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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Doug's Domain

Doug Vetter, ATP/CFI

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Early Spring Service Part 1

When I opened my maintenance schedule worksheet and plugged in the odometer reading last week I saw red. And no, I wasn't angry (this time). Instead, I was merely surprised at all the routine maintenance that was past due and highlighted in red, including an oil service and bottle of Techron for the fuel system (1500 miles overdue), engine air filter (5800 miles overdue), Microfilter (1300 miles overdue) and spark plugs (6600 miles overdue). So I decided to run over to the dealer yesterday and pick up all the parts necessary to do that work today.

Knowing that BMW has historically stocked parts from two spark plug suppliers (Bosch and NGK) I asked the parts guys for the NGK versions I've been using all along. They told me that both part numbers have been superceded and it appears that BMW now provides only NGK plugs made in Japan. I've noticed a lot of parts consolidation by BMW lately so this didn't exactly come as a surprise.

I pulled one of the NGK plugs out the box to find that it was equipped with quad electrodes. I don't remember my last set of NGKs having quad electrodes and I do recall hearing of problems with the Bosch aftermarket quad electrodes, but it's hard to argue when this is the only part BMW supplies. When I saw the price I started having flashbacks to my bouts with aircraft parts prices -- plugs are now $18 my cost or $22 retail. Fortunately I don't replace spark plugs that often or I might be inclined to find a cheaper source. Plus, as I've said before, BMW engines can be surprisingly finicky when it comes to plugs so I'm not about to sacrifice my smooth idle to save a few bucks in any case.

Once at the garage, first up was the engine air filter. As I've indicated before I tend to pull the filter every few thousand miles and tap it on a clean spot on the garage floor to remove all the dust and grit it tends to pick up. This probably explains why my oil analysis reports always indicate low silicon. But one thing that tapping the filter clean will not do is remove the finer particles that the filter media traps so this explains why BMW recommends replacement every 30000 miles. The job is one of the simplest on the car as long as you remember to tuck the pink foam fully into the plastic cassette before pushing the inner part of the cassette home, and sliding the cover closed.

I've got the microfilter job down to a science now so that was little more than a 10 minute job. I continue to be amazed at how well these filters do their job, as they are typically dark gray by the time I get around to replacing them. I must admit to taking pleasure in changing the microfilter now because it results in tangible proof of what it's kept out of my lungs, and in the case of the small leaves from one of the trees in front of my residence, what it has managed to keep out of the car's ventilation system as well.

Unfortunately, I started later in the day than I originally planned so I ran out of time and decided to postpone the oil service and spark plug change until next time. Till next time...

Front End Overhaul Update

While at the parts counter picking up the spring service necessities I decided to order a few more parts needed for the front end overhaul. I didn't have my list handy but I did remember that I needed engine mounts so I ordered those along with the mounting hardware. And since every BMW this age seems to go through the really annoying "spinning ignition lock" problem, I ordered a new lock body, coded lock cylinder, and ignition switch I expect to replace when I pull the steering column to replace the lower bearing. The lock cylinder will need to come from Germany and I tend to pay for all the parts at once, so I expect to drop about $475 in a few weeks.

And speaking of the steering column, through some research I learned that the fracture bolts are M8x25. Contrary to popular belief they are nothing special, metallurgically speaking. They are called "fracture bolts" not because they fracture at some particular crash load, but rather because the heads are designed to break off as they reach proper torque for security reasons. Of course, the entire design was created prior to EWS and the value of the bolts on EWS-equipped vehicles like my 1998 vintage is questionable at best. Even if a thief were to attempt to go through the hassle of pulling the bolts on the lock body, the car will not start without a properly coded key in proximity to the EWS ring antenna. So simply to make my life easier now and potentially in the future, the plan is to remove the fracture bolts and reassemble with garden-variety grade 8.8 M8x25 socket cap head bolts so I can use a common allen key to tighten them. My guess is they will be less expensive than the BMW bolts too. Time will tell.

I also realized this week that I would need to add another special tool to my arsenal to complete the front suspension overhaul -- an engine support. I wanted something mechanical as opposed to hydraulic for the same reason I don't work under cars supported only by a jack: hydraulics fail. So that led me to the cross beam type supports used by the dealer techs for this job. I decided to check with Baum Tools and found their model 10-222A. The problem? They wanted $430 plus shipping. I'm all for buying quality tools, but there was no way I could justify that kind of expense for a tool I expect to use once in a blue moon.

While browsing Eppy's catalog I found an American Forge & Foundry branded unit that appeared to be nicely adjustable and well built. Similar versions sourced under different names found favor on the forums so given the positive experience I've had with my AFF jack I decided to throw down the $125 and familiarize myself with the unit before the "big day".

Mileage: 219285, Parts: $211, Parts Saved: $50, Labor Saved: $165, Tools: $125