Scratch Removal

Taking advantage of the unusually warm weather over the holidays to take on some of the paint defects on the X5. This post shows how to tackle a deep scratch and bad touch-up paint job.

When we got the 2013 X5 in 2017, the dealer had attempted to hide a deep scratch with a thick coat of touch-up paint. We used Blob Eliminator to safely remove the touch-up paint first, then compounded and polished the hood to see what we had to work with. A good tip when trying to figure out whether a scratch is just through the clear-coat or goes into the paint layer, is to spray some water and see if the scratch disappears. If it does, then it’s in the clear-coat. These scratches appear to just be in the clear-coat.


Since we’re using this hood for our long-term Bead Maker test, I wanted to see if I could completely eliminate the scratch before sealing the paint. This video shows that process.

Foaming Sprayers for Waterless Washing

I’m slowly getting ready for winter — not like I really have a say whether it comes or not. Winter wheels are out of the basement and on the car. The hose-mobile is in their place. The faucets are covered. So it’s time to figure out how to keep the cars clean(ish?) without running water. On the back of my recent success with a low-cost power wash foam cannon, I thought I’d try my hand with rinse less car wash. The best wash on the market is the Ammo Frothe.

There’s really nothing else like Frothe on the market. It’s $35 a 16 oz bottle, but since it’s concentrated and used diluted 1:20 with water, that works out to only about a dollar a wash. You spray it on and wipe it off. You’ll need to use many microfiber towels in the process. Working one panel at a time, spray it on, then using a folded towel, scoop off the foam. Fold to a clean side of the towel and remove any remaking Frothe. Anything left in the panel gaps will evaporate away. Frothe provides lubrication so as long as you’re working a clean area of the towel, you won’t scratch your paint.

I’m going to compare two different sprayers to the Ammo aerator (in the middle) which is about $60: The Griot’s Garage Pump-Up Foamer (on the right) which retails for about $40; and the IK 1.5 Foam Sprayer (on the left) which retails for about $33.

The Ammo aerator is made in Italy for Foam-iT.  Ammonyc currently is the sole automotive reseller in the US, but that may change in early 2019. If you take a look at the internals of the Griot’s and Ammo sprayers, they look like they’re from the same manufacturer.  Just the bottles and color accents are different.

I used Ammo Frothe for the functional comparison, mixed 1:20 with water in all three sprayers.  Each sprayer was pumped to full pressure (hard to pump for Ammo and Griot’s; pressure relief opened for iK) and I made a single pass left-right on the same panel, wiping the Frothe clean with a microfiber towel between each application.

Ammo Aerator: The first thing you’ll notice is how well it’s made. It just feels substantial. It has a wide base so it won’t tip over. There’s an easy-to-read clear window down the side to you can tell how much liquid is inside. It was the easiest of the three to pump and seemed to take fewer pumps to get to full pressure. The trigger action is different from the other two: It doesn’t engage until the trigger is fully depressed which took a little while to get used to. It produces thick foam, but it was not as even as the iK sprayer.

Griot’s Foamer: Despite the similarities of the components with the Ammo unit, it takes a significantly greater effort to pump it up to pressure. It also doesn’t stay pressurized as long, so you will be pumping more often. The trigger is smoother, so you feel like you have a little more control over the spray.  The foam was not as thick or as even as the other two. You would need to make twice as many passes with this sprayer to get the same coverage, at least with the Frothe product.

iK 1.5 Sprayer: This sprayer was our favorite of the three. It took about the same effort to pump to pressure as the Ammo sprayer, though with the smaller volume bottle, you may have to refill more often depending on the job. We liked the trigger action and the check-valve. It also has several adapters so you can dial-in the type of foam you desire — drier like shaving cream, or wet like a foam cannon. We found the green adapter worked best with Frothe and provided more even coverage than even the Ammo sprayer. It is the least expensive of the three but also has an extensive list of available spare parts.

The iK sprayer has three key differentiators from the others:

  1. It has a pressure relief valve. You pump the sprayer until the pressure releases and you have the same starting pressure every time. That takes some of the guess-work out of using the sprayer.
  2. It comes with spare filters and has three different color-coded mixer adapters: ORANGE to create very wet foam, GREEN to create very dry foam and GREY that creates standard foam. We used the green adapter for this comparison.
  3. The bottle is smaller. In fact, the usable volume is about half of the others. Depending on your application, that’s either good or bad. If that volume is enough to get the job done, then it’s potentially lighter to use and takes less effort to pressurize.  If you have to re-fill, then it could slow down your work.

So what’s the bottom line? All things being equal, our favorite is the iK Sprayer. It gets the job done with less work and is good value for money.  But you can’t really go wrong with any of them.  If you know you’ll be doing bigger jobs, then get the Ammo aerator. If you want a compromise between cost and volume, then get the Griot’s sprayer.

BMW Sets World Record for 8 Hour Drifting

BMW recently reclaimed the Guinness World Record for the longest drift, drifting 232.5 miles over 8 hours in the new BMW M5.

I was recently attending a seminar at BMW NA HQ and they have the vehicles on display in the lobby.

I found a few of the details interesting.  At about 1:50 in into the video, you’ll see the two cars come together.  Even though they were traveling at about the same velocity and just a few inches apart, it still made a decent dent.

I also appreciated the four cup holder on the passenger seat, which makes sense if you’re going to be in the car for 8 hours, you want to stay hydrated. But it makes you wonder if the driver Johan Schwartz also had the stadium pal. I also like the way the pump controls were integrated into the center console.

The driver called for refueling using the bluetooth connection to his phone.  He had to reestablish the pairing of his phone and the car a few times over the 8 hour period.  If you’ve ever used the BMW iDrive controller, you know that in itself deserves a Guinness record. (I can’t get that to work while I’m in my driveway, let alone mid-drift.)

The fuel line and return pass through the side rear window into the fuel cell in the trunk. As stated in the video, their biggest concern was fire so there was a fire suppression system in the trunk and special vents were added so the trunk would vent to the outside.

Last Motoring Event of 2011

Summit Point Winter

Saturday brought the last motoring event of the year for GeorgeCo. It was a very nice late Autumn day of sliding and sloshing on the skidpad at Summit Point with the other instructors from the local BMW club. GeorgeCo got a chance to test out the Red MINI’s new suspension and even got to drive a friend’s 911.

Red and 911

I’ve instructed in a Porsche a couple of times and really enjoyed the opportunity to drive it on the skidpad. I’d like to say I instantly mastered oversteer, but that would be not true. It’s a very different experience to feel the car rotating around you at a point somewhere in the middle of the rear seats. Most of my MINI tricks didn’t work (ie more power in oversteer) and the balance just feels wrong. It wasn’t until later in the session that I finally figured out to ease up on the wheel, let the wheels straighten and keep steady power and it sorts itself out. You can’t lift suddenly and more power just speeds up the spin, but steady power seems to do the trick. That was fun.

Red waiting

The new suspension on Red MINI proved to be a good choice. The middle setting on the Alta rear swaybar took out most of the understeer, but didn’t make the car tail happy so as to induce oversteer on sudden throttle lift. It’s very neutral with a slight bias to understeer which is the way I like it. We set up some cones and got a chance to practice a little scandinavian flick action. The IE fixed camber plates provide a much less harsh ride than the adjustable plates in the Blue MINI. I think I’m going to like this set-up.

Zen Garden

The track was quiet all day. I don’t think I’ve been here before when there wasn’t some sort of event going on. The run-off area in turn one had a certain zen garden quality to it. Be the curve.

Ready to Rock the BMW M20 Engine, Rocker Replacement DIY

Unlike other DIY projects for the E30, if you do a quick search on the internet for “BMW M20 replace rocker without removing head” you won’t find much in the way of quality advice. I found one lengthy writeup which may be the single most poorly written and profane set of DIY instructions I’ve ever seen. At least it provided some inspiration and I was able to figure it out myself. So the answer is yes, Virginia, you can replace a broken rocker on the BMW M20 engine without removing the head. Here’s how. (Disclaimer: Use at your own risk, your experience may vary.)

Broken Rocker

I broke the intake rocker on the #6 cylinder. You will get a range of advice on replacing just one rocker. Some say just to be safe, replace them all. If you have the improved rocker from the later years of the series, you can probably get away with just replacing the broken one. That was my case.

Here’s what you need to consider before you begin: you will need to remove the camshaft gear to get to the rocker arm shaft. To get to the cam gear, you need to remove the radiator and the timing belt. If you replace the timing belt, you should replace the tensioner, and the two seals behind the cam gear. If you don’t remember the last time you replaced the water pump, you should replace it as well. I replaced my water pump recently so I just went for the seals, tensioner, pulley, and new hoses. You will also want to replace the valve cover seal as well. Since you’re going to pull the spark plugs to make turning the engine by hand easier, you may want to replace them as well. Since you’re going to drain the coolant, you need to buy a new supply of coolant. I also changed the oil while everything was apart just in case any bits of rocker fell into the oil. (Turns out it was a clean break.) Replace your AC, PS, and Alternator belts too if you can’t remember the last time you replaced them. And of course you’re going to need a new rocker, eccentric, washer, bolt, nut and clamp.

Since these parts are relatively cheap, pick up a couple of spares in case you get into the project and realize any more rockers are cracked. Of course, having your trusty Bentley Manual is a must. Now you’re ready to start. Give yourself at least twelve hours of work time to do this if you’ve never done it before. You will also need an assistant once you get to step 29.

1. Place your car on jack stands and remove the front wheels, plastic under-tray, and hood. Take the transmission out of gear.
2. Drain the coolant out of your radiator using the drain screw at the bottom of your radiator and the 19mm screw plug on the block. You will make a mess so be prepared. The M20 engine holds about 3 gallons of coolant.
3. Remove the hoses to the radiator and remove the radiator by removing the bracket that holds it at the top and lift it out of the car. There will be some coolant left in the radiator so be sure to drain that too. If you are replacing all of the hoses, remove the rest of the hoses that go to the water pump as well. At a minimum you will need to remove the metal pipe that crosses in front of the waterpump and attaches to the timing belt cover.
4. Remove the mechanical fan using a long thin 32 mm wrench and fan pulley holder.
5. Remove the distributor and the rotor using a 3mm allen key.
6. Cut you belts or loosen the brackets for your AC (if you have one, I don’t), power steering pump, and alternator and remove your belts.
7. Remove the pulleys from your water pump and vibration damper.
8. Remove the cover that protects the position transmitter wire that crosses the timing belt cover.
9. Remove the timing belt cover, both halves.
10. Remove your spark plugs. (Optional, I found it easier to rotate the engine manually with them removed.)
11. Remove your valve cover and gasket.
12. Remove the oil pipe that runs the length of the head so you don’t damage it.
13. Note which rocker is broken. (I’m describing what worked for me with intake #6 rocker.)
14. Using a 22 mm socket, rotate the engine clockwise until it reaches Top Dead Center (TDC). This will be marked on both the cam gear and the crank. On the cam gear there will be a line on the head and a mark on the cam gear indicating TDC. On the crank, there is notch on the crank gear wheel. These two marks should both line up, otherwise your timing belt is installed wrong (not uncommon to be off by one tooth.) Freshen the markings so you can be sure you can find TDC again.
15. Rotate the engine manually in the clockwise direction until the pressure is relieved on the remaining 5 intake rockers. This will occur when the cam lob for the broke rocker is at its highest. Rotate until you are just ahead or just past the peak, but the other 5 rockers remain without tension. This will make replacement easier as you’ll see later.
16. Using a different color paint, mark this point on your cam gear and your crank gear wheel at the same line on the engine as TDC. Once we remove the timing belt, you want to be sure neither the crank nor the camshaft has turned while there is no tension between them so you don’t bend a valve.
17. Relieve pressure on the timing belt tensioner and remove the spring.
18. Remove the timing belt.
19. If you’re replacing your water pump, follow the instructions in the Bentley manual and replace the water pump now.
20. Remove the cam gear using a Torx socket. The Torx bolt is a T50. The corresponding socket is an E12. (Older cars may have an allen head bolt.)
21. Remove the bracket that locks down the two rocker arm shafts at the font of the cylinder head.
22. Remove the blind plug closest to the front (cam gear end) of the cylinder head. Use a screw driver to carefully pry it out and discard it. You’ll want to replace all four plugs while you have the valve cover off.
23. Remove the clamps that go over the rockers on each of the intake rockers.
24. All six rockers (including the broken one) should be loose on the rocker arm. Slide them off the valve perch toward the back of the engine. They should slide freely on the rocker arm shaft. You may need to lube to get them moving. Loosen the eccentrics if you don’t have enough play.
25. Lube the rocker arm shaft and see if it spins freely. Try to move it forward without prying. You are trying to slide it out the front of the engine far enough to reach the broken rocker. If you can’t get a good grip on it, wrap a piece of brass around it (or split a small piece of copper pipe) and use vice grips to get it to move. You want to be sure not to damage the surface of the rocker arm shaft.
26. Replace the blind plug at back end of the cylinder head.
27. Place your new eccentric into your new rocker along with the bolt, washer and nut. Be sure to put it in correctly so the adjusting hole is up and away from the rocker arm. Spin the eccentric so it creates the largest gap to the valve perch when installed. It will be adjusted later.
28. Slide the new rocker on the end of the rocker arm shaft.
29. Have a helper climb up in the engine bay with a large screw driver and press down on the valve spring of the rocker you are replacing. Remember that since the lob is up, the piston is down in the cylinder so you won’t damage the valve. You need to apply quite a bit of down ward pressure to free up the rocker on the rocker arm so you can move it back into position. Once the rocker is fully on the shaft and while keeping the pressure on the spring, use a rubber mallet to move the rocker shaft back into position. Be sure to align the rocker in the correct position so you can reinstall the clamp.
30. Spin the rocker arm shaft so the indentations are parallel for the bracket to be replaced that holds the arms in position. Reinstall the bracket.
31. Move the 5 loose rockers into the correct position above their valves and reinstall the clamps on each rocker.
32. Put a new blind plug at the front of the rocker arm shaft. (Replace the two plugs on the exhaust rocker arm while you’re at it.)
33. Before you reinstall the cam gear, you should replace the two seals behind it. Pull the guide cover off. Discard the o-ring and replace it with a new one. Pound out your old shaft seal, clean up the guide cover, and use the old seal to press in the new one. Lube it up along with the new o-ring and replace. You’ll be thankful you did this when your new timing belt puts additional tension on your old cam gear seal and you’re taking all of the timing belt parts off again next weekend because your cylinder head is leaking oil after you put on your new timing belt. (Don’t ask me how I know this….)
34. Reinstall the cam gear. Tighten it but don’t torque to spec until you have the timing belt back on. Check that the timing lines (the one you painted, not TDC) still line up.
35. Follow the instructions in the Bentley Manual to install your new timing belt tensioner and timing belt. Torque the cam gear nut. Verify your marks line up for TDC. Rotate the engine clockwise 4 cycles to make sure they still line up.
36. Follow the instructions in the Bentley Manual to adjust your valves.
37. Put the oil pipe back on the top of the cylinder head.
38. Put a little RTV Black on the Rocker Arm Shaft bracket as well as along the tops of the four blind plugs. Put on a new valve cover seal, and reinstall your valve cover.
39. For the rest, as they say in the Bentley manual, installation is the reverse of removal…

All Done