My E36 M3 is known to be one of the nicer examples in the St. Louis area, despite having 109,000 miles on the clock. In reality, it shows its age in ways that sometimes bugs me.
Such is the case with a few pieces I’m replacing these days. The cracking door handle gaskets and a piece called the windshield wiper cowl cover are at the top of my list.
I read up and watched some videos on the door handle gasket. I’m somewhat mechanically inclined, but my skills are limited. Frankly, I’ve found that my interest in wrenching has been diminishing as I age. These days I pretty much keep it simple and stick with what I know. Not as “game for adventure” as I used to be. Kind of a shame, but there it is. Having done my my research, I figured out that I would need help with this.
Now about the cowl/cover thing. This should be a different story. This topic came up one day in conversation with my friend Ernie Peters. Having replaced the cowl on my ’96 328 sedan, I thought it would be easy on my ’97 M3. Nope, not the case. It’s not the same part, not the same installation procedure. And I would need a ‘windshield wiper puller.” Yeah, like I keep one in my left pocket. I do have a few (very few) BMW special tools, but this ain’t one of ’em. Turns out, Ernie has one. To boot, he replaced his Z3 door handle gaskets, so he’s got the mojo. As a generous friend, he offered to help me with both items.
We set a date to do the work in my garage. As I eagerly anticipated Ernie’s arrival, I started the disassembly process for the wiper cowl. Pretty simple, really, except that I would have preferred to have a thin screwdriver with a much wider blade to remove some of the plastic “screws.” Dunno if that’s what you call them, but I was careful not to mess them up. I then removed the windshield wiper nut covers.
I like playing in my garage. What makes it more enjoyable is the powered speakers I have set up, complete with subwoofer. They’re no big deal, but it makes a difference. I simply plug in my iPhone and play my favorite Pandora stations. In case you’re curious, they are Todd Rundgren and Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express. Because Ernie shares my interest in classic rock, I turn it up a little when he arrives. Another cool thing about Ernie; he works at the Wildey Theater in Edwardsville, where several old bands play for audiences who enjoy the intimate setting and great acoustics.
Because I had started on the wipers, we got out the wiper arm puller and soon realized that it would have been good for me to have soaked them overnight with WD-40. I gave them a few squirts and we turned our attention to the door handles.
The door handles aren’t supposed to be all that hard, but they are. The idea is fundamentally simple. First, pull back a rubber cover in the door to reveal an access slot. Then, using a special tool or a screwdriver with the blade bent in an “L” shape, find the metal piece to push on to release the door handle cover and gasket.
As it turns out, Ernie has that tool too. But finding that certain metal piece is the tricky part. None of the videos or photos I found online were very helpful. For the life of me, I couldn’t find the release pin. Good thing Ernie was there, having drunk his morning ninja juice. He found the magic spot like a BMW leprechaun and released the first handle within minutes. Handle number two was a little tougher, but we had that done in short order. Before installing the new parts, I cleaned the areas of the the dirt that had accumulated over the last 20 years. I finished off the areas with cleaner wax. I was pretty happy with look of the new gaskets.
On to the wiper cover. This turned out to be tougher than we’d hoped. Cranking on the wiper puller yielded no results. Zip. Nada. Ernie figured that we could beat on the tool with a rubber hammer. I was a little nervous, but it ended up working just fine. After removing the wiper arms, we realized the big challenge in replacing this part. Apparently, the hood hardware has to be loosened and shifted. The hood has to then be properly aligned when the hardware is tightened down. Because I could see that going all kinds of wrong, I elected to take it to a dealer. “Hang it,” I said, “Let’s watch Adrenalin.”
For those of you who don’t know, Adrenalin is a recently produced movie about BMW’s involvement in touring car racing, particularly in DTM, otherwise known as the German Touring Car Series. It features many past drivers who brought their own ninja skills to the track behind the wheel of cars like the iconic E30 M3. The film does a wonderful job of capturing the adventure and emotion related to one of our favorite forms of motorsports. It’s just the kind of movie you want to see with a good car buddy.
The day ended with a real sense of satisfaction. Happy that my door handles now look great, but more happy that I got to spend the day with a good friend. Makes life in the club really worthwhile.