BMW E46 Shift Knobs & Shift Boots: 6-Speed & 5-Speed

If your shift knob or shift boot on our BMW E46 is damaged or worn, you’re going to want to replace it with a new one. After all, we’re talking about an integral part of your car here. The problem is making the right choice. Should you only go with the proprietary BMW ones or are third-party options just as good? Let’s take a look.

Top 5 BMW E46 Shift Knobs and Boots

As you probably know, there are multiple shift knob/boot options for your E46 BMW. With this in mind, we’ve outlined a list of five top quality replacement shift knobs and boots for your BMW E46, some from BMW, some from other manufacturers.

1. BMW E46 6-Speed Shift Knob

Quick Overview

  • Genuine OEM BMW accessory
  • 6-Speed leather shift knob compatible with E46
  • OEM build quality and durability
  • No shift boot replacement included

The 6-speed knob is very popular because many E46 M3 models come with it factory-installed. Unfortunately, there have been known instances where the default knobs would get very loose and even come off the shifter. If you loved the factory-default one on your E46 M3 car, you’ll be more than satisfied with this model. Unlike its factory-installed counterpart, this knob will stay firmly in place. The 6-speed BMW knob is manufactured by BMW and doesn’t come with a boot.

Compatibility and Fitment:

  • 2001-2005 BMW 330i
  • 2001-2006 BMW 330ci
  • 2003-2006 BMW 330i ZHP
  • 2000-2006 BMW M3

2. BMW E46 5-Speed Shift Knob (Genuine Leather)

Quick Overview

  • Genuine BMW accessory
  • 5-Speed leather shift knob compatible with E46
  • OEM build quality and durability
  • No shift boot replacement included

Without a doubt, the best thing about this E46-compatible knob is its genuine leather build and feel. It has a classic BMW sporty appearance and features the M Series logo on it. This is an original BMW-made knob for E46 5-speed models that don’t come with a boot; you’ll have to buy one separately.

Compatibility and Fitment:

  • 2001-2005 BMW 330i
  • 2001-2006 BMW 330ci
  • 2003-2006 BMW 330i ZHP
  • 2000-2006 BMW M3

3. Pursuestar 5-Speed Shift Knob for E46

Quick Overview

  • Aftermarket shift knob compatible with BMW
  • Genuine leather and quality ABS material
  • Compatible with 5-speed E46s
  • Cost-effective replacement

Pursuestar makes a variety of shifter-related items, and BMW shift knobs are one of them. This isn’t BMW’s proprietary model, but it performs just as well. It’s comfortable, has a nice leather look and feel to it, and it stays firmly in place with your car’s shifter. The advantage here is that this knob is significantly cheaper than its BMW-manufactured counterparts, and it offers on-par build quality. You may not get the BMW or M logos, but it will more than do the trick. Pursuestar’s 5-speed leather knob doesn’t come with a boot.

Compatibility and Fitment:

  • 1999-2005 BMW 3 Series E46 (5-speed manual transmission only)
  • 1991-1998 BMW 3 Series E36 (5-speed manual transmission only)

4. Pursuestar Leather 5-Speed Shift Knob and Boot

Quick Overview

  • Set of 5-speed shift knob with matching leather boot for E46
  • PU leather with double stitching that matches factory looks

For around the quarter of the price of a genuine BMW knob, you can get this Pursuestar’s shift knob and a boot cover. There might not be a BMW or M logo on the product, but the boot is lined with white, blue, and red stitching, which suits BMW’s M logo perfectly. The knob here is resistant microfiber leather and quality ABS. The boot is made out of top-quality PU leather. The best thing about this product from Pursuestar is that you also get a handbrake boot cover to match the one on the shift, all for an amazingly low price.

Compatibility and Fitment:

  • 1999-2005 BMW 3 Series E46 (5-speed manual transmission only)
  • 1991-1998 BMW 3 Series E36 (5-speed manual transmission only)

5. AUTOHAUX BMW E46 Leather Boot Cover

Quick Overview

  • Replacement shift boot for BMW
  • PU leather material and double stitching gives it great durability at a low cost

There isn’t a better leather boot cover that is reminiscent of the ‘90’s BMW models on the market. It is made out of leather and looks prestigious and cool. Its no-nonsense appearance doesn’t feature any colorful stitching or gimmicks – it’s a leather boot cover that protects your shifter from dust and debris. The X AUTOHAUX cover is completely vegan, as it’s made of PU leather. Its feel, however, is very genuine and sleek.

Compatibility and Fitment:

  • 1999-2005 BMW 3 Series E46 (5-speed manual transmission only)
  • 1991-1998 BMW 3 Series E36 (5-speed manual transmission only)

How to Replace a Manual BMW Shift Knob:

As complicated as shift knob replacement may sound, you’ll be happy to learn that this is very much a DIY activity, at least with E46 BMWs. Of course, we’re talking about manual E46 models here. None of the above-mentioned knob models will fit an automatic E46.

bme e46 m3 shifter

1. Remove the factory shift knob

To get things started, simply pull out the old knob. It is pressed into a groove located toward the top of the shift lever. Make sure that your transmission is in second gear. Then, start pulling the knob and, for safety, pull it toward your chest and not your head.

You may have to pull extra hard to take the old knob out. If it’s loose or broken, however, you don’t have to yank it too hard. The best way to go would be to start pulling slowly and gradually increase the pressure until the knob comes off.

2. Install the new shift knob

Now that the old knob is out, it’s time to install the new one. Fortunately, the installation process is even simpler and physically easier than removing the knob. Simply slide it over the lever and firmly press downward. You should hear and feel when the knob snaps into place. Start with a gentle push and gradually increase the force until it’s firmly in place.

How to replace a BMW shift boot:

Boots, on the other hand, are a bit more complex. Don’t worry though, you’ll swap it in no time and on your own. Once you’ve removed the shift knob, start prying the trim along the old boot edges. Do this in slow, careful motions. Remove the boot from the frame. Use sandpaper to clean the frame of any glue residue.

Now, glue the new boot to the edges of the frame using epoxy-based glue. Reinstall the frame once the glue has dried off. Then, use the instructions from above to put the knob in place. Installing the handbrake boot is performed based on the same principle.

Would These Fit the E46 M3?

E46 BMWs have either five or six speeds. The immensely popular and brilliant E46 M3 model comes only in 6-speed versions. So, as long as the compatible knob has six speeds, it should fit every E46 M3 model perfectly. E46 M3 models also come in the SMG-II automated manual transmission form. This is also known as “clutchless transmission” and includes a manual shift switching mode.

The automated manual transmission version, however, has a completely different shifter type. So, if you have an SMG-II version of the E45 M3 model, none of the above-mentioned knobs, 6-speed or not, will fit your vehicle.

When it comes to boots and handbrake covers, every option from the list will make for a perfect fit. These are also incredibly simple and straightforward to install.

Final Thoughts

No matter which of the above-mentioned knobs and boots you opt for, you’re looking at a very quick installation process. There is no need to take your car to the shop or visit an authorized BMW service. Follow the method we’ve outlined and you’ll have the knob installed in a matter of minutes. Boots take a little more time and effort to put in place, but it’s all very straightforward stuff.

So, which knob and boot are the best options here? Well, if you’re looking for original knobs from BMW, the first two will satisfy your needs, depending on whether you’re driving a 5- or 6-speed E46. However, the Pursuestar alternatives are fantastic and feel and perform just as well. If you’re into a more traditional type of look/feel, get the X AUTOHAUX knob boot. If you’re looking for a two-in-one type of deal, the Puruestar knob, knob boot, and handbrake boot is a great option.

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