This information was compiled by many owners.
This information helped me alot during my ownership of a 99 2.3. 

Section 19: Z3 Roadster

Last Updated: 7/7/98

Table of Contents:
19.0: Overview
19.1: Body
19.2: Engine
19.3: Suspension & Steering
19.4: Brakes
19.5: HVAC
19.6: Electrical
19.7: Performance
19.8: Care, Cleaning & Feeding
19.9: Misc

19.0: Overview

The Z3 first appeared to most of the world in the James Bond movie "GoldenEye". BMW's marketing gurus teamed with Neiman Marcus to sell a special edition BMW Z3 "James Bond" roadster that mimicked the look of the car in the Bond movie. The car was available in Neiman Marcus's 1995 Christmas Book, and the initial quantity of 100 cars was sold in a few hours. Neiman Marcus then negotiated with BMW to sell more of the special edition roadsters.

The engine for the first model year of the US Z3 was a bored-out to 1.9 liters version of the common 1.8 liter 4-cylinder from the 318. In other areas of the world, the 1.8 liter engine was standard, with the 1.9 liter version available as an option.

Midway through the 1996 production run, the battery of the Z3 was moved to the trunk in preparation for the forthcoming 1997 2.8 liter six cylinder Z3 model. This provided marginally better weight distribution, along with a nicer layout for the tools in the trunk. At the same time as the battery move, the amplifier for the factory radio was moved from its carpeted bubble forward of the trunk lid to a carpeted bubble at the right floor of the trunk.

An M version of the Z3 was in production for Europe in 1997, and a U.S. version started production in the spring of 1998. The Euro spec M roadster has the same 321 hp engine from the Euro M3. The U.S. M roadster will have the same 240 hp engine from the U.S. M3. The list price on the U.S. M roadster is $42,200, and there are very few options. There are, however, dealer-installed "accessories" which may be added such as floormats and a cd changer. Official performance figures on the U.S. M roadster quote 5.4 or 5.5 seconds 0-to-60, but these are believed to be conservative estimates with the actual time closer to 5 seconds.

19.1: Body

Model Length Width Height Front Track Rear Track Wheelbase Headroom
1.8/1.9 158.5" 66.6" 50.7" 55.6" 56.3" 96.3" 37.6"
2.8 158.5" 68.5" 50.9" 55.6" 58.8" 96.3" 37.6"
M 158.5" 68.5" 49.8" 55.0" 58.7" 96.8" 37.6"

The 2.8 liter Z3 has a slightly wider rear track than the 1.9/1.8 liter model. This leads to a slightly larger overall width for the 2.8. The wheelbase and overall length are identical to that of the 1.9/1.8 liter model. Interestingly, the 2.8 spec sheet shows a height of 50.9 inches compared to 50.7 inches for the 1.9/1.8 liter model, but perhaps the latter was driven a bit/had some tire wear before the measurement. ;)

The M Roadster is has virtually the same dimensions as the 2.8 with the exception of a slighly longer wheelbase and it's been lowered by about an inch.

How do I install the front mud flaps?

    For instructions, click here.

How do I install the rear mud flaps on a 1.9?

    Take the rear wheels off first and then reach under the back bumper to hold the little clip that the 2 screws attach to down until you get them started. After that, the install is a snap.

    For more detailed instructions, click here.

Will the rear mud flaps for the 1.9 fit a 2.8?

    Yes. After installing the front mudflaps on my 2.8, I decided to try the rear. They DO fit, but can not be installed exactly as the directions indicate. The difference is in the use of the two existing screws on the bottom of the bumper. There are two holes in each mudflap which apparently line up with these two screws on a 1.9, but not on a 2.8.

    The secret was to use only the outermost screw in the innermost hole of the mudflap. Things then line up perfectly and the rest of the instructions can be followed. They look great if you like mudflaps.

    For more instructions, click here.

How should I apply touch up paint to my Z3?

    Use a very powerful magnifying glass when applying the paint. Just fill the cavity and use a very fine and pointed artist's brush instead of the swab that comes with most touch-up kits. You may have to thin the paint slightly to get it to flow, be careful not to create a big 'glob'. Let the paint dry thoroughly before polishing with a very fine polishing compound and remove all residue, no wax yet! BMW touch-up kits come with a clear coat, if you feel real comfortable, apply it the same way, let dry and polish it. Wax the area when you next wax the car.

    (and another response...)

    I've used BMW touch up kit on several of my many chips. I've used it with the clear top coat and without. My experience is - don't use the clear top coat! The top coat is very hard and I've had a lot of problems trying to blend the touch up area flat with the rest of the finish.


    A product called LANGKA offers a convenient and easy solution to touch-up paint repair. Instead of tediously building up a paint chip microlayer by microlayer, apply a blob sufficient to completely cover the chip or scratch.
    When the factory touch-up paint has dried for a bit, use LANGKA to remove the blob. It's designed to ONLY remove the excess blob and won't harm the factory paint. The results turn out very good for the minimal time you'll spend.
    LANGKA's website is at http://www.langka.com/

How do you remove the "gills" on the Z3?

    Here's how to remove the gills:

    You'll need a pair of long-nose pliers, a philips head screwdriver, a regular (spade) screwdriver, a flashlight and a hair dryer. Read all directions first before proceeding.

    1. open the hood, start on the Driver's Side (It's easier)
    2. locate the interior of the gills, notice the one philips head screw which holding the gill on. Remove it.
    3. There are 5 other fasteners. These are "compression" fasteners. You must use the long-nose pliers to "squeeze" and push out (just a little) at the same time. Be sure you are squeezing in the right direction. As an added safety precaution, have a friend hold onto the outside of the gill just in case it falls off while you are squeezing and pushing.
    4. Once you have half-pushed out all the fasteners, hold onto the gill with one hand and begin pushing out on the various fasteners with the other, the gill just falls off.
    5. Repeat for the passenger side.
    6. After taking the gill off, lay it upside down on a soft surface. There is a plastic trim piece, held on by locking teeth to the gill.
    7. Heat the plastic trim piece using the hair-dryer. This will soften the plastic.
    8. Use the spade screwdriver to pry the plastic trim off.
    9. The mesh just comes out.
    10. I used silver lacquer, matching the silver on the wheels. Paint slowly, making sure you cover all angles (also do the back of the mesh)
    11. To reassemble, following the directions in reverse. (Everything just snaps into place and you need to screw in the philips head.)

    It's really simple, it took me about 5 minutes!

19.2: Engine

How do I change the oil in a 1.9?

    A response from a message board member:
    Well, I just finished my first oil change on my 1.9L. Total time from unpacking and examining all my new toys and tools to cleaning/washing up was just under an hour. I'm sure it will take much less time the next time around, though. Here's what I did:

    Brought my oil filter, case of oil, filter wrench, Topsider oil changer, a couple of plastic grocery bags, and lots of paper towels to my car. Keys, too.

    Started taking off the old filter. This was my first step because I was a bit wary about the unique design of the filter. If I couldn't figure it out at this stage, I was going put everything back the way it was and seek assistance. However, once I removed the filter cap, everything became clear. Removing the filter cap was a hassle, tho. I used a strap filter wrench (basically a nylon strap that wraps around the filter). I'm going to return it and get something with the rotation point at the center of the filter cap, then use a 10" extension before attaching my ratchet (there's not much room around the filter, hence the extension). Maybe I'm not explaining it well...a picture might do better (but I don't have one).

    Anyway, so once I got the filter cap off, I turned a plastic grocery bag inside-out, then put it over the filter cap, and removed it (so as not to drip oil all over the place). I then cleaned off the inside of the filter cap, especially the long bolt that protrudes from the inside of the cap. If you look closely, you will find 3 o-rings on it. There is a large one just above the screw rings near the top of the cap. There are 2 smaller o-rings near the bottom of the bolt. With your new filter, you will find a plastic baggie with 3 o-rings and a metal washer. Get your hands dirty and replace the 3 o-rings. It helps if you have a sharp tool handy to help remove the old ones (the new ones go on fine w/out any tools). If you use the Topsider like I did, you won't need the washer--it's for the drain plug which we don't remove.

    Then I removed the old oil filter insert, using the same process of wrapping an inside-out plastic bag around it. The new filter pops right in--you might want to use a screw-in motion to seat it well. Then the filter cap with your new o-rings goes back on. Make sure you use exactly 25 N-m of torque like the cap says. ;-)

    Next I removed the dipstick and primed the Topsider. The suction probe will extend a few inches beyond the length of the dipstick. Make sure you get it in there nice and good. Then let the Topsider do its thing. Next time, this will be the first thing I do, since the Topsider takes quite a bit of time to remove the oil. Oh, and make sure the oil is warm but the engine isn't too hot (might melt the suction probe).

    When that was done, I started filling the crankcase with the new oil. My manual says 4.7 qts (4.5 L), but my trusty Car and Driver said it had a capacity of 5.3 qts (5.0 L). I checked the dipstick, and 5.0 qts was right at the top of the fill line, so that's where I left it.

    Then I started her up with the hood up, and inspected my work, hoping that oil wouldn't start spraying from somewhere. Everything checked out fine--mission accomplished!

    And don't forget to recycle your old oil and filter...

Can anyone tell me the routine for changing ones own oil on the 97 2.8 engine. What size wrench for filter, drain plug, etc.

    The oil pan plug is a 17mm 6pt bolt. The oil filter housing has a 36mm that you can get a socket for at Sears for $6.95. This is what I did to my 328i which I am assuming is the same for the Z3 2.8 with the same engine. I took the longest socket wrench I could get and unscrewed the oil pan bolt. I bought the biggest aluminum cooking pan that was <= 3" tall to hold the 6.5-7 qts of oil in the pan. and tied a string to it so I could pull it out. I never jacked the car up, mind you. Once you have the oil draining you can open the oil filter housing (unscrews counter clockwise) and remove the oil filter. Then you can replace the rubber O-ring with the new one. After all the oil is drained, you can put the new one back in. Some people recommend soaking the oil filter, others don't, I didn't but YMMV. Now replace the washer on the oil pan plug and screw the plug back in tightly but not too tight. Once everything is back together add your oil.

    The new OEM filter for the 2.8 should contain 1 washer, 1 O-ring and 1 filter. I believe the 1.9 contains 2 washers, if I'm wrong then somebody will correct me...

Has anyone tried the Topside oil changer?

    A response from a message board member:
    I have the Topside Oil Changer, and it's wonderful! Mine came from a boating outfit called Overton's. It's a bit cheaper there. Just go to the site and do a catalog search for "Topside", no r. It sucked all the oil out of my 1.9 in the time it took me to change the filter element. IMHO, it is the only way to change oil, especially in a car that has a filter that is accessible from the engine room. Plus, when you're done, you remove the vacuum pump and the sucker tube, put on the caps and take the can to the city recycling center. Easy and environmentally friendly!

Is there an aftermarket exhaust available for the 2.8?

    I'm in my office at the moment so I don't have all the info you request, but here's a start.... BMP designs out of Texas has a Supersprint system for 1.9 & (I think) 2.8... it looks like a two piece system - resonator and rear section. The Remus is one piece. Hope this helps...Matt

    An answer from someone who did it his way!:
    Well, call me crazy, but I did it... I chopped out the stock muffler on my 98 2.8l after 1200 miles and an oil change. I put in a 3-chamber Flowmaster. I initially got the 2.5" offset/offset, but it turns out you need the 2.25" offset/offset. I put a hanger on the bumper bolt right above the muffler area and simply clamped the inlet to the existing pipe and put a clamp on the outlet just for the hanger. The fit allows for the outlet to extend beyond the bumper panel so I didn't really need an extension. It actually looks pretty cool.

    What does it do? Well, it is a little loud in the car, but not any louder than one of my neighbors 924's. I had a friend drive the Z while I stood on the sidewalk and it sounds great! Not too loud for neighbors, bystanders. So sounds good, and performance? Whew!!

    I can bust through the gears at what almost feels like motorcycle speeds. And alluding to my subject, I can chirp the tires WITH ASC ON in 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Now I do have the K&N replacement filter for the standard box, but that is it. A tribute to lowered backpressure!

I've noticed with my 1.9L that if I start the roadster and then turn it off, i.e. moving it to the bottom of the driveway. The next time I try to start it I have alot of trouble. I end up holding the gas pedal to the floor to start.

    What's causing it is basically the computer thinks the car is cold and the fuel injection system is squirting extra gas which in turn is causing a flooding condition. What I was told by the North Eastern Regional Service rep is that if you shut down the car after two or three quick starts the car will have problems restarting. What he has suggested was if you plan to shut the motor after the second shut down, before you shut it off let it run for about 2 mins. Then you shouldn't have any problems restarting on the third try. His suggestion seems to be working.

Is the US //M Z3 a 2.5L or a 3.2L?


Then what accounts for the power differences between the Euro and US versions? 320+ hp vs 240 hp. I thought both M power plants generated roughly 100 hp per liter of displacement.

    The difference between the Euro and US versions is EVERYTHING! There are NO similarities in the engines. The Euro engine is 3201cc, the US engine is 3152cc. The US engine is a bored and stroked 2.8L, while the Euro engine has a different block. The Euro engine still has many parts manufactured by hand, it also has double VANOS (the US engine has single VANOS of the intake only). Another major difference is that the Euro engine has individual throttles for each cylinder (vs one for the US model).

    Why the difference? Back in '93, BMW wasn't even going to import the M3 because the cost to certify the engine and chassis was more than BMW could have made up in sales of the M3 (from what I hear the cost to certify an engine in the US is at least $1,000,000 plus ALL engine and transmissions must be certified, so the M3 has had to be certified 5 times (2dr- 3.0L manual and auto, 3.2L manual, 4dr- 3.2L manual and auto). the BMW CCA complained enough to BMW and so they decided to import the M3. To make it financially possible BMW decided to bore and stroke the 2.8L engine and not include the double VANOS system (and saving nearly $15K!!!!). Would you pay $50K+ (in 95, $55K+ now) for an M3??? BMW didn't think so.

    Differences? (Having never driven a Euro spec M3, these comments are made on the data) not much!

    Euro engine is 321hp, 258 ft-lbs torque
    US engine is 240hp, 236 ft-lbs of torque

    If you remember physics class, hp is responsible for top speed, torque is responsible for acceleration. 0-60 times between the Euro and US spec M3s are nearly identical (thanks somewhat to the gearing of the differential on the US spec car). The cars are neck and neck up to about 90 or 100 when the Euro spec car leaves the US Spec in the dust. I will paraphrase something I heard recently (not sure where) that said both models will snap your neck taking off from a standstill, at 100 the US car still has good acceleration while the Euro spec car will still snap your neck!

Will BMW announce a Z3 based on the 2.5L engine in the 323?

    The 1.9 is dead in the US. The 2.5L six will replace the 1.9 as the base engine in 99. It is the same engine that is used in the E36 323is and the upcpcoming E46 323i (but I haven't heard if it will have the single vanos that the E36 uses or the double vanos of the E46). Pricing has not yet been announced.

19.3: Suspension & Steering

Quotes from the December 2nd AutoWeek regarding their long term Z3:

    Rear Springs:

    "By checking ride height, [the dealers] discovered that both rear springs were too short: The left spring was 9mm out of spec, the right one 15mm out. The springs must be within 7mm of the designated length to be acceptable. A [BMW] spokesman said that after installing new rear springs in our car--now, both are within 6mm of designated length--BMW began to inspect other Z3s, and discovered that several cars made early in the production run also had rear springs outside of the bad of tolerance. The spokesman said that dealerships are checking Z3s as the cars' owners bring them in them in for routine maintenance. He also foudn that our tires were overinflated; the tires were reset to the recommended 29 psi"

    Vibration Aborber:

    "...[the dealership and BMW] installed a vibration absorber that became standard equipment after our car rolled off the assembly line. The damper is designed to reduce vibration in the drivetrain, and has nothing to do with the suspension system, which seems to work much better now that its rear springs and tire pressures are proper."

19.4: Brakes

19.5: HVAC

My blue air conditioning button and/or my yellow recirculation button become excessively warm after being engaged for some lenth of time. Is there a fix?

    Yes. Here is the BMW service bulletin:

    In case of customer complaint, replace the switch with PART NUMBER 61 31 1 380 557 (the "0" in 380 might be a "D")

    Warranty Information: Parts and labor are reimbursable under warranty
    Defect Code: 64 11 63 14 00
    Labor Operation: 61 31 085
    Labor Allowance: 3 FRU

    and, here are an owner's comments on the fix

    "The dealer replaced both the bulbs in the AC and RECIRC lights. Definitely reduced the brightness at night and buttons are much cooler to the touch. It was all covered by the dealer."

19.6: Electrical

I would like to add the OBC to my roadster, what's the part number?

    The Z3 roadster's OnBoard Computer is installed by the factory when the car is being built. As your chassis goes down the assembly line, it's build sheet instructs the factory associates to install the various wiring and sensors required. Z3 roadsters that were not ordered with the OBC option DO NOT have the necessary wiring. In other words, they ARE NOT prewired for post-delivery dealer installation. Wiring it after the fact, would be cost-prohibitive. The OBC's various display is activated by pressing the turn-signal stalk in-towards the steering column. This allows operation without removing your hand from the steering wheel. Default display is Time. Other displays cycled in order are Outside Temperature, Fuel Economy in MPG, Remaining Mileage, and Average Speed. Some functions are user reset-able. When outside temperature drops within 5 degrees Farenheight of freezing, the OBC automatically chimes to warn you of the possibility of "Black Ice" road conditions. When the ignition is off, pressing the OBC's right button will cause the current Time to appear on the display for a moment.

The airbag warning light turned on without any particular reason.

    When my dealer replaced my seat runners the light stayed on until they hooked the car to the computer and reset the cars computer

    if that doesn't work...have the dealer replace the seat belt tensioner.

    and another response:
    I recently took my 1997 Z3 (production date 10/96) in to the shop for an electrical failure which caused the SRS indicator light to remain lit. This was caused due to a defective seatbelt latch which provided a faulty signal back to the electrical system. The lower seat belt latch was replaced (part number 72-11-8-221-013). It seems to have fixed the problem.

Are all seats prewired for heating?

    No. Only seats ordered with the heated option are wired for heat.

On some Z3s, the heated seat switches are in an ackward place (in the back between the seats). Can they be moved to the front (next to the a/c switches)?

    Some people have had their dealer move them for a few hours of labor.

    But for the brave...

    The following are instructions for moving the rear seat-heater switches to the front console. This is not a job for the faint-hearted or the mechanically-challenged. Please note that this procedure requires you to cut a piece of carpeting located under the console. Not something anyone will ever notice, but it is a permanent change to the car! This procedure assumes you have the seat-heater switches mounted on the back and two blanks on the console to move the switches to.

    Before you begin: Get a box or container which you can put the screws in. Figure out some way of labeling the screws, they are all different shapes and sizes. Also make sure you have the 5 digit radio code you will need to reactivate the radio. Expect the job to take 2 to 3 hours. READ ALL OF THE FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS FIRST!

    Tools you'll need:

    • a philips head screwdriver
    • a wirecutter
    • a razor blade
    • several wire-ties
    • lots of patience

    1. Take the top down.
    2. Remove the cassette holder or cup holder by pulling up gently. Set it aside
    3. Two "clip structures" will be exposed. Remove the forward one by unscrewing it. Label the screw "clip"
    4. Remove the "change holder" (the rubber coated cup) by pulling back and lifting up.
    5. Unscrew the large golden screw which has been exposed. Label it "main"
    6. Move the seats forward and remove the two screws from the rear of the console, label them "rears"
    7. If you have seat-heater switches in the back, remove them as follows:
    8. Pop out the middle blank by pulling with your fingernail or a small screwdriver.
    9. Reach inside and pull out on the entire unit. It is secured by 4 small teeth on each corner which are grasping a "locking ring".
    10. Once the switches let go, the locking ring will fall down, but will still be held by the wires.
    11. Pull the wires out of the switch by grasping the yellow knurled portions where the wire joins and pulling. (don't worry, the group of wires are held together by a "plug" which fits into the switch.)
    12. Label the driver side switch for later reference.
    13. Don't lose track of the locking ring. You'll need it later.
    14. Remove the switches from the panel by compressing the metal tabs and pressing the switches out.
    15. Move the seats back
    16. Look in the passenger's footwell and find two small rubber heads securing the front of the console.
    17. Remove the rubber heads by hooking them with a stout paperclip-end from the bottom (the part that faces down). You should be able to hook them then pull out to remove them. They will resist. Be persistent. This will expose the screw head.
    18. Remove the upper screw first, label it "upper". Then remove the lower, label it "lower". (Yes, they are different sizes)
    19. Repeat in the Driver's footwell.
    20. Remove the leather boot of the handbrake by squeezing it gently and pulling up. Invert it over the handbrake.
    21. Remove the radio:
    22. Be sure you have the 5 digit reset code to reactivate the radio before you disconnect it.
    23. flip open the two small doors on either side of the radio to expose a small allen nut.
    24. Screw the allen nut counterclockwise until it stops.
    25. Repeat with the other allen nut
    26. gently pull the radio towards you.
    27. At the back of the radio, remove the antenna plug
    28. Then use a screwdriver to gently push up the "locking collar" for the other connections. It goes up about * inch, but does not come off. The purpose of the plastic piece is to help you get the plug out. If you continue to raise the platic, the plug should fall out, if not, see below.
    29. If the plug does not come out, gently rock the entire connector back and forth, pulling backwards to remove it.
    30. The radio is now disconnected.
    31. Look above the radio hole, you will see two screws. Remove them one at a time, begin careful not to drop the screws as they detach.
    32. Remove the three knobs for the heater (they just pull off, but it's tough to grip them). Try pulling them off, if this does not work, very carefully use a rag and slipjoint pliers, so as not to mar them.
    33. Remove the shift knob by pulling straight up - be careful! You can hit yourself in the nose when it comes loose!
    34. Remove the shifter boot - same process as the handbrake (except the "clips" are on the sides).
    35. Remove the foam collar which surrounds the shift knob (remember hopw it goes back in)
    36. In order to remove the console, start at the rear and gently spread the bottom of the console (near where you removed the two "rear" screws" and pull up. ) Take it slow and be prepared when the AC controls "pop in". It's somewhat frightening, but not something to be worried about - they pop right back in when you put the console back. The console has a "lip" which fits into the car at the top. This requires you to pull the console back, while you're lifting up. BE VERY GENTLE. More than likely, the console is installed before the rear structure which holds the storage compartments (or subwoofer). In order to completely remove the console, you must first remove this unit to give you the room you need. However, this procedure does not require you to do so.
    37. Place a towel underneath it to hold it up. You'll probably only get 5 to 6 inches of clearance because the other switches which are attached to the front of the console.
    38. Feed the wires with the plugs attached through hole.
    39. Caution: You now need to start cutting stuff. Be very careful not to cut through any wires!!!!
    40. Reclamp the wires which are not involved with the heater wires with a wire tie. Then use a wirecutter to clip the retaining wire clamp.
    41. You may also need to use the razor blade to free up the wire bundles from a sticky black tape wrap.
    42. You must now cut the carpet in order to gain access to the main retaining clip. I cut the part under the change holder, directly down the middle. Once you lift up the carpet on the driver's side, you'll see the main retaining clip.
    43. Pull on the small ladder-shaped strap while compressing the clip, this will free up all the wires. Separate out the heater wires and re-clamp the rest.
    44. Run the heater wires up around the shifter. I used some duct tape to secure the wires out of the way of the shifter.
    45. Set the handbrake and shift into second (This moves the shifter out of the way.)
    46. Reach under, through the shifter hole, begin careful of the sharp clips which hold the boot on (They can cause a nasty cut)
    47. Pop out two of the blanks and feed the wires through, being sure to position the driver's wires on the correct side.
    48. Use the blanks to fill in the holes where the switches were in the back.
    49. Re-connect the switches, making sure they make good contact.
    50. Shift into Neutral and turn the car on to test the switches.
    51. Push the switches through the holes so they seat.
    52. Turn the lights on and make sure you don't see any "loose" bulbs. If you do, see below.
    53. Reassemble the console.
    54. When inserting the rear switch panel, hold the locking ring up by inserting your finger through the middle of the center of the plate, then insert the blank at the end.

    Trouble! Here's a couple of things I ran into which gave me trouble:

    • The wires are tight! Be careful when working them around, but they do loosen up.
    • There was a loose light bulb on a wire, I figured out it went to the lighter.
    • I popped out the lighter trying to find where the bulb went - this was a mistake, I should have just left it in.
    • This took me some time to figure out: although the lighter can be popped out, you can't just pop it back in: you must SPREAD the small yellow tabs and push the yellow collar down the shaft of the lighter, reinsert the yellow collar then push down on the lighter till it locks into place.
    • The light that illuminates the lighter fits into a hole to the right of the lighter. Just feel around through the hole around the stickshift. You can push it right up into the hole.

    Good luck!

    And another, but much simpler solution...

    I moved the heated seat switches today just by simply splicing a 3 foot length of wire to the switches and fishing them forward....total job took 2 hours and i didnt rip out the entire console....just removed the shifter boot....viola!

19.7: Performance

Several owners have installed K & N cone intake air filters. There are mixed opinions about this--some believe that the hot air from the engine is negating any effect the more free air flow is having:

    I have taken mine off the car, and quite frankly the car (at least in the summer) feels like it has a little more torque (low end). Also my a/c works much better now.


    Let me add (since I know you are also in Texas) that several of us have questioned the performance of the K&N filter. It has a flaw in that it is not vented with fresh (ie cool) outside air. Our theory is that the filter does allow more air in, but it is drawing some of the air off the engine (hot) so the end result might actually be lower air mass. I'm playing around with a heat shield device that would get rid of this problem but all I'm doing is bending and cutting some metal.

    and here is what someone with a 3-series has to say

    The guy running the Dyno suggested that the K&N equiped car was suffering from "fan wash" (turbulence from the radiator fan). He also felt that if we shielded the K&N on the engine side of the filter that HP and Torque would increase. We found a piece of cardboard and the Dyno operator's assistant was instucted to hold (by hand) this piece of card board while the test was being performed. WOW!!! WHAT A DIFFERENCE!!! HP went up to 217 and torque was consistently higher then mine was at stock (or without air filter element).

    What I'm saying here: All of the debate about cool/hot air under the hood is nice...but you guys with the cone type filters really need to forget the snorkel (better yet do the snorkel, it can't hurt), but FIRST AND FOREMOST...PUT a shield between the engine and the filter (aluminum would be good for both air wash and heat)...this will show a consistent and measurable performance gain over just stickin' on a cone filter!!!!

Does anyone make a supercharger for the Z3?

    Both Bell Engineering (in San Antonio, TX) and Sebring (in Atlanta, GA) make supercharger kits for the 1.9l Z3. As of this writing, neither kit is quite ready for sale to the public. The kits are each rumored to cost about $4000.

19.8: Care, Cleaning, & Feeding

I have heard there is some sort of rear window protector (window blanket). What is it?

    There is a free flannel cover--ask your dealership for it The BMW part number is 82-11-1-469-778. Don't let them make you pay for it.

I'm apprehensive about parking under trees and it's cumbersome having to remove the boot cover every time I want to raise the top. Any tips?

    Try an interior cover like the Cockpit Cover from MM Marketing 910-323-8773 or the Roadster Tonneau. Use common sense, though, as these covers are designed primarily to protect against sun, heat, dust, bird droppings and falling leaves — use the convertible top for rainstorms.

My car came with a cassette holder instead of a cup holder between the seats. How can I get the cup holder?

    There is a free cupholder upgrade--ask your dealership for it The BMW part number is 82-11-1-469-516. Don't let them make you pay for it.

How should I clean the rear window?

    Comment from a Z3 message board member that met with general agreement:

    The ONLY stuff to use is Meguiar's #10 (Clear Plastic Polish) and #17 (Clear Plastic Cleaner).

    (and for the very anal)

    I clean the rear window when I wash the car. After thoroughly pre-rinsing the car I wash the rear window first, using lot's of clean, sudsy car wash and a soft mitt. I don't "rub" on the window, just kinda float the sopping wet mitt acrossed it. After the car and plastic window get the final flood rinse I dry the window with a clean, very soft towel. Very lightly, straight across, no swirling. When car is dried and waxed then I apply Meguiar's #17 and #10 "Mirror Glaze" Clear Plastic Window Cleaner/Polish as directed (available at your BMW dealer, ~$7 each). When folding the top I place a soft towel over the trailing edge of the rear storage compartment to protect the window from the sharp cornered plastic trim along it's base. Then as I lower the top I place a rolled flannel sheet(1) in the crease formed by the window, pushing it toward the front of the car to force the window to form a smooth curve rather than a hard crease. Just before the top rests in it's stowed position I place small sheets of plastic(2) between the corners of the top and storage cavity to prevent abrasion of the top where the canvas lies over the stretcher bars. Now you know why I only put the top down once a year!

    (1) Queen size flannel sheet folded to 36" width then rolled like a sausage.

    (2) Thick, soft plastic sheeting cut into 8" square sheets.

I can't find Meguiar's #10 and #17 anywhere. Where can I buy them?

    You can do a dealer search on Meguiar's web site: http://www.meguairs.com/. Some people have found them at boat supply stores. Your BMW dealer's parts department will likely carry them as well.

    Additionally, Meguair's has a "Clear Plastic Care Collection" containing #10, #17, and #18, plus a cotton terry cloth and applicator pad. It's available for $19.95. You can call Maguiar's by phone at (800) 545 3321.

How should I care for my convertible top?

    (before you read this response, you should know that the person who wrote it was named "anal Z3 owner of the week" for writing it. :-)

    I've owned various roadsters for all of my adult life, some for as long as 25 years. The care the Z3 requires is very similar and basic. This is what I do.... I vacuum the canvas top using a soft brush attachment and only wash it when warranted. I clean the plastic window with a VERY soft mitt and lots of mildly soapy water. To clean and polish the window I use Meguiar's Mirror Glaze #17 and #10, inside and out, following the printed instructions. When folding the top I place a Queen sized, soft, flannel flat bed sheet folded then rolled to form a cylinder about 3" in diameter and perhaps 40" in length. I place this inside the crease that the window forms as it is folding, pushing the roll toward the front of the car to force the window to fold in a gentle arc rather than a hard crease. As the top begins to nest in it's folded position, I place two small (6"x6") sheets of soft plastic between the outer surface of the fabric covering the corners of the stretcher bars and the opposing canvas surfaces these areas rub against. This seems to work well at preventing the canvas from scuffing as it bounces around beneath the boot. I've had the Z3 nealy 9 months and have no creases or blemishes whatsoever in the plastic window or canvas top. Granted, this is a pain in the ass but I tend to leave the top down for extended periods so I don't have to go through this very often and it works quite well. I also use small pieces of very soft foam to fill the gaps in the boot near the door jams. This prevents dust from accumulating on the top while stowed, since dust is the cause of most of the abbrasion that clouds and scratches the window. I hope this helps.

Should I use some sort of waterproofing agent on the top?

    I use a water repellant from Starbrite. You can purchase it at any boat supply store. I was a little aprehensive about applying it but after 4 months and two applications I am very satisfied. Water beads right off and the top actually stays dry underneath. There is no soaking in. I purchased the gallon jug I think it was $14.95?

How should I care for the interior of my Z3?

    Lexol leather cleaner and conditioner products are very popular with the BMW followers.

Does anyone have a quick and easy way to clean the engine and compartment? My BMW tech says to take brake cleaner and just spray all the dirt away. But after reading the can (do not spray on painted surfaces, plastics etc..) I don't think I'll try it. What about using WD40 or Carb cleaner? I am really fearful of having someone wash the engine with water.

(Various responses posted to this question on the Z3 Message Board follow)

  • You might want to look at a product called Zymol Strik. It's supposedly strong enough to do the job without hurting the paint in the engine bay.

  • Have you tried something more accessible like 409 Pro (all purpose cleaner)? I cleaned a '92 engine with this last week and had some surprising results. Just spritzed the product on visible plastic and rubber parts. The grime I thought was on there for good wiped away. Just used a lot of paper towels...don't have the cajones yet to take a hose to engines. Can't imagine a more recent car like the roadster would be any harder to clean.

  • This method was posted by a fellow Zeemer and I gotta testify, it works marvelously:
    1. Bag alternator with large (food storage) plastic bag.
    2. Spray entire engine compartment w/ simple green (I use 1 to 4 mix, 1 part S.G. to 4 parts water) and let set for a few minutes.
    3. Spray off everything w/ a hose.
    4. Use a handheld hair dryer on low and blow the compartment and all sufaces dry.
    5. Put on medical rubber gloves and massage everything that is black or plastic w/ Armor-All. *
    6. Take bag off alternator and you will be amazed. It looks far better than new!

      (* note: a followup was posted to the step which mentioned Armor-All which said "I heard armor all is not all that great to use on the car. make sure youdont get it on the paint. And depending on what you put it on i thought it dried out the item? Any thoughts?")

19.9: Misc

What are the pinouts for the BMW amp?

    I've double checked the info by looking at the labels on the amp circuit board, and driving a signal through the pin and listening at the speakers. Cars with other build dates may vary. As any good DIY would say, "test twice; cut once" :-)

    Connector J3 from the amp is a mystery. It's got tantalizing labels as SUB HI, GAL OUT; but only GAL IN has a wiring connected to it. Anyone has any info/theory on this?

    BTW, I've verified that the sub-woofer box behind the seats contains the same HK 5-1/4" speakers as the kick panels. However, I don't believe a straight-forward swap with MBQuarts will work due to limited depth (MBQ's are about 1/4" deeper). It might still be doable with a little creative reworking.

    HK Amp Wiring
    M Roadster, 3/98 build date

    J1 12-pin AMP connector
    pin function wire color
    1 12V red/white
    2 on/off white
    3 ground brown
    4 ground brown
    5 RBLO+ blue/purple
    6 RBLO- blue/gray
    7 LFLO+ yellow/red
    8 LFLO- yellow/brown
    9 RFLO+ blue/red
    10 RFLO- blue/brown
    11 LBLO+ yellow/gray
    12 LBLO- yellow/blue
    J2 26-pin Siemens connector
    pin function wire color
    1 RB- IN blue/gray
    2 RB+ IN blue/purple
    3 LB+ IN blue/black
    4 LB- IN yellow/brown
    5-7 n/c n/c
    8 RFHI+ yellow/red (LTwtr)
    9 RFHI- brown/orange (LTwtr)
    10 LBHI+ yellow
    11 LBHI- brown
    12 RBHI+ blue
    13 RBHI- brown
    14 RF- IN blue/brown
    15 RF+ IN brown/black
    16 LF+ IN yellow/red
    17 LF- IN yellow/brown
    18-20 n/c n/c
    21 LFHI+ yellow/green (STwtr)
    22 LFHI- yellow/brown (STwtr)
    23 RFHI+ blue/brown (STwtr)
    24 RFHI- blue/green (STwtr)
    25 LFHI+ yellow/blue (LTwtr)
    26 LFHI- yellow/gray (LTwtr)
    J3 6-pin AMP connector
    pin function wire color
    1 GAL IN black/white
    2 SPATIAL n/c
    3 SUB LO n/c
    4 GAL OUT n/c
    5 SUB OW n/c
    6 SUB HI n/c


    • J1 connector has the thick gauge wires
    • pin numbers are labeled on the connectors
    • Function is as labeled on the HK Amp circuit board;
    • RBLO+: Right Back Low-freq speaker positive
    • n/c: not connected;
    • STwtr: small tweeter;
    • red/white: red wire with white stripe

I have the HK Stereo, but the speed sensitive volume doesn't work. What can I do?

    Well, it turns out that BMW used the wrong wiring harness in most (all?) HK stereos built prior to 3/98. The fix is free under warranty.

    - Speed sensitive volume control works on non-HK cars
    - On HK cars, a wire was left out of the wiring harness which feeds the head-unit.

    BMW Service Bulletin # 65 07 98 gives instructions for fixing the problem. It states the it will be done on a customer complaint basis only....

What will the M roadster cost in the U.S.?

    The MSRP for the M Roadster is $42,200 (plus $570 Handling and Destination). There are virtually no options.

Which wind deflector should I buy?

    Old Style New Style Roll Hoops Style

    There are three different wind deflectors. The old style mounts on the seatbelt towers, the new style mounts just forward of them, and there is roll hoops style that fits over the factory roll hoops.

    If you have factory roll hoops, your choice is clear: the only style that will work is the one designed to fit over the roll hoops.

    Otherwise, you have to decide for yourself based on the advantages and disadvantages of the other two. The old style blocks more wind, but installs on the seatbelt towers (meaning an aftermarket rollbar can not be installed) and can not be folded down when the top is up, which may block your rear visibility at night. The new style blocks less wind (but is still effective) and can be folded down when the top is up, improving night visibility. The old style windscreen is relatively easy to install--you can probably do it yourself. The new style windscreen is harder to install--your dealer will probably charge you 2.5 hours labor.

I've seen pictures of the new windscreen, and it looks like it blocks the top storage compartment. How can I access it?

    The new windscreen is designed to flip up out of the way so you can access the top storage compartment.

I have the old windscreen and noticed it tilts forward a bit. I wondering if this should be corrected so that it is vertical or is the forward tilt the way it is when ya'll installed it. I would think the angle could affect the amount of wind blowing.

    The normal position for it is tilted slightly forward.

How do I raise the roof while I'm sitting in the car?

    There are two methods that people have found to work:

    The Fossett Maneuver: After a week, I figured out that if you don't fold the roof locking handles in when you put the top down, you can reach over your shoulder with your left arm and hook your index finger on the chrome hook of the locking handles. At that point just pull. It's still a bit of effort, but the motion is in a straight line and much better than the right handed center pull.


    The Elephant Trunk: I can't claim ownership to the name (from what I remember, one of the kids of a 'board member' gave the process that hame) but if you reach back with your right arm and grab the roof handle and then with your left hand, grab your right wrist you can raise the roof while sitting in the car. The name is a result of the kid telling his dad (I don't think it was a mom) that he looks like an elephant raising his trunk over his head and then swinging it down. Anyway, I've tried it and it works! If you have the flannel window cover on the window, you can then unclip it from the roof frame and pull in into the car.

My seat makes these funny clicking noises sometimes. What can I do?

    If your seat is in the lowermost position, try raising it a little bit. This has worked for many people. If that doesn't work, take it to your dealer.

I can hear some sort of clicking noise from the outside of the car. What could it be?

    Clicks can occur for several simple reasons. Check the inside of your tires for barcode labels--they may come half off and tick against something. A rock stuck in the tread of your tire can cause a similar noise.

My speedometer reads 3 or 4 MPH higher than the on-board computer. What is wrong?

    It is believed that the government says that the speedometer can not be wrong on the low side, so car manufacturers may build in a little error on the high side. Some people say to trust the on-board computer over the speedometer.

I have a rattle from the drivers -A- pillar, only noticeable at low speeds. Any ideas on what it might be or potential cures?

    My October '96 produced ('97 model) Z3 developed a rattle in the A-Frame. Turns out there is a service bulletin for it, the good news is you can fix it yourself.

    Open your hood and find two round rubber bumper things that are screwed into the hood and are located near the corners by the A-Frame.

    Once you have found a stretch of road that you can easily duplicate the problem go back and "temporarily" unscrew both of these rubber bumper things. Now go back to that same stretch of road and see if the problem was fixed.

    If the problem didn't go away then reinstall those rubber bumpers and go to your dealer. Tell him you have already checked this and let him figure out what it is.

    If the A-Frame rattle went away (like mine did) here's the reason why. BMW changed the rubber compound and your rubber bumpers are slightly harder than the new rubber bumpers. The bulletin says to inspect the rumber bumpers and (using a razor blade or pocket knife) trim off the 2mm ring that is standing off the bottom of the bumper. Don't trim the rounded side (This will make since when you see it). Then re-install the rubber bumpers.

Any ideas on removing the ugly airbag warning stickers on the visors?

    Lacquer thinner seems to be the weapon of choice to remove these stickers--but be careful!

    The material on the visors swells up grossly from the solvent. Goes back to normal later. Permanent effects unknown. One person reported a slight discoloration which was easily covered up with shoe polish--looked better than the sticker anyway! It is easier (and probably safer--you don't want to spill lacquer thinner on your seats) if you remove the visors first.

    and, another response:

  1. Go to your local hardware emporium and buy a product called "Goof-Off" (yeah, silly name but it works!).
  2. Get a whole bunch of terry cloth rags, rubber gloves (the doctor kind) put the "Goof-Off" in your top pocket and go sit in the car (Make sure the top and windows are down and the garage/parking area is WELL VENTILATED!!)
  3. Put on the gloves and soak the corner of a terry-rag w/ the solvent and start rubbin' and scrubbin' the sticker that's right above you. It's gonna take lots o' rags and lots o'time ('bout a 1/2 hr. per sticker) Now don't freak out, 'cause it's gonna look like you ruined the visor forever. It will be all loose and gnarly-sloppy, and tears may run from your eyes! Just grin and bear it and sit in the other seat and repeat the above procedure. Now you have a matched set of ruint-lookin' visors! Have no fear! In about 6-8 hours the vinyl will shrink back up.
  4. Put som LEXOL or ZYMOL leather conditioner on the treated area. The lanolin in leather conditioners really helps the vinyl to heal from the abuse you just gave it!
  5. You're done (you can take off the gloves now!)

How can I get my build date?

    I found my build date (11/96) on the silver plate on the driver's door pillar - where the tire inflation pressures are engraved. At least I think that was the build date.

Problem: Subwoofer sounds horrible.

    Action Taken:
    After taking apart a lot more than I need to, I found the problem. There is an acoustic tube, located right behind the grille, between the seats, that runs from the subwoofer box and directs the sound down towards the floor. (The grille comes off if you pull it from the bottom and you can see the tube behind it.)

    Anyway, the tube was not well designed or connected to the woofer box and was the cause of the vibration. I *removed the tube and added it to my collection of original parts. The difference is like night and day!

    * After looking it over and playing with it a little, I didn't think it was worth the trouble to try to reglue or seal it back into place.

    I also found that a couple of small tupperware containers fit into the spaces on each side of the subwoofer box. I'm using them to store seldom-used items that will not rattle - a bottle of sunscreen and my backup DC adapter for the battery powered radar detector. [Ed. Note: These spaces are only available if you have the HK upgrade and no roll hoops. The non-HK subwoofer takes up the entire space.]

How do I remove the stock manual shifter knob from a Z3?

    Grab with both hands and pull straight up. Note--when the FAQ editor did this, he promptly smashed his nose with the knob when it popped off, so it might be wise to look away as you are pulling.

How do I replace the rear window on my Z3?

    Straight from the mouth of a Z3 owner who replaced his due to a break-in:
    To my satisfaction, it was an installation that I could do myself. The kit included the plastic window, safely protected between 2 sheets of cloth and cardboard, a zipper fastener, locking brackets, and a tool for wedging the canvas under the rubber seal. After reading the instructions, I found out that I also needed rubber cement to seal the edges.

    The first step was to remove the old window. I had to pull the edge of the canvas top out from under the rubber window seal. I then removed the metal bracket at the middle of the lower edge of the window that kept the zipper from unraveling. After the bracket was removed, the zipper could be "pulled" apart.

    Attaching the new window was a little tricky. I attached the zipper head to the window then attached the window to the canvas. Lining the 2 sides of the zipper just right took several tries. If the zipper is off aligned by one "tooth", the window would look twisted. Cramped working space from the inside of the car and the hot weather (90 degrees in December!) didn't help make the process any easier. I took me almost an hour before I has it aligned to my satisfaction.

    The next step involved sealing the canvas around the edges with rubber cement and wedging it under the rubber window seal.

    The whole process took me about about 2 hours. I hope I don't have to do this again!

Does anyone know how to remove the coin-holder on the side pocket?

    Just pull out slightly on the door pocket at the rear edge of the coin holder and lift it out.

Where can I get additional caddies for the BMW CD Player?

    They're standard Alpine caddies. Should be around $15 at your local Circuit City.

My Z3 is supposed to have 10 speakers, but I can't seem to find them all.

    25mm tweeters in front doors (2)
    65mm midranges in front doors (2) and rear deck module (2)
    140mm woofers in kick panels (2)
    160mm x 230mm woofer(s?) in rear deck module/integral NVH cover (2)

My pre-98 Z3 doesn't have the storage nets on the passenger-side transmission tunnel. Can they be added?

    Yes! It's fairly easy to do yourself, or you can have your dealer install it.

    Storage Net Part Number: 51-47-2-261-407
    Fixing Element (screw) p/n: 51-47-2-263-062
    You need 4 fixing elements.

I found the rubber tie down straps in the trunk right below the latch, What are those for?

    The rubber tie-down straps is for a Warning Triangle that is mandatory in Europe. HOWEVER, I have searched in vain for a folding Warning Triange that will fit it's 3"19"1" space. The one offered in North America by BMW (P/N 82 11 1 466 578) will not, I repeat, will not fit in the BMW Z3 roadster. I ordered one through my dealer and tried to fit it when it arrived. The BMW Warning Triangle measures 4" tall! I tried my best to fit it, but there is no way. I even tried to figure out if the Triangle could be trimmed to fit. No dice. It will only sit halfway in its cove...and this makes it impossible to have access to your toolbox and battery. Since then, I have tried the local Trak Auto and Pep Boys for a folding triangle, but have so far come up empty-handed. Even the triangle from Mercedes Benz (#Q6590002) doesn't fit. Road flares is a good idea, but I still haven't given up my search yet.

I would also like to get the Z3 emblem to possibly add to my M Roadster (which for some reason doesn't have a Z3 logo anywhere on it).

    Characters a sold seperately.

    "Z" part number 51148399-309
    "3" part number 51148399-310

Are there any "Easter Eggs" in my Z3?

    Try this for a laugh. Turn off the ignition. Push and hold down the trip odometer reset button on the speedometer. Turn the ignition key to position one (first click) whilst still holding the reset button, may take a few attempts but as far I know it works on all E36s and some other BMWs.

    You will now be treated to a very jolly show indeed. First the DME will display a few of it's internal registers in the mileometer LED space. Next all the gauges on the dash will cycle from zero to full scale deflection and back again whilst all the warning lights illuminate.

    The registers displayed are

    • Vehicle identification number
    • Number for BMW internal use
    • Number of wheel rotations needed to make up one kilometer
    • Software version
    • Hardware version
    • Index of changes

note from Rachel- This FAQ is on the Bimmer.org/Roadly.com Z3 board but no one's name is given. This is not my work, I am just hosting it for back up.

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