It’s fair to say the car hasn’t been the cheapest thing to run, where thoughts of selling up were dancing in the horizons of my mind. They often do when faced with expenditure. Why? I wished to change the big-end bearings.
But why? That is pretty simple really. The way I see it, two things can finish off an M3, well, make keeping the car unviable:
1) A boot floor cracked badly enough to warrant a new Rear Axle Carrier Panel (RACP); About £5k no matter where you go
2) The Rod Bearings; If these go and the crank is marked/scored there is a question mark over whether the crankshaft can be saved; They are tuftrided from the factory and it is said generally reground cranks aren’t as strong as original items. A shame as a new crank is over £2k from BMW, and even the S54 engines are £3k secondhand! That is before fitting!
Yes, head gaskets, VANOS & SMG pumps can go, but generally, the expense is much smaller and easier to spot without generally writing the car off. In those cases, cheaper and potentially longer lasting solutions have been found too in the case of the VANOS & SMG gubbins.
With that in mind I dropped the car off to Autobahn in Halesowen.
Given that Rob was known to colleagues of mine in addition to him racing E46 M3s I figured the car would be in safe hands.
All was going well! I dropped the car off on a Saturday, and then went to the Restoration show at the NEC. That was until Tuesday. I had a phonecall to say that one of my rod bearing bolts was being stubborn.
It was fair to say that I was slightly anxious at this point! But how would it all go? Would this really be a big stalling point?
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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!
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.
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:
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.
Is this the way to the Ribblehead Viaduct?
It is a stunning piece of architecture!
A reminder of what cost it came at, despite its usefuleness
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.
It was fair to say that I was lovely Valencia! Like a lot of Spain you find it hard to leave the great places ; the chilled atmosphere, great food and friendly people certainly do not help here! However, the next leg would leave me with a good reason to leave!
Leaving Valencia was like most other Spainish cities. Plenty of motorways with lots of heat. However, I never remember the speed limits changing quite so frequently as they did as I was experiencing on this trip! I guess its one way the Spanish could break up the monotony of motorway driving! Not that you really need it in an M3!
However I soon saw another reason to keep myself awake. That was to turn off the A7 onto the CV790 heading towards Costa Blanca, or rather, Benidorm. This road soon renewed our vigour from a driver’s perspective. I can’t say that my passenger shared my enthusiasm on some of the bends where I enjoyed myself! It was a little like the Italian job pilot scene, albeit without the snow and the Lamborghini! I was loving many of the tight bends I was contending with but also the changing camber of the corners, even if they did catch me out on a few occasions! It’s times like these that you learn more about driving as well as about your car behaves itself!
Before we knew it we had arrived into the outskirts of Benidorm, ready to have a good night’s sleep, a few beers as what most people do on a holiday, relax! That said I did bring along another passenger for the trip, in the form of a bird that I unintentionally hit!
At this point the M3 would prove it’s worth as a practical car once again! With my friend’s car being strictly a two seater it was the car of choice whenever we left the house. Not a bad way to travel in the Spanish sun you could say! Naturally we spent most of the time just chilling out rather than driving!
Before we knew it we would be well rested and travelling back to the UK. As always the M3 munched up the miles with ease as we cruised back doing a 2 night stop. This involved going through the Pyrenees and many single cross country roads as well as towns, which broke up the scenery nicely initially. It was also strange going through a tunnel where there was a 15 degrees temperature drop in comparison to outside!
It was fair to say that this trip have been epic! So right on so many levels, yet with a lot of trepidation! It was a shame to be back home, but in another, also quite a relief given the baggage an E46 M3 comes with. All in, the trip was superb and the car proved itself as a European tourer that can master many trades. Here is to the next road trip of many!
With me coming into Valencia things seemed different immediately. From travelling on the Spanish motorways with barely any traffic we suddenly saw many more cars around us! The cruise control would not be all that useful now! But at least I was in the right car for the job.
When it came to parking the car up however you could tell the car was hot. The temp gauge was stuck smack bang in the middle of the gauge and the viscous fan was fully locked up. Yup, it was warm alright. But at least the car could have a well deserved rest for a few days; it even had a companion in the form of a friend’s E89 Z4 30i sDrive. It’s just as well as I had heard on the grapevine that Valencia is not what you would call car friendly. But for once that didn’t matter.
The accommodation was spot on for the break. In the heart of the city with it only being a stone’s throw away from the main square it certainly felt like we were living the high life! Gorgeous buildings with a chilled atmosphere and variety? This is the place! Oh, and a bit of sunshine to go with it.
But I had to be honest. Valencia is no place for a car. With that in mind a friend suggested that we store our cars at Valencia Airport while we were there. After seeing the many webs of one way streets in Valencia this seemed like a good shout in hindsight.
But a lack of cars between us would not spoil the fun, oh no! After all, a lot of the a places to visit in Valencia were accessible by foot. However, they were even more accessible by bike! It’s almost like Valencia is built for bike travel ; it’s matrix of cycle lanes make it a breeze to go around on bike ; I could have been there all day! The UK could learn a thing or two here in the quest to harmonise and reduce traffic. Make no mistake, I love my cars, but I also hate traffic jams and waiting!
With that in mind we were just lapping up the scenery. However, the day would come that we would have to leave Valencia. This would not be without sampling part of the Formula 1 track first. After all, when in Rome, even if it was on bike!
The next leg of the trip would be interesting. Partly because it was very familiar territory to use. But also partly because we had a surprise in store as well.
It is fair to say that I was dreading the leg from Calais to Pamplona. It was a 10 hour drive with stops allowed for with almost 600 miles to cover in a day! All to be done in a car with a reputation for not being mega reliable, and high performance one at that getting on for 14 years old! You can imagine my relief that it made it down! Then again you always worry more when it is your own car.
It was then time to explore Pamplona, and what a city it is! Famed for the questionable bullfighting as well as Ernest Hemmingway residing there during the 1920s. Yup, there was plenty to see, but we decided to try something different first, something carcentric. But in Spain? How? This one was simple. We took a 40 minute trip out in the M3 from the great city of Pamplona to Circuito de Navarra.
Experiencing the atmosphere at a clubman level in Spain was very interesting. Interesting enough for me to say that it was fantastic. Sure, there were pit girls and the usual stuff at the bike event but there was more. There were loads of people present to watch the entry level series where the youth would prove their worth by their skill level, not necessarily by what the bikes could do. The bar was rammed with people ordering Jamon bocadillos. Beers, soft drinks and the odd coffee were being ordered too, all being sold at reasonable prices! There was no overpriced bar here, just loads of people having a great time and watching the racing their mates and loved ones.
It was strange how the entry level events were more fun to watch than the bigger Super 1000s. There were more chances being taken and more rawness present during the racing! If there is an event on here it is well worth the visit.
After this day however we decided to chill out in the city itself. The second day was mostly spent looking at Café Iruna, a lovely café that Ernest Hemingway used to frequent, as well as a bar in the same square, again another one of Hemingway’s haunts.
From then on thanks to some local Spanish company we ended spending quite a bit of the day indulging in many canas and quite a lot of tapas! From mussels to strangely fried eggs it was all lovely,
The day would come however that we would move onto our second destination, Valencia. In comparison to driving down to Pamplona this trip was quite a bit shorter! It was however as hot as Bordeaux the closer we got to Spain. At one point it did go hotter, 35 degrees centigrade to exact! The car’s viscous fan fully locked up on a number of occasions on the way down once the temperature went north 30.
However, Valencia does not have a reputation of being kind on traffic. I had heard from a few sources that Valencia could be a pain to drive in! How would we cope? By the looks of it some cars were forlorn already at Valencia Airport! Our fingers would be crossed.
From where I last was with the the old girl it was fair to say that it was busy redeeming itself. For the next 3 months it was nice where the car had been spend free for once. It was 3 months in come August when I would broke this rule. Why? I needed cupholders and an SMG relay. While the relay could be justified what about the former item? This was easy ; I was going to drive the M3 down to Spain for a bit of a trip.
Given their reputation these days for many things going wrong I was apprehensive about doing so. Thoughts about the head gasket, SMG pump, VANOS and bottom end issues all went through my head. I had taken £200 shitters previously across Europe so why worry so much about this trip? I guess when it is your pride and joy that has cost you a few quid to maintain this feeling is quite normal.
Since the car had a service during the oil cooler saga only months before I left I knew it would be a case of checking the car over. Before I knew it there was little else to do but fit the new cupholders. While there was a mixup with the colour of the cupholders being delivered to me Cotswold BMW to their credit bent over backwards to get me out of this jam.
The correct items in place. The colours actually OK despite the photos showing otherwise
I did not hesitate to fit the grey cupholders and to pack my tools and spares for the trip. Little did I know the time for me to leave the UK for Spain would creep up very quickly! But at least the car was a joy to drive down, with me having some great company in the form of a good friend for the trip. Leaving at 6pm on a Thursday night however would hamper how much progress we made in France that day, especially when the Eurotunnel had a delay on of an hour until we actually would get onto the boat. With that in mind we made ourselves comfortable and attempted to sleep on the train and while waiting for the train with limited success.
Once in France and the time now being past 12AM we decided to call it a night and stopped off just outside Calais to rest and hit the road the next day.
This day would be testing. We would be driving from Boulogne-Sur-Mer to Pamplona, Spain. In a day. Yup, it was not going to be a short hop. With that in mind we jumped into the car and hit the autoroute. The M3 did come into its own here
Despite it being 14 years old and with a few miles on the clock it literally cruised all of the way down through France. 4 hours felt more like 2 and even the weather was cheering up for us. This would all change when he hit Bordeaux at 4pm that day. Going through the hot traffic you could hear the car’s fan operating at maximum speed as the heat went up to 33 degrees centigrade. The car by this point had been running for 7 hours with us only stopping for lunch and fuel. Before 5PM with the car crawling around Bordeaux a few warning lights came on! It was running cool (albeit the oil temps going to over 100 degrees centigrade) and generally fine however. With this in mind I decided to stop off and let the car cool off for ½ an hour and let the traffic die down. Oh, and treat myself to an ice cream.
You have to love the French motorways. Quick and stress free driving!
The M3 certainly was a great companion in France
With that done it was then time to hit the road again with our next stop being Pamplona. After Bordeaux however this leg would drag on a little. However, we made it to Pamplona for 9:30 to meet up with our friend who had been there for quite some time. Not a bad time to get there really!
After having a beer and a small meal we all knew it was time to get to bed and to see what sights Pamplona had to offer. The truth is it was more than I was expecting!
Events. They can be funny old things. When you book the events 6 months prior to go and spend the remainder of the time preparing for them they seem so far away. Little do you know the event you have booked has crept up on you like a warm kitten and it’s your time to shine. Only then do things seem to slow down.
It was no different for me here. After previously being invited to one of Darren Langeveld’s superb Destination Nurburgring (DN) events a few of us decided to go along to one! Here we would see what makes his events so different to a Terroristsfah., I mean, Touristfahten (TF) event.
What was so different about about a DN event? Quite a lot. A lot of it is down to being briefed in a great and understandable way before hitting the track. As is less traffic and the emphasis of having good etiquette on track. Oh and free breakdown recovery should the worst happen, even if the expense of crashing is still present, albeit far less so. This was just as well as the meeting up for the driver’s briefing a day before had one word being said quite a bit. Rain.
For a few track days rain can make or break the event. In a 340BHP rear wheel drive car it did not sound like a great combination. But I did at least have experience of driving wet track days previously and refreshed my memory by looking at a few known YouTube video guides including Rent-RSR’s mistakes, and Dale Lomas’ driving the ‘ring in the wet with a RWD car; The only wet track day I had done was at Oulton Park. Didn’t someone say fail to prepare and prepare to fail?
With that in mind it was time to hit the 13.5 mile circuit. With it being dry for a part of the morning I went around relatively calmly, trying to get a feel for the car in the dry. I looked forward to seeing what it would do in the dry after a few laps. Before I knew it there was drizzle present. This would soon turn into a very wet track and have me being a little fearful of crashing!
Another perk to a DN event is getting tuition by following an instructor in their car in with walkie talkies to communicate with. At least I would be prepared for the conditions. With a few laps of tuition my fear of the track slowly began to ebb away with caution present. The chap gave me some great pointers and certainly helped me in getting to grips with the track. Every time I go to the Nurburgring I always learn more and more and notice more things about the track. This tuition certainly helped there! Enough for my lap timer in my glove box to claim that I did 10:29 BTG lap by following him. In Auto mode (D4) for the SMG owners wondering; Yup I admit I wasn’t taking chances. Quite a step up from my 12 minute laps when I was bothered to check the lap times after going out!
It was then time to see what a proper driver could do in the wet. Who? None other than Nigel Pinder with his superb Pinderwagon. While on the face of it this car may look like it has crashed through Halfords and the Demon Tweeks catalogue it is actually the result of 10 years blood, sweat, tears and cash culminating into one fantastic package:
With him taking me out for a lap it was a real experience. Here was a car with no driver aids and full wet track tyres I would not have been anywhere near as brave as him in the wet! Man this guy was quick in the wet! It seemed that we were overtaking everything! M3s? Not a problem. 991 GT3s? Eaten alive! This car was a seriously good contender! In the dry he puts down a mid 7:30 to around 7:50 depending on traffic. In the wet? 9:30. My rather slow time didn’t seem too terrible after than (I was more in the 12s for the rest of it!). But seeing how smooth he was in the car was an absolute joy! If you get an opportunity to have a ride out in the car you really should! It’s a testament to Nigel and his immense skills behind the wheel!
Driving the wet ‘ring (silence now folks!) was interesting. I was very glad that I had new Michelins all round with the suspension and gearbox improvements in place; the car felt at home! That said I was a lot more cautious and seemed like I used my indicator quite a bit to let others overtake! I even had the track all to myself on one lap as others started to go home!
By the end of the day I actually did begin to overtake a few others and was having a good time behind the wheel while not going idiotic! Although Darren did claim that I wasn’t trying hard enough! The cheek!
With the DN being held the same day as my birthday I decided to go and celebrate with a meal and a few beers in Adenau. With a hazy head it was time to go to sleep for the 5AM start the next day. The only thing? I wouldn’t be leaving at 5AM!
I woke up in my humble abode at 7am, two hours later than I should have, giving me 2 hours less to get to the Eurotunnel! It’s a good thing that Haus Sonja in Adenau provided a great night’s sleep and at a great price.
I had to be at the Eurotunnel by 12:25 the latest. A bit of a tall order when Google Maps tells you it will be a 5 hour trip!
With the car stuffed full of my gear it was time to set off:
But with a 1/3 tank of fuel in a tired state I was never going to make it to Calais on time! With than in mind I made a dash to the Aral. While meaning to pickup some 98 I ended up filling up with 102 RON! Whoops! I guess it is only money!
However, I took an executive decision to not stop. With a 2 litre bottle of water and a bag of Haribo sweet and sours I was set! This would be a bit of a test of man and machine!
Going through Germany wasn’t too bad at all! The roads while being very wet were clear. From doing a steady 75MPH on the motorways I soon easied my speed up. All I will say is that when I had the cruise control set it was set to less than 100MPH. Sure, the contraflows, traffic etc. slowed me down but they would anywhere in the world in busy areas! With me getting closer and closer to Brussels I could see the traffic building up and up! However, the car soldiered on relentlously, running surprisingly smoothly.
What did annoy me at times much to the amusement of the proper ‘box fans was the SMG’s auto shifting in auto mode. Say you were going up a hill on the motorway. I’d put my foot down and it would go to 5th when I wanted to stay in 6th. I initially found this annoying. Right until I put it back into manual and found my mistake ; the engine doesn’t really want to do much at 50MPH in 6th while climbing a hill on the Autobahn to overtake a few people. Yup, it was careless throttle action and user error in my sleep deprived state.
But when I got my head around that I found the car as a package an absolute joy to bring back to Blightly. I was eventually toggling in auto for the roadworks and reverting to manual elsewhere, a perfect combo and certainly a quick and relatively relaxing drive. Yes if I had a more careful foot I wouldn’t have needed to but I guess we as humans are flawed things.
The car was wonderful. It proved that as a complete package it did have elements of a GT car about it! And what a soundtrack to come back home in! By some miracle I managed to get back to the Eurotunnel in Calais for 11:55! Not bad for rush hour at all! I did not even feel tired! I did however need the toilet, badly!
Yup, the ‘ring and the return trip really had me bonding with the car more! It seemed that my hard graft on the car had been worth it! The rear end being planted gave me the ability to put my foot down as did the Michelin’s performance in the wet passing trucks where the spray thrown off them could have you barely seeing where you were going! Yup, maybe that expenditure was worth it after all. It wasn’t even that taxing on the fuel count!
How untaxing? If the trip computers are to be believed:
-The M3 did 28MPG ; it did drop on the laps but rose again ; it averaged 29MPG on the trp when I did the calculations on pen and paper! That includes it doing 15MPG on track ; it was wet remember.
-The Clio 220 Trophy EDC did 31.3MPG ; No I am not joking and that was with him doing a sedate 75 all the way back ; he left before me remember
-The Clio 172 Cup however unsurprisingly was ahead of the M3 but surprisingly ahead of the 220! 38MPG! Man I miss those figures for the power!
It seems then that after this trip the M3 certainly had earned its respect from we as well as proving itself very well! Damn, I guess I was getting a little smitten with the old girl!
I would have thought that my tales of living with an M3 would have put a few people off! Did it? If not it is my duty to keep rambling on about how the first year of ownership with an E46 M3 can be!
However I can report that after the Evo Triangle trip April was actually going surprisingly well! The car was behaving and drive the best it ever had done under my ownership! The tramlining had completely gone, the car thanks to the Michelin tyres actually gripped in wet conditions very well and it was a joy to drive on back roads as much as it was on long motorway trips. But with a trip planned to Germany in the Eiffel region it was not a time to sit on my laurels.
Sure, the car had the Rear Axle Carrier Panel (RACP) reinforced with uprated bushes and new tyres all round and a general clean bill of health. But what about things like spare brake pads, oil and other consumables? It would be wise to take them, especially given how the car would be pushed to its limits! It was time to get ordering!
The first thing I would order and fit would be a power steering hose. I had a hose made up by a known face in the industry with it being a very similar design to what BMW sell. Suffice to say it did the job well and allowed me to change the PAS fluid at the same time. Compared to the old hose the new item was a great improvement.
After extensive research and previous experience with brake pads I decided to go with the expensive but great Pagid RS29 fast road brake pads for the front. A Renault Clio 220 Trophy from Rent-A-Race-Car had these on when I went to the Nurburgring in October where they performed well! With the front pads sorted it was time to look to the rear brakes ; stock items were ordered from Euro Car Parts. The issue? They were from a 330i after looking up the part numbers more closely ; they would fit but the compound would be wrong. Had I known this earlier I would not have purchased these from ECP. However, with limited time I needed a backup if my rear brake pads died. As I learned previously at Silverstone the M3 if the DSC is left on can be very hard on the rear pads ; I managed to have them smoking there!). With a bottle of Super DOT 4 brake fluid thrown into the boot the car was ready on the parts side. Oh, and some Brexit number plates to make the car more Euro friendly when abroad:
Before this I had the alignment checked by BT Tyres in Rugby. Ross has treated me well in the past and I knew the car would be in good hands.
All that was left to do was to clean the car, check the levels and the pressures, pack some tools just in case and then sort out myself. OK, may there was more to sort than I realised! A friend of mine in a Clio 172 cup also prepared in a similar fashion, but a chap in a Clio 220 Trophy? He just sat back, and seemed to think that we were fretting for his own pleasure! Or so it seemed.
Then came the Monday morning. With no sleep at all and a 3am start we set out towards Folkstone. Much to my surprise the car went there without a hitch, despite me enjoying the derestricted Autobahns along the way! It was then time to sort out accommodation. My friends stayed at the superb Blaue Eke in Adenau found at this website while I was at a great appartment within Adenau called Haus Sonja ; it had plenty of facilities and was great value. While my car was fine, Dev’s would require some attention. This would only be changing the wheels over. While three of them were relatively simple one was a nightmare! Even a 2 foot breaker bar struggled to break the nuts off! But we got there! Mechanics. You have to love them. With the wheels now tightened up with a torque wrench at least they would no longer be such a chore to remove.
After a meal later on that night it would be time to hit the Green Hell. So, to put it another way, I am in a car with north of 300BHP, with a Marmite gearbox, and forecasted rain. How bad could it be?
It is fair to say that there were undercurrents of bad vibes in the last blog about my old M3. After all, it was beginning to falter and start to empty my wallet out, leaving me feeling more dejected about the car. The car did seem like it was trying to win me back however. With all of the repairs and servicing carried out it pulled a lot better than before and generally drove more like I expected an M3 to and not a large 330i. It also sounded superb with all of the noises that engine made really getting me excited.
The first way I decided to reward the car was to get the SMG CSL software update done. What this does is to change the SMG’s working to becoming similar to that of an M3 CSL. I was apprehensive about how bad this would be. After all, I didn’t find the SMG that bad at all and got to work or master its quirks. I even managed to heel and toe with the SMG as well; yes really! But many spoke about this modification being a gamer changer. After I bought the software I did not realised just by how much.
The gearbox now worked as it should have done from the factory, and really opened up another dimension to the car! Was I regretting not buying a manual? Not a chance! The ‘drivers’ could keep their ‘porridge stirrers’ as another friend put it! I really loved driving the car again and was gelling with it more.
Another treat I had in store for the car was to book it in with ETA Motorsport for the Rear Axle Carrier Panel (RACP) reinforcement to get around a problem area ; the boot floor or RACP from cracking too much. With some poly bushes ordered you would have thought the car would behave. If only it stayed like that.
Upon coming to top the screenwash up one day I noticed an oily damp patch on the undertray near the pulleys. I initially thought the power steering pipe was seeping. It was dirty after all. However, it was the oil cooler. Damn! At £300+ they were hardly cheap either! After the cooler saga I had with the Triumph Stag I was through taking chances on coolers. The cooler seemed to have become porous which is why it was not leaking too much.
That said the day came a few days later where I took it into ETA for Mike to work his magic. 2 days after dropping the car off the plates were fitted, the subframe bushes replaced and the car was ready. Wow this thing drove differently! It felt tauter than it ever had done. While the reinforcement may have helped I suspect the poly bushes aided things massively. If you guys own an E46 3-Series this is definitely an area I consider looking at, even if using stock bushes:
With me getting slightly soft towards the car I decided to change the front two tyres, something my MOT tester reluctantly passed ; I felt he was being harsh personally. So off I went to the great BT Tyres (www.rugbytyres.co.uk) where I picked up a set of newly released Michelin Pilot Sport 4 Ss at a great price and superb service from Ross as always. These tyres were very impressive from the moment I saw the first roundabout! They certainly get a massive thumbs up from me! The joy however would be short lived
Why? The oil cooler saga was far from over. Seeing that Mister Auto were selling an OE branded oil cooler I decided to take the risk and buy one from them. A week after placing the order I was greeted with a faulty oil cooler, complete with wayward fins but worst of all a large chip present in one of the cooler pipes. Attempting to source a replacement from Mister Auto seemed fruitless ; they were only interested in refunding me. As was attempting to get a new cooler sent over from them within a week with extra money offered for faster postage. It was strange how they managed to restock another oil cooler on eBay once I had returned my faulty item. Would I use them again? No chance. The lesson had been learned. But I had an iffy cooler and I needed another cooler fast with less than a week left until the weekend.
It looks like a spot….
But it was a true chip
Yup, it’s definitely a chip!
Why did I need the car that soon? I had organised a weekend months beforehand to take our cars to the famous Evo Triangle in North Wales. With that in mind I begrudgingly ordered an oil cooler from Rybrook BMW after begging them to give me some discount. Within the next day it arrived. Great! With the two coolers side by side things were looking to be on the up! Or so I thought.
Upon removing the old oil cooler I came across a problem ; the oil cooler connections had corroded onto the cooler along with the bolt joining the two together doing the same. This was not what I needed 2 days prior to travelling to the Evo triangle. After seeing the prices of poorly ended oil cooler pipes on Ebay I went once again to BMW to beg and borrow once more! Being at work with no possibility to get the time off I was left with the Friday night and Saturday morning to fit them. Pleased was not a mood I was in!
Instead of going down for a beer with the usual friends on the Friday I was on my driveway messing around with the oil cooler. It is fair to say that my language was colourful at that point in time. With the cooler put into place as well as me giving the car an oil and filter change while I was there it was time to fire the car up. Hallelujah! The car was now leak free for the first time ever! Suddenly it looked like I might be able to make the Evo triangle trip.
Of course, Saturday morning was spent doing the same thing as Friday night. Somehow, by 11am I had an assembled and running car again. My friend’s ambitious start time of 11am from Hopwood services was never going to happen. Despite the car now running better than ever and being leak free the atmosphere was very sour around me. After all, I had thrown £1800 at the car in the space of a few weeks with a lot of hassle around it! You can hire a quick car for less than that over a month with a warranty! While I was asked to clean it I really did not have the time or even the heart to do so. It had been needy, and far too much so. It was time the car to stop bleeding me dry and give me something back!
The bad mood did soon begin to ebb away however. The more miles that I piled onto the M3 the more I began to enjoy it again. After all, it was now a sorted car with it now driving better than it ever had done. With some good company, great weather and roads that looked like they had been crafted by God himself things were certainly looking up! The car even managed a respectable 31MPG over the trip! OK, that figure did drop around the roads in Wales but still!
But enough of that. It was time to enjoy what the M3 was built for ; enjoying the roads. With the SMG gearbox update, the subframe bushes and decent tyres this now felt like the M3 it should have been! The gearchanges were spot on (way better than a manual now), the chassis felt like it was part of the car and it felt like it wanted to be driven. Hard! It finally became the part time grand tourer and part time out and out backroad machine!
So, I changed the rear subframe bushes, reinforced the RACP and fitted new tyres. The former bits probably did not need to be done. But why was I doing this? Simple. I was heading to Germany in May.