The Battle of the Bushings, part 1

Seemed simple enough – pull out the control arms, put in some new bushings, put them back in.  Doing new suspension bits on Betty – I had the new Billsteins to put in, which required pulling struts and such, and as long as I’m in there…. you know how it goes.  I had read somewhere that new bushings is one of the best things you can do for an ’02 – make it ride like new, they said.  So I ordered up the refresh kit – all new bushings, tie rods, center link, ball joints – the whole kit and the kaboodle, as it were.  Taking it out was pretty easy… got the control arms out, and the fun started.

They were apparently “the old style” – the ball joints were riveted on, the steering arms stuck to the ball joints, and indeed the bushings were a mess … old, hard and cracking – good thing I was doing this job, right?  Definitely.

First things first – how to get the steering arms off? Fortunately for me, I have know some great guys down at Sports Car Restoration – they do amazing work, really, and they always have time for me and my stupid questions.  Turns out that getting the steering arms off is pretty easy – put the whole thing in a vice, and smack it with a hammer.  If you’re lucky (or good) and you hit the ball joint dead on, it’ll drop right out.  Nate got them both with two smacks.  Easy enough, and I was on my way.  Check out those ball joints…riveted in there.  I guess you’re supposed to drill those out…. Nate saw the fear in my eyes, and he came through for me in a big way – found a set of refurbished control arms – clean, fresh, ready for new ball joints and bushings – and willing to trade them for my old bushings and a twelve pack –  I win.  Like I said, they’re really great guys.  All I had to do now as get the bushings in.  Should be easy, right?

I read up on the task – lots of articles in the archives about it.  From what I could tell, the best way to do it was by using threaded rod, some PVC pipe and a bunch of washers – you lube up the bushing and just pull it through by tightening down a nut.   So I gave it a try.   I used dish soap as to lube it up and started to tighten down on my contraption.  The bushing started to slide on in – no big deal.  I thought I was home free now, ha! It got about halfway in and started to stick… more soap.  Tightened down some more, but the bushing wasn’t going anywhere –  oh shoot – the threaded rod was spinning.  How I wish I had a bench vise now.   But I don’t, so I grabbed some vise grips, and clamped down on the threaded rod…. as I tightened down the nut again, the vise grips started to spin.  I clamped those down to the shelves that I was working on.  That took care of it, for the most part.  Tightened down some more, and the bushing started to go through.  I noticed it getting harder to get a grip on the nut – inspection showed that it was rounding off – despite the fact that I was using a box end wrench at this point.  I wrestled with it some more, and then loosened up everything to see where I was.  It was all the way through, but definitely not far enough in – the bushing hadn’t come through the other side enough yet.   My arms were scraped up from the spinning control arm, and trying to hold the vise grips which kept slipping.

Back to the drawing board, I guess…….

So much easier the second time…

So where were we?  Seems like such a long time ago, but I guess it’s only been about two weeks.  Since then it seems like I’ve done a lot, and I’m not even sure where to start.  Somewhere along the ride, I decided that I should get new suspension pieces – not even sure how that happened…  let’s see…. Oh yes, I had new rear brake stuff – new drums, new shoes, new  cylinders… so I got in there and started disassembly, which was a bit of a bear – too much rust for brakes.  The drums came off okay, and it became immediately apparent where my brake fluid leak was – this job came at the right time – maybe too late.  I got to taking out the hard line from the old cylinder – lots of rust there.  I cranked on it pretty hard, and snapped off the bleeder valve.  Good thing I was replacing the cylinder anyway.  But then i realized that I had also damaged the hard line in the process.  I priced out new hard lines, and invested in some flare nut wrenches – best money I ever spent for this job.  The 11mm became my friend and new favorite tool.  Turns out that new hard lines weren’t to pricey, and … “while I”m in there…”  Then I got lucky and found someone that had the entire set for sale – cheap.  Original BMW parts with tags – ordered from Blunt – exactly what I was going to most likely do.  So I bought those… Of course, the set has every piece except the two that I really really needed.. but it was such a good deal, it doesn’t matter.  Even had two new E-Brake cables  Ordered up the two needed pieces and began to take out the E-brake bits.  I hadn’t even considered replacing this, but I had the new part, and the existing cable was pretty beat, and rusted tight into it’s tubing, and hey… I was already “in there”.  I cranked on the old cable pretty hard with pliers, vice grips, needle noses etc.  Nothing doing -this thing was not moving.  If only I had a Bowie knife.  Instead, I did the routine soak cycle of PB, Liquid Wrench and some can of stuff I’d gotten in the mail for free.  Probably a toxic combo, but hey.. this thing has to come out, right?  I took out the handle inside the car, and started shooting stuff down there, too – hit it from both sides, if you will.  Still no luck.  Almost lost hope, and people told me to try “the torch”.  Lord, it doesn’t seem like a good idea to get underneath the car with a torch… I don’t care how careful you are, fire extinguishers, whatever… this just seems like a bad idea.  Others suggested I “open it up, and weld it back shut”.  But I don’t weld, so I soaked it another day, and in the morning, first thing, I went after it one more time with some brand new Vice Grips.  Tiny wiggles back & forth, as a wise old man told me one time, tiny wiggles back & forth.  And lo and behold it moved.  “IT MOVED”, to quote Costanza.  And we all knows that when it moves, it’s a good thing.  A little more coaxing  and the e-brake cable was finally out!!   Glorious day!!  I love a good battle with a crazy nut or a pesky bolt – that feeling when it breaks is like gold! After they were pulled out, the new cables were pretty easy to slide in. Did the same thing to the other side – one more day of love juice on there, and eventually the second side came out pretty easy.  So much easier the second time.

Rainy day wrenching…

I thought today was going to be a total bust when they started talking about snow, and dammit, Becca was out of town on a college visit with her niece.   I had all day to wrench. And it started the day raining.  Cold, too.  So I futzed….  did some taxes…applied some updates to the e-mail server at work…. and waited for the sun to come out.

Eventually the rain gave way, and it stopped being so damn cold.  Still too cold, so I started cleaning the radiator in the slop sink.  A little steel wool and some hot water…cleaned it right up.  Looks like someone had done some work on it before – had signs of soldering on it…. or something similar.

So by the time I finished with that, it was much warmer out, and the rain had been gone for a while.  Time to start in on that water pump… maybe those cooling hoses.  Everything was pretty much out, so it was a piece of cake to get to the water pump – 7 bolts and it’s out.  I was a little surprised to find that there were 3 different types of bolts – 3 13mm bolts, and 4 10 mm bolts, as I recall, and one of the 10mm bolts was longer than the others.  Better keep track where they go.  Unbolting is the easy part – and the pump pops right off.   I soaked the bolts for a little bit – wish I’d ordered replacements.   So I got it out, and inspected it… nope, not disappointed that I replaced this puppy.

Money well spent, I think.  Here’s a side by side of the old with the new:

Finally got it installed…

Another ridiculously shiny part in an otherwise gunk covered engine bay.  I even got a few of the new blue cooling hoses in…

Pretty good, I thought, for a rainy day….


Cool parts that cool

So as the stash keeps growing, I keep waiting for the weather to get better.  I know, it’s only March, so technically it’s early, but dammit it’s almost April now, and Betty is still up on jack stands.  I started the rear brakes, got as far as hard line being fused to the cylinder, and realized I was going to need to order new hard lines.   So I switched my attention over to the cooling hoses – all eight of them.  Got the cool blue silicon tubes from Ireland – the last set of tubes I’ll ever have to buy, they say.    So I pulled out the radiator, and proceeded to take out the hoses.  Probably one of the easier jobs I’ve done so far… anyone can loosen a tubing clamp, right?  Yep – all of the tubes came out… removed the fan (it was a little broken up – four out of five fins were still good) and then I saw the water pump.  Like most pieces of Betty, it was covered in grime and gook.  “While I’m in there” said the scope creep, and I ordered up a new pump.

this is a test aside post


This is a testing post- it’s an aside.