Gauge cluster button fix

I’ve seen this happen in a couple of cars now and I’m not sure why. Perhaps someone who is unfamiliar with how they work gets in the car and tries to set the clock by spinning the knob, or a previous owner took the cluster apart and broke the tabs? Usually both knobs are affected though only one side is supposed to twist. Here’s how to take out the cluster and assess what’s wrong. As per usual disclaimer, the following is provided for information use only — no wagering. Disconnect the battery before working on any electrical system in your car.

It helps to have the steering wheel lowered and pulled forward as far as possible to get as much space as possible to work, or in this case, remove the steering wheel. The cluster is held in place with two T-20 Torx screws.

Cluster is held in by two T-20 screws

Remove them, and gently pull the cluster forward until you can reach the electrical connectors on the rear. The connectors have lock-levers. Gently depress the lock, and slide the lever forward to remove the connector. They are different sizes so you don’t have to remember which is which. Remove the cluster and set it on a cloth.

Press down on the white wedge and pull the black arm toward the top of the cluster to release

Gently pull off the two rubber outer buttons.

Gently pull away from the face to remove

Flip the cluster over and you will see a series of T-10 Torx screws (mine was missing a few of them). Remove the screws and gently lift the back off the cluster. The plastic button plungers should stay with the instrument cluster. Avoid touching any of the circuits or the circuit board and gently lift the board from the front housing.

My cluster just had four screws. One at the top, one in the middle and one on either end. I suspect the others were lost over the years.

Remove the screens which have the icons for the various warning lights along the bottom of the cluster. (More on these later.)

This shows where the plungers fit. The one on the right twists, the one on the left does not.

Now is a good time to clean the inside of the glass on the front half of the cluster. Use a clean micro-fiber cloth and a screw driver to reach all of the areas inside the cluster. Turn our attention to the reset mechanisms.

Circle shows broken spike.

They are delicate plastic plungers with a plastic spring on one end and a T section in the middle and should have a spike which activates a small button recessed in the instrument face. When you look at the instrument face, you can see how they work. The one on the left does not twist. The T is held in place so the only action is the plunger. The one on the right is used to reset the clock. It too has a plunger action, but also twists left or right about 45 degrees to move the time forward or back. It does not spin. If the plungers are in good nick, then chances are they just came out of their slots and careful reassembly should get you working again. More than likely, however, one or both plungers have lost their spikes. You can’t buy new ones, and if you buy a used cluster for parts, chances are they will also be missing their spikes as well. Fortunately, the internet has an answer. See this post on e46fanatics. We used it to fabricate new spikes.

Following the instructions, we wrapped a paperclip around a 1/8 in drill bit, then trimmed and bent it to match the photos. (I decided to paint the windings black to better hide them when reassembled.) Slide it on the plunger (tight fit), position, and glue in place. The one on the right side needs a larger surface area to activate the recessed button from various degrees of twist.

Circle shows where the spike activates the recessed button

Use some glue to secure the winding to the plunger and then paint. Before you reassemble the cluster, you may also want to use black electrical tape to block out any annoying lights from systems you may have disabled such as the low washer fluid light if you removed the reservoir, or the seat belt light because you’re using different buckle receptacles (in my case, those from an E30 M3.)

Before reattaching the screws on the back, check that the plunger has seated in the slot.

Assembly is the reverse of removal.

When complete, the winding is barely visible.

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.

M3 at the Jeff

T13 Jeff

After a long break, we finally got back to the track in September. The weekend of 11-13 September saw the National Capital Chapter of BMW CCA back on the extended Jefferson Circuit at Summit Point. The format was a bit different with all lead-follow instruction, but the instructor run group was still a blast.

I’m still getting used to the M3 and have to remember three key differences from the MINI:

  1. It’s wider.
  2. You have to actually steer OUT of corners as you get back on the power.
  3. When the back steps out, MORE GAS is not the answer.

I also need to get used the pedals to improve my heal-toe downshifts. If I can remember that I don’t have to square every corner, I think I’ll get to be pretty quick in this car. My best lap was already 3 seconds faster on the same tires.

Remember that bit about the car being wider? Here’s a small clip from my second track session in the car and I was finally getting up to speed.

There are a few lessons to be learned here. I’m driving an unfamiliar car that’s about a foot wider than what I’m used to driving. I finally got the apex right at the previous corner and as a result, arrive at the braking zone here about 2 MPH faster than usual. I come off the brakes too soon, and as a result don’t get far enough around T13 when I have to brake again. I run out of track at the entry to turn 14. I come off the brakes as I leave the track, but still have enough brake force on the front left that I spin around the front left when 3 wheels are off. I straighten the wheel and almost pull off the 360 before heading into Pit-In. So next time, be more aware when making a step increase in speed. Adjust the brake point so I apex T13 at the same speed. And keep the last 18 inches of apron as a buffer. Oh, and know how wide your car is.

That’s how we roll

If you’re trying to run a square set-up on your E46 M3 and want to use 275 mm wide tires, you are going to want to roll the rear fenders. The stock fender has a huge lip that’s about 10mm wide. Using this simple tool from Eastwood, you can safely roll the fender and gain back 5-7mm of that. The process is fairly straight-forward if you work one section at a time and keep the paint hot to avoid cracking.

Roll with it.

Safely place the car on jack stands and remove the wheel. Bolt the tool to the hub and adjust it so the rolling wheel sits flat against the inside lip. Use the red lever to increase the pressure and slowly work the wheel back and forth on the fender lip, 6-8 inches at a time. Reheat the paint each time you pause to increase the pressure. I split the lip in thirds and worked each area before increasing the pressure. It took about 20 minutes to get the amount of clearance I needed.

I’m running a 9.5 inch wide wheel with an offset of 35. The tires are 265/35R18 Pilot Super Sports and I’m using a 10mm H&R Trak+ spacer in the rear so I’m thinking I can also run 275s without the spacers.

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.