Sunday, March 27, 2011

Catch Up!!!

It's been a couple of weeks since I last posted, but things have been happening and so it's time to do a little catching up on the news.

First a photo of the new ride is posted.  The 2011 E92 M3 is a bit dirty in this photo, but that is to be expected after having just returned a few hours ago from Virginia International Raceway (VIR).  This past Wednesday, I made a late decision to head south to Danville, VA to VIR and finally get some ON TRACK seat time in the car and compete in the NASA Time Trials.  The weather was forecast to be ugly, but what the heck.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  The drive down Friday afternoon was uneventful and quite nice.  I arrived at VIR around 4:30 and got the necessary registration, transponder rental, and car technical inspections out of the way.  From there I patiently awaited the arrival of a sales person (Ryan) from Bimmerworld, an on-line BMW after market parts distributer, who had a set of Performance Friction race brake pads for my car.  I was not really looking forward to hauling down the M3 from high speeds on the stock, original equipment manufacturer (OEM), pads!  Thus the call for track delivery of the more agressive race pads.  The appointed arrival of said delivery boy came and went.  It was well past beer-thirty, so it would be an early Saturday morning swap of the OEM to race brake pads.  I would have plenty of time as the first time trial warm up was not scheduled until 10:20 am.

Fast forward to Saturday morning.  I only had two beers with my enchiladas dinner and a ton of laughs with friends the night before (thanks....Jon, Neil, Barry, Kathyrn, Mary, Kyle, and Adam).  Replacing brake pads and driving at high speeds require a good nights sleep and no hang-over.  The good nights sleep helped the on track portion of the day as it turned out, but replacing the pads turned out to take a bit more concentration than originally contemplated. 

Our new friend Ryan finally arrived at 8:15 and I was happily handed a set of front and rear pads.  Off I hiked to our paddock space and the start of a nasty chore that I was not really looking forward to.  I had no sooner started jacking up the car and I said....I friggin' hate doing this!  It was cold and the car is worked on from the ground (a fine crushed stone...not pavement) versus a lift.  Thankfully, it was not raining.  Left side wheels off, caliper pins unbolted, retainer clips pulled, brake wear sensors removed, pads removed with some effort (I don't think the M3 engineers ever wanted them extracted!?), and finally new pads installed.  Then put it all back together in reverse.  Time taken to do one side - 45 minutes.  Approximately 20 minutes longer than it should have!

Let's repeat the same exercise now on the right side of the car.  Okay Einstein, lessons learned from the left side adventure are and should be applied to the right side.  Seems like a good idea and as it turns out things are running more smoothly...apparently.  I must add here that Jon and Robert have been assisting in an effort to make the work progress quickly as no one likes doing this.  THANKS gents!  The right side rears are done and Robert and I are finishing up the front.  "Finishing up"....that's an under statement!  After I try unsuccessfully to replace the caliper pins (essentially long bolts that connect the caliper to the brake assembly hugging the rotor) for 10 minutes, Robert makes a fateful attempt and after Robert, Jon steps in.  None of us are successful.  There is no shouting, but a fair amount of frustration and a few - "get out of the way...let me try again".  There are several more rounds taken by each of us.  At this point, I feel as though we are in a World Pro Wrestling cage match and I just got the tag to enter the ring with a 3,700 lb musled brute affectionally called Helga.  I am not exactly sure of the total elapsed time, but my guess is we have been working the "issue" for 30 minutes.  The issue is that the caliper pins will not align with their proper bolt holes and that is due to the caliper not "nesting" to the brake assembly caliper bracket.

At this point, Robert and I are the only idiots (sorry Robert....that idiot is singular - me) left trying to solve the puzzle problem.  Jon had smartly moved on to more important things such as working on his own car.  Scratching our collective heads - Why won't a square peg go in a round hole?  We are so close!?  Crap, the other side went back together with no effort!?  Like most problems, one simply needs to sit back, take a deep breath, have a shot of Patron, and a long drag off a Marlboro to properly assess the situtaiton (or recount whatever activity you just finished).  Certainly a solution will present itself if we just slow down and THINK.  Well, it does.  I start looking more closely at the brake pad configurations....specifically the brake pad "backer plates".  I look at Robert and most confidently and proudly say as if to have just solved world peace - "there appears to be a front pad and rear pad to the front rotor assembly".  The tabbed pad goes on the front of the rotor, but not the rear of the rotor.  A truly eureka moment.  Robert runs to the other side of the car and inspects the previously assembled front brake assembly.  Sure as sh*t, there are two types of pads for the front brakes.  What has to happen next?  You got that right, we need to take apart the left side brakes again to get to the one pad we need and replace with the one pad we have in hand and won't fit on the right side.  We complete that in about 10 minutes and are back to the right side where we wrap up the project in another 5 minutes.  A new record for brake pad replacement on an E92 M3 - 1.5 hours.  I kid you not, a project that should have taken no more than 20-30 minutes tops for all four wheels!

Glad we completed the brake swap though as the car ran great on the track which equals fast!  The weather also held off with not a drop of the wet stuff all day which added to the go fast fun.  I saw a 155 MPH on the back straight which is realistically more in the 148-150 range as BMW builds in some underspeed fluff.  On the front straight I see 140 MPH which is the fastest I have personally ever traveled that piece of earth.  The Performance Friction pads did their job perfectly and added confidence going in to the braking zones.  Through the twisty parts of the track, the car handled superbly.  What a brilliant piece of machinery and engineering.  The V-8 sings and is only really happy at 6,000 RPM's and above.  After each session I arrive back to my paddock space with a huge grin.

The One Lap is going to be fun!!!!!  Enough said.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The M3 is Up and Running!

It appears we have great news.  The M3 has been returned to her rightful owner and she appears to be holding steady with the limp mode issues resolved.  Emotionally, I have been pulled through a meat grinder.  There is nothing like purchasing a brand new sports car (why buy used as you're just purchasing someone else's problems) and right out of the box the car has issues that the manufacturer has never seen before.  What are the chances?  Has my luck totally forsaken me and headed screaming for the hills of West Virginia?  For those of you who know me, officially I have no hair left to pull out.

So what was the ultimate problem?  To be honest, I am not really sure BMW knows, but here's what they did.  They replaced three parts that center around the Idle Air Control Valve that feeds cylinder bank number one of an eight cylinder engine.  Obviously there are four cylinders to a "bank" and there are two banks, one each side in a "V" block configuration, but that is far as I can go with today's techno speak. 

It appears that every fault code was informing our well schooled BMW techs that the number one bank was being robbed of air (sorry about the pun).  There are basically three components that make an engine operate....fuel, spark/igniter, and air....from there you get violent yet controlled mini explosions that make everything down stream move forward.  For those of you old enough, thing about your last colonoscopy prep!  If one of the three is missing (if "missing" frankly you're screwed) or lacking in the appropriate quantity then an extremely refined on-board computer throws a fault code which then leads to, yep, you guessed it, LIMP MODE - REDUCED POWER - GO HOME WHIMP!

So after replacing these air control parts with no improvement, the geniuses on the other side of the Atlantic decided it must be a glitch in the software.  The next step in this highly thought-out process was to give the car a full on lobotomy and then, like Dr. Frankenstein, hook up the car to these crazy machines and re-install its brain (Abby Normal - not).  Hopefully, we are now glitch free.  With the car in my possession for the past week, all is well, so I am remaining very optimistic.

I am off this Saturday to a BMW autocross event, so we'll put the car through some mild paces and see how she performs.  After that it's a track day the middle of April at Summit Point for a good old fashion thrashing.

Stay tuned for more updates and thanks for your patience in listening to our now extinct tale of woe.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I've Got Those Limp Home Mode Blues!!

Say it ain't so Batman.  That's right boy wonder, your car is at the BMW dealer where it has been for almost two weeks while they work out lord knows what?!

It all started about 3-1/2 weeks ago when the new and I mean brand new 4,000 miles to date M3 went in to limp mode while backing out of the driveway.  While I like to engage in a spirited start to my day and the drive to work, it does not include throwing the car in to reverse and smoking the tires out of the drive.  So naturally it was a call to the dealer and an appointment with the BMW techs.

The car has been with the techs now for just under two weeks where they are in daily communications with the M Group wizards in Germany working through replacement parts.  Seems the issues are centered around the idle air control valve and the number one bank of cylinders.  They have replaced three components at this point and have the car once again under "testing" which involves nothing more than going out and cranking it up after a cold night.  After starting her up, they see what happens after a brief cruise around the block.  The daily ritual involves a repeated crank in the afternoon after the car has completely cooled off.  Day two progress report card came through with flying colors.  Day three always seems to bring the unhappy news it seems though, so I will light a candle to the Gods and stand on my head as that is a trick I have not yet attempted to cure those limp home mode blues.

I am confident that BMW will eventually fix whatever the issue's that or a new car in my book!  Anyway, when I last wrote, Woody and I were looking forward to our testing days at Virginia International Raceway with the M3.  That weekend has now come and gone as of a few days ago and obviously without the M3.  So, now we'll wait for  an autocross event on March 19th and then a track day at Summit Point in mid-April to get in some testing.  I am looking at this as the glass is half full and that BMW will be able to sort out the issues by those dates.

So in closing, I ask that everyone remain calm and light candles to the Gods in concert with me.  I've determined that if we all participate in a nod to the pantheon of petrol guzzlers, we're bound to wake up from this nightmare!