My criteria for the replacement radiator was improved cooling and OEM fitment. I set on the Mishimoto e30 / e36 radiator after recommendations from friends and finding only positive reviews in online BMW forums. Mishimoto offers a lifetime warranty which is comforting.
However, my decision shouldn’t be taken as endorsement and I haven’t run this radiator long enough to provide a real product review. After I installed this my close friend and local e30 expert Eric Berger told me that he knows several people who have had these radiators fail. In some cases the failure resulted in motor damage: it’s “buyer beware” as always. For the record Eric recommends Behr.
Because of Eric’s emphatic warning I’m going to monitor this radiator very closely especially as it approaches the first year of service. I did some further internet searches and found few reports of failures with the Mishimoto products. Mostly I found complaints about fitment. The few cases I found of failure were related to running straight water (no coolant) for long periods of time and in some cases not even using distilled water. Since coolant lubricates the moving parts of the cooling system and iron in water reacts with aluminum I blame careless owners for those failures I read about. I’m not sure what the issues were with the other local guys who had failures.
I found the quality of the Mishimoto radiator to be good and I would rate it a 9/10. It loses points for two reasons. Firstly, some of the fins were bent and a couple near the top were sheared off out of the box. Radiators are delicate but I’d expect it to be perfect on arrival. There’s a tool that can fix bent fins so I guess I’ll buy one.
Secondly I found fitment to be imperfect. One of the support posts was angled slightly outward. From post edge to post edge the radiator should be 26″ across but because of this defect my Mishimoto radiator was 26.15″ across. The solution was to cut down one of the rubber radiator mounts so that it would still seat to the radiator support. I don’t like this solution as it looks sloppy and failure due to a weakened mount is a concern.
Not necessarily a show stopper but there’s no fan shroud for a mechanical m20 fan that fits on the Mishimoto. I mean, you can throw one on but there’s no where to zip tie or clip it onto the rad. I’m still researching that.
At the outset I thought this project would take a day, maybe two at the most. It actually took 3 weekends to complete because of missing parts and tools. I also wasted a lot of time researching various steps and confirming that I was doing the right thing. Hopefully my experience will help you with your own steering rack swap. I learned some valuable lessons about this kind of work:
I started my research by asking for some opinions which fell into two categories:
I heard so much praise for the z3 rack, like “best mod ever for an e30″, that I decided to pursue it. Next I started researching the method: most of my web searches turned up the same DIY (posted on R3vlimited) time and again so I decided to follow it. Going with the DIY seemed like the only option but was my first and most costly, time consuming mistake.
I want to put a very fine point on this: If you are planning to do an e30 steering rack to e36 m3 or e36 z3 steering rack swap you should buy a complete kit. There may be other retailers but the kit used by people I know is available from Zionsville Autosport. The pros to buying the complete kit is substantial savings over buying the component parts and the kit is complete requiring no retrofitting or fabrication to install unlike the DIY procedure. I wasted a lot of time blocked because of missing tools, fiddling with retrofits and installing things incorrectly. Save yourself the trouble and buy the kit.
But I didn’t know about the complete kits when I started so I set about ordering the parts I’d need. Web searching led me to The Rack Doctor who I ordered from because I felt most confident that I was getting the rack I wanted. On a scale of 1-5 I’d say my experience was a 3.5.
The DIY I referenced listed out the following parts:
2x 7/16 Bolt 2 Inches Long
2x Bolt M10x50 26111226737
2x Self Locking Nuts 07129964672
4x Copper Seals 14×20 32411093596
4x Copper Seals 16×22 32411093597
4x Self Locking Nuts 07129922716
1x Power Steering Reservoir 32411097164
1x High Pres. PS Hose 32411141953
1x Spacer 72118119268
2x Spacer 72111847480
2x Nut 721119779250
2x LP PS Return Hoses
1x Bottle of ATF
Some of these parts are NLA or the author just didn’t list part numbers. I have crossed out the list entirely because I don’t think you should reference it. Here’s my recommended parts list:
4x Copper Seals 14×20 32411093596
4x Copper Seals 16×22 32411093597
1x Power Steering Reservoir 32411097164
1x High Pres. PS Hose 32411141953
1x LP PS Return Hose 32411135936
1x LP PS Return Hose 32411133401
1x e30 to e36 Steering Knuckle Kit (either RPKIT or the kit from here)
1x *e36 Left Ball Joint 32111139313
1x *e36 Right Ball Joint 32111139314
2x *Clamp Ring 32111136179
2x *Nuts 32111136494
1x Bottle ATF Fluid
*Necessary only if you get the e36 ball joints and these parts are not included. e30 tie rods require a different locking nut and may be reused from your old rack. Probably.
Two 15mm wrenches (for the knuckle)
8mm and 6mm extended hex bits (for installing the knuckle kit around the parts of the knuckle – you’ll see!)
Tie Rod Puller
Bottle Jack (for flattening the rack tabs)
C-Clamps (for depressing brake cylinders)
A note about tie rod pullers: There are two styles. The most common style you’ll find at your local auto supply store features a single U shaped clamp with a bolt through the center. This bolt has a pointed tip that seats in the top of the ball joint bolt. The bolt must have a divot in the top for this tip to seat in otherwise it will not work, and it should be noted that the e36 arms do NOT have this divot. Also note that in order to use the U shaped puller you will need to take off the rotors and loosen the dust shield. It’s really loud when the bolt finally breaks loose but a little less violent than banging on it with a hammer or a pickle fork. The other kind of puller looks like a metal clothes pin and a bolt is used to close the jaws of the pin, again pushing the ball joint bolt out. This tool works by pressing down on the ball joint bolt with a flat surface and therefore works on bolts that do NOT have a divot in the top. Like e36 tie rods and ball joints. So if you have the choice get the clothes pin kind of tool since it’s more versatile.
Total cost for the window with installation was a mere $275 and I saved a little bit by reusing the window weather strip. The black metal spacer (called a cup) and the flexible metal trim are always reused.
I was very impressed with the window tech’s knowledge of european cars and we talked about e30s the entire time he was working. I was especially interested in his technique for replacing the metal gasket which you can see in one of the photos below. I’ve seen this done with soapy water and hand pressure but the diamond shaped loop tool he used made it look easy.
Yesterday my e30 started generating a persistant CEL (Check Engine Light) error 1221 which indicates the o2 sensor has failed or is sensing values so far out of spec it can’t be interpretted. I suspect that driving around with a nagging misfire for almost a month fouled the sensor. The sensor is only a couple months old, which is a shame. Thankfully I kept my old sensor which I’ll use until it fails or I finally swap in a s52 engine.
The happy ending to this is that it’s finally fixed! But I’m going to relate the story in 3 sections: what I’ve learned, what fixed the problem, and then I’ll talk about everything else I tried to fix the problem.
So I’ve heard of the CPS before. Heard people talk about:
Generally I was confused and unsure of what to do with it, though I knew it was in scope for the problem I was having. Here’s the layman’s explanation of what the CPS does (source):
Any one of the things I’ve replaced could cause the symptoms I’ve noted, but replacing parts did nothing because the parts weren’t actually failing or bad. Other things that were blamed by people I asked:
Most people want to throw parts at this kind of problem, so I’m glad it didn’t come to that for me. That’s the end of the story, so here’s some photos taken during the various fixes:
I got my pump and sender from the Pick n’ Pull for $70. Normally I would not have installed used parts in this application but I found a remarkable specimen and scooped it. If you have the means I suggest buying new for reliability and because there are so many after-market pumps available that are excellent and cheap especially if you have an engine with a higher than average LPH (litres per hour) requirement.
In my photo above you can see the new pump and sender have nice white plastic bits while my old parts are all brown. This isn’t aging it indicates a material update seen in newer fuel pumps. Expect to spend $250-280 for a new pump and sender, less if you retrofit a non-OEM pump.
This job is dead simple and well documented. This thread on r3vlimited has some insights into noises and rusty fuel tanks. I won’t duplicate the step by step but I will share my notes on the procedure:
My e30 is messed up, stuttering and lacking power. Though it ran strong for an afternoon my “exceptional specimen” didn’t have much life left. Here’s how I’ve determined that the pump fuel supply is the problem: When the car stutters during acceleration, check the tachometer and fuel economy guages. If the RPMs drop that usually indicates a lack of spark. If the fuel economy drops that indicates the engine is starving for fuel.
My car is doing the latter, puttering at between 5 and 0 MPG in every gear and whenever the throttle is open. Tomorrow I’ll get up early and try hopefully swap in my old pump.
The old pump improved drivability but I can tell it’s a short term fix because my old pump is making noise sometimes and the MPG frequently and nearly bottoms out just driving normally. This could be a combination of factors (fuel pump, fuel pressure regulator, injectors) but I suspect the pump.
This time it only took me 15 minutes to swap pumps but I’ll be doing it again soon so maybe I can do it even faster next time. There are several aftermarket pumps available but I decided on an OEM pump from TurnerMotorsport (they have the best price).
The bodger retrofit is to buy a pump and kit and rig it into the pump armature. The most common pump for that applicaiton is the Walbro 255 GSS-340 (DIY Retrofit Instructions). Cars with higher displacement engines or turbos sometimes put in a pump with greater LPH (litres per hour) such as the Deatschwerks 300 LPH but that’s not necessary for a stock engine, even an s52 let alone an m20.
I’m a sucker for OEM.
I’m still convinced I have a fuel issue but my mechanic drove the car and says it has the tell-tale signs of a spark issue. I replaced the plugs in the 4 troublesome cylinders (which were actually o.k), replaced a cracked HT wire and swapped in the new distributor cap and rotor from my trunk kit for good measure: problem persists. If my mechanic is correct then the next item to inspect is the ignition coil.
My new OEM fuel pump arrived last night and I installed it in the dark. Works great and I can definitely feel that the car has new energy. Afterwards I drove it around the block with the pump exposed and the seat cushion off and it was crazy how loud the pump is. However my surging and powerloss issues prevail and I am going to replace the ignition coil to try to remedy that. As I’ve read, the coil can fail completely but it can also fail slowly causing exactly the symptoms I’m experiencing.
One last thing, It’s worth noting that every time I’ve done this there has been very little fuel in the hose coming off the pump, but this time there was much, much more fuel. It’s a good idea to remove the fuel sender before disconnecting the hose so you have somewhere to drain all that fuel.
Suction Device with Pre-Supply Pump (255 LPH) 16141179415
Sending Unit Assembly 16141152266
This drive happened last Saturday. I missed the Half Moon Bay exit so we took 280 north and doubled back a little to get to Pacifica. We went to Nick’s on Rockaway Beach for lunch. The parking lot is right on the ocean and if you don’t park carefully your car will catch a lot of ocean spray! The food at Nick’s was o.k. – I had the fried oysters. Not sure it was 4 stars, but it was good enough. If we went back to Pacifica for lunch we’d probably go back.
If you want a dramatic place to take photos of your car, this is the place to go: if you get there early you could get a good spot right next to the water.
As we continued down Hwy 1 I was worried that I was holding up the cars behind me but we quickly caught up to other traffic on the road and the courteous concern left my mind. As long as I’m driving safely and not being the slowest car on the road then I’m happy.
This was not exactly a planned rest stop but it wouldn’t be a real trip in the e30 without a little drama. After we left Pacifica the car started misfiring. We pulled over and after a quick check in with fellow e30 drivers via Facebook I decided to pull my #5 spark plug (known to burn oil in my car) without waiting for the engine to cool completely. I was careful with my breaker bar not to put undue stress on the plugs and the engine was not red hot. I also could have burned my fingers so I was being extra careful.
The plug wasn’t too bad but I swapped it with a spare anyways. However I found the #1 HT wire gave a little “click” when I pushed on it at the distributor cap. My mechanic buddy doesn’t think that would cause a misfire (as we discussed the last time I had a misfire) but after I did that the car ran fine.
We hung out on the beach for an hour before heading home via La Honda, which is one of the area’s really good roads for driving. This time there were no slow pokes so I had a relaxing drive over the mountain and home.
I took the car to Bavarian Motorsport and had a second smoke test. Found the throttle body to ICV hose leaked (at both ends and the elbow), and the brake booster vacuum elbows also leaked. All of these elbows are just pressure fit. Here’s what I did:
I hate the way the hose clamps look but they’re necessary. So this worked great yesterday, but last night the car bogged after sitting for 2 hours. Now I wonder if the RTV sealant isn’t up to the heat of the operating engine.
Seems I forgot to tighten the hose clamps on the intake boot. Running better now!
Picked up a very reasonably priced and brand new o2 sensor. Took 5 minutes to install:
The most important thing I learned was that all the commonly available o2 sensor wrenches will not work on the e30, but vise grips work perfectly. So I have 3 tools to return to Pepboys. I didn’t have access to the special BMW wrench but it’s hardly necessary.
This seems to have made no difference to how my car runs. Even though the old sensor was entirely encrusted in carbon and crud it was working fine or had no bearing on the car’s stalling, bogging and CEL.
Oxygen Sensor, 325i/is/iC/iX (9/87-91) 11-78-1-734-393-M14
I don’t know how it got here, perhaps it hitched a ride from it’s home country of Deutschland to the new world or maybe it found the car here in the USA but it seems every e30 has a little gremlin that makes mischeif.
e30 Central Locking FAQ (link)
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