Pedal box is out!

I was not looking forward to starting work on the car today, bad night sleep coupled with the fact I knew I would be spending the day in various positions of major discomfort kind of put me off even wanting to get started. None the less, once more unto the breach dear friends?

Started by getting back under the glove box area and having a close look at the linkage setup and just how the booster was held in place. The booster itself is bolted through a plate that is bolted to the unused steering column support. The plate is sandwiched up against the firewall and the threads pass through the firewall from the booster and the whole lot is sandwiched together with 4, 13mm nuts. With the booster unbolted, I suddenly realised there is a huge lack of space between the firewall and the inlet manifold, even with the intake removed and a bunch of stuff out of the way. It was going to be a tight fit to get the booster and master cylinder out as one unit.

Round peg into a square hole? Tight for space, trying to remove booster and master cylinder as one unit.

Round peg into a square hole? Tight for space, trying to remove booster and master cylinder as one unit.

I grabbed my vacuum bleeder and sucked as much brake fluid out of the reservoir as I could, then I took to removing the hard lines one at a time, again sucking as much fluid from them as I could with the bleeder. For reference, a non ABS, 4 wheel disc E30 seems to use 3 ports of the master cylinder, two for each of the front calipers and one line for the back which runs via a portioning valve. Should make life kind of easy when it comes time to do the hard lines again. Think ill remove the portioning valve and run a new hard line right to the fitting, then use a “T” piece to join the front lines to the master as the new masters only have single ports. With the booster free from the firewall, I turned my attention back to the linkage.

The way the linkage fits up is pretty simple, a bunch of pins and retaining clips hold everything together so it can turn and twist in various directions. Pry the clip up, spin it around and it will slide off the pin, then you can punch it out of the knuckle and disconnect different parts of the linkage. Pretty simple, just a little bit fiddly. On this side of the car there are two joints that allow the rod that connects both sides of the linkage to pivot on what is basically a hinge, depressing the rod on the back of the booster. You need to knock the pins out of both of these joints to allow you to remove the plate that holds everything together.

Pivot Points: Linkage totally disconnected (booster has actually been removed in this photo).

Pivot Points: Linkage totally disconnected (booster has actually been removed in this photo).

With the pins out I dropped the end off the booster and returned to the engine bay to see if I could manipulate the booster enough to clear the inlet manifold. This is actually pretty difficult, even after removing the C101 plug from the firewall to give a little more space. It might seem like it can’t be removed, but a combination rotating the booster, pulling forward, while tilting the back down for the push rod to clear the firewall seems to have done the trick. There was quite a bit of swearing and a whole lot of head scratching because there was no way in the world I was going to remove the inlet manifold to get this out. I was nearly about to remove the push rod from the booster (pro tip for next time maybe?) when I thought I would give it another try. *POP*, another one of those moments when the planets seem to align, the sun is in the correct orbit with jupiter and the moon is slowly rising from the east, all coinciding with removal of a stubborn piece of equipment.

Finally! Banished! Never to return again: Booster and master cylinder removed from firewall.

Finally! Banished! Never to return again: Booster and master cylinder removed from firewall.

With the booster and master cylinder removed, all that was left to do was unbolt the 2 remaining bolts that hold the bracket to the steering column support and yank the bracket out… It was at this point that I realised I hadn’t removed the pin off the rod that connects the other side of linkage (my advice above corrects this error in judgement), so now I had a big steel bracket flopping around a hinged joint that just wouldn’t slide out from the bracket no matter what position I moved it to. Sigh… this made the job so much harder because I couldn’t get a screw driver in to pry open the clip and pull out the pin, fingers to the rescue! a few curse words and a little blood later (those clips are sharp!), the pin was removed and out came the plate.

Plate removal. Now what to do with the big hole left behind?

Plate removal. Now what to do with the big hole left behind?

Next it was time to focus my attention back to the drivers side and the mess of wiring that was waiting. You know, I’m going to rant here because I’m sick of shoddy wiring causing problems in cars, especially cars I own or end up working on. Learning to solder is easy, especially doing simple wire joins like this, it is about as easy as it gets. Take some time and learn, you should have it down adequate enough to complete solid joints on wiring like this in about 3 mins. Twist both ends of wire to bunch the strands tight, then make a hook with each piece of wire. Take the two hooks, hook them together through the middle and twist the free ends around the wire back up towards the insulation. If you do it right, the wire starts to take on a braid pattern that is VERY difficult to pull apart. Next, turn on/set iron (make sure you are using a wide tip) wait till hot, then flow a little solder on the tip and place it under wire joint to be made. Grab your roll of solder, break off a piece about 3 inches long, then feed the solder into the top of the joint, NOT into the tip below. The trick is to have the wire you are joining heat up and the solder melts through the joint from the top. Too many people try to melt the solder on the tip and glob it on the wire. This usually doesn’t work and almost always creates dry solder joints. You can either tape your joints with electrical tape, or for a professional finish, use some heat shrink insulation. Just select a size about 2-3 times the diameter of the wire you are working with, then cut off enough to completely cover the soldered joint, leaving enough to shrink over the insulation. Slide it over one side before soldering and make sure to keep it well away from the joint as radiating heat will shrink the tube before you get a chance to slide it over. It shrinks easily from a heat source such as a lighter or a small butane torch. Seriously, google hook or J method, you’ll find a bunch of DIY’s showing you how to solder with this method. <End rant> Now, where was I? Ohh yeah, terrible wiring. First thing I did over this side was pop out the ECU and tie the cable back out of the way

Motronic "173" ECU. All the cool kids have one.

Motronic “173″ ECU. All the cool kids have one.

Incidentally, 320′s use the same ignition and fuel system as the 325i, the difference being a lower pressure fuel regulator, given the 320i doesn’t need as much fuel as the 325i. Awhile ago I converted to a MAF sensor from Miller Performance and upgraded my ECU to a later model “173″ unit from a 325i so I could take advantage of the chip Miller offer for 19lb injectors (this was all back when I was just going to run a 2.7L and drive this daily. How things change eh?). End result? the 320i purrs like a kitten, no problems at all running the 325i computer, including 19lb injectors. Back to my mess of wiring. The really old, wise man who taught me the basics of electronics showed me this method for anytime you have to cut a wire (say to neaten a spliced section, or to relocate or shorten a section, etc) that you have no idea what it’s purpose is. Simply tape each section of wire that is spliced together and label it with a number, then go about the rest of your job. Wires to be spliced together all share the same number, so use a different number on each of your cuts. When it comes time to solder wires back together, even if you don’t know what the wire does exactly (and you can’t be bothered to trace it back, haha), it’s simply a case of matching numbers, 1 with 1, 2 with 2, and 3…. well, 3 sounds like a great time ;)

Want to cut something you have no idea what it does? label it like this.

Want to cut something you have no idea what it does? label it like this.

With wires cut and loom tucked back out of the way, finally got a chance to have a closer look at the factory pedal box. Kind of complex, no doubt due in large part to the RHD linkage setup, but basically pedals running on a cam (bolt with a sleeve around it), a couple of return springs AND THE MOST STUPID THROTTLE PEDAL EVER KNOWN TO MAN! OK, I might have been a little rough, but really? talk about way over complicated. Instead of doing something similar to the brake pedal, BMW decided they wanted the throttle cable to enter from the OTHER side of the pedal box, nowhere near the throttle itself. So what did they do? pressed a piece of round bar into odd shapes, welded a plate to the bottom of the pedal box with a couple of stays attached, then thread this bent round bar through the stays and connected one end to the top of the pedal, and the other end to a cam, which the throttle cable clips into. On each of the stays is a rubber bush (or it was, 15 years ago!), or if like mine, a whole bunch of play with nothing holding the round bar in place but another one of those bitch clips on the other end of the shaft. No wonder I could tap dance a tune on my throttle pedal.

Wow, why not a small rose joint? You guys used a million of them in the brake linkage, why not here!

Wow, why not a small rose joint? You guys used a million of them in the brake linkage, why not here!

If you can tap out a routine to make the lord of the dance blush, chances are one or both of these rubber bushes is gone in your pedal. I’m of course assuming ALL E30′s are like this (though LHD cars might not be as retarded), given how simple BMW likes to make their chassis and how overcomplicated they like to make their components, I wouldn’t be surprised if they are all the same. One bush each side, along with the retaining clip on the left side to stop the shaft from sliding through the stay. Replace them, they are cheap and I can assure you, yours will not be supple rubber anymore.

This insanity out of the way, I wanted some more space to work on the pedal box as the mounting plate used on this side is quite large. This means I wanted to pull the AC hoses up out of the way, or remove them totally, but this isn’t the easiest of jobs to do with the heater box still in position, so I’ll settle for moving them out of the way for the time being. Pretty simple, if you haven’t used your AC in years, chances are you won’t have any gas left in it, so go right ahead and remove them. If you have gas in yours… you SHOULD call someone to come and evac it for you, they can reuse it when you refill, but…. Ahem.. Go into the engine bay and look for the bonnet guide on the right side.

AC lines behind bonnet guide.

AC lines behind bonnet guide.

AC hoses join behind here, small hose is a 15mm and 17mm, large one is a 24mm and something so large it requires a shifting (adjustable) spanner as I have nothing larger than 24mm in my kit (its 27mm FYI). Remove the guide to make it easier, I recommend marking the back side of the bracket where it mounts to the body and the top side of the washer on the bracket to help with realignment. Or you can just whip it off and put up with the noise it will make afterwards when you refit it, your choice.

Lines disconnected, it’s easy to just pull them through from inside the cabin, they are held in place by a rubber bung used to keep the water and dirt out, so they will usually pull the bung out of the firewall as they come through. No big deal you can slide it back over the fittings and place it back into the firewall, just use a little lubricant on the holes to help slide the AC lines back through when refitting. I suspect yours will be like mine (ie, original) and kind of perished, so id replace it while there if you can, just to keep the weather out and stop any chances of rust forming.

AC lines pulled through.

AC lines pulled through.

With the lines pulled through and my mess of wiring out of the way, I could finally start unbolting the 7 (roughly?) 13mm bolts that hold the pedal box to the firewall. A couple are hidden by the carpet, so if you find you can’t get it free after you think you pulled them all, double check to make sure you didn’t miss one hiding somewhere. Before you pull all the bolts out, I recommend you start by removing your brake (and/or clutch) pedal from the box now to make room later as the plate is rather large. They are only held in by one 17mm headed bolt that passes through the pedal and the plate, so they are pretty easy to remove now, rather than struggle later. With the pedals out and the remaining bolts removed, the plate could start to move around on the firewall, but before I could remove it I needed to do a couple last things. First up, the other end of the rod that forms the linkage between the sides is attached with another cam and pivot setup like the other side. That means driving out the pin just like we did on the passengers side, so hop to it now.

Other side of the linkage. Can see the rod I was talking about here, this is all that links one side to the other.

Other side of the linkage. Can see the rod I was talking about here, this is all that links one side to the other.

With the pin removed, take a 17mm spanner and loosen the lock nut on the shaft, then go back over to the left side of the car and unwind the rod, which will remove it from the linkage on the opposite side. Once it is removed, you’ll find you can’t actually pull the rod out from behind the heater box as it is way too long and far to stiff to make the bend back out the passenger door. What you do with it is up to you, I’m thinking of taking to it with a grinding wheel as it will no doubt create a rattle if left behind.

Wth the rod removed, use a pair of pliers or a wide flat blade screw driver and push the rubber bung out of the metal plate that attaches the throttle cable to the shaft, then follow the round bar across to the throttle pedal itself and pop the circlip off the end of the bar that passes through the top of the pedal. You need to do this before you try to remove the plate otherwise you are going to be trying to open your throttle when you try to pull the plate out. Now, if you removed the brake light switch plug before, there should be nothing left holding the plate in place and you can give the plate a stiff pull towards you. It should start to come free from the firewall, but maybe a little stuck as it uses a fibre gasket around the back side of the plate to seal.

Pedal box is finally free! Don't forget the throttle cable though.

Pedal box is finally free! Don’t forget the throttle cable though.

The plate should now be coming away from the firewall, take a pair of long nosed pliers and squeeze the sides of the clip that holds the throttle cable to the back of the pedal box. They have a couple of lugs on the side, so if you squeeze them in, you should be able to push the clip (and cable) back through the pedal box. With this done the pedal box should be free from the firewall and is simply a matter of moving it around to clear various parts under the dash area.

Pedal box and linkage removed.

Pedal box and linkage removed.

Finally, linkage has been removed from the car! What a task.

Dash Removal

Having a few days off over Christmas, decided it was time to tackle removing the dashboard in an effort to get started on installing the new pedal box. I’m not going to provide a step by step guide because such a thing already exists, and works really, really well. Check it out here if you plan on removing your dashboard at some stage, it is pretty comprehensive, even given the differences in RHD cars. Should be all you need if you follow the steps, took roughly 3hrs start to finish to pull mine out completely.

I started by pulling the steering wheel and removing the cluster from the dash. Forgot how damn frustrating this is, trying to twist the cluster forward while trying very hard NOT to break the little tabs that hold the cluster in place. After getting really annoyed in a VERY short period of time, *pop* slid forward easily and I could remove the plugs off the back and store the cluster out of the way. Funny how sometimes something just seems to line up perfectly and out it comes. To the right of the cluster is the headlight / fog light switch panel and its nasty little 10mm captive nut that hides on the right hand side with very little space. Your method of removal is up to you, but I can assure you, even with a ratchet spanner your body will be bent and twisted in positions not normally experienced this side of a freak show.

Cluster Removal.

Cluster Removal.

With the cluster removed, set to the task of removing the centre console. Confirming my suspicions, someone had already been at this before, screws were missing and I could see a whole bunch of messy wiring that wasn’t factory. I slipped the boot off the handbrake, removed the large 10mm plastic screw from below the rear ashtray, then out popped the rear part of the centre console. Had to kind of twist it as I was removing it to clear the much larger bolsters of the vaders, but I got it out without snapping anything. Once I had removed the ashtray and switches from the front section of the console, it was pretty evident that it was basically just sitting there, nothing much holding it in place other than the dash screw which screws in below the HVAC controls. Entire console removed, I could see lots of cable splices and taped wiring, not surprised at all. Quite usual to see this sort of poor wiring in cars, nobody seems to know how to solder, or at the very least use good crimp terminals. Twist and tape or poor snap lock quick crimp fittings seem to be the go. Quality work.

Consoles removed, wiring exposed. Sometimes I hate my life and those who have worked on vehicles previously.

Consoles removed, wiring exposed. Sometimes I hate my life and those who have worked on vehicles previously.

With the console free, started back on the passengers side to remove the glove box and associated crap from this side of the dash. With the glove box removed, I started by taking out the plastic inner trim pieces that surround the glove box area and extend into the centre console. Finally gave me a chance to look at the stupid (ok, it isn’t stupid, it is a work of engineering brilliance to get it to work on the other side of the dash) linkage bmw created.

The Infamous RHD brake pedal linkage.

The Infamous RHD brake pedal linkage.

With all the plastic out of the way, It was immediately evident the shells were fabricated identically for LHD and RHD markets, right down to the middle support for the steering column which is tucked up under the glove box on a RHD car. Looks like you could just mount which ever dash setup you wanted regardless of what shell came off the production line. Guess it’s good business to do things that way, cuts down on tooling, fabrication and production costs.

With the left hand side taken care of, headed back over to the drivers side to remove the ECU and mounting plate, along with have a bit of a look at the QUALITY alarm install I have always known was waiting for me (I could always see free wires hanging down under the trim piece). Unbolting the ECU and it’s cradle (bracket) from under the dash, I left the mess of wires and headed back to the centre of the dash, trying to pretend like the alarm was never installed. haha.

Nasty mess of wiring awaiting me. :(

Nasty mess of wiring awaiting me. :(

Pulled the head unit out of the dash then started popping the switches out above so I could get to the two little screws in the top. With those removed it only left one screw on the bottom left hand side below the temp dial, then the trim could be removed and everything disconnected. Popped the clock out, popped the trim off the HVAC controls and removed the screws so I could leave the controls sitting in the dash area, no way I wanted to mess around with cables, so they can stay right where they were intended, connected to the back of the box.

Controls removed and set aside, nearly ready to start pulling the actual dash out.

Controls removed and set aside, nearly ready to start pulling the actual dash out.

After messing around inside the dash to remove a bunch of cable ties, started trying to pull the dash out. Left hand side came out easy, but of course, the side around the steering column was a bastard. Couldn’t seem to push the dash down enough to get it unhooked from the A pillar. Much ranting and raving, and wishing for a spare pair of hands, got the left hand side and the middle unhooked and the right hand side started to come away. It was at this point that I totally forgot to tape the right hand side bracket that mounts the dash to the body, which of course is really sharp and promptly tore nice big holes in my pillar trim piece. :( I was now pretty pissed at myself and fed up with how awkward the dash is to balance, twist and remove, so I ended up just using a little muscle to yank it up and clear, taking out my wiper stalk in the process! Jesus, lots of crunching and grinding noises, ahh well, it was broken inside now, nothing I could do.

Evil overlord has finally been overthrown!

Evil overlord has finally been overthrown!

Finally got the dash out and free of the car. What a pain in the arse this is, must have been 5 years since I pulled an E30 dash and I am NOT eager to do it again.

As a side note, I purchased a new brake light switch because the previous owner told me that sometimes the light comes on in the check panel when braking, even though the lights continue to work. Well the check system for the brake lights basically works off an expected resistance value, so if something changes (like a bulb blown) it throws an error and on comes the light in the check panel and the warning light in the cluster starts flashing. It is very common for the switch to be the cause of this random issue, age obviously gets to the contacts and you get a random error creeping in even though the lights continue to work.

Are you kidding me? Seriously? twist and tape?

Are you kidding me? Seriously? twist and tape?

The switch is in a bastard of a position tucked away so I had never replaced it, thinking I’ll do it when I pull the dash. Well, with the dash pulled, looks like I found the reason for my random brake light error, had absolutely nothing to do with the switch and EVERYTHING to do with the terrible wiring job someone else had performed. Once again, kudos to you sir, Id like to meet you in person and knee you square in the nuts.

 

Vaders? Don’t Mind if I do.

I was browsing ebay like usual when I stumbled upon a local guy (about 20 mins away) selling a pair of M3 seats. The price was unusually low and had already been relisted, so I was quite surprised when I realised just what seats he was listing. A pair of good condition, E36 M3 manual vaders in grey alcantara with cloth inserts. The holy grail of vaders, and so much lighter than the electronic versions. Couldn’t believe the price at $300, so I mashed the buy now button and called him immediately to arrange pickup. Couldn’t believe my luck! what a steal. Turns out they had come in the car (a Holden Torana) when he purchased it and had no idea just what he was selling. He was happy getting the $300 for the pair, even after I told him what they were from and how rare they are, especially down here in Australia. All things considered it was an amazing deal and they look and feel great.

E36 M3 Manual "Vader" seats in grey alcantara.

E36 M3 Manual “Vader” seats in grey alcantara.

Front End Parts

One of the first things I set out to replace when I purchased this was the suspension and steering components. Placed an order with the great people at BMA Parts and inside a week later had a big box filled with goodies; front control arm ball joints, front wheel bearings/hubs, tie rod ends, rack ends, new boots, bushes (plus a few other things I needed like boot seal, throttle cable,e tc); it was like christmas had come way early. Can’t speak highly enough of BMA Parts, everything went smoothly (and has done on subsequent orders), prices were great and if I sent them a list of part numbers they didn’t list on their website, they would chase it up and give me an updated price.

BMA Parts box of goodies.

BMA Parts box of goodies. Ball joints, rack end, tie rods, boots, all good stuff to tighten up the front end.

BC Racing Coilovers

Another one for the parts previously ordered, and quite an ordeal it was! I had to change my order 3 separate times because they kept telling me there were reasons (different one each time) why I couldn’t get them in the rate I specified. First it was rates, then it was difference in spring height, then it was drop height, but finally, ordered a set of BC (BR) Gold coil overs with 6kg front and 8kg rear springs and had them delivered.

BC (BR) Gold Coil over kit. 6kg/8kg springs.

BC (BR) Gold coil over kit. 6kg/8kg springs.

Wheels

I had picked these up not long after I purchased the car and have been running them for the last 6 months or so. BBS reps in 17×8.5″ (bead to bead, so they are actually 9.5″ wide lip to lip) from Wheel Warehouse. Quality is actually pretty surprising too, fairly light and appear to be well made with an outstanding finish. Given it’s pretty much impossible to find a wide RS in a 17″ 4×100 pattern, and given how rare parts for them are to find down here, couldn’t justify blowing $3000-$4000 on a set of wheels just yet, so these are a great alternative.

BBS RS 17x8.5, ET20

BBS RS 17×8.5, ET20

Picked up a rebuilt T-56

Last day of work before the new year, was pretty excited because once work was finished, it was straight in the car for the 2hr drive to pickup a big piece of the puzzle. The gearbox. Short of going straight for a T-56 magnum, I’ve decided to take a chance on a Mal Wood rebuilt T-56 6 speed and see how well it handles the torque. I have to keep reminding myself these components were built with much heavier (see 1000lbs+!) cars in mind, so the drive train isn’t going to suffer quite as much shock/load as the commodore it was originally intended for. The T-56 is already a fairly stout gearbox, but having it rebuilt and everything replaced and upgraded that is usually a failure point, should hopefully be up to the task asked of it.

Mal Wood rebuilt T-56 6 speed.

Mal Wood rebuilt T-56 6 speed.

Revshift Package

Courier dropped off a package from the good people at Revshift. Picked up a couple of their stiffer diff mount bushes for the twin mount cover I’ll make up, along with some stiffer corvette engine mounts as per the swap guide. Also had them include a sub frame spacer kit along with their 12mm offset sub frame mounts. This will allow me to raise the rear sub frame up 12mm and space the diff back down to keep the drive line angles correct and hopefully remove some rear camber. Quality looks great, so check them out, Revshift.

Revshift Parts

Revshift package: Diff mount bushes, sub frame spacer kit, corvette engine mounts and some offset rear sub frame mounts.

New Axles for Christmas

Courier dropped off the last of the packages from The Drive Shaft Shop while I was doing the last of my christmas shopping today. Their packaging was pretty substandard, but the quality of the parts isn’t. Good thing too because, while most people would probably consider them expensive, they are amazing to behold in person. I don’t have a spare stock shaft handy to compare them side by side with, but for the time being, check out the size difference when compared with an E30 diff mount bush. They make quality axles, tail shafts, drive shafts and stubs for a whole bunch of cars, hit them up if you need some super strong components for your build. The Driveshaft Shop.

New 700hp DSS axles!

New 700hp DSS axles!

Compare! Huge shafts.

Compare! Huge shafts.

Brake Package Arrives!

Ordered parts have been arriving every couple of days lately which is awesome news. This package from summit racing contained my tilton pedal box, cylinders and reservoirs, plus a bunch of fittings to convert lines to metric bmw on. Can’t wait to start fitting these up to the car.

Pedal box, master cylinders, calipers, brake kit, pads and fittings.Big brake package

Pedal box, master cylinders, calipers, brake kit, pads and fittings.

Tilton 600 Series Pedal Box

Tilton 600 Series Pedal Box and 75 series “shorty” master cylinders.

Tilton 75 series short master cylinders.

Tilton 75 series short master cylinders. 5/8″ for front and rear brakes, 7/8″ for the clutch.