Better on Vinyl – How to Apply a Windshield Banner

We have many fantasies. Most, if not all of them, could be shared with you here, but they would take away from the focus of this article. We’ll save those for our other blog, “What Macaroni Shapes are Best When Bathing in Tubs Full of Classic Italian Pasta Dishes?”

Today’s non-carbohydrate fantasy involves the awakening of something inside our childhood spirits. The dreams of those 11-year-olds, sat in front of standard definition televisions, fighting for their lives on that final Gran Turismo Super License test, have come to life. We are adults now, with wallets and eBay accounts. We now have a vinyl Gran Turismo windshield banner! Life is now the realest driving simulator!

All the “greats” have and had them. The words adorn instantly recognizable cars and events like the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb and the Nissan GTR Nismo GT3. Now, finally, it graces another legend in the motorsport community; our 1991 M42-powered BMW 318i!

Photo courtesy of Duncan Millar

How can you grow up to be like us, you ask? Follow these steps and be prepared for the onslaught of highway thumbs-ups and on-the-spot marriage proposals from women, and men, because you’re going to be swimming in them thereafter once you’ve hit the road.

Not Pictured – Tissues for Wiping Away Tears of Joy

Photo Courtesy of Duncan Millar

Tooling is pretty light on this one. Especially compared to what we needed to install the flux capacitor. We’ll go over the tools you’ll need from left to right and then up top.

1. We had a small felt lined squeegee left over from a long-ago attempt to recreate a Marlboro theme on our hood, but you can just use a credit card. If you don’t have one of those, use your favorite adult video store loyalty rewards card. It will likely work much better because the felt lining wasn’t as aggressive on the bubbles as we’d have liked.

2. We used an old putty scraper to remove a sun-faded car class sticker from an event we ran at the Autobahn Country Club over the summer. This is another tool that could be successfully substituted with your adult video store loyalty rewards card.

3. In your mind’s eye, picture a can of brake cleaner or Goo-Gone next, to help you get all of the left-over sticky residue free of the glass.

4. (Imagination time again) Painter’s tape will help you keep everything in place while you line up the banner.

5. Use a smaller blade like ours if you can because cutting away the excess is going to need a precise hand, unencumbered by something bulky like a carpet cutter.

6. Use the microfiber and towels to clean the surface area that the banner will be affixed to.

Scrape the Pain Away

Cleaning the windshield is likely going to be the easiest part, but arguably the most important. Bubbles can form around debris stuck underneath after a time, even if you manage to completely squeegee them all away initially. It’s the simplest part of the job to get right, and you wouldn’t want your mother to be disappointed in you again, would you? Especially after that stunt you pulled at your high school graduation?

If you have something as dreaded as what was nothing more than a package label stuck to your windshield, scrape as much away as possible with something that won’t scratch the glass beneath it. Use some brake cleaner to apply a fatality to the remaining goo.

Profession: Video Game Livery Editor

Now that you have a flawless windshield, line up your decal as best you can. We used the bottom seal of the windshield as a reference by making a mark at its center (green squares in the picture below) with a permanent marker. We found the center of our banner and matched it with the centerline mark (green) as best we could. Then from either side of the banner (upper yellow marks), we measured from its bottom to the bottom seal of the windshield (lower yellow marks) to make sure there were even distances. Throughout, we used some painter’s tape to temporarily hold the banner in place as we moved it around.

This is the tricky part. With the banner held in place by the painter’s tape, pick a side of the car, and as best you can, with a partner, pull the backing away a few inches and start applying the banner. Once you make the initial contact, start squeegeeing. Squeegee in the same direction as you are applying the banner. Get most of it laid down with this method and then worry about squeegeeing the edges. Don’t push too hard into the corners because you might cut into the vinyl. To make that step easier, cut away the excess, but leave yourself about two inches to grab at. Gently, (petting-a-kitten gently and not lock-the-door-and-mute-the-sound gently) pull that two inches up at a 90 degree angle to the glass as you push the vinyl into the corners with your edge.

Once you feel satisfied you have a fairly bubble-free and cornered banner, grab that small cutter. We recommend that you do this in two or three evolutions. Cut away 90% of the excess in a slow and steady pass. Be careful not to put too much weight on the windshield and bust it because you’re too focused on edging. If you see what we did there, go ahead and pat yourself on the back. In your second or third pass, cut away the excess right at the intersection of the seal and the glass. That should leave you with an aesthetically and nostalgically pleasant vinyl banner!

Go out and race that E30 already!

Reuse, Reduce, Recycle, Race!

Imagine you’re nervous because you’re on a stage about to give a presentation in front of the guy who created the recycling symbol, Bill Nye, and a turtle with a plastic six-pack ring around its neck. To help you feel less nervous, imagine them in their underwear. If that doesn’t help, imagine that the world’s not on fire around them.

Around here, we’re lovers of life but are disappointments still in the eyes of Captain Planet. Buddhists in the sheets and Dominic Toretto in the streets. Which is to say we recycle as an ethical imperative. But like the Fast and Furious antagonist, as a fact of life, have to survive in a world we were simply born into, gravelly voiced and balding. This goes for throwing our water bottles out in the green bin, buying used parts before considering buying new, or repurposing entire engines. But making cars go fast, whether in a circle or in a zig-zag makes waste. Just because you’re experiencing project creep, doesn’t mean you can ask for a waiver from Greta Thunberg to pollute. We’ll give you a few examples of how projected creep on our build turned into opportunities to be smart with our purchasing and appropriation of parts and materials.

Right in the (Tool) Sack

Hold on to your fasteners. Corralling all of our nuts and bolts from part-outs and broken dreams, especially because we mostly deal with metrically challenged cars, has been incredibly useful. We are intimately familiar with M6x1.0 screws, nuts, and threaded holes in particular. Don’t ask us how. The came in handy when we needed to replace the majority of the cap screws necessary to reaffix our M42 timing chain case when the profile gasket let coolant out into the crankcase like a bribed nightclub bouncer. Five autocross events and zero-screws-purchased later, the timing case appears to be holding on.

Exceptions should be made for torque-to-yield items like head bolts and flywheel bolts. New fasteners aren’t always necessary. Reusing old ones, especially on 30-year old race cars is totally acceptable in most cases. Leave those new ones in their bins so they don’t eventually take up space in the bottom of a trash can! Potential spending: $0, Time and Money Saved: Not having to drive to the local hardware store just to pay to bag and label your own fasteners.

A Tap to Die For: A Threaded Insert Story

Courtesy of Duncan Millar

If your ugga-dugga-dugga shoulda only beena ugga-dugga, but wasn’t so ugga-dugga-dugga-dugga that your thread is unsalvageable, then there might be salvation. Sometimes you might need to only chase a thread to salvage it. You don’t always need an entire length of thread to achive the full strength of the fastener combination, so if upon inspection you only see small areas of damaged thread, give a thread tap a go. Get a thread pitch gauge a tap set from a hardware store, preferably with a tap wrench and equivalent dies, and try your hand at the basics of machining.

If you’ve demolished the thread like a corn cob in the mouth of a Gen-Z’er who learned only the day before how to use a cordless drill, then there is still hope in re-threading the hole with the appropriate drill and tap or threaded insert. Both processes have their nuances so get some practice in and reference some helpful Youtube channels like This Old Tony or AvE before you go re-patterning your wheel hubs.

Consider buying a few other tools as well to help finesse parts that might just need small touch-ups to operate properly like thread files, hand files, and sanding stones. Buying new parts means a new part gets manufactured to fill that gap in a parts store’s inventory. Fix that old part and let that new one collect dust! Potential Spending: $30-100 for a good metric thread tap set with common sizes, $25-$40 for a single thread size and pitch threaded insert kit (Helicoil or Fix-a-Thred). Time and Money Saved: Not having to replace entire parts over minor thread repairs.

Craigslist> For Sale> Freedom is Slavery

Courtesy of Duncan Millar

Remember the time someone bartered his way through craigslist.org until his paperclip turned into a house? Our “For Sale>Free>1/3hp Craftsman bench grinder” isn’t as impressive as that, but the site served us and our prime directive quite well nonetheless. While we didn’t get anything for free this time, it was still well-served for us recently when we wanted to facilitate one of our finest and clearest examples of project creep.

It’s as if the craigslist seller was Christopher Nolan and planted the seed deep in our potato-y brains. First we wanted to build a head that could be ported and polished in preparation for an inevitable swap. Next, we had to find the head on craigslist. The mission is accomplished when we find an entire engine on CL. But, it was mission: accomplished in a big “mission: accomplished” banner across the bridge of a naval vessel that was less warranted than a wet floor sign at the bottom of a pool type of way. We had no way of getting the engine out of the bed of our truck, much less onto our none-existent engine stand. Back to craigslist we went, where we found a used engine stand and a used hoist. The hoist was massive and not easily disassembled as only the arm and hydraulic piston could be removed. The wheels needed to be greased as well because moving it around was otherwise futile. But $50 couldn’t be argued with.

The engine stand was nearly new and at $40 was another easy purchase. We said goodbye to the hoist in a move to a new home but the stand is still doing the lord’s work. Watch sites like craigslist, Letgo, and Facebook before you download that Harbor Freight coupon and keep these tools from ending up in a landfill or metal scrapyard. Potential Spending: $100-$250 depending on the quality of the engine hoist and stand. Time Saved: None. It would have been way easier to go to any parts or hardware store and pick these up brand new, but we paid a quarter of the price of just the hoist for both.

Periscope Drown (Keep your eyes open if your not afraid to dumpster dive)

There’s a thin line between budget fabricator and hoarder. If you can’t let that oblong piece of 18 gauge stainless steel that’s been rotting away slowly from surface rust that you salvaged from an old shop shelf go, then maybe reconsider your hobby. Otherwise, while your’re out and about in the world, watch out near dumpsters for healthy pieces of metal for projects, benches or tools that can be rehabbed for use in your shop, or midnight babies that can be raised in the care of a nurturing home so that it may one day go on to seek its revenge on the villainous human that left it there to die.

For the borderline hoarder, paper, glass, and plastic recycling has unfortunately turned into a cointoss in recent years. Alas, you can be relatively guilt free about your metals, by leaving them in a pile at your curb for the local scrap collector or drop it off yourself in exchange for a (very) few shiny dollar coins. Potential Spending: $0-College tuition. Time Saved: None. And you’re covered in warm spicy ketchup and raccoon fur. But it was free!

What you do to help the stave off the inevitable climate crisis may be minuscule. We certainly wish that the oil industry would stop trying to kill electric cars* so we wouldn’t have to replace entire engines when interference designs chunk hundreds of pounds of cast iron and aluminum in an instant. Until then, reuse and recycle as much as you can, if not for the environment, at least for your race budget.

*Gavin Bade, “The oil industry vs. the electric car“, Politico, September 16, 2019, accessed November 1, 2019

Refreshing, Sparkling, E30 Brakes – No Sugar, Part 2

Photo Courtesy of Gustavo Pontinha

Continued from Part 1

Hot, Local Brake Hose in Your Area

A focal point of our brakes, and ultimately our racing styles, is our $35 Wilwood adjustable brake proportioning valve. Keeping the system free of variability so that we can be assured that our proportioning valve is truly giving us the courtesy of a reach-around is key to setup and execution. With a fresh booster, fresh master cylinder, no ABS pump (and thus, almost zero potential for trapped air in the lines), one of the last things that needs to be tightened up in the hydraulic system is the hoses. Stretch in these components means fluid breaks out into the extra volume under pedal pressure and you lose consistency during its travel into the darkness. At this point in our Shakespearean tragedy of a racing career, we’ve only replaced the fronts with the braided stainless steel ones we picked up from a guy that owned a lifted Mazda Miata and an M40-powered touring E30 down in Nashville on a work trip. Not buying it when it was offered to us is one of our greatest and most dishonorable decisions we’ve ever made. Our family lineages will likely be cursed as a result.

The rears will see their due when we pull the rear subframe for it’s refresher course. Installation was simple after replacing the front lines. It’s not terribly difficult to install them on old lines, but make sure you have the right tools because the old fatigued metal of the fittings won’t survive a line wrench that is “close enough” in size.

49-51-49, The Ideal Brake Proportioning

We did most of the hydraulically related work over a matter of months. At times, we’d say things like “Good enough”, “we can’t see it from your mom’s house”, or “We’re here for a good time, not a long time.” The OEM proportioning valve was unnecessarily difficult to reach with the master cylinder and booster in place (parts we had already replaced by this time), so we chose to abandon it in-place and re-locate the new Wilwood adjustable one to an easily accessible position. We bracketed ours to the ledge that the old air box used to sit on with the convenient mounting holes built into the valve’s body. We might cover the basics of installing a new proportioning valve in absence of an ABS pump in a later post. We highly recommend this valve because it’s inexpensive and vastly adjustable; up to 49% can be split to the rear.

The Easy Part – Calipers, Pads, and Rotors

Your front and rear calipers are going to be the easiest components to address if you stick to the originals. Basic blank rotors were satisfactory as we were looking for longevity over anything else. We had to use a simple rebuild kit for our rears because at the time, coming across cheap used ones was difficult. Five years later, they’re still squeezing. Otherwise, if you need new front ones like we did, you can get them from any parts store easily and inexpensively. There’s an argument out there about Girling vs. ATE calipers but we know nothing of it because we’ve only recently learned things like times-tables and simple grammatical concepts. Too much book learnin’ involved. Hawk HPSs have proven to be more than enough for the low pressures of autocross. If we have more than an approximately 60% split on our proportioning valve, the front wheels lock under heavy braking. They’re not as squeaky as other pads either, and it seems that they like to be hot so whenever these wear out, we’ll be looking for something that works better with the short stints in autocross. Conversely, that was helpful when we rode the north course at the Autobahn Country Club. Keep the guide pins greased like any other passenger car brake system.

Ever heard of 6-Minute Abs? How about no ABS at all?

Come back in time with me as we recount the horrors of chasing the source of our poor vacuum braking performance. After replacing the power brake booster and master cylinder, and bleeding the brakes a necessary amount of times in between, we could tell as immediately as we hit the brakes to slow down our decent into “madness” (a fun and stable nickname we have for our slightly sloped driveway), that there was no joy. The pedal was still stiff but there was no power behind it. A wavering prerogative to make the car simpler, and coincidentally, lighter, inspired the removal of the ABS pump, located just behind the driver’s-side headlamp assembly. The dashboard had been removed in the past to chase a faulty ground and a connection for the ABS system had remained mysteriously and unapologetically unaccounted for. The warning light on the dash was our only indication since the poor vacuum meant we couldn’t road-test for ABS function. Removing it was a simple decision, but the labor was unwelcomed.

It was old, but the lessons learned were invaluable. Among them, on the recommendation of a teammate, tightening brake line fittings slightly to help free them before loosening them completely; like gas-lighting a small child by telling them that you’re going to a fun theme park, but in reality are taking them back to the orphanage. Once the pump was out of the way, we re-plumbed the lines with nickle-copper brake line so that the front-calipers port on the master cylinder was split between the two front with a t-fitting and the rear port plumbed directly to our brake proportioning valve. Once it was bled, another backwards trip into madness was made, and as you might have suspected, foul language was used. That was a particularly frustrating day in retrospect. We’d spent nearly ten hours, much of it soaked in brake fluid after we’d run out of latex gloves, routing, bleeding, spilling, swearing, eating, and aching. However, the next weekend made it seem like it had all been a bad soap-opera-series-finale fever dream when we finally realized the master cylinder O-ring was bad when we pulled it forward to inspect the paper filter that mated the flat surfaces of the master cylinder and power brake booster.

We awoke wet from that dream. From sweat this time. Never had we been more satisfied to tear down our local frontage road Nurburgring simulator. Chirping like birds in heat, our tires skipped across the faded concrete under the weight of our feet on the pedal.

Thanks for reading! New posts on Sundays.

Refreshing, Sparkling, E30 Brakes – No Sugar! Part 1

Photo Courtesy of Gustavo Pontinha

Make sure to say “ahh” when flushing the brake fluid from your eyes with cold water and use this as your culture guide to what you can expect after the car purchasing haze has worn away.

Braking is essential. Abstractly, it is essential to speed. A terrible and violent philosopher once said “Speed has never killed anyone. Suddenly becoming stationary, that’s what gets you.” In the course of it’s essential nature, to spite it would suggest that you truly only enjoy the opposite in the way a grandmother loves her grandchildren; that at the end of the day, she’s glad they go home with their parents. Is that a genuine love that respects boundaries, capabilities, and is unconditional? In this way, braking is essential to speed. Now that we’ve scared away all the cretins, it’s only you here with me fellow intellectual, free to breath in with your eyes, this narrative brake refresher course for the E30 you will inevitably sell (in the environmentally hopeless future) to raise money for an in-home, emergency CO2 scrubber.

We’ll start from the beginning. Where your foot hits the pedal. This is more labor intensive than it is financially burdensome. Much of our braking journey’s framing device involves chasing down a poor vacuum, evidenced by a stiff pedal that traveled all the way to the end of the master cylinder’s stroke before the car would ever come to a full stop. We replaced almost everything before we finally realized it was a fossilized rubber gasket between the master cylinder and the power brake booster. The moral of the story, before it even begins, is to start small and cheap. A lesson-learned here was to stick to the scientific method. Our symptom was a stiff pedal – indicating a solidly bled hydraulic system – so vacuum would likely be the culprit. So instead of throwing money at the catch-all problem of “brakes” by replacing anything and everything brake related, we should have stuck to variables that were vacuum related and rectified them one-by-sucky-sucky-one. Had we done that however, we wouldn’t have been able to bring our vast knowledge of repair and replacement to you here in this blog, written under the drone of fluorescent whine and rattling air conditioning (of course we didn’t quit our day jobs).

Absolute Power Brake Booster Does Not Brake Absolutely

We won’t use any part’s basic functions as filler. Just how they fit into the story and what you can expect when you try to replace them. If you find that the booster has sucked it’s last suck, then relax; it’s as hard to pull out as you’d think. After this repair, it turned out our 200,000 mile booster was actually sucking, but had re-watched The Brave Little Toaster so many times that the VHS was worn out, so they were both replaced anyway. We used a new one from mom-and-pop local parts shop. Our VHS was ironically replaced with a DVD. This was the priciest part of our learning experience at $196 after returning the core. You’ll have to remove the four nuts holding the rear of the assembly to the firewall by way of 3/8” extensions and a 13mm socket. Fortunately, the one that you’ll find the most difficult to remove, has a coinciding hole drilled through the brake pedal for easy access. Don’t bother wondering if you need to remove the master cylinder to get it out of the way. It’s gotta go. However, if you skip ahead to the sections on upgrading the master cylinder and brake lines, you can disregard that advice. Now, replacing the booster is a pain in the way that changing your bed sheets is a pain. You could just take a shower before you jump into bed to make it feel like the sheets are clean, but that feeling will wear away as soon as your skin dries and hardens again and you’re left with the stretched and worn fabric of your procrastinations. You can disconnect the master cylinder with the two 13mm nuts securing it’s base and do your best to wriggle it away and clear the pushrod from the booster, but the inflexibility of the steel brake lines will stop you plenty shy of any achievement. The lines will have to be disconnected too, facilitating an inevitable bleeding.

Yes, Master Cylinder (E32 Upgrade)

The master cylinder is a different pain. Knowing that you absolutely have to disconnect the lines as a matter of necessity and function makes it easier to ride the waves of brake fluid. The hurt is still there when you’re forced to contort to remove nearly every fastener. Removing the reservoir relieves some of this pain. Just be ready to catch the escaping fluid. Two 13mm base nuts that are most easily removed with a ratcheting wrench on the passenger-side and a regular combination wrench on the other, get it freed from the booster. An 11mm line wrench and a brief persuasion of the righty-tighty (maybe a 1/10th of a turn) before you left-loosey helps get the lines off. If you have the time and materials, this would be a great time to remove your ABS unit, re-route, and re-plumb with nickel-copper brake line. We’ll cover these modifications in later subsections. Once you’ve removed the old master (keep it around if it was still in working condition so you can use it to troubleshoot if you ever have trouble with the new one), pop you’re new E32 750il master cylinder in for a stiffer and slightly more manageable pedal response. We felt like we experienced a shorter throw in the pedal too. You won’t see an increase in power, but if you’re mission is accuracy, make this a top priority like you would the Z3 steering rack upgrade. And for the love of every Dr. Who companion, change the O-ring!

Brake Lines – Don’t NiCopp an Attitude With Us

Whatever you’ve heard about nickel-copper lines is a lie. They’re tough while still being flexible (enough to get the master cylinder free of the booster without disconnecting them), cheap, and can handle the pressures of steel lines up to a negligible margin. If you’re going to remove the ABS unit, which we won’t condone or approve of because it’s necessity varies upon vehicle use, you’ll have to make custom lines anyway. For us, the steel lines didn’t make it through the surgery of removing the ABS pump so this was unavoidable. Right now, we’ve replaced the front lines all the down to a point where we made a previous splice just underneath the driver’s seat. There’s a learning curve when flaring this kind of line, but our rule of thumb was to set our line up in the flaring tool clamp to about 2/3rds the height of a steel line after having done our best to cut it as square as possible. It’s as easy as thinking about pink elephants when you’re told not to, to flare it off-kilter. Hold on to the small plastic brackets that hold the lines in vertical order, and re-use them when sculpting your masterpiece around the edges of your engine bay.

To be continued…

The Thermostat Housing Crisis

If you’ve installed your housing without cracking it because the thermostat was in the correct orientation, skip this article and go read about something important like the abuses of workers that mine spiritual healing crystals in Madagascar. Otherwise, you’re in the right place. Quiksteel putty proved to be a good temporary fix for getting the car back and forth, but not for the arguably heavy demands of autocross.

Step 1: Tooling

Prepare your anu…tools. You’ll be removing about 15 fasteners total, depending on the completeness of your 25 year-old E30. Four for the housing, two for the camshaft sensor, four for the cooling fan, and three hose clamps. Substitutionaly, in our case, two zip-ties for the fan shroud.

If you’re an animal, get yourself a 3/8” drive ratchet with a short 10mm socket and short 10mm extension to do most of the work.

If you’re a masochist, leave the fan connected to the fan clutch when you try to remove the housing. Otherwise, grab a 5mm hex wrench (or Allen wrench if you’re the type to buy name-brand cereal) to remove the four fasteners on the fan’s face and the one on the camshaft position sensor. Pay attention to the fan’s orientation.

Step 2: Removal

Start with your magnetic pick-up camshaft position sensor. Remove that with your hex wrench. Take this opportunity to put a new rubber on it if you don’t want your juices to leak out after you reinstall it, and thus, justify the innuendo made here in this blog post. With your 10mm socket (or impact driver with L-bend attachment [for those of us who sip caviar straight from goblets]), and remove the fastener holding the camshaft wire-management bracket to the head. After you’ve disconnected the hose from the passenger-side of the housing and drained the coolant to your favorite municipal water source (mine is Flint, Michigan’s), remove the four holding the thermostat housing in place.

Step 3: Reinstall

Prepare your anu…thermostat housing. Because we don’t support the corporate industrial gasket complex, we voted to make my own. We won the vote because wewaere the only voters. Use your housing as a template to cut out your new gasket. Schmoo a little goo on the housing side to help seal any imperfections in your replacement housing (ours was a junkyard find), but mainly to keep it in place while you reinstall it.

Hypothetically Spewing…

Our hypothesis here at RaceYourE30 Technologies and Silicon Phallis Enthusiasts is that the application of a little anti-seize may prevent the corrosion build-up between the rubber hose and aluminum on the return side of the housing.

Go ahead and reinstall your housing with the original fasteners (and maybe a little blue thread locking material) and don’t forget in the process that discriminatory housing practices are largely responsible for the poor socio-economic conditions in most low-income, urban neighborhoods. Next, find the torque ratings, and fasten everything from your camshaft sensor to fan shroud to specification.

Step 4: Car Cool Good, Car Hot Bad

Once everything else is connected, disconnect the return side hose at your radiator and dump some coolant down its gullet to fill in the air pocket created by dumping it when the housing was removed. Remove the small bleeder screw at the top of the radiator near the expansion tank and dribble a little in their…they’re…there too. Lastly, bleed the system with your choice of procedures available to you on the internet. Ours involves having an Ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Rabbi grab a chicken by the neck and swing it above and around the engine bay until dead to pull out all of the bad juju banging around in our four-banger’s coolant system. To add to the realism of the more-work-less-pay Millenial image we mean to portray, we leave the actual bleeding for another day.

Thanks for reading and go race your fucking E30 already!