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      01-14-2018, 07:17 PM   #4

Drives: '17 328d Sport Wagon
Join Date: Sep 2016
Location: Bay Area, CA

iTrader: (2)

One of my favorite cosmetic features of the M3/M4 are the winged mirrors. They look nice, aggressive, and their shape flows well with the body. I had seen a bunch of carbon fiber mirror caps to replicate the look, but I didn't want carbon fiber. I wanted caps that matched the body color. Eventually on eBay I found out there are two styles of caps, Style 1 and Style 2.

Style 2 (left), Style 1 (right) Mirror Caps

Style 1 caps have softer edges, and are made of a glass reinforced plastic. It's a bit ductile, dense, and very sturdy. I started off with Style 1 caps, because I wasn't aware of Style 2 at the time. To get the caps to match my EBII body color, I wet sanded the original gloss black paint, and then primered and painted it with the Scratch Wizard spray paint again. This time, for clear coat I tried Scratch Wizard's spray paint clear coat. I was fairly happy with the result, but something just didn't seem right with these caps. Their shape didn't seem to flow with the lines of the car as well as I had hoped.

While searching eBay for other mirror caps, I noticed Style 2, and its subtle differences. I ordered it to see in person how it compared, and when it arrived I was very pleased with the shape. I'm not sure why Style 2 caps are more expensive than Style 1. They're made of a much lighter and more brittle ABS plastic. I accidentally broke one of the tabs that secures it to the mirror housing because of how brittle it is. I painted this cap the same way as the previous one. One thing I'd do next time is use a different clear coat. While I've been happy with Scratch Wizard's spray paint, their clear coat just doesn't hold up well. I'll probably have these mirror caps professionally painted next time.

I was always kind of annoyed that the M-Sport brake kit wasn't an option for the 328d wagon (it is for the 330i wagon). It was something that I had been thinking of adding, but had refrained from since I had no experience working with brakes before. One day while browsing eBay I found a set from a salvaged 2016 340i. Apparently it was salvaged with only 20miles on it. The price was $1200 shipped, and eBay was running a promotion for an additional $100 off. I decided to order it and learn how to install brakes.

When the brakes came I saw that everything was pretty much new, and there was just a bit of grime/rust from sitting out in the yard. I sent the calipers over to Carzwerk again for some clean up and ceramic coating (WOW those came out looking great compared to how I received them), and the rotors I treated myself. I took a tub and used a couple of gallons of white vinegar to get the rust off. I also used a stiff bristled brush (the kind that come in a car wash kit, but you should never actually use to wash your car unless you want scratches in your clear coat galore!) to brush the rust off after letting the rotors sit in the vinegar for 20-30min. One side effect of this, is that whatever anti-rust coating was along the periphery of the rotor, and inside the vanes, also came off in the vinegar. To replace that, I grabbed some high-temp BBQ paint in the same silver color from the hardware store and coated the rotor with that. I'm pleased to say that it's held up well.

Stock Front Rotor (left), 370mm Front M-Sport Rotor (right)

Stock RearRotor (left), 345mm Rear M-Sport Rotor (right)

Installing the brakes was quite a learning experience. Just seeing the difference in how fixed vs floating calipers worked was interesting. New TIS was a huge help in finding the procedures, torque specs, and tips (like how to close off the master cylinder so fluid doesn't leak out when you disconnect the brake lines). I had one scary moment when my jack partially slipped off of the front center jack point. Upon further inspection, that jack point is slightly curved on the front of it, which allowed my jack to slip since it wasn't far back enough. It also took me a while to figure the best angles to get to the bolts on the backside of the calipers. There's a lot of stuff in the way there, and getting leverage to break the bolts loose (or tighten them) was difficult. I ended up using both my jack and a longer 2"x4" to get the leverage I needed on things like a ratchet and torque wrench. It was also difficult working within the dimensions of the wheel well since my breaker bar was too long. It was at that point I decided I'd need a better jack/lift setup so I could be under the car when trying to work on this stuff.

One funny experience during the brake swap was I darn near flushed an entire system's worth of brake fluid just trying to bleed the first caliper. I kept seeing air bubbles when I'd open the bleeder screw wide open. Later I'd find out that by opening the bleeder screw that much, air was getting in through the threads. Doh!

On a related note, having a single-person bleeder (like the Motive or Schwaben) is a huge help! I got the Motive, but kind of wish I had bought the Schwaben instead due to it's quick disconnect. I used the method where you don't fill the bleeder with fluid, and instead only use it to pressurize the master cylinder reservoir. When the master cylinder reservoir gets low, remove the bleeder cap from it and refill it. This leaves a lot less mess to clean up. One thing I'll probably do in the future is get the premium aluminum cap. I had issues with the stock plastic cap popping off sometimes under pressure (I was SUPER glad I didn't fill the bleeder with brake fluid when that happened). To prevent that, I don't pressurize the system past 20PSI anymore.

Original Front Brake Assembly

M-Sport 370mm Front Brake Assembly

So what were my impressions of the new M-Sport brakes? They will stop you HARD! Interestingly, the first bit of pedal travel doesn't give you much feedback, but then the pads really grab! The one downside to the M-Sport brakes is they produce a TON of dust. Thank god I have black wheels, or I'm sure I'd look like some of those BMWs where you notice the front wheels are distinctly darker than the rear! If I washed the car on a weekend, by the following weekend they'd look FILTHY again!

QuickJack (not a personal product)
Given my earlier realization of needing a better jack/lift setup, I started to look at home/portable options. The finalists ended up being the EZ Car Lift and QuickJack. Luckily for me, I have coworkers that own both of these products and got to check them both out. In addition to being cheaper, I liked how the QuickJack doesn't require a cross member connecting both skids. That makes maneuvering it much easier. I picked up my QuickJack from eBay for $1240 shipped during another $100 off promo period.

QuickJack Hydraulic Unit

QuickJack All the Way Up (rear)

QuickJack All the Way Up (side)

The QuickJack consists of a hydraulic unit, hoses, and the two skids. The hydraulic system connects using no-spill quick disconnects. It's really easy to set it up and maneuver it. In my pics you'll notice that I have the skids on cardboard (the boxes that the skids arrived in). One complaint my coworker had was that the paint on the skids gets all scratched up from sliding around on concrete. Keeping the skids on the cardboard prevents that, and helps me slide the skid under the car more easily.

Why xDrive?
Various people have asked me, "Why did you go xDrive (AWD)?" Well, for one, the wagons only come in xDrive, and two, I actually do a good amount of non-pavement driving.

One of my good friends has a ranch. I'm frequently there helping with things and hanging out. After the rains. the dirt road leading up the hill gets quite muddy. Once in my Mazda 3 I didn't make it up through the mud and had to reverse down the hill. By the time I reached the base of the hill, my rear wheel wells had accumulated so much mud, that as I drove towards the ranch exit/paved road my rear wheels weren't even spinning, just dragging along! I'm happy to say xDrive has performed will in these situations and I can confidently tackle the road when it rains.

At the Ranch (midway up the hill)

Looking Further Up the Hill

The Ladies at the Ranch Always Check out the Wagon

In addition to the ranch, I'm usually going to some open space on the weekends to hike around and hang out. Some of my favorite places are the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands in the Sierrra Nevada foothills and Panoche Hills. There's a myriad of terrain from dry creek beds to super fine desert dust (that crap gets into EVERYTHING). The wagon has performed admirably.

Panoche Hills & Desert Dust

The Most Fun I'll Never Want to Have Again
Or something to that effect...

Another roll_the_dice mod I replicated was contrast seat stitching. The timing of his post was excellent, as I had recently checked out an M2, noticed the blue contrast stitching, and thought it looked awesome! Unlike roll_the_dice though, I went with a thicker thread that pops more.

Working all of the stitching by hand was incredibly tedious. I definitely had to remove all the various pieces (seats, bench, seat backs, and e-brake cover) from my car as doing this in the summer while the garage was in the 90-100's would've killed me! One thing I learned is that you'll get an airbag code if you disconnect the front seat connector before the car is fully shut off after 20min. Thankfully I have a Schwaben OBDII BMW unit to clear codes, so I didn't have to wait that long.

It may have taken me more than 80hrs, but I'm very happy with the way the stitching came out. The trick to getting clean ends is to make a knot at the end of each line of stitching, then tuck the excess thread back into the seam line under the leather, pop out in another location along the seam line, snip the excess, and tuck the remaining tail back under the leather. It really does look like the seats came that way from the factory. The feedback I've received on it has been great too. Compliments, all around.

Driver's Seat Stitching

Rear Seat Stitching

While working on the stitching on my rear headrests, I began to wonder whether I could get all three in a folding format versus just the middle one. Consulting RealOEM, I saw that the 2-series cars came with rear folding headrests that are the same as those used in the 3-series (in countries where that's an option). Unfortunately, finding the headrests from a salvaged 2-series wasn't very easy given how new they are. I finally found a pair, at a price that was a bit higher than I liked, but ended up getting them. After adding contrast stitching and putting them in the car, I like how the rear matches better. It also helps that the visibility through the rear view mirror is improved.

Rear Folding Headrests

Taking Advantage of Brexit!
Once over the summer when I stopped by Carzwerk I saw an M2 that Jason was working on for another customer. This M2 had the new "M-Performance v2" steering wheel, which has a flat bottom, alcantara on the sides, and full-grain leather on the tops and bottoms. It seems the going rate for this wheel is about $750 in the US, not including the carbon fiber trim. I found this wheel new from a BMW dealership in the UK on eBay, and after the GBP to USD conversion, ended up only being $600 after shipping!

M-Sport (left) and M-Performance v2 (right) Steering Wheel Cores

If you've come across some of my posts regarding BMW leather, you'll find me complaining a lot. The stock M-Sport steering wheel has really poor quality leather. Coming from the high-end shoe scene, the "Nappa" leather on the M-Sport wheel is an embarrassment. It's corrected grain leather, where they sand off the top layer of the leather, and then coat it with various materials. This is typically done to lower-quality hides because the hide surface had imperfections. You can tell full grain from corrected grain by looking for the follicles in the leather. I could never figure out why the leather on my e-brake handle was full grain, while the steering wheel was corrected grain. It felt cheap and fake.

Another one of my pet peaves is how alcantara is billed as a "premium" material in the automotive sector. Alcantara is nothing more than synthetic (fake) suede leather, because real suede is too expensive (and understandably more effort to care for that most are willing). Even still, when I asked people how they liked their M-Performance steering wheels at car meets, most complained about how quickly the alcantara got dirty and how much of a hassle it was to clean it. Once again, my shoe maintenance experience would help me. For suede shoes, it's common to use a protecting spray, such as Tarrago. These sprays prevent dirt/filth/liquids from sticking/absorbing to the suede, while not diminishing the soft feel. I treated the alcantara on my wheel with Allen Edmonds suede protector.

M-Sport Steering Wheel

M-Performance v2 Steering Wheel

If you're looking at the wheels and thinking that the M-Performance wheel looks thicker, you're right. It is a bit thicker on the alcantara region, and has an interesting oval/football cross section on the upper area. There are also finger grooves on the backside of the upper portion. One positive I wasn't considering beforehand, is that alcantara doesn't get cold like leather does. I didn't order my vehicle with the heated steering wheel, and with the M-Sport wheel sometimes I'd think that it might've been nice to have it, but I haven't had that thought since getting the M-Performance wheel.

More to come...

Last edited by FaRKle!; 01-14-2018 at 07:26 PM..