BMW E36 3-SERIES & Z3
Andrew Everett renews a clutch himself – on the driveway – on a 1999 318i E36 and finds it quite simple with a few provisos.
Replacing a clutch is nobody’s idea of fun – thinking back to the days of doing clutches on the original BL Mini as well as cars such as the Chevette, Escort and Cortina – they really were the good old days. I think my record for a Cortina Mk4 clutch, on a ramp, single-handed, is a shade under an hour. On a modern Ford, you’d be lucky if you did that in a day.
However, the E36 3-Series built between 1991 and 2000 (Compact) is a pretty simple one and a single-handed clutch swap on axle stands is certainly doable. On this car – a 1999 318i Convertible with 160,000 miles – the clutch still worked, though you could tell it wasn’t that long for this world. Time to bite the bullet, get the gearbox off and replace it all.
The majority of E36’s and four-cylinder
Z3’s have a standard sprung clutch centre plate and solid flywheel. Some later ones with aircon – the Z3 1.9 and 1.9-litre 316i
Compacts can have a dual mass flywheel and self-adjusting clutch cover. To identify these, you need to input the last seven digits of your VIN into REALOEM www.realoem. com (free BMW parts website) and see if the clutch parts (part number 21217523618) cross-reference onto the E46 3-Series from 1997-on – if they do you have a dual mass flywheel fitted. There is some confusion on the REALOEM website as it lists a lot of E36’s with a ‘twin mass flywheel’ – very often all that means is that it has the standard heavy flywheel that weighs about twice as much as the older E30 type did.
Overall, I found this clutch swap pretty simple with a couple of useful tips a Haynes manual won’t impart…
There is a plastic coolant elbow on the back of the head on Sohc-engined 316i and 318i cars as well as the Z3 1.8. This gets brittle with age and any originals will almost certainly break during this job unless you place a block of wood between the back of the head and the bulkhead to limit engine movement and straining the hoses. I bought a new one from Euro Car Parts for less than eight quid and replaced it anyway, as mine had been leaking. It’s two bolts and a couple of hose clips, but the hole in the cylinderhead will need a lot of cleaning-up with emery cloth if it’s to seal.