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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Doug's Domain

Doug Vetter, ATP/CFI

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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Cover Update

After finally releasing myself from the burden of the daily commute a few months ago I started using my car cover continuously. While it's a bit of a pain in the ass to remove it each time I go out I consider this a minor inconvenience given the benefits it provides.

The cover has already stopped a bunch of bird crap from destroying my new clearcoat though that hasn't eliminated the need to periodically inspect the cover and remove any contamination, as the manufacturer recommends spot cleaning affected areas and ultimately washing the entire cover periodically to preserve the fabric's water shedding properties. I have washed the cover several times now in my home horizontal axis washer and it appears to be holding up. The seams are still in good shape. As the cover wraps around the muffler it's become stained in that area but as we pilots say, you can't see it from 10000 feet.

Naturally, by keeping the cover on the car, I no longer have to wipe the car down every day and as a consequence I already see I will have a lot less paint correction to do in the spring. Less paint correction means I will remove less clearcoat over time, and that's obviously a good thing. It also means fewer hours spent polishing, and that's a gift given my time constraints. In that sense the cover has already paid for itself.

However, I did experience one issue last week that was the genesis for this update. Following a wind storm I came out to find the cover completely pulled off the car and hanging by one of the mirrors. I purchased an accessory from the manufacturer to help tie the center points of the cover to each other under the car but it's it's cumbersome to use and so I only use it prior to known storms. The key word here is "known". I'm too busy to watch the weather continuously and the latest storm clearly caught me off guard. So I am now looking for a better solution to secure the cover to the car. I'll let you know when I find it.

Starter Gets Grumpy

It was bound to happen sooner or later. The starter has flawlessly cranked the engine countless times over the 262K mile life of the car. A couple times in the last month, however, the starter bendix engaged briefly and then released only to allow the starter to briefly spin at full speed before I let go of the key. So far the problem is intermittent but it's clear I'll need to do something about it soon or I can guarantee I'll find myself stuck somewhere inconvenient.

I confirmed with my technician that while it is possible to pull the starter from underneath on vehicles equipped with a manual transmission and it's also possible to do this on automatic transmission cars if you drop the transmission cross member, remove the engine driven fan for clearance with the radiator, and then allow the engine to tilt backward, thus providing the needed access in the tunnel, the practical way to do the starter on automatic-equipped vehicles is to get it from the top by pulling the intake manifold.

Of course, this process isn't without headaches. I know if I pull the intake manifold the myriad dried out hoses connected to it will crack and need to be replaced, and I'll also need some special tools to get the job done. Some have resorted to welding an E12 torx socket on the end of a custom-bent box-end wrench. My technician said he uses "standard" tools for this job, but his toolbox is much larger than mine so what he considers standard is probably some low-profile swivel-ratchet with a stubby handle I don't own.

(Image: Building is now sheetrocked)

Should I decide to tackle this job myself I'd probably have access to my brother's toybox (a rare update for which follows) but given that the E46 is not equipped with tires suitable for winter this is not an ideal time of year to start any project during which I might run into problems. So I have two choices: wait it out and do the job myself in late spring / early summer or have my technician do it now. As always it comes down to price and the value of my time. Decisions, decisions.

Toybox Update

It's a been several years since I last reported on the status of my brother's toybox that I hoped would be complete in time to aid the final stages of my E36 restoration. In that time I've received a few emails wondering what happened to the entire thing but it seemed quite boring to report on what was basically a general lack of progress so I didn't bother.

The last couple of months, however, has seen a ton of work completed -- the in-floor heat is now up and running using a tankless water heater, that same water heater is now providing hot water to both interior and exterior spigots (the exterior versions being non-freezing types, naturally) allowing washing of cars inside and out, the building is prepped for 5 tons of A/C and wired for sound, video (both entertainment and surveillance), and data. Paint is scheduled shortly and the floor will be coated with epoxy. Not long after that the 2 post lift I've longed for since the first designs were envisioned in 2008 will finally be installed.

Perhaps the biggest change in the last few years is my brother's use case for the building. I long ago saw it as a place to work on cars while my brother saw it more of a place to store vehicles and perhaps pay others to work on them. He's obviously grown weary of paying others to maintain his fleet and more tired of working on cars in inhospitable weather (welcome to the club) hence his last-minute addition of A/C. Incidentally, the unit was undersized slightly because the point of the unit is not necessarily to chill the place down as much as reduce humidity. It won't be particularly cheap to run, but it won't be on continuously either. Like everything else, it wasn't cheap to install but it would have been a lot more expensive to install later so that was part of the justification as well.

The irony, however, is that I'm largely done with the E36 restoration at this point and the few things I have yet to do (seats and engine overhaul) I am unlikely to tackle myself because I can't justify that much time away from my business. I also have plans to move out of state once the business achieves sustainable revenue so I won't have access to the facility forever. The upside is my perspective on the sidelines of this project has added to my experience of what is possible, as well as the costs involved, so I can better design what I might build for myself one day. Fingers crossed.