November 2016 was when I really got started on solving the problems. Overheating was certainly the most significant. It’s a killer if not caught in time. In my experience, most BMW overheating is caused by pressure leaks.
The troubleshooting process was pretty easy. I drained the system and used a cheap pressure tester to play “find the leak”. In my case, the system only held 14psi. A healthy BMW should easily hold 25psi for several hours. I noted a little bit of coolant dripping from the center of the car. Can you guess what was leaking? Of course, the most inaccessible component..the heater core!
Anyhow, back to the project: I ordered many new parts, including a new heater core, expansion tank seals, gaskets, slightly cooler thermostat (80degC ) & matching fanstat (80/88degC). If you haven’t done this job yet, I’d strongly recommend a new plastic coolant manifold and o-ring. Don’t make the mistake of cheaping out like I did: buy the OEM part instead of the poorly-molded Uro version that never fits right. The OEM part is essential!
The job was routine. I drained the system (including the engine block drain), removed the engine-driven cooling fan & shroud, removed the radiator assembly. I pulled the larger hoses to check them for damage and installed the OEM coolant manifold & o-ring onto the block. Then R&R the radiator expansion tank to replace two vinyl seals, flush the radiator (a hose is fine). Reinstall!
Next, I turned to the heater core. I removed the supply hoses at the firewall (be sure to mark the hoses, bottom is the input IIRC). Then I squeezed under the steering wheel & pulled the kick panel to access the heater core area. Remove HVAC side cover, the heater pipes, and slide the heater core out. R&R the heater valve o-ring seals, clean out the HVAC box, re-install the heater valve assembly (loosely), slide the core back into the HVAC box, tighten everything up and re-install the supply hoses.
Finally, I pressure tested the system. This HF pressure tester (important tool!) verified that these repairs were a success. My short test drives indicate that the car finally runs at its designed temperature. What a relief – no more worrying about that gauge all the time! That victory, although oh-so-very sweet, was tempered by more significant problems. The engine started occasionally missing at speed and it progressively got worse. I had also been nursing along a marginal battery for years…I forgot to charge it for a month and it finally gave up the ghost. I knew it was dead when I pulled one of the cover off and saw that the electrolyte had frozen over! I parked it again, and let it sit until the weather chose to improve.
I got some more time to work out the kinks in February 2017. The occasional engine miss was getting worse but I tracked it down. I had pulled the coils and plugs to check them. To my surprise I found that cylinder #1 had a few drops of condensed water shorting out the plug. I dried it out & fired up the car. It didn’t seem to be coolant…and I have no idea how it got there but I suspect it’s fixed. I also repaired the jammed sunroof panel. One of the fastening screws had fallen out of the driver’s side rail. Took me longer to find the screw in the drainage gutter than to fix it. A drop of Permatex blue should sort that out. Now it works!
I’m also still looking for a windshield. I may attempt a repair on the cracked one I have in storage. The brakes are pretty marginal, so I’ll be checking into those damn warning lights as well. I’m also looking for some economical performance tires, if such a thing still exists in the 14″ world. WalMart has cheap Douglas 14″ tires for $37 each plus $12 in mounting fees. Feels a little expensive for economy car tires, but it’s on my radar. There is a little corrosion that must be addressed too. I’ll be trying out a little epoxy to repair those non-structural bits.
I also borrowed a new battery that I had purchased for the E24. The 6-er is heading into storage anyhow, I’ll use the E30 all winter long. The new battery is a really nice little addition to a really nice little car. I took a little time to clean up the rear fascia panel and attempt some rust repair. There was a surprising amount of corrosion back there, I’ve been methodically wiping it out with a selection of wire brushes in my Makita cordless, Permatex rust eater, a little POR-15 as primer and some Rustoleum Regal Red as a top coat.
Time for a few more updates (now that it’s fall 2017). The windshield has been replaced with a good used part; Permatex black RTV adhesive from a tube got a little messy but absolutely sealed the all the leaks. I cut the applicator nozzle as small as possible and ran beads around the inside and outside of the seal. One 3 oz. tube was more than enough. If you wait until the next day, you can push the cured RTV plug out of the nozzle and it’s ready to go again! I also experimented with the BlueStar resin windshield repair kit along with an icepick and a few drilled holes to repair two chips, it worked OK. It’s only a temporary fix for cracks, but it’s wonderful for chips and “bull’s-eyes”.
E36 rack is cleaned, lubed & reassembled and waiting for me to find some spacers. The car unfortunately failed our safety inspection. I’m off to look for some brake tubing. Has anyone ever used the cupro-nickel-iron stuff? Sometimes called CuNiFe?
Here’s what I ordered, from ‘The Stop Shop’: 25′ coil of 3/16″ (4.5mm) brake line tubing and a pack of ten 10x1mm bubble flare nuts. I already have a cheap-o flare tool, bought it at PepBoys way back in the day. I’d assume a tool like this one at Amazon could easily do the 4.5mm (3/16″) bubble flares that BMW requires. Don’t forget the tubing cutter…this one looks OK, although I wish it had a reamer. This little inline flaring tool looked interesting too, price is definitely right. Reviews to follow, once I get a little time to document the repair process.
I’ve also found more troubles. Passenger taillight is leaking, licence plate lights are rusted, sunroof needs re-adjusted, rear passenger window isn’t working, driver’s outer door handle doesn’t work, etc..
But wait, there’s more! It’s time to set the E30 up as a multipurpose suburban vehicle!