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Pelican Technical Article:

BMW Technical Article

BMW E36 3 Series Fuel Sender Replacement
Jared Fenton
Wayne R. Dempsey

Difficulty Level: 3
Difficulty scale: Adding air to your tires is level one
Rebuilding a BMW Motor is level ten

     Have you noticed erratic readings from your fuel gauge? Are you puzzled when after filling up your tank the gauge reads only half full? Chances are, the sending unit is kaput. The good news is that pelican carries replacement senders for your E36 BMW. Replacement of the senders is relatively easy, but keep caution, as you will be working around raw gasoline.

     In this tech article, we will discuss replacement of the two fuel senders on the E36. The first step in replacing the senders is to disconnect the battery. Electricity and gasoline do not mix. Failure to disconnect the battery can result in an explosion.

     Next, drain the fuel tank; this can be done from under the car. You will also want to remove the fuel filler cap to relieve pressure on the system.

     To access the fuel senders on the E36, it is first necessary to remove the rear seat bottom cushion to gain access to the senders. To remove the cushion, simply pull up on the front of the cushion, it will release from its mounting clips. Then, pull the cushion forward and out. Place the seat cushion in a safe place. Next, itís a good idea to cover the seat back cushion to protect it from fuel spilling or splashing. After the seat backs are covered, pull back the insulation pads on the bottom where the bottom cushion sits.

     You should now see the two access ports for the fuel senders. Now remove the screws holding the access covers. Once removed, you will see the various fuel hoses and electrical connections for the senders. Now is a good time to label the connections and fuel hoses so you remember where they go when you install the new senders.

     Now disconnect the electrical connections and fuel hoses to the senders. With all the connections removed, you will see that a threaded collar assembly holds the senders in place. Using two screwdrivers, very carefully rotate the collar to remove it. Once the collar is removed, it is now possible to remove the fuel senders.

     As you start to remove the fuel senders you will notice the fuel pump attached to the unit. You may find it easier to remove this sender by pushing the fuel sender arm towards the fuel pump. Once both senders are out, remove the old sealing ring and trash it. Allow any fuel in the senders to drain into the tank before removing them completely.

     To install the new senders, first install a new sealing ring on either side, then carefully install the new fuel senders, taking care that they are lined up with the fuel hoses and electrical connections that you removed earlier.  

     With the new senders in place, carefully re-install the threaded collar around the sender and using two screwdrivers, lock it in place.

     Now re-install the electrical connections and fuel hoses. Be sure that the hoses are correctly installed. Now fill up the tank with at least 2 gallons of gas. This will prevent damage to the new senders and the fuel pump when you start the engine.

     Next, re-connect the battery and start the car. It may take a few times to get it started due to air in the lines, but keep cranking it until it starts. When it starts, check for leaks. If everything looks tight and there are no leaks in the system, re-install the access covers in place and tighten the screws.

     Put the insulation pads back in place over the access covers, then re-install the rear seat bottom cushion by pushing the rear portion in first, then pushing down on the front section to lock it in the mounting clips.

     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:
Lukas Comments: Did not make a difference. I checked the ohms on the passenger and drivers side sender as well.

The passenger side sender is getting 0.218 ohms, where as the driver's side is getting 163.5 ohms.

The white plug ins are the fuel level senders from what I found online. Should I replace the passenger side sender? It is connected to the fuel pump from what I am understanding on the passenger side. Is it possible to just replace the fuel level sender, or do I need to replace the whole fuel pump assembly?
August 8, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If disconnecting it made no difference, the issue may be elsewhere, as the gauge should go to empty when disconnected.

You may be able to get just a level sender.

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
Lukas Comments: I just bought a 1998 328i, and the speedometer/mileage odometer isn't working as well as the fuel guage/MPG guage. I did the cluster test and all of the guages move.

I ordered a speed sensor that connects to the differential, and I believe that will fix my speedometer.

Even on full tank, my guage is showing empty with the light on.
Do you believe my fuel sender is the issue for the fuel guage problem? Isn't there a fuel level sensor you could replace and fix the fuel guage issue? The engine is having no problem getting fuel.
August 6, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Try disconnecting the fuel lever sender, what does the gauge do? - Nick at Pelican Parts  

Got more questions?  Join us in our BMW Technical Forum Message Board, and ask a question to one of our many automotive experts.
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