Rough Rider - Part 3 - End of the saga, for now.

  Brad was available Monday afternoon so, I stopped by to ask him his thoughts on the current situation. When I rolled up his Part Specialist asked if I had changed the relay beside the ECU. I said umm...no. I didn't even know there was a  relay there, let alone what it did. What can I say, I'm still a noob in some (cough many, cough) areas on this car.

  My old one on the right. Look how the pins are discolored. The relay was hot when we took it out as well. More so than brad felt comfortable with.

  The relay goes in there beside the trans and engine computers (DME). I'm still not entirely sure what this thing does however, it is quite important to the overall workings of things. I found this Pelican Article interesting here: Fuel Injection DME Relay Testing.

  Per the scanner it looked like the car had a misfire on cylinder 5 as well. Brad recommended I move that coil pack to see if the misfire followed suit.

  After the relay was in and, the coil pack was moved, I took the car for a spin. It seemed better. Still hesitant however it was not as laggy. Seemed to have some power again. After my test run I went back around and parked it by the shop. When I put it in park it seemed to be misfiring/running on 5 cylinders. Which I was really glad for because, Brad was kind enough to re-scan it for me. That misfire followed that ignition coil. It was now saying Misfire on Number 1 Cylinder. Glad we caught that little bugger.

  I pulled two working O2s for a buddy while I was there. Made straight with Brad (cash flow) then, headed on.
  After dinner I got back out there and swapped coil 1 out for working spare I had. Upon starting the little beasty, viola, smooth as silk. The power was back like never before. She felt good and smooth. Between the ASC delete, cone filter, and the new plugs it feels much better. The hesitation was gone entirely. 

  So the lesson learned for me here is: proper proactive maintenance is best however, when things go bad, a systematic approach is better. Had I known the check engine light was burnt out/removed, I would have known there was an issue. So is life sometimes, glad to have some help as I worked through the process that's for sure. It really makes all the difference in these situations.

  All said and done, it was fun and some needed maintenance items were taken care of in the process. Now on ward to the next project.


Rough Rider - Part 2

  Given Helena's rough acceleration, I thought maybe the cats were clogged. It didn't seem like there was a lot of exhaust coming out the back of the car. Makes sense right? Sure...haha. So, we took down the mid-pipe to give the car a go without them. We discovered that one of the O2 sensors was banging against car due to an exhaust hanger that wasn't connected. The wires were frayed and bare. Glad we caught that one. The hardware to secure manifolds to the mid pipes was not stock either. Bolts were cheap and some were bent.

What the old O2 looked like. It was banging against the heat shields because one the exhaust hangers were not in place.

While we were under there, lets do the fuel filter. I didn't snap a pic of what came out of that thing but, I should have.

 Jeremy handling all of the hard work.

Drove it over to my local e36 specialist.

Shout out to Brad at: PartsEuropean.com

  He scanned my 328 with a snap-on MT2500. Codes came back for throttle position sensor, all four O2s, and the cam sensor. However my check engine light was not lit. Brad said that they can and do burn out on occasion. Someone before may have removed the bulb for it as well. This would explain no check engine light. Either way the check engine was indeed supposed to be on per his scanner. Makes perfect sense why the car was running bad but, no Check Engine Light.
New used TB with working sensor.

  I needed to replace that bad post car O2 sensor. Brad had one I could buy. Awesome. Also had a TPS. He cautioned against swapping just the sensor as the ohmage has to be spot on for the computer to be happy. I ended up just getting the whole throttle body. We got out of there and got to it.

Getting the throttle cables off.
  Popping the throttle cables out of the plastic holders takes a little care. The clips holding them snap easily.

 The next day I wondered back up to Jeremy's. My heat shields on the cats were rattling so I laid down a crappy weld job to hold them in place. We swapped in the new/used O2 then, reassembled. Since the code for the cam position sensor was still showing bad we swapped that one as well.

  So how did she do? The hesitation was still there but, better. It still felt as if it was lagging. When I would come to a stop after the car was warmed up it would also start running on 5 cylinders. Interesting. When I would take off again it would kick back to 6. Strange indeed.

Another trip back around to Brad for a re-scan and opinion on this one.


Rough Rider - Part 1

Maintenance, ASC Delete - Hoping to cure the hesitation.

Since the plugs and coils did not resolve the issue with the hesitation we moved on to the next normally neglected maintenance items. By we I mean Jeremy. As the only thing I seem to be good at in this quest in documenting and taking pictures. It really was a one man job. He has been there and done that a dozen time already as well.

So on the intake manifold side of things there are several hoses that get extremely brittle and cracked. These leak vacuum which can lead to a myriad of issues. The hesitation hopefully one of them. Seeing the state of everything being original, I felt good about the normal maintenance.

Items replaced:
  • All the vacuum lines to and from the charcoal canister.
  • Vacuum lines to and from the secondary O2 pump.
  • The hose from the Intake Air Control Valve to the intake elbow.
  • 90' elbow as a whole.
Just because.
  • Washers on the dipstick
Jeremy also showed me how to clean an idle control valve on these properly. The flap inside should be moving freely. Make sure not to spray it and turn it upside down. You don't want to get any brake cleaner on the electrical portion of the unit. 

Brittle worn out vacuum hose bottom. New silicone hose top.

ASC device. It has a flappy, flapper in there.
Similar to a throttle body.
We also deleted the ASC device all together. Why would you want to do this? ASC is all about removing power to help keep you from over steering or spinning out. Primarily designed for wet/snowy/unfavorable conditions. Being the performance enthusiast I'd like to think I am, I don't want my power source being taken away when this system thinks it should be. There is a button that would normally deactivate this system in the car. However mine did not ever seem to work. So instead of keeping a useless system on the car we ditched it.

It's an easy go. You simply need a non A 90' boot, IAC to elbow hose, and shorter bolts. In doing so, I did not have a 10-ohm resistor to properly disable the traction control and ABS lights. They now proudly stare me down now. Its a simple fix, just need to get to it.

New non ASC hoses. Part numbers for reference. We are strong believers in Real OEM.

Shorter hardware from, shhh, a Honda. :)
New non ASC elbow installed.


  My mind has been distracted immensely since Helena fell ill with the ill running situation. I tend to hold on to these things unfortunately. So, how is she running now? Well let me tell you, like absolute garage. The hesitation seems worse than ever at this point. I was trying to leave a parking lot and had the car floored however, it felt as though I was in Geo Metro struggling to take make it to 40. I about got ran over.

  After that little incident it was time to park her again. Got to get down to the nitty gritty. The crazier part about it, no check engine light, at all. We have another car apart that is having similar issues. His was running on 5 cylinders on occasion, no check engine light. Both vehicles being obd2 and automatic and 96+.

  The joy has been stolen away so quickly. I'm bummed about it but, I am learning a good bit through this process. We have access to working used parts for testing, are replacing items that need to be replaced anyway, and adding a few performance minded tid bits as we go. I'd say over all, it all comes down to proper maintenance (or lack there of in this case) and proper time spent diagnosing things.

  More to come once we tear in to her again.


E36 Door Card Speaker Replacement - Part 2 - Wiring it up!

97 E36 4 door w/o door airbags

  In continuation of the speaker replacement install on Jeremy's 97 328i, we are now to the point where we can wire up everything and put the door card back on.

  I looked through several forum posts about water coming into the door if you do not use proper sealer on the moisture barrier behind the door card. 3M window weld seemed to be the go to of choice. 

Also the newer style push clips for the door cards kept the rattles to a minimum. Check and check.

- 3M window weld. We went with 3/8" thick stuff. I think you could use 1/4 no problem.

-20 new style clips, 10 on each door card.

Door card with new style push clips ready to go.

  We had to snip each one to make it easier to get them in. The newer style clips has a solid head instead of a slotted one.

  Getting the old sealant off the door frame was the hardest part for me. I was trying to use a plastic scraper. The stuff BMW put on here was like tar. We used the heat gun but them it was just became soft tar. 

  Jeremy found that using a bit of the old stuff to dab at the rest was the best technique. When he was done he had a large tar ball. Which I should have got a picture of but, I didn't. 

  I went back over a few sections with alcohol then, we were ready for the new stuff.

  Laying down the 3M sealant. The old stuff was 3/8 wide when it was smooshed. I think we would have been fine with 1/4" stuff. The 5 series seem to have bigger issues with door leaks.

  Installation is a breeze. Just push on and smooth it out.

  Now on the speaker wiring side of things I wanted to make sure I was getting my polarity correct. I saved all the door card speakers and short pigtails from each so I could verify this as I went. This method helped me stay on track since, I'm easily distracted.

  As you can see the stock speakers are clearly labeled. Just make sure the solder points on those contacts are going where you think is positive.

  For reference:
The tweeter seen here did not have its ohm rating listed on it. The stock mid-range speakers were 8 ohms. The stock kicker panel (bass) speaker was 4 ohms.

  There we go. Terminals properly crimps and labeled. Door card can be removed again if need be. All the pigtails remain about stock length as well. 

  And that's that. So in terms of sound, how does it do? Well the front speakers are much more clear but, they still sound muddy. The mids are very low in terms of volume in comparison to the tweeters. This is because the Viva's we choose have a lower sensitivity per watt than the pioneers. I'm hoping to be able to tune some of that out once I figure out the settings on the aftermarket Alpine head unit. The bass speakers seem to be robbing power from these when the bass is down low, which is where everyone likes it. 

  Again, getting the stock amp out of there and putting in the proper three way crossovers out back, I believe, will make a world of difference. That is our next step: 3-way crossover installation, stock amp bypass, and aftermarket amp installation.


Plugs and coils 155467 - A little hesitation can ruin the fun.

  Poor Helena is having trouble accelerating. She's got cold feet for some reason. When I got the car originally there was a misfire situation on coil #5. You can see those two coils at the end are not Bosch units.

  I'm not having a misfire as much as terrible hesitation. Many forum posts about the same issue, many different ways to resolve it. Given this was a problem area before I'm starting here. Fresh plugs, gently used boots and coils.
  There are so many how-to's do this its ridiculous. Good one here: http://www.pelicanparts.com/bmw/techarticles/E36-Spark-Plugs/E36-Spark-Plugs.htm

New stuff going in.

Old stuff out.

Old plugs were Bosch super pluses, new ones are tried and true BKR6EQUP NGK Rs.

  All be it a bit blackened they don't look terrible. Poor spark plug hole #3 was filled with oil. The valve cover was not tightened properly before. I found the bolts beside the coil packs quite loose. Tightened that up. Will see if it makes any difference.

  Spark plug boots have seen their fair share of wear. Say that three times fast. New used ones going in. Bremi replacements.

  Coil Pack #2 shattered as I tried removing the plug boot. Looks a little well for wear. Replaced with a Bosch original. Got the other two non Bosch coils off of there as well
I got it all put back together proper and guess what? The car still has terrible hesitation. Boo. So I moved on to the intake side of things. While the engine was still running I messed around with the intake boot behind the Mass Airflow Sensor. The 45' boot that connects to the ASC tends to develope cracks and such. 

While digging around and moving it I found a hose that attaches to the bottom of the 45' intake boot. It had duct tape on one end and a non oem hose clamp on it. Suspect.

 I followed that up to the manifold where it was attached. While moving this hose the engine died. Interesting? To pull the hose closer to investigate. I pulled it gently mind you, it came right off. 

Jeremy tells me this is very normal. So we made a plan, I got him to diagnose it further just to make sure I wasn't off my rocker. We put together a list of preferred replacement items and ordered them.

In our quest for betterment, we decided upon an ASC delete as well. For those not in the know the ASC device on the E36 is a primitive way of traction control. If the car senses wheel slippage it cuts the power to the engine with the ASC which looks like a throttle body. The ASC plate closes, restricting air, independent of the throttle body in these situations.

The downside of that is when you do have slippage of the tires while accelerating the car will fall on its face. Not exactly the way of the performance enthusiast but, fine for normal driving situations, I guess. Either way I'll be running an "ACS delete" for the foreseeable future. 

More to come on this when the parts come in.


E36 Rear 6x9 Install - using plastic aftermarket adapters

  The 96+ E36s, without the Harmon Kardon premium sound package, came with 4 inch rear speakers and separated tiny tweeters. Its a two way component system in its own strange way. For sake of cost we opted to go with the traditional coaxial speaker setup. BMW put a two way system in back here so we replicated that same thought while looking for replacements.

  You can't just mount 6x9s in the 4 inch plastic baskets that come stock. You need some soft of adapter. You also cannot fit these pioneers in the stock HK 6x9 assembly due to the size of the magnets. You could modify them to work but, I wasn't happy destroying a perfectly fine working set of HK 6x9s. We thought about making one ourselves however, given the limited time frame I have, it was an easier option to find inexpensive plastic holders already made.

  We went with a two way coaxial speaker from Pioneer (TS-D6902R). From the same model as the front components. I like matching speakers given my limited knowledge of all things stereo. The pros can mix and match stuff and make them sound awesome. We needed a cost effective solution that doesn't sound like dookie. We listened to several different speaker variations from other manufactures before pulling the trigger on these. They are a good sounding entry level speaker for a good price.

  Install is also simple. The adapters accept screws that are about an inch deep/long. Jeremy brought the hardware over. We also used bolts with self locking washers to secure the adapters, using the stock holes.

  Wiring is fairly straight forward depending on how you would like to have these installed. If you want to bypass the stock amp all together you will need to clip and cut wires from the 26 pin connector going to the amp which, is located behind the carpeting, on the driver's side, in the trunk. Since these 6x9s want a full range signal you can get more highs/mids from them in this fashion. More to come on this. Replacing the speakers was the first step for this project.

We were curious how these would sound if that were hooked up to the stock amp on the sub outs. They are the larger wires in the 4 pin connector. Instead of cutting the stock 4 pin clip we opted to unclip the harness from the stock 4 inch boxes. Jeremy made quick work of busting them out.

  I then soldered and heat shrunk the leads that came with the 6x9s to them. So we still have the stock connectors and they are running from the bass speaker outputs on the stock amp. This runs, from what I've read, at about 22 watts RMS. The aftermarket Alpine that Jeremy has runs at 14 watts RMS by itself. So to really get the beats pumping we will probably need to add an aftermarket amp back here as well but, in the mean time, 22 is a bit more than 14. 

  To our surprise the sound coming from them was decent. Obviously comparing a new 6x9 to a blown 14 year old speaker is unfair. Since we only connected the bass outputs I figured we would only get low end. The factory amp does crossover/mix in some mid-range. Which makes sense. With the adjustment on the head unit for the treble we were able to reproduce decent sound. The treble is of course muffled still. The only way around that at this point, is to get the stock amp out of the picture, and get the full range signal to the speaker. Pushing the signal further through an aftermarket amp would  increase their effectiveness as well.

  I wired my 6x9s to bypass the stock amp. They do have more clarity in the high and mids however, they have barely enough bass to enjoy them. I would recommend either run off the stock bass leads or run and aftermarket amp. That's the fun part about testing things. Hearing the difference in real life vs just guessing.

  In current form, these are a large improvement for bass over the stock 4 inch Nokia's (duh), and the highs are more pronounced when increased from the after market head units' built in EQ. In comparison to the HK 6x9s (in my car) they are also more clear and have more bass. The magnets are bigger, and the tweeter is much larger. The tweeter on these is the same as the ones in the corresponding component set. 

We are going to leave these as is for now and refocus on taking care of the rest of front speaker stuff.

E36 Door Card Speaker Replacement - Part 1 - Getting stuff out, speaker mounting

97 E36 4-Door w/o Door Card Airbags

Before reading please note:

  • If you don't want to grind/cut the stock tweeter and mid-range speaker holders don't read further.
  • The tweeter supplied in this kit(TS-D1320C) is much larger than the stock unit. It will have to be ground down to accommodate the stock tweeter holder.
Stock Speaker OHM ratings:
tweeters: 4 ohm
mid-ranges: 8 ohm
kick panel "bass" speakers: 4 ohm

On our quest for a better sounding E36 stereo system, Jeremy and I finally made a decision on some speakers. Given my past experience with Pioneer we choose this component set:


  We went with mid-ranges from a thread post.
Vifa Mid ranges.

E36 Door Card Removal

  Removal requires a little bit of patience and care but, nothing too extensive. We have a set of plastic panel "pullers" between us. There is a small crow bar in the set which made getting the panels off simple. Note: This pertains to a four door without door panel airbags.

First up are the two screws behind the door handle.

 There are plastic clips glued/clipped in.
 I used a very small flat head screw driver to pry them out.

   The two screws are torx. Sizing.
The one towards the latch side of the door is the shorter one.

The door handle surround also has to be removed. It slides towards the hinge side of the door for removal. Notice the "teeth" on the surround. 

 There are 10 clips on each front door card. There is no airbag on the door for this year. I'm not sure if there is an extra screw behind the airbag symbol on the 98/99s that have the door airbags.

The tweeter and mid-range are secured to the door with screw on sandwich style plates. Its a really cool way of doing it in my opinion. Here is a shot of all the stock speakers removed. 

E36 Kick panel mid/bass speaker replacement. - Easy Street

Removing the lower kick panels consists of a plastic twist lock on the front side. On the driver side the twist lock is behind the hood latch. Don't miss that and break it off like we did. Once they come off you will see the 5.25in stock bass speaker. It is surrounded by what I call rat carpeting. This serves as sound deadening.

Notice that spade terminals on these pioneers are designed just like the stock connectors. No wire splicing required here.

Four screws hold them in. Easy stuff.

Please note that these sound no different than the stock speakers when driven by the stock amplifier. You may notice a slight improvement if your speakers are blown.

E36 Midrange speaker replacement - Stock holder modification.

The vifas fit almost perfectly in the stock mid-range holder. There was a raised plastic guide on the inside of the holder. I needed to shave that down.

I also removed the stock bottom plastic. I don't need that impeding our mid-range sounds. These are a slightly larger diameter than the stock units. A "perfect" fit. Just a little hot glue to keep them tight and cozy.

E36 Tweeter install - Not exactly an easy job with these pioneer tweeters

The tweets that come with the Pioneer components are large. Much larger than the stock units. They are a soft dome design which is what I was looking for. BMW originally out soft dome tweets in the car for a reason. Having a larger tweeter makes for a broader range of capability as well. 

In terms of install I struggled because the tweeter will fit the stock door card opening just fine. It can be secured with the clamps that come with it. HOWEVER, the pioneer is not the same size as the stock tweeter housing. Leaving an ugly indentation from where the old one was originally. Not cool. 

 I also thought about hot gluing the face of the Pioneer tweeter to the back of the stock housing. There is room for this but, i was nervous about them falling off eventually. The only other option was to make these fit in the stock housing. This was an intense moment for me. Grinding/cutting in to a brand new tweeter meant i might ruin it. I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND THIS METHOD for the faint of heart.

  Ground out the stock inserts. After shaving the stock tweeter housing they fit "perfectly." 

Much larger than the stock tweeter. You can just see the outline behind the grill. That was that. Next up was to mount the speakers in the door card and wire up everything.