iXchange Issue #3

June 1994

A newsletter for BMW 325 iX Enthusiasts.



iXploits and iXperiences


Here are two " iXploits " from Jackie Ritacco of Watertown, CT.

New England has had more snow this season than any in my recollection. Our '88 iX has proved to be one of our most significant winter purchases other than those two new snow pushers. Unfortunately, certain BMW models (or rather, certain BMW drivers) have poor reputations for handling in the snow. Just seeing a kidney driving down a snow filled road has, I'm sure, yielded a few snickers from fellow drivers.

I drive a fairly rural route to work and on a particularly snowy morning. I was happily maneuvering along when a late model Saab with two young men pulled out behind me with big grins on their faces and (I imagined) one of those snickers. Being confident with my trusty stead beneath me, I opted to take a lesser traveled road to the office to avoid the snow plows and the seemingly endless yards of dirt they throw in my path. There was quite an accumulation of snow at the mouth of that road and I could just imagine the round of conversation in the Saab. It had to be too much for them to bear, so I figured they figured if the BMW got stuck, they'd drive by me with smirks and a wave, leaving me to deal with meld down or a tow truck.

You know that feeling you get when you're driving into muck and mire with your iX and that feeling when you're pulling out of it? You feel it, but no one else can even see it! It happened at that mouth! A little slip, a big correction and merrily on my way! The Saab, pretty close to my bumper, probably saw the slip and was probably getting set with the smirk 'n wave when what did I see in my rearview mirror?...a Saab sliding sideways with its nose unceremoniously settling into a snow bank!

No one saw my smirk and I'm certain no one saw my wave.

After a substantial snow fall last winter I had to deliver my typewriter for repair (remember those things? Now that I have a word processor, that poor thing has no practical use.) I wasn't about to lug it half way down the street slipping and sliding. The plows had graciously left a large deposit of snow in front of the entrance to the shop which seemed to prevent parking. But! I was in the Ultimate Snow Plow and was able to park with ease. The service personnel in the shop were grinning and said, "You'll be stuck here a while trying to get that BMW our of here." I grinned back and said, "Watch me."

At that moment I had a fleeting thought of really being stuck and having to endue the embarrassment of not only going back in to call (hubby) Gene, but also of returning the following week to pick up the typewriter (giving some thought to leaving it there forever.)

The iX didn't let me down! I just as easily pulled out of the spot as easily as I had pulled in. Those guys saw my smirk and my wave.

Alternative Winter Tires & Wheels

Contributed by Paul Reitz , Palmyra, PA. Thanks, Paul!

The Roundel review articles on the iX showing the snow-collecting ability of the alloy wheels and the snow accumulations here this winter were sufficient to convince us that buying a set of winter tires and wheels should be first priority after getting our iX. Despite being a 22 year 'CCA veteran and DIY mechanic, I was intimidated by the prospect of winding up with something that didn't work. I had never paid much attention to the 3-series (the "Y-car") and the distance - literal and figurative - to a BMW dealer eliminated one source of help.

Recalling the iX register in the Roundel, I called Gordon for advice. After weighing different opinions on studded vs. multicellular compound winter tires, I opted for a wheel and tire package from Tire Rack, the tire mail order company in South Bend IN. The tires were 185/70-14 Yokohama S-480s - supposedly the equivalent of the Bridgestone Blizzak and Nokia NRW - and 14x6 inch "VW/BMW" wheels. I asked at least three times, "Are you sure these will fit an iX?", only to be assured that they would.

Ever notice how it's the small parts that hold up the repair / replacement process? This case was no exception. While I worried about the details of covering up the hubs, not sure of what kind of wheel cover might work, it turned out that the real issue was something completely unexpected. Gordon said that standard 14 inch wheel covers would fit, so I pondered the multiplicity of choices in Whitney. The used car dealer from whom I bought the iX suggested using '91 318i full plastic wheel covers for 14" steel wheels. After calling several BMW-specific recycling centers with no luck, I was directed to Coast to Coast Hubcaps and Wheels in Tampa, Florida (800 999-8987). For just under $ 70 including shipping, the matter was settled with OEM parts. Everything was set!

When the wheels and tires from Tire Rack arrived, I was anticipating the possibility that they might not fit. Although they did fit, they required different lug bolts. The wheels are designed for VWs, which have a very different lug bolt seat than BMW wheels. As the figure shows, VW lug bolts have a curved shoulder at a steep angle relative to the bolt axis, while BMWs' have a constant angle (v -shaped) shoulder at a small angle to the axis. The BMW lug would capture only the thinnest of cross sections of the steel wheel seat. VW also has aluminum and steel wheel bolts, but the only apparent differences are bolt length, threaded length, and finish.

Wheel lugs are apparently not in huge demand so you'd think they'd be easy to find at a salvage yard. But because they're not considered valuable, they're usually left on the vehicles which, at the time, were all under two feet of snow. A new set cost nearly $ 70 at a parts chain, and they didn't have sixteen in stock. It took a while, but I found 12 at a salvage yard then bought 4 from a VW specialty shop for $ 2 each, new. There were a number of wheel bolts for VW aluminum wheels at the salvage yard, but concern that the unthreaded portion of this longer bolt might bottom on the wheel hub threads before clamping the much thinner steel wheel caused me to avoid them. In retrospect, the VW aluminum wheel lug bolts would probably have worked, as the distance from wheel lug bolt seat to the threaded wheel hub is appreciable. When bolted, the wheel is not flush against the hub at the lug bolt, and the bolt also protrudes through the unthreaded hole in the brake rotor before it engages in the wheel hub threads. The steel wheel lugs engaged 4 -1/2 turns till finger tight, which should provide full bolt strength.

   BMW         VW          VW
Aluminum Aluminum Steel
Wheel Wheel Wheel
In summary, the following parts were used: Item Steel Wheel Hubcap Source Tire Rack Coast to Coast Size 6 JK 14H2 ET38 14" Part No. Tire Rack "VW 67014" 36 13 1 180 667 ('91 318i) Cost $ 47 ea. + ship $ 65 / set + ship ====================================================== Item Lug Bolts Source local salvage yard and VW shop Part No. VW 321 601 139C (for Steel Wheels) Cost $2 ea. new, $10 / set used
How does it work? The directional stability and pulling power are phenomenal, especially to someone who has lived with rear wheel drive BMWs. After a recent sleet event, the car tolerated full throttle second gear acceleration uphill with no wheel spin. I'm not yet ready to venture out in snow just for the fun of it, because traffic density here still presents significant economic and personal risk. But it surely is a joy not to feel that tightening in the pit of your stomach when snow or ice starts coating the road, and it's also nice to know that the weather doesn't have to interfere with your plans.

Maybe it's because the iX is one of the newest BMWs I've owned, maybe it's just in better condition than most of the others. Regardless, it provides the most driving enjoyment since my first 1600.

Odd Job Tool Box

(This is not a story unique to the iX and some of you from the Rocky Mountain Chapter have read it already in my column in the Motorsport Report , but I thought I'd pass this on to other Registry members.) Bev and I attended a Cruzin' Night with our good friends, the Schaefers, which included a great selection of classic autos from the 50's and 60's. Occasionally through the evening, the DJ held a trivia quiz and allowed those in the crowd who answered correctly to select from a variety of auto-related prizes. One of the questions asked for the name of the oriental tough guy in one of the James Bond movies -- the body guard who crushed James' golf ball in his hand and who had the top hat with the razor-sharp rim which sliced the head off the statue. I quickly and correctly recalled that his name was "Odd Job" and gladly picked a small red plastic tool box from the selection of prizes. Soon after that enjoyable evening, an article appeared in the ROUNDEL suggesting a minimum set of tools and spare parts that every BMW owner should have in addition to the standard tool kit when traveling more than a taxi ride away from home. I decided to add to the "minimum" list and put my "Odd Job Tool Box" to use. Here's what I came up with:

It is surprising how much one can stuff into a small tool box. You may wish to assemble your own before starting out on your vacation or Oktoberfest trip.

The ALCAN 500

Editor's Note - You probably read Satch Carlson's article in the ROUNDEL about the ALCAN Rally and the outstanding 2nd place finish of Stephen Norman's 325iX. Stephen is a member of our iX registry has provided the following for us to enjoy.

Automobile - "Red Dog" a 1988 BMW 325iX Driver & Author - Stephen F. Norman, Owner BMW Seattle Navigator - Gordon "Satch" Carlson, International Motorsports Editor Co-Driver - Dennis Gunn, Super Driver, Musici an

These are my recollections of probably the greatest adventure of my short life. I hope to have greater adventures, but if I do not "What the Hell", I have gone to Inuvik, in the Northwest Territory of Canada, been in -31 degree temperatures and found that I did not have the fear that perhaps I should have had. I would do the trip again and probably will. I believe that the primary reason that we did so well in the competition was our equipment. We would have been a very long way behind the professional drivers except for "RED DOG".

Red Dog is my 1988 BMW 325 iX that I purchased in January of 1993 at a much higher price than I thought reasonable. It was well worth the expenditure. I drove Red Dog over Stevens Pass, Snoqualmie Pass, Blewitt Pass, and Satus Pass in about five outings during the Winter. Each of these passes are on major Washington State highways. The only times I had any problem driving the car were:

A. Going up a dirt road at Liberty, the second weekend that we owned the car, and I got stuck in deep snow trying to get out of the way of snowmobiles. This was the only opportunity that I had to drive on snow covered dirt roads until I got into Northern Canada.
B. Three weekends before the beginning of the Alcan Rally, Annie and I went out to try to get some practice in the snow. We went over Stevens Pass trying to find some snow, no luck. We stayed in Leavenworth for the night and were rewarded with snow the next morning. We headed West over Highway 2 and saw some snow, but nothing stressing. We headed up the Index highway for about ten miles, and following some Jeeps and saw that they were having real problems traveling, so we decided to turn around, and in so doing, got stuck in snow that was deep enough and wet enough to get lodged under our skid plate, and cause us to lose traction. A simple job to dig snow out, and some help of friendly natives pushing, allowed us to get on our way.

These two events were the extent of trauma that I had experienced driving Red Dog before going on the Alcan 5000. Obviously, I was a rookie in every sense of the word. The only previous experience that I had was traveling throughout the state in my profession as an investment banker assisting governmental organizations in Washington...on major highways.

Working with a list of improvement recommended by Satch Carlson, we acquired several items that I would highly recommend:

PIAA High/ Low combination driving lights. Relay system for power.
Gel Cell Battery
Electric Battery Blanket
Electric Engine heater -- probably important only at under -15F
Hakkapeliitta Studded Snow Tires
Steel BMW Wheels (14")
Halogen lights all around (tail and backup lights)
Higher wattage lights in front. (You still feel that your light have gone out when you turn off the PIAAs.)
Auxiliary tail / stop lights mounted on the roof rack
Auxiliary back up light mounted on the roof rack
A big Packline pod on the roof to carry extra fuel for the Mazda (service vehicle), my luggage, and a bunch of spare tires

Get PIAA pencil beams in addition to the PIAA high and low beam driving lights.
Have more power, although I really did fine with what we had.
Have a different transmission with closer ratios.


Not having to block the radiator when we were driving at high rates of speed at -31 F.


Fuel icing at -31 F, while at the bottom 1/8th of the tank, 20 miles short of Eagle Plain on the Dempster Highway on the road to Inuvik NWT.

Shock control on frost heaves on highways in Alaska. The pavement would lift up at least a foot, this would cause the car to fly off the top of one heave, and land heavily on the up-side of the next heave with the result being the rear end dropping to the pavement, and Red Dog spraying the car behind with a shower of sparks from our undercarriage.

Temperature Readout on the console computer only went down to -22F. It was frustrating having to ask a SAAB for the outside temperature and have the driver tell us it was -31 F and "that things go better in a SAAB."

Inadequate electrical generation power to run all systems at once. These systems included the two PIAA high and low beam driving lights, two Hella Ellipsoid stock headlights with 100 watt bulbs, two Hella stock high beams with I00 watt bulbs, two auxiliary roof mounted brake/tail lights, all stock rear lights upgraded to halogen lights, stock heater fans, stock rear window defroster, stock radio/CD player, auxiliary navigator and co-driver interior navigation / reading lights, and Timewise Computer.


Get all systems installed early, drive with them several times before you begin a trek such as the Alcan. We attempted to do this but final preparations were happening the night before we left. (I had never driven the car with snow tires on it, and I had only driven in snow with stock Michelin MXV that came on Red Dog in 1988, and Pirelli P600 that I had purchased recently.) I had not tested the engine heating system, I had never determined the actual electrical vs. theoretical electrical requirements of the systems installed on the car.

Find out all that you can before you begin the rally -- I didn't even have the itinerary of overnight stops until the day before the beginning of the rally (my name had been deleted from the mailing list.)


We had begun to prepare the BMW 325 iX early in October 1993. We ordered tires, computers, headlights, and everything that was on Satch's list and those things that were recommended by anyone selling anything relating to operating a car in cold weather -- all of what was recommended as mandatory for a normal car going into Arctic conditions. Fortunately, the BMW 325iX was designed and built to withstand the cold weather. We did all the preparations anyway because we had not done the research necessary to determine how well the iX was designed and built. As a BMW Dealer, I should have had more confidence in the thoroughness of BMW engineers.

(Editor's note -- Stephen provided info on each day of this trip. Here is an example:)

DAY #5 - This was the toughest and scariest day of them all. We were told to make sure that we had enough fuel for the transit. We checked and double checked. We had about 40 miles of extra range according to the Range Button on the BMW computer. We had 2 gallons in the pod as a spare supply that was really for the Mazda 323 turbo 4WD. Both had a very short range.

We were really sensitive to the potential danger because we had had a chase vehicle go off the road on Day 4, injuring a paramedic. The Blazer driven by three brave women from Seattle and Redmond had sustained a dented door in an altercation with the snow too. The temperature on the Dempster highway was reported to be in the minus 20's and 30's, and the wind was blowing, causing the snow to drift over the highway.

We went North anyway. At least our first target was to go to Eagle Plains, where there was a great hotel with a pool table, and little of anything else.

The group was lead by Blackbird, a Saab SPG owned by Satch Carlson and driven by Jim and Christy Breazeale of Seattle and navigated by Adrian Crane of Modesto, CA. As you may know, the Saab SPG has a great spoiler in front. The car is low and sleek, probably the best looking Saab ever. With Jim driving at ample speeds, and with the depth of the drifts difficult to determine at warp speed, several pieces of spoiler were spotted in holes in the snow drifts. The spoiler damages were not critical to Blackbird, so they continued on their way breaking trail for those of us that followed.

What slowed them down was an exhaust system that loosened up to the point of dropping the front end of the exhaust pipe into the snow, causing it to fill with snow. Baling wire got them through to Eagle Plains where Jim and Adrian repaired the car in the only gas station there. They had performed whatever was possible on the road, where the temperature was reported by Pigs on Ice, a Saab 9000, to be about -31 F. The second incident involved White Trash, a white Mazda 323. While cresting a hill, a drift caught the car, causing it to spin at least 360 degrees, ending up in the snowbank. Pigs on Ice were first on the scene, and were working to extract the car. Since it was -31 F, we hoped that they could just drive out. It didn't work. We got out and helped push out the,Mazda, and all learned to take the time to put on hats, coats and gloves. Five minutes at -31 F tends to take all the heat out of your body.

About 20 miles from Eagle Plains, we talked to White Trash regarding their fuel supply. They were afraid that their supply was not adequate to get to Eagle Plains. They slowed down, and shortly their gas supply light came on. We began to check our fuel supply, and found that we were running much less efficiently than we had in the past. We were down to about 25 to 27 mile range on the computer. After about two miles, we began to run very roughly, much as if we were running out of gasoline. Satch was driving at this time, and he slowed down, reduced the load on the engine, and tried to nurse it along. After a few miles of this, we had to shut down. We took about one gallon of White Trash's' supply, added two pints of Heet, an alcohol additive to reduce icing. It took several miles for the fuel and alcohol to mix -- then everything ran smoothly. All of this excitement took place in the most dangerous portion of the whole trip, and was only mildly upsetting because we were all working as a team, communicating well between cars, and knowing that behind us there were not only other competitors, but also sweep vehicles that were part of the whole program.

We proceeded into Eagle Plains with most of the experienced members of the group suggesting that we hole up at Eagle Plains, drink beer and shoot pool. There was too much uncertainty ahead. When we arrived in Eagle Plains, the road to Inuvik was closed because of drifting snow and reduced visibility. We fueled up ourselves and our cars, Blackbird was repaired, and we got the message that the road was open.

The big trucks took off first so that they could create the greatest excitement of the whole trip. (Semi trucks with trailers) are called "moving blizzards" because that is what they are. You cannot just drive up to a truck, signal and pass him. The huge semi is traveling 70 to 80 mph. To be able to see, you must get beside the truck, and them move up as fast as possible. This is easy if you know that there is no oncoming traffic, but the only way to determine the existence of oncoming traffic is to commune with your God, or to have a communication link in front of the truck. This is easy if one of your competitors has somehow gotten in front of the truck. About the only way to pass is on a hill, or count on being able to see headlights of oncoming traffic. These are great ideas until you have your first experience of oncoming traffic becoming visible when they seem to be only 20 feet away...

Ed. - Thanks and congratulations, Stephen! Second only to a bunch of guys named Unser, Dallenbach and Grimshaw. Truly a memorable experience and a great testimonial to the iX.

Tips & Tidbits

E30 Factory Specs, 0-60mph: 325iX, 9.1 sec.; 325is, 8.5 sec. with a 5 speed, 10.8 sec. and 10.3 sec. for an automatic. Unladen weights: 3010 lb. and 2865 lb. respectively for the 5 speed. Add 40 lb for an automatic. Road & Track gives 0-60mph for the 5 speed iX as 7.9 sec. in the April '88 road test of the "Bavarian high performance mountain goat." Car and Driver lists 7.8 sec. for the "all-weather blitzen Bimmer" in it's March '88 issue.

Gene Ritacco of Watertown, CT, reports in the Nov '92 ROUNDEL that he has seen some head bolt failures in cars produced before April '89. The old style hex head bolts were replaced then by torx-style bolts. He claims the old type can be replaced one at a time by torquing the bolt being replaced to 22 ft-lb, them tightening it by turning it 90 degrees and then tightening it again another 90 degrees.

I finally found an oil filter wrench that works for the awkwardly placed filter on the iX. The $5.99 "No bands,straps,cams,or Springs" filter from IMPARTS ( 800-325-9043) fits over the end of the filter and provides a very secure grip. An extension on a 3/8" ratchet fits between the block and the exhaust manifold. To prevent oil from pouring all over the half shaft boot and engine mount, place a half of a manila folder under the filter to catch the oil and direct it into a drain pan as you remove the filter.

Send for the GRIOT'S GARAGE catalog (800-345-5789). Their wheel and spoke brush works great on the iX wheels. I also recommend their exhaust manifold dressing, rubber gloves, rubber jack pad and floor paint. Good Stuff!


Yes, I had the privilege and pleasure of taking delivery of a new Dakar Yellow M3 the first week of June. My deposit check was dated November 1991! Based on experiences with the iX's, a 2002 and a 633, I had faith that BMW would bring the E36 M3 to the U.S. and that it would be a performer. It is awesome, but I'll enjoy the surefooted iX as soon as the snow starts to fall. Be assured I remain faithful to the all weather Bimmer.


Call Gordon for info from the 325iX Factory Repair or Electrical Troubleshooting Manuals