The roundel fell off my hood while driving last week and I discovered what sin against all that is holy the PO had done to affix the old badge: piles of crazy glue and who knows what all because he was too cheap, naive or pig-headed to buy $2.00 plastic grommets.

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I swear I am saving this car from the junk heap, one fix at a time. I should not have bought it. But it is what it is and it’s mine.

Someday I’ll have the car repainted, when $2,000-$4,000 is not better spent elsewhere – like on suspension, clutch, engine swap, seats, differenital, exhaust. Yes, the outward appearance of the car is pretty low on my priority list. But it bothers me to drive around with a missing roundel. Ordered the real deal from BMW and it seems they have changed the design so that the silver bits are all raised. Feels nice under the fingers.

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Update:

I found it again!

August 19, 2012 cosmetic

I’m going to point-form this rather than add a whole lot of narration that no one really cares about. Basically, since I replaced the thermostat the second time the car has been running hot, especially at idle. This is probably caused by one of three things:

1 – Coolant circulation problem:


  1. Radiator is clogged – doubtful, rad is only 2 months old
  2. Water pump is broken – doubtful, water pump is only 2 months old
  3. Air is in the system – doubtful, new thermostat has a hole in it and bleeding the system produced no air bubbles just coolant
  4. Coolant is low, coolant system is losing pressure – checked frequently, level holds steady. A pressure issue is unlikely without a leak.

2 – Air circulation problem:


  1. Mechanical fan is not working
  2. Auxiliary (electric) fan is not working

3 – Ignition or Valve Timing problem:


  1. Let’s not even go there… drive belt is 2 months old and car was professionally tuned.

My attention turned to the second set of possible causes for the overheating since it’s easy to test the air circulation system. From what I’ve read and been told, the mechanical fan should run all the time but run faster as coolant gets hotter and engages the fan’s clutch. At 80C the thermostat opens and allows coolant into the engine. If the coolant gets really hot the aux (electrical) fan will engage low speed mode at 91C, then go into high speed mode if the temperature continues to climb to 99C. That shouldn’t even happen because the mechanical fan should be sufficient to cool the rad and keep coolant below 91C. The mechanical fan would require parts but the electrical fan might be easier to fix so I checked that first:

GOOD: aux fan comes on when A/C is on, at least it runs as listed in the Bentley manual I jumpered the thermostat switch and found:

  • GOOD: fan high-speed works
  • BAD: fan low-speed did not work. Possible causes:
    1. could be the resistor, which comes in two variants and is very difficult to replace without removing the radiator
    2. fan relay is blown
  • GOOD: Replaced relay K1 and low and behold now both low and high speed modes are working when jumpered

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  • BAD: visually, the fan was turning a speed I would describe as “slow” even when hot
  • VERY BAD: at operating temperature I was able to stop the fan blade using a single piece of cardboard (a rolled up newspaper could have been used too)
  • GOOD: belt seems tight when depressed with my finger, less than 1/4 of deviation
  • BAD: both upper and lower hoses coming from rad were hot (only indicates a problem, not necessarily a clogged radiator)

I checked with my friend and mechanic (who will remain nameless so he will not be inundated with after hours petitions like mine) for guidance. He didn’t offer any alternative theories so I decided to go ahead with the fan clutch replacement. He hooked me up with a new fan clutch and most importantly a 32mm fan clutch wrench (which is long and thin) and a pulley retainer. If you ever do this job I cannot overstate the value of having the right tools especially the pulley retainer not sure of the quality but you can buy both from Amazon for under $30.00. You can use a regular 32mm wrench but there will not be room for a pulley retainer as well, therefore the special thin versions are required. Here’s how this went down:

  • removed the old fan using the 32mm wrench by loosening the reverse threaded nut (when standing in front of the car righty loosey lefty tighty, or clockwise to loosen)
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  • didn’t need the pulley retainer here because the belts were nicely tensioned
  • didn’t need to whack the wrench with a hammer, nut loosened easily probably because it hadn’t been on for long
  • turned the fan mostly by hand until the last couple turns where the wrench was
  • used the wrench and my spare hand to grab the fan but still almost dropped it
  • there is only millimetres of extra space between the rad and the fan once it’s removed
  • tried to remove the fan blade from the fan clutch
  • my fan had regular bolts, not M6 (hex) bolts so there was little room for a socket between the bolt and the clutch
  • fan kept wanting to spin out of my grip while trying to loosen the bolts
  • vice grips couldn’t get good purchase anywhere
  • breaker bar didn’t help, just aggravated the problem
  • posted on facebook e30 group looking for either:
    • A) a bench mounted vice to use
    • B) a replacement fan
  • thankfully someone (thanks, Vivek) was able to provide both but I had to remove the fan from a clutch myself and also the vice was not on a bench
  • went to get fan
  • needed pulley retainer in order to remove fan from donor vehicle
  • noticed this fan had M6 bolts, was able to remove all of them by using my socket wrench and leveraging my grip against the edge of the fan directly across from the bolt I was removing
  • did the same trick on 2 of the bolts on my fan
  • used the vice clamped onto 2 screwdrivers stuck through the tines on the clutch to hold it in place and remove the last 2 bolts
  • amazingly, the clutch will not come apart from the fan blade! no explanation for this. locktite?
  • thankfully I had the fan blade from the donor vehicle
  • paid vivek $5 for the fan blade
  • went home, cleaned the fan and attached it to the new clutch (torqued M6 bolts to 80 +/-5 in. lbs.)
  • carefully threaded new clutch onto water pump bolt by hand until the pulley and belt started moving
  • used the pulley retainer again to finish the job and tighten the bolt with the wrench (guessed at how tight it should be… it’s reverse threaded so it shouldn’t fall off)

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Mina really wanted to go for a drive in so we all piled in, got coffee and gas, went to Campbell, then back home, then to Los Gatos to drop off the tools at my friend’s place and back home again. When we were getting coffee I noticed this couple standing next to a BMW X3 who were smiling and nodding at me. His name was Will and he just wanted to say how great it was to see someone in an e30 with the whole family. It was cool to chat even for a couple minutes and it turns out he’s in the BMW Club so maybe I’ll see him again. Car was either running a little cool in traffic or just a tick warm at idle, but totally within allowable ranges. E30s are known for having jumpy, analog dials so this is fine. I’m really happy that my car is running properly again as I’ve been limiting myself to short trips and eyeing the temperature gauge nervously all week so I am glad that I can go for long morning drives again.

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Addendum I:

What caused all this? I think the fan clutch probably didn’t like being jostled so violently when I was hammering away on the thermostat two weeks ago. That’s the only explaination I have for it’s sudden failure.

Addendum II:

Got the clutch off the fan blade. Hit it a few times with the hammer. Now I have a spare.

August 19, 2012 mechanical, repairs

This is how my car looks most weekends: hood up, trunk open.

On Thursday I was driving to Los Gatos and the temperature gauge his 3/4ths so I stopped driving and left it in Campbell. I consulted my mechanic and it was discovered that I probably installed a 88C thermostat instead of an 80C. He hooked me up with the correct thermostat (and kindly drilled a hole in it to make bleeding easier) and some coolant so I did the whole operation over again this morning.

The old-new thermostat is a story in itself: I ordered a Walher thermostat from FCPGroton but they shipped me a different brand worth half as much – both in price and function. I still need to call them and sort out my refund for that.

Engine temperature briefly hit 3/4ths after installing the Wahler but dropped back down after I bled out some more air and coolant. I’ll need to drive it to know if I’ve got the system bled correctly and it’s still possible my aux fan is not working.

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Update: Temperature briefly went over 1/2 this morning but the guage seems to be jumping around a little more freely (read: inaccurately) now, especially after going over big bumps. Did the following:

– topped up reservoir with distiller water, was a little under the “kald level” indicator
– released any air from the thermostat housing using the bleed screw (done at operating temp. with cabin heat blasting)
– checked hoses for leaks but also for temperature: top rad hose was hot, bottom rad hose was cool
– confirmed that the electric aux fan works by running the A/C. it should only come on if the A/C is on or the radiator gets really really hot but at least I know it’s not broken. 

Noticed my radiator is not firmly bolted in, possibly because I have a newer rad for a BMW e36 instead of an e30 rad. Might have to fabricate my own solution to that. I don’t think it will hit the fan but I like everything bolted down tight.

August 11, 2012 Uncategorized

With the addition of a new HVAC control switch my dash is now clean and complete. All the buttons have decals and working lights. The decals on BMW switches wear very well over time but I’ve noticed that they don’t like to be cleaned with anything but a damp cloth. At some point I’m going to try sealing the decals with matte spray to keep them looking perfect.

August 7, 2012 Uncategorized

Seller has a $50 steering wheel they are trying to sell for $140. This is the same model of steering wheel I got from Pick n’ Pull for $15 which I restored and re-dyed. For reference, this page has the canonical e30 steering wheel guide with prices which is where I got that $50 price from.

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Oh look, here’s another one. I guess ridiculous prices on these are pretty common… maybe I can get $140 for mine once I’m done with it.

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August 7, 2012 Uncategorized

Symptoms: Car is running cold, the temperature guage never goes all the way to 1/2 no matter how hard it’s run even on the hottest day.

Diagnosis: Probably the thermostat is stuck open, so the engine never has a chance to heat up properly. Coolant was being pumped in all the time, instead of only after the engine reaches the optimal 80C operating temperature.

Side Effects: High fuel usage since the car is always running rich and trying to get warm which will eventually foul up sensors, cat and other parts.

Drama!: I thought this would be a 30-minute job. Got up at 6AM to be less conspicuous, drained the coolant using the release valve at the bottom of the rad and removed the 3 bolts from the thermostat housing. I’ve done this before on an e30 at the Pick n’ Pull just to see what I’d be in for and it was pretty easy.

I stick the business end of my screwdriver under part of the thermostat’s armature to pry it out and the arm just peels right off! Uh-oh. A little prying later and… it’s really stuck! Either the housing has contracted around the thermostat or the gasket is so old it’s turned to epoxy.

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See that photo? It shouldn’t look like that. Went to Home Depot, got a mallet and a cheap screwdriver and tried that combo on the edge of the thermostat: nope, not going to budge.

Times up, family is going out. We visited friends Nichole, Jonathan and their daughter for brunch. Watched Jonathan do a control arm replacement on his e30 M3 racer using liberal amounts of 4lb sledge hammer and with his encouragement decide this is the solution to my problem.

More Home Depot later I’m hammering away on the edge of the thermostat with the cheap screwdriver and the sledge (hopefully I didn’t knock too much crud loose into the engine). After 10 minutes I jam the screw driver into the thermostat, heave a few times and pop it loose.

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Put the new thermostat in (which way is up? I’m not sure… I took a guess. The new thermostat (looks like I was actually shipped this one instead) doesn’t seem to have “up” marked with an arrow like the old ones) and started straining and refilling the system with the old coolant.

Car is no longer running cold, it’s now running a little hot so I must have an air bubble in the system. I’ll have to work on that by running the system + cabin heat and trying to bleed it out. But at least the car is back together and seems to be running.

Update: Topped up the reservior with distilled water then bled the coolant system of air last night then a little bit more today. Seems to be running at the right temperature now.

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August 6, 2012 Uncategorized

I’m recovering from a shoulder injury so instead of going to the gym at the crack of 5AM I’ve been practicing my driving. My car is pretty loud so I try not to buzz the same neighborhood more than once a week. Here’s a little driving video that I made in Juine so you can hear exactly how loud the car is.

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Watch on Posterous

Yes, I am wearing driving gloves.

August 5, 2012 Uncategorized

A friend gave me his old shifter boot which I restored and re-dyed. Looks better than the red-stitched vinyl boot I had before. For some reason the shifter has always nudged into the edge of the console in upper gears (reverse, first, third and fifth) kind of making the console creak on impact but hopefully the pending shifter upgrade will fix that.

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Shifter boot looks nicer than just about anything else in the car right now.

August 5, 2012 Uncategorized

Until today I’d known of only 3 time-keeping devices for the BMW e30 – the “euro clock” mechanical clock and the digital 6 or 13 button OBCs. But today I found what is probably the worst clock possible: the no button OBC. The user sets the time on the digital clock using seperate hour and minute switches that have to be pressed with a pin or pen tip.

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August 4, 2012 Uncategorized

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