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E36 M3 Performance Vs E36 325i/is and 328i/is Performance

The gap between the 328i/is and the M3 is considerably smaller than the gap between the 325i/is and the M3. The 328 performs closer to an M3 than it does a 325. since the 328's come with an open 2.93 differential, a simple swap to a 3.15 or 3.23 ltd slip diff from a 325i sport package or M3 will make accelerate awfully close to the M3....take a 328 and do the diff, shark injector, M50 manifold and CAI and shock stock M3s...

Now, to be fair, the M3 does have a lot of small little things and details that make it feel like a different car than the 'pedestrian' E36 series cars. The suspension geometry is a beefier version of the pre-6/92 E36 design. The rack is quicker lock-to-lock, the brakes are better etc. The vaders are really great, but some people prefer the standard sport seats for long distance comfort.

As far as getting a vanos 325i/325is to perform at m3 levels, well obviously being down a half liter of displacement puts the hurt on the 325i in terms of torque...but 200-210 RWHP NA from an M50TU engine is not exactly rocket sicene. I have seen a 94 325i put down 213 RWHP on a Dynojet 248C dyno with the following modifications:

  • S50 cams from a 95 M3
  • Turner Motorsports cam chip
  • Active Autowerke cold air intake
  • stock M3 exhaust system
  • underdrive pulley set

    Combine a setup like this with a 3.23, or better yet, a 3.38 differential (found in some M3 automatics), and your 325 will feel like a rocketship. It will pull on stock S50's to 100 mph. Of course, your car will still be down torque wise, but if you gear it tight enough it's not a big deal. Interesting to note that the M3's beefier internals closely resemble the guts of a non vanos M50 engine, especially the connecting rods and double valve spring setup.

    My 1995 325is has a TMS/Jim Conforti chip, an ECIS intake, and stock M3 exhaust. A good friend of mine drives a 97 328i with M3 exhaust and that's it. His car is much stronger off the line and at low-midrange rpm. I keep telling him to get the shark injector and an M50 manifold to really let his car breathe!

    A couple of other suspension and chassis notes: The control arm/ball joint setup on the E36 M3 is different and superior to the regular E36 series. If your E36 invariably eats its ball joints (which they are prone to doing), it's not a bad idea to upgrade to the M specific parts. Also, many people (especially on eBay) sell their stock M3 shocks/struts/springs. Do not attempt to run M3 springs on your non-M shocks/struts. They don't fit. Swapping over to a complete M3 suspension setup, on the other hand, is fairly painless.

  • E36 BMW Ball Joint Replacement Instructions

    E36 BMW's are notoriously hard on their suspension components, particularly the non M3 cars, and those cars built after 6/92. Early E36 models have different suspension geometry that is closer to the M3 design than it is to post-6/92 manufacture date design. Since most 3 series cars have trashed shocks/struts by 100k, you might as well replace these components while you are at it. BMW replacement control arms include the inner ball joint pre-installed. They are not replaceable. If and when your inner/upper ball joints wear out, you must replace the entire control arm. The lower or outer ball joint is easily replaceable. Instructions for Ball Joint Replacement:

    1. Loosen lug bolts. Jack the car up and put on jackstands. Put some chocks in front of the rear wheels.

    2. Remove wheel. (Instruction are for doing one side at a time).

    3. Remove sway bar end link connector nut from the bottom of the control arm. Watch out- it will pop up under a bit of tension once removed.

    4. Loosen the control arm bushing 'lollipop' bolts. Two of them.

    5. Remove the outer bal joint nut. It's 16mm. A lot of E36 BMW bolts/nuts tend to be 16mm. This one is easy to get at. The ball joint might try to spin on its shaft. A pair of vice grips will stop that.

    6. Now for the fun part. Grab your 19mm open and box end wrench. Get under the car or work from the side. Reach up over the swaybar and tie rod. See the nut on top? That's the inner ball joint nut. You can't get a socket on it because your E36 has a motor mount behind it. You are limited to less than a 1/4 turn! Keep at it- the nut WILL come off.

    7. Once both ball joint nuts have been removed, use a pickle fork aka ball joint sepaator to carefully - taking care not to damage the dust boots or seating surfaces- pop the ball joints out of position. In my experience, the inner one take a bit more work.

    8. Remove control arm bushing bracket/eyelet/lollipop bolts and remove control arm assembly from the vehicle. Order up a new ball joint (I prefer Lemforder brand, same as oem BMW), and make sure the inner ball joint has no play in it. If it does, you need a new control arm! Don't worry, the new control arm includes the inner ball joint already mounted. I actually bought some from an Ebay store that came with both pre-installed!

    9. Have a local automotive machine shop or a BMW dealership press the old outer ball joint out and the new one in.

    10. Installation is the reverse of these instructions. Install the lower ball joint nut first, then the lollipop bolts (loosely for now), then jack the inner ball joint into position. Have fun tightening that nut! Get the ball joint nuts nice and tight, the tapered shaft pulls them into position.

    11. Snug down lollipop bolts.

    12. Put wheel back on and take it for a test drive!

    This repair is for all E36 BMW car including 1992 BMW 325i, 1992 325is, 1992 318i, 1992 318is, 1993 BMW 325i, 1993 325is, 1993 318i, 1993 318is, 1994 BMW 325i, 1994 325is, 1994 318i, 1994 318is, 1995 BMW 325i, 1995 325is, 1995 318i, 1995 318is, 1995 318ti, 1996 328i, 1996 328is, 1996 318i, 1996 318is, 1996 318ti, 1997 328i, 1997 328is, 1997 318ti, 1998 323i, 1998 323is, 1998 328i, 1998 328is, 1998 318ti, 1994 M3, 1995 M3, 1996 M3, 1997 M3, 1998 M3, 1999 M3 and other BMW E36-based models not sold in North America.

    E36 325i/325is/328i/328is/318i/318is/M3 Slip Ring and Other Steering Comonents To Watch

    Anyone who drives any E36 BMW model should be aware of a problem that is extremely common among higher mileage E36 BMW's. It's the steering wheel slip ring failure problem. I awoke one December morning to drive my trusty 1995 325is to work. Upon turning the steering wheel, loud crunching noises began to emanate from the steering column. The airbag light came on. The horn stopped working, and steering effort became inconsisent, stiff one moment, light and free the next.

    What happened? The slip ring, which allows the airbag sensors to maintain contact via a reel during lock to lock turning, had failed. A piece of the plastic had broken off, and sheared the wiring inside. It caught on the turn signal cancel post and tore up everything. What a mess!

    Be aware that there are actually different slip rings, so not just one ring will work for all E36 models. The dealer gets around $160 for this part, which includes the entire slip ring, wiring and plugs. To replace your BMW's steering slip ring (these instructions can be used for replacement of this part on most bmws of the 1990's, such as E34 5 series, E38 7 series, and the 1996+ 5 series as well...), use the following instructions:

    1. Disconnet the car's battery and let drain for 30 min to 1 hour. This is important as the airbag retains a charge for awhile. Just disconnect the negative terminal.

    2. remove the plastic trim under the steering column. There are a 2 screws. The screw is at the very bottom of the underside of the steering column. Remove it and then remove the plastic trim piece that covers the bottom half of the steering column. You'll need to push your cruise control lever around to get the plastic piece out without breaking it, but it will come out.

    3. Remove the orange SRS connector from its holder and carefully unplug connector. There's a tiny little tab you'll need to press in on the side... use a ball-point pen. The connector should slip apart.

    4. Working behind steering wheel, completely loosen Torx screws (T30) while holding airbag in place. Support airbag to prevent it from falling out. These scews are a PAIN but they WILL come loose if you're patient. These are the four torx scres on the backside of the steering wheel. I recommend just buying a torx driver from your local auto parts store. Normal screwdriver length.

    5. Carefully lift airbag off of steering wheel and disconnect orange harness connector from rear of airbag unit. Mine just pulled straight off. Be careful to set the airbag down face-up, someplace out of the way. Oh, and the brown wire is the horn button. Just pull gently on the connector. It's a simple blade connector.

    6. Now remove the steering wheel center bolt, number 6 in the diagram. If I recall correctly you'll need a 17mm socket here. Before I removed the steering wheel, I take a sharpie marker and mark 3 points on the splines of both the wheel and the steering shaft, to make lining it up easier afterwards.

    7. Now you can see the tip of the hollow steering spindle through the middle of the steering wheel. The outer edge of the spindle is toothed where the wheel slides over it. Use an ultra-fine tipped marker or something similar to mark the exact position of the steering wheel relative to the steering column shaft; that way you can put the steering wheel back on in precisely the same position later.

    8. Remove steering wheel. You might need to turn the ignition switch on if the wheel was locked.

    9. Take the unit over to a workbench and use a Torx t10 bit and a small screwdriver to disconnect the old slip ring.

    10. Carefully note the position of the slip ring and replace with the new one. Use copper paste dielectric grease on it to prevent corrosion and squeaks.

    11. Reassembly is the the opposite of these instructions. Pay attention- Once you have put the steering wheel back on the car, DO NOT let the slip ring turn on the wheel. Important! Turn it as little as possible until everything is buttoned back up.

    12. Also, while you have your E36 BMW's steering wheel apart, examine the white plastic collar on the steering shaft and the bearing below it. Both wear and fail on many cars. The symptom of this is a loose steering shaft that has some vertical and horizontal play! This has not happened on my car, but it has on my friend's 1997 328i.

    13. The great thing about replacing the slip ring assembly is that the new one includes all of the electrical connector the failed old ring probably destroyed upon failure, and it is simply plug and play.

    14. Your airbag light might stay on. Your local BMW dealership can reset this light, as can many independent BMW repair shops.

    Now, you might wonder what some symptoms of a slip ring going bad are. They include squeaking noises and strangely stiff steering, plus the most notorious symptom, slow or no return to center when cornering.

    Next time we will tackle control arm, bushing, and ball joint repair! The above article is valid for all E36 BMW cars, including the 1992 318i, 1992 318is, 1992 325i, 1992 325is, 1993 318i, 1993 318is, 1993 325i, 1993 325is, 1994 318i, 1994 318is, 1994 325i, 1994 325is, 1995 318i, 1995 318is, 1995 325i, 1995 325is, 1996 318i, 1996 318is, 1996 328i, 1996 328is, 1997 318i, 1997 318is, 1997 328i, 1997 328is, 1998 323i, 1998 323is, 1998 328i, 1998 328is, and 1994 M3, 1995 M3, 1996 M3, 1997 M3, 1998 M3, and 1999 M3, plus 1995 318ti, 1996 318ti, 1997 318ti, 1998 318ti, and some european market cars not sold in North America. Use your best judgement!

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