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BMW E30 Suspension Information
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

BMW E30 Suspension Information

Robert Bowen

Applicable Models:

BMW E30 3-Series (1984-93)
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.

Suspension Information

The stock E30 suspension is a good suspension for a 1980s-era car and is pretty typical of the time it was designed. Up front, the wheels are supported by MacPherson struts, where the spindle (and wheel) is attached solidly to a strut housing that contains the shock body. The front springs are concentric with the shock and the whole assembly is located laterally by a single lower control arm on each side.

In the rear, two semi-trailing arms, mounted at a 15-degree angle to the centerline of the car, suspend the rear wheels. The springs are sandwiched between the body and control arms; the shocks are mounted separately. The design is not the most sophisticated, but it is very good. Overall, the rear suspension is a great setup even though it's not as sophisticated as the multi-link rear suspension introduced with the E36 3-series. BMW thought it was good enough, however, to use the same suspension design for the E36 318ti hatchback, as well as the Z3 roadster and coupe. The combination of MacPherson strut with semi-trailing-arm rear suspension is also good enough to give the E30 M3 some of the best handling of its time. The car's light weight combined with the suspension's simplicity and functionality make it a viable option for racing and street use even today. It can handle just about anything thrown at it, and by adding parts from later models can be made even better.

If you're restoring a car and don't have any interest in modifying the suspension, give it a total overhaul and your car will be good for another twenty years of use. The coil springs can sag a little after many years and miles, but are unlikely to fail. Everything else is probably due for replacement if it hasn't already been done. Rear subframe bushings and rear shock mounts are two of the most commonly failed parts, along with control arm bushings and ball joints. The rear shock mounts simply wear out and start to clunk or squeak when going over bumps.

These are a common failure point of the E30 chassis and BMW used this same basic design for many years with several updates. The later E46-spec parts are better than the originals but still can fail in as little as 10,000 miles when stiffer than-stock shock absorbers are used.

Fortunately the aftermarket has engineered some parts that are much better quality than the originals and should last significantly longer. Most use either a solid-mounted spherical bearing or a rubber or urethane "sandwich" to replace the factory bonded-rubber parts. When buying replacement bushings, ball joints, and other consumable parts, pay attention to where you buy them. Try to stay away from Chinese-made parts store stuff, because they could end up making you do the job again after they prematurely fail.

The factory BMW parts are very good but expensive. Aftermarket parts from Germany are very good as well--Meyle and Lemforder parts are as good as, or better than, OEM. The factory brakes are sufficient for the stock E30 and parts are readily available. Just stick with a quality brand of pads and rotors and you won't go wrong. Rebuild the calipers every couple of years to ensure the best performance from them.

A set of lowering springs and decent shocks can make your E30 handle better than 90 percent of modern cars, look good, and not cost too much money
Figure 1

A set of lowering springs and decent shocks can make your E30 handle better than 90 percent of modern cars, look good, and not cost too much money. If you decide to lower your E30 with replacement springs, pick a name-brand setup that doesn't lower much yet has quite high spring rates for best handling. (Photo Courtesy Ryan Gangemi)

Here''s an E30 front suspension out of the car
Figure 2

Here's an E30 front suspension out of the car. It's a setup used on thousands of small and medium cars over the years, and while it is not the most sophisticated front suspension design, it is well understood and easy to work with. (Photo Courtesy Vorshlag Motorsports)

The E30's trailing arms provide a decent level of handling without impinging on cargo or passenger space in the small car
Figure 3

The E30's trailing arms provide a decent level of handling without impinging on cargo or passenger space in the small car. All of the famous Porsche and BMW race cars, not to mention thousands of European Fords, Datsuns, Alfas, and Maseratis, used a very similar system throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.

The final, and most developed, application of the E30's semi-trailing-arm rear suspension was the 2000-2002 Z3 M coupe and M roadster, with its S54B32 six-cylinder engine and 235 hp
Figure 4

The final, and most developed, application of the E30's semi-trailing-arm rear suspension was the 2000-2002 Z3 M coupe and M roadster, with its S54B32 six-cylinder engine and 235 hp. (Photo Courtesy Grassroots Motor sports/Scott R. Lear)

The weakest points of the factory suspension are the (by now) completely worn-out condition of any original parts remaining
Figure 5

The weakest points of the factory suspension are the (by now) completely worn-out condition of any original parts remaining. Start by checking the condition of the front control arm bushings and strut mounts. (Photo Courtesy Vorshlag Motorsports)

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Page last updated: Fri 12/9/2016 02:24:25 AM