Relocating the washer container

If you installed brake ducts in your E46 M3 track car, chances are you also removed the windshield washer reservoir (aka, “windshield cleaning container” part number 61 67 7 895 571). The container wraps around the AC dryer and sits in the path of the Hardmotorsport bumper duct inlet. If you no longer drive your car on the street, this probably makes sense. After all, a track build is all about adding lightness and removing complexity. If you still drive it on the street, it can also be about bugs. Lots of bugs. Bugs smeared on your windshield. Since I still drive this car on the street, I decided I wanted to find a way to retrofit a smaller container in the smuggler’s hold.

The compartment already has mounting points you can attach to. All you need to do is fabricate a bracket and get a small container. I got this 2 quart one from US Plastic.

You can also see the electric fan controller we installed in the same area.

Once you locate the container, then all you need is power, ground, and the hose to the spray nozzles. (I just hooked up the windshield nozzles, not the headlight washers.) Ground is easy as there are multiple grounding points close-by. For power, I ran a wire along the existing wiring harness and picked up the positive connection in the wiring loom that I disconnected from the factory container. To get to the hose, I just had to measure the run I needed, then unwrap it from the wiring harness and cut to length. All in, it’s a very clean install.

3D Printed Bracket

When I gutted the interior of the M3 I had to find a new home for the combo door lock – emergency flasher switch. I originally used some Gorilla tape and stuck it to the shifter console, but it didn’t hold up to the 90+ degree days of summer. So I decided to fabricate a bracket with my 3D printer.

I found a CAD file to hold a BMW OBD II port and resized it. It turns out this switch is 93% as wide and 150% as long as the standard OBD II port.

I attached a couple of riv-nuts to the console and bolted it up. I may need to reprint it in ABS plastic, but lets see how it holds up.

Moving Cruise Control to the Stalk

This is one of those mods that only makes sense once you’ve driven a stripped-out track car a great distance on the highway. You NEED cruise control. In your track car. Stay with me here.

This was going to be the year I finally got a trailer. But the opportunity to buy this M3 came along, so all of my money for the trailer went into this car. For now, it’s still street legal and I have to be able to drive it to the track and back. So to keep out of jail, I need cruise control. The problem is that the buttons for that were on the sport steering wheel which I replaced with Sparco wheel and quick release. I was able to salvage and adapt the clock spring so I still have a working horn button. That also means the wiring that controls the cruise control is still there.

The beauty of the design of BMWs of this era is that many parts are interchangeable. In this case, I’m going to grab a cruise control stalk off of an E85/E86 Z4. It plugs right into the clock spring housing and all you have to do is jump some wires and modify the housing.

Disconnect your battery and wait 15 minutes for the ABG module to power down (if you still have airbags.) Remove the steering wheel and the steering column housing. Remove the lower housing by pressing the center of the two pins and pry the lower half away from the top half of the column cover. Remove the screw from the top of the housing but you don’t have to remove it from the column, just slide it up to get access to the clock spring set screws.

You’ll need a suitable CC stalk (part number 61316940989) and plug 61138380696. My plug came with four wires already installed. You will need to connect three of the wires. At the bottom of the clock spring, remove the ten pin connector and look at the end of it. The pins are numbered on each row of the connector. Then look at the side of the four pin plug referenced above for the pin numbers . Connect the wire from pin 10 to pin 4 (power); pin 8 to pin 2 (cruise control); and pin 7 to pin 1 (ground).

Plug the stalk into the housing and then plug the 10 pin connector back into the clock spring. Plug the four pin connector you just wired to the stalk and reattach the clock spring housing to the steering column. Replace your steering wheel and airbag if you have one. Reconnect the battery and you’re ready to test the system.

  • Pressing the steering column lever upwards (on): Cruise-control system on
  • Pressing the steering column lever upwards or downwards (off): Cruise-control system off.
  • Pressing the steering column button at the side (I/O): Activates resumption of cruise-control system. The vehicle accelerates or decelerates exclusively from non-controlled operation to the driving speed last set and maintains this speed.
  • Pressing the steering column lever briefly backwards (+): Sets the road speed. If the cruise-control function is activated, the current vehicle speed is kept constant.
  • Pressing and holding the steering column lever backwards (+): Increases the road speed. The vehicle accelerates for the period the switch is actuated up to its maximum speed.
  • Pressing the steering column lever briefly forwards or holding pressed (-): Brakes the road speed. The cruise-control system is deactivated for the period the switch is actuated. However, it is not possible for the driving speed to drop below the minimum set speed.

If it all works as planned, then you just need to modify the lower column housing to fit around the new stalk. The lower cover is part of the crash protections for your knees. Inside the cover is a metal plate and some expanded polystyrene foam. After you measure and cut the outside to make room for the stalk, you’ll also need to remove a little on the bottom of the cover to make room for the mechanicals of the stalk. Measure twice and cut once.

New Exhaust Header and Wrap for R53 MINI

Toward the end of my last track session for 2018 I noticed a significant change in exhaust tone. I thought the larger second position OEM cat had finally failed, but it turns out it was the first smaller cat ahead of it. If you see a break like this, you should also check your motor mounts. Chances are one or more of your mounts is broken or weak, causing excessive movement of the engine. This additional rocking of the engine finds the weakest point in the exhaust and causes either the flex joint or this joint to fail.

This turns out to also be the most common cause of emissions test failures for this car. The joint fails causing a leak and then the second O2 sensor throws a code. If you’re looking at a used car to buy, check out the area circled in red below:

It can be repaired, but if you’re going to go to the trouble to pull off the manifold to weld it, you might want to consider buying a new one so you don’t have to repair it again in a couple of years when something else breaks. The stock part number is 18407566102 and it costs about $1100 to replace with OEM parts. Alternatively, you could go with an aftermarket OE style manifold which costs about half.

A third possibility is to go with a performance header and supply your own cat if you want to keep it road legal. That’s the route we’re trying. We got a Megan Racing Header along with a MagnaFlow 49-state catalytic converter and had it fabricated to match the cat-delete pipe.


MINI placed the electric power steering pump and steering rack very close to the header. If the pump ever over-heats it turns itself off. If this happens on the track (which it has to me) it can be very unsettling as the steering instantly becomes VERY heavy. So before installing the header, I decided to wrap it with DEI header wrap. This video shows how to do it.

Learning vinyl wrap

One thing I really don’t like on the E90 3 Series cars is the “soft touch” plastic coating used on the interior plastic bits. It should have been called “don’t touch” for how easily it is damaged.

I wanted to fix the steering wheel trim which looked like this:

So I ordered some 3M vinyl wrap and went to the junk yard to get something for practice. I found a good candidate from a 2006 325i.

It was in much worse shape than ours. Perfect. I took off the thumb switches and ran it under hot water to remove the rest of the coating. After much rubbing, it looked like this:

Once dry, I placed it on a piece of vinyl and started to stretch and shape it before wrapping the edges and heating it with the heat gun.

The vinyl film is fairly forgiving and as long as you don’t catch a sharp corner, you can really stretch and manipulate it for a good fit. This type of film is applied dry and the adhesive isn’t activated until pressure is applied.

I was really happy with the results so I went ahead and pulled the piece on our car. Start by carefully removing the airbag. I used a Torx 20 screw driver to release the springs on both sides. And set the airbag out of the way. (Don’t unplug it unless you’ve disconnected the battery for at least 15 minutes.)

The panel can now be removed by first removing the three T-20 screws from the back of the steering wheel, and then the two T-20 screws holding the thumb switches in place.

If you have the sport steering wheel, you also need to remove the silver trim by removing four more T-20 screws and carefully undoing the catches. I then used the water method to remove the coating.

Vinyl was applied the same way, only this one was much quicker having done it before. Then the trim was reattached. Installation is the reverse of removal.

It looks great and there’s no more peeling paint by the thumb switches. (And yes, it was raining when I took the picture so the spots you see are rain drops….)

The vinyl wrap was $16 on Amazon for a 1×5 foot roll. The test trim piece was $4 at Crazy Rays. I had wrap left over so i covered an old trim piece that goes around the shift selector too.

So what did I learn? If the soft touch paint is peeling, it will probabably wash off—you don’t need to sand or use solvents to get it off. If you plan ahead and keep things clean, vinyl is pretty easy to work with. I can see how an extra set of hands would help with larger pieces. Heat can be your friend, but don’t over stretch.