BMW Early E36 Front Suspension Differences

John Avis by | August 7, 2012 | Technical Tips E36

When I first bought my 1991 325i I knew that, being a very early E36 model, it had different front suspension than the later models, and because I thought this must be inferior to the later models I intended to change to the later type.
When I first bought my 1991 325i I knew that, being a very early E36 model, it had different front suspension than the later models, and because I thought this must be inferior to the later models I intended to change to the later type.

As I understand it, the differences are that the sway bar mounts to the struts rather than the control arms, and there is differences in the struts themselves including everything up to the top mounts.

After a little research it seems that these early models may not actually be inferior. Apparently mounting the sway bar near the top of the struts is more effective (due to more mechanical leverage), but according to some research I have found, this may have made the car more hard edged and subsequently uncomfortable so BMW made the change.

It seems that the different spring and top mounts were also superior, and possibly changed to reduce costs. According to this forum post, 320i and 325i cars had an expensive all in one steel/alloy top mount with a built in roller bearing, similar to the E32 7 series.

One reason to replace the sway bar and strut setup to the later type is that parts availability is better. Although I understand that the 3.0 litre M3 (European or US, I'm not sure) has the same setup so perhaps there is some interchangeability there.

One potential problem with changing to the later parts is that I read in that same previously mentioned forum post that the sway bar mounting brackets are in different locations, and although it may still work okay, it may put too much strain on the sway bar links and they will need replacement often.

The following images show the difference between the 46 mm and 69 mm long spigots on the early and late model front struts. The final image shows what happens if you try and put a late model strut into an early model top mount.

E36 front strut (early type)
E36 front strut (late type)
E36 front strut (late strut in early mount)

The following diagram from realoem.com shows the early model sway bar mounting (up to October 1991) shown in red, and the later models shown in yellow.

BMW E36 sway bar mounting differences


More research is required...

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Comments

ivan

by ivan | September 30, 2014

I have an early e36 325is 1992/3. I have been looking for front and rear shocks, is there any difference between german and us specs shocks? http://www.ebay.de/itm/2x-GASDRUCK-Stosdampfer-Vorne-BMW-3-Coupe-Compact-E36-E46-/121448681628?pt=DE_Autoteile&hash=item1c46e7d09c check that link, they seem to have shocks, but I am a little bit concern about fitting them in my early us specs e36 coupe

Reply

John

by John | September 30, 2014

If you have a 1992/3 model then you should have the sway bar mounted to the control arm not the strut itself. It looks from the picture that these are the early type with the sway bar attached to the struts but who knows if the picture is of the actual product. The only other difference is that some shock manufacturers list different units for standard and the lower Mtech suspension usually fitted to coupes. Some of the cheaper brands may not have the different types though.

Reply

ivan

by ivan | September 30, 2014

Thank you so much for your promp answer. I really appreciate the fact that you take your time to answer my newbie questions!.

So I "should have the sway bar mounted to the control arm not the strut itself". And the earlier models "the differences are that the sway bar mounts to the struts rather than the control arms, and there is differences in the struts themselves including everything up to the top mounts". Mine is a later model?

Reply

John

by John | September 30, 2014

Yes, you have the later model if the sway bar is mounted to the control arm. This type should be much easier to find shocks for than the earlier type.

Reply

Krishneel Nath

by Krishneel Nath | April 11, 2016

Help in building a e36

Reply

Krishneel Nath

by Krishneel Nath | April 11, 2016

Help in building a e36

Reply

Claude

by Claude | June 10, 2016

Hi, great article!
I have a 04/92 325is with a complete 1996 m3 struts and assembly. Will my oem springs fit on the m3 struts?

Cheers

Reply

John Avis

by John Avis | June 13, 2016

Sorry Claude, I don't know the answer. Probably best asking your question on one of the many BMW forums like bimmerforums.com.

Reply

Claude

by Claude | June 13, 2016

Turns out the front springs do not fit. Got myself some used Eibach pros instead. Cheers!

Reply

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About me

I am a bit of a 3 series fanatic, having owned a couple of E30s and a few E36s, plus a few parts cars. I like the combination of the compact size, good performance and handling, and that they are more sports sedan than an impractical and extrovert sports car. This blog is a place to share my experience and knowledge.

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