Painted Wheels

[adsense_id=”4″]Recently there were some discussions on the Z3 message board regarding painting wheels. In response to that discussion I went through my Z3 photo collection looking for photos people may want to see in regard to wheel color and/or painting. In this first photo the owner found some aftermarket wheels that already matched the color of his car (no painting required).

Okay it’s not really painting, but chroming wheels is another way to change the look of your stock wheels. In my opinion chrome adds to the retro look of the Z3, this picture jumped out at me as I was going through my collection because the white and chrome combination looked so good.

If I owned a white Z3 (and someday I may), I would consider painting the wheels white just like this M owner has. The white on white look is fantastic (in my opinion). It reminds me of the early 80’s Porsche 944’s that apparently had a white wheel option if you got the white exterior paint.

Not sure if it’s the quality of these photos or the specific lighting in these photos, but personally I would be after a more flat white look (but that’s just me chasing my memory of the old Porsche white wheels).

Now at the other end of the spectrum (sorry couldn’t resist that pun) we have black wheels. I’m sure this look is very hard to photograph, but these photos don’t appeal to me because you can’t make out any details of the wheels.

You can see more details of the wheel in this photo. Maybe its the matching black exterior paint but this photo makes the black wheels look better than the previous photo. Notice how the dark paint makes the disc brake stand out. Some red caliper paint would really stand out.

BMW Z3 Droopy Glovebox

The factory installed glove box on my 1997 1.9 Z3 was definitely not an area that BMW decided to spend a lot of time on. After a few years the stamped plastic box began to sag in the middle under the weight of the glove box door and its contents. And who wants droopy drawers in their sports car? Here is an easy fix that will cost you about $5 and take around an hour to complete. The basic premise is to brace the top area of the glove box with a metal support, and insert sheet metal screws into the support from inside the glove box to eliminate the sagging.

You will need a stubby phillips screw driver, an awl, a drill and the use of a grinder. All of the following items were purchased from Ace Hardware:

* 2 3/16 washers

* 2 3/8 washers

* 2 number 8 x 32 1 1/4″ sheet metal screws with nuts

* 2 vinyl bushings cut to about 3/8″ in height

* 2 flip cap screw covers (many colors to choose from)

* 1 10″ x 1″ metal brace

* Loctite

It is important that you purchase the 10″ x 1″ brace at Ace Hardware unless you want to do some serious drilling. The pre-drilled holes at the ends of the brace fit over the existing screws that protrude from the bottom of the glove box. The next set of holes provide a great place to drill the holes into the glove box.

Folow the instructions in the MZ3.net article “Stopping Glovebox Rattles” to remvoe the glovebox from the car. Turn the glove box over and place the metal brace over the two existing screws coming out of the glove box. Use the awl to mark the centers of the holes that you will be drilling into the glove box. Note that the holes are offset, so use your judgement as to where to mark the centers for drilling.

Refer to the picture at right and the metal brace above. You will need to notch the brace in the center to allow for the latch of the glovebox to close. With the metal brace resting on top of the existing screws (A), outline the area to be removed from the brace for the glovebox latch (C) using a black marker. Remove the metal brace and use the grinder to remove the area you have marked. Place the brace back on the glove box and trim the notched area until the glovebox latches closed easily.

Now you are ready to drill. To avoid drilling into the glove box drawer, hold a wooden block inside the compartment near the latch where the drill bit will come through. Using a 3/16 bit, drill the marked holes into the glove box. After you finish drilling, take this opportunity to give the glovebox a thorough cleaning.

Attach the metal brace to the glove box by assembling as illustrated below.

After you have attached the metal brace and tightened the nuts firmly, add a drop of Loctite where the bolt leaves the nut. This will prevent the nut from vibrating loose. Close the caps over the screw heads and reinstall the glovebox into the car. Again refer to the the MZ3.net article “Stopping Glovebox Rattles” for instructions on reinstalling the glovebox.

BMW Z3 Wacky Gas Gauge

One of the most consistent failures in the BMW Z3 is the gas gauge. I’ve heard different excuses as to why the gas gauge fails, but rather than pretend to be an engineer or parts inspector let me just share with you some observations I have made regarding my wacky gas gauge.

Let me start by saying I never had a problem during my first year of ownership. But others were having problems during that time so I heard a lot of speculation regarding what caused the failure and I got to see what BMW’s fix was for those under warranty. I can almost pin-point the exact time mine started acting up. I was refueling and for some reason, when the gas pumped stopped I squeezed the pump trigger one more time. I don’t know why I did it, I had been warned not to yet for some reason I did it.

It was long afterwards I saw the gas gauge do its first flip-flop dance between empty and full. The error was initially intermittent, but over time it has become very consistent. Now mine always (and I do mean always) does its dance between empty and full right after I refuel. This will continue until I travel roughly 30 miles, I’ve never noticed the problem beyond the first 30 miles of a tank. Couple months ago I decided to try an experiment, instead of refilling until the pump clicks off I started buying my gas in $10 increments (never filling the tank all the way). The gas gauge never did its dance during the 4 or 5 tanks that I did the $10 thing. So at least in my case, these observations seem to back up the theory that the failure is related to the sending unit. I’ve learned to live with it, but learn from my experiences and resist the urge to squeeze that gas pump trigger again once it clicks off.

I have made the decision to live with it rather than have it fixed because I am not comfortable with the “fix”. To get to the sending unit BMW has to cut the carpet behind the passenger seat. Then they have to hook a hose and drain the gas tank (hopefully without leaving your interior smelling like gasoline). If you look behind the right hand seat you can see a seam in the carpet, this is where they will make the cut. Once the sending unit is replaced the carpet is glued back down. Sounds simple enough but I have seen more than one Z3 after this fix where the carpet flap has come unglued and ends up looking like a bad toupee. It also appears the new sending units are not necessarily any more reliable than the original ones.

I’ve owned my M roadster over four years now and my refueling habits are fairly consistent. I’ll usually refuel before the low fuel light comes on, if I push it and the low fuel light comes on then pull off at the next available gas station. I use my trip odometer to measure distance on a tankful, and on average it usually says around 240 miles since my last refueling and it will take around 12 gallons to fill the tank back up.

One day after work I pushed it a too far, the engine sputtered then quit. I zig-zagged a little and got another second or two of runtime before it quit for good. Luckily I was going downhill at the time so I managed to coast into the gas station and right up to the pump. I got lucky, and this provided me with an opportunity. I now know it takes 13.3 gallons to fill a completely empty tank. I started taking notes after that and refilling at different points on my gas gauge. It takes 8.9 gallons to fill a tank that my gauge indicates is half empty. 12.3 gallons to fill a tank right after the low fuel light comes on. I will continue to take measurements at various points on my fuel gauge and update this page.

One last final note: Remember that my fuel gauge has problems so my measurements may not be typical of most Z3s.

Z3 Paint Problems

While in for a service check, I asked the BMW Center of San Antonio, Texas to look at the trunk lid to make an assessment of why the paint was fading. They stated there was nothing they could do and were not sure why it was fading. They thought it was oxidation and tried to buff it out, which did not work. Since the car was past the four year warranty, they would not repair it. Within two months, the faded area spread to almost two-thirds of the trunk lid. Areas on the left rear fender and hood have also appeared. I took the car to a third party paint shop. Their analysis was that the paint was fading between the clear coat and the base paint. If the clear coat got thin enough, it would start peeling off. The only solution is to repaint the affected areas. The fading will only get worse no matter what precautions are taken. Since I have had the vehicle, it has always received the best wax treatment and care. A decision will have to be made whether to invest money into a full vehicle paint job or put it towards a new Z3.

Editors Comments: It’s my impression that BMW Service departments will just about always avoid any kind of paint warranty repairs. I don’t think they are necessarly the guilty party as it’s BMW North America that is ultimately holding the check book. Service departments know they are going to have a hard time getting BMWNA to pay for paint repair warranties and they are just automatically on the defensive. Bottom line, its going to be an up-hill battle and you are probably wasting your time discussing it with the dealerships service advisors. Ask when the BMWNA service rep is going to be in the area and schedule an appointment to meet him. Provide him with the facts, and avoid using the word “internet”.

Stopping Brake Squeaks

For some reason I associate brake squeak with old junker cars. It was embarrassing for me when my Z3 started making those annoying high pitched squeaks every time I came to a stop sign. After some research the solution was cheap and easy.

The first thing I learned was that I misunderstood what brake squeaks were. I thought it was the friction between the brake pad and the disc that caused the squeak. Turns out that most brake squeaks are from the brake pad moving around and rubbing against the caliper.

I had heard of anti-brake squeak stuff before but I always dismissed it because I thought anything between the brake pad and the rotor was a temporary solution at best since it would wear away quickly. Once I learned this stuff was for the back of the brakes everything made since. The guy at the NAPA store laughed and said “can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this stuff used on the wrong side”. NAPA’s CRC Brake Disc Quiet was roughly $3 a bottle, and it was more than enough for two cars.

It comes out as a thick rubbery goo, and dries in about 10 minutes. Once dry, simply reinstall the brake pad then wipe down the excess red goop that squeezes out. It’s a little messy, but you’re probably wearing rubber gloves when working with brake pads anyway.

Once installed the difference was night and day, no more brake squeaks.

Changing Brake Pads In My BMW

The very first step is verify that you have a 7mm allen wrench, it wasn’t part of my little allen wrench kit so I had to make a quick run to the local hardware store. While you are there you may want to also pick up some rubber gloves. As you know the stock brakes spread break dust everywhere. Once I had the right tool for the job replacing the pads was pretty easy.

The first (and possibly hardest) step was getting the car up on a jack and jack stand. Especially considering the BMW M roadster does not come with a jack. Once that small task was done and the wheel was removed the rest was fairly easy.

If you are working with the right rear wheel or the left front wheel there will be a brake sensor (blue arrow). This sensor is clipped into a notched out area of the brake pad. Get your fingers as close to the brake sensor as possible and wiggle-pull it free.

The next step is to remove the retaining spring. I used a few choice curse words to aid in its removal, you will want to squeeze and push in on the clip (red arrows) while lifting and pulling out on the back (yellow arrows).

On the back side of the brake, there are two plastic caps that cover the 7mm hex bit guide screws. The plastic caps can be pulled off with your hands, they are snapped into a rubber housing. Once the caps are out of your way use the 7mm allen wrench to remove the guide screws. The screws should be completely removed.

The only thing holding the brakes in place now is brakes themselves. If you are having trouble working the caliper free apply constant even pressure on the brake piston by pull on the outside of the brake (use caution – remember your car is up on a jack and jack stand). You are not going to be able to compress the piston with a single yank, just use medium sustained pressure and you will feel the piston loose pressure and release. It took me about 40 seconds of medium pressure for this to happen.

Once the caliper is removed, replace the inner and outer brake pad. The inner brake pad is clipped into the brake piston, pull straight out to remove.

The outer brake pad was just kind of stuck there. Note the sticky stuff on the stock outer brake pad, if the new pads you are installing do not have this you will probably want to take a look at my Stopping Brake Squeaks article.

Once you have the new pads in place, you may have to put some more pressure on the piston in order to reinstall the brake caliper since the new brake pads should be thicker than the worn ones you just removed. The rest of the installation is just retracing the steps you took to remove the caliper.

TWO VERY IMPORTANT NOTES: You will need to pump your brake pedal several times to get pressure back to the brakes. Use extra caution the first time you drive after replacing the pads.

When new, brake pads have a slightly rounded surface that ensures once broken in you get a maximum contact patch. But until they get fully broken in you are concentrating the friction to a smaller patch. This means that when brand new the friction/heat is in a smaller area so you should avoid overheating the rotors.

Z3 Solution Window Blanket

Pros: Works much better than the BMW window blanket. On new cars it will prevent formation of the dreaded wave. On older cars it helps prolong rear window life.
Cons: Slightly bulkier than the BMW version. Not free.
Cost: $37.95 from Z3Solution

This article reviews the Z3 Solution alternative to the free BMW window blanket. The Z3 Solution product has been designed to minimize or eliminate the dreaded “wave” whcih forms when you leave the top down on your Z3. It does this by providing extra padding in critical areas. The blanket sells for $37.95 from Z3 Solution.

I’ll preface this article with a couple of comments:

* If you are leasing your Z3 and you plan on turning it back in, this article is probably not for you.

* If you plan on keeping your Z3 for a couple of years and are worried about it looking good, especially for resale, this is one of the products you should seriously consider.

The picture above shows two window-blankets. The one of the top is the Z3 Solution version, The one on the bottom is the standard BMW version. They are both made of just about the same type of flannel material, the BMW version is gray, the Z3 Solution version is beige. You can see from the picture that the Z3 Solution version is a bit smaller than the BMW version. There is one critical difference between the two of them: The blanket on the top can prevent the dreaded “wave” in the Z3 plastic windows.

The wave is the effect you see when you put your top down for an extended period of time. When you put the roof back up there is a slight wave which goes horizontally across the window. It’s caused by one of the roof supports hitting the window and creating pressure. Since the Z3 first came out, people have been trying to get rid of the wave by stuffing various things into the fold of the roof. There used to be round pillows you could buy and many people also used pipe insullation material in an attempt to get rid of the wave. None of these approaches worked very well.

Keith, of Z3 Solution, studied the folding of his roof and determined that many of the earlier attempts to combat the wave were really addressing the wrong part of the window. The actual culprit is not the place where the window folds, instead he determined that the second support from the back actually rubs along the window with a lot of pressure creating both the wave and the associated scratch marks.

Keith determined that some padding in the window blanket would be the perfect way to protect the window from the damage caused by the roof support. The problem was that padding the whole thing would mean that the blanket would be bulky in areas where the bulk wasn’t needed. The first think Keith did was to cut down the size of the blanket to just the critical window area. In this way the padded blanket places no extra strain on the roof which might lead to premature wear. The next thing was to pad only the lower two thirds of the blanket, eliminating the bulk at the critical bend in the window.

Keith was also concerned about the quality of the unit. He tested out various materials to simulate the BMW quality. The result is a product which might have come from BMW. Keith uses the same quality fabric, the same connectors and the same quality of fit and finish as the BMW unit. The only obvious difference is the longer loops on the BMW I mentioned that the longer loops and slightly shorter elastics on the BMW model do make it easier to handle and Keith said he would look into addressing this in production versions of the blanket. I have a ’97 2.8 with a hard top. In the fall I had the soft-top completely replaced by BMW, so I got a new window. The window has spent the winter crushed under the hard top, so when I took the top off for the spring I had a significant wave. Keith told me that the Z3 Solution blanket will not remove the wave, but it would keep newer cars from acquiring one. Based on experience, I have found if you hit the window with a hairdryer it will straighten out the plastic.

In several weeks of use, the blanket has practically eliminated the wave from my window. I’m very impressed and would recommend this highly to anyone who intends on keeping their car for a while. Using the Z3 Solution window blanket will definately prolong the life of your rear window and give you a much clearer view. With window replacement running anywhere from $150 and up, the $37.95 Z3 Solution Blanket seems like cheap insurance against a hefty repair bill.

Install VDO Oil Pressure Gauge in BMW Z3 M Coupe or M Roadster

The BMW M coupe comes with a warning light for oil pressure, as well as an oil temperature gauge in the center console. I’d like to know if my oil pressure drops below normal without waiting for the oil warning light to come on at 7 PSI, so I decided to install a VDO oil pressure gauge. This project involves interior trim removal and modification, wiring, and replacement of the oil sender (this last one requires you to drain the oil, so you might as well schedule this project when it’s time for an oil/filter change). As usual, Ron Stygar was a big help on this project. Thanks, Ron! His original post in the bimmer.org archives is here.

Parts Selection

The oil pressure gauge that almost matches the existing coupe gauges is a VDO Vision gauge. I say “almost” because standard Vision gauges come in all black, but the gauges in the coupe’s center console are chrome ringed. If you don’t care about the chrome you can buy a Vision gauge anywhere, but to match the existing gauges I went to Jon Maddux at LeatherZ (www.leatherz.com). Jon sells the 0-80 PSI oil pressure gauge ($79.00) that you need for the coupe, and supplies various colored bulb covers. The orange cover makes the gauge light a very close color match to the existing gauges. For this job you’ll also replace the stock sender with a VDO dual sender with angled mounting adapter that provides both the warning light and pressure reading, and Jon offers these too ($67.00). You’ll be running four wires for the electrical connections – one for power, one for dimming power, one for ground, and one for the sender. I purchased four 10-foot lengths of stranded wire in various colors and this was more than enough length. You need #14 wire for the sender wire to give the circuit the correct impedance; the other wires can be smaller gauge. You’ll also need four crimp-on female wire connectors to make the connections to the gauge and two crimp-on O connectors for the sender connections.

Some coupe owners choose to put their oil pressure gauges in the center console, replacing the analog clock. I didn’t want to give up the clock so opted to put the gauge on the A-pillar. The gauge mounts to the A-pillar, or more accurately to the A-pillar trim cover, in a plastic housing called a “pod”. I bought a single gauge A-pillar pod from egauges (www.egauges.com), part # 240-347 ($31.13). They also sell a dual pod in case you want to add a second gauge such as outside temperature.

Getting Started

NOTE: all directions (forward/rear, left/right) are in reference to the driver’s seated position.

Place the pod on the A pillar trim cover and slide it up or down until you get it approximately where you want it. Mark the location of the pod on the trim cover, then remove the cover by wedging your fingertips between it and the windshield and pulling it away from the windshield. The trim cover is held onto the A-pillar with two snap-in connectors. Once the connectors pop loose, slide the bottom edge of the trim cover out from the crevice formed by the A-pillar and the dash.

Cut a hole (I used a Dremel tool with a carbide abrasive tip) in the A pillar trim cover corresponding to the opening in back of the pod.

This hole is used to route wires and to give you access to the back of the gauge for changing the bulb. If your gauge ended up right over one of the trim cover’s snap-in connectors, you may have to adjust the pod position slightly.

Insert the gauge into the pod, orient it so that it will be straight as viewed from the driver’s position, and secure it by screwing the gauge nut onto the back.

To mount the pod to the trim cover, I drilled pilot holes and used the supplied plastic ribbed pins (screws).

Wiring

For power, dimming power, and ground wires, you need a sufficient length of wire to run from the gauge to the footwell area. For the sender wire, you need enough wire to run from the gauge to the footwell area, through the firewall, and on to the front of the engine compartment. Leave plenty of extra length on the wires at this point. Terminate one end of the wires with the crimp-on female wire connectors and, using the instructions with the gauge, mount each wire to the proper connector on the back of the gauge. Tape the wires to the back of the A pillar trim cover to keep them in place. Note which color wire you used for each connection.

Disconnect the battery before proceeding!

You’ll need to remove the lower dash panel just above the pedals, loosen or remove the upper dash panel under the steering wheel, and remove the driver’s kick panel with dead pedal.

Run the wires from the back of the gauge through the crack at the bottom of the A-pillar.

They will come out at the left bottom of the dash.

Re-install the trim cover/pod assembly onto the A-pillar.

Editors Note: The silver metal part with the messy looking ends is an interesting safety feature. Somewhat like a pillow, it’s a soft/thin metal with foam filling. Designed to protect your knees in an accident.

Leave some wire slack under the upper dash panel in case you need to remove the trim cover at some later date. Continue routing the wires down into the footwell area. Locate a violet/any color wire for power, and a gray/red wire for dimming power, from the existing wires in the footwell. You will probably have to release wire bundles by cutting wire ties in order to locate the colors you need. The dimming power wire allows you to control the lighting level of your new gauge by twisting the headlight button, the same way you adjust the other instrumentation.

Cut off any excess on your power and dimming power wires and splice them into the selected wires. I soldered the splices and coated them with some Star Brite liquid electrical tape. Connect the ground wire to the grounding nut, forward of the kick panel speaker. (Ground wires are solid brown in the coupe.)

Resecure all wires with wire ties. You can do a power and dimming test at this point by reconnecting the battery; just don’t forget to disconnect it again!

OK, three wires down and one to go! Take the lid off the fuse box (left rear of engine compartment) then unscrew the four #10 torx screws that hold the fuse box onto the wiring box below it. The right rear screw is somewhat obscured by the hood release cable. Just push the cable out of the way enough to loosen the screw. Disconnect the two black wire junction pods, the large red wire, and the green connector that are fastened to the right side of the fuse box and lift up that side of the box.

This will give you sufficient access to wiring box so you can see and grab the sender wire as you feed it through. You’ll see where the main wiring bundle comes through the firewall and into the wiring box. You can try to get your sender wire through the same hole but it’s already pretty well jammed with wires, so I just drilled a small hole nearby and ran the sender wire through it. Drill another hole in the right side of the wiring box; the sender wire exits the wiring box through this hole. Put a dab of silicon sealer on the hole to keep nasties out of your wiring box, and then reassemble the fuse box.

Route the sender wire along the back of the engine compartment, underneath the intake manifold, and to the oil filter, attaching it to the existing wire looms with wire ties.

Sender Replacement

Now it’s time to drain your oil and remove the old filter insert. Remove the air intake box to allow room to reach the oil sender. Unscrew the old sender from just below the oil filter and cut the wire attached to it, leaving as much length as possible. Terminate it, and the new sender wire, with O-connectors.

Mount the new sender to the angle adapter. Hand-tighten the sender to the adapter until snug but don’t over-tighten. The sender has tapered threads that do not require excessive torque to achieve a good seal. Align the sender so that the connector posts on the top are perpendicular to the engine-mounting hole on the adapter. Install the adapter/sender assembly in place of the old sender. Caution – improper installation of the oil adapter can damage your engine and cause oil leaks. Tighten the adapter bolt to 35-40 NM.

Connect the old (alarm) wire and the new (pressure) wire to the correct posts as marked on the top of the sender.

Finishing Up

Replace your filter insert and oil, reconnect your battery, start your car, and check out your new gauge. Under normal operation you’ll see a range of around 15 PSI at idle to 58 PSI. Assuming everything works, replace your interior panels, and you’re done!

Cleaning the Conforti Air Intake System

I’m a big fan of the Conforti Air Intake System, since installation the unit has not given me any trouble and has offered great performance (plus it sounds good). But the time had come to clean the filter. Thankfully cleaning this air intake is nowhere near as involved as cleaning the dinan air intake.

I simply unscrewed the bracket around the filter and then gave the filter a light tug. Once removed, I beat the dust off the filter with my hand then used water to flush it clean. I let it sit awhile to dry, then sprayed some more of that dust catching spray that came with the Conforti kit on the filter and reinstalled it. Later I was informed that soap and water is the recommended cleaning method.

While the filter was drying I looked at the area under the filer, there was a lot of sand and debris in there so I used a shop vac to clean up the area. Once everything was back together I went for a drive to see how much more power I could feel…. couldn’t tell a bit of difference, oh well cleaner is better anyway.

Gotcha Covered – BMW Boot Cover

I got a new job! – Yay!

Better pay, better title, better crew to work with. However, there was one big problem: In my old job the Z3, which is my daily driver, got parked in a garage. Nice and safe, walls on both sides, protected from the elements. I am now faced with the issue of parking in a public lot, with loads of other people with their doors aimed squarely at my car on a daily basis. In addition, since I like to keep my tonneau cover on during the summer months, I had to figure out something to keep the car interior protected from the elements (in the winter I run with the hard top, so it’s not as much of an issue). I, of course, suggested to management that they build me my own, private garage. The suggestion was not well received.

What to do?

Z3Solution to the rescue!

I remembered that Z3Solution was now offering a cover that also includes unique padded door protection. This would allow me to not only protect the cockpit, but also the sides of the car from those that would poke my baby. A cockpit cover is a great idea if you park outside a lot. Remember – BMW says that you must use your tonneau when you are running top-down or your top may get worn prematurely. Putting the tonneau on and taking it off is much more of a pain that putting on a cockpit cover. A Cockpit cover will also keep your interior cooler than leaving the roof up.

I ordered the cover the week before I was scheduled to start my new job in order to give me some time to get acquainted with it. I also own another cover from MM Marketing that I have used on occasion, but it was no where near as nice as the Z3Solution cover. The Z3Solution cover is cut much fuller than the MM Marketing version and also includes the door protection with built-in foam pads. I can actually put the cover on the car with the top up or down and it fits just fine.

The cover attaches at several points:

* There are Velcro ties in the front that attach to the wipers.

* There are small “barrels” in the back. These are basically fabric-covered tubes that can be shoved down between the tonneau cover or placed into the trunk opening to secure the back.

* Unique to the Z3Solution cover are the tie-downs that slip into the crack at the bottom of the door. These help secure the sides and the side-padding.

Overall Impressions

The quality of the cover is excellent. It is well made from something called “Weathershield” fabric from Nextec. Weathershield is light, compact and very weather resistant. While most covers have a weatherproof layer appied onto them, Weathershield actually has the waterproofing applied to each individual strand of fabric. This means that the protection is much better than most traditional car-covers (see comparison chart). It compares very favorably with NOAH, but with significantly less bulk. The stitching on the unit is very sturdy and all the parts look like they will last a long time. The entire cover and all parts that touch the car are covered in a soft flannel. The number of connection points to the car is excellent: two in the back, two in the front, two on either side. There have been several windy days and the top stayed securely anchored and I have noticed no “rubbing”. I have used the cover for several weeks and have found that the design works well with the top up or down. The ability of the top to repel water is simply amazing!

As I intend to use the cover to protect my top from weathering, being able put the cover on with the top up was critical to me. In the spring and fall it will act as a safeguard against the torrential rains we sometimes get in New England and in the summer it will protect the top from sunlight and keep the cockpit cool.

With the top up, it’s easy to attach the cover. Simply plunk it on top and make all the connections. It does require a trip around the car, but I can do it in about 20 seconds. Removal is even quicker. It’s not quite as easy to put the cover on with the top down (it tends to billow around a bit), but it’s also not particularly difficult. In general, it’s much more time consuming to put the cover on than to put the top up (assuming you don’t use the tonneau cover), but the extra protection justifies it’s use for me. If you do use the tonneau religiously, you’ll find it much easier to deal with a cockpit cover than taking the toneau off and raising the roof.

Before ordering the cover, I also considered a full car cover. I decided not to go that route because I did not want to put the cover on the car when it was dirty. I was primarily interested in protection for the parts susceptible to rain and sun: the interior and the fabric top.

The Z3Solution cover doestouch parts of the car and I’ll have to see what the long term effects will be, but early indications are good: the sides do not move significantly because of the bulk of the foam padding and the tie-downs, therefore the cover does not rub on the paint.

At $109 The Z3Solution cover is slightly more expensive that some of the competitors (MM Marketing offers its unit for about $80), but the full cut of the cover, the Weatherguard material and the ding protection make it well worth the increment. It’s significantly less expensive than a full body cover and takes up less space in the trunk (but it should be noted that the padding makes it bulkier than a normal cockpit cover).

The cover comes with a nice carrying case, but so far I’ve never used it. I just fold the thing up and dump it in the trunk.

Cockpit covers may not be for everyone. I have a number of friends who are comfortable with parking their cars outside for long periods of time with no protection. For me, however, the protection afforded by the cockpit cover, including the protection from the inconsiderate co-worker’s doors, easily justifies the cost of this new accessory…..and I get to keep my new job!

Comparison chart from www.covercraft.com