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BMW Air Filter Replacement

Pelican Technical Article:

BMW Air Filter Replacement


30 minutes30 mins






Flatblade screwdriver

Applicable Models:

BMW 318i Convertible (1992-99)
BMW 318i Sedan (1992-99)
BMW 318is Coupe (1992-99)
BMW 318ti Hatchback (1992-99)
BMW 323i Convertible (1998-99)
BMW 323is Coupe (1998-99)
BMW 325i Convertible (1992-95)
BMW 325i Sedan (1992-95)
BMW 325is Coupe (1992-95)
BMW 328i Convertible (1996-99)
BMW 328i Sedan (1996-99)
BMW 328is Coupe (1996-99)

Parts Required:

Air filter

Performance Gain:

Get your BMW breathing clean, fresh air again

Complementary Modification:

Change the oil and filter
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.

Figure 1
Figure 2
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Figure 4
Figure 5

Every 10,000 miles or so, you should change the air filter in your BMW. The air filter protects the fuel injection system and the air intake system from dust and debris that can be sucked in under normal operation.

On the E30 BMWs, the air filter is contained in a bubble-like housing that is located in the front left side of the engine compartment. Removal of the filter is accomplished merely by lifting the scraps and prying up the cover.

On the E36 cars, the filter is located in a similar spot, however, it's now mounted vertically (Figure 1). Simply pull up on the top cover (Figure 2), and the filter should come right out of its housing (Figure 3). Take a look inside the filter housing - there are usually some leaves or dirt that found their way in there. Clean the housing out before installing the new filter (Figure 4).

For the BMW 3-Series there are basically two different types of air filters, "the stock paper or cloth air filters and aftermarket units. These aftermarket units utilize an oil-soaked fabric to achieve freer air flow (Figure 65). The bottleneck for air flow in the BMW engine is not necessarily the air filter. The primary advantage of the aftermarket units is that you usually only have to purchase one, and it will last the life of your car. The downside is that they often do not filter as well as the factory units. The bottom line is to carefully research any aftermarket filter before you install it to your car. I personally prefer to use the stock OEM cloth/paper filters to ensure maximum filtering. Whichever one you choose, make sure that it filters as well as or better than the original BMW specifications for your year car.

Well, there you have it - it's really not too difficult at all. 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.

Comments and Suggestions:
Don Comments: Just picked up a 1994 BMW 318iC convertible. Removed glove box looking for cabin air filter. Can't seem to locate it when comparing my cars layout to those shown on YouTube. Is it on passengers side or drivers side? Any help or suggested links would be appreciated.
June 28, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: the US didn't have that model in 1994, so I have to assume it is similar to ours. Which would pout the filter on the right side of heater housing, center tunnel area. behind a panel lid. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
joey Comments: hi i have a 98 323i i have low air flow coming out my vents i changed the cabin filter and no change any advice appreciate
September 10, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Does the blower turn at high speed? Are there any unusual noises from the blower? - Nick at Pelican Parts  
ped Comments: Hi, I have a bmw z3 2001 it only has 20,000 miles on it, sometime specially when I start my car in the parking the car starts but then it turns off and once I start it again I have to make sure that I push the gas peddle pretty good for few moments so it won't die again. I took the car to bmw dealer for inspection I , and they suppose to change the Air filter . they told me that The intake camshaft sensor is defective and they would charge me 500 dollars to replace it... the inspection I cost me 400 dollars! I didn't change the sensor since this issue doesn't happen all the time, it happens mostly on the hot day that I start the car in the garage, but today I check the Air filter that they told me that they had changed it but it they didn't, it was the old Air filter and there was a rectangular black sponge behind the air filter that it was completely disintegrated and sealed the back of the air filter... I was wondering if this issue of that I have with the car is related to the Air filter rather than the intake camshaft sensor... is possible that because of the Air filter their inspection showed that the intake sensor doesn't function right? are they related at all ? Thanks
August 15, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Unlikely the air filter would cause an issue, unless an intake air duct was left off. If the cam sensor is failing, there will be a fault code stored. I would check the DME for fault codes. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
mark_bmw Comments: Hi there,

I changed my air filter to a cold air intake one and it has been fine. However, the car seemed really noisy under acceleration and after a few weeks of observation, it didn't really appear to be making much difference. I figured if all I'm getting is just a noisier engine, I'll change it back to stock. Last night I changed it back and the car ran really rough afterward.

I ended up swapping it back to the cold air filter and it's still running rough won't idle and stalls if foot off accelerator. Also sounds like it's firing on 3 cylinders instead of 4 and backfires pops occasionally.

Any ideas?
October 24, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would check all of you connections, maybe one is loose. Also look for leaks in the air boot by the throttle body. Check the air flow meter for damage.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Judd Comments: My 2001 325i is making an ugly whining sound from the circular housing to the left of the motor. I think it is an airflow assist or something. It sounds like it is dying. Have you heard of this?
November 6, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Can you share a photo of the hose? It may be your crankcase breather valve. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
ph Comments: my air compressor make me a trouble during of operate my engine M50 rpm is drop down in speed from 5080 rpm during of electric fan is working and some noise lightly tag tag tag come up car yr11/1993 of product e36 M50 what problem
how can we solve
December 24, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Sorry, I can't figure out what you're trying to say here. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
bostongrun Comments: One huge advantage to going to a cold air intake set as noted is the extra space you gain under the hood. After you remove the stock air box it's much easier to access the power steering reservior, the oil filter cap, various vacume lines etc. Secondly, the stock air boxes, in my opinion, actually act as a kind of underhood thermos if not a heat sink. There mass impedes a lot of air flow and circualtion under the hood raising underhood temperatures.

In regard to the performance upgrade, I used this in conjuction with the install of a OBD1 manifold on OBD2 engine. The displacement of the larger manifold in conjunction with the need for more air to feed the larger runners almost necesitates a different air box set up.

The cone filter that is shown above won't enhance anything except the sound because it sucking hot air from the engine compartment. The only way a cold air intake will actually increase performance is if they grab air below and/or in front of the radiant heat under the hood. In addition, there should be mild bends in the piping to minimize obstruction of the air flow.

If you use a high quality air filter, like a KN there should be issue with quality of filtration. There are some concerns about contamination of the Mass Air Flow Sensor by over oiling but this too is a polemic topic.

The ONLY DOWNSIDE is possible hydrolocking of the engine caused by sudden injestion of water into the intake when trying trying to forde through a deep puddle after a suumer down pour. It actaully happened to me once with an old OLDS Cutlass I drove through a puddle during a thunderstorm. However it was actually the Cutlass' air box itself that filled up with water that provided the "ballast" to give the engine an uninterrupted stream of water. If I had a cold air intake or cone filter I doubt that the engine would have strong enough vacume to drawn a three inch column of water straight up. Having said that, I still put put a bypass on the BMW setup I made because S_ _ _ Happens.

May 3, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional information. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
bostungrun Comments: I just made a cold air intake using 90 degree bent 3 inch mandrel bent exhaust pipe, purchased at a Farm and Tractor store $29, a 4 inch cylinderical KN Filter $40, Orielly a couple of Spectre 3 inch connectors Orielly $12 plus I ordered an AEM Bypass Valve to prevent hydrolocking for $52 Advanced Auto.
Thus for $133, I was able to fabricate a Cold Air Intake that is actually as good if not better than the Dinan Set Up thats well over $325, plus I have the hydrolck protection
The hardest part of the job is relocating the horns, which requires removing the bumper. You don't really need to fabricate a bracket either just snug the horns up tight to bumper shocks with 2 or 3 heavy duty zip ties. Make sure the horns are tight so there is no stress on the power wires
caused by dangling loosely.

Paint it black and it looks totally store bought and just as functional. An easy Sat AM project, you won't even get your hands too dirty.

Here is the link
May 3, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the cold air intake tip. Nice job on the install. - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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