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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Power for your Radar Detector

I was looking to find a way to hard wire a power connection for my Valentine One radar detector. I had already read through Richard Carlson’s “cutting the cord” article so I felt familiar with the task at hand. This was a great resource, and I recommend you read it first because he has excellent instructions at how to get the plastic panels off, as well as some good warnings. However I wanted the power source to drop from top of the A-Frame rather than up through the dash. The MZ3 has enough room above the rear view for the V1 to slide into (click on the picture for a larger view).

First, a quick lesson about BMW wiring. Turns out that everything is color coded, which makes finding a power source a little easier. Red wires are unswitched power sources (on all the time). Purple (with white stripe) wires are switched power sources (on when the car is on). Brown wires are ground. Depending on which type of power source you want you can choose which wiring harness to use.

The information below is specific for the M roadster’s, it has come to my attention that the wiring on the 1.9 and 2.8 roadsters is different. The color coding is the same but wiring harness locations are different. If you own a 1.9 or 2.8 you’ll want to focus on the area behind your stereo, tapping into its switched (purple and white wire) power source.

A couple M owners spoke with me after using the information below. The first spent about 45 minutes to an hour and commented that everything was straight forward. Thought he could do the job again in less time. The second M owner that spoke to me said the wiring was straight forward but the black plastic trim pieces (under the dash) gave him a lot of trouble. I think he summed it up best by saying “I did it!, but you couldn’t pay me $100 to do it again”.

If you want an unswitched power source there is an unused power connector down by the drivers feet (click on the picture for a larger view). This connector has a positive and a negative unswitched power source. It is in a convenient location just below the speaker. To gain access to this area you will need to remove the lower kick panel and the panels covering the underside of the dash.

Problem was, I was in a picky mood and wanted a switched power source. Under the dash you can locate this connector (BMW calls it X223 – the connector is next to the 40amp fuse strapped to the MAIN wiring harness), it had 5 wires in the connector (click on the picture for a larger view). I know it’s hard to distinguish colors in this picture because of the flash but the left most wire is ground (brown) and the one next to it is switched power (purple with white stripe). In this picture the middle wire is pulled out of the connector (speed sensitive volume connection – another project).

The Valentine One radar detector came with a wiring kit. The black box in this picture is part of that wiring kit. Since this box wasn’t a BMW part the color scheme doesn’t quite match but the red wire out of the box was connected to the purple power source. The black wire was connected to a good grounding point (see the bolt and brown wires next to the speaker)

Once the connection was made all that was left was getting the wire to the radar detector. There was just enough of a gap on the side of the dash to slide a wire back to the corner (like using dental floss). Now the wire had made it to the top of the dash the A-Frame cover just pulls off and you can run the wire under the plastic cover. Along the top you don’t even need to pull off the plastic cover. There is enough of a gap to push the wire in where the plastic piece meets the window.

You should actually work backwards so you have just enough wire sticking out where the radar detector mounts, and bundle up any slack down below where it is easier to hide it.

If you are anywhere near Dallas and would like a trained BMW expert to do work like this for you, I can highly recommend Larry Nissen. Larry did the work on my car and took the time to explain everything for me.

Beating the Buzz

After taking delivery and listening to the “upgraded” HK stereo I was very let down. The rear subwoofer rattled and buzzed whenever it got loud enough to actually be heard. To me it almost sounded like the speaker was blown. When I finally got to compare my stereo to Alan’s HK I knew something was not right.

Turns out a rubber, snorkel-tube that is designed to port the sound to a lower position had come loose and was vibrating. The vibrating rubber tube sounded just like what a blown speaker sounds like.

The good news is it was really easy to fix. The speaker grill just pops off, start with the lower corners then the upper corners. With the grill removed you can see this silly little rubber tube thing. The tube just sticks into the open hole in the subwoofer, a couple raised rings try and hold it in there. To me it seemed like it would only be a matter of time before it worked its way loose again. I was considering putting a couple drops of glue on it to help hold the tube in place.

On a whim I tried listening to the stereo with out the tube in at all. Honestly I could not tell a difference with and without the tube so I decided just to leave it off. It’s a piece of cake to reinstall it later if someone convinces me to do so, but for now the rubber tube is tossed onto the pile of other BMW parts in the corner of my garage.

UPDATE 5/10: The subwoofer sounded good at low volume with the tube removed, but with the top down and the stereo at high volume the subwoofer started to sound muddy. After a little experimentation (this time with the volume turned up high) I found that the rubber tube does make the subwoofer sound tighter at high volume. So the rubber tube came back off the pile of parts in the corner of my garage and is now back with the sub woofer. I was tempted to put a couple drops of super glue on it so it would stay, but decided to give it a try without glue first. If the tube works its way loose then I’ll glue it back in.

Cutting the Cord

If you’ve got a Z3, chances are you’ve also got a RADAR detector. I’ve got an old BEL detector (no V1 flames please, I know Valentine makes the best detector, but the BEL does just fine for me). I’ve had two problems with the detector placement:

Trying to find a secure place where the detector doesn’t rattle

Trying to find a source of power for the detector

I solved the first problem by simply velcroing the detector to the dash. The problem then becomes the power source. I’ve had the car about four months now and I was getting tired of using the cord to the cigarette lighter. In addition to being unsightly and somewhat rattle-prone, the cigarette lighter is hooked up to unswitched power. This means you need to remember to shut the detector off and turn it on every time you leave and re-enter the car.

Not fun.

I originally thought I could tap into power easily, but it turns out to be quite an ordeal. I tried to get power from the main bank of fuses in the engine compartment, but could not figure out an easy way to run a wire through the firewall. Eventually, I decided to use the power from the head-unit of the stereo and a ground from the cigarette lighter. The job takes about three hours. You need to be somewhat handy, need a working knowledge of automotive electrical connections and must be small enough to crawl into the driver’s footwell. Here’s how you can do it too:

Before you begin.

Get a box or container which you can put the screws in. Figure out some way of labeling the screws, they are all different shapes and sizes. Also make sure you have the 5 digit radio code you will need to reactivate the radio. Expect the job to take 2 to 3 hours. READ ALL DIRECTIONS FIRST!

You’ll need:

a phillips head screwdriver

a wirecutter

two tap-in connectors (Radio Shack 64-3052A)

several miniwire clips (Radio Shack 278-1668)

several connectors (optional – Radio Shack 64-3049A)

a 2mm allen or the BMW tool (a 5/64″ hex key)

at least 2 replacement BMW screw head covers

a seven foot wire to run from your detector to the power source

a white, dry-cleaners type coat hanger

electrical tape

a multimeter (optional,

lots of patience

First prepare the car by taking it apart.

Take the top down.

Look in the driver’s footwell and find two small rubber heads securing the front of the console.

Remove the rubber heads by hooking them with a stout paperclip-end from the bottom (the part that faces down). You should be able to hook them then pull out to remove them. They will resist. Be persistent. This will expose the screw head.

Remove the upper screw first, label it “upper”. Then remove the lower, label it “lower”. (Yes, they are different sizes)

Remove the radio:

Be sure you have the 5 digit reset code to reactivate the radio before you disconnect it.

Flip open the two small doors on either side of the radio to expose a small allen nut (It’s actually not an Allen nut, BMW sells a $16 tool to unscrew it, but a 2mm Allen wrench worked for me).

Screw the nut counterclockwise until it stops.

Repeat with the other allen nut

gently pull the radio towards you.

At the back of the radio, remove the antenna plug

Use a screwdriver to gently push up the “locking collar” for the other connections. It goes up about 1/2 inch, but does not come off. If you do this successfully, the entire back plug unit will come off. Otherwise, gently rock the entire connector back and forth, pulling backwards to remove it.

The radio is now disconnected.

Remove the shift knob by pulling straight up – be careful! You can hit yourself in the nose when it comes loose!

Remove the shifter boot – same process as the hand brake (except the “clips” are on the sides).

Remove the foam collar which surrounds the shift knob (Take a minute to note how it goes back in)

Push from below to pop the lighter out

Crawl under the driver’s dash – you will what looks like two large, black screw heads.

Rotate them 90 degrees and they should fall out.

Now remove the large plastic piece which goes around the pedals. You’ll need to pull it “backwards” (towards the back of the car), then push forwards again to get it loose. I ended up fighting with it for quite a while, but it eventually comes out.

Next, run the wires from the detector to the power source.

Cut the dry-cleaner’s hanger into a bent piece about a foot long. You’ll be using it to snake the wires through the defroster vents

Sitting in the Driver’s seat, start at the right most of the driver’s vents and manipulate the hanger till it comes out of the left most vent.

Tape your detector power plug (connected to the cord) to the hanger and snake it back through the holes.

Use one of the mini-clips to secure it to the dash. This prevents the cord from falling into the vents when not in use.

Run the rest of the wire to the A-pillar.

You can just push the wire into the crack which leads to the door.

Just below the console, pull the trim from the door-sill to allow you to run the wire into the console.

Put the trim back into place

Run the wire along the bottom of the dash, securing it with the mini-wire ties.

Feed the wire up around the side of the center console.

Feed the positive lead to the opening for the head-unit.

Feed the negative (ground) lead to the opening for the lighter.

Now Connect the Wires

If you have plugged in your detector to see how it will fit with the wire you ran, please disconnect it now.

Disclaimer – I used a multi-meter to identify the source of switches positive power for the radio. It was the purple/white wire which leads to the plug. If you have a multi-meter, I would advise double checking on your car. BMW may change the wiring harness from year-to-year.

Use the Tap-in connector to connect the positive line to the purple/white lead of the radio harness. You should immediately hear a little voice telling you that you have just voided your electrical warranty.

Disconnect the lighter from the two wires.

Use the tap-in to connect to the brown (unshielded) lead which runs to the lighter.

If you have a multi-meter, turn the car to Accessory and check for proper power at the detector plug. If you don’t have a meter, you should plug in your detector (risking frying it if you have made the wrong connection).

Now put everything back together

Assuming everything went well with the detector test, you are now ready to close up the patient.

The cigarette lighter is tricky to get back in. Before reconnecting it and reinserting it, you must first move the orange collar from the top to the bottom of the unit.

You do this by pushing out (from the inside of the unit) on both the little “wings” at the same time. This requires a little manual dexterity or a lovely assistant.

Once you do this, you can move the orange ring down to the bottom of the unit:

Reconnect the wires to the lighter unit.

Insert the unit into the dash, aligning the small cutout on the left with the tab of the orange collar.

Press in on the collar, it will seat itself, then press the lighter in which will also seat itself.

Before putting the shifter back together, turn on the lights and make sure the small bulb which illuminates the lighter is still in place. If not, re-seat it (it goes to the right of the lighter when looking at it from above, it just fits into a small hole next to the lighter.)

Reinstall the foam collar, shift boot and knob.

Reconnect the head-unit and put it back into the dash, securing with the allen wrench.

Re-screw the console screws and put the new screw heads on.

Reinstall the foot-pedal guards.

That’s it! You can now connect your detector, it will turn on when the ignition is turned on. Now go find your cigarette lighter (or lighter plug) and put it back in! You’ve cut the cord!

Adding Motion Sensor to BMW Alarm

Here is what I did – it is fairly straight forward but please make modifications at your own risk.

The sensor I used came from Sound Conceptions – “www.autotoys.com”. The sensor is listed as “sensor: single zone perimeter sensor (radar)” and is $24.95 as of today (3/30/98). You can find it in the storefront – security section. It has three wires to hook it up – battery, ground and trigger. The wires are just long enough to reach where I mounted the sensor. If you want to experiment with different mounting locations, you may want to extend the wires.

For safety, unplug the BMW alarm harness at both ends before making any connections. I soldered and taped all connections.

Battery

connect this to the fused battery wire in the alarm wiring harness this is a yellow wire with an inline fuse. Connect to the alarm side of the fuse, thus the fuse protects the new wiring.

Ground

connect this to the ground wire in the harness – brown wire.

Trigger

this will get connected to the hood switch sensor wire (white with red stripe) in the wiring harness. To avoid potential interference between the new and old sensor – I isolated them with two diodes. The diodes are 1N4001 which you can get at Radio Shack. Cut the existing sensor wire and splice in a diode with the cathode (banded end) toward the sensor – this sensor is active low. On the alarm side of this diode, add another with the banded side toward the new sensor – connect the new sensor trigger wire to the cathode of this diode. See the crude diagram below:

I mounted the sensor in the console just forward of the gear shift. Remove the gear shift boot and the foam insert. If you put just the hook portion of some stick on velcro tape on the back of the sensor, you can stick it to the carpeting under the console. You will want to play with the sensitivity adjustment on the sensor. I have mine currently set about 3/4 of the way to fully sensitive.

Performance is good but a little inconsistent. If someone sits in your car, the alarm will definitely go off. An arm reaching in will set off the alarm if the arm is moved around. Repositioning the sensor might help – the directions say the higher it is in the car the better.

Discuss this article and other Safety/Security upgrades in the

///MZ3.Net discussion forum.

Black Cars, Never Again

My very first vehicle was a black 1980 MGB special edition that my father purchased for me in 1984. I loved that car, and that old MGB had a lot to do with my decision to purchase the BMW roadster. However, I learned at an early age that black cars are always in one of two states. The first state is Clean the second state arrives an hour after you wash it Dirty. Sometime during the three years I owned that car I vowed not to own another black car again.

Flash forward to 1991 and we find Robert purchasing a brand new black Ford Explorer Sport. Somewhere between 1984 and 1991 I must have forgotten my vow. However, I took comfort with my decision by saying, “the Explorer looks so good in black, and hey it’s a truck, who cares if it’s dirty.”

Now flash forward to August 1996. A BMW salesman has just loaned me a Montreal blue 1.9 Z3 for the weekend, and it’s just too much fun. I decide I have to own one. Later in October of that same year I took delivery of a silver 1.9, remembering my anti-black vow and resisting to acknowledge how good the black BMW roadsters looked in the brochure.

By the following spring I had made many “Internet friends” on a BMW roadster message board. It was through this board that owners started noticing a trend that the black BMW roadsters seemed to be picking up more chips than the silver ones. The theory seemed to hold water, and was broadened a little to also include dark green in the “chip prone” category. People were trying to speculate why one color would be more prone to chipping than another color, but we really never came to a real conclusion. In my mind, I acknowledged that this theory might be true, but since we were just talking over the Internet it was hard to see the evidence.

Over Labor Day weekend later that same year, several of us drove to South Carolina for the first BMW roadster homecoming. It was there that we started re-discussing the paint chip issue. I saw with my own eyes Ulrich’s black roadster with lots of small paint chips on the hood. It was just as he described over the Internet, but it still wasn’t concrete evidence. I jokingly asked if he worked at a gravel pit, but the point was his daily route may be much different than mine. Despite all the evidence, I still couldn’t convict the black paint as “guilty”.

Flash forward to March 1998, I have sold the 1.9 to a friend and I am currently waiting to take delivery of a new 3.2 liter BMW roadster. While I am waiting for the new roadster to show up, the salesman is loaning me a 2.8 liter model so I can have the experience of driving each of the three engine configurations. As fate would have it, the loaner 2.8 turned out to be a freshly cleaned and waxed black roadster. The black looked really good as I pulled out of the dealership and it reminded me why black was such a popular color. Two days later I was already washing it, but it looked so good I really didn’t mind. One week and a thousand miles later the black 2.8 already had six very noticeable paint chips on the hood. The evidence is just stacked too high now; I am firmly convinced that the black paint is not only more prone to chipping, but the chips are also more visible.

I would strongly suggest that those considering the purchase of a BMW roadster avoid the black paint available on the Z3. If the lure of the black is just too strong, then I suggest you talk your salesman into throwing in some BMW touch-up paint because I think you are going to need it.

The 3.2 model has a different black paint, and while the jury is still out, it would appear that it is much better in regard to its durability. But it was my fear of the unknown that confirmed my color choice for the new roadster, Arctic silver.