BMW Z3 CD Changer Installation
October 12, 1998
By: Carter Lee
After performing an easy speaker upgrade in the factory kickpanel locations, it was time to investigate the addition of a CD Changer. Numerous options exist, but not all are well-suited:
Fallacy: Add an aftermarket CD Changer using an adapter.
Previous generation BMW stereo systems of the 80’s and 90’s used relabeled PIONEER and ALPINE stereo head units. This allowed purchasing name-brand CD Changer units found in the competitive market and plugging it in or at worst, requiring a rewiring adapter. The current stereo in E36 BMWs including the Z3 is manufactured by Alpine but with proprietary signal/pinouts to BMW’s specifications. This means purchasing an Alpine-branded CD Changer for the factory head unit will not work.
Fallacy: Add an aftermarket CD Changer using FM broadcast signal.
The quality of the stereo’s FM has already been cited as poor, so what is the point of listening to CDs if their signals must travel through this weak path? Yet, some insist this as a viable option. It isn’t. Adding an aftermarket CD Changer that feeds it’s signal to the Z3 stereo’s FM receptor is akin to drinking champagne through a sewer pipe. Get the picture? In addition, such a unit would require a Changer Control Remote rattling around in the cockpit.
This leaves two solutions, gut the system and reinstall ALL aftermarket components (matching stereo head unit and changer), or install the OEM BMW CD Changer. Since MY goal of expanding the stereo system hasn’t changed since the previous stereo article, the latter option shall stand. One minor bonus to selecting this route is this CD Changer is relatively worthless to the thief who’d want to relocate it into his/her riced-out Honda Civic.
The BMW CD Changer is a $750 dealer-installed option. All Z3s are prewired for this changer. Although installation is a breeze and the Changer can be found for much cheaper via other sources, it has been mentioned that installation by the dealer will subject this part to the same remaining warranty as other parts of your car. Having said that, let’s focus on installing this CD Changer. NOTE: The following outlines some of the steps involved and in NO WAY should serve to replace the installation manual. MZ3.NET and the author assumes no responsibility for mishaps that may occur from failure or incompetence.
On 1996 and 1997 Z3 roadsters, the BMW part numbers required are #82-11-1-469-404 for the six-disc CD Changer and #82-11-1-469-440 for the Z3 Installation Kit.
The CD Changer includes a sampler disc of contemporary Chesky Records artists and a 6-disc magazine cartridge. The Z3 Installation Kit contains the mounting bracket, installation pamphlet, and a carpeted cover. This cover matches the Z3 trunk interior and has a storage pocket for an additional magazine cartridge.
For this 1996 Z3, the TWO prewired harnesses are found behind the right quarter carpeting. One harness was found easily by reaching behind and unfastening a piece of black securing tape. The other cable was found after removing the black cubby bin at the bottom of the trunk.
The CD Changer is shipped with locking screws intact to secure the internal dampening mechanism. Remove these three screws from the bottom of the CD Changer and cover the holes with enclosed sealing stickers.
Both sides of the Changer have pins set to the Horizontal setting by default. Secure this setting by covering the area with the enclosed Pin Labels. After the Pin Label is in place, look for the patch of Velcro and center it in the same area… it will be easier to do this now rather than after the Changer is mounted.
Screw the mounting bracket to the CD Changer. On the mounting bracket, the tab with two holes should be on the right of the CD Changer.
Attach the cables to the CD Changer… after both harnesses are plugged in, be careful not to pull on the Changer too much.
Three mounting bolts protrude from the top of the trunk cove. Use a 10mm socket wrench to fasten the CD Changer assembly to these bolts. There isn’t much room to swing the socket wrench… maybe 10 or 20 degree arcs… just keep working at it. Remember, you’re working with a lever so don’t over-torque the hardware or you risk striping the bolt threads.
The carpeted cover pushes into place. Velcro tabs attach to the Velcro patches you so thoughtfully stuck on earlier. The bottom slot is sized so an extra cartridge will fit snugly if it’s molded recessed arrow points outward. This is designed to prevent any rattling.
The cover stays closed with Velcro on the lip.
This CD Changer hardly intrudes into the trunk’s usable space. With the installation finished, it’s time to enjoy your tunes.
The included 6-disc cartridge has trays that slide partially out. The BMW CD Changer sees the bottommost tray as disc 1. When the cartridge is inserted, the Changer has access to power to check each tray for a disc. The shipping carton indicates that additional 6-disc cartridges are BMW part #82-11-1-469-406.
A seemingly viable alternative is to look for Alpine 6-disc cartridges. Stores that carry Alpine’s 6-disc CD Changer should be able to offer the cartridges. Most have found this two-pack at Circuit City.
Factory cartridge and Alpine cartridge work interchangeably despite the difference in appearance. The Factory cartridge is opaque black and has trays that stop after sliding out partways. The Alpine cartridge has a transparent upper casing and has trays that slide completely loose. While this may make for easier tray loading, reassembling all the trays back into the cartridge will require added caution. All six trays must be reinserted into the cartridge regardless of whether or not it contains a disc.
Once tooling top-down through your favorite stretch of road the CD Changer is activated by pressing the TAPE CD button on the stereo head unit. This button alone toggles between Cassette or CD Changer. Once in CD Changer mode, the six station preset buttons along the bottom is used to select disc. Pressing the left or right arrow button will skip tracks within the selected disc. Pressing the M button prior to an arrow button will allow scanning within a song. Hitting the SCAN button will cause the CD Changer to play an intro from each track on all the discs. Bill S recently e-mailed me to indicate that holding down the SCAN button will cause the Changer to Shuffle Play… This definitely wasn’t mentioned in the Radio Manual. I’ve verified that it will shuffle all tracks in non-sequential disc order.
After a month of driving with the CD Changer, it’s worth noting that the music has only skipped once when rounding a turn while hitting a rough track crossing. The CD Changer hasn’t skipped since. Suspension hasn’t been modified and wheels are factory-standard 16″ Michelin Pilots. Whether switching to AM/FM, Cassette or shutting off the car, the CD Changer will be suspended on the last-played disc and track position until it’s activated again.
That concludes installation of the BMW Z3 CD Changer. It should be tops on the consideration list for those intending to keep the factory head unit. It’s prewired to integrate fully and easily. It resides in unused trunk space. It installs easily. And unlike an in-dash CD head unit, there’s no indication to thieves of it’s existence or any removable faceplates to carry. An in-dash CD would likely find the cockpit cluttered with some type of CD wallet/album that would require stashing away or risk losing to passers-by…unless your collection exclusively consist of Chipmunks Sing the Holidays.