Dec 292016

Not a lot of posts in the 2nd half of 2016 but I did get a lot of work done during the summer. Garage time tends to curtail once football season starts but this is just a hobby for now so that is to be expected. I decided to start on the body work of the truck. It may not be the correct item to work on next but it is the part of the process I am the most interested in right now. I thought I was starting small by picking the fenders to work first. I quickly realized I was probably wrong. There was a lot of damage hidden under the paint on these fenders as you will see in the pictures. One had at least a quarter inch of body filler to poorly fix a previous wreck.

I used the same process as detailed in my post where I painted the hood on my son’s car. The only real difference is that I took the fenders all the way to bare metal while the e-coating on the hood was mostly left intact. This required an additional step for protecting the metal using a self-etching primer. And since this is for my treasured truck project I spent a lot more time on the metal work to make sure I get the best results possible.

I spent over forty hours on each fender and they are not in final color yet. Not really much else to say so I will just post a bunch of pictures as proof that I am actually working on this thing.



This doesn’t look too bad, just some old ugly brown paint.



The only visible damage. Nothing a little welding can’t fix. This metal is thin so flux mig welding will not work. A great excuse to upgrade to a gas mig welder.



That’s a lot of body filler.



What have I gotten my self into. Hours of dolly and hammer ahead.



One tear repaired.



Body work complete. A lot less body filler required this time around.



3 coats of Self Etching Primer applied.



3 coats of primer. Sand with 180 grit. 3 more coats of primer. Sand with 240 grit.



3 more coats of primer. Sand with 400 grit.



Wet sand with 600 grit. Hard to tell from the picture but the wet part gives you a good idea how smooth the final coat could be.



The second fender after wet sanding. I tried to sand without water but I found the water sped up the process quite a bit. It prevented the sandpaper from clogging.


I have since corrected a few spots and have the parts ready for color. I decided to wait and paint all the parts all at once. I need to decide which part to prep next. Maybe something more flat like the hood or front fenders but that will have to wait until the spring when temperatures are constantly warming. Maybe I will tear down the engine and get it ready for the machine shop this winter. I cant promise that I will post more next year but I will keep working on it.


 Posted by at 3:39 pm
May 082016

As a home mechanic the most important tool is knowledge. You need to know when to take a task on yourself or when to let someone else tackle it. You also need to make sure you make the right decision when buying a vehicle in the first place. There are many factors when considering buying a car. You can buy a new one and let the dealership take all the risk. This is a great decision for most but comes at a premium. For me if I don’t feel like I stole it then I don’t feel good about the deal. Ever since parting ways with my Corvette I have driven whatever I could get my hands on. I drove a Protege I paid pocket change for, loved the high MPG. Then, I purchased a newer car for my daughter and inherited hers, a Ford Taurus. Finally, after taking care of the rest of the families car needs I decided to get a car for myself.

I sold all the extra cars and purchased a car on impulse. When I say impulse I mean I only stalked the car listing for 3 weeks and spent less than 10 hours of online research. When I pulled the trigger I felt like I stole it, just how I like it. A car can be a very personal thing and people tend to pick cars that match their personality. Considering how much time we spend in our cars, owning the one that fits you is an important factor in enriching your life. When I took my first test drive of my target car I knew I had found what I had been missing in the years since I sold my Corvette. This was a win and I was happy.

But only for about a month. The car was a one owner low mileage car and even though it was an older car it was obviously well maintained. Online research revealed there were very few weaknesses to worry about. I thought I had really hit gold. Then the fuel pump died. Not cheap but an easy fix. A day later a more troubling issue, a knock sensor stopped responding. The computer was complaining and the car was drive-able but in limp mode. I have never heard of a knock sensor failing but the part was cheap so I bought one and installed it. Installation was very time consuming so I was hoping never to do that again. Unfortunately it did not fix the issue. After a lot more troubleshooting I found that the computer was at fault. The computer is supposed to tell you what is wrong, if you can’t trust it how can you trust anything. A new computer can get towards $2000. My steal of a deal was stealing money right back. Lucky for me there is a company online that sells reconditioned computers for under $500. The experience was great and car was back to normal. I will give them a shout out here:

So two months in, half has been in limp mode and an additional $900 out of pocket. This is a loss for now. I plan on squeezing all the enjoyment I can get out of this car now, it owes me.

Here is the culprit. A 2001 BMW 330Ci. I am not a fan boy but this car scratches the itch.


 Posted by at 9:45 pm
Feb 212016

I cannot believe my last post was October. It really doesn’t feel like it has been that long. I guess the holiday season can be crazy for everybody.

I have not done any real auto-body work in about 25 years but with my restoration plans for the summer including paint I knew I had better get in some practice. A recent event presented an opportunity to do just that. Unfortunately my son had a small fender bender that left the front end of his car a little banged up. He is okay but the hood was destroyed. After assessing the damage we realized we could fix it all ourselves and save a bunch of money. The car still drove fine it just needed some cosmetic work.

I am constantly surprised at the aftermarket support for vehicles. Not only was I able to find a new replacement hood, it was less than half the price of a junk yard equivalent. In hindsight buying a hood from a local junk yard would have been a lot less trouble. When the hood finally arrived it looked like it had been rolled down a flight of stairs. Every corner was dented or bent. The online warehouse front of a website refunded my money and left me with a free damaged hood. Seeing an opportunity to save even more money and get some metal work practice I was determined to use this hood.

The basics of repairing damaged metal and paint has not changed all that much but I wanted to make sure I was using the best materials and processes. I already had a cheap spray gun but no materials. I found a local paint shop and walked in with empty hands, a mind full of questions and an open wallet. After explaining the task ahead of me and a short Q and A session with a very patient salesman I walked out with everything I needed for under $130.

TIP #1: Paint code is not enough, I had the exact code used on the car but there were actually 5 different shades for that one paint code. Take a sample if you are trying to match an existing color.

I guessed on the paint code, this is just practice on a car my teenage son will probably destroy in the end. Perspective.

It did not take long to get back in the rhythm of the hammer and dolly. I enjoy seeing the metal slowly bend to my will and move into place. Bondo, or body filler, is much harder to work with. I need more practice getting each layer just right and sanding it is just a mess.

TIP #2: Do not overwork body filler. One or two thin swipes and then just walk away.

I had done enough research on paints and primers to know when to use each type. After the metal work and body filling was done I covered the bare metal with a self-etching primer. There are other choices for DTM (direct to metal) coverage but I plan on testing those at another time. Next was a 2k high build primer and more sanding. This primer is really easy to spray. It can give you a false sense of security. When sanding, a specialty guide coat helps you find all the low and high spots. I found a few. Bondo is designed to be used on bare metal or itself but I already have several layers of primer built up. This is where glazing putty comes in. I had never used it before and it is much easier to use than regular body filler. It is a must for that perfect finish. After the glazing putty was sanded I applied more 2k primer and sanded some more.

TIP #3: You can save money on the paint, the gun and the body parts but do not go cheap on the sand paper. Get the best you can afford, you will not regret it.

Once I was done obsessing over the primer it was finally time to spray some color. I was more than a little intimidated. I have never made it this close to spraying color on a car body part. Last time I did all the body work and priming and paid Maaco to do the rest.  I didn’t pay them much and I got what I paid for.

TIP #4: Read the instructions on all your paint and clear coat before starting the job. Due to flash times you are on a ticking clock that you cannot stop.

The color coat requires a reducer so you can spray it correctly. I didn’t buy any reducer and I could not find any local stores that were still open to buy any. How am I going to reduce this paint? What does reducer really mean and how does it work? I have a lacquer thinner, will that work?

TIP #5: Reducer is a fancy word for thinner. Lacquer thinner still does what the name implies. It thins lacquer. I don’t know the science behind a dedicated reducer and I will make sure to have some in the future but I have a feeling that the results will be the same.

I sprayed 3 coats of color, using all I bought, and let it dry. Even paying really close attention to gun control and pattern overlap the paint still looked uneven. It was a little depressing but there was no looking back. The job was getting done that day no matter how bad it looked.

If spraying color was scary, spraying clear was terrifying. This is it the final layer. All the hours of work for 30 seconds of spray time.

DEEP THOUGHT #1: Do you need to stir clear coat? How can you tell? It’s colorless!

I sprayed on 2 coats of clear coat. I was not planning on wet sanding so I didn’t think I would need more than that. I was not disappointed, the color, even though it was just a shade of white, came to life. All the unevenness I witnessed before was gone. I could not be happier with the results except for that bug that just landed in the fresh paint. And that bug. And that bug! This stuff is a bug magnet.

TIP #6: Spray the clear coat in a controlled environment. The primers and color dry almost immediately so the bugs and dirt do not have time to get stuck but the clear is tacky for at least an hour.

Still, the results exceeded my expectations. I am really proud of the job even with the well preserved bugs. I actually had fun.

Why did I enjoy this so much?

  • Each step is clearly defined
  • Each step is equally important to achieve excellent results
  • There are cool tools involved
  • You have to touch and feel the metal a lot
  • It is really messy (or is it because I like the smell of Lacquer Thinner)
  • Results! You took something ugly and made it pretty.
  • Chicks dig guys that can paint cars. Not sure this is true but it should be, car painters are artists!

So the big question. I spent 20 hours painting a hood. One hood. Can I paint a car?


And I’m really looking forward to it. Do you have anything that needs to be painted?

 Posted by at 11:02 pm
Oct 282015

I am proud to say I was born in 1971, at the peak of the muscle car era. Not sure that has anything to do with my love for 1970’s muscle cars but maybe. Some very iconic cars were available that year and given hindsight some of the best investment opportunities ever. Let’s take a look at some of my favorites. Might as well start at the top. Mopar was king and resale value has helped confirm that fact.

If you were lucky enough to order a 1971 blue convertible Plymouth Hemi Cuda with the 4 speed transmission and keep it pristine for almost 45 years you could have been the one to turn your initial purchase price of about $4174 into $3.5 million. Not too many investments can top that, Apple stock would not be available until 1980.


This is a rare case and even though most cars from that era will never be that valuable they will still mean a lot to me. Along with the Plymouth Cuda the Dodge Challenger is still one of my favorites. I had a chance to purchase a very rough example when I was 16 but could not pull the trigger. When I say rough, I mean it was a heap of rust and looked like it was half way in the grave. I still remember thinking it was the coolest thing I had ever seen but I needed a car that would actually get me from point A to B more often than not.


Like all young men of the 80’s I watched the Dukes of Hazzard religiously so add the 1970 Dodge Charger to round out the Mopar trifecta. Okay so not official a 1971 car but close enough. I was in love with this car.


Let’s move away from Mopar to more American muscle. The 1971 Camaro may be considered a transition year and my favorite feature was the one quickest to be changed. That grill, I just love that grill. Its Pontiac brother Firebird was even better. I can’t imagine why the grill did not last but I am glad it was at least there for a few years.

CharleyCamaro1971 71FirebirdRF

It did not stop there for GM. There was the Nova, Chevelle, GTO, LeMans and even the Skylark all with their own muscle car appeal. I did not come to appreciate these until much later in life. I didn’t forget about the Riviera, that boat tail! Oh my!


I cannot forget about AMC. That SUNCO Javelin. Enough said!


Let’s move away from the muscle cars and get the rest. The Corvette has always been a favorite and after driving one for 15 years it will always have a special place in my heart. IF I get a chance to own another one it would be the 1971 edition. Split rear bumpers and circle tail lights do it for me. The 2015 taillights look like sad eyes, not a fan.


I was always partial to the American cars of the time but for good reason. There was no internet, 3 channels of TV and my pennies went to comic books not car magazines. That is not to say there were not some that caught my eye.

The 240Z was making a big splash and the Porsche 911 and 914 were loved by all.

Datsun_240Z MHV_VW-Porsche_914-6

Everything that Ferrari made was special and the Daytona was no exception but for my money give me a Dino any day of the week. Take note in case any of my friends reach millionaire status and you want to get me the best gift ever. Make it a 1971 Ferrari Dino GT.

1971_Ferrari_365_GTS_Daytona Ferrari-Dino-246-GT-7

Even Volvo made something really cool. The P1800 may not be well known but its styling is still something special. Anybody remember The Saint?


The Pantera was one of a kind and just plain cool even though it started to fall apart as soon as you started it the first time.


Lamborghini may not have made a huge splash in the US yet (Countach came around in 1974) but the Muira… THE MUIRA! Gets my heart racing.


I could go on forever but let me end this walk down memory lane with another American muscle car. You thought I had forgotten about the Mustang. No sir. The 1971 Mustang Mach 1 caught my eye when I was 18 and I almost bought a nice one. It was just a tad out of my budget then but I guess I never stopped thinking about it.

1971 mach 1

That leads me to the second part of this post. I broke my own rule. “Don’t start a project until you finish the current one.” With interest from my son and unexpected encouragement from my wife I purchased a 1971 Mustang Mach 1 for $100. I got just about what you would expect for $100. No motor, no engine and more rust than metal. I may regret it but since every part of this car is reproduced it can be rebuilt to be better than new. I will let you know how that goes.

1971 Mach 1 Mustang

Actually, since my son claims this is his car and he is the one that cleaned out the rat poop, that’s as good as any reason to claim ownership, I technically did not break any rules since I can in turn claim this project is not mine!

 Posted by at 10:48 pm
Aug 232015

I have not spent much time in the garage these past months. Other projects were begging for attention. A wet spring is always welcome in Texas and this year was an exceptional one. Things you thought were not growing or dead come back to life, including weeds. As a homeowner having a nice yard is a source of pride. Not all homeowners agree and some take it too far, mowing twice a week seems excessive. In general having a nice yard is not all that hard, water it, feed it, and mow it. Oh, and pull the weeds occasionally. My current yard is more of a challenge than previous yards. The soil is bad and weeds spread from the surrounding grass lands on a daily basis. Then St Augustine grass finds its way into your Bermuda lawn and decides to take over. Whoever thought St Augustine was a good idea as a lawn coverage in Texas… moving on. With the additional rain all the undesirables are growing faster than the Bermuda. Now was the time to draw a line in the sand or in this case the yard. I geared up with knee pads, shovels, rakes, picks and inspirational music and attacked the weeds. I worked almost every day for close to a month to eliminate everything that was not Bermuda. I then I noticed I had completely ignored the sidewalk strip. That annoying strip of grass 4 feet wide that has no purpose than to catch every piece of trash that blows in off the road. Mine is almost all weeds. A total do-over is called for. But why put in grass again that will be impossible to keep up.

The answer seems obvious, Xeriscape. Simple, dig out all the grass, plant some cacti and fill it is with something to keep the grass out. Did I mention that I have a corner lot with over 100 feet of additional sidewalk on the side of the house? I decided to invest in the local teenage economy and pay my son and his friends to dig these parts out. I felt for sure the neighbors were going to call the authorities on me for breaking child labor laws. It took them close to a combined 40 hours of hard labor in the heat to complete the task. Money well spent.

Now to fill in the cleaned out space with plants that will not require much attention or water. This is where the wife gets involved, she was not going to be left out of a shopping trip for plants. We visited a local nursery and seemed to fall in love with every drought tolerant plant they had in the place. In the end we settled on 20 unique plants with some duplicates of the ones I really liked for a total of 26 plants. Knowing that the soil these would be planted into is very rocky we picked the younger 1 gallon plants when possible. Even then it took all weekend to get them into the ground.

Our choice of filler was decomposed granite. Unfortunately it is the heavier option. Supplier issues delayed delivery but eventually 5 yards was delivered. If you have ever had soil or rock delivered in bulk like this it always appears to be less than you think. That is until you start digging into it and the pile never seems to diminish. This pile was no different and I did order more than I needed. Even after sharing some with the neighbors I have some left. I will find some use for what’s left eventually. Pictures of the results are below. My back, knees and soon to be lower water bill think the results are well above expectations.

All the people that stopped on their drive home or during their nightly walk had nothing but kind words and compliments as we worked and neared completion. Homeowner pride renewed. Now that’s done maybe I can get back to the garage.

20150823_181212 Sidewalk strip side


Inspirational music provided by Tremonti’s latest album Cauterize.

 Posted by at 10:58 pm
Jul 032015

Who knows how these things happen. You are harmlessly browsing the internet and all of a sudden you are watching Kimbo Slice videos on YouTube. I was in such a meandering mood a few weeks back and found myself on Craigslist. Oh, the stuff you can find on Craigslist. On this occasion I found myself looking at Go Karts. I had one as a kid and I was feeling nostalgic. I wanted my kids and my niece and nephews to experience the same joy. I ended up finding one just a few miles from the house and after a few messages back and forth arranged a time to meet and complete the purchase.

The thing was plenty crusty and didn’t hide any of its redneck scars. The thing ran pretty good but it needed at least a little attention to make sure it was completely safe. Well, as safe as an inherently unsafe toy can get. Once my son and I inventoried the items to fix/replace it was only a small step to a complete restore. I am embarrassed to say how much we spent on new parts. A lot more than I ever planned but in the end it seems to be all worth it. My son got a chance to use his new metal working skills to replace the rusty parts and got a chance to learn about small engine maintenance.

A short list of repairs:

  • New front bumper we built from scrap metal
  • New floor pan
  • New pedals
  • New wheels and tires (golf cart tires on the back adds to the hot rod style)
  • New rear axle with new bearings, wheel hubs and sprocket
  • Replaced the redneck throttle cable with a slightly less redneck version
  • Custom seat pads from left over foam and vinyl
  • The engine still runs strong so it just got a nice cleaning and a new air filter

This not so short list sounds more like we just built a new cart but the soul of the old Go Kart is still there.

On to some pictures.

Complete but in need of rescue.

Old Go Kart

Down to the bare frame. Floor pan and front bumper removed.

Bare Frame

Back together.Skinny tires up front. Big fat ones out back. Hot Rod style.

New Go Kart

Niece and Nephew all geared up for some fun.

Niece and Nephew having fun

 Posted by at 10:49 am
May 262015

My son is now 16 and has shown interest in getting a job. This makes me happy but also hesitant. When I was his age, actually younger, I was already a thriving member of the working force. Thriving off of the minimum wage I was earning to mop floors, stock shelves and clean bathrooms. Every experience is important and I include those early years as the beginning of building a work ethic. I also remember missing out on high school functions and during college struggling with finding enough time to study. I felt like I had to work then. I have never made either of my children feel like they have to work. I want them to have full immersion during high school and college. So how do I respond to him wanting a job. I ask how much he wants to earn and what for. He wants however much it will take to buy a corvette. I loved my corvette and cannot wait until the next one but if I had one at that age I would have gone down in a ball of flames. I was not any where near ready to handle a car like that as a teenager. I put that aside for another discussion and see if I can engage him in other money making ventures. I am willing to pay him for work around the house on top of his measly allowance. I am sure I can beat minimum wage. Then I remember something I was planning on trying out this summer. Building and selling wine bottle trees. These things are gaining popularity and I have successfully built a few already. This will help him understand business on a level that punching a clock will not. He will have to deal with material purchasing and costs, pricing for profit, time management, advertising, selling and most importantly his fear of the mig welder.

He agrees to give it a go and we jump right in. His last experience with the welder was several years ago and after one tack he could not get away from it fast enough. Now fully in his immortal teen years he is ready to give it a go again. This time he takes to it easily. I show him a few tips and warnings to keep him safe and after supervising for a while let him go on his own. I stay in the garage close by while I work on other projects. I am the clutz in the family so I am the only one that gets hurt on this day. More on that later. He manages to get four wine trees built in about two hours. At a possible profit of $40 to $60 this beats minimum wage, big time. We start a spreadsheet to track time and material and call it a night. Next phase is to get the word out that we can make these wine bottle trees and will even take custom orders. The wife has agreed to help him advertise and find buyers. I stress that this service along with using the welder has a cost and will cut into the profit. It is a good start.

Here is an image of the wine bottle tree I made for the wife for Christmas. We are using this as a guide for the new ones.

wine bottle tree

This is what happens when the Death Wheel (angle grinder) gets away from you. I just expect to draw blood every time I walk into the garage these days.

death wheel feeds

 Posted by at 5:30 pm
May 182015

Act 4a – Cliche or not, information truly is power. In our last episode I was waiting for a diagnostic computer to read codes from the cars on board computer, specifically the Digital Motor Electronics (DME). The DME  controls all key aspects of the engine’s operation, ensuring optimum reliability, maximum performance and the lowest possible fuel consumption and emissions. This includes the pesky Variable Valve Timing (VVT) System that refuses to work for me. The typical OBDII code reader, which I already have, will read codes but they are translations of what the DME is reporting. Much like translating German to English, I don’t speak German. In this case it reports the code P1056 which translates to a generic VVT issue. I replaced parts based on a faulty VVT system without success. The new code reader, the Creator C110, returned the code 2A3F which translated more precisely to NO power to VVT system. This is useful information. A short troubleshooting session later revealed that the VVT system has its own power connection from the main distribution box and that somehow I had blown the internal, non-replaceable fuse. There are zero visual indicators that this fuse is in tact or blown. Lucky I know how to use the good old Fluke multimeter and sure enough the fuse was blown. So, here is a reason that most home mechanics tend to steer away from a car like the BMW. Almost all the parts are stocked at the dealer and not at the chain auto parts stores. I found the part I needed online at my now trusted parts provider for $59. I have nothing but good things to say about their site, customer service and very thorough tech articles so far. I wanted to get the car going so I was willing to spend a little extra money at the dealer to get it the same day. They did have the part in stock, cool. They wanted $177 for it, not cool. So I wanted almost a week for the part to be shipped from California.

Act 4b – It took about 10 minutes to install the new distribution box and with much fanfare the car started and ran perfectly. The ease of the fix makes all the earlier lessons all that more painful but I am just happy to get the car back on the road. Another cliche that comes to mind now, haste makes waste. If I would have just waited for the correct diagnostic computer to start it would have saved me a lot of heartache and money. I am going to keep telling myself that this was all a really good learning experience until I convince myself that it is true.

Bonus – While waiting for parts I decided to clean up someone else’s mess, namely the front bumper which had suffered what carfax describes as minor damage. It is obvious that the bumper was replaced and painted, poorly. Paint was peeling off of it at an alarming rate. I decided to try out Plasti Dip for the first time. If you are not familiar with this product, it sprays on like paint but finishes as a rubber coating that can be peeled off without damaging the finish underneath. I made it easy on myself and pulled the bumper off and removed all the accessories before masking and painting. Like any paint job, prep work is key to a good finish. I am really happy with how easy it applied and how nice the finished product looks.

Spray on thick coats, just the way I like it.


Plasti Dip application


A nice durable finish.

Plasti Dip Results


Thanks for sharing in my misery and triumphs. I promise to report on some cool, fun stuff next time.

 Posted by at 8:35 pm
May 092015

I decided to treat my wife to a “new to her” car once my son started driving so he could inherit her old car. Her soccer mom days are over and there is no need to chauffeur a car full of kids around anymore so she wanted something sporty. I began to search for cars of the coupe variety. Along with my own personal set of filters, less than 75000 miles and less than 10 years old I had a nice selection to choose from. One car stood out and with confidence I took her for a test drive. I surprised her and shortly with her approval we drove away in a 2007 BMW 328i cabriolet (hard top convertible). I will admit the car is too nice for me, I like stiff, rattle your teeth, rubber meets the road sports cars myself. I don’t mind a computer controlled engine but this thing takes it to another level. Everything was fine for the first 6 months. I was able to take care of a few annoyances like burnt out bulbs and cup holders that don’t open but we noticed a small oil leak. Doing research like always revealed that this is a very common occurrence and that there are three major areas that leak: Oil filter housing gasket, valve cover gasket and of course the oil pan gasket. All these will leak, not a question of if but when. The next several paragraphs are hard to write since I have to admit to poor decisions, bad practices and an utter lack of knowledge concerning the modern BMW.

Act 1 – When diagnosing oil leaks you start at the top. Cleaning the engine and tracing the highest point of oil after running for a while will get you to the culprit. This got me to the Oil Filter Housing Gasket. No problem, it’s at the top of the engine and consists of three bolts. Two bolts came off easy but the third which required a swivel socket would not budge. So I ended up stripping the head. I don’t feel too bad about this one, I had the right tools and the right plan but the bolt was just too snug. Since the bolt was hidden I needed to remove the intake manifold so I could get the right tool on the bolt. Gasket replaced, oil leak resolved and the extra cost was one new bolt and two hours of labor.

Act 2 – With one leak fixed the joy only lasted about a month before the next leak started to show itself. Following the same procedure I was able to easily identify the leak as coming from the valve cover gasket. You know that feeling when you diagnose a problem without a doubt and you know you exactly what you need to do and what the results are going to be when you are done. Yeah, me too, but oh what a fool I turn out to be. I order the valve cover gasket, you have to order everything online for this car unless you want to get it from the dealer and even then they usually don’t have it in stock. I will plug here, they have all the parts and really helpful tech articles too. So armed with the parts I need and a plan I dig in. Things go relatively well, there are a lot of parts to remove and electronics to unhook just to get to the valve cover but nothing too daunting. The entire job takes about four and half hours. Note, the same job on my corvette only took twenty minutes. Proud of my accomplishment I go to start the car and to my surprise it does not start. Blood pressure starts to rise but I forge on. I retrace my steps, collect codes and hit the internet. All signs point to a fault in the valvetronic system, what the heck is that. More research later, ah, it’s a fancy replacement for a throttle body. That’s cool, it’s just a solenoid motor, sensor and relay. I don’t know how but I must have broken one of these parts on the way in or out. Blood pressure still rising I spend the next six hours trying to diagnose and re-diagnose this theory. I finally give in and just order the parts. $450 dollars later they are on their way. So begins a long week of waiting with a car that doesn’t run sitting in the garage, reminding me of my failure.

Act 3 – The parts arrive and I get excited again. I have faith that the car will run again, today! Once again my hopes are dashed. I start replacing parts one at a time, easiest first until I replaced them all. To get the sensor in the valve cover has to come off. Well hell, I already know how to do that. It comes off easier, everything gets easier with practice. The sensor sits above the timing chain and in my hurry I don’t see all outcomes and the worst happens. I DROPPED A BOLT INTO THE ENGINE!!!! I want to scream. I want to cry. But instead I grab my light and see if I can find it. I must have an angel looking over me because I find it and after creating an 18” magnetic screwdriver retrieve the bolt from a pinch point that prevented the bolt from making it to the pan. I take a break at this point, grab a drink and meditate on how I came to this point. All fingers point at me so I stop contemplating and return to the garage before I destroy my confidence completely. I begin to put the valve cover back on, a job not too dissimilar from a large game of Operation with greasy hands, but something is in the way and I have to retreat. On the way back out I hear a very distinct “tink, tink” sound. I DROPPED ANOTHER BOLT INTO THE ENGINE BAY!!! This time I feel vindicated, the bolt is pinched into a sleeve that is part of the valve cover. They are not supposed to come out so easily. I may have screamed but I did not cry. This time all my treasure hunting with mirrors and lights come up empty. I search blindly in the only place left, the fan shroud and bingo, I find it. Drink, meditate… return to the garage and finish the job. The car still does not start. Same symptoms, same codes. Six more hours of diagnosis and re-diagnose, grasping at straws and I have no ideas. An advanced diagnostic computer is on its way so for now this is a “to be continued”

I think every story should have a happy ending and this one will too, it may take longer and more money than it should have but I don’t give up and will continue to carry on. Act 4 should come next week whether it is a conclusion or not.

This smiling face keeps me just lighting the whole thing on fire:

wife and bmw

 Posted by at 10:05 pm