Scratch and Dent Removal

This is turning out to be a much colder winter in the Mid-Atlantic region than originally planned.  As a result, I’m falling behind in sorting the X5. This past weekend was the first since early November where I could get out and work on it.  The previous owner (Mr. Magoo) managed to scrape paint off of all four corners and dent the lower valance. It’s been too cold to try to repaint the big scrapes, but this past weekend I tackled some of the deeper scratches and the valance dent.

First off, it takes a certain talent to perfectly dent plastic without breaking it.  Because the PDC sensor is also damaged, perhaps Mr. Mr Magoo hit something larger, but this dent was about the size of a baseball. (It was actually much larger than it looks in the photo.) I wanted to see if I could get it out with just heat and some simple pry tools while I had the weather on my side.


Once I gained access behind the dent, I slowly heated the plastic until it was warm to the touch.  Then using the flexible pry tool, I slowly pushed it back into shape from behind. It isn’t perfect, but it looks better than before.

While waiting for the valance to cool down so I could put everything back together, I grabbed the random orbital polisher and a microfiber cutting pad.  The clear-coat on BMW bumpers is pretty robust, so I thought I’d see how well Maguiar’s M105 polishing compound levels the paint and helps to reduce the scratches.

These scratches are pretty deep, but not down to the color coat. I took two passes with the M105 before switching to Griot’s Machine Polish #3, and sealed it with a layer of AmmoNYC Skin. The result being that the scratches are not really visible after you get about a foot away from the surface.  I probably could have gone a little further, but didn’t want to risk burning through the clear-coat.




MINI Electric Concept Car at LA Auto Show

I recently spent some time contemplating the Electric MINI concept car at the LA auto show. In many ways it was very old-school: The future was supposed to look different than it’s turned out.  This reminds me of those concepts from the 60’s where you didn’t really believe that’s what the future would hold, but you understood some of the styling cues and how current models might evolve. There are a couple of interesting nuggets to behold.

Starting at the rear, you’ll notice a variation of the Union Jack tail lights seen on the JCW GP concept car, but done in white. But more importantly, there’s the new MINI logo in the center.  Continuing the trend of recent models, it’s still huge, and now more unappealing.  MINI quietly rolled out this logo over the past year, first on the website and now actually going on cars.  This version is done in relief, but the actual production logo is “a visual expression known as ‘flat design'”. (You can read more about it here).

I think it’s another sign that MINI design is lost in the wilderness. Let’s review the recipe for a MINI: 1. Take an engine and put a box around it as tightly as possible. 2. Take seating for 4 adults and put a box around it as tightly as possible. 3. Take two pieces of luggage (the other two adults are SOL) and put a box around it.  4. Connect the three boxes in the right order and put a body around it. 5. Put a wheel in each corner. Motoring on with the tour now…

The sculpting of the rear is interesting.  Your eye always looks for the exhaust outlet so if the lower trim were flat it wouldn’t look right.  It’s hard to tell if they intend the wing to function as a diffuser or not.  If there isn’t much more of an upper spoiler or wing than what’s seen here, it would be hard to get a diffuser to work anyway given the turbulence with such a small roof spoiler.

The side splitters could be interesting if they feed an air duct to the rear brake calipers.  Not clear if that’s the intent here.  If the duct does not feed anywhere, it would just create an air bubble ahead of the turbulence of the rear wheel.  It might help reduce some of the drag, but if it doesn’t draw air through the wheel, it would actually reduce cooling to the rear brakes as well as catch debris.

The first thing I noticed from this angle was the sculpting of the fenders.  Reminds me of Subarus from the last decade — not a fan.  The headlight design over powers the rest of the design.

The front splitter reminds me of Toyota concept cars of recent years as well. The angle is too steep to be effective as a splitter so it just creates drag.  The opening at the end is too far off center to be effective at channeling air to the brakes so perhaps they’re to be fed from the center.  The headlight design works a little better from this angle, but the inner sculpting is too wide.  It reminds me of a Pac-Man face-off.

So what did I like about the car? That paint is gorgeous. It would be impossible to keep clean and not show fingerprints, but it looks great. I like that it’s a small car and not a Countryman or Clubman. Maybe the future for a small MINI will be reborn as electric.

The Blob

I’m sure you’ve seen the blob before: bad touch-up paint that looks almost as bad as the scratch it is attempting to cover up. Our new BMW X5 shop truck came with some seriously bad blobs on the hood.  In the photo below you can see the blobs on the left before application and the progress on the right after one pass.

While looking for touch-up paint for the Porsche, I came across a product from Langka called “the blob eliminator“.  With a name like that, I had to check it out, hoping at least it might help me safely remove some of the excess touch-up paint on the X5.

The instructions say it works with most automotive touch-up paints you can get from the dealer, and that it will work on old touch-up paint as well as new. For this test case, I thought I’d dry it on the large hood scratches on the X5.  I’m not sure how old the touch-up paint is, but it’s at lease six weeks old as that’s how long we’ve had the vehicle.

The instructions are simple: clean the area to be worked on; put some of the blob eliminator liquid on a clean cloth; wrap the cloth around a flat surface (I used a small squeegee); and then rub with light pressure. Wipe away the residue with a different cloth.  Repeat if necessary and seal when finished. I used some polish and wax.

When finished, you have to be right up on the paint to even tell where the scratches are.  I love it when a plan comes together.

Polishing the iDrive Screen

GeorgeCo recently acquired a 2013 BMW X5 to use as a daily driver and tow vehicle. We’ve been spending the last couple of weeks fixing the little things that were wrong with it when we bought it. The previous owner — “Mr. Magoo” — had curbed all four wheels, one of which we decided to replace.  Thankfully a remanufactured X5 wheel will only set you back about $165 which is competitive with most refinishing services.

One thing we did notice, however, was that the no-glare coating on the video screen was badly scratched.  This is a common issue with used BMWs with the iDrive system. This coating isn’t very robust and vigorous cleaning/rubbing will start to scratch it off. It’s not something you notice until the sun shines directly on the screen, and then it’s just annoying. Thankfully, it’s a pretty easy fix that will only take about 30 minutes.

You’ll need a plastic pry tool, a crosshead screw driver, some painters tape, a Torx T-9 socket, and some plastic  polish.  We used The Novus Plastic Polish kit with a clean power-ball polisher we had from a headlight polishing kit, and an electric drill. You can also get a protective screen cover — just like your mobile phone.  More on that later.

Using the plastic pry tool, carefully pry up on the vent panel below the video screen and pull the panel toward you to release.  You don’t need to disconnect the electrical connections, just carefully lay it back down against the console.

Remove the two screws holding the video frame to the dash.  Be careful not to drop the screws or you’ll spend the rest of your day fishing for them in the HVAC ducts.

Pull the screen frame up and toward you.  Turn it over to access the cables on the back.

Note how the antenna wire runs across the top of the frame. Remove the antenna and electrical connection.

Set the screen face-down on a clean towel. Remove the four Torx screws and carefully remove the video screen from the trim panel by releasing the four tabs. Clean the trim panel while it is out, but be careful not to scratch the coating on the plastic.

Turn the screen over and clean it with the cleaner in the polish kit. Examine for any scratches that go beyond the anti-glare coating.

Tape around the edges to make clean-up easier.

Place on a towel and put a small amount of polish on the powerball.

Spread the polish on the screen before spinning the ball, then slowly bring the powerball up to speed. Keep the ball moving without applying much pressure.  Just let the polish work.

Clean the screen and examine.  Repeat polishing as necessary.  You may need to hand polish to get the corners.

Once we were satisfied that the screen was polished, we tried applying a protective screen, but just like your mobile phone, even a couple of air-bubbles will spoil the look, so we decided to reinstall without it.

Installation is the reverse of removal.


Safety Wire and Rotor Hats

The stock Wilwood rotors have held up well, but really aren’t intended for extended track use.  Earlier this year I upgraded to calipers with steel pistons and no dust boots, so when it came time to replace the rotors, I thought I’d upgrade that as well. The Spec-37 rotor is Wilwood’s Premium Grade, Heavy Wall Casting Rotor suitable for race use.  The street rotors I was using came with round head, Torx Bolts.  I saw a different bolt part number in the instructions, and found instead a bolt kit with drilled heads intended for use with safety wire.

Since I love to buy specialty tools that only serve a specific purpose, I had to get this set of safety wire twisting pliers.

A quick search of the inter-webs turned up this video, which is now one of my all-time favorites.

And a little while later, belt-and-suspenders-level confidence. (Or Red Loctite and Safety Wire.)