Chrome Lock Pulls

Pros: Looks Good, Inexpensive, Easy To Install
Cons: Lock Pulls Stick Out Slightly Further
Cost: $9.36 (list)

Click for Larger ViewHere is another simple and inexpensive upgrade for chrome lovers. The stock Z3 lock pulls are black, but BMW makes it easy for you to change to chrome lock pulls. The picture below is BMW part 51-21-8-399-241 which lists for $4.68. Technically there are left and right versions of this part (51-21-8-399-241 & 51-21-8-399-242). When there is a left and right item the odd part number is the “left” item assuming you are seated in the drivers seat. But for our use you can order 2 lefts, 2 rights or one of each because we’re going to only use the chrome cap on top of each operating rod.

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Click for Larger ViewRather than take the door apart to replace the entire operating rod, if you pull up on the lock pull and keep twisting it around it will eventually come loose and you can pull the plastic lock pull cover off the operating rod. Do this on the new parts you just purchased and on the stock (black) lock pulls. Then place the chrome lock pull on the stock operating rod and twist it back down. These parts really are not designed to be screwed on and off but they are plastic and can be replaced in this manner.

Update: I have received several email questions regarding this removal. Yes it is difficult, the plastic is held in place with a bump on the operating rod. Twisting and pulling is what worked for me, just be careful not to damage the finish on the plastic part.

Click for Larger ViewIt may be easier to do this with the doors open. When the doors are open the central locking system will not allow the lock pull to be depressed. With the lock pulls held in place by the central locking system, and using the twist and push method I replaced both sides rather quickly. It is much easier to do it this way rather than take the door apart and replace the entire operating rod.

Chrome Hand Brake Button

Pros: Looks Good, Inexpensive, Easy to Install
Cons: Only For Chrome Lovers
Cost: $3.10 (list)

Here’s a real easy upgrade, that doesn’t cost much, and looks good. Change the black hand brake button to chrome. BMW makes a chrome hand brake button part number 34-41-1-163-199 that lists for $3.10. I’ve added several chrome accessories to my black and gray interior and this small inexpensive upgrade adds to the look.

The button just screws onto the hand brake. To remove the old button simple unscrew it. It takes a lot of turns but you should be able to notice it slowly coming free of the hand brake. Once the old one is unscrewed simple screw the new chrome button on in its place.

UUC Oil Filter Lid

Pros: Looks really good
Cons: Just a cosmetic upgrade, although some theorize the additional ///M logo will make the car faster.
Cost: List price: $99 (from UUC motorwerks)

Click for Larger ViewThe ///M engine is a beautiful sight to behold. It is a classic german design, everything has a purpose and the visual aspects are clean and understated. As you can see in the picture on the right (click on any of these pictures for a larger view), I have added a Dinan Strut Brace to my ///M roadster. The Dinan brace not only improves the cars handling, it also adds to the engine compartments visual aspect with it highly polished bar and carbon fiber inserts.

I recently added an additional ///M logo to the front of the engine compartment and it added a nice visual touch as well. The wife questioned “who will ever see that” and the best I could do was to draw an analogy of getting a tattoo on your butt. Maybe only a select few will ever see it, but the important thing is that you know it is there and you like it.

Click for Larger ViewIn the front/middle of the engine compartment is the stock oil filter container. It has a textured metal case with a matching dull metallic lid. The metal has a slight brownish tint to it and it is not much to look at, but none the less the container does its job. A single bolt holds the lid firmly down onto the container making it easy to remove the lid and change the filter. German efficiency at it’s finest.

Click for Larger ViewI know this is was going totally overboard, but somewhere in the back of my mind I had once pondered “what if I somehow made this look better”. While it was nearly a forgotten pondering, some time later I stumble upon a picture of the UUC oil filter cap. It turns out there were other equally strange individuals out there that wanted a better looking oil filter cap as well and the UUC delivered the cure. It looked like it was time for another butt tattoo. (I hope you are understanding this analogy and not thinking I’m really getting tattoos on my ass).

Click for Larger ViewReplacement was pretty straight forward. A 13mm socket was used to remove the single bolt and the lid came right off. The UUC lid is heavier and taller than the stock design but uses the same single bolt to hold the lid in place. There is a rubber ring around the lid that gets replaced at every oil change. You will need to move that ring from the old lid to the new lid or time your lid replacement to coincide with a oil change and put the new ring (which comes with the oil filter) on the new lid.

Click for Larger ViewOnce the rubber ring is in place, tighten the lid back down. Engraved on the new lid is the torque value “15 to 18 ft lbs”, but you can feel the lid seat against the container without using a torque wrench. The UUC lid comes with an indentation in which you can insert either an ///M logo or the UUC’s logo. Both are provided with the UUC oil filter lid in addition to a larger silver UUC sticker.

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The UUC is working on a similar oil filter cap that that will have oil temp and pressure outputs with plugs and hoses, the works. That one is still in development at the time of this article.

Update: Just found out that the UUC is also working a polished oil filter cap bolts. So the bolt head that is visible on top of the polished oil filter cap will match the polished lid. In the pictures above the stock bolt is being used and it does stand out as being ugly on top of the polished lid.

Z Rated Tire Patch-Plug

Z Rated Patch/PlugNot soon after recovering from the expense of new M roadster tires I discover a nail embedded in the tread. I immediatly remembered previous debates of patching vs plugging damaged tires. Both solutions appeared to work but in either case you technically lost the Z rating on the tires. If you’ve got a lead foot this loss of rating can be concerning to say the least.

When I brought my problem and concern to the attention of a tire repair shop, I was happy to find a solution. Pictured to the right is a Z Rated Patch-Plug. I have no idea who makes it or any other details, but the tire shop made it sound like a fairly common item they use whenever repairing a Z rated tire.

The tire tech broke down the tire and removed the nail. The patch-plug and area around the hole inside the tire were cleaned and then coated with what I assume to be a thick glue substance. The pointy end of this patch-plug is threaded through the hole the nail left, until the patch (round part at the bottom of the picture) makes contact with the inside of the tire. You end up with what appears to be a nail sticking out of your tire. The tire tech snipped off the protruding section, put the tire back together and then rebalanced it. I was told to take it easy on the tire for a day and then consider the tire “good as new”.

Note: I did not ask permission to publish the name of the tire repair shop. Previous experience in publishing information on ///MZ3.Net has taught me to error on the side of caution, so the actual name is withheld but your local BMW dealership should be able to repair the tire or find someone who can.

Update: It’s been three months and the tire has preformed well. While I don’t want to incriminate myself, lets just say that I have full confidence in the Z Rating of the patch/plug 🙂

Reader’s Comment: Good article on correctly repairing your tire. The repair you used is the only one that is recognized by the major tire manufacturers. It is made in Johnstown, Ohio by Tech International. You’ve probably seen the red Tech logo in lots of tire stores, gas stations, etc. Their web site is They don’t sell to the general public and as you noted, this particular repair takes some skill and equipment to install.

HMS Window Blanket for BMW Convertibles

Pros: Provides additional protection for the delicate and expensive rear plastic window.
Cons: Harder to fold and store because of the bulkier design
Cost: 39.95

BMW created a device we owners quickly named the “window blanket”, it was a simple yet functional blanket that draped across the rear window and protected the window from scratches when the top was folded down. But the one thing the BMW blanket didn’t do was stop the window from creasing when the rear window folded incorrectly (with a wrinkle). HMS improved the BMW design and took it one step further by adding a bulky area to middle of the blanket which makes the window fold in a more rounded way in order to keep the window from creasing. It also appears HMS used a heavier fabric so there is some additional padding associated for the entire area that the blanket covers.

The bulky area appears to be filled with beans or something similar. The added weight from this bulky area forces the top to fold correctly and keeps it from folding to sharply (which can cause creasing). The improved design works better than the original design in protecting the top from these creases but there are some trade-offs. The HMS design is harder to fold and store because of the extra padding. The padded area is divided into three sections so folding it width wise is limited to three three sections. With the original BMW blanket I kept it tightly folded up and stored in one of the pockets of the trunk organizer. However with the bulkier HMS design this was no longer possible. I end up rolling it lengthwise and laying it in the area behind the center console. This might actually be a better location since it helps remind me to use the blanket when I want to put the top down.

I’m trying to get in the habit of using the boot cover and HMS blanket more often since I was starting to see some wear and tear on the plastic window. For this reason I like the HMS blanket more so than the BMW blanket. It keeps the top folded correctly and provides additional protection for the delicate and expensive rear plastic window.

Sold By:

HMS Motorsport

(888) HMS-3BMW

Michelin Pilot Sport Seen On a 2000 2.8

Visited the local BMW dealership yesterday, and while waiting for theie service department to take a look at my car I had time to walk the lot and take a look at the local Z3s. I saw a few things I had not noticed or seen before so I thought I would share them with you. (click on the pictures for a larger view).

Over in the used car section they had about eight Z3s, most appeared to be 1996 and 1997 models. This particular white Z3 had a black pinstripe that started on the hood and looped around the back of the car in the area between the cockpit and the trunk, finishing on the other side of the hood. Interesting look, but small sections of the stripe were missing so it looked kind of tacky to me.

Further down they had a white M roadster with a hardtop. This is the first time I had seen this particular combination. All the windows had dark window tint including the top section of the front windshield. The interior was red, which I think looks great with the white exterior.

They even had a couple used boxsters on the lot. A salesman approached me and asked if I would like to take a drive. I told him my M roadster was in the shop and I was just killing time but he offered one more time so I decided to take it for a ride. It had been a long time since I test drove a boxster and I was killing time so why not. When I tried to lower the top it didn’t work, salesman said some parts were on order. I started it up and kind of chucked at the squeak the clutch made, it was almost as bad as the squeak my clutch makes. Driving it off the lot I was reminded how much I hate the transmission in these things. Shifting from first to second feels like a foot long throw. The acceleration is good (but not M like), however the exhaust note was great. Handling felt similar to the Z3, except the boxster felt bigger. Lots of interior squeaks and rattles hinted to me that this particular boxster needed lots of TLC and I was surprised to see it only had 20000 miles (felt older). After the test drive the salesman said I could move from the M to this boxster for not much additional money, because they only wanted 42,000 for it…. I told him I would stick with my M.

Speaking of overpriced cars, can you believe this M3 Convertible with chrome wheels had a 52,000 dollar sticker price. Ten grand more than an M roadster or M coupe, somebody explain this to me.

Saw this beautiful steel gray 2.8 with the 17″ tire package that hadn’t even been unwrapped from shipping yet (note the temp cover over the top). One very interesting note is that this 2.8 had the new Michelin Pilot Sport tires on it, I assume this is a hint that the future 2.8’s with the 17″ package might get the new Pilot Sports as well. As an M owner I should point out that it appears the 2000 2.8 now comes with far superior tires than the M roadster’s Dunlop-sided SP8080 tires.

Made one other observation that I hadn’t noticed before. The 2.8 lower bumper has body colored paint in the front grill while the 2.3 has an all black grill.

PIAA Replacement Headlight Bulbs

Pros: Fairly easy to replace, same wattage, brighter light, whiter light
Cons: Can’t see more any more road, same coverage area as stock bulbs
Cost: $70

I’ve always been unhappy with the headlight performance on my 1998 M roadster. The brightness of the headlights was okay but the light coverage area was terrible. BMW has apparently designed the headlights with more concern for oncoming traffic than the Z3 driver. There is a dead space (I call it the black hole) that is just left of center. The problem is that if I was driving on a road that was turning to the left (like in the picture above) the black hole ended up being RIGHT in the middle of the lane I was trying to drive in. I’ve never been comfortable driving my car at night because of this. Even after repeated attempts to adjust the aiming of the headlights I still wasn’t comfortable with the results. Not knowing what else to do, I decided to start throwing money at the problem and see if that would fix it.

PIAA makes replacement headlight bulbs (model number 9006) that are the same wattage (51 watts) as the stock Sulvania bulbs, but claim to produce brighter, whiter light without producing additional heat. The pair of bulbs cost a hefty $70 but my frustration with the stock headlights made the purchasing decision easier to swallow. I waited until after dark and then drove the roadster to a dark road so I could take before and after pictures. Replacing the bulbs wasn’t simple, but only took about 10 minutes for each side (picture to the right was taken after upgrading only the left side). It would have been a lot easier if I had tiny hands, but the PIAA instructions repeatedly warned about not letting anything touch the bulb so it was difficult to maneuver everything in the tight space. (I’m sure working on a dark road also made it more difficult but it was necessary for this article.

After getting both headlight bulbs replaced my first reaction was “Wow”. But then I took a longer look and went back to my before and after pictures to confirm my suspicions. I think everyone will agree that the PIAA bulbs are whiter and brighter, but if you look at the pictures closely you will notice that the PIAA bulbs don’t light up any additional area, which is what I really intended to do with this upgrade. So now I have brighter and whiter headlights, but my roadster really isn’t any safer to drive at night.

Mikky’s M Coupe Stereo

Mikky’s 99 M Coupe has a JL Audio 10W3 Subwoofer with a Precision Power 6600 amplifier built in on the top.

You can see the blaupunkt toronto with the remote control mounted on the steering wheel.

Servicing the Z3 Battery

The battery in the BMW Z3 is NOT a maintenance free battery; it needs occasional servicing. The leading cause of battery failure in the Z3 is from a lower water level. Fortunately it’s pretty easy to check the level and add more water.

The first step is getting access to the battery. For all but very early 1996 models the battery is in the trunk. You will have to raise the trunk liner and remove the plastic cover over the battery but then you will looking at the top of the battery.

Along the top of the battery are six plugs that unscrew from the battery. Remove the plugs but take care since you’ve just exposed corrosive liquid. You can look down into the battery, but don’t get to close (the water vapor can’t be very good for your eyes).

When you look down into the battery, you will see a little metal tab in each hole. The water level in the battery should be just over this metal tab. In the picture above, the battery needs water.

BMW Techs have a special water can that makes filling the battery easy and accurate, but there really isn’t anything fancy about this procedure. Richard Carlson suggested that the perfect substitute is a turkey baster. Just gradually add water and keep rechecking the water level until it covers the metal tabs. It’s best to use distilled water so no mineral deposits will be left from the evaporation of ordinary tap water.

When the battery is properly filled, the tab will still be visible, but obviously under water. Regular checking of the water level should greatly extended the life of the battery, especially during the hot summer months when the water will evaporate at a faster rate.

Update: Ron Styger reports that his 9-1-1999 build date M Coupe has a different battery. Not sure when BMW actually made the change but it is nice to see that they have a different battery now (maybe the new one will have a longer average life span).

Update: Tom Bilken sent me this note regarding the new battery (pictured above)…

I have a 1999 2.3 (build date of 3/99). I read a lot about the battery problems (low water) on the MB, and your article. When I looked at mine, it was the same as the added updated picture on the Mz3 site for Ron Stygers battery. But, under the decals on the top were the battery plugs. If you look in the picture that you posted of Rons battery, you can see the outline of one of the plugs. Mine has the “eye”, but after I peeled back the decals, and opened up the plugs, I had to add a lot of water. I just wanted you to know (and maybe you already do) that these batteries still have the plug caps, and my levels were still low.