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Saturday, September 19, 2020

Doug's Domain

Doug Vetter, ATP/CFI

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Return to Service Preparation

I had hoped to complete the restoration of the interior and install the new audio system this year but as I feared might happen the car returned from the body shop too late in the season to begin that work. As I could not risk having the E36 in pieces when the first snow falls I decided to postpone the bulk of the interior and audio system work until next spring. So this weekend I began work necessary to return the car to service.

Back in August I had to research online exactly how to remove the split folding rear seat backs as I had never done that before. I eventually figured it out and had intended to do a short video about this but the 90+ degree heat and humidity forced me to save that for another day, like today, with temperatures in the low 60's and a strong fall breeze in the air. So if you're having trouble figuring out how to R&R the seats, this video should help. While I reinstalled the rear seat and bolsters at this time I did not reinstall the lateral panels as I still hope to complete the fiberglass work needed to repair them.

The driver's door panel installation went more or less as expected so I proceeded to the install the new passenger door panel. I brought the panel with me fully prepared for the installation but as I was about to install the panel I realized that I'd neglected to install new velcro I use to mount the Polk crossover so I decided to run home to get new velcro. I needed to limber the oil in prep for an oil service I had planned for later in the day so I naturally decided to take the E36.

(Image: New passenger door panel installed)At home I got out of the car, stuck the key in the driver's door lock and heard that authoritative “clunking” sound typical of the E36's old-school, space-grade locking solenoids. After finding what I needed in the house I returned to the car and tried to unlock the door. When I heard the locking mechanism clunk twice I instinctively realized something wasn't right. A closer look revealed the door lock button protruding only 1/8” or so from the top of the panel. I had seen this movie before: the metal post on which the locking button is mounted was bent and causing the button to bind within the bushing in the door panel. The door locking mechanism was interpreting that position as a request to lock the door so it relocked immediately.

Doh! Rookie mistake. In my haste to get the work done I forgot to verify the post was straight and test the lock before I secured the panel. I never touch that post when the door panel is off precisely because I've bent it in the past and burnt myself in the process, but it's clear that someone at the body shop lacked the same foresight. Fortunately, another twist of the key unlocked the door and it did not relock this time. Once in the vehicle pulling the interior door handle provided the necessary force to push the rod up and returned the button to the normal, unlocked height. Trouble averted for now.

I returned to the garage to complete installation of the passenger door panel only to have the same problem but for a different reason. As it turned out I applied epoxy to the rear of the panel in two sessions – the first was during the day, with plenty of light, while the second was late in the day after sunset. After I pulled the panel again I realized what was wrong – with inadequate light available I inadvertently pushed some epoxy into the bushing, which reduced its inner diameter and caused the button to bind. Fortunately, epoxy does not generally stick to plastic so a small screwdriver easily cleared the bushing and that allowed me to complete the installation. Naturally, before sending the mounting screws home I checked the lock mechanism again and it worked exactly as expected.

At this point I'd had enough of door panels so I resolved to fix the driver's door panel next week and get on to the other work I'd planned today including some detailing and an oil service. With 5090 miles since the last change I completed the oil service without fanfare, reset the service indicator, and stood there a few moments, hypnotized by the M52 purring at idle with fresh synthetic blood running through her veins. Some 17 years since its birth, I continue to be amazed at this wonderful engine. If only BMW still made simple, normally aspirated engines like it.

With the sun racing for the horizon I put the E36 back in the garage and did a quick wash of the E46 in prep for what I hoped would be its final week in service. I then drove home, enjoying the simplest of things: a vehicle with relatively new paint and interior and no maintenance issues outstanding. Well, not really. The E46's idle has been a bit “lumpy” lately (my tech says there may be “new” DME firmware for that) and I just received a recall campaign letter from BMW targeting the passenger side airbag. Apparently they overcharged the igniters during manufacturing so rather than generate gas at a reasonable rate to inflate the bag they just explode and throw shrapnel. So as soon as the E36 is back in service I need to bring the E46 in for service to swap out the bag.

Old or new, the maintenance of a BMW is damn near a full time job...to the point that it almost makes me want to sell both of them and go back to an appliance. ALMOST.

Mileage: 252566