Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Just a short post about the alignment I had done today on the 93 525i. I took it in and talked to the guy who was doing the alignment before he got started. I explained to him what I'd done and he said don't worry, we'll get it right.

About 45 minutes later he's done. I asked how bad it was and he said "you could have gone without getting it done, all the settings were within specs. I tweaked them a bit, but it was fine."

I guess I should start my own alignment shop, LOL.

Monday, January 19, 2009

93 VANOS Gasket and Outer Tie Rods

Today, I decided that I would try and fix an oil leak that shouldn't have been there in the first place. Back when I put the rebuilt VANOS unit on the 93 525i, I was a bit confused by the installation instructions and didn't do one of the things they said to do correctly. When you are putting the VANOS back in, you need to put some sealant around the two end indexing dowels that help line up the gasket. I didn't do it properly when I put the VANOs back together the first time and it developed a leak right where you would expect one.

This morning I got up early to work on the car because my son needed to go to class, but ended up not going because he is sick. I started on it a little before 6 am. The whole thing took me a little more than two hours. Since I had just put a VANOS unit on the 95 525i when I did the head gasket, I could almost do it from memory, but I didn't. Everything came apart and went together quite quickly.

It started up and ran great.

Later in the day, since the car was just sitting there, I decided to change out the Tie Rods. Originally, I was going to replace the Center Tie Rod and the two outer Tie Rods. But after checking it out, I decided to just do the outers. The Center looked and felt to be in good condition.

This job only took me an hour to complete. I was able to use my new handy dandy ball joint tool to remove the Tie Rods, and it worked perfectly. When you are installing new outers, you need to make sure that you get the length right or the alignment can get way out of whack. The way the outer Tie Rods are set up is a Rod had two screw in ball joints, one on each end. One end had left hand threads and one end has right hand threads. It's done this way so the rod can be turned one way or the other to make the space between the ball joints longer or shorter. I know that it affects toe-in and toe-out.

I thought that I had measured and got the new ones very close to the old. Apparently not so much. When I got the parts all back together, I took it out for a test drive. Man, the steering felt really weird. I went around the block and when I turned it almost seemed like the steering wheel wanted to turn on it's own. I got back to my driveway and could see tire marks on the concrete. It looked like someone had burned out on the drive. As I pulled back in, I looked in the rear view mirror and could see I was leaving more marks. Something was definitely not right.

I pulled it back in to the garage and parked. I looked at the tires and could tell that the backs of the front tires were protruding almost an inch more than the front. I remembered when I put the outer Tie Rod ball joints back into the steering plate, I had to move the steering plate out a bit. I thought that I'd bumped them while removing the old Tie Rods, but apparently I hadn't done such a good job of measuring the old Tie Rods, or getting the new ones set up correctly.

I put it back up on the jack stands and turned the Tie Rods one turn in (pulled the back of the tire in) on both sides. Tightened everything up and what a difference, it felt like before. One of the reasons I put new stuff on was the rubber boots were torn on the Tie Rods. I also needed to get it into the shop for an alignment and didn't want to send it there without putting the new Tie Rods on. The tires were wearing badly on the outer edges, to much toe-in I think. Anyway, I decided to turn the Tie Rods one half turn more. Figured it couldn't hurt since the tires are trashed anyway.

I have an appointment to get it aligned on Wednesday. I'm going to need two new tires too.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Control and Thrust Arms

Yesterday I decided to go ahead and put the Control and Thrust arms on the 95 BMW. Since I had done them on the 93 BMW a few months back, I figured it would take me a couple of hours.

There really isn't much to it. I followed the Bentley manual since I hadn't done it for a few months. When I replaced the arms on the 93, I had also removed the struts which made it a longer job. To replace the arms you don't have to remove the struts, you just have to remove the steering plate off of the bottom of the strut housing. Just three bolts for that. I loosened up the through bolts on the ends of the arms that attach to the undercarriage so I could move the arms around a little easier when I was trying to remove the ball joints from the steering plate.

I had purchased a universal ball joint removal tool a couple of months back when I bought some other tools. Here is a picture of the tool I used:

It seemed big and bulky enough to do the job easily. Once I had the steering plate free, I was able to access the ball joints. I was working on the drivers side first and chose to remove the Thrust arm ball joint first.

I installed the tool and started tightening the arm of the tool. I tightened and tightened, but nothing. I tried loosening up the tool, but it felt like it was binding. I ended up using my impact wrench to loosen it. Once I got it off of there, it looked like the threads on the bolt had stretched, they seemed farther apart than they should have. I lubed them with a small amount of grease and tried it again, no luck. I got my propane torch out and heated up the steering plate around the ball joint (that is the way I ended up getting the ones off of the 93). I went back to my pickle fork ball joint remover. After beating on it for what seemed like forever, all I did was bottom out the pickle fork, still didn't release the ball joint. I sprayed some penetrating oil on the stuck ball joint and went to work on the Control arm ball joint. I heated it up first, pounded the pickle fork in and it came right out.

I went back to the Thrust arm, pounded the pickle fork in several more times, heating it up each time, and nothing. My arms were starting to cramp up from swinging the mallet so much. I finally decided to take off the tie rod end that attaches to the steering plate (there are three ball joints on the steering plate, the Thrust and Control arms and tie rod end). I used the special tool I had purchased on it since the Tie Rod end ball joint wasn't damaged at all. The ball joints for the tie rods are quite a bit smaller than the arms. I put the tool on it and tightened it up and "pop" it was off. I was able to remove the steering plate along with the entire Thrust arm still attached. I took it over to my work bench, put it in my vice, heated it up again and then hit the ball joint bolt about 10 times before it popped out.

At this point, I was about three hours into a job I thought would take maybe two to three and I hadn't even finished one side yet.

Reassembly went quick, no problems. I started on the other side and it went like the other did. The Control arm ball joint came off quickly, but the Thrust arm was a Bear. I didn't spend as much time on this side before I removed the Tie Rod end from the steering plate. Took everything over to my work bench and this one came out much easier than the other.

Reassembly went a little slower on this side. I had some trouble lining the steering plate back up with the bottom of the strut, but it finally went back together. I followed the Bentley manual and tightened everything back up to specs, even got the right amount of weight in the car before I torqued the through bolts on all of the arms.

The entire job took me about 5 hours. I was pooped when I finished. I cleaned up the garage, went and took a shower and then went out for a test drive. Drives much better now. It felt a bit sloppy in some turns before and you could feel it sort of shift forward when you would come to a stop. That's all gone, a much more solid ride.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Head Gasket Epilogue

The car is still running very well. It isn't using any coolant and seems to have good power.

It is in the shop now, I'm having the oil pan gasket replaced. After trying to do the job myself while the head was off, I decided to treat myself and have someone else do it. It was seeping pretty bad, so I decided to do it now instead of later.

I just received the core refund back from the company I bought the head from. They told me that the head was cracked from one of the water jackets to a valve seat on the number 3 cylinder. That makes sense to me since I was pretty sure that the number 3 cylinder was where the leak was. That bubble in the head gasket probably had nothing to do with it leaking.