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BMW Tech Letters

Mar 19, 2003

Tire Choice
I own a 1989 BMW 325is, which has had just about all the work you can do to one of these cars done on it. The latest modification was a custom turbo set up, which is working out great except that I could use some stickier tires. The wheels are 7x16-in. BBS RKs with 205/50-16 Falken tires. The Falkens have been great, but they can't really take the extra power of the turbo. I was thinking of just using Pilot Sports, but I was wondering what you guys thought? Should I try and squeeze on 215s or 225s on the rear? I haven't been able to find a 7.5x16- or 8x18-in. BBS RK that fits my car.
Thanks for your help.
Attila Szilagyi
via the Internet

You don't say which Falkens you have on the car now, but I would recommend you try some higher technology performance tires. Falkens are fine for the money, but they are not the hottest setup out there in terms of technology or performance. You're obviously not concerned with expense, and where cost is no concern it is hard to beat the Michelin Pilot Sport. You also didn't elaborate on the nature of the tire problem you feel you're having. But my feeling is the size of the tires and particularly the width of the contact patch, not the construction, is what may be giving you issues.

The E30 3 Series is extremely versatile in terms of tire sizing, able to run 14-, 15-, 16-, and 17-in. tires. However, getting a wide contact patch while maintaining the proper overall tire height is another matter. The widest tire you can run on an E30, assuming proper offset and a willingness to roll fender and quarter panel lips if necessary, is 225/50-15 on a 7x15-in. wheel. I've never seen anything larger than that without fender flares. In terms of profile, the hottest setup is 215/40-17 on 7.5x17-in wheels, which given correct offset will not rub the stock bodywork. If you're set on the BBS RKs, try some better tires and see what happens. But on balance, I would say 215/40-17 is probably best suited to your car in terms of contact patch width and tire profile.

Now, 7x15-in. E30 wheels are easy to find--the factory even has two different styles you can order through dealerships. But finding 7.5x17-in. E30 wheels with 4x100 bolt patterns in the proper offset so as to avoid spacers is more difficult. I would recommend you get with www.tirerack.com or www.tires.com and see what is available. Also bear in mind this setup is likely to be a great deal heavier than the original wheel and tire assemblies. Keep close tabs on wheel bearings and suspension parts, and consider swapping in E30 M3 aluminum control arms for a 4.4-lb weight savings per side. The E30 offset control arm bushings, which may be used with steel control arms too, are also wonderful things. Either job will necessitate a front end alignment to reset the toe.

I would not recommend staggering the tire and wheel sizes front to rear unless you don't care about maintaining correct tire height and don't care about creating a grossly understeering car. And they would probably rub, too.


Timing Chain or Belt
I have a 1991 BMW 318is. Does this car have a timing chain or belt? What is the recommended change interval? The car now has 122k on her.
Thanks in advance,
Dan Smith
via the Internet

The 1991 318is has a timing chain, not a timing belt. On this engine, the timing chain normally only needs to be replaced at engine rebuild time, or during the course of a valve job while the cylinder head is removed. However, the timing chain TENSIONER can be problematic on the M42 engine--it is normal to have to replace this part, 1. whenever it is removed for any reason, or 2. if the timing chain rattles when the engine is warm. Running the engine with a worn out timing chain tensioner can cause the timing chain to break or "jump time."

Timing chain rattle sounds like a sewing machine. The best I can tell you is, you know the way the M42 engine sounds when it's cold, and then it smoothes out when warm? Well, if it starts to sound like it's cold when it's warm, then that's timing chain rattle.

BMW Engine Timing Belt Applications
(The following BMW engines have timing belts; all others use timing chains)
M20 engine, 2.-0, 2.-3, 2.-5 or 2.7- liter six-cylinder sohc applications (including Touring and Cabriolet)
* E12 body non-U.S.: 520, 520i, 525, 525i
* E21 body non-U.S.: 320, 320/6, 323i
* E30 body non-U.S.: 320, 320i, 323i, 325e, 325i, 325iX
* E30 body U.S.: 325e, 325, 325i (1987-1991 [1992 cabrio]), 325iX
* E34 body U.S.: 525i up to (not including) 1992 only

M21 engine, 2.4- liter sohc diesel, normally aspirated or turbocharged applications (including Touring & Cabriolet)
* E30 body non-U.S.: 325td
* E28 body U.S.: 524td

M40 engine, 1.6, 1.8-liter four-cylinder sohc applications (including Touring & Cabriolet)
* E12 body non-U.S.: 518, 518i
* E21 body non-U.S.: 316, 318, 318i
* E30 body non-U.S.: 316, some 318 and 318i * E36 body non-U.S.: 316i, some 318i (including compact), 316p (propane fuel)
* E46 body non-U.S.: 318i

M41 1.6-liter sohc diesel, turbocharged
* E36 body non-U.S.: 316td (compact), 316


Is It an M20?
Maybe you can help me out. I recently purchased a European-specification 1983 323i.from a friend of mine. Being new to BMWs I have no idea about them. My question to you is, do I have the M20 engine? And is this an M series?
Thanks for your help.
Scott A. Rapach
via the Internet

Yes, Scott, you do have a version of the M20 sohc six-cylinder engine. Be advised this engine is equipped with a timing belt, which must be replaced along with it's tensioner every five years or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first. Timing belt failure on this engine will mean bent valves at best, a blown engine at worst.

For background reading on your new friend, I recommend you pick up a copy of the BMW 3 Series Enthusiasts Companion by Jeremy Walton (Robert Bentley, Publishers). It is available from many of our advertisers, from the publiser (www.bentleypublishers.com) or online at your favorite bookstore.

Your 323i is not an M car. While there is debate over which BMW is the seminal M car--the 3.0 CSL or the M1, modern M cars always have an M prefix such as M3, M5, M coupe, M roadster, etc. The E21 body 3 Series did not have an M version, but your late-production 323i is the hottest E21 ever made.

Technically, the car is covered by the new BMW Mobile Tradition E21 3 Series Repair CD, BMW part number 01 56 0 030 282. BMW Mobile Tradition also has a parts CD covering this car and many other vintage models, part number 72 00 0 147 437. You might also consider joining the BMW Car Club of America (www.bmwcca.org). Best of luck with this excellent peformance car!


An 02 in Need of TLC
I have a 1972 BMW 2002, which is in dire need of work. The car is 30 years old now and really needs some TLC. The car is rusting, which means we need paint work, and the interior as well needs reupholstering. This car has been in my family for three generations now. My grandfather had it, then he gave it to my father, and now I have it. The only problem is, that in order to get this work done, I need money, which I do not have. I am only 17 and am too busy to work. I was wondering if you might be interested in sponsoring me in the restoring of this priceless symbol of BMW's heritage. I would love to hear back from you regardless.Thank you so much for your time, and I love your magazine.
Cary Morgan
Los Angeles, California

Thank you for the heartfelt note and for the compliment, Cary. But you know what we're going to tell you, right? The biggest thing your poor 2002 needs is you to have a JOB. What do you suppose your father and grandfather would say about you're being "too busy to work?" We're not insensitive to the demands of modern teenage academic struggles. However, you should try to balance two things in terms of time management.

First, your teenage years have the potential to be the best or the worst years of your life. Take time to smell the gasoline, and make them the best years.

Second, procuring remuneration for services rendered will be the focus of your remaining years. There's no better time to start than now. You live in one of the biggest economic opportunity areas of the country. We suggest you take full advantage of it.

Your letter is well-written--better than some we receive from professionals in their forties. You're obviously a smart person. Submit a resume here if you want. We're in Placentia. The address is on the magazine masthead.

There. Now that we've been nice...SPONSOR YOU? WHAT ARE YOU, NUTS? Hey, I want a sponsor, too, Cary! I suffer from chronic Bimmertosis, and occasional severe bouts of 911 fever. Sometimes I wake up and think I'm a 3 Series, then I look down and see an automatic shifter and realize it's only a nightmare. My eyes are like two pissholes in the snow, and my fingers conform to the shape of computer keys. I read BMW classified ads the way successful people read stock market reports. My motorcycle wants to leave me for a younger owner, and the Greens Party wants to outlaw all my cars. My last date was sometime in the mid-1990s, and she was so big she broke the seat in my 2002. Do you know what it takes to break a 2002 seat, Cary? DO YOU? You think your '02 has problems? Mine is at a restoration shop in New Freaking Hampshire, and it's like I played the lottery and lost--a thousand bucks a month for life, outgoing! Think you can help me out--you know, after you get that job?


Seating Now Available
I am the proud owner of a 1984 318i. It is all original, but unfortunately the seats are shot. I found some in a wrecking yard in a 1991 325es or is and I was wondering can I use them in my car? Can you tell me which seats I can use and what the years of cars I can get them from? I cannot restore the original seats because of the driver side seat is broken, and I can't afford new seats. Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated. I am not an auto repair person; I am going to be a first time grandma!
Thank You!
Sue
via the Internet
0

No problem, Sue. You can use any front or rear seats from any E30 3 Series BMW (1984 to 1991, 1992 for the convertibles). Swapping out seats in an E30 is very simple--each seat has only four bolts. All you'll need is a 1/4-in.-drive ratchet, a short extension, a 10mm socket, and four new wave washers. The torque specification is 10 lb-ft--not very tight. Even if you pay a professional BMW technician to do the swap, it should not take longer than 30 minutes or so unless there is a problem with the seat track mechanisms.

By the way, that 1991 BMW you found would be a 325is, not a 325es, and it came with very nice sport seats.


Dangerous Fuel Leak
I have a 1994 BMW 318i is with 160,000 miles. I have owned the car for about a year now and have not had too many problems. Tonight I pulled my car out of the garage to give it a quick wash. During the wash, I noticed my CD player skipping, almost like my battery was dying. I turned the music off and noticed a kind of mechanical/buzzing noise and a lot of fluid (which I assumed was water) leaking from under my engine. I soon realized that it was not water; it is gasoline. I tried starting my car to move it out of my driveway, but it just made some clicking noises and then died. My car is now outside of my house just making clicking/sputtering/buzzing noises and draining the remainder of my gas tank. The "check engine" light is conveniently illuminated and will not go out. I was just hoping I could get some kind of idea on how much I was to be gouged, because I am only in high school. Thanks you for your time.
Ryan
Via the Internet

You obviously have a fuel leak, most likely from the supply or retorn hose under the hood. I would suspect the hose going into or our of the fuel rail or the fuel pressure regulator. The exact location of the leak will be easy for a technician to spot. Be advised these 8mm hoses are special high-temperture neoprene hoses which must be ordered from BMW. "Auto store" quality hose will fail quickly. In fact we very rarely hear of these new style neoprene fuel hoses springing a leak. Underhood fuel hose replacement on the E36 318i is straightforward, and should not cost very much. I would say you're looking at $20 in parts and maybe one hour of labor.

Ryan's car illustrates the wisdom or replacing fuel and water hoses preventatively. I've always recommended a preventative fuel and water hose replacement interval of 150,000 miles on BMWs.

Also, when you have an obvious gasoline leak, you should NEVER attempt to start the car. Shut it off at once, and leave it off until the leak is repaired. It is possible for a piece of compromised electrical insulation to lead to a spark and a fuel fire.


Euro M3 Motor
I own a 1996 BMW 328is. I recently purchased a 1996 European-specification M3 engine, which came with all accessories, including the ECU, wiring harness, and clutch. I know I have to purchase an expansion tank for the radiator, a European instrument cluster, and a European exhaust system. I was wondering if you knew of anything else that I will require making this swap work. Any information at all will be helpful.
Justin
Jacksonville, Florida

Justin, it sounds like you have the bases covered in terms of the engine installation, but I've never done the swap and I don't know anyone who has, so I can't say for sure. As with any engine swap, things will probably crop up along the way and you'll be calling the dealer to order some parts. On the exhaust, you may wish to consider a Supersprint system for the European-specification E36 M3, which will likely cost you less than the factory setup.

Some additional considerations are the rest of the drivetrain, in particular the ZF S5D 250G manual gearbox, which is not as strong as the ZF S5D 310Z used in U.S.-specifcation E36 M3s. The higher-powered European models, of course, had a six-speed manual. But six gears doesn't necessarily translate into a beefier gearbox. I would say you should run high quality synthetic lubricants in the gearbox and differential, and if the former eventually fails, you should replace it with the stronger U.S. M3 unit, along with the appropriate driveshaft. Forget about finding a six-speed on the used market in the U.S. You should also consider that your differential, if the car has ASC, is not a limited slip unit. And it's ratio is 2.93, which is a far cry from the 1996 M3s 3.23.

The wheels, tires, brakes, and suspension will also cry out for upgrades to handle the additional power. Wheels and tires are individual choices. I would recommend 17-in. wheels and tires at a minimum. For brakes, forget about BMW parts and go with an aftermarket big brake conversion. Brembo (www.brembo.com) is my favorite, but there are more economical alternatives that are just as well-made, such as those from UUC Motorwerks, Turner Motorsport, BMP Design, and Bavarian Autosport. For the suspension, you will want shorter, stiffer, sport springs in the M3 application, along with matching high-performance shock absorbers. A set of larger sway bars and beefier control arm bushings won't hurt either. If you run into camber issues in the back, rear camber can now be adjusted on the E36 by using aftermarket adjustable rear control arms. Last, definitely buy a factory X-brace for the chassis, and install it properly by first removing the two-point brace currently in place.


Engine Swap
I have 1983 320i and a wrecked 1979 320/6 with a bad motor. I also have a 1988 325i. My question is, do you have any information on a swap between the 325i and the 320i. I have done a swap before using the carburetor setup off my 320/6, and now I want to use the fuel injected engine out of the 325i. But I don't know how to go about making the wiring harness work, or what wire to keep or discard. Can you help?
Mystery Person
via the Internet

What's up with you guys who don't sign your name to letters? What do you think we're going to do, order Chinese sent to your house?

Both the 1988 325i and the E21 320/6 are powered by variants of the BMW M20 sohc six-cylinder engine. It definitely helps that you have that 320/6. You'll need the entire front suspension carrier, the radiator and overflow tank, the gearbox from the 325i and driveshaft from the 320/6, which may or may not be the right length, and dozens of other parts. Engine conversions are not for the faint of heart. You will need the entire engine harness from the 325i, along with the ECU. Mount the latter in the E21 glovebox using the brackets from the 325i. You will also need to rig the in-tank fuel pump from the 325i to fit your E21 fuel tanks, and eliminate the E21 fuel pump setup. Use a 325i fuel filter. You will also have to fabricate all sorts of brackets and holders in the engine compartment.

This job is going to require a great deal of skill and finesse, along with a fair amount of fabrication skills. Regarding "what wire to keep or discard", this is the sort of thing I can't answer without actually having the project in front of me. It's also the sort of thing that requires the afore mentioned great deal of skill--you have to look at what you have, evaluate the situation, form a plan, and come out on top. You might want to consider having a professional BMW technician perform this swap. This isn't meant as some sort of slam against your mechanical abilities--I have no idea what they are. But your letter seems a little bit tentative about this job.


E36 325is Production Dates
I just got a 1992 325is, production date 03/92. When I look for aftermarket parts, why do most of the dates say for E36's 06/92-on? Sometimes they list the same parts from 1990 to 1992. I thought 1992 was the first year of the E36. What is the difference in first months of production? I know it is an E36 because it is the new body style plus it says it a few places. Any information you could give me about this would be great.
Thanks,
David
via the Internet

Well, it's not exactly the new body style. Today, the E46 is the new bodystyle and the E36 is the old one. The chief functional difference between E36 models produced up to 06/92 and those produced from 06/92-on is the front suspension. The 1992 E36 front suspension up to 06/92 production is unique among the body series in that the sway bars attach to the strut housings rather than the control arms, and the dimension and geometry of the upper mounts are different. This means that special 1992-model replacement struts are required, and there is little interchangeability in front suspension parts between cars built prior to and from 06/92, unless you want to convert the whole shebang. Your efforts to find performance parts for this early E36 may be slowed somewhat in the area of the front suspension, but peformance front suspension parts are in fact available. For example, Suspension Techniques makes anti-roll bars, and Bilstein makes shocks--they're just different.


Cover M3
I have the March 2003 issue of european car, which I might add is the best Euro mag ever. I saw Ryan Roybal's white M3 on the cover and thought it was one of the best looking M3s I've ever seen, but I was disappointed to find that there is only one picture of the car in the magazine. I own a Cosmos black 1997 M3 and plan on doing some of the same things to my car. I was wondering if you knew where I could see more pictures of his car. I was also wondering what size wheels he has. They are the exact wheels I was planning on buying but haven't yet due to the shitty Kentucky winter weather and due to the fact that I cant decide between 18s or 19s. I love the look of a phat set of 19s on a lowered sports car, but I'm worried about ride quality and having to modify my arches. Wondering if you guys had any words of wisdom on what wheel size would best suit my E36. Please let me know.
Nico Greipel
via the Internet

Thanks for the kind words, Nico!

Roybal's M3 is pretty cool, isn't it? There's something about a clean white BMW without a lot of gingerbread. The wheels are from Wheel Power, www.wheelpower.com.

Which wheel size best suits your Bimmer really depends on what you want it to do for you, where you live and drive, and how much you want to spend on tires as well as the wheels. I can tell you that, mechanically speaking, the size that works best on the car is the stock size--7.5x17 in. front and 8.5x17 in. rear, shod with 225/40ZR-17 and 245/40ZR-17 tires, respectively.

Eighteen and 19-in. wheel sizes are possible with 225/40ZR-18 and 235/35ZR-19 sneakers, respectively, at all four wheels. However, guys interested 18- and 19-in. wheels are typically after that "Big Guy" look in the back, and want wider tires back there. The big wheel and tire houses such as www.tirerack.com and www.tires.com do carry staggered 18- and 19-in. wheel fitments for the E36 M3, but the required 245/35ZR-18 or 245/35ZR-19 sizes on 9.5- to 10-in. wheels will most certainly require rolling the quarter panel lips.

Rolling the quarter panel lips is no big deal if you can find a shop that knows what they are doing. There are some tricks involved, and of course, no one can guarantee that your paint won't crack. But if the paint is original and the tech heats it up with a heatgun, it most likely will not crack.


BMW Turbo
I recently purchased a 1992 E36 325is. I am interested in adding some power to it. The Internet hasn't given me any good leads as far as turbo kits go. What are my options if I want considerable increases?
Abram O. Rufener
via the Internert

For turbocharging, www.activeautowerke.com is your one-stop-shop. Active Autowerke supports the M50/S50 engine family with innovative turbo systems and other performance parts.

You didn't state how many miles are on your 325is, but you should bear in mind the age and condition of the engine when considering forced induction. I would recommend compression and leakdown testing to evaluate internal engine condition prior to bolting on forced induction, and I suspect Active Autowerke will advise you similarly. The concern is when a BMW engine goes to sleep on night a mild-mannered, pretty much worn out, 150,000-mile, soccer mom stocker, and wakes up the next a rip-snortin' turbocharged flame-thrower with another 100-hp or whatever, it might blow itself to smithereens the first time you kiss the redline. It's wise to start out with a reasonably fresh engine.

Bear in mind also that your stock suspension and brakes will be wholly inadequate to handle the additional power afforded by turbocharging. Because you're starting with Active Autowerke, I would recommend you continue with their program for upgrading these areas as well.


Bulb Upgrade
I recently read your advice to an E30 owner regarding a Hella H1/H4 bulb upgrade. This is something I am interested in for my 1999 BMW 540i. Is this possible? It sounds like this is a "bulbs only" swap. Also have you heard anything about the Hella upgrade for 5 Series cars?
Ben Klieger
via the Internet

An H1/H4 Hella conversion is not possible on any E34 (1989 to 1995) or E39 (1997 to present) 5 Series. This is because these cars have ellipoid headlights instead of the old standard 5 3/4-in. units. The bulbs are completely different. If you had an older 5 Series such as an E12 (1976 to 1981) or an E28 (1982 to 1988), an H1/H4 conversion would be viable. Even if it were possible, it would not be a "bulbs only" swap. Read the letter again. You would need to have European-specification Hella H1/H4 headlights to use H1/H4 bulbs.

Your one-stop shop for E39 lighting upgrades is Bekkers Import Corporation (www.bekkers.com). The hot setup would be Euroepan-specification Xenon HID headlight assemblies. Be prepared to spank your VISA card to the tune of $1,200 or so. However, lesser ellipoid alternatives are also listed at the sight. Here's the link: www.bekkers.com/cgi-bin/miva?Merchant2/merchant.mv+Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=BI&Category_Code=bhlight5e39


1984 BMW 318i
I have a 1984 BMW 318i, and I need to replace the gearbox. I think it has a Getrag 240 five-speed. I need to know if I have to use the gearbox out of 1984 318i or can I use any other one. And if I can use other gearboxes what years and models can I use?
Thank you,
Dave
via the Internet

Yes, the E30 single-cam 318i (1984-1985) uses the Getrag 240 five-speed overdrive manual gearbox. Two other BMWs share a version of this gearbox: the 1983 320i, and the E30 1990-1991 318i/is.

The 1983 320i gearbox will physically fit, but it has a speedometer drive provision, which is not used on your car--the electronic speedometer uses a pickup in the differential cover. There is no way I know of, short of welding up the aperture, to seal the speedometer drive on the early Getrag 240. Moreover, finding a 1983 320i gearbox will likely be as difficult as finding a 1984-1985 318i gearbox. Earlier 320is have a either a Getrag 242 four-speed (1977-1979) or a Getrag 245 five-speed (1980-1982), neither of which will work in your car.

The 1990-1991 E30 twin cam 318i/is has a different version of the Getrag 240, known as the 240/5. It has no speedometer drive, but I don't know what the differences are between this gearbox and yours. You'd just have to place them side by each and eyeball the situation. No E36 3 Series gearbox will bolt to the M10 engine, and even if they did, they are 1:1 fifth gear units that are no well suited to your relatively low differential ratio.

Best to find a gearbox from a 1984-1985 318i, Dave. Unfortunately, there are bound to be plenty of worn out units out there. BMW manual gearboxes can last indefinitely if a high-quality synthetic lubricant, such as Red Line, is used and changed at something approximating a 30,000-mile interval. But the cars are often neglected. If it's just a question of bearings and synchronizers, you can have your existing gearbox rebuilt if you can find a technician qualified and equipped to do the job, which may not be easy depending on where you live.


Stick Rests at Fifth Gear When Cold
I have a 1993 325is and in the next year or so I'm planning on upgrading to a 1998 or 1999 M3. I've been reading about a problem with the manual gearbox in the 1998 and 1999 M3s and I was wondering if it was something you've encountered. I'm providing a link to the site--http://www.bimmerforums.com/forum/showthread.php?s=&threadid=48002--where it seems to be described as a widespread problem. Thanks for any information you can provide. I love the magazine!
Geoffrey English
via the Internet

I wouldn't describe this problem as widespread, but we have heard of it. There is no service bulletin on the subject, and presently BMW dealerships are recommending gearbox replacement as the fix for this problem. This is fine if the car is covered by an extended warranty, but obviously we need to find the fix for those that are not.

The problem is, BMW factory technicians are no longer interested in opening up manual gearboxes to see what is wrong and fix it. Independent technicians have a hard time with modern manual gearboxes due to BMW's stubborn refusal to share service and parts information. Ultimately, the customer pays the price.

We spoke with noted BMW gearbox and differential expert Jim Blanton, of Performance Gearing in St. Louis, Mo. (jim@performancegearing.com). Blanton is convinced that the problem is internal, and that there is probably workable fix assuming the parts are available--which is not always the case anymore with BMW gearboxes and differentials. Jim needs to have one of these sticking-in-fifth gearboxes on his work bench to find the fix. When he gets one, he'll contact us and we'll discuss the issue again.

This situation is similar in effect to the problem with the shifter popping out of first and second gear under load in other E36 Getrags. However, the cause of that problem is known to be a faulty first and second gear guide sleeve. An updated part is available and the gearboxes can be repaired. Finding someone to do the work is the hard part. Jim Blanton can help here, too.

Jim Blanton responds:
"The resistance in neutral position from the third/fourth galley to fifth galley is controlled by a spring loaded "piston" that rides in a very close tolerance sleeve. BEcause the proper load returns after the car is driven for a time, it might be that this piston is seizing enough to overcome its return load until the aluminum transmission housing has warmed/expanded to the point that clearance between the piston and its bushing returns.

"You can access this assembly externally from the passenger side of the transmission, near the top where the bell meets the main body. There are three 20mm seal plugs (usually blue), one of which is recessed, the other two are nearly flush with the surface. The bottom one of these two plugs is the spring landing for the piston ( the top one is for reverse load). Using a small flat blade screwdriver, tap it hard enough to pierce the plug (obviously you will need a new one before you are finished), remove the circlip, then , as you cup your hand over the plug, work the screwdriver handle back and forth until it and the spring release. The only thing left in the bore is the piston, which should slip right out. If not, you have found the problem. Taking care not to damage the plug sealing surface, twist and pull on the piston (for example, with a wooden dowel or large screwdriver), and when it is out, work on the bushing with some light emery cloth. Make sure the surface of the piston is clean, shiny and well lubed as you check the bushing for clearance (transmission as cold as possible), until it moves freely. When reinstalling, make sure the piston is well lubed and inside bevel is pointing toward the top plug. Insert the spring, then use a deep socket to drive the plug in just far enough for the circlip to seat fully.


1989 BMW 325i--It's Not a Dragster
I just recently bought a 1989 325i automatic and I was wondering what I could do to get a good quarter-mile out of it besides replacing the engine.
Greg Scrivner
Woodland Park, Colorado

Let's see, you bought a BMW and you want it be a drag racer. Hmmm. I would say the best thing you could do, and it would not involve replacing the engine, would be to sell the car and buy a 1968 Chevelle with a 427 and a two-speed Powerglide automatic. Your quarter-mile times would then be excellent! What's more, you'd have a car that is well suited to that type of use.

BMWs are not dragsters, Greg. They just are not designed for that sort of thing. Quarter-mile times and 0-to-60-mph times are totally irrelevant in Germany, where it's all about high speed stability, cornering ability, and braking ability. Standard modifications such as a high- performance ECU chip, a cone-type cold air intake system, or a performance exhaust system, will improve overall power, but they are unlikely to give you what you're looking for in terms of the drags. This car is already equipped with a 4.10 differential, which is pretty low. I don't know that you'd want to go any lower than that, and even if you did there would be no direct swap available. You would have to have a differential custom built with a special order ring and pinion gear set from BMW. By the time you'd be done, you could almost have that Chevelle.


Turbo Kit
Can I get a turbo kit for my 1989 BMW 525i?
Kinshasha Dash
via the Internet

Korman Autoworks (www.kormanfastbmw.com) is the only company still listing turbocharger packages for the BMW M20 engine in your 1989 525i (the 525i switched to the M50 engine in 1992). The package requires a complete engine rebuild using special low-compression turbo pistons, due to the lack of knock sensors on this engine. Even if it had knock sensors, your car probably has enough miles under it's body side molding that turbocharging it would be ill advised without a rebuild.


3 Series Engine Rebuild
My engine is currently being pulled for a rebuild on my 1987 BMW 325ic. I want this car to be very high performance while keeping the bill under $5,000. I would like to know things like what compression ratio, cam, what head work, wires, and, well, anything that this engine should be built to for a real wallop! I just don't want to have any regrets after the fact. I really appreciate a reply.
Jamie Neal
Floyd, Virgirnia

Like the old saying, speed costs money, Jamie. How fast do you want to go?
M20 performance is a fairly simple question of the right parts, some head work, and lightening of the reciprocating mass. You want to run 9.7:1 European-specification pistons, a Schrick 272 or 288 cam with Schrick valve springs, a nice five-angle valve job, some porting work, headers, and an adjustable fuel pressure regulator along with the normal litany of engine rebuild parts. A performance chip and exhaust system are also in order, and it would be folly not to replace the catalytic converter and oxygen sensor. However, in my humble opinion, there is no reason to use anything other than Bosch or Beru replacement ignition wires, unless you are simply concerned with the aesthetics of the wires.

Lightening and balancing involves taking excess weight from the flywheel, crankshaft, connecting rods, and pistons. These things constitute highly specialized BMW engine building, which cannot be reasonably expected of your local shop. It depends on the engine builder.


Boring Throttle Body
I am the proud owner of a 1988 325i. I have done a few mods already, including extractors, K&N panel filter, high flow cat exhaust system and a performance chip. Before doing headwork and a Schrick cam, I'm thinking about boring out the throttle body to 64mm with a proper K&N pod [cold air intake]. Do you think this is a good move to give me some extra power? Of course I won't be doing it myself--I'll get someone who has done this before. But I want to hear what you think.

The throttle body question has another alternative. A guy in Sydney says he imports Alpina parts. I don't think he's for real, but he's offering a big bore thottle body with air flow meter and butterfly to suit for 1,290 Aussie Dollars. And he says 15hp is achievable. I don't think it's worth it and doubt his figures. I just think just boring it out is good enough.
Leonard Siragusa
Melbourne, Australia

Sometimes overbored throttle bodies make more power, sometimes they don't. Sometimes they loose power. It depends on the rest of the engine. If you think of an engine like a big air pump, you can see that increasing air flow in any one area is of limited benefit unless that area was deficient to begin with. If you bring more air in, you've got to be able to move it around inside and exhaust it out faster, too. Getting just the right mix really involves dyno tuning. Still, some assumptions can be validly made about the M20 engine simply due to experience. I would say if you ported the head, installed a Schrick 272 or 288 cam, used headers, and especially if you had higher compression pistons, then a larger throttle body would probably be beneficial.

I don't know what pistons came with Austrailian version 325i's in 1988, but the single cam engines tend to starve for low end torque if you go to a Schrick cam with the US specification 8.8:1 pistons BMW was using back then. European-specification 9.7:1 units are the ticket in the "i" M20. Your car probably has them. Be advised that piston-to-valve clearance must be verified when using a higher-lift cam with these pistons, epecially if the head has been resurfaced. You will also need an adjustable fuel pressure regulator to set the car up correctly with a hotter cam.
As for the Alpina setup, my feeling is it is best left to Alpina engines.


E36 Window Question
My 1992 E36 325is driver's window doesn't do the drop/raise thing when I open it. The passenger side window works fine. I asked a mechanic who said the motor would need replaced for a couple hundred bucks. I really don't know much about this but it doesn't seem to me that the motor can be the problem when the window still works fine when I use the switch. Is there a sensor or some other thing I could look at to see why this might not work any more?
David
via the Internet

The problem is most likely the door jamb switch, which is part of the striker mechanism. This switch has to "see" that the door is open in order to initiate the drop/raise function. You are correct--if the motor operates the window via the switch, it is fine.


Porsche Brakes on a 318ti
I am doing an S52 engine swap on my 1998 318ti. I would like to upgrade my brakes and found some red 996 Porsche turbo brakes. I have seen some BMWs with Porsche brakes. Will these fit on my car? A quick responce would be great they are on eBay and won't last long.
Jonathan E. Anderson
via the Internet

The answer is yes, they will fit, but it is not a direct bolt-on and there are better options out there in kit form. There are additional brackets required and hydraulic considerations as well. So, unless you are a highly skilled fabricator well versed in BMW brake conversions, I would much rather see you buy a big brake upgrade kit designed specifically for the E36 3 Series. These are available from many of our advertisers including UUC Motorwerks, BMP Design, Bavarian Autosport, Turner Motorsport and Brembo.


BMW E-36 Series
Thanks for the great magazine! I have reading it long before the name changed to european car. In your March 2003 issue on page 72, you stated "The 1992 E36 front suspension (up to 6/92 production) is unique among the body series in that the sway bars attach to the strut housings rather then the control arms, and the dimension and geometry of the upper mounts are different. This means that special 1992 model replacement struts are required, and there is little interchangeability in front suspension parts between cars built prior to and from 6/92, unless you want to convert the whole shebang." Was this a recall or what?

I have a 1992 318i I bought new in late 1991, one of the first ones in Spain. I do have or have had other problems with it like stated on page 84. The BMW dealers in Spain are very bad (well all car dealers here are pretty bad). I had a ball joint problem that they would not stand behind. They almost messed up my automatic transmission. I took it in for service and an ATF service. When I picked the car up took it for a test drive and it felt like someone hit the back of the car when it changed gears. I took it back to the dealer and told him about the problem, and he said "your car was messed up when you brought it in." Well, they took it back in the shop, and about ten minutes later they brought the car out and said no problem! Once more I drove it and the problem was still there. I took it back again. They put it on the lift with me standing under the car, (on this BMW, there is no ATF dipstick; you have to remove the plug on the right side of the transmission), and I said the motor has to be running and in Park. They disagreed. I said, "you know more then me." They said the transmission was full.

I then took the car to a shop run by an American who works on all cars, and he checke the ATF level properly. The transmission was almost empty, so we drained the fluid, and tried to fill it with the motor not running. It took only about 1/4 liter. Then with the motor running it took the full liter, and it shifted properly.

Back at the BMW dealer, I told them the whole story but they said nothing. I also wrote a letter to BMW of Spain, but never got a reply. Oh yes they did call and ask how the service was and whether I was going to buy a new car soon! I said yes but not a BMW. This is the second dealer I been to and I received the same run around at both. Could you also send me the e-mail address of BMW Customer Service in Germany?Brad Fielding
Madrid, Spain

Thanks for writing in, Brad. It's always good to hear from a long-term reader. There was no recall or service action related to the early 1992 E36 front suspension. It was simply a running production change.

Improper ATF and filter service is the primary reason BMW went to it's so-called "lifetime fill" ATF, a change which occured in 8/95 on the E36 318i. In my opinion, it was like throwing out the baby with the bathwater, because technicians should simply be expected to follow proper filling procedures. The fill procedure for your GM-built A4S 310R automatic transmission is quite detailed, but it is right there in the BMW TIS CD and the Bentley manual for anyone to read. Neither the dealership nor your American technician followed it. We won't reprint the entire procedure here (buy the manual), but to check ATF level on this transmission, here's what you need to do:

1. Raise the car on a lift or support it level on jackstands, with the drivetrain at operating temperature.

2. Apply the hand brake, and with the engine at idle, slowly shift through all gears several times. Shut down the engine.

3. The ATF temperature should be at 30* to 55*C.

4. Remove the ATF fill plug, start the engine, and shift into Neutral.

5. Add Dexron III ATF until it spills from the fill hole, indicating proper ATF level.

6. Reinstall fill plug using a new aluminum seal ring.

Working on BMWs is not black magic, Brad. You just need to find technician who cares enough to have the proper information and to then use that information correctly. Unfortunately, we cannot always trust the dealer or independents. I don't think BMW AG has a customer service network as we know it, but you can e-mail the company through the Web site at www.bmw.de.


1999 E46 Ball-joint Failure
I just recently purchased a 1999 E46 four-door five-speed 323i. I have read that the early E46 cars suffer from premature ball joint failure. Can you tell me more about this? Is this an easy fix or does it have to go to the shop? Also, I would like to use a petroleum oil and change it every 3,000 miles. What weight and brand should I use? Your response would be greatly appreciated.
Gary Young
Via the Internet

There's not much to tell, Gary. BMW had huge problems with premature E46 ball joint failures. Oodles of them were replaced under warranty, and the new ones dont seem to be very robust either. The ball joints are pressed into the aluminum control arms, requiring complete control arm replacement. The job isn't hard, but I don't know your level of mechanical skill, or the nature of your tool collection and facilities.

Why would you ever want to use petroleum oil? If I had to choose one, I would choose Kendal 5W-30 for this engine, but I would try 10W-40 first and see if the VANOS unit makes noise. BMW and other manufacturers have gone to super light viscosity motor oils to help bolster fuel economy, but I prefer a heavier oil. The problem is, the tiny oil passages in the VANOS unit don't always like higher viscosity oil. Due to the super low viscosity of 5W-30 oil, you would be well advised to run a high quality synthetic, such as Red Line. BMW recommends their Castrol product, about which we know very little.


E36 M Cars
In your March 2003 issue, the article about the E36 states the E36 M was the first four-door M car. Maybe for the 3 Series but not for the 5 Series. I was the proud owner of a 1988 E28 M5 with the M Technik body modification. I still miss it.
John J. Brothers
Rocky River, Ohio

Actually John, both you and the article are mistaken. The first four-door M car was actually the 1979 M535i, an E12 5 Series with a 218-hp 3.5-liter M30 engine, Getrag five-speed close-ratio gearbox, 14-in. BBS alloy wheels, Recaro seats, front air dam with no bumper, and a large rear spoiler. BMW Motorsport, the predecessor of BMW M, had a big hand in producing this model. An optional graphics package emblazoned wide Motorsport tri-color striping around the car.

I suppose it really comes down to what qualifies as an M car. According to BMW M, only the M1, M3, M5, and M6 are M cars, and the M1 was the first M car. If you're in accord with this school of thought, then you're correct--the E28 M5 was the first four-door M car. But that ignores the street car contributions of BMW Motorsport, which began with the 1972 3.0 CSL--arguably the true first M car. From there we had the 2002 Turbo, and, later, the E12 M535i, followed by the M88-powered M635CSi. Further blurring the question, BMW Motorsport often modified cars for individual customers.

This is neither here nor there, but there are part numbers for BMW Motorsport tri-color striping for the E12, E21, E24, E28, and E30. It's rare to see a car wearing this striping, and it reallly only looks good on black, white, or silver cars. Obviously, neither stickers nor M-badges an M-car make, but to the great unknowing hordes both can confuse the distinction.


Supercharger for E30 325i
I've been a subscriber/reader since the VW & Porsche days (when I had a VW) and you folks are doing a great job. Now that my tastes have changed (read I can afford more car), I have a couple of E30 BMWs to tune/play with. My question to you is; do you know of a supercharger for the E30 325i? If so, who makes it? I have a 1990 325i manual, which has been treated to a freshly remanufactured engine and I would like to turn up the boost. Thanks so much for the info.
Stevie King
Long Island, New York

Thanks for the compliment, Stevie! It's always good to hear from a long-term reader. You know you're an old gearhead when you pick up the latest issue of Road & Track and realize you just re-read the "15 years ago" issue--and it's never left your bathroom. I've resolved to better organize my vintage R&T collection.

A supercharger, no. But a turbocharger, possibly. Korman Autoworks (www.kormanfastbmw.com) still lists turbo kits for the M20 engine, however the job requires a complete rebuild using special low-compression pistons due to this engines lack of knock sensors. Being that you've already bolted in a fresh motor, you probably won't want to go this route. My advice is to plug in a Conforti chip, hang a Supersprint exhaust system--with header if you can swing that in New York, and groove on it as is. That combo works well with a slightly hotter cam, too, such as the Schrick 272 or 288. But the head would have to come off to fit the cam, and piston-to-valve clearance would have to be verified.


E30 325is Exhaust Question
Hey, I just googled to this site when I was searching for help with my exhaust system. I have a 1989 325is with 204,000Km. It runs great, and it's the best car ever! I have recently put on an Ansa cat-back system, and I was wondering if there is a big difference between a $300 free-flow system and a $700 free-flow system. Will removing the catalytic converter noticeably increase power?
Kav
via the Internet

Nice car. The 1988-on E30 325is is a very durable and desirable Bimmer.

A big difference? No. But you can reasonably expect a high-performance cat-back exhaust system to net some increase in power on the E30 -- if you're a dynamometer. Whether you as a driver would notice it on a mature engine is not something we can predict. It will certainly sound better.

The restriction in these cars is not the catalytic converter or exhaust system behind it, it is in the exhaust manifolds and downpipe. So, the way to free up the exhaust on a 325i engine is to fit headers with a cat, and whatever exhaust you want downstream. Stahl and Supersprint make headers for this application. Supersprint headers are commonly available, but Stahl units are harder to find. Try www.perfauto.com.

That said, if your catalytic converter is partially clogged or otherwise worn, you might notice an increase in performance from removing it. But that increase wouldn't be due to any inherent restriction in the design of the unit.


Body Kit for an E34 530i V8
I am looking for a company that will create a one off body kit for my car, an E34 530i V8. As I live in Ireland, I am willing to pay all shipping costs. Thank you for your time.
Richard Cleary
Ireland
via the Internet

The problem is going to be your "one off" request. Several companies make BMW aerodynamic parts, including Hartge (www.hartge.de), AC Schnitzer (www.acschnitzer.de), Hamann (www.hamann-motorsport.de), and BMW itself. In my opinion, the nicest and most effective BMW aerodynamic parts are the factory M Technic items, which are available for most models. Erebuni (www.spoilers.com) is known for making a wide range of aerodynamic parts for many cars including BMWs, although some of its stuff will net you a ridicule on www.jimmy540i.com. Speaking of that Web site, perhaps it's time to have a look at the origins of aerodynamic stigma.

Back in the day, aerodynamic parts such as front air dams, rear spoilers and wings, side skirts and rear skirts, were almost all designed in wind tunnels and built in Germany. As such, their designs were totally functional--the idea being to reduce lift on the front suspension and increase downforce at the rear. The faster you went, the more the stuff worked. There was an aerodynamic goal to be achieved, and how the parts looked was just how they looked. BMW M Technic aerodynamics from the 1970's and 1980's are prime examples. Their original purpose was to enhance high-speed stability--I mean real high speed, like autobahn high speed. Appearance was secondary at best.

Then, in the 1990s, others discovered "wings and things", thought they looked cool, and proceeded to create an entirely new market for parts like this. Instead of targeting serious drivers, they fixated on a much larger market consisting of poseurs and teenagers. Now, we have totally stock economy cars like Honda Accords with 40-in. rear wings and no front air dam.

Assuming these wings function by creating downforce, which many probably do not, any speed above 70 mph probably results in front end lift as a result of excessive rear squat. But it's more likely that the many wings actually create lift, putting the car in take off position instead of planting the rear suspension. They were designed entirely for appearance, not function. Incidentally, if you're going to buy only a front air dam or a rear spoiler/wing, it should definitely be a front air dam--this will avoid creating lift on the front suspension, which makes the car very difficult to control at speed.

And we also have BMW's like the ones on www.jimmy540i.com. Although to be fair, not all of these cars deserve quite the thrashing they got from the site owner. Parenthetically, it is impossible to overlook that fact that while Jimmy may consider himself the arbiter of BMW fashion dos and don'ts, he has spent a great deal of money on Dinan Engineering parts for a 540i with an automatic transmission. I've never met the man. If he's an amputee, I apologize. But I digress...

Today, automotive aerodynamics are now stigmatized among even serious drivers, so that even people who do high speed driving are loath to use the technology, lest they be compared to some unsavory automotive element in the eyes of the unknowing public. The net effect is we have things like the Audi TT, a car that desperately needs a rear spoiler or wing of some sort for downforce at high speed, and Audi engineers said so, but the designers threw hissy fits, and then we had drivers getting killed.

The bottom line with aerodynamic aids is that if you buy them, you need to recognize that these parts are doing more than sitting on your car and looking good. Don't put a wing or a rear spoiler on a car with no front air dam--depending on the car and the speeds involved, this can be dangerous. And if you need aerodynamic aids because you're a high-speed driver, get them and don't worry about what anyone thinks.


Shark Injector for 540i
Do you have any infomation on Shark Injector availability for the 2000 BMW 540i six speed?
Dick Taylor
Berryville, Virginia

The Shark Injector is not available for OBD-II BMW V8s, 1996 and on. We have no information on whether they will become available at some point in the future. For now, Dinan Engineering is your source for OBD-II V8 software upgrades, as well as a complete tuning program for your 540i. For more information and to find a local Dinan authorized BMW dealership, visit www.dinanbmw.com.

Dinan software for your car will net a slight increase in power throughout the rpm range, a slight increase in part-throttle fuel economy, and dispense with the ridiculous 128-mph top-speed limiter. You will be required to run minimum 91-octane fuel.


Which Cams to Use: Project M3
I'm big fan of your Project M3, and I was wondering why Pablo didn't use the Schrick 284-degree intake and exhaust cams that Bavarian Autosport carries? I have being doing research on which cams are better the 284/284 or 264/256? I would like to know so I can upgrade my '95 M3 U.S.-spec motor with the most power.
Josh Adidas
via the Internet

The 262/256 cams were used on Project M3, which proved great for the street when looking at the torque increase across the entire rev band. We have not tested the 284/284 for a street application. Although it sounds like a properly tuned motor using these cams should indeed make more power up top, whether or not it's good for a street application would be something to look into. --Pablo Mazlumian


Project M3 Reality Check
I've read the articles about Project M3 and get a hard-on at the thought of my car being that fast, but I know it takes an absurd amount of money and time to perform those type of upgrades. I was just wondering if you could do me and, I'm sure some others, a favor and let us know how much one would expect to pay to get the type of performance you get from Project M3.
A.J.
via the Internet

The turbo kit alone ($10,500 + roughly $2,,000 install) will yield a reliable 350 wheel hp with the stock motor as is. We went a step further with the 60-1 compressor wheel/hybrid modification and head studs ($2,000). Then you would want driveline upgrades to hold the power-AA clutch ($900 + about $500 install). This setup would yield plenty of reliable power with the stock motor, so long as the boost isn't turned too high for the octane rating in the fuel. With Project M3, specifically, I went even further with a built-up motor (probably $8,500 to reproduce), big Brembo brakes ($6,300--although a $2,000 to$3,000 front-only kit would suffice for street use) and water injection ($1,500 + 4$50 installation), just to be safe. Ground Control/Eibach suspension ($3500+install), Fikse wheels ($4,000) are some of the more expensive upgrades that were also added.

To actually reproduce everything the car has--rollbar, seats, gauges, aerodynamics, carbon-fiber components, xenon lights, radiator, heat wraps, tires, etc--I'm looking at a retail receipt of well over $50,000--not including labor (probably $12k-15k for that). --Pablo Mazlumian



Project M3 Question
I'm currently modifying my '95 M3, and I was wondering if the owner experienced any understeer with the 255 tires in the rear, and why he didn't go with a 235 in the front.
John Savington
via the Internet

The reason I decided to go with 225s up front was because of tire availability for 18-in sizes I was forced to that wheel size because of the large brakes. A 235/35-18 front and a 255/30-18 rear would have been the ideal street setup for the 18-in Fikses, but only Pirelli P-Zeros are offered in that size, which were unavailable in the country at that time. If you have 17-in wheel sizes on the car, you have the luxury of choosing from a variety of tire companies for a good 235/40-17 and 255/40-17 combo.

The understeer is evident but for street use it is okay. It wouldn't be an optimal track setup, however--245s or 255s all the way around would do the job there. --Pablo Mazlumian


Project M3 Brakes
I have a 2002 BMW M3 and am wondering if there is a lot of room for brake improvements? Would the upgrade be worth the price as far as braking performance? How many pistons do the stock brake calipers have? If I change my rotors, what is the difference between cross-drilled and slotted rotors? Do you have any suggestions on which brake kit I can go with besides the obvious Brembo?
George M.
Queens, New York

There is room for improvement on the E46 BMW M3's braking system, but this would depend on what the car will be used for. A big brake system is primarily designed to give consistent, repetitive braking distances by reducing brake fade and fluid boil. If your goal is to improve the occasional 60-to-0mph stopping distances on the street, spending the money on a big brake kit may not be the answer for you--the results of this test are highly dependant on tire grip, and you'll be reliant on your ABS with too much braking power. At higher speeds, however, a big brake system should help.

At a racetrack or during high-performance driving situations where a driver depends on those consistent braking distances, a big brake system will show its advantages--and even more so when used with softer, R-compound tires. Should you decide to go with a big brake kit, companies usually offer a choice of either slotted or cross-drilled. Cross-drilled features a little bit less weight and better cooling, but the design is believed by many to be more susceptible to pressure cracks. However, for street use this setup should more than suffice (Project M3 has yet to see any pressure cracks on its cross-drilled setup, and this includes several track days).For E46 M3 big brake kits you can contact Rogue Engineering (www.rogueengineering.com) and Stoptech (www.stoptech.com). --Pablo Mazlumian

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