iXchange Issue #11


A newsletter for BMW 325 iX Enthusiasts.



Member's iXperiences

Perhaps we should dedicate this issue to Mike Sand because he contributed so much material for this issue. Thanks to Mike and all who have contributed ! - -

Michael Sand of Corning, NY shares the following:

Am I the high miler of the registry? 170,000 and counting! Not, of course, without some incident and lots of fun. I have found that the iX is able to do a great variety of tasks with aplomb and finesse.

I have been doing battle with a hard starting problem which doesn't generate any fault codes (thanks again, Gordon) on the Motronic. I have done plugs, cap, rotor, K&N filter, fuel filter, etc.. I did find a vacuum leak from a bad clamp on the hose going to the evap purge valve. That did improve things but I am still not satisfied with the warm starting characteristics and the idle oscillations immediately after lifting off the throttle. Still don't know what's up....I think the engineer that decided to make the front ball joints an integral part of the control arm must previously have had a rewarding career in military purchasing. $250.00??? I have found that the boot on the driver side is split. The joint is still tight and good, so now what do I do? I am told that the boot is not a separate part for sale. Anyone know differently? (BMP - see Feb letter) I tried the headlight covers from Bavarian Auto Service. What a crock. They are designed to fit under the trim rings around the headlights. Not on mine they don't! The ring would only fit on about halfway and then slide back off because of the various lubricants I used to get them there in the first place. Imparts has some now that fit over both lights and appear to use magic to hold themselves in place. REALLY worth a try.

I built an enclosure for a 10" subwoofer in the trunk. I decided to sacrifice some room and apply a weight penalty (not too much, maybe 20-30 pounds, I used 3/4" plywood not particle board) in the interest of sonic pleasure. It fits under the rear deck exactly and is angled to mate up to the rear of the back seat. The single Rockford Punch points through the ski bag hole and sounds great. I cut some thick foam to act as a gasket around the driver to prevent trunk noises from entering the cabin. If I need the room it is easily removed and unplugged. I still can't believe the incredible bass one 10" woofer can provide. Organ music is actually something I can hear (and feel) in the car now! 300+ watts of Alpine power going to this woofer helps too... If anyone is interested I can send measurements etc. of the box.

I have joined the SCCA and have run a number of autocrosses last summer. I am hooked. These have not been my first but they are great in the way the courses are laid out and the attention paid to keeping things fun and not too terribly serious. I have seen a lot of interest in the iX and am always being asked questions about it. It would seem that our cars have achieved what can only be described as mystique. While a ^&$@ Miata has been consistently taking first in my class (C) I have received compliments from its veteran driver and that with Comp T/A R1's like his (vs.my D40M2's) I would be taking first instead of seconds and thirds. I have been running front pressures around 50 psi and rear around 30-35 and have found that this changes drastically +/- 5 psi or more depending on temp/sun/rain and how worn the D40's are. Keep those fronts pumped up though, as I ran one run in the high 30's and rolled onto the sidewalls while understeering badly (even with all the mods.) It is still 4wd after all... The chalk on the tire shoulders helps a lot to identify such a condition. In the spring of each year my region hosts a school at a small road racing kart track in Greene, NY which is perfectly suited to the numerous events held there. Kudos to the BMW dealer/owner of this track for keeping it open for such events. It can be quite challenging...I recommend to anyone thinking about trying autocrossing that they attend such a school. We practice launching (without lunching anything), braking and various turns and slalom. It is a good way to get the heeby-jeebies out of you and to refamiliarize yourself with your trusty steed.

I did a compression check at 168,000 miles. Between 151 psi and 155 psi. According to my manual, acceptable is 145-156. I guess there is a mile or two left in the engine, eh?

Front Differentail Replacement

At around 165,000 I discovered that the noise which I had originally attributed to ice and snow buildup in the fenders the previous day had not only not gone away with a wash but had gotten downright loud; A loud clicking noise which I could hear and feel in the front end. I stopped at the oh-so-kind Goodyear tire store in Corning and asked if I could examine it running in gear on their lift -- front differential. I drove a mile or so home and lifted the front end in the garage. Didn't look too bad. The diff has a pan which can be easily removed for inspection. I found three teeth from the pinion gear in the pan. To its credit, the gear didn't strip or slip and probably could have limped home from a long distance. A quick call to Gordon for advice from his factory manual and a brief consult with a dealer mechanic on the phone and I determined the job could be done with simple hand tools. Now to find a new front pun'kin. The invaluable Roundel turned up a new price around $1000.00 even with CCA discount mail order. I only found three units after calling every advertiser. One was around $700 and Vines had two (!) in Louisiana (!!) for $450. They were able to send it that day (Thursday) via UPS red for Friday arrival for $70 shipping etc. I figured it couldn't take more than a weekend's work and needed my car the following week for sure.

I unbolted the guibo on the input shaft and pushed it back as far as I could, tapped off the tie rod ends and ball joints, pulled on the hubs to withdraw the halfshafts, removed the splash shield to gain access and removed the mounting bolts. At this point the beast was loose. CAUTION!! I was working at extracting it from its comfortable location and it proved a bit resistant and HEAVY! Naturally it got pretty well jammed in place since the input shaft was still slightly engaged. As I lay on my back (an old pillow for my head made this all much more comfortable) contemplating other things for a moment to relax (the -expletives deleted- thing must come out somehow) it just let go all on its own and took a chunk out of my nice new garage floor paint. Better than my face, I figure. Please be careful as I was not to keep any part of your body under an unsupported chunk of very heavy German steel even though it would appear at first to be hopelessly stuck-God-have-mercy-I'm-going-to-take-a-torch-to-it-if-it-doesn't-move-soon in place. Overall not a bad job at all.

I have read with interest the various complaints about replacing antenna masts. I might suggest doing as I have done on all my cars with these silly automatic things. Since I usually listen to CD's (or tapes years back) I have interrupted the very obviously labeled power antenna trigger wire at the back of the stereo and routed it first through a simple push-on push-off switch discretely mounted in the ashtray (I don't smoke.) Thus the antenna isn't up unless I am listening to the radio. If the station is strong in your area you might find that the antenna can remain down and still provide satisfactory reception. Keep in mind that if the Ant. Wire is used to trigger a relay for OEM trunk mounted amplifiers (usually mounted over the fender well in front of the antenna) you will have to run a separate switched wire for the antenna. If you disconnect the wire and the volume goes way down or off this is indeed the case. If the antenna is not going up and down so much and is usually safely stowed it will not be so frequently in need of replacement.

I just yesterday had the dealer replace the rear subframe bushings. I bought the parts and then chickened out. Even with the recommended BMW tool it can be a real bear of a job. A very nice recovery of ride quality, silence and handling. A recent SCCA winter rally (first place novice class) over some of the sorriest excuses for rutted out cowpaths which then were washed out by a midwinter thaw and extensive local flooding (remember the mess in Pennsylvania in January? We live about 15 minutes north of the NY-PA border...) and then subzero temps and a snowstorm finished off the original bushings. The factory ride height would be useful for such events but even with the H&R springs we made it through without damage. The iX is so very versatile! Praise Hakka 10's!

We received compliments on the great sound of the new Supertrapps as we accelerated from checkpoints on the rally. I decided that rather than replace the fairly costly mounting brackets, straps and doughnuts in order to keep the original (168,000 miles!) exhaust hanging tight I would try something different. OEM style/freeflow Ansa cat-back systems ran about $125/$190 mail order plus all that hardware. I haven't been overwhelmed by Ansa fit and finish so I kept looking. Numerous systems are available which are all made by Supersprint and all for more money than Supersprint but I just couldn't see laying out more than $500 for the job. I bought two 2" stainless steel Supertrapp racing mufflers from Bill at Europroducts for $126 each. Bill had one on his '02 and recommended it highly. I cut the old muffler off the original pipes with a hacksaw in no time and attached the Supertrapps using the supplied clamps to two pieces of muffler pipe which were sized to slip over the original pipes and inside the mufflers. I needed to take these extension pipes to a local Monroe muffler to expand one end to fit. They also welded a piece of scrap between the BMW pipes to stiffen the assembly without the original muffler in place. I will eventually replace the mild steel extension pipes with stainless and weld them on, but the mild pipe was much easier and cheaper to experiment with to get the right fit. I then used the included stainless body clamps to mount the mufflers.

I finally settled on a piece of galvanized threaded rod running through the (enlarged) holes in the body clamps to hang the mufflers. I installed four nuts and a new OEM rubber doughnut on the rod and tightened them all down with loctite to hold the mufflers apart securely. I wrapped a stainless steel "wire tie" and safety wire around the rod and bottom of the doughnut to prevent the mufflers from bouncing up and hitting the body. I cut off one of the original doughnut hangers off the old muffler and drilled a hole through it. There is a plugged hole in the body rail of my iX right over the mufflers in the trunk so I ran a bolt through this from the trunk down to this bracket and secured it in place with washers, locknuts and locktite. Thus I could hang the new muffler "assembly" using the rubber isolation doughnut sorta like the factory job. The whole thing could also still be replaced by a manufactured system in the future if desired. Any one interested in trying this can contact me and I will make a drawing. It works very well.

I made use of CRC Zinc-it cold galvanizing spray (similar to the Wurth product) on all non-stainless parts and the one weld. Removing the old system was a real pain due to the crusty nature of the mounting hardware on the converter. I recommend purchasing a hardware kit and then taking the car to a muffler shop and paying them to detach the system from the cat and reattaching it using new bolts and nuts. A good pressure wash of the undercarriage is always a good idea before undertaking a project like this. The only irreversible procedure was to cut the rear valence so the tips can project under the bumper and not become a ground clearance problem. I used my aviators shears and a careful hand and am satisfied at the appearance. Don't forget to finish the cut edge to avoid rust. The Supertrapps are tunable for street and track by installing diffuser discs under the distinctive chrome end caps. More discs result in more top end and noise, while fewer discs biases towards low end grunt and silence. I started with all 12 included discs (max. 18-20) on each and was immediately surprised at how often I was slamming the rev limiter in first gear for the first go-around. The engine just didn't gasp at the top end so I had to recalibrate my driving habits! I was pleased with the (dare I say it?) Ferrari-esqe note. Whoopie! Let's go driving!

I had a quality problem with the cores of the mufflers which I settled with Supertrapp. Be careful with the hex screws for the discs. The blind nuts on the cores broke loose at the drop of a hat. New cores allowed me to experiment with the number of discs. 12 was a little too loud for the hours I spend in the car so I tried 6. Fifth gear torque was back and it was much quieter. Almost too quiet! I now have 8 and am satisfied for windows up winter street driving. I'll save 12 for loud fast summer weekends, autocrossing and driving schools. There may be better systems using larger than stock pipes from the cat to the mufflers but I get a lot of satisfaction and enjoyment out of the wonderful sound, performance and looks of this system that is different from the rest. There is still a lot to be said for doing things yourself!

I have found that parts stores sell generic replacement ball joint boots in the 5/8" size that fit the dastardly lower front ball joints which are so costly to replace. I tried ones by the company "HELP!". They only lasted a few months before they split, unfortunately. I have now tried boots from BMP for $11.00 for a set of two including grease. They seem to be more like a urethane material than the rather soft and flimsy rubber of the others I tried. Perhaps they will last longer. Keep those expensive joints clean and greasy!!! My boots died over 30,000 miles ago and I have yet to give in to complete replacement. I'll use that $600.00 for a couple driving schools!

Larry Gold of Rutland, VT tells of his Dinan Chip:

I put the Dinan chip in my '88 with ( last week, so I will share some experience. The extraction, and installation went without a hitch, as you had suggested a small screwdriver would help someone without the kind of experience I have,(electronics tech on fighters for USAF) but I found the entire operation much of a none event.Until of course I go out to start the car. Whamo, holy crow, the thing not only cranks right up, but sounds incredibly smoother immediately. I mean, sounds and feels like having done a long awaited plug change, carb and point tune on an old Chevy. What a difference. Out for a drive and no question, it pulls better and longer from 3500 right through 5500 rpm. I don't take it much past that often, because it starts to sound a little tight. I have not had much of a chance to check mileage yet, but so far there doesn't seem to be much of a change. I run Ultra 94, on a regular basis, which might explain the lack of ping I was kind of expecting. I just don't know, thought it would need higher octane, but then again, maybe the new chip just manages things a lot better. Any way, glad I did it, and am looking forward to putting in the new K&N air filter. Enjoying the iXchange very much. My 88 just hit 110,000, and is starting to show a couple of rust spots at the joints under the doors. Any hints? I'm sure the sooner I take care of them the better. Hey, I was looking through the notes you sent about iX history, and found an inconsistency. My 88(10/87 manufacture date) has color coded bumpers. I mean the wrap around the chrome, and right back to the body front and rear. I have yet to see another white one like it.

Here's a note from Dave Ravetti of Pittsburgh, PA

On March 6, 1996, I celebrated one year of driving my iX. I have a 1990 diamond black/black leather, manual trans., stock (so far) iX with 76,000
miles. My previous car was a 1980 Datsun 210 (hand-me-down from my older brother) which I had driven since getting my first license 11 years ago. Obviously, driving a BMW has been a big change, and I've become a Bimmer fanatic!

My garage is in the back of my house, with a steep, long, narrow driveway between two houses (up, level, then down to the back). Since I never shoveled or salted the driveway, I got to test the iX's Winter abilities daily. My biggest repair so far has been replacing a burned-out low beam. The only major expense was for Winter wheels and tires (the car came with 15" factory alloys and Pirelli P600 205/55s). For Winter, I bought 14" steel wheels and Dunlop Winter Sport SP 195/65s from the Tire Rack. Not having driven the car with any other tires, I can't compare the performance of the Dunlops, but I never slid or got stuck .

I've changed the oil (Mobil 1 10W30) every 3-4K miles and the car drinks an extra quart of oil every 1,000 miles.

For oil changes, I loosen the filter a little with a filter wrench, then put a long manila envelope around the filter. I then turn the envelope by hand - the filter and any excess oil are captured within the envelope for easy removal and disposal.
(Great idea, Dave).

In the first year of driving, I put on 13,000 miles - about 4,000 highway and 9,000 city. My gas mileage (3-tank averages) ranged from 15.9 mpg to 22.4 mpg with an average of 18.6 mpg.

As an "anniversary gift", I'm buying Redline MTL, a wheel center cap to replace a stolen one, and a Zymol wax kit. Since Pittsburgh roads consist of 70% asphalt (or cobblestone) and 30% potholes, an alignment is probably in the near future, as well.

Wheel & Tire Information

Here are some member responses to last issue's request for info on wheels and tires From Barry Wellman of Toronto, Canada:

While the summer wheels (on our '90 Canadian iX) remain OEM basketweaves (which I continue to like the looks of), our winter wheels are ROH, which my dealer (Paul Wright, Contact Patch in Toronto, good head) says are from Australian. They're 15"x&' 7-spoke, silver painted (not clear-coated) alloy. The original BMW-supplied all-seasons ride on them: Euro Uniroyal 340, 205x15. The reason for going painted was easier repairability, although after 2 Toronto winters, they haven't needed any work. They were about twice as much as plain steel, about US$140 each. I haven't seen them advertised anywhere, so I don't know if they're available south of the border. We prefer the 7-spoke look to the more aggressive, more popular 5-spoke.

- More info from Larry Gold , Rutland VT:

Bought the car (an '88 with 100,000 mi.) in July of 93, with Pirelli 190 snows all around on the original wheels, and a set of ACT LS, 7.5Jx15 wheels, with some just about worn out Yoko intermediates. Well, the noise from them was very loud, but they held like no tomorrow. I replaced the Yokos with some Goodrich H-rated Euro Radial T/A 225-50/15's. They didn't seem to stick as well, no surprise, but they have some distinct advantages. One, I'm going to get 40,000 plus miles out of them, they ride very, very nice, work good in the rain, and cost $431.00 mounted and balanced. I understand that they are not what you want for autocross, but I don't. I checked into new Yoko's, and was told to expect 15 to 20,000 miles tops, and I couldn't afford it. I'll tell you something else, out on the roads here in Vermont, under normal high-spirited, sometimes close to the edge driving, the car itself is well enough balanced, I have never come close to breaking it loose, other than some really good drifting, which I enjoy very much. And I pass 500 cars on the highway, for every one that passes me. Clearance has not been a problem at all, and I figure everyone knows that you have to keep exactly the same rolling radius on all four corners. The Pirellis have been great, by the way, here in Vermont in the winter, and they don't sound much like most snows. They are really quiet, but I am now shopping for the replacements due to wear. I understand they have a new snow, the 210. Anyone have any input on them.

- From Albert Wimmer of South Bend, IN:

I too had had it with the stock BBS wheels during the winter months. It is difficult enough to keep them clean even during the warmer season, but any amount of ice or packing snow can make them behave like bucking broncos. So, for the past two winters I have been using 15x7 Borbet Type C wheels with Pirelli Winter 210P. It is almost a pleasure to keep them clean. I bought them from the trusted Tire Rack in South Bend, IN. Originally, I was going to get Ronal R-15 alloys which the Tire Rack had offered as a package at a very attractive price, however, the front wheels wouldn't turn. So what did those wonderful people at Tire Rack do? Without blinking an eye, they exchanged the Ronal wheels and sold me the Borbet Type C for the same price. I have been quite happy with my choice and feel so smug when driving becomes difficult during our harsh Northern Indiana winters.

The people at Tire Rack talked me into replacing my worn Pirelli 600's with Bridgestone Turanza 205/55VR15 tires at a price I couldn't refuse (99 + 5 per tire for mounting and balancing). Though these are not all-season tires I am confident that they will do the job. Now (Gordon), don't feel slighted because I did not select any of your choices. Your advice was greatly appreciated though. I was going to buy Dunlop D40M2's but the sales associate at the TR had reservations about its tread life, and since I drive 100+ a day that was definitely a consideration.

More on Leather & Vinyl Care

Here's some helpful info I received from Car Care Specialties, Inc. of Saddle Brook, NJ :

The care and feeding of the leather and the vinyl components of your automotive interior are two very different processes. If you are using one product on both, that is somewhat like using gasoline as a lubricant. It will work, but not for long. I will cover the care and feeding of leather and vinyl separately.

Leather having once been used to keep the insides of a cow from falling out was designed to pass moisture through tiny pores. These tiny pores absorb human perspiration and as the water evaporates, salts contained therein remain to absorb the essential oils in the leather. This accumulation of salts and other grunge should be cleaned from the leather about twice a year (more often if the seats get more than their fair share of your leftover sweat). The loss of oils within the leather is the first step to hardening, cracking and shrinkage. Leather dashes are very prone to hardening and shrinking. Your dash is subjected to the destructive UV rays and heat concentrated by the windshield. The leather (or vinyl) of your dash rests upon a metal backing that acts like a frying pan. This "frying" drives the essential oils from the leather causing premature shrinkage, cracking and hardening. Thus a dash should be treated more often than the seats or door panels.

Cleaning leather may be accomplished by using a mild soap and water, or a specifically designed leather cleaner. Of all the products I have tried, I still like Lexol pH Cleaner. It is pH balanced, and gentle. All cleaners will rehydrate the leftover salts and grime and wash them from the leather fibers. Use only leather products on leather, do not use vinyl cleaners as these products tend to be much harsher and may not be that beneficial to the leather. Any cleaner should be rinsed thoroughly from the leather. I have tried spraying off with a hose, but that just seemed to fill the car with soapy water (a hole drilled in the floor was needed to drain it out - just kidding). I went back to using a damp cloth and repeatedly wiping down the leather. Once the leather is clean, a conditioner should be used to restore lost oils and emollients. There are several conditioners on the market. Two of my favorites over the years are Lexol Conditioner and Tony Nancy Leather Conditioner . These two seem to be the most easily absorbed into the leather fibers and tend to leave a relatively less "greasy" finish than any of the other products I have tried. Another good product is Connoly Hide Food .
This product is made from rendered animal parts and will turn rancid in about two years. This and the distinctive "cow" smell removes it from my top two list (I spent too much time milking the south end of a north pointing cow, so am not a fan of cow smells). Zymol makes a product called "Leather Treat" . It does not, in my humble opinion, do any better job than the much less expensive Lexol or Tony Nancy products. Again, do not use a vinyl product as a conditioner on leather and above all try to avoid silicone based products. The silicone oil will dissolve out the leather's natural oils and tend make the leather sticky. Silicone has a very high electrostatic attraction, so will invite every dust particle within miles to set up camp in your interior. Apply the conditioner to a soft cloth and work into the leather, allow to be absorbed into the fibers and then buff off the excess. You may condition the leather as often as you wish. The leather will tell you if you apply too much or apply to often. The leather fibers will just not absorb the excess.

If your leather has hardened or needs some intensive softening, there is a really nifty product called "Surflex Leather Softener" . This product is made from natural and synthetic oils that restore the natural softness to neglected leather. Clean the leather and then apply a liberal coat of Softener. Allow to penetrate the leather for about 24 hours. Wipe off the excess. If it needs an additional application, repeat the above. For really bad areas, cover with plastic and allow to sit for a few days. Once the leather is sufficiently softened, allow to "cure" for another 24 hours and buff off any excess. You are done. I jokingly say this product will turn a dog's rawhide chew into a kid glove. I have had some luck with leather dashes with this method. Once the leather has softened, I have been able to gently tuck it back under the edges of the trim and windshield clips. This is a lot cheaper than a new dash and may be worth a try before spending a ton of money.

If your leather or vinyl has scuff marks, scratches or areas that the surface color had been removed, you may refinish it yourself The key is another Suflex product. The Suflex Colorant & Finish for Flexible Surfaces may be matched to the exact color required. Any interior leather or vinyl surface may be refinished. It is not recommended to spot finish any area. If your seat bolsters have belt loop scuff marks, you should refinish the entire front of the seat. I usually do from welting to welting. This provides a visual break that does not make the non refinished areas appear quite as shabby. But then why not do the whole seat, dash, or door panel? Start by cleaning the area(s) to be refinished with a suitable Organic Solvent. I prefer Wurth Citrus Degreaser or P21S Total Auto Wash . Prior to usage, test all solvents on an area that does not show. I use the excess on the underside of the seat to test colorfastness of the finish. Spray the solvent on a soft lint free cloth, and then wipe down the surface(s). Repeat after a few minutes. Rinse with a damp cloth and allow to dry thoroughly (at least 24 hours). The manufacturer of Surflex says to strip the old finish off using lacquer thinner, commercial paint remover or C-P Stripper . I don't, because most interiors are not in that bad a shape and I have never found it necessary (They also recommend lightly sanding the area prior to usage, I don't do that either - no guts). Mix the Surflex completely and use it like a wood stain. I use a small piece of lint free cloth and work the Surflex into the leather or vinyl just as if I were staining wood. Once the desired color of finish is achieved, allow to dry undisturbed for at least 24 hours.

I allow the surface to "harden off" for about 2 weeks before applying any conditioners to leather or vinyl protectants to vinyl parts. I have not had a lot of luck refinishing a dark leather or vinyl a lighter color. The old color tends to show through in small "cracks" and the whole panel seems to be "muddy". Maybe if you strip off all the old finish, it would look better. Someday, I will get an old seat and give it a try. The Surflex Black Colorant works great on black bumpers, black spoilers or black rubber/vinyl trim that has been scratched or scuffed. Clean the entire part thoroughly with Wurth Citrus Degreaser , rinse and dry thoroughly. Stain the area with the Colorant and allow to dry. It will look like new. After about 3 weeks hardening off, coat with a protective coating of Mequiar #42 Rubber Treatment or Black Again .

Small cuts, cracks or holes in leather may be partially repaired using another Surflex product called Flex-Fill. This is a semi-flexible cosmetic filling material. You use it like a spackle compound. It will take the Surflex colorant similar to leather or vinyl. I have been able to repair several damaged areas and hide them so they are not visible to the casual observer. Will it make a three inch crack in your dash look like new? No, but it may help hide it so that it isn't quite so obvious. I have found that forcing Flex-Fill under the repaired area and forming an inverted T patch works best. Once the patch is dry, sand lightly to blend in with the leather or vinyl. Clean the area thoroughly and refinish with the Surflex Colorant . This is a learned skill, so you should practice on a test piece of leather or vinyl. Perfect your techniques before you tackle your expensive interior.

Vinyl is the carefully prepared hydes of virgin pampered Arctic Naugas. Many Naugas must die to furnish enough material for just one interior panel.

The dash, door panels, seat backs, and numerous other interior/exterior trim pieces are usually vinyl. Vinyl may be viewed as raw semi-liquid vinyls that are held in place by a solid vinyl "skin" (this description is for illustration only and not a Ph.D. chemical dissertation ). The dash and other vinyl parts of your car are constantly bombarded by UV that breaks down the molecules of the skin, allowing the raw vinyls to escape (off-gassing). These free vinyls then may deposit themselves on the glass, forming a haze that is difficult to remove. If you have such a haze, it is probably your dash that has decided to pick up stakes and migrate. Silicone based vinyl dressing products do not usually contain UV protectants, and the silicone may act as a magnifying glass, intensifying the UV degradation. Silicone oil may also dissolve the essential oils in the vinyl skin, hastening the premature formation of cracks in the vinyl skin. A quality vinyl protectant will contain a UV protectant and essential oils to replace lost oils from the vinyl. These protectants are expensive, so the K-Mart specials may do more harm than good. Silicone also has very strong electrostatic attraction which may be considered beneficial in that it will tend to stay where it is placed, but will also attract every dust particle in the surrounding three counties.

Any vinyl protectant should be applied to a soft cloth and worked into the surface. After a few moments of allowing it to work into the surface, buff off the excess. The dash should be treated more often than any other area, as it is subject to the most severe attack by UV and heat .
My personal favorite vinyl protectant is Lexol Vinyex Spray . This in my humble opinion has it all. A very strong UV protectant, essential oils, anti-static (helps keep dust off) and a soft patina finish. Harly Polyguard - This used to be my favorite, till I lost my heart to Vinylex . Leaves a touch more shine to the finish than Vinylex . Somethin' Else - This is the sister to Black Again . Has all the right ingredients and people who love it are died in the wool. I prefer the Vinylex , but that only a subjective opinion. It leaves a "new car" smell. I think that is why it is not my favorite. I am not a fan of artificial smells. Harly Interior Magic - An old standby that leaves a lemon scent. Some people love it. I don't think a car should smell like lemons, but that's my opinion and I could be wrong.
Zymol Vinyl - Another tropical oil product. Leaves a pina colada smell. Diehards will defend this product to the death. I just think it is to much $. Meguiar #40 - A great product that cleans and protects. Does not leave a slippery finish. Meguiar #39 - A very strong cleaner. This should be used carefully and very infrequently. It will clean just about anything out of vinyl. Must be followed by #40 or other vinyl protectant. A great cleaner for plastic Targa tops. Tony Nancy Rubber/Vinyl Cleaner - I don't recommend use on the inside. The smell is a bit much for me (reminds me of dead rats).
Some people do and swear by it. Sonax Cockpit Spray - This is a German product that is designed for German vinyl. Does a great job, but leaves a little more shine to the surface than I care for. There are a gaggle of users who love it. Wurth Cockpit Spray - ditto above. Wurth people don't like Sonax and vice versa. Formula 303 - This leaves an Armour All type of high gloss shine to the vinyl. I personally don't like this type of finish. Some people do, so feel comfortable using it. All of the above products do not contain silicone.

I hope that the above has shed some light on the subject leather and vinyl care. If there are any questions, please do not hesitate to call or write.
If you can't find the products locally, I stock all of them except the Formula 303 and would be glad to send a product description/price package by mail.

Contributed by Larry Reynolds
Car Care Specialties, Inc.
Post Office Box 535 Saddle Brook, NJ 07663-0535
Phone: (201) 796-8300 , Fax: (201) 791-9743
E-mail: carcaresp@aol.com

Service Bulletins

There have been over 375 Service Bulletins issued by BMW NA for the '88 iX and over 300 for a '91. Here is a sample from the middle of the '88 pack:
OCT 90 152. Old Style Head Bolts Should Be Replaced
OCT 90 153. Spark Plug Application Chart
OCT 90 154. Steering Vibration Caused by Brakepads OCT 90 155. Troubleshooting Cruise Control
OCT 90 156. Troubleshooting Long Cranking Times SEP 90 157. Correct Shift Cable Adjustment
SEP 90 158. Horns Are Activated By Themselves
SEP 90 159. Ordering Technical Service Materials
AUG 90 160. 0026903100 8/1/90
AUG 90 161. A/C Compressor Does Not Engage
AUG 90 162. DME Codes Reference Chart Ordering
AUG 90 163. Embossing Tools For Recall Campaigns
AUG 90 164. I15 08/01/90
AUG 90 165. Impressive Addition to Any BMW
AUG 90 166. New Primary Oil Pump Housing
JUL 90 167. AFA Procedures For Returning Parts
JUL 90 168. Oil Seal and Trailing Arm Bushing Special Tools
JUL 90 169. Operating Fluids Specifications
Seems like we've talked about #152 before. Here are the most recent for a '91:

OCT 94 1. CMT 2000VR Telephone Number Memory
SEP 94 2. BMW Individual Vehicles
SEP 94 3. Binding/Sticking Ignition - Starter Failure
SEP 94 4. Bosch Oxygen Sensor Tester
AUG 94 5. Brake Light Switch
AUG 94 6. Synthetic Oils For Final Drives
JUL 94 7. Engine Compartment Return Fuel Hoses
JUL 94 8. Rear Axle Ratio Update
JUL 94 9. Steering Wheel Vibration (Brake Induced)
MAY 94 10. A/C Oil Charge Procedure - R12/R134a
MAY 94 11. Collision Repair guidelines: Restraint Systems
MAY 94 12. Hands Free Audio - Telephone Diagnosis
MAY 94 13. Noisy Wipers, Poor Cleaning

You get the idea -- there is a lot of stuff here and it is unlikely that your local friendly service technician has all of these memorized or even at his finger tips. If you are having a problem it is worth a check at the Web site below to arm yourself with some info which might help you and your dealer solve the problem. You can get the complete list for your car as follows:

For FREE trial access to the World's Largest Database of Vehicle Repair and Maintenance Information, including detailed information about any of the above bulletins, visit ALLDATA at:
WWW : http://www.alldata.tsb.com
GOPHER: gopher.alldata.tsb.com
or e-mail freetry@alldata.com for more information.

I've provided a link to this site from the "Cool LInks" page on the BMW CCA Web site.