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.

Car Mechanics (UK) - - Andrew Everett -

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.

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