Sunday, March 17, 2013

Seat Time, Part 3

This is the tale of a lucky find, and also of the way that knowledge seeps away with time, causing once-common knowledge to disappear.  That has always been a big issue in auto restoration, but it will be huge in years to come, when folks are trying to restore electronic systems that were cutting-edge when made, but now obsolete.

I previously posted in Seat Time, Part 1 and Seat Time, Part 2 about my driver's seat, which was stuck in the highest position, putting my head against the roof of the car.  The problem was a broken gearbox in the seat pedestal, and that is not a service item.  I was able to manually adjust the seat to a reasonable position, but all the other faults of the seat remained: torn upholstery, and very hard foam and leather.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Airing the Spare (Original Post: Jan 4, 2013)

My very first BMW was also the only one that I've ever bought brand-new for myself - the new cars are usually reserved for Mary Ellen. It was in 1997 that I got my beautiful green Z3 2.8 Roadster. When the Z3 was first released in 1996, it came only with a 1.9 liter four-cylinder engine. In 1997 the 2.8 liter inline 6 was announced, and the magazines went nuts over it. I decided that would be just the ticket!

When I was shopping for the car, after doing much research in magazines and on the rudimentary web sites of the time, I showed up at Faulkner BMW with a rolling carry-on suitcase in one hand and a substantial computer case in the other.

Salesman Rob Howry met me at the door, and I introduced myself, pointed to the Z3 and said, "Would you mind opening the trunk?"  He did, and the bags fit, and I said, "Great!  Now we can talk!"

More on that Sticky Hood Latch (Original Post: Dec 20, 2012)

About a month ago, I filed this post about my efforts with my hood latch - its mechanism was stiff and "gritty", and it took a mighty pull to open the hood.  After removing, cleaning and lubricating the two latches, and replacing the Bowden cable between them, I was rewarded with a latch mechanism that was easier and smoother to use, but still required more force that I wanted to open the hood.

So, I recruited my friend John to put some judicious pressure on the hood while I was pulling the release in the car, to see if pushing or pulling on the hood would lessen the force required to release. Turned out that pushing was the right direction, which implied that one of the catches was too tight.

Wheels Down! Up... Down. (Original Post: Dec 12, 2012)

As I alleged in my last post, I did get all the engine parts back in place, and fired it up!  Everything seemed to be fine, so I set about completing the work to put the car on the ground.  It had been on my portable lift for over two months:

Working on my ABS, Part 3 (Original Post: Dec 3, 2012)

Some wise person once declared, "If you have something important to tell me, for heaven's sake, start at the end!" So.... It works!  It works!  It works!

"Rust Free" (Original Post: Nov 19, 2012)

You just have to smile when you see a project car advertised, "Rust Free."  There's no such thing, unless the car has just finished a Pebble-Beach-quality restoration!  Even on your modern daily drivers, it's not hard to find rust on exposed fasteners, frame rails, brake disks and the like.

But, we do expect that modern galvanized cars to have bodies without rust holes, at least for the first few years.  However, it's not hard to find rust holes in a 1999 model, so one of the reasons I was drawn to my 1999 BMW Z3 Coupe, even with 196,500 miles, was its straight, accident-free body.

Working on my ABS, Part 2 (Original post: Nov 11, 2012)

This is part 2 of (at least) 3. In part 1 I discussed the various issues that have had me dragging my feet about starting to replace the ABS controller, but it was time to put on my big boy pants and really take a chance to screw things up!  I didn't screw up (yet) but it's not fixed yet either - that's how I know there will be a part 3.

One Sticky Latch, or Two (Original Post: Nov 10, 2012)

Ever since I've owned my Z3 Coupe, the hood latch has been very difficult to open.  Indeed, the prior owner, Chris, had actually pulled so hard that the handle had broken loose - it still worked, but had a queasy looseness that seemed to say, "I'm gonna break someday and make you miserable."

Working on my ABS, Part 1 (Original post: Nov 10, 2012)

No, this isn't about my abdominal exercise program, it's about my anti-lock braking system!  Since I've owned the car, the ABS warning light has been on, as well as the traction control light (which is controlled by the ABS system, applying single brakes as needed for traction control).  Amazingly, in Pennsylvania you don't have to have working ABS to get a safety inspection sticker.  You have to have working fog lights if fitted, and a working windshield washer if fitted, but your ABS brakes can be AWOL, no problem!

Diagnosing the Patient (Original Post: Oct 21, 2012)

I bought my 1999 Z3 Coupe with my eyes open - obviously, a car with 196,000+ miles could have some serious mechanical problems.  The superb condition of the body, and largely, the interior, coupled with some obvious mechanical needs, made the car really desirable to me - one that I could work on without having to become a paint and body expert.

When evaluating the car before buying, I took heart from the fact that it ran smoothly and strongly, with no obvious smoke or bad noises.  I think that the high mileage was actually a plus for that - cars stay in good shape longer when they are regularly used, and it would have taken some highway mileage to reach that big total.

Spending Money (Original Post: Oct 16, 2012)

Just spent an hour and a half on the Bavarian Autosport website, gathering up parts for this phase of the project.  This is actually the culmination of hours and hours of research, first understanding the needed parts on the BMW online parts system ( and then comparing prices on the web.  There were some cheaper prices on eBay, but they were usually Chinese pattern parts instead of the good German stuff.  I wound up with a mix of genuine BMW and parts from German suppliers.

Diving In (Original Post: Oct 16, 2012)

Now that the garage is up and running, I actually have found some time to work on the Z3 Coupe. For such a clean little car, it has a good bit of deferred maintenance and old-age problems that I'll be tackling as time and money permit.  The first big batch will turn it (I hope) into a reliable driver that I can trust to go on a long journey if I choose.
This first batch of repairs includes:

1. Full tune-up: filters, plugs, belts
2. Change all fluids: oil, trans and rear end gear oil, antifreeze, brake fluid
3. Rebuilt cooling system - go here for what happened as I waited to get that done...
4. Replace cam cover gasket, to cure a nasty oil leak
5. Replace ABS controller with a used one, to fix ABS and traction control warning lights

Thursday, March 7, 2013

An Unexpected Shower (Original Post: July 8, 2012)

I haven't been posting lately, because I haven't been working on the Z3 Coupe.  As noted in my last post almost 3 months ago, all my "hobby time" has been spent on the Grant St. Garage, which will soon be the place where I can work on the Coupe.

However, I have been gently driving it about every two weeks, just to keep it somewhat limber.  You'll recall from an earlier post that the radiator was "spritzing" water occasionally, so I never drove it more than 5 miles from home, and in general took it pretty easy.

Today was one of those afternoons when I exercised the Coupe, and I made a big mistake: I took Mary Ellen with me. Of course, the car decided to fail with her in attendance!

Inspection Failure #4: Control Arm (Original Post: Feb 3, 2012)

Well, a comment poured into the mailbag last night, reminding me that I haven't updated in a while.The big news is that the Z3 did pass state inspection and the emissions inspection in late December!  The final failure to be repaired was a failed control arm in the front suspension.

Of course, for nearly every other car in the world, I would have said a failed ball joint, and just replaced that component.  But on BMWs of the Z3's vintage, the ball joint was permanently attached to the control arm, and the only way to fix it is to replace the entire arm.

Inspection Failure #3 - Tires (Original Post: Dec 23, 2011)

I suppose this should have been failure #1, since it was obvious I'd need tires before I bought the car.  However, it has taken this long to get this failure fixed, even though I bought the tires on Sep. 26, 2011, one day after I bought the car.

Seat Time, Part 2 (Original Post: Dec 1, 2011)

I suppose any good researcher has to report his failures as well as his successes, so....  You may have read my post about the mechanism that raises and lowers the drivers seat, or more to the point, did not do so.  I was able in that first experiment to manually adjust the seat so it was almost correct.  But... I wanted it to work!

Small problem: the gearbox (which would not turn but about three-quarters of a revolution) is not a service part.  That means you have to buy the assembly that it is part of, instead.  In this case, that assembly was the entire seat base for nearly $1000!

Seat Time, part 1 (Original Post: Nov 1, 2011)

This is my second car with this body style (the first being a 2001 M Coupe), and even though it is genuinely tiny with a tight passenger compartment, I was always comfortable in the previous M Coupe.  No so in this Z3 Coupe - my head was rubbing on the roof!  It didn't take long to figure out that the driver's seat was stuck in the highest position.  Pressing the button to lower it made motor noises, but no movement.  Drat.

Inspection Failure #2 - Windshield Washers (Original Post: Nov 23, 2011)

I certainly knew that you had to have good windshield wipers to get an inspection sticker, but I didn't know that windshield washers, if fitted, must be operational.  Of course, mine were dead - motor was shot.

On a regular Z3 Roadster, you can buy a Chinese washer pump from eBay for about 10 bucks, including shipping.  But, of course, the Coupe is different - it has a wiper and washer on the back window also, so the pump is unique, with two outlets and the ability to pump front or back, depending on the polarity of the voltage applied to the two contacts.  That is a BMW-only part, and it cost 72 bucks, even with my BMWCCA discount!  Holy moley!

Inspection Failure #1 - Fog Lights (Original Post: Nov 18, 2011)

When I spent the morning at Jack's Auto and Aero, we identified the list of things that would flunk my Z3 for state inspection.  The first thing surprised me - both my fog lights failed, for different reasons.  I assumed that since fog lights are optional, they would not be a failure, but if they are there, they have to work and meet the specifications.  My passenger light failed due to a broken lens, and the driver's side flunked because some prior owner had glued on a yellow lens - in PA, it must be clear.

Jack said that if I just removed them and left them off, then it would pass.  However, I found that inelegant.  I didn't want to drive around with unfinished holes in my bumper!

Uplifting! (Original Post: Nov 10, 2011)

Modern cars need a lift, no question about it.  When I started as a car guy 40 years ago, it was easy to roll the floor jack under the car, and lift from the crossmember in the front, and the differential housing in the back.  If you try that now, even if you can find those components under the aerodynamic underbellies, you're seriously likely to break something.

On TV, all those guys have beautiful two-post lifts that will lift the car so high you need a ladder to change the oil.  But in the real world, that won't work.  No clearance in the garage, no concrete pilings underneath, no money for a good one.  So, I've been haunting the site for a while, looking at this neat lift.  I was dragging my feet due to the cost, but I finally called and talked to the lift's inventor, Boytcho Manev.  The "t" is silent, so it's pronounced "BOY-cho".

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Let There Be Light! (Original Post: Oct 2011)

Like many older cars, my Z3 had such foggy headlights that the light kind of just dribbled out.  Here's the "before" shot:

A New Toy (original post: Oct 2011)

Welcome to the second iteration of Emery's Z3 Coupe blog.  The first was on, which closed its doors in April, 2013.  I moved selected posts over here, cleaning them up and combining several as I went.  This is a diary for my work, and, I hope, a useful tool for those with similar cars.  This first post combines two from October, 2011.

Here it is, my latest project car: a 1999 BMW Z3 Coupe!  The car doesn't look much like a project - see?