iXchange Issue #21

December 1998

A newsletter for BMW 325 iX Enthusiasts.


Xfer Case Chain Replacement 1
Preparing for Winter Driving 2
Speaker Wiring 3
Air Conditioning Resistor 3
Air Conditioning Overcharge 3
O'fest '98 Concour & the iX 4
215K miles & 7 Driving Schools 5
Sold: Bev's '89 iX 6


Transfer Case Chain Replacement

NOTE NEW UPDATE: Xfer Case Chain Source

From: "Jack Colburn"

I have ended my search for a transfer case chain -- a company out of Norfolk VA called ATC Distribution Group (1-800-622-6997) were the only people willing to help for a price of $138.13 plus s/h. The vendor Tanstar (see below) only sells to company's not to individuals. So I have the chain in hand and am feeling a little better.

by Dennis Beggs and Glenn Blair of Franklin, PA who provide this valuable follow up to the article in Issue #20 about transfer case chains. (You may recall that Rob Rinehart of Pismo Beach, CA, had to replace the chain in his '89 iX. Rob warns us to check/replace the ATF in the transfer case immediately if you have driven through deep water 'cause the water may have entered the transfer case.)
Apparently, the original style chains are not available from BMW. A replacement "new-style" chain is available for about $500, but it is incompatible with the original transfer case gears. Glenn and Denny have located an inexpensive replacement chain from TRANSTAR--see info at the end of this article.

Glenn and Dennis replaced the chain in Dennis' '89 iX. Dennis says, "My symptoms prior to the fix was that I had a rapid clacking sound under load, which was discovered to be from the stretched chain slapping internally on the inner baffle (oil baffle) of the transfer case. The repair was successful and the mechanic's charge was $350 (plus parts @$140 = $490 total --- big savings compared to dealer).
"I replaced the original chain at a cost of $127.50 (for the chain). Two other parts were needed, the case gasket @ $6.58, and the radial oil seal (40 x 52 x 7) @ $4.65. The saga on the chain goes like this. Morse HY-VO was stamped randomly on the chain. Through research, it was discovered that Morse chains are a division of Borg Warner. I talked with Borg Warner's Technical/Engineering Staff and learned specific information on these chains, new and old versions. On the old chain, all links are arched. Two or three rows of links squared off means it is the new chain. Part No.: HV 024 Old Chain (all same links) HV 024R New Chain (random links -- round & square links)

"A 'product improvement' occurred sometime in 1988. Per the Engineers statement (sounded very familiar w/BMW application), "Need to get the correct chain. If new chain is put on old sprockets, get whining noise. If old chain is put on new sprockets, get clicking noise."

"Borg Warner sent me a list of 34 Distributors of Morse Hy-Vo chains. After a few calls, I found one that was willing to help --- TRANSTAR 1-800-321-8830, Randy, ext. 285. Address: 7350 Young Drive, Cleveland, OH 44146."

Glenn says, "The symptom was a rapid clacking sound under load which was found to be some sort of backlash of the loose side of the chain contacting the case. The old chain was stretched and flopping around striking a small aluminum divider (for lack of a better term) cast in the case. There were no metal particles, heat discoloration or other signs we could see and the oil was a little low. No reason found to replace bearings. Seals were replaced by size and type from a local 'Erie Bearing Co.' (about $5. vs. about $12) and case gasket ordered from a Roundel (Maxmillian or Zygmunt I forget which) vendor or any dealer can get them.

"The 'New Style Chain' with 'OLD STYLE' gears supposedly is a mismatch which results in gear whine when put in use and using NEW style gears with the OLD chain type supposedly does the same. The car has been in use for 60 mile daily commute (about 3 mo.) ever since w/o noise or problem.
"According to the mechanic the hardest part is getting to the bolts to remove the transfer case. Any one who is removing the transmission should probably open the transfer case and check to play, especially in Automatic cars. There is a spec. for the amount of slack in the chain, but I would replace if it has much of any to avoid future cost duplication. Any one with questions on our process can e-mail me or call 814 437 1773.

"BTW the same mechanic did the ball joint R/R in about one and one half hours using the $44 unit from Zygmunt Motors in Doylestown PA (Phone: 215.348.312). I don't know if that is a common way for you readers to do it but it worked well when removing the control arm and doing it on the bench.. I did one on the car and it was much harder but possible. Hope this helps."

Editor's Note:

After hearing this story from Glen and Dennis, I followed their leads and confirmed that the company TRANSTAR Industries can provide replacement chains for the iX. TRANSTAR, as Glen points out, is a distributor for Morse Company who makes the chains. The part number is HV-024 and the cost is about $130. It probably will not be in stock and will require a special order.
The number I found for the Cleveland Distributor is (440) 232-5100. Ask for Hal. The Denver Distributor is at (800) 525 9096. Or, you can call 800 359-3339 for the TRANSTAR distributor in your area.

'88 iX

Sharon and Jeffrey Cannon of Omaha, Nebraska claim to have "the best iX in the country--a full turbo Hartge-prepared '88." Could be!


Preparing for Winter Driving
from Dave Stoker of Sacramento, CA:

With the winter season upon us, it is time again to prepare for winter driving. I would like to share with you a list of items that you may wish to carry in your iX to prevent your winter driving experience from becoming anything less than another fun iX outing. I have driven in snow country since the year I got my license and am always thinking of new ideas on items to keep in the car or tips to make the trip more enjoyable. As a weekend ski instructor, I commute to the mountains on a regular basis. Just when I think I've seen it all, another novice to winter driving proves me wrong. I've seen women wearing mini-skirts and high-heels, walking in 2 feet of fresh snow determining how to get their car out of the snow bank. Then there are the perfectly sane people lying in the traffic lane to adjust the tire chains. These species of humans are known as "Dufi", plural for Dufus.

The first thing you should do is to be sure that your iX is winterized. This includes a dependable car battery, winter snow wiper blades, new anti-freeze, filling the window washer reservoir with anti-freeze window cleaner (not plain water), mud and snow tires in good condition (and not worn past wear indicators). Also, spraying the door weather stripping with silicone will prevent the doors from freezing shut. Clean the windows well and apply Rain-X.

Here is a list of items to carry. Winter clothes, gloves and snow boots. New road flares (toss the old ones, these are cheep), a blanket (that could keep you warm if your car heater goes on the blink or traffic is stopped indefinitely), a plastic drop cloth (comes in handy for laying in a wet road), cell phone and the phone number of available road services, extra food and water, basic repair tools, flashlight with new batteries, sunglasses, maps, small shovel, ice scraper, a broom (with a handle short enough to fit in the trunk, brushes snow off much faster than using the brush on a snow scraper), extra key to your car (such as a hide-a-key), door lock de-icer. Also, a tow rope comes in handy if you get stuck.

Here are a few driving tips. Learn by doing. Try to find a snow-covered empty parking lot where you can safely determine what you and your iX can do. Drive aggressively, spin doughnuts, broadies, brake hard/easy, steer hard/easy, drive through deeper snow, feel your tires grip/slip. Find the point at which your tires loose grip in a turn at speed. Then, learn how to compensate with steering and power. Your iX will perform remarkably, but you must learn by the seat of your pants, so when you need to take action on the road, it will come naturally.

Last, but not least, don't set the parking brake in freezing weather, which may freeze the pads to the rotors. Clean the headlights often during your trip. You will be amazed how much better you can see at night. Expect the unexpected of other drivers. Be alert and watch out for the Dufi.


Mark Albert from Indianapolis, IN offers this info regarding wiring of stereo speakers :

Although the factory speakers in our cars are common grounded at the radio harness, if you follow the bundle AFTER the Roll Fader in the dash, you will find what amounts to several wires (All yellow/brown or blue/brown) crimped together in the taped bundle. You can sever this crimp, and the individual speakers are twisted pairs together (for noise isolation.) You can test this by "popping them with a small battery (AA or AAA) for short periods of time to recognize Left/ Right, and Front/ Rear. Polarity dictates that each colored lead with a brown trace is the (-) negative for that speaker. Slap the deck in and enjoy your new tunes.

Cars like my '89 without factory tweeters behind the mirror mounts DO HAVE THE WIRE RUN ALREADY. You can pick up the grey and gray/green (grey and grey /yellow for the other side...) wires in each kick panel behind the factory 5 1/4" speakers.


Barry Ritchey of Albuquerque, NM provides an AC Resistor follow-up story:

As the heat of Summer started to turn up, I noticed that Blanca ('90 iX, 127K miles) started to lose some of its air-conditioning hit. I started to realize the correlation between air temperature, driving speed, engine temperature, and cold air (or lack of) coming out the vents. Just as Gordon outlined in issue #20, my problem was the A/C condenser fan was not spinning.

I started probing with a volt meter to check relays and bypassing the radiator overtemp sensors. Should have started at the end of the line and worked my way upstream - I would have noticed the shattered ballast resistor (accessible below the bumper on the port side of the fan) that drops the voltage for the slow speed mode of the fan. According to my dealer, there are two versions of this resistor - one housed in a finned aluminum case and.. the 0.6 ohm version that is housed in a black coated ceramic. And like all ceramics, prone to breaking. Mine was probably broken by a thrown up stone. Or the ceramic got hit with water while it was hot - it gets real hot! Check the condition of your ceramic housing.

After walking out on my local dealer that had the part, due to conflict over my BMW-CCA card and their policy with CCA members having to show their card at the proper time (Laying the card on the counter is not enough of a "show" - I guess you need to LOUDLY proclaim to be a CCA member at Sandia BMW), I decided to make my own resistor.

Those of you that have access to a good electronics supply. Dale makes a 0.7 ohm resistor that handles 50 watts. The gold (color) anodized, finned aluminum, model. It will set you back about $6 - about $20 less than the factory part. And no problems with broken ceramic bodies. I mounted the resistor to a small aluminum bracket and used a small terminal strip to make the connections. This setup worked great all through the 2nd half of summer, even though the fan was turning slightly slower than originally (that 0.1 ohm difference). For those perfectionists out there, you could probably source an exact 0.6 ohm resistor or series/parallel something to match.

One more note. For a few days, before getting the parts for the fix, I just ran the A/C by bypassing the bad resistor. You can just tie all three connectors that run to the resistor together (insulate any bare and loose wires). The fans runs at the "fast" speed that is usually reserved for an overheating engine. Noisy, but effective. Problem is: at the fast speed, the fan draws something like 18 amps - on a circuit that is fused for 15 amps. You can probably guess... 'Pop' goes the fuse. Popped two 'til I figured that one out. Since the relays and wiring gauge seemed identical for both fans speed circuits, I had no problem just temporarily dropping in a 30 amp fuse for the slow speed circuit.


Air Conditioning Overcharge
by William Buckwalter of Canton, GA

Gordon's article in the last iXchange about air conditioning problems with Bev's 89' iX reminds me of our car's A/C problems. Since new, our 89 iX had been performing fine until last year when I added a can of R12 to restore it's cooling performance in the summer. I figured the seals let some Freon by during the winter due to aging processes and no cycling of the compressor to run the oil around and keep the seals wet. The added Freon did the trick.

This summer Marti had no complaints. As a part of our preflight before driving to the Orlando Octoberfest, I switched on the key and A/C to insure the aux. fan was running as it should. All was normal. The trip to Orlando at highway speed was without problems, but in Orlando traffic motoring in Florida heat was too much. The A/C left something to be desired. Figuring it was low on Freon again I inspected the sight glass in the dryer to find no bubbles at idle or any speed. This made me think it was almost empty. So we took the car to a local A/C shop, figuring we could have them add Freon to get us home again. Their gauges depicted high pressure on both the high and low sides! So they took out some of the overcharge I put in last year. That fixed it. When we got home I stuck my thermometer in the A/C vent and we were getting low 40 degree F readings on a 95 degree Atlanta day in traffic. Seems these systems are sensitive to the amount of Freon charge. Going forward I will be looking for bubbles in the sight glass at idle to insure the correct charge.

Our iX took first place in class (1980 - 1990 cars) at the Peachtree Chapter concour yesterday. We clearly outstripped the competition with 209.5 points out of a possible 210. Second and third places were at 196 and 192 points respectively. It was not as rigorous an inspection as the Octoberfest concour, but no less satisfying to win. The iX was a novelty to many folks here in the deep south.


William Buckwatler of Canton, GA
also tells of his O'fest '98 iXperience :

I guess it all started with the decision to have the wheels refurbished. They were looking rough after 8 years of service. So we sent them off to a Roundel advertiser (Wheel Collision Center) to be trued and refinished. They came back like new and made a big difference to the appearance of the car. Then this year our vacation and fiscal budgets could support an Octoberfest participation and we had to decide whether to enter the car in the concour, and if so, "clean" or "superclean"? A review of the maintenance records indicated our 1989 iX was approaching a major scheduled maintenance interval. Also it was time for another change of all the belts and hoses.

The timing was right, so we went for it. We ordered new filters, plugs, hoses, belts and timing belt tensioner from a Roundel advertiser and figured the car will go up on jackstands when the parts get here and we will start some serious maintenance and cleaning. As usual, those folks at Eurasian were quick and complete. The parts arrived in two days! So we entered the car in "superclean" (which includes inspection of the engine compartment and trunk) and started getting the car ready. The hood came off and went into the basement for a complete removal of the undercoating, a rub down and fresh Zymol on top and bottom.

Meanwhile, back at the garage everything from the front bulkhead to the block came out of the car. The water pump had a little play in the bearing, so we installed a new one while we were in there. Fresh hoses and belts went on and everything else that was removed to do the work got a good cleaning and polishing before reinstallation. While I spend evenings and weekends going around the engine compartment removing, cleaning and reinstalling everything I could without breaking stuff Marti was overhauling the interior and trunk. She spent hours just cleaning the door jambs (four doors!).

After engine compartment cleaning was completed I went under the car to check all driveline fluid levels, change the fuel filter and clean/polish the paint on the underside of the body side molding and doors. We then linked up to remove the seats and package tray for continued interior cleaning to include removing grease from the seat tracks and dirt from other unreachable surfaces like the inside of the rear window glass up against the third brake light.

About a week before the Octoberfest trip the car came down off the four jackstands and rolled out into the sunlight. That is when I found the engine compartment was not yet ready. About another 20 hours removing more dirt and undercoating from the engine compartments ensued before the hood went back on.

At Orlando we spent some idle time cleaning the trunk interior on Tuesday with the professional advice and assistance of Willie and Jerri Wiley. After the last Octoberfest rally on Thursday we did a full court press. Exterior wash and back into the engine compartment for the details. Willie and Jerri were there again, helping with the secret parts and hard to clean stuff like the grille parts, etc. We worked till sundown. The next morning we were up before the sun (and this is our vacation?) with more detailing right up to the "rags down" call.

We landed second place in superclean, right behind the premier 88 325is of Byron McCauley and Sueanne Meskell. It was a lot of work and a lot of fun. The great help from Willie and Jerri and the sage advise from Byron and Sue Ann made the difference. We also enjoyed meeting fellow iXers, Jeff and Mary Lou Rolison who arrived from Pennsylvania with both their iXes. Jeff tells me there were two other iXes at Orlando, both from Pennsylvania.

Most folks do not understand what makes us go through hundreds of Q-tips to clean a daily driver, however the effort once again afforded me the opportunity to learn a little more about our car and know it is in a nearly like new condition. That is a satisfying iXperience.


215,000 miles and 7 Driver's Schools !

From Dan Guliano of NH, reprinted from Dan's column "iX Marks the Spot" in his CCA Chapter Newsletter.

Since March, the ('89) iX has participated in seven Driver's Schools. Six were at NHIS and one at Mt. Tremblant, outside of Montreal. How can that be? The BMW CCA Chapters in each region are not the only source for safe, well run, affordable Schools. In New England there are organizations like the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America), COM Sports Car Club (the club formerly known as Corvettes of Massachusetts) and PCA (Porsche Club of America) who offer great opportunities for more time on the track.

After the first schools a couple of things became evident:

Stock seatbelts are woefully inadequate at the track. Because they are the "inertial" type belts, they allow quite a bit of slippage in the name of comfort. They hold you in close proximity to the seat, just not IN it. A few calls were made to folks in the region. They had two perspectives - first, a belt/harness combination as offered most notably by Schroth, offered ease of installation and use, while not attracting undue attention (unless you chose those purple ones). The second perspective believed that if BIG, black, ugly, parachute buckle belts worked for NASCAR, they'll work in an iX - and only cost $79 per side. The second perspective won. Two sets were ordered from a local 'speed' shop and easily installed.

The seats themselves weren't that good. Some time ago we discussed the advantages and disadvantages of Flofit seats. While sturdy and reasonably priced, because their adjuster only locks on one rail, the seat torque's under heavy braking. Not a problem for street use, but on the track it is very disconcerting. On the passenger side, the seatback release and rake adjustment gear was failing, causing the seatback to wobble. Again calls were made. We hoped to find 2 black leather, heated, sport seats from an E30 at a really good price (maybe someone got so tired of paying speeding tickets they were parting out their M3......not hardly). Luckily, a call to TC Kline found 2 worn, gray leather, unheated sport seats. They had some wear, the bolsters on the driver's seat exhibited the 'usual' level of cracking, but they were reasonably priced. The seats were shipped here, then sent out to be recovered. This recovering, in gray and black cloth (gray centers, black bolsters) was one of the last jobs done by Barnes & Dunbar (an outstanding duo who were forced to close their business in Manchester, NH because they couldn't hire additional staff).

With harnesses and seats in place, the iX went off to spend more time at the track. After a school with a particularly challenging configuration at NHIS (using the north oval onto the front straight, then into the south chicane - out of the chicane into the infamous Turn 3) we noticed the well worn brakes had begun to exhibit signs of warped rotors. The hunt was on for brake upgrades.

Remember, the unusual nature of iX rotors. The front brakes use standard 325i/iS rotors while the rears MUST use iX specific rotors. The stock wheels are 15" in diameter. These were are choices:

Replace the OEM rotors and pads with another set of OEM rotors and pads. After all, they're known quantities, work well, last a good long while and are reasonably priced.

Go for a Brembo based 'big brake' front brake kit. Slotted or drilled rotors, six pot calipers, wicked cool looking. Approximately $ 2,300 for the fronts only, not including the additional cost to move up to 17" wheels and tires (try explaining that one to the spouse...)

A new advertiser in the Roundel, KVR, has a Wilwood front brake kit. Wilwood calipers with quick change race pads as used on dirt track cars, VW Corrado rotors bored out to be hubcentric and stainless lines. We're told these will fit inside the standard iX rims, and the setup only costs around $ 1,000. However, we know of no one who has tried them, the calipers are billet aluminum and have a tendency to twist - giving a spongy pedal, there are no 'dust' covers or other foul weather protection for the calipers, raising questions about their use in winter and there are indications the iX might be "overbraked" for street use.

Our friend, Richard Michelangelo (Michelangelo Motor Werkes 800 478-3569) is working on reverse engineering an Alpina Brake Kit for the iX. He's discovered where and how to obtain the equivalent caliper, has plans for manufacturing the necessary adapter, and is very close to a replacement rotor. Unfortunately, it's not yet ready for 'beta' testing.

Will Turner (Turner Motorsport 800 280-6966) offers Carbon Kevlar brake pads (a.k.a. 'Cool Willies') for virtually all BMW models. A quick call found the appropriate set of front and rear pads in stock for the iX. We were cautioned that, once heat cycled, these pads were dirty and noisy and worked VERY well, without being overly aggressive on the rotors, and reasonably priced. We took the Cool Willies, mated them to stock rear rotors and at the suggestion of Dan Maynard (3D Auto Works 603 882-3400) fitted ATE "Powerdiscs" on the front.

Dan and Will were absolutely correct in their recommendations. Heat cycled the brakes per instructions then took the iX to NHIS. After they got a little (and very little at that) heat into them they REALLY shed speed. They were also easily modulated, allowing trail braking with ease. However, you'd think the wheels were anodized black, not gray. After the last run the iX was allowed to fully cool down (after all, isn't that the best time to tell track stories ".... I carried enough speed onto the front straight to stay ahead of that Viper GTS, I just let him by to be polite ..."). Leaving the track, the application of the brakes sounded like nails on a blackboard - didn't get these by the spouse.

Later that week, took the iX (and spouse, son and the 540) to Mt. Tremblant with the folks from COM. What a track! It's long, over 2.6 miles, and fast, with a back 'straight' with a hump. The iX was traveling well over 105 mph at the end of the straight, braking down for a 75 degree right hander. Phil Abrami (a great instructor, and very knowledgeable with this, his 'home' track) remarked the iX handled well, rotating quickly for the tricky uphill, blind apex 'Bridge' turn, braking securely for the "Namerow'" turn and really putting the power down with the all-wheel drive. We'll be back next year, with both the BMW CCA and COM.

Next: how do we explain to the spouse that a roll bar has been there all along, she just never noticed it....

SOLD: Bev's '89 iX.

Jon Money of Detriot, MI, buys Bev's '89 iX -- the one that started the iX Registry! Jon says:

"I have always had a great love for BMWs and it was just a matter of time before I would have to have one. All through high school I wanted an iX as I am originally from a rather wintery climate and love to ski! I decided that this was the year to do it. After convincing my wife that we needed another car we decided it was time to search for our iX. My main concern was a car in good shape and that it was a 5 speed. I had just begun looking when I found none other than the Haines' red ('89) iX for sale in the Roundel. It had higher mileage than I wanted but knowing his reputation I was curious. I placed a few ads and had looked in a few places but after talking to Gordon I was sold. I spoke with him about arranging an inspection for the car since I would not be able to see the car before buying it (I live near Detroit). Gordon was nice enough to take the car to Bimmerwerks for an inspection and after a clean bill of health I agreed to purchase the car. My wife, Shannon, and I flew out to Denver planning to drive the car back to Michigan--it did take some convincing for my wife to understand that it was a good idea to buy a used car out of state. There are very few iXes for sale in the Detroit area.
Jon and Shannon
"Gordon picked us up at the airport in the iX and it looked beautiful. It was bright and shiny and it looked brand new inside and out. I was very excited and the anticipation nearly killed me as I had to wait about 3 weeks before delivery. The first drive was fabulous, for about 5 minutes. As we got just a few miles from the airport we were hit by a horrible hail storm --1 to 1-1/2 diameter hail pelted our new shiny new car and there was no where to hide. We pulled over and waited out the storm which lasted for about ten minutes. Fortunately there was no damage to the car as the deal had not been finalized yet. ; ) After the lovely display of weather we went to the DMV and finalized the deal. We had bought ourselves an iX!
Denver Hailstorm
"It was a very pleasing experience and we had the pleasure of meeting Gordon and his wife, Bev, for dinner the evening we arrived. We even had the opportunity to get a glimpse of the AWD capabilities on the short hail-covered uphill to Gordon's house. The drive back to Michigan was nice, the car drives well on the freeway, very stable at speed and not too much wind noise. We averaged about 26 MPG for the trip which was quite a bit better than I anticipated - especially driving 80-85 MPH most of the trip. My wife who has not had any other BMW experience was quite impressed with the car. I don't think she really thought that it was a 9 year old car. Kudos to Gordon on taking very good care of it. I plan on doing the same as this car will be with us for a long time. The iX has been happily with us for about a month now and we are enjoying it thoroughly. Now we just have to wait for some snow to try out that awesome AWD and those gruesome looking Hakka 10s! Wahoooooo!"



Please send me your iXperiences for the next iXchange !

Editor's Note: Bev and I plan to move next summer to St. George, Utah, where it rarely snows. (Our address will be 442 Northrige Ave., St. George, UT 84770.) We'll be keeping our '88 iX as our daily driver and those occasional winter trips, so our love and interest in the iX and the Registry will certainly continue. We were sorry to part with Bev's '89 iX, but we needed to pare back to 3 cars (we'll be keeping the M3 and the X1/9.) We know that Jon and Shannon will enjoy "the Mother of the iX Registry." What a great car!