Unofficial BMW

Google Search

What's New

Search (Google!!)









Used Cars




In Association with

Home E12 E24 E28 E30 E34 E36 Z3 E39 E46 X5/E53 ALL
Ron Stygar Carl Buckland Dale Beuning Forums Help

Unofficial BMW Nav Map

e36_m3_suspension_upgrades_more From:
Date: Tue, 2 Jan 2001 12:29:24 US/Pacific
Subject: Re: [E36M3] Am I destined to hate my car? [long]

> I am trying to figure out what to do next. My options are:
> 1. Set the sway bars to Stiff/Stiff. I hope this will do the trick, but I
> doubt it.
> 2. Re-valve the Bilsteins
> 3. Put either Euro M3 or the H&R springs back on the car.
> 4. Give up and wait for the 2002 M3, 2002 M5, or a 996.
> Does anyone have any other ideas that might help me achieve car Zen?


No offense, but I think you are trying to solve your suspension problems without really setting a plan. I think you might have purchased and installed parts without _really_ thinking about what they'll do to your car. Why do I think that? Because I've done the same and had the same terrible results. Shame on both of us. ;-)

Now, I'd like to offer my two cents to help you solve your problem. YMMV, but it worked well for me. You've stated that you are looking for:

  • A comfortable ride
  • Less body roll
  • Less understeer

Let's evaluate each of your suspension pieces in brief, and see what they do (any of the pros on the list please speak up and tell me if I'm wrong on any of this):

  • Bracing: Will help turn in response. Minor decrease in rideability.
  • Stiffer Shocks/Springs: Will help decrease understeer, might help body roll, will make your teeth chatter over anything but perfect surfaces.
  • Bigger Swaybars: Will virtually eliminate body roll. Can let you dial out understeer under most conditions. If set to full stiff, can make sensitive passengers dislike the ride and can make the car skip over bumps while cornering.
  • Negative camber: Helps turn-in response and helps the car track through a turn better. Can decrease understeer.

Now the trick is to apply one part at a time to the car, and evaluate the results. You refine that part until you are as close to possible to what you are looking for. If you keep throwing parts at the problem, you won't be able to truly evaluate the result -- too may variables involved.

One note -- every mod to the car is a sacrifice of one thing or another. You want to improve handling, you're gonna hurt ride comfort. The trick is to find a balance you can be comfortable with. I love the way my car handles on smooth surfaces, but if I have two passengers, your head hurts from the bumps. I've accepted that. If you could have both simultaneously, every car would come like that -- and some come closer to that goal than others...

With your desired objective in mind, I personally think you've eliminated shocks/springs as an answer. No matter what you do, they will hurt ride quality. If I regularly transported passengers, I wouldn't touch them. Leave it all stock. Try some other things first.

The next step is bracing. If you can't feel the result, then they aren't too stiff for you. If they don't seem to help turn-in, you may not be pushing the car hard enough. No worries, just leave them on and let them keep the car from flexing when you do push it to the limit.

The next step is swaybars. I think your solution is here. Just putting them on and setting them to stiff/soft (most understeer) is step one of a long process of refining your set-up. Don't hate them yet. If you put them on and they hurt the ride quality too much for you, you're done. Just pull them off and wait for the next car you think will have the right balance for you.

If you're okay with it, drive the hell out of it. If you're a track/auto-x person, bring your tools/jackstands and be prepared to play with the set-up after each run (if auto-x, you'll have to either purchase fun runs or wait for the next event). Make one adjustment at a time, starting with the front bar, then moving to the rear after the fronts are set to full loose. If your bars have three holes in the front and two holes in the back, you have 6 possible settings! And that's assuming you change one hole per side at a time and not one hole on one side at a time (don't know the effect that would have).

I have had incredible luck using just sway bars to set up my car for agressive street driving/moderate racing. I think that they can solve a lot of the issues that most drivers have with suspension in their daily drivers. If after setting up your car to full-soft/full-stiff (least understeer) you still have too much body roll, you're gonna have to suck it up, change the shocks, and lose ride comfort.

If there's still too much understeer for you, you have to first make sure it's not the driver -- if you come in to a corner too hot, your gonna push. Fix the driver, not the car. I know I still need to learn a lot here, and I suspect many on the list do as well. If it isn't the driver, try changing your camber.

Going to negative camber can help out a lot. Buy camber plates, and go get a professional racing alignment from a reputable shop. Pep Boys doesn't have the right equipment and most certainly does not have the right knowledge. Trust the alignment settings recommended by serious drivers who have the same set-up as you (there are plenty on this list to talk to, and may even let you drive their car). Once again, there's a drawback -- poor tire wear. The only answer here is to have the tires pulled off the rims and swapped. I think if you drive pretty hard however, the alignment actually evens out the wear on the tires (at least, that's what I've seen on my cars).

This is the process I used to set-up my 4-door for auto-x, and was very successful. After purchasing a fully-prepared (and very nicely at that) '95 from a fellow lister, I pulled most of the goodies off the 4-door and went through the same process for setting it up, only now for the street and, hopefully soon, road rallies. So far it's worked out.

Hope this helps you. It's by no means thorough, there are folks on this list who are much more qualified to provide you with that, but it's made me very happy with my cars.


Date: Tue, 02 Jan 2001 16:46:12 -0500
From: Peter H Reinhart <>
Subject: Re: [E36M3] Am I destined to hate my car? [long]

At 01:02 PM 1/2/01 -0600, Rob Hatrak wrote: >Subject: Am I destined to hate my car? [long]
>Setup #1 -
>Nice ride but the car understeers way too much and leans way too much in the
>corners. Time to upgrade. I drove the car with this setup for 6 months.

Hey Rob,

I haven't played with the suspension on my car much at all, but I LOVE the handling of the car on the track or on the road. It sounds like dumb luck, but after listening to a lot of people that know a lot more about this than I do I decided on only two mods:

  1. Rotate the strut hats. This definitely biases the car for track use rather than road use. Yup, it's dartier, and yes it likes to follow every groove in the road, but on the track its magic. Incredible turn in response, and somewhat less understeer.
  2. Put 8.5" wheels on all 4 corners and match it with 245 rubber. Voila - virtually all of the oversteer has been dialed out. My last few 'offs' on the track have all been due to the back end coming 'round (all of them 'software' glitches rather than problems with the handling of the car).

That's it! I've been using this set-up for almost 2 years now, and have had quite a few track sessions with it. It's a blast to drive on the track, and as comfortable as a stock car on the road (as long as you keep both hands on the wheel).

The biggest downside of this setup is that there is still too much body roll for the track. But Santa was both generous and insightful, so I now have some Eibach sway bars sitting in the garage ready to go on (as soon as it gets over 40oC.......). I'm hoping this will be the magic addition that dials out the roll, without upsetting the existing balance of the car.

Hope you and your car rediscover each other.......


Peter Reinhart - NCC/Tarheel Chapters BMWCCA, NASA, PCA (E36 M3/4)

Running the risk of JAP's unexpurgated commentary, I'll offer up Dinan as a viable alternative. I would not abandon the Eibachs, but would consider Dinan springs with Koni adjustables. The Dinan springs will yield a ride somewhere between stock and H&R, and you can dial in the Koni's as you prefer. I've been running Dinan's springs and his revalved Bilsteins for almost 4 years without any complaints; even added 235/35x18's 6 months ago without any ride comfort issues. (I prefer the Eibach/UUC sway bar set-up to Dinan's though; and, FWIW, I'm also running Dinan camber plates, X brace, and the JTD strut brace). The springs and bars took a minor toll on ride comfort ( I thought the re-valved Bilsteins' ride was better than stock); but, even in the aggregate, I am in no way unhappy with ride comfort (here in SF Bay Area). The car is my daily driver, and I'm not even remotely masochistic in my tolerance for a stiff suspension (been there; done that; no thank you).

Lew Becker

> For anyone that might be interested, here's an update of my suspension

> Car: 1995 M3
> Setup #1 -
> Factory
> --------------
> Nice ride but the car understeers way too much and leans way too much in

> corners. Time to upgrade. I drove the car with this setup for 6 months.
> Setup #2 -
> Factory with rotated strut hats.
> -----------------------------------------
> Added tons a negative camber in the front. It destroyed the insides of my
> tires, decreased understeer somewhat, and made the car scary to drive at
> high speed. VERY darty and unstable. I might have had a bad alignment,

> wasn't interested in keeping this setup for more than 6 months - went back
> to setup #1.
> Setup #3 -
> Factory w/ X-brace and LTW strut bar
> -------------------------------------------------
> Gee those parts look real cool but don't seem to have done much. The

> end does feel a bit stiffer though. Not better or worse, just stiffer. I
> drove the car with this setup for a bit over 2 years.
> Setup #4 -
> Bilstein Sports with H&R OE Sport springs
> -----------------------------------------------------------
> The car still plows just as badly, rides nearly 3/4 of an inch higher than
> before, and now it hurts when you drive over the smallest bumps. The car
> stays much flatter in the corners and lets me carry more speed into,
> through, and out of a corner. Cool. I really like the improvement in
> handling, so I'll live with the harsh ride for 2 1/2 years.
> Setup #5 -
> Change rear way bar to that of a 99M3
> ----------------------------------------------------
> Snore. Slight handling improvement (like .0002% better). I still like

> handling, but I also still hate the ride.
> Setup #6 -
> Replace H&R springs with stock units, and added Eibach sway bars set to

> --------------------------------------------------------------------------
> I have hated my car for the last two years. The ride is killing me, and

> now always take the E320 for drives that include anyone but me. It's time
> to put the brand new stock springs and struts on the car. A
> miscommunication with the parts supplier sent me the wrong front struts.
> So, we put the Bilsteins back on the car, put the stock springs on, and
> installed the Eibach swaybars. This is when I sent my last email to the
> group(s) singing the virtues of the Eibachs. The car was flat-out awesome
> in the corners. I was very excited about the handling but still hated the
> ride. The removal of the H&R springs made the car a touch softer, but not
> much. The initial force of any road impact still was miserable. I had

> with the car for 2 weeks with this setup. No corner was too fast, the car
> stuck to the asphalt like it was welded on, understeer was at a very
> acceptable level, and did I mention the cornering? I felt like superman

> a Kindergarten gym class.
> Setup #7 -
> Replace the Bilsteins with the factory struts
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> Damn. Another step backwards. The car rides like a dream and we can take
> it for drives again. Those are very good things, but the handling sucks
> again (when compared to setup #6). It feels just like it did when I was

> setup #4. Huge amounts of understeer. The car now feels like it is going
> to spin at any moment when taking long, fast sweeping turns. Very

> What people had told me about changing swaybars is starting to ring true.
> Setup #8 -
> ????????????
> ---------------------
> I am trying to figure out what to do next. My options are:
> 1. Set the sway bars to Stiff/Stiff. I hope this will do the trick, but I
> doubt it.
> 2. Re-valve the Bilsteins
> 3. Put either Euro M3 or the H&R springs back on the car.
> 4. Give up and wait for the 2002 M3, 2002 M5, or a 996.
> Does anyone have any other ideas that might help me achieve car Zen?
> Thanks for listening and any input,
> Rob Hatrak
> 95 M3 with way too many mods
> Sin City Chapter, BMW CCA

So would I. GASP!?!

Dinan is a good suspension, offering a fair performance upgrade with still-acceptable street comfort. No one has ever heard me say it wasn't a good product.

I do say that most of us can do as good or better for less money if we want a more track oriented suspension. But in cases like Rob's where Papa H&R Bear's susension is too harsh and Baby Stock Bear's suspension is too soft, maybe Momma Dinan Bear's suspension is juuuuust right. And its a veritable sh*tload of money cheaper than wholesale changes of all components every 1-2 years in search of the suspension just right for you.

Rob obviously has the money to make Dinan's thirst for gold a non-issue. It's a good system and with the number of cars with varying levels (Stage I - Stage MMMXLCVIII) anyone should be able to catch a ride with someone to test it and find handling Nirvana. Then go pay for it.

The end.


Lew Becker wrote:

> Date: Tue, 2 Jan 2001 19:32:07 -0800
> From: "Lew Becker" <>
> Subject: Am I destined to hate my car? [long]
> Running the risk of JAP's unexpurgated commentary, I'll offer up Dinan as a
> viable alternative.


You may want to try the Koni's. They are adjustable, and I think they ride better than the bilsteins, and are definately an improvement in handling over the stock shocks. Even with my rears on full stiff, the ride is still OK on the street. I am still using stock springs though.

Chris Teague
97 M3/4

Unofficial Homepages: [Home] [E12] [E24] [E28] [E30] [E34] [E36] [Z3] [E39] [E46] [X5/E53] [ALL] [ Help ]