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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Preface
Overall, this is just a long writeup of my personal experience 6 speed swapping my 2004 330xi. This won't cover anything about the ‘how to’ as there are very good write ups by other users on this forum and others. However, If anyone is going through the swap now or just has questions about it, either PM me or ask a question below and I'll answer it.

Getting the Parts

Originally I found a 5 speed 325xi at a local salvage yard and planned to take the parts out of this car cause it was there and I know manual xi’s are not all too common. The following time I came back to start taking out the parts, there was a new car in the lot, a 03+ 330xi with a 6 speed. I took just about all the parts needed for the swap: pedals, trans (and the accompanying components), clutch lines, and shifter linkage. I was even able to cut the reverse switch cable out of the wiring harness so it would be super easy to wire in. I personally didn't have to get the driveshafts because both the auto and manual xi’s have the same length. I didn't take the flywheel because even though the clutch and pressure plate looked almost new, the flywheel had way too much movement to it and I needed to get a new one no matter what. Getting all the parts from the salvage car took three days total (two if it didn't start to storm one day) and cost only ~$200 (this takes into account the $50 I got back for the trans core charge).

Parts that I wanted/needed new I ordered from fcp euro and ecs tuning. From those sites I bought motor mounts, transfer case mount, rear main seals, pilot bearing (which I later learned I didn't need), dual mass flywheel, shifter linkage bracket, and flywheel bolts. The motor mounts and transfer case mounts were not entirely necessary, but mine were bad so I wanted to replace them. I also bought a T60 torx socket for the flywheel bolts and a power steering hose because while jacking the engine up the one on my car tore and leaked atf all over. The total of all the parts I ordered was ~$650.

From Harbour Freight I bought a wire spice kit for the clutch and reverse light wiring and needed to buy a better floor jack as the one I had was not going to be able to lift the car high enough to get the auto trans out. I also had to buy e-torx sockets, about 2 feet worth of socket extensions, and an 18mm wrench for the driveshaft bolts. So that's another ~$200 to the total.


(I did some extensive organization to the workbench and pegboard in the middle of the swap, so don't look too close at that)



Starting with the Little Things
I chose to do the miscellaneous things that go into the manual swap first, as they tend to be the easier part. I took out the auto parts and replaced them all with the manual equivalent. The pedals were bolted in and wired up using a generic splice and crimp kit. I had taken some of the wires with the OEM pin at the end off the salvage car so it would be very easy to connect the wires to the ecu and clutch pedal connector.

Wrestling out the Auto
This is where disaster strikes… Taking off the exhaust, heatsheld, driveshafts, and transfer case was the easy part that took all about half a day to do, but after realizing I didn't have enough room to get to the top bolts on the bell housing I started to take out the motor mounts. Those were a PITA as I wasn't able to get the engine high enough to get them off so I had to lower the subframe a bit to get it out. I ended up snapping the large bolt that holds the subframe to the mounting bracket so I needed a new one, which would be $60 plus an $8 bolt, great. I just went back to the salvage yard and took the bolt and bracket as they ended up giving it to me for free. After repairing the subframe bracket and lowering the engine onto the subframe on a place I thought it would be happy I went to town on the bell housing bolts. However, while taking out one of the larger bolts the engine decided to fall about an inch from the place it was resting, this (I believe) caused the top two bolts on the bell housing to mess up the threads they go into. How messed up you might ask? Well, the weight of the transmission and the engine combined fell onto the subframe right where the trans and engine bolt up to each other causing the top two bolts to strip out some of the threads in the engine block… One of the bolts snapped when trying to take it out and the other rounded off the head.

At this point I had all the bolts off the trans except the one with the rounded head. I had no way of getting to the bolt from under the car and the only way I would be able to get close to it is from under the intake manifold. After taking more of my car apart I was left with a bolt that the only way of getting it off was by cutting it. There was no way I could get any power tools of mine in the area to cut the head off easily so I had to cut it by hand. I did this by using a jigsaw blade and attached it to a small piece of wood as a handle, this was the absolute worst part of the project and it was all caused by my own mistake. It took quite a few hours across three days of hand sawing in a spot with all of about no room. I consider myself to be a very patient person, but this was incredibly frustrating. But, finally the head of the bolt was off and soon after the auto trans was finally out as well.





Spending Even More Money
With the trans out and two of the main bolts stuck in the engine block I decided it would be best if I took the car to a shop to extract the bolts and repair the threads. Luckily for me, there is a shop that specializes in BMWs that is only about 10 min away and they were willing to do this partial job for my car. I decided that I wanted the shop to put on the manual trans because I was quite frustrated with my car and didn't have a clutch alignment tool because for some reason they were back ordered on every site.

I attached the shift linkage bracket (all non-xi’s have this bracket already installed, but xi’s don't for some reason), and got the car towed for the first time of my ownership. A few days later my car was ready to get picked up, with a $450 bill. This was an easy bill to pay because I was just excited I didn't have to fight the car getting the 6 speed in.

Putting it all Back Together
My car back at home and the trans in, time for me to put everything back together. I don't know if it was due to the excitement that I had my car back or what because I got everything back together by the end of that day, including the intake manifold. Overall it just felt great being able to work on the easier parts of the car, compared to the other work I was doing.

First Drive
With everything bolted back together I started up the car for the first time with the new trans in. It surprisingly started up quickly, but there was this beautiful rubbing noise coming from under the car. At this point the car was still on the jacks so I easily found the issue; the driveshaft was far too close to the heat shield. I assumed because the heat shield had been sitting around it might have gotten hit and bent in a way. I tried bending the heatshield with it still on the car as much as I could to get it away from the driveshaft, but it was too close to the exhaust for me to bend it any farther. I lowered the car and took it for a drive, cause you know why not.

The car itself drove fine, I took a gamble on this transmission as it came from a salvage car with an unknown history, but it shifted into every gear and the clutch felt great. But… there was still a rubbing noise and when at a low rpm in first or second there would be this wonderful banging noise. I just drove the car the way it was because I was tired of working on it and well, it drove. After a few days of hating the noises I was hearing I jacked the car up again, took off the exhaust and heat shield to bend it with it off the car. I put it all back together, again, and the banging was still there, probably worse this time, awesome. I knew something was wrong and I assumed it was with the trans itself, but I didn't want to admit it. So, again, the next day I jacked up the car, took off the exhaust and heat shield to take a closer look. This time I noticed clear marks where the driveshaft was hitting the exhaust, I also noticed the driveshaft’s center support bearing. What did I notice about the center support bearing? I noticed it was bolted upside down...



Somehow when putting the driveshaft in my dumbass just bolted it the wrong way. With the car finally put together correctly, it drove amazingly. No more banging, vibrations, or rubbing, just great driving.



Making Your car Yours/Conclusion
Through this essay of a write up I spoke mostly on the downsides of this swap; the tiring, painstaking, extra work that I put myself through because of dumb mistakes. I hardly spoke about the feeling I got every time I worked through a tough problem; the feeling of joy and bliss that us DIY mechanics have the opportunity to experience. Working on any car is obviously hard work, but that hard work usually leads to a better car, and that certainly happened to my car. It's why we enjoy working on cars, we start with something broken and try to fix it to make it better and something that we can call our own. I originally wanted an e46, not because it would be the most reliable or fastest car, but because it's something that I can work on, put time, effort, and money into it so it's worth something to me. People find worth in their cars in different ways so who cares what you do to your car; paint your calipers red, chop off the muffler, slap a wing on the trunk, make your car mean something to you. I personally would never do those certain things to my car, but if others want to, what's to stop them. If I was trying to add monetary value to my car I wouldn't be working on a 180k mile AWD bmw. I added personal value to my car by doing a manual swap, and anyone can add personal value to their car by doing whatever they deem fit.

Answers to the Usual Questions
If anyone does have specific questions, PM me or ask below and I'll hopefully be able to answer them.

Was it worth it?
Yes, to me what my car is now is better than it was before. However, an auto e46 is an incredibly fun car in itself, so don't think that you need a manual to have an enjoyable car.

Should I do the swap?
Instead of answering this in the typical way, I feel as though answering this by giving examples of situations I wouldn't do the swap might be better. If I lived in the city I wouldn't do this swap, as a daily driver I would hate driving a manual in the city constantly. If I didn't have access to a salvage yard with the exact car I can take all the parts from I wouldn't have done the swap. I would have spent much more time and money sourcing parts solely because at a salvage yard every car is worth the same, on ebay on craigslist the parts you buy are specific and will have a higher value because of that. If my life wasn't on pause because of the current situation (Covid-19) I wouldn't have done this swap. This isn't some weekend project where you can get it done in a few days, but yes, I took a lot longer than most could probably do it. If I didn't have access to another car to drive I wouldn't have done the swap. As good as public transport and Uber is, it is really difficult to be able to get everything you need if the sole car you have is the car that is stuck on jack stands.

What was the Total Time and Money Spent?
Start to finish I spent about a month between getting parts, working, and waiting. I spent close to $1500, on originally a sub $800 budget, on everything I needed/wanted. This includes all tools I needed to get and extra parts totally not necessary like an OEM ZHP shift knob and matching alcantara shift and parking brake boots.

Footnote
I realize this post won't really help anyone with the swap. It was more of a way for me to be able to tell someone about the ups and downs of my process. Most of my friends think of cars and something that gets them from point A to B and the couple that do enjoy cars aren't as extreme to the mods they do to their cars so I didn't really have anyone to talk to while doing the swap.

Extra Parts Up for Grabs
If anyone is interested I have most of the parts that come off the car with an auto swap. I have no use for them so hopefully someone does. PM me if you are interested in anything below and I can send pictures. Everything is in fine condition, just the usual wear and tear. If anyone does want something just pay for shipping.
  • Parking brake (this includes the mechanism and boot)
  • Brake pedal
  • Shift mechanism
  • Shift boot
  • Accelerator pedal
  • Lots of misc. bolts
 

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You didn't swap differentials..right? Does it shift early and are RPMs high on the highway?

From RealOEM it looks like the auto 330xi comes with a 3.46 diff while the manual has a 3.07...

I do understand changing diffs on an XI is a little more problematic as I think you will have to modify the front transaxle with part 27107525789

But if you could source the differentials from a manual car in a junkyard, would you consider the swap?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
You didn't swap differentials..right? Does it shift early and are RPMs high on the highway?

From RealOEM it looks like the auto 330xi comes with a 3.46 diff while the manual has a 3.07...

I do understand changing diffs on an XI is a little more problematic as I think you will have to modify the front transaxle with part 27107525789

But if you could source the differentials from a manual car in a junkyard, would you consider the swap?
No, I didn't swap the differentials and nor do I plan to. With 6th gear I'm only at like 2.7k at 70.

I've found contradiction info on what the xi dif ratios are, but this* website claims both auto and manual xi's have the same ratios and I think I agree with it. 1st gear is super short, but every other gear feels as it should be.

*http://www.bokchoys.com/differential/GearRatios_E46.htm
 

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Thank you for sharing your experience with the swap, it is always interesting to hear real-life stories.

This is too late to help you, but found that replacing the engine mounts on my '05 330xi 6sp was one of the easiest repairs I have done. The trick is to do one at a time, leaving the other mount loose but still connected to the subframe. Here is my description, scroll to the end to read what I finally worked for me.

https://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=1264073

Chris.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thank you for sharing your experience with the swap, it is always interesting to hear real-life stories.

This is too late to help you, but found that replacing the engine mounts on my '05 330xi 6sp was one of the easiest repairs I have done. The trick is to do one at a time, leaving the other mount loose but still connected to the subframe. Here is my description, scroll to the end to read what I finally worked for me.

https://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=1264073

Chris.
I tried doing one at a time, and it didn't really help either, but I might not have been jacking up the engine in the right place.

What I believe was the real reason why I couldn't jack the engine up high enough was my 'eBay special' catless headers. The bung for the o2 sensor was incredibly long so the o2 sensor was being jammed into the body of the car. luckily the sensor is fine and I later took an angle grinder to the bung to shorten up a lot.
 

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Good work Lacuna, I to decided to do a swap basically for the challenge - I totally understand where you are coming from. I have a 2004 325xi auto and I'm getting parts together. I sourced a 6 speed and have a question. Do I need an adapter shaft 27107525789 since I will be using my existing transfer case? I've looked at pics of transfer cases - both auto and manual - and can't see a difference.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Good work Lacuna, I to decided to do a swap basically for the challenge - I totally understand where you are coming from. I have a 2004 325xi auto and I'm getting parts together. I sourced a 6 speed and have a question. Do I need an adapter shaft 27107525789 since I will be using my existing transfer case? I've looked at pics of transfer cases - both auto and manual - and can't see a difference.
I used the transfer case that was original to my car and I didn't need any adapter shaft, it bolted straight up. Also, the auto and manual driveshafts are the same length since the xi's 6mt (not 5mt) and auto trans are the same length, so if you haven't sourced them yet, you wont need to.
 

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That will save me some money. I'm still spending close to 2k because I'm buying everything new except for the trans which was a bit over $200. Did you replace the 3 seals in the trans? The trans I bought has 120,000 miles on it. This will be by far the most extensive car work I've ever done, but I do know a mechanic who hopefully can bail me out if needed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
No, I didn't replace any seals on the transmission itself. I haven't heard of any issues with the trans seals so I never considered replacing them.

Having a good backup plan if you're not able to complete all the work is a really good idea, it wasn't something I considered at the time, but definitely would have helped a lot in my case.
 

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If you are doing this definitely replace the selector shaft seal and the I put shaft seal as well as all of the bushings in the shifter linkage. Trivial amount of money for real value
 

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I did my swap a few months ago, but i didnt change my accelerator pedal so i still have the click down, is there a real difference between other than the latter?
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I don't think you'll experience any difference besides the kick down not having a function.

I'm fairly certain that the auto and manual accelerator pedals are the exact same except the auto one has a spring inside to gice the kick down function it's feel. I have seen a video of a guy taking out the spring inside the pedal to get rid of the kick down function as he was manual swapping his e60.
 
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