Continued with ironing out a few mechanical gremlins. Whilst working on the cooling system, I noticed the sway bar links looking pretty tires, and with the inspection coming up, I decided to tackle those instead of waiting to be pulled up on it.
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The old ones came off fine, but putting the new ones in I ran into an issue that I should have checked for before embarking on the job. The stud didn't have a hex slot on the end of it to hold put for tightening, instead having a slim little slot for a spanner the other side of the plate it connects to. Every time I tried to tighten it, it kept jamming the spanner, making it impossible to remove afterwards. With the car jacked up in the air and no other cars available at the time, all I was left to do is jump on my bicycle and pedal my way to the nearest auto store to pick up a cheap 18mm spanner, and then went to town on it on a bench grinder. Filed it down just enough to fit in and get the job done. Another item added to the BMW specialty tool collection.
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With the car jacked up, I gave it a visual check over and to my absolute delight, found the diff bushing to be at the end of its life. I did start noticing a slight clunk coming from the rear when first taking off from being parked up overnight, and seemed to have found the culprit.
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What an absolute bastard of a job that is. Luckily a mate of mine has a two post lift and was willing to help me out, so made the task a wee bit easier. Still ended up taking a whole day. Instead of taking the whole diff out, we took off the rear cover to get better access and went to town. First we tried pulling it out with a set of cups, a rod and an impact wrench but the thing was so rigidly stuck and rusted in place that the stainless steel rod just snapped off with a huge bang, nearly hitting one of us right in the noggin.
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We tried being nice, but in the end had no choice but to resort to violence. Out with the old.
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In with the new.
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Topped the diff off with fresh fluid and she was good to go. Weirdly enough though, after doing the diff bush, the clunking noise had only become more prominent. No clue what it might be at this stage. Could be some other bushing, or the springs. I wouldn't know what a cracked subframe mounting point would sound like, but I sure as f**k hope it isn't that. One to keep an eye on.
Gave the wheels a mighty old scrub, so those will look fresh for at least a couple of weeks, before being caked in brake dust once again. Never had that issue on the coupe which seemed to have had some dust-free compound pads installed. Will definitely look to switch over to those sometime in the future. I've read a few reviews on Akebono ceramics, and whilst the longevity and low dust really do sound appealing, I've been discouraged from going down that route due to the poor initial bite and thus a potential safety concern when brakes hadn't warmed up yet. What do other people reckon?
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On the bright side, I finally invested in a decent headunit, going for an Android 10 double-din with an 8-core processor and 64GB storage off a random Kapud
brand. An AliExpress special, but does seem decent enough quality and retains the OEM look. The only downside being the ~20 second startup time, but I was fully aware of that prior to purchase so no complaints there. I opted for that model as it didn't have a CD slot that most similar ones come with. I wouldn't have any use for it anyway, and without it, it looks a bit more minimal whilst leaving a lot more space inbehind to fit all the wiring. Also got a 3D printed HVAC relocation bracket from a UK seller on eBay for something like $40-50. Not cheap but holds the unit in nice and firm without any rattles. There seems to be a few more of similar ones that have popped up since then and are now cheaper as well. Worth a go if anyone's looking for one.
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I thought the speakers were shot and I was prepared to tackle those as the next step, but the unit livened them right up. Gone are the rattles and the sound is now way crisper. Not audiophile level by any means, but to my untrained ear it's more than acceptable. Happy days.
I also got a reverse camera that slots in neatly instead of one number plate light but turned out it didn't quite fit in properly, despite being marketed as e46-specific. Might have to butcher the plastic housing on it to make work but that's another thing I left for a later mission.
Whilst happy that I'd been making solid progress on some fronts, the car kept on throwing up more banana peels onto the path.
One evening I took a drive down to a neighbouring town to have a look at a potential side project, a deregistered E91 320i going for cheap. Looked tidy enough but luckily it ended up selling to someone else before I had time to make the dumb plunge into the 4-cylinder world. Barbara here must have gotten jealous as on the way back she threw an engine code, the sassy bitch.
To my knowledge, the DISA hadn't been refurbished, but then again could have been a whole handful of other culprits. The prospect of going on a wild goose chase for vacuum leaks didn't really appeal to me. Nor did chasing down the persistent clunk from the rear end.
Then one day I discovered a line of coolant running down the crank and it just threw me over the edge. Everything else had been replaced by that point so it must have been one of the hard plastic lines under the intake manifold. Fuck that.
I sat down and weighed up my options. I could either continue playing whack-a-mole with the endless slew of problems that would continue popping up, or...
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...buy a donor car and hit everything in one go.
It had been a while in the making and not at all an impulsive decision to be fair. I had been growing frustrated for a while, and being a sort of 'demolish and rebuild' type of person, I'd much rather start from scratch and tackle everything in one go instead of continuing the endless cycle chasing down persistent issues. I settled on doing a full on assault on the engine, but if I was going to go down the full refurb rabbit hole, I figured it might as well be a 3L instead of a 2.5. I saw a few M54b30's listed on locally for around $1,700 NZD, which seemed silly money for just the engine, so I started keeping an eye on damaged car auctions and after a few months, this little beauty popped up.
A 2002 330i with 160,XXX km on the clock, all up cost me a touch less than the asking price on the aforementioned engines alone, written off with side impact damage.
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The two doors took the brunt of the damage, with just a small dent in the B-pillar behind the door, which is what did it. Doesn't take much nowadays. Funnily enough, the previous owner reached out when he came across my part-out listing, so I got a nice insight into the car's backstory. The repair quote had apparently come in at $8k. Yikes!
Getting a whole car meant that I could go for a full 330 conversion - engine, brakes, drivetrain, whole rear subframe with trailing arms and all. So here was the new plan:
- Full bottom-up engine rebuild, short of re-sleeving the bores. Will be keeping the stock pistons but fitting them with old-style M52TU piston rings. Otherwise all new seals, gaskets, DISA & VANOS rebuild, whatever else needs addressing, the works.
- Refurb the whole rear subframe - already have a full kit of rear subframe bushes sitting in a box waiting to go on. Will be cleaning everything up for a bit of spray paint to fight off rust and for general visual satisfaction. Will be using OE Lemförder bushes throughout. Did consider poly in places but probably not worth it for what I'm doing. Might look into it more seriously further down the line. Obviously this isn't going to be a competitive track car, just a daily driver / road trip machine. Seeing how I go, might try my hand at a track day or two just for fun, but won't be seeing too much abuse. Keen to hear people's experiences of using poly bushes on daily drivers though. How much harsher does it make the ride comfort?
- Was going to drop the auto box from the donor car to hopefully cure my limp mode disease, but after staring at it for a while, I went f**k it and shelled out for a ZF 5-speed manual from a fella in England as there's currently bugger all of them available in the country. Might as well make it a full on money pit. Getting a full conversion with full driveshaft and manual diff. Will pair it up with a brand new clutch kit and flywheel, as well as the other bells and whistles to go with it. Will preventatively do the gearbox shift pins and detents, as well as all the bushes in the shifter linkage. Will switch out the shifter for the stock E60 one as it's got a shorter throw, and a ZHP shift know to top it off.
- Refurb, paint the 330 brake callipers and rebuild the pistons with new seals.
- Replace the sway bar bushes and front control arms as well. Those are all looking original from factory so long overdue a replacement.
- Rear subframe reinforcing is probably not something I'm looking to do just at the moment, unless it very obviously needs it, but definitely on the list of potentials for the future.
Anyway, onto the teardown.
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