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.
If your leather steering wheel is shiny or slightly sticky, you need a good cleaning. If it is also a bit faded, that can be refreshed as well. See this post for detailed instructions.
Visit Colourlock.com and buy a Leather Fresh kit for your vehicle. They color match most OEM leather. You’ll want to also get a scrub brush and a sanding pad. If your steering wheel is in really bad condition, also get some leather cleaning spirit. All in, you might spend about $100, but compared to a new steering wheel, that’s a bargain.
Start by masking off the trim. (If you’re black trim is also in bad shape, consider recovering it with 3M film.) You won’t make a huge mess, but you do want to cover the instrument cluster and your lap. Wear gloves. The chemicals are not harsh, but they will dry out hour skin.
Start by using the cleaner and the brush. You’ll want to clean the entire steering wheel a couple of times. Keep cleaning until you don’t get any discoloration on the towel you use to wipe it off. If the wheel is in really bad condition, use the leather cleaning spirit as well (in a well ventilated area.) Once dry, lightly sand the entire wheel, paying special attention not to sand the stitching or sand too much. You just want to rough up the surface and knock down any imperfections. If you wheel has been refinished before, take special care not to sand too much, especially if it is a heated wheel. When finished, clean again with the leather cleaning spirit. Let dry.
Leather Fresh is a leather dye that dries quickly to a matt finish. Work a small area at a time and dab it on with the sponge, don’t paint it on. Use a heat gun on low or a hair dryer on high to dry the dye. It can be handled as soon as it is dry, but wait 24 hours before applying any protectant. You’ll want to apply 2-3 light coats over the entire wheel and more where it was heavily faded. Give yourself about an hour for the entire project.
When I got this car, it had been under a car cover for about nine months. Included in the receipts was a recent bill for detailing. I couldn’t connect the dots, so to speak. How could this nose be so dirty when the car was recently detailed? Those spots weren’t dirt. That was mold. Ew.
Clear bra can be a great way to protect the paint of your car, especially along the the leading edge of the hood where it is subject to all kinds of debris. The key to remember, however, is that it is a disposable layer of protection. It’s supposed to be replaced periodically, usually every 3-5 years.
This clear bra was probably 10 years old. It was faded and cracked in places. It trapped water between the film and the paint and that’s where the mold developed. If the film isn’t too old, removal is just a matter of using heat to activate the adhesive, catching a leading edge, and peeling it off. No such luck in this case.
Every inch of this stuff had to be carefully scraped off by hand. Heat it too much and the film liquifies leaving the adhesive behind. Don’t get it hot enough and it won’t come off at all. In the end, what worked best was to heat a small area with a heat gun, then use a plastic scraper to scrape it off, much like paint removal on an old piece of furniture. I found an old credit card worked best. The plastic is harder than the film, but softer than the paint. Steam worked well on areas which weren’t petrified, like the mirror caps. There the film would come off in several inch long chunks, but on the hood it was all heat and scrape.
It took about six hours to complete. My reward when finished was a new roundel. I also polished the headlights while I was there.
You may notice what appears to be a dirt stain along the edge of you E46 M3 external mirror. This is actually rust beneath the glass surface. You can’t clean it, but fortunately, you can easily replace the mirror.
There were two styles of mirrors used. The early style had a clip that spun in place from behind. The older style ones just pressed on. Replacement is similar. First determine which style you have. Adjust your mirror up as far as it will go and slide a screw driver between the lower edge and the housing. If you have the spin-on catch, there will be a notch you’ll need to engage before you pry it off. There may also be adhesive you’ll need to separate. In this case, I have the newer style that just presses on.
Work your pry tool behind the mirror and gently pry it loose from the backing plate. Take your time and don’t use too much pressure. It will pop out once a couple of the catches are released.
Gently unplug the wires to the heating element. If you have the older style mirror, you will have to use lead extensions as BMW switched ends of the mirror where the wires attach in the update.
Plug in the wires on the new mirror and line them up to the holes in the backing plate.
Meet the new project car, a 2004 BMW E46 M3. This is a six-speed manual car with 123K miles. It has been a dedicated track car for the past few years and already has some track modifications including sun-roof delete, rear sub-frame reinforcement, and a TC Kline suspension. We’re going to clean it up, add lightness, and see if we can build a decent track car on a budget.
Step one is to baseline and figure out what exactly you have to work with. This car has a clean accident history according to Carfax, though there’s evidence of both bumper covers having been resprayed and the rear bumper cover is cracked from a recent impact.
The car sat too long under a car cover trapping moisture from the leaky carbon fiber sunroof delete panel. The interior is very musty and there’s an excessive amount of rust on the suspension components.
We’re going to clean and freshen this interior and see if we can’t sell it to pay for race seats and a roll hoop. The leather seats are worn, but not cracked. The window tint has started to separate making the view unclear. The rear seats are hardly worn at all.