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Many will tell you that the E36 brakes that come from the factory are adequately sized for the car, which I would have to agree with. They are more than capable of stopping the car safely and predictably, even on a track with the correct brake components. However, they can be improved upon. The successor to the E36, the E46, has brake components that bolt right on without any modifications whatsoever to the E36 setup. It is said that the front brakes from an E46 330i, paired with the rear brakes from an E46 325i/328i, are the perfect combination and provide the perfect brake bias of 68% front and 32% rear. The rear rotors also match up perfectly with the factory e-brake, eliminating any necessary modifications to that. The downfall is 17″ wheels are a requirement in order to fit the new larger brakes. No biggie, we have M3 contour wheels, which just so happen to be 17″ wheels!
Now that we have determined that we want E46 brakes, we needed to choose the rotor and pad combination for the brake setup. After some research, the perfect setup for our budget was the Power Stop Z26 brakes that consist of drilled and slotted rotors, as well as a performance braking compound in the pads. They also offered a rebate of $60 if you purchase the front and rear sets. Though I am somewhat against drilled and slotted rotors, they do definitely look cool!
When the brakes arrived, I couldn’t wait to open the package and check out these new parts. After inspecting the front rotors, I almost thought that truck rotors were sent to me in a mistake since they are so huge! I was wrong, they are indeed 330i front brakes. The rear brakes also add cooling passages to the rotor, vs the solid rotor of the E36. Check them out!
The size of these monsters is very impressive, to say the least. With the red paint and drilled/slotted rotors, they definitely give off the appearance of a performance brake. I decided to paint the calipers red, since the car is red, and to contrast with the bronze wheel color.
Having fit a 17″ wheel on the car with the E46, it immediately becomes evident that they are necessary for the fitment of these brakes. There were balance weights on the inner diameter where the brake rotor resides, and the caliper sheared them right off when I spun the wheel due to the tight clearances!
Since I was going through the trouble to paint everything, I figured I may as well clean up the castings somewhat so that the paint would look a little nicer.
In order to carry the brake fluid from the master cylinder to the brake calipers, a full set of DOT approved stainless brake lines were installed.
While I was in the rear brakes, I noticed some spider cracking in the e-brake shoe, so new shoes were installed.