A couple of cars before my E92 M3, I had an E46 with the performance (ZHP)package. As anyone who has had the pleasure of owning an E46 ZHP can attest, it is an amazing car. One of the many improvements over the standard E46 was a shortened and weighted shift knob, which really smooths out the shifts and feels very solid. It made the notchy and rubbery shifting that has almost become expected from BMW shifters bearable. The ZHP shift knob is so popular that many have transplanted it onto other BMW models, including the E92 M3.
The E92 M3 tranny and shifter aren't any better than their predecessors, and the stock shift knob doesn't help. As others have discovered, the shifter is plastic and hollow, which makes it feel light, insubstantial and vibration prone. It also sits a tad high, which only contributes to the long throws. Whether you have a SSK or not, adding the ZHP shift knob is a must-do mod, if you want a more solid feel to your shifting. The added weight also helps smooth out some of the notchiness.
The biggest problem in the past has been that the ZHP shift knob, while it has the same emblem on top, isn't illuminated. Others on this forum, like ///Metak, have gotten around this problem by performing "surgery" on the ZHP knob and wiring it for illumination. It's a lot of work and easy to make a mistake, and let's face it, most of us don't have the time or the desire to do a job like this. If you're the adventurous type, here's a link
to ///Metak's DIY, which is excellent.
Well, a much easier alternative is now available from LeatherZ. They've done the hard part, and pre-wired the ZHP shift knobs for illumination. They even offer a number of choices for the emblem on top (I went with the one that is the same as our OEM emblems). Here's a link
to the webpage where you can find them.
Anyway, here's a quick write-up of my install of the illuminated ZHP shift knob from LeatherZ:
First, remove the boot trim from the center console. All you have to do is pinch the leather at the side of the trim piece and pull up. It should unsnap without much pulling.
Next, disconnect the plug connecting the shift light with the car's electrical system.
Now, you can remove the shift knob. This will take some work. The shift knob fits very tightly on the selector rod. You should be able to pull straight up on the knob to remove it. Use both hands and pull straight up (don't twist), being careful not to hit yourself or the rear view mirror when it unsnaps free. If it's really stuck on there and no amount of effort will pull it loose, you can pry open the plastic retaining clips with a screwdriver as shown below. It should then be easy enough to pull free.
Once you have the shift knob removed, you'll have to cut the boot off of the stock knob. Unfortunately, the shift boot is integrated with the stock knob. Another option is to order a replacement shift boot from LeatherZ at the same time you order the shift knob. They have a lot of well-crafted alternatives. Otherwise, just turn the boot inside-out, pull it down as far as it goes and start cutting as shown below. It really helps to use a very sharp knife.
Once you have separated the boot from the knob, you're ready for the next stage. Unfortunately, the plug for the E92 M3 (and all BMWs after 2001) is not readily available as a stand-alone part, so Leather Z, ships its knobs with the pre-2001 wiring. The stock plug looks like this:
and the plug you need, looks like this:
This means that the LeatherZ illuminated ZHP shift knob is not plug and play with our M3s, but the fix is simple enough.
You have two options. One is to use the two included T-taps to connect the two wires from the ZHP knob to the two wires to the car. I don't have any pictures of this (because I took option 2), but it's extremely easy, even for someone who's never done anything like this before, and the knob from LeatherZ includes directions for those of you who have never used T-taps before. No cutting is required, so returning to stock is completely painless.
I don't like to use T-taps. I prefer to solder my connections directly, so that's what I did. To do this, you'll need to cut off the stock plug as shown below. Cut far enough away from the plug so that if you ever need to re-attach it, you'll have enough wire to work with, but not so far that you don't have anything left to attach the new plug to. 1 - 1.5 inches is a good place to make your cut.
Once cut, now, you'll have to strip the wire ends for soldering.
Once the new plug has been soldered on, tape up the area with electrical tape or use heat shrink wrapping instead.
Now you're ready to install the new knob and the boot you cut earlier. Take the wires from the new knob and run them through the boot (still inside out) and then plug them into the new plug.
Now use a small zip tie (I used a 4" zip tie) to sinch the top of the boot (still inside out) onto the selector rod as shown below.
Once this is done, you'll want to secure the plug and wiring so that it doesn't rattle around. I first taped the top of the wires to the selector rod and then taped the whole plug to the selector rod as shown below.
Now firmly push the knob onto the selector rod until it locks in. Then snap the boot trim piece back into the center console And you're finished! Here's how it should look when you're done.
Now take a test drive to make sure everything is solid and working properly and to enjoy the much smoother and more solid and substantial feel of your shifter. I also like the silver trim around the bottom of the knob. It's a nice touch.
I hope this is helpful. If anyone has any questions, I'm happy to try to answer them. Also, if anyone wants them, I can take and upload some night pictures showing the illumination. It looks just like stock.