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

BMW Digest FAQ Version 4.0

Section 17: E36 ('92-present 3-series)

Table of Contents:

17.1: Overview
17.2: Body
17.3: Engine

17.3.1: SI Light reset
17.4: Suspension & Steering
17.5: Brakes

17.5.1: Brake Bleeding
17.6: HVAC

17.6.1: Changing the microfilter 17.7: Electrical

         17.7.1: Wiring fog lights to be on with high beams
         17.7.2: Instrument light test
    17.8: Misc
         17.8.1: Clutch Shudder
         17.8.2: OBC tricks
         17.8.3: Repair manuals
    17.9: Performance
         17.9.1: Airbox Mod

17.1: Overview

(From: Jim Conforti <>)

The E36 first appeared in the US in the form of the Model Year (MY) 1992 325i .. it was released EARLY in late 90/early 91 ..

It had the M50/B25 2.5l L6 engine ... running an M3.1 control unit

For MY 1993, the E36 325i/is got the M50TU/B25 engine .. where TU stands for (in German) Technically Updated ... it now had the VaNoS system which controls the angle of one of the cams in a +/- 12.5! range

This gives superior idle stability and midrange torque over the M50/B25

The 318i has also had some changes involving variable length intake runners and air shrouded injectors ...

Jim Conforti

>Can anyone give me a list of what changes occurred for the 325 from '92
>through '95?

Lots of changes, quickly, basically:

'93 added:

  • VANOS (variable cam timing) for increased low end performance
  • Better quality dash/door panel/seat back material
  • CFC free A/C (was introduced mid-year '92)
  • Electric Seats, offering greater head room and adjustment & armrest
  • Body colored bumbers
  • split-fold down rear seats optional on 4dr
  • sport package available
  • much improved build quality (do you know why the E36 was referred to as the "Hubble"?)

'94 added:

  • Std. all-season tires
  • Top speed limit reduced from 128mph to 116mph (1/94 prod.due to tires)
  • Dual Air Bags introduced
  • Traction Control (AST) available
  • Storage nets on back of front seats
  • Dual-diversity antenna
  • Redesigned front spoiler (lower air intake)
  • Drive-away protection activated w/door lock
  • Convenience close of windows from driver's door key lock
  • Both front power windows now one-touch on 4dr.
  • 10x25 watt audio system replaces 4x25 watt '95 added:
  • differentiated deployment of air bags and belt tensioners
  • Coded drive-away protection phased-in 1/95
  • Side directional lights in front fenders (phase in late '94)
  • Free-wheeling door locks
  • New steering wheel design (the blue and white roundel came back)
  • new front seat design
  • console cup-holder installed at port, std.
  • Temperature controls w/8 degree markings vs 4, defrost pictogram del.
  • Sport package now with 16" wheels
  • Premium package available with wood trim

Wasn't really quick, or basic, was it. Hope that helps, apologies to the rest.

Phil Marx BMWCCA #6021 BMWMOA #2024 (804) 293-8269 fax (804) 293-0817

17.2: Body

17.3: Engine
17.3.1: SI Light reset
From: jfiresto_at_AWI-Bremerhaven.DE (John Firestone)
Date: Fri, 27 Jan 1995 11:26:42 +0100 (MET)

Those of you having trouble resetting the service indicator lights on current model 3-ers might like to try the following procedure presented in one of the German self-help automotive manuals.

As translated from Dieter Korp et al., "Jetzt helfe mir selbst - BMW 316i, 318i, 318is ab Januar '91". Vol 153. Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart:

  • Fashion a short jumper cable of out flexible 4 mm-squared wire. [This falls between AWG 5-6.]
  • Switch on the ignition but *do not* start the engine.
  • Unscrew the cover on the diagnostic socket.
  • Jumper pin 19 to pin 7, in that order to avoid damage from static electricity.
  • The numbers are printed on the socket.
  • To reset OIL SERVICE, maintain the connection for approximately 3 seconds. A wristwatch is sufficient to judge the time.
  • To reset INSPECTION, maintain the connection for approximately 12 seconds.
  • Screw the diagnostic socket cover back on.

17.4: Suspension & Steering

17.5: Brakes
17.5.1: Brake Bleeding
Date: Sat, 14 Jan 1995 03:03:11 -0500

Following are comments from an ITT/Teves (OEM brake supplier) employee to questions I posed on Ate Super Blue brake fluid and bleeding the E36 brake system with ABS. Thought the list might find it interesting...


  • Message follows **********

Date: Fri, Jan 13, 1995 11:30 AM PST
Subj: 3-series brake info.

Ate brake fluid is glycol based. We at ITT take a rather dim view of silicone based brake fluids; the compatibility between your ABS and silicone brake fluid is not the greatest. It turns out that the hydraulic control unit of your ABS was designed to work with conventional (DOT 3 and DOT 4) fluids; silicone fluids can affect the sealing performance of some of the internal valves over time. By the way, the same applies for other ABS units (Bosch, etc.) too: Use only DOT 3 or DOT 4 brake fluid (DOT 5 is the silicone fluid). DOT 4 is similar to DOT 3, with the only real difference being a slightly higher boiling temperature with DOT 4. Any brand name DOT 3 or 4 fluid is fine. The newer the can, the better, and don't leave the can open in your garage -- it will soak up moisture from the air. (That's why you always see the warning "use only brake fluid from a sealed container")

When servicing 3-series brakes, there is a special (dealer) tool available to bleed the brakes. It works by talking to the ABS controller and putting the ABS into a special "bleed" mode, cycling the ABS valves and running the pump. Needless to say, the tool is not exactly cheap. Happily, IT IS possible to replace the brake fluid in a 3-series by just bleeding out each caliper individually and topping up the master cylinder (that's what I do on my own car). As long as the system is never run dry of fluid, you don't need to worry about bleeding the ABS unit. However, if you do happen to run the ABS unit dry, the unit will expel any trapped air when the ABS is activated. This air, which has now moved from the ABS unit to the brake lines upon ABS activation, can be then removed from the brake system by bleeding conventionally at the calipers. Try about 6 ABS stops or so, on the slipperiest surface you can find, to bleed the ABS unit. BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL and CAUTIOUS when attempting this; the ABS AND THE ENTIRE BRAKING SYSTEM WILL act strangely when you do this.

Be sure to follow the owners manual recommendations for brake fluid replacement; the brake fluid naturally absorbs water over time, lowering the boiling point of your fluid and eventually causing corrosion of the brake system. Excessively dark fluid is bad, indicating moisture or other contamination. Replace it! Note that your owner's manual does not allow DOT 5 fluid!

Happy Motoring!

17.6: HVAC
17.6.1: Changing the microfilter
Date: Thu, 11 May 1995 19:13:39 -0400

Looking through my old mail I see that questions still come up about the E36 microfilter. This job is easily neglected. I did my 93 318is w/ 30K smoggy, dusty Arizona miles and it came out black and plugged. I had noticed that ventilation was restricted. Here is the procedure:

  1. remove 6 screws holding glovebox assembly. 2 are in the dash vents, 2 under covers when you open the glovebox door, and 2 are underneath where the kick panel meets the dash. Keep track of which screws go where for reassembly.
  2. disconnect wiring to glovebox and get it out of the way. Remove the black fiber kick panel also. Unplug the Alpine alarm if equipped..
  3. With all of this out of the way, remove the three cadmium plated bolts holding the black plastic tray conglomeration that holds connectors and electronics. An 8mm nutdriver will do the job. No need to touch the wiring harnesses and plugs. Moving this aside as much as possible will allow the filter to be slid out of its vertical "drawer."
  4. OK, where is the filter? Look for the large wiring harness that runs across from the passenger side, over the transmission hump, toward the driver side, along the firewall. A couple of inches or so toward the rear of the car, from this wiring harness, is where the filter is located, in the black HVAC stuff. Look for a cover that has several holes in it that look like screws could go through them. The location is vertical, in a plane parallel to the car's doors. The cover is about 1" wide and 7" high. The cover is black plastic with a round thing protruding that has a couple of square tabs sticking out from it. Turn this "nut" counterclockwise a quarter turn or so until it stops. Then pull it out the cover by the "nut". At this point you will see the tab from the filter. Pull out the filter by the tab. Do not be alarmed if it breaks - it will not get stuck in its "drawer". The filter frame is made to break like this so that it comes out easier.
  5. I hate to do this: "Assembly is the reverse of disassembly" or whatever those lame manuals say. Just make sure that when you put the black plastic connector holder/electronics tray back that you use the short screw near the firewall. The long screw could pierce the wiring harness that runs along the firewall.

Hope this helped,
Paul Burger

From: Jerry Skene <>
Date: Sat, 27 May 95 09:47:28 EST

Replacement of Microfilter - E36

I finally figured out how to change the microfilter on my T93 325i (E-36), after having spent too much frustrating time trying to locate it. It cannot be seen from any position you can reach in the car, and you have to know where to look to find it. The task takes about 45 minutes. I would like to thank the author of a previous article on this topic, and would like to expand on it, as even with his instructions I had problems finding it.

The filter is mounted vertically, at the front end of the center console, right below the center of the bottom of the windshield. To access it, follow these instructions:

Remove Passenger Kick Panel

To remove the passenger kick panel, remove the two phillips head screws at the left and right corners of the rear edge of the panel (the edge closest to the rear of the car), just below the bottom of the glovebox door. Now slide the panel towards the rear of the car (towards you), out of its retaining clip on the firewall. This is easier to do if you first push the air vent protruding through this panel up so it clears the panel, and bend the curved left side of the panel away from the right front edge of the center console cover, so it wonUt catch as you pull the panel out.

Remove the Glovebox

To remove the glovebox, flip the left and right air vents above the glovebox down, then pry them out with your fingers. Remove each black phillips head screw now visible in the air vent holes. Open the glovebox door and, using a small slot screwdriver, pry out the two D shaped screw covers at the top left and right of the glovebox opening. Then remove the two black phillips screws behind these covers. Then, using an offset screwdriver or short phillips bit in a 1/4S socket, remove the two screws at the lower left and right of the glovebox opening. Pull out the glovebox and put it on the floor. You do not need to remove any wires from the rear of the glovebox.

Detach the Electrical Distribution Block

To get clearance for the filter, you must move the electrical distribution block behind the glovebox out of the way. This block is in the upper left area behind the glovebox. It has a large bundle of wires coming in the top, and an orange relay mounted on the left side. This block can be slid up, out of its retaining slides if you first release the catch which holds it in place. The catch is on the right side of the block, about half the way back. Slide a slot screwdriver between the right side of the distribution block and the left side of the plastic electronic moldule holder, and push the top of the catch in (towards the left side of the car). While holding the catch in, slide the distribution block up and out of its retaining slides. Move it down, away from its normal position.

Move the Passenger Air Vent Pipes

Now you must move the passenger air vent out of the way. To do this, use a flat screwdriver and pry the vent retaining pin out of its hole. This pin is located just to the rear of the front lower, cadmium-plated Torx screw on the HVAC box, at the front of the console. When this pin has been removed, bend the vent pipe down.

Remove the Filter Cover and Filter

The filter cover is hard to find. Just in front of the above mentioned Torx screw on the HVAC box is a cylindical 1 1/2S diameter handle, with 2 rectangular protrusions molded into it. Turn this 1/4 turn counter-clockwise, and pull out the filter cover attached to this handle. Feel inside the opening created for the tab handle on the filter itself. This is slightly above where the round handle was. Push this tab towards the front of the car and then pull it out to the right. You will have to push the vent pipe down, out of the way with your left hand to get enough clearance to remove the filter.

If the filter is the original one, the frame will be in one piece and will have to be snapped in two places to allow the filter to bend towards you, so that it will clear a bracket mounted to the car after the filter was installed at the factory. Examine your new filter to see how this works. The plastic frame has two slots and clearance wedges molded into it on the top and bottom edges. With a little force you can snap the frame at these slots, so that the filter now bends in two places. Do this to the old filter, and you can then remove it easily.

Install New Filter

Snap the new filterUs frame as described above, and slide it into the filter slot. The filter should be oriented so that the handle is close to the top right corner of the frame. Once the filter is fully inserted, pull the tab towards the rear of the car, seating the filter in place.

Replace the filter cover, ensuring that the wide edge of the cover plate is facing the rear of the car.

Move the passenger air vent back into position and replace the plastic pin.

Slide the electrical distribution block back into place, so that the locking catch snaps back into place.

Replace the glovebox, vent grills, and kick panel.

Enjoy increased airflow!

17.7: Electrical
17.7.1: Wiring fog lights to be on with high beams
From: Jerry Skene <>
Date: Sat, 16 Sep 95 18:30:32 EST

To keep the fog lights on when the high beams are also on:

Disconnect wire on pin 4 of Fog Light relay K47. Tape this wire up so it wonUt short out. Then connect pin 4 to ground. Fog lights will now be on whenever the fog light switch is on and the headlights are on.
Note: This is illegal in some states.
Suggestion: You could instal a dash switch to select normal operation or Ron-with-high-beam operationS as follows:

Connect a wire from pin 4 to the center terminal of the single-pole, single throw switch.
Connect the Red/White wire previously connected to pin 4 to one one side of the switch
Connect the other side of the switch to ground

To enable fog lights whenever the ignition is on, but not when the high beams are on (i.e. use fog lights as daytime running lights)

Connect a jumper between pin 9 and pin 8 of headlight switch S8. Leave the existing wires in place.
I did this in 1/2 hr. by removing the headlight switch from the dash, prying the switch mechanism off of the vent panel, and soldering a short jumper directly inside the switch housing.

Works well.

Note: This may be illegal in some states.

Jerry Skene '85 535i '94 325i '95 M3 '95 318ti

17.7.2: Instrument light test
With the ignition key in the off position, press the trip distance reset button until the distances illuminate (this will not reset the trip distance). Then continue to hold the button and turn the key to the first (accessary) position. The distances will change to an internal code and then a test will begin that exercises the instrument panel, including the SI lights. Release the reset button and watch the show.
  • -- John Firestone, Alfred Wegener Institut fuer Polar- und Meeresforschung +49 (471) 4831 363 Postfach 120161, D-27515 Bremerhaven .. ... .... 149 (fax) GERMANY

17.8: Misc
17.8.1: Clutch Shudder
From: Edmund Lian <>
Date: 21 Jan 96 22:06:09 EST

Hi all,

Thanks to everybody for responding to my query about clutch shudder in my 1995 E36. I thought I'd summarize responses to my query, since I'm getting a few queries about the problem, so others are having problems too.


The clutch and car begin to shudder or judder when the clutch is slipped while the car is moving slowly, either in first or reverse gear (for example, while parking, or inching forward in traffic). All respondents report the problem to occur before about 16,000 miles have been driven.


Consensus is that the problem is due to a non-asbestos clutch lining that glazes up. Some people mentioned a manufacturing problem, but the majority opinion is that the clutch lining is the culprit. The problem is said to be known to BMW, and has popped up in the US and Germany. There is no indication if the problem affects all E36 series cars, or just a few of them. People who have experienced clutch shudder have included drivers of 1992-1995 325s and derivatives.


The flywheel and clutch assemblies need to be replaced under warranty. For the model in question (E36), the parts involved include:

          21-20-1-223-418       Twin Mass Flywheel
          21-21-1-223-339       AT Press Plate
          21-21-1-223-475       Clutch Disk
          21-51-1-223-366       T/O Bearing
          11-21-1-720-310       Ball Bearing


17.8.2: OBC tricks
Date: Thu, 2 Mar 1995 08:45:28 PST

The following are instructions on how to see/set the OBC settings. Most of the credit goes to the President of the Great Salt Lake BMW Chapter. Other info came from my BMW microfische service manual. The settings may differ from car to car. These settings were done for a 1995 BMW 325iS.

  1. Press the 1000 and 10 keys together. You will then see "TEST NR: --"
  2. Input 19 and press the Set/Reset button. You will then see "LOCK: ON"
  3. Input the code derived from the addition of the current month and day. For example, if today is 3/1/95, you would then input 4 and press the Set/Reset key. The OBC settings are now "unlocked", although the display does not say "LOCK: OFF".
  4. Input 8 and press the Set/Reset key. This will give you another speedometer, but in kph instead of mph. I couldn't get mph with any key combination.
  5. To lock the OBC, repeat step B and C.

Part D can be any of the following. For reasons unknown to me, you are NOT supposed to change code 20.

OBC Code Settings (Rough Translation):

  1. Display test (Lights up the whole display)
  2. Current consumption (liters/100 km)
  3. Current consumption (liters/hour)
  4. Average consumption (liters/100 km)
  5. Current range
  6. N/A
  7. Average fuel in tank (liters)
  8. Current Speed (kph)
  9. System voltage at Term. "R" (Battery Voltage)
  10. Country/Language (US, Spa, Ger, Jap, etc.)
  11. Units am/pm
  12. Average Speed
  13. ETA
  14. Date of Software Mask
  15. Production Diagnosis
  16. ""
  17. Display Vehicle Specific Data
  18. Alarm Changeover (cont. vs. intermittent OBC chime)
  19. Lock/Unlock
  20. Correction factor for fuel consumption (DO NOT ALTER)
  21. Reset all defect codes (Does NOT reset the Service Light, I've tried)

Actual Display:

  1. [Lights up everything on the display]
  2. VBR: x,x (liters/100 km)
  3. VBR: x,x (liters/hr)
  4. RW-VBR: x,x (liters/100 km)
  5. RW: x (km)
  6. N/A
  7. TMTL: x,x (liters)
  8. V: x (kph)
  9. UB: xx,xx (V)
  10. LAND: 2=USA, 3=I, 4=E, 5=J, 6=F, 7=CDN, 8=AUS/GOLF, 0=D, 1=GB
  11. EINHEIT 1: B3, B4, B5, B6, B7, B8, B9, BA, BB, BC, BD, BE, BF, B0, B1

    EINHEIT 2: [similar to above, I didn't want to mess with it]

  12. VANK: xx,x (kph)
  13. ANK: xx:xx
  14. ROM: 25.06.1991
  15. DIAG: 01 01 000 E3
  16. PORT: 01 101010000, 02 101010000, 03...etc
  17. PROM: 00 12, 01 37, 02 18, 03 E6, 04 02, 05 B3, 06 FF, 07 7E
  18. HORN: DTON or [DTON flashing]
  19. LOCK: ON
  20. KVBR: 1000
  21. RESET?

Armand Aquino

17.8.3: Repair manuals
From: jfiresto_at_AWI-Bremerhaven.DE (John Firestone)
Date: Fri, 21 Jul 1995 21:11:10 +0200 (MET DST)

I use two German-language books that cover the 318i. As mentioned before:

Dieter Korp et al., Jetzt helfe ich mir selbst. Band 153: BMW 316i, 318i, 318is ab Januar '91. Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart. ISBN 3-613-01465-3.


H.R. Etzold, So wird's gemacht. Band 74: BMW 3er Reihe ab Sept '90. Delius Klasing Verlag, Bielefield. ISBN 3-7688-0733-9.

The first book, to parrot the title, covers the 316i/318i/318is built after 1990. I am pretty sure another volume in the series covers the 320i and up: I just have not found it yet. The second book covers the 316i/318i/320i/325i/325td/318is/320is/325is built beginning September 1990.

Both books run about 270 pages. Since "Jetzt helfe ich mir selbst" covers three model variants rather than eight, it might appear that it has a great advantage in terms of pages per model variant. "So wird's gemacht", however, is set in smaller type and has more compact illustrations. I estimate it squeezes about 40% more information into the same amount of space. It might cover five variants in the same space as "Jetzt helfe ich mir selbst" would cover three, assuming each variant was completely different. However, in many areas, they are not, so the two books could be on equal terms in terms of pages per procedure-for-my-particular-car.

The two books share a similar philosophy. They acknowledge that cars have gotten so complex that there are limits to what a self-helper should do: that some adjustments or repairs are better done by a professional being too difficult without specialized training or tools. Not surprisingly, both books focus on the things that a self-helper has a reasonable chance of doing on his own.

The first book, "Jetzt helfe ich mir selbst" is organized around BMWs service schedule (Wartungsplan) and envisions BMW, the car owner, and his car as one system. The aim of the book is to "plug" in the car owner to act as an intelligent agent between the car and BMW. The owner takes on as much or as little of the maintenance and repairs as he desires, within what the book presumes are his abilities. The work the owner can't or doesn't want to do, he turns over to a service station or a BMW garage.

The car's service lights set the pace of the work and organize the book. The book begins by explaining how to reset the lights. It ends with a table showing the official BMW service plan:

  • week-to-week inspections
  • oil service
  • inspection I
  • inspection II
  • yearly inspections

The book describes and indexes the work required for each, color-coded by difficulty:

  • Green (the self-helper can do the work)
  • Yellow (a service station can do the work)
  • Red (a BMW garage can do the work)

The second book, "So wird's gemacht", is somewhat more traditional. The book acknowledges the existence of the service lights; it even provides the rudiments of the service plan scattered across two appendixes. Deep down, however, one senses that the book's author does not like the idea of following a set of indicator lights. One suspects, in fact, that he is an agnostic, that given the choice, he would not want his readers to serve and make ritual offerings to a false LED god. As proof, he introduces the maintenance schedule by kilometers traveled (mileage). He also notes that BMW is obliged to reset -- and hence nullify the lights -- whenever, at no charge [at least in Germany.] The readers of this list who damn the service lights as completely useless, might find such thinking agreeable.

The book is also more traditional in that it does not state the difficulty of different jobs, but does mention where special tools or the services of a garage are required. It assumes the reader can figure out how hard a job is going to be after reading a description; unlike "Jetzt helfe ich mir selbst", the book does give recommendations as to who should do the work: the self-helper, the gas station or the BMW garage.

As to the maintenance itself, both books seem to assume its readers are about equally ambitious. The "Jetzt helfe ich mir selbst" book is somewhat more comprehensive in what it describes. What "So wird's gemacht" covers, however, it covers much more thoroughly and clearly.

Comparing the directions for changing the clutch, "Jetzt" begins with 5 sentences warning the reader it is tricky work; it then devotes 30 sentences and 1 picture to the actual procedure. On the other hand, "So wird's" skips the warning and jumps immediately to the procedure, which it describes in 38 sentences with 8 supporting pictures and drawings. Comparing the procedure for changing the oil filter, the "Jetzt" book provides a single step 1-2-3-4 photograph and easy-tofollow instructions. The instructions, however, are misleading: they fail to mention the O-ring at the end of the lag bolt; they also suggest that the lid O-ring should not be replaced unless it defective. The "So wird's" book, on the other, gets both points right; in addition, it devotes a separate drawing showing the placement of the two O-rings.

I have and use both books because, at present, I am a worshiper of the service indicator light god. (When the "Balanz" warranty runs out, perhaps the readers of this list will help me see the error of my ways.) I use "Ich helfe ich mir selbst" to determine what I need to do to follow the BMW service plan. I then immediately turn to "So wird's gemacht" for clear instructions on how to do it. Where "So wird's gemacht" fails me -- because it does not provide a procedure -- as a last resort I return to "Ich helfe ich mir selbst".

  • -- John Firestone, Alfred Wegener Institut fuer Polar- und Meeresforschung +49 (471) 4831 363 Postfach 120161, D-27515 Bremerhaven .. ... .... 149 (fax) GERMANY

17.9: Performance
17.9.1: Airbox Mod

(Ed Note: Several listers have had good luck removing the internal baffles in the stock airbox to increase power. Unfortunatly I lost the posts which describe it in more detail, but here are some comments:)

The reason that we can improve upon the stock box, is that by LAW, a manufacturer must not allow a vehicle to produce more that X dbA of noise at Y Hz ... to this end they will use a device called ..

A Hemholtz Resonator (see Bosch Blue book for better exp!)

They are NOT used to "straighten" air flow ... air will ALWAYS flow from a region of higher pressure to lower pressure :)

The other reason is to help prevent water ingestion from causing hydraulic lock (and broken engines) ...

and wet paper filters ... which don't work well ;)

So by removing the resonators, and swapping in a K&N we can make more power while making a bit more (nice IMHO) growly noise ...

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