Keep your Cool–Preventative Maintenance for the BMW Z3

A quick search of the Internet for “Z3 Water Pump Failure” will tell you that just after 60K miles you need to start to think about replacing the plastic impeller driven water pump.  Those who choose to push the envelope or think they might win a car at a slot machine in Las Vegas might wait a little longer like 89K miles.  After our trip to Las Vegas and failing to win a Corvette or BMW 3 Series–I decided it was time to make the investment.  I ordered the parts from a variety of sources;  BavAuto, Pelican Parts and Auto Parts Warehouse and prepared to do the work.  I found that Auto Parts Warehouse had some of the best prices, particularly on the new radiator and their two day shipping was free.

Z3 Coolant System Repair

When the parts arrived on the doorstep I was finally ready to get dirty.  The part’s list was as follows (see how shiny and new in photo below):

Serpentine Belt (#11 28 1 739 816)

Air Conditioning Belt (#11 28 1 470 023)

Radiator and Reservoir and mounting clips (#17 11 1 728 905 and #17 11 1 723 341)

Thermostat (#11 53 1 432 884)

Water Pump (with metal impeller) (#11 51 1 734 602)

Upper/Lower Radiator Hoses (#11 53 1 743 535 and #11 53 1 247 261)

BMW Coolant / Distilled water

Z3 Coolant System Repair

The Bentley Z3 Service Manual, does a good job of documenting the process that you will follow for the repair. In the photo below you can see the cracks in the old serpentine belts. Millions of revolutions, years of wear and lots of engine heat are a recipe for disaster if you don’t replace wearable items like this. I had a slight bit of hesitation that changing the belts might be difficult to do–but in the end it was a piece of cake.

Z3 Coolant System Repair

As for the water pump, the photo below says it all. I tried to use the bolt holes to back out the pump from the block.  Only the pump had a different idea, the wings sheared off the pump leaving it stuck in place.  A few minutes of cussing and a beer later, I used a brake cylinder tool to slowly extract the pump by alternating from one side to the other as I expanded the tool.  After the pump was extracted I had to dig out the impeller blade and remaining piece of the the pump.  I don’t know if it broke before or after, but it is definitely a lesson learned to get the original pump out and upgrade to the metal impeller.

Z3 Coolant System Repair

After all of the parts where back in place and tightened up;  I filled the radiator and followed the instructions to bleed and top off the coolant.  It was now time to take VEGGIEZ out for a long run around the neighborhood to make sure she was free from leaks or any other problems.

I am happy to say there were no problems or issues with the my work.  Now I could truly celebrate with a couple of cold beers and another accomplishment to ad to my shade tree mechanic resume.

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Trim Replacement–Preventative Maintenance for the BMW Z3

It’s hard to believe our Z3 will be celebrating its 14th year of life this February.  It doesn’t seem that long ago that we picked her up at the dealership in Columbia, South Carolina.  To ensure she will make it to classic car status looking grand–now was a great time to attend to some basic repairs.  A great starting point is to keep the rubber gaskets and seals lubricated or replace them when they become cracked.

The door handle trim and antenna gasket had started to crack and deteriorate recently.  I am not sure if that is a function of living in the desert or just age; given I do wipe them down with a protectant/sunscreen.  The repairs didn’t seem too difficult and would ensure that the weather (what little we have) does not get into the body.  You can see from the photo below how they looked before the start of the project.

Z3 Gasket Repair

To replace the door handle trim you will need to purchase part numbers 51 21 8 400 195 & 51 21 8 400 196. First start by opening the door and prying open the small access hole cover that is located near the handle with a small flat head screwdriver.

Z3 Gasket Repair

This opening allows you to get to the door handle trim release slide which is how you unlock and lock the handle trim into place.  In order to accomplish this task you need a few tools (thin flat head screwdriver and hanger bent into a small right angle hook).  For the next step a bright light, good eye and patience will come in handy.  Using the screwdriver insert it into the hole and push it against the pale gold object you see above the lock cylinder.  It should slide forward about a 1/4 inch and the trim should release from the door. Pull off the old trim and clean up any dirt and debris that has accumulated under the door handle trim.

Z3 Gasket Repair

Using the appropriate door handle trim, insert the new piece into position starting at the bottom and pick up the hanger hook tool.  Insert the hook tool into the access hole and pull the slide you just pushed forward back into position to lock the trim down.  The process seems a little bizarre but once you do it the first time you will be a master.  Reinsert the access hole cover and this door is complete.

Z3 Gasket Repair

Congratulations!  First door took about 3-4 times longer than door #2.  Now that you have a new skill you can impress your friends and family by performing this trick in minutes when their door trim starts to crack.  Check out how great it looks below.

Z3 Gasket Repair

Now we move on to the antenna gasket (Part #65 21 8 389 698).  This gasket takes a lot of abuse from the antenna being tighten down on it and the vibration that the antenna puts on it during time out on the road and track.  Everyone has seen the antenna being blown backwards and thrown side to side as the Z3 carves up the curves on a mountain drive.  I just replaced the antenna this last summer because the rubber was cracking on the base.

Z3 Gasket Repair

You start by opening the trunk and and pulling back the carpet on the left side of the trunk.  This will allow you access the antenna bracket.  Loosen a couple of  nuts and the gasket swap can be completed.  I found a small amout of lubricant (water works just fine) will help the gasket install easier.  Reattach the nuts and replace the carpet.

Z3 Gasket Repair

You can see how bad the original gasket was in the photo below.

Z3 Gasket Repair

The antenna and gasket look as good as new.

Z3 Gasket Repair

The total cost in parts for these two projects was about $30.  The best place to order these parts is Bavarian Auto.  So next time you need to fix something–check the Bentley Z3 Service Manual: 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, search the internet and take the task on yourself to save a few dollars and get closer to your car.

Let’s keep these cars looking beautiful.  There’s nothing more depressing then remembering how these cars looked back in the day displayed on the grounds of the plant at Homecoming in Greer, South Carolina and seeing some of them now on the roads tired and beaten.

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A Breath of Fresh Air

I completely understand the importance of basic maintenance (auto, home, etc.).

  • I change the fluids and filters
  • I have changed the brakes and rotors
  • I have fixed the master and slave cylinders
  • I have replaced springs and shocks
  • I have even fixed the gears in the front seat when it froze in the permanent reclined position
  • I can go on…

I have never personally changed the cabin filter in the 1999 M3. The dealer changed it under warranty on a few occasions but I have always dreaded taking apart the dash with its many screws, tight spaces and FRAGILE plastic clips and multiple wiring harnesses.   I finally bought a filter and set to the task of changing it after five or more years.

“Behold the filthy beast!”

M3 Cabin Filter

As with every BMW repair job you should search the Internet (thank you Google and other enthusiasts that share your experiences) and check your BMW 3 Series (E36) Service Manual: 1992-1998.  The job entails taking the glove box and associated dash panels out along with the unbolting of the electronics main panel.  The job itself is not difficult but it is that fear of the BMW plastic clips and pieces that never survive the second use or 1/4 turn too much of a screw.  I often wonder if there is a technical term for those mechanics that fear the thousands of plastic pieces on the modern automobile.

The clutter below illustrates the mass of wires and components that end up in the footwell before you actually get to the filter panel.  A simple turn of a dial on the filter panel and you are ready to swap the filter.  Now all that remains is to get it all back together with no spare parts or rattling.

M3 Disassembled Dash

All I can say is that I am glad that the 1997 Z3 did not come with a cabin filter. I am betting the next cabin filter change won’t be five years from now and I am positive that I will not be so apprehensive about the task.

I highly recommend you purchase a Bentley manual for your BMW or other car make to help with all of the repair and maintenance projects.

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