Sunday, April 10, 2011
New summer wheels and tires installed
After several weekends of colder weather the skies cleared, winds died down, temperatures rose to comfortable levels, and I finally managed to find time in my schedule to install the new M Contour wheels along with my first set of Pilot Sport PS2s yesterday.
Although the winter wheels hadn't been off the car in six months the anti-seize I applied during installation did its job, as the wheels practically fell off the hubs. Oddly, however, I must have forgotten to apply a sufficient coating of anti-seize to seal the heads of the rotor retaining bolt because I noticed some rust starting to form at the interface between the rotor and the bolt. If left alone I realized that could cause problems during the next brake job so I cleaned the entire rotor hat surface with blue paper towels, used a small fine wire brush to clean away the rust near the retaining bolt, and then applied a new coat of anti-seize before installing the new wheels.
As I've come to expect, my technician wrote the road force balance numbers on the inside of each wheel. When I picked them up he told me that all were in the "low single digits" and "the one without any number was perfect", which, he went on to say "is pretty typical of Michelin tires". As I examined each wheel I noted road force numbers of 2, 4, 5, 6, and "nothing". Fortunately, the "6" was one of the 7.5" wheels so I declared that the spare and quickly nestled it into the trunk. In less than an hour the other wheels were mounted and I took the car out for a test drive.
The sticky coating on the new tires managed to pick up every small stone on the road and create a cacophony of impacts in the wheel wells for the first couple of miles. Soon thereafter the coating wore off and the tires went nearly dead silent. I took that as a sign to step up the pace and put the vehicle into its element. The tires tracked beautifully and turn in was amazing. In fact, they performed so well that it was hard not to notice the extra body roll that occurred as a result of the higher lateral G-force the car was now able to maintain. Acceleration and braking are, as expected, less affected by these smaller wheels and tires and the ride quality was far better than the CSLs, which confirms my belief that 17 inch wheels are the optimum size for the E36. With my mission accomplished I headed back to the garage to give it a bath and move on to other tasks (non-BMW related, that is!)
If I had my technician mount the wheels on the car I would have paid the difference between what I paid to mount the tires on the wheels and balance them ($40 ea) and the normal cost of that service ($70), or $30 each...hence the $150 in the labor saved column.
Installed new driver's side window motor
For the past four months I haven't been able to open my driver's side window because I all-too-conveniently ignored the telltale signs of a failing motor. I bought the motor back in January when I foolishly considered braving the cold to deal with the problem but as I indicated earlier I wisely decided to leave well-enough alone. That is, until today.
I usually look forward to doing work on the car because I realize that I'll learn something and save money in the process, but I must admit this time I was dreading going to the garage largely because of the uncertainty involved. Given the inoperative motor, I had absolutely no idea how I would reposition the window as required to remove the regulator to gain access to the torx screws that fasten the motor to the regulator. On the drive over to the garage I more than once questioned the parentage of the BMW engineer responsible for a design that precludes removing the motor without removing the regulator but I did manage to come up with a plan of attack.
Although I'd long ago become a "pro" at removing the door panel without doing any serious damage, any perception of proficiency in this task was quickly overshadowed as the panel popped free of the door and I heard a bunch unpleasant sounds. I looked down to see both storage pockets and one of the vertical supports on the ground and realized at that very instant this was going to be "one of those days". After I set the door panel aside I took at closer look at the storage pockets and realized they had cracked in several places (thirteen year old plastic will do that). Still, they seemed repairable, so I went about the ritual of mixing up a couple tubes of five minute two-part epoxy and re-bonded the components with the door panel.
That headache over I turned my attention to the window motor itself and quickly decided to take a different approach to this repair than outlined in my DIY. With the window in the full-up position I had no problem getting my hand in the door in order to remove the four nuts and bolts holding the regulator to the door. But this time instead of removing the regulator entirely, I simply tried to pull the motor and regulator away from the door and access the T27 motor mounting screws from the rear. Unfortunately I could not pull the regulator more than about 2" away from the door so that meant I could not use my regular 1/4" drive ratchet. When combined with the needed torx socket, it was simply too deep.
I managed to find a T25 torx bit (not a T27, but close enough) and realized I could use that and a box end wrench to remove the screws. Of course, the bit was cut for 1/4" and none of my smaller metric box end wrenches would fit it (6mm and 7mm were both close, but no cigar). My brother, a big fan of 70's American iron, was looking over my shoulder at the time and decided at this moment to ridicule me for not having any SAE tools in my toolbox before productively volunteering a 1/4" box end wrench from his tool collection. I managed to prove pretty quickly that the basic idea was sound but I knew full well without ratcheting action I'd be working on this until the next ice age, so I ran over to Eppys and picked up a 1/4" ratcheting box end wrench. $12 later, I was on my way back to the garage. It took about 10 minutes to remove the three screws holding the motor to the regulator and the motor popped free. At this point a quick check revealed that the window moved freely up and down so this confirmed that the regulator was in good shape and the motor was the source of the problem.
Since the torx screws are designed to tap the plastic mounting holes in the body of the new motor and I knew I'd be limited in the torque I could apply in such an awkward position, I used my ratchet and T27 socket to quickly install the screws in the new motor to tap the holes. With that task done I proceeded to mate the motor with the regulator, being careful to align the motor's drive gear and the teeth in the regulator drive arm. Grabbing the window and moving it manually up and down a bit helped. I then held the motor to the regulator, installed the screws, and used my fabricated tool to tighten the screws one by one.
With the motor reconnected to the regulator, I did find I had to reconnect the battery and blip the window a bit in one direction to get all the regulator mounting holes to line up with the door, but once that was done I reinstalled the four bolts quickly and easily. With the regulator firmly mounted to the door, I got in the car, closed the door, tested full travel up and down, and then reset the electronic window stops.
The upside of the day resulted from my decision to keep the airbag connected whenever the battery was connected and the key was on so I never triggered the SRS warning light. It's a small thing to get reset at the dealer, but it's one less thing I'll have to do tomorrow morning. Unfortunately, the downside is that during installation of the door panel one of the pockets cracked severely and my attempts to get the fasteners to mate with the door resulted in a chunk of the pocket breaking off. Now I have a nice silver-dollar-sized hole in one of the storage pockets. I saw this slow-motion train wreck coming for the last several years, but was put off by the $800 price of a new door panel. Now it appears I'll need to suck it up and buy one. I suppose it could be worse, though -- the part could no longer be available. We'll see about that this week when I call my dealer's parts guys for a quote.
Based on this work I plan to update my Power Window DIY shortly to reflect the new information and techniques. Look for that soon.
The new window motor cost $120 and the two tubes of epoxy were $10. I don't know what the current book labor is for a window motor replacement but I'd venture a guess it's at least an hour hence the $128 labor saved.
Mileage: 206460, Parts: $120, Labor saved: $278, Tools: $15, Materials: $10
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Replaced Secondary Air Pump and Check Valve
Earlier this week I ordered the pump, check valve, gasket and two copper lock nuts from my local dealer so I could replace the secondary air injection pump this weekend.
Late this afternoon as the sun raced for the horizon I started work. I disconnected the hoses, replaced the check valve and then the pump, and wrapped it up by reinstalling the hoses. Shortly after tightening the last hose clamp I glanced at a clock and was pleasantly surprised to learn that less than 45 minutes had elapsed.
As I was disconnecting the check valve the vacuum hose cracked in half near the nipple of the valve, but I anticipated as much and had the required hose "in stock" (actually, it was left over from the last time I replaced this hose circa 2007). Although the job only requires about 8 inches of hose, BMW supplies a three foot length so I have enough hose to do the job one or two more times.
I found the inside of the hose that delivers air from the pump to the valve covered in a bright yellow dust. This is consistent with the pictures I've seen of old pumps disassembled to reveal the horror that is a bright yellow watery goop (condensate, really) that pools in the motor and causes the pump to fail. The hose itself was in good shape so I shot some brake cleaner through it to clean it up and reinstalled it.
The parts cost $450. Book labor on this job is 1.5 hours or $192, hence the value in the labor-saved column. The 20 percent discount brings the DIY dividend to around $300.
A brake job for a modern 3 series vehicle is now $1800. This I overheard quite unexpectedly while waiting in line at the cashier at my dealer to pay for the air pump parts. I wasn't the guy paying and I nearly considered checking my underwear for a skidmark. The last time I quoted the job it was around $1200 and I thought that was insane but $1800 is ludicrous. The parts cost around $400 (at 20% off -- dealer cost is lower, obviously) and the job takes a pro no more than about an hour per axle. They're making a cool grand (or more) doing what has to be one of the easiest jobs on the car. And people pay it without blinking. I'm in the wrong business, obviously.
I also confirmed that a brake fluid flush is $200, a microfilter is $250 and a coolant flush is another $250. I couldn't help but wonder why the microfilter job is more than the brake fluid flush in spite of the price of the filter, as it takes considerably less labor to replace the microfilter in the currently-shipping vehicles (pop hood, take out two thumb screws, replace filter...in other words, a couple of minutes of work). The E36 is the biggest pain in the ass of any BMW made and it only takes me 10 minutes. As I've said here before, many of the newer BMWs come with wheels that permit the tech to bleed the brakes without removing the wheels, so that's a 10 minute job as well. And don't think for a second they drain your coolant from the block as they technically should during a coolant flush. The dirty little secret is that they drain the radiator, replace about a third of the fluid in the process, and refill it with little need to bleed the system. In other words, they can do it in around 10 minutes. Let your calculator reveal the injustice in all three cases.
As of today the E36 is mechanically "squawk free" for the first time in five months so I'm not planning any additional work until the front suspension overhaul. The plan is to collect the needed parts over the next several months and do the job in late June or July. My brother just broke ground this week on his toybox and the hope is to be in the building by that time so this job may serve as its christening.
Mileage: 206916, Parts: $450, Labor saved: $192, Parts Saved: $110.