Book Review: BMW 3 Series E36 Restoration Tips & Techniques

By · October 3, 2012
Brooklands Books has released a new title for E36 owners, "BMW 3 Series E36 Restoration Tips & Techniques". As a collector of all books about 3 series I bought it as soon as it was available.

The book is like a collection of all the information that would take you a long time to put together reading BMW forums and blogs. It's not a substitute for a repair manual as most procedures are not explained in great detail, but it gives a good overview of what commonly goes wrong and what the usual fixes are.

It would be a good start for someone looking to buy an E36 as it contains a buyer's guide explaining what to look for. Although it might scare some people off buying an E36 (but a buyer's guide for any make or model would be at least as bad).

The book is largely illustrated in a colour and black and white photos from BMW Press, lots of parts diagrams again from BMW and just like you see on realoem.com, and other photos of common problems and modifications.

The contents include an explanation of all of the different E36 variations, plus details on special models, and models from the aftermarket like Schnitzer, Alpina, etc. Then there is the aforementioned buyer's guide. There are chapters on each of the major systems (engine, transmission, body, interior, etc) and a chapter on modifications. Finally there is a chapter containing specifications.

No big deal, but I am not sure what country this book aimed at. The author mentions classified websites from the UK, Australia and the USA. Tyre is spelt "tire" throughout. The bonnet is referred to as bonnet/hood or just bonnet. The boot is not referred to as a "trunk". I say write for the country of publication (the UK in this case). The Americans will figure out what tyre means!

I would recommend the book to prospective E36 purchasers as well as to enthusiasts. As I said it won't replace your workshop manual but should prove a valuable resource which you could check before you start searching the Internet for a problem.

BMW 3 Series E36 Restoration Tips & Techniques, by Greg Hudock, published by Brooklands Books. ISBN 9781855209435.

I bought my copy from The Computer Outpost.

BMW 3 Series E36 Restoration Tips & Techniques

Postscript

There are quite a few points on which I disagree with the author.

The author states that the 4 cylinder engines, and in particular the M42, are notorious for needing head gaskets replaced (page 32 and 75). Now I have owned three M42-powered and one M44-powered 3 series and have not had to replace a head gasket in hundreds of thousands of kilometeres. I also do a lot of reading online on forums and blogs and can't say that I have heard of too many head gasket failures. So from my experience this is not true.

He also states that the 4-speed automatic transmissions that come with the vast majority of automatic equipped cars were pretty reliable and drama free (page 34). If he means the 4L30E transmission then my experience and research says otherwise. I would suggest that 200,000km is a good life for a 4L30E, and that replacement or rebuilding is an expensive process.

The author says that to replace the rubber trim around the door handle you need to remove the door trim and the window (page 47). This is not true. There is a small inspection window covered with a plastic cover side of the door which gives you access to remove the part of the door handle you need to do this job.

In regards to the front suspension, the author did not seem to be aware that early E36 models had a similar stabiliser bar mounting to the M3 (ie. to the strut rather than to the control arm (page 51). He even labels a diagram that shows all types of stabiliser bar mounts as just being for non-M3 models after 6/92 (page 55).

In the engine section (page 78) the author explains that the M44 engine was a more reliable engine than the M42 but fails to mention the plastic water pipe at the back of the engine, which is an engine or transmission-out job to replace when (not if) it fails.

When writing about the blower motor resistor or "final stage unit" in the heating and ventilation system the author describes it as a temperature sensor (page 89). I don't believe it is actually a sensor, just a bunch of resistors used to control the fan speed on early models and a more sophisticated speed control unit on later models with an unusual shape heat sink.
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About me
John Avis 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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