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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Doug's Domain

Doug Vetter, ATP/CFI

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Saturday, February 3, 2007

Power Steering Phantom Part Delays Overhaul

I set out to do the power steering system overhaul today but I received the wrong part. It's not that Tischer messed up -- in fact it appears they sent me the part number I requested. The problem is the part number I requested doesn't work on my car. I mean, it's not even close. The ETK screwed me again.

Falling back on my experience with other "phantom" parts, I got under the car and went in search of a part number on the hose itself. I was able to find a partial part number imprinted in one of the metal fittings that is similar to the wrong one, but when I prefixed that number with what I believe to be the correct parts category and section numbers my copy of the ETK didn't know anything about it. I checked realoem and came up with the same result. I even called the dealer's parts department and they weren't able to do anything with it either, but I discounted that because I knew he was looking at the same ETK software. It looks as though I'll need to bring it to them on Monday and have them call the BMW tech line. I'm convinced I can get the part -- I just need to get BMW to admit they put it on my car and they still stock it.

(Image: E36 oxygen sensor plugs on top of engine)Rather than replace one or two of the hoses and drain the system twice, I figured I'd wait until next weekend for this task. The leak appears to be a little "wetter" than it was a couple weeks ago, so this is definitely something I need to get done, but I expect it to be okay for the next couple of weeks. If it fails, screw it -- I tried.

Replaced Pre-Catalyst Oxygen Sensors

While I was under the car surveying the power steering issue, I also surveyed the task required to replace the pre-catalyst oxygen sensors I bought earlier this week.

It turned out that the little 3/8" drive breaker bar with pivoting head I bought to change the diff fluid worked perfectly with the 22mm crows foot oxygen sensor socket to remove the sensors. That's not to say it wasn't tight in there, but it was possible. I quickly realized that there was no way to get a torque wrench in there so I took special care in mentally gauging the force required to remove them so I could duplicate the force during reinstallation. I'll detail the replacement later in a DIY article, but it suffices to say there's not much to the task.

After I buttoned everything back up I took the car out to run it up to normal temperature in order to get the system into closed loop so I could determine if the new sensors were doing their job. There were no issues. The engine ran like a top with no misfires or rough running, and throttle response was normal. After three times around the block I figured the engine was up to normal operating temperature so I lit it up to test wide-open-throttle (WOT) and that was as pleasant as always. There is nothing quite like the howl of a BMW M52 on a chilly day as it translates that cold, dense air into raw horsepower.

The task took me (an untrained, inexperienced DIY newbie) a little over an hour to complete both sensors and about 15 minutes of that was spent playing with tools and developing my plan of attack. An experienced tech would probably be able to do it in less time. This is particularly striking because the dealer quotes a whopping $750 for this job. The sensors retail for about $450 and the rest is good 'ol book labor. For this reason, this fix was one of the most enjoyable I've done on the car. I saved myself an amazing $360 sourcing the parts and doing the job myself. Of course, I can't pat myself on the back too much. if this doesn't eliminate the catalytic converter efficiency warnings, I'll need that savings to help pay for the new cats....and as I've said before, they ain't cheap.

Mileage: 138900, Parts: $315, Parts cost saved: $135, Labor Saved: $225