Friday, November 15, 2013
Winter Sport 4D Installed
Earlier this week I experienced a flashback to last fall when I got caught in the aftermath of a freak winter storm just after Hurricane Sandy rolled through. I drove to an appointment in light to moderate snow showers all the while thinking about my set of winter tires which were freshly mounted and waiting for me at the dealer. Fortunately for me and the E36 still clad with summer rubber, snow only accumulated on the grass. As we pilots might report to the tower upon landing, "braking action good".
Since my weekend was already booked I took a vacation day today so I could pick up the tires at my technician's bay this morning and install them this afternoon. All of the tires came in at 18 pounds of road force with the exception of one, which was 12. The fact that they were manufactured in Germany probably explains the consistency, but the overall quality is typical Dunlop, which is to say acceptable but not exactly on a par with Michelin. My technician made a comment about the freakish wear he saw on the Pirellis and all I could do was to point at the pickup I'd brought to take delivery of the tires and say "that thing drives better than the E36 did with those tires on it." He nodded and acknowledged, "I don't doubt it.".
Back at the garage I installed the wheels without fanfare and then went on my usual test loop. I was naturally concerned that the tires -- the most narrow tire I've put on the car since new -- would look and perform like bicycle tires, but I'm happy to say that my concerns were unfounded. They are easily an order of magnitude better than the Pirelli and surprisingly competent through the turns. Naturally, however, they are no where near as capable or as smooth as the Pilot Super Sport, but the fact that I'm willing to talk about them in the same sentence should tell you something. They are clearly a "Peformance Winter" tire and should do well for the next couple of winter seasons. Now all I can hope is global warming continues and we don't get any significant snow this year.
Inspection Reveals Cracked Muffler [Updated 11/24]
From the time this car was new I've been impressed with the quality of the factory exhaust system. Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever. While underneath the rear end of the car during the winter tire swap I noticed a white stain on the bottom of the muffler similar to what I've seen during the saltier months of the year. Looking closer I noticed the stain emanating and expanding rearward from a long crack, which I believe to be due to thinning of the metal as a result of corrosion and fatigue stress.
While there are an array of aftermarket "cat-back" exhausts available for this car many are made of cheaper metals like "aluminized steel" (Supersprint 022 783 606) which is inferior to either 304 or 409 stainless in terms of longevity. Most utilize thinner construction to achieve lower weight and that too contributes to a shorter lifespan. And virtually all I've heard except for the Stromung and aforementioned Supersprint part are significantly louder than the stock piece. Some people may enjoy attracting attention but not me. To top it off, the few I've looked at are all significantly more expensive than the factory piece too.
Unfortunately, a check with the parts desk revealed that while the stock rear section for the 328 is not ENDED in BMW parlance, there were none in stock in worldwide inventory. And although the parts guy was optimistic that he could put in an order and receive a piece in 2-3 months, I had seen this movie before. I think I still have some visor clips on order from last year, so my guess is BMW is done making exhaust components for the E36. I don't need to replace the part immediately but as a pilot I have an innate fear of exhaust leaks so I will likely tackle this soon.