you've owned a fast car in the past, the E36 M3 will likely be fun to you, but it's far from powerful when compared to cars with *real* power.
We're not going to get into magazine racing here, but to put straight line performance into prospective: -An 8th Gen Civic Si with a few bolt ons will give a stock M3 a run for it's money. A well modded 8th gen Si will pull away from a stock M3. If both cars are lightly modded, they're about even.
-A Stock WRX can't quite keep up with the E36. The M3 will pull away steadily. A Stage II WRX is a different story. Stage II WRX's will run neck and neck with a stock M3, or some protuned ones with extras like TGV deletes turbo inlet, etc will edge out a bit.
-A stock G35 will run about even with an E36, or pull away slightly depending on the year.
-A stock new Mustang GT will slowly and steadily pull away. One with even the slightest bolt on modifications will walk the E36.
Now, if you're more concerned than that, go watch some youtube vids. Enough said.
Do NOT buy an E36 M3 if you're in search of a fast car that will hold its own in a straight line when put up against modern sports cars, if you want a car that will respond well to modifications and will easily and cheaply gain horsepower over stock, or if you want a car whose strong point is straight line acceleration.
DO buy the E36 M3 if you're looking for a car that has wonderful balance, unflappable road manners, impeccable handling, and a chassis that's capable of amazing things with a little suspension know-how and some suspension tuning. Buy the car if you're more concerned with tearing up deserted back roads by yourself than cruising the nearest 4 lane road in search of cars you think you can beat to the next traffic light. Buy the car if tearing around highway off ramps puts a bigger smile on your face than seeing how many tenths you can drop off your 1/4 mile time by installing under drive pulleys and a 3.91 diff. Buy the car if you want something that has a perfect balance of performance, practicality, economy, comfort, and driving experience...wrapped up in an affordable package with timeless design that still has yet to look dated on the road next to modern cars.
So what's all this maintenance that you're talking about?
The following is a list of common items of concern for the E36 chassis. I'm not going to go over recommended service life of components. Just understand that if you buy a car that doesn't have any record of X part being replaced, you should be replacing it, some sooner than later.
--Rear shock mounts (RSMs
Problem: The RSMs provide a means of fastening the rear shock shaft to the shock tower of the car. The rubber in these mounts tends to fail over time, which causes freeplay in the mount. Eventually this causes unwanted stress on the shock tower and sooner or later the shaft will pull away from the mount and wind up punching itself into the bottom of the tower when the car goes over elevation changes. The other scenario is that the metal will fatigue from the shock rebounding, and the entire mount will punch through the tower. Either scenario will leave you with completely destroyed shock towers, requiring new ones to be welded in. This is most likely not something you can do in your garage.
Solution: Replace the RSM's before they fail. The cost of a new pair of shock mounts runs anywhere from $40-$120 and installation can be done in under an hour with simple hand tools. When choosing mounts, understand that pretty much any aftermarket mounts out there will have a longer service life than the stock E36 mounts. Also understand that the longer service life is a consequence of a more robust design that usually transmits more force to the shock tower, and therefore you should have some sort of reinforcement on the tower to prevent stress cracks from forming...
In addition to replacing the mounts, there's a deficiency in the design that would behoove you to rectify. On the bottom of the tower the mount disperses the force of the shock pushing up into the tower. However, the top of the tower consists of the 2 mounting nuts for the mount. When the shock rebounds, this force is only dispersed over the area of these 2 small nuts. This isn't the best way to preserve the thin, weak sheet metal. There are reinforcement plates available that go on the top of the tower to disperse the force of the shock rebounding. There are no downsides to using these reinforcement plates, they should be on every E36 on the road. They are sold by every major vendor and are pretty cheap, at $25-50.
How common are problems with this? How long do the parts last? The RSM's are a wear item. OEM RSM's have an approximate service life of 60K miles or so. Service life can be *drastically* reduced by environmental factors, modifications, or other factors. Shock tower failure is what i'd consider a moderate occurrence, high consequence issue.
--Rear Trailing arm bushings (RTABs Problem: The RTABs couple the front of the RTA to the chassis. The position of the RTA at this mounting point is what's responsible for the toe of the wheel. For this reason, when the RTABs wear out and become deformed, uneven tire wear can result due to the toe being out of whack. The car will chew up rear tires for breakfast if you let these bushings fail. There are 3 main options for replacement; Stock rubber, stock rubber with limiters, and Poly bushings.
Solution: Replace your RTAB's at regular intervals
OEM replacements have the most compliant ride, and least amount of NVH. They allow the most suspension travel under cornering load, which is arguably how the car was designed, but it's this travel that winds up wearing the bushing over time, making the rear end feel loose under hard cornering or acceleration. OEM is much more difficult to install than poly. The bushings need to be pressed in to very specific tolerances, and also need to be preloaded. The pre-load is specific to the ride height of the car and therefore if anything other than small ride height changes are made, it needs to be repeated at the new ride height (a concern for those with coil overs).
Limiters aka RTAB shims will limit the amount of travel under cornering load. These are only used with OEM RTABs. They will make the rear end feel a bit more taut at the limits and will extend the life of the RTAB a bit. But they arguably limit the range of travel that the RTAB was designed to permit, slightly. The issue with this is that if you're riding on stock shocks and springs, the tire's contact patch on the road can be theoretically reduced under hard cornering. However, if the reduction is only slight, and they provide a more assuring feel at the limits, are you really loosing anything? Like most mods, you give some to get some. I'm running this setup on my car and i'm happy with it.
Poly RTABs are much easier to install than OEM. They require no preload procedure. Ride quality diminishes a bit, as you can definitely feel the more rigid material when you're driving around. The car takes bumps harder, but provides a more taut feel when cornering and provides more resistance to bushing flex under hard acceleration while cornering. The harder material provides less flex than rubber and therefore is a more extreme version of the situation we described above with respect to reduced suspension travel. Think of it as a few more steps in that direction. Poly will squeak if not lubricated liberally. Poly allows the ride height of the car to be changed without re-preloading the bushing again (requiring the RTAB carrier to be dropped, and thus requiring an alignment).
Replacement RTABs cost $40-80 and installation takes roughly 3-7 hours, depending on a number of factors.
How common are problems with this? How long do the parts last? The RTAB's are a wear item. OEM RTAB's have an approximate service life of 80-100K miles or so. Service life can vary due to environmental factors, modifications, or other factors. In the past, i'd consider RTAB failure a low occurrence, low consequence issue, as it tends to happen over time and the consequence is usually just uneven tire wear. However, something to note is that recently we've seen more and more failures of the sheet metal that the RTAB carriers bolt into. This is the section of the unibody where there are (3) threaded bungs welded in to hold the RTAB carrier (aka "console") in place. Letting the RTABs on your car get worn to the point where the rubber is torn and the trailing arm is slapping back and forth in the carrier will eventually result in failure of the sheet metal or the welds that hold the bungs in place. The RTAB can rip out of the unibody completely without any warning, and while the vehicle is in motion. I don't think I have to explain how dangerous this is. This is something to keep an eye on as the cars age, especially in areas where cars are prone to underbody rust.
See this thread for a closer look at what this failure looks like: http://www.m3forum.net/m3forum/showthread.php?t=342420
--Tie rods/Tie rod ends
Problem: This isn't so much a problem, as tie rods are a wear item on any car. Though, it's definitely worth mentioning. The tie rods are responsible for moving the front wheels based on input from the steering rack, and ultimately the steering wheel. They have an integrated ball joint designed to allow them to operate as the wheel/hub assembly moves about from elevation changes or other movement. This balljoint (and the boot holding in the grease) has a finite lifespan. When a tie rod end ball joint get worn, the alignment of the wheel (specifically the toe) gets thrown off. This will lead to uneven tire wear, and it may not be something you'd notice until the insides of the tire(s) is/are worn down to the belts.
Solution: Replace the tie ends or entire rods. OEM Lemforder replacement tie rod ends (the only way to go, stay away from Meyle and other cheap brands) run roughly $100 for both sides. Installation will take roughly 30 minutes, may require a ball joint puller and a torch to heat up the stock ends to break them free. An alignment will obviously be required after tie rod replacement.
How common are problems with this? How long do the parts last? Tie rod ends are a wear item. This is a low occurrence, low consequence issue, as worn tie rod ends will just lead to uneven tire wear. Expect the OEM tie rod ends to last for roughly 80-100K miles, though service life can be drastically altered by environmental factors, driving style, or other factors.
--Other components to keep in mind Front ball joints; they are integrated into the control arms so they must be replaced as a single unit. Worn ball joints can cause sloppy front end feel and possibly clunking sounds from the front end. Rear ball joints; These connect the rear trailing arm to the upper and lower control arms. They tend to wear over time, causing sloppy rear end feel. Shock absorbers; They tend to have a service life of 80k-100K miles and should be replaced accordingly.
Cooling system components:
--Water pump The water pump is a direct drive component that has a mechanical cooling fan rigidly mounted to it. This means that the condition of the bearings in the pump is a VERY important thing to keep track of. When the pump fails, it causes an unbalance in the fan that will ultimately send shards of plastic flying all over the engine bay, severing the nearby coolant lines, and consequently overheating the car before you know what's happening. It doesn't care how attentive you are to the temperature gauge, there is thermal lag inherent in the gauge. Its all too easy to overheat the motor as a consequence of cooling system component failure.
--Mechanical fan and clutch The fan should spin freely with a bit of resistance while the motor is cold and off. If it does not spin, or spins without any resistance, the clutch needs to be replaced. The fan itself goes through a lot of thermal cycling and should be checked periodically for any cracked or missing blades. This will start as a slight shaking noticeable from inside the cabin, and will soon destroy the water pump bearings leading to the death of the pump, the fan, and everything around them. Also, worn motor mounts can allow the fan blades to contact the fan shroud, making them more prone to breakage. Inspect the blades and shroud for signs of contact.
-Radiator, expansion tank, and hoses These components should be checked periodically for cracks, breakage or leaks. The expansion tank has a high failure rate and shouldn't be trusted much beyond 80-100K miles of normal use.
This is a rubber flex disk that couples the drive shaft to the transmission. It has 6 large bolts going through it to connect these 2 parts. This item sees a lot of stress, heat cycling, etc. Fatigue starts as barely visible hairline cracks around the bolt holes. These can quickly spread, tearing the rubber apart which leads to unbalance in the driveshaft and can ultimately lead to driveshaft separation. Periodic visual inspection is a good idea.
--Motor and tranny mounts Worn mounts should not be taken lightly, as they can make the car prone to mis-shifts (the infamous "money shift", which is not a club you want to be part of), can cause the cooling fan blades to contact the shroud (see the cooling system section above), and can even put undue stress on the power steering lines, which don't have a lot of slack in them.
--Diff mounts and mounting bolts The rear differential mounts to the rear subframe at 3 mounting points. There are 2 rear mounts, and one front one. Worn bushings at these points can cause excessive freeplay in the diff. But the bigger issue is the fact that there is only *one* mount in the front. This mounting bolt (aka, front diff bolt) is prone to breakage under high torque situations. It can, and has broken in completely stock cars. When doing maintenance, it's a good idea to replace the bolt, which costs under $2 from the stealer and takes 60 seconds to swap out with a new one. Waiting for it to break will result in you having to drop the diff to either drill it out or use some other means of removing the sheared off remains from the rear subframe.
The power steering lines feeding the power steering fluid reservoir are VERY prone to leaking. It's not a matter of *if* they will leak, as much as *when* they will. Many many E36's have leaky PS lines. This should not be taken lightly, as running the PS pump or the PS rack low on fluid will damage them. It's a BMW...they're expensive.
The motor, transmission, and diff should be checked for leaks periodically, like any 10-15 year old car.
How common are fluid leaks? I'd consider PS fluid leaks a very high occurrence, low risk issue. I'd consider all other fluid leaks low occurrence, low risk issues. Most leaks will take a while to get bad enough to deplete the fluids to the extent that damage will be done. The E36 is no different from any other car in this respect. Though, given the very high occurrence of PS fluid leaks at the reservoir, that's something you should give a quick look every time you're under the car doing an oil change (your view of the PS fluid reservoir is blocked from above by the stock air box).
Other mechanical issues:
--Oil pump nut
Problem: The S50 and S52 motors have a chain-driven oil pump that is driven by a single sprocket. This sprocket is secured to the oil pump by a single 19mm reverse-threaded nut. This nut has been known to back off, which causes the oil pump sprocket to fall off the shaft, resulting in the oil pump stopping immediately. You have a brief moment after the oil light illuminates to turn the ignition key and stop the motor before it seizes due to oil starvation. Basically, a single 19mm nut can destroy your motor in a matter of seconds.
Solution: Secure the nut with something other than good old fashioned torque. There are 4 main methods by which people secure the nut with more reliable means;
-Safety wire (buy a safety wired nut that can be secured with wire to the sprocket) -Thread locker (must be high-temp, high-strength automotive grade Locktite or equivalent) -Welding (put a small tack weld on it. NOTE: people have started fires doing this, be sure the sprocket is free of oil and/or degreaser first!) -Stake the threads (use a punch or something similar to fold over the threads, so the nut can not back off)
You may use any of these, or any combination of these at your own discretion. There are obvious pros and cons to each method, but any of them (when done right) will alleviate the issue.
How common is this? I'd consider oil pump nut failure a low occurrence, extremely high risk issue. There is NO correlation between vehicle mileage, driving style, environmental factors, production year, or any other factors with the failure of the nut. It's not a high occurrence issue, but it can happen to any E36, at any time. Quote: Originally Posted by fiveightandten View Post
Chassis weak points:
The E36 chassis was the first 3 series chassis that was CAD designed, as opposed to good old fashioned German engineering, and consequently it does have some weak points that made it into production cars.
"Chassis weak points? What do you mean?"
I mean the sheet metal that makes up the car sucks and has been known to fail. Some areas are more prone to failure than others.
"The metal that makes up the car *fails"?!? It's a BMW. I thought they were good cars!"
They are good cars. But this is the point we're trying to make with this entire catalog of information...the car can break, will break, and can be expensive to own if you don't know what you're doing. The car can be expensive to own even if you *do* know what you're doing. You're here to school yourself on the E36 before you buy the car. Emptying out your savings account to buy the E36 on Autotrader that was a great deal won't do you any good if afterwords you find out there are hairline cracks in the RTAB pocket.
"What's an RTAB pocket?"
--Rear shock towers Problem: As we discussed above in the section on rear shock mounts (RSM's), the shock towers are prone to failure. The sheet metal is paper thin. It can and will develop cracks. A cracked tower will have to be torch cut out of the car and replaced completely with a new one. The part is less than $10, but it's the labor that gets you. Most of us are not proficient enough at welding to perform this repair, so you'll be paying a shop to do it for you. Keep an eye on your RSM's, and if you're looking into buying a car it's *strongly* recommended that you inspect the shock towers carefully for cracks before purchasing it.
Solution: Install rear shock tower reinforcement plates on the tops of the shock towers to disperse the force of shock rebound over a larger surface area. These are available from any parts vendor that stocks aftermarket parts and bolt on to the towers with hand tools. Also, the Z3 chassis coupe and roadster had these reinforcement plates from the factory. You can buy those and install them if you wish to get an OEM part from the stealer. Though, they're just metal plates...there is no reason why OEM will be any better than an aftermarket set.
How common are problems with this? I'd consider shock tower failure a moderate occurrence, high risk issue.
--Rear trailing arm bushing (RTAB) pocket Problem: The RTAB is mounted in a metal carrier that bolts to the unibody at 3 points, using threaded bungs that are welded to the body of the car. The sheet metal around these bungs (like the sheet metal in the rest of the car) is weak and has been known to develop cracks and even flat out fail. The RTAB carrier (aka RTAB console) separates from the body completely. I don't think I need to explain how dangerous this is. It has been hypothesized that this is either due to hard track use, and/or due to worn RTAB's, which allow excessive movement of the RTA in the console, causing it to slap up against the metal, which sends mechanical shock through the setup and to the welds around the threaded bungs and unibody.
Solution: Some vendors sell RTAB pocket reinforcements. Welding is required to install these. You will have to drop the RTA, clean the unibody so it's free of undercoat, and weld the reinforcements in. Unless you have the means to turn the car upside down, the welding will be done upside down. This is also tight work with tight tolerances. It needs to be left to a professional that has a lot of experience with similar situations. Your cousin Louie across town (who owns a welder he got at a yard sale and will be happy to "weld that b!tch up for a 6 pack of High Life if you put in a good word for him with your sister") does not qualify as a competent professional.
How common are problems with this? I'd consider RTAB pocket failure a low occurrence, extremely high risk issue.
--Sway bar mounting tabs Problem: The rear sway bars mount to the rear subframe by bolting into small (and consequently weak) tabs integrated into the subframe. These mounting points can develop cracks and even sheer off the subframe completely, leaving you with a dangling sway bar. This is most common with larger and stiffer after market sways, which put more stress on the tabs than stock sways.
Solution: Swaybar mounting tab reinforcements. Again, welding required. Look around at the design of different vendors' swaybar reinforcements. Not all of them are designed the same. I'd go so far as to say that if you plan on running after market sways, the reinforcements are a must.
How common are problems with this? I'd consider swaybar mounting tab failure a very low occurrence, moderate risk issue in a car with OEM swaybars, and a high occurrence moderate risk issue in a car with an aftermarket rear swaybar.
"Problems weak points, and maintenance?! Isn't there anything good about the car?":
I've been trying to stick to the facts about the car, seeing as if you're here looking into one, you likely already know the positive aspects of it. Though, in light of some posts pointing out that most of this information showcases cons of owning the car, here's a little bit of info weighing some of the intangibles of it. This is just one person's account, though i'll try and keep it as objective as possible.
Pros: -The drive train is near bulletproof. The main powertrain components (engine, tranny, diff etc) are extremely robust and hold their own with the best in terms of reliability. Expect a well maintained car to go past 200K miles with pretty much no major issues with the motor, tranny, etc. Even in comparison to Hondas and Toyotas, the internals are more robust than what the Japanese usually have to offer. A BMW will be more finicky with respect to oil changes and quality of the oil you use due to things like hydraulic lifters. But the engines run strong for a long long time.
-The car is a handling monster without compromise in ride quality. With 50/50 weight distribution, a nice limited slip diff out back, fat tires, rear wheel drive, and VERY well thought-out suspension geometry, the car handles with the best of them. It's become a cliche thing to remind people of, but the US E36 M3 was dubbed the "Best handling car at any price" by Car and Driver, in a shootout that included the Acura NSX, Chevy Corvette, Dodge Viper, Ferrari F355, Porsche Boxster, Porsche 911 Carrera S, and the Toyota Supra Turbo. The suspension is set up from the factory to be extremely forgiving and the car is probably easier to drive at the limit than just about any RWD car out there. It also has handling limits that exceed most drivers out on the road. With a few well thought out suspension mods, the E36 chassis can be made to be unstoppable. Google some HPDE vids of E36's on the track and watch a 10 year old car hang around every corner with cars costing orders of magnitude more, with double the horsepower, and an extra 5 or 10 years of engineering behind them. The M3, even in stock form, is a car you can take to the race track, and take your girlfriend's Grandmother out for dinner in, in a single day..without a complaint from you about its handling prowess on the track, or a complaint from Grandma about a harsh ride.
-The car is DIY friendly and has HUGE aftermarket support. Yes, there are problems with the car. it will break, it will cost money to fix. But with the amount of after market resources out there, the amount of parts available, and the number of enthusiasts that are passionate about BMW's, the E36 M3 is an iconic automobile that comes with huge resources at your finger tips with little more than a computer and an internet connection. The car is well thought out and easy to work on. Things are fastened together in a logical fashion that's easy to understand, and you don't have to have midget hands to work on the car.
-It's extremely well balanced. ...And not just in the handling department. The car comes standard with dual zone climate control, an onboard computer, 6 disc CD changer, comfortable seats, one-touch power windows, has nice sized trunk, has comfortable seating for 4, gets good gas mileage, has a quiet and compliant ride...yet will commit un-holy acts between rubber and pavement when called upon, will reach triple digit speeds with ease, and dispatch that speed with brakes that will damn near pull your eyeballs out. Who isn't attracted to the idea of a great handling sports car with enough power to get you in trouble, enough comfort, economy and practicality to daily drive, and a price tag that any enthusiast can live with?
...And the list goes on. The M3 has understated, classy design that seems to defy age, rich heritage, performance that's still on par with todays sports cars, and is about as raw and pure as you can get a sports car to be without introducing compromise in livability. If you want to introduce that compromise and ramp up the performance, there is an army of aftermarket resources at your finger tips to do just that. It's a jack of all trades car that excels in many things, and is deficient at very few. For more pros, see this post: http://www.m3forum.net/m3forum/showp...9&postcount=25
Cons (I know...i'm really stretching to come up with some of these): The steering rack. It drives like a truck. This is a sports car, not a pickup, it's nicely weighted and predictable...but i've driven trucks with quicker steering racks. Go watch an AutoX event one day. Watch the drivers of other sports cars as they pilot through the course smoothly and fluidly. Watch the E36 drivers frantically trying to wrestle the steering wheel around every corner, going hand over hand at corners where most cars just need minimal input to negotiate it. The good news is, the racks form other BMWs can be swapped in easily. The bad news is, they're other BMWs...they're not cheap.
The body roll. If there's one critique we'd have to make about the handling of a stock M3, it's the body roll. The springs are progressive, the sways allow for a lot of fore to aft travel. The car rides nice...but it dives into corners like a Caddy loaded with Sopranos. Again, some springs and thicker sways dial it out easily. But in stock form, it'll get you seasick. This is all relative, as you'll likely never experience this on public roads. But for those of us that AutoX or track the car, it's an annoyance.
It's German, it's quirky. The car doesn't have tilt steering. It beeps at you when the ambient temperatures reach the freezing point of water at German altitudes. It beeps at you if your washer fluid is low, if you have a brake light out, or if your brake pads are nearing their end. Yet, the car has no indicator to let you know you've just activated the cruise control system. It doesn't have any indicator to let you know there's a door ajar, or the trunk is open and flapping in the wind as you drive down the highway with your cargo flying out the back. It will give you little to no warning if it's overheating. The stock lights may as well be lanterns on a Ford Model A. It's grumpy in the cold, it will make weird noises you'll never figure out. You will constantly maintain it, clean it, and look it over in search of attaining perfection that just isn't possible with a 10 year old car.
It's predictably unpredictable. You've read about all the common problems, all the issues you should look out for. But you go out and buy one anyways. And it looks perfect, it drives perfect, you're in a state of sheer bliss with it day after day as the weeks pass by and the ownership experience is everything you could've hoped it would...DING DING DING, "Huh? Brake light circuit failure?" :facepalm: And that's far from the last thing you'll be literally standing on your head to replace. But somehow, you can't bear to get upset with the car for it. It comes with the territory and if anyone here didn't think the little annoyances and the maintenance were worth what you get in return from it, this website wouldn't even be here. Enough about cons. There are very few.
How does it do on gas?
The car requires premium fuel, and will normally do anywhere from low 20's to high 20's depending on driving style and situation. I consistently get 22-23 MPG combined highway/city with mostly spirited driving. I consistently get 27-28MPG highway with normal highway cruising. I've gotten as high as 30-31MPG highway, and as low as 17MPG city with a real heavy right foot.
What about tires?
As an FYI, the 1995 M3 was the only one released in NA that has a squared tire setup (all 4 are the same size). The 1996+ cars have a staggered setup with 225 width tires up front and 245's in the back. What does this mean? No tire rotation for the 96+ cars in stock form.
People normally get anywhere from 10K miles to 30K miles out of a set of tires. The car goes through them quick. Most people will go through a set of tires in 20K miles.
The above was borrowed from http:///www.m3forums.net in the hopes that we can save ourselves from new people with dreams of N0S & Forced Induction, and of anything to do with the Fast & The Furious.
Useful Links for your BMW
Useful links for your BMW. Section I, (Or the stuff that you need to know)
Manuals (Found and shared by BBoyvek) BMW Manuals
This one went missing...
That which is interchangable, and that which isn't.
Common Issues aka "Things your car will experience" http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/showthread.php?t=30931
Finding a part: Real OEM BMW Fans (My favourite)
OBC Tricks Here
Fault Codes Compiled here Colour List for All BMW's: Franklyns' List
Tech Data, M3 http://www.bmw-m.net/techdata/95m3.htm
Engine Specs/Chassis Info: -Found by Franklyn, though I doubt he remembers that long ago... http://wapedia.mobi/en/BMW_E36
Section II (Things to do)
Project Sites Ron Stygar's Unofficial BMWBoredom DIY's
Leather Repair Leatherique Canada A good DIY on repairing leather
HLM (Home Depot Lip Mod) This is the stuff Sama talks about. I can't find Sama's, but here's Franks write-up
Courtesy of Tom a Front bumper visual mod: Grill
Low Beam Failure: I found this randomly
Debaffle Airbox Brazeau Racing - Air box
Section III (For the non-lazy bastard buried inside each of you)
DIY Sites http://www.dvatp.com/bmw/diy/ Bimmer DIYPelican Parts
Specific DIY's Door Brake (Dude named jarozila) Here
Your Steering Wheel Squeaks; (either fix the damn thing or accept your life) (by acoustic) Spray here
Coilover install/adjustments (Nemeces) Here.
HVAC Blower motor http://www.dvatp.com/bmw/diy/hvac_blower/
ASC Delete, (Mainly for track cars, not safe for a DD - if I'm giving this a disclaimer...) From the lair of the enemy
Courtesy of Randy; The Rear Shock Mount DIY Well done
...And the infamous Black roof on AW Vinyl: Not so much
Fix Loose Door Panels Us and Them
Headliner Glue (Amber and Stephen wax philosophical). This helped me tons in deciding on what adhesive to use.
A/C Fixes (Words of wisdom by drivinfaster). Someone might mistakenly call this wisdom anyways.
Brake Light Circuit http://cparente.wordpress.com/2010/0...-strikes-back/
Fuel Pump (Jim Spence doing what Jim Spence does. Helps us out). Go Jim, go Jim... or http://www.unitedbimmer.com/forums/b...placement.html
Head Gasket Replacement 8 out of 10 Good luck for those who attempt this. Can you will me your car?
Cleaning the ICV 318:
Removing the ICV & CCV (Crankcase Valve) 6 cyl: (For cleaning, use the 318 writeup)
Door won't latch? This is a good writeup, as posted by BMX325i in Amber's assistance
Repairing door handle http://forums.bimmerforums.com/forum...d.php?t=709257
Section IV Electrical work (When you screw this up, it tends to hurt)
Wiring Angel Eyes Chad's Angel Eyes DIY
Alarm Install Hmm... Clark should have done one of these Dead Pixels http://www.macadamizer.com/bmwfix.html
Created by Clark; The Official Lighting Thread. Well written.
Quote: Originally Posted by advertisehere View Post http://www.frankies-bmw.com/3series/diy_index.php here are some climate control computer tests http://www.gbnetwork.co.uk/bmw/clima...rolrepair.html Fan controller broken on later cars: most people do this: http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=143393 But should try this first: http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=309399
and section IV dead pixels is actually the climate control computer fix Thanks Terry
Section V Detailing: Making pretty out of what you have
Andy's Detailing Guide (Nothing derogatory to say here, he do good) Andy's Guide
Curb rash: Shh... this is from an Audi
Section VI Simply interesting Articles: (It's not all smart, but it's fun to read)
Yearly changes http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/showthread.php?t=30931 http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=439972 http://jalopnik.com/5497042/how-a-50...yline=true&s=i http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=419165
Section VII Suspension (Making your car go up/down no more than it is supposed to)
To think about***********: http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...highlight=seat
Section VIII Everything Wheels: (Something something something goes round and round, round and round, round and round)
Finding hard to find bolts etc: http://www.sfxperformance.com/catalo...lts/page_1.htm
Section XI Tire sizes, (the other things that go 'round)
Courtesy of Ken Offset and bolt help here
Tire size/speed changes here