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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Doug's Domain

Doug Vetter, ATP/CFI

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December 24, 2004

Body Shop Work Update

Shortly after the last update, the car wound up going back to the body shop for a third time, this time with 3M page markers stuck all over the car to highlight the flaws they missed the last two times. Thankfully, the shop paid for another loaner. At this writing, the car still isn't perfect, but it's a lot better than when we started the rework process. I'm content to leave it alone at this point because I don't want to put the paint at further risk.

And, if you're wondering, yes, the front bumper cover has already taken its first stone hits during the morning commute. People ask my why I have no desire to buy a new car, and this is it. Until I can eliminate or significantly reduce the length of my commute, I will continue to subject my daily driver to a hostile environment, and it makes no sense (IMHO) to subject a new car to that unless absolutely necessary.

Windshield Washer Fluid

The weather had been remarkably warm (in the 50's) through December, but we finally got our first shot of 15 degree weather last week. On the drive to work one cold morning I was reminded of a problem that plagued me last year -- frozen windshield washer fluid lines which render the washers inoperative. The cause is pretty simple -- my deliberate use of cheap, pre-mixed windshield washer fluid with a freezing point that is too high, even at "full strength". Not content to deal with this for the next several months, I stopped by my dealer's parts department to see what kind of fluid they had.

(Image: BMW Washer Fluid Label)Unfortunately, the 328's windshield washer system squirts fluid in mid air above the cabin air intake, and the smell of the fluid swiftly finds its way to the car's interior. I originally switched from the otherwise excellent OEM washer fluid for this reason, but at this point I was intent on having a functional windshield cleaning system, smell be damned.

The parts guy told me I could buy standard premixed gallon jugs or 16 oz bottles of concentrate. Since I'm not one to pay for water or bulk packaging, I picked up 4 bottles of the concentrate at $2.35 each (with a small discount). After reading the package and noting that my washer fluid reservoir was almost full, I decided to add one bottle to the reservoir and see how things went.

Windshield Wiper Replacement

A day or so later, I noticed that one of my windshield wipers had split, so just before a major rainstorm, I decided to get new blades. The parts guy brought the blades out, put them on the counter, and said "Happy Holidays". When I asked him "so, what do I owe you?", he smiled and said "They're on the house, Doug...have a great holiday!". Refills are only $6, but that made my day. What can I say? These guys are great...and not just during the holidays.

Anyway, I went out to put them on the car (for the first time by myself, as my mechanic normally put these on while I was in for an oil service), but I quickly realized I needed tools to do it. First, the blades are made extra long to fit all model cars, so I knew I'd need a cutter. Second, the blades are kept in place by slightly compressing one of the metal clips on the blade holders around some retainers on the metal blade stiffeners, so I knew I'd need a pair of long-nose pliers or similar. My mechanic happened to see me walking around aimlessly with the blades in hand, so he offered to put them on -- free of charge.

The process is pretty simple, but hard to explain without diagrams. There are two metal stiffeners mated to the blade. One side of these stiffeners is fitted with a couple retainer spikes that are designed to straddle the end clip on the blade holder. The other side of the stiffeners have a half dozen cut-marks that serve as length indicators for several different model cars. After you route the blade through the blade holder clips, straddle the retainers on either side of the last clip in the blade holder and squeeze the clip down on the blade slightly with the long-nose pliers. Then, at the far end of the blade, take note of the cut mark that provides about a 5mm overhang and break the stiffeners at that point. Lastly, cut the rubber blade approximately 3-5mm longer than the stiffeners to allow for shrinkage (if you look at your old blades, you may find the rubber portion of the blade shorter than the metal stiffeners, and this is why). Give the blades a swipe when you're ready, and you should be good to go.

Oh, one other thing to watch out for. To remove the blade holder from the wiper arm, you squeeze the top and bottom edges of the retaining clip located at the center of the blade holder. If you do it successfully, the retaining clip will separate from the blade holder in one piece. Unfortunately, one of the clips on my car broke into a few pieces. Before I could think about the need to buy a new clip, my mechanic had already searched his spare parts bin and found a replacement clip (wahoo!). When I asked him whether those clips are sold separately, he said it depends on the car. Therefore, in some cases you might need to buy an entire blade holder to replace that clip. The moral? Be careful removing your blade holders from the wiper arm!

Upcoming Work

The car hit 108000 miles this week, and I'm about 1500 miles away from an oil service. Assuming it doesn't need anything else major between now and then, I'm planning on replacing the tranny and diff fluid, as well as selected filters.

I've also been doing research on a replacement stereo system and have tentatively selected all of the components. It turns out that the OEM head unit uses differential signaling between the headunit and amplifier. While this is technically superior to so called "line level" signaling, it's fundmentally incompatible with aftermarket audio gear. For this reason, and because I want to use this opportunity to bring some newer technology into the car (mp3 playback, satellite radio, etc.) I'm convinced the best solution is to replace everything. My mechanic has kindly offered to help remove parts of the interior to make the installation as stealth as possible, so all I have to do now is justify $1500 worth of audio equipment.

Total Parts: $10, Labor: $0, Mileage: 108000.