Smoked Tailed Lights

Here are some pictures of my 1996 BMW Z3 with smoked tailights.

Chrome Trimmed Z3 Gill

I’ve always loved the M roadsters Gills but since I decided on the Z3 3.0, I felt it would be somehow wrong to buy some M gills and add them to the Z. So I have been looking for a way to add a little something to the originals.

This is my first attempt at adding a little flash of chrome. I am sending this to elicit some comments good, bad, “don’t mess with the original”!, It is completely removable.

Note: The Chrome trim can be found at most auto part stores.

White Z3 Top

Custom white top, details unknown.

1.9 Sound System Upgrade

I’ve wanted to upgrade my Z3 sound system for a while. I found that the stock system simply wasn’t good enough to support a convertible. I started looking around and came to MZ3.net and looked at Robert’s 1.9 (Non-HK) Stereo Upgrade. This article helped me A LOT during my search for a better sound system. Now was the time to see where I should get it done. The first place I went to was Audio Excellence. It looked very professional and some of my friends suggested it. I also went to Audio Extreme and Sound Advice but out of the three Audio Excellence was at the top.

I wanted to upgrade the front speakers first. I looked at JL Audio and was impressed by their clarity. I also wanted to get larger speakers and I ended up with 6 ½” JL Audio XR650-CS (with tweeters and crossovers).

I realized that I needed a much better amplifier because the stock amp (non HK) was pushing around 20-25 watts per channel. I decided to go with the Orion Cobalt CS200.4 (Which later changed to the CS500.5) I was also looking at the Alpine V12 models but their prices were too high.

Audio Excellence told me that I might be able to put 5 ½” in the rear to replace the 4″ speakers. This luckily didn’t work out and I got a free pair of 4″ speakers.

Installation

The installation took around 7 hours. I took it in at 9 am at brought it home at about 4 pm. I was very happy with this installation because everything seemed to go my way. First they tried fitting the 5 ½” in the rear. These didn’t fit so they decided to leave the stock 3 ½” in there. The install for the tweeters and XR650-CS went fine but the amp didn’t. They put the CS200.4 in and it blew my rear speakers due to a short. They gave me a CS500.5 instead and replaced my rear speakers with JL Audio XR400-CX.

So the price of the JL Audio XR525-CX was cut from the bill and I upgraded to 4″ rear speakers and a 5-channel amp for free! Total cost was about $750.

Turning up the new system loud would guarantee to make your ears bleed. All that was coming out of it was highs. There was more bass than stock but it wasn’t enough. I decided to get a subwoofer.

The first place I wanted to put one was in the trunk. I planned on putting a 10″ sub opposite the side of the trunk with the CD Changer. Audio Excellence told me that in front of the trunk was a metal wall separating the cabin from it. Porting to the cabin would have to go through the boot of the convertible and with the top down bass would be nonexistent. I also wasn’t too happy with the idea of cutting a whole in my BMW.

My other idea was to put an 8″ or a 10″ in the spot where the HK Sub is. My idea was similar to where the Dodge Viper has its subwoofer. Audio Excellence looked at the area (where my storage compartments are) and told me that it would mess with the structural integrity of the car because the roll bars came down into there. I decided this idea was a no-go also.

They came up with an idea that I was trying to avoid. They wanted to put the sub below the dash on the passenger side. They did this to a member of N’Sync’s Superformance Shelby Cobra. Even though I was disappointed because doing this would take up legroom I decided to go along with this idea.

They ended up making a custom box and putting a JL Audio 8W3 subwoofer in my car. This ended up costing $350 and took about 13 hours (11 hours one day, 2 hours the next). It turned out well and sounds amazing!

Is it worth it?

Yes, I think that it was worth it. I love being able to hear music without distortion at 60mph with the top down. It turned out to be much cheaper than I thought and sound better than I imagined. Even though the subwoofer installation took forever I think that having that extra bass really makes the sound fuller.

Pros – Awesome Sound, Not very expensive

Cons – Lost passenger legroom, No more stock look

Cost – About $1,100

Glowing Z3 Gills

I’ve had some questions asked on my gills that glow and how it’s done. They light up at night when lights are turned on… Can’t see them in daylight. See below link, no that is not my car at the top…scroll down to bottom. 😉

Just buy the glow-wire that matches the color of your car(or close). Pop the gills off and run a couple of strips up and down the wire mash from the inside…that’s pretty much it…you can connect to any 12v source… I used the low beams since I wouldn’t be using them in the daytime anyway.

The Glow-Wire company put some pictures of my car out on their web site.

Glove Box Light

Here is some information on a glove box light I made. I bought a keychain flashlight that used a bright blue led for the light. I got it from LL Beans for $20, but I see them for sell everywhere. It is a sapphire crystal led, and two 3-volt lithium batteries. The cells have a 10 year shelf life. All I wanted was the led and the 2 batteries.

I took the light apart and just used the led and the area that holds the batteries, cutting the rest of the body off.

I then acquired a metal cased mercury tilt switch. Durakool (http://www.aecsensors.com) has various tilt switches. I bought part #4929 from Newark Electronics (http://www.newark.com). It was around $5.00, but there was a minimum order, or a $5 penalty. It operates at a plus or minus 7 degree angle. It is very tiny, being around 1/4 inch all round in size. I placed all the parts in a small fuse box (the one that the cylinder type buss automotive fuses come in). It seemed like a perfect candidate since the plastic part of the box slides off easily from the metal top and it is small and shallow.

I drilled a hole in the plastic part of the box for the led to come out, and the rest (batteries in their holder and tilt switch) was placed inside and held in place with electrical tape. I had previously soldered circuit board wire from the tilt switch to the light. Some final touches like an LED holder from radio shack and some chrome tape on the box gives it a more finished look.

This small fuse box was attached to the left side of the glove box and held in place with velcro. The angle of the box had to be adjusted to get the light to turn on and off at the appropriate time when opening and closing the glove box door.

Pleased with the finished results, it puts a nice blue light inside the glovebox that allows me to see the things inside.

Chrome Roll Hoops

Pros: Look Really Good, Easy to Install, Half the price of the AC Schnitzer.
Cons: Doesn’t work with the BMW windscreen.
Cost: $595 from MyRoadster.net

I’ve always enjoyed the chrome (actually polished stainless steel) roll hoops on my Z3, but the AC Schnitzer price (ouch). For those Z3 owners that are looking to replace the stock (black) BMW hoops, but cringed at the AC Schnitzer price, MyRoadster.net offers similiar polished roll hoops for much less money.

The shape of these roll hoops are slightly different than the stock BMW hoops and the AC Schnitzer hoops. MyRoadster.net’s design is more round on top and much thicker. They remind me of the Audi TT roll hoops, very sporty. 60mm or 2.4 inch diameter (compared to approx 50mm on the Schnitzer design). With a wall thickness of 2mm or .08 inches. The installation of these roll hoops is nearly identicle to the AC Schnitzer hoops (installation instructions). Three torx 40 bolts hold the hoops in place, the installation is surprisingly easy the only non-standard tool needed is a torx 40 driver (I found one at my local hardware store).

The difference between the installations is the (gasket like) rubber rings at the bottom of the roll hoops. The rubber rings are partly for cosmetic reasons, but they also make sure you don’t end up with metal on plastic rattles. Installing the rubber rings was a little confusing. There is a slit in the rubber ring, its designed to slip on over the end of the roll hoop. That installation isn’t as easy as it sounds but the design is better than the Schnitzer solution (at least the ones I received).

MyRoadster.net also provides roll hoops to Z3Solution.com, you can purchase from either vendor and end up with the same high quality product at nearly half the price of the AC Schnitzer brand.

“Clear” Turn Signal Blubs

In case you have ever wanted to make your turn signals completely clear rather than seeing the tinge of amber from the turn signal bulbs, there are two ways to do it. First and most expensive is to find the Philips Silvervision bulbs usually sold in Europe. These are amber bulbs with a translucent silver outer finish. When off they appear clear, when on they appear amber.

The second method is to make them yourself at home by painting your bulbs with a light coat of Rustoleum High Temperature silver spray paint, sold at Home Depot for less than $5. This process is well documented on the BMW M5 messageboard. I did this for my M5, and now have done it for my M Roadster. The picture to the right shows the left lamp after treatment and the right as original:

I think you’ll agree that the 10 minutes or so required for the job is well worth it. It’s also possible to treat the front turn signals this way if you like. Enjoy.

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!

Harman TrafficPro

At Homecoming 2000 last Labor Day Weekend, there was an additional commotion beyond the regular vendor area frenzy.

Harman Industries of Harman/Kardon kept a Pistachio Green roadster in their tent to show off a special head unit called the TrafficPro. This gadget is befitting of our “Bond-cars” in that aside from being a DIN-sized in-dash CD Player, it integrates a GPS Navigation system.

The current dealer-installed BMW Z3 Navigation System made by Philips consists of a bulky CD-ROM reader to eat up precious trunk space and a prominent LCD pod mounted above the center vents certain to incite a glimmer in the eye of any passing thief.

The Harman TrafficPro sports a dot-matrix display with backlighting and knob trim that glow amber to match the original BMW instrumentation. And why shouldn’t it? According to one of their reps attending Homecoming 2000, this unit is intended to be OEM equipment for future Z3s. Harman’s plan was to have this unit available in European Z3s followed by inclusion into Stateside roadsters.

Update from Harmon: Approval in Europe is for the BMW Accessory Group

In a preprogrammed demo mode, the TrafficPro showed off guiding the driver using a male/female selectable voice by indicating how far the upcoming turns ahead were. The display named the road you were travelling on, the next road, a pointer with remaining distance, and a graphical bar that illustrates your progress until that next turn. The screen gives you the critical information you need at a glance while keeping your eyes on the road.

All this is backed by the accuracy of GPS and a data CD-ROM. Where the old Philips system requires stopping and unloading the trunk to swap out one of SEVEN discs for a coast-to-coast roadtrip, the Harman TrafficPro covers the entire United States on only TWO discs that get inserted into a disc-slot behind the flip-down display. The 8 megabytes of memory allows it to store approximately 50 destinations along with 50 last arrived destinations. The unit is able to compensate if the driver goes off the planned course and features several modes of route computation probably most important to us twisty-seekers is highway-exclusion mode.

Update from Harmon: The 8 Mb memory does not directly relate to the capacity for destination storage – however, I believe the T/Pro storage capacity for destinations is bigger than Travelpilot and VDO systems. The 8 Mb is more relative to the speed of data loading and, modifications while driving as well as, the number of times the system requires disc access during operation.

Turning the right knob scrolls through state, city and street while pressing it makes the selection. The TrafficPro allows music to be played while the navigation system does it’s thing. The volume of music can be mixed independent of the navigation voice. Nice touch.

While the new wizz-bang features dazzled, more typical concerns like how it integrates into the Z3 were assuaged when the Rep indicated this head unit used BMW’s proprietary I-BUS control system to operate the existing 6-disc trunk changer. Furthermore, since this was intended to be OEM, the head unit would simply plug-n-play into the factory DIN connector. In addition to a detachable faceplate, the TrafficPro uses a similar code lockout like the stock cassette head unit. Since the introduction of the Z3, thefts of the stock head unit have virtually been unheard of likely due to widespread knowledge that they are worthless without the code.

The rep claimed that this unit was supposed to be available when the Z3 was first introduced and that was why all roadsters featured a recessed shelf underneath the instrument pod for the GPS antenna module that comes with the TrafficPro. Obviously, no such unit was offered and 1996 model year Z3s built for the United States only shipped with the stock cassette head unit.

Fast forward 7 months since Homecoming 2000 and no word of a new Z3 navigation system has been heard. If it were available, tidbits of information would’ve been trickling into the message board from new Z3 owners. Curious as to the progress of the TrafficPro into BMW’s family of accessories, I contacted Harman International directly.

Rob Barnicoat fielded my call and indicated that the TrafficPro was indeed already approved by BMW of Europe. Fellow IRC Chat bud Fred Kern points out this page apparently showing European availability. As for the United States, it has been languishing under OEM consideration by BMW North America. (Does this sound familiar, E36 M3 owners?)

Complete TrafficPro Hardware – Click for Close Up ViewMr. Barnicoat patiently reassured me that the TrafficPro does use the I-BUS controller for the CD changer and that it uses an adapter harness to connect into the Z3. It’s up to BMW to determine what the TrafficPro will cost, but I suspect it should be roughly in the same ballpark as the old Philips Navigation System …minus the additional bulk and disc requirements. He was delighted that he is still getting inquiries from interested Z3 owners about the TrafficPro, however the demand is misdirected. We gadgetfreaks should be asking the Z3 Brand Manager at BMW North America when they’ll include this into the family of Z3 options and accessories. It probably wouldn’t hurt to also let the dealers know it’s time to retire the stock cassette head unit next to the 8-track and to let us have our TrafficPro.

For More Information: Hand-out spec-sheet from Homecoming2000

BMW of North America

1 BMW Plaza

Montvale, NJ 07645

1-800-334-4BMW

Harman/Becker Automotive Systems

39001 West Twelve Mile Road,

Farmington Hills, MI 48331

TrafficProHelp@harman.com

248-994-2100