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Jacking Up your 3-Series E36 BMW
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Pelican Technical Article:

Jacking Up your 3-Series E36 BMW








Floor jack and four jack stands, wheel chocks, level surface, safety glasses,

Applicable Models:

BMW E36 3-Series (1992-99)

Parts Required:

BMW jack pad

Performance Gain:

Be able to work underneath your car safely

Complementary Modification:

Do an oil and filter change on your BMW
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.

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About one third of all tasks that you need to perform on your car require it to be raised off of the ground. Simple enough for the experienced mechanic, the procedure of lifting a 3000-lbs BMW can be a bit unnerving for the amateur. In this technical article, I'll show you the best places to jack your car up, and support it while you're working on it.

First, let's talk a bit about safety. Haphazard use of a floor jack can result in some pretty significant and expensive damage to you or your car. Before you begin raising the car, make sure that you have the wheels of the car blocked so that it can’t roll. It's also wise to have your parking brake on as well, and the car placed in first gear. You should always use jack stands in pairs to support the car – not simply the floor jack. Even if you are only lifting the car up for a few minutes, make sure that you place a jack stand loosely underneath the transmission or the motor, just in case the floor jack fails.

Before you attempt to begin jacking up the car, make sure that all four wheels are carefully chocked, and that the car is on a level surface. Keep in mind that if you back up the rear of the car, the emergency brake no longer works (it works only on the two rearmost wheels of the car). If you place the car in park, it will only lock the rear wheels as well. Place a few 2x4 pieces of wood under each of the wheels to make sure that the car will not roll anywhere when you lift it up off of the ground.

My preferred method of raising the car is to use a BMW jack pad. This special tool is available from the Pelican Parts Online Catalog. This handy tool is placed in the factory jack holes on each side of the car. The car can be raised in small increments by jacking up one side of the car, supporting it, and then moving to the other side. The ideal place for rear support is right inside these jack pad inserts. I don't recommended that you place the jack stands underneath the engine or transmission, as this can lead to instability.

Begin by removing the jack pad insert covers, shown in Figure 1 and Figure 2. A flat-blade screwdriver is all you need. After the small plastic cover is removed, you can see into the jack pad socket (Figure 3). Now, turn your attention to the underside of the car. There you will see a round plastic cover that is used as a locator for shop lifts (Figure 4). It's quite possible that these have been removed and lost before, so your car may or may not have them in place. Using a flat-blade screwdriver, pry out the plastic guide from underneath the car (Figure 5). The remaining hole and reinforced plate is the area where you want to mount your jack stands. You have removed the plastic locator because the jack stand would be unstable if you simply placed it under the plastic locator and lowered the car.

If you don't have a jack pad, then you can use this reinforced area to place your floor jack (Figure 7). Fit a rolled up newspaper in-between the jack and the car to avoid damage to the undercarriage of your car. The downside to this is that you will have difficulty placing your jack stands, because you will be occupying the reinforced area with your floor jack. The solution is to use the jack pad to lift up the car (Figure 8). Center the pad surface in the jack lifting plate and raise your jack as high as it can go. It's perfectly okay if the car tilts while the wheels on the opposite side are still on the ground. Figure 9 shows the car lifted all the way up in the air using the jack pad. Place the jack stand securely under the reinforced plate, and slowly lower the car. I like to place a little bit of newspaper between the jack stand and the car to avoid scratching or scraping the underside of the chassis. Figure 10shows the jack stand properly installed.

If you are lifting the front of the car, then place a jack stand under the front reinforced plate, lower the car onto the jack stand, and then repeat for the opposite side of the car. If you are lifting the whole car up off of the ground, then place a jack stand under both the front and rear points, lower the car, and then repeat for the other side. Likewise, if you are jacking up just the rear, place the jack stand under the rearmost reinforced point.

If you would like to raise just the rear of the car, there are a few methods that you can use. The most common one is to lift the entire car by the bottom of the rear differential. This will not damage the differential as it is very strong at this point. An advantage to this is that you raise both sides of the car at the same time. Thus, you are only doing half the work. Place the jack under the rear differential and place a rolled up newspaper under the lifting pad of the jack. Proceed to lift the car up by the rear differential until you can place jack stands under the support points described in the previous paragraph. Figure 11 shows the process of lifting the car by the differential.

Safety is of paramount importance here. Never work under the car with it suspended simply by the jack - always use jack stands. Always use a backup jack stand wherever you place your primary jack stands. These parts are made in China - do you want to trust your life to steel parts that are made in China? One flaw in the casting process can lead to these breaking, and the car falling on top of you. Hundreds die from this happening each year.

Once you have the car up in the air and supported on the jack stands, push on the car and see if it is unstable on the jack stands. If the car moves at all, you do not have it properly supported. It is far better for the car to fall off the jack stands while you are pushing on it, then when you are underneath it. Set the floor jack underneath the engine or transmission as yet another redundant support. Again, it's a wise idea to set up a spare jack stand or two as a precautionary measure against one of them failing.

When you are ready to lower the car, be aware of where you are placing your floor jack. Sometimes you will not be able to easily remove the jack when the car is lowered, or the jack handle may crush or damage an oil line or tube on the way down. Proceed very slowly and also be aware that some floor jacks release very quickly. Also be careful to place the car in gear, or to pull the parking brake before you lower it. The car may have a tendency to roll away right after it’s put back on the ground.

This technical article is made possible solely through the support of Pelican Parts. 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.

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Comments and Suggestions:
maxt Comments: I am planning jacking the car high enough for a transmission swap job. I got four 6-ton jack stands with a lift range up to 23".
I wanted to ask your opinion about the safest jacking option:
1 Place the jack stands under the car in the designated spots just like in fig 10 or
2 Insert four steel rods available in each hole and have them supported by the jack stands.
Second option seems safer to me since the jack stand cup will "hug" the rod just perfectly.
February 10, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Place the jack stands in the correct lifting spots. Be sure they are rated for the correct weight and working height you need. They could fail if not. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Len Comments: Thanks Nick. Problem was a faulty shock. Have replaced both rear shocks and will do the front in the next few weeks. thanks again.
June 22, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the follow up. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Len Comments: Hi, I have been noticing a knocking sound coming from the left rear of my 93' 318i. i decided to jack it up to see if it could be a wheel bearing or something. Using the standard emergency jack in the rear jack pad socket and proceeded to raise the jack to the maximum but the rear wheel never left the ground. What could be the issue? Is it possible that i am not jacking the car up properly or is it possibly a sign of a more serious problem? I'm hoping it's the first option but have a feeling it's the latter. Any advice or suggestions will be appreciated.
June 19, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You may not have raised it high enough. Issue could be a faulty shock, bushing or spring. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
March 31, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Not sure what it is. I would inpect the seat motors. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
RDWG Comments: Thanks for the quick reply Nick. You said it needs to engage the lift pad under the car but doesn't the article say to remove the lift pad figures 5 and 6? Thanks for your time.
November 6, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: This is my preference. I like to use the jack / lift pads to support the vehicle when available. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
RDWG Comments: I hope I'm making sense here but which way is the saddle of the jackstand supposed to be oriented? Does it point from the front to the back of the car or 90 degrees the other way? Thanks.
November 3, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: 90 deg pointing out, and it needs to engauge the lift pad under the car or it will fall off the jack.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Rob Comments: E36 218i Cheers for comment Nick no tickover at all was problem but as i read ICV controls bottom 20% of throttle! found split in hose down on ICV end connecting to MAP! sorted. now flies again all the best.
September 4, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Awesome! Thanks for the follow up. We appreciate it. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Rob Comments: what would suddenly make me lose my tickover? runs fine on any throttle setting apart from that! air cleaner new fuel filter replaced no change! help!
September 3, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Not sure what you mean by tickover. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
April 26, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No, Jacks are not stable when used that way. i would advise against it, grab yourself a set of jack stands. Give our parts specialists a call: 1-888-280-7799 - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Will Comments: I believe I am over thinking, but I have a question. Does it matter if I lift the right side of the car and put it on stands then move to the left side or lift the front and put it on stands then do the same to the rear?
March 27, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: if you want to lift an axle off the ground, I suggest jacking that axle at the same time and placing ajack stand under each side. Jacking one side at a time can cause a jack stand to shift, this is not a good method. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Guy G Comments: I'm tired of these run flats. I have a 2011 328X drive. Is is OK to use a standard scissor jack with BMW Jack Pads.
March 10, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: There is a BMW jack for your vehicle. Give our parts specialist a call, we can help find it for you. 1-888-280-7799
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Chris Comments: If I buy 4 jack pads, would I be able to use my 4 jackstands under them to support the car fully off the ground for extended periods? I can't find any tech info on the jack pads. Thank you!
November 18, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: What are jack pads? Do they go underneath the jack stand to protect the concrete? Or do they go between the jack stand and the car? Either way if you rest the jack stand on the frame of the car you should be able to leave it up there for extended periods of time - Nick at Pelican Parts  
FUNoKAY Comments: Hey, Ya'll seem fairly savvy on this process but I have heard and read that it is not correct to jack the rear end using the diff as a jack point. It supposedly puts excessive pressure on a bushing above the diff... Any additional thoughts? Thanks
September 15, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The diff mounts are very strong and have to support a diff putting close to 200 hp to the ground. It should be able to lift the car but I wouldn't leave it supported like that for days - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Comments: Queston: If the transmission is over the full mark would it cause any problem, sliping ect ect.
June 17, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If the transmission fluid is overfull it will foam, causing lubrication issues and possible damage. Adjust the level immediately to avoid any issues. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Jeremy S Comments: Where's a safe spot to place jackstands on E34 5-series cars? I know where the OEM jack goes, but where's the best and safest spot to place stands?
August 10, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I don't have any photos, but there should be very similar jacking points on the E34 cars, in almost the same spots as on the E36 cars. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Andrew Comments: I have finally given up on runflat tires and replaced with normal tires. I now carry a spare wheel in the trunk. My car did not come with a jack, and I've heard that the OEM jacks are really flimsy and scary - not to mention expensive. What do you recommend for roadside emergencies other than a towtruck?
April 18, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: BMW makes a mobility kit that can help in the case of a puncture. Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can help you find the right part.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Matt Comments: Hi I'm new to this site and I can't believe that I haven't heard of you all before. Anyway, I have a 1992 BMW 325i that runs fine except the transmission is messed up. A clutch went bad in it and I was trying to save money and had my friend put it in. Well that was a mistake because now 1st gear is where 3rd gear is supposed to be and 2nd gear is where 4th gear used to be and so forth on up to where I can't even shift into 5th because its so far off it's normal spot. I think it might be the linkage in the transmission but I'm not sure. If anyone could give me any advice, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you!
April 3, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: A linkage shift could change the mode order but not swap gears that way. I would assume there is an internal issue witht he transmission. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Kevin Comments: What kind of Jack is that "blue one" on the extra pictures? That thing looks menacing! it can probably fit fine under a lowered m3.
March 30, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can help you find the jack.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
wush Comments: Where do I get that long blue jack to buy?.

February 28, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can help you find the right jack.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
lemmy Comments: hi, there, i,ve been reading your points, but i have a question, is it safe enuff to put an axle stand on the seal as i,m seeing this in photos, obviously using a piece of wood as well to help spread the weight
February 10, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Not sure I follow you. What seal are you referring to? You do not want to jack on a seal on a shaft at the connection point where a seal may be. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Dave Comments: Haha, you'll have to forgive some of my typos but I hope you can still make sense of that comment.
December 29, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No problem. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Davw Comments: Wayne, just thought I'd post this, if it helps anyone - when I recently jacked up my e36, I didn't have the jack pad and so couldn't jack it up using the floor jack. The workaround we came up with was to put a wood block underneath the BMW tire jack it's not tall enough to get a floor jack underneath it and use that to jack up the car. Obviously, it's much more tedious than using the jack pad and a floor jack, but if you can't get your hands on one, it does the trick.
December 29, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff:
Thanks for the additional information. We appreciate it. - Nick at Pelican Parts
Wombat Comments: Excellent! But what points under the motor will bear weight? Is there a crossmember under the motor that I can use to lift the entire front end, like I use the diff to lift the entire rear at once? Are there any suspension knuckles or components that one can or cannot put a jack stand under?

November 6, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: In general, you can usually safely get away with jacking the car up by the transition point between the engine and the transmission. But I still like to avoid that. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  

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