A Hot Shower with Helena

I don't normally name my cars. In fact, I've never named a car. I nicknamed my hatchback Hatchy but, I never really thought of it as a name. It was just a quick way of saying: The hatchback. This one was different though. This 328 had spoken to my soul somehow. This little silver beauty, although not perfect, was exactly what I was looking for. It didn't seem fair to not give her a name. 

You can force things like names. They have to fall in place. I had talked about this same thing prior with Jeremy when we first got the car but, I wanted some time to think about it. It was time to give the poor car a good cleaning. We had taken the passenger side seat out of the car to check what color the seat reclining gear was. This allowed full access to give the carpets a good scrub and vacuuming*.

The carpet was not terrible by any means. In fact it looked as if someone may have tried cleaning the front and rear sections before. You can never get all the crevasses with the seats in though. Under the passenger seat we found where the Strawberry smell was coming from. A long forgotten scent can of the strawberry variety lay wedged under there. Yum, yum. To the trash it goes.

The smoky essence still laid thick in the black carpet. We have some really decent Enzyme cleaner called Branch Basics. My wife mixed it with some lavender essential oils so I had an ever so slight scent of that which didn't bother me. I sprayed the carpets down fairly well. Then, you wait. The buggers gotta eat for a bit. There was what looked like some soda spilled around the shoddy cup holders. I gave that one a second spray down.

I didn't have a good brush so instead I used a few microfiber towels. I wish I had taken a picture of the mess that came up out of that carpet. Blackened goop from the ages. The car was smelling fresher already. It took some time and a good bit of muscle but, the passenger side carpet was looking pretty good. 

  The inside of all the windows had that smoker haze as well. Unfortunate. Some Windex, newspaper, and more microfiber towels fixed those up as well. The other interior pieces I had touched so far were all sticky. No Windex for those of course. Again back to my enzyme cleaner. I wiped down all the dash pieces, door cards, and other assorted interior plastics. I pulled the nasty steering wheel cover off. It ripped at the seams while I tried sliding it off the wheel. It was disgusting. I cleaned the shift knob and steering wheel at least a dozen times. There was a lot of glitter on this stuff.

Everything at this point was less sticky, glittery, and smoky. Awesome! Since the car was attractive from the outside but, gross inside it got me thinking. The car wasn't old enough to be a Helga but, I liked the ring to Helena. Attractive from the outside but, scary to get into for multiple reasons... A perfect fit for my little 328. So Helena it is. I don't think I'll ever get all the glitter out either which, is kind of fitting.

Now it was time for a good shower of the outside of the little lady. After giving the car a good cleaning outside the flaws in the paint work are more noticeable. I have a few areas I need to address. Nothing major but, they stand out to me. Overall the body was in good shape for its age. It still looked clean and there was no peeling clear coat or rust. I was a proud man person standing beside my freshly washed Helena. Never mind the car was auto and the front suspension was shot. Oh and you know I tire shined the hell out of those fresh kicks!

*I honestly wish I would have shampooed the carpet. Not that its a huge deal to do at this point. Just saying.

Align Time

So I had my appointment setup for Monday to get my tires and an alignment. The call was made with Shelly at Bolton James to order in a set of Hankook Ventrus V12s. Now I just had to wait for Monday. I took the time off for another reason but, things worked out nicely being able to have Friday and Monday available for the car stuff.

Over the weekend I had some conversation with my buddy Eric about the front end stuff. He suggested I look into the toe settings that the factory specifies for the E36. For his E46 the toe was rather aggressive from the factory. I thought about this for a while. All I could come up with was that BMW wanted the front end to slide before the rear due to safety concerns. You know, for all the Moms making high speed maneuvers on the high way to get their kids to soccer practice.

Bimmerforums - The Definitive Alignment Guide for your E36 M3
Bimmer Haus Alignment Guide

Monday rolls in, I drop off the car. I wanted to talk to the alignment tech handling the car. His name was Barry. Nice older gentleman. I asked him about setting the toe at 0 degrees for me. He looks at me funny and says: "What does that mean, an 1/8 inch, 1/4 inch."

I'm looking stupid at this point because, I have no idea. Not my job! You figure out the conversion between fractions and degrees. Haha. I began to explain the story of the toe in situation. I also explained that I have no idea about anything on this car because I just bought it used. I took a quick look at the front end but, I didn't spend any good time under there taking anything apart. Barry asked if I had an appointment for this because they were very full already. I explained that I did. He didn't leave me feeling too confident at this point. He said ok and we shook hands.

Not but an hour or so later I get a phone call from Barry. He tells me that the front passenger side strut is leaking fluid, the ball joint is tore up, and the strut mount was torn. Bummer. He told me that the rear end looked real good. He did a 4 wheel alignment but, he couldn't guarantee the front would stay because of the bad passenger side stuff so, he was only charging me for a two wheel. Once I get the front suspension fixed up to come back in for a two wheel alignment only. He also said that he saw what I meant by the toe settings on the front and was able to adjust that out.

Talk about going from uncertainty, to clarity. That's why I appreciate Bolton James and the work they do. I made my check list for the next steps. I asked if it would be alright to drive it until I can get everything fixed up. Barry said he wasn't concerned about anything safety wise but, that I needed to get that Strut taken care of. Yes sir, will do.

We went to pick her up. There she was parked out front. I ran in, took care of my dues to them, they handed me the key, and I was out of there. I love the smell of fresh tires in the morning. No skids, just freshly mounted rubber. The Hankook's looked pretty. A nice new set of shoes. So, the moment of truth: How did she feel now? I started her up. A nice hum. Then, it was time for a short trip.

Exiting the parking lot the car already felt completely different. No terrible pull to the right. No flop, flop from the front. Just a nice composed drive forward.  I took the car on a short run through a local back road. Even with the floppy suspension out front the car felt wonderful. I can only imagine how much better it will be once I put some real struts and shocks on this thing. Not bad, not bad at all. Another step towards getting her back together properly. Next up, a good cleaning.


E36 Seat Gear Replacement

This write up pertains to 98 328i Powered Sport seats. 

I've written this as a companion to the great write up from Odometer Gears here: http://www.odometergears.com/howto/E36_Seat_Gear_Replacement.pdf
Remove seat from the car. Have a friend help you take out the weighed beasts to help avoid scratching up all your plastics in there. Since the backs were stuck in the laid back position it was easier for us to pull them out through the back doors. 

There are two 16mm front nuts on the seat. They have black plastic cover caps on them. Note: You can move power seats without having the key in the ignition. There are two 16mm bolts out back. They are not covered with caps. 
Please note that if your seat is heated then, you will have a few extra wires clips to separate. 

 Drivers side - 5 clips.
  Passenger side - 6 clips
Turn the seats upside down. Remove the plastic cover off the bottom of the seat. 1 star - T30 is holding it in place. This exposes the motors.
Now is a great time to clean your carpet and suck all the nasty's out. I made almost $3 during this whole thing as well. It's hard to tell from this picture but, due to the amount of glitter this car has in it we have dubbed it the stellar glittercorn.

Getting the first motor out is a pain. We struggled with getting the right extensions to the two star T25 bolts on it. We used a normal 1/4 drive short ext and a twisty socket. After the first one comes out, the second is not as difficult.

We discovered that there is a bracket holding both motors together. Removing one of the T25s from this made getting the second motor out of the way much easier. I'll do this first next time. 
Here's a template I made with cardboard. The two T25s are the bottom side by side.

The gear box has six bolts holding it together. 4 are about an inch long T20s. Two at the bottom are about 4 inches long. They are T25s. 
When we took the cover off the passenger seat, the plastic gear just fell out in pieces. This is the worm gear, c clip, and broken green seat gear.
Be sure to clean any remaining pieces out just as the Odometer Gear walk through suggests. Having broken pieces of plastic coming in between that worm gear and the drive seems like a bad idea. Unless of course you enjoy replacing your seat gears. Its an easy step but, I'm sure it can be just as easily overlooked.

Getting the cover off was a bit challenging. As well as getting it back on. Those two large round discs in the center of the gear box is where the tough part seems to come in. The diameter on the cover is very close, not a press fit, just snug. My buddy helping me just wiggled it by hand until it popped off.

Installed the green seat gear. Different color lube. Bearing grease and lithium grease are the same right?

We used the tapping method described in the odometer gears guide. I sat the gear on the piece of 2x4 we were using. Then I sat the metal worm drive on top of the gear. To start it I tapped it very gently. I didn't want to break this one. Then, after its started, I tapped with a standard metal hammer until the gear was snugly fit in place.
It helps to have a hole, or make a hole, just bigger than the size of the worm gear in the 2x4 (or whatever smooth, flat piece of wood) that you are using. There was a convenient nail hole that fit just right. This helps near the end of the "press fit" for he gear. The worm drive shaft is proud of the green plastic gear by just a bit. I didn't take a measurement but, I'd say maybe 1/8 of an inch.
The seat belt bracket bolt is a T50. The angle faces inward toward the seat. Don't forget to put this through the plastic seat rail cover first. To remove this: There are two push clips holding the seat rail cover on. One in front underneath and one on the side of the rail on the back. The front ones had center pins that were supposed to come out first. I was unaware of this so I broke one of them. The two back ones heads are facing towards the center of the car. 
Also note that you won't be able to access this T50 when the seat is mounted in its correct position. Put the seat belt back on first then, position the seat in place.

There you have it. Now if all is back together correctly you should be able to enjoy moving the back of your seats again. Another check off the list. I'm getting there.


Taxes, Title, Tags, and Tires

  Took a Friday off to take care of the car taxes. These things normally take all day so I wanted to be prepared. Early mornings are always best at county offices. Same goes for the DMV.

  First stop taxes. In SC we pay taxes for the car when purchased and then, every year after. The initial tax receipt is the first step in the car titling process for us. Instead of having to pay a notary, if a car is bought and titled in SC all you need is a signature of the previous owner on the title itself. Makes things easy. So waited in line for a bit. Gave the quasi nice lady my stuff. After that it's on to the next cow line. A quick swipe of the card and we are through. Taxes paid. Next stop the DMV. 

  There are two DMVs near us. The primary site near the college is not the place you want to be, ever. After several dealings with them I was shown the light. A friend told me about the one on the north side of town. It's still a DMV with the normal herding lines and massive waiting area. The difference lies in the number of people that go there. Maybe less people are in the know about this other location. So I'm not going to talk it up too much. I mean really it sucks just the same. You really wouldn't want to go there...

  Anyways, I started filling out my paperwork. The only good place to get your 20 sheets of paperwork situated is at the only stand up desk thing. The problem with this for me is that my back is turned to the whole room. This is an uncomfortable feeling for myself. I could barely get my paperwork filled out before I called up to the desk. Good and a bad thing.

  The woman at the desk was fairly pleasant. She gave me a moment to fill out the rest of my papers. She asked which plate I would like. We have choices here in SC. I finished up the other paperwork and she tallied up my total. What's the damage? Not terrible. A swipe of the card and on we go. The whole process wasn't too bad. I even got a small smile out of her. Nice conversation at a DMV is nearly impossible. The car gods must have been smiling down on me.

  Which taxes paid, title situated, and tags in hand it was time to focus on what was next, tires. I'm of course partial to Michelin Pilot Sports but, they are costly. I'm on a tight budget here. The local garage I deal with had two other options for me. I could get the BFGoodrich g-Force Super Sports or the Hankook Ventrus V12s. Two fine choices. I'm glad I didn't have more because doing tire research is so challenging. There are so many factor to think about.

  The price difference was only a bit more. I looked at all the Tirerack.com reviews and checked the forums. Both tires seemed neck and neck. Dry traction seemed a bit better with the BF but wet traction seemed better with the Hankook. There were some negatives about the BF due to road noise. This was negligible for me because I'm used to all the road noise. At the end of day I decided on the Hankook's because of the wet traction and the tread pattern.

  I also had personal driving experiences with this tire in an e36 and an e46. The V12's are a great balance between performance and comfort. I was going with 225/50 on the 16 inch sport wheels that came on the 328. At this point performance didn't matter that much given the fact that the front struts were shot.

  This led to another concern: If I'm going to spend money on new tires I better make sure that the alignment gets done at the same time. I don't want to shred all my tire meat right off in a couple miles. So I set up an appointment to get the tires on and a four wheel alignment on Monday.


E36 Cabin Annoyances - The 50 Mile Low Down

  So I took the 328i out for more of a long distance drive. My daughter was with me this time around and it was close to nap time. For any first time parents, the car seat is a magic tool for nap time. She fell asleep on the way to where I wanted to go so, a small detour was in order. My daughter of course needed a good nap, else she would be cranky. No one likes a cranky toddler. Here are my opinions in 50 miles.

  - Cup holders.

  The cup holders are tapered, large at top to smaller at the bottom. I decided to go through a drive-through. I picked the fast food joint of my choice this time being Wendy's. All the normal drive-thru stuff happens. The scratchy, cracky speaker that 's hard to hear, the roll up to the window, the cash exchange. All good so far, a typical drive-thru experience. Next, they hand me my food. Smells good! Yum. They asked if I needed a drink holder. A drink holder? Haha! This is a BMW mam, I've go two perfectly good cup holders right here.

Then, the drink comes my way. Now I'm not talking about a Large drink here, I'm talking about a medium. The cup size is a somewhat normal 16-20ish oz container. The cup fits into the second of the tapered rings. This is where my confidence in the German cup holder engineering started to diminish. The cup is physically being held by about an inch worth of plastic. It is sitting up high because of the tapper of the holder. It can not go any lower without smashing the cup. The situation was made worse but adding a second drink. I really wanted to test the cup holders with a two drink setup. Go big or go home, right? Same size as the first. It sat in the cup holder closest the arm rest.

  So now I've got two normal sized drinks, filled to the brim with sticky, delicious soda, and flimsy plastic lids holding it all in. As I drive forward the cups teeter back. Just laughing at me as they change positions precariously. This car is still feeling new to me. I've put a decent amount of time cleaning her out at this point as well. So I'd really like to not have soda spilled everywhere.

  To exit the drive through its a right hand turn downhill slightly. I'm was really trying to drive, watch traffic, and keep an eye on the drinks at the same time. This didn't work out so well unfortunately I didn't even make one turn without issue here guys! The second drink closest to the arm rest tipped in ward. I'm surprised at the strength of those flimsy lids. It stayed on but, that still didn't keep Sprite from erupting forth. Spilling all over the e-brake handle and down the crevasse between the carpet and driver's seat. I'm sure this won't be the first incident. Cars were meant to be driven, ect ect. :/

 - Turn Signal, Cruise Control, and Wiper Levers

  This one will not be as drawn out as the cup holder situation. I simply feel like they are too far back from the wheel. *Edit - Perhaps too far back is a bad explanation. They also seem too short length wise.* 

  It always feels as if I'm groping for them when I need them. It could simply be that I'm not used to things on this vehicle yet but, I've never sit in a car and said hey, these signal levers seem to be hard to get to.

- Volume Knob on the stock stereo

  When you spin the knob the volume doesn't go up or down. You have to apply slight pressure down for it actually change the volume.

- Power Lock on driver's door

  I hear this is a super common issue. When you have your arm out the window for any reason. For me it happens often when I'm trying to scan my badge to get in the gate at work. If you bump the lock then, all the doors lock. Not an unusual thing just, it scares you the first time it happens. It happened to me today getting into the same gate. The problem I ran into is trying to get out after. The drivers door handle seemed hard to pull. Then, I gave it a bit more gusto, all the locks, in all the doors moved to the unlocked position, and the drivers door opened as normal. I had that feeling for a moment that my door was stuck closed and I'd have to climb out the window, Bandit style. Because race car!

  I'd mention the headlights but, they are not stock. More to come on this subject.

Rough Idle - A shaky situation

A day or so later after the excursion home the 328 still sat quietly in the garage. I really wanted to drive her back and forth to work but, I needed to title her, pay taxes, and give the car a good inspection.

The idling situation was on my mind but the tires were nagging at me more so. I had limited funds available at this point so I wasn't sure which direction to go in terms of tire tread or repairs. Both, at this point, seem rather high on the priority list.

Later that evening, thankfully, a buddy of mine (Jeremy) was able to come by and help me take a look see at the car. All the motivation I needed. He, being the same guy who was knowledgeable in the e36 market, was ready to get his hand dirty. Bring out the floor jack!

Laying under the 328 was a much different scene than hatch I was used to spending time under. Not knowing where every nut and bolt is located is, well, exciting. Basking under the inline six's cast iron bottom end, front mount steering rack, and elongated rear drive transmission was strange and wonderful.

We scoped out the suspension first. Definitely all stock. Passenger side: A ripped boot on the ball joint, cracks on the lolly pop bushing. The M3s have a more solid front rubber bushing. The 328 only has rubber material on the left and right side only. The rest is open. Hot spots for troubles and with 154K on the clock definitely in need of replacement. The driver side didn't look too bad. Tell, tell signs of why that passenger side tire looks so bad.

On to the oil leak situation. We could see fresh oil running down from the valve cover and what looked like the head gasket. Couldn't be sure. I thought for a moment that we could start the car then, see where the oil is dripping. Then my senses came back to me. Laying under a running car and watching for oil to come dripping out seems like bad idea. With no definite answers on the oil leak we moved on to the misfire issue.

I took the car off the heavy duty jack stands. Lowered her back down to the earth. Jeremy suggested that we start the car and pull the coil pack clip off to find the trouble spot. So that's what we did. An easy diagnosis. Looks like the issue resided with ole cylinder number 6. I also noticed that two of the coils looked different. I wonder what happened here?
  So we took out the coil pack and discovered that the spark plug boot was in bad shape. A nasty crack right down the side. Hmm, this could most assuredly be the issue.

The e36 328i has independent coils on each cylinder instead of a distributor. The spark still has to get to the spark plug so, in this case, the charge travels through a short spark plug boot. Back to the story.

After a quick change of the spark plug boot for another that Jeremy brought along with him, we put the pieces back together. I hoped in and started her up. Awesome! It did the trick no more misfire. The engine sounded good and revved freely.

We took a short trip just to see if things we solid. She felt good, purring on all cylinders now. Smooth and powerful. Ah, the torques. 

The automatics have a 3.93 rear diff, most of the time, and with only 4 gears in the trans it's a quick little car in 1st and 2nd. This is of course as long as the torque converter isn't slipping and you have good traction. Do you even drift bro?!
  Suspension: crap.
  Oil leak: not sure.
  Misfire: fixed. Yay!
  Power seats: still gangster
  Smell: smoky strawberries
  Glitter: everywhere
  We are getting there.


E36 Mirror Replacement

  When I bought this car it was missing the driver's mirror. As it would turn out, she has heated power mirrors. So of course I scoured eBay, forums, and craigslist. I found a  few candidates on eBay. This is a great place to find used parts but, sometimes users don't know what they have. Always make sure you know what you need.

  When, and if, you have to source a mirror for an E36 make sure you know how many wires your mirror has. In my case, on the drivers side, with heated, power mirrors there are four wires. Power, non-heated have three wires.

  Below is my walk through for replacing the driver side mirror on a 98 328i with power, heated mirrors. The whole mirror assembly, not just the glass.

  The plastic cover was trouble some to get off. I was afraid I was going to break it. I wasn't sure if I needed to remove the whole door card. You don't need to. Just work carefully. There is one plastic pop tab on the plastic cover at the top corner. This clips into the door frame and holds the plastic cover in place.

  I used a plastic putty spreader to pop the top out. With the putty knife at the angle above, I pushed both sides at the angle shown and the plastic clip came out easily.

  Once you have the pop clip loose just lift the cover straight up. Up to the sky!

  There is also a small U-shaped channel that holds the mirror wires in place.

  Under this you will find three 10mm bolts holding the mirror assembly on to the door.

  There is a plastic seal between the mirror housing mount and the door frame itself. This keeps the water out I'm sure. 

  There was also some black foam insulation under the plastic cover. It completely disintegrated when I touched it. If this is important to you then replace this with new as well. The mirrors tend to make wind noise at higher speeds so, I'm assuming this was used to help prevent some of this? Email me if you have more details here.

  Take apart old clip.

  Plug in new clip.

  Push mirror into place. Secure 10mm bolts to some torque specification. I did a normal German spec, Guentight*.

  At this point you may want to test the mirror's operation. Just to double check things are looking good.

  Slide wiring under the U-channel on the plastic mirror.

  Snap the cover back into place and your all finished up. Now go enjoy having a mirror again.

  *Good and tight.


First Oil Change - 154687

  I knew that there was oil in my little 328 when I bought it. However I was unsure of what kind of oil (weight, manufacturer) had been put in the motor. Buying it used with as many miles as was on it I'm sure really isn't going to make a huge difference at this point but, there isn't a  I really wanted to get some fresh oil in there. I hit up the local auto parts this time around because I was impetuous this time around.

  I picked up my tried and trusted Castrol Edge. They didn't have 5w-40 on shelf. I ended up going the 10w-40 route this time around. It winter time here in SC but, it normally doesn't get that cold and this little one is garaged. At this point I was just happy to have some fresh oil ready to go in the motor. Normally they don't stock BMW oil filters. I was assuming it would have to an order, next day item. In fact this time around they did actually have 2 Bosch filters available. I ended getting both because of the oil deal that was going on. 10 quarts, 2 filters, around $100*. 

  Getting the oil out was simple. I had a hand from a seasoned oil changer and friend, Eric. Its a 17mm to remove the oil pan bolt. This 2.8 takes 7 quarts of the good stuff so, if its cold, you'll have to be patient. Not so impetuous now am I? 

  The oil filter housing is plastic with a 36mm nut molded to the cap. I found this out after the fact but, these caps are extremely tight even if using a torque wrench, set to the proper amount. It came off easy enough but, I doubt it will be easy to get off next time. 

  The new filter came with a new seal for the plastic housing. I used a small flat head screw driver to get the old one off. The new o ring just slides over the caps' threads and, stops in the groove designed for it. The filter is a cartridge style. The old one comes out, the new one drops in. Pretty straight forward.

  With the filter in place, put the cap back on the oil filter housing. Get it started by hand. We then, used a 3/8 torque wrench set for 25NM (18ft/lbs) as referenced here: Pelican Tech Article - E36 Oil Change, to secure it in place. The oil pan bolt if it is a 17mm is also torqued to the same spec. Top off your oil. Check the dipstick. And we are done.

  I now have piece of mind knowing the oil is fresh. Yippee! Although I need to do some more research in terms of what sort of oil is best suited. I'm sure I'll find several different answers on the web and the forums. I have some folks with applicable knowledge I need to talk to as well. I normally always use OEM fluids, just not this time around. We will see what I can come up with by the next oil change.

* Not a fantastic deal after really thinking about 


Backtracking Part 7 - The Final Descent

  After bellies full of Pizza and deliciousness. We decided to head on to home. We had about 40 minutes left in the trip. At this point I was tired of listening to nothing so, I turned on Pandora, on my phone, and sat it in the cup holder. Even at highway speeds I could still hear it with the volume up all the way.

  Things were still looking good. Aside from burnt strawberries and burning oil smell, lack of seat back adjustment, a somewhat unstable front end, and no radio, the trip back was progressing nicely.

  I was approaching a stop sign and began slowing down as normal. Everything seemed fine until I stopped all the way. Then it felt as if the whole car was rocking side to side. I'm not used to the rear wheel drive shimmy. The RPMs were low, the engine was running on, what felt to me, like four cylinders. This is concerning.

  I gave it some gas to roll away from the stop sign and it seemed to struggle. Not quite so bad now though. It was still moving forward. It just felt rough. This is when I started getting a bit nervous. After we got back up to the posted speeds I tried slowing and then accelerating a bit to see if there was any difference. Felt the same. No check engine lights or flashing warnings, I figured it can't be that bad.

  We were getting real close to home when, I missed a turn. Given this and the car running rough I pulled into a neighborhood. I drove all the way in and found a cul-de-sac*. I motioned for my buddy to come around. I told him I missed the turn and had no idea where we were. Even with GPS, a strange area at night can be disorienting. Luckily, he knew right where we were and how to get home. I asked him to drive the 328 the rest of the way. He was a man of knowledge in the e36 department. I wanted an expert diagnosis.

  Once we finally got back to my place. I opened up the garage door. We swapped spots. I parked the 328, he parked Sally (our Saturn). I asked him what he thought. He said its was running on 5 cylinders. He had the parts to fix it and was raring to go but, I was tired. It was a long drive and it was late. Tomorrow was another day. A strange saying but hey, it fits.

*There's only one way in...and one way out. :p


Backtracking Part 6 - The Eatery

  It was getting pretty late the only thing we saw in terms of a food eatery, at this point, was a Hardee's. I was hungry but, not THAT hungry. Not a huge fan of their food. We continued on. After what felt like forever to me we stumbled upon a pizza place called Pizza House. It looked a little scary honestly due to the location but, pizza appeals to me. So we stopped. My buddy called his buddy (uncles, cousin, friend :) to ask about this joint. Said it was good eats. So we went in.

Batman ever diligent. Protecting restaurant patrons.
  It was awesome in there. Casual dining of course. The atmosphere was perfect. A very nice place to hang. There were a few TVs. The most noticeable part was all the cool stuff hanging in the rafters and atop the booths.

  The waitress was really nice. She asked if we were ready, I said: "we are square." She was goofing around and said: "What not triangular, circular, or rectangular?" Given my level of distraction I missed the joke. I was definitely spacey at this point. I thought they physically made the pizza in different shapes depending on what you decided. I'm a dope what can I say.

The tigers eat any scraps and keep patrons in line.
  Once I finally caught on we ordered a House Special. The dinner conversation on my mind was of course figuring out what needed to be replaced. I had to get prices, I had to go over all the things that needed to be done, I had to figure out what I could modify first. My buddy brought me back down to earth. Being excited is a good thing but, enjoying dinner with a buddy is more of a priority. Once the pizza came out I must have eaten 8 pieces. They were decent size slices too. It was delicious. Super awesome pizza. Not too greasy. The toppings were spot on in terms of flavor and quantity.

  If you ever find yourself near this place, stop in:
House of Pizza
305 S Carolina 101, Gray Court, SC 29645


Backtracking Part 5 - The Return

  Title was signed, keys in hand, we were ready to roll. One problem, the windshield was looking pretty rough in terms of not being clean. Looking through a haze at dusk while not having good front headlights. In one word, scary.

  I asked if he had anything that I could give the wind shield a good wipe with. Thankfully the gentleman was nice enough to furnish a whole roll of paper towels and a bottle of Windex. Actual Windex, the normal blue kind, not some off brand. Sweet! So after half a roll of paper towels (sorry environment) and half a bottle of Windex, I could see, mostly. This of course is an exaggeration in terms of quantity. Just trying to make the point that inside the wind shield was nasty. Like hazy, smoke nasty*.

  Wind shield was clean, now we were ready, ready. I sat down in the gangster leaned driver seat, through up on hand on the wheel, posed for just a minute, soaking up the newness. The feel of a different, new to me, vehicle in hand. After a moment I started her up. She had enough gas to get us home. A short roll out of the gentleman's driveway, over the stone "road", a left on the less rocky "road." We were home bound. Sally (our Saturn, driven by my buddy) following behind. The excitement was high.

  In a few short miles I realized that my butt was cold. Not a problem, heated seats do your thing. A few moments later and the warmth was noticeable. It was wonderful. I didn't want to think about what it would cost to fix the heating coils in these if they did even go ca-put, aka bad. At this point I was just happy to be warm.

  I turned the automatic climate control on, the fans kicked on, the heat started flowing out of the vents. Along with it, a bad smell. What was that? Remember the oil leak issue from the last post? I thought maybe that was what I was smelling. It wasn't that though, something more smoky. It was sweet at the same time. It smelled like burnt strawberries. Great...this is when I finally realized, my nose finally caught on to the fact that, this car has been smoked in. Damn.

  A bummer but, I was distracted quickly by the 18 button On Board Computer (OBC) the car had. You can check full consumption, outside temps, any codes the car has thrown, such as the Brake Light Fault it was showing now. Cracked taillight, common issue. There was a trip meter, a clock and date, this section was black. It think it went bad long ago. Max speed, timers, and average speed. Pretty cool stuff. I liked being able to see the overall fuel economy. It was reading 22.1 MPG at this point. Not too bad for a 2.8 inline six cylinder.

  The motor felt great. The extra torque, in comparison to what I was used to driving, was excellent. The transmission was shifting nicely. I took off quickly a few times just to feel her out. There were even a few twisty roads. I of course had to open it up in the corners a little bit. Felt a bit wobbly but, it was planted. Not bouncy at all. A stock unmodified suspension. Exactly what I was looking for. This could be improved upon soon enough. All in good time.

  My hands were holding the wheel as steadily as I could. That flop, flop, and drag to the right was pretty bad. That worn out Kumho AST on the passenger side was letting me know it was not happy with the situation at hand. The rest of the car sounded decent. No other wobbles so far. The biggest concern for me next was, food.

*I still hadn't caught on to the fact the car was smoked in, at this point.


Backtracking Part 4 - The Dealio

  Upon the initial approach the car did not look all that bad. There were a few nicks and dings. It did have 154,000 miles on it after all. The body panels were straight. The bumpers were fairly flush. No signs of anything terrible.

  The gentleman selling the car had very little info in terms of the vehicle's maintenance. We popped the hood to have a look. It did have oil in it. The coolant looked decent didn't smell funny or look oily. The engine looked like an engine that should be in there. Stuff was fairly clean. Nothing out of place.

  The front right tire was shot. A Kumho Esta AST, right on the verge of showing bands. I asked about this. He didn't have any idea. He said the two in the back were decent. They were a General Tire. The tread looked reasonable. So two Generals in the back, and two Kumho's up front. One of which was completely shot. New tires check.

  After a twice over out front I proceeded to the interior. It didn't look terrible. The dash, door panels, and carpet was in good shape. It smelled funny, something fruity and smokey. The seats, ah the seats. These were in fact power sport seats. They were also heated. Oh yes. Powered, heated, sport seats. The leather on the driver's seat was worn and had a burn hole in it*. Passenger seat, pretty good indeed. The back seat looked at though it had never been sat in. All the leather needed a good cleaning and conditioning. The seat back adjustment was not working at all. The passenger side was stuck in constant gangster lean mode. The driver's was not as bad but I still felt like a Vin Diesel wannabe.

  Missing mirror, I asked again about this. No details. He couldn't remember what happen. I'm just glad that she didn't clip the door during whatever happened. He did save the broken mirror. It was in the trunk. Glad to have that.

  The stereo was not functional. He said that the battery had died. They put a new one in there just a few weeks earlier. This 328 and most BMWs have security stereos. If the power gets disconnected you have to enter a special code in order to activate the radio. Not a huge issue. It did have a 6 disc changer in the back. That's cool.

  So, time for a test drive? Yes please. It started right up. So far so good. Once we got out to the "paved" road I opened her up just a bit. Felt powerful, it accelerated well. Wasn't smoking. There was a definite pull to the right. That Kumho that was worn to pieces up front was making a flop, flop noise. We drove for a decent distance then turned around.

  While backing up the car felt more funny. It seemed like the motor was unsteady. Sort of a misfire or something. It was very minimal. Back in drive the car still felt good. The auto transmission shifted fine. Nice and crisp. With three peeps in the car it didn't miss a beat. No strange noises from the motor or trans. Just the sweet flop-flop of the worn Kumho.

  We got back to where it was parked. I pulled it back into its spot. I smelled something like burning oil. When I got out the hood was smoking, not a huge amount but, enough to see. We popped the hood again. There was oil burning off the exhaust manifolds. :/ This was a little concerning. I discussed the causes for such with my buddy. Head gasket or valve cover gasket. Valve covers are a normally worn item on a 328i with these miles. This made me feel a bit better.

  So down to the real business. Before we left to look at this car, I only took what I was going to offer max. Which of course was not quite what he was asking. The car had been on Craigslist for 39 days. The original ad posted for $500 more. My max give was going to be $250 less than what is was posted for now. Given the 0 maintenance records and issues with it in the current I felt that was fair.

  I started $500 less than the current posting. He went +300, I countered with +250, my max give. A moment of pause, then, a head nod and a hand shake. A few moments later the title was being signed and it was mine. I was, almost, the official owner of my first BMW. Even in its auto glory. I still had to pay taxes to the state and get the official title in my name of course. Then it would be official, official.

  It was time to head back home.

*Side note: Even after seeing that I never asked if the car had been smoked in. I didn't pick up on that fact until later.


Backtracking Part 3 - The Trip to Nowhere

  I made a phone call to talk to the seller. He was selling the car for his niece. She was a college student and had bought another vehicle. The is scary and heart warming for me at the same time.

  The drivers side mirror was missing. He didn't know when or how that happened. The title was clear though. No accidents recorded. This sounded promising but, I didn't want to get my hopes too high. We arranged a convenient meeting time for a few days later.

  After an hour and some change of driving, we approached the final destination. We turned on to a roughly paved lane and half wide road. Wasn't looking good in terms of location. I was happy to have a buddy with me at this point because it was starting to feel like Wrong Turn. If you haven't seen that movie, it was just out in the middle of nowhere.

  Next turn was a rock "road" then, just a few more feet and the ending destination was on the left. After rolling for about 300 feet, the trees opened up and there, on the left, was the little 328i parked on the side of the owners stone driveway.

  The place looked decent, a normal country home. There were even chickens. I've never met an awful person, of the few people that I do know who have kept chickens. This was going from bad to better.

  I got a text from the gentleman right as we rolled in asking about our eta. We both laughed when we rolled up and he walked out on to his porch. We were in a rush to get there to the meeting spot on time so, at this point we both had to use the bathroom. I sheepishly asked if we could use the bathroom because of the latter. He directed us to run behind the shed and let if fly. We walked that way and in fact there were several toilets setup behind the shed. Odd but, awesome at the same time. 

  With that taken care of it was time to discuss car business.


Backtracking - Part 2 - The Hunt

  Finding an e36* BMW in Titansilber Metallic, with a Manual transmission, low(er) mileage, unmodified, sport package, 328i, for under $3000 is not too specific right?

  This of course narrowed my results significantly. I'd been looking on and off for the better part of a year. Just not specifically for a 328i in the e36 variety. The hunt was on. Something inside of me was just spurring me on to find "my" perfect car. My whole mind was consumed with checking adds, listings, posts, for the perfect specimen.

  This of course did have a negative effect of other parts of my life. Its just when you have the itch its so hard to not want to scratch it. Night after night, I tirelessly poured over craigslist. Starting local, then moving up and down the east coast. Certainly someone, somewhere had one available.

  From Maine to Florida. Not many decent, nice condition e36s. The forums had a few possibilities just not in the combo I wanted. I started moving over towards the west coast city by city. No dice. I never knew it would be so hard to find what I thought originally would be easy car to source. In all honesty I was being too picky.

  Then, one fateful afternoon, I was again going over listings in the local craigslist. Changing up my search criteria ever so slightly to see if there were any others that met the stringent requirements. There, low and behold, a Titansilber Metallic, 154K, unmodified, 328i, with sport package rims on it. The listing of course made now mention of it being sport or non-sport. There were no interior shots. Just one of the side. One down side; it was auto. It was so close. So close.

  Of course me being me, I couldn't stop thinking about the car. Should I call? Should I go look at it? One side of my mind entertaining the idea of cruising in an automatic. Might not be so bad. The other side going: Are you serious right now? What kind of car guy are you anyway? There in lies my normal struggles with decisions. Being an Analyst by profession, it kind of spawns these sorts of things into your personal life as well. There of course is nothing wrong with either of those things. I digress.

  Needless to say i succumbed...

*e36 - BMW 3 series chassis code from 91-99.


Backtracking Part 1

  I've been contemplating adding a BMW to our family for some time. I come from a VW background so I've been exposed to German engineering. Only older stuff though. I picked up a 90 civic hatch when I was in high school. From there it has been mostly imports of the Japanese variety. Until more recently. I've got a good friend who owns two beamers, a 3 series and a 5 series. We have had some really good times working together fixing and putting mods on them. This sort of wet my pallet towards them.

  It got me thinking about the subtle differences from my current Honda hatch. How the bmw felt, how it handled in comparison. How the motor sounded in different rev ranges. The way the interior looked, felt, sounded. The throttle response on an e46 3 series is noticeably laggy from the factor. It seemed to fall far behind the hatch. The response on even an older B16a is incredibly quick. The brakes in the same car felt good. The ride was firm yet planted. So many things to consider.

  The struggle inside for me had already started. I love ef hatches, please don't get me wrong. I've owned my current hatch for a good 5 years. My original hold back was indecision. I wasn't sure I wanted to ride the bmw train. I didn't want to have to maintain it. I didn't want a beast of a car that I would have to buy a higher capacity jack to lift. Parts were more expensive, less abundant. I wasn't made of money and the maintenance of any older or newer bmw seemed daunting.

   All that went south when I got, "the itch." No, not some bad rash in a can't-talk-about place. This all came about when one of the new engineers (now good friend) let me drive his e36 328i home for lunch. There was just something amazingly beautiful about the sound the engine made. The way the car felt when it accelerated. The way it handled. The way it looked on the road. It was planted yet nimble. I still felt connected to the road but, I wasn't jarred or bounced around. The seats were soo comfy. It had two good size cup holders. This is what I was missing out on.

   Now just to find one...

SlantySix - An e36 328i car blog

 What is this blog about?

   I've recently purchased a used 98 328i. I would like to keep track of what I'm doing/did with the car. I've always been sad that I didn't keep a better record of all the work we did on my hatchback.

Why should I read through it?

  At this point there isn't much here. Its my first post after all. Moving forward, my plan is to included some more info and walk-throughs on issues that I run into.

Whats up with that SlantySix name?

  The engine in the my 328, and most beamers for that matter, are slanted, or angled. The engine does not sit straight up, it lays over to the passenger side. This nothing to do with the internals its just the way its mounted in the bay. Sounds like another blog post.

  Until then, be good and take care.