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 > Technical Articles: / BMW E36 3-Series (1992-1999) >
Starter Replacement on Your BMW
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Pelican Technical Article:

Starter Replacement on Your BMW


3-4 hours






8mm socket, 10 mm socket, breaker bar, 13mm socket and driver, E12mm socket, stubby swivel 1/4-inch ratchet, torque wrench, floor jack and two jack stands or ramps (if removed from below)

Applicable Models:

E30, 1982 - 1993, E36, 1991 - 1999

Parts Required:


Performance Gain:

A BMW that starts

Complementary Modification:

Replace the alternator
101 Performance Projects for Your BMW 3 Series

This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Wayne's new book, 101 Performance Projects for Your BMW 3 Series. The book contains 272 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to timing the camshafts. With more than 650+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any 3 Series owner's collection. The book was released in August 2006, and is available for ordering now. See The Official Book Website for more details.

There are some projects that seem like they should be relatively routine--and are very easy to perform on other cars--but are a huge pain on the BMW 3 Series cars. Replacing the starter is one of them. Most other cars I've worked on have had relatively accessible starters. If you are quick with the tools, you can have the starter replaced within 15 minutes on some engines. Not so with the 3 Series. The only way to replace the starter is to remove the intake manifold (Project 12) or remove the transmission (Project 43).

The first and most critical step in the removal process is to disconnect the battery from the car (Photo 1). This is very important, as live current is connected to the starter at all times. You can seriously injure yourself and damage your electrical system if you accidentally ground the large red wire connected to the starter.

To disconnect the battery, disconnect the negative, or ground lead from the battery. Always disconnect the negative or ground lead first--if you disconnect the positive/hot lead, there is a chance that your tool may touch the metal chassis. This could result in a short circuit, which would not bode well for you. The worst-case scenario might be if your wrench hit the chassis and was instantly welded there by the current, then the battery overheated and exploded because you couldn't break the connection. In other words, don't risk it--be sure to disconnect the ground first.

If your car has the original radio in it, be aware you will need the radio code if you disconnect the battery. The BMW dealer can look this up for you if you don't have it, but that can be a huge pain, and most dealers will charge you for the service. Disconnecting the battery may also erase fault codes stored in your DME. To be on the safe side, I recommend you read your fuel injection fault codes prior to disconnecting the battery (see Projects 28 and 29).

You'll need to remove either the manifold or transmission to access the starter. Once you have the manifold or transmission removed, the actual process of replacing the starter is not too difficult. Verify again that the battery is disconnected, and then unbolt the large, thick red wire harness that connects to the starter. Also disconnect the much smaller wire harness that plugs into the terminals on the back of the starter solenoid.

The starter is attached to the transmission case with two Torx bolts. Remove these bolts (see Project 43), and you should be able to lift the starter out of the engine compartment (if you removed the manifold first), or out the back of the engine (if the transmission was removed). Verify that your old starter looks the same as the new starter and has the same number of electrical connections on the back.

As indicated in Project 43, the nuts that hold the starter in place may be very difficult to hold when tightening up the bolts. This is definitely a job made easier with an assistant on hand. Have your assistant hold the nuts in the engine compartment while you tighten the bolts from underneath.

If you would like to see more technical articles like this one, please continue to support Pelican Parts with all your parts needs. If you like what you see here, then please visit our online BMW catalog and help support the collection and creating of new and informative technical articles like this one. Your continued support directly affects the expansion and existence of this site and technical articles like this one. As always, if you have any questions or comments about this helpful article, please drop us a line.

Figure 1

The battery is located in the engine compartment on E30 cars, and in the rear trunk on E36 cars. Shown in this photo is a special BMW battery designed for the convertible (it's larger and intended to withstand increased vibration). Always disconnect the black negative, or ground, connection first (green arrow). If you are not planning to remove the battery, this connection is all you need to disconnect--there is no need to disconnect the positive/hot lead to the battery. When you disconnect the ground from the battery, make sure you place or tape the ground lead aside. You don't want it accidentally falling on the terminal of the battery while you're working and accidentally connecting up the battery again. A handy device I like to install on all my cars is a battery cutoff switch (lower inset). Installation of this switch on the battery ground allows you to remove the green knob and shut off all power to the car. An added tip: Connect a small inline fuse from one end to the other, and a small amount of current will continue to flow, keeping your radio presets from being cleared out when the battery is disconnected. The E30 battery is shown in the upper inset.

Figure 2

Here is the view from the top of the E36 engine compartment with the intake manifold removed. The starter is relatively easy to access at this point (the starter's solenoid shown by orange arrow); however, there are some hoses and cables that will still get in your way. The red arrow shows where the battery cable is connected to the wire harness. Danger: This wire is connected straight to the battery and is live unless the battery is disconnected. The blue arrow points to the starter control harness, and the green arrow points to one of the nuts that hold the starter to the transmission.

Figure 3

If you happen to have your transmission out of the car, it's really easy to replace the starter. This photo shows the underside of the engine bay when the transmission has been removed. The starter is very accessible (yellow arrow), and removing it only takes about five minutes.

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Comments and Suggestions:
Brandon Comments: 94 325i I have removed both bolts from the starter but it will not move, there is a bracket off the back end of it I'm not sure if you need to remove that as well or not. I'm attempting to replace the clutch is the reason I'm trying to remove this starter.
November 25, 2015
RivetHed Comments: oh,and to add...some help for people removing early e30 starters,that have the torx botl AND a nut...get you a locking,flex head one of those newer splined wrenches that fit any type of fastener.the 10mm fits.remove aircleaner,and if yah want zip-tie heater hoses up out of your way,turn head 90 degrees,and fish it back past the torx head and carefully pull it back onto it...BOOM...its now locked in place,now take a wobble extension,and a 17mm soclet,and you can take the nut right off.whole deal will take yah less than an hour.of course you know to take pretty
September 13, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the tips. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
RivetHed Comments: 1987 325e starter solenoid problem...wont kick armature out. just swapped out rear seal,and shift carrirer linkage rebuild...put all back together...double checked all work,went to start vehocle,and..."click."checked for voltage at terminal 50ign feed,and 12.3-4V.swapped out load relays,checked ground to body,ground to chassis,checked voltage at batt/alt connection.even grounded strater with a jumper to bat -,AND put put 12v directly to term 50...and no click,i ran screw driver between windings and bat/alt cable feedand motor spins great,it just wont kick armature out.took starter to part store,and it turned out to be badeven though i knew this from bench testing already on ground w/jump box. it tested bad...i thought all was fine when i got replacement. cheaparse kid got a reman,and thought all would be fine,and...SAME THING! took this one back,and they claim its fine. i'm at a loss.
12v @ solenoid switchcan even run 12v STRAIGHT to it,and no "click"
less than 1ohm res. from bat+ in trunk to connector at feed terminal
even grounded support bracket/bolt DIRECTLY to bAT-
please,I need either reassurance that it IS a crap part,or somebody to tell me what im missing.
i even jumped neutral safety switch...nothing
thank you cats for your time,and any help.
September 13, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Resistance isn't a good test here. You need to voltage drop test the cables and ground to the engine from the battery and also to the starter. Including the stater ground. It is also a good idea to voltage drop the ign signal to starter. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Dumisani Comments: Hi,got a problem with my bmw 318i 2000 model,engine only starts after a several trials on the ignition.i've bn told its the starter motor that's faulty.Please help me with the esiest way to access the starter motor.
September 11, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: See this tech article: - Nick at Pelican Parts
1994bmw318i Comments: There are 2 different starters for the e36: Pre-1996 and 1996+. I have a 1994 318i, but can I just use the newer 1996+ starter in my 1994?

Key differences are:

The 1996+ starter is shorter in overall length and cannot be bolted into the engine block with the Bosch OEM bracket. Instead, it has reinforced mounting ears 2-3x the thickness of the pre-1996 version. This starter bolts only to the tranny bellhousing via inverted torx bolts. Also, this verison has threaded mounting ears which make installing/removing a LOT easier.

The pre-1996 starter is a bit longer, and MUST be bolted to the engine block with the bracket.

The both should be the same for both.
August 19, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info and feedback. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Mark Comments: Numerous attempts to let the readers know where to find the steps that are in my previous posts ,you guys keep editing my posts and you even deleted the last 1 .
Without the steps it makes no sense so you might as well delete my other posts if you don't want to let your readers help out.
Their are other ways beside your way to get to the starter bolts you will find it a lot easier ,take 10 minutes and take the cabin air filter off and the housing of it and the back panel to it .
Then another 5 minutes for the rubber foam and take the 3 plastic screw clips off the brake area housing and you will see those bolts aren't that hard to get to from above.
August 17, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: We aren't deleting anything, as far as I can tell. Maybe error with the site.

Thanks for the tip on the starter.- Nick at Pelican Parts
Mark Comments: A quick note to go with my earlier post today ,you also need to do step 12 but do it from the top ,the starter will come out from the top .
I had to pull the heater hoses up out of the way ,I suppose you could drain anti freeze and remove hoses to make it easier but I was able to squeeze the starter between the hoses and the air intake the 3 inch diameter rubber intake I squished it in a little to get the starter by but if you want take that off as well.
I don't know why anyone would drop the tranny or take the intake off to do this job.
August 10, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the follow up. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Mark Comments: if you want to replace a starter on a 2005 bmw325xi in about 4 hours without taking off intake manifold and without taking out transmission ,check out this
I followed the steps through step 8 then I got creative .
once you complete the 8 steps you have pretty good access to the bolts from above ,I used a 3/8 ratchet wrench which I bent in a vice to give it a half inch curve ,it's enough to get in their ,I tied a shoelace around wrist and wrench so if I dropped it I could grab it can push the end of a hammer against the wrench ,also to get more leverage if you have a small wrench interlock the open end of the wrench with a boxed end wrench .
I also bent the bracket on the oil dipstick tube out of the way to get more room to wiggle starter out.
Take off big wire first then you can get starter out a little more to get the smaller wires .hope this helps.
August 10, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Duke Comments: I have an e36 325i 92' & I done bought 3 starters and they all keep burning out. Now mind you the car has been sitting for 6 years I'm just now able to get it running. The car cranks fine but something is keeping the starter from disengaging and it's really ticking me off. Therefore I have to keep buying these starter from frying out. I'm bout ready to scream PLEASE HELP!
July 24, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: When the starter is stuck on, is the start signal to the starter still present? - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Rylend Comments: Does that starter sit outside of the transmission ?
July 19, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Most of it, the nose enters the bell housing. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Mike Comments: Hi. I just replaced the starter on my 1997 318ti. When I fired the car up afterwards, it started right away, but it sounds as though the starter is still applied to the flywheel. Was the remanufactured starter I put in the car bad? Could this be caused by incorrect wiring or some other electrical problem? Thank you in advance
May 6, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If the starter is engaged, the gear may not be retracting. This can happen due to a faulty starter. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
camie Comments: Hello my 1995 330 has been standing a few months, now when tried running it, it does fire up and seems totally fine, normal heat, however it out of no where started this godawful clanking noic. Very loud, it does go away all of the suddrm. I've been told it's my starter and some bolt or gear not retacting. What's you opinion?
May 3, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The starter would make a grinding noise. I would try to pinpoint the area of the noise. That is your best bet to remedy the issue. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Daflakster Comments: I have a 1995 BMW 325i and my starter makes a weird noise I'm pretty sure the the wires got mixed up and was wondering if there is a diagram or anything that can show me what it looks like
April 29, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I don't have the wiring for that vehicle. What kind of noise is it making?

I would grab a repair manual. It will have the wiring.

Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. - Nick at Pelican Parts
Mike Comments: Are there any extra tips or tricks to removing those stubborn etorx bolts? I've gone through the top and have the intake manifold off. Using an etorx socket, a few extensions and ujoints still no movement on the bolts. I have a M52 engine btw.
April 28, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You may need to remove parts to get the ratchet and socket right up to the bolt, with the extension. That is if the bolts are frozen. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
uriahe Comments: I'm in the process of installing a new starter on my 1985 535i engine. After dismounting everything and taking pictures, I forgot marking the cables needing to attach to the starter motor properly, i.e. battery connection, etc
Can you tell me which line should be connect to the two terminals located at the starter base.
April 19, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: There should be only one large and one small cable. The large is the battery cable and goes to the solenoid stud. The smaller wire bolts to the starter feed on the solenoid. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
E28I 4me Comments: Hi, I have a 1985 535i and will need a new starter.... after reading most of the blog should I assume that to remove the intact manifold would be the best course of action to take.
April 9, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It does mmake it easier, but not necessary. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Mike Comments: Hello. I have a 1997 318ti M44. When I turn my key to start my car, all I can hear the starter spinning, but not engaging. Eventually, the car will start though, unless the engine is hot. Do you have any ideas as to what it could be? I'm not looking to replace my starter unless I have to; it seems like a total headache. Thanks.
March 29, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If the starter motor gear is not engaging the ring gear when you attempt to start it, the starter motor is likely faulty. VOltage drop test the cables to the starter, if they test good, replace the starter. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
kiltedmedic Comments: Is the starter froma 94 325i and a 99 323i the same?
February 10, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Tommy Comments: I have a 2000 BWM 323ci..... When I attempt to start the car the starter does not turn over. The battery is new...... The dash lights and the headlights strobe on and off and there is a click click click sound....... Please advise.........
February 4, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Sounds like a voltage supply problem. I would test the battery to start, even though it is new. Then voltage drop the battery cables and connection at the starter. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
candameron Comments: can you recommend any good projects maintenance or performance that would be time effiecent do to while having the transmission or intake manifold removed? I'm trying to determine which route to go through would be best for me.
Thanks a lot!
'98 328is
November 15, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Replace the starter motor. Replace the coolant heater hoses and pipes. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
mindy Comments: jut changed my 95 525i bmw starter, went in through the top and removed the manifold. battery wasn't attached after getting it all back together it work for about a week. took starter out found bad post and went and had it exchanged did the same thing now it won't start. just makes a click sound, dash and lights all come on. please help.
November 8, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Do a voltage drop test to the starter. Be sure it is getting good voltage, positive and negative. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
dannyd Comments: Need to replace the starter on a 2005 BMW 525I. Any suggestions? Thank you
October 23, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can help you find the right part.

Then see this tech article: - Nick at Pelican Parts
JR Comments: I recently changed my starter on a 94 325i 2.5 and as I was taking it apart a 1/4" I'm assuming vacuum line fell off from underneath the intake manifold. I was unable to determine where that line is supposed to go from the intake; please advice.
Thank you
August 31, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: There should be a vacuum nipple at the center of the intake manifold by the throttle housing, look there. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Chill Comments: Well, it worked. Very tricky but it did work and car works great. I suspended the start with a piece of rope while tightening it and had to use a long, thin pry bar to keep bolts from spinning.
June 20, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info and feedback. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Rich M Comments: How much would I expect to pay to replace starter on E146 325Ci for parts. It looks like a large job, how many hours labour would I expect to pay for this kind of job?
June 17, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It a few hours labor. I don't know the cost, I would call around to local shops and ask for a few estimates. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Chill Comments: I have a 1992 325ic E30, yes the convertible is an E30 that year. Anyway, I was able to get the starter out without removing anything else. It took about 40 minutes tops. A little tricky but not impossible. I then took some silicone and "seated" the torx bolts and hopefully the new starter slides right in and I can get that top nut on. I guess I could "NASCAR" it and put a dab of silicone on the nut-to-starter housing!That might be pushing it.
June 13, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Starterclueless Comments: I need step by step instructions for a starter. It's a 1995 BMW 320i.
May 7, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Sorry we don't have your vehicle in the US. I would grab a repair manual, be sure it covers your model and engine. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
lhaglund Comments: Hey,
Took my 325ci in to have the starter replaced. Unfortunately, something must have gone wrong because when I started driving, I noticed my dash wasn't working. Thoughts on what the issue may be?
March 18, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Is the entire dashboard not working or the instrument cluster? I would start by checking fuses. if it failed during the repair, ask the shop if they noticed it. Maybe they can scan the vehicle for fault codes. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
tj Comments: Have a bmw e30 320i automatic replace the head and now need to start the motor but been with 2 other mechanics car still standing a year later what do I do to start this motor up where do I start
March 5, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I can't help without knowing what is missing from the system when you are trying to start it. When your engine doesn’t start you’ll want to check the basics. Check spark, fuel injector pulse and pressure fuel, volume and quality. Are there any fault codes? Once you figure out what is missing, it will be easier to diagnose.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
JDHathaway0911 Comments: Just like a lot of other people one morning my 2003 BMW 330i won't start. All lights, stereo, ignition, I believe the water pump everything kicks up but when I go to turn the key over the car won't even attempt to turn on. I tested the batter and I'm getting over 14v Volts with the key turned over my fuses are all good I'm going to check the clutch position switch tomorrow but before I invest $500 in replacing my starter I would like to make sure that a new starter is truly what I need.
February 22, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: To confirm the starter is faulty, check the large lug on the starter for battery volts. Then check the start signal voltage from the ignition switch to the starter. If both are present, the starter is faulty. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
JDHathaway0911 Comments: Is there anyway to test if the starter is bad with out benching it and will a code scanner give me a more direct idea of why my 2003 330i won't start. Such as bad key, ignition switch, clutch position switch, not getting enough power to the starter or whatever else it could be
February 22, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I answered under you at your other thread. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Sandra Comments: Hello I have a 2007 BMW X3 3.0. Do I remove from top? Do you have a step by step guide for this repair. Thanks in advance.
December 28, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No step by step for the X3. You will need to remove it from the top. Remove the items attached to the intake manifold that are in the way, or the entire intake manifold. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Eric Comments: How do u change the starter on a 2001 x5 3.0i
August 24, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It is about the same as a 3 series with the same motor, check out the tech article on our web page and grab a repair manual. It will have the procedure, special tools and torque specs.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Mike zn Comments: Hi guys
I have just removed my starter on an e36 316i and i did not need to remove the intake . It can be done with an m12 Torx ring spanner. You going to need some patience and you will get it done , first remove battery terminals then loosen the two bolts holding the starter in place . then go from under the car to loosen the wires then its out .
July 23, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional Info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
streetbeast99 Comments: pleaes can you tell me were the start motor is on a m50b20 engine e36 4 door 92 or could you send me a picture of were it is
July 5, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Youtube has some videos of the procedure. It's under the intake manifold back by the rear of the engine- Nick at Pelican Parts  
Chari Comments: 2007 BMW530i. had problems with my car starting. took to dealer for service. diagnosis: need a new battery WAS ONLY 2YEAR OLDhad battery replaced 3 weeks later car was totally dead. Diagnosis: Need New starter. Did I really need a new Battery or ???
April 24, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: BMWs now use an advanced energy management system. Mechanics can access your battery life and charge information via a BMW scan tool. If they replaced it, I would think it needed it. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Jimmy Comments: I have a 2001 325ci, I put the key in to start and get nothing. Ignition turns on, lights go on, everything seems to work like normal except that the engine don't start. Like the signal don't power the starter. What is the problem to this? Is it the starter or something else? Please help me.
April 23, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You could have a few different problems, an ignition switch, bad starter, low battery or the vehicle could be in theft mode (bad key).

I would start by checkinfg if the starter motor is getting the start signal on the small wire at the back of the starter. - Nick at Pelican Parts
Lix Comments: I replaced the starter on my 325I, however everything works perfect except that now if I have the car running I can't operate the power windows, sunroof nor the blowing fan for my heater or AC.....any sugestion...I'm not sure if I mist match the one of the two small wires, Txs!
April 7, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: CHeck your fuses. You may have blown one during the repair. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
mirawho Comments: I just had to replace a starter I replaced last year that had gone bad on a 2003 325i. I remembered it being a pain and so came here looking for a refresher. A lot of this looked like too much work. I dropped the pan and the skid plate and re-examined the area. It ended up not taking that long at all. I purchased a set of mini-flexhead ratcheting wrenches. The 10mm fits the torx bolts. The bottom one was fast. The top one was harder as I had to reach my hand over the top of the tranny, but it wasn't impossible. In and out was under 2 hours. There are a lot of ways posted here, but as it turns out, even the easy way isn't so easy. Great tips here for the DIY'ers on this topic. And, of course, just because my way worked for me doesn't mean it will work for you. But, I have big hands and I managed it.
January 21, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback, glad you got it done with ease. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
raybimmer Comments: e36 328i . I used three extensions and a universal joint after loosening the gearbox crossmember and bar stiffener . I got the bolt on the outer side off ok , the top one was a job , all in all a half hour job took over two hours .It is a right hand drive South African model .
October 29, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional Info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
needsAdvice Comments: So... I just had a starter replaced on an '06 325i. Now my window wiper fluid sprayer does not work. Is there anyway they could have broken it in the process. Worked when it was dropped off and now it doesn't after picking it up :
August 16, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Check to make sure the pump is plugged. You are going to want to scan the car to see if there are any faults stored related to the system.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
William Draughn Comments: I own a 1995 e36 M3 that I do all my own work on due to the upcharge of working on a bmw that every single mechanic charges in my area. I own the 101projects book, as well as other manuals, and all of them are ridiculously inefficient at explaining how to remove the starter or install the starter. The tiny 3 inch square photos are not sufficient to actually see whats going on. Most of the photos are not of the model your working on anyway. And the explanations being spread out over different projects just makes it annoying. I own the e torx sockets, due to a rear end replacement, but mostly ineffective due to clearance with the starter bolts. A e12 wrench is about all that fits with the clearance. Be careful, cause its easy to strip them due to the wrenches not seating on the bolts fully and the angle of the torque you will be adding to the wrench. If you look there are ratcheting swivel e torx wrenches available. If you do not have a lift, remove the intake. Standard tools are used to remove the MAF, throttle control, lines and hoses, and intake manifold, the starter bolts are e12 reverse torx. Start with the air box, and work your way to the intake manifold. The removal process is pretty straight forward, just label your connections, because there are quite a few that need disconnected, or removed to access the bolts on the starter. If you happen to strip the bolts, good luck, cause it just became 1000% more difficult. Craftsman makes bolt-out damaged bolt removers that may helpabout $20. The parts required when replacing your starter are as follows, Starter, intake manifold gaskets3.25 each pelican, most likely some various vacuum lines that are old and need replaced, new starter bolts, check your water hoses and replace as needed cause of the access acquiredthere are a few of them are under the intake manifold, a bosch type injector service kit cause your most likely going to break the pintle caps off removing the injectors they are very brittle24.99 ebay, and anything else you happen to break or lose during the process. Side note, the drivers side starter bolt is very close to a brake line, be careful not to break that when trying to remove that bolt. It is indeed a long process that requires patience, my suggestion is to have someone else do it if you can afford to. It will save you lots of time and aggravation. If you cant afford to, like me, then take your time...
July 13, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the input on this one. We appreciate the help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
DanTheM3Man Comments: I have a '99 E36 M3 with a manual transmission. How do you replace the starter?
July 5, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You have to: Raise and support vehicle, disconnect battery negative cable, disconnect electrical connectors at starter, then using a long extension with a swivel, remove starter fasteners. Then remove starter. The procedure is in this repair manual: Nick at Pelican Parts  
Gooner Comments: Once again pelican makes a VERY simple task and adds ridiculous amounts of needless tasks. Pull your air mass indicator and ducts back to the throttle body and that is it. Then take the two plastic nuts from the wire harness on the firewall that are right above the top nut of the starter. Viola! Now you just have to work your way in and get the bolts loose. The starter will drop down, and you just work unit through the wires and hoses. Reverse for install. That is it folks. Took me about an hour. Sure a lot of that time was on the two bolts, but I damn sure didn't take the gearbox out. How ridiculous....
March 31, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I stand by my article here - this is for the six cylinder E36 cars. Four cylinder cars and the earlier E30 cars are indeed much easier to remove the starter on. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Ivoryplayer Comments: Hi Guys! Have a no start condition on my 98 318ti. I changed the starter. Starter tested bad, put in new one. Still not starting. Anyway, the easiest way we found to take out the starter was to remove the intake manifold. We actually were able to remove and reinstall both starter bolts from the top. It was aggravating don't get me wrong but that little 3/8" wrench is gonna be bronzed and mounted thanks to the idea from Actuator above this thread. It took 2 hrs to attempt the bottom bolt from the bottom and then we changed tactics and did it all from the top, done in 4 hours and that included taking manifold off and putting it back on and reinstalling everything. Definitely go from the top.
February 5, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional Info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
1st timer Comments: This was the first time I ever reallly wrenched on a car. esp. by myself. Took ten hours, but I removed and replaced the starter on my own. lack of tools, know how, and information made it difficult. I did it. only problem is that I have a thick black wire left. I taped and labeled the starter wires. they are good and where they should be. Not sure where the other wire goes though. I completely removed the bracket too. and now that will not line up. Ive tried bending it over and over again to get it to line up. Car wont start, just clicks. has a 1 day old batteryNEW too. please please please help! thanks for reading!
December 2, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If the bracket won't line up either the starter is not installed correctly or you got the wrong part. You should not have t bend the bracket. At this point you might want to seek help from a pro.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
new owner Comments: what is the easiest way to change a starter on a1984 BMW733i
November 27, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You can get to it from the engine compartment. Remove the wire connections. Then remove the starter fasteners and remove the starter from the engine. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
jassy Comments: can i get the replacement of starter pictures in detail please.. :
because i've some confusion
October 15, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You didn't mention what type of vehicle you have. Look through our tech articles. There are quite a few starter articles. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
jim Comments: changing starter on 318ti remove intake manifold dipstick hoses around manifold disconnect battery loosen torx bolts with 3/8 box end wrench take starter out from top clean and lubricate inside of starter reverse to install worked for me
August 12, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional Info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Joe Comments: Thanks for the comments at least now I know what to expect.I am replacing the starter on a 92 BMW3181. I removed the bottom bolt and look like the top bolt is missing.Not sure because the starter is not bulging.
July 25, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: There is an alignment pin that goes into the trans, it likes to rust into place, it will require some force to remove.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
FrustratedDIY Comments: Just finished replacing the starter on a BMW 2001 325i & I can truthfully say that I hope I never, ever have to do it again.

First, it's a manual transmission, so using the Bentley & Chilton manuals, I raised the car up to try to remove it from the bottom. Now I'm 6'6" with long arms, and even then it was difficult to reach the top bolt on the far right. I could get the left-most bolt, but never could get the right most. Right-left based driving position.

So, time to take the intake manifold off. What a joy! Dozens of electrical connectors/hoses to disconnect, label, and then find the bolt underneath the intake manifold that supports it. That was hard

The process to take off the intake manifold, which was exacerbated by trying to match reality to the instructions/photos in the instructions manuals, took about 4 hours.

Finally, I had access to the top left bolt. And it was so tight, that using a 12 point wrench started to strip it. Now, every DIYer has an E12 Torx Wrench, right? And guess what? Sears, Lowes, HD, Pepboys, Autozone... none of them carry that wrench, which is what is needed for the starter bolts.

I could order one online and receive the wrench in two business days.

But, my luck started turning. I found a Harbor Freight place open on Sunday until 6pm, and they had a set of 4 E Torx Wrenches for $7.99, in stock! Now, the bad news is they aren't ratchet style, nor are they curved, but they worked. There is just enough clearance to move the bolt about an eight of a turn with a straight wrench. Once I got it loose though, the 12 point curved wrench worked fine.

Now, it should just slide out, right? hmmm... Well, with some WD40 on the alignment pin shaft, and all of my weight 230 lbs, and a little wiggling, cursing, grunting, I got it loose and removed.

Off to the local auto parts store for testing. it failed Purchased a new starter, and now it's time to re-install. Simple, right?

Well, getting the starter to slide onto the alignment pin was about as easy as removing it. It took some channel locks and squeezing to get the starter to slide onto the pin.

Tighten the bolts, and don't even think that you can get a torque wrench in there, because a straight wrench barely fits.

And now the fun begins. Install intake manifold, dozens of connectors, and find out if it works. I'll let you know.
July 11, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional Info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
tc Comments: I was able to r&r the starter on my 98 318ti w/manual tranny without removing any other parts beside loosen the fluid dip stick to gain more room. By using two 12" extensions, a wobble socket joint, a 3" extension and a torx socket in this order, with the vehicle on jack stands, I was able to reach the starter bolts from the top side of the tranny and remove it. After the starter is loosen, it can be tilted with the wiring side pointing down to remove the electical connections 3 total, then carefully lower it from underneath the vehicle. Installation is in reverse order. It does take some patience but it can be done in under 2 hrs. Be sure to disconnect the negative battery cable first.
May 31, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the follow up. We appreciate it.

- Nick at Pelican Parts
Steve Comments: Hello there - and greetings from Capetown. I have a BMW 540
A magnificent car, the starter works fine if the engine is
either cold or warm, but not if the engine is hot, untill it has cold down for +- 30 minutes. Then it is fine again.
I need to clean and lightly lub the solenoid I think,but
how in the hell do I get at the dam starter. It must be
easier to change an engine on the space shuttle - any help
appreciated. I enjoy your tech. forum very much having had a 1994 325 as well as the 540 untill recently - Cheers Steve
November 19, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: On your car, the starter is indeed difficult to reach. It's under the manifold, or you can reach it by removing the transmission too. I recommend removing the manifold - there are a few articles in our tech section here showing how to do it both ways. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Markdas Comments: Guys,

What about some information on the wiring please....idiots like me who have disconnect the starter during an engine change and thought they coudl remember all the connections! I put the new engine and ECU and engine harness in last night....I put the old starter back on and have the very large power supply cable from the bulkhead which has to go to the largest post or does this wire go to the alternator??? Then from the harness I have a medium sized red wire and two smaller blacks, all with spade bolt on! I guess I need wires on the starter and the solenoid.....
Thanks in advance

September 23, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The big wire can typically only reach the starter, so that's a no brainer (usually). The smaller wires connect to the spade terminals of the starter. In general, when I'm taking *anything* apart, I always grab the digital camera and shoot pics, even if I think I'm smart enough to remember how to put it back together. Because typically, I'm not. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
magicman Comments: M42/E30 1991 318is starter motor replacement took roughly 15 minutes, three light solenoid connections and one main bolt into tranny housing; high torque needed to release bolt lying under body of starter which is virtually inaccessible to ordinary mortals. Once the main bolt was loose the motor was seduced out between vacuum hoses and electrical harness without any disconnection thereof.
April 25, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional Info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Actuator Comments: Actuator starter comments continued Now that you have access to your starter,use tape and mark the wire you will remove from the starter. Remove the battery wire and the two smaller wires. The smaller wires are a bit of a pain. I think I used an 8mm and 10mm socket for the small wires. Once the wires are removed you will probably have to tap and wiggle the starter back and forth to get it of of the tranny housing. This is because there is a locating pin on the starter which mates with the tranny housing. Once it is off the housing you will have to twist and turn it to get it down and past the steering shaft. It is not too difficult, you can do it! Now install your new starter. reassembly is in reverse order.
Here is a note on the starter bolt torques. I was not able to use a torque wrench on the starter mount bolts because of limited access. Just use "German Torque" Goot and Tight. This Job should take about 4 to 5 hours.
Hope this procedure is helpful.
April 24, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Very helpful, thanks for the followup! - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Actuator Comments: I just changed the starter on my 318ti. I did not have to remove the intake manifold, transmission or the engine. Start by disconnecting the positive and negative battery leads, then remove the oil dip stick, then the securing nut on the dip stick tube. then pull up on the dip stick tube and swing it forward and out of the way to give you room to work. Remove the oil breather tube from the intake manifold and the crankcase vent valve. next remove the heater core hoses from the heater core where they connect to the heater core fittings on the fire wall. Remove the heater control valve. Now you can access the starter bolts. A socket wrench will not fit inside the area around the starter bolts so you have to use a 3/8 inch drive breaker bar. Your breaker bar has to be able to allow less than 90
degrees movement so you can clear the fire wall to allow you to turn the bolts. You have to use a breaker bar because the area around the bolts on the tranny housing are too narrow to get a socket wrench straight on the bolts. You will need a "torques" type socket. Sorry I do not remember the exact size. You can buy a set at Sears for less than 20 dollars. Loosen the lower bolt on the starter first. It is the easiest of the two. Once you get it loose go to the upper bolt. It is the worst one to get to. You will have to push the loose hoses around to get to it. The starter bolts are very tight. I also had to use a cheater bar on the breaker bar to loosen the upper starter bolt. Just use a long 3/8 drive extension with a spark plug socket on the end of it for your cheater bar. After getting it loose you will have to remove the socket from the breaker bar and reinstall it again 90 or 180 degrees from where it was in order to get it back on the bolt. This is because you do not have much room to turn the bolt. I know, its a real pain but it works. Once you get the bolt loose you could possibly use a 1/4 inch drive flex handle socket wrench with a 1/4 to 3/8 adapter to remove the loosened bolts. I did not have one to try it. Once you get the bolts out of the starter jack up the front end of the car and install your jack stands. My car has two flexible fuel lines on the lower left side of the engine which blocked access to the starter. They are held in place by two plastic clips. Just pull them out of the clips and move them out of the way. Now you can access your starter. continued on another comment page.
April 24, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the follow up. We appreciate it.

- Nick at Pelican Parts
February 4, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: What year and model do you have?
- Nick at Pelican Parts
February 4, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I like removing the intake, especially if you don't have a lift.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Bigdave Comments: I have a Bentley manual but it is so vague only says to drop brace and fuel lines but it doesn't say anything about what tools or procedures...I keep hearing about torx bolts from other posts so are you saying the bolts go in from the transmission side???It is a 5spd
September 22, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Do you have a copy of my 101 Projects Book? ( The starter replacement project is detailed over a few projects in there. Also, in the many tech articles on this site. As stated previously, you need to remove the intake manifold, and then you will have access to the starter. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Bigdave Comments: Hey out there. I have a 1996 328ic that needs a starter...So far I have read three or four different ways to remove the starter...Which one is right for me??? And why can't you buy a manual that explains things more in depth... Thanks Bigdave
September 22, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It depends upon what else you're doing. If you're taking out the transmission, removal of the starter is easy. If you're not, then you need to remove the manifold on the top of the engine. Between my book and the Bentley manual, it should show you all that you need to know. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  

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