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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Doug's Domain

Doug Vetter, ATP/CFI

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Back to Winter Rubber

(Image: Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 235/40/18 worn past wear bars)One day this week while at work I looked out the window to find the Earth under assault by countless white crystals falling menacingly from the sky. As I recalled that I not yet managed to swap my Pilot Sport all-season tires for something with actual tread on them (like my winter tire set) I defiantly mumbled to myself "if this stuff starts accumulating, I'm outta here". Fortunately, however, the flakes met their fate as they hurled into the relatively warm surface and I was saved the promise of another off-road excursion on the way home that day. The car was extremely tail-happy in the wet conditions and I considered myself thankful I don't suffer from photosensitive epilepsy as the traction control light flashed furiously in the dark cockpit the whole way home. Need. New. Tires. Now.

So I took care of that today. I pulled the set of 16" double-spokes equipped with Dunlop Winter Sport M3's out into the yard for a thorough cleaning before I pulled the E36 into the garage and jacked up each axle in turn. With the lugbolts removed the front wheels practically fell off the hubs because the anti-seize was still fresh from the recent brake job. The rears required a bit more coercion but they came off easily enough. Of course, like all good BMW technicians I cleaned the hubs of both the rotor and the mating surface of the wheels using some blue towels and brake cleaner before applying a thin coat of new anti-seize to the hubs and reinstalling the wheels.

My expected service interval for the Pilot Sport A/S was 25K miles and I managed to get within 500 miles of that goal but I had to go well below the tread wear indicators to do it...something I will try to avoid next time. The anticipated service interval of the Winter Sport M3 is only 12K miles as I expect to replace the tires when they reach the "snow handling wear bar" rather than the regular wear bar. That may seem crazy but I buy these tires to perform in snow and slush and if they don't do that they fail in their mission. At this point I believe they will be spent at the end of this winter season, but I shouldn't have to buy new tires until around this time next year. That flexibility is one of the perks of running separate summer and winter tires.

(Image: Dunlop Winter Sport M3 tires back on the car)And speaking of the all-season tires, I haven't yet decided what rubber will replace them. The driver in me wants Pilot Sport PS2s or maybe one of Goodyear's high-end maximum performance summer tires, but it has occurred to me that if I do that I won't be able to use the 18's on the E46 during the winter. Contrary to popular belief, I'm not wealthy enough to own a car that sits in the garage all winter. The E46 is my backup vehicle and as such it needs to be ready to move...even in winter conditions, and while the Pilot Sport A/S is not a true winter tire it does perform admirably in "reasonable" winter conditions. So while I'm not exactly keen on equipping the 18's with another set of Pilot Sport A/S's, that is the practical solution. If I do wind up going with the A/S, I'll need to buy them fairly soon. Of course, I still have to figure out the best way to jack up the E46 given that it lacks any safe central jack points that will work with my single jack, but I'll leave that discussion to the E46 blog.

I've never paid anyone including my dealer to simply install a set of tires (that is to say, without mounting new tires and balancing them) so I don't know exactly what it would cost, but I can't see the dealer charging any less than 0.2 hours or $22 a wheel to do that. After you figure in taxes, I think it's safe to say I would not have been able to get out of there for less than $100 so I'll use that for my records.

Blower Motor Noise

The last few mornings have been in the 40s and it's at these temperatures that old equipment typically shows its age. This week it happened to be the HVAC blower motor and its telltale "crickets" sound. The noise is intermittent and subtle enough that it is easily "fixed" with a slight reduction in the resistance of the stereo's potentiometer. Actually, that's an old joke and sadly inappropriate since the volume knob is, in fact, a digital encoder...but I'm afraid you'll have to permit me the occasional geekdom reference. :-)

Some research revealed that getting a new motor for the tidy sum of $360 (with Tischer discount) is definitely the easy part of this job. It's the labor that has me worried. It's a bitch, apparently...so much so that one guy on a popular BMW forum said that it took him the better part of 8 hours to complete (with lots of beer breaks...take that for what you will) and next time he has to do this he'd sooner turn it into a track car and pull all the HVAC stuff out of it or sell it. :-) Given my general aversion to cold and the prospect for a VERY long, multi-curse job I may just acquire the part, have my technician install it, and walk away glad that I at least managed to save some money on the part. On the other hand, I found only one DIY on this procedure online so I may do the community a service by writing up the DIY afterward. Guess I have some soul searching to do, but don't get pissed at me if my soul tells me to be lazy and give the part to my technician, okay?

Mileage: 167880, Labor Saved: $100