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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Doug's Domain

Doug Vetter, ATP/CFI

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Picked up Summer Wheels and Tires

Last week I received word from my dealer's parts guys that my new wheels and tires had come in, so I stopped in to see my technician to let him know what I had planned. I found him back in the "new" shop, constructed as part of the expansion of the dealership, helping another technician figure out if the Bosch alternator received from the parts department to replace a failed Valeo unit from an X5 would in fact, be a drop-in replacement. On the E36, you need a different pulley and lower mounting bolt to make the conversion work, so it wasn't hard for me to relate to their quandary.

(Image: Set of M Contour wheels with PS2 installed in the pickup bed) Rather than interrupt them, I took some time to look around the shop because I had never been back there before. Given my recent investigation into service lifts I naturally gravitated to the rows of symmetrical two post Rotary lifts. The first thing that jumped out at me was that their imposing columns made the shop seem cluttered, but I suppose that's a natural reaction after hanging out in the "old" shop all these years, which was equipped with in-ground lifts by necessity -- as my technician would later confirm, the old shop's bays are not as wide as a "modern" shop. I also took note of the fact that the front doors of the various cars and SAVs perched on the lifts would have clearance issues with the posts, so this drove home the benefits of an in-ground lift.

It also didn't take me long to notice the tile floor consisting of reddish-brown rectangular tiles arranged in a subway pattern. I found it to be far more attractive and "clean" looking than the dyed (and stained) concrete of the old shop. Given how much of a pain in the ass it is to finish concrete floors in an eye-pleasing way that holds up to gas, brake fluid, and other solvents over the long haul, I'm beginning to wonder if tile may be the answer. I still have my doubts as to how well tile will hold up in a garage environment (drop any good tools lately?) and something tells me I wouldn't want to know the cost of doing a large project like my brother's 3200 square foot toybox, but if it's good enough for BMW to spec for their dealerships, it can't be all that bad.

My technician and I quickly discussed my needs and I managed to follow through with his recommendation to speak with the service manager for a reduced mounting rate and to open a service order to complete the work. I managed to negotiate $200 for the set ($40/wheel), and although I told my technician that there was no rush he got the job done the following day. When I heard the weather forecast for sunny skies and near 80 degree temperatures last Friday, I decided to take my first vacation day in months, grab the wheels at my leisure, do some spring cleaning in the garage, exercise the double VANOS on the E46 on some nearby curvy country roads and generally take it easy for a change.

I must admit that once I got the wheels back to the garage it took all the will power I could muster not to install them, but I knew full well that the wonderful weather was only a tease and we'd likely be back in seasonal weather in short order. My decision to wait paid off, of course, as it snowed (lightly, thankfully) again this week and the diurnal temperatures promptly returned to a range well outside that tolerated by the PS2s. Installation of the wheels will have to wait a few more weeks.

Secondary Air Injection Pump Acting Up Again

I got in the car the other day and turned the key as I have thousands of times before. Not long after the engine settled into a nice idle I began to hear a faint high pitched whine coming from the vicinity of the dashboard. I opened the door and realized the sound was louder outside so I walked around the car and found it loudest in front of the vehicle. My first instinct was a pulley of some sort, but popping the hood allowed me to localize the problem to a familiar part -- the secondary air injection pump.

The last time this pump failed (back in 2002 at 67K miles), I learned from my technician that the reason these pumps fail is not because they wear out, but because the check valve fails. This allows exhaust gasses to work their way into the pump while it's not operating and that fries the motor and its bearings. Naturally, therefore, the best way to avoid spending $330+ on a new pump (up from $200 in 2002) is to spend around $95 on a new check valve on a regular basis as part of a preventative maintenance program.

My initial maintenance interval of the check valve was 72K miles. When that interval came and went without a whisper from the pump and valve installed in 2002 and my technician later told me that the original check valves more frequently failed due to a flaw in their design that had since been corrected, I decided to double the interval to 144K miles. Oddly enough, the schedule predicted failure (or at least the need to replace the parts) at 211K miles, a mere 6K miles (or six months) from now. Based on this failure, I've reduced the recommended replacement interval of the valve to 108K miles.

I recall I considered replacing the valve last year, but that plan was promptly thrown out the window when I discovered the failed trailing arm bushing which led me down the path to a very expensive rear end overhaul. So, I'm sure you're begging to ask -- what do I get for kicking the can down the road? A $460 bill for parts to replace the check valve AND the pump. I expect to order the parts for this repair early next month, but that assumes, of course, that the faint whine doesn't degenerate into the typical "vacuum cleaner sucked up a marble" racket sooner than that.

Mileage: 205450, Labor: $200