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Technical_   Interior_  E36 Window Switch Retrofit

E36 Window Switch Retrofit
Josh Anderson and Andrew Bird

Since this is becoming a very popular mod, I decided I would chonicle the retrofitting of E36 window switches into my E30. This modification requires a decent knowledge of basic wiring, soldering, and using a test light. If you are not comfortable doing these things, find a friend that is and knows wiring, or turn back now. I accept NO RESPONSIBILITY if you do any damage to your car. Wiring is no simple matter, and it's very easy to cause permanent damage to your car. Also, keep in mind during this procedure that I am using a different color base switches than is normally used. If you find a set with a BLUE base, then great! You can follow this write-up word for word. If not, there are only minor differences.

Ok, now that all that pseudo-legal crap is out of the way, here's what you'll need

  • 2 WHITE or BLUE base E36 window switches
  • 2 flat E36 window switch bezels
  • Test light (for identifying which wires do what)
  • Dremel or a few different size files (to slightly enlarge the E30 window switch holes)
  • Soldering iron & solder
  • Third-hand tool or a friend (for holding the wires together while you solder)
  • Wire cutters and a wire stripper
  • Heat shrink tubing
  • Lighter
Ideally, you want the E36 switches with the WHITE base. Mine have a BLUE base, but are essentially the same, the only difference being that they came from the backseat of a 4-door E36. Now there are 2 different WHITE base switches. You are going to want the ones that have the LARGE base, not the smaller base (for one-touch switches), shown in this picture. The one-touch switches have completely different wiring, and will not work. Switches with the GREEN base are also for one-touch windows, and I do not know if these will work, so it's best to stick with the WHITE or BLUE.

Alright, now that THAT'S out of the way, let's get to the nuts and bolts of this swap.

These are the switches I will be using, along with the new flat bezels I ordered:

Click to enlarge

You are going to want to use the flat bezels meant for use in the E36 for the rear seats and the sunroof switch. The reason for this is because the shift console of the E36 is slightly rounded, as are the bezels for the front window switches. These will not sit flat on the E30 shift console, so if you're OCD about this kind of thing like me, order 2 of the flat bezels.

Shown here are the differences of the switch bezels. #5 in the image is the bezel for the E36 shift console, #4 is the flat bezel that you will want.

Click to enlarge

The part number is 61-31-1-387-996. They will run about $2.25 each from the dealer, but KenCopperwheat from the R3Vlimited forum said that he got them from BMA for about $1.80 each.


Start by removing your shift boot and setting it aside. This will give you lots of room to work with the wiring. If you want, remove the entire shift console and give yourself plenty of room, that way you won't have to worry about messing up your console. We left it in.

Pop the E30 window switches out and disconnect them from their harnesses. Snip the wires just below the stock E30 harnesses and throw the harnesses away. Strip the covering off of each of the wires at the end about 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch, and do the same with the wires of the E36 switches. The E30 switches will still be perfectly useable, save them in case someone wants to buy them.


As you've no doubt noticed, the E36 switch bezels are larger than the E30 ones and don't fit in the holes. There's not really anything more to this step then cutting / filing the holes large enough to get the bezels to fit.

I would recommend using files over a Dremel since the amount of material that needs to be removed is not an overly large amount and a Dremel may be too much, but it's up to you.

Click to enlarge

From this point on, it's just a back and forth process of filing material off of the console and test fitting the bezels. Be careful at this step because you want to make sure that you don't enlarge the holes too much; you want the switches to fit nice and snug, so they don't come out.

Once you've gotten the opening large enough, snap the switches into the bezels and insert the switches into the holes, feeding the wiring through first, then snapping the whole assembly into place.

Click to enlarge


If you don't know a lot about wiring, I've included a document on testing the wiring and wiring diagrams, written by Andrew.

TEST ARTICLES.PDF  (This file requires Adobe Acrobat Reader.)

After you've determined which wires are for what in the car and on the E36 switches, test them in the car. Twist the exposed ends of the E36 switch wires and the stock E30 wires together (be sure that none of them are touching other wires), and turn on your key. Test to make sure that the windows go up and down and that everything functions normally. If all has gone right and your windows operate, now it's time to solder them.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Get your heat shrink tubing and cut 10 pieces about 1-2 inches long. Slide one piece on each of the stock E30 wires and leave them for when you are done soldering.

Before soldering the wires together, you'll want to tin the end of each wire, which is essentially just getting a small amount of solder on the end of each wire. After you've tinned all the wires, get your third hand tool or friend and begin matching up which wires go together. It's good at this point to have your notes ready and with you, so you know which wires go together. Use only enough solder to effectively bond the wiring together. You don't want to use too much since you still have to slide the heat shrink tubing over the exposed ends.

Click to enlarge

Once you've completed one switch, turn the key on again and double check that the windows still go up and down. Solder the other switch wires together and do the same for the other side. Now, get your lighter and slide the pieces of heat shrink tubing over the soldered connections of the switch wiring. GENTLY heat the tubing so that it shrinks down nice and tight. The wiring is done.

Click to enlarge

Go through your car, and pick up all the little bits of wiring, and vacuum all the dust from modifying your console. Reinstall your shift boot, straigthen everything up, and you're done.

Click to enlarge

The images and information contained in this procedure are the property of Josh Anderson and Andrew Bird. Duplication or unauthorized use of the information or images are striclty prohibited. This article has been reproduced with permission for


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