Background: My 99 M3 was purchased with 40k+ miles and I replaced the OEM radiator with a Zionsville Autosport Aluminum Radiator at roughly 75k miles. I decided to spend a little more and went with the Zionsville setup because their radiator is 100% aluminum and does not have failure prone plastic necks. However, the regular Zionsville aluminum radiator still uses the OEM plastic expansion tank and radiator shroud. My car will see 8-10 track weekends a year and I drive it 4-5 days a week on the street. A few weeks ago I noticed my coolant levels were slowly dropping and I had to top off my coolant twice in two weeks. I also noticed my fan clutch was starting to make noise so I decided it was time to perform a little maintenance on my cooling system. I suspected my OEM expansion tank needed replacement and my fan clutch was probably due as well. I started pricing options and came across the new Zionsville E36 Competition Cooling Kit and decided to give it a try since it eliminated the plastic OEM expansion tank and allowed me to remove my engine fan all together.
Description: The E36 Competition Cooling Kit comes with an aluminum radiator with aluminum expansion tank, aluminum shroud, and a 16-inch Spal electric fan. I also picked up the optional wiring kit (highly recommended) to complete the install. The setup shipped in a well-packed double-boxed container with everything fully assembled. The wiring kit is a Spal specific kit including a relay, relay harness, inline fuse adapter, terminals, temp sender (not used), and connectors.
Construction: The Competition Cooling Kit is an expansion on Zionsville’s popular aluminum radiator. They mounted a 16-inch Spal electric fan on an aluminum shroud. They also added an aluminum expansion tank that accepts all the OEM factor hoses and coolant level sender. The only difference compared to OEM is the location of the bleeder opening. It is relocated to drain closer towards the passenger side of the radiator cap housing. All OEM mounting points are the same.
Install: The install was pretty straightforward and fitment was absolutely perfect. You retain all the factory mounts and you use the OEM coolant level sensor and temp sender. I drained my existing radiator, disconnected the hoses, and released the OEM mounting clips. I transferred the OEM coolant level sensor and temp sender and installed the petcock (included with kit) in the drain hole of the new radiator. I also had to reuse the OEM expansion tank hose that runs along the top of the radiator. Once all the necessary OEM components were installed on the new setup, I simply dropped it in the car, connected the upper and lower radiator hoses and snapped the OEM mounting clips back down. I filled with 50/50 OEM coolant and distilled water and started on the wiring. Also, there is plenty of clearance between the Spal fan and the OEM fan shaft.
Wiring: The wiring is not very difficult if you get the optional wiring kit. The Spal fan attached to the radiator shroud has a male connector that mates up to a female connector in the wiring kit. The simple setup is to wire the Spal fan to come up with the factor auxiliary fan. I believe my 99 M3 temp sender turns everything on at 195F. You can install different temperature rated senders to adjust the trigger temp if necessary. I located the Spal relay in the engine compartment right below the ECU housing. The screw holding the positive battery terminal mount is a great location to secure the relay and it allows enough room to run all the wiring. The factory temp sender is tapped easily with a wire splice and spade connector for the relay trigger. You also need to splice tap the #16 position wire on the ODBII diagnostic port for switched power to turn on the relay. You can also wire in an optional bypass switch if you want to be able to manually control the fan…which is handy if your car is sitting at a standstill for a long time on a hot day.
Impressions: Everything works flawlessly and the install was pretty easy. The only thing I have left to do is run a little more wiring for the bypass switch I plan to mount in the cabin. I haven’t decided where I want to locate the switch so I’ll wait until next weekend. I tested the setup after I was done bleeding all the air out of the system. Yesterday was the hottest day we’ve seen this summer…102F…and the car ran cool as usual even with a few 6500 RPM romps on the highway and 15 minutes at a complete standstill on an asphalt parking lot. Overall, I’m very happy with the setup and can’t wait to try it out at the track. Hell, it even looks cool.
I highly recommend Zionsville Autosport. They are a good group of guys. Dwight sent me wiring diagrams and we had a 20-minute conversation on the phone Friday afternoon to review the setup and he answered all of my questions. He also stated they tested the setup with half the radiator taped up to simulate blockage and they did not notice any significant rise in temps.
Here’s some information from Zionsville Autosport’s website:
Zionsville Autosport E36 Competition Cooling Kit Product Link:
Zionsville Autosport Aluminum Radiator Product Link:
Email me if you have any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org