1995 BMW E36 M3 – Findings, Technical Literature

December, 2015:  Please note that this page was last updated in 2009 and is a short compilation of fixes and findings from the 1995 BMW M3 that I was driving at the time. I hope it is helpful!
Replacing failure-prone E36 plastic waterpump as
a precautionary measure- October, 2005.
Everything on this page is written in reference to a 1995 E36 M3. I cannot guarantee that these tips will work for your particular vehicle and assume no liability for the projects that you undertake on it!

May, 2009: BLAUPUNKT BRISBANE SD48: Ideal digital media headunit.
Images from the M3 install:


It’s no secret, finding an ideal headunit for a BMW is difficult. I was satisfied with the sound quality on the Alpine headunit I had been using for three years, but the connectivity was absent. It was a good MP3 CD player, but there were no inputs (and the look/lights never matched the E36 interior anyway). This is a CD-less unit. There are rear connectors for an external CD changer, but if you plan to use the rear aux input you cannot simultaneously use a CD changer.
Aesthetic impressions:The overall look and feel of the unit matches the E36 interior relatively well, save for the silver volume control with the bright blue light. I remedied the blue light (in the middle of the volume knob) by cutting a 1/2″ circle of black electrical tape and carefully adhering it to the light. I used the base of an orange electical twist-on connector to trace the tape – it is exactly 1/2″ across. The buttons are permanently amber/red, and the display is variocolor (4000-something colors to choose from). In other words, the lighting basically matches the BMW amber.
Installation: The idea was to hook up the rear USB input to the glovebox where I could leave a USB flash drive attached permanently. Also, I purchased the rear auxiliary stereo input (it’s the 8-pin one) and ran a cable down the center console. I ran it out the e-brake handle, where it can be plugged into anything with a 1/8″ headphone jack. In my case, an ipod touch in a rubberized case, which sits nicely on top of the ashtray and doesn’t move when I take corners. The USB cable they provide is long enough to reach the glovebox – I removed the useless factory flashlight+connector, and ran the USB cable through that hole. Blaupunkt was smart to use separate connectors for power wires and speaker wires. That came in handy because I ran new speaker wires, and I ran the power wires into a BMW harness adapter.
Tactile and sound quality impressions: The tactile feel of the unit is a notch below the Alpine. It feels much cheaper in one’s hand than it looks. Sound Quality is difficult to judge, because this is an all-digital media unit. In other words, you’re playing lossy MP3 files, not CDs. SQ was average like the Alpine…In reality, the SQ was certainly good enough for me. If you’re a serious audiophile, the Nakamichi might be the way to go (but that will cost you). The response time of the buttons/interface is very good while using a Kingston 16GB USB drive, I didn’t test the SD card. Overall I think this is an excellent audio upgrade, and at <$150 it’s a bargain (if you can handle being CD-less in 2009).

May, 2008: FAN DELETE MOD before your fan explodes. I followed the fan delete mod by the DIY instructions which you can find at understeer.com. I did this and also replaced the radiator/expansion tank because at around 100k miles the fan and radiator (historically, for E36 cars) tend to explode and cause a lot of trouble. My take on the fan delete mod is a positive one, and I would recommend it. In the 100-degree summer heat, the engine stays cool (although these cars are equipped with US-spec “idiot” coolant temperature guages, so it could vary somewhat). I was not expecting a power increase, but I sincerely feel a slight difference. EDIT: Over one year later, this mod has held up very well. I would highly recommend it.

April, 2008: CLEANING YOUR MAF/AFM A Dirty MAF can cause erratic idle. This is incredibly simple. I didn’t believe it either, but take 90% alcohol – buy a couple of bottles – and put it in a gallon size ziploc bag. Place your entire MAF/AFM into the bag. Shake, soak, etc. Air dry it for a day or so. That’s it.

April, 2006: CLEANING AN IDLE CONTROL VALVEA Dirty ICV can cause erratic idle. There are a lot of ICV-cleaning procedures online so I felt it was unnecessary to post pictures here. What I will try to do here is fill in the gaps and answer some questions that I could not elucidate without getting my hands dirty. Many thanks go out to those on the forums who helped me troubleshoot this problem, as well as those who wrote the original articles. If you are going to clean your idle control valve, original articles can be found at these links: M42 318i engine325i/328i/M3 engine.
If these are your links and you prefer that I remove them, please use my contact form.
Questions I had when cleaning an ICV: How is the ICV actually removed from the engine? It is held on to a metal plate by a rubber connector. It slides off the engine in the direction of the firewall. What fluid should I use to clean it? I used synthetic throttle body and choke cleaner. Can the ICV be removed without removing the intake manifold? Yes, if you have thin arms and enough patience to figure out how to twist and turn things to get it out of there. Anything else to keep in mind? I took the opportunity to replace the hose clamps at these locations: upper and lower ICV hose, intake boot (both), alternator cooling duct. I also replaced the plastic connector between the upper ICV hose and the underside of the intake manifold (when removing this, I broke the connector), and the plastic connector between the two hoses and the top front of the valve cover. I also replaced the round orage rubber throttle body gasket (S50 US engine). Gaskets are cheap, replace them.

February, 2006: DRAIN AND FILL DIFFERENTIAL AND MANUAL TRANSMISSION FLUIDbecause it’s an easy DIY project. Total time: 4 hours (including ordering the parts/fluids). Total cost: Roughly $70 (if you use the expensive Redline fluids) This will take a little planning… for the differential you will need two crush washers from the BMW dealership ($0.50 each) for the drain and fill plugs, and a Facom D107-14 14mm hex tool Which i finally found at this URL (click here) and cost roughly $20 shipped. I used Redline 75w90 (1.8qts) in the differential, Redline D4-ATF (1.8 qts) in the transmission. The redline fluids are about $10 per quart. You will also need a can of brake parts cleaner ($2) and a sta-lube pump which is about $5 at Autozone. PROCEDURE: Back the car up on ramps and jack up the front of the car until it is roughly level. Support it with jack stands and chock the wheels on the ramps! The reason the rear of the car is going on the ramps is because it is rear wheel drive and thus the handbrake holds these wheels in place. Use a 17mm socket to undo the fill (and then drain) plugs on the transmission casing and let the fluid drain into a pan. At the differential, use the facom tool to unscrew first the fill plug and then the drain plug, and drain the fluid into a pan as well. Now here’s what I did… I first filled the transmission (after screwing the drain plug back in, torqued to 37 lb/ft) with the sta-lube pump until the ATF ran out the fill hole. By the way, I just cut up two milk jugs and put the ATF in them, and held the pump in my hand. It is not necessary to make a fancy bottle for the ATF or gear oil. Before I used the pump on the differential oil, I sprayed it clean with liberal amounts of brake parts cleaner and blew all of the cleaner out with compressed air. The procedure for the differential is virtually identical, just stick the pump hose into the fill hole and pump the differential oil into it until it spills out the top (I sincerely hope you screwed the drain plug back in first…) After that just snug up the top and bottom bolts, clean up the mess and call it a day. I changed both fluids when my car had 64k miles, I don’t think i’ll have to do this again until at least 100k. And it sure beats going to the dealer.

December, 2005: DID YOU KNOW:The E36 headlight/fog light switch is supposed to light up. Apparently a number of people on the forums (as did I) didn’t realize this. The bulb is a 2721, available at the corner auto parts store. On the dashboard under the headlight switch/left vent assembly is a screw. Unscrew it. Pull the whole vent piece out, unscrew the headlight connector from the wiring harness. Turn the vent assembly around and look – there is a white cylindrical-looking thing. Pull it out and the bulb is on the end of this. Pull the bulb out and replace. Install is reverse of removal. The switch will light up whenever the key is in the ignition.

November, 2005: NGK E46 M3 spark plugs:# BKR6EQUP. Apparently Bosch+4 platinums are not ideal for this car, and apparently these NGK plat +4’s are good. I didn’t notice an incredible difference or anything, and it didn’t change the idle characteristics much either. $7/ea. Not a bad spark plug for your E36 M3, I suppose, but look across the forums to make your own best choice. EDIT May ’09: I replaced these with BKR6E plugs, at $2.50/ea they are far cheaper, and frankly I don’t notice a difference on a semi-stock car (Dinan chip).

November, 2005: A +12V SOURCE WHEN EXTERIOR LIGHTS ARE ON:If you want to run a source in your car that comes on with the exterior parking+ lights but doesn’t dim with the instrument cluster potentiometer… pop out the potentiometer just to the left of the steering column. There are three wires coming out of it. The middle wire is +12v (black/grey I believe), the top wire is ground (color=?). Connect to that. It’s that simple. I don’t know how much current you can run off of this setup -be smart and use an inline fuse! I ran something that did not pull a lot of current and it is still working just fine.

June, 2005: K&N FILTERCHARGER:I can’t tell a difference. I bought it for the long service intervals and the warm/fuzzy idea of better air flow. In reality my butt-dyno registers no increase in power. It may sound different but not distinctly. I’d recommend it if you want to increase your service interval but if you want a power bump, get a CAI.

May, 2005: WINDOW ACTING FUNNY?:It may be this common problem. When I purchased the blue 95 M3, every time I closed the driver’s door the window would not pop up and seal as it should. It would sometimes jump up and down 1/4″ in rapid succession, and it really confused the car’s alarm system as well. It was the door striker, (drivers side) part no. 51-21-8-105-511 Which is held on to the doorpost by two bolts (torx? hex? I don’t remember but I have both sets of tools so it didn’t matter). Remove the side panel trim behind the door, it pops off. (Replace the clips when you put it back on, examine for delamination as well). Remove the door striker -it’s in plain sight. With your other hand reach behind it to make sure you don’t lose the backplate piece into the car body!. Replace and grease the new door striker. Remember it connects to a little wire – reconnect this and installation is reverse of removal. Very easy, and a $25 part.

May, 2005: HARDWIRE A VALENTINE 1:A clean install for your radar detector. Easy! Mount the detector at the top of the windsheild on the drivers side – the tint strip should not interfere but it does affect the range of motion for the sunshade, but functionally this is a non-issue. Pop off the entire plate up where the sunroof switch is. It will all hang down by the switch wires. The Valentine-1 came with a hardwire install kit including an in-line fuse (you know how much I like inline fuses) which I used. I tapped into the Purple/white wire for +12v, the brown wire for ground. The detector comes on when the key is in 2nd position and/or the engine is on. The wire colors are accurate for my ’95 M3, build date 11/94. Your car may differ.

May, 2005: DID YOU KNOW:You can scan for fault codes without a code reader in an OBD-I car (up to 1995 model year). I call it the 5-tap pedal trick. Some of you already know about this but a lot still don’t. To run through the 4-digit code data on your car, put the key in the ignition and turn to the 2nd position, where all the cluster lights come on. Within a second, tap the accelerator pedal (fully) 5 times in rapid succession (total time about 3 seconds). The check-engine light will flash once and then turn off. It will then flash a certain number of times, turn off, flash another number of times and then do it twice more. If there are other codes it will then flash these. For example…. “flash… flashflash… flash… flashflashflash” would be a code of 1213 (whatever that is). If your car is telling you certain codes, you can crossreference these codes online and see if they mean anything’s wrong. You will need to know the exact year and engine in your car when you search for a code list, as they differ by engine. For my 1995 M3 i searched…. 1995 M3, S50US (the engine type) and found that my car uses the M3.3.1 firmware – from there I checked the code reference list. You could also buy a code reader for $100, but why…

Feb, 2005: STEREO SYSTEM: The Infinity Basslink(I) Is an easy upgrade. In a nutshell, I mounted it in the left side of the trunk. Lift the carpet, remove the large plastic piece (held on by two or three plastic nuts). I mounted the basslink vertically on a nice slab of black-painted wood that was cut to fit. I drilled two holes in the wood and used a u-shaped double-ended bolt and inserted it through a loop in the exposed sheetmetal. I then fed the two ends of the u-bolt up through the wood and tightened it down. It hasn’t come loose, ever. The wiring to the battery was easy, since it’s on the other side of the trunk. Wiring the adjustment module took more work – I removed the center console around the handbrake and ran the telephone-wire (the wire that is used) under the carpet and up through a small hole in the center tray. The adjustment cleanly sits upside-down in the center tray now. I ran speaker-level inputs into the basslink from the rear speakers. The whole things might have taken 4 or 5 hours.

Sylvania Silverstar Headlights are a mixed bag for me. They don’t look like HIDs. I just wanted brighter light and they definitely deliver on that promise – they put out more light than stock bulbs in both the stock E36 housings and in ellipsoid housings. Their customer service policy is a full refund in the form of a check. That’s good, but they ought to fix their quality control issues. I still run 9006 silverstars but no longer H1s due to the lifespan.

When i bought my black E36 M3, the passenger side seatback cable had snapped. The seat wouldn’t fold forward. The BMW dealer wants an outrageous amount of money to fix this. The cable costs $10 and the repair requires few tools. I used a bicycle tire lever, thin flathead screwdriver and a pair of needlenose pliers. One day I’ll post the cable part number here, because the ETK is terrible and the dealer had to order the cable three times before the correct one arrived. It’s a simple repair.
Ok, how to do it:My black E36 M3 had “vader” seats. The procedure may be different on other models. Recline the seat, pull the headrest out and remove the plastic vent type thing underneath. It just snaps out. Don’t remove the map pockets from the back of the seat. Move the seat to the highest and furthest-forward position, and basically take the leather off. the leather fits on to the seatback with plastic inserts all around the top and sides of the seat, they just tuck in tightly and cleanly. I used bike tire levers to basically pry it all out over the top and sides of the seat. You don’t need to remove the bottom part with a special tool like they say, just go as far down the sides of the seat as you can. The leather/foam should fall forward on the seat, exposing the handle/cable mechanism. Use the thin screwdriver to pry the cover off the handle housing (stick it in the thin slots). squeeze the center of the handle attachment to pop it off, and slide the cable-end (S-shaped) out of the plastic piece. The cable snapped at the very bottom where it attaches under the seat, so i was able to pull the whole cable housing out of the seat at that point. I just made mental notes of the positioning of these items as I removed them. You will need to get under the seat, and find the attachment eyelet where the cable had been. The plastic piece on my car (heated manual vaders) was blue. Use the needle nose pliers to yank off the snap ring which holds the eye-attachment on to the pin that actuates the mechanism. When reinstalling the parts, I just re-used the snap ring since it’s semi-malleable metal. Installation is basically the reverse of removal. You will not have to adjust anything if it is installed properly. Since I began this project blind, it took three hours. It can be done in less than one.