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E34 BMWDoor Lock Microswitch Problems

E34 BMW Door Lock Microswitch Problems

I have a 1990 BMW E34 525i. Lately it has been giving me some grief when it comes to locking and unlocking the doors. I took a closer look and I’ll let you in on what I found the root cause was.

The E34 was in storage for a year. I should note that the doors were left unlocked. I connected the battery and started it up. Everything worked great. I drove it to the house and locked the doors with the driver side door key cylinder. I went out a  few hours later to get in the car and nothing happened when I tried to unlock it.

Great. Oh E34, how do I love thee? I don’t.

After a quick search online I found the procedure to manually override the unlock function via the passenger front door. I managed to get in the vehicle. My work was about to begin.

Instead of giving all the details of what I tried and looked at, I’ll cut to the chase to save you time.

Put your ear on the door just above the key cylinder. Turn the key left and right to lock and unlock the door. You should be able to hear the microswitch click in both directions. Do this for each door. I noticed the passenger side switch did not click in the lock position.

If you do not hear any clicks, inspect the respective switch. This tip should work on any E34, BMW, or any car that has microswitch on the door key cyilnders.

I removed the right front door panel and got down to the switch. Another thing: It helps to remove the window run to get the entire handle assembly out. Be prepared to find the lower bolt on the window run rusted and impossible to remove. I had to drill it out and replace it with a nut and bolt. The threaded boss on the lower tab will knock out. Thak you BMW engineers for seeing into the future.

See the video below for an explanation of the door lock microswitch and its anatomy. You may be able to fix your switch. I had to replace mine all together.

Alas, if you own and E34 you should stay busy trying to keep up on maintenace and operability considering the age on these vehicles.

Wheel Bearing- The Value of Fixing Your Vehicle Yourself

How Replacing the Wheel Bearing On Your Vehicle Yourself Can Save You Money and Net You More Tools

Every now and then a repair such as a noisy wheel bearing may come up on your vehicle and you may question whether or not to to tackle it yourself. Lots of questions about this type of repair or any repair for that matter may arise. These are some that come to my mind:

What is the cause?
Can I diagnose it?
Can I get a new or used part?
How does it come apart?
How does it go back together?
Can I do the work myself?
What tools do I need?
Do I have or need to purchase the tools?
How long will it take me?
What is the cost for someone else to do it vs. my time and money spent on tools I will need?
If I purchase tools, can I use the tools for something else later?

All of these questions add up. With a little thought about each you may find yourself ahead of the game. I’ll give you a perfect example. Remember, it does not always happen like this but man is it sweet when it does!

I have a 2002 Hyundai Elantra with 110,000 miles. I noticed the wheel bearing on the right side started making noise. I raised up the front of the vehicle and chocked the left front wheel. Next I put the car in drive and watched the right front wheel from the front of the car. It was wobbly. I placed a long screwdriver on the knuckle and could hear that the bearing was bad. As a comparison just to be sure, I did the same thing to the other side. No wobble. No noise. The right side wheel bearing was confirmed to be faulty.

The first thing I did was find out the price and availability of the part. This is always the first step after you know what the problem is. I searched online for the part and found it at a national retailer for $30. I ended up paying a little less because I purchased a few other things and used a coupon.

It has been my experience that I would need a hydraulic press to push the faulty wheel bearing out and to push the new wheel bearing in.

Great. Now I needed a press.

I decided to get an estimate from a local dealer at this time. This was to help me decide if I should continue with trying to do this myself or chalk it up to someone who may be competent with the correct tools.

The dealer wanted $250 dollars. Now I had a goal to come in under. I started searching Craigslist for a press. Hoping that maybe, just maybe I could get a deal on one. The reason? One that would do the job from Harbor Freight was $200. That plus the bearing would put me close to the estimate and I would still have to do the work. At this point I was still leaning towards doing it myself even if I had to buy a brand new press. After all, I could use it for other things.

A week or so went by and I had found nothing. Then I found something. I found the exact same press I was looking for. It was for sale by a guy about 10 miles away. It was practically brand new. He used it once and it did not fit his application. He wanted $125. Sold.

I purchased the wheel bearing since I committed to do the job myself and tackled it a few days later.

I knew I was going to need some scrap metal to block up the knuckle because the knuckle needs to sit level in the press. I scored some pieces from a neighbor for free. These scraps needed to be cut into something manageable.  A few weeks prior I purchased an electric grinder for half of its original price on Craigslist. I paid $40. A grinding wheel to cut the scrap metal was $3.

I managed to get the steering knuckle off of the car with relative ease and onto the press.  I did have to buy a cylinder of mapp gas to heat the knuckle up to help the old bearing press out. The heat was about $12. Everything came apart fairly easy.

The new wheel bearing went in great and everything went back together well. The final road test confirmed that the noise was eliminated and the vehicle was repaired.

So lets add it up and compare:

Price of press……………125.00
Electric angle grinder…..40.00
Cutting disc………………… 3.00
Mapp gas…………………..12.00
Bearing……………………..30.00
Scrap metal……………………..0

My total for everything was $210 plus three hours of my time. Hey, I was in no hurry. The estimate was for $250. How did I do? By the way, I’m not counting the cost of the other tools needed to do this job since I already had them. That is something to consider as well. That would have put me way over the estimate the dealer gave me. In that case it would have been better for me to let them do the work.

I know that jobs like this do not always work out as well as this one. The point is with a little patience, some creativity, and a bit of luck, it can happen. Remember to consider all of your options before making a final decision on where and how you spend your money. Good luck to you and the next time your vehicle needs repair.

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Working at McMurdo Station Antarctica in Winter

No reason to sugar coat it, here it is straight up, no rocks, or neat whatever you want to call it.

  • Population this winter season is 153.
  • Winter life is good. You get an entire room for yourself. In our case we have two suits next to one another in B207. Each has a sink and they are connected by an en suite. If you are in B155 you get your own room and share a community bathroom.
  • My department has MANY pieces of the same type of equipment. It gets incredibly boring doing the same service to the same type of equipment over and over. It may be different in other work centers. See the video of my work center here.
  • The greenhouse is going strong and we do have lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and sprouts from time to time. Thank goodness there is Burger Bar every Wednesday and every other Sunday and it is free! Some Burger Bar cooks do fun things like Kiwi Burgers, Mexican Burgers, etc. Fried Friday occurs on Karaoke Night– a bunch of fried goodies–mushrooms, fries, stuffed green chilies, cheese sticks, etc.
  • The weather here is fairly good. Cold, but good. Currently (6/7/2012) it is -25.6°F and feels like -48°F. It really does not feel that cold. No real storms have occurred in three months. No major snow drifts anywhere.
  • There are 31 different choices of wine, champagne, and cordials–mostly wine. No hard liquor except at Gallagher’s bar.
  • Regular outdoor activity is hiking, aurora watching or Discovery Hut tours. There was a race/relay race around town a few weeks ago. There were three relay teams and about 20 individuals. It was cold and fun! My team took second place in the relay and each of us won a gift certificate for one free hour of surf lessons and wet suit rental in Christchurch!
  • The 4th of July party was last night. There was human jenga, a dunk booth, several game booths, an auction and carnival food. The Vehicle Maintenance Facility hosts horseshoes once a month. I had unicycle riding lessons today at the Big Gym. FUN! Midwinter dinner is comparable to prom. The nice linens get put out on the tables and the Galley pulls out all the stops.
  • No military personnel winterover.



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Transmission Shudder and How to Fix It

The Scenario:

You are cruising along somewhere between 40 and 60 MPH and all of a sudden you feel you car or truck shake badly. It feels like you ran over rumble strips, a washboard, or those divots on the side of the highway. The feeling only lasts two to three seconds and it definitely got your attention. You consider what just happened and you know there were no rumble strips or a washboard in the road and you were definitely in your lane. What could that shaking have been?

Torque converter shudder, that is what.

Crap. How much is this going to cost?

The Reality:

To paraphrase a plumber on a 1990’s sitcom: “It may cost you a little, it may cost you a lot, but it will cost you.

Let us consider what is going on before we jump to conclusions.

A torque converter is a mechanical device that is driven by hydraulic fluid. It is found only in vehicles with an automatic transmission. The converter transfers the power from the engine to the transmission. The shudder occurs when the transmission fluid can no longer perform or when the converter fails mechanically. There may be a mechanical issue or a fluid issue. Consequently, one may lead to the other.

Considering what causes the failure will determine how much it will take to repair the vehicle.

Start with a change of the transmission fluid. This is the easiest and cheapest method. Not necessarily the cleanest. Changing the transmission fluid can be a messy job. The ENTIRE amount of fluid must be drained from the transmission pan AND torque converter. This is hugely important. The torque converter holds about 30%-50% of the fluid that goes into the trans. If this is not drained, or as on some models not serviceable i.e. no drain plug, changing the fluid and screen by taking the pan off is a waste of time, especially if done more than once. Change the transmission screen while you have the pan removed if you can drain the torque converter for a complete service.

If the torque converter cannot be drained, you may need to try a transmission flush at a repair shop. The flush pushes the old fluid out with the new fluid and actually does a decent job of it. I have used BG and MOC brand machines. They are easy to use and perform well. The last I heard a transmission flush was in the range of $100-$120. You may find coupons for this service in the local VAL-PAK or Sunday paper. Be aware that the shop may want to sell you an additive packet, usually there is a flushing chemical and then an additive that goes in after the flush. I have no evidence that these chemicals help. Snake oil? You decide. Just be ready for that pitch if the situation arises.

It’s flushed. Now What?

You will need to drive your vehicle as you normally would after you have the fluid and screen replaced. Remember, the flush was the cheapest and easiest attempt. The shudder may not be eliminated.

If the shudder is still present you will most likely need to replace your torque converter. For that, I would recommend a professional. If you have considerable mechanical experience, read on…

I would say the job is not always easy to do and may be completed in the driveway–with the right tools and help. Sound scary? If you have never done it you should be scared. It is a big job. The transmission is VERY heavy and would require the use of a jack and maybe another set of hands to remove. Moreover, replacing the torque converter is more about physical labor than mechanical technicalities. This is the point at which you should consider the time vs. money situation.

To sum up:

  • If you cannot drain the torque converter, try a complete transmission flush at a repair shop.
  • If you did drain both the pan and torque converter already or previously flushed the transmission and still feel the shudder, you most likely need to replace the torque converter. Changing all the fluid again is a long shot.
  • If you changed the fluid and the screen but did not drain the torque converter, find out if it has a drain plug. If it does change ALL the fluid and screen again.
Related Topics:

Should I Get a Second Opinion About My Vehicle Repair Estimate?

The scenario: Your vehicle has been acting weird for two weeks. Hard to start in the morning and runs rough before it warms up. Naturally you take it to a shop and they hit you with a $850 repair estimate. This seems a little steep to you and you are unfamiliar with the shop. You finance radar is going off. What do you do?

A. You can authorize the fix and go about your merry way and hope it gets fixed.
B. You do not authorize the fix and wait until it becomes worse.
C. You can get another estimate or second opinion and hope it is cheaper. But what if it is not? This option will probably cost you more time and more money.
D. You can know who your mechanic is and feel good that they will fix it right the first time and at a fair price.

If you think D is the best answer I would agree. So what do you need to know to make an informed decision? Start here and continue with the links at the bottom of the post.

As a vehicle mechanic with 17 years experience and Ford and BMW factory training certifications, here is my opinion:

  • Not all mechanics are created equal.
  • Not all dealerships are created equal.
  • Not all independent shops are created equal.
  • Not all replacement parts are created equal.

I have seen reputable, knowledgeable, fast, and honest mechanics at independent shops AND dealerships. I have also seen the opposite in BOTH places. Communication within any service facility is a big factor. What the mechanic may recommend to a customer may be presented as necessary by the service adviser. Talk to the mechanic, not just the service adviser or service manager, chances are the latter two know nothing about vehicles. Your mechanic should be able to ask every question you have without hesitation–even if your only question is “Why?” S/he should be personable and friendly.

A major difference in cost between independent shops and dealerships is labor and factory parts. Labor is easy to compare. Factory parts are generally (notice I did not say always) superior to aftermarket parts. However this is a large grey area. Fact about both- Things break and/or wear out regardless of who made them or where they are made.

My bottom line is: Find a mechanic you trust and you will never need a second opinion.

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Snowmobile Repair Shop in Antarctica

Yes there is a snowmobile repair shop in Antarctica. Not only are snowmobiles serviced here,  there is lots of other equipment that is maintained and repaired at the Mechanical Equipment Center at McMurdo Station on Ross Island in Antarctica. Take a brief tour of the MEC and see what other equipment is serviced for field and deep field camps in Antarctica by watching the video below.

McMurdo Station Antarctica Winterover Grocery Shopping

Both of us were granted one week for R and R before the start of the winter here at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. We spent one whole week in Christchurch, New Zealand.

After being on The Ice for six months, it was awesome to have good food again. We regularly ate McDonald’s, sushi and other ethnic foods. And let me tell you, McDonald’s food in New Zealand is 100 times better than McDonald’s in the USA. All the meat and veggies are sourced locally. The burgers are amazing! I’m going to miss them.

So how does one prepare to spend eight more months in Antarctica? You go grocery shopping! Here is how you prepare:

  1. Leave every thing at McMurdo except for what you are wearing and toiletries for one week. You must wear your ECW to fly so that does not count.
  2. Take both of your orange issue bags and thick boxes that will fit inside them when zipped. The boxes are to prevent your groceries from being crushed on the flight back to McMurdo.
  3. Take the largest pack you can carry on the plane. The idea here is that it will be easy to transport all of your groceries from the store and to the CDC. This may not apply if you can get a ride or rent a car. We took the bus around so it made sense to haul things in a pack instead of lugging around full grocery bags.

When you arrive at the airport  in Christchurch, this is the time to pick up your booze at the duty-free shop. From here you will walk to the CDC across the street and you will drop off all of your issued gear. This will lighten your load to enjoy R and R.

Throughout the week we would walk to the grocery store and pick up a few items here and there, collecting what would be our winter stash. Wanna see it?

Groceries for Antarctica

Groceries for Antarctica

 

Some items listed we picked up later. Here is the complete list of what we brought:
  • Chips
  • Noodles
  • Soups
  • Booze/Wine
  • Spreads
  • Sausages
  • Crackers
  • Cheese
  • Sugar cereals
  • Beef jerky
  • Cookies
  • Milk
  • Watermelon
  • Peaches
  • Plums

We arrived at the CDC a few hours early to pack our goodies. We took what we purchased and placed it into the boxes we brought with us. We left these inside the orange bags. Think of this as your checked luggage.

We placed the fruits, milk, and a few other things we wanted to keep close to us in our carry on.

When we deployed back to The Ice our baggage limit was 150 pounds each. We did not even come close to this. There really is no reason to not have what you want when you get back to McMurdo.

 

Carry On to Antarctica

I have made it back to McMurdo Station, Antarctica for a third and possibly a fourth season. I am working at the Mechanical Equipment Center this upcoming summer. If all goes well I will stay for the winter too.

You might be asking, “What do you take to Antarctica?” The short answer is: Anything you can carry or ship. Some folks send skis, bikes, 42″ 3D smart TV’s, and so on. I try to travel as lightly as possible. When you lose all but the clothes on your back in an earthquake in a foreign country, you tend to change your priorities and outlook on how to travel.

After two summer seasons under my belt, I have a pretty good idea of what I need to be comfortable. Not to mention I put some items in storage. The items I stored were mostly clothes. The items I shipped were snacks, books, and toiletries.

So what did I actually take with me to McMurdo Station, Antarctica? Have a look:

Carry-on Bag to Antarctica

Carry-on Bag to Antarctica

This is all I needed to travel with to get to Antarctica. The total travel time was 10 days. Here is a list of what is in the bag:

  • Miscellaneous toiletries
  • Electric razor
  • Fast drying towel
  • Eye glasses
  • Reading material
  • Watch
  • Computer peripherals
  • Cell phone
  • New Zealand wall outlet adapter
  • Fleece pullover
  • Rain jacket with hood
  • Flip-flops
  • Icebreaker Merino Wool underwear
  • Icebreaker Merino Wool t-shirt
  • Socks
  • Hat
  • Instant coffee
  • Passport
  • Pens and pencils
  • Notepad
  • Contact lenses
  • Antacids

The items I took that are not pictured are:

  • Computer
  • Running shoes
  • Keen sandles
  • And the clothes I was wearing, of course!

So that is it. That is all you need to take with you when you travel to Antarctica. As I mentioned before, it does help to ship your other necessities ahead of time. It is just as easy when returning home. McMurdo has a US Post Office and you can use the APO in Christchurch when you arrive to send your goodies back home.

What is least amount you have traveled with while going great distances? Did you have drop zones or purchase items as needed? Share with us what you did to make travelling easy.

Antarctica… The Third Tour

I’m back in Denver for two days of orientation for my third tour back to McMurdo Station. It will be slightly different for me this time. Instead of working at the Vehicle Maintenance Facility I will be at the Science Support Center.

What does this mean?

In short, I will not be diagnosing and repairing the Ford F and E350’s. Alternatively I will be maintaining and repairing snowmobiles, generators, chainsaws and other equipment with small engines.

I think I will enjoy the change for two reasons. One, the facility is newer and two, smaller equipment. This will better for my body. I’m not as spry as I once was- 31 is old!

More to come.

LT

1997 Toyota RAV4 Front End Noise

A friend of mine wanted me to look at his mom’s 1997 Toyota RAV4. He wanted it checked out to be sure that she was safe and a general inspection since it had close to 100k on the odometer.

Naturally I took a look at it.

Upon speaking with the owner I found out the front struts and end links were replaced by a friend who just happens to work on vehicles. Since these items were replaced the owner could hear a knocking noise when driving over uneven roads.

My first instincts were, “Great. I’m now in the middle of someone else’s job.”

I drove it and it felt like someone was hitting the floorboard with a hammer.

After the road test I inspected the front steering and suspension system. I visually inspected the ball joints, end links, and struts. I pushed on the front bumper to get the Toyota to bounce. I heard no noises. The lower ball joint grease boots were torn and leaking grease. If they are not replaced debris and moisture gets in while the grease oozes out and causes the ball joint to go bad.

Next I used a floor jack and raised the front left lower control arm until the wheel was off the ground about three inches. I then took a pry bar and placed it under the wheel and tried to lift the wheel. This motion will detect movement in the ball joint if it is worn out. I did not note any movement.

Not having found the popping noise yet, I continued my inspection.

While the jack was under the control arm I placed my pry bar against the control arm with the tip of it under the sway bar at the end link. I was able to move the sway bar. This is not proper. I determined that the end link nuts were never tightened fully when they were installed.

I tightened the end link nuts and road tested the vehicle. The noise was eliminated.

Since this job was for a friend I was not going to charge anything but it was insisted that I take $20. I’m not one to argue about taking money from someone so I took it. And I turned it into this:

Steak and beer