It’s VANOS Time; And Yes, You can Do this on an M3!

It’s funny really.  Sometimes you see a minor problem and hope that it goes away.  On a few occasions however it will linger like a bad smell. This was certainly the case for my VANOS!  It started during autumn during an oil change. Not a kiss as Hot Chocolate put it.  There I was checking away the car’s diagnostic system using the much-fabled INPA system. All was well until I checked the engine’s codes.  Two codes came back.

P0012 (BMW 72, 0x48): Vanos intake timing over retarded
Pxxxx (BMW 184, 0xB8): Vanos intake position control

Crumbs, crap! This is not a set of codes that I wanted.  After doing some research it did seem that something as simple as an iffy connection to the VANOS solenoid pack could do this!  With that in mind, I cleaned out the connection, refitted it, cleared and codes and waited to see what would happen.  To my relief, the codes did not come back after running the car. Not then anyway.

However, come a week before I put the car away again for the winter period I was greeted with a very flat feeling engine!  Sure, it was not dead slow but it was felt very flat for an M3!  On top of that I also had an EML light make an appearance!  Once again, I got my diagnostic kit out, INPA for those wondering.  If you have a BMW this software is well worth the purchase price!

Like before, the codes came back.  Also like before, I tried to clear the codes!  This time however, code 182 refused to go.  Great!

After doing some research it became apparent that these codes are common codes to get on an E46 M3, even from many years ago!  It pointed to my VANOS seals and my solenoid pack going.  With that in mind I ordered a set of Beisan Systems Viton VANOS solenoid seals in addition to their refurbished solenoid pack, all of it coming from Hack Engineering.  With those things ordered it was time to crack on with the job with the help of a trusty teaboy.  OK, I lied, I meant a friend.

How easy is it to change these seals?  Very!  With the Beisan Systems guide, this job is a doddle.  The instructions for changing the components can be found here.  But I’ll take you through it, just in case you are having your doubts,

Once I took off the all too familiar engine dressing parts with nothing more than a screwdriver and a pair of pliers.  With that done I took the opportunity to loosen the VANOS pressure regulator. I then carefully removed the solenoid connection and undid the VANOS solenoid bolts.  With rags underneath the solenoid to catch any lost oil, I put the valve block and solenoid assembly onto the bench.

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This is where the real work began!  I started by separating the solenoid pack from the valve body.  One thing the Beisan guide omits is that these solenoid bolts can get rusty; I’d purchase a set of these from BMW at the same time as getting the revised valve body bolts.  It will simply make life easier.

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While my friend cleaned out the valve block as best as he could with a can of highly pressurised carb clean in addition to a magnet (allowing the valves to open for further cleaning), I cracked on and removed the seals from the sealing plate.

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It was fair to say that my seals were shot!  You can buy a complete sealing plate from BMW for around £30. However, considering that the Beisan seals are cheaper and made of more heat resistant Viton I went ahead and installed the Viton items into place:

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With the valve body clean I attached the refurbished solenoid pack onto the now cleaned valve body.

 

With the Solenoid,Valve block and Sealing plate assembly all done it was time to put it back into place!  Not only did it brighten up the engine bay a little it also would end up cleaning the codes for good!  For £170 all in including the revised bolts from BMW it was a good result all in!  I didn’t change my VANOS filter as I previously did that almost a year ago.  I did however change the pressure regulator seals to the Viton items; the inner seal was already going square surprisingly!

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The CTEK was put onto the car since the poor car had been off the road for a month with all of the salt about on the roads!

Another job I got around to sorting was the appalling handbrake!  With the entire assembly stripped down I went ahead and cleaned everything!  Armed with some Ceramic grease I carefully applied it, reassembled the brakes and all was well again!

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I know what it sounds like! The car has broken again! I did however do some fun stuff!  But that can wait until the next installment.

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At Times like These: Travelling Yorkshire in an M3

 

Sometimes, just sometimes, you hope that a problem will go away. This was certainly the case after a routine diagnostic scan during Autumn! Thankfully, I cleared the codes and they didn’t come back when I checked a week later.

It is just as well as I decided to go on yet another little road trip! This time, somewhere a little closer to home. That is the much coveted Buttertubs Pass in the Yorkshire Dales, sitting between Hawes and Thwaite. It is also a road revered by Jeremy Clarkson, which may be why some of you have heard of it. For many years I had been meaning to try this road, right from the moment I read about it and then saw it on the big screen! If my balls were bigger over a decade ago I would have taken a previous car that I enjoyed & owned. The cult classic, the one and only Peugeot 306 GTi-6:

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What do you do with a great car?  Sell it?  That was the story with my 306 GTi-6!

So I had a great car back in 2008. What stopped me from progressing beyond the drawing board? Fear. In that case, it was the fear that the car would have a lift-off oversteer moment and send me down the valley to my untimely death! The cost and being in the midst of a recession probably didn’t help either!  In hindsight, it was a silly reason, but probably wise, given my lack of talent and then a little lack of restraint at times! But anyway, let’s go back to 2017!

After doing the necessary things like booking a hotel and coming up with a plan of what to do, I finally made my voyage up to the Yorkshire Dales. Before I even hit the Buttertub’s pass the scenery was quite stunning along with the roads! As was the drop in temperature from 7 degrees Celsius to a chilling -1!  Yes, the elevation was quite high as I got there!  The roads, and view, however, were more than worth it!

 

 

Like many I planned the route thoroughly, looking at Google Maps previously to see where the Buttertub’s Pass started from Hawes.  It was wonderful driving through the idyllic towns!  However, as always, I almost missed the turning for the very spot I wanted!  Climbing that elevation however soon had me on the road that I wanted.  What did I make of the road though?

Honestly? It’s a great road but maybe not for an M3 in the depths of winter with its tight twists and turns. The scenery is beyond stunning; you forget about the beauty present within the UK when you reside in the Midlands, and boy is there plenty to admire! It is fascinating driving down a very thin road but with nothing except a hosepipe to save you from slipping and falling down a 200-foot drop into a valley!  It is terrifying yet somehow exhilarating!  Do I get why the Buttertubs is revered by a few people?  Absolutely! Once I got there it wasn’t a case of ‘why did I do it’, it was more one of ‘why did I leave it this long?’. I am very glad that I took the 150-mile trip up North to give the famous pass in the Dales a drive and in a spectacular car to boot!

But as always, the Buttertubs was only part of my journey there.  Not far from the Buttertubs is an old relic, a treasure showing what man and achieve and how magnificent it can be.  It is also a stark reminder of what cost it comes at.  In this case, it wasn’t just a monetary cost, but also a human death toll.  I am talking about none other but the Ribblehead Viaduct in Ingleton.

I did spend a couple of hours admiring the structure it has to be said.  Soon however, it was getting dark and so I went to my humble abode in York to stay and get some much-needed rest  With the car put into Auto, and me making light work of the traffic I arrived in York being tired but relaxed; I guess I did travel half of the country, leaving from Warwickshire! But hang on a second, I hear you ask, York is miles away from the Dales!  You’d be quite right there!

The truth is I had a few things to see in Yorkshire, with it being a 3 hour trip up to the Dales from my place! One such thing I had put off for a long time also was the Yorkshire Railway Museum; Yes I do have a thing for Yorkshire it has to be said! Upon entering the train haven I was enjoying it but thinking it was a little small with a few trains up right at the entrance. Little did I know, this place would be the equivalent of a train collector’s tardis!

There were not just a few trains dotted around the place, but something of a secretive lair about the Railway Station!  As you in the main entrance hall with the always surprisingly massive trains you cannot help but just stand there in awe! Every walk through a doorway proved to be an expansive trip into yet another hidden part of the museum, including stumbling into a Coronation themed railway station! It is fair to say that I loved my trip to the Railway Museum; this is a destination I can recommend going to, especially considering that it is free! With York left to explore it really is somewhere you truly can make a great weekend of!  Did I drive away a pleased man?  Absolutely, especially considering that the main focus of my trip was the Buttertubs Pass, which mothballed into much more!

And what about the M3?  Like the trip to Spain, the old girl really proved itself in being competent, yet being a fun & comfortable accomplice for my trip up North! The trip proved something however.  As a great bloke I know once said, it’s not a case “If only you were closer”, it’s more a case of “If only I was there!”.  Here is to taking a more proactive approach to exploring more places, be it a trip to the North or outside of the country with whatever cars I have!

With Christmas done, how would the New Year treat me?  That can wait until the next update.

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Stagnation ; It ain’t Pretty!

Sophocles once said, “there is nothing more demoralising than money”.  He was almost right.  It was the lack of it!  This was certainly the case with the MGB!  It was 2006 and I had received the unfortunate news that my painter had died.  This was unfortunate for many people and it affected me personally as well as his friends and family!  Why does it seem to be the good guys that are taken?

This left me with a bit of a predicament regarding the car.  I had a car that was almost finished on the bodywork but still requiring alot of legwork to finish!  I mean, how bad could it be?

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The truth was quite bad!  One painter with a very variable reputation offered to take the car on, but they wanted £1000.  For my dad and I it was about our limit to commit to!  We then had recommended faces come over.  That was a predictable outcome; they all took one look at it and replied “it will cost you £2,000 and whatever else we find along the way”; they wanted an open chequebook for the car!  For both me and my dad this fee seemed extortionate!  There was no way that we could commit to that!

To put it bluntly, we had a car that seemed like a lepar to most painters and with the costs to match something perceived as untouchable!  With this in mind the car went under a tarpaulin for probably the best part of 6 months and the project stagnated completely.

 

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The thing under the Blue Tarp?  That’s the MG!  The Ka was one reason for the slowdown, but that can wait for another time, as Ted Mosby said

Of course, with something seeming as doomed for eternity procrastination kicks in, and boy did it kick it hard with the MG?  This is a theme that has run in many a retro owner’s blood, with me being no exception!

 

What did I do in that time?  Quite alot, just not anything really related to the MG.  OK, not directly?  Part of it involved me going to Spain with a few mates in a £260 Volvo, messing around on the said Volvo, and tinkering with my then new daily of a Focus 1.6, in particular its audio system!

 

If you need to console yourself with a procrastinator I am all ears!  Don’t, however, expect any productivity to come at the end of it!  It’s all good and well procrastinating with a black cloud over your project like a rash!  Of course, the uninitiated people of restoring would often laugh and joke about the lack of progress my car was making.  Were they helping me however?  Most didn’t, probably because deep down they knew I faced a big task.  That was to either give a half decent bodyshop an open chequebook to completing the Sebring conversion or for me to get off the sofa and actually crack on with the task.  Time would tell however.

Seeing as I was still in my first year of University and hardly rolling in cash I decided to embark upon embracing all aspects of the car!  For a first time restorer you really do pick things up thick and fast!  I did however have help!  Come Spring 2007 and progress was being made with the bodywork, much to the dismay of my neighbours!  The weekends were progressing nicely however:

It’s funny really!  Sometimes to make progress you do have to do it yourself!

By the time the summer of 2007 had arrived it was looking a more complete, albeit very brown!  It wasn the finish or brown that I envisaged either!  But when you are working to an impossible budget, compromises have to be made!

In this case, it was sticking to the car’s Russet Brown!  I originally planning to go with more of a modern chocolate brown as used on the R56 Minis.  However, yes, that little matter call a budget would me I’d stick to the brown!  Over the course of the summer of 2007 my painter friend and I kept on chipping over the available weekends it seemed we were doing alot but acheiving very little!  He was paid of course for a bit of the work he did!

 

In this time the engine still hadn’t been fired up since 2002, the battery was truly dead by now, where even Unipart’s lifetime warranty couldn’t save it; some of you will remember the Samson batteries warranty out there!  I also cut my teeth into the welding aspect of this car!  And sure enough with the crappy MIG gas canisters from Halfords, it wasn’t pretty! Ah. the joys of fixing a car on a shoestring!  Somehow, my perseverance did eventually pay off!

I finally had something that began to look like a car at least!  Being in a cash strapped situation after graduating from university in 2008 and looking around for jobs during a recession I had a bit of a brainwave!  Get a donor car!  That way, that will have all of the parts that I need to complete things!

And this would be it!

Yup, I got my hands on a very sorry looking, but complete MOT failure of a 1973 MGB GT during Christmas 2008!  Surely with all of its spare parts it would provide all of the pieces of the puzzle!  After all, it was £400 for an automotive wreck!  Well, yes it would, but simply not in a manner that anyone expected.