One of the worst things that can happen to your car

The worst would be wrecking it, of course. But having dealt with a particularly trying malady over the past fourteen months, I would like to suggest that a wet interior ranks pretty high on the ‘stuff you never want to happen to your car’ list.

The autumn after buying my SEAT Leon, I noticed the passenger footwell was very wet. The problem was traced to perished seals, both on the pollen filter housing, and the doors. I made quick work of repairing the seals, but drying out the car is something I’ve been working at now off and on for nearly fourteen months, and has required disassembling significant portions of the interior.


Continue reading “One of the worst things that can happen to your car”


Flex disc woes

On most rear-wheel drive vehicles, a flex disc, sometimes called a giubo (which, you may be interested to know, is properly pronounced JOO-boh), is fitted where the gearbox and propshaft flanges meet. Flex discs are designed to help smooth out the transfer of torque between the gearbox and the rear wheels. You can see it in place on my E39 below, with the gearbox crossmember removed, which you need out of the way in order to access the flex disc.


The photo below shows the old flex disc from my car on the left, and the new one on the right. Now, if you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you will know that I replaced this last March. So why am I doing it again now, and more importantly, why is the old one so distressed already? Continue reading “Flex disc woes”

An interpretive guide to the eBay ad

So, you are in the market for a car, and like any reasonable person, the first place you turn is eBay. It is, after all, one of the most popular services for automotive classifieds, and with the auction feature, you might even land yourself quite a bargain.

Renault Laguna estate

After typing the make and model of your desired car into the search bar (which is hopefully not a Renault Laguna Estate), you open the first of the search results and are confronted with a bunch of unfamiliar and slightly suspicious sounding phrases. What do they mean? If you read these phrases and thoughts like ‘This is too good to be true’ begin rolling through your head, you should probably trust that instinct. Because the fact is that they are often used to cover up a less-than-ideal vehicle. Continue reading “An interpretive guide to the eBay ad”


Talking about BMWs on the Both Hand Drive podcast

squarelogo_small-e1495969861356Ian Wright, the man behind the Both Hand Drive podcast, very kindly invited me to join him the other day for a casual chat about all kinds of things, mostly to do with BMWs. He’s a great host, and I had a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I was only using the built-in microphone on my MacBook, so the sound from my end isn’t great, but if you want to have a listen, you can find the podcast on iTunes (and presumably on Google Play, although I can’t seem to find a link for it), or on ShoutEngine. And be sure to subscribe!


One clear example of why low mileage cars are not a good idea

‘Low mileage!’ A phrase that often adorns used car advertisements with inflated prices. Cars with low mileage are regularly lauded as if this was the single feature that guarantees you a higher quality, more reliable vehicle. The truth may very well be the opposite, however.

The simple fact is that cars are meant to be driven. When they are not, things wear out prematurely. All those moving parts on your car are meant to be moving, and when they don’t, they are more prone to fail. Grease dries up, oil stops flowing properly, and rubber cracks. Continue reading “One clear example of why low mileage cars are not a good idea”


Improving performance by cleaning and re-crimping electrical connections

A few weeks ago, I replaced the seals on the VANOS unit on my E39. Replacing the seals is supposed to restore low-end power and response, increase fuel economy, and help the car idle better. I can’t say I have noticed any dramatic improvement in how the car runs since doing the job. Granted, my seals were only partially worn, but in the 500 miles I’ve driven in the past few weeks, the only noticeable change has been a slightly smoother idle when cold. Continue reading “Improving performance by cleaning and re-crimping electrical connections”


I nearly wrote my car off today

Because I spent the first 24 years of my life near Toronto, Canada, I have seen my fair share of winter driving, occasionally in some pretty extreme conditions. So it was to my surprise today to find myself in the middle of the most terrifying winter driving experience I’ve ever had, in the North of England, with only a couple of inches of snow on the ground.

Wandering into the North Yorkshire Moors for a lazy morning of recreational motoring, I found myself on a rather narrow, snow-covered road. The road had a few hills, but was relatively flat, and I was having no trouble with traction in the E39. Following the map, I could see that I was about to rejoin a proper two-lane B-road, so decided to press on. What I wasn’t expecting was for the last half mile of the road to feature a 15-20% downhill grade. Or that it would be covered in a sheet of ice.

Continue reading “I nearly wrote my car off today”


Modification done right

Stuffing modern technology into older cars has been a practice of enthusiasts for almost as long as cars have been around. As ubiquitous as the practice is, however, it remains a subject of fierce debate: Should a car be kept original? How much modification is too much? Continue reading “Modification done right”


Why learning to maintain your car makes sense

Here I am pouring oil into the engine of my BMW.

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I do this a lot. Well, not oil changes specifically, but maintenance on my cars. If you’re like me and prefer to buy inexpensive cars, learning to do your own maintenance and repairs is key. If you rely on your local garage to do everything, you soon find yourself spending quantities of money that come perilously close to what you paid for the car in the first place. As I’ve written over on Not2Grand: Continue reading “Why learning to maintain your car makes sense”


Repairing the VANOS seals on BMW’s M52TU/M54/M56 engines

Since 1992, BMW has used a variable valve timing unit, called VANOS (an abbreviation for the German, variable Nockenwellensteuerung), which advances or retards the timing based on readings from the ECU in order to optimise performance. Initially, a single VANOS setup adjusted only the intake timing, but BMW introduced a double VANOS setup in 1996 to adjust both intake and exhaust timing. The unit sits at the front of the cylinder head, and the readings from the ECU send a signal to the VANOS solenoid, which then adjusts oil pressure to operate two pistons inside the unit. The pistons in turn adjust the timing by advancing or retarding the camshafts. Continue reading “Repairing the VANOS seals on BMW’s M52TU/M54/M56 engines”