iXchange Issue #27

September 2001

A newsletter for BMW 325iX Enthusiasts.



Euro M3iX

Here you go! Daniel Sundstrom from Sweden shares his latest project with us. Daniel says, photo
"The engine and drivetrain is in place. Next is to figure out the electrics. Then there are a lot of smaller jobs, like exhaust system (3,5"), oilcooler hoses, PS hoses, AC compressor fitting, waterhoses and some other... I also made my own short-shift since the tranny was out of the car anyway. VERY short throw, but needs a bit force. I'm thinking of making a longer gearstick to get it closer to the steering wheel and reduce needed force. We'll see after test driving with standard stick.

My timeplan warped (as usual) due to economical problems, but WILL be running this fall at the latest.

The engine is a Euro 3.0 M3 -94 (S50) and puts out 286hp in standard shape."

Here are photos of the M3 engine stuffed into the iX engine compartment and of the modified oil pan which accommodates the iX front driveshaft passing through. Impressive, huh?


iXing in Yugoslavia

While we are discussing iXes in Europe, here is an iXperience shared by Milan Mirkovic in Yougoslavia:

My dad and I decided that we needed a new car. Our old FIAT was doing fine (I don't know how much you have heard of this car. Ed Note: Yes, I do 'cause I still enjoy driving my "Fix It Again Tony" X1/9 that I bought new in '74.), but was just not a family car, and since I'm only 19, it wasn't a car for a young man, that's for sure. I needed something more sportier, if you know what I mean.

What we were looking for acctually, was a AUDI 80, any type. So, we took the newspapers, turned to ads page, and my eyes stopped on BMW section. I told Dad to try BMW too, though we knew that it was more expensive. So, we gave it a try, and after a few tryouts of various models (from 316i to 325 iX), we decided that the iX was the best solution though it was the most expensive and spent a lot of fuel (well, for our standard at least). Fuel costs here 1.2 DM (Deutche Mark) per litter, and that's about 70 - 80 cents. You change it to gallons, and make the comparison if it's expensive or not.

The car was made in '87., and is in excellent condition, motor and chassis. We paid 6000 DM, which is about $3000 or $4000, I'm not quite sure. It doesn't have any additional equipment I'm afraid, just the standard : servo, ABS, (I'm not sure how to translate the moving part of the roof), etc. Only thing the owner told us about that was like "additional" equipment (but I'm not sure if he meant for the iX's or this particular vehicle) was that it has some kind of a "motor breaking", which I found very useful at higher speeds. When I let go of the throttle pedal, it automaticly slows down a bit, and like... brakes with the motor. I'm not sure exactly how it's called, since I'm not all that much into cars, but I'm sure you'll know what I mean.

As for the car itself, it has plenty of spoilers (though they're not all that visible to an untrained eye, for instance, I didn't even notice them at first) - from side spoilers on doortops and on the "wheel shields" (hmm.. I never considered my English so bad, 'till now that I can't find words to describe simple car parts. Ed note: You are doing very well, Milan -- I'm impressed!), to the spoiler on the back of the car. Yes, it has only 3 doors and it's metalic - gray color.

Now, the thing that impressed me the most about the car itself was it's stability. When the ex-owner took us for the test-ride, and entered a curve (well, not too sharp, but still...) with 140 km/h, I thought we were sure to crash or something, but the car pulled us out so easily, that I was astonished. And the driver didn't even blink, like if it was the most natural thing to enter a curve at that speed !! Though I'm young, I don't like high-speeds, but do like to accelerate fast, which (acceleration) this car doesn't lack. I just love the feeling when I step on gas and throttle up... And I just try not to look at electronic gas consumption measurement.. :-)

Well, I think I told you about everything basic about the car... What more could I write... ? The previous owner claims to have been going 220 km/h with this car, which I haven't tried yet. The fastest I went was 130 km/h and the car acted like I was going 30 or something. Really impressive. We didn't have much snow this winter so far, and though I know I have a pretty sure car now, I don't want to test it... yet.


iXperience from Germany

Michael Trueblood in Hohensoims, Germany says "Guten Tag" and shares this iXperience:

I'm a 27 year old service member stationed in Germany. I've been here for five years and absolutely love it! I'm married to a German women (Andrea) and plan to reside here once my service is up in a little over a year. We have a place in a beautiful little German village about 45 minutes north of Frankfurt. I purchased my iX at about one year ago from an American man who was a D.O.D. school teacher in Frankfurt, and since they move around the world almost as much as we do he had to sell it. He had a late model 328 and since regulation states you can only ship one vehicle at the governments expense, he had to sell the iX, (lucky me). He was asking $5000.00 for it originally but had no buyers (not knowing what they were looking at!). I knew very little of iX's at the time short of they were AWD. I've owned an `85 31 8i and an `86 325i, both totaled in the winter due to Germanys wonderful ice! So my gears began to turn and realized with this vehicle I could have BMW's style without the fear of losing it every morning when the ice comes. So I took it for a test drive, and was thoroughly impressed in how the iX handled. So I managed to talk the gentleman down to $3800.00, and purchased it. After this past winter I'm glad I did. I had a nice little spin out on black ice early one morning and I `m convinced that if it were not for the AWD I would have been looking for my fourth BMW! My wife took it to work early one morning also and had the same experience coming out with only shaken nerves, (thank God). In both these incidents I still had my Pirelli P700 Zeros installed, so I can imagine not even spinning wheels with the proper treads. So as you can see I'm now a die hard iX fan.

German iXAnyway, down to the car itself. My iX is an'87 4-door (German spec's). It has power windows, and sunroof, power locks, and something a little interesting I'm not sure the proper name off it but the locals call it a ski seat, which is nothing more than an armrest in the rear seat that you can fold down which accesses the trnnk and can take a set of ski's (or whatever) being loaded in from the rear. I'm sure you know the proper name of this option. Other than that there isn't much else I can tell you about it. I purchased a set of aftermarket wheels for it, the originals were trash. I'm enclosing a copy of the German fahrzeugbrief so you can see more in detail what the vehicle is composed of. Notice my name is not on it, and that is because in the military once we purchase an auto that once was registered to Germans the Fahrzeugbrief becomes invalid due to our own registrati9n process. I kept it just to show what it has exactly and also to hopefully help in the re-registration process with the Germans once my term in service is up. I also have the original owners manual for it which on the rear page shows all the service done to it while it was still under warranty.

I'd like to thank you for offering such an organization dedicated only to iX and offering me the opportunity to be a part of it. I look forward to all the information I'm sure to receive being a member.


Service Interval Battery Replacement

Here is another helpful article from Jim Flemming in Phoenix. Ed Note: If you have an airbag in the steering wheel, you should check with your dealer before tackling this job -- you risk accidentally firing the airbag and doing serious damage to your self.)

Service indicator battery replacement on cars without air bag steering wheels: (symptoms are no MPG meter operation; service yellow and red lights and enunciator stay on all the time, etc.)

1. Remove driver side under dash cover panel by releasing three 1/4 turn screws, lowering panel and sliding out toward rear of car.

2. Reach up under the instrument panel and locate the two large (about 3/4" in Dia.) knurled nuts that retain the flat cover that goes across right below the instrument cluster bezel (surround). Loosen these nuts a few turns and push on them toward the rear of the car to pop the panel loose. Remove the nuts and continue to push back on the threaded studs until the panel comes loose and can be removed.

3. To remove the instrument cluster trim bezel (surround)locate and remove all 6 screws. 4 screws are along the bottom edge and two face up under the shade brow above the instruments. The two bottom screws at the corners also are the lower cluster retention screws.

4. With the trim bezel removed locate and remove two more screws facing up under the shade brow. The cluster is now free to remove as soon as the cables are unplugged. There are three multipin connectors, one single pin connector and two lamp sockets that need to be removed from the cluster assembly before it can be removed. The three multipin connectors are color coded and retained by black locking clips. These clips do not get removed from the connector but just lifted up about a 1/4" to release the connector. A flat bladed screw driver works good for prying these clips up at the back of the connector. I found that the left connector was easier to get at from under the dash. To get at the middle and right connectors pull the cluster assembly back away from dash and roll it over the get at the lock clips. I found it easier to pull the two complete lamp sockets out of the cluster than to just pull the wires off.

5. Slide the disconnected instrument cluster out to the right side of the steering wheel and take it to a padded work surface. Remove the small module that plugs in at the lower right front side by releasing the lock clips and prying out with a small flat bladed screw driver.

6. lay the cluster face down on the work surface and remove the gold color Phillips/hex head screws that are around the cluster edge. Do not remove the screws that are on the raised sections behind the actual tach and speedo. Do not remove the brass nuts at each end. Un-plug the brown connector housing and lay it aside.

7. Once you have removed the screws carefully separate the cluster housing halves. Do not force the halves apart. If they don't come apart freely, chances are that you haven't remove all of the necessary screws. Lift the back half straight up being careful not to touch the instruments. Lay this half aside on its back so as not to damage the now exposed instruments.

8. Study the remaining half of the cluster and find the retaining screw and white plastic lamp shade near the middle of the board. Remove these two parts. Roll the front cluster half over and remove the small module that plugs in from the front side if you missed it above.

9. The battery circuit card assembly is now free to remove. There are two dovetail notches in the top edge of the board to help pry it out using flat blade screw drivers. The plastic housings shrink over time so this board will not always slide out easily. You just have to, gently, worry it out being careful not to pry on any of the electronic components. Mine was so tight that I removed a little material from the narrow end of the board before replacing it.

10. At this point you can either choose to replace the whole board with one from the dealer ($$$$) or go at the batteries yourself. If you are handy and have done some electronic soldering, replacing the batteries is not that difficult.

11. With the board removed from the housing use good antistatic procedures. News papers, cardboard or aluminum foil make a good antistatic work surface. Always ground (by first touching the work surface) yourself before handling the circuit board.

12. Use a multimeter to determine if one or both of the batteries are dead. A healthy NiCad battery should measure about 1.2 DC volts. Replace a cell if it is dead or less than 1 volt. Use standard 500 ma. NiCad AA cells with solder tabs on the end that you can get at Radio Shack or your local Battery supply business. Sanyo is a good brand to use. The Motometer brand cluster that BMW uses has Varta batteries with welded end tabs that solder into the board. If you have any Varta battery sources it is ideal to use an exact replacement but not essential.

13. What I decided to do when I replaced my dead battery cell was to pry the end tabs off (careful not to damage the pins that go through the circuit board) the dead battery and reuse them. To remove the dead battery you must first carve away the staking adhesive (like hot melt glue) that holds the two batteries together. Also, on one of the batteries, there is adhesive between the battery and crystal can (an important circuit component). You have to very, very carefully carve the adhesive away from the crystal component to get the battery out. Un-solder the battery from the back side of the board. The negative end has two pins and the positive end has one. A "solder sucker" or de-solder braid help a lot but one can also use a piece of un-tinned stranded wire (the finer the better) to remove the old solder.

14. Once you have the bad battery cell out, remove the end tabs and straighten them for reuse. On my board I decided to tin the end tabs and re-solder them in the board before mounting the battery. Be careful not to damage the insulating shell on the battery; the battery cases must not short against one another. I tinned the battery solder tabs and then fitted the battery onto the board before soldering it to the tabs. Once the battery is soldered in place (watch that polarity!) I checked the voltage on the back side of the board to verify the polarity and 1.2 Volts DC for each cell.

15. The last step before re-assembly is to crank up your hot melt glue gun and re-stake the battery cells and crystal can like they were.

16. After everything is hooked up use your jumper wire or handy service resetting tool to reset the service circuitry. You MPG meter should now work and you should see only green lights momentarily at engine start.

This is sort of a satisfying repair task (though tedious) and for $5 worth of batteries you have saved yourself hundreds of dollars of dealer repair cost.

ANOTHER REMINDER: Keep the Transfer Case Filled !!!

Fill the transfer case with a good brand of automatic transmission fluid (ATF) to overflowing. The fill plug is located above and to the center of the car on the front of the Xfer case. You'll need either a 17mm socket or 17mm Allen wrench to remove the fill plug. Remember that with an automatic transmission, it is apparently possible for the Xfer case ATF to leak into the transmission with no externally visible evidence of a leak.

I've added a photo in the photo archives showing the drain and fill plug.

California Love -- An '88 iX!

Guillaume Lefebvre of Santa Cruz, CA reports on his '88 iXperience:

After 1 1/2 years of procrastination, I have finally become a member of the iX registry. And happily so. I'm amazed at how much info is packed into the archives!

Allow me to give you a brief history of my love affair with the best purchase I have ever made in my 27 years. It was bought in the San Jose, CA area in the summer of 99. I was shopping for a AWD car for some specific reasons. It was going to be used mostly around the coastal region of Santa Cruz, with the fairly frequent Tahoe trips in the winter for some boarding. Since 90+ % of my time is spent in the dry heat, I wanted something somewhat spirited, that tugged at the heartstrings. My search started with Audi 80s, etc, late 80/early 90 cars, hopefully with decent mileage. Subaru was a second choice, since they're not as much fun, generally.

One day, by total fluke, I landed on an iX. I'm ashamed to say that even though I'm a Canuk, I was not familiar with this car. The dealer didn't even know what he had. I asked if they had any 4WD cars, like the Audi and Subaru, they said no. As luck would have it, my friend (also a Canuk, out on vacation with me) looked over and saw this little white Bimmer. On a hunch, he took a closer look, and whispered "It's an iX!!!" I was baffled, until he told me it was 4WD. Well, without further ado, I was seated. Initially, I was a bit disappointed. The odometer showed 128000 Miles. It was higher than I was hoping for. But, I decided to take it for a spin. My friend was actually trying to dissuade me, until we left the parking lot. If memory serves me, it took him about 10 seconds or so to scream "BUY THIS CAR!!!". Just enough time to get a darn good feeling of what the engine was hiding. I was already sold, but my analytical side told me to think smart before I impulse buy. My gut reactions are usually sound, but this was a large decision. Once my friend tried it too, he was even more adamant. Upon further inspection, the car (which originated in Beverly Hills) had an Amp and Crossover professionally built into the back of the rear seats in the trunk, along with some pretty big subwoofers. It seemed like the stars were aligned in my favor, as several strokes of luck went entirely my way.

Suddenly, I went from a know-nothing to an avid sponge of everything iX. $6500 plus tax and a week later, I had my first (and certainly not my last) Bimmer. Oh, happy day! I knew, from the passion it evoked in me, that it was the ultimate choice. I have not been disappointed. I suddenly looked forward to driving to work an hour each way, simply because most of the drive was twisty back roads.

Since then, the mileage has swelled to 185000 miles, and it has had a few hiccups. But, thanks to gradual upkeep, it hasn't been too bad. Service intervals have been religious. In retrospect, I certainly regret not having joined sooner, as I could've save a bunch of money with some proactive repairs. One of them, I wish I had remembered what I had read in the non-members section about the Head bolts. Sure enough, in the middle of mountain passes in Nor Cal, my wife and I ran into radiator trouble, on the 4th of July weekend of all times! Middle of the night, middle of nowhere, and stuck with no more water to keep the car cool. The next day, after a fruitless search for a leak, rad sealant was used. Twice. It actually got us all the way up to Vancouver, BC with few problems after that. Just the occasional stop to cool down a bit. Once there, we ended up at an incredible dealership, Park Ave. BMW in North Vancouver. The most amazing mechanic, Horst Duess, a thick-accent German in a labcoat took it upon himself to fix our poor car.

An hour later, my wife and I get a call at the hotel to come down to the garage. Never a good sign. They never seem to want to see you again until the car's ready and they want your money. This was serious. When we showed up, the engine was torn down to the cylinders. He showed us a bolt head and a washer. As it turns out, our perceived great misfortune had a silver lining: it could've been much worse. The head and washer settled at the bottom, causing no damage. The washer had a nick in it, so it touched something, but the engine turned out ok. So, as you can imagine, the lack of a leak was due to the coolant squeezing through the head gasket and into the oil.

A day later, a flushed radiator, somewhat rebuilt engine, new hoses and timing belt later,(some hoses that were so far down inside the car that it was the ideal time to be proactive) as well as new head bolts, the car was purring again. Not bad for a 1500$ CAN. Good thing we were in Canada. The exchange rate really worked in our favor.

Other problems were areas like ball joints, antenna, cracked/leaking A/C, odd bulbs (OBC light, etc), cracked radiator, fuel pump, and a few other tidbits that are distant forgotten memories. The ball joints were first to go, the left one failing shortly after the purchase of the car. Zygmunt supplied me with 2 ball joints. I replaced the left one and keep waiting for the right one to go, but it refuses to die, so I continue to hang on to the replacement, waiting for the inevitable.

The car was running smooth, until my wife decided to have a bad week, mentally, with the car ending up as the primary victim. I was the one that really felt the pain. The sign of things to come started with a drive into the garage with the bikes on the roof. Not too bad. Two small dents at the back of the roof and destroyed silver trim. 150-175$ later, new trim is back. Well, since she managed to evade major damage with the roof, it was time for more. Three days later, a poorly handled highway ramp concluded with major contact with a tall curb and/or guardrail. End result: both passenger side Basket-weaves destroyed and some decent body damage. Mostly at the rear quarter panel. The tire was now occasionally rubbing the wheel well upon major compression.

After much digging and inquiries with the Tire Rack and such others (The Tire Rack was soooo helpful, but had no stock of what I needed), I decided against fixing the rims. New ones were the same price, plus new tires (15" to 16"). After much thought, it came down to the BBS RX and RK, or the O.Z. F1 Cups, in a Ti Grey Anodized finish. The O.Z.s won out. I figured that 16s were easier to find to fit this car, and the improved handling would be a bonus. The rubber choice came down to Pirelli Supersport 7000 M+S 205/50 Z16 tires. So far, in the Cali dry, they've been awesome, but I haven't had a chance in the snow yet. I decided to sacrifice a bit of snow performance for dry, warm weather performance tires, but that could still get through the check points to Tahoe. The dark wheels look exceptionally good on the white car. A good window tint job should make it look even sharper.

The overall result at this time is somewhat lackluster, because I also need new shocks. And this is where my question comes in: I have decided on shocks, and will go with the Heavy Duty Bilsteins, since I do not want to compromise the ride height and balance too much. Of course this means that there are few springs available that will work. Sport springs seem out of the question. Bavarian Auto suggested maybe going with the M-Technic springs, which would lower the car about a 1/2". I guess that with new gas shocks, it'll probably be an imperceptible height difference from what I have now, except it'll work a ton better. What I don't know is what the effect will be with the M-Technic/Bilstein HD setup. I'm looking for a slightly stiffer and sportier setup than stock, and I don't want the car to become harsh, or difficult to use in the snow. Middle of the road is the direction I'm aiming at. Will this setup have the desired result, or am I better off using the stock springs and allowing the new Bilsteins to make up the difference I'm looking for? I'm afraid that 185000 miles is too long on the original springs (I think they're original) and I can't tell if it's just the shocks that are toast or if the springs are starting to sag as well. Any advice would be much appreciated. I want to do this right and I'm going to wait until I know in my gut it's the right choice, so I figured this was as good a time as any to ask you.

I also have another small question. On the dash, once the car is started, all of the onboard diagnostic lights under the speedo and tach go off, but for the last year, three of them tend to glow ever so slightly at night, and the glow increases as more power is used, like high beams, etc. They glow intermittently if I use the wipers. It's only visible at night, probably in part because the headlights use a lot of power. The garage I frequent (Catalpa Street garage - BMW specific in Santa Cruz) pinpointed the problem as a faulty wire or something along those lines, on the alternator. It's not a real problem, and one I can live with, but I'm curious if anyone else has ever experienced this.

The only other nagging issue nowadays is that there's a bit of feedback in the speakers that goes up and down with the revs. I believe it's due to some speaker wires that are too close to each other. It's more apparent when it's cold. Some of the speakers are dying too, so sound is degrading. On the plus side, the system is improved due to a CD changer mounted in the trunk and a new deck. Other than the sound, shocks and some minor bodywork, it should be back to excellent working order. After that, a new high airflow muffler air intake and chip will polish off the additions. I'm unsure of the K and N filter, since I do not want to shorten engine life. Any other suggestions? I hope to keep it for several more years to come, until I can afford a used 330iX. Then maybe, slight chance, I'll consider giving up the venerable current love.

Thank you for such a great, informative site. I only wish I was as knowledgeable mechanically with cars as so many seem here. My mechanical love and knowledge lie with bicycles of the leg-power driven kind, and hope to expand on that with motorcycles and cars. I know this is long-winded, but it's nice to finally have a contact with others that understand this obsessive fascination.

Copyright 2001