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Installing amplifier inside your BMW E36

15th January 2007

Installing amplifier inside your BMW E36

posted in Audio, Do It Yourself, Technical Info |


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Hello friends,

 

Today, I was digging for some information about how to install a nice sound system in E36 cars and I found a very good article here . In this article, a step by step tutorial on how to do is provided. It also describes some of the options like the best tools to use, where to place the amplifier in your trunk. So, are you ready ? No not yet, first the disclaimer

 

Disclaimer: Use it at your own risk pal!!

 

OK now I’m ready so here we go 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . .

 

When my father ordered his ’98 E38 740i, he opted for the $2200 “premium package.” When the car arrived and I was able to test out the system, it was very disappointing. My Oldsmobile had more bass!!! Well, that’s his car and he can do whatever he wants to it. When it was time to order my ’99 E36 M3, I knew not to opt for the Harmon/Kardon option. The $900 I saved would go towards my aftermarket system.

After much research, listening to people’s setups (thanks Ben), and going to an a/d/s/ sponsored audio tech session in Maryland, I decided on the following setup:

a/d/s/ 335is.2 front separates. I consider these speakers top of the line. Only the PX series is higher but at a significant price premium. Also, the PX series only comes in a 6″ diameter so it wouldn’t fit the kick panel locations without some modifications. Also, keep in mind these are the newly released revision 2 series.

a/d/s/ P840.2 8-channel amplifier. a/d/s/ is well-known for the clear and accurate response.

JL Audio stealthboxes in the rear. These fit the ’93-’96 E36 sedan and the ’93-’99 E36 coupe. I wanted to keep the trunk as stock looking as possible and I didn’t want to lose a lot of space to a sub-woofer enclosure. The stealthboxes are 8″ subs. They won’t pack the punch of a 10″ or 12″, but I think I’ll be happy with the 8 inchers..

This writeup will follow the flow of how I did it in real life. If you’re using the stock wires, the project can be partitioned into two sub-projects: 1) replacing the front woofers and tweeters and 2) mounting and installing the amp and running wires (optional).

Replacing the Front Woofers

Remove the driver’s side kick panel. First, you need to remove the hood latchA?A?A?a philips screw driver will do. There is also a plastic anchor of sorts. A slotted screw driver will do here. Next, slide the lip of the kick panel from under the strip that says M3 in my case (I know, real technical words). Now slide the kick panel forward.

Undo the four bolts holding the factory speaker. I had to solder a new spade connector onto the negative lead because the factory one was too small. Place the gasket seal on the back of the speaker to ensure an airtight seal. Screw the speaker back into place. The green cardboard type insulation material had to be cut in order for the new speaker to fit. Heck, I forgot to put it back in on the passenger side. Hahaha.



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Removal of the passenger side is pretty much the same.

To remove the tweeters, you have to pull the door panel off. To do this, use a butter knife to remove the two plastic covers behind the door pull. Also, remove the little black plastic cover that says, “Airbag.” There are torx screws behind there. For the drivers, side, use a screw driver to push the door latch to fool the system into thinking the door is closed. Cut a butter knife at the lower edge of the door and twist. The whole door panel should pop off. Once one body clip comes off, they all seem to pop off! Be careful with the driver’s door panel because there’s still a connection to the mirror controls.

The tweeter is held in place with a lockring. Twist it off and pop out the factory one. You’ll need to use a dremel and remove the plastic obstruction. Be careful not to go through the grill. Once that’s off, you can use silicone sealant to hold the new tweeters in place. DonA?A?A?t forget to get your molex 2-conductor connector. I ended up using the cheesy radio shack versionsA?A?A?not as elegant.

Mounting and Installing the Amplifier

I spent many hours just looking for possible areas to mount the amp. Here were the possibilities:

Suspend it from the rear deck shelf.
Mount it to the back of one of the fold-down rear seats
Or come up with something clever.
I’m a masochist and opted for the third option. The idea of shooting holes into my sheet metal didn’t sit well with me. Mounting the amp to the back seat was plausible, but not only are the seats curvy, where will you run all the ugly wires?

First, you need to remove the left rear brake light cover housing by turning the retaining screw counterclockwise and pulling up and out.
Next, you need to remove the left rear speaker. To remove the grill, push your thumbs against the front edge. Once you bend the grill sufficiently, you can push upwards. Next, remove the two screws holding the speakers in place. There should be (at least on mine) a metal clip holding the whole unit in place. Push this tab and the speaker will drop out.
Now you can work the molded carpet on the side of the trunk outwards.
You will now see the factory amp. It’s held in place by three 10mm bolts.

I looked around and removed the black plastic trim left to the spare tire by removing the plastic nuts. I found what I though to be a perfect location. There were already holes in the sheet metal for me to secure a bracket to. I pestered my uncle for some 3/4″ plywood stock–we are talking about a 15 pound metal object subjected to the extreme cornering forces of my M3–and fabricated a sturdy bracket.

I used 2″ 1/4″ bolts with washers to secure the bracket in place. If you look, you’ll see the area with the holes is lower than the rest points. I used a piece of scrap 3/4″ plywood to make a shim. It works perfectly.

I cut the factory amp connectors off. I ended up following Bob Hazelwood’s advice and ordered two (you’ll probably need threeA?A?A?so I’m short a connector) 14-conductor mini-fit molex connectors from http://www.digikey.com. Definitely order the crimp tool while you’re at it. It makes life so much easier and the crimps look real nice.

I wired up the crossovers into the factory wiring. Some people run new wires. Well, I looked at the gauge of the wires running to the front woofers. I think they are at least 16gaA?A?A?.good enough. Here’s the end result:

After running wires and soldering everything (oh, solder all crimp connections just in case!), roll back the carpet, place the brake light cover back, and install the amp bracket and amp. I had to cut 1/2″ off the bottom of the molded carpet (a new one costs $45) so the bracket would fit easily. I was planning on lifting it and squishing the bracket underneath, but after all the wires were in place, there was really no room.

Running Wires

I decided to run a 4-conductor wire for my radar detector, 8-conductor wire for the bass control, and a patch cable for the new head unit. Time to run wires.

First, remove the rear seat. This is accomplished by hovering over the seat as if you’re about to sit on it. Grab right underneath the lip of the leather and pull up.

Next, remove the side bolster next to the fold-down seat. The latch is on the top of the bolster. I guess you could simply grab and yank. I wedged my fingers at the bottom between the bolster and the side panel and ran my fingers upwards. Once there, I was able to get leverage to pop the clip off. The remaining anchor point is on the bottom where the seat hinges. Simply push in with your finger and the side bolster will come off.

Next, remove the side panel. The body clips are located at the top. I put my hand at the rear and pulled. PopA?A?A?came right off. See the picture for the anchor points.

You’ll need to remove or at least loosen the center piece between the seats in order to run the wires. A picture is worth a thousand words:

Pop the hazard light out using a butter knife covered with a cloth. It’s easiest to pop out at the left side. There will be a screw there holding down the front of the center piece.

Once that’s removed, the center piece will be loose. You can run wires now or if you’re like me, you can actually remove everything. The armrest bracket is fastened to the chassis using three 13mm bolts. You’ll need a swivel/universal socket to remove the front two. A box wrench will remove the rear bolt.

Put everything back. You feel better now, right? There it isA?A?A?a complete audio overhaul. More pictures to come when the stealthboxes arrive. Sorry for the graphics intensive page.

 

Are you looking for more do it yourself procedures (DIY) ? I recommend the Bentley BMW 3 series service manual for you. I got it and I think it’s a gold mine for us -BMW E36 Owners-. If you didn’t grab your copy yet, get it right now! I’m sure you’ll find this book worth every penny you’ve paid for. Get the Bentley BMW 3 series service manual

 

Wait for more from … BMW E36 Blog

 

best regards,

Tony Sticks.

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There are currently 11 responses to “Installing amplifier inside your BMW E36”

Why not let us know what you think by adding your own comment! Your opinion is as valid as anyone elses, so come on... let us know what you think.

  1. 1 On January 4th, 2008, Ben Knibbe said:

    Do you still have those two connectors for the amp? I could use them.

    Thanks,
    Ben K.

  2. 2 On February 9th, 2008, Alex said:

    I just installed 2 10″ subs and a 2000 watt amp in my 325is and have after market LED tail lights and whenever i turn on the lights of my car i get this crazy obnoxious hum from the speakers, any suggestions on how to get rid of this?

  3. 3 On February 10th, 2008, Tony Sticks said:

    Alex,

    Does this happen when you turn your car lights on? Or just when you start your car? If the humming sound happens only when you start your engine, it maybe related to the RCA input to your amplifier.

  4. 4 On February 10th, 2008, Alex said:

    If the car is running without lights on there is no noise, only if my parking or headlights are on…thanks for the quick reply!

  5. 5 On February 11th, 2008, Tony Sticks said:

    That’s weird man. I don’t understand how the headlights can affect the amplifier. Did you check the RCA inputs to make sure that they’re isolated well. Where did you run these RCA wires?

  6. 6 On August 9th, 2008, glen said:

    sounds like you may have the phono leads and the power leads running together
    its always best to run them away from each other as they can cause interference
    like you have mentiond
    keep your phono leads away from any other power supplying wires like wires to your lights

    im almst 100% sure this is the problem

    hence – no power to your lights and no noise send power to run your lights and you get interference

    good luck ;)

  7. 7 On May 4th, 2009, kyle harvey said:

    I think its somthing to do with your wiring, somthing about a common ground between the both. i had a simular problem in my old car, when i turned on the lights it cut out the sound.

  8. 8 On October 31st, 2010, dash said:

    Hi Tony,

    I have a basic question. I have installed an after market 4 channel amp in my 325i. I have one set of wire coming out (front L and R) from the 6 channel after market head unit and hooked up with the input of the after market amp. And what I did was i connected the front new component speakers to the out put of the 4 channel amp via cross overs. I essentially left the rears. I did not do anything else with the factory connection (as in my stock amp and wiring is as it was). Right now it is the same thing as it was before I installed the new amp. I am just getting sound from the rear speakers, and the mid range and the tweeters (since i disconnected the mid bass only). Have I done something stupid. I just wanted to power up the front component speakers (new mid bass and twitters).
    what should i do now? should i disconnect the factory amp wiring?
    Please suggest something

    thanks,
    dash

  9. 9 On August 3rd, 2012, ctoddkc said:

    Just wanted to say thanks for the photos on removing the door panel(s) and the rear panel(s). Was able to replace my speakers without worrying about tearing off any tabs or pulling against hidden bolts. Saved my ass some potential headaches, man! Thanks,
    ctoddkc

  10. 10 On November 17th, 2012, Ric said:

    Hi. My battery wire (red/white) at the harness is not hot. No power to the radio. I jumped a wire from the positive terminal to theat harness pin and the radio came on. I need to find out why the harness wire has not power going through it and my question is ..where does this wire end up? I haven’t pulled anything apart but see the cluster of radio wires going along the drivers side. This is an e36 328 ci

    Thx. R

  11. 11 On March 28th, 2013, joeyak907 said:

    Dash:

    you need to change the setting on your deck,
    same thing happened to me , i hooked up an amp and all i had was rear speakers and no fronts, and one day i was browsing thru the settings on my deck and seen a selection that said rear or sub, it was on rear and i chose sub and bam the front speakers were working,
    hope this helps you.

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