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.

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!

Fukentight or Gutentight? Valve Cover Thread Repair for the Torque-Spec Blind

How to Reverse Years of Gradual and Neglectful Thread Damage: When You Should Have Known Better and Bought a Torque Wrench a Long Time Ago

Like any other crap-can enthusiast, you’ve probably removed the valve cover on your weekend car at least once or twice (in order of necessity) to paint it or replace the gaskets. Proper tightening pattern aside, the most important thing to remember is to not strip the threads on what, for the uninitiated, is the cylinder head of your vehicle. This repair can be done to any vehicle, but this will cover the intimate intricacies of the M42 powered E30 BMW 318i.

Step 1: Remove the valve cover an unnecessary amount of times over the 10 years you’ve owned the car, and each time you reinstall it, gently strip one or two threads on your aluminum cylinder head. Make it an artisanal experience by whispering “fuck” into a vintage coffee can full of spare nuts and bolts.

Step 2: Prepare your tools. For this car, we used the remnants of a Helicoil M6x1.0 kit which consisted of a thread tapper, driver, guide, and enough inserts to do all 15 threads. If you’re comfortable with power-tapping, rig up something like what I’ve got in the picture so you can use your drill.

Step 3: Leave the valve cover in place to prevent the intrusion of foreign materials into the valvetrain. Wear your MAGA hat while you work if you like to pretend they’re little brown folks that are trying to jump over an easily scalable wall, but who in reality probably just overstayed their visas. Just go to the next step already.

Step 4: Drill out your hole with your 1/4″ drill. Use a long one to make up for the width.

Step 5: Blow or suck on your hole to get the chips out.

Step 6: Tap your hole.

Step 7: Insert your insert into your hole.

Step 8: Stuff something small into your hole to break the “tang” off of your insert.

Step 9: Test the limits of your hole by torquing the fastener to whatever torque you Googled, because we ain’t taking the blame if you just “send it.”

Step 10: Knock over an open bottle of oil, apply cat litter immediately, clean up at a later date (See image 1). Check this project off of your list!

Edit – 02/14/2017: Thanks for reading and don’t forget to follow us here on the blog, and on Instagram @rye30racing. We’ll be racing plenty over the summer so we can bring you more high quality content like you read above.