aka the wallet diet

S14 Head Extraction Part II

July 5th, 2012 Pierre

Today I got around to resuming the head removal. I didn’t have much left so it went pretty quick. The intake and exhaust manifolds were left on for ease…or lazyness.    Once the head was off I didn’t find anything catastrophic, although the head gasket was pretty beat. No cracks that I can see. I checked the head surface with a steel straightedge – good there too. The coolant holes on the gasket seemed cruddy and rusty. I assume there wasn’t a good seal between cylinders 2/3 and the oil/coolant passages. I noticed while removing the head bolts that the bottom (exhaust side) ones seamed to come off easier. The top ones came off with a good snap – the bottom ones with a mild snap. Maybe the bolts just needed tightening?  Also, 3 of the exhaust side bolts were corroded with what almost looks like carbon deposits (pics soon). I’m not 100% sure what went wrong. I’ve got a new BMW head gasket going in on Saturday. Hopefully it’s just a leaky gasket. No mulah to spend on a rebuild right now.


S14 Head extraction: Part I

July 1st, 2012 Pierre

Last night I began the lengthy, for an amateur, process of removing the head. The only other head I’ve removed was from my old M30 528i. This is much different – there are so many more things to unscrew. Good thing I like doing this sort of stuff! Removing the valve cover and cams, this is what I saw…

Proof positive. Definate coolant and oil mixing…and not from condensation. These photos show triple banding of clean oil, milky oil, and dark oil. The previous owner probably used non-synthetic oil at long intervals, hence the dark staining. Now its running Mobil-1. The first oil change was even run with some Sea Foam. It’s very obvious the extra detergency of the oil coupled with Sea Foam is cleaning out the crud.
I quit here for now – Part II in a few days.

S14 disappearing coolant mystery

June 30th, 2012 Pierre

A few months ago I replaced my tired old original engine with a “better” used motor…or so I thought. Everything went well, she purred like a kitten. Fast forward a few weeks. I noticed my coolant level would always be lower than the last time checked. A faint smell of coolant upon startup also crept in. To be honest I turned a blind eye. I should mention that the car doesnt’ get driven much…3-4 times a month, max. About a month ago I pulled the dipstick for a level check. What do I see? Streaks of milky oil. Nooooooo. I researched relentlessly. Maybe it was condensation? Yea, thats it! Did I mention the car doesn’t get driven much? Short intermittent drives=condensation. So off to change the oil I go. The oil was dirty because of Sea Foam but no signs of moisture. For the heck of it, I checked the compression. 195, 205, 195, 200. Not too shabby. I start driving the M very optimistically long and hard.

I crack open the dipstick a week later. Streaky again. Allrighty, time to get to the bottom of this. I’m still thinking it’s condensation, but need to ease my mind. Look closely at the image below…faint milky streaks.


Here’s my plan. If it’s the head gasket, it must be associated with the coolant loss. Cylinder pressure could be sneaking into the cooling system. At best, through a busted head gasket, at worst a warped or cracked head. I’ll unplug the coil and fuel pump relay and turn over the engine. If there’s a leak, I should hear a burble in the expansion tank.

The engine is stone cold. First, I’ll crank without the fuel relay and the coolant cap on. Done. To my surprise, there’s pressure release as the cap comes off. Strike one. Crank with the cap off – burble burble. Strike two. Maybe it’s just air in the system? Finally, with fuel relay in and cap on. Again, pressure release while removing cap, then…a quick whiff in the expansion tank. Gas odor. Steeeerike three! On to the head extraction.

Annoying rattle … Updated

May 11th, 2012 Pierre

Update: I had left the oxygen sensor socket on the sensor.

I’ve developed an annoying rattle. I only hear it when accelerating, especially from a stop. It’s high pitched and metallic sounding. Very faint though. Seems to be getting louder. Clutch? Tranny? Loose bolt?



Oh well, it gives me the opportunity to assess my oil leak.

Things I have…done…and don’t

May 8th, 2012 Pierre

Long time since a post.

The most significant thing I’ve done since the last tech post is swapping out the tired S14 for…a less tired S14. I’m pretty proud of it too. I did it all myself and took only 3 weekends. No more smokey, rattly, leaky engine. Ok I must confess, it leaks a little. I probably need to tighten a few oil pan bolts. Rod bearings were replaced along with a new oem water and oil pump. She definitely purrs nicely with the Evo 2 cam. Pics forthcoming.

Phase 2 to do list:

Upgrade clutch, thinking of an OS Giken
Swap for dogleg box
Swap rear end
Install GE coilovers and IE camber plates
Delete cooling fan

Got the tires mounted on the GTA wheels

November 13th, 2011 Pierre

It turns out the Kumho XS in 215/45/16 on my GTA wheels were rubbing the rear inner fender lips. I really didn’t want to have them rolled anymore…so I decided to get a slightly smaller tire – 205/45/16. All this means I need to get my coilovers for proper wheel gap, meaning lower! The tires are no frills all season performance Falken Ziex ZE-912’s. $350 mounted and balanced. No rubbing issues now.

If you’re in the LA area (SGV) the guys at Tires Central are great. Awesome prices and straight up service.


Refinished Pontiac GTA wheels

October 22nd, 2011 Pierre

A couple of posts down I wrote about using Pontiac Trans AM GTA wheels on my M3. I like these wheels because they can easily be massaged to fit, are cheap, strong, lightweight, and unique. But most of all, I saw potential for these wheels to pop. In stock form, they came in a variety of colors: gray, silver, black, and gold. It was the dull machined lip with yellowing clear coat that made them look bland. So, I finally got around to refurbishing a second set (bought for less than $200). A variety of face colors danced in my head for weeks…what should I choose? Stock gold? Nogaro silver? Black? Nope. I settled on bright silver for my first set. Silver is the judge of any wheel, it’ll make or break the aesthetic of the design. Quite often, most wheels that are painted a wild color were originally silver. An ugly silver wheel rarely looks better in another color. Oh, and the machined lips got polished too.

Here they are before:




I like the way these turned out. Now I can experiment with a different color on the other set. Hmmm, need to find the right tire…keep posted, I’ll have these on the car soon.

Another video of my exhaust

October 21st, 2011 Pierre

Dissapointed in the audio quality of my previous videos, here’s another one:

Better Quality Video

How the M3 got its groove back…again

June 4th, 2011 Pierre

I finally had the chance to take out the M out of storage after…2 years?! Well, my kid is now 1.5 years old, minus 9 months…geez long time! She was all dusty and cobweb-ridden. Over the last 6 months I embarked on a little wheel project to keep me busy. She was currently sitting on e38 mesh wheels in 16×8 offset 23 shod with Kumho XS in 215/45/16. They were nice but plain. I thought about painting them a different color. It wasn’t too exciting. Maybe I should get some 17″ e39 style 5’s? Doesn’t everyone have those? Very nice but ubiquitous. Plus I didn’t want to buy more tires, my Kumho’s are brand new.

On my regular trolling of Craigslist I found an ad for some gold 16″ mesh wheels. I really liked the style. They look like a cross between BBS’s and SSR meshes. Originally, they’re out of the Pontiac Trans AM GTA circa late 80’s. After some quick research on offsets and bolt pattern (more on this later), I picked them up that same weekend for less than $300. These are them:



– 16×8 et0 (original front)
– 16×8 et16 (original rear)
– 70.7 mm center bore
– 5×4.75 in bolt pattern (5×120.6)
– One piece, all aluminum construction
– Made in Japan

Now, the first thing you’re going to say a bolt pattern of 5×120.6 is not the same as 5×120. I know it’s not-and I’m not going to say I’m some expert on the minute radial stresses caused by 0.3 mm of difference. I read many discussions on this online between the users and naysayers. Mainly they’re folks trying to fit BMW wheels on GM vehicles. Some smarty guys would argue extensively on these “minute stresses” and the cataclysmic results. I could not find, nor the proponents, find a single case of catastrophic failure. The “smarty” guys are probably right, but my common sense kicks in saying this is only a difference in unit semantics. For all practical purposes 5x120mm=5×4.75 in. DISCLAIMER: This is only my opinion! At worst, the opposing lug really is 0.3 mm farther-and again, my common sense kicks in to say these parts can tolerate that delta. A nice snug hub fit should center the wheel and lug holes appropriately to diminish the chance of a shifted wheel. I’m willing to bet that any failures are probably attributed to mixing of hub-centric and lug-centric applications. Such as installing a BMW wheel with a center bore of 72.5 on a GM with a hub of 70.7. This puts more stress on the wheel since the hub isn’t there to support. Even then it’s probably a torquing issue as the lugs/bolts are just there to provide clamping force. The wheel/hub interaction is what’s holding the car up. When I performed the initial fitment test, I eyeballed the centerline of the wheel lug hole and the hub hole-I did not see an offset. Please post comments on this!

So, more about the wheels. They are a lug-centric application which, in theory, should make the wheel strong. They were made to support a American iron at over 3,400 pounds. The wheels weigh about 17lbs each. Pretty light in my book. They have an oddball original application: the lower offset pair, wider lip, are the fronts for the Pontiac. The et16 is the rear. Very counterintuitive in the euro world. My plan was to swap the pairs onto my M3.

I had two major issues: first, the center bore is too small; second, the fronts hit the caliper. I was bummed but not out of the game. To salvage the situation I needed to take it step by step. First thing to do is get the wheel’s center machined. Once that was done at a wheel shop, I estimated how much spacer was needed to clear the calipers. Using some washers, 10 mm was the magic number. This would bring the offset down to et6.

A 10 mm spacer? That’s easy enough. Wrong! Remember our hub lips extend from the hub about 10 to 12 mm (seems like model years vary). Most 10 mm spacers are hub-centric. Meaning they have a built-in lip for the wheel to sit on. So if you’ve to a car with hub lips greater than 10 mm, you’ll have to get 12 mm hub-centric spacers. It’s not physically possible to make 10 mm hub-centric spacers to fit on hubs >10 mm. My car came in at 12 mm. Great. Just great. I really didn’t want the offset lower by using a 12 mm spacer.

After much brain wave action I found the solution. I used a quality BMW 10 mm aluminum spacer without the hub lip, basically flat. This left me 2 mm on the car’s hub lip…no way enough to safely put a wheel on. The next piece of the puzzle is VAC Motorsports hub extender. This gave me the minimum spacer and hub that I needed. Very trick!


My wheels project…an intro

June 2nd, 2011 Pierre

An intro…16×8…et0…and et16. Gold.