E36 M3 Shifter
in an E39 540i
(and info regarding other factory shifters)
Physics 101 Review
A shifter operates
as a simple "Class 1" lever. A longer length at the effort
side of the fulcrum (to the right in the diagram below) requires greater
movement at that end to yield a given amount of travel at the load end
(to the left in the diagram). A longer length at the effort end also
results in less effort required to move the load. As the fulcrum is
moved toward the effort end, the amount of travel required to move the
same load the same distance decreases, but the amount of effort that
must be exerted increases. That is, a longer lever yields greater "leverage,"
and vice versa.
In the case of a
shifter, the ball which sits in the carrier for the shifter mechanism
acts as the fulcrum. The primary factors determining length-of-throw
and shifting effort are the relative lengths of the shifter/lever at
either side of the center of the ball. The length from the ball to the
lower pivot point where the selector rod pin attaches at the bottom
of the shifter is most significant dimension.
(Actually, if viewed
as a whole the shifter and link rod act as a compound lever, but for
purposes of explanation here addressing only replacing the shifter itself,
the above model works.)
General Info re
BMW Factory Shifters
For a good comparison
of the lever ratios of various BMW shifters and information regarding
how various aspects of the shifters affect throw and effort, discussion
of different shifters and applications, installation instructions, etc.,
see Ron's article here: http://www.unofficialbmw.com//e36/drivetrain/e36_replace_a_shift_lever.html.
As reflected in
the article above, it's obvious why the throw in the E39 540 feels so
long - because it is! It's also interesting to note that the stock shifter
(part number 25-11-1-434-400) is the same as that used in such "beasts"
as the E34 and E39 520, the E34 524td, and the E32 730. It's also the
same as that used in the E34 535 and M5, and the E38 740, so it does
have at least some pedigree.
Shifters used in the E39 540
There are several
factory shifters that are typically used as replacements for the stock
shifter in the E39 540.
The pictures which
follow are from Ron Stygar's extensive series of articles at www.unofficialbmw.com.
More pictures are here:
The shifter that
I used is shown below. I pulled it out of my 95 E36 M3. Unfortunately,
the exact part shown is NLA. I believe that a basically equivalent shifter
with a plastic ball is available as part number 25-11-1-222-955 (but
double check that since part numbers change). Retail cost is under $50.
Stock E36 M3 shifter
Note that depending
on how you search in the ETK, part number 25-11-1-221-977 also is shown
as applicable to the E36 M3. This is a standard shifter for various
E36 models and is NOT the part that you want. It basically has almost
the same dimensions as the stock 540 shifter but is slightly less tall,
and will not reduce the throw much if any.
In addition to the
E36 M3 shifter, there are several other factory shifters that may be
First is the M5
shifter, part number 25-11-2-228-069 (which shares the same part number
with the 3.2 E36 M3). It provides about a 25% reduction in throw versus
the stock shifter, and has a slightly longer throw and requires somewhat
less effort than the M3 shifter above. It seems to be a good compromise
for people looking to reduce the throw and not to signifcantly increase
effort and "notchiness." It's shown in the picture below.
Stock E39 M5/E36 3.2 shifter
Second is the MZ3
lever, part number 25-11-2-228-384. As shown in the picture below, this
shifter in stock form is straight. In order for it to properly center,
the lower end of the rod needs to be bent in the same way as the other
shifters shown above. Also as can be seen in the picture, the length
of the area from the ball to the pivot point is relatively very long,
resulting in much more travel of the lower end of the lever for a given
amount of movement above. This shifter (bent) commonly is used as an
upgrade to the stock E36 M3 shifter. In the E39 540, it will give a
MUCH shorter throw than stock, somewhat less throw than the E36 M3 shifter
above, and will require greater effort than both.
Stock MZ3 shifter (unbent)
The table below summarizes
the characteristics of the above factory shifters on a relative basis.
Characteristics of Selected Factory Shifters
for use in the E39 540
The UUC and RE aftermarket shifters have approximately the same dimensions
as the E36 M3 shifter, and will give similar results. Also, There
are several other factory shifters (e.g., Z3) that could be employed
depending on the desired effect.
The pictures below show the E36 M3 shifter
installed in my 1997 E39 540i.
Works great. Shifter throw is greatly reduced from the stock boat oar.
Length of throw and effort is about the same as the UUC EVO and the
original Rogue Engineering (RE) short shifters - about a 35% (?) reduction
in throw (all three have approximately the same dimensions). It's nice
and quiet. As can be seen in the pictures, it centers well and there's
plenty of clearance in every gear.
E39 540i versus E36 M3 shifter.
E39 540i versus UUC EVO short shifter.
The major advantage
of using a factory shifter is cost. Also, there are some benefits as
far as noise is concerned in the 540 versus solid shaft-type shifters
(such as the old B&M) which will transmit relatively more noise
The biggest benefit
of the aftermarket shifters is that everything comes as a nice kit with
all of the little parts that you need (new washers, clip, carrier cup,
cup removal tool, etc.), an excellent set of instructions, and great
customer service and support. Other benefits include more precise tolerances
and improved strength/rigidity of the shifter (although I've not noticed
particularly excessive felt play as a result of the rubber buffer),
very nice design, machining and appearance (although they really aren't
seen once installed), and improved action and alignment as a result
of other components sold with the kits such as the RE WSR (however,
I'd guess that under normal circumstances maybe one person in ten might
be able to detect any difference in feel in a blind test). The UUC,
RE, and new B&M shifters all are very nice products.