iXchange Issue #5

January 1995

A newsletter for BMW 325 iX Enthusiasts.



iXploits & iXperiences Just a reminder that I'd really appreciate your comments for inclusion in our newsletter. Your notes or article don't have to be fancy. If you'll fax to me (call me first so I can turn on my MAC), I can use the optical character reader to import into the iXchange. I can also receive MAC or DOS files from just about any word processing program, but prefer a fax of typed text or sketch. If you have a special photo of your iX, I'd be pleased to include it also.

Mark Jacobs of Akron, Ohio, reports that he (as am I) is very pleased with both the Dunlop D40M2's and the Hakkapeliitta 10's he is using on his iX. Mark had a great time at the BMW CCA Buckeye Chapter's Driving School, experiencing both scheduled on-track time and a no-harm-done unplanned off-track excursion in the rain which provided a valuable learning lesson about the iX's handling. (Good for you, Mark -- that's what these schools are all about.)

He was pleased to be able to apply his experiences, expertise and the iX's capabilities to "show the other traffic my tail end for the rest of that rain-soaked afternoon." Mark has had some maintenance problems with his iX, replacing rear shock mounts twice and brake pads three times, replacing a set of rotors and a bearing in the transfer case which had to be shipped from Belgium. Mark is still very happy with his iX, proclaiming "these aren't gripes however, just recollections of five years of spirited motoring on the street and track... Let is snow!"

John Callahan of Dallas, Pennsylvania, says that he bought a set of mud flaps from Co Van Herwaarden (our dealer support) which he knew were not specifically designed for an '88 iX, but which can be trimmed with a sharp knife to fit satisfactorily. He has 80K miles with no significant problems, but wonders if anyone has found a source for fog light lens replacements for less than the $118 list that BMW wants. (Please let me know.) He's tired of cleaning crud from the alloy basketweaves so he'll try some Blizzaks on 14" steel wheels this winter. (Let us know how you like the combination, John.)

Blair Robertson of Colchester, Vermont, uses and highly recommends Redline MTL for the gearbox and diffs. He also is pleased with Eurasian Parts Select (vs. Peter Pan and Imparts) for parts at good prices. (Yes, Blair, no problem with the stock 15" wheels & tires with the cut springs.)

Gene Ritacco of Watertown Connecticut (Gene is a BMW mechanic by profession) "gets a chuckle" whenever he hears that CSA 35 wheels work on the iX. The ones he got from Exotic Wheel and Tire locked up on the front calipers. After a refund, he ended up with Rial "G" wheels and is very happy with them. He is also very pleased with his Bilsteins shocks and reports that he had to use a hammer and chisel to remove the nuts at the top of the shock. Gene reports that he has replaced the rear seal in the transfer case but that it is not a difficult job. He has also replaced the 2 back-to-back seals on the front differential on two iX's, and that this is not too difficult. (I'll see if I can convince Gene to give us some guidance on this procedure.)

Jackie Ritacco says she got some strange looks from her neighbors when she had 16 wheels and tires for their iX and 325e lined up in the driveway for a thorough washing and waxing! (Jackie, "Where there's a wheel, there's a way." That is what a flight attendant said as I brought a BMW wheel on board as carry on luggage on a return flight from Europe.)

An unfortunate story is provided by Bob Domos of Bellmont, Massachusetts who bought an '89 iX with 67K miles for a very good price. Shortly after taking possession the car became difficult to start and finally just died. The diagnostic machine showed that the DME control unit was bad and Bob had to spend $661 for the replacement plus labor. He plans a chip replacement for more performance and hopes that this type of problem is not typical. (Sorry that you've had this problem, Bob -- I don't know of anyone else who has had to replace the DME. )

Come to think of it (probably unrelated) to Bob's problem), shortly after I bought my '88 I got stranded twice when the car refused to start. The engine would turn over for a while with the starter, but not fire. As soon as it was jump started, it fired right up. I replaced the battery and have never had the problem again. It is possible that there was a bad cell in the battery or some other problem with it that lowered the voltage when the engine was being cranked below the voltage at which the electronics worked properly or at which some relay functioned. By the way, if you haven't replaced the battery in your '88 or '89, you might consider doing so as a preventive measure. Its about time for these to start causing problems and it's not worth being stranded.

Dan Guliano of Nashua, New Hampshire has provided the following for our enjoyment:

100,000 miles in an iX

the experience of campaigning an iX in New England for 100,000 miles.

Overall Impression:

The iX is the BMW that you can actually DRIVE every day of the year. Sleet, snow, rain, dry pavement, machs nicht (it matters not). The iX will get you there with more control than the 'traction control' models. It is not appreciably more expensive than a 325i/is to maintain, and as we shall see, not much more expensive to repair, if the maintenance work has been performed. In the time since July, 1989, when it was purchased new, the iX has always gotten us home, always kept us dry and always generates the same comment "I didn't know BMW made a four wheel drive!!".

Warranty Issues:

It seems appropriate to begin our discussion with the basic question, 'How soon after you got it did things begin to break?' Those who have owned vehicles from Italy are particularly concerned about this topic. In the case of the iX the warranty repair history begins with:

A. The purchase of the 7 year/75,000 mile BMW 'Quality Continuation Plan" in July, 1989, at the time the iX was purchased. Cost of extended warranty: $500.
B. February, 1991; 28,575 miles. Developed a leak from the oil pressure switch. Replaced under the terms of the basic warranty.
C. April, 1991; 31,000 miles. Developed a coolant leak from the thermostat housing. Housing and thermostat replaced under the terms of the basic warranty.
D. October, 1991; 43,302 miles. Service Indicator lights fail to go out when reset. Service light printed circuit board replaced under the terms of the basic warranty.
E. December, 1991; 45,560 miles. Passenger window becomes inoperative. Window motor replaced under the terms of the extended warranty. Cost of repair if not covered: $309.87.
F. October, 1992; 62,076 miles. Temperature gauge reads erratically, then fails. Replacement of temperature gauge covered under the terms of the extended warranty. Cost of repair if not covered: $168.60.

In all, not unreliable. Nothing stopped us, although we were inconvenienced some by the lack of parts availability through the dealer. We basically broke even on the extended warranty. One other item to remember with warranties - YOU ARE
TO HAVE YOUR VEHICLE SERVICED BY A DEALER IN ORDER TO MAINTAIN THE BASIC OR EXTENDED WARRANTY. But, you must be prepared to demonstrate the service has been performed.

What Else Broke

This portion of our discussion will include what other items on the iX broke, once the vehicle was out of warranty, as opposed to those 'wear' things we'll talk about at another time.

A. November, 1989; 7,309 miles. Thought that was only a puddle at the apex of that REALLY fast right hand sweeper. Wrong. It was a meteor impact crater, filled with water. Damage to right front strut, bearing, stabilizer bar, wheel hub, wheel, tire and miscellaneous small stuff: $1,913.80. Submitted through collision insurance - cost of repairs, $200.00.
B. June, 1990; 17,259 miles. Well, it didn't really break but the passenger fog lamp required replacement. Seems the iX was parked in one of the few metered spots in downtown Boston for 40 minutes. When we came out, someone had fed the meter, but had also neatly unbolted and removed the fog lamp. Cost to replace, $132.50.
C. July, 1991; 39,117 miles. Weather in New England, HOT. Temperature in the iX, HOT. Air conditioner is thinking of cooling the air, but decides not to. Cost to evacuate and recharge system, $36.00.
D. August, 1992; 58,620 miles. An oil leak appears from around the valve cover. Cost to replace valve cover gasket, $29.43.
E. August, 1992; 59,961 miles. The driver's seat begins to recline, even though it's at full forward, We looked at replacing the hinges for the driver's seat, but they cost over $500, for parts alone. We purchase and install a Flofit driver's seat. If we had it all to do over again, we'd have paid the extra for a Recaro. The Flofit's adjusters only lockup on the outside track, so the seat torques under hard braking. Cost to learn a lesson, $499.95.
F. September, 1992; 60,403 miles. The blessed antenna mast is bent. Broken my arm to try and keep it clean and lubricated, but now it's bent! Cost to replace, $32.50.
G. September, 1992; 60,833 miles. Remember the passenger fog light? Well, the driver side fog light is cracked and requires replacement. Cost to replace, $122.00. Hey! The price of the parts WENT DOWN!!
H. February, 1994; 90,421 miles. The cooling system's acting weird, hosing down the engine compartment on an irregular basis. Well, the thermostat isn't working properly anyway, let's replace it. Cost to replace, $71.32.
I. February, 1994; 91,030 miles. Wow! The short version of the story is - a head bolt stretched as it was in the process of failing. That allowed the engine, at high RPM'S, to pressurize the cooling system. At very high RPM's the system went over pressure and puked coolant everywhere. We, however, didn't know that until we did a tear down. Meanwhile, we discover BMW NA had issued a service bulletin explaining the upgraded cylinder bolts and the coverage under warranty - to replace those that fail. The first appeal to BMW NA was turned down cold, the iX was out of warranty. The issue was raised to the CCA Ombudsman. He believes NA will reimburse the costs related to the head bolts alone, approximately $100. Cost to tear down, examine, magnaflux and rebuild, $8,52.19. Amount reimbursed by BMW NA to date, $0.
J. February, 1994; 91,030 miles. Another blasted bent antenna mast. Cost to replace, $29.95. Another parts price reduction!

Overall, not too bad. If the seat and the coolant problem were factored out, it would be excellent. Remember, however, this is a vehicle that receives MORE than the scheduled service. Oil & filter at 3,000 miles, or less. Coolant and brake fluid replaced annually. An occasional Inspection II Service in place of an Inspection I, and so on.

What wore out, when and....

With the odometer on the iX now reading 106,000 miles, you expect some 'wear and tear' to have occurred. Of course, the style of driving has a great impact in this area. This iX has seen most (almost all) of it's miles from highway use - 50 to 100 mile daily round trips to work, regular visits to the in-laws in Buffalo, NY and weekend jaunts throughout New England. As you will see, that generates wear completely different from "city" use.

A. Tires. In November 1989, after hitting the crater mentioned above, the OEM Goodyear NCT's were replaced with Michelin MXV3'S. Good ride, mediocre handling, real screamers (literally) when pushed. At 35,000 miles I could no longer stand the verbal abuse from the MXV3'S, replaced them with Dunlop D40M2s. Outstanding tires, highly recommended to any and all. Ran those, year round, till 80,000 miles and replaced them with another set. Good news, over time the price per tire can down from $130 to $100, mail order of course.
B. Battery. Well, it didn't actually die, but it was a really cold winter and a replacement seemed appropriate. The battery was replaced after three years (1992) at 60,000 miles.
C. Shocks. Even though the iX got its' miles on the highway, that doesn't mean it wasn't exercised. After 61,000 miles, the OEM shocks were tired, really tired. The iX was solid, but handling wasn't sharp and there was an annoying tendency to bump-rub the rear tires and the interior wheel lip. Replaced with Bilsteins all around. What a difference! iX rides better than new, tight, handles great, goes sideways faster than ever. Probably should have done that a year sooner.
D. Brakes. It took over 96,000 miles to wear out the brakes. The replacement included pads and rotors. The iX has a non-standard rear rotor, though no more expensive than the fronts. The calipers appeared in good condition that's why the annual brake flush.
E. Timing Belts. Replaced twice, at 50,000 miles and
92,000 miles (the engine was opened for another reason anyway). Don't mess around here. Replace them every 50,000 - 60,000 miles. The 'down side' risk is too great. Valves and pistons cannot inhabit the same space-time continuum, and the result of an attempt to do so is REALLY ugly.
F. Other wear items. Assorted light bulbs (get them from someone who knows BMWs, it saves so much grief), floor mats (keep a 'winter set' for the salt & crud) and the little plastic nubbie that goes through the thing attached to the strap that holds up the glove box door (still can't find a replacement).

Once again, overall not bad, though we've just been informed the iX should have the Lower Control Arms replaced because of ball joint wear. It appears that preventive maintenance really does make a difference.

Thanks to Mark, John, Bob, Gene, Jackie, Blair and Dan for sharing with us!!

Trunk Lid Protector

Several years ago I discovered a cost savings short cut that BMW took when they designed and produced the E30 model, including the 325iX. When I was still racing with the SCCA and my good friend Bill Schaefer and I were maintaining his 2002tii as an ITA race car, loaded a trailing arm assembly into the trunk of Bev's '89 iX and closed the trunk lid. Unfortunately, the assembly was about a 1/2 inch too tall and I put a small bump into the trunk lid from the inside! Sure enough, BMW saved a few bucks by not installing a liner on the underside of the trunk lid. It sure ruined my day so I decided that this would not happen again. I purchased a 2' X 4' sheet of tempered Masonite, cut two pieces to fit around the tool kit on the inside of the trunk deck and painted it to match the body color. I used short bolts and wing nuts which engage into the slots of the trunk lid cross member supports, but one must be very careful not to use bolts that are too long and which touch the underside of the lid. If I were doing this again, I'd simply caulk a bead of Liquid Nails and hold the Masonite in place with duct tape until the adhesive sets up.

I recommend you install a similar protective piece or be very careful when closing the trunk lid on a full trunk. When I bought the '88 iX, this was one of the first upgrades I made. Now, at least if I close the trunk on anything that is too tall for the trunk to close, I'll only skuff the paint of the liner rather than dent the trunk lid.

If you'd like me to trace the pieces and send you a template, send me a couple of bucks, but you can probably make these pieces yourself just as well. Really, it's worth a little time to install these in order to save yourself some grief at a later time arising from a moment of haste.

Painting Your '88 Bumpers

1988 was the first year that BMW imported the 325iX into the U.S. This model year had some very nice features as standard equipment such as leather interior with Recaro sport seats, an electric sunroof, map lights built into the inside rearview mirror, an upgraded radio with tweeters built into the door near the side mirrors and a full trip computer. However, this model lacked a ski boot integrated into the rear seat armrest and most '88's came with a 14" steel wheel as a spare. And unfortunately, the '88 bumpers were not color coordinated with the body color and included massive black plastic pieces on the side of the vehicle. See the picture of my '88 in the first issue of the iXchange. (The only good thing about the '88 aluminum bumpers is that they do allow the installation of a trailer hitch as I have done on mine. The hitch assembly bolts to the rear bumper and to the floor of the trunk. Call me for further details, if interested.)

We bought Bev's '89 iX new and it never occurred to me to appreciate the "new style" red bumpers until a clerk at an auto parts store commented on them. He noted what a nice job BMW had done in integrating the bumpers into the body and color coordinating the flexible plastic with the body color. So when I started looking for an '88 iX, I always had in mind that I would someday paint the bumpers. That notion was further reinforced when I met Tim Jones and saw his '88 "4WDBMW" with painted bumpers, wheels and other trim. But I got discouraged when the paint shop told me that flexible additive for paint was very expensive -- about $27 a pint! So I put off this job for some other day.

It was, in fact, Tim that made me decide to proceed with this project this past Fall. When Tim mentioned that he had some stone chips on the white bottom extension on his front spoiler and was considering have a body shop paint it, I knew it was time to make a trip to the paint shop and get out the spray gun and compressor.

I had assumed (incorrectly) that I would need to add a flex agent to the spray paint, but the paint shop, after looking at the iX bumpers, assured and convinced me that the plastic pieces were not "flexible" in the sense of trim on some newer autos and that a flex agent was not necessary. I ended up buying the following items:

- 1 spray can of standard "sandable" gray primer
- 1 qt. DUPONT Prep-Sol Solvent to remove wax, etc.
- 1 spray can of SEM Sand Free to promote adhesion on plastic and eliminate sanding
- 1 qt. DUPONT Centari Acrylic Enamel (in Alpine White, Code: 146, Year: 80, K7941A for My car. I had purchased this previously to paint the trunk lid protectors.)
- 1 qt. DUPONT 8034 S Acrylic Enamel Reducer for "Overall 55o-65oF" (also available for other ambient air temps.) for thinning: 2 parts paint, 1 part reducer for spraying (& clean up)
- 1 qt. SEM Clear Water Borne No Lift Chip-Guard for gravel and corrosion protection for lower body panels.
- 1 spray can of SEM Clear Chip Guard (acrylic lacquer base for a final coat on the grill)
Painted Bumpers
Total cost of materials was about $100, but this will vary depending on where the pant is purchased. Of course, I did not use even half of the material so it is available for future touch ups.

Removing the bumper trim pieces is straight forward using 8mm and 10mm sockets and wrenches. You'll have to remove the carpeting in the trunk and the taillight covers in the trunk and you'll have to remove a few nuts and bolts in the wheel wells. There are a couple of nuts behind the side marker lights in the bumper trim pieces. These lights can be removed by carefully prying them out with a large screwdriver placed at the rear of each light and pushing forward and out. If the lights have been inserted in the opposite direction, you may need to pry from the front. Don't force anything. They should come out pretty easily if you are working at the correct end. The rear bumper does not have to be removed, but the front one will have to be removed to gain access to all the nuts and bolts holding the trim pieces. This is an easy job -- 2 bolts requiring a 10mm Allen wrench, 60 ft-lb to install. Disconnect the wiring to the side marker lights and the turn signal lights as you remove the light assemblies and the bumper. I also decided to paint the door handles, round trim ring around the door lock cylinders and the black air inlets under the windshield next to the wipers.

After the trim pieces have been removed, washed and scrubbed, they should be sanded first to remove any rough or skuff marks and then cleaned with wax remover . If you use the wax remover first and then sand, the softened wax will work its way into the sanding marks and decrease adhesion of the primer and paint. After removing wax, position the parts in an area where they can be sprayed. Then spray with the Sand Free and while still tacky, spray with the primer. After the primer is dry, spray at least two coats with the thinned enamel. Allow to dry overnight and then use the water based No Lift Chip-Guard, using a lower (20psi) air pressure than normal as directed on the can.

The Clear Water Borne Chip-Guard provides a textured, mottled look on the trim which looks fine over the white base coat. It may or may not be attractive and suit your tastes on a darker color. After a week or two, i notices a couple of small stone chips on the grill, so I put several additional coats of the Chip Guard (spray can) over the water based Chip Guard. It looks like this will provide good protection against chipping on the vulnerable grill. Note that you shouldn't apply the lacquer. The trim pieces on the bumper are adequately protected by the water based Chip Guard.

I am very happy with the look of my '88 with the newly painted trim. Tim came by to pick up his spoiler piece which I had also painted and we took the opportunity to take some pictures which are reproduced in this issue. Note how attractive the white trim spoiler piece is compared to the black piece on my iX. You can also notice that my iX is lowered in the front as I described in the October '93 Roundel article. No doubt about it, these are two unique 325iX's !

Tips & Tidbits

If your "CHECK ENGINE" light comes on or stays on after you start your engine, chances are the connector for the oxygen (O2) sensor is corroded and not making good contact with the wiring harness. The sensor only puts out a few volts and it is very easy for the terminals on the connector to have a high enough resistance to preclude the signal from reaching the DME unit. If this light comes on, first disconnect, clean and reconnect the connector located near the washer fluid reservoir. Then start and stop the engine six or seven times in rapid succession. This should reset the DME and extinguish the light in the instrument cluster. This light may also come on due to corroded connectors inside the cap of the Diagnostic Connector, located on top the engine, just behind the upper radiator hose and above the alternator. Unscrew the cap and clean the pins in the cap and the connectors in the cap. A Q-tip moistened with alcohol seems to work well into the connectors.

If you plan to change the fluid in the transmission, transfer case, or differentials, always remove the fill plug before removing the drain plug. It is very embarrassing to have drained the fluid and then find that for whatever reason you are unable to remove the fill plug. Of course you could turn the vehicle upside down and fill the case through the drain hole!

Be careful when accelerating hard on a surface which includes both dry pavement and patches of ice or snow. The chain in the transfer case is vulnerable to excessive stress when the tires bite on dry pavement and other wheels are on the slippery surface. Back off the throttle a little -- it is not worth a transfer case replacement.

Since I bought the rear bar for my '88, it appears that Suspension Techniques has moved or gone out of business. Does anyone know their fate? Has anyone located a source for an adjustable rear bar? (A bar for an ordinary 325 should fit just fine.) Please let me know so I can pass on the info.