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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Doug's Domain

Doug Vetter, ATP/CFI

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Monday, August 21, 2017

(Image: Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017 viewed from NJ)
The solar eclipse as viewed from New Jersey prior to totality (75%)

Another Parts Order and Pickup

The first order of the day was building yet another parts order. Purely by chance most of the items were hoses needed throughout the engine bay. With the exception of the radiator hoses most were last replaced prior to 2006 when I started working on the car myself so I figured this would be an ideal time to replace them.

The most costly item on this order is the front support. I decided to replace this rather than rework it for a variety of reasons including simple economics. The quote I received from the local body shop to rework the old part was almost as much as the new part. My dealer gave me employee pricing for this part, so the damage wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been.

I also decided to replace the refrigerant hose that connects the condenser to the compressor, as well as the two bolts that gave me fits when I removed the condenser. Given the cost of the refrigerant hose I tried to seek out aftermarket alternatives, but most were Chinese ripoffs for $25-$50 that would ship via the slow boat. There were no (believable) reviews of fitment and I couldn't wait for them to arrive in any case, so I begged my dealer for preferential pricing once again and thankfully received it.

Around the same time I submitted that order via email I got another email indicating that the two remaining items from the last order had arrived -- this included the large tunnel heat shield and the small bracket that mounts to the back of the block to retain the O2 sensor wires. As you can see from the picture the original bracket was riddled with rust. This bracket attaches to the block with a bolt and a small clip. I wondered for some time whether the little clip would be included with the bracket and that turned out to be the case -- one less part to track.

The one strange item in this order was the ICV bracket, which incorporates or mates with a circular rubber mount. I only really wanted the rubber mount, but when I looked up the part associated with my VIN on realoem.com the price was almost $75. I freaked out a little bit and then did what I should have done originally -- I derived the part number from the last seven embossed in the rubber mount. That turned out to be a mere $11. Sold. So my existing rusty ICV bracket will go to powdercoat and I'll save a good $55+ reusing it.

First Powdercoat Batch Arrives

On schedule the powdercoater let me know that my parts were ready so I picked them up. Once back at the shop I unwrapped everything and found all the parts exactly as ordered. The rust on the X-brace cleaned up nicely, though there was some etching of the steel left behind. The engine supports look far better than the last time I had them coated, and I was particularly pleased with how nicely the transmission support cleaned up. The surface is still visibly pitted in areas but the powder tended to fill in many of the worst areas so it looks almost as good as new. Considering how much cheaper it was to powdercoat vs replace all of these items I'm happy with the result.

As expected the steel heat shields (one that mates with the engine support and another that protects the engine mount) were simply media blasted down to bare metal in order to remove all traces of rust. These pieces cleaned up far better than I expected, since they were heavily rusted. I brought them outside and painted them with two coats of VHT engine enamel primer. The instructions indicate that a second coat can be applied after 10 minutes and the finish coat must be applied at least 30 minutes after the last primer coat. They also indicate that the parts should be dry to the touch in 30 minutes and be completely dry in a couple hours. I found that to be the case. Tomorrow I'll apply two coats of VHT cast aluminum -- a bright silver color I specifically selected for its ability to reflect heat.

Polishing the Front End

While I waited for the heat shields to dry I decided to do some cleanup on the bumper cover and kidney grille support. I first cleaned each with water and towels to remove the bulk dirt. I then applied some Menzerna Final Finish (3000 grit) polish, wiped that off, and wrapped up with a coat of Power Lock Sealant inside and out. This really cleaned up both pieces and they are now ready to install. Well, mostly.

While removing the bumper I made the mistake of removing two of the expanding plastic rivets that hold the outer bumper cover (the painted part) to the aluminum bumper support. It turns out that is not required unless the intent is to replace the bumper cover itself. While I have several types of these rivets in stock I could not find the type required for this application so I will have to add that to the next parts order.

To clarify, the process to remove the front bumper on an E36 is quite simple:

  1. Remove the trim

  2. Remove the pork chops (bottom side pieces)

  3. Remove the four nuts on the front (two on each side)

  4. Remove the 8mm hex screw just inside of each wheel well. There is no need to remove the wheels.

The bumper cover is supported on the sides by a kind of rail system, so a single screw is all that's required. It's actually a pretty slick mounting system.

Preparing Next Batch For Powdercoating

Last week as I inspected more of the components my technician left in my trunk I realized that many of these pieces should probably be refinished, including:

Next Up

Now that the front end is off the car and I have a clear shot into the fender it's time to replace the hood release cable. Yes, really. After that it's time to begin work on the fuel lines, which will likely take a day or two.