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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Doug's Domain

Doug Vetter, ATP/CFI

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Oil Service

Right on schedule, I did my second DIY oil service. The job was a bit easier this time around for a few reasons:

This was the first time I had to reset the service indicator lights. As I indicated earlier, I used a special wire assembly sold by BMW to short pin 7 of the diagnostic connector to ground to reset the lights.

I only had one snag. You're supposed to short pin 7 for three (3) seconds to reset the OIL SERVICE indication but that didn't work. I did it again and that still had no effect. I did it a third time and the display changed to show "INSPECTION" and the bar graph changed from showing one green bar to one yellow bar remaining. This may very well have occurred because the car was ready for inspection rather than an oil service, but I lost track. I then decided to short the pin out for a continous period of nine (9) seconds, and that reset the lights properly. Since I don't really use the lights anymore other than as a general reminder to check out my maintenance schedule spreadsheet, if I reset both oil and inspection lights each time, that's fine with me.

Mileage: 137310, Parts: $36, Labor savings: $70

Front Sway Bar Links

(Image: New front stabilizer bar end link installed) This was a straightforward task with one exception. When checking realoem.com for the front sway bar parts I saw only one option for the bushings -- 24 mm. I knew that one of the attributes of the sports package on this car was a larger swaybar, so when realoem.com showed a "low-slung suspension" option for an 18mm rear bar, I figured that was the only difference. While I had the car jacked up for the oil change, however, I took a close look at the front sway bar bushings and saw "25.5" stamped on them. so it turns out that BOTH swaybars are larger on the sports suspension and the front is 25.5mm rather than 24mm. This meant I had ordered the wrong parts.

Knowing that some BMW parts are "phantoms" (that is to say, not shown in the parts diagrams of the ETK, but otherwise available if you enter the part number manually), I looked for a part number on the bushing. I managed to clean up the side of the bushing sufficiently to see a few numbers, but they didn't resemble a BMW part number so I didn't bother to copy them down. I went to the dealer's parts department on the assumption that realoem.com was out of date. It turned out that their latest ETK software provided the same (incorrect) information.

While hanging around the parts desk I ran into my technician. Always accomodating, he offered to put his lunch aside, put the car on the lift, and remove one of the bushings to look for a hidden part number. The only numbers on the bushing he found aside from the size (25.5) were the numbers I found earlier. He brought those numbers over to the parts desk and the parts guy was able to come up with a full part number and enter it into ETK manually. The good news at this point was that the part was available, but they didn't have any in stock, so my technician had to put the old ones back on the car.

While he had the car up on the lift, I asked him to take a quick look at several things -- trailing arm and subframe bushings, front lower control arms & balljoints, and tierods. He said that he "never" replaces the trailing arm bushings, which is really his way of saying they're a very rare fix in this shop. He also said that when the subframe bushings fail it's obvious, but mine weren't sagging at all -- they appeared to be in good shape. To finish up, he did the usual tug on the front wheels and gave the ball joints a clean bill of health. When I mentioned the problems I was trying to solve, he commented that at roughly 75K miles on the struts he felt they were about 3/4 of the way through their useful life and were the most likely culprit. Struts are now on the list for work I'm planning for the spring.

Back at home, I figured I'd just reinstall the new CSL wheels (with fixed valve stems), but once I pulled the front wheels off I realized that I could replace the end links now and do the bushings later without removing the wheels at that time, so that's what I did. It took me about 20 minutes to do the first link because I had to file down my 5/8" sacrificial combination wrench I bought the other day for this purpose, and just figure out what sizes of wrenches and sockets I'd need for the task. The second link was done in less than 5 minutes.

I originally decided to replace the sway bar end links because I thought they might be reponsible for the "shudder" I felt in the steering wheel as I drove over rough pavement, particularly when turning. After a few hundred miles of driving it's clear that the shudder is gone and the steering appears a bit smoother overall. As a result of this experience I've changed my recommended maintenance interval on end links to 72K miles.

I have yet to tackle the rear bar, but that will come soon.

Mileage: 137400, Parts $100, Labor Savings: $100

Body Shop Estimate

As you may recall, an unknown moron sideswiped the driver's side in a parking lot at work a few weeks ago. I took the car to the same shop that did the work earlier this year and settled on a plan to repaint the driver's side door and blend into the quarter panels, replace the driver's door pull trim and bump strip, the lower skirt and the two mirror covers. The damage? $1600.

This was technically considered an accident even though I was no where near the car when it happened, so my $500 deductable applied. The most I could hope to get from my insurance company is $1100, but it's likely they would refuse to do the job to my satisfaction and come up with their own, far cheaper, estimate. In addition, their bean counters would likely count this as an accident, even though it was a hit-and-run and the reps told me it wouldn't count against me. I pay less to insure both of my cars now than I used to pay to insure the E36 when it was new, so any money I might hope to get from my insurance is not worth the risk of a long-term increase in premiums.

The shop offered to take the car in next week, and my guess is that the work will take about two weeks to complete.

CSL Wheels Reinstalled

I decided to put the CSL wheels back on the car so I could put the valve stem issue to bed and also to test the new end links. The good news is that the valve stems appear to be holding air at 36 PSI and the end links quiet the steering shudder on the 18" wheels as well. The bad news is I'll have to remove the wheels again before I take the car to the body shop, as body work is a messy business and I don't want any sanding residue or overspray on them -- especially after all I've been through to get them on the car.