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Steering wheel swap

Discussion in 'E31 (1991-1997)' started by RCornelius, Oct 15, 2009.

    RCornelius guest

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    Just bought a 97 850ci, automatic trans. I am wondering if its possible to swap out the steering wheel for one from a M car with paddle shifters, I read a article about making the paddle shifters control the trans when in manual (step-tronic?) mode. Anybody know anything about this?, I emailed Mike Miller about this and got a smartass non-answer in return.
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    CRKrieger

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    What was the gist of said Smartass© (always one word; always capitalized) answer? I am not in the habit of second-guessing someone with his recognized wealth of knowledge and experience. I suspect he simply gave you the answer you didn't want to hear: that it is painfully complex and expensive; buy a car with it already installed.

    RCornelius guest

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    answers

    he seems to use that answer a lot, buy a car with it already installed, not possible in this case. It was a simple question, what would be involved?, it's acceptable to simply say "I don't know", or "let me look into it". I would be very interested to know just exactly what is his wealth of experience or knowledge and where was it acquired. I find it hard to believe that one person can know that much about BMW cars.
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    rspeser

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    Not sure about your model, but I had an M wheel installed on my Z4 with Steptronic paddles. The dealer installed it for me ( I paid of course ) and removed two panels on the back of the wheel that were black and replaced them with the silver panels that hold the paddles. I never look at the back of the wheel and so the silver panels on a black wheel are not a concern. Change the wheel, the difference is fantastic and worth the substantial bite in your back pocket.

    RCornelius guest

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    suprised

    are you saying it didn't take a room full of BMW engineers and mechanics a year to figure this out like I was told?
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    rspeser

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    No actually 1 hour labor was all it took. I believe they had to drill two holes for the paddles to fit but it works perfectly and looks great.
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    CRKrieger

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    But the third option, "Don't bother." is unacceptable? Both of the above assume he doesn't know or didn't check. Why would you want him to give you either of those answers if he either already knew or did a bit of research before answering you? You want to 'kill the messenger' for giving you bad news.
    If that is the case, why would you ask him?

    Here is what I managed to find with a few simple searches of the parts catalog at RealOEM.com. You can (and should) poke around there yourself to satisfy your curiosity. Among other things, you will know your car's serial number, which I was not able to enter. That will give you a manufacture date, which I guessed at 12/96 for a typical 1997 model E31. It appears to be irrelevant, though.

    Your car uses the A5SM60Z automatic transmission. It is shared only with the E38 750iL and there is no paddle shift option for either car. The other poster's Z4 3.0i uses an A5S325Z transmission which does have a paddle shift option, so it is a simple matter of installing those controls on his car. I would guess that the earlier gearbox does not have the same electronic controls, so it might not be possible to control it with paddle shifters. The E65/E66 7 Series used a different 6-speed automatic and it, too, did not appear to have a paddle shift option.

    Based on that much, I would conclude that there was no 12-cylinder car with a transmission that could be controlled by paddle shifters. You are therefore left with trying to find a transmission that 1) would fit onto the 12-cylinder engine; 2) that can be controlled by paddle shifters and 3) is strong enough to handle the torque of the 12-cylinder engine. This leaves out of the equation whether you would have to have a driveshaft custom-built (which you probably would). That, my friend, will not be cheap. Sorry to say, but I think your best chance to drive a paddle shifted Steptronic car is ... buy one. Unfortunately, I think it won't be an E31.

    RCornelius guest

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    Thanks

    First of all I want to thank you for taking your time to research this subject, I do not have enough knowledge of BMW cars to even know where or how to search for this informaton, appreciated. Your reply was exactly the kind of reply I would have liked to have received from Mr. Miller, perhaps you should apply for his job. I get the feeling you are defending Mr. Miller and scolding me for not being happy with his reply, is he a friend of yours?
    On another occasion I asked Mr. Miller a question regarding re-torqueing head bolts on a E46 M3 in a attempt to stop very minor oil leak, he suggested I leave it alone and take the car to a "certified BMW technician", implying that I didn't have the required mechanical talent or knowledge to work on a BMW, being the curious type I wondered just exactly what is required to qualify for this certificate so I asked a Technician at my local dealer, with a sheepish grin on his face his reply was "not much", I asked him about training, schools etc, This particular young man had been to no BMW schools or received any BMW specialized training, he did say that when a new model was released, like the new 7 series, his employer would send one person to a model specific 3 day training school. I have been working on cars and motorbikes for a very long time, I have a tool kit that would be the envy of most people who earn their living working on motor vehicles, I have more trust in my own mechanical abilities than I do in another person that I have no clue at all what his /her abilities are, this is MY car and it WILL be done correctly, period!, I do not have a lot of experience with BMW cars, but I am getting more experience everyday.
    Regarding the shifter, its quite possible I may be completely wrong about this, time will tell. The paddle shifters are switches which control relalys/soleonids, when the shifter on the 850 is placed in the manual mode it operates switches just like the paddle switches, so all I'm doing is changing the location of the switch from the trans lever to the steering wheel.
    Again, I do appreciate the time you spent to do some research and to provide me with the information. Thanks.

    Regards,
    Ron Cornelius
    speedsport1@cox.net
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    CRKrieger

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    RealOEM.com is great for this kind of stuff. I use it all the time, even if some of the stuff is no longer available. To find what I gave you, I did two things. I searched for your car (entering the last 7 digits of your VIN brings up YOUR CAR) and then, after I had the transmission displayed, I cut and pasted the part number from the index table on that page into the "PART NR APPLICATION SEARCH" box on the first page. That brings up a list of vehicles in which it was used. I did pretty much the same thing for the Z4 and its gearbox.
    I don't want his job and I don't know him all that well, but I have read his stuff for years. He has far greater hands-on experience with far more models and I respect that greatly. I am a decent generalist with some research skills and a relatively intimate knowledge of only my two favorite models: the 2002 and the E28.

    In the E28 group (MyE28.com) where I am very active, many questions are asked over and over and those of us who know the answers well tire of typing the answers over and over as they repeatedly come up. So we sometimes get short about it. See, the idea might be novel to you right now, but if it's been explored many times in the past, it's old to us.

    There are many examples of guys trying outrageous stuff just because it looked like it might work. Every good 2002 'wrench' knew that you could swap some good Ford Pinto parts into it - like the 2-barrel 'Holley-Weber' carb and the radiator - and both were improvements. It might surprise you to learn that a Saab 9000 glass moonroof panel swaps onto the E28 in place of the steel panel they all came with. There are people trying every swap imaginable, and then some, so it is likely that somebody, somewhere, has tried what you want to do. If it worked, we'd probably hear about it - but we haven't. Therefore, I suspect there is a technical issue that's insurmountable short of obscene expense. You might have airbag issues because yours is an older one. It may be that the steering column splines won't match the newer wheels with the paddle shifters - and it is likely that the E31 only ever had one steering column design. It may be that the transmission doesn't lend itself to the same kind of control.

    OTOH, maybe you really are the first person with the requisite skills to try this. If I were you, I'd start out cheap, easy, and cost-recoverable: buy a paddle-shifter wheel and see if it fits in place of yours. If not, sell it and forget the whole thing unless you want to try cutting and welding a steering column (I wouldn't!). Next, you'd have to figure out if the same switch type will work to control your gearbox. Is it a momentary contact or a sequential continuous one? If that works, try figuring out how to get wiring up there. The thing that undoubtedly makes the Z4 a $100 job is that the wires are probably right there in every Z4 as part of the harness, but they sure aren't in yours. That might be the killer right there, if you think about it.
    Probably primarily the knowledge. I am not certain, but I think the M3 might use 'stretch-to-torque' head bolts. I know a number of BMWs do. You don't re-torque those. They are single-use, then replaced. It's pretty expensive to fix a minor oil leak this way and BMW head gaskets are pretty robust. Quite a bit more likely to be a valve cover gasket (simple & cheap) or oil pressure sending switch (simpler and cheaper and lots more common).
    If you go about it in a methodical and analytical manner, you might surprise all of us, but I don't wish to see you finally realizing you need to buy a different gearbox to get what you want after spending a grand on parts & labor just to get close. I am sure this is no $100 steering wheel swap for the reasons above, but I wish you luck. Keep us posted.

    RCornelius guest

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    Lots of time

    Thanks for your reply. I'm retired so I have lots of time to ponder (waste?). I have a complete machine shop in my retirement retreat, I also have every welding apparatus available except laser and know how to use them. If I can't find something I need I usually just make it. It's a little known fact that in the early years Mr. Honda would not hire a engineer with a degree, he didn't want someone working for him that had been taught what would not work and therefore dismissing a possible solution. It's been my experience that when someone says something can't be done what that really means is that THEY don't know how to do it.
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    mooseheadm5

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    I'd just like to point out that C.R., apart from being a crotchety old SOB, is very correct on both counts. BMWs use torque to yield head bolts and you do not retorque them ever. Doing so will likely cause them to snap or yield too much and lose clamping force doing quite the opposite of what you want.

    The 850 uses a transmission that still has a good old fashioned cable connecting that shifter to the transmission. You cannot simply use a switch to shift gears- you must have the gearshift shaft at the transmission move in unison with the shift. You can engineer a solution that would move a servo or something, but that would take much more work than simply swapping the wheel. It would have to be engineered.

    I understand Honda's reason for not hiring degreed engineers, and though I happen to be one, I think it would put your mind at ease to know that I was a BMW tech first. Therefore, you can trust that I am telling you the truth through experience (in fact, I thought about trying to do the paddle shifter thing on my wagon and found that it would take more work than simply swapping to a 5 speed.)

    Schalldampfer1 guest

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    It is possible to put on the e46 M3 SMG wheel on the e31. Only problem is that the airbag will not function as the e46 airbag is dual stage and the e31 has single stage. Here is a thread on 8er.org about how it was done http://www.8er.org/forum/showthread.php?t=9048. There is some British company that makes the wiring harness to do this. I think the person that did the project on 8er.org may have mentioned it. Or you could contact www.mrpaddleshift.com. Good luck with the project!
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    CRKrieger

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    Alles auf Deutsch. So I did not read it. Given what Paul said above, I fail to see how a wiring harness is going to control a cable-shifted gearbox.
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    mooseheadm5

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    Can't access that page even after registration. It may be that this was done on an 840 with a Steptronic trans, which the 850 does not have.

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