(Far too) Frequently Asked Questions

Should I buy red/clear turn signals and taillights off of eBay for $10?
If you buy your taillights off of eBay or from some crummy website, you're bound to get a big pile of garbage. I've heard enough horror stories about a certain company who's name starts with P and ends with roCarParts.com to recommend that you stay away from them. If you want the Euro style red/clear taillight, spend a few extra dollars and get the real OE BMW lights. They look better, fit better and work better. The best pricing I've found on them is from Circle BMW. Also note that coupes/converts, sedans and compact E36 models all use different taillights. Also converts use the coupe front turn signals and compacts use the sedan front turn signals. Now say you order your buy your junk turn signals from some fly-by-night company on eBay gloating to yourself about how you saved $20, but they send you the wrong ones for your car....

Which M3 mirrors fit my 318ti?
The sedan (4 door) mirrors fit the 318ti. The coupe mirrors do NOT fit. In addition the 318ti uses the sedan hood and fenders too.

What's the best SSK?
If you've got a 318, 323 or 325 then a 328/M3 or Z3 lever works very well. Several companies have spent a lot of time designing gimmicks to improve 328/M3 SSKs, but really haven't done anything fancy for 318/323/325 levers (update: UUC redesigned their USSE3 with a special ERK). Not that they need to, mind you. A 328/M3 lever in a 318/323/325 works great, 33% reduction in shift throw and it's really quite smooth.

Now the 328/M3 lever is where things get interesting. Personally I think a bent M-Roadster lever works fine, but to some folks it feels too notchy. So all the big names in SSKs spend every waking hour coming up with new ways to make 328/M3 SSKs shift smoother. Pretty much all of them use an aluminum ring to alter the pivot point to align the selector rod. One company uses a heavy selector rod so that momentum carries the shifter through the gears. Another uses special bearings where the selector rod connects to the lever. Then yet another completely replaces the entire shift linkage setup, but charges nearly $1000. Which is the best? Who cares? Every time you ask the question you're going to get 5 people saying brand X is best, 5 people saying brand Y is best and a couple people saying brand Z is best. What good does that do? Nothing. You're just as likely to be happy with any of them, so quit trying to get other people to make up your mind for you.

Which exhaust is best?
Short answer: Stromung or UUC. Just shut up and buy one :)

Long answer: there's no "best exhaust". Every E36 exhaust looks and sounds different. There's not a huge performance gain to be had, less than 10hp over a stock E36 M3 muffler, and all the GOOD aftermarket systems perform about the same. If someone claims that exhaust brand X made 25hp they are lying. So what exhaust choice comes down to is how it looks and how it sounds. Some people like DTM tips, others hate them. Some people like loud exhaust, others hate them. I'd recommend finding someone in your area that has the exhaust you're interested in so you can see it and, more importantly, hear it in person. Just because a bunch other guys bought brand X doesn't mean that you're going to like it.

Will an aftermarket 325/328/M3 exhaust fit my 318/323?
No. 318/323 exhausts use a single pipe between the catalytic converter and the muffler while 325/328/M3 exhausts use dual pipes. You need to get an exhaust that is designed for your car for it to bolt up properly. I suppose you could have a muffler shop cut apart the exhaust and weld in a Y pipe to connect the system to your car, but it's not a great idea to cut up an expensive stainless steel exhaust system when you could just buy one that actually fits instead.

Why are the tips on my aftermarket 325/328/M3 exhaust touching the left side of my bumper valance?
This is caused by the the most common exhaust installation error. The right side muffler pipe on these models slides over the right side catalytic converter outlet, the left side pipe butts up against the left side catalytic converter outlet. If you don't have the right side pipe pushed on to the catalytic converter pipe far enough the whole system will pull over to the left when you start cranking down on the left side bolts. To properly install your exhaust you need to push the right side pipe on as far as possible, you may even need to knock the gasket ring loose and slide it farther on to the catalytic convert pipe too. Once you get the right side pipes pushed together as far as possible, slip the left side gasket ring between the muffler and catalytic converter pipes, thread together the bolts to keep the ring from falling out, but don't tighten the bolts more than finger tight yet. Finally have a friend hold your exhaust tips centered in your rear valance while tightening each bolt a couple turns at a time until they're all tight. Don't just crank down on the bolts one at a time or the alignment will end up out of whack.

How do I get more power out of my 318?
There's only one easy way to significantly improve the HP output of your 318, a Downing Atlanta supercharger. An aftermarket intake and exhaust will gain you less than 10hp on the 318. Yes it sucks, but it's true. You can spend $1500 or more on intakes, exhausts, chip/software, etc and only end up with a 15hp gain or you can spend $3500 on the DASC and end up with a 70hp gain. Have you noticed that the well-known cold air intake companies don't make a 318 intake? It's not because they don't like you, it's because CAIs don't make any power on a 318 and they flat out don't sound good. BMW's I6 motors make a nice growl with a CAI, the M42/M44 I4 motors do not. Jim Conforti described it best when he said that a 318 with a cone filter "sounds like a wheezing donkey". Just save your money for a DASC, it's WELL worth it. If you insist on taking the cheap route and want to attempt an intake mod, your best bet is "Fogging" your stock air box.

How quick is my car since I did x, y and z to it?
If you want to know how quick your car is in the standing 1/4 mile, go to a drag strip, run your car and look at the little slip of paper they hand you afterwards. That's how quick your car is. Stop speculating on the Internet about how quick your car should be, go find out. It's cheap too, usually ~$10 for a day of racing.

My air bag light stays on for two minutes, what the hell?
Pretty common. Usually it's because the SRS system detected a fault in one of the seat belt latches. Even if it never detects another fault, the light will not reset itself, only the dealer (or the Peake SRS tool) can reset it. Some refer to that light as the "give BMW $75 light". The latches are junk. You can either replace them after a fault is detected or take your chances at just having the light reset and waiting for it to trigger a fault again before spending the money. Regardless, your SRS system will still work in an accident. If your SRS light stays on all the time and never shuts off then you may have a major fault and your system may not work in an accident.

What coolant should I use?
If your current coolant is blue or green, then do NOT use the pink/red/orange coolant. The two types do not play well together and will combine to form a thick sludge that is almost impossible to get out of your engine. As far as what brand of coolant, you can use what you want, but I recommend using BMW coolant. The coolant should be replaced every two years, so BMW coolant is only $5/year more than brand X from the auto parts store.

My engine overheated, what the hell?
From '92 through early '97 BMW used water pumps with orange plastic impellers in ALL 32X and M3 motors. Over time that plastic becomes brittle, breaks and stops pumping water. Usually it does so with ZERO warning and at an inopportune moment, like cruising though the ghetto at 3am. Anyways when your water pump blows ups your car will overheat, your thermostat will die and your radiator may crack from the high pressure built up inside. The dealer will charge you a ton of money. Your best bet is to change the water pump before it blows up. If you are not 110% sure that you do not still have a orange plastic impeller water pump in your engine, CHANGE IT NOW! There is absolutely, positively NO way to tell which water pump type you have without REMOVING the water pump from the motor. There are NO external marking on the water pumps to distinguish one from another. If you read this, and you don't change your water pump, and your water pump blows up, and you whine on the Internet that the dealer charged you $1000 to fix everything.... I'm going to laugh and say, "I told you so!" Avoid the cost and embarrassment, change your water pump. BimmerParts.com sells "OEM" metal impeller water pumps for ~$50, however they've been know to suffer premature bearing failures. Better yet opt for one of the higher quality composite impeller water pumps from a BMW dealer or from understeer.com, they're under $100 and are well worth the added cost.

Booohooo BMW parts are too expensive!?!
Join the BMWCCA to get a discount from your local BMW dealer's parts department or buy your parts from bimmerparts.com or pacificbmw.com. BimmerParts sells OEM parts which may not be as high of quality as the OE parts sold by a real BMW dealer like Pacific, keep that in mind when purchasing critcal parts.

How does this fake fiberglass M3 bumper bolt on?
No one knows. It turns out there is only one of those bumpers in existence and it is being sold over and over to different people after they realize that there is no way to bolt it on to their car. You're much better off buying a real M3 front bumper kit. PacificBMW.com sells a front bumper retrofit kit for ~$300 that includes the correct brake ducts and the moldings. The only other parts you'll need are a grill (you can choose slat or mesh style) and the "wedge sections" that cover the area under the fog lights. Those parts add up to ~$70. Now I'm sure that you can find a fiberglass M3 bumper on eBay for less than $370, but remember to add up the extra cost in prepping low quality fiberglass for painting and installation. The real M3 bumper takes very little prep work before painting and installs easily with a perfect fit. Body shop labor is very expensive and the work to make a fiberglass bumper fit can quickly exceed the saving from the initial bumper purchase.

What do I do about bulb failure warnings when upgrading to xenon?
Modern headlight circuits can be very temperamental when replacing halogen bulbs with HID/xenon systems. The check control systems can even vary greatly between cars. For instance, you can install a HID system in one E39 and it will work with no problems and no complaints, yet the same system can cause constant "bulb out" warnings in a second E39. Other cars will even shut down power to the headlight circuit if the system detects lower than normal current draw, examples include some E46 and E90 models. We've also heard reports of E36s that will display "low beam failure" warning messages after upgrading to HID, even when halogen bulbs are reconnected.

Note that before returning a kit for warranty service, it's always a good idea to determine whether the problem is actually with the kit or with your car's check control system. The best way to test your kit is to connect the ballasts directly to the battery's terminals either using the kits plug-and-play harness (easy with H1/H7 kits) or by using a 9006 pigtail (~$3 from any auto parts store). If the ballast powers up fine when connected directly to battery power, then the fault likely lies with the car's headlight circuit.

In models that had HID as a factory option (E46/E39 and later), when upgrading the low beams, your best option may be to have a dealer reprogram your car with the xenon option. That disables the halogen bulb resistance check and the circuit power disruption resulting from that check.

In older cars without a factory xenon option, when reprogramming isn't available or when upgrading foglight bulbs, plug-in LBF eliminator modules may solve your problems. The modules add resistance and capacitance to the circuit making the load on the circuit appear more like a halogen bulb, even while the HID ballasts are powered down. That is important cars such as the E39 that check resistance before the headlights are even turned on. The LBF modules may prevent issues with increasingly fragile check control systems in aging E36s too.

Another option which prevents flickering and ballast shut down on some E46, E90 and Dodge models is wiring a 4700uF capacitor in parallel with the HID ballast. The capacitors are available for $5 each from Radio Shack and must be custom installed to the car's wiring or to the HID kit's plug-and-play wiring. The capacitor's leads are marked with + and - which must match up with the 12v+ and ground wires going in to the ballast.

In other cases, especially with cheaper imports and older cars, the headlight wiring is incapable of providing sufficient start up voltage and current. In those cases a relay harness is necessary to prevent the voltage from dropping too low when the ballasts first ignite the bulbs. The relay harness connects directly to the battery terminals and then uses the headlight circuit only to switch power from the battery to the HID ballasts.

The ultimate fix for your particular car may be any one of the above options or maybe a combination of the those options. For instance, you may need to use a relay harness to supply adequate start up current, but then need LBF modules plugged in between the factory wiring and the relays to prevent a false bulb out warning. Trial and error is often the only way to be sure.

My Euro E36 headlights are fogging up, where's the leak?
Loosen up the top two headlight mounting screws and make sure the plastic body adjustment nuts that they screw in to are unscrewed enough to be flush with the headlight's mounting ears. If the nuts aren't level, when you tighten the screws down, the rear half of the headlight twists away from the rigid lens assembly causing a leak.

My buddy's '93 325 chip will work fine in my '95 325, right?
Probably not. BMW included EWS-2 on all E36 cars built 1/95 and later. EWS-2 is a antitheft system that works by coding a chip in the ignition key to the DME (engine computer). Chips for 12/94 and earlier cars do not work in 1/95 and later cars. Also '92 325 models did not have VANOS (variable valve timing) so those chips are different too. You're really best off calling the manufacturer of a used chip to confirm that it will work in YOUR car before buying it. An even better idea is to just buy a new chip. If you save $50, but end up with a chip that doesn't work, what have you saved?

Where can I get a chip for my 328?
Nowhere. '96 and up BMWs use OBD-2 engine electronics and do not have a socketed chip like the earlier models. To update the DME (engine computer) for better performance you need to load new software in to it. Since the software is more complex than burning chips there are fewer companies that provide performance software for OBD-2 cars. Each company has a different way to update your software. Some require you to send them your DME, some require you to take your car to an authorized vendor that has special equipment to plug in to your car and others just send you a little "black box" that plugs in to your car to update the software.

Why can't I install a XXXX suspension kit on my '92 325?
Up to 5/92 BMW used different style front strut mounts then they used on the later 325/323/328 cars. If you want to install struts or a coil over suspension kit designed for 6/92+ cars on your early '92 325, you'll need to install the newer style strut mounts, upper spring plates and few other parts (which are all included in the suspension update kit). If your 325 was built before 11/91 then you'll also need a newer style front sway bar and end links due to another design change.

Can I install E36 M3 sway bars on my '92 325?
If your 325 was built before 11/91 then you can use an E36 M3 front sway bar. Early '92 325 models have brackets on the strut housings that the sway bar end links attach to, just like the E36 M3. Later 325 models use a different sway bar end link system that is incompatible with E36 M3 front sway bars.

The rear sway bars are interchangeable between all years and models of E36's except for the 318ti and the Z3

Model Front
Sway Bar
Sway Bar
pre 11/91 325 22.5mm 17mm
'95 M3 22.5mm 19mm
'96-'99 E36 M3 23mm 20mm

How can I upgrade the clutch in my 318/323/325/328?
Sachs makes sport clutches for most E36 models, however they can be very expensive compared to the standard Sachs clutch kits. The E36 M3 clutch has very good clamping force (~350hp) and can be purchased for about $240 from bimmerparts.com. The trick is you'll need an M3 flywheel to match. Your options are either an aftermarket aluminum lightweight M3 flywheel or an OEM M3 dual mass flywheel. With the aluminum M3 flywheel your car will accelerate much quicker through first and second gears because of the reduced rotating mass, but you may experience some rattling from the tranny at idle in neutral. Any E36 M3 flywheel will bolt right up to any other E36 motor with no modification or fabrication needed, just bolt it on. I'd recommend a '96+ 3.2L M3 clutch kit instead of a '95 M3 clutch kit due to changes in the pressure plate. If you have a 318 or a 1.9L Z3, you'll need to buy a '96 M3 clutch release fork. You should also install an E36 M3 (any year) clutch slave cylinder to reduce pedal effort.

A new, and even better option, is UUC's Stage 2 flywheel which uses an E34 M5 clutch. The M5 clutch has even better clamping force than the E36 M3 clutch and offers a lighter pedal effort and reduced gearbox noise. The price difference between the M3 and the M5 clutch is about $100, but you don't need a to use a M3 slave cylinder with it, resulting in only about a $50 net price difference.

Can I resurface my original dual mass flywheel?
No. See, Sach's technical information

How do I bleed my BMW's cooling system?
It really helps to have a friend lend a hand by sitting in the car revving the motor and keeping an eye on the temp gauge. Start off by removing the coolant reservoir cap and the plastic bleeder screw right next to it. Fill the coolant reservoir with a 50/50 mix of coolant and distilled water. Have your friend start the car, turn on the heater to full hot on the vent position and rev the motor to about 2500 RPM, if the temp gauge goes past the 12 o'clock position, shut the motor off, let it cool down and start over again. Watch the coolant reservoir, as the engine warms up the coolant level should drop, refill as the coolant is sucked out of the reservoir. Watch the bleeder screw hole also, when coolant with no air bubbles begins to overflow then you're almost done. It's a good idea to have some paper towels handy to mop up any overflow. Screw the bleeder screw back in (be careful to not break the plastic screw) and continue to rev the motor, you should see a continuous stream of coolant spraying in to the reservoir from the small hole at the top. Continue letting that spray in to the reservoir while your friend revs the motor for a couple of minutes, until the gauge hits the 12 o'clock mark, to ensure any remaining air is gone. If the heater is blowing hot air when you're revving the motor AND when the engine is at idle then your cooling system is properly bled. If your vents are blowing cool air at idle then you still have air in the system, try revving the motor more and/or squeeze the radiator hoses to help dislodge any trapped air. Once your system is fully bled, top off the reservoir and replace the cap. Check the coolant level in a day or two and top off as needed.

I bled my hydraulic clutch system, but it's still not quite working?
To completely bleed the slave cylinder you have to do the following after using the pedal-pump or pressure bleeding methods:
1) Unbolt the slave cylinder from the gearbox
2) Attach a tube from the bleeder screw to a small bottle
3) Hold the slave cylinder so that the bleeder screw is pointing straight up*
4) Open the bleeder screw
5) Push the rod/piston all the way in to the slave cylinder
6) While holding the rod/piston in, close the bleeder
7) Repeat steps #4-#6 two or three times
8) Ditch the tube and old fluid.
9) Bolt the slave cylinder back in place, be very careful that the tip of the rod lines up with the indentation on the fork
*Very important

What the heck are those hoses running in to my air box? ('92-'95 32X/M3)
Those are coolant lines and the device they connect to is a thermostat that controls flow of engine coolant to the throttle body to keep the throttle body from icing up in cold weather. If you're replacing the air box with a cold air intake, mount the thermostat so that it is as close as possible to being in the stream of air entering the motor. At the very least try to have the tip of the thermostat inside the heat shield. Don't just disconnect the thermostat because you'll end up dumping coolant all over your floor.

Can I install XXXXX myself?
Dunno. For example, if you have trouble pumping your own gas, then you are probably too mechanically inept to install your own flywheel and clutch. Only YOU know how mechanically skilled you are. You should start with small jobs and work your way up. Whatever your skill level, make sure you have the right tools for the job.

Okay jackass, stop typing in slang. No one that actually knows anything will waste their time trying to decipher what you just typed. Oh this might help you though,

How does ur exhaust sound like?
Holy crap! Are English classes no longer required in US high schools? There are two ways that question would have made any sense, "How does your exhaust sound?" or "What does your exhaust sound like?" Please don't combine the two in to a meaningless cluster of words and pathetic attempts at acronyms.

Some helpful examples....
UR - The ur is an extinct European wild bovine.
YOUR - Your posts look ridiculous when you use ur in place of real words.
YOU'RE - You're going to look foolish if you keep typing ur.
THERE - My keys are over there.
THEY'RE - They're going to kick your ass if you type ur one more time.
THEIR - Their desire to not look stupid precludes them from typing ur.
TO - They are headed to the track.
TOO - You've typed ur one too many times!
TWO - Your is only two letters more to type than ur.

Don't forget, dictionary.com is your friend.