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Saturday, November 01, 2014

Doug's Domain

Doug Vetter, ATP/CFI

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November 23, 2006

Happy Turkey Day to all! Since I have the day off today and some time this morning before I binge on the culinary pleasures associated with this fine non-denominational holiday, I figured I'd update some of the background work I've been doing.

Inspections In Lieu

One of the reasons I was glad to pay my technician big bucks to do oil changes is that he would put the car on the lift and give it a mini-inspection of sorts. If anything was amiss, he'd let me know before things went wrong. Since I've been doing my own maintenance lately, however, I've been the one having to do those inspections. The recent brake job is a case in point. While I had the wheels off I got to take a close look at the underside of the vehicle, and this prompted some additional maintenance I plan to do over the coming months.

(Image: Closeup of front right stabilizer (sway) bar link) The belly of this car is remarkably clean given it's 8+ years old, but still dirtier than I need it to be in order to do a proper inspection to spot leaks, cracks and other problems. I think the best solution will be some degreasing agent delivered via compressed air wand. Eppy's is having an after-Thanksgiving sale tomorrow, so you know where I'll be.

The rear subframe of the vehicle is rusting at the welds. It appears to be a surface phenomenon and nothing to be concerned about, but I just hate seeing my baby rust. Unfortunately, removing the subframe for a proper stripping and paint job is a non-trivial task in that it requires complete removal of the rear suspension including differential. If were to do that, I'd be hard pressed not to do several other things while I'm in there:

Needless to say, that's a very slippery (and costly) slope, so the quick fix may be attacking the problem with strategic use of a wire wheel, masking, and a rattle can.

Front and rear swaybar links are showing their age and must be replaced. The links are nothing more than a bar with small rubber bushing in each end. The front link bushings appear to have partially separated from the inner surface of the link ends. While this isn't a wholesale failure of the part, the "slop" in the parts may account for what I believe to be an odd feedback I get through the steering wheel during aggressive, bumpy turns on some of our older highway exit ramps.The rear link bushings appear intact, but the rubber is clearly dry rotted, so I think I'll do those too. The rubber bushings that mount the bar to the body appear to be okay, but replacing them is easy enough while I'm under the car. Tischer will soon get the order for those so I can do them the same afternoon I swap in the new tires (see below).

Next spring I will likely do the front lower control arms in order to replace the ball joints and the rear trailing arm bushings to tighten up the rear. The vehicle still handles like a BMW, but it's definitely not as tight as the E46 -- even taking into account the fact that it's NOT an E46. I've read many a case of people having to replace these components at a far lower mileage than I have on my odometer, so I've either been blessed with perfect parts that are still in good shape (unlikely), I baby the car (most of the time, yes, but not always), or the changes in handling have been so subtle that I haven't noticed how bad things really are (bingo!) Those will be costly upgrades, but straightforward DIY projects that should save a couple thousand in labor.

(Image: E36 BMW Glovebox Convenience Flashlight) New glovebox flashlight

I've only used the integrated rechargeable flashlight from the glovebox of my E36 a few times, but it has come in very handy at those times. I'd noticed that it wasn't holding a charge anymore, so I considered replacing the batteries, soldering in new units as necessary. Unfortunately, upon disassembly I found the unit contains a set of batteries welded together and I could not find an equivalent set of batteries (solder tabs or not) to replace them. At that point I just decided to buy a new one.

My local dealer ordered the replacement, but the flashlight that arrived was a different type and did not fit in my car. When prompted about the discrepancy, the parts guy kind of shook his head, raised his shoulders and said "that's the only part available from BMW". Never one to take no for an answer, I emailed Jason at Tischer BMW in Silver Spring and he said he would be able to get it for me. I placed the order and received it a few days later. If you're wondering, the light I received is BMW part number 82119413147, and it works!

Microfilter

I wasn't scheduled to replace the microfilter for a few thousand miles (read: a few months) but I figured I'd leverage the shipping cost associated with the flashlight order as well as the Tischer discount and pick one up. Installing microfilters in an E36 is a royal pain the arse, but I consider it a rite of passage in DIY maintenance. There are those who have not (shouted explicatives) and those who will. I hope to document this process a bit better in a future update. Wish me luck. :-)

Tire Status

When the "tire noise" turned out to be a wheel bearing, I merely postponed the inevitable purchase of new tires. The rear tires are still above the tread wear indicators at nearly 20K miles, but are now slick in rain. So slick, in fact, that my recent driver training on the skidpad has come in VERY handy. The fronts naturally have more tread than the rears, but are badly cupped. Simply to ensure I have good rubber on the car during our upcoming snowy season (January through March), I'm planning to call Tire Rack the first week in December.

I've settled on buying four Pilot Sport A/S in 235/40/18 fitment and a single Pirelli pZero Nero M&S for the spare. Why? Two reasons. First, I don't want to spend the extra $70 on a tire that will be used very infrequently, if at all. And second, the spare needs to be able to go on either side of the car and the Pirelli, unlike the Pilot Sport, is a non-directional tire.

Mileage: 135860, Parts $23 (not counting the microfilter, which will be accounted for in a later update).