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Old 11-14-2016, 04:52 PM   #25
Vorshlag-Fair
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Project Update for November 12th, 2016: My last update got a little bloated so I wanted to break it up into two parts. This second half of the update shows what we did to the red '01 330Ci Coupe over the Summer of 2016, which was a lot of little things that added up to some big improvements in performance.

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Once again it went too long so I will cover the return of this car to NASA TTD competition (above) at the Fall 2016 NASA event at Texas World Speedway next time.

SUMMER MODS TO THE RED 330Ci

After the April 2016 NASA event we were super busy at the Vorshlag shop and our 330 build got kicked into the corner. It pained me to miss three NASA Texas weekends, including the May NOLA, June Hallett and another MSR-H event. Just too damned busy get to the required updates this car needed before we could race it again. I refused to risk another event and running at a max 5000 rpm because we had the stock engine balancer and no oil system upgrades.

COOLING SYSTEM UPGRADES - Modern BMWs are known for fragile cooling systems that have to be replaced every 50,000 miles, "or else". What can happen? Some plastic piece usually cracks, you spring a leak, and - if you are not paying attention - you run the car out of coolant, overheat the engine, warp the head, and ruin the engine. I've never done that, but we have run into several BMWs we have owned in the past that "sprung a leak". It was always on a car we neglected to follow the 50K mile cooling system replacement rule.

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Why do these parts only last 50K miles? Its the motor mounts. Yes, that's what we have determined after 15+ years of futzing with dozens of our own and hundreds of customers' Bimmers. The sloppy hydraulic OEM motor mounts and soft rubber trans mounts allow the engines in BMWs to move around a lot. When the hydraulic motor mounts fail (they break in half) the engine can move inches up and down.

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This excessive drivetrain movement PULLS on all of the coolant hoses, thermostat housing neck, radiator necks, power steering hoses, and more. All of those pesky items eventually strain and crack, and these leaks are worsened simply by BMWs insistence on using luxurious hydraulic drivetrain mounts. We've already replaced those nasty things with our own Nylon motor mounts (stiff) and red poly trans mounts (95A durometer) - which radically improved shift feel and throttle response, but ALSO helps saves all of your hoses and cooling system bits.

Am I saying BMW is imperfect? Yes I am. I love their cars, but some of the engineering choices baffle me. But that's why company's like mine exist - to make BMWs more track worthy, faster, and more robust.

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The radiator above is more typical of what we remove from E46 BMWs, and came out of a customer's 2001 330ci. This was a rare "Northern car" (we don't see many rust belt cars in Texas) with the typical salt road crust on every inch of that car. This radiator above was also bent from some sort of front end impact, and I suspect the original radiator in our red 330Ci was likely damaged at some point, but replaced recently because it was in fairly good shape. The unit above had a leak in the core (green evidence) and the plastic end tanks and necks also have a finite lifespan. I love replacing OEM style aluminum/plastic rads with all aluminum core/tank aftermarket units that have a larger core with no plastic to crack.

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Refreshing the cooling system on our red 330 included a lot of new parts replaced to prevent "old car problem" failures. There were minor leaks and rotted cooling system plastics throughout the engine bay. A BMW E46 uses plastic ends on the radiator hoses, plastic tanks on the radiator, plastic hardlines for the heater core coolant lines, and O-rings in all of these connections and sensor locations.

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Mishimoto Aluminum Radiator for the 19992006 BMW E46 323i / 325i / 328i / 330i. 40mm, 2-row core

At one point I had explored the idea of using BMW E36 water pump, thermostat housing and radiator, to remove the silly "quick connect" radiator hose ends that the E46 has but it was going to complicate parts selections and require a custom radiator, and we wanted to test the new E46 Mishimoto radiator made specifically for the E46 330.

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We started with this all aluminum radiator which is about twice the thickness of the factory plastic/aluminum OEM unit. The factory electric fan and shroud were attached to this Mishimoto unit, which is a bolt-in for the non-M E46 chassis. This red 330 we have was formerly hit in the front end, so its no surprise that many of the plastic bits under the hood are smashed. Enough of the old shroud was intact that it could be re-used.

Disclaimer: We sell this brand, and have used dozens of these same units in various BMW, Mustang, Mazda, and Subaru builds, including nearly all of our own shop owned cars. We have had good results and so have our customers, but like all "lower cost" radiator options there are some issues reported online. You can say that about just about any brand, though this brand does come with a lifetime warranty. Yes, I know where these are made, but the similarly priced alternatives come from the same part of the world. This brand's E46 model radiator was heavily re-worked and reintroduced recently as two new part numbers, one for the E46 M3 and another for E46 non-M 6-cylinder cars. We have used this exact unit in a customer's E46 330 and will report on the results from this unit in our TTD car, good news or bad.

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The wiring for the fan was all sorts of hacked, with both ends of the factory connector missing and the corner where it mounted on the shroud.... gone. Some fool had used 120V WIRE NUTS to connect the body wiring to the fan wiring on our car, and of course that cannot stay. This is large gauge wire and we needed to fix this right.

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Since we could not find these harness ends from BMW we pulled them from a salvaged E46 wiring harness we had removed from an over-the-top racecar build. Donnie wired in the scavenged BMW connector and it was back in business. You can also see that a new upper radiator support was installed above - the old one was bent from previous crash damage - but these are surprisingly affordable from the aftermarket (sub $90).

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All of the rest of the smashed and missing plastics surrounding the radiator were replaced with new bits from BMW. This included the main front shroud shown above,which routes air from the lower grill opening or the two upper grill openings. The side plastics which seal the radiator to the radiator support were all replaced as well (most were missing). These keep the air flowing through the radiator instead of around it.

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The water pump choice was simple - the Stewart pump costs 3-5 times more than the cheap OEM replacements, but its stainless steel impeller and better design make it the best option.

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When it comes to the thermostat housing the OEM piece is plastic, and you know how I feel about that. There are a dozen aftermarket OEM replacements and some of those are aluminum, so I picked up one of those. As it was being snugged up onto the block, still not even hand tight, the flange snapped right off. Cheap import branded junk bit me again! Even on seemingly simple pieces like a thermostat housing, the cheap brand can still bite you! After that we went with a name brand plastic piece, which worked great. We slipped in a Mishimoto thermostat, too.

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We tried some silicon radiator hoses but they had some fitment issues that we're still working with the manufacturer on. But whatever you do, replace the old plastic and rubber hoses.

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We also replaced both of the heater hose hard lines that run under the intake manifold and go from the block to the firewall (see diagram above). Why? Well we have learned the hard way that these don't age well. Just because its a pain to remove the intake manifold to get to these, doesn't mean they should be ignored.

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People ignore these two plastic lines on the E46 but these should always be replaced when the car has over 100K miles (this one has 163K now!)

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And lucky for us we caught these before they failed. The old hard lines fell apart as they were unbolted from the flanges at the block - the double O-ringed ends were rotted and broke off in the block. They had to be dug out with a pick. This replacement definitely avoided a potential disaster on track. Remember that - the plastic E46 heater hard lines don't last more than 15 years.

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With the intake manifold out of the way for access to these plastic heater hoses Donnie noticed that the starter was only being held on with one bolt and that one was very loose. This is our first time to see this part of the engine on the red 330, but we've seen other signs of hack mechanic work in the past. New hardware installed and we will check more when we do the clutch and flywheel later this winter.

BALANCER UPGRADE - I try to learn from my past mistakes, and maybe you can learn from mine as well. Something that bit me on the blue 2001 330Ci we raced in 2009-11 relates to the stock M54 balancer.

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Frankly the stock balancers aren't great on most engines and given enough time they will fail. The rubber portion that helps the outer ring damp engine vibrations can slip with age, like the unit on our red 330 below. This can create vibrations that can help the oil pump drive nut vibrate loose and come off. Which is very, very bad.

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Some BMW racers have figured this out and will change the old units out for new OEM units ($400+) regularly. But that's still a questionable part and not a good long term upgrade.

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There is exactly one proper solution: the ATI balancer above. This unit is SFI rated, rebuildable, and sold exclusively by VAC. Its $900 + $100 more for the A/C pulley, which hurts. But you know what? A loss of oil pressure happened THREE TIMES on my former TTD E46, and I'm not making that same mistake again.

continued below
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