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Is a Manual Transmission Swap Worth It?

Jun 17, 2021
- This is our new E36 off-road rally project. And unfortunately, we have an automatic

transmission

at the moment. So today, we're going to trade this automatic

transmission

for the more desirable

manual

transmission. And along the way, we'll find out if it's

worth

all the time, effort, and money it takes. I think it will be. Well I'm Zach, this is the Money Pit, let's get going. (upbeat music) Thanks to eBay Motors for sponsoring this new season of the Money Pit. Did you know that eBay Motors is one of the only websites where you can buy a car and all the parts you need?
is a manual transmission swap worth it
Facts. Take this broadcast for example. All we had to do was enter the vehicle information and boom, like magic. We found the exact part we needed. And you can trust that it's the exact part you need because eBay has this proprietary web feature called Fitment that ensures that whatever part you order will fit the car you're looking for. So don't waste your time online, get exactly what you need by going to the link in the description below. Now, back to our most recent money hole. All right, if you've been with us the last few weeks, you know this car.
is a manual transmission swap worth it

More Interesting Facts About,

is a manual transmission swap worth it...

We have an E36 and we are going to modify it to be an off-road rally car. And I'm super excited about it. Now, of course, you can drive an off-road stock car with a degree of success, but we want to take it a step further. And last week we took this out into the desert and we drove it pretty hard. And one of the first things that became apparent was that this automatic transmission is a bit of a hindrance. It doesn't really do what you want it to do when you want it to. And in terms of a competitive or racing environment, like, you know, rally racing, you want to be able to drop power whenever you want, where you want, how you want.
is a manual transmission swap worth it
And that's what you can do with the

manual

transmission. And that raises the question of why we even buy an automatic car in the first place. Am I hard for episodes? Well no, not really. The fact is, the E36 market is insane these days and it's hard to find an example of a five-speed for a decent price that hasn't been absolutely abused. So if you don't want to pay an arm and a leg and get an E36 that hasn't necessarily been abused, well, these days you're looking at automatic cars. So if I've convinced you that an E36 automatic is a good way to get into an E36 or really any car project, as long as you can switch it to a manual transmission, well, you might be wondering how you do it. change it to a manual transmission?
is a manual transmission swap worth it
What do you need? Well, you need these things. Obviously, you'll need a manual transmission, but that's just the beginning. So you need a way to couple it to the engine and an automatic transmission doesn't use a clutch and flywheel like a manual transmission. So you will need a clutch and a flywheel. You will also need the proper mounting hardware for your manual transmission. So we have our transmission mount with some poly bushings. Then you are also going to need your hydraulic clutch system. The master, the slave and the pedal. And the lines that go in the middle to connect all of that.
You know, what actuates your clutch, the actual hydraulic action that you impose with your foot. So we have all those things. Then you'll also need a new driveshaft to connect your new manual transmission to your differential. Usually the length of the manual transmission is different than the automatic, often shorter. So your driveshaft will eventually be longer. So you need all the shifting components to get you rowing through your gears. And you know, depending on your rig, you'll need other little things, little pieces of hardware, little bushings, that kind of thing. And there's a lot of that in the E36.
We'll go over each of those things as we install. But this is meat and potatoes. These are the big parts, and this is pretty much what you'll need for any manual transmission change. The transmission itself, the clutch and flywheel, the mounting stuff, the shifter stuff, the driveshaft and the pedal kit. So let's see if that turns out to be true or if I'm missing something. I hope not. (deep techno music) Alright, the first thing I'm going to do to get started on this project is take the interior apart while it's still nice and clean. So this whole area of ​​the gear stick will have to fall apart.
The center console needs to come out and I thought I might as well while my hands aren't so dirty yet. So we'll start here, then we'll lift the car off the ground and go under it. (lo-fi music) We are officially done with this piece. And that makes me feel good. Oh, wow. This stuff doesn't come off as easily as it does on a Miata, but it's out. And now we're at our ugly automatic shift mechanism. Alright, we've got the whole automatic shifter and about half the dash out. That will be pretty much all the painstaking work, all the tedious stuff.
And from here on out, it's pretty much taking elbow grease and smearing it everywhere. So that's what we're about to do. I'm going to put this nice tall thing on jack stands and then we'll get to work getting the automatic transmission out of here. Now this part of the job is never much fun and it's easy to get complacent, but you're going to get a lot under this once it's on the air. So don't be complacent, pay attention to how you do it or you could kill yourself. (lo-fi music) Alright, well now we've got the car airborne as you can see, because I'm under it.
So now it's time to start getting that automatic transmission out. So we have to get some things out of the way. The first thing I'm going to do is pull this clamp off and then remove the exhaust. Then a heat shield, then the driveshaft. And then we're getting closer to touching the transmission. You know, I wanted to do this first when I jacked up the car, but at least I remember before... - You spilled it everywhere. - Yeah, I don't even know if these spill over with the way the transit exit is, but I want to find out the hard way.
All these automatic cars also have an automatic transmission cooler. So that's something extra that I'll have to remove. It's probably not a big deal. I can see the lines here. Although I have to go. I have to go. So look into a transmission cooler. Alright, now I'm going to take inventory of all the hood bolts I can see. So I can put together a game plan and figure out when the right time is to start leaning the transmission. I'll probably get as many bolts as I can easily remove. Then we'll come back here and remove the trans support and support this pup with just the cat.
Then once the jack supports it at the rear I can let the jack go down or up depending on what I need to tilt the entire engine drivetrain and hopefully have better access to some hard to reach accessories . I mean there's really nothing left but to do it. Must? (lo-fi music) Okay, now we've got all the hood bolts at least loose. I have two left just to keep the transmission from dropping before I'm done, but I'm almost done. I have my handy transmission jack here. Now you could do this with just a normal cat, but it's a bit sketchy.
One of these makes it a little less sketchy. So ideally I'm going to wrap this chain around the top and tie it to my platform here, put the platform on the bottom of the trans really tight and pull this pup out. Here we go. (Applause and cheers from the audience) There she is. Easy as that. I mean, honestly, yes, there was some hard work involved, but that's to be expected. But it is definitely doable. Watch? So now we have a lot of things to put back, which means we have a lot to talk about. We have to look at all the parts we have.
I guess it's just... Does it make sense? Alright, we take out the old pedals, ready to put the new ones on. So it's more than just bolting on the pedals. You have to run some lines. So a line, this smooth line, will come to our brake reservoir here and collect some brake fluid to go down to our clutch master cylinder. That's what this system works with, brake fluid. So there's a little nipple hanging off the back of our tank here that's not open. It must be cut so that fluid can flow through it. So I'm going to cut that out.
And then this line will go all the way to that depot. Then this hard line will come out and down to the transmission, to the slave cylinder. And that is what will make our clutch work. So we'll get those lines going, hook up these pups, and then off we go to the races. My favorite place to work on a car is in the driver's footwell, there's plenty of room. You can rest super relaxed and it is therapeutic for your back and neck. With that being said, all the nuts and bolts are tight for the new set of pedals.
So now with that done, we're completely over the hump. We are putting manual stuff in the car. So now is really the time to hit the ground. Next I'm going to get under the car and remove the auto flex plate so I can install that lightweight flywheel and our clutch kit. Now this would be a good time to replace the rear main seal. That pup is completely dry though and pretty fresh with 93,000 miles so I'll leave it. So, just stick a flyer in there. - Don't you need to put the pilot bearing? - Yes, I need to put the pilot bearing.
Thanks for reminding me. Alright, to push our pilot bearing in, I first cleaned the hole that it's going to go into with a little bit of Scotch-Brite. I'll also put some lube on it like some WD-40 or something. And then the real trick is finding something to push it with. Plugs are almost always going to work, kind of easy to use. But if you're pushing on the inner race, you'll really damage the roller bearings there or the balls. So you just want to make sure that he's pushing the outside race and everything will be fine. So like that So that's clean, spray some lube, take it home.
It is not a big thing. (funky music) Good. That is a pilot bearing installed. And we don't even forget about that. Now where is that flyer? (grunts) Alright, I put in two bolts and tightened them evenly to pull the flywheel up to the crankshaft. Now with the rest of the bolts I'm going to put some orange threadlocker on it. This is heavy duty, but removable. I love this stuff. I'll put it on the next six bolts and then I'll take out these first two and add a little bit of threadlocker. You will definitely want to put threadlocker on the flywheel bolts.
You don't want the steering wheel to come off. (funky music) So while you're removing these bolts, you're naturally just going to spin the engine, which makes them quite difficult to tighten. Now they make tools that lock into the teeth of the flywheel that you can connect to the engine. You can also use a pry bar. Now these teeth are only responsible for starting the car. They only interface with your starter motor. So don't worry too much about a little mess here and there. It's not a big deal, but you'll have to do something to keep it from moving.
Ok, now that we have our flywheel installed and tightened, it's time to install the clutch disc and pressure plate. But before we do that, we need to make sure we clean the pressure plates, contact surface, and flywheel. Most of this type of material is shipped with a light coating of oil to prevent it from rusting. But you have to make sure you remove it before you install it. Clutches don't like oil. Alright, with all that stuff clean, now it's time to install our clutch disc and you have to pay attention to the way you put it on.
There is a right way and a wrong way. The good news is that it will usually tell you what's what. You can see here that it says gearbox side. So this side of the clutch disc should face the gearbox. And I have my clutch alignment tool, which is needed to align this thing. It won't install your stream if you're not using one of these. This end just goes into the pilot bearing and this end locates your disc. It keeps everything focused. (funky music) So with the hardware started, now we're going to tighten everything evenly to tighten our pressure plate evenly.
Now we do torque. You know what I'm talking? (Laughter) (disco music) It's okay. And with that, we're ready to block a stream here. Let's prepare it. We have to prepare it a bit. - Big announcement. - Donut is looking for new ones - Sorry, can you give me a minute? Guys, Donut is looking for new hosts. Do you love cars? Do you know how to work on cars? Do you have a potentially unhealthy desire to be the center of attention? Perfect. Then go here or click the link in the description below. We're looking for the funniest person on the crew, the funniest person in the shop.
If this is you, please introduce yourself to be a host. If this sounds like someone you know, encourage them to come forward to host. The last time we did this, we got to know bothZach Jobe as Jeremiah. - Thank you guys so much for watching my audition. - Hi Media Donut. My name is Zach Jobe. - Seriously, you could be next. So click that link or send it to a friend and let's make car videos together. - Bye. Alright, before I put this new old transmission in the car, I want to do a couple of things to make sure it works properly.
So we're just going to clean a few things and put a little layer of grease on a few critical spots to keep things from squeaking or making weird noises. And we're going to put a new waste bearing in its place. Just the things you need to do before putting a transmission in. Cause if you put it in and your old bearing was bad, boy would you hate yourself? How can I know? Disconnect, connect, disconnect, connect. I'm also going to put the new trans mounts on while we get it out of the car. Alright, that's all the prep work we needed to do for the stream.
And it wasn't much. That was easy enough. So now we just have to put the transmission in the car. Let's hope it's just as easy. - That's one way to do it. - So that's what connects to the bottom of the shifter and actually does the shifting in the transmission. And that will connect to the shifter, the shifter will drop here. Sweet. Now it's ready to go in or so I say. Hey, who knows? (lo-fi music) I think I'm on the last bolt on the hood, the last bolt on the starter. And then once that's done, you can put the shifter arm back in place, reattach the transmission rear mount, hold the transmission up, and then do things like driveshaft and shifter from the cabin.
And we have to put our slave cylinder and connect it to the lines that we installed before. And we're in the home stretch though. You can say. Ok, so now we have our gear stick attached to the transmission. It's time to mount the new shifter on the shifter arm. So I just need to cinch this necklace under the hem of this arm and we'll be in business. Ok, so the shifter assembly is installed. Now we just have to put our gear stick on. The final piece of the puzzle, the most exciting piece. So let's see. Damn, we're going full throttle to the end, baby.
Woo-pa. Woo-pa! Alright, it's all coming together. Alright, now I'm going to go down and break the slave cylinder bleeder. We'll let some fluid flow through, then we'll bleed it off, and then our clutch should work. Nothing bad. Not bad. So the last thing we have to do here before we can start the car is a little bit of hacking. So this was an automatic car and automatic cars have a computer that controls the automatic transmission. So we just have to take out that computer and basically take the brain out of it. And then we can start the car.
And we probably have a check engine light, but we can fix that with a scan tool later. But we have to get this chip out of the trans ECU in order to get it running. So... (electronic music) Obviously, this is not the way to work on an ECU you care about, but I don't care about this thing. I don't need it to do anything. In fact, that's why I'm trying to turn it off. And with that, the brain of the automatic transmission is no more. So now we can put this back in the car and everything should be fine.
You won't know you don't have an automatic transmission. Well like I said I think we will have a check engine light but this would have prevented the car from starting because there are so many things that should be there and they don't agree with this anymore. So we'll put this back in the car so it's safe and now it's time to fire this pig up. Neutral, okay. No clutch. (engine starts) Wow, what a girl. (engine revving) Wow. We did it. Fourth gear, honey. Fourth gear! Very good, at first everything seems to work. I feel a slight wobble, I think, in the driveshaft.
I am concerned about the center support bearing. However, if that needs to be replaced, that's not a big deal. I can replace that real quick, but the fact is the wheels turn and the gears mesh and it all feels smooth. So I'm ready to call this a win. And I think it's time to put things in order and do a little test drive. What do you think? Yes? Let's do it. It feels like a manual car. Hey, I need a garage door opener. Everything feels smooth out of doors, just sitting there. Transmission shifts great, nice and smooth.
I have a little extra noise because this is open. Oh. But that feels good. The clutch pedal feels good. It seems to be doing its job. Yes, the turn is good. Oh, and you know, something that I'm really excited about that I haven't talked about yet is that we're getting a little bit, almost a power boost with this trade. You see, this car has an automatic transmission and this automatic transmission car came with a 3.91 differential. Now that is a fairly short relationship. It works great with the automatic transmission, but with the manual transmission, it ends up being a pretty short ratio.
Now what that means is that this will be over much sooner. Our top speed will drop, but a lot of torque will be felt here as we get to that top speed. So even though we didn't change anything with the engine, this thing got a lot quicker in terms of the kind of driving we're going to be doing off-road. We're not really going for top speed, I don't mind going 140 miles per hour. This thing will probably top 120 now. But it will get there much faster than with the automatic transmission. So since we have the manual and the 3.91 diff, this feels a lot faster.
Sure, it wasn't easy. There was a lot of hard work. I've gotten as dirty as I've been in a long time, but now I have a manual E36 and it's in great shape. This car as is would probably easily cost me $2,500 to $3,500 more than what I paid for the car. And I paid less than that in parts. Sure, it took some time, but you learn a thing or two along the way and it's fun. So I would say buying an E36 automatic and manually shifting it is a great way to get the E36 of your dreams.
This used to be automatic and now it is not. What could be better? So I hope you agree. Let me know in the comments what you think if manual gearing on a car is

worth

all the time and money it takes. Thanks for watching. I'll see you next Wednesday. In the meantime, don't forget to follow me on Instagram @zachjobe and follow Donut @donutmedia. And don't forget to like this video. This is how YouTube knows that we are doing at least a decent job at our job, which is making videos. So please like, subscribe to the channel and come back next Wednesday for more E36 stuff. (engine revs) Traction control.
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