Valentine-1 Installation

In search for a power source to wire up my V-1, I found the article “Finding power in your center console” by Vince Parsons. Sure enough, I found the connector he describes, and started thinking how to run the wire and stuff. Then I realized that the connector that’s part of the wiring kit that comes with V-1 is the exact size of the tabs next to the ASC button on the console in my ’97 1.9 Z3. I tried it, and it fits perfectly! I used some glue to stick it from the inside.

Initially I was thinking of hiding the wire of the V-1, but then I realized that, since I keep my V-1 on the dashboard in the center of my windshield, in case I get stopped by police it would be inconvinient for me to disconnect the wire from the side of the radar detector. With my setup, all I need to do is unplug the wire from the connector in the console, then grab the V-1 from the dash board (it sits there attached with velcro) and throw it under the seat. And more importantly, the connector is very neatly mounted in the center console.

Cell Phone and Radar Detector Power, Another Way

I was getting tired of plugging my cell phone charger into my cigar lighter, so I decided to permanently wire it into my car. I was thinking that I would use power from one of the various unused connectors or perhaps from the radio. But then I came across Vince’s article and it gave me the idea that I could use the BMW cell-phone connector.

What’s more important to note here is that I could use this connector for more than just a cell phone. I could use it for anything I wanted. Vince’s article details a way that you can order the connector and pins for the cell phone connector. In addition, both switched and unswitched power are available, and they are both regulated by individual fuses in the fuse box, so you can play around without the danger of seriously hurting the car. But best of all using this connector means no permanent wiring changes to the car. I would not have to cut a single wire that was part of the car, which sounded pretty good to me!

First thing I did was prepare the charger. I opened it up, and replaced the metal contacts on the circuit board that ran to the tip and the sides of the cigar lighter with wires about 1 foot long. Then I closed the charger back up, running those wires out the hole in the tip of the charger.

Next I prepared the radar detector by cutting the cord right before the cigar lighter plug. I placed the radar detector where it was supposed to be on the windshield, then ran the wire along the inside of the window and down the seam of the door, and under the steering column. From there, if you lift the cover on the shifter and the handbrake, you should be able to fish the wires through to where the cell phone connector is. NOTE: Those that are truly anal-retentive will probably want to run the wire INSIDE the plastic pieces along the inside of the windshield. Other articles here can tell you how to remove it.

I then found the cell phone connector as detailed in Vince’s article. I took the wires from the charger and the radar detector and started soldering the pins on them. One wire from the radar detector (the positive lead) goes to a pin. One wire from the charger goes to a pin (once again, the positive lead). The remaining wires (which should both be ground [negative lead]) should go together into one pin.

Now put the charger inside the center console, with the piece that connects to the cell phone (and the coiled cord with it) coming out from under the bottom of the console on the passenger side behind the seats. I used a piece of Velcro (the non-fuzzy side) to hold the cell phone connector against the back wall.

Time to start the final piece. Put the pin for the radar detector into the hole in the connector for switched power, and put the pin for the cell phone charger into the unswitched power hole. Put the shared pin into the hole for the ground connection. Plug the connector into the cell phone connector in the car and you’re ready to go!

NOTE: I also replaced the fuses in the fuse box that related to the cell phone power with 5 amp fuses (smaller than the standard fuses). This just gives me an extra degree of protection that I like. I would have used smaller fuses (like 1 or 2 amps), but I couldn’t find any in that form-factor that had such a small rating.

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)

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 www.autotoys.com. 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 caslis@netcom.com

Direct V1 Power in the 2.8

I wanted a switched direct power source for my V1. I tried to follow the directions for the M Roadster and discovered the 2.8 is wired a little differently. The MZ3 directions called for pulling the lower portion of the dash on the drivers side which I did. This was no easy task and I recommend that you avoid it if at all possible.

After my first failed attempt, I decided to go after the Cell Phone power since I have no plans for installing a phone in the car. I also wanted to try and take the power cord through the passenger side since it seemed like it would be easier.

I followed some of Vince Parsons Directions for locating the cell phone wiring harness by raising the shifter boot cover. It is only held by 2 clips on each side and can be open by pressing on the sides. Wait, what’s this? There is this big piece of foam that wasn’t in Vince’s pictures. No problem, just lift it up to gain access to the inside of the console.

Well I searched and there was no wiring harness to be found. Just the wires for the window switches and hazard lights switch. Went back to Vince’s directions and he mentions that it might be under the carpet beneath the parking brake handle. I found it! Wait, how do get it out of there? I’ll be damned if I know. It’s wedged in there and didn’t want to come out. I didn’t want to remove the entire console so I gave up on trying to get it out.

While peeking in through the OBD door on the passenger side of the console, I had seen an unused wiring harness. I decided that this was going to be my new target power source. Fishing this thing out was not easy because it was wrapped around other bundles of wire but with a little work I had it exposed. I didn’t have much room to work with so I went after the other unused harnesses I saw in there. I found three additional harnesses. I tested for a switched power source and found that the green with white stripe was what I was looking for.

I grabbed the wire tap that came with the V1 and attached it to the wire. I then removed the black plastic panel below and behind the glovebox. It is attached with plastic clips that are removed with the half turn of a flat head screw driver. There is a single one of these plastic clips holding the kick panel covering the speaker at the passengers feet. This provided plenty of room to run the V1 Direct Wire Power Adapter wires. I velcroed the Direct Wire Power Adapter to the top edge of the carpet and used the grounding point next to the speaker.

Next I ran the V1 power wire from the V1 Unit to the Direct Wire Power Adapter. Alan Riley instructed me in the technique of removing the trim along the top and right pillar of the windshield. First remove the pillar piece which just pops off. Then remove the visors. This requires a Star Tool which I just happen to have. Next you must remove the clear plastic cover from the dome light which pops out. Then pop out the light assemble and behind there you will find one more screw to be removed.

Then you can pull down the side that you are working on. In fig. 9 you can see how I wrapped the wire around the dome light wires to keep it from falling out. I then ran the wire down the windshield pillar, beside the dash and door frame where I pushed it behind the insulation and along the bottom of the dash to the Direct Wire Power Adapter.

At this point, hookup the V1 and verify that it works as expected. Now is the time to find out that it doesn’t work. Mine did. Once you have proven that it works, it’s time to reassemble your car. First secure all the loose and excess wires and check one more time to see if it’s still working. Reverse the steps to put all the trim pieces back in their rightful places. When your done you’ll have a direct wired V1 radar detector.

Let’s see John Law try to mess with you now.

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.

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!