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Monday, December 22, 2014

Doug's Domain

Doug Vetter, ATP/CFI

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

New Roundel

(Image: Parts received to fix the steering wheel noise)Most of the time I'm a pretty sedate driver and keep it around 10 over the 65 MPH speed limit on a local highway I frequent on my commute (qualification added so you guys don't think I'm one of those a$$holes that speed in residential neighborhoods). Since installing the winter tires, however, I've found myself occasionally hovering around 80 when conditions permit simply to avoid a niggling tendency of these tires to shake at my "sweet spot". I have only myself to blame, of course, as I installed the set for another season despite knowing full well that at least one of the wheels is slightly bent and needs to be repaired.

As a general rule I don't acknowledge the 335 or M3 drivers who want to play games on public roads, but recently my commute happened to sync up several mornings in a row with a cherry E30 M3 and I couldn't help but observe him leveraging his copy of the wonderful S14. One morning, an appreciative nod and a smile as he passed me was all I needed to decide to have a little fun. Race? Of course not. Just some high speed cruising as the Germanic Gods intended. With the M52 breathing deeply near the top of the torque curve, I noticed something out of the corner of my my eye fly over the car. I didn't think much of it at the time as it looked like a small plastic bag and I encounter those fairly often because I share the road with litterbugs.

Of course, the thing about driving a bit faster than usual is that the destination tends to come up quickly, so in no time I had to give my fellow enthusiast the casual two finger salute and take the exit for my office. As I got out of the car and locked the door I began to walk away, only to turn my head and give my baby one last lustful look. And that's when I saw it: the Roundel emblem was missing. I returned to the front of the car for a closer look and found all that remained was the chrome plastic substrate and some of the glue that had once bonded the emblem to it. I quickly connected the dots and chuckled when I realized I'd managed to drive so fast that I blew it off the car. Gven that it had started to look a little rough around the edges in recent months, this seemed a fitting end.

So the next day I went to the dealer and picked up a new Roundel for the annoyingly high sum of $25. Not long ago these things were $10, but like most of their most common parts BMW now feels justified in charging three times that price. Sigh. Fortunately, my pain eased as quickly as I installed the new Roundel in the parking lot and sped off to work. The car just looked naked without it.

Upper Steering Column Parts Arrive

The upper steering column noise I reported last time has grown worse with each passing day. I'm not sure if the colder weather has anything to do with it, but the reality is it's now making far more noise than I'm willing to tolerate until next spring when I have intention of overhauling the entire steering column.

(Image: 8 Oz bottle of Gummi Pflege rubber restorer)While at the dealer picking up the Roundel this week I therefore decided to order the parts I figured I'd need to fix the problem including the slip ring and snap ring. Today, when I went to the dealer to pick up the parts, the parts guy also presented me with a couple of parts I didn't order -- specifically the inner and outer collars. I knew those parts were likely to be in fine shape and not in need of replacement, but at less than $2 a piece I decided to take them just in case.

I'm not sure when I'll get to pull the wheel and install the parts, but it's on my short list.

11/22 Update: I didn't need the slip ring after all and returned it for a credit. The parts cost has been updated to reflect this.

Gummi Pflege Stift Application

One of the downsides of frameless doors is the fact that the rubber molding that seals the door opening is exposed to UV in areas the window cannot protect it. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that after 14 years of exposure portions of the molding have dried out. While searching for something unrelated on Amazon, I found something I've been looking for ever since BMW stopped carrying it several years ago: Einszett Gummi Pflege. For those that don't know, this stuff has a pretty amazing reputation for restoring rubber seals, and with each one on my E36 going for $300, the $8 seemed like a wise investment.

Today I applied the material to the exposed portion of the rubber seal several times and watched the rubber soak each application in within a few seconds. After three solid applications I noticed the solution took a bit longer to dry so I considered that a good place to stop. The result? The rubber was darker and a bit more pliable, but admittedly not nearly as smooth and flexible as the rubber protected by the door.

When I closed the door I noticed that the window closed the last quarter inch a bit more quietly...no doubt because the rubber was now more "slick". Indeed, the label suggests that Gummi Pflege can help prevent rubber from sticking to the window in freezing conditions, so I think it's safe to say that the stuff works. It won't perfectly restore 14 year old seals, but it does make a difference, and I think it would serve particularly well as a protectant if applied every 6 months to brand new seals. In fact, at this point I wished I'd done that from the start.

If you're thinking of picking up a bottle and you click on this link to purchase the product a (very) small amount of your purchase will go towards my site support fund. Thanks in advance for your support.

Mileage: 213290, Parts: $14, Materials: $8

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Steering Noise Fixed

While blessed with "reasonable" temperatures in the 50's, light winds and sunny skies I decided to attempt to fix the steering column noise today. Armed with the tools as specified in my Steering Wheel Conversion DIY I got to work.

Although I had purchased both the bearing and the slip ring, I decided to take a conservative approach to the repair and replace the bearing first. That way, I reasoned, should that fix the problem I would be able to return the slip ring and save $150. That turned out to be the right move, as I managed to replace the bearing in about 30 minutes, take a short test drive and confirm that the steering column was now completely silent.

I found this strange for two reasons:

  1. The bearing was last replaced in 2007 after 150K miles in service. That bearing started making noise about a month ago after a mere 65K miles in service. I'm not sure why the new bearing failed so quickly. Both were labeled "made in Germany", so that leaves a change in supplier quality or installation error as possibilities.
  2. The old bearing didn't feel that bad too me. I'm pretty good at identifying bad metal bearings, but aside from some additional play as compared to the new unit, I didn't really see anything wrong with it. The only thing I can think of is that it must tend to bind internally when installed due to the fact that it is a tight, press-fit.

When it came time to install the new bearing, I leveraged a tool I bought for last year's rear suspension overhaul -- a 30mm socket -- to serve as a drift. A slightly larger socket probably would have been ideal, but this one worked; a couple taps with the hammer seated the bearing simply and evenly.

I made surprisingly quick work of dealing with the snap ring this time time around, thus proving that experience counts. Using two large flat-blade screwdrivers perched at the 3 and 9 o'clock positions (with the open end of the snap ring facing down) seemed to make the installation easier. I noticed prior to installation that the old snap ring was slightly stretched open as compared to the new part, so the new ring was a bit more difficult to press into place over the steering shaft. But once pushed home it seated snugly in the groove and that allowed the inner collar to fit perfectly. I did not wind up installing the new collars I purchased because while there was some scoring on the outer collar (which is made of aluminum), I didn't think it needed to be replaced. I'll simply reserve those parts for later use.

While my dealer doesn't officially allow returns of electrical parts, I hope they'll make an exception in this case simply because I never installed the part. If they do allow the return, I'll apply a "credit" to my parts tally. If not, I'll just sell it to someone looking to do the three spoke conversion. I did not get a labor quote at the dealer for this job, but I have a very hard time believing I could get out of there for less than an hour + parts, so I'm calling this $128 labor saved.

11/22 Update: The parts department accepted the return of the slip ring and thus credited me $170. This reduces the parts cost for this repair to $14. The prior blog entry has been edited to reflect this change.

Mileage: 214261, Labor Saved: $128