04 October 2017

Transmission and Differential Oils

When I had Randy do the rear subframe reinforcement, I supplied him with new BMW SAF-XJ in 1-liter bottles.  I had never seen these before and was excited to get them.  In reality when I picked up the car, I think the diff was loud.  So I have switched back to the Mercedes/Castrol 75W-140 SAF-XJ diff oil I buy from ECS.  You would think they work the same since they are both SAF-XJ, but they do not. 

Also, per the recommendation of a guy on Bimmerforums, I switched the transmission oil to standard Dexron III.  I used Motul, which is a higher end brand.  Previously I had been using BMW LT-2 but there is a theory that LT-2 causes the sticky shift pin issue.  Having replaced the shift pins on my S54, and knowing I don't want to do that job again, I am trying the Dexron III.  You cannot tell when you drive the car it is any different than LT-2.  Costs less too.

Refinishing the engine covers

The S52 (and I suspect, M54) engine covers rub against the underhood insulation.  All Z3s do it and this one was no exception.  Other owners report that you can use a silver Sharpie pen to fix it, but I went a different route.  When we got married, we made our own invitations with a tool called a brayer and imprint plates.  I used the same tools for this fix.  For the paint, I chose Por-15 Aluminum which is pretty much a dead-nuts exact match.

Por-15 High Temp Aluminum 8 ounces, $19.95r (Amazon)

iPod USB Bluetooth Audio

Outside of coupes, I am an audiophile.

I am slowly making the switch to high resolution audio on all of our devices at home and portable.  The X5 can read FLAC files off of a USB stick perfectly and the quality is obvious and fantastic.  Eventually, I am going to retire all of our iPods and replace them with FLAC, MQA, or other high-res capable devices.

I have not been happy with the sound in the coupenut car.  I recently set the gain on the amp to absolute minimum, and that helped tremendouosly.  But the real issue is at the source: the iPod.  CDs sounded much nicer.  To prepare for high-res, I changed out the CD changer-iPod adapter I had previously installed and I replaced it with a Grom USB3.  The advantage of the Grom is it has multiple inputs.  So for now, I can continue to run an iPod through it, but eventually I can run a straight 3.5mm headphone output from a high res device.  This means the DACs in the high res device do the work, not the Grom, not an iPod.  Also, the Grom unit has an optional Bluetooth adapter which is nice for phone calls and also streaming audio in a pinch.

I did but the Grom BMW trunk cable harness.  I didn't need a huge harness, but some extra slack is nice to relieve cable strain.

Grom USB3 = $149.99
Aux in and 5V USB charging cable = $14.99
Grom Bluetooth adapter = $49.99

Total cost of this mod = $214.97r

06 September 2017

Headliner Redux

During one of the drop offs to Randy Forbes, I noticed that the headliner in one of his coupes was sagging.  He hadn't noticed, and I think a lot of people don't notice either.  It's not natural to look up at the headliner.  At any rate, it bothered Randy, as he had an otherwise pristine, special coupe.  While Randy was working the subframe reinforcement on the Coupenut car, Randy asked if I would be willing to trade headliners so he could have a perfect one. Randy has done so much for me and beyond the work he has done directly on my cars, he has helped me with countless questions.  So I agreed.  We pulled the re-done headliner out of the Coupenut car and swapped it for his sagging one.  I will re-do the sagging one in Charleston and restore the Coupenut car a second time.  And, Randy gets his fixed without having to findn an upholsterer near him. 

At any rate, here is the tip.  This is a revision since the first time I did the headliner.  You do not have to remove both seats, you do not have to remove the steering wheel.  You certainly can if you like, as both will make it easier.  But, if the only job you are doing is the headliner, you can get by just removing the passenger seat and pushing the headliner out the passenger side door.  Here is a tip:  lower the driver side seat belt on the b-pillar to the lowest spot.  Put the driver's seat all the way forward, and recline it to maximum.  This will effectively lower the top of the driver's seat.  Then, get a helper to kneel at the driver's door.  The helper's job is to (a) guide the headliner while you rotate and drop it down and (b) protect the center console while the headliner edge rubs on it.

The headliner will bend some.  There is no avoiding it.  Try to keep the bends long and large and it will bend back into shape.  If you have to do it absolutely perfect and can accept no bending, the only choice is to remove the windshield and take it out from the front!

Randy Forbes Rear Subframe Reinfocement - Take II

Over the course of the last year, I have taken 3 of my cars to Randy's for work.  I started with my S54 M coupe: subframe reinforcement, upgraded connecting rod bearing change, and Beisan VANOS rebuild.  Then came my wife's MZ4 coupe: connecting rod bearing change and Beisan VANOS rebuild.  Third car was the coupenut car: rear subframe reinforcement.  Eventually I am going to get my E90 M3 to him too for - you guessed it - a connecting rod bearing upgrade.  At any rate, I don't think Randy has many 3- or 4-time customers, but I am one.  I've known Randy for > 15 years.  I have sold him LeatherZ parts, we have shared information and data for years, and we are friends. 

There isn't much to write about the work that was done on the coupenut car that hasn't already been said of his work.  I put some of the ~300 pictures that Randy took for me while the car was in work below in this post.  But, the documentation is an important step for Randy and he does it on every car he works on.  In my case, I always print copies of his photos and I put them into a photo album to pass on to the next owner(s).  The coupenut car was special for Randy because it was his 100th Z3 rear subframe reinforcement.  Definitely a milestone.  I asked Randy to sign the car in a hidden spot (or two) and he did.  I am very proud to have those on the car, and I am going to cover them with clear paint protection film!

Some issues with the coupenut car: the differential cover bushing, p/n 33172228425.  I bought a new one from BMW, and it's an expensive part.  Randy noted the one I gave him was out-of-round and he could not use it without reworking it.  Definitely a bummer on a part that expensive.  I had Randy remove the Ireland Engineering bushings that were on the car and replace them with new ones.  Because I had AKG bushings in stock, he used them instead of Irelands.  The S54 car does have new Irelands, also installed by Randy.  At any rate, there is some talk of "bad" Irelands, but these were not.  According to previous owner records with the car, these Ireland bushings were installed in May of 2009, and they only had about 14K miles on them.  There were no issues or signs of premature aging.  They didn't need to be replaced, but if he was in there anyway, might as well.  In addition, it should be noted that there was some early signs of cracking on the coupenut car right at the differential ear mount.  This is a common start point for cracks, Randy notes that nearly-new cars often crack there because of how the steel is stamped.

I supplied (all) of the parts Randy used, but you certainly don't have to.  He has a steady stream of parts and you don't have to do what I did.  When the car was finished, I flew into Tampa Airport and Randy and his wife Sue picked me up.  Talk about full service!!  I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

Randy Forbes Subframe Reinforcement, $2500.00r
Total investment in vehicle to date = $16,103.54


28 August 2017

Garage Art

I have collected some garage art over the years and some of the pieces are really great, I think.

The M coupe and M3 plates were issued to dealers when the M coupe and E46 M3 were released.  They were also used on cars at auto shows and press events.  They do come up for sale on ebay sometimes.

S50 engine cover trim, from ebay for about $20.  Z3 coupe sill plate, from LeatherZ.

Coupe artwork from Garage Welt.  This one was a gift from my wife.  Note that the stone guards were omitted.  They did that begrudgingly by her request!

Another Garage Welt, this one of the coupenut car!!

This is an actual BMW banner, Andy bought it on ebay about 18 years ago.  It is actually twice as tall as shown, I have it folded in half.  They sold these in 2 other colors (one for each M color).

This was liberated from the BMW factory in Spartanburg after one of the Homecomings and then later given to me in trade for parts.  I figure it's better in my garage than in a trash can!!

This is a pretty recent banner, I learned about it on the Facebook page or Bimmerforums, I can't recall which, but it's fantastic if you ask me.

Leather wipes

These are Original BMW parts.  They are nice to keep in the car in the event of a spill on leather.  We keep one pack in each car in our family.

BMW leather wipes, QTY 10, PN 83192286941, $5.00r

Sniggly Bits II (Well, crap)

Ok, turns out North Hollywood Speedometer will not work on our instrument clusters.  We are "too modern" if you can believe that.  They looked at mine, and then decided to pass on doing any work on it.  So I was back to square one.

One quirk with my instrument panel was: many years ago I broke the locking "teat" on one of the 3 connectors at the back.  Surely this wasn't related to my intermittent speedo problem, but it was broken and who knows.

Sourcing a new connector proved to be difficult.  You used to be able to buy them from BMW, but you can't any more.  I had to buy a used one from ebay for $5.  I replaced the broken one, locked it back and place, and so far my speedo has been trouble free.  Based on my luck finding the part, I went ahead and bought spares (also used) for the other 2 connectors for a few dollars each.  Part numbers listed below.

BMW 6913634
BMW 8364646
BMW 8373604 

These are worth picking up as spares.

This is an unbroken connector.  "Teat" is still here.  The arm swings forward and locks behind the teat.

Locking "teat" is broken off of this one.

24 June 2017

Sniggley Bits

Worked a few annoying repairs on my S54 this week.  When I originally installed aftermarket amps and speakers, I (like many other coupe owners) used a JL 6" sub.  This sub sounds fantastic and with a spacer fits into the stock ported enclosure.  But, since I have owned the car, I have gone through 2 or probably 3 of them.  I don't think I'm over-driving them, but the southern humidity doesn't help them.  In all cases, the foam surround has failed.  I am tired of replacing them and you cannot anymore.  And, while you might find new old stock 6" JLs, I am sure their foam isn't in fantastic condition (or age) either.  So, I am switching to a Kicker unit, like the one I used in the coupenut S52.  This driver has a rubber surround and is slightly smaller.  Does it sound as good?  I don't think so.  But, it handles more power and also it's got what should be a longer-life rubber surround.

Next annoyance was the glovebox.  I had installed a glovebox re-enforcement plate years ago, but it was a shoddy solution with a weird combination of nuts and bolts and it never fit exactly right.  I but the bullet and upgraded to one from Never Done Garage.  This is the most premium solution out there for Z3 gloveboxes.  At the same time, I removed the inner steel crash protection from the glovebox door, like I did on coupenut S52 car.  Not only does removal help the sagging issue, it just makes the glovebox feel nicer when using it.  The Never Done striker plate, which will be visible, comes in sanded aluminum raw finish.  I primed and painted mine semi gloss with SEM Trim Black.  Much nicer.  Never Done does use stainless cap screws, which is a nice look when finished.  At the same time, I studied how I added a light to the glovebox ~15 years ago, which I had done after Ron Stygar did.  I will do the same mod on the S52 car, as I have been missing a glovebox light on that car.

Last one I worked on was the instrument panel.  When this S54 car was at Randy Forbes' for work, Randy noted upon receipt that the speedometer wasn't working.  All other gauges and functions in the cluster did.  No error codes either.  Turns out the speedometer failure was intermittent too.  I am sending this cluster to North Hollywood Speedometer, a vendor LeatherZ has used since the beginning, and what I consider the premier source for VDO repair work in the United States.  Hopefully they can track down a piece of cracked solder or something obvious inside the cluster.  Randy replaced the signal generator in the differential just to be sure, but that didn't fix the issue.  At any rate, I have had an issue with the instrument cluster before on that car, so this is actually the second one in the car.  When I replaced this one in circa 2003, the cluster (complete, new from BMW) cost me $285.  That is a discounted price, but still pretty cheap.  Same part today in 2017 is $1025.  And while it is not "No Longer Available" there are none in the US or Germany and there is no estimated ship date for one.  I am also posting the video Randy made for me last fall of the cluster failure in action.  Or lack thereof!

Once I get the cluster back from NHS, I am planning on replacing all the bulbs like I did on the S52 car, just to keep them all new and fresh.

The forth annoyance I am working on is seat rocking.  I have identified the source of the rocking, but not the solution yet.  Stay tuned.

You can repair some woofer foam surrounds, and you can even replace them, but I am out of patience with the JLs.

US crash protection plate removed from glove box door.

Painted Never Done striker plate.

Cat Code Plug (moved over to this second cluster) is under the pink retaining bracket.

I am going to send both clusters to North Hollywood Speedometer for repair.  Only need one, but might as well.  And, 15 years from now when I need another, who knows if NHS will still be in business or if anyone will know how to work on these "ancient" electronics!!