E36 Manual Swap – What You Need To Successfully Do It

An E36 manual swap is no easy feat. The BMW E36 is a phenomenal car that has a lot of excellent qualities to it that has not only cemented it as a hallmark BMW car but actually, it is about as quintessentially 90s as any motor vehicle is capable of being. The BMW E36 ran from 1990 until 2000 and was available as a Sedan or Saloon and came in two or four-door options.

Despite the popularity of the E36 for some people, it isn’t quite perfect and that may leave them a little disappointed. HOWEVER!

There are some very comprehensive changes you can make to the fundamental operation of the E36 that may change their feelings about it. One such change is performing an E36 manual swap and breathing some new life, and a heck of a lot more fun, into their well-loved workhorse – the E36. Let’s get into all of that right here and now.

Can You Perform An E36 Manual Swap?

In short, you can absolutely perform an E36 manual swap. Whether or not you can perform one is an entirely different question and something that only you will be able to answer. To give you some context, performing an E36 manual swap is a long old process and will require your car to be fully lifted off the floor. And evenly.

You can simply jack one side up and slide yourself under and swap out the entire transmission like that. So, you will also need to consider whether or not you actually have the tools to do it. And, of course, the cash. But we will get into that later on.

Why Would You Want To Perform An E36 Manual Swap?

There are clearly some very obvious opinion-based factors that can go into the decision. If you prefer manual over automatic transmissions in general then the idea of a manual E36 might be too tantalizing to resist. Additionally, despite what many people believe, manual transmissions are far more fuel effective (with correct driving) and are capable of much better performance.

The difference between an automatic and manual transmission may be as much as 5% to 15% depending on the car and the driver. And, last but not least, there is something inherently more fun about driving manual cars for many people. It feels more like driving a car and less like driving a go-kart. Again though, that’s just some people’s opinions.

How Much Does It Cost To Have Your E36 Manual Swapped?

It will probably cost you a couple of thousand bucks to perform the swap at a mechanic and potentially an extra few hundred, maybe even a thousand, more to have it done at a BMW dealership. Depending on where you are. It will take a couple of guys a good while to completely change out the transmission and it is far more time-consuming to assemble a new manual transmission than install a new automatic one.

The automatic to manual swap is the more time-consuming of the two. Even if it isn’t necessarily the more expensive (at least not in parts) but you never know. It is best to shop around if you are dead-set on having it done but don’t want to be the person to do it yourself. In summary, you should budget about $2000-$2500 all in for an E36 manual swap that you don’t perform yourself.

What Do You Need To Successfully Do An E36 Manual Swap?

If you are planning on performing the E36 manual swap yourself, or are simply curious about what parts you need and are maybe even acquiring them on behalf of the mechanic performing the swap, you will find this next section helpful.

It is best to shop around and see what prices you can find from various aftermarket and OEM marketplaces because the discrepancies in price (especially for the transmission itself) can be pretty staggering. Don’t be afraid to haggle, there are more parts out there than you might first think. So, here is everything you need to successfully perform an E36 manual swap.

  • Manual transmission
  • Driveshaft (manual transmission specific)
  • Master and slave cylinders
  • Slave cylinder lines to manual transmission
  • Transmission cross-member
  • Flywheel
  • Pressure plate and bearings
  • Clutch
  • Brake reservoir hose to clutch cylinder
  • Clutch fork
  • Selecting rod stabilizer and sleave
  • Shifter links
  • Shifter shaft
  • Rubber Assemblies and Rubber Bushing
  • Pedal box-clutch and pedal cluster including brake and clutch arms
  • Driveshaft
  • 3:23 drive differential
  • Shift Boot including foam for boot
  • Shift knob/gearstick

How Much Will It Cost To Perform An E36 Manual Swap myself?

If you have all of the equipment needed to perform the swap yourself (therefore do not need to buy anything) and simply need to order the components online it’ll probably cost you about $1500-$1600.

Which is a good few hundred dollars less than a mechanic might charge you. But you have to consider they will very likely be able to buy most of the parts cheaper than you can yourself. Whether this makes it preferable to do it yourself or the price difference is so slight that it doesn’t really matter to you is something that you will have to consider for yourself,

How Long Will It Take Me Vs A Mechanic To Perform An E36 Manual Swap?

It will probably take your mechanic a good 16 hours to do get the job done, obviously, it will be less if there are more people on the job. This is something to factor into the cost of paying to have it done by your mechanic rather than doing it yourself. It is a slow and tedious process. But it can be fun.

So, you may find that the 20-plus hours it takes you to do it yourself is well worth the money you have saved and the enjoyment you get out of performing an E36 manual swap. It can be incredibly rewarding and it is no surprise that so many people choose to do it themselves and save a little money at the same time.


Hopefully, this article about performing an E36 manual swap has given you something to think about and helped you decide one way or the other whether or not performing this transmission swap is going to be something you are interested in doing. Let alone doing it yourself. As always, thanks for reading, and goodbye for now.

Similar Posts