Sunday, June 29, 2014
While on my way home one night this week a clueless SUV driver I was following ran over what I estimate was a piece of tree limb about a foot long and almost 2 inches in diameter. There was no time to react and barely enough time to flinch before the log hit my hood then the windshield which pushed it up and over the car. Shortly afterward the road hazard (the SUV driver, that is) decided to get the fuck out of the way and give me the clear view of the road they obviously took for granted (hint: there was no one in front of them and they were hogging the left lane).
It didn't take me long to sit up straight and see the damage on the hood. For all the stones that had turned it into a pitted mess over the last few years it had acquired no deformities...until now. The log left behind a good sized dent and a bunch of heavily scuffed and scratched clearcoat. When I got home I was relieved to find no damage to the window or my freshly painted roof. After a few minutes of buffing with some Menzerna Intensive Polish I was surprised at how much better the clearcoat looked but the dent remained painfully obvious.
For years I've tolerated the paint on the lower half of this car looking increasingly frumpy. It's not that I haven't wanted to repaint the car in its entirety to fix all the sins of the past – it's that for the last several years there has always been some higher priority project waiting in the wings, and my budget being what it is I had to pick my battles. And that was certainly the case this year as well, but given the new damage and the fact that I want the car smelling of new leather rather than lacquer thinner when the interior work is done I've decided to schedule the car to go back to Caruso's after the holiday.
I'm planning to do the following:
- Paint the entire bottom half of the car, blending into the pillars as necessary and in the process fix a half-dozen dings and dents, two of which are very noticeable.
- Replace the rear valance as the existing valance was hacked up courtesy of the Stromung debacle. I will likely go with the M3 parts here because they are cosmetically similar to the non-M versions and a better fit with the M3 muffler.
- Replace the front valance because it's heavily pitted and would likely require more prep work than it's worth. I'm not sure if I'll convert to the M technic parts but they are historically accurate for this car as BMW switched to them 2 months after my build date. The ability to install the well-reviewed Motion Motorsport aluminum one piece underpanel may sway my decision in favor but I happen to like and in some sense prefer the understated non-M fascia. Interestingly, my parts guys confirmed that the pork chops are the same so should I go with the M fascia I won't have to throw away those nearly new parts. I will, however, need new brake ducts and possibly a radiator shroud so it's safe to say going with M parts will cost slightly more.
- Replace all the fading trim and possibly go with the wide trim that is more commonly seen on the M3. I will not, rest assured, install the M3 badge insert in that trim, however. I noticed in the ETK that five different badges are available and the only one I'd consider installing is the the “///M” badge. However, my parts guy told me that there is a different trim part number that is designed for a “badge delete” option, likely meaning it does not have the recess required to accept a badge so if I don't want a badge I won't be forced to install one.
- Install ZKW Halogen euro-spec projector headlamps as the stock plastic covers of my US spec parts are now officially beyond repair despite my attempt to polish out most of the pitting, and, well...the US spec reflector lights just suck. The foglamps are also pitted because I didn't put any protective film on them, so I'll be installing new foglamps in addition to headlamps and adding a protective film to all. According to my parts guy the foglamps that fit the M front fascia are different than the non-M so I'll need to make a decision regarding the fascia before I buy the foglamps.
I haven't worked out the logistics yet but I am considering dismantling the car myself in prep for the paint work to save a bit of money and then put the car on a flatbed for the trip to and from the shop. The seats will be removed at this time so I can send those off to be recovered while the car is away, and the delay related to painting will allow me the time necessary to manufacture, assemble and test the DSP enclosure and wiring harnesses so I can simply drop everything into place when the time comes. I now expect the car to be out of service for at least a couple months. The E46 will no doubt get to flex its muscles again shortly.
Early this week the brake wear indicator lamp illuminated in the cluster so I picked up pads, rotors and a wear sensor and installed them today. The indicator tripped at 250500 and the scheduled interval is 30000 so that means I got 27900 miles out of this set, or 2100 less than expected. The last time I was a bit short as well so I may reduce the interval to 28000 miles eventually.
Despite some difficulty in disconnecting the brake wear sensor electrical connection (largely because the connector was replaced two years ago during the front suspension overhaul so it was still "tight") the job went about as well as I've come to expect. Thanks to the anti-seize I always put on the hubs the rotors popped off with a few light taps of the hammer. I mixed up a batch of citrus degreaser to clean the caliper bracket as required to inspect the powdercoating job and the news is good. I only found rust in the areas I masked off for clearance purposes, and those areas were treated to another coating of grease so it's not likely to be a progressive issue. I looked for uneven pad wear that could have been caused by the pads hanging up on the caliper bracket but the pads were flat as a board. I think this proves it's acceptable and even beneficial to powdercoat the caliper brackets in their entirety (no need to mask as I did) so long as the thickness of the paint is kept to a reasonable minimum.
Since this was my first time inspecting the brakes following the use of silicone paste lube on the caliper guide pins I inspected them closely. The good news is I found them perfectly clean, probably because the silicone served to seal the bushings. While in the past I'd have to attack the pins with a can of brake cleaner and scotch brite pad to remove the hardened grunge, today nothing more than a light rub with a paper towel made them look like new. In fact, they looked like new to begin with and I could have reinserted them as is. I can now see why BMW specifies this lubricant and I still can't believe I didn't hear about this until recently. When it came time to reinstall everything I applied new paste to the guide pins and then rotated them in a towel to spread out the paste into a thin coat. The pins were then easily inserted into the bushings.
I took a bunch of video of this work. The footage taken on the left side (including the wear sensor) didn't come out well but I managed to get two 20 minute clips of the right side showing the entire process. My plan is to add commentary and post them otherwise unedited as part of my Brakes DIY article.
Passenger Door Panel Arrives
I asked the parts guys to work their magic on the door panel and I wound up picking up the part today for 10% over cost. While this was roughly what I paid for the driver's side a couple years back despite a price increase from BMW (translated: a very good deal) it was still hard to swallow.
When I signed on the dotted for a the brake parts and door panel today, however, I came to the conclusion that had I walked into the dealership like joe average to get the front brakes done they would have charged me MORE than the cost of these parts simply to replace the brakes. While I don't report dollars and cents anymore the message is that DIY still pays a handsome dividend.