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.)

Wheel Studs

Last weekend brought the final track event for NCC BMW CCA this  year at Summit Point.  Although I had a great time as usual, the weekend wasn’t completely worry free.  If  you run wheel studs instead of bolts, you may not be aware that you need to replace them every couple of years.  I know this, but I tried to delay for the winter, but the gods of oxidation thought otherwise, teaching me a few important lessons.

Lesson 1: Don’t cheat time. If you know a part should be replaced based on time and not wear, don’t push your luck.

Lesson 2: Just because something tightens to torque, doesn’t mean it isn’t about to snap.  I broke two bolts.  Both tightened to torque when cold, even though both had already rotted half-way through.

Lesson 3: Buy a bolt extractor before you need one.

Lesson 4: Assenmacher makes a really cool stud removal tool which will make your life so much easier.  (Assenmacher, that’s funny…)

Here’s a lap when everything went right.

MINI R53 Manual Transmission and Differential Fluid Change

The oil MINI uses in the Getrag 6 speed manual transmission is supposed to be a lifetime fill. I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean: If you kill the transmission because of bad fluid, that’s the end of its lifetime.  A safer bet is to change it yourself every 30-50,000 miles. It’s cheap and easy insurance, and will probably give you smoother shifting as well. The fluid you want to use is Manual Transmission Fluid with the GL-4 specification such as Redline 75W/80W MTF.  You’ll need 1.5 quarts for the R53.

Safely place your car on jack-stands with the car level, and make sure you get it high enough to get your bottle of new fluid with pump attached underneath it with enough room to actually pump the fluid. On the R53, the there are two 8mm hex plugs on the side of the transmission across from the PS fan. The lower plus is the drain and the top one is the fill.

If you just want to check the fill, work with the transmission cold and remove just the top plug.  You should be able to stick the tip of your little finger into the hole and just touch the fluid. If a little fluid drains out, that’s OK, you either don’t have it quite level or when it was filled it wasn’t level.

If you’re going to change the fluid, it’s a little quicker if the transmission is warm. Make sure you have an oil pan that’s big enough for at least two quarts of fluid. Remove the top plug and then remove the bottom plug. I drained it through cheese cloth and over a magnet to see if any metal shavings came out. I drove the car home from Summit Point in a driving rain storm with no clutch — I fully expected to see bits of my second gear synchro in the drain pan, but was happy to see it was relatively clear and metal shaving free.

Once all of the old fluid has drained, clean the plugs and the threads on the transmission housing.  Use a Q-tip or rolled paper towel to get anything that may be left behind.  Replace the bottom plug and torque to 32 ft-lbs of torque. Use your fluid oil pump to pump oil into the upper plug opening until it starts to come back out. Clean the threads, install the plug, and torque to 32 ft-lbs of torque.

Go for a test drive and enjoy the silky shifting smoothness you had forgotten about.

MINI Brake Ducts, Part Tres

Getting the brake ducts right on the MINI is slowly becoming my white whale project (call me Ishmael). In Part Deux of this adventure, we found a good cooling solution using brackets from Chris Sneed,  but the location on the passenger side ducting was less than ideal.  First we got the hose caught in the crank pulley (which was fixed by use of a sleeve before any real damage was done), but most recently, the hose got pinched under suspension compression and the wire from the hose shredded the (brand new) CV boot forcing yet another axle repair and massive grease clean-up.

This time we’re trying a smaller diameter hose — 2.5 inches vs 3.0 previously. The brackets at the wheel carriers were modified for a smaller diameter fitting, which we’ll weld over the winter break if this works out.

We got a Mishimoto reducer to fit the 3 inch brackets in the bumper and some aluminum tubing to form connectors and to protect the crank pulley.

The eventual solution turned out pretty well. Since the hose still matches the opening in the bumper there shouldn’t be any loss in cooling, and now with the reducer in place, it will be easier to remove the front bumper cover. There doesn’t appear to be any binding at steering lock. And when we jacked up the hub, there doesn’t appear to be any binding at full suspension compression either.  We’re running at Summit Point in a couple of weeks so we’ll know more after that event.

Leave a comment if you have a better way to route the hose on the passenger side.