BMW and M3 Leather Keyring Keychain

October 11, 2013 photos

About a month ago the driver’s side low beam went out on our 2000 BMW 540i touring, or as we call it “the wagon”. After swapping the HID bulbs between passenger and driver’s side housings I determined that the the ballast was at fault.

These aren’t cheap but I got one in used condition for less than $100 from an eBay seller. Then I discovered that the adjusters were broken (the beams could not be aimed) and decided that a total aftermarket replacement was the way to go.

BMW e39 Touring with standard Xenon HIDs

Above: Standard HIDs after installing a used but working ballast.

I ordered lights from DDM Tuning but while reading about the install process I learned that I could get better, easier to install lights for a little more money. Unfortunately I’d already tried to install the lights and was committed. I went to DDMTuning based on out dated product reviews and because I’d dealt with them previously. Next time I will definitely shop and compare more thoroughly.

The challenges to this install are:

  1. The AC low-side pipe needs to be bent 1/2 inch to accommodate the new lights
  2. The Angel Eyes need to be hacked into the electrical system (many options based on how you want them to function
  3. The side turn signal connector is different between OEM and aftermarket headlights. In absence of a connector the turn signal needs to be hard-wired to the car.
  4. The kit didn’t come with front turn signal bulbs and required 2x 1156A (amber) bulbs.

Supposedly two pipes such as those used for plumbing can be used to bend the AC low side tube, but I was able to pick up a tool at Harbor Freight for $5 that proved effective.

Tube Bender for AC Low Side Pipe on e39

Above: Tube bender from Harbor Freight.

Install took about 3 hours but would have taken less time if we’d had the correct turn signal bulbs before starting. The new lights (sans Angel Eye functions) are finally installed thanks to my buddy Ryan Rich who I must confess did most of the work.

Ryan Rich Installing Headlights

Above: Ryan showing off OEM quality solder and heat shrink.

BMW e39 Touring with DDMTuning DJAuto headlights

BMW e39 Touring with DDMTuning DJAuto headlights

Above: New lenses and HIDs installed.

October 4, 2013 e39 touring

My review of Bascom Trim & Upholstery on Yelp tells the story:

“My 1998 BMW M3 had a sagging headliner that would flap in the wind whenever I drove with the windows down. And after 10 years the current headliner had changed from dark grey to purple grey from sun exposure. I called first and spoke to Lucio, then brought my car in for a quote. When I arrived there were already two other BMWs in the shop getting work, which was encouraging.




Lucio helped me pick fabric for the headliner and sunroof, but told me that most customers get new A and C pillars from BMW because they are cheaper to replace than recover. I booked an appointment for the work and paid a deposit for fabric. Lucio even told me I could drop the car off after hours which worked perfectly for my schedule.

Now, Lucio’s advice for the A and C pillars was definitely true for light grey and beige which would have run me about $280, but the dark grey / black headliner is called Anthrazit and runs about $1200 for the four pieces. Once I found that out I called Lucio for advice, in a pit of panic actually. He took down my VIN and called BMW to confirm the colour my car shipped with: Anthrazit, of course.

OEM pre-upholstered parts were totally out of my budget so Lucio agreed to order some extra fabric and reupholster the A and C pillars as well. This required the car to be in the shop for an extra day, but extra work was required so the extended delivery estimate was totally acceptable.

My wife dropped me off to pick up the car today: she’s a tailor and seamstress and was suitably impressed with the work and colour match. I was happy to find out that my invoice came in barely over the original quote for just the headliner and sunroof – it’s like I got the A and C pillars for free.

Great work, clean shop, good folks to deal with.”

BMW e36 M3 With Dark Gray Headliner Not Anthrazit


Bascom Trim & Upholstery
Upper Interior Trim on Real OEM

October 2, 2013 e36 m3, interior, service

I’ve been blogging about my 1989 BMW e30 for over a year but now I’d like to write about all my cars here on this blog. If you’re just interested in the e30 content you can continue to read only those entries on my e30 blog. Here are the cars in my life.

2000 BMW 540i Touring – “The Wagon”

This was the first used car I’d ever bought and purchased it in spring 2012. In retrospect I could have done better for my dollar but I was naive and anxious to get a BMW wagon: I overpaid and skipped the pre-purchase inspection which would have revealed numerous poorly performed repairs by the dealer I bought it from. Initially it seemed like I’d gotten a decent car but 6 months later the timing chain guide broke and the engine was practically destroyed – which I paid to fix.

Regardless, my family loves this car and I have big plans to turn it into the wagon of my dreams: M5 style 65 wheels, suspension upgrade, manual transmission swap and Laguna Seca Blue paint.

It’s great for big grocery trips and going to the beach. It has a V8 and takes off like a race car.

1989 BMW 325i Sedan – “The e30”

I bought this right on the heels of the wagon before anything went wrong. I was still inexperienced. The fact that the wagon seemed like a decent car made me overly confident in my car buying skills. In the words of my mechanic “This car is the reason you’re supposed to get a pre-purchase inspection.” Yeah, it was that bad.

This is my favourite car even though it entered my life in rough shape, was repaired at considerable expense and will never be a show car. I’ve learned a lot about how cars work from fixing this car up even if I haven’t always done the work myself. I got fluent driving stick in this car and have put 20,000 joy-riding miles on it: we have a relationship.

1989 BMW 325i Sedan Blue

1989 BMW 325i m20 Clean Engine Bay

1998 BMW M3 Sedan – “The M3”

I’ve taken many fun trips with the family in my e30 but after the birth of my 2nd child it became apparent that my noisy blue car isn’t practical for 2 kids in car seats. I evaluated some options and decided that an e36 M3 sedan would be fun to drive, fit the kids and free up the wagon to spend some time in the shop.

I’ve always wanted an M3 and this seemed like the opportunity to get into one. It was hard to find a decent sedan in Estoril blue but eventually one came available in fall of 2013. A lot of maintenance has been put into the car – enough to get it through the next 2 years – but at least it was in good shape to start.

1998 BMW M3 Sedan Estoril Blue

1998 BMW M3 Sedan Estoril Blue Clean Engine Bay with Dinan Intake

These are the cars in my life right now – thanks for coming along on the ride.

September 22, 2013 status

If you look at photos of the intake manifold on a BMW M20 engine in an e30 you’ll see a recurring spot of wear illustrated in this older photo of my car:

BMW e30 M20 Engine Bay

This is caused by the black fibreglass hood liner which sags slightly and rubs against the manifold. You can barely see it in this photo:

BMW e30 hood liner

Also note the red tape that’s being used to protect the powder coated intake manifold which is at best a temporary solution. The permanent solution is to remove the hood liner:


The unadorned hood isn’t ugly but it does allow more noise to escape the engine bay and some armchair mechanics postulate that the heat from the motor will cause the paint on the hood to bubble or wear poorly.

There’s two solutions for this:

  • BMW makes black foam insulating panels for some models but enthusiasts report that it falls apart after a few years of use and soaks up oil and grime. Part numbers are not noted on RealOEM but the set is available.
  • The other solution is mylar covered foam.
  • I bought my panels from BMP Design. They have a complete DIY on how to install the hood liner which is helpful.


    Now a few comments about the product:

    • It’s recommended that you “test fit” the panels before installation. Once the contact cement is applied you really only get 1 shot at installing the panel so plan how you will place it (which end will go in first, etc.)
    • You may find that the panels do not fit exactly. I suggest *returning* them if they don’t fit. I tried to cut mine with a ruler and knife, then scissors and it is very difficult to cut cleanly.
    • Even if your panels fit you will find ragged edges where the mylar has been torn. Clean these up with scissors before installing.
    • The panels come with an adhesive backing. This is not strong enough to affix the panels without contact cement.
    • No fault of the product, but it does tend to show wrinkles if not applied perfectly flat on a surface. The e30′s hood has some bends and curves so some wrinkles are inevitable.


    Installation was straightforward once I trimmed down the panels:


    • Cover the entire engine bay in plastic.
    • The Weldwood adhesive is supposed to be workable for about an hour after application – if it’s applied thickly. I decided to apply it thinly using a foam roller which made application quick, although the roller produced some spider-webs of contact cement that had to be tamped down or pulled away from other surfaces. This saved time but also reduced workability to seconds once the panel and the hood were contacted.



    BMW e30 m20 engine bay with BMP Design mylar hood liner

August 26, 2013 guide, mechanical

I took the e30 to the BMW club’s Dyno Day hosted at Dietsch Werks to find out what kind of horsepower it gets now that it has a refreshed m20 engine. It was fun to hear and see all the different BMWs, get my car on the dyno and have some good food.

My car was the oldest to run the dyno that day but also the car with the least HP: 121.6. I’m not upset, in fact it puts an extra wide grin on my face when I put my foot down and out-accelerate newer, more powerful cars.

I’d never been to a dyno day before, and I’ve never seen cars spewing black junk from the exhaust pipes before: As I learned, this junk doesn’t accumulate if you hit the rev limiter frequently. Since the dyno day I try to get out on the highway and hit the red line at least three times a week. Since doing that I’ve noticed the car feels like it’s putting down more power at the wheels… and no more black junk.

I made a video of my 3 runs.

1989 BMW 325i e30 Dyno

Above: Dino results of 121.6 HP.

Dietsch Werks Lotus
Dietsch Werks Lotus

Above: Lots of Lotus’.


Above: This M5 was just visiting and didn’t get dyno tested.


Above: Lots of cool cars in the parking lot, like this Delorean.

July 27, 2013 e30, events, video

June 23, 2013 video

I need to reduce my e30 parts cache so I’m selling some things. I’ve had my OEM tail lights in a box for the last 6 months and decided to put them back on and sell the all red junkyard tail lights.

BMW e30 with red tail lights
BMW e30 with factory OEM tail lights

Here’s the junkyard reds: selling them go for $40.

BMW e30 late model all red tail lights
BMW e30 late model all red tail lights
BMW e30 late model all red tail lights
BMW e30 late model all red tail lights

June 19, 2013 cosmetic

June 12, 2013 driver's log, video

BMW e30 In Santa Cruz CA


BMW e30 In Santa Cruz CA

June 2, 2013 photos, status

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