Saturday, August 16, 2007
BMW Special Wheel Bearing Tools
This week I acquired the first of several BMW special tools I'm ordering to do some upcoming work on the car. Although my technician has graciously offered to loan me pretty much any BMW special tool in the shop, I have this thing about owning the tools I use. Yes, it's a disease, but I figure that I may not have access to my technician or this dealership forever, so I might as well prepare to maintain my cars in the coming years. And while the tools aren't exactly cheap, some of them are not much more expensive than aftermarket tools -- assuming aftermarket equivalents are available in the first place.
This first tool is used to align and press front wheel bearing assemblies onto the car. There is no equivalent aftermarket tool to do this job, and while it's possible to install wheel bearing assemblies without it, you do risk damaging the assembly if you don't install it correctly. Given how much the assemblies cost, I view the purchase of the tool as reasonably cheap insurance, with the added perk that I can rent it to other DIYers to help offset the cost. I haven't figured out the rental terms yet, but will draw them up if there's interest.
The next tool I'm planning to purchase is actually a set of three tools that is used to remove the inner bearing race from the spindle. While most bearings come off without leaving the race behind if you give it just the right touch, it's a total show-stopper if it doesn't come off and you don't have the tools to remove it. Some people use a cutoff tool (the truly masochistic use a Dremel), but that puts the spindle at risk, and replacement of that part is FAR more costly than the special tool(s).
Steering Wheel and Airbag Replacement
Over the last few weeks the scraping / rubbing sound coming from the steering wheel had worsened so I decided to fix that ahead of some other work I had planned. I wasn't looking forward to this fix due to the cost of parts, but since this involved replacement of the steering wheel and I've had that job on the back burner for several years (for strictly cosmetic reasons), I figured it was time to pull the trigger.
As you may recall in my last report I outlined the options regarding replacement of the steering wheel. I ultimately decided to swap the four spoke wheel with the M-branded three spoke. This is the same wheel that came on the M3 from 96-99 as well as the 328 from build date 3/98 until the end of production. This required the purchase of a wheel ($270) and a costly airbag ($700), but the results are amazing.
The wheel changes the entire feel of the car. The nine and three resting positions are a bit lower than the four spoke and I find that to be a bit more comfortable in my normal (BMW-recommended) driving position. The wheel is slightly smaller in circumference and the grips are slightly thicker (the positioning bumps notwithstanding), which lends itself to a more sporting feel a la the E46. I should note, however, that the grip is closer to the original wheel than it is to the E46. I'm simply pointing out that it "feels" a lot thicker than it appears.
While ordering parts for the wheel swap I also ordered the upper bearing that centers the steering shaft in the column as well as some parts related to its replacement. Unlike the lower bearing at the opposite end of the column, the upper bearing is plastic. My technician said he had never seen one of those fail, but when I pulled off the wheel I saw little bits of black plastic bearing all over the place. Needless to say, I was glad I preordered those parts, or I would have had to pull the wheel off again to do it later. My advice is to plan to do the bearing when you do the wheel if you have more than 100K on the clock.
I had to buy a T30 torx socket to do this work, but since the price of an individual socket was $10 while that of a twelve piece set was only $35 + tax, I figured I'd splurge and buy the set.
A DIY with lots of pictures is in the works. Look for it soon.
New Door / Ignition Key
Over the last year or so I'd noticed my driver's door lock and ignition were "catching" a bit as I inserted the key and turned the lock. I attributed this to normal and expected wear of the lock assemblies, but I decided to have BMW cut a new key for me to see if that would help.
All ignition parts for BMWs must be ordered through local dealers by the vehicle owner in person as BMW has a strict policy to require the dealer to confirm the identity of the person buying the parts. My dealer's parts department made a photocopy of my driver's license and vehicle registration and sent it to BMW along with the order. Less than a week later, I picked up the new key.
My technician was hanging out looking up some tech documents while I waited for the key so I asked him whether I would have to do anything special to have the key recognized by the vehicle's EWS system. He said that at most I would have to insert the key, turn it to the "start" position, and hold it there for up to 10 seconds until the car recognized the key and enabled the starter. Fortunately, the new key functioned just like my original key and enabled the starter immediately. Talk about plug-and-play.
The pleasant surprise of the day was the price -- a mere $38 with my discount. Given that the keys for newer vehicles (including the E46) with built-in keyless entry transmitters are well in excess of $100, I considered myself lucky.
Mileage: 147954, Parts: $1050, Tools: $190, Labor Saved: $350