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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Doug's Domain

Doug Vetter, ATP/CFI

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Polar Vortex

In stark contrast to the balmy temperatures my state experienced throughout the end of December a cold snap hit in early January which the weather service sensationally referred to as the “polar vortex”. It brought single digit lows, high winds, and, naturally, wind chills well below 0. Of course, with unusually cold weather comes unusually annoying behavior of all things mechanical, my 15 year old BMW included.

On the coldest morning forecast for the period I came out to the car to drive to work only to find both door locks frozen shut. They wouldn't move a millimeter. I'd seen this movie before so I momentarily lifted the door handle to activate the lock heater. This would normally fix the problem in a few seconds but it did precisely jack squat. I waited over a minute freezing my ass off while I wondered whether the lock heater in my recently-replaced door handle was defective...and then, miraculously, the key indicated a willingness to turn. With a bit more persuasion the key reluctantly turned to the point necessary to trip the locking system microswitch and I was in.

Driving to work I flipped the windshield washers on to clean off the windshield. I expected a good shot of fluid to come out of both jets, especially considering that I topped off the reservoir recently with a bottle of fluid at full strength, but the jets merely dribbled fluid all over the hood...which promptly streamed back from the jets, gelled, and then froze. As we pilots say in the cockpit during similar periods of frustration: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

Arriving at work I knew the car would be exposed to brutal cold all day (11F as a forecast high) so rather than risk a repeat of the problem and the prospect of getting stuck at work I did something I've never done in the history of owning the car: I left it unattended for the work day with the doors unlocked. By the time I left the office that evening it was predictably dark, the wind was howling, and the wind chill was about -15F. I walked up to the car and knew the doors were open but I decided to insert my key into the lock just for giggles. Sure enough, the lock was frozen solid again. I smiled, thinking I'd outsmarted both the car and mother nature, but both had the last laugh as I pulled the door handle. The door wouldn't open. After a few choice words I pulled harder. With a degree of defiance only a 15 year old BMW forced to live outside could muster the door refused to budge, but it eventually succumbed to my persuasion and verbal threats of banishment to the junk yard (hey, I was just kidding, but it didn't know that!) and the door opened with an unsettling cracking sound. I was in.

On the way home I tried to recall what might have caused the locks to freeze, and then it dawned on me: I'd used HHS-K on both locks last summer. Word to the wise: don't do that. HHS-K (or the older HHS-2000 if you prefer) applies in liquid form with a solvent but the solvent is volatile and evaporates, leaving behind a grease. The problem is, apparently, that this grease does not like cold weather. To fix the problem I stopped by my garage and shot some penetrating lubricant (Zep 45 NC) into each lock and rotated the key several times. Both locks loosened dramatically after only a few twists. If you're wondering, Zep 45 and TriFlo are both approved for and used routinely on aircraft to lube flight control hinges and the like. You can probably figure out why: they remain limber even under temperature extremes, and while I'll be the first to make excuses and shrug off the commute to work as a result of a frozen lock, the ability to control the flight path of the aircraft in sub-zero temperatures is not optional.

The next morning I awoke to a temperature of 7F and went out to the car expecting the lock to turn since we hadn't received any precip overnight but they were frozen solid again. Fortunately, however, after a brief delay following activation of the lock heater the lock turned. So while the weather wasn't yet back to normal, my locks were, apparently. Man, I can't wait for summer. Note to self: reconsider long term plans to move to New Hampshire.

M3 Exhaust Arrives to Replace Stromung

I sent email to Stromung to ask about the fitment issues with their exhaust and I was effectively told to pound sand. "Sorry about that", came the reply. "We've never heard about any fitment issues before...we don't sell many for the 328...most are for the M3, so we're thinking of not selling it for the 328 anymore". That was two weeks ago, and it was the last email I received from them. I took this to mean that they had most certainly never tested it on a 328, and if they had sold it to a 328 owner already, either the owner didn't give a shit about the fitment or Stromung chose to ignore their concerns the same way they ignored mine. In any case, the lack of support coupled with the offensive noise signature convinced me that I was done with Stromung; I wanted this thing off my car ASAP.

In frustration I called the dealer's parts desk and asked for clarification on the availability of the non-M OE muffler section. They reiterated that it was still technically available but as there were none in worldwide inventory they would have to make it (2 months or more) and then ship it to me from Germany (2 weeks). I then decided to ask the question I should have asked a month ago..."what about M3 rear sections?" Knowing they're a bolt-on replacement for the non-M part with the exception that it requires the "golf-tee-mod", just as the aftermarket units do, I figured that would be a slam dunk solution to my problem. "Three in stock in the US, and we can have one in 2 days". The perk? While it's a bit more expensive and heavier than the non-M part it's less than the Stromung.

The unit arrived today in good shape, aside from some small areas on the muffler body where the paint has been rubbed off, no doubt due to how they store and ship these units. Overall, the unit is well made and the tips appear to be a lightly brushed stainless steel similar to my E46 ZHP exhaust. The tips connect directly with the pipes leading through the muffler and are of approximately the same size. In other words, they're functional just as much as they are cosmetic. And because they're much smaller than the Stromung tips I already know I'll have no issue with clearance through the relief cut into the diffuser. The comment my parts guy made as he was handing it to me? It turned out to be the last one in US inventory. Obviously, despite the plethora of aftermarket exhausts available people are still buying OE M3 exhausts. Hmmmmm....I wonder why?

Weather permitting, I'm hoping to install the exhaust tomorrow and close this annoying chapter in my ongoing E36 maintenance saga.

Mileage: 243950