End of an Era. Sold the E30 Convertible Today.

We sold the convertible today. I hope the new owners like it as much as we did. For four years we really enjoyed the car and top-down motoring, but it was starting to demand more attention than the crack GeorgeCo mechanical staff was up to providing. At some point, you just need to make a clean break, and divert your energies to other projects. Someone else is picking up the hard-top next weekend. We sold it for about what we paid for it in 2006, so for the price of four years of maintenance (and countless boxes of parts from Bavauto and PelicanParts.com) we got to have the wind in our hair (GeorgeCo less than the others…) and the sun on our faces.

Update: December 11, 2011

Longtime readers will recall we sold the GeorgeCo convertible last Spring as pictured above. We hoped to find someone who would take the time to restore it. This week we got an update: Not yet complete, but so far, nicely done. About the only bits we recognize are the seat covers.

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Ooh That Smell

What is that goo that comes out of an electric motor that has seized? We took a brief trip to CA to escape winter and while we were gone, we had some friends watching our house. Because we had some snow and sub-freezing days, we had them run the BMW every couple of days. They must have hit the wiper switch while the wiper blades were frozen to the windshield and not noticed.

The motor burned out after melting its plastic cover. I didn’t notice until I was driving to work and tried to wipe the windshield. Then I noticed that smell. Being a former Alfa owner, it was a smell I knew all too well. At first I thought the heater blower had seized because it’s been on its last legs for a while, but the blower still worked.

Since it’s a real pain to get to the wiper and replace it, here’s how to first trouble shoot, then replace the wiper motor. Disclaimer: instruction provided for entertainment purposes only. Not responsible if it doesn’t work for you or you damage something in the process. No wagering.

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1. Disconnect the battery. Check the 30 amp fuse in position #5 in the fusebox.
2. Remove the wiper relay from the fuse panel under the hood (B in the photo above).
3. To test if the problem is the wiring, wiper relay, or wiper motor, you’ll need to test the following in order. To test, you need a piece of 14 gauge (or heavier) wire with a 30 amp fuse and a volt meter.

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4. Check for power: Reconnect the battery, with the ignition switch turned on, insert one end of your volt meter in slot 15 and touch the other to ground. If voltage is present, check for continuity by switching your volt-meter to continuity mode and check for continuity between #15 and #31. If no power or continuity, you have to fix you wiring before conducting more tests. Check the main ground connection behind the instrument panel if there is no continuity. If you get 12 volts and continuity, move on to the next test.
5. Again with the batter connected and ignition on, use your test wire with the fuse, cross #15 to #53. The wiper motor should run at low speed. Next cross #15 to #53b. The wiper motor should run on high speed. Cross #85 and ground. The washer motor should run. If the wiper motor ran for these two tests, but doesn’t when the relay is plugged in, your fault is with the relay. Congratulations, this is the easiest problem to fix. If both of these tests failed, you have to assume your problem is with the wiper motor. It’s not expensive if you shop around, but it’s a knuckle buster.
6. To get to the wiper motor, you have to remove the heater fan. I was lucky, since I had to replace the heater fan anyway…
7. If you have a strut bar installed, you’ll want to remove it to get to the firewall access panel (A). You will have to loosen the wires that run along the panel (mine were held on with zip-ties.) Then remove the panel by removing the four screws and two nuts.

Remove the blower cover by loosening the white straps, and then easing the cover out the gap in the firewall.

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Remove the resistor by pulling up and out. Disconnect the two wires to the blower, and use a screwdriver to pry open the retaining clip. It takes some work, but the fan will come out the opening in the firewall. Now you can concentrate on the wiper motor again. (At this point, most repair manuals recommend removing the rest of the heater duct cover from the heater core, but I managed to remove the wiper motor without doing that or completely removing the wiper linkage.)

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8. Next, remove the wiper arms (C) and the cowl vent (D) in the photo at the top. To remove the wiper arms, gently pry up on the cover to expose the linkage bolts. Remove both bolts, washers, and covers. Wrap a screwdriver with tape to protect your paint, and gently pry up on the cowl cover, exposing the wiper motor and cover. Reaching through the opening in the firewall, you can pry the cover off of the motor with your fingers and work it back into the opening in the cowl. You probably won’t be able to remove it until the motor is out.

9. Unbolt the wiper linkage from the car and unplug the wiper motor. At this point, the wiper motor is still attached to the linkage, but the combination is loose in the cowl. Since we are only replacing the motor, we won’t try to pull the linkage out, just separate the motor from the linkage. (If you have to replace the linkage, you have to remove the rest of the heater blower cover to get room to work it out.)

10. Now for the knuckle busting: You’ll have to use a 10mm open end wrench and work blindly. Reaching under the wiper motor, loosen the central nut to the motor. Then remove the 3 10mm bolts that hold the motor to the linkage. Now you can remove the wiper motor out the hole in the firewall and remove the plastic cover if needed (mine was melted.) Be sure to wipe up any remaining “goo” from your melt down, to reduce “that smell…” The photo shows the locations of the bolts you can’t see when installed.

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11. Before you start reassembly, plug the relay back into the fuse panel, connect the new motor, and reconnect the battery. Turn the ignition key to position II, and turn on the wiper at the column switch. Turn the switch off and the motor will stop in the “park” position. Disconnect the battery and be sure to slide your new cover into the cowl opening before you try to reconnect everything.

12. Assembly is the reverse of removal.

Bottlecap Wheel Refresh

before

One thing that drives me nuts about the “bottle cap” rims is that they’re impossible to clean. If you leave the brake dust on the wheels it eats into the surface and you cannot really get your fingers in the slots to keep them clean when you wash the car.

Since I had a little time off around the 4th of July, I thought I’d repaint the wheels and apply a more durable clear coat that’s supposed to resist high heat and brake dust. If nothing else, for a brief period they will be clean and dust-free. The photo above shows the worst wheel of the set. I’m not sure how the previous owner got that gash in the wheel, but at least it’s on the thickest part of the rim (knock on wood).

I have another set of the same wheels with snow tires on them. At some part I’ll swap this one out, but for now, it looks much better. From 10 feet away you can’t even see it. And that’s the goal of this car anyway — a decent 10 footer.

after

And the set.

full set

All in all, pretty good for a couple of days of work and about $20 in paint.

mounted

Repainted Hood

finished paint

It took a week longer than I planned, and many more cans of paint, but I finally finished the hood. I still need to polish it, but it looks pretty good.

It’s Just a Chip

Just a chip

The hood on the BMW has one of the worst paint jobs I’ve ever seen. It’s like the history of paint. I think there’s at least 4 layers, the top coat being a very cheap, very thick respray one of the previous owners had done after something fell on the hood. The paint was burned in several places, and had about a dozen significant chunks missing. The entire leading edge was one chip after another. While washing the car on Saturday, the water pressure from the hose was enough to dislodge a big chunk of paint. When I first bought the car, I painted the larger chips in as best I could with touch up paint as seen in the photo above. After I finished the Aero Grille on the MINI, I thought I’d try to fill one of the holes.

fill and sand

It was fairly easy to clean out and fill. Once I got to sanding, I started to wet sand out some scratches.

sand some more

Which of course lead to more grinding.

just a couple of more spots

Which lead to more filling.

that need to be filled too

At some point you just have to stop or you’ll go nuts. I’ll never get the thing to look like new. And with a new hood running only about $300, it’s just not worth it to try. It can’t look worse than when I started so why not try to prime it up and paint it and see what happens.

and prime

I got the first coat of primer on last night. It still needs to be sanded and there are a couple of rough spots to work out, but it’s about 90 percent there.

Making it Blow Again

A common fault with E30s is that the heater blower often only works on the highest setting. You should be happy that it works at all because it is much easier to repair/replace the resistor that controls the speed, than it is to replace the entire blower. This project isn’t very complicated. Give yourself about an hour to complete it. As usual, these instructions are provided for your entertainment only. Use at your own risk: No wagering.

You’ll need some electrical contact cleaner, 6mm and 9mm sockets, phillips screwdriver, and a varied assortment of socket extensions for this project. You may need to also replace some zip ties as well. If you’re an optimist, you can hope all you’ll need is to clean the resistor once you get to it. If you’re a pessimist, go ahead and buy the resistor before you start. You can get it at your BMW parts counter or from Bavarian Autosport.

First off, double check that your blower still works on the highest setting, then disconnect the battery.

The panel you’ll need to remove first is at the back of the engine compartment. Remove the gasket that runs along the top. You’ll have to remove 4 bolts to free up the panel. The top two are easily visible, but the lower two are hard to get to. If you have a strut bar like I do, you’ll want to remove the wire bundle that is attached to this panel so you have some room to maneuver. That involves removing two screws and possibly removing some zip ties.

Locate panel

Once the first panel is removed, you’ll see the blower in the middle. There are two white straps holding on the blower cover. You’ll need to carefully open these and remove the panel by sliding it down and pulling it out. Be careful not to break the cover or the tie straps. Now you’ll see the exposed blower.

remove straps

At the bottom of the blower, in the middle is the resistor module. Yours will probably be brown and quite dirty. In the photo you see the new light blue replacement. Remove the module by gently pulling it from the arms that extend down. Pull directly toward you. With the module removed, clean the electrical contacts on the blower. Be careful not to drip contact cleaner down into the heater. (At this point, if you were to reconnect the power, your blower would still work on the highest setting. If you want to test that, be careful not to damage the exposed fins of the blower. Remember to disconnect the power when you are done.)

remove this

You can either attempt to clean and replace your existing module, or simply plug in the new one. I tried to clean mine first, but ended up buying a new one when that didn’t work. Make sure the model is seated and reconnect the power. Then test if it works.

the offending part

Reverse your steps by first replacing the blower cover and reconnecting the tie straps. Be careful working the top of the cover in first, then slide down into place.

Replace the outer cover and put the gasket back in place. Replace your wire bundle if you moved it and replace any zip ties you cut.

Enjoy multi-speed ventilation again.

BMW Convertible Interior

rust under carpetThe carpet replacement project proved a bit more complicated than I had anticipated. Once I got the seats out and pulled POR15out the various console pieces, I pulled up the old carpet and found that the rear passenger-side footwell had started to rust. Thank goodness for POR and fiberglass repair kits. I was also amazed at the amount of junk under the consoles. I think the car was parked outside with the top up for quite a while at some point.

Before:

nasty mess

After:
complete

BMW Convertible Headliner

It has been a while since I’ve posted about progress being made to the BMW. I finally managed to repaint the right rear bumper cover that I repaired some weeks ago. (I still think the guy who did my MD state inspection scraped the right side of the car against a wall…) I managed to repair the broken plastic, smooth out the damage, prime, repaint and clearcoat. Now it’s probably the best painted piece of the car. I’ll try to get a photo of it soon.

In the process of making the repairs, I discovered two great products. The first is a special type of paint for chip repairs called Dr. Color Chip. It really works as advertised at repairing paint chips without blobs unlike most touch-up kits. It also works over large areas to restore some shine to tired and abused painted surfaces like the leading edge of your hood. The other product is the touch-up kit from Paintworld. I ordered the kit to repaint the bumper cover. I was able to apply two coats of primer, two coats of paint, and three coats of clearcoat in the span of a single afternoon. I’m almost tempted to repaint the hood with this stuff. Almost.

Today I put a new headliner (with some skillful sewing help from my lovely wife) in the hardop. It’s getting cold enough around here to want to switch to the hardtop, and I though it would be nice to not have bare fiberglass over our heads. The hardtop was a freebie that was thrown in with the purchase of the car, mostly because the guy who sold the car couldn’t think of how to get rid of it. It was covered in mildew and had a nasty smell. I ripped out the old headliner (what was left of it) and bleached out the mildew.

I found a website called Stockinteriors selling headliner material and decided to give it a try. Normally, modern headliners fit over some sort of board that then attaches to the car. This one would have to be applied directly to the roof so there wasn’t much room for error. We made a paper pattern, then a cloth mock-up and finally the real thing. It took some adjustment to fit, but it looks pretty good. I also bought some new carpet from Stockinteriors and will try to fit it in the coming days.

New Project Car, BMW 325iC

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My wife would always joke about wanting a convertible when she turned 40. The challenge was to find one that would carry all three of us and enough gear to actually go on a trip with it. As a kid, I used to ride around on the parcel shelf of my parent’s Alfa, which probably wasn’t the brightest thing to do, but back then a “child seat” was the carpeted hump in front of the rear seats in the 20 foot station wagon.

So I got to thinking, why wait, since 40 is still several years away. I found this car listed for sale by a fellow member of the local BMW club. It’s basically a sound daily driver, high mileage (165k), tired paint and interior. A solid $2k car that with a little TLC could be an excellent $4k car, but not likely to ever be worth much more than $5k. With that in mind, I launched my little scheme and achieved total surprise.before

Here’s my cunning plan: Safety; comfort; performance; and appearance. The first step is to pass the safety inspection and get the car titled in Maryland. Level-set the maintenance items (new tires; oil change; change the fluids; timing belt, etc.) and make sure the car is safe to drive. Next is to clean it up and find some decent seat covers. The leather is not torn, but much of the stitching is coming un-done. It actually cleaned-up better than I thought it would.

after (3)

The top is new and the windshield was just replaced. The headlights are new and all of the major bulbs have been replaced. (It came with a hard-top as well, but it needs a new headliner.) Once I get a cover for the steering wheel, the comfort items should be about done for now. (Not sure how to get a cupholder into the car, but I’m sure someone has a slick option for that since this was made pre-big-gulp.)

Once we get some miles on the car, I’ll figure out what can be done performance-wise. I don’t think much beyond some plugs, new coil, and a better air filter. More will come later. Finally it would be nice to get a new coat of paint. Assuming everything else hasn’t busted the budget, maybe try to get a basic respray that will last 3-5 years.