Into 2015

Welcome back…

Happy New Year.. 2015!

After four months laid up over the winter, it was with some trepidation that I came back to the car to start it up again ahead of the new season. I’ve had all sorts of problems with cars left standing in the past, but I needn’t have worried… After making sure the battery was topped up, simply get in and fire. Colour me impressed.

It’s always lovely coming back to this car, especially in contrast to the daily E46 lurking in the corner of the shot. It feels so nimble and responsive in comparison, and sounds fantastic. It also felt like it had an extremely long brake pedal, which I’d been living with for too long now, so I went back to the rusted-up rear bleed nipples with renewed determination.

Not much danger of undoing that with a spanner, or even molegrips as it turned out. Short of replacing the entire caliper, which was unappealing with them in otherwise good condition, the only alternative I could come up with was to weld a nut onto the end and undo them with that.

Cue the enlistment of Mr Tyrrell’s welder and kind assistance.

We weren’t aiming for style points! This was plenty to get them undone and replaced with new ones. This let us flush and bleed the brakes properly, using ATE Super Blue fluid – especially handy because the bright colour makes it easy to see when all the old fluid is out and you’re feeding new through.

The novelty of having so little droop travel in the new suspension still hadn’t worn off!

The pedal felt much better after this, but still softer than I’d like. It wasn’t clear whether this came down to the old rubber flexi hoses or the brake pad compound, but there were still a few other things left on the to-do list first – suspension bushes.

A vagueness in steering feel about the straightahead gave me a¬†clue to what might be causing the judder I had in high-speed braking and hard left cornering, as it felt very similar to my E46 when it had worn out its front control arm bushes. Happily, I already had a set of Meyle ones for it, kindly thrown in when James sold me the car! I figured while I was working on the front end, I may as well put some polybushes in the front anti-roll bar mounts, since that had been on the to-do list and they shouldn’t take all that long to fit.

These Powerflex Black bushes were so stiff they were actually difficult to fit over the anti-roll bar, which at least boded well for performance. They gave a more direct feel to initial turn-in, as there’s now much less compliance before the bar can generate anti-roll moment.

(Six-cylinder E36s were available with two different anti-roll bar setups. The standard car came with a 24mm front bar and a 15mm rear, but cars with the M-Tech suspension option got 25.5mm front and 18mm rear. Surprisingly, my comfy-spec SE saloon actually had that option ticked, so a common OEM upgrade was already done!)

Another use for a gear puller – persuading the rear lower control arm bushes off an E36. They didn’t come off looking too happy, as you might expect for 20 years, 178,000 miles and this removal technique.

It’s easier fitting new polybushes than rubber ones, as they slide into place with far less effort, but believe it or not Fairy liquid makes a pretty good lubricant between rubber and aluminium. It helps if all the years of road grime and bits of old rubber have been polished off first though.

Judicious use of Adam’s Dremel put one high up on my shopping list – there are just endless uses for that thing.

The outcome was a much improved drive – the steering response was more precise and direct, and the vagueness in initial turn-in was gone. Ride control over sharp bumps felt better, and I couldn’t replicate the judder under braking either. A satisfying day’s work, and all finished in time for another track day…