Give Yourself a Raise

Everyone complains about the seats, no one does anything about them. Until now.

Although I love my Z, I’ve always been disappointed with the seats and the lack of support. I have the “Regular” seats, but I’ve found the same to be true of the “Sports” seats as well. I was reading a post from Jim Harriger who was similarly disappointed with the seats in his ///M. He said he had looked at the seats and found that the fronts are held on with two nuts. He planned on taking off the nuts, replacing them with rod-couplers and bolts. Sounded like a good way to get some support into the seat, but, as I found out, there are a bunch of gotchas!

Previewing the Project

I checked under my seats to make sure they were attached in the same way as Jim’s. He has an ///M, while I have a 2.8. Sure enough – two nuts in the front, two bolts in the back. So far, so good. I took off the bolts and put some 1 inch supports under the front seat just to see how it would feel – I liked it! It made the seat feel like it was cradling you. Putting the seats back to the standard setup made it feel flat and unsupportive.

Obtaining the Materials

I paid a visit to the local Home Store. I found 5/8th inch rod couplers which looked like the right size. I tried to screw them on – no go! I checked with the local hardware store who confirmed my worst fears – the nuts were not 5/8ths, they were metric 8mm. The problem is that rod couplers are pretty easy to find, but metric rod couplers are a specialty. I emailed Jim who confirmed – he had found a local source for the 8mm/1.25 rod couplers. About $2.50 each.

I looked in my Yellow Pages under Fasteners, but the first few places I called didn’t carry metric. The third place suggested I look under “Metric” instead. Bingo! They had them, and for only $1.50! (Sorry Jim – looks like I got a better deal).

I got 3 couplers and two bolts. The couplers look like very long nuts, 24 mm in length (about an inch long). I got the third coupler because I had a feeling I might end up cutting them down to size (I was right) and wanted to have an extra one in case I messed up The nuts are about 1/2 inch long (about 12 mm long). I also got a couple of washers to provide backing and support at various places.

Update: On the net, call Maryland Metric 800-638-1830 (http://mdmetric.com/prgde3b.htm). They have a $10 min order the couplers and bolts and the washers for both sides and you’ll probably just about hit $10.

The Procedure

The procedure is quite simple. If you want to use Jim’s method, all you really need is a socket set. I also used a Dremmel tool and a saw for some wood-work. Jim indicated that he simply moved the seat forward, unscrewed the rear bolts, moved the seat back and removed the front nuts.

He then put the rod couplers onto the screws which protrude from the floor, fastened the front with the washers and bolts and re-fastened the backs.

Note – it’s easier to put everything in place loose, then tighten the back, then the front.

I tried this procedure first. It worked fine. When I took the car out on the road you could immediately tell the difference — I could feel my buns being grabbed by the seat! I never felt this in a Z! It was great – for a few minutes. After that, the sensation got a bit too intense. I was afraid of this – Jim is 5’10”. I’m 6’1″. He probably sits with the seat higher up than I do, so the sensation is not as great. The 1″ raise in height was just a little too much for my tastes.

The Alternate Procedure

The Alternate Procedure is a bit more involved. It’s designed to give the seat a bit more support and to remove about 1/4 inch of extra height:

First I used the Dremel Tool to lop about 1/4 inch off the rod coupler. Be careful – you don’t want to remove too much or you won’t have enough coupler left to attach the bolts.

I then cut several stabilizer units from a piece of wood. I painted these flat black and used them to surround the shorter rod couplers. I also hollowed out a little bit of the top to make a “cup” to mate to the underside of the rails of the seat-foot where there is an indentation (it’s hard to explain, just reach under there are feel around, you’ll see what I mean)

I re-installed the shortened rod-couplers and surrounded them with the wooden stabilizer units.

Tightened up the rear nuts

Tightened up the front nuts

And I was ready to go. The next test drive was a dream! The 3/4 inches made an incredible difference to the feel of the seats. I’m now quite happy with them.

Thanks and credits to Jim Harriger for developing this procedure and for the information that was necessary to complete it!

Direct V1 Power in the 2.8

I wanted a switched direct power source for my V1. I tried to follow the directions for the M Roadster and discovered the 2.8 is wired a little differently. The MZ3 directions called for pulling the lower portion of the dash on the drivers side which I did. This was no easy task and I recommend that you avoid it if at all possible.

After my first failed attempt, I decided to go after the Cell Phone power since I have no plans for installing a phone in the car. I also wanted to try and take the power cord through the passenger side since it seemed like it would be easier.

I followed some of Vince Parsons Directions for locating the cell phone wiring harness by raising the shifter boot cover. It is only held by 2 clips on each side and can be open by pressing on the sides. Wait, what’s this? There is this big piece of foam that wasn’t in Vince’s pictures. No problem, just lift it up to gain access to the inside of the console.

Well I searched and there was no wiring harness to be found. Just the wires for the window switches and hazard lights switch. Went back to Vince’s directions and he mentions that it might be under the carpet beneath the parking brake handle. I found it! Wait, how do get it out of there? I’ll be damned if I know. It’s wedged in there and didn’t want to come out. I didn’t want to remove the entire console so I gave up on trying to get it out.

While peeking in through the OBD door on the passenger side of the console, I had seen an unused wiring harness. I decided that this was going to be my new target power source. Fishing this thing out was not easy because it was wrapped around other bundles of wire but with a little work I had it exposed. I didn’t have much room to work with so I went after the other unused harnesses I saw in there. I found three additional harnesses. I tested for a switched power source and found that the green with white stripe was what I was looking for.

I grabbed the wire tap that came with the V1 and attached it to the wire. I then removed the black plastic panel below and behind the glovebox. It is attached with plastic clips that are removed with the half turn of a flat head screw driver. There is a single one of these plastic clips holding the kick panel covering the speaker at the passengers feet. This provided plenty of room to run the V1 Direct Wire Power Adapter wires. I velcroed the Direct Wire Power Adapter to the top edge of the carpet and used the grounding point next to the speaker.

Next I ran the V1 power wire from the V1 Unit to the Direct Wire Power Adapter. Alan Riley instructed me in the technique of removing the trim along the top and right pillar of the windshield. First remove the pillar piece which just pops off. Then remove the visors. This requires a Star Tool which I just happen to have. Next you must remove the clear plastic cover from the dome light which pops out. Then pop out the light assemble and behind there you will find one more screw to be removed.

Then you can pull down the side that you are working on. In fig. 9 you can see how I wrapped the wire around the dome light wires to keep it from falling out. I then ran the wire down the windshield pillar, beside the dash and door frame where I pushed it behind the insulation and along the bottom of the dash to the Direct Wire Power Adapter.

At this point, hookup the V1 and verify that it works as expected. Now is the time to find out that it doesn’t work. Mine did. Once you have proven that it works, it’s time to reassemble your car. First secure all the loose and excess wires and check one more time to see if it’s still working. Reverse the steps to put all the trim pieces back in their rightful places. When your done you’ll have a direct wired V1 radar detector.

Let’s see John Law try to mess with you now.

My Kingdom for a Cup Holder!

“Here I am, driving one of the most fun automobiles in the world, yet I can’t find a good place to put this Dr. Pepper while I shift into 5th gear.” This has been a common statement ever since the introduction of the Z3. The BMW roadster is an amazing automobile; a near perfect balance of modern day technology and classic “retro” styling. But it doesn’t have a cup holder, and damn-it, I’m a spoiled American that likes to occasionally have something to drink while I’m driving.

Apparently I’m not alone in this quest for a cup holder. Enough people complained loudly enough that over time several “solutions” have become available to the BMW roadster owner. I’ve seen and/or owned most of the available cup holders, so I’ll try to clear up some of the confusion and offer my own opinion on each of the cup holder options I’ve found.

BMW’s stock armrest.

Every BMW roadster that is built for the US market leaves the factory with the same center console/armrest/cassette holder device. It’s a neatly engineered, modular device that has a open storage area with a raised armrest behind it. The raised armrest area can be pulled out with just a slightly forceful tug. The theory being that other modular devices could be snapped into the same area in its place.

The stock device is a pop-up cassette holder. Problem is, BMW got tied up in its “retro” design mind set and forgot that cassettes are a thing of the past. As the Z3 was making its introduction to the various car magazines, a few reviews pointed out that the Z3 didn’t have a cup holder (guess they had to pick on something).

BMW’s Initial Response

BMW was fairly quick to react to the cup holder oversight and offered a solution that replaced the modular center console area with a non-modular armrest that had a covered storage space and two cup holders. The BMW part number for the replacement is 82-11-1-469-516. Any BMW roadster owner in the US could request this cup holder armrest and BMW would exchange the cassette holder for the new armrest for free.

I took advantage of this offer in November 1996 and gladly handed over my unused cassette holder. The new design was very convenient in that it had a covered storage area and two hidden cup holders. It was also a more comfortable armrest. Problem was, the cup holders are behind your elbow when you are holding the gear shift. Not very convenient, but none the less serviceable.

I was pretty happy with the swap for a couple months but then the new design started falling apart. The coating on the plastic started to flake off and a couple small rubber pieces tore off. While it never happened to mine, apparently it was also common to have the hinge snap on the covered storage area. Owners started complaining about the “cheap armrest” and requests for replacements under warranty started to flood BMW.

It’s okay BMW fixed it!

In BMW’s defense, this new cup holder/armrest really isn’t manufactured by BMW. Apparently BMW passed on the complaints to whomever the maker was and that supplier made an improved version. The improved version looked nearly identical to the original design except it appeared to be made out of a slightly different plastic material, the hinge was sturdier, and they redesigned the rubber bumpers that the lid rested on. If you are curious which version you have, look at the rubber stoppers that cushion the lid of the storage area. If there are raised plastic rings surrounding the rubber stoppers, then you have the “improved” version.

The “New and Improved” version had the same part number as the original version and it was kind of “hush-hush” about the improvement. BMW offered the new design to any owner who lodged a complaint, although it took quite some time for them to replace all original designs that had self-destructed.

I was one of those that received the improved version and I can attest to the improvement. While the cup holder location is not in the most convenient location, the covered storage area is very nice.

Who cares about storage, I want a cup holder!

Even today, every BMW roadster still leaves the factory with the original center console with an open storage area and a modular “snap-in” cassette holder. A few owners may have never seen this because some dealers have become pro-active and replaced this entire center console with the now improved covered storage area and cup holders.

A long time ago when the BMW roadster was first introduced, BMW offered an optional swivel-up cup holder that snapped into the same modular area that the cassette holder used. At the time no one paid it much attention since it was an optional accessory, but it was a neat design that let the owner swap out the cassette holder and/or cup holder.

For some reason this modular cup holder quietly disappeared around November 1996 and was never marketed in an accessories catalog. Then just as quietly, around February 1998, it awoke from hibernation and was spotted in a Z3 in South Carolina.

It wasn’t very long afterward that the BMW part number was discovered (51-16-8-398-250)and is now available through any BMW parts department. This swivel-up design makes use of the original modular area (that the cassette holder occupied), but the bracket holding it is slightly different. So it’s not just a snap-in, snap-out swap for the cassette holder, but with a screw driver you could make the swap in under five minutes. As a cup holder, it is a more convenient and smarter design than the previous cup-holder, which required the driver to somehow put a drink in a hole behind his/her elbow. However, this modular design doesn’t have a covered storage space that the free replacement offered.

This left BMW roadster owners to choose between a convenient storage space or a convenient cup holder. Both models had their respective pros and cons, but I had grown accustomed to the covered storage area and the more comfortable armrest of the free replacement (oh, and the fact that it is free is a nice feature, too). Too bad BMW couldn’t design something that did both.

Owner beats BMW at its own game.

Leave it to an BMW roadster owner to come up with a solution to the cupholder problem. What you are looking at is good old ingenuity. These are nothing more than sections of 3″ PVC pipe, precisely cut to fit inside the side storage areas. After being cut, they were spray painted with semi-gloss black spray paint so that they blend into the interior.

This design is simple, functional and cheap (which is the kind of combination I like). This original cut PVC pipe design was later sold to HMS. HMS had a custom plastic mold made and is now selling cup holders very similar to this one for $34.95.

They work quite well in that they hold typical 12 oz. cans, but they do not work with fast-food cups. About the only other complaint I have is that condensation from the can drips down into the side storage compartment (and sometimes I have other stuff in there). I’ve learned to keep something like a napkin under the cupholder.

Rich borrows a solution from the Miata.

I like my cassette holder.

However, I would also like to have a couple of drink holders in the car. I looked at the BMW offering and found both the older style and the newer styles to be inconvenient, as well as removing utility of the cassette holder.

The BMW designs place the drinks by your elbow, just where they’re likely to get tipped over when shifting from first to second. I had a similar problem in my Miata – Mazda provided a drink holder which could go in the center console, but the drinks tended to tip (although they were further on down than the BMW placement, you could still tip them while shifting). However, the Miata also had a perfect place for an after market “flip-down” drink-holder: a trim screw could be used to secure the drink holder to the center console by the passenger’s legs. In fact, almost everyone who owns a Miata has one of these installed. It’s out of the way, easy to reach and takes away an insignificant amount of room on the passenger side. When folded, they are unobtrusive, looking like a four inch square by .5 inch black box.

When I got my Z3, I was so used to having a decent drink holder, I never considered the “elbow holder” alternatives. Instead, I went out and bought a new “flip-down” and installed it on the console on the passenger side. Unfortunately, this means drilling into the console. I secured the top with two small screws into the console in the middle with one screw into the carpeting and at the bottom with some “male” velcro. Because I have the wood console and extended leather, I chose the “wood-look” drink-holders to which I added a piece of leather matching the leather trim on the console.

My wife pointed out that I wasn’t the only one who needed a place to put my drinks, so I added a second one. The result is a very attractive and serviceable alternative to the BMW designs.

In spirited driving, the drinks are much more secure than in either of the BMW designs. The pincers which flip up are adjustable, accommodating the common soda can, tall late’ cup and the occasional Big Gulp.

Drink holders like these can be found at your local Pep-Boys or Auto-Palace for less than $5 each. They come in flat black or “wood-look”. You can also find more expensive versions, completely covered in leather from Beverly Hills Motoring Accessories (To order call: (800) FOR-BHMA or +1 310 657-4800 (outside U.S. & Canada)) for about $30 each. You can specify what type of leather you want them wrapped in.

Homemade PVC Cupholder

Leave it to an BMW roadster owner to come up with a solution to the cupholder problem. What you are looking at is good old ingenuity, this is nothing more than a section of 3″ PVC pipe, precisely cut to fit inside the side storage area. A couple shots of semi-gloss black spray paint and that’s it, you’ve got a cupholder that blends nicely into the Z3 interior.

This design is simple, functional and cheap (which is the kind of combination I like). If you want to go the PVC route you can visit the local hardware store and then spend an hour or two cutting the PVC to get the fit just right. Total cost is probably going to be around $5, however if you aren’t the do-it-yourself type you have another alternative. This original cut PVC pipe design was used by HMS Motorsport as a prototype for a nicer plastic/rubber moulded cupholder. The HMS cupholder is nearly identicle in shape, except the flexible rubber material makes it easier to snap the cupholder into place. The HMS version is now selling for $24.95, so its roughly $20 more than a home made version but all you have to do is pick up the phone instead of spending an hour or two of your own time making one from PVC pipe.

The design works quite well in that they hold typical 12oz cans, and the larger skinny 20 oz plastic bottles, however it doesn’t work with fastfood cups. About the only other complaint I have is that condensation from the can could drip down into the side storage compartment (and sometimes I have other stuff in there). I’ve learned to keep something like a napkin under the cupholder just in case.

Z3 Side Grills/Gils

Pros: Easy to Swap, Model Confusion
Cons: Price, Model Confusion
Cost: 51-13-2-492-949 M grille left $169.00 retail (unpainted)
51-13-2-492-950 M grille right $169.00 retail (unpainted)
51-13-8-399-719 Z3 Grille left $46.75 retail (unpainted)
51-13-8-399-720 Z3 Grille right $46.75 retail (unpainted)
painting the pair should cost $75-$100

The M roadster’s side grill design is pretty neat (pictured on top), but I prefer the less flashy shark gill style of the Z3 design (pictured on bottom). Its funny how this picture makes the M roadster one look smaller than the Z3 one, but the Z3 gills are actually ~1/16 inch shorter in length than the M ones? This slight difference will leave a larger gap between the gill and the body panel but not enough to really be noticeable.

Both designs are attached to the vehicle similarly. Five plastic snap connectors and one mounting point secured by a screw. To remove, I started by removing the single screw. Then using needle nose pliers, I squeezed the plastic connector wings together and pushed the plastic snaps back through the hole. Took about five minutes before I got them all loose. If you end up breaking one of these plastic snaps the replacement part is 51-13-8-399-231 and those clips list for $3 each. If you wanted to by the BMW nut it is part number 07-12-9-925-730 which lists for $0.08 each.

Once I was able to put the two designs side by side I noticed a small difference between the M roadster design and the Z3 design. The single mounting point required two different sized screws. After a quick trip to the hardware store I was back in business. The Z3 design required #10-23 1/2 inch machine screws, the M roadster design was a different size.

Putting the shark gill Z3 design vents on the M roadster was very easy. With some gentle pushing, the five plastic tabs snapped into place. I then secured the final point with the newly acquired #10-32 1/2 inch machine screw.

Very happy with the end result, now I truly have an MZ3. I’m keeping the M roadster design (so don’t email me asking for them). Do to mood swings I see myself switching between the two different designs a couple times a year. But for now, I think of it as being an M roadster in stealth mode.

When Z3 owners were asked: Which Z3 side vent design do you prefer [106 votes total]

Z3 Shark Gills Design 61(57%)

MZ3 Classic Design 45(42%)

In-Dash Garage Door Opener

I was going to hard wire power to my radar detector following the instructions in Robert Leidy’s Power for your Radar Detector article. I decided at the same time I would add a pushbutton to my dash to activate my garage door opener. I was tired of having a big remote taking up space in my Z3.

What you will need:

Garage door opener you don’t mind taking apart

Momentary pushbutton switch (I used Radio Shack #275-644 because it fit with the interior of the Z3 nicely)

Wire (I used 20-gauge stranded wire)

Drill or Dremel-type tool

Solder and soldering iron (optional but highly recommended)

Electrical tape

Phillips screwdriver

First, take your garage door opener apart and figure out how the button on the outside of it activates the switch inside. You should be able to activate the opener by bypassing the switch with a piece of wire. Verify you can do this by using a short piece of wire to touch the contacts at either side of the switch, and see if it activates your garage door.

Second, follow Richard Carlson’s Cutting the Cord article and Robert Leidy’s Power for your Radar Detector article to remove the plastic plate over the pedals and also the one under the steering wheel. You don’t want to solder a switch to your garage door opener or drill a hole in a dash panel until you know you can take all the appropriate pieces apart, and also that you can bypass the switch in your garage door opener.

On U.S.-spec Z3s, to the right of the steering wheel there is a little blank plate in the same position that there is the fog light switch to the left of the steering wheel. Use your fingernail, pocketknife, or thin-bladed screwdriver to pop this out–it should come out easily.

Using a drill or a Dremel tool, drill a hole in the center of it. Note that I did not have a vise–if you drill it and hold it by hand like I did, be very careful!

Then, use a cone-shaped sanding bit to slowly enlarge the hole until the switch will fit through it. Note that the switch has a back piece that screws on to it. You push the switch through the hole from the front, and then screw the back piece on to secure the switch in the hole.

For the next step, you may leave the switch in the little plastic panel or you may take it back out if you are afraid of melting the panel with the soldering iron.

Cut two 3-feet long pieces of wire and strip about a half-inch from each end. Loop one end of one of the pieces of wire through the little hole in one of the leads coming out of the switch. Solder the wire in place. Repeat with one end of the other piece of wire. Just to be safe, wrap electrical tape around both soldered connections.

If you removed the switch from the plastic plate for the above step, it is now time to feed the wires through the hole in the switch and to fasten the switch to the plate. Now, feed the wires through the hole in your dash out of which you popped the panel. You should be able to push the panel and switch into place flush with the dash for a clean “factory” appearance. You now have the two 3-feet long pieces of wire hanging down below the dash.

Be very careful at this point. It is good if you have a helper too. Sit in the driver’s seat of the car with some sort of tray or disposable plate in your lap. You will be soldering the wires to your garage door remote in your lap in a moment, and you don’t want to take any chance of burning yourself or your Z3. Before permanently attaching the wires to your remote, hold each wire on the contacts on either side of the internal switch in your garage door opener, and ask your helper to push the button in the dash. If everything is connected correctly, your garage door should be activated.

You will have to decide the best way to affix the wires to the contacts in your remote. For me, the best way was to solder them to the bottom of the remote circuit board on either side of where the garage door remote switch was. Be careful not to melt the circuit board with the soldering iron. Also be careful not to bridge any contacts with melted solder, thereby causing the garage door opener to be active 100% of the time!

After permanently affixing the wires to the garage door opener, again verify that the pushbutton in the dash will operate your garage door. Then, use electrical tape to secure the garage door opener somewhere under your dash, keeping in mind that you will need to reinstall all plastic panels which you removed.

Finally, reassemble your dash, admire the clean “factory” look of the button you installed, and drink a celebratory beverage to congratulate yourself.

Tender Lovin’ Car Care

For all the fun your roadster brings you, it’s only right that you treat it with the proper cleaning only an owner can provide. If it were a slab-sided sedan or SUV (Some Ugly Vehicle) you’d be well within your right to hand the keys to those scrub monkeys at the local auto-wash or sandblast it with the recycled water often found at the self-serve BayWash.

But how exactly do you go overboard to indulge your Ultimate Driving Machine? Want to take pride in redefining the word “anal”? Read on…

First, let’s lay down some ground rules. The purpose of this article is to maintain that silky smooth factory finish for as long as humanly possible without resorting to permanently encasing the car in solid lucite. This does NOT include slathering it with some miracle laser-deflecting, scratch-healing, fireproof, SuperTeFlornPolymerSilicone wax or protectant. If you think your roadster’s finish won’t look good without these late-night infomercial snake oils, you’ve probably been clueless on proper car care. The following procedures will instruct you to go as far as you can to be LEAST harmful to your factory clearcoat.

You’ll want to gather the following items:

A plastic 5 gallon bucket or larger. A metal one close to the car might scratch it if tipped.

One or more cotton wash mitts

Large soft sponge

Wax applicator pads

Half or full dozen 100% cotton terrycloth handtowels, laundered using no detergent and dried without fabric softener.

Medium firmness fiber bristle wheel brush

California Mini-Duster™

Synthetic Chamois

Small Window Squeegee

Concentrated Car Wash Solution

Pro409 or Simple Green cleaning solution

Vinylex for leatherette interiors

Lexol for leather interiors

Meguiar’s #18 Plastic Cleaner or Pledge furniture polish

Pre-Wax Cleaner

Carnuba-based Wax (no Polymer Waxes!)

Bug & Tar Remover

Old Newspapers

Halogen Worklight

Unless you’re in a shaded carport or waterproofed garage interior, NEVER wash your car under direct sunlight. The best times of day to wash are dusk and dawn as the sun will probably be behind an obstruction in the horizon. Washing in hot weather is a no-no as well. General rule of thumb is if the car’s surface is warm to the touch, it’s not the time to wash. In direct sunlight, each droplet of water on the surface acts to collect the sun’s energy. If the surface is already hot, this speeds the droplet’s evaporation leaving the water’s natural minerals to etch into your clearcoat thus giving you “waterspots”. No additional scrubbing will get these stains off. A hot surface will also cause wax to be easily stripped from the surface. A proper wash should only serve to lift off dust and dirt. The underlying wax should last for several washes before requiring another application.

Once you’ve moved your car into it’s wash area where you can reach all sides with the hose, put your wipers up before you turn off the ignition. Simply raise the right stalk and remove your keys the moment the wiper arms have reached their apex. This will enable the arms to be hinged away for unobstructed access to the windshield’s forward edge. Check the blades for wear or muddy debris while you’re at it. Don’t forget to return the stalk and blades back to their normal position afterwards!

Fill the bucket with slightly cool water. Warm or hot water will give the same results as having a hot surface. To this, add THE ABSOLUTE smallest amount of wash solution. (Dishwashing liquid does not count as car wash solution) This should only be enough to create a few bubbles when swishing the water with your hand. This wash water merely needs to lift dirt from your surface. The mile-high bubble baths formed from too much wash solution will take much longer to rinse off thoroughly and worse, any areas you’ve missed in the rinse will leave a dull residue when dried. The concentrated solution in these pictures only required approximately a teaspoon to reach the desired results.

Use a wash mitt instead of a sponge to wash the body surfaces. Chances are better that grit or debris can get caught in the sponge’s pores and turn your wash experience into a scratch session. Avoid brushes as well regardless how soft the bristles may feel to you. The soft fibers of a wash mitt will release grit the best.

Spray down the car to wet all areas. Throughout the wash, continuously spray all areas to keep surfaces wet. If there are spots with dried splattered bug parts, moisten a paper towel and lay it over the area. When you return to it later, you’ll find it softened and much easier to remove.

Gently scrub the canvas top. The advice you heeded in avoiding overly soapy wash water will especially prevent soap residue here. Tan tops will probably require more gentle scrubbing and rinsing to lift embedded dirt. If you do spend time on washing the top, be sure to pay close attention to rinsing thoroughly.

Continue to the glass surfaces and don’t forget your side mirrors. Once you’ve moved to the body panels, start from the cleanest surfaces along the top and work your way down. Clean one section at a time to allow for immediate rinsing. Heavy scrubbing shouldn’t be required to lift grime from your previously waxed surface. Work the scrub mitt in a straight back and forth motion. Rinse the mitt of grime repeatedly…better yet, use the hose to rinse away the grime. Heavy scrubbing in circular motions over time will encourage swirl marks often seen under harsh sunlight. At this time, those bug spots should be moistened. If not, apply a commercial citrus-based bug-remover according to directions. The last and dirtiest body sections to be washed are areas immediately following the wheel wells and rocker panels. You’ll find the wash mitt reporting back with brake dust and kicked-up mud. At any point throughout this entire process, if the wash mitt gets dropped to the pavement, do not continue washing without thoroughly rinsing the mitt several times.

If the car hasn’t been washed in a while, check the side marker lamp underside for a layer of dried mud. This lamp assembly is removed by first sliding it towards the back of the car. Clean the area as necessary, but DO NOT force water into the wiring. At the bottom corners of the doors drain holes need to be cleaned and cleared of any grime that may prevent moisture from escaping. When these holes are dirty, they are often the culprits in leaving an ugly streak as water drains from them. Since the grime in these spots are typically greasy, clean it with something you can discard…like a paper towel.

Once all body surfaces have been washed, rinse and remove the wash mitt from the bucket. Soak a large, soft sponge and clean the wheels. The sponge’s ability to hug the wheel’s complex curves should make the job quick and easy. Brake dust should come off easily provided the wheels are regularly cleaned two or three times a month. A long-handled brush will offer better access to cleaning the wheel wells.

Using an inexpensive mini-squeegee will make quick and efficient work of drying the windshield and side windows.

By now the canvas top should have wicked most of the moisture to the surface. Start drying this area next with a synthetic chamois. Open the hood and trunk to let the large water droplets run off. Open the doors to keep the drain holes unobstructed from any possible beads of water tension. Since you’re no longer misting the car at this stage, it’s important to remove all droplets or pools of water as soon as possible. Nothing beats the synthetic chamois for its ravenous water-soaking properties. Wringing out a waterlogged synthetic versus the pricier genuine chamois would show you the benefits of synthetic. Once wrung dry, the synthetic feels just as buttery soft. More often than not, draping the chamois across a spot and dragging it across once will leave a bone-dry surface that no bath towel can match. Dry the hood and trunk moving to the sides afterwards. Don’t forget some favorite hiding spots like the seam under the reptilian side gills or lip edges in front and back. Drying your roadster by immediately driving it after the rinse leans toward foolish as the water droplets will simply serve to collect road dust and exhaust to etch into your paint once the moisture evaporates. The wheels will probably have water droplets that need to be dried as well. After this, it’s time to clean the glass.

Typical glass cleaners may be good for fingerprints, but they don’t cut it for automotive interior glass. The haze you often see is a result of off-gassing from your vinyl dash’s exposure to UV rays. A far more effective solution is to dilute a cleaner like Pro409 or Simple Green according to directions. Using these products full-strength would require more work than necessary in wiping it away and would leave a soapy residue. Keeping the diluted mixture in a small atomizer bottle will make it easier to reach the forward windshield from behind the dash.

As farfetched as it may sound, using newsprint to clean glass is devastatingly effective. Most major-city newsprint contain ink that doesn’t come off. Spray the glass directly with the diluted solution, scrunch a sheet up and begin wiping. You’ll find the newsprint absorbent enough while it cleans the glass thoroughly. Paper towels become waterlogged much too easily and can leave pieces of itself behind.

While near the subject of off-gassing, the interior vinyl should be cleaned with a product that offers some UV protection. Vinylex is a popular choice that (thankfully) does not leave as wet a look as other bigger-name brands. Extra buffing with a dry cotton towel may reduce the shine further.

Cleaning and conditioning the leather seats with an expensive product may be futile as some detailers have claimed BMW’s seats have been sprayed with a thin protective coating of plastic. Notwithstanding, Lexol or Connoly’s Hide Food seems to be the popular picks for those with leather interiors.

A California mini duster is an invaluable gadget for instant interior cleaning. One swipe will remove that reoccurring layer of dust. The mini duster is sized to easily reach the furthest parts of the dash. Be careful not to leave this sitting on your dash for any prolonged time. The duster is lightly embedded with parafin wax (to attract dust) that may leave a wax stain on the dash’s plastic.

Pledge Polish will work for the plastic rear window provided you use an absorbent lint-free cloth. Again, use straight back and forth strokes here. Alternately, Meguiar’s #18 is especially formulated for plastic windows. Scratched and hazed rear windows should try the combination of Meguiar’s #10 and #17.

Before you start putting your water-stained roadster up For Sale because you were careless in avoiding direct sunlight during the wash, you can pamper the paint back to its glory by using a pre-wax cleaner like Zymöl’s HD Cleanse. This is designed to remove existing wax as well as waterspots and pindot droplets of hardened treesap so you can start anew.

Work in small patches on the bodywork. Apply the pre-wax paint cleaner to the applicator and lightly rub into the paint. Do this in a straight back and forth motion — never circular! Once you’ve thoroughly applied a layer to that spot, buff it off with the cotton towel. It may help to bounce the glare of a halogen worklight to more-easily catch areas you missed buffing. Continue in this fashion for the rest of the car, turning the towel or grabbing a fresh one as necessary. Stay away from textured plastic surfaces like wash nozzles and door handles. In the previous formula HD Cleanse, the cotton towel would actually make a scritch-scritch noise on the sheetmetal when the surface was clean! An alternative to liquid pre-wax cleaners is to use a patent-pending product called Clay Magic. This blue slab of slightly-sticky clay is used in conjunction with the included lubricant solution. As the clay is dragged across the paint’s surface (with help of the solution), it essentially scours off imperfections and stubborn debris on the paint surface.

After stripping the old wax from the car, it would be an opportune time to fix paint-chips and scratches with touch-up paint from your dealer. One highly recommended product to help this process along is Langka. Fixing these spots early assures moisture or debris does not work its way to the bare sheetmetal underneath.

The final process in your roadster’s TLCC is the wax. A good waxing will leave a protective barrier between your paint and the harsh environment. It would be far preferable for waterspot minerals to etch themselves to your coat of wax rather than the paint’s clearcoat. Carnuba-based paste wax is the choice of respected detailers. Carnuba is extracted from palm leaves in South America. Finding a $5.00 bottle of liquid wax claiming to be 100% Carnuba would go nicely if you were also buying a bridge in Brooklyn. A TRUE sample of 100% Carnuba Wax would look like a brick and would require you to use the heat of your hand to warm it enough to apply to the paint. That $5.00 bargain bottle likely has a true concentration of 5%…if that. Serious detailing wax only has a 30%-50% Carnuba concentration. These paste waxes with a partial Carnuba concentration work well because it contains essential oils and carrying agents. Carrying agents surround the Carnuba giving it a smoother viscosity thus allowing easy application. This is what gets buffed out leaving the hard protective Carnuba. The oils serve to nourish your clearcoat. While petroleum-based Polymer waxes may protect, it does not nourish.

Using a new applicator pad, apply the paste wax in the same gentle back and forth motion as the pre-waxing process. Work in small sections at a time. Varying brands differ in their application process. Zymöl requires buffing off almost immediately. It does not haze as much as other waxes, so use that halogen worklight for additional help. To use the terrycloth buffing towel efficiently, fold it into four sections and turn to a new section after the last one loses it’s ability to buff the surface clean. It usually takes 3 or 5 handtowels to buff the entire roadster. Once again, avoid getting wax on black plastic surfaces like doorhandles and spray nozzles. Don’t forget to wax and buff the side-mirrors. A slick surface should make the job of removing kamikaze insects from those spots much easier. Once the roadster has been waxed, it should be able to withstand several washes in the months to follow. Typically, a car should be waxed three to five times a year…and HD Cleansed once or twice a year.

Before you reach for that celebratory beverage of choice, don’t forget to clean the paraphernalia you’ve used. Wash mitts and bucket should be cleaned and rinsed of dirt and silt that may have settled. Sponges should be cleaned of anything lodged in its pores. Terrycloth towels should be laundered by themselves in hot water preferably without detergent. Be SURE to ask your significant other if it’s OK to subject the washing machine to this. If not, a coin-op laundromat would work. Wax applicator pads are more difficult to clean and at 95¢ a pack, it’s preferable to get a new one when the occasional wax job is needed. Wash the synthetic chamois under warm water, wring it out and store it in it’s plastic container. If you used Zymöl, store it in a cool location or refrigerate it (don’t freeze!) to preserve the natural oils within. If possible, store the rest of the detailing products in the wash bucket so that everything’s handy for your next TLCC session. Until next time, take the long way home!

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Ben Liaw’s / Short Shifter Conversion – Has your Z3 been BL/SS’d (Blessed: Get It?)

After sitting in an M Roadster at the dealership one day, I notice that the shifter was much shorter than my ’96 M3. After some research, I discovered that all E36 cars can upgrade to this new, shorter, throw with this upgraded shifter lever. You are only replacing the lever itself, nothing else.

These detailed instructions will cover the procedure for the home mechanic, doing it him/her self. There is another procedure which is easier and quicker, but requires a lift and unique tools which is very expensive. Otherwise, this method works (I had to do it this way the first time) and should take about an 45 minutes. 60 minutes if you’re a klutz.

The coolest thing about this is that while the AC Schnitzer short shift kit is between $700-$1000, this conversion, which does the same thing, costs about $50. Please note that this is NOT the same as the $99 Autothority shifter kit as the AutoThority kit simply lengthens the distance from the ball to the lower linkage with a machined piece. This has known to shorten the shift, but also known to increase the sloppiness.

This has become a very hot upgrade as there are no shifters in the country at the moment. Just order it and be patient.

The Details

Shifter throw is reduced 31%.

Less slop than stock shifter.

Increased shifter effort decreases chances of mis-shift.

An upgrade that virtually no one can tell (UUC approved).

BMW Parts You Need

M Roadster Shift Lever (# 25-11-2-228-384) [required] – Part lists for $52.25

Nylon ball joint cup (# 25-11-1-220-600) or (# 25-11-1-469-397) these two parts are identical [recommend but not required] – Part lists for $14.87

Washers (2) (# 25-11-1-220-439) these parts can be damaged during the removal of the stock shift knob if you are not careful. [recommend but not required] – Part lists for $0.47

Circlip (# 25-11-1-220-379) this part can be damaged during the removal of the stock shift knob if you are not careful. [recommend but not required] – Part lists for $0.68

Carrier Bushing (# 25-11-1-221-822) [recommended if you have slop] – Part lists for $6.98

Tools You Need

Flat bladed screwdriver approximately 8 inches long

Grease (like white lithium)

Floor Jack

Jack Stands (2)

Step 1: Get the knob off

This procedure is best done while the car is cool and has not been running. Leave the car overnight and do this on a Saturday morning. After the front end of the car has been jacked up and supported with jack stands, you’re ready to start.

Pull off shifter knob (straight up, don’t hit yourself in the face). Do not try to twist the knob off, there are no threads on the shifter lever.

Step 2: Unhook the Shifter

Crawl under car and locate the end of the shifter lever. It is connected to a “linkage” arm with a circlip.

Remove circlip and yellow washer. On an older car, the circlip may be stubborn and you’ll ruin it taking it off. On newer cars, you can push it off with your fingers. Make sure you replace both yellow washers on either side of the bottom of the shifter lever.

Disconnect linkage arm from bottom of shifter lever.

Step 3: The Bitch of a Clip

The silver carrier which holds the ball joint of the shifter lever needs to come out. It has a “pointed” end which is facing towards the rear of the car…ignore that end. You want to focus your efforts on the FRONT of this carrier.

You’ll notice that the front of the carrier is buried above the tranny housing somehow. The carrier is secured to the car via a “pin” which is secured in a peculiar manner. Instead of a nut/bolt passing through the hole, there is a pin which is secured with a “latch” type of function. You’ll barely see it, but you can see the pin.

Once you locate the side which has the “latch”, use the side of the flat bladed screwdriver to pry up on the latch. You’ll need to get the latch to point upwards (it’s horizontal in the “lock” state). I found that if I kept prying upwards, pushing, more prying, the latch worked its way up slowly. When you’ve finally gotten the latch “up”, you can push the pin out, towards the latch direction.

Note for those with excessively sloppy shifting: If you notice, the pin comes out of a rubber bushing on the end of the carrier. If you have excessive play while the car is in gear, replace this bushing. Doing this BL/SS install will NOT fix sloppy shifting. You will have SHORT sloppy shifting. I don’t know the part number off hand, but Steve D. does. I’ll post the part number here and modify these instructions to include the bushing.

Step 4: Take Out the Carrier

You must remove the silver carrier/shifter lever assembly from the car now. I find that if you pushed the entire assembly forwards and backwards, you’ll be able to give enough room for the rear “pointy” part of the carrier to slip out, allowing the entire assembly to be then dropped down.

Step 5: Replace and Lube the New Lever

Once the assembly is out, you’ll have to remove the shifter lever from the aluminum carrier. It’s held in by a nylon cup. You have to get the cup out of the carrier, and I’ve found a screwdriver to work. Once you get the lever/cup out of the carrier, pull it straight off.

There is no incorrect way for the new shifter can be installed since it is perfectly straight, unlike the one you’re removing, which has a bend to it. Just be sure that the lower linkage hole is pointed in the correct direction. When you hook the linkage back up, it will be all lined up, ready for the shifter to be put on.

Replace new shifter lever into the cup, but make sure you lube it.

Press it back into the carrier, and make sure it has the “tabs” of the nylon cup sticking out of the slots on the side of the carrier.

Step 6: Reinstall

reinstall in reverse order

Final Notes:

You’ll notice and immediate difference in the shifting, not just in the throw, but also in the smoothness. I’m not sure why the factory doesn’t lube the nylon cup enough, but it sure does make a difference.

So, what do you do with this extra lever, you say? Well, it’s pretty much useless, unless you want to go back to long, sloppy shifts. They do fit in E30 cars, so be a pal and donate it to an E30 owner.

Enjoy your “blessed” shifter.