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Thursday, July 16, 2020

Doug's Domain

Doug Vetter, ATP/CFI

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Interior Overhaul - First Parts Arrive

Last week I learned that the sunroof switch panel was not available at either of the dealers contacted by my parts department and therefore not available for this project. When I heard the news I considered converting to a black headliner but it didn't take long to look up enough part numbers to determine that wasn't an option as there were fewer parts available in black than beige, including the headliner itself. So I went back to the original plan to buy beige parts and recover the sunroof switch panel. A bulk of the parts, including the headliner, sunroof trim panel, parcel shelf, and exterior sunroof weather seal came in and I picked them up today.

Some things I noticed about the new parts:

I learned this week that the visor clips were no longer available in beige, but they were available in black and gray, so I decided to order four examples in black, two of which will remain in my spares drawer. I have not decided whether I'll paint them beige as there are enough black parts in the interior and in the vicinity of the visors (primarily the sex light and sunroof switches) that I doubt I'd really notice the difference, but the option is available provided I can mask or remove the metal contact used to complete the visor lighting circuit. Those parts haven't come in yet, but I expect them this week.

I did some research into my recovering options and found a company in Florida with a reputation for using the correct fabric for the task. The owner of the company told me that the German fabric used for the headliner comes with a 1/8" thick foam backing, in contrast to the typical US-sourced fabric which uses a 1/4" thick foam. Use of the correct foam is essential to preserve the look and fit of the original parts (particularly at the base of the pillars, which is a very tight fit) and is absolutely required on the interior sunroof trim panel because of the limited clearance when the panel slides back into the cassette.

While on the topic of the A & C pillars, the owner pointed out what I already knew -- my pillars are covered with a fabric that has no foam backing. He said that the process BMW's supplier uses to attach the fabric without bleeding the adhesive through the fabric is not easily duplicated in the field and for that reason he advocates installation of the same 1/8" thick foam backed fabric used on the headliner. He then added that BMW has done this on other models from the factory so use of the foam backed fabric in this application is appropriate for those (like me) trying to preserve the OE look.

I haven't quite figured out whether it will make sense to send all my parts to Florida for recovering or buy an appropriate amount of the fabric and have my local shop install it. On one hand, I like the fact that the shop in Florida deals with this fabric every day so I should naturally expect to get a first-class installation, but on the other hand I'm not particularly excited about the possibilty of losing the parts in transit or having the parts tied up at a shop 1000 miles away for weeks on end if they are swamped with business. In any case, I requested a fabric swatch and if that checks out, I'll make the call at that point.

Retail on the parts so far is $1028, but the parts guys discounted them to $815, hence $213 in the parts saved column.

USA Spec PA12-BMW iPod / Aux Adapter Purchased

For many years I have loathed subjecting my CD collection to the harsh automobile environment because many of the CDs I originally purchased in the <gasp> 80's are no longer in print, or are otherwise irreplaceable because the most recent remasters have been bastardized in the misguided quest to support the loudness war. I long ago ripped my entire collection to high-bitrate MP3 format for use with an old iRiver player I use while flying, but lacking any means to connect that player to the BMW audio system, the CD changer has remained in operation.

While thinking about the interior overhaul project I realized I would need to remove the rear seat to faciliate access to the parcel shelf and C pillars. This process is, coincidentaly, required to route cables from the trunk to the console for an iPod adapter, so I figured I'd leverage the opportunity to install an iPod adapter so I can finally retire the changer and protect my CD collection from further abuse.

The media adapter market is dominated by two players -- DICE and USASpec. The DICE adapters are the most popular because of their feature set, but one need only read the forums (bimmerforums, for example) to arrive at the opinion that the DICE adapters are unreliable and poorly supported. While the USASpec adapters aren't without fault, they seem to enjoy a comparitively favorable online opinion so I decided to purchase the PA12-BMW model through Amazon for $125. Note: If you click on this link and ultimately purchase the product, a small percentage of your purchase will go toward my site's support fund.

While at the moment I lack any first-hand operational experience with the USA Spec unit, I can say that if physical appearance counts for anything (and I think it does in this case), the USA Spec unit is well made. The PA12-BMW comes with a solid metal case and a set of cables with quality terminations. The fact that it supports both the iPod interface as well as a generic auxillary input, which can be used to connect other media players or a satellite radio interface, is icing on the cake. The USASpec unit doesn't support MP3 text display in the E36 application, but that's a fault of the radio and not the adapter. In any case, I don't care about that since I plan to use the adapter in the direct mode that keeps the iPod unlocked and available for navigation.

Obviously, I plan to take pictures of the installation and highlight them when the time comes. Stay tuned.

Mileage: 211440, Parts: $940, Parts Saved: $213