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Monday, June 24, 2024

Doug's Domain

Doug Vetter, ATP/CFI

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Doug's E36/E46 BMW
Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Maintenance Procedures

(Image: Closeup of rear brake after new rotors and pads installed)

For the first eight years of BMW ownership I paid a professional technician to maintain my car. In 2006 I bought a new BMW and decided to keep the old to serve as a rolling classroom to help me learn how to maintain them. This section outlines all the work I've done myself with regular technical assistance from my technician and a Bentley manual.

WARNING: These articles are provided as is and without any warranty. For your own safety, please verify all information with appropriate sources before commencing any work on your vehicle. If in doubt, pay a professional to do your work!

BMW Tools This is a continually-updated list of the tools and equipment I've purchased to work on my BMWs.
Maintenance Schedule Worksheet This is an OpenOffice Calc spreadsheet I developed to help keep tabs on scheduled maintenance. Note that the times in this worksheet are based partially on the BMW-recommended inspection interval and my own real-world experience with the lifespan of the various components. Your mileage may vary. Version 2.6.0, 07/27/2014
M52 Engine Blueprinting Spreadsheet This is an OpenOffice Calc spreadsheet I developed to help me blueprint my M52 engine during an overhaul in 2017. The spreadsheet will calculate clearances from the data entered and use color to flag any unexpected results. Version 1.0, 12/31/2017.
Parts List Worksheet This is an OpenOffice Calc spreadsheet I developed to help me order parts for large projects. Calculates the discount received on each part both in terms of dollars and a percentage. This example actually contains two separate parts lists I used to compare prices. Unversioned. May be freely distributed without restriction.
Power Steering Pump While the power steering pump is probably the most reliable of all BMW engine accessories and they seldom fail suddenly, mine started making annoying high pitched squealing noises in cold weather, so I replaced it.
Water Pump Infamous for its failures, the OE water pump must be replaced every 60000 miles to maintain reliability. Use this DIY to make quick work of that task.
HVAC Controller When (not if) the HVAC controller in your 1996-1999 E36 starts going on the blink you can use this DIY to do a component-level repair for a small fraction of the cost of replacement at the dealer.
Alternator While BMW alternators are quite reliable they don't last forever. Fortunately, when they do fail, replacement is easily with in the reach of the DIYer.
Rear Shocks and Springs After 100K miles of abuse a rear suspension refresh invoving new shocks and springs is essential to maintaining original vehicle performance. This is a relatively simple procedure that any DIYer can tackle.
ICV and CCV If your BMW's throttle is acting like a dead man's switch you may need to clean or replace your idle control valve. If your BMW is doing its impression of a cropduster you might need to replace your crankcase vent (CCV). This article outlines a labor practice common to both repairs.
HVAC Blower The sound of crickets on a warm summer night can be a comforting thing...unless you're in a BMW with the windows rolled up and the air conditioning on.
Thermostat If your car's coolant temperature needle seems a bit flaccid lately it might because the thermostat isn't gettin' any. Fortunately, the DIYer can fix it with a few common tools, a couple hours, and this procedure.
Power Window Replacement of the power window motor and regulator is one of those jobs I would have preferred to pay someone else to do but it turned out to be well within my DIY skillset. Read this and I think you'll find it equally easy to do.
Coolant Flush Engine coolant does a lot more than just cool your engine. It preserves the innards of your engine block as well as the heater core and associated plumbing. Remember to flush your coolant regularly.
Fuel Filter The fuel filter is often overlooked due to the fact that's under the car and under a protective cover. Out of sight is out of mind. Fortunately, if you follow this simple procedure, replacement is one of the simplest jobs on the vehicle.
Auxiliary Fan The auxiliary fan is nothing of the sort. It's critical to the engine cooling and air conditioning systems. And when it fails it normally costs $800 to repair but I got the job done for $250. Read this article to find out how.
Brake Fluid Flush Brake fluid must be flushed every year or so to retain the original BMW braking performance. Here's a relatively simple process to flush the brake system using a pressure bleeder.
Steering Wheel Conversion In response to some noise in the steering wheel, I replaced the original four spoke steering wheel with the three spoke unit from the M3 and later serial numbers of my car. This also includes instructions on how to replace the upper steering shaft support bearing.
HK Speaker Upgrade Talk about a slippery slope. All I really needed to do was replace a crackling midrange driver, and I wound up replacing all the speakers in my HK premium system. See how I did it here!
Center Vent The center vent air control had been binding for many years, so I finally got fed up with it and decided to replace it. Fortunately, this was a very straightforward job and only requires one special tool.
Valve Cover Gasket BMWs aren't known for oil leaks, but if you've tried to replace your spark plugs and found oil around them it's time to replace the valve cover gasket. This DIY will help you do that as well as explain how to replace spark plugs and coil boots.
Oxygen Sensors Good: My 1998 328is shares exhaust headers and the dual exhaust midsection of the M3. Bad: The exhaust system has four (4) oxygen sensors. Worse: The dealer charges over $700 to replace the pre-cat units. Watch how I save money.
Microfilter Replacement of the interior air filter known as the "microfilter" on E36 vehicles is a pain in the rear, but it's definitely within the realm of DIY. This is my attempt to explain what I learned with a notable lack of explicatives.
Oil Service Although there is no shortage of DIY oil service articles online I learned a few things from doing it on my own so I figured I'd roll my own.
Swaybars Swaybars are a critical part of the BMW's suspension but it seems a lot of people (myself included) ignore them. Servicing swaybar end links and bushings can dramatically improve the driving qualities of your vehicle. This article explains how to do that without killing yourself.
Brakes BMWs can go fast but they can stop fast too provided you maintain your brake system and replace parts when required. This article outlines how to replace front and rear brakes as well as the parking brake assemblies.
Roundel After eight years and two trips to the body shop the symbol of engineering excellence -- the BMW Roundel emblem -- wasn't looking so hot. Here's how I replaced it.
Fuel Pump and Suction Unit I decided to replace the fuel pump and suction unit as part of my preventative maintenance program. Rather than pay my technician to do it, I figured this was simple enough to do myself. Read this and you can do it too!
Power Steering Flush In spite of what BMW says power steering fluid must be flushed on a regular basis. This article describes how I went about this routine maintenance task. While this was performed on my E36, the procedure also applies to the E46.