Garagistic E36 Performance parts
The BMW E36 has become more and more popular with car enthusiasts on all fronts. There's a good reason for that! Whether you're looking to build a stylish weekend cruiser or a motorsports monster, here are some modifications that the Garagistic team recommend to help you start or finish your build.
Table of contents
- E36 Back to Stock
- E36 Chassis Reinforcement
- E36 Brakes
- E36 Suspension
- Wheels and Tires
- Turbo Charging
- Performance Software
1. BONE STOCK E36
The best BMW to modify is a perfectly functioning stock one. No matter where your car journey takes you, having a platform that operates and looks like it rolled out of the factory is best. In our experience, it seems like the more you spend initially on a BMW, the better condition it's in. An owner that's proven that they have taken care of the car and provide service records is the one you want to buy from. You also want to make sure that there are a few leaks as possible, the interior is in good condition (because headliners love to sag!), and the vehicle is rust-free. Roll the windows up and down. If you hear any obscure noises you'll probably need to put a window regulator in the doors. And as tempting as it may be do yourself a favor and NEVER open the sunroof. They like to stay open and are a nightmare to repair (unless you have already replaced your sagging headliner). So if the aforementioned listed has all the boxes checked let's get into the fun stuff, mods!
2. CHASSIS REINFORCEMENT
If you plan on doing some serious driving, you'll need to do some chassis reinforcements. The E36 is known for having weak shock towers and non-M's suffer from having non-reinforced chassis'. Damages to the body can be a nightmare to repair and can put a quick end to a fun day of driving.
- Complete Chassis Reinforcement Kit: click here
Front strut tower and rear shock tower reinforcement plates are easy to install, require no welding, and prevent major body damage. However, the subframe and RTAB pocket reinforcements require some major components to be removed (gas tank, rear subframe, etc..) and the plates to be welded in. No matter how much work it is, it's worth putting the time in to save your chassis from major damage.
While you have your subframe out it's also a good idea to do your subframe bushing. You don't want to do the work and have the car feel the same as it did before. Adding bushings gives better handling and will wear far less than the OEM replacement option. Do the job once and add poly to your subframe.
- Subframe Bushing Kit
- NOTE: E36 M3s have factory subframe reinforcements. For M3s it's recommended that Subframe Bushings be replaced and RTAB pockets are reinforced.
3. E36 BRAKES
No matter how fast you're going you gotta slow down at some point. Brakes take the most abuse and are a high-wear item on just about anything with four wheels. Brakes are an E36's weak point. Wear over time can create a lack of a soft pedal. The last thing you need in any car is low confidence in your brakes.
Garagistic Stainless Steel Braided Brake Lines flex less than their OEM rubber counterparts giving a better brake feel and durability. Some late model E36s have a single piece rear brake line that our kit does not work with. It's also a good idea to do stainless steel clutch lines while you change brake lines for a complete brake bleed. Just know that we have two different versions of the clutch line available. You can see the bend in the hard line in these photos. Just make sure you check fitment before checking out!
V1: click here
V2: click here
ATE Brass Caliper Guide removes the rubber OEM bushing and prevents movement under heavy braking. Just a note. The Brass Caliper Guides are only available for BMWs with ATE brake calipers.
These Garagistic modifications along with the proper brake fluid give a more consistent brake feel and allow for drivers to enter corners with confidence. What do I mean by proper brake fluid? Your brake fluid has a DOT rating. This DOT rating determines the brake fluids ability to deal with heat before reaching its boiling point. Heres the ratings:
- Commonly used for road use.
- DOT 3 and 4 fluids are interchangeable
- DOT 4 has a higher tolerance for heat.
- The E36 uses DOT 3 from the factory
- DOT 5 recommended only for offroad use
- Has a VERY HIGH tolerance for heat
- Cannot be interchanged with DOT 3 or 4 fluids meaning the entire system must be drained before using DOT 5
4. E36 SUSPENSION
Suspension is the modification that can really wake up the E36 chassis. The Garagistic parts catalog for an E36 is HUGE in this area. You can retain stock suspension and upgrade to poly bushing for a comfortable street feel and nice low look, or go all out with 3-way adjustable coil-overs paired with solid mount bushing to ensure that drivetrain movements are retained to a minimum.
No matter what you decide, you are guaranteed to feel the difference. We sure did with our GripE36. A stock-powered non-Vanos M50 sure as hell didn't speed past E36 M3s in the straights, but the proper suspension setup and chassis reinforcements made up for the lack of power in the corners. It just goes to show that power doesn't always make you faster.
So the question comes down to what you, the driver, really want. It's important to think about the application when purchasing suspension.
- NOTE: E36 rear subframes require that the sway bar tabs be reinforced before installing an upgraded swaybar.
- Sway Bar Reinforcements: click here
5. E36 WHEELS AND TIRES
This is an incredibly broad topic and will be discussed in further dedicated blog posts. But to keep things simple, here are the things you need to know about the E36.
E36 Wheel Center Bore:
- 72.56 – This is the center bore of the E36. If you get aftermarket wheels with a different center bore, you will need hub centric spacers
E36 Wheel Bolt Pattern:
- 5X120mm – This is the lug pattern for the E36 and is a must-have when fitting new wheels
E36 Wheel Offset
- High Offset – Anything above +35mm is likely to fit but wheel width may require use of wheel spacers for ideal fitment or require smaller width.
E36 Wheel Diameter/Width
- Diameter/Width – 15" diameter is the smallest OEM wheel for an E36. The go to size is 17" and if you want, you can go 18".
E36 Common Wheel Setups
- Most Common Setup- For ideal fitment and performance without modification the most common wheel and tire combo we see is a 17"x 8.5" ET40 on a 235/40R17. If you're looking to fit a wider wheel and tire combo like a 255/40R17 on a 17"x 9.5" ET35 you may need to roll your fenders.
Tires are just as broad a topic and there are certainly tradeoffs no matter what you decide to go with.
Some questions you must ask yourself before buying tires are:
- Will I be racing? I might want a softer rubber compound.
- Am I looking for max gas mileage? Then an all-season with a 400AA treadwear is most appropriate.
- Will I be drifting? I might need tires with side bite.
Remember that no matter what wheel/tire combo you go with, you will be sacrificing one aspect for another. Larger wheel/tire combos rob the car of more energy as they are heavier and have more mass to spin further away from the center of rotation whereas smaller wheel/tire combos have less rotational inertia and can effectively increase the acceleration of the car.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to your personal agenda for use and your preference.
One of the best ways to improve the feel is to upgrade one of the most widely used components on your car: the shifter! At Garagistic, we now offer a larger number of shifter options to ensure that you get that perfect gearshift every time. Want to retain the stock shifter components and use an aftermarket knob? We've got adapters! Or maybe you want adjustable throw and rod length? We've got shifter kits! We've got you covered with options across the board.
Our latest chassis mount shifter is completely modular and allows for countless combinations. Pair your personalized shifter with a DSSR, transmission mounts, and shifter bushing, and get the slop out of the gearbox! If you're still rockin the stock shifter and looking for an upgrade, take a look at our options.
- Short Shifters: click here
- Oval Shifter Bushings: click here
- Roun Shifter Bushings: click here
- Transmission Mounts: click here
An exhaust is one of the easiest ways to enjoy your BMW engine more. Not only will an exhaust improve the sound of the engine, but it will also replace the heavy stock components. Exhaust components are endless, from the headers to the muffler everything can be replaced for performance benefits.
That being said the exhaust to choose comes down to preference. ISR Performance, MagnaFlow, Corsa, UUC, Borla, and Active Autowerke are some reputable brands with proven gains and unique exhaust notes. Prices of these systems range from $300 for a muffler to $1500 plus for a complete system.
The less you pay initially may require more modifications from yourself or the local muffler shop. If you've got the right resources you could potentially create a lighter, better-sounding exhaust!
Avoid eBay exhaust parts! Unless you know what you are getting, exhaust parts from eBay may become a massive headache. Fitment is often wrong, quality is less than par, and parts are often not tested. Untested exhaust components can have a negative effect and cause a decrease in power. So always make sure you see the dyno sheet!
You cant mention exhaust in today's market without talking about turbocharging. The BMW M50 engine has become the tuner's choice for cheap power. An M50 with a turbocharger can make power anywhere between 300-500hp! M50 piston rods are gigantic compared to other 3-Series engines in the lineup. The oversized rods allow the M50 to make boost reliably.
The M50TUB25 can be found in the E36 325i and E34 525i models. Now we have to mention that this engine application was never meant to be turbocharged, it just happens to be good at it. You will need a turbo kit. These kits range from $2500-$4000. Additional fabrication may also be required for the exhaust.
In terms of power per dollar adding a turbocharger to an M50 may be one of the best bangs for the bucks.
9. E36 PERFORMANCE SOFTWARE
If forced induction is you for but you still want a little bit more kick, performance software is the way to go. Performance software adds horsepower and torque by optimizing engine power output. Power optimization goes even further when mods such as a cold air intake or exhaust components are installed in stages. Note that different stage software may require different vehicle modifications.
Tuner, Shark, and Dinan are a few trusted names in the tuning business with software available for you E36. Software tunes and performance chips range between $120-$280 and are a great way to optimize a stock car or a completely modified one.
10. E36 COOLING
Last but not least, your cooling system. The cooling system on the E36s is known for providing inadequate cooling and having many common weak points. E36 cooling systems should be serviced every 75k-100k miles and more often if driven at the limit. Plastic is the E36 cooling system's biggest curse. Water pump impellers, clutch fans, radiator end tanks, coolant reservoirs, and caps are all made of plastic and over time are prone to failing in a literal explosive way.
The biggest upgrade for this chassis' weakest system is replacing all of the plastic with metal (a major reason our grip E36 lasted so long). Many part stores have the metal water pump impeller and aren't that hard to come by. Aftermarket manufacturers such as Mishimoto, CSF Radiators, and KoyoRad produce products to replace your plastic OE Components for full aluminum that are more durable than the OE ones.
Garagistic has a great selection of cooling system components which can be found here: click here
There you have it! The 10 best performance mods you can do to a BMW E36! We hope this gives you a good idea of where to start with your E36. For more E36 aftermarket performance parts check out the Garagistic site here!