E36 OE Keyless Entry Retrofit

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BMW E36 OE Keyless Entry Retrofit


In a quest to have a good keyless entry system on my 1998 E36 328i it recently dawned upon me that it would be possible to retrofit an OE keyless entry system to the E36. The keyless entry system people always think of in regard to the E36 is the Alpine system that was either dealer or customer installed. It consists of a separate module that plugs in to a prewired harness behind the glovebox along with a siren in the engine bay and two separate remote fobs. What most people in the US don’t know is that a keyless entry option was offered from the factory in the ROW market. It used the GMIV module as the keyless entry and alarm module, just like the 2001-2002 Z3 models with option SA305. When optioned from the factory the key had the remote built in. This post explains how I retrofitted this to my E36. The theory behind this retrofit can be applied to other BMW models as well.

Gathering The Parts

After studying the European E36 wiring diagram I figured out what I needed. The main thing was a remote control module. This receives the keyless entry signal and sends it to the general module. The remote control module that would work best for retrofitting is inside of the rearview mirror of E31, E34 and Z3 models optioned with keyless entry from the factory. I had originally removed the remote control module from an E31 mirror I had and was going to mount it behind the glovebox while extending the antenna along the passenger A pillar. The module worked, but I think I accidentally fried it as it quit working. After checking eBay, I discovered that remote control mirrors from Z3s are now fairly cheap considering their age now. I ended up buying one of these mirrors and left the module inside of it.

The parts I used consisted of the following:

  • 1 Z3 mirror containing a remote control module – $50
  • 1 uncut key shell – $11
  • 1 key remote circuit board – $FREE from old 1999 E39 key I had
  • 1 virgin transponder chip – $FREE from key parts I already had
  • 10 fan connectors (BMW part 61131387142) – $1.90 I only used 6, but it is good to have spares.
  • 1 comb connector (BMW part 61131387150) – $4.45
  • 2 five position comb connector housings (BMW part 61131393719) – $2.24
  • correct color coded TXL wire – $33.05
  • MQS pins for mirror plug – $FREE samples from TE Connectivity
  • 10 position male plug for mirror – $FREE sample from TE Connectivity
  • rearview mirror wiring grommet (BMW part 61138365522) – $FREE from parts I already had

$102.64 total retrofit parts cost

Wiring Information

This is the diagram I used to determine how to wire the remote control module.

E36 Keyless Entry Diagram

The remote control module is in the middle marked as module A194y. The pins I used for the retrofit were 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 and 10

Pin 2 on the module goes to switched ignition power. This is necessary for entering the remote control module into programming mode so a keyless remote can be synced with the module.

Pin 3 goes to power hot at all times.

Pin 5 is the lock signal.

Pin 6 is the unlock signal.

Pin 7 is the door contact signal.

Pin 10 is ground.

Pins not used include 1, 4 and 8. Pin 1 is for an autodimming rearview mirror. The ’01-’02 Z3s with keyless entry do not have this wire. This just undims the mirror when the car is in reverse. Pins 4 and 8 are for module communication through the 22 pin connector. I did not see a reason to connect these wires, but if I find out they have a good purpose I will update this in the future.

In theory this information could also be used to retrofit keyless entry on other BMW models. The main things that would need to be wired are the constant power, ignition switched power, ground and the lock and unlock signals.


Besides having a perfectly functioning OE equivalent keyless entry system I wanted to perform this retrofit without splicing into any wires or using any wire taps. After studying the wiring diagrams for the E36 I figured out that every wire I would need to connect to had a junction somewhere in the car. 5 out of 6 of them were located in the large black splice block behind the glovebox where the majority of the splice panels are located. The other wire is the switched ignition power wire and that splice panel is located under the driver’s seat underneath the carpet.

This is the key I purchased along with the transponder chip that I programmed. I have never been able to find an uncut key with the light button in place of the trunk button, similar to the E31, ROW E36 and Z3 keys. For those who are wondering, a diamond shape BMW key will work. I chose this style key because it is period correct.

This is before I cut the key.

This is after I cut and polished the key. Note that I have a key cutting machine so I was able to do this. If you do not have a machine that can cut keys you can find a local locksmith that will be able to cut a key for you. I also programmed a new transponder for this key, but if you are unable to do this you can just swap a transponder from a current key that you have.

This is what the splice block looks like behind the glovebox.

Here I attached a comb connector to the splice panel for the ground. There was one space left.

Crimping on a fan connector. I ended up returning this crimping tool as it performed horribly. If you see one like it do not purchase it.

Applying heat shrink to the end. This is probably not necessary, but I felt like adding it was extra insurance in case the crimp began to fail.

Attaching the fan connector to the lock signal splice panel.

Completely pressed on taking up the last spot. Once the fan connector is pressed all of the way down it locks on to the comb connector. They are not meant to be pulled off which I unfortunately realized.

Attaching the fan connector for terminal 30 constant power.

The installed fan connector took up the last available spot.

Here I am pointing at the two comb connectors, the unlock signal and door contact signal, that do not have an extra space for another wire. This can easily be resolved.

This is what a 3 position housing looks like. The next largest size is a 5 position housing.

No space left.

This is a 5 position housing next to a 3 position housing.

A new comb connector from BMW contains 17 positions. It is made to cut to the size needed.

I had to crimp new fan connectors to all of these wires after destroying all three of them trying to remove them. This is how I found out they lock into place.

Inserted in to the new five position housing.

The large splice block had one extra space to hold a five position comb connector. All of these one extra positions made me think that this is how the OE keyless is actually wired.

I realized that if a small jeweler’s flat head screwdriver or a pick is used, the fan connectors can be “unlocked” and carefully pulled of the the comb connector with minimal damage by carefully bending these end tabs up.

Door contact signal wire along with new five position comb connector and housing.

Both comb connectors side by side in the splice block.

The last wire to be tapped in was the terminal R ignition switched power under the driver’s seat. The driver’s seat, driver’s kick panel and door seal trim had to be removed for this.

Using a long zip tie, I fished the wire behind the dashboard.

My original wire was too short and I had to splice in an extra 10 feet. I used a lineman’s splice for this.

Twisting together.

Adding heatshrink.

Interesting side note. There was a spare hood release handle underneath the carpet. It must have been dropped there at the factory. It was pretty interesting to see it there, so I left it.

Adding the extra fan connector to the comb connector. This was the only comb connector with an extra spot left after adding another wire to it.

Comb connector back in its housing.

I then ran wire harness tape (non-adhesive tape) around the wire bundle to keep it secure.

Carpet vacuumed and ready to reinstall everything.

I ran the wires across the wire loom behind the glovebox and up along the passenger A pillar.

I used wire harness tape in several places to secure it. I had to remove the front visors, visor holders and passenger grip handle to drop the front portion of the headliner so I had access to run the wires over to the mirror.

After the wires were completely ran and secured I buttoned everything back up behind the glovebox and reinstalled the glovebox and lower kick panel.

I do my best to always run wires under any zip ties or wire holders that the factory wiring is held by.

Up to the left of the harness in the middle are the wires for the remote control module.

I found a new grommet for a rearview mirror wiring harness that I had and decided to use it.

I ran the wires through the grommet and shortened them by about three more inches and then began crimping on the MQS pins.

After the wires were installed into their respective positions on the rearview mirror connector.

Plugged into the mirror with a near factory appearance.

57 Responses

  1. kjell jakob risnes

    i am retrofitting this too! but i do not have the door signal wire. i dont have the brown-red-yellow wire.. do you have any idea to what i can do then?

    • TC2

      Hello there! What model and year BMW are you doing this retrofit on? I will look up some wiring diagrams to help you.

      • Jurgen Puype

        I have the same problem.
        The mirror I have came from an 1994 320i and is intended for a 1995 318i convertible.

        When I compare the wires in the mirror with the bentley schematics, I’m missing 2 wires:
        – Pin 1 (Blue/Yellow, but I read somewhere this is for the autodimming function, so no biggie)
        – Pin 7 (Door handle switch)

        And the Pin 6 looks more like Blue/Violet/Yellow than the Blue/Red/Yellow the schematic says.

        These pins 1 & 7 are missing at the connect at the connector in the mirror stalk.
        When I open the mirror up there seem to be 8 wires going into the electronics card itself.
        Would it be possible that wire 7 just needs to be added from the door to that connector in the mirror stalk?

        • TC2

          Jurgen, yes the blue/yellow is to turn off the autodimming when the vehicle is put in reverse. I know it has been awhile since you commented so I don’t know if you already figured it out, but I would have ran the extra wire for pin 7 like you mentioned.

    • TC2

      Hello Cristian,

      I listed several of the needed part numbers at the beginning of the post.
      Was there a specific part you need that I did not list a part number for?

  2. Hristian

    Nice job man. I also tried to retrofit this but i also can’t find the lock signal and the door signal. Can you tell me on wich pins i should connect the wires directly to the ZKE module because i’m with euro e36 ’97 and the wire “box” lice on the pics are different. Thank you.

    • TC2

      Hello Hristian,

      I would be happy to help. The color of the wires are the same so you should be able to tap into them that way while still following my guide.

      Could you send me a link of a picture of your wires behind your glovebox?


  3. Hristian

    Hi, and thank you for the reply. Now i have some issues with the GM module and first i will try to fix that. I’m not sure did i broke it with my wiring or not but i have allready purchase another one. I found the 2 door signals on the green plug but they are separete for each door. After few days when i have time to work on my car i will make you a photos. P.S. Im sorry for my bad english and also for the other reply where i wrote the same things ! 😀

  4. cristian prigol

    Hello. I already bought the parts I need. Now I will start work on my 325 euro e36.
    Were you able to synchronize the keys with the rearview mirror normally as you speak in the manual? Did everything work?

    • TC2

      Hello Cristian,

      Yes, once the keyless entry module is retrofitted you will be able to synchronize the keyless remote as one normally would.

      If you have any other questions just let us know!

      • cristian prigol

        Thanks for your help.
        Finally finished and now working.

    • TC2

      I am not 100% sure whether it will work with either. My gut instinct is that it will. What year and model do you have? I will look at the wiring diagrams to see.

  5. andrei

    can you detail pin to gm4?where should I link the threads 2,3,5,6,7,10 directly into gm4 module, because I do not have the same colors.I bought a mirror oem bmw e36 with the same module as yours but behind the glove I have other colors.I have a bmw e36 from 97 variant of europe,and wiring diagram that you post the bmw z3 is not the same as the bmw e36 coupe because it differs pini asigment.you can help me with pins 5 6 and 7 with the specific location?thank you in advance

  6. Andrei

    The pin 2and 3 is rong.
    The pin 2 go to 12v all times and pin 3 go to 12v on contact.now is working

    • TC2

      I’m glad you got it working! It seems that the wiring was different for your model. Best regards!

      • cristian prigol

        Hello. Thanks for your help.
        same for me. pin 2 and 3 wrong. (1995 325 EURO)

        Now is working.

      • Robin K.

        I dont think this is different from EURO to US cars. Pin 2 is constant 12V (Kl. 30) and Pin 3 is Radio (R, switched 12V). The Red-Green wires below the seat are also constant 12V not R. Purple-White is switched radio power. The connector for the radio on the back also has this color.

  7. Bugbear

    Hello! I am also retrofitting remote locking and alarm on a euro Z3 from 10/99 and I have discovered that my car is allready prewired for all this. Must be the same for other e36 with ZKE IV.
    I found out that there is a connector (X1143) between the ZKE IV module and the mirror with all the wires you need.
    Connector is located on the driver side above speaker at the floor. You need to remove the panels that sits above pedals and under steering wheel. It was a pain to find because it was taped up and well hidden behind a big cable harness near some relays to the side wall.
    I bought a mirror from ebay complete with the cable harness and connector . Not very often seen, most mirrors have cables cut off. Make sure you get the wright frequency because there is 315 and 433mhz mirrors, one is for US and the other for Euro.
    Run cables down A pillar on driver side and connect.
    I also bought 2 keys from ebay that i am still waiting for so not tested it yet.
    If it works fine i might buy some original keys from BMW.
    I hope this can help some.

    • Bugbear

      I found out that you can buy the mirror cable harness new from BMW.
      Partnr: 61128401352 for cars up to -04/97
      Partnr: 61108407823 for cars from 05/97-
      Comes complete with rubber gromet and connector to mirror and to X1143.

        • Bugbear

          Thank you TC2 for a fantastic detailed write up. Seems to be a lot of electric variations between model years.

  8. Bugbear

    Hi Max. My Z3 is a facelifted roadster, build 10/99.
    Im happy to tell you that the 433 mhz keys i bought from ebay is working just fine. I coded them to the system like an original key. Got them cut at a local locksmith.
    I dont think the battery is rechargeable like in the original key though, but im very pleased with it.

    • Bugbear

      I forgot to tell that I have only got the remote locking up and running. I have installed all alarm parts but it wont work. I have found out that it needs to be coded to the ZKE (GM) IV module.

    • TC2

      Hello Mihai, thanks for the comment. You can use a mirror from an E46, E39 or even an E31. The mirror in my car is from an E39. Best regards.

  9. Agshin

    Thank you for such amazing info!

    I bought an retrofit kit from another e36, mirror+ wiring harness (ttl 9 wires on it) and key.

    So my questions is:
    1) wires are 9 and the are cutted at the end, will it be same process as you described or something different?
    2) The key that i got ofcourse i will get new shell and will cut it as mine. But what to do with chip? Ews, how i can make it work? do i have to reprogram the key?
    I will highly appreciate for your help.

    • TC2

      Hello Stefan,

      This will essentially work on any BMW as the remote control module is a standalone unit tied into the central locking system. You will need to consult a wiring diagram for your specific model to make sure you connect to the correct inputs.

  10. İsmail


    I have an e36 m3 vehicle in 1998. american version of my vehicle.
    When I bought it there was only one key. and there was not remote control.
    Now I bought a key from the remote control but in my car only 5 wires come to the mirror part and the socket that will enter the mirror is 10 pin.

    I don’t know exactly where the cables should come from.

  11. Mohammad Al-Kilani

    Could you tell me if this could work on an e30 ??
    Regardless of what parts do we need

    • TC2

      Yes, it is possible for this to work on an E30. The keyless entry module is essentially a standalone unit. You just need to wire it into power and then the appropriate inputs for the central locking.

  12. Andi Selaj

    What pin did you use for the Alarm LED/Lamp that sits in the center console by the 12V/Cigarette Lighter

    • TC2

      Hello Andi,

      The pin for the alarm LED will vary depending on the model. What BMW do you have? Have you looked at the accompanying wiring diagram for it?

  13. Mihai Vlad

    there’s someone here who did that how we manage to program two keys for the same car

    • TC2

      Hello Mihai,

      Are you asking how to program two keyless remotes to the car? You follow the same process as programming one remote, but program the second immediately after the first in the same sequence.

  14. Ed

    I’d love to do this on my ’99 M3, but how can I be sure a mirror on eBay is what I need?

    • TC2

      Good morning Ed, this is the part number of the mirror that contains the remote control module. 51168213057.

    • TC2

      Good morning Ed, the part number for the correct rear view mirror is 51168213057.

  15. Arbaaz

    Hi. Thanks for the write up and pictures. I’ve done exactly what you’ve done but it doesn’t work. I have a 1998 Euro spec Saloon.

    I’ve checked all wires, changed the mirror twice, checked the key but still not working. The key does flash but the locking dosent lock and unlock. Any ideas what it could be? I’m completely lost.

    • TC2

      It’s hard to say. Since you have a Euro model make sure to review a wiring diagram for your specific model. The general module may also need to be changed to a HIGH module. I had to do that to my M Coupe.

  16. Laxitha Perera

    Hey can you do a retrofit kit for this. So we can do a plug and play. Any thoughts?

    • TC2


      I completed a retrofit on my US spec ’99 M Coupe and I considered making a kit for that. I hadn’t considered one for the E36. If I had the time I would consider making one.

  17. Zee

    How to identify that mirror have IR or RF..?
    how i can see the part number in the mirror..?

    • TC2

      That’s a good question. If I remember correctly the IR and RF mirrors look different. If the module inside of the mirror looks like the one in the post it should work.

  18. Salvadoras

    Hey! I have tried to retrofit this into 1992 e36 which has zvm module instead of zke, i’ve used 24/25 pins for locking and unlocking, seemed like i wired everything correctly, but still cannot program the key to the mirror, although dimming works just fine, any help maybe ? thanks!

    • TC2

      Are you sure you wired the power wires correctly? The keyless entry module in the mirror won’t enter programming mode unless it sees switched power from the ignition.

      • Salvadoras

        Soo, much later, now i fixed up my e36, passed inspection, and decided to look into it again by firstly trying to program the key… And it worked ! i think my problem was a bad battery, after changing it, seems working ! 🙂 But there’s one issue… I can lock the car, but when i press the unlock button, my door window slides a bit down (because of coupe), goes back and doesn’t unlock anything 🙁 so i guess i missed something or misread 🙁 I’m guessing i mismatched the door contact wire with the unlocking wire… But at least i know it works on 1992 e36 coupe with ZVM module and doesn’t need any recoding what so ever ! Now all i need is to figure out what i did wrong and fix it 🙂

  19. Bahmanson

    Hi. I want to retrofit it on to my 1995 e36 328 iA. I checked 98 wires and zke blok are different from 95 i think because facelift and prefacelift. From 95 bmw e36 etm checked all pins(lock, unlock, door handle switch, +12v and ground) and connected rear view mirror wires. But it didnt work. Can u help me?

  20. MParallel

    Pin 7 isn’t needed. Only lock and unlock. Pin 7 door contact is to remotely turn on the interior lights. (hence door contact connection). That’s what the ‘trunk’ button is for, which on the factory E36 keys, is a shining bulb symbol, as no E36 ever had an eletronic trunk unlock. E46.E38, E39 did, but these Chinese copies never bothered making the correct E36 version (which makes sense business wise).

    Auto-dimming mirrors are now cheap as hell too, so you might as well get the remote+dimming version and just add the power wire for the dipping. Pin1 reverse is optional, but while you are at it, why not.

    I went one step further back in 2010, as my car is EU spec and already came with option 302 (remote+alarm) and that was swapping my factory remote+dimming mirror for a 2006+ autodimming/flatnose alarm/digital compass mirror. These don’t have remote electronics on board, so I swapped the remote control PCB from one mirror to the other.
    Then hookup up the factory alarm LED wire up to the mirror harnass to have the LED on the mirror working. Which is much better as now you can see from ‘miles away’ the alarm is armed, instead of having to look through the windows.

  21. Martin Hegarty

    Currently trying to retrofit this to my Euro E36 and having the same issue as a few people on here. My car does not have the door lock and door latch wires (Pin 5 & Pin 7). I have located the ZKE and where these wires are suppose to be located there is just an empty pin. Can I just put these wires into the correct pins and wire it to the mirror? Would appreciate any help to try and get this working!

    • TC2

      Hello Martin,

      Do you have access to the WDS for your specific year and model? That will probably clear up some wiring confusion that you are having.

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