Digital Temperature Gauge

In my old 1.9 Z3, I had the on-board computer which told all sorts of interesting things such as estimated range, average speed, and outside temperature. Call me strange, but with my new M roadster I miss that. I miss the 400 mile trips during winter in the dead of night with the top down, watching the temperature fall to below freezing, with the reassurance that yes, I was out of my mind.

On the Euro-spec M roadsters, they get an outside temperature gauge. According to rumor, it doesn’t work that well. Besides, to add that to my US-spec M roadster would cost more than $200, which I don’t have. I finally found a digital temperature gauge that met most of my needs, RadioShack part number 63-1023. They offer 2 different temperature gauges for cars, this is the better one (and more expensive, about $20).

The good things about this gauge are that it displays both the inside and outside temperature at the same time, it records the highest and lowest temperature, and it has a nice electro-luminescent backlight. On the down side, the LCD is hard to see from some angles, the backlight only stays on for 3 seconds when the button is pressed, and it uses batteries instead of car power. But altogether, it’s the best one I’ve seen anywhere.

The first thing I did was add a black sticker to the front that covers up the “RadioShack” name. It’s a small thing, but call me anal-retentive. Next, I went out and bought a radar detector windshield mount. I decided the best place for me to put the gauge was above the rear-view mirror, on the driver’s side. I had to be careful about the angle I placed the gauge at, since from some angles it’s hard to see. Once I had the angle figured out, I had to cut the detector mount down to the right size.

Next, it’s time to do something destructive. Cut the lead for the external probe halfway between the display unit and the probe itself. You will need to attach some extra wire to make things work. The place I placed the probe was up in the front bumper, behind where the front license plate goes. I took the black mounting bracket that comes with the gauge, removed the rubber piece, and superglued the mounting bracket in place. Next, I connected some more wire to the probe piece and ran them into the passenger compartment.

In the cockpit on the passenger side, underneath the glove compartment there is a piece of plastic held in place by 3 plastic screws. Remove this piece of plastic by turning the screws a half turn and removing them, then the plastic piece slides out. You should be able to see a rubber grommet by the speaker grill.

On the inside of the engine compartment you should be able to see the other side of it. Run the wires for the temperature probe through this hole, you should be able to push the rubber grommet aside enough to get the wires through. I then attached one side of a plastic 2-lead connector to the wires I ran through the hole. Don’t forget to use lots of nylon wire wraps to hold things in place in the engine compartment.

You can see (kind of) how I ran the wires along the passenger side of the engine compartment. Now it’s time to remove the plastic covering the inside of the pillars. To remove the side coverings, simply “pop” them off. I would recommend using a screwdriver with the tip covered by a towel (to prevent marring the surface) and wedge it in the top, then pull down. These should come off with a nice “pop”. You need to do both sides. Next, you need to remove the top frame covering. The clear plastic around the dome light gets scratched very easily, so please be careful (it’s white plastic under the paint, so it really shows when it’s marked up. The clear plastic pops off, try prying from the drivers side – that side is supposed to come off first. Then remove the light bulb assembly, it also pops out. Once again, be careful not to mark up the paint. Next, remove both visors, you will need a torx screwdriver. Then remove the one remaining torx screw that holds the top piece in place, it’s behind where the light assembly was. Last, just pull up to remove the covering.

Now it’s time to start placing things where they go. Use some superglue to attach the gauge to the radar mount, and be sure to let it dry thoroughly. Place it on the windshield in the proper location, and run the wires where they would need to go (you will have to attach more wire, the gauge only comes with 10 feet of wire and much more than that is needed. You will be running it along the top of the pillar and down the sides, next to the glove compartment. Once down there, attach the other end of the nylon 2-lead connector.

Now, just plug the connector in, replace the plastic piece below the glove compartment and put the molding back in place along the pillar and you are all set! Not quite as good as a factory installation but it does the job.

Discuss this article and other Convenience upgrades in the

///MZ3.Net discussion forum.

Valentine One Radar Detector

A police officer had a perfect hiding place for watching for speeders and used it quite often. But one day the officer found traffic surprisingly tame. After a long while, the officer found the reason: a 10 year old boy was standing on the side of the road with a huge hand painted sign which said “RADAR TRAP AHEAD!”

A little more investigative work led the officer to the boy’s accomplice, another boy about 100 yards beyond the radar trap with a sign reading “TIPS” and a bucket at his feet, full of change.

I’ve been using a BEL 605 for about 5 years now and another BEL product for about 7 years. Both detectors have kept me out of trouble and both offer a good number of bells and whistles. I was, therefore, unhappy when my 605 stopped working. Since it was 5 years old and my original price was only $40, I figured I got my money’s worth out of it. Time to buy a new detector.

My criteria was pretty simple: I wanted to pay as little as possible for as much protection as I could get. I wanted to get the best deal. I did my homework and consulted Car & Driver’s detector comparisons. Of course, the leader is a V1 from Valentine Research. No big surprise. Everyone knows V1’s are the best. They are also the most expensive ($400). Looking at the figures, you can get about 3/4 the protection of the V1 for about 1/4 of the price. I therefore decided to check out the latest from BEL. I rejected the higher priced units, looking for something in the $100 to $150 range (heck, if I was going to spend real money, I’d buy a V1 and be done with it!). After some review (and finding a number of good prices combined with a $30 rebate) I chose a 846i.

The 846i has a lot of neat features – immune to VG2, good field of view for Laser (about the same as Valentine, and good sensitivity on K and Ka band. The best feature, however, is the display. It lights up and tells you what type of RADAR you’re dealing with. No need to squint at little LEDs. It has a digital voice, but you can disable it and just use tones. The 846i also includes Safety Warning System (SWS) detection – . This feature alerts you to the messages broadcast in K-Band by certain road signs (the system has not received wide acceptance or use, but is used on the Mass Turnpike).

The rest of the controls (mute/dark/city) all behave like my 605. The final cost (with a $30 rebate – only good till the end of December 98) was about $110. The unit worked well when I first tried it. The range, however, seemed somewhat shorter than I remembered compared to my 605. I soon encountered another, perhaps more serious problem: it’s not loud enough for top-down driving. If you look on the right of the unit, you can see a small speaker. This speaker actually points away from the driver when mounted in the center of the windshield (at least here in the US). When I dropped the top (on a chilly 32 degree day!) I found that even turning the volume all the way up, I had trouble hearing the warning. I totally gave up on the voice (which is kinda dorky anyway) and was just using the tone alerts. The major problem here is that they have used the most noticeable sounds for X band with K being the least distinctive. Since most highway RADAR is K, this left me somewhat exposed.

I was getting pretty discouraged at that point when I ran across another article which indicated that “except for the V1, all other detectors seem to have lost range over the venerable ESCORT and PASSPORT in the K and X range when wideband KA was added”. Suspicions confirmed – the unit did not perform as well as some older detectors. Darn!

OK. It’s been a good year. I had a big bonus coming and when you weigh the cost of increased insurance against the cost of a ticket (not to mention the ticket itself) you can easily start to talk yourself up to justifying the $400 cost of a V1 (OUCH! it still hurts even saying $400!). The clincher was an unexpected Christmas present (it was from my Mom…) of $100 (because she totally gave up trying to shop for me decades ago!). I picked up the phone and plunked down my four bills. A week later, a flimsy cardboard box arrives and I’ve joined the V1 set. Retrofitting the power took about 30 minutes. The V1 cord is a large, flat cord with RJ11 (telephone) jacks on either end. I elected to simply mount the unit where the BEL had been – secured to the top of the dash with velcro.

Initial Impressions:

Let’s just say that Mike Valentine clearly spent most of his R+D on the inside, rather than the packaging of this unit. It looks a little unfinished and really reminds me of my original FUZZBUSTER – big black box with a big knob and a big red light. It’s actually about half the size of the FUZZBUSTER and the technology involved is clearly as different as Voyager is from Capt. Kirk’s Enterprise . It just doesn’t look that way from the outside. The V1 kinda looks like it was designed by Dilbert.

Come to think of it, there is a vague resemblance.

The utilitarian black plastic housing of the V1 has very few curves and the display looks like it was something of an afterthought. The band indicators, small LEDs for X, K, KA and Laser, are a real letdown from the more sophisticated BEL display. Warnings are characterized by the “beep” and “braaap” system. If you’re good with music, they may be distinctive enough and if you can remember a “beep” means X band and a “braaap” means K, you may not have as many problems with the display as I do.

The unit itself is also gargantuan compared with my little 605. Granted, the 605 does not have LASER detection, nor does it offer a rear-facing detector.

The controls on the V1 are also a little hard to get used to. The big knob controls sound for “important alerts”. The “balance control”-like ring controls the sound for “muted alerts”. The BEL provides an auto mute feature which drops the volume of an alert to a series of “clicks” which can be silenced with a push of a button. If you press the big knob on the V1 during a full volume alert, it changes to the “muted” volume level, however, there is no way to totally silence the unit without a turn of a knob. It took a little getting used to.

So far, I’d still give the ergonomics prize to BEL.

I’ve already mentioned my lukewarm reception of the small K, KA, X and Laser LED’s, but I should temper this with a big, enthusiastic thumbs up for the RADAR locator display.

After couple of RADAR encounters, I cannot imagine how I’ve ever lived without this feature! I’ve got to hand it to Valentine – this has got to be the biggest innovation in detector history! (OK, the $400 is still smarting). Not only does the locator display tell you where the RADAR source is, it also tells you how many sources it is monitoring. This allows you to sniff out revenuers who sit in the shadow of another radar signature hoping you’ll get sloppy. Let’s say you always pass the Dunkin Donuts and it always makes your detector go off. One morning you’re rolling by, the detector goes off, your tendency is to ignore it, but instead of one source, it shows two so you hit the brakes! There, hiding behind that big jelly roll is Officer Bob Speed, hoping you’ll just fly on by, helping to fill his quota. The V1 has just earned it’s keep. There are a couple of other features I’ve discovered in the past week or so – The V1 actually includes a light sensor, so it automatically dims itself at night and brightens during the day. The unit is also upgradable – Valentine will upgrade both software and hardware as new features are added.

The V1 operates in three modes which are changed by pressing and holding the big knob when you’re not under fire:

A – “All Bogeys” mode. In this mode, the detector alerts you, at full volume, of every burglar alarm, automatic door, microwave dish or any other source of RADAR (including Police RADAR) in the vicinity. For those of us who live in the city. This mode will drive you stark raving mad in about a minute.

l – “Little L” Logic mode. In this mode the detector filters out what it does not think are “significant” sources of RADAR and only calls attention to them with the “muted” volume if they seem to increase in strength. If something seems really threatening, you get full volume. I’ve found this works well for me on my daily commute.

L – “Big L” Super Logic mode. In this mode the detector tries to make the most decisions for you. I’ve fundamentally never trusted computers, so I’m a bit leery of this mode and have not made a lot of use of it.

Nice features, but pretty much equivalent to BEL and other makers with advanced logic for signal processing.

The cost of the V1 still bothers me. Not so much for the cost itself, it’s more the responsibility of a $400 detector on my dash. The instructions even warn you about leaving it in plain sight – it’s an invitation to a break-in. I never had to worry about that with my $40 BEL – I simply left it on the dash. With the V1, there’s really no alternative, you disconnect the unit every time you get out of the car and hook it back up when you get in. That’s the main reason I chose not to use the mounting bracket. The velcro approach is a lot easier to deal with. I’ll save the windshield mount (which strikes me as kind of flimsy) for road trips where I need peak performance. I constructed a pocket in the trunk as a place for the V1 to sleep during the day when the car is parked at work.

The big test came when Cambridge decided to mount one of those dorky “The Speed limit is XX your speed is…” automated (self service?) RADAR signs on the way to work. The unit was mounted around a corner and up a hill. I could use the unit to test the various brands without annoying the cops. (Ever ask one of them if you can test your RADAR detector with their gun?). The V1 gave me consistent .2 mile warnings (even on “small L”). The BEL gave a respectable (but definitely shorter) .15 mile warning. Given some other encounters, I’d also predict the V1 would do better in a straight line-of-sight situation than the BEL (which is what Car +Driver said too). The sensitivity advantage clearly goes to the V1.

So. The $400 question – is it worth it?

At this point, after a few week’s use, I’d say “yes”, but it is a qualified yes. I still say you should buy what you need and for many people, the V1 is just overkill. If you can afford it, however, I can see no reason to spend your bucks on anything other than a V1, simply for the locator function alone. I’d like to see a better packaged V1, one with something other than those dorky RJ11 plugs for power cords, one which has a digital display of X, K, KA and L in big letters, but you certainly can’t fault the unit for performance. At an average of $100 per ticket with an insurance surcharge which can easily run into the 4 figures over 10 years (yes! MA counts those tickets against you for the next decade!) it becomes easy to justify the $280 increment over a competing brand. If you can afford the V1 – go for it! If not, be sure to test your choice with the top both up and down under your particular “normal driving conditions” before committing to the unit. It could save your hide in the long run.

Note: Images of BEL and V1, Mike Valentine and Dilbert were all yanked from various sites w/o anyone permission and are presented here merely for purposes of illustration.

Statistical Information

Car & Driver 4/97, Page 115, “Rating High End RADAR/LASER detectors” (Also the issue which compares the SLK, Z3 and Boxster)
Detector Price Overall Score X** K KA Laser*
V1 399 97 0.30 1.50 1.70 10
Bel 855STi 200 54 0.15 0.90 0.90 8
Escort Solo 230 48 0.10 0.65 0.15 8
Cobra RSA515 119 45 0.10 0.70 0.17 9
Whistler 1490 148 42 0.10 0.40 0.60 10
Uniden LRD 6399 SWS 83 41 0.05 0.70 0.70 9***

* Laser units in band detection spread @ 1000 ft, all other measures in miles
** X band City Mode, highway mode is much greater for all models
*** Rear detection did not work

Car & Driver 9/95, Page 87, “Five Budget Radar Detectors” (also the issue which “Reveals the 1996 Z3 Roadster”)Note: This comparison is now over 3 years old and none of the units listed (except the V1) are likely to still be on the market.

Detector Price Overall Score X** K KA Laser*
V1 399 97 1.00 2.40 1.10 19
Uniden LRD 220 SWS 86 89*** 0.39 1.00 1.70 17
Fox 230 57 0.19 0.50 0.80 10
Whistler 1140 63 56 0.25 0.30 0.40 19
Bel 535i 93 54 0.25 0.41 0.80 16
Cobra RDL212 80 27 0.19 0.30 0.00 6

* Laser units in band detection spread @ 2000 ft, all other measures in miles

** X band City Mode, highway mode is much greater for all models

*** Looking at these older figures, it seems clear the Uniden models in subsequent years have gotten worse, not better

From the same issue:

Countries where US detectors will probably work:

Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, Saudi Arabia, much of South America and Sweden.

Countries using bands not covered by US detectors:

Austria, Holland

Countries using US and other bands:

Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland.

(Source: RADAR 800-448-5170)

Chrome Stereo Trim

Before Look close the difference is subtle, but with the chrome surround around the stock stereo all the gauges and radio finally look like they belong together.

Its been bugging me since I first got the M, but MG Racing solves the problem with this $63.90 part.


Just like the chrome door speaker trim this chrome part uses the ultra sticky 3M tape to secure itself to the stock radio. There are two important things to remember when adding anything that uses this tape. The first rule is clean, clean, clean, clean… Using rubbing alcohol I cleaned the face of the radio and was surprised how much gunk I cleaned off. The reason for the through cleaning is so the 3M tape sticks to the radio and not just the dirt on the radio.

The second rule is to get everything hot, the glue in the 3M tape is activated by heat. I used a hair dryer to get the face of the radio and the backside of the chrome part really hot (almost to hot to hold). When the part is this hot the orange backing tape will start to wrinkle and peel a little. At that time take the tape off and C A R E F U L L Y line up the part before sticking it onto the radio.

I really like the look, but I think I got the part just slightly off center to the left (probably something only an owner would notice). The chrome part does have a top and a bottom to it, the bottom is thinner than the top so it will fit in the narrow area below the station selection buttons. The only downside I see to this upgrade is that it covers the tiny access doors you would use if you ever need to remove the radio.

Sold By:

MG Racing


Chrome Lighted Shift Knob

Since you can never have enough chrome in an M Roadster (open to debate, perhaps) I decided to add the BMW chrome gearshift knob. However, if I did that I would loose that cool lighting effect from the stock gearshift knob. I decided to try and make a chrome lighted gearshift knob.

You will need to remove the standard shift knob. Lift the cover up around it (it’s just held in place by small tabs on the side), and find the connectors for the wires leading to the knob. Disconnect these and simply pull straight up on the knob. It’s tight, but it should come off. Be careful not to hit yourself while pulling it up.

The first thing I did was to take apart the stock knob to see how it worked. It’s really just 3 tiny LEDS and a resistor under a knob emblem that let’s light shine through. Since BMW does not sell this emblem as a separate piece, you will need the one from the stock knob. Put your fingernail under the edge and simply pry up. It’s held on by double-sticky tape and should come off easily. Be careful not to scratch either side. Also important, the “silver” look of the numbers is not really paint. It’s some sort of dust that very easily wipes off. Do not get your finger anywhere near it, or you’ve just ruined the emblem.

The next thing you will need is the wire connector off the standard gearshift knob. Cut the wires (but leave some space to work with). I choose to get some nylon connectors from a local electronics store and solder it on the end of the BMW connector. That way I can still take my knob off without dealing with the BMW connector (which is a little big and won’t come off though the hole in the cover that easily).

Now it’s time to work on the chrome knob (which you need to purchase, of course). You need to get the emblem off without scratching the knob itself. The knob itself is covered in some sort of thin film that protects the metal (which is very soft). If you scratch the knob, it will look BAD. So don’t do that *smile*. The emblem is held on by the same double-sticky tape, but lots more or it. The best way I found is to use a dremel and drill directly into the center of the emblem with the dremel screw-like attachment, then yank the emblem off. Remove the remaining double-sticky tape, but save it – you will need it later.

Under the emblem you will find a little hole which is almost the right size. If you were to put the M emblem over this hole, the “R” and the “5” would not light up, because the hole isn’t big enough. Carefully grind the edges away where those two spaces would be (i.e. instead of a round hole, you would create a hole that looked like it had mickey-mouse ears). You don’t need to go very deep, long enough so that light can shine through. Now look at the underside of the knob. Inside you will see a couple horizontal plastic bars that hold the knob in place and keep it from spinning around. Through the center of the knob (in the hole on the top) drill out a vertical line that intersects the horizontal bar. Go all the way through till it’s completely open. You are almost done at this point.

Go back to your car. Figure out where that horizontal bar would go (it’s plainly obvious). Now cut (grind, actually) a small groove down one side of the stick. It doesn’t need to be very big, but you need something to run the wires in. On the stock knob, the wires actually run along the outside of the knob, but with the chrome knob we can’t do that so we need this grove. It won’t affect the functionality at all, there’s still PLENTY of metal left. When I did this, I took a vacuum and left it up close to where I was grinding to keep all the particles from spraying through the inside of my car.

Back to the chrome knob. Take some very small gauge wire (I used the individual strands of a telephone wire) cut two 18″ pieces. One one side, solder an LED to it. I used a jumbo orange LED from radio shack, their part number is 276-206 and the color matches the rest of the car pretty well. On the other end of one of the wires solder a 470 ohm resistor. Then solder on the mating end of the connector that you soldered on the BMW connector.

Go back to the car. Thread the connector attached to the knob through the leather shifter cover, and place the cover back on the car. Now carefully place the chrome knob on the car. Line up the wires in the groove you cut and on the top have the wires come out next to the horizontal bar (i.e. the LED [attached to the wires] still isn’t in it’s final position, it’s sticking out further). If you did everything right, the knob should be in position and on tightly, but if you hold both ends of the wires you can gently slide the LED back and forth. Pull on the wires until the LED is flush in the hole.

Lastly, you need to put a diffuser and the emblem back on. For a diffuser, you can use the white plastic one from the stock shifter, or simply cut a piece of white paper in the appropriate size. Use that double sticky tape you saved earlier to put the emblem back on. Re-connect the wires and put the leather cover back in place, and you are all set!

Another thing to watch out for is to test-fit the emblem into the chrome knob. I’ve had two different knobs, in one the M emblem fit just fine, but in the other I had to slightly grind the emblem down to get it to fit. Also, be careful not to push too hard getting the emblem in place, it CAN crack internally and have ugly white lines running through it. In direct sunlight, the knob can get VERY hot – so you may want a pair of driving gloves. And the wires you use to connect the LED can get damaged very easy, so if you take the knob off again you may want to plan to replace those wires.

All in all, I’m happy with my unique shift knob!

Dual-Stage Radar Sensor

I started with the excellent article on adding a motion sensor to the BMW alarm. I encourage everyone to read that article first, as I’m not going into enough detail to do the whole job. Consider this as a set of “release notes”. Also, I assume both the BMW alarm and the motion sensor have been installed at this point. Read over all of this first, since I make comments like “connect with to power” then later talk about “put a switch in”. It’s better to do this all at once, but easier to explain using several passes at it. Remember: measure twice, cut once, measure again.

Changes desired from the existing article:

I wanted to use a dual-stage sensor, thus the car would “chirp” when someone got too close to it, before setting the alarm off

I wanted to know which stage sensor had been set-off, by visual inspection (i.e. LED)

I wanted a cutoff switch for both the motion sensor, and the outer stage “chirp”

I wanted to have the sensor be easy(er) to adjust [i.e. not have to pull the car apart to adjust the sensitivity]

I purchased a dual-stage sensor from This sensor is basically the same as the one mentioned in the previous article except that it has two stages of detection and comes with a small piezo buzzer to use as the outside “chirp” sound.

The first thing I did was to decide how I was going to wire everything and and measure everything. Based on other articles and talking with various people, I decided to put the sensor in the center dash, between the seats (under the cassette storage area). After removing the cassette storage bin, I was able to use my pocket knife to lengthen the hole already there to be just long enough to slip the sensor in. I put velcro tape on the sensor and the underside of the dash, and attached the sensor there. This had the advantage of making the screw to adjust the sensitivity easily accessible. I just remove the cassette bin (no tools needed), then use a small screwdriver to adjust the sensitivity. Thus, desire #4 was satisfied.

Next, I wanted an LED to show the status of the sensor. The sensor has an LED already attached to it, a bicolor red/green LED. I simply desodder it, sodder in extension wires, and added the LED to the end of those wires. I was able to snake that new cable (I used heat-shrink tubing to hold the wires together) through the gear-shift area (the shift boot cover comes off easy) and into the blank punch-out button area (which the light for the alarm itself and the glass-breakage sensor already were). I drilled another hole, and used one of the radio-shack LED black plastic covers to give it a professional look. It’s a little crowded there, but still looks good. OK, desire #2 is done.

I needed a place to put the buzzer that was going to serve as my outside warning. I decided it needed to go in the engine compartment, since that was the place the siren was, etc. It’s small so it can go anywhere. I choose up by the drivers wheel, inside the engine compartment. I tie-strapped it into place.

Now I had to find a way to get a couple wires into the interior of the car. If you look where the battery used to go in the ’96 model Z3, in the M roadster there is what looks like a bunch of cables doing just that, but they are fully covered and have a rubber grommet around them. I was able to move the rubber grommet just enough to snake the cables through to the interior. They come out just above the kick-panel speaker in the passenger wheel-well.

OK, this part is from memory (so PLEASE test all your connections before listening to me). I believe I hooked the red wire on the buzzer to the unswitched power supplied to the alarm. The black wire (ground) from the buzzer was attached to the green trigger wire on the motion sensor. I believe when motion is detected, this wire to connected to ground, thus the buzzer goes off.

Now I wanted to install cutoff switches, so I needed a good hidden location. I found one beneath the glove compartment. There is a piece of plastic that goes out from the firewall at a 90 degree angle, that’s what I used. It’s the piece of plastic that has the 2 or 3 plastic turn-screws to keep it on. In the center I was able to cut the holes for the switches themselves. I picked up a couple neat-looking blue auto-switches from a local electronics place and test-fitted them there. Make sure when the switches are in the plastic that there will be enough space to put the piece back on. Some of the tolerances were pretty tight. Now, cut the wire that supplies power to the motion sensor and connect one side to one terminal on one of the switches and the other side of the wire to one of the other terminals. Do the same thing for the cutoff for the “chirping” buzzer. OK, item #3 on my list is done.

OK, one last problem. When the car is running, so was the motion sensor. This has two side effects: the green light keeps going off indicating movement and the outside buzzer is also going off! While driving! This was unacceptable to me.

The solution was to use a relay, like is often used for fog lights and such. Make sure you get a real relay that has both an “87” and “87a” connector (the first one I bought said it had both, but really only had two “87” connections). Basically, you hook power up to the relay and based on whether power is applied to a third connector (or not), passes or does not pass power. The difference between “87” and “87a” is that they are the inverse of each other (one has power when the other doesn’t, and vice-versa).

I don’t remember the details (I’m a computer guy, not an EE), but it should be easy to understand based on the diagrams with the relay. Basically, hook ground an unswitch power directly to the relay. Then the terminal that determines whether power should run or not is hooked to the car’s “switched” power (the violet wire with a white stripe in the alarm harness). Then the terminal that has power with the terminal just mentioned does not have power should be feeding power to the motion sensor. Now, the motion sensor (and the outside buzzer) are only on when the car is switched off!

That’s it!

If you have any questions, you can email me at

Inner Cover/Top Liner

Pros: Reduced road noise, Increased insulation, Folds away neatly without affecting the use of the boot cover
Cons: Slight loss of head room, Maintaining a “perfect” installation requires occasional adjustments
Cost: $329

I love owning a convertible, every chance I get to drop the top I take it. However there are times when the top must stay up because of rain, extreme heat, or extreme cold. There are pluses and minuses to everything, and it is during these “top up” times that the minuses of owning a convertible become evident. I always thought the Z3 top did a fairly good job, but my only previous experience with a convertible was a 1980 MGB. The Z3 top was clearly better than the old MG one, but then I saw a real convertible top. Some friends of mine had just taken delivery of a new 3 series convertible and invited me over to take a look at it. After seeing and experiencing the top on that convertible 3 series I noticed the key difference. That 328ic had an second inner layer to the convertible top. With two layers instead of one the 3 series top looked better, you couldn’t see the metal frame because it was hidden between the two layers. The extra layer also appeared to cut down on wind and road noise as well as provided more insulation.

The top on the 3 series was clearly better than the top on the Z3, so the hunt began for an aftermarket inner liner or an altogether improved convertible top. My efforts didn’t turn up anything, about the closest I got was at the 1998 Z3 homecoming. The producer of the Z3 top attended the event so I asked one of them what the chances were of getting a top for the Z3 similar to the top on the 3 series. They said they would look into it but seriously doubted that they would be creating such a top. Imagine my surprise when not more than a couple months later MG Racing posted a message on the Z3 message board about an aftermarket inner liner specifically made for the BMW Z3. The liner claimed easy installation, decreased road/wind noise and increased insulation all for $330.

After exchanging a few e-mails with MG Racing a gray colored liner was on its way to Dallas. Once it arrived I opened up the instructions and got my first real look at the product. The instructions were pretty straight forward, they described how the black plastic parts replaced the current ones on the Z3. They snapped on over the support ribs in the top and held the liner. The rest of the installation involved velcro straps that wrapped around the folding metal frame and held the top in place.

The material was thick and soft, it reminded me of a high dollar college sweat shirt. After that initial inspection I knew the product would cut down on road/wind noise as well as provide insulation, the only remaining questions were the installation and how it would handle the folding top. My primary concern was if the top could still fold down flat enough to use the boot cover.

Sold By:

MG Racing



The first part of the installation was to remove two of the existing black plastic sleeves from the convertible frame and replace them with the sleeves that were sewn into the inner liner. There is a glue like goop under the plastic sleeves that helps holds them in place, so its best to start on one end and slowly work the support off. When installing the replacement support I would rotate the sleeve slightly so that the stitching is slightly rotated forward instead of facing straight down (I’ll come back to this later when I talk about tweaking the installation). This part of the installation should be done with the top unlatched and slightly opened to reduce tension. It’s important to get the support centered, I just eyeballed it the first time and later had to go back and make adjustments.

The next part of the installation involves working with the various velcro straps to finish securing the inner liner to the frame. I would suggest opening the top up a little further while you work on the side straps. The instructions do their best to try and explain in words where each strap should go, but a little trial and error was needed for me to get it installed. Resist the urge to get each strap as tight as possible.

From this angle to can see how the liner is attached to the frame, at this point I had spent a lot of effort to get each strap tight. Later I realized how loosening up the straps let the top hang straighter and fold down with less tension. The one gap that you see I was never able to get rid of, but when sitting in the seat you don’t notice it. This is also the side of the top that has the additional frame pieces for the power top. I think the liner is really designed for the manual top because it doesn’t fit as well around the additional power top mechanism on the drivers side. It fits much better on the passenger side which doesn’t have any additional items related to the power top.

Once you get the velcro straps on the side secured there are a couple in the back. These were somewhat difficult to secure because of the close quarters back there and you really can’t see what you are doing. I found it easier to sit backwards in the seat and reach back into the opposite side area (ie when sitting in the drivers seat work on the passenger side and vis versa). Remember that tighter is not necessarily better when working with these straps.

The last step of the installation secured an elastic strap to the frame. There is a plastic pop-rivet like thing that comes with the top liner. It pops into an existing hole in the convertible frame. The elastic helps keep the liner tight in the corner and a piece of velcro on the strap holds the liner down.

Once the installation was complete I sat in the Z3 and gave it a visual inspection. I could see areas that seemed too loose or too tight, but basically it was there and looked pretty good. I like what it did to the interior, the gray material lightened up the interior and made it feel bigger. But I could tell that my installation needed some adjustments.

It was time for the real test, how would it handle lowering the power top. I was especially concerned about the tops ability to fold down enough so the boot cover could still be used. With the uncomfortable sound of velcro tearing/loosening the top went down, the installation really needed adjusting. However despite my obviously sloppy installation the inner liner folded away neatly and somehow folded just as tightly as it did before. The boot cover could be installed without any problems. When I raised the top back up most of the velcro straps that I had spent so much time tightening were now loose, it was time to tweak the installation.

Tweaking the Installation

The droop over my head needed tightening because it would occasionally touch my head. When I looked at the area over the passenger’s head there wasn’t a droop. I concluded that the plastic sleeve in this area must not properly centered. Once I centered it the droop was less on the drivers side but more so on the passenger side (the key is that after getting the snap on support centered the two sides were now equal). Once I had the two sides equal I found that rotating the plastic sleeve tightened up this area and got rid of both droops. You can’t actually rotate the sleeve because of the glue like goop stuff under the sleeve, so by rotate I actually mean remove the sleeve and reinstall with it slightly rotated forward.It was obvious my installation needed some adjustments, There were two things that were bothering me. The first was a droop in the liner right over my head, the second was the velcro sound when the top was lowered.

I then turned my attention to the velcro straps on the side, what I discovered is that tighter was not necessarily better. By loosing the straps the liner was able to hang straighter and it actually made the top material fit better against the frame. The now looser straps also allowed the liner more flexibility when it was being lowered and folded away. This cured the velcro tearing sound when the top was being lowered. The secret is to let the material hang naturally and then secure the velcro strap so the material continues to hang there. Don’t think of the straps as tie downs but rather rather as supports during the folding process.


I’m pleased with the end result, however if I had it to do over again I probably would have chosen a black liner. I like how the gray liner makes the cabin feel bigger and less confined. However the lighter color also shows every detail. This is why I’ve been so picky about the installation and felt the need for additional tweaking. That is because I can see every fold, crease, tuck and strap on the light gray liner. I’ve seen the exact same liner in black installed in a Z3 and you really can not see any of these details when it is black on black. I also wonder what my gray liner is going to look like after a season of top down driving, I suspect its going to need a good cleaning since it will probably be a brownish gray from all the dust.

This hasn’t really affected me, but it might affect some Z3 owners over 6 foot. Since the liner hangs on and below the frame, you lose a little head room. I adjusted my seat up just to see how annoying it would be if your head made contact with the liner. After only a few minutes my hair looked like Kramer’s hair on Seinfield (stood straight up).

The liner really does cut down on road and wind noise, even more than I expected it would. I think the softer fabric has also increase the acoustics inside the Z3, I have no way of proving this, but to me it appears that the stereo sounds better. I can’t really comment on its insulation capabilities at this time, I live in Dallas and even though its Thanksgiving weekend its still 70 degrees here. I’ll update this article again once the cold weather hits, however it would appear that this liner will make quite a difference. I guess the bottom line is that the liner is probably a wise investment for the winter months, especially for those who live in colder climates.

Chrome Ringed Shift Boot

Pros: Easy Installation, Perfect Fit, Great Look
Cons: Shift boot tie string
Cost: $95

With the introduction of the M roadster, BMW showed 1.9 and 2.8 Z3 owners how a chrome ringed shift boot would look in the Z3 interior. It gave the Z3 interior a more retro look, some liked the retro look, some did not. Those 1.9, 2.3 and 2.8 that liked the look were left longing for the same addition to their Z3.

Unfortunately the standard Z3 shift boot is different than the M roadster shift boot. A direct replacement using BMW parts was not possible unless the owner replaced the entire Z3 center console with the center console from the M roadster. To do this would cost over $500 plus several hours of labor, so for most this was not a viable alternative.

However an aftermarket replacement is now available from MG Racing that is a direct drop in replacement specifically designed for the 1.9, 2.3 and 2.8 Z3. To swap the stock shift boot with this chrome one all the Z3 owner has to do is pull off the shift knob, loosen the shift boot (its just clipped down) and remove it.

The replacement drops snuggly right into its place and secures tightly with a set-screw. The fit was very precise and the entire installation took less than 5 minutes. The new shift boot has a draw-string tie that is used to tighten the leather just below the shift knob.

In many ways this aftermarket replacement is ever better than the M roadster chrome shift boot. This one is real metal rather than plastic. The screws around the chrome ring are cosmetic so they can be replaced with any screw design the owner would like. It comes with silver colored screws, but many might prefer black screws (to more closely match the M roadster).

The replacement will also work with the BMW wood dash, the fit is a little tighter but it will work.

Sold By:

MG Racing


Chrome Door Speaker Trim

Pros: Good Fit, Great Look
Cons: Cost
Cost: $99 pair

Looking for a little more chrome accents for the Z3 interior? How about chrome trim for the triangle shaped speakers in the door. This product is similar to the wood dash kits that many Z3 owners have used. The chrome trim is really just chromed plastic with the patented ultra-sticky 3M tape behind it. Installation is easy, just heat the plastic piece and tape up using a hair dryer. Once the plastic and 3M tape get really hot (almost too hot to touch) the plastic chrome piece becomes semi-flexible and the tape gets really sticky. Peel off the protective liner off the back side of the tape, be very careful with alignment and just stick it on. I would recommend that you practice dry fitting the piece a couple times, because you don’t get two chances at this. I rushed my installation a little and didn’t get the driver’s side on as well as I would have liked too.

As a general rule, I usually don’t care for the stick on parts if you can see the edges of the product or the 3M tape under it. But the location of the trim piece is in a recessed area that enables the thin plastic piece to fit into the indentation and blend into the interior without looking “stuck on”. The end result is a very clean and neat look. Only real downside to this upgrade is the price, its pretty expensive for what you get, but then again it’s a custom made piece especially designed for the Z3. This same company makes additional chrome trim pieces for the Z3 interior, this is one of the more expensive pieces but the quality and accuracy of the fit is very high. Check out their website for their fill line of chrome trim pieces for the Z3 interior.

I’m very pleased with the look, it’s just enough chrome to catch your eye and glimmer in the sunlight without being overly dramatic. Since most the the area around the chrome is black the majority of the reflection is black. Problem is, the additional chrome looks so good that it leaves me looking around the interior for other places where similar chrome trim could be added…. I think the radio is my next target, a chrome trim ring around it would look really good as well.

One other note: a couple weeks after installing these I had a tweeter go bad on me (the speaker behind the now chrome trimmed grill). I was worried that I would not be able to remove the grill because of the sticky 3M tape. However the chrome trim fit so well that it did not get in the way at all. I was able to remove the speaker grill with the chrome ring on it without any additional effort.

Sold By:

MG Racing


I Can See Clearly Now, Too!

Let me state for the record that I DO enjoy the fact I have a folding rear window like the classic roadsters of days gone by. The day I start whining about wanting a defrosted glass rear window, seating for four, and more storage space — please sentence me into a LeBaron for 30 days. Even so, after reading Robert’s eye-opening article on Meguiar’s plastic window product, I figured I should recommission the one I bought months ago and shelved away.

I’ve never really done too much to clean mine since delivery back in September ’96. Upon recommendation from the dealer, I remember once trying Pledge spray on it. That didn’t work well. It just resulted in me having to exert lots of work getting rid of oily residue off the surface. I HAVE taken care of the window by using the supplied Rear Window Blanket #82-11-1-469-778, but two years will build a hazing no matter what precautions are taken. This hazing or fogging is caused by microscratches on the surface. The bad practice of using a glass cleaner might rid the surface of dirt and waterspots, but thanks to FredK’s excellent explanation, you’ll know better to stay away from it…besides, it doesn’t remove the microscratches.

Robert used the heavy-duty regimen of Meguiar’s #17 Cleaner followed by Meguiar’s #10 Polish. I used a slightly different product, Meguiar’s #18 Cleaner/Polish. I suspect most who’ve cared for their rear window as I have will only need to use this all-in-one product. The steps are quite simple — spray on, wipe with cloth, and use a drier side to buff clean.

I elected to use smooth cotton polishing cloths. They were the consistency of a thick cotton t-shirt (which would probably work just as well). One cloth was used to spread the sprayed liquid, another cloth was used to polish dry the area. I worked in small sections at a time and only used straight back and forth motions… not circular! Both inside and outside of the window was cleaned this way. The passenger’s half was done first to show how dramatic the difference was.

Use newspaper or a beach towel to line the rear console plastic as errant spray droplets will be bothersome to buff clean. Once you’re finished, the plastic window will look just as clear as the day it rolled off the assembly line! The bottle was hardly used and I suspect the window will only require no more than three cleanings a year.

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Footwell Lights

Pros: Better Visibility, Neat Fade In/Fade Out
Cons: Requires cutting interior, Warranty

The picture at the end of this article is of a typical BMW M roadster interior, except in this M roadster a set of footwell lights has been installed. The picture to the left shows a close up of the footwell lights installed flush in cut-out sections from the underside of the dash. The lights fade in and out just like the overhead light. There is one light in the passenger side footwell and another light in the drivers side footwell. They make a nice addition to the interior, the inside of the car lights up and makes it very easy to see anything down on the floor.

I don’t have the specific part numbers for the lights, but I know they are BMW parts. I believe they are lights from a 5 series but I can not confirm that. At one time a kit was being sold online but the person that was selling it stopped so a certain amount of information on how to do this was lost. The instructions below are from that now extinct kit, hopefully it is enough for you to figure it out yourself.

Foot Lights

These are instructions ONLY.

Installation is at your own risk.

This is in no way related to BMW

Remove lower dash panel. Remove clips (1) from panel by turning 90 degrees with screwdriver. Do this to driver and passenger side. These panels are where you will install the footlights

Next open glove box and remove screw caps with small screwdriver or pick. Remove screws where (1) pointing to.

Remove glove box by taking screws out located by (1). Lower right side of glove box first. This part is a little tricky but work glove box around center console. Watch out for the metal clips. They will scratch the center console.

Next you should see something like this. On connector (1) it is black. There should be a brown wire with a black stripe in pin FOUR. This is the wire that you will splice in to for power. Use the blue crimp connector and splice the yellow wire to the BROWN/BLACK WIRE.

Here is a photo after this splice was done.

(Editors Note: Remember these instructions were part of a kit, obviously the yellow wire and blue crimp device were part of that kit).

Next run the wire over the drivers side.

(Editors Note: This wire will be used to power the light on the drivers side).

Next remove the passenger speaker cover. Turn the screw head 90 degrees (Black arrow). Pull speaker cover towards you like the White arrows shown. You will see a body ground behind cover. This is where you install the ground wire.

(Editors Note: Here is a photo of the ground wire referred to in the previous step).

You will need to cut 2 ¾” by 1 ¼” holes in the lower dash panel for the footlights.

(Editors Note: Refer to the very first image in this article for a photo of the lights installed in these cutouts.)

Missing from the instructions is the step of actually hooking the wires to the lights, but you get the idea. The key here is the identification of the wire that should be used as the source. I would also like to add one final word of caution, notice in the very last picture in the instruction that the lights used in the kit had a thin metal heat shield like thing behind them. The shield is important because once you put all this back up under your dash you don’t want to harm any wires that may come in contact with the back side of the light. Now these lights typically are not going to on for any extended period of time but I would still recommend being a little extra picky about what lights you use.