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Flandy

540i touring. "The Improvening!"

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So I've owned this car for a couple of years, I bought it to replace my E39 530d touring as it's getting a bit tired and it's value is such that it's not worth spending money  on beyond maintenance. I fancied an older and more simple BMW of similar size with superior performance, but also a touring. E34 540i touring was what I went looking for, I was really after a manual, but only found one, and it was not in particularly great condition. I therefore figured converting an automatic with better bodywork would be a better option. I picked up this Ascot green example up with relatively high miles at 196k, but as i was replacing the transmission, diff, and propshaft, I figured it didn't really matter.

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The newly refurbished staggered throwing stars were a definite bonus! Those will most certainly be staying.

 

I spent most of the last 2 years collecting parts, mostly for the 6 speed conversion, but then for everything else. I certainly needn't have bothered about the mileage because there'll be bugger all original mechanicals when I'm done!

 

But first I needed to sort a few more pressing issues, like a sunroof leak. I don't believe in taking things apart and fixing just one thing, when you can sort out several things, so i figured if the headlining was coming out to sort what turned out to be a blocked rear drain, I might as well take the roof rails off and sort out the flaky paint on those, recover the headlining that was old and saggy, replace the gas struts on the rear glass hatch, replace the dried and shrunken sunroof perimeter seal, and for an added bonus while significant portions of the rear interior are apart, replace the usual wiring hack job towbar electrics with a genuine BMW kit I picked up brand new for a song, along with rebinding and tidying up all the electrical wiring.

 

First off, the roof rails

 

Until i took them off, I didn't realise they were fibre reinforced plastic! I had figured they were cast metal, as what was showing under the paint was a dull grey colour. Live and learn huh! Interesting construction technique, the structural portion of each rail is formed of an incredibly tightly folded piece of stainless steel, with four stainless studs that protrude through the car roof. The moulded plastic rails are then held to these with a multitude of short stainless set screws that thread into brass inserts in the plastic. 

 

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I didn't get pics of stripping the paint off the rails, or them bare plastic, suffice  to say it was a messy process and revealed that some of the inserts and surrounding plastic had been pulled out, but were thankfully not missing, so before I painted them, I refixed them, and reinforced all the others with some JB weld (JB weld will feature later, stay tuned!). I gave the rails a sand with some 240 grit until any scrape marks from the stripping were gone, gave them a coat of plastic primer, and then about 3 coats of plasticote satn black. 

 

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Came out pretty nice, and I only had to fish one little fly out of the finish, I'll call that a win! Once  they'd dried fully (I left them for a few days out in the sun) I was time to assemble them, and look into the spacers that go between the studs and the roof. 

 

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The rust staining around the studs is from the spacers. They allow the rails to be clamped down to the roof without squashing the rubber gasket that fits between the rails and the roof panel. The originals were badly corroded, and the rubber o-rings were pretty shot. New ones were expensive for what they are, and didn't seem from research to come with new o-rings. I decided to make new ones from a couple of stainless washers (M8 and M12) and a silicone rubber washer (16mm ID if memory serves). Thickness came out the same, it fits over the shoulder at the base of the studs nicely. To hold these little assemblies together in alignment, I used a layer of double sided tape. 

 

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That sorted, I used the double sided tape to hold the gaskets onto the base of the rails and moved onto preparing the roof in readiness. There was a little corrosion around the holes in the roof, so i bare metalled these little areas, treated them with kurust, and epoxy primed them . The epoxy is some stuff I've used on suspension components, and bonds really well to steal, is water proof, and in this application, where it's going to be covered, needs no top coating. I'd already fitted the perimeter seal on the sunroof (pain in the arse job to get the sticky glue remains off, sorry no pics of that job) so it was time to refit the rails.

 

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All in all, a very time consuming, but satisfactory job, that I'm glad is done. 

 

Next, a seemingly unrelated job!

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Great looking car - looking fwd to seeing the restoration progress.

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Welcome to the E34 tribe; a 540i with any transmission is always a very good drivers car and the torque of the big V8 does work very well with the E34 chassis.

 

Your roof rail restoration is one of the best I've seen and has got me thinking about retro-fitting roof rails to my smooth roof Touring as I don't want ever to have to mount any roof bars on the gutter trims.

 

Any interior pics at all? We're just like kids and we love any pics :D

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That's great but trust me, it won't last. People told me the exact same thing when I refurbished me a while back. I didn't believe them at the time, but I do now.

 

I even went to the effort of sanding down that fibreglass type material so it was a clean, fresh layer then primer and 2k top coat and it lasted 3 years before it went again.

 

Sorry to piss on your fireworks mate, but trust me, it just won't last. As others on here with the same experience and they will tell you the same thing. Sorry but that's just the way it is. 

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I expect keeping car in garage will greatly help the roof rails lasting longer, nice work from where i'm sat

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On 02/05/2020 at 10:19, E39mad said:

Great looking car - looking fwd to seeing the restoration progress.

 

Thanks! There's plenty more to come, a lot of upgrades, and probably more restoration than I initially intended, but hey, all old cars are icebergs, whatever you can see that needs fixing, count on there being three times as much!

On 02/05/2020 at 18:26, sharkfan said:

Welcome to the E34 tribe; a 540i with any transmission is always a very good drivers car and the torque of the big V8 does work very well with the E34 chassis.

 

Your roof rail restoration is one of the best I've seen and has got me thinking about retro-fitting roof rails to my smooth roof Touring as I don't want ever to have to mount any roof bars on the gutter trims.

 

Any interior pics at all? We're just like kids and we love any pics :D

 

The auto box is working very well, but does seem to have quite aggressive creep, not sure if that's normal for these but compared to my e39 it certainly has a lot more pull to it, and you need to be on the brakes heavier to stop it. Not that it matters, I have a solution.......

 

Thanks, the rails came out really good, and will see some use, we'll have to see how well the paint holds up. Some plastics are more friendly than others and these are a super stiff plastic or resin with a really high fibre content. I was really paranoid about snapping one while they were off the car. I did the best I could to get the paint to stick, so I'm pretty hopeful, I hope it lasts better than Boliebasher predicts! They'll get ceramic coated pretty soon, which should at least keep the weather and bird shit from getting to the paint, maybe that will help. Sadly Bumbaclut it'll be outside for the time being, I have plans to extend my garage though, at which point internal storage may become an option.

 

The interior, as purchased:

 

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Interior looks better in the pics, there's a bit more wear in person, but it's pretty good. 

 

 

Edited by Flandy

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That's a good interior to match the exterior - at least you have AC and without the sometimes troublesome push-button auto AC option. One thing you may have to tackle is replacing the ventilation system pollen filter but it's a little easier with an auto than a manual.

 

There's a wealth of E34 enthusiasts on the E34 section so don't be afraid to ask about even the silliest of the things.

 

I notice you haven't got an ASC (traction control switch) around the gear lever area - have you checked your VIN for the build spec to see whether it has a LSD?

 

It has rear PDC as well, that's a nice addition and a relatively rare option on these cars; I won't point you to the E34 options thread just yet as you might just go option-tastic and there a few...

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Funny you should mention the pollen filter, as that ties in with another little job I did the other week. Picture story to follow!

 

Silliest of things you say, ok, how about this. Having had all the roof out, to do a multitude of things, I've come to put things back, and whilst I pride myself in being able to take anything apart AND reassemble it, I cannot for the life of me remember where these damned mushroom looking things go. 

 

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Some kind of insert/bush/stopper things, but I can't remember what for. No part number to reference, and googling BMW E34 mushroom is very little help...

 

I had a look, and and LSD is not listed on the options, but neither is the parking sensors, and I get a definite "Dealer fit" vibe from the install on those! Regarding the diff, there may well be a heavy diff sized crate with an NOS something or other lurking at the back of my garage......

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3 hours ago, Bumbaclut said:

I expect keeping car in garage will greatly help the roof rails lasting longer, nice work from where i'm sat

 

Not for me. Mine has been garaged most of the time since then and it's still went again. Honestly if there is a solution I'm all ears but others on here at the time said there is nothing you can do to prevent those rails going and a few years down the line I wholeheartedly agree with them. 

 

I'm considering a roof rail delete in the future as other than custom made set from a different material I can't see a way round it.

 

Agreed cracking effort by the O.P, and I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news but I've yet to hear of remedy for the age old problem of E34 touring roof rails paint flaking.

 

My apologies to O.P. didn't mean to put a downer on his project and he could well get lucky and it may hold up longer you never know. 

 

 

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Next on the list of pain in the arse E34 foibles is the wipers. My wiper arms had both started to eat the bonnet, the drivers side seemed to be because it had not been shoved onto the splines all the way before the clamp bolt was tightened, but the passenger wiper was on there properly, it was the spindle bush that had worn allowing the spring in the arm to push up the base, grinding it into the back edge of the bonnet. The cause seems to be a design flaw whereby water off the windscreen can get to the top of the wiper spindle, eventually washing out the grease, allowing the spindle to wear. Unimpressed BMW, unimpressed. 

 

So what to do? I looked at getting a used wiper mechanism, but it would likely have the same issue to some extent, and having a 540 with the weird and funky AKS variable wiper pressure system, it limited the options further. So for the time being I took off the arms, filled the worn parts (the drivers side had a hole!) with JB weld, and sanded, smoothed and painted them. I wanted new caps for the clamping end, but those are way more than I'm willing to pay for some tiny little plastic trims, so they can wait. I had considered taking the mechanism out, reaming out the old bush, and making a new one to replace it, but I never got around to it, and then a NOS wiper mechanism showed up on ebay for £100! Score! Starting with a new one I can make sure it stays healthy and this crap doesn't happen again. 

 

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Removing the mechanism is a bit of a ball ache, as the header tank, bulkhead section, DME, and heater fan all have to come out. for access, and the AKS motor and main wiper motor must come off first, to allow the mechanism to shuffle out. The old one didn't look too bad until I took the passenger side spindle out, and you can see that the bush is well buggered, and the spindle plating had worn through, allowing it to rust, and just exacerbate the problem. I'll save it, to see if it can be repaired, and keep it for spare, seeing as new ones are NLA.

 

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The next issue seemed to be that the pin that the AKS pushes up the centre of the spindle to increase the pressure was missing. but after removing the mechanism and cleaning out the area, i found it in the scuttle. It also turned out the back of the AKS motor had broken, it looks like it was out of adjustment and kind of broken itself and maybe when it was removed to see what was up, the pin had dropped out. Anyway, the JB weld came out again, and I tested and re-greased the AKS, and repaired the back. The mechanism now works fine, but as it's speed sensitive, I'm not sure how you test it, but I suspect the relay was the issue, so I'll look into testing that is as it should be and hopefully it won't eat itself again.

 

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I bought new spindle nuts, washers and grommets, as the old ones were past their best. To be honest I was amazed the passenger nut undid at all, as it was pretty rusty, and the pot metal thread looked terrible, but some WD40 and patience paid off.

 

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Before it could all go back, I noticed that the pollen filter was completely missing, so I cleaned out the area from above while I could, and looked up the replacement method. The manual was useless for this, but I did find a good youtube video 

 

  

What I will say is that if that filter didn't split down the middle, this would be a steering column out job on a RHD car! Before I realised it did that, I said some unfavourable things about German engineers!

 

I cleaned up the scuttle area, and ground back and treated a few bits of surface rust, before repainting it, letting it harden off a few days before refitting all the mechanism. 

 

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I did notice that the commutator on the heater motor had a fair bit of wear, but as the motor works fine, is quiet, and I now know how to remove it, I figured I'd wait for it to die before replacing it. I settled for lubricating it as best I could for now.

 

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The rest of the job was just reassembly, making sure to get the wiper arms in the right place before turning them on (don't skip that stage!) and then adjusting the drivers arm so that the AKS grub screw is just contacting the top of the pin.  

 

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That set, I put on the end caps and hesitantly closed the bonnet. Result! no contact, though given this is now as it should be, it's still way closer to the bonnet than you'd think it should be. no wonder it causes issues when there's a little bit of wear.

 

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I still don't know if the AKS is working properly, but it is all there now, and intact, so it has a fighting chance at least. Apparently when the relay dies it can cause the motor to run constantly and drain the battery, so I might replace it just to be on the safe side. 

 

Another job done, this lockdown is ok if you have some jobs to do and the parts to do them. I'm going to look at the ugly towbar next.....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Flandy
grammar

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There looks to be more room for this job than on an M5! I fitted a normal wiper rack I picked up new as the AKS is for high speed action that we don't really do here. Some e34s are getting rusty around the bulkheads now but yours looks nice which is good 

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Yeah I've seen some pretty scary pics of bulkhead rot (not so much the magnitude of the rust, as the ball ache involved in fixing it) so it was with a little trepidation that I started digging in, but I seem to have been lucky, and I'll make sure it stays that way. Having been all over the car by now, I think the only real rust is in the sills. I know it's difficult to be sure until you start digging in, but it doesn't look too bad, and I'll be getting it sorted this summer. I'm going to look into changing how the jacking points work, as I think even with the sill covers in place, you can't really help  chewing up the paint on the bottom flange to some degree, and that's just asking for trouble. Originality is fine, but I think some dedicated pads that spread the load, like these E39 ones, might be in order.

 

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Those aren't without their own problems, as my own E39 can testify, but I think starting from scratch and getting the prep and install right would make for a more reliable and corrosion proof lift point.

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just use the chassis legs i'd say when jacking and the under the beam bushes on the rear when lifting it at home

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Well the problem is you need somewhere to lift, and somewhere to support, , and I don't want to screw up the paint or stone chip at either stage. I also don't want tyre shops and the like to be in any doubt where to lift, seeing as I have trust issues!

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On ‎06‎/‎05‎/‎2020 at 10:56, Flandy said:

Next on the list of pain in the arse E34 foibles is the wipers. My wiper arms had both started to eat the bonnet, the drivers side seemed to be because it had not been shoved onto the splines all the way before the clamp bolt was tightened, but the passenger wiper was on there properly, it was the spindle bush that had worn allowing the spring in the arm to push up the base, grinding it into the back edge of the bonnet. The cause seems to be a design flaw whereby water off the windscreen can get to the top of the wiper spindle, eventually washing out the grease, allowing the spindle to wear. Unimpressed BMW, unimpressed. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Its a RHD problem, my LHD has plenty of clearance

 

 

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That wouldn't surprise me in the slightest! RHD versions of lots of cars have various "foibles", crap brake cross linkages, compromised pedals, wrong way round wipers, offset steering wheels, the list goes on.

 

In the clearly random order I'm doing jobs on this car, the next least obvious thing bothering me was the ugly tow bar. It's not something I use a lot, but from time to time a trailer comes in handy, especially when you buy some heap on ebay without an MOT. The bar originally looked bloody ugly (both by design and by crust), and posted a clear and present danger to shins. My E39 has a very nice Westfalia detachable tow bar, and since this car will be taking over those duties, I figured I'd see if I can adapt that to the E34.

 

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So this is the tow bar as was, it's not great, and I have no use for the dual electrics. It had to go. 

 

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The electrics was a world of evil blue scotchloks, poorly routed wires, and barely treated holes. Not good (this is where an illustrative picture would be good, but I forgot to take one)

 

I was lucky enough to find a NOS BMW tow bar electrics kit, albeit for a saloon, but that wasn't a major problem. Looking at the loom, I'm guessing the wiring on a saloon goes along the back of the boot to get from side to side, where on the touring it goes across the front of the boot. It just meant the wiring needed extending, so I found the relevant coloured wiring from my pile of salvaged looms, and extended the part that connects to the drivers side tail light. I took this chance to re wrap as much of the wiring back there as I could, using Tessa fabric tape. It's kinda fuzzy and looks great, unlike the original cloth wrapping which was all sticky to the touch, and coming undone. I made a bracket for the relay/fuse module, and mounted it in what seemed like a sensible place.

 

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And the other side

 

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Found a few unused connectors, I'm sure they're for things not fitted to my car, but I'd be curious if anyone does know what they might be for:

 

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That last one is the same style plug, and the same wiring colours as the one on the parking sensor buzzer, that's right next to it, but there's no continuity between the two. 

 

Wiring in place, I took the old bar off, cut the original bracket off, and came up with a design, consisting of a large flat plate cut from 8 mm steel that is seam welded to the top of the main cross bar, with two strengthening gussets underneath. The socket for the detachable section then bolts to the main plate with some 10.9 bolts.

 

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Then I made up a bracket for the electrical socket, welded that on from behind, flung some paint at it, Cleaned up and spray waxed the back of the car, and bolted the lot up.

 

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The best part is that the detachable section fits perfectly in the compartment under the front section of the boot floor, including a place for the key! I couldn't find a pic of an original E34 Westfalia, but given how well this fits, it must be near identical to this.

 

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The wiring kit came with a removable panel for the bumper, and there'll be a pic of that and the newly enlarged bumper hole  to follow....

 

 

Edited by Flandy

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Nice work I can't tow, or don't have it on my license I've just took it all off my E34 wagon. Its a bmw retro fit kit from what I can tell from westfalia saved me a good 25kgs!  Also concur the wiper comment. My LHD e34s I've had don't seem to suffer from a bit of wiper linkage slack but the RHD cars are much worse. My old M5 was the worst 

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I figure all that weight out back is good for traction in winter! It isn't light, but this isn't a race car either, so I can live with it for now. I guess the hook portion can be left out if I go on a track day...

 

On the wipers, given the LHD wiper comes through a hole in the scuttle right next to the RHD one, and the arms as far as I can tell are a direct mirror image it can only be that they cheaped out on the bush in the mechanism, or that there is a seal of some kind missing that prevents the grease being washed out and the whole thing prematurely wearing out. 

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On 03/05/2020 at 11:00, Flandy said:

Funny you should mention the pollen filter, as that ties in with another little job I did the other week. Picture story to follow!

 

Silliest of things you say, ok, how about this. Having had all the roof out, to do a multitude of things, I've come to put things back, and whilst I pride myself in being able to take anything apart AND reassemble it, I cannot for the life of me remember where these damned mushroom looking things go. 

 

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Some kind of insert/bush/stopper things, but I can't remember what for. No part number to reference, and googling BMW E34 mushroom is very little help...

 

I had a look, and and LSD is not listed on the options, but neither is the parking sensors, and I get a definite "Dealer fit" vibe from the install on those! Regarding the diff, there may well be a heavy diff sized crate with an NOS something or other lurking at the back of my garage......

I don't know if you've found out what those are yet, but my guess is that they are the pins that are used to hold the interior grab handles to the head lining before you bolt them to the roof.  They seem to be totally superfluous to me, and you can't fit them if you put up the head liner first and then attach the handles.  There should be two on each handle, so 8 in all.

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aha, I had placed them with the grab handles when I took the headliner out, so that makes sense. I'm guessing there should be 8, so I either lost 2, or they were never there. Sounds like it doesn't really matter either way!

 

Cheers!

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Do you only have 6 too? If they are for the grab handle you'd think there'd be 8 or at least a multiple of 4. Oh well, superfluous now.

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Yes, only 6 the same as you. I have these left over in my box of bits but also can't remember where the came from although I did take the headlining out a couple or years ago so the grab handle explanation makes sense.  

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