Sunday, April 27, 2008
Rear Trim Restoration
Following last weekend's experiment I decided to apply the Leatherique Rubber Black trim restorer to the rear bumper trim. I started the process yesterday and did everything necessary to clean and prep the trim to remove any wax or protectant left over from last year's detailing sessions. I applied the product and feathered it out for a uniform appearance as I did last weekend. The textured trim actually took the product better than the side mouldings. I let it dry overnight and was completely satisfied with the results, right up to the point that the product started to come off on my hands while reinstalling the parts this morning.
This confirmed my suspicion that Rubber Black is, in fact, a paint and not a dye. That's not to say that there is no dye whatsoever in the product and that the trim isn't permanently darker at this point, but seriously -- if I wanted a surface covering to mask the problem rather than a dye to penetrate the trim material I would have bought a can of Krylon.
I managed to cover the blotchiness now apparent in the trim with some 303 Aerospace Protectant, and expect to purchase new trim parts eventually. I already had plans to do this so as long as I can get the vendor to give me a credit for the Rubber Black product I'll just chalk it up to experience and remind myself once again that there is no free lunch in this world. You want to repair faded trim? Buy new trim. You want to keep the trim looking new from that point on? Regularly apply a protectant with UV protection like 303 Aerospace Protectant. Simple as that.
Aux Cooling Fan Bearing Failure
Some time ago I realized that one of the reasons my A/C compressor was making a lot of noise was because the aux fan wasn't running. That turned out to be caused by the failure of the low-speed fan relay. I commented at the time that I was happy to save the cost of a new aux fan because the OE part is surprisingly expensive, even by BMW standards. Even with the aux fan repaired at the time I still noticed a bit of noise coming from the compressor but it was far less noticeable than before.
Today while doing my weekly under-the-hood inspection I decided to run the A/C for the first time this season. The compressor exhibited the typical low-level rumbling (marbles in a foam lined can) sound I have come to accept from this 10 year old unit, but what I did not expect to hear was a short scraping / grinding noise that seemed to reoccur every 30 seconds or so. I kneeled in front of the car, peered through the grill and watched the aux fan start up normally and then generate the noise as it shut down abruptly. I know that the fan is supposed to cycle as needed, but it's supposed to coast to a stop -- not grind to a halt in little more than one second. I removed the cover on the top of the radiator to gain access to the fan, grabbed one of the blades and gave it a tug. That clearly demonstrated the source of the noise -- bad bearings. The motor is shot and needs to be replaced before it gets too hot or before I use the A/C.
I spent a good half hour searching various BMW parts houses online to find the best price. The OE part from Tischer is $515 with their usual awesome discount -- a good price for the OE part but still excessive for what is basically a two speed fan. Bavarian Auto advertised an aftermarket equivalent (possibly OEM but I'm not sure) for $320. I decided that it was worth going with an aftermarket part to save $200 but I nevertheless continued searching for other prices.
That's when Google stumbled on well-known BMW specialty house Koala Motorsport. I didn't even know they sold individual BMW parts (Brett, owner of Koala, is more known in the industry for his differentials) but was pleasantly surprised to find greater savings there. Brett's price? $250 including shipping, or about half the price of the OE part. The thing that convinced me to buy from Brett? Unlike most BMW parts houses that just say something stupid like "BMW fan assembly" in the part description field, Koala's product description included a reasonably sized picture so I could compare my part to theirs and a comment that could only come from an experienced BMW technician like Brett: "This assembly includes the main mounting shroud, which becomes brittle with age and may not survive the fan replacement process". That simple statement (plus another that confirmed what the specific part number included) made the sale.
I should have the fan assembly later this week and expect to do the installation next weekend. I pulled the TIS description for this work and it appears that I'll need to remove the bumper cover to get at it. Should be an interesting project.