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.
Well, three weeks later and three different sets of strut mounts later (two returned), we succeeded today in installing the new Bilsteins, spring pads and strut mounts and my car is now back Home! Many thanks to Rob Siegel for his expertise, patience, and thoughtful decisions and explanations as we decided how to address the issues we encountered. Thanks also to Steve at Blunt for suggesting switching the studs (read below) and how to do it.
You can see by the first few photos why we decided to replace the strut mounts along with the inserts. The damage done by a previous owner to add more potential camber (not used in the current set up but drilled out for) not only looked bad but raised a potential problem with structural integrity. The preferred method seems to be discarding the headlight spacers and simply using washers, but we didn’t want to do that here. Once that decision was made, obtaining strut mounts with the right length stud became a problem.
The strut mounts with the shorter studs and the strut mounts with the longer studs necessary due to the extra height of the spacer have different part numbers, but if you order the latter, you get the former most of the time because everyone says they’re the same part – they’re not! So the solution was to order the regular mounts and the longer studs directly from BMW (BMW of South Atlanta has a great on-line parts site and the person you talk to is Mike – very helpful!), and switch them – they’re press-molded, so this can be done. I remembered also to pick up new wave washers and nuts at the last minute from the local auto store!
At home, before heading over to Rob’s, getting the shorter studs out was pretty easy. I used a hard plastic/rubber hammer on my work bench with a socket underneath. I couldn’t get the longer ones all the way back in despite hitting them pretty hard and figured I’d see what Rob thought. He used a brass head hammer and the concrete floor of his garage as a base to put the socket on – they went right in. The brass hammer head is softer than the studs but harder than rubber/plastic and is meant to deform somewhat so the thing you’re pounding isn’t damaged.
Setting the spring pad into the perch and aligning it and then doing the same thing to the top took some care to make sure the ends of the springs were in the proper position against the seating notch in the spring pad. Once the spring compressors are removed, everything tightens up against the mount on top and perch – voila – a ready to install front strut assembly. The spring pad may squish out on top a little bit but that’s ok as long as the notch is in the right position.
Sliding the assembly up into the wheel well after aligning the studs with where the holes are on the body of the car and fitting the lower end against the ball joint was pretty easy – one nut to hold it on top while the others were attached. Getting the bolts back in to attach the ball joint to the strut was a little tricky. Rob had to rethread the holes and bolts of one strut with a tap and die set. Lock-tight and a torque wrench got them together. Will re-wire them later. Then the calipers were reattached – torque wrench again but no lock-tight.
Wheels on, car lowered off the lift, and out of the garage – 2.5 hours all told, Not quite an epic but sure seemed like it at times. Now about that brake fluid we saw dripping out of the brake booster…
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.
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 testing post- it’s an aside.
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Got the silicon hoses from Ireland last fall – going to be putting them in sometime soon…maybe even this week!!
This is another test post.
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