For almost a decade the BMW E36 M3 tore up the track in various motorsports until it was finally retired in favour of the new E46 model, however this didn’t stop all E36 BMW’s from gaining a cult like following from there on. Today they are still loved among a large community of enthusiasts, even though they had their fair share of problems.

The Daily Driver: BMW E36 318i

The BMW E36 318i was a very popular car in its time, and they can still be found extremely cheap second hand. While the engine was only a small 4 cylinder, it was responsive and coupled with a manual gearbox, was a very fun car to drive. The engineering behind the 318i was very good, with the body roll barely existent and the handling near on perfect for an entry level car, they are definitely a good buy if you can find one in good condition.

However these cars suffered from a fatal flaw, and it can be found in the engine. They are prone to sudden cylinder head failures, either head gaskets or head’s actually warping. It is very common to have serious cylinder head problems with these cars, however if you think this is an invite to upgrade to a 5 series 6 cylinder, don’t, they had the same problems too.


The issue was in the design of the engine itself, while the E30 series BMW’s didn’t have many faults, the E36 seems a far cry from their grandfather. Be careful when purchasing one second hand, and factor in that you may need cylinder heads rebuilt in the near future at any time. You can’t avoid this problem either by monitoring the temperature, the failures still occur even at operating temperatures.

Owners can download a free pdf BMW E36 318i workshop manual here which will detail the cylinder head replacement procedure if one is willing to give it a try themselves.

The Racing God: BMW E36 M3

The E36 M3 suffered heavily from a serious design flaw, that is that after some time, the rear sub-frame would literally snap off the vehicle. The fix was a huge job, having to take out the old sub-frame and completely rebuild the mounting points while fixing a new sub-frame that would actually last. The problem is one of the most common for E36 BMW M3’s and is the first point at where you should inspect if looking to buy one.

While at the moment the E36 M3 is still a fairly cheap car considering what you get, its powerful, looks beautiful, handles perfectly, but on the odd occasion unless previously fixed, will completely shear the rear sub-frame off and try to kill you. M series cars however are kind of like that, just in different ways for each variant.

Owners can download a pdf workshop manual for the BMW E36 3 Series and E34 5 Series from this website.

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