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BMW E30 Steering Modifications
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

BMW E30 Steering Modifications

Robert Bowen

Time:

4-5 hours

Tab:

$320-$950

Talent:

****

Tools:

Wrench, breaker bar, socket set

Applicable Models:

BMW E30 3-Series (1984-93)

Parts Required:

Steering rack

Performance Gain:

Better steering and handling

Complementary Modification:

Check front brakes
The CarTech BMW 3-Series Performance Guide

Whether for on-track duty or simply improved street performance, the E30 series cars have proven to respond to well-chosen upgrades. The CarTech BMW 3-Series Performance Guide offers current and future owners a wealth of important information, including a buyer's guide, year-by-year upgrades and changes, and more. This book is a valuable addition to every BMW owner's library, and Pelican is proud to present you with the excerpt below.

Steering

The E30 steering system is like that of most cars from its era, a light, efficient steering rack with socket type inner tie-rod ends and standard outer tie-rod ends. All US-sold E30s came with power steering (in Europe and other markets the car was available with a manual steering rack). The stock steering is a rather slow 20.5:1 ratio, with more than four turns lock-to-lock. By modern standards (and for any competition use) that is too slow. However, it so happens that the E30 rack is interchangeable with many later BMW steering racks from the E36 and E46 cars.

The fastest of these, depending on source, is the Z4M coupe rack, at 12.8:1. The Z3 1.9-liter rack is also very fast and has a linear ratio (the ratio does not change as you turn the wheel, as the early E36 M3 rack does). The E46 330i rack is another popular choice, with a fast ratio and less than three turns lock-to-lock. The E36 rack is almost a direct replacement for the E30 rack (as is the E46 rack, although it needs to have E36 tie-rod ends to work properly). The rack-mounting tabs are a little thinner than the E36 tabs; the input shaft on the rack is longer than the E30 shaft. The Z4M rack is longer yet. Each case requires you to shorten the factory steering shaft with its two U-joints.

The lower U-joint likely has to be clearanced to allow more articulation because of the greater angle between the new longer steering rack input shaft and the factory steering shaft. Otherwise the U-joint may bind.

There are two ways to remove an E30 steering rack: the right way and the "cheater" way. The problem with removing the steering rack is the clearance between the oil pan, and the rack is too tight to simply un-bolt the rack and pull it out. The right way is to un-bolt the left engine mount and use a jack with a block of wood between the jack pad and the oil pan to lift the engine an inch or two. Check very carefully for any wires that get pulled when you do this and make sure that the exhaust is not being stressed.

The cheater way is to simply bend down the two lower mounting tabs on the subframe to pull the rack out. The tabs are steel and rather flimsy (the rack is located by the upper tabs and these serve only to reinforce the mounting). When the new rack is in place, bend the tabs back into place with a block of wood or a rubber mallet. The downside of this method is that it introduces the risk of damage to the tabs, which can crack or tear. This is not likely, however, and many people have successfully changed their steering rack this way.

Although all E30s were shipped to the United States with power steering, some people prefer the lighter weight, simplicity, and better feel of manual-steering setups. The factory power rack can be disconnected from power and works just the same as a manual rack. You simply loop together the power steering inlet and outlet lines and fill them with fluid to keep the power part of the rack lubricated.

The easiest way to fit an E36 rack is by removing the two collapsible rivets, adding spacers, and replacing them with bolts
Figure 1

The easiest way to fit an E36 rack is by removing the two collapsible rivets, adding spacers, and replacing them with bolts. This does eliminate the collapsible function of the factory shaft (the shaft shown here is connected to a stock E30 rack). (Photo Courtesy Ryan Gangemi)

An alternative to the stock E30 steering shaft and its two rubber bushings is to buy two 17-mm x 54 spline U-joints with one 3/4 DD end (available from Flaming River) and a short length of 3/4 DD steering shaft
Figure 2

An alternative to the stock E30 steering shaft and its two rubber bushings is to buy two 17-mm x 54 spline U-joints with one 3/4 DD end (available from Flaming River) and a short length of 3/4 DD steering shaft. (Photo Courtesy Vorshlag Motorsports)

Vorshlagâ€Ã‚â„¢s E30 shaft has a collapsible feature similar to the stock steering shaft and eliminates the rubber couplings
Figure 3

Vorshlag's E30 shaft has a collapsible feature similar to the stock steering shaft and eliminates the rubber couplings. (Photo Courtesy Vorshlag Motorsports)

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Comments and Suggestions:
Ron Comments: This is a great swap! totally changed the driving experience on my e30 and I didn't even do the Z3 rack. I did the lowly e46 rack. One thing when doing the e46 rack with e36 inners / e30 outers, unless you have the right side tie-rod threads machined with vent grooves where the tie rod screws into the rack you will blow the boots off when turning to the locks. These grooves allow the air in the bellows to equalize the air pressure between the two sides. I took mine to my machinist and he cut 3 grooves. He did say figuring out how to properly hold the thing while he did the work was a challenge so it needed up taking about an hour for the setup and machining. Re-installed and no more boots popping off the ends of my tie rods.
March 28, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info and feedback. We appreciate it. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Mark G Comments: Re: E30 M3 RHD
When swapping to an E46 Purple Tag Rack, is fitting inner and Outer E30 Track rods okay? Or should I leave the E46 inners and fit e36 outer track ends? Plus, will e36 inner and outer work well?
February 3, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I am not sure about cross-model applications.I opened a post in our forums. A Pelican community member may be able to answer your question.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Russell Comments: Is there a listing of part numbers around to help facilitate ordering?
July 31, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It may vary depending on your vehicle.

I’m not the best with part numbers.

Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can figure out what part or repair kit you need.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Art Comments: The steering wheel turns but the front wheels stay stationery, what is problem
July 30, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The steering shaft sounds like it failed. Check the flexible coupler. - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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Page last updated: Fri 12/2/2016 02:23:32 AM