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Friday, November 28, 2014

Doug's Domain

Doug Vetter, ATP/CFI

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Oil Service

Given that the car sat in the garage for almost two months I decided to do an oil service a bit earlier than originally planned but skipped the oil analysis this time. With a mere 3320 miles in service I found the oil in predictably good shape, visually speaking at least.

The only difference in procedure came when I had to re-insert the drain plug. With the car on ramps and the X-Brace installed I noticed there was a bit less room to swing my long torque wrench, but I managed to torque the plug to the usual 18 ft*lbs. Despite this fact I don't see any reason to remove the X-Brace to conduct an oil service. It would help, however, if the front end were higher off the ground, or (what a surprise), on a lift. I'm still dreaming about that. Maybe some day.

I drained the oil from my capture basin into one of my new waste containers and found that the spout fit with plenty of room to spare. The old containers restricted my ability to position the basin vertically so there was always some oil left in the basin but that is no longer an issue with the new containers. For this reason I expect to pick up a few more containers eventually.

Front Suspension Followup

I have always known that the front and rear suspensions are designed to work together as a system but I didn't quite expect to feel as big of a difference in the rear end handling since completing work on the front end.

A case in point: One particular turn I take every morning is an s-shaped offramp with a badly undulating road surface at the first apex. For as long as I can remember the car has had difficulty tracking that turn. More than once I've had to counter steer to keep the rear in check. The effect was quite a bit more dramatic prior to the rear suspension overhaul but that didn't fix it entirely because the spent front struts were still compressing too much and causing the inside rear tire to lift excessively. Now that the front end compression is controlled and the body twist is reduced (thank you X-brace!), the car remains flat through the turn and takes the road surface imperfections with frightening ease.

One thing is sure...I no longer have to slow down to take that first turn. This is what I meant when I suggested the E36 now performs a lot more like the E46. Overall, my time with the car over the last week has reminded me why I bought the car in the first place. It handles absolutely beautifully, with stock parts no less, and the project was worth every bead of sweat, curse, scrape, broken drill bit, and painful swipe of the credit card.

Seat Parts Research

I decided to acquire the replacement seat base and backrest foam padding for my driver's side sport seat today. While browsing realoem.com I raised an eyebrow when I noticed that the backrest part was labeled ENDED. That wasn't the case just a few months ago so I called the dealer's parts desk praying they might be able to find one of the last parts in inventory here or abroad. Unfortunately, they confirmed my fears. They did say the seat base was available so I asked them to order that....quickly. I called Tischer knowing full well they have access to the same inventory systems and sure enough they said the part was NLA as well.

A brief googling session revealed no aftermarket suppliers. I considered for a moment whether I could send the padding to a company well known in the aviation industry for producing high quality custom seat foam but then I realized that wouldn't work because any such foam would lack the metal attachment points that are molded into the foam to attach the seat covers as well as other embedded structural components.

Frustrated, I decided to call BMW NA and complain to a customer rep. I began by telling the rep I bought the car based in part on BMW's reputation for supporting their cars far longer than domestic manufacturers and said I believed BMW had failed to meet my expectations in this regard. I gave the rep the part number I needed and pointed out this was only the latest in a growing list of NLA parts I need to keep my vehicle in safe operating condition. I made it quite clear that the lack of parts would not make me junk the car and give BMW another fat check. Since money talks, I emphasized that I would be willing to pay a reasonable premium for the part and that I knew many others who would do the same -- all BMW has to do is make the part available.

Predictably, the rep promised nothing more than to bring the issue to the "executives and engineers" and tell them there is still demand for these parts, but my guess is I'll sooner manage to pull a large celestial body out of my ass before BMW comes through. My plan at this point involves acquiring a couple small blocks of good quality foam from my aviation supplier, excising the damaged area in the bolster, gluing a new piece in place, and shaping it accordingly. Guess we'll see how that works out. It's not like I have any choice.

Mileage: 223050 [Oil Service at 222905], Parts: $45, Labor Saved: $100