Using my E30 325i as a Truck

To cart my used parts around, I have:

  • A Ford E150 van
  • A Volvo station wagon

And yes, they both drive, but they both need some work done.  And so for my latest parts run, I drove my trusty 2-door E30 1989 325i.

Problem is, if that’s a problem, I found an AMAZING deal at one junkyard about 120 miles away from my shop: a dead 1987 325is with really pretty seats in great condition.

I also wanted to buy many other cool things from that E30, not just the seats. That included bulky stuff that, together with my tools and the overnight luggage for two people (myself and my assistant) pretty much filled up the trunk.

Could I make my little E30 swallow two entire passenger seats, with seat slides, plus the rear seat seat-back plus the rear seat bottom? No. But, my assistant could.  Bonus: after I wrapped the seat slide ends in old clothes and loafers to surround the sharp edges, the trip back was made successfully without the pretty surface of the seats being marred or torn.

Success!

Struggling to Remove the Front Seat from a BMW E30

The passenger seat on my personal E30 has long since been a pain in the butt, literally, for its occupants. One of the springs is poking through the upholstery and so whoever sits on the seat will get scraped or gouged unless they cover the area with some thick fabric such as a towel.  Since I used to have passengers approximately 0.001% of the time, replacing the seat hasn’t been a priority but the seat is, or I am, becoming more popular so perhaps it’s time to do something about it.

And so off I went to the local junkyards, and I found a nice seat with matching colors in a 2-door BMW E30 like mine. Yay!

The previous owner had allocated a significant amount of money and effort to his sound system, judging by the modifications to the car. I sometimes wonder if, had that money been diverted to preventative maintenance instead, the car might not still be on the road instead of languishing in a junk yard.  Choosing to neglect the timing belt is a classic mistake that E30 owners make, as one example.

Anyway, this car had some expensive-looking aftermarket sound system cable running from the passenger front seat down the center and under the back seat into the trunk. Under the passenger front seat was also a massive speaker box.  I tried to remove it from under the seat, either from the front or the back, and … no go.  I gather the installer had removed some or all of the seat anchor points, shoved the speaker under the seat and then bolted the seat down again.  Not that the speaker was attached to anything; it was loosely lying around under the seat.  Odd.

Anyway, when the time came to remove the seat, the seat slide was already all the way back, and this allowed open access to the two forward plastic covers over the 17 mm fasteners, and to the fasteners themselves. I removed them, quickly and easily. The next step was to slide the seat forward so as to enable access to the rearmost two 17 mm fasteners, but … the seat refused to slide forward.

My assistant pointed out that there was a problem with the rod that connects the master side slide clutch, the side where the  lever is, to the passive side.

I presume that the sound system installer had disabled the rod so as to make room for the hug speaker bouncing around the seat … not the sort of trade-off in functionality that I’d have chosen. Anyway, to each his own.

As a consequence of the disabled rod, only one side’s slide disengaged when I pulled the lever up.  This meant that I needed to reach under the seat to the passive side and manually work the little side clutch while with my other hand pulling the lever up on the other slide, and then with my third hand I’d push the seat forward. Not a perfect plan but it seemed worth a try. My assistant had already removed the driver seat, so I looked at its slide mechanism to see how the mechanism worked, and where I needed to push.

The problem is that I couldn’t easily reach under the seat; it was down very low.  I remembered that E30 seats have a height control, so I activated that with one hand, and with the other hand I pushed the seat bottom upwards. The problem is that my finger was at the time in an opening where two pieces of metal form a gap that closes as the seat rises, and my finger got squashed. Oweee.  The two pieces of metal had sharp enough edges that, had I done this more vigorously I might have crushed the bone or cut the finger clear off. Fortunately I had reacted quickly and had stopped the upwards pulling motion just in time.

Not feeling very happy any more, I reach underneath to the slide clutch and found that the area has some sharp metal pieces that rubbed and scratched the skin off my upper arm. I kept going and finally got the job done well enough to where the seat could slide forward, but I wasn’t all too happy with the extra fee I’d ended up paying in personal pain.

Even so, I am now the proud owner of an entire set of front and rear E30 seats.  And, for the record, these all could fit onto the existing back seat of m E30, after removal of a headrest or two, and protecting the seat face from damage from the slides of the other seat.  Success!

E30 Trunk Lid Tool Tray

2015-09-29 17.58.03 2015-09-29 17.59.24We come across many E30s in the course of our business, and many no longer have a tool tray in the trunk lid. Perhaps you have just bought your E30 and the tool tray is missing.

This design of tool tray is also used on some of the E28 5-series cars — not the high-end models, just the 528e with the M20 engine. The larger-engine cars have a bigger tool tray, too.

The tool tray hinge area attaches to a metal brace in the trunk lid, with two Philips-head [TBD: confirm] sheet metal screws. We can include these screws with your order, if you need them.

It’s rare that the foam rubber in the trunk lid is missing but maybe yours is filthy. On principle we do offer these too though the glue makes it hard to remove the foam from the trunk lid.

The latch of the tool tray is a plastic knob with an integrated washer cast-in. The hole in the tray is oval, not round. The washer is angled and has a gap so the factory must have assembled this by holding the knob at an angle and then screwing it in. We have sold at least one knob by itself, without the tray, so yes, we do offer them.

A plastic strap keeps the tool tray from yawning open too wide. We offer the strap too.

We offer the tray without the knob or strap if you might enjoy saving a few dollars by wrestling the strap and knob out of your presumably broken or rust-stained tool tray, so you can re-use these. The BMW part number I see on the tool tray is 1128 911.0.

For those who don’t want the hassle, we also offer the tool tray with the strap and the knob.

We often see marks left by rusted tools, on these tool trays. I used to wonder why until I bought an E23 735i. Its trunk lid, on the inside, with all the tools, was always wet with condensation — even though I live in the middle of the Nevada desert. That would explain the problem.

We clean the rusty marks away as best we reasonably can but the tool trays we offer might still have some black stuff on them — but typically not easily-visible rust or rust stains. There is a small vent hole, presumably to equalize air pressure within the tool tray and the outside world. Sadly, we find it difficult to clean this part without getting water into the vent hole.  Fortunately, in the dry Nevada climate, it’s likely to dry out fairly quickly.

On the tools, we like to use Naval Jelly.

As for the original BMW tools, they are becoming quite rare and they’re priced accordingly. We do sell the individual pieces, though:

  • Open-ended wrenches, sizes 8-and-10, 12-and-13, and 17-and-19.
  • Pliers
  • Spark plug wrench
  • Rod or pin that presumably helps turn the spark plug wrench
  • Screwdriver
  • Allen head tool
  • White plastic manual window crank

Selling Half a Cauliflower

I recall a joke where a huge, mean-looking guy, probably a former boxer, approaches the produce guy in a grocery store. The store sells half-watermelons, nicely wrapped in plastic, but … this customer wants to buy half a cauliflower. Wait, what? The store doesn’t sell half-cauliflowers, says the produce guy. The customer insists and gets more and more angry. Eventually the produce guy sighs, and tells the customer he’ll go ask the manager. Shaking his head, he walks into the back and finds the manager, and says “you’re not gonna believe this, but some damn fool out there wants to buy half a cauliflower.” He sees the manager’s face looking aghast and looking past the produce guy, and … yes, the customer had followed the produce guy and was standing right behind him.  So, the produce guy smiled, turned, gestured to the customer and said: “… and this gentleman wants to buy the other half. May I proceed?”

That’s sort of how things work at our little business.  We might think we have things broken down to an atomic level where nobody would want to buy a sub-component of a particular part, and then someone does. Unlike the produce guy, however, we’re delighted when something like that happens.

Let’s use the glove box as an example. It has a latch on it.  Some customers will want just the latch, some want the glove box without the latch, some want both.  So, we happily sell every combination and it’s all optimal because this way our customers only spend the money on what they really want, not anything extra. Someone else can buy that.

I really thought the tool tray that goes into the trunk lid of an E30 would not be a part that would be broken down more, but a new customer wants to buy a glove box latch, and he also needs the tool tray knob — just the knob. The knob would fit nicely in the same small box as the latch, but if I have to mail the entire tool tray also, not just the knob, it’s a bigger box, so the postage costs more, plus it’s more of a hassle for the customer to remove his old tray and transfer his tools to the new tray.  Besides, he’d also be spending extra money on buying the tray with knob as opposed to just the knob. Him wanting to buy just the knob makes perfect sense. Lower price, lower postage, less hassle.

2015-09-026Problem is, until 2 a.m. this morning I didn’t know how to remove the knob from the tool tray, but my new assistant figured it out for me, yay! So, yes, as of today, I do sell the tool tray knob separately for those who want it. The customer was happy, and placed the order … a nice “win” for everybody.

2015-09-25 14.44.18

Cheerfully Laboring on Labor Day

We’re using Labor Day as a good day to clean up our front storage room; the room has huge picture windows and the view isn’t exactly inspiring … maybe it was in 1937 when the building was erected.

Right now we’re more concerned about people looking in than us looking out. Although the little town where we are located has an ultra-low crime rate, I don’t want 3seriesparts.com to be the exception, and bins full of who-knows-what might be tempting to someone who really, really needs some money for the next shot of heroin or helping of meth. So I’m doing my bit for fighting drugs by keeping druggies from stealing my stuff; very socially responsible of me!

Here’s the north-facing window. It’s huge, and it gets down to single digits in the winter (yes, Fahrenheit), and the north face is the coldest section, so I put shades up for the neighbors and passers-by to not see industrial-strength insulation (what a nice neighbor I am) and then a huge thick panel of insulation.

So when you order parts from us in December, we won’t have to break icicles off your parts before we box and ship.

Here are some pictures.  Can you guess what flavor of BMW these doors are from? (Hint: it’s NOT a 3-series car; yes, we also manage 5seriesparts.com, 7seriesparts.com and 8seriesparts.com).

2015-09-06 18.29.39

2015-09-06 18.29.32

BMW E30 (325, 325e, 325i) Used, Good Ignition Parts for Sale

We sell used, good ignition parts for BMW E30 3-series cars such as the 1984-1991 318i, 325, 325e and 325i.

We like to understand what we sell. We would like you to enable you to also understand what you’re buying. So, I put together a sort-of-chronological flow of the events.

The crankshaft position sensor picks up a signal and sends it to the Motronic computer, via a wiring harness.

The computer generates a command spark to the coil.

This spark is sent to the distributor cap. Inside the cap a rotor turns to distribute the spark, and an internal dust cap keeps things clean.

The six high-tension leads go to spark plugs on the individual cylinders.

All of the parts just mentioned, we sell.

You can get used parts from many sources. But, typically the reason you are buying these is because you’re trying to isolate a problem. One major reason to buy from us is that we test the parts for which the condition is hard to judge visually. For example, if you buy a coil or computer or set of high-tension leads from us, it will have been in a car that’s actually been driven.

Distributor caps, dust caps and rotors we don’t test; we go by a visual inspection.

BMW E30 3-Series 325i 1988-1992 Bosch Fuel Injection Wiring Harness for the M20B25 engine

This post is about used Bosch fuel injection wiring harnesses for sale. If you’ve damaged yours, or it’s suspect, or you lost it during a rebuild, here’s some good news: you can buy a good used unit from us. And, we normally have these in stock.

Or, maybe you are doing some custom diagnostic work on your fuel injectors, and this will make life easier for you.

On one side, this little wiring harness connects to the main engine wiring harness with a round plug.  On the other side, it branches out with six wires, one to each fuel injector.

Also, integral to this wiring harness are the wires to the sensors at the front of the engine (temperature sensors, as far as I know).

Here is a picture that I took of this part:

IMAG1144

Our prices are gradually increasing based on supply and demand, so please contact us for the latest pricing.

BMW E30 (325, 325e, 325i) Used, Good Fuel Injection Parts for Sale

We sell used, good ignition parts for BMW E30 3-series cars such as the 1984-1991 318i, 325, 325e and 325i.

We like to understand what we sell. We would like you to enable you to also understand what you’re buying.  So, I put together a sort-of-chronological flow of the events and the roles that the components play. Each component mentioned below, we sell — except for the rubber fuel hoses, fuel filter, air filter and catalytic converter.

To me, the center of the action is the fuel injector. It sprays gasoline into the airstream trigger by an electrical signal. Let’s break that down:

  1. Electrical signal
  2. Gasoline
  3. Airstream

Isn’t it nicer to have this logically laid out like this?

1. Electrical signal

Perhaps the most upstream parts of the electrical signal begins with the various electrical signals that are sent to the fuel injection computer.

  1. Crank-shaft position sensor
  2. Outside temperature sensor
  3. Engine temperature sensor
  4. Airflow meter
  5. Barometric pressure sensor
  6. Oxygen sensor

The engine wiring harness transfers the signal from the sensors to the Motronic computer, and from the computer to the fuel injectors.  On some models, the last section of wiring, that attaches directly to the fuel injectors, is separate.

The above shows the main electric components for fuel injection.

But, the fuel pump relay is also essential. The fuel pump is not always on. It gets its on / off signal from the fuel pump relay. We also sell the fuel pump relay.

2. Gasoline

The most upstream part of the fuel flow begins at the gas cap. From there, the fuel flows into the fuel tank itself.

To figure the level of the fuel in the tank there may be one or two fuel level sending units, depending on the model.  These units trigger the low-fuel warning light also influence the position of the indicator needle on the dashboard.

Depending on your car using the two-unit wiring or the one-unit wiring, there are two different types of fuel gauges. They have to match.

The fuel gauge is fairly isolated from the rest of the instrument cluster.  If you need to replace only the fuel gauge, it’s not that difficult. You do not need to replace the entire instrument cluster.

Depending on the model of the car, it might have one or two fuel pumps.

If there are two, then the in-tank fuel pump pressurizes the fuel lines to prevent vapor lock, and the main fuel pump is then mounted below the car. If there’s only one, then it’s in the tank.

A metal cradle is bolted to the underside of the car, that houses the external fuel pump and the fuel filter.

In snowy areas where they salt the roads, E30 owners might also be concerned about the metal fuel lines that supply fuel from the fuel pump forward to the engine compartment, and back to the tank. 

In the engine compartment, the fuel hose enters the rear of the fuel rail.

Into that fit the six fuel injectors.

At the front of the fuel rail is the fuel pressure regulator that limits the flow back to the gas tank, so as to maintain the fuel rail and the fuel injectors at the optimal pressure.

3. Air flow

The most upstream part of the air flow begins at the plastic plate right behind the headlights.

The plate has a hole into which fits a plastic funnel. 

Downstream of the funnel is a rubber hose to guide the airflow into the air cleaner box.

Downstream of that is a rubber hose to guide the airflow into the air flow meter.

Next, the air flows through another rubber hose into the throttle body. We To prevent the throttle from icing, water hoses are routed to the throttle body and back, to heat it.

Arguably part of the airflow big picture is the accelerator cable going from the pedal to the throttle body.

From the throttle body, the air flows into the intake manifold. That’s the huge aluminum part that’s on top of the engine.

Air flows mostly through the throttle body but to keep the engine idling when the throttle is closed, there is also an idle control valve. A little green computer box controls that valve.

Downstream of the engine are the two exhaust manifolds.

From there the hot exhaust gas flows into a y-collector, then the catalytic converter, then the exhaust pipe and the muffler which stays up thanks to some rubber hangers.

BMW E30 3-Series 325i 1987-1992 Bosch 280150715 Fuel Injector a.k.a. 13641734776 or 13641468812 for the M20B25 engine

This post is about the Bosch fuel injector with Bosch part number 280 150 715. It doesn’t have a BMW part number on the part because it’s not used just in BMWs, but based on what I can find by poking around on the Web, BMW allegedly refers to this as part number 13641734776, or 13641468812.

Here is a picture I took and annotated.

IMAG1074

If you’re in a hurry and you don’t wanna read a lot of detail then:

Yes, we sell these, used.  Always or almost always in stock. Each unit is tested and guaranteed to basically work but it might or might not leak and the spray pattern might be great or terrible or anywhere in between. Contact us to order this.

If you’re wanna read more, here’s some additional detail.

BMW selects vendor parts that meets its requirements for a particular model. Often the vendor, such as Robert Bosch, provides parts that might fit many vehicle applications.

This particular fuel injector was chosen by BMW for the high revving variation (the M20B25) of its 6 cylinder M20 engine. This was used in the E30 1987-1992 BMWs that used this engine, including the 325i, 325ic, 325is and 325ix.  And yes, they generally stopped making the E30 in 1991 but the convertible soldiered a little longer due to the high level of customer interest.

The 1989-1990 BMW 525i has the same engine and so it also uses this fuel injector.

According to a source whom I consider credible, it is also used in the 1984-1985 BMW 318i.

I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s also used in some other BMW models, and also some other European cars.

The low-revving variation of the M20 engine (M20B27) as used in the E30 325, 325e and 325es does not use this same exact type of fuel injector.

To identify the Bosch part number on the injector, clean it (it’s often grimy when you remove it from the engine; we de-grime it to a reasonable extent before we ship it).  Then, use a bright light and squint at the side of the blue plastic housing, near the top. The Bosch part number you’ll see is 280 150 715. There are some other numbers too. These might be the date or batch, I don’t know. I tend to ignore these other numbers.

Typically we remove such injectors from cars that have forever stopped running. It is extremely unlikely that a fuel injection failure is the reason why someone stopped driving their BMW.

Most typically, on this engine, the cars get junked because people neglect the timing belt replacement. When the belt finally snaps then expensive engine repairs are necessary, so the car’s life ends. However, this sequence of events does not affect the fuel injector negatively unless the car sat in a barn for 20 years as a result, and we tend to avoid such cars.

So, buying a used fuel injector, or six of them, from us isn’t a flat-out dumb decision. Some parts, I don’t recommend buying used.  A/C receiver/driers is the classic example. Water pumps are another. Clutch discs or pressure plates … typically another example. But used fuel injectors might make sense.

New units cost … well, it depends where you look. One of our favorite vendors sells genuine BMW rebuilt units for more than $150 each, if you include the core charge in the math.

By contrast, ours are probably a good deal. You could buy several used units for the price of one such rebuilt unit.  However, our prices are gradually increasing based on supply and demand, so please contact us for the latest pricing.

Other variations of rebuilt ones are also available from various not-so-official sources. One example has a lower price than the genuine BMW rebuild part, but it’s still $69 each including the core charge.  Times six, that’s still a lot of money.

Assuming you’re considering buying used fuel injectors from us: The quality of such units depends on a few things. Fundamentally the electric magnetic valve inside the unit has to work, or the unit is useless. On each unit, we test this valve by energizing it electrically. If we hear a click, then we assume the unit is good as such. No sound, the unit is bad — we assume.

However, there are some subtleties. Even if the valve is closed, I suppose it might be possible for the fuel injector to leak some fuel. I don’t know how likely this is, but we do not test for it. We don’t want to pressurize the fuel injector to test it for leaks. This would involve messy and potentially dangerous work. Besides, we would like these things to be as dry as possible in anticipation of shipping them safely.

Another quality attribute involves the spray pattern. The perfect fuel injector will distribute the fuel in a uniform arc. Over time, however, build-up and dirt in the fuel might affect the spray pattern. Testing a spray pattern properly is a specialized field for which we lack both the talent and the equipment.

We guarantee that the fuel injector will spray fuel under pressure when electrically energized. However, it might or might not leak and the spray pattern could be anything. All this is reflected in the price.

If you’re worried about the spray pattern on the used injectors you buy, maybe pour a can of SeaFoam into the gas tank, after you install the replacement injectors. Allegedly this stuff works wonders for cleaning dirty-ish fuel injection parts, to the point where I kinda wonder why anyone actually needs to buy replacement fuel injectors, ever.  Okay, maybe you had them removed and lying in a bowl and your wife grabbed the bowl, poured milk into it and fed them to the cat (the late cat, presumably). Or your toddler threw them into the swimming pool. Or, maybe it’s a fetish thing, for you. I’m not judging. These are all reasonable reasons for needing replacement fuel injectors, I think. I can’t come up with any other reasons, right now. Anyway, whatever your reasons, I’m happy to sell you some used fuel injectors.

As to core charges: when you buy a rebuilt unit, the vendors tend to charge a core charge per unit. Two such sources we’ve seen each charge $15 per injector. That might not seem like a lot but for six units, but this adds up to $90.  So suddenly we’re talking some serious cash. Of course, if you actually remember where you put your old fuel injectors and you manage to get them clean enough and dry enough so that the gas fumes don’t blow up the FedEx plane (see the movie Castaway for a reminder) or to have the USPS throw you in prison for mailing dangerous stuff,  and you are not too lazy, too absent-minded or too busy to box them up and send them off, and they actually arrive and get processed as planned, then hey, you might actually get your $90 back. Many people consider that too much hassle but the amount is just high enough to at least be irritated about procrastinating about sending the cores back in.

By contrast, we do not charge a core charge. Simple.

As to the little clips that hold the injectors onto the fuel rail, they are not included. Nor are the little rubber o-rings that fit at the top of the injector, where it fits tightly into the fuel rail. If we forget to remove them before shipping … then hey, free ancient rubber o-ring for you. However, after 25 or so years in a harsh environment, they’re probably not in great shape. Replacing them might be prudent.

Also not included are the little rubber o-rings that the snout of the injector fits into, in the intake manifold. Supposedly they’re the same as the ones at the top of the injector.

You can buy these o-rings for $1.50 each from Pelican Parts. You will need twelve. That might be $18 well-spent. Maybe buy a couple extra too, in case you’re clumsy at putting things back together, and you mash one or two of them, like I tend to do.

Nice people, those. We buy many of our own new parts from them. In case you decide against used injectors, then you might also wanna consider these folks as your source for rebuilt units.

3 Series Parts Road Trip

Our trusty 1989 325i made a big circle trip over 10 days:

  • Start at Fallon, NV
  • Highway 95 (mainly) to Las Vegas, NV
  • Highway 15 (mainly) to Orange County, CA
  • Highway 101 (mainly) to Arroyo Grande, CA
  • Highway 1 (mainly) to Monterey, CA
  • Highway 101 (mainly) to San Jose, CA
  • Highway 80 (mainly) to Reno, NV
  • Highway 50 (mainly) to Fallon, NV

Here it is in the parking lot of the Hampton Inn at Arroyo Grande, in foggy evening weather.

E30TRIPThe little car ran perfectly, even though it left Fallon without a cooling fan because a blonde lady who shall remain nameless left a 22mm wrench on the end of the crank nut after doing the valve adjustment, and then started the engine. Oops!!  Saw ree.

In Las Vegas, the blonde did penitence by lying on a concrete slab in 102 degree weather in the heat of the day, gazing up at a dead E30 engine compartment, to remove another cooling fan from the Pick-A-Part junkyard there. Fortunately she’d brought the 32mm wrench along with her on the trip.  It’s in the list of “what every girl should take on a road trip.”

The ironic thing is that Tanya naturally has negligible eye lashes, and she’s tired of trying to turn nothing into something using vast amounts of mascara, so she got some (semi) permanent eye lashes professionally glued on Las Vegas.  Problem was that after the treatment she wasn’t allowed to get them wet, and she’d laid on her back in the desert dust in the junkyard right before rushing to the eyelash gluing session. So, for next 48 hours, she was a very dusty blonde.

The rest of the trip was almost normal, with the exception of having to rescue a dead black 6-series BMW in the middle of the night on a deserted off-ramp of highway 101.

Never boring, life at 3 Series Parts. 🙂