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Zen and the Art of e30 Maintenance

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    CDO--it's just like OCD, but in alphabetical order. THE WAY IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE! Alas, I suffer from this also.

    I could be wrong, but I think I saw your subframe reinforcements being welded on at my friend Ben's shop just a couple of weeks ago?


      Originally posted by Mossman
      I used to think you were a screwball and I scoffed at you.
      I’m a total screwball !

      Originally posted by Mossman
      I'd venture a guess that 10% of this much care has never been taken to rebuild a civic or cavalier or sentra. I heart my E30 too, so I get it.
      Great point. There’s no way I’d put this much effort into something without being passionate about it.

      Originally posted by BrewCity11
      Have you thought about ditching the clutch fan and shroud and replace with an electric in front of the rad? Would open up the bay even more.
      Sure, I have. This is my first heavy car work though – and keeping it in ‘stock-ish’ form helps my peace of mind as it comes together. Maybe down the road..

      Originally posted by BrewCity11
      Are you going to leave the bumper trim red?
      For now. I like how the red camouflages marker lights. It’s grown on me. I suppose that if it was street parked enough and received enough ‘bumper kisses’ – then I’d strip the red. meh

      Originally posted by everlast
      Good luck on your interview, but if you don't get a job right now, frankly, I look forward to more updates. I have no idea what level of employment you're looking at, but a BMW dealership would be *very* lucky to have you as a senior service adviser. Your attention to detail would match the level of service they are supposed to have, but don't.
      Ha – I’m really glad someone thought the extractor was funny.

      Interview was solid. We’ll see. Must have spent an hour cleaning hands and nails up. Jeez..

      Yeah – I’m in Gold Coast of Chicago and a BMW dealership is 3 blocks away. I did apply once – but it’s not like you can walk in there and say: “Hey, I’m rebuilding an e30 and people say I have amazing documentation on this car forum I’m on.” While I do have passion for the brand – my knowledge base is very e30-specific. My background is primarily admin assistance and customer service quality.

      Originally posted by Spiff325iS
      Not only is what you're doing GREAT, but it's the epitome of how things should be done. And you're creating an absolutely fantastic reference guide for people who just want to know more about their E30 and how it can be taken apart and put together.

      You should make a sweet PDF and Sticky that beast on R3V.
      Thank you so much. Providing inspiration and understanding to other enthusiasts is a big part of my efforts in this project.

      If I thought there was money in it – I would LOVE to continue working with my photos and gathered information to compose some sort of informative/entertaining/artistic document or book. God – that would be stellar.

      Originally posted by jackbenny
      Good luck on resolving the noise in the motor. I hope its something simple and easy to fix given the effort you put forth so far.
      ME TOO !

      Originally posted by TrentW
      I could be wrong, but I think I saw your subframe reinforcements being welded on at my friend Ben's shop just a couple of weeks ago?
      z31maniac sold me the unit about a year ago.

      And thanks again guys. The kind words mean a lot. I’m very flattered.

      More than six years ago (Fall of ’04), I backed this car into a garage. Not a single mile has been put on it since.
      I’ve enjoyed the journey of aging it backward – but I’m at a point now were I just want to drive the fucker SO FUCKING MUCH.

      So close now.. so close.. heading back out to shop..
      -----Zen and the Art of e30 Maintenance - / - Zen TOC - / - Zen Summary


        I was in sales at Perillo about 8 or 9 years ago. Thought I'd enjoy it since I was an enthusiast.

        Hated it.


          Yeah – my father actually worked many years as salesman, then mechanic, then service advisor in different dealerships. He always dealt with awful dealership politics, stress, and high turn over.

          Plus it’s one of those deals like cooking. Like I enjoy cooking and all – but if I did it for a living – I’m pretty sure I’d grow to hate it.
          -----Zen and the Art of e30 Maintenance - / - Zen TOC - / - Zen Summary


            Great job Simon. Your persistence and documentation are the benchmark for all project threads. I really strive to attain your attention to detail, but unfortunately $100 a month doesn't go very far.

            Favorite thread on r3v.

            Originally posted by StewStewIloveyouyou
            hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah f--- this community its like am making my life with you guys
            And am making my life with you guy too. ;)


              You're kind of detail to maintenance is inspiring. But I'm a bit afraid to what I would see with my engine. Get that thing of stands already!


                Before I go on – I’d like to point out a few things I’d learned.

                Brake rotors:
                If you recall, I had the rotors turned while the flywheel was getting resurfaced. This was done because of budget restraints. As the work continued, I felt like turned rotors were just shameful in terms of the ‘caliber’ which this rebuild was turning into. Furthermore, different sources will tell you that no BMW rotor should ever be turned. Rotors are replacement items only. That’s why, later on, new Brembo blanks were fitted all around.

                Pitting on head, timing case, and thermostat housing:
                My first reaction to all this was one of poor casting. My second reaction was one of use of the wrong ‘green’ coolant used by PO. What I later discovered was that electrolysis played the leading role in what I had encountered. And it made perfect sense. I had witnessed how electrolysis worked when using it to remove oxidation from brake caliper components. Over time, the sacrificial electrodes were eaten away by the process, and large pitting resulted. As always, it is a great relief to figure things out – and experience that ‘eureka!’ moment. Down the road, I’ll be adding a thick ground wire from head to chassis – in order to negate this from happening further.

                From where we last left off, I had put things back together in the engine bay.

                The open/empty cable connection on the throttle body had always taunted me – as if to indicate the car was missing an option that should be there. It was a big reason I went about adding cruise control in the first place. Installing the fresh cc cable, along with a new throttle cable allowed the taunting to cease. My finishing touch was to add extra cable grommets on the cables. In many pictures of engine bays (including mine), I’d notice a slight kink in the cable just as it left the cable bracket. So I sliced the extra grommets so they could be put on – and bent a stiff wire around them to hold them in place. The purpose was to soften tension on cable sleeves – and prevent that kink from developing. Time will tell if it works.

                Throughout my teenage years – I’d read countless Car Craft and Hot Rod magazines. I remember seeing a neat trick one could do with zip ties – and – at last, a place was found to perform it on.

                For the COP/ignition wires, I used the original blue routing clip, and placed it into an available hole in the battery tray area. After that, I drilled and tapped a hole in the COP plate, so I could get a mounting point there as well. Very pleased with how tidy it all turned out.

                Before putting lower dash back together, I tightened the collar nut on steering column. Mine had always been loose - and it took a remarkable number of turns to get it tight. Note to leave key in - and to not utilize steering lock when doing this.

                Continued work on the COP cover. This step involved gooping epoxy on desired areas to they could be shaped to become the 'clips' that held the cover in place.

                Was so happy to see the number of parts to install start coming to an end. Regarding the cat - I was really close to using the original yet - because it probably had life in it yet - but it did rattle a little when hit with a dead blow hammer. I was worried about the DEC cat having bad fit - but it fit just fine. If there was anything to note, it was the flange piece where it mated to the engine manifold - it was thick - like borderline too thick. But after cinching up the nuts - there was full grip on threads.

                Bentley manual included a recommendation to put anti-seize on all exhaust threads/fasteners - and after all the work I'd done - and seen what I'd seen - this struck me as a capital idea. I got on my creeper with a toothbrush and tube of anti-seize, and went to town on most every bolt and fastener I saw.

                Then the moment came where you sit in the driver’s seat, take several deep breaths, and turn the key..

                It was bad. Like real bad. Engine light on. Stumbling, rough idle. Loud-ass ‘clacking’ from valvetrain. Murphy’s law had trumped my OCD.

                Shut it down. More deep breaths. Get calm. Think things out.

                First thing’s first. Ran stomp test to determine what code was returned. I don’t have the code handy now – but it was the one indicating a fault with fuel injectors. Crap. I had just replaced them all with remanufactured ones from MotorMan. Typically, I refuse to believe a ‘new’ part is faulty – and that the fault was somehow mine. But what could it be? Manual indicated to check connections. For this, I was lucky enough to pull the upper intake away without a great deal of disconnection/disassembly.

                All connections to fuel injectors looked fine. So juuuuuust as I was setting the upper intake back on - I noted that I had left a broken/failed gasket on the intake manifold. It was a funny enough thing to make me laugh at the time. I guess I'd been pretty eager to get the engine back together.

                So basically, between the upper and lower intake manifolds - there was a new/complete gasket - and a partial/broken gasket. This caused a tremendous leak - which threw the code and resulted in terrible idle quality. The bummer about that gasket breaking in the first place, was that it had only a few hours run time on it. Oh well. Moving on..

                The valvetrain was still making a horrendous noise.

                To summarize:
                - Prior owner had intake sprocket one tooth off. Sprocket slots were set at extreme in order to 'compensate'.

                - Because - when in doubt - I put things back how I found them, it didn't register to me that chain was off. In the mean time, I thought lifters were causing the noise.

                For the sake of reference..
                m42 crank at TDC

                m42 cam sprocket arrows at TDC

                Following photos were taken during removal of camshafts - to get at - and examine lifters. For what it's worth, I do think that it helped to flush all the lifters with gasoline and compressed air - because there was a notable difference in 'lifter action' after having done so. Because lifters have just the one orifice - and because there are up to four little mini chambers within - they can/do tend to gum up and develop a 'sticky' action to them.

                When installing the lifters - I used a long/stiff wire to hold them to cam cradle as it was placed upon head - otherwise, they'd just fall out.

                If there was ever a time when the cam lock tool was absolutely necessary, it was during installation of camshafts.

                Last edited by Simon S; 10-02-2017, 08:48 AM.
                -----Zen and the Art of e30 Maintenance - / - Zen TOC - / - Zen Summary


                  The engine was – at last – fully sorted. I couldn't help it.. took it for a joy ride to a nearby carwash to clean all the garage dust which had gathered on it over the years. Used two bucket method.

                  I was on top of the world that day. First time I drove the car in over six years.

                  Photos taken in overcast daylight complete with obligatory slight-front-wheel-turn.

                  Yes.. could use an iS front chin lip, and definitely better wheels.

                  Noted seeing the car in sunlight caused me to feel differently about the color-matched bumper trim.. just don’t know about it so much now..

                  In any event, because brakes weren't seated yet, and because things were wet from the car wash, it was an easy matter to 'burp' the ABS at low speeds. On the way back from car wash, the brake fluid light went on - and I assumed it was fluid taken up from dry ABS system.

                  I opened a can of 'red' ATE fluid (it was mostly clear) to give system a bleeding - then promptly discovered a failed rear supply brake hard line - right as it passed the control arm lollipop.

                  This was crushing - but I pushed on after ordering a new line.

                  Work began on installation of a RaceSkids skid plate.

                  I used a scissors jack to press plate upward so mounting holes could be drilled.

                  Getting the splash guard to work with the skid plate took more time than expected. I am glad to have the extra protection - but it was indeed a pain to get the splash guard to fit with the plate.

                  If I could do it again, I wouldn't have drilled a middle hole. Doing so boogers up the middle splash guard mounting tab.

                  Here we can see where the front edge of the splash guard goes right over the middle of the plate mounting holes.

                  So after that, it was back out with the splash guard for clearancing - then back in - then back in with the plate - then figure out more clearance on guard is needed as it interferes with plate mounting bolts - so back off with plate - and back off with guard - and more clearancing..

                  Finally - back in with guard - and back on with plate..

                  While access is provided to oil drain plug - the plate does make oil changes "less fun."

                  Side views.

                  Area behind front valence - coated with cosmoline.

                  Fresh guard mounting hardware.

                  At long last, left and right wheel well guards mounted up.

                  Another "at last" moment with the COP cover. A little dremmeling and filing to shape mounting tabs.

                  Pretty cool. It snaps in and out with gentle pressure.

                  The brake line arrived from dealership with three soft bends in it.

                  Used a small plastic syringe to pull remaining fluid from brake canister. This was done so I could pull the canister and replace grommets below. Another ‘might as well’ type thing before addressing that brake line.

                  Due to a broken relationship, I had to move shop. Through a stroke of amazing luck, I found a single stall space near garage to move to.

                  Because of the move - the time came for me to let go of the stash of parts that were removed/replaced on this car. I took pictures before saying goodbye.

                  Last edited by Simon S; 10-02-2017, 12:03 PM.
                  -----Zen and the Art of e30 Maintenance - / - Zen TOC - / - Zen Summary


                    I’m going to go ahead and make a Thank You/Credit post..

                    The r3vlimited community
                    Without the tremendous knowledge base gathered here – there’s no way I’d have come close to completing some of things I’ve done. Furthermore, countless people (too many to list) here have offered help, answers, and guidance to my numerous questions over the years. Not to mention many of the great deals on parts I’ve acquired over time. I really wanted this thread to be my way of giving back – by taking pictures and providing explanations of things I’d only read about.. and by hopefully inspiring others to have the confidence to perform needed maintenance and desirable upgrades themselves – thereby giving them the satisfaction and state of ‘zen’ that can come from doing something right – and doing it yourself.

                    Levent of Guten Parts
                    Always an email away to help. Generous with time to help brethren enthusiasts. A big help in terms of finding – or hooking me up with the right person – when it came time to source an odd/obscure used part. Thank you Levent.

                    Steve of Blunttech
                    Before his business really took off, there were countless times when he was there to help with questions I had. Afterward – Blunttech became my one/only go-to for new OE parts. The service and prices were simply unbeatable. Not to mention the solid guidance that can only come from a true/experienced enthusiast. Thank you Steve.
                    -----Zen and the Art of e30 Maintenance - / - Zen TOC - / - Zen Summary


                      Need a part? PM me.

                      Get your Bass on. Luke's r3v Boxes are here:


                        wow. really hoping things pick up for you soon -- you do inspirational work. hang in there!



                          lock it. print it. safe deposit box it. it's bigger than its broadband limitations.

                          Late model granitesilber 325i convertible FS:


                            I could feel the elation of your finally driving the car while reading this. Six years. Don't know if I'd have that kind of patience.

                            I refinished a set of weaves myself and they came out great. Blasted, etching primer, Dupli-color silver wheel paint and Dupli-color wheel clear coat. See photo. Tedious and time-consuming, but I think we've seen that's not a problem for you. You're welcome to borrow my cheap blaster anytime.

                            Also, don't know what type of work you're looking for but send me a pm. I know some people.
                            Attached Files


                              Simon, Your workmanship is very dedicated and thorough. Very nice work, shows you had patience and determination. I like the fact you took your time, and did your build/restore very clean. Your car now has another life. Good job

                              The pics of the new part bundles and the old parts is EPIC
                              my build here --->


                                Thank you all for the kind words of support. Many times - it truly does get darkest before the morning light.. I'm ashamed and sorry to have gone emo there..

                                The Table of Contents Post has been updated to include recent updates.

                                Because there are more than 1200 photos* hotlinked over 25 individual posts – the Table of Contents post was created.
                                For some – visiting each post separately will yield better results on bringing pictures up.

                                Jesus Christ
                                > 1200 photos?
                                Jesus Christ
                                -----Zen and the Art of e30 Maintenance - / - Zen TOC - / - Zen Summary