iXchange Issue #10

March 1996

A newsletter for BMW 325 iX Enthusiasts.



Ed note: - Here are two advisories which are passed along, based on member's iXperiences:

Beware Of Puddles !

Just a reminder to be very cautious about driving through puddles when all that snow back east starts to melt. Don't risk filling the engine with water! Unfortunately one of our iX Registry members is facing a $6K engine replacement after driving slowly, along with other traffic, through a puddle which was doorsill deep. Apparently there was enough of a bow wave created in front of the car to allow the intake to suck in water and fill a couple of cylinders. (The air intake on the E30 is behind the headlights and relatively low.) Once a cylinder fills, the engine tries to compress the fluid like it does with the air/fuel mixture -- usually it is a rod that bends before the engine seizes. The iX has many strengths, but plowing water is not one of them.

Don't Idle in PARK

Two members have had to have significant repairs to their automatic transmissions, apparently caused by allowing their cars to idle or run for several minutes while the transmission is in the PARK position. It sounds like BMW and ZF, the transmission manufacturer, did not intended that this position be used when the engine is running -- apparently the pump within the transmission that circulates fluid does not operate when in PARK and the internal parts and seals do not get proper lubrication.

The member's problems occurred when they were staying warm while "parked" and using the car's heater and during an emission check during which the car was run at a fast idle for a tailpipe check. Under these and similar situations, the automatic transmission should be placed in NEUTRAL with the parking brake applied rather than in PARK.

Member's iXperiences

Here are a few less tramatic items from our members. Thanks to all who have contributed !

Paul R. Reitz of Palmyra, PA reports:

"I found an electrical problem on my wife's '91 325iX that may be of interest to those who may be having battery drain problems. This *may* apply to any model that has the interior dome light delay function. The other night I found the interior lights on in the car. Figuring one of the kids left a door ajar, I checked them all, but couldn't find anything amiss - just that the dome switches were set to the automatic position. I switched them off, figuring that would take care of things till the weekend.

When I started checking it out, the basic problem was easy enough to see - the interior dome lights would not "time out", but would only shut off when the ignition was energized. Simple, I thought - a faulty delay relay. To confirm this, and armed with the ETM, I began diagnostics, but couldn't make sense of one other symptom: opening, then shutting *any* door (on a 4 dr) also energized the delay relay even though the other 3 doors do not operate through the relay. The really perverse part of the problem was that this would occur whenever I got out of the car, leaving the relay energized (approx. 150 mA drain) even if the lights were manually turned off!

I found that there was moisture inside the rubber sealed connector inside the driver's door in the circuit that "arms" the delay relay. This circuit is apparently a very high impedance input, and the slight leakage to ground not only armed the relay, but prevented it from timing out, and left it in an ultra-sensitive state that could be energized even by transients from the other doors jamb switches. There was no other sign of wetness anywhere in the door; how the moisture got there is a mystery. The door panel had never been previously removed, and the door interior was clean. Hope this helps someone!"

Dan Guliano of Nashua, NH has provided the following tips from the column he writes ("iX Marks the Spot") for his BMW CCA chapter newsletter:

"1. Winter Prep (ed. note - sorry, a little late but great advice anytime of year.)

That white, wet, cold stuff is trying to tell us something. Winter is on the way. Since we chose an iX, we know we'll want to drive it through the New England winter.

When considering what we need to do to prepare for winter, we need to remember things we've:GOT TO DO -

* Check the Transfer Case. Look for leaks, lubricant level changes, strange sounds or anything else that might go awry. Replacement bits can be really, really expensive.
* Change the coolant. Yes, according to the manual it should be changed every two years, but if you want to be sure the iX doesn't have corrosion, cooling or heating problems, change it annually.
* Load test the battery. It isn't sufficient to confirm when the battery was replaced (it's only two years old, there must be some OTHER reason it won't start) you need to be sure when it's zero dark thirty hours and no degrees Fahrenheit that it'll crank over and start.
* Check the Transfer Case. Look for leaks, lubricant level changes, strange sounds or anything else that might go awry. Replacement bits can be really, really expensive.

then there are things we OUGHT TO DO -
* Get an Inspection I or II. If you're close to having this done, one or two little lights left, don't wait until all the lights are out. Your iX will start and run noticeably better after this service.
* Do something with your 'basket weave' wheels. If you leave then on the iX, only bad things happen. They trap and hold snow, ice and assorted crud, continually out of balance. Then comes pot hole season with bent rims and real headaches. Replacement OEM basketweaves can approach $500 each new. So, * Get 'winter' wheels. Your favorite mail order tire place can get you Borbet Type C's, steel wheels or something else that will fit. * Check the operation of your 'bun warmers'. Kneeling or putting sharp objects on the seats can break the heater wires (similar to heater wires in the rear window, just that the seats don't shatter unexpectedly)and accumulated junk under the seat can damage the wiring. You can fix the wiring under the seats, but there's not much you can do about broken heater wires.

Finally, some things to CONSIDER DOING -
* Installing Snow Tires. Based upon where you live, how far you drive on primary, secondary or other roads and whether you believe the Farmer's Almanac forecast, snows can be a really, really good thing or a pain. If you guess properly, you've matched your needs to the weather, and have the right amount of traction. If you miss, you're struggling up steep, poorly plowed roads on Z rated high performance tires - OR - you're bored and going deaf rolling down dry superhighway at sub-optimal speeds on H rated snows.
* Put a foul weather kit in your trunk. If you've got heavy duty rain gear, dry clothes, parka, boots, gloves and 'instant heat' packs, you'll never need them. It's insurance against the mother of all winter storms. The one where you could get around just fine, except you're boxed in by Camaros and Firebirds who believe the harder they push on the gas pedal the faster they'll wear a track through to the pavement.
* Get a cellular phone. Yes, they can be expensive, especially if your significant other calls you to ask what you want for dinner. But for real emergencies there's no better way to call for reinforcements.
* Get another set of floor mats. This isn't vanity, this is practicality. A set used over winter will be trashed. Between the salt, melting snow, sand and general gunk, floor mats get ruined.

All in all, using your iX as a daily driver over winter is a great idea. Taking basic precautions to safeguard the car before the season begins is important. Equally important is remembering to keep the undercarriage free of road salt, the windshield washer reservoir full of good stuff and a scraper and brush within arms reach. Did I mention checking the transfer case?

2. Mischief -- It Must Be Winter

When the antenna won't retract all the way (again!), it must be winter. When the bottom of your left foot is so gushy it slides off the clutch, it must be winter. When the iX understeers and oversteers simultaneously, it must be winter. How can we fight these doldrums?

*Buy the iX a new toy. Sheepskin seat covers are nice in winter, particularly if the bun warmers don't.
*A new steering wheel, one that is thick, padded, leather covered and smaller in diameter than stock can be very useful in controlling four wheel drifts BEFORE the iX is in the drifts.
*Get an updated radar detector. Technology has greatly changed in this arena. There are now built in units with X, K, Ka, Ultra-Wide Band and Laser capability that are undetectable by radar detector detectors. You might really, really like your Passport, but it won't doesn't put you on an even playing field with the revenuers. While you might not get a lot of use from it this very minute, the thought of utilizing it's FULL POTENTIAL should help keep you warm till spring.
*Have the iX detailed. Yes, yes, there's plenty of foul weather to come. But a nice cleaning and waxing in midwinter can only uplift both your and the iX's spirits."


Dave Ritter of Marquette, MI provides a few answers to some questions asked in previous newsletters:

"Just wanted to pass along some info to a couple of members. For Nick Yotz, the On-board computer will not plug into the same plug as the clock/temp unit. I have seen both units and the plug for the On board computer is much larger with more wires. I believe the computer equipped cars have a special wiring harness.
For Tim Parker, his flaky tachometer is probably a bad solder joint. My tach on my 88 was flaky also. It would only work in certain temperature and humidity conditions. I fixed mine myself, by taking the dash instrument cluster out (watch those plastic pieces they break easily), and tracing the circuits away from the tach connections. My bad solder joint was obvious without any magnification. The bad joint was located where the circuit joined a connector. My multimeter confirmed the bad joint, and since the fix I haven't had any tach problems."


Paul Reitz of Palmyra, PA has done some detailed research into how the seat heaters are designed and how they function:

"I like to understand how electrical things are supposed to work on my car. I was going through the '90 ETM for the ('91) E30 325iX, and was interested in the seat heaters for a couple of reasons. First, this was an option on our car for which the owner's manual does not even list the fuse number (16). Also, I had heard that the light bulbs in these switches were unrepairable, and besides, a quick perusal of the ETM schematic suggested it was bogus. (Schematics for the two switches did not agree with each other, and it had many anomalies, like showing only two positions instead of three.)

I removed a switch, disassembled and "schematicized" it. After reinstalling, one of the bulbs no longer worked, making it necessary(!) to figure out how to replace the bulb.
To replace the bulbs, first remove the switch from the console by prying up the front and back ends simultaneously with two flat blade screwdrivers. The switch can be disassembled by inserting a small flat blade screwdriver into each side of the switch at its base, separating the outer case far enough to allow the four interlocking tabs to release from the switch. With the switch upside down, pry up on both screwdrivers to slide the switch innards up and out the (bottom) of the case, watching out for loose parts!
The switch operating lever contains a spring, hollow brass tube, and steel ball in the end of the tube that can easily get lost! With the switch internals removed, identify which bulb has burned out. I suggest replacing both bulbs! Carefully crush the bulb glass with pliers to expose the existing leads (remove the tungsten filament). Wrap the leads of the replacement bulb (Radio Shack #272-1092, 12v/60 mA) around these leads and solder carefully, so as not to short out the bulb leads, which WILL create a short circuit from fuse 16 to ground that may permanently damage the switch.

If you want the switches illuminated when the vehicle lights are on, locate the switched +12 V lead from either the front or rear ashtray lights (the rear may be easier to locate) and run to the "58" position of the switch sockets. Sorry, I don't have details on the type of pins required to do this job correctly. Although the ashtray lights have variable illumination, the heater switch lights will stay dimly lit until the heater is turned on.

Operation of the heaters is as follows. In the low heat position, power is applied to terminal "HS", with current path through both heating elements in series to ground. The common connection between heating elements, "HL", is not connected in this position. In the high heat position, power is applied to HL; current flows in parallel through both the back heater, which is directly grounded, and through the seat heater via terminal "HS", which is grounded in this position through the switch. Current draw is approximately 3A in high, and about 3/4 A in low, for each seat. "


Erik Swain of Highland Park, NJ, reports on his iX:

"I bought my iX, a 1989, in May of '95, and I'm convinced it was my destiny to have this car! I live in New Jersey, which not only gets snow but hail, freezing rain and ice. While it's not like Buffalo, it can be pretty hard to get around in a bad winter. I work for a newspaper, and have to put out a product every day, so "I couldn't get out of my driveway" and "the roads are too icy'" are not acceptable excuses for missing work.
In the blizzards of 1993-94, many of my colleagues had to give up vacation and personal days because of car problems, but I always made it to work in my 1987 Chevrolet 5-10 Blazer, and I consider having four-wheel drive very important. Then in May, the transmission on the Blazer died, and it was going to cost almost $2,000 for a good rebuild or replacement. Knowing that the truck wasn't worth much more than that, I decided to get a new vehicle.

I come from a family of BMW enthusiasts. My father and stepmother have driven Bimmers for a long time, currently owning a '92 325i convertible and an '85 735i. My fiancee, Elizabeth Schaeffer, got a '91 318iS last year, and her father Gene drives a '91 M3. So naturally, Elizabeth's first suggestion was to go to the local BMW dealer, which had sold Bimmers to her and her father, and see what they had in their used lot. A new Bimmer is hard to come by on a young newspaper reporter's salary. (Plug: The dealer, DeSimone BMW of Marlton, NJ, is hands-down the best BMW dealer in southern New Jersey.) I said a rear-wheel drive car might not be able to get me around in the snow and ice. But then she reminded me of the iX's. Those would be perfect, she said, but they're rare.

So off we went to DeSimone in search of a very specific car. What were the chances of me finding an iX with automatic transmission (I've been too lazy to learn how to drive stick) in good condition despite its age? Impossible, I thought.
Lo and behold, DeSimone had got an '89 fitting that exact description THE DAY BEFORE. It was the first iX they'd had in over a year.

It was cinnabar red exterior, black vinyl interior, four doors, with heated seats and mirrors and a ski bag (great for transporting rugs, by the way), though no air bag. It had 67,000 miles on it, but for the last four years it had been part of DeSimone's lease program, and the dealer had taken very good care of it. They even performed an Inspection II at no charge before I took delivery.

The car had been leased by a woman who opted against buying it because she wanted a new car instead. "She didn't know what she had,'" the salesman, Art Weaver, told me. Boy, was that true. It only took one test drive in the pouring rain for me to fall in love. Its four wheels hugged the road so tightly, and in the torrential downpours we often get in New Jersey, it sails along as if it were drizzling.
Elizabeth, who names all the family cars, saw the iX as a "strongman" and dubbed it "Heinrich." (Her Bimmer is "Wilhelm" and her father's is "Hans.")

"Heinrich's" performance has never suffered, though he has been back to the dealer a few times, not uncommon for a six-year-old car. Those trips were for: oxygen sensor replacement, fixing a transmission fluid leak, and a new alternator (luckily I purchased an extended warranty.) Fortunately, Gene knows a lot about cars, and helps me do the minor maintenance, change the oil and filter, etc., so I never have to take the car into the dealer.

The last thing to take care of were the tires. The car came with a new set of Pirelli performance tires, which are great, but not what you'd want in the snow. I figured I'd have to shell out over $600 for a new set of snow tires. The plan is to use them in the winter before putting the Pirellis back on in the spring. That arrangement should prolong the life of both sets of tires.

Then, in the November iXchange (only the second one I'd received since joining the registry), I saw Bill Buckwalter's ad for a set of barely-used Blizzaks. Miraculously, the issue seemed to have reached me before most other members, and I was the first of five or six to contact him. He shipped them up to me, Gene and I put them on, and they cut through the snow and ice like an afterthought. Bill - and the iXchange -saved me about $200, so my membership is paying off already!


Nick Yotz of Enumclaw, WA reports on a fix for those intermittent tachometer and service interval indicator problems:

"Several weeks after a successful battery replacement in the instrument carrier I got the same problems Tim has. Another removal of the instrument carrier looking for David's type of problem (and finding none obvious) plus a resetting of the service indicator lights still did not solve the problem. Lots of 'trouble-shooting' later I found what worked on our car and with no recurrence after several years now.

I cleaned the male prongs in the under side of the diagnostic cap and the female sockets into which they fit with "Radio Shack" electronic spray cleaner and then put a tiny dab of Permatex non seize 'goop' on each prong. Incidentally that 'goop' is great stuff to use on household light bulbs in locations where any corrosion can make later removal difficult.

Anyway, what I think happens is that the Service light reset tool I got from a Roundel advertisement has male prongs larger than the prongs on the bottom of the cap, thus enlarging the socket and giving an open in the appropriate circuit. The 'non-seize' is an excellent conductor of electricity, makes the contact, and the problem is probably permanently solved without getting your hands dirty. At least it has for me!"

Wheel Survey - Please Help

Members call me often to ask about alternative wheels for their iX. To answer these questions, I would appreciate your input on aftermarket wheels that you have mounted on your iX. Please send me the manufacturer, model type and size. I'll publish this wheel info in the next iXchange . Thanks for your input -- it will be a great help to all of us who are looking to add some distinction to our all weather blitzens.

RMC Ice Gymkhana

The annual Rocky Mountain Chapter (RMC) Ice Gymkhana was held on the lake at Georgetown in the mountains west of Denver on Saturday, January 27. When Paul Schultz, the event chairman, and I left Denver at 6:30 am, the temperature was 6 degrees F. Fortunately, as we climbed up the grade into the mountains, the temperature rose also. By the time we reached Georgetown, the weather had improved: it was almost 30 degrees, mostly sunny, but quite windy.

We fought strong winds most of the day, but had a very enjoyable event. I am happy to announce that iX's and our Registry were again very well represented. Members who attended included: Paul Schultz, Dick Hamilton, Steve Hamilton, Merl Volk, Bob Jaffray, and Dee Raisl and Gordon Haines. Yours truly took fast time of day and first place in the "AWD-studded" with a time of 1:28.68. My nemesis of years past, Gregg TenEyck in his AWD Turbo Surbaru Legacy was 7 seconds slower. Congratulations to Bob Jaffray who took first place in the AWD-non-studded class with a 1:35.78 -- a very impressive time. The fastest time in a rear drive car (E36 325i with limited slip, no traction control) was a 1:45.53. The fastest non-BMW was an AWD (non-studded) Talon with a 1:40.25.

This is always a fun event and next year we'll look for ways to make it even more enjoyable. We always have a lot of interest from people who are just driving by, so we'll see if we can find a way to accommodate "drop-ins". Thanks to Paul for making all the arrangements with the city of Georgetown and with the restaurant.

Tips & Tidbits

Looking for 14" steel wheels for your iX? Give Foreign Cars of Hunterton, NJ a call at (800) 982-9093. They can order them from Germany.
Chuck Lombardi of North Providence, RI has mad some significant upgrades to his '88 iX. He has a Dinan Chip, K&N air filter, Strebro exhaust, BAS Header, Shrick 272 cam, Bilsteins, cut coils on the front, cross drilled rotors, a Kamei kidney grill, factory mud flaps and other such goodies. He has a switch installed on the dash which interrupts the speedometer from sending a reading to the DME ECM computer. This enables a higher top speed because the ECM never sees the factory limited fuel cut-off at about 120 mph. Chuck claims his iX will now pull 135 mph in 5th gear.

Chris Strassburg of Lewiston, NY, has a concern about the design of the front axle on the iX and asks for thoughts on this from our members. Chris says, " I appreciate the effort to create a neat (low) package, and allow for equal length axle /shafts. But some how it doesn't seem right that the front drive line share the same support as the engine. It is possible that fire, wheel, brake, bearing, CV axle or front differential vibration will adversely affect the normally smooth harmonic balancing of the BMW engine and also be the cause of premature engine mount failure. Even more of a concern is the possibility that high engine heat, transferred directly to the front differential utilizing 90 weight gear oil (which is designed to provide superior shear strength, but less than superior thermal breakdown characteristics) will cause premature wear in the front differential.

"Front drive transaxles cope with this heat problem using Dexron transmission fluid rather than gear oil in their manual gear boxes." Any thoughts on this would be appreciated. Chris also says he found a factory shop manual in paper format for $140 from TMC at (410) 367-490. They also carry microfiche of the parts and electrical troubleshooting manual.

-- Several members report that the wiring provided for the standard clock cannot be used to connect up a full computer like that installed in the '88 iX or an M3.