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Jarod Reader
9/27/15 11:46 p.m.

I bought this car in 2010 while I was in Afghanistan as a welcome home gift to myself (my dad and wife did the leg work). Shortly after getting home, my wife and I discovered we were having our second kid I had to store it at my dad's to make room for a more family friendly car. Ever since I have been scheming of ways to get it back. Earlier this year things finally lined up and I was able convince the wife we had the garage space for it.

Now the car was in California, and I live in Colorado, so there were a few states separating us. I arrange for some new tires to be put on the car, and a cooling system refresh, the latter of which I was talked out of, I should have known better. My family and I pile into my daily driver for the trek across country. The intent was to visit family for a week in California and pick up the M3, my wife and I each driving a car on the return trip.

Sometime in late June:

Yep, radiator popped on my wife and I during an afternoon drive. Luckily, we were on the way back to my dad's house. Unluckily there was no cell phone coverage. Of course this being a small town we were able to catch a ride from a friendly logger back to my dad's house to start the recovery mission.

So with 3 days left in California, and parts roughly 3 days out as well, the M3 would stay in California for a while longer. After calling around to a few local shops I was finally able to find one willing to work on a BMW. Arrangements were made for the car to be repaired the week after I left. The cost was a bit hard to swallow for such a simple job, but I was at their mercy.

Jarod Reader
9/28/15 12:02 a.m.

Fast forward to mid September.

The car has been done for a while. I was worried that I might not have gotten it off the road fast enough to avoid engine damage, but those were proven to be unfounded. My dad had volunteered to drive the car out, he's retired so has a bit more time than me, but was unable to find room in his schedule (This may have been due to the fact that the engine for his bracket racing Vega had just been rebuilt earlier this season).

I take a four day off work to fly out and visit my dad since he was having a rough summer. He insist I drive the M3 back. I let him know I would only be willing to do so if he road shotgun on the way back, since the original intent of the trip was to spend time with him. He agrees. I fly into Sacramento on Friday morning and we immediately hit the road. We get to Wendover, Nevada the first night. The next morning I snap one of the the only pictures of the drive.

Dad handling co-driver duties at the gas station:

The ride home is uneventful, except for trying to find a hotel in Grand Junction during a wine festival, we eventually went on to Rifle, Colorado and slept in a hotel with train tracks pretty much in the parking lot. I thought I could sleep through almost anything after my time in Afghanistan and two kids, but that was proven untrue.

We arrive home mid day Sunday, and I still have college homework to complete.

Jarod Reader
9/28/15 12:10 a.m.

Day one with the M3 in my garage.

Even though I still had some homework to finish up, I was able to sneak away for a quick task on the car.


Ugly high school kid eyebrows

The screw concerned me. I thought it might secure the eyebrows by drilling into the headlight housing, but luckily, it did not. I have no idea what it was there for. The offending plastic was only held on by some adhesive.

A few minutes of scraping and scrubbing and they looked ok.

I did a halfassed headlight polish while I was at it. While it doesn't look perfect, it looks a whole lot better, and besides, I was starting to get a guilty conscience about that homework I was neglecting to do.

End result

Esoteric Nixon
Esoteric Nixon UltraDork
9/28/15 8:56 a.m.

Is the RF lowbeam pointing down to the right, or is that just from the picture?

Cooper_Tired Reader
9/28/15 9:38 a.m.


I love those things. Can't wait to see what's next

1kris06 Reader
9/28/15 3:12 p.m.
Esoteric Nixon wrote: Is the RF lowbeam pointing down to the right, or is that just from the picture?

To me it looks vertical, but aimed waaaayyyy off to the right.

Jarod Reader
9/28/15 9:06 p.m.

You guy's appear to be right, I hadn't noticed since I did all the driving on the trip back during the day. I'll have to keep it out overnight sometime soon and adjust the headlights.

wlkelley3 SuperDork
9/28/15 9:11 p.m.

That far off leads me to think that someone didn't get the bulb lined up. Flutes don't appear to be vertical. There's a tab that should fit in a slot, usually on top. I'd check that before messing with alignment. Get it lined up correctly it might not be as far off as it appears.

Jarod Reader
10/3/15 7:26 p.m.

So last time I washed the car the 3 from the M3 badge on the trunk fell off. This car has been hit in the rear previously so I chalked it up to E36 M3ty repair work. While looking online for what adhesive to use I found that there are factory specs for the badge placement, which of course, my badges were not placed at. Sigh, off comes the M as well.

Here is a tip for anyone else who is gluing badges on in the future. I found this tip on some blog or forum, but feel it needs to be repeated. Use a computer program to make rectangles, I used Microsoft powerpoint, go to the size menu, change the size to whatever measurements you need for a template. I needed measurements in millimeters, which powerpoint did accept if I typed mm after all numbers. After entering the measurements it did go ahead and convert them to inches, but the conversion was correct. Once you size all the templates you need, print it, but ensure to uncheck scale to paper size or whatever the option is called. If you don't uncheck this box powerpoint will shrink your rectangles down to fit the page better.

Tape them to the car with some painters tape. Make sure not to clean all the adhesive off of the previous locations, because that's no fun.

More tape, more glue.

End result of badge.

So, anyone know a good way to remove the rest of the adhesive? I have tried alcohol and a claybar, they both kind of worked, but I was too busy half chasing kids around and all that.

Next was investigation. No more real progress for the day. I found a automatic transmission rear differential on craigslist that was pretty tempting. Automatics had a 3.38 ratio, while manuals had 3.23, not much but would definitely help with acceleration.

I am waiting for the hardcore autocross guys telling me how it would destroy my top speed in second gear.

More tape. Garage floor, and tire to help count rotations.

Same for the driveshaft.

So now the driveshaft should turn about 3 and 1 5th times if my differential is the one that came with the car. It did, but I am not going to swap differentials just yet. Also, this was the first time under the car since I lived in an apartment last time I had it. It looks like it will need subframe bushings, no pictures of that, but I confirmed it has Bilsteins.

Part number indicates they are HDs or sports, and the car rides great, so they will stay.

So even after Esoteric Nixon pointed out the headlight, I forgot to check it out while in the garage today, Maybe tomorrow.

turtl631 Reader
10/5/15 12:25 p.m.

2 door? Great cars, I had a 4 door, same color. Wish I had tracked it, I'm sure it would have been a blast. You probably did okay buying in 2010, that was around the cheapest they got I think.

Jarod Reader
10/18/15 10:06 p.m.

So I started her up the other day and had a rough idle, this was after messing around with the intake to check the filter and stuff like that. I had the same thing happen to my 318ti, it ended up being an intake boot. Checked, sure enough same culprit. Old vs New My car is equipped with ASC, which is a bit of a killjoy, the new one is from a non ASC car. It is rumored to free up a couple horsepower, and the hose was cheaper as well. With a throttle body in front of a throttle body, I think I'll believe the internet when the report increased horsepower with this delete. So let's get going with this. I fire it up and after a minute the idle smooths out, but there is a lot of condensation in the exhaust, like more than just condensation. So apparently I did not pull over in time. Light weight spoiler makes for some unconventional radiator draining. And after that picture kind of got put on hold for real work to get done. I ended the weekend at this point. The intake manifold was a pain in the ass.

Parts are ordered, no bearing residue in the oil filter, cams look to be in good condition, overall it could have been a lot worse.

Mezzanine HalfDork
10/18/15 10:11 p.m.

Wait, what happened? I'm not clear on the failure that occurred.

bgkast GRM+ Memberand UberDork
10/18/15 10:22 p.m.

Looks like the head gasket...

Jarod Reader
10/18/15 10:47 p.m.

Head gasket let go. I am guessing the overheating episode in June warped the head slightly and it finally gave up. Not looking forward to removing the exhaust manifolds.

gamby UltimaDork
10/18/15 10:52 p.m.

In reply to Jarod:

Awesome that you can do the work yourself. That would be a dealbreaker for many people.

Jarod Reader
10/18/15 11:17 p.m.

In reply to gamby:

I've never done a head gasket before, but this was a dream car when I was in high school.

pinchvalve MegaDork
10/19/15 7:27 a.m.

A lot of people are good at giving head
gasket advice, but be careful because
some of the people who like to give head
gasket advice don't know what they are
talking about. If you want to get good head
gasket advice, ask an expert. You know,
ask someone who gets paid to give head
gasket advice. A BMW mechanic or a
BMW specialist shop. Trust me on this
one, it feels really good to get good head
gasket advice.

EDIT: Why is the board breaking my post
in such an odd fashion? Weird.

Jarod Reader
10/19/15 8:34 a.m.

In reply to pinchvalve:

Thank you for your advice. So far it all seems pretty straight forward with the only inconsistency being on whether or not it is safe to deck a head on an s52 and camshaft removal. I plan on picking someone's brain for those questions.

bgkast GRM+ Memberand UberDork
10/20/15 12:43 a.m.

In reply to pinchvalve:

Jarod Reader
11/1/15 7:48 p.m.

Managed to disconnect the exhaust manifolds from the rest of the exhaust with zero studs snapping. Despite what the internet tells everyone, the exhaust manifolds come off pretty easy as long as you are using 1/4 inch ratchets. I hope to remove the cams after work tomorrow so I can get the head to the machine shop.

Jarod Reader
3/13/16 8:41 p.m.

Ok guys, I have neglected this for a while. To sum everything up I will put it in a list.

  1. You can remove the cams without special tools, it is slow, but it is doable. Go slow, and use your head.

  2. Found a good machinist that works from home. How do I know he is good? He has a really nice home (and pictures of a lot of circle track and drag cars on the walls that he did work for).

  3. Installing the cams are a little harder than removing, but still doable.

  4. Installing the head sucks. I had a friend on the front, me on side aiming the back, and my wife threading the timing chain through the opening.

As of now it is resting with the head back on and torqued down. The cams have not had their final torque applied yet. I plan on working on it more often, but I am in my last 7 weeks of college, so of course that has priority. My goal is to get it up and running before spring is in full swing here. I am an Colorado, so that gives me a bit of time. I'll get pictures next time.

Jarod Reader
3/20/16 10:54 p.m.

A lot of the cam stuff is done. Tensioner, guides, chains as you can see are all in place. Exhaust manifolds are on as well. Just can't see them too well. They were much harder to put on then they were to take off.

Jarod Reader
5/27/16 8:50 p.m.

Well, I finished up with college a few weeks ago, but amazingly it doesn't seem like I have any more time. My dad cam out for two weeks and I spent a lot of time with him, spent some time with the family trying to make up from being confined to my computer doing homework every weekend for the past year and a half.

Anyways, today there was progress on the car, a lot of progress. Intake manifold is on and vacuum mess is sorted out, fuel injectors and rail, coils, radiator is in place, throttle body, some of the intake track, all of that accomplished today. The funny part is the only thing I was going out to do is label the vacuum hoses and electronic connections in the intake manifold area, but I was on a roll, so I did all of this. I stopped when any further progress would require me laying on the garage floor, since I was not in my garage clothes.

What is left is some final connections on the radiator, exhaust manifolds need to be connected to the exhaust system, fill it up with fluids and burp the cooling system, and secure the air pump control valve. It is not secured because at some point in the last 6 months or so I misplaced the high temp nuts.

Jarod Reader
9/23/16 11:17 p.m.

It runs.

I have only ran it for about 20 minutes and there is still a lot of white smoke. No pressure in the cooling system (after start up), so the head gasket seems to be holding.

Is this residual coolant in the exhaust?

jfryjfry Reader
9/23/16 11:47 p.m.

Not after 20 mins. Sounds like you're getting water in the cylinders

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