Wednesday, November 1, 2017
Yesterday my brother and I drove over to the dealer so I could pick up the E36, which I found just outside my technician's bay. After wrapping up the paperwork and paying what I hope will be the last big bill from my dealer forever, my technician told me that he had taken the car out a couple more times and said that he felt the engine getting stronger with each trip. He added that the fluids were holding steady and the oil was about a 1/4 quart above the minimum (1 quart low) mark.
My brother asked my technician a few questions about a 540 he saw in one of the bays and through this conversation my technician revealed that while all modern BMWs have a virtual oil dipstick BMW is once again installing dipsticks on selected engines. Let this be a lesson to all idiotic engineers at BMW and elsewhere who think sensor electronics can and should replace all simple mechanical systems. There is only one foolproof way (for owners and technicians alike) to verify oil quantity, and that is through a physical dipstick.
After wrapping up our conversation I hopped in the car for the ride home. The first thing I noticed as I turned the key was the starter's willingness to turn over the engine and the engine's willingness to fire, followed by a barely audible spooldown of the starter. I could not recall hearing this spooldown on my old starter, probably because the bendix was crusty and not spinning freely. To say I am happy to be rid of that problematic starter would be an understatement. It was the primary reason I did not feel comfortable traveling far outside my local area.
On the way out of my dealer's parking lot I noticed that the fuel gauge was reading below the minimum (1/4 tank) required to complete the evaporative emissions system test so I briefly diverted to the adjacent gas station. Although I typically run 91 octane in this engine and expect to continue doing that long term, I decided to put 93 in the tank for my break-in period to reduce the chance for any detonation.
On the way home I noticed the brake pedal felt a bit smoother along its travel. The activation point seemed a bit more vague but modulation was as awesome as ever so I don't think anything is wrong. More likely my judgment is skewed somewhat based on exposure to the E46 brakes over the last several months. The throttle also seemed to be a bit more sensitive but that too is likely the result of acclimation to the E46's throttle by wire and its fuzzy logic which creates a non-linear response near idle.
Once back at the garage I decided to wash the car to eliminate three months of dust and fingerprints. I then took it home for lunch and returned it to the garage before dark. In the process I added two drive cycles meeting the 60MPH and 3000 RPM limits.
This morning I drove the E46 over to my garage to pick up the E36, which I then drove around a short residential test loop a couple times at less than 30MPH and 3000 RPM. As I exited the loop I continued to my house to complete another drive cycle at less than 60MPH and 3000 RPM.
Before heading off to the inspection station I removed the expired inspection sticker with a fresh razor blade and then used Goo-Gone to remove the remaining adhesive. The inspection process in New Jersey is less invasive than it was several years ago so the process was over in just a few minutes and I exited the station with a fresh inspection sticker.
Turning onto a country road a few miles from my garage I decided to open the engine up a bit more with the transmission in second gear and wound up briefly touching 4500 RPM. The engine sounded different above 3000 RPM for some reason but again I think this had something to do with my recent experience with the M54. To wrap up the trip I cruised at low RPM to give the engine some time to cool down.
As I arrived at my garage I left the E36 idling as I prepared to swap cars. While walking around the front of the car I heard the aux fan turn on in high mode for 30 seconds before turning off. I double-checked the coolant temperature gauge only to find it at the 12 o'clock position. The fan did not turn on again before I put it back in the garage so I assumed this was a normal response to "coming in hot" as we pilots say (or "hauling ass", in the automotive vernacular), as opposed to a possible air bubble in the cooling system.
I've reserved access to my brother's lift tomorrow and hope to use that time to wrap up the project by aligning the headlights, replacing one of the stripped aux-fan mounting screws and, finally, spraying a bit of cosmoline on the fuel and brake hardlines to protect them from corrosion.