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roninsoldier83 GRM+ Memberand Reader
9/22/23 3:06 a.m.

So, a few months ago, I was at a bit of a crossroads with my DC2 Integra GS-R, seemingly not wanting to ruin it as a street car, as it was so much fun to drive that I found myself driving it every chance I got. Details here: 

During this time (and pretty much all times), I was scouting all the local car-addict hangout spots: Craigslist, FB marketplace, etc. As I was hesitant about tracking my fairly clean GS-R, in the back of my mind, I found myself thinking that I should find something fairly beat up and RWD, that I wouldn't care about if it got dinged up at the track. 

I ran across a 2008 E82 BMW 128i 6MT w/sport package for dirt cheap. We're talking 1/2 to 1/3rd of what clean ones are usually going for. I couldn't resist! I made the trek a couple of hours away and quickly figured out why the car was so cheap... she needed some love. A lot of it. 

We went on a test drive and the car was terrifying... I mean, it was legitimately difficult to keep driving it in a straight line. The car was all over the place and I had no idea why. Clearly, the current owner didn't know either. On top of that, the dashboard was lit up like a Christmas tree! We're talking a plethora of lights: 

-CEL for the DMTL pump (emissions related)
-Airbag and seat belt lights. 
-TPMS error 
-Lights telling my various light bulbs were out
-Errors for the moonroof
-The gas gauge didn't really work- it wouldn't read anything past ~1/4 tank. 

On top of that, the car was trashed. We're talking old food, wrappers and trash all over. The car hadn't been cleaned in lord knows how long. Surprisingly, the seats and carpet were void of any major damage, which suggested to me that prior to this guy, the car had been pretty well taken care of. 

While test driving it, there was also a massive stutter at certain RPM's and a whistle coming from the door seal(s) at certain speeds. 

This car was a mess. 

The body was actually pretty clean though. The owner was honest with me, telling me it had been in an accident (unreported) and he bought it from a guy that seemingly bought it from auction. He showed me the photos from the wreck and where the car had been repaired. The repairs seemed to have been pretty clean and seamless. Photo of the accident: 

^^^It looked like a previous owner likely slid the car into a wall. 

The owner had a shop with a lift, so before I committed to anything, we put it on the lift... the frame looked straight as an arrow, with no signs of ever being pulled. The car had no leaks (shocking!), except for a minor leak I later found at the oil filler cap gasket. No rust anywhere to be seen. Despite it being a POS, it was in better shape than it drove. 

I used a BMW scan tool to read the codes... there were SO MANY CODES!! Although almost none of them were for anything powertrain related, other than an issue communicating with the water/coolant pump, but the water temps (per the scan tool) were just fine. Despite all the codes, none of them were terribly concerning (most were pretty superficial). 

Before I had driven out there, the owner told me his "I can't go under this amount" price... based on the condition of the car, I completely ignored his price, shooting quite a bit below it... we settled in the middle, shook hands and I took this broken POS back home, 2 hours away. 

I have to say, that was likely the longest 2 hour drive of my life. It was white knuckled the entire time, with the car darting all over the road, intent on killing me if I stopped correcting it for a milisecond. I found myself thinking: this car is a real pile of garbage. The kind of pile that I won't mind dinging up at High Plains Raceway or Pueblo Motorsports Park. It's perfect. 

Little did I know at the time that my feelings were going to change. 

dyintorace GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
9/22/23 5:54 a.m.

We have a 2010 128i M-sport 6spd that I love. Excited to follow along!

Turbine GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
9/22/23 9:03 a.m.

I really want to drive one of these. I've heard from a couple of people now that with a bit of work, they drive like a more modern E36 M3. Looking forward to following along here!

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
9/22/23 9:27 a.m.

I'm always down for some 1-Series content.

Every day it seems like a 128i looks like a better and better idea.

myusdmcavalier New Reader
9/22/23 10:03 a.m.

I have to say a smaller bmw just makes more sence for everyday driving, or even a trackway. Its shorter then a 3 series so it can park easier in a city, and lighter for better handling. Cheaper too, cant get much better then that.

roninsoldier83 GRM+ Memberand Reader
9/22/23 10:42 a.m.

Since I live in an emissions controlled state, my first priority was to get her emissions ready. Noting the above listed accident, the charcoal canister and DMTL pump are on the right rear side. I had my suspicions that they were damaged in the accident, hence the CEL... I ordered a used charcoal canister off of eBay for dirt cheap. I then ordered a brand new Bosch DMTL pump, which was surprisingly affordable ($67). Throughout this entire process, FCP Euro would become the most visited site on my browser. 

I forgot to take pictures, but it was surprisingly easy to swap out the charcoal canister/DMTL pump. I then cleared the CEL and it has never returned since. I took a very low-speed spin down to my local emissions station and viola! She passed with ease and allowed me to pick up a set of plates for this sketchy little nugget: 

roninsoldier83 GRM+ Memberand Reader
9/22/23 10:49 a.m.

Since the car was all over the place, the next trip I made was down to the alignment shop. They threw the car on the rack and found the alignment was pretty all over the place. They dialed it in a bit, which helped slightly, but the car was still terrifying as all hell to drive at higher speeds. I noticed they couldn't get the right rear toe into spec: 

As it turns out, the rear of the car has a set of aftermarket adjustable toe arms, which is seemingly the only mod done to the car. I suspect that after the accident, one of the previous owners had a tough time getting rear toe into spec... but I don't know for sure why they're there. Because of how far off the alignment was, there's also a chance the car was just lowered and someone took the lowered suspension off before selling it without bothering the re-do the alignment. Either way, it gave me something to investigate. 

It should be noted that I should have played with the alignment myself before taking it to a shop. Those jokers didn't even touch the aftermarket toe arms which still had plenty of adjustability in them. I'll revisit that later. 

roninsoldier83 GRM+ Memberand Reader
9/22/23 10:53 a.m.

I gave the car a good and much needed cleaning. I then parked her inside the garage for a bit, while my poor DC2 got bumped out of her normal spot. It should be noted that this didn't last for long and my DC2 soon found her way back into the garage for fear of being stolen. 

roninsoldier83 GRM+ Memberand Reader
9/22/23 11:26 a.m.

I then got started trying to track down and resolve most of the errors in the DME. The vast majority of them were some type of CAN BUS errors. 

There was a seatbelt tensioner error as well. I don't know about you, but when I think of seatbelt tensioners, I think of the part that actually retracts. Apparently the Germans and I have different ideas about what things mean. I picked up a brand new (overly expensive) seat belt tensioner, which is actually the buckle that attaches to the seat. Apparently if you're in an accident, this plastic piece can stretch, causing a tensioner code. The result? My airbag light and seatbelt light went away! All related codes disappeared and never came back! 

I then set about trying to clear up the rest of these pesky codes... I replaced a handful of light bulbs- easy stuff, warnings went away after a quick reset. 

The moonroof just needed to go through a reset process, which took all of 1-2 minutes and the codes for it were immediately resolved. 

I then got to troubleshooting the CAN BUS codes. As dumb luck would have it, the majority of them were related to the TPMS system. I found the problem: 

The TPMS control module is located in the right rear compartment of the trunk. It was completely FLOODED! I'm talking 2-3 gallons of water was in there, completely submerging the module. I should have taken before pictures. I drilled a couple of holes to allow the water to drain. I dried everything off and ordered a used module off of eBay for $57... to my complete and utter astonishment, about 90% of the codes the DME was throwing were immediately resolved! 

I then figured I needed to get this gas gauge working if I was gonna drive this car. I also wanted to help sort out the hesitation in the motor. So, I ordered a new fuel pump and fuel filter module for FCP Euro- good lord the prices on these things are insane! Accessing the fuel tank is pretty easy with the seat removed, but this 2 turret design with connecting hoses was a pain in the neck to reconnect in the gas tank! After everything was swapped out, my gas gauge worked again! 

And while I was determined to get rid of the car's hesitation, I figured a set of brand new coil packs and spark plugs were in order. That silly engine cowl is a small annoyance for things like this, but overall, it was a pretty straight forward job that didn't take very long: 

The result? Between the fuel pump/filter and the spark plugs/coil packs, the car's hesitation/stutter was completely GONE! The motor was now running as smooth as butter! I found out quickly: I love this little N52 engine! 

While I was in there, I actually located the car's only oil leak: the oil filler housing cap. I replaced it with a Febi cap which only took a minute. My only oil leak was instantly resolved! 

With all of this accomplished, something crazy happened... the car's dash was now completely free of any lights! 

I'm pretty sure every time a BMW clears it's dash lights, a German scientist somewhere gets his wings. 

roninsoldier83 GRM+ Memberand Reader
9/22/23 11:51 a.m.

There was still 1 more code in the DME that I needed to resolve for my own peace of mind: an error with the water/coolant pump. While not as bad as the N54's, these cars are known to need replacement water pumps from time to time. I also figured while I was at it, I would replace the plastic endtank radiator with this all aluminum CSF piece: 

I also figured I would replace a few more things while I was in there, making it a pretty long list to make sure all was well for years to come: radiator, water pump, thermostat, a few of the radiator hoses, air filter, serpentine belt, belt pulleys and the cabin air filter. All told, it took me somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-6 hours to get everything swapped out. 

I want to take this opportunity to mention: I dislike these silly "quick disconnect" radiator hoses. When they mount up perfectly, they work just fine, but I fought the lower radiator hose several times before I finally got it to stop leaking and driving me crazy. 

I've replaced coolant systems on countless Japanese cars over the years. To me, German= over-engineered and more difficult to service. Nothing about this process has changed my mind. I will say, one positive of their over-doing things is that the car actually bleeds it's own cooling system! It takes about 20 minutes and is cool to open the coolant reservoir housing and watch it bleed the bubbles out on it's own! 

While I was taking everything out, I also took the opportunity to swap out the air filter and cabin air filter. 

After all this, I've managed to dwindle the codes in the DME down to only 1 code left! It’s for a silly fog/rain sensor (for automatic wipers) that I don’t know if I’ll even bother replacing (it’s like a $120 sensor new). The DME is otherwise now a very happy camper!

roninsoldier83 GRM+ Memberand Reader
9/22/23 12:08 p.m.

The engine was now completely serviced, pretty much all the codes were cleared. I now had confidence in the powertrain, but the car was still sketchy at hell to drive at normal speeds. I checked the control arms and sure enough one of the arms in the rear was completely shot. I also know these cars have silly fluid filled bushings that are known to leak... so I decided if I was going to do it, I was just going to replace them with M3/1M control arms. 

I had no idea before this car about OE vs OEM control arms. FCP Euro educated me once again. I didn't realize you could buy M3/1M OE control arms, which were exactly the same as the BMW parts, only with the logos filed off, for half the price! The fully aluminum M pieces were about the same price as the stamped steel pieces they replaced! 

While driving I noticed that I was getting a whirring noise from the right rear wheel. At first I thought it was a bad wheel bearing... but when I tried to shake the wheel, there was no play whatsoever. I wasn't sure if the previous owner replaced everything in the wheel well or reused some of the parts after the accident- so I figured I would replace everything. I picked up used OEM parts- knuckle and various links, that I combined with new M3/1M upper arms. When I pulled the knuckle, I found the culprit for my whirring noise: the right rear axle was FUBAR'd! So, I ordered a new one from Rock Auto. 

While I was in there, I figured I would just give the wheel a new bearing and hub, just to say I did. Good lord, I'm used to Honda's and Miata's and didn't realize the axle nut for these things took over 300 ft-lbs of torque to torque down! I had to buy a 3/4" monster torque wrench just to spec this thing: 

It was a bit of a tedious process, but I managed to get everything swapped over:


The result? The car was still twitchy and trying to kill me at freeway speeds... ​​​​​​my next thought was tie rods. I replaced them. No change... there was only 1 thing left that it could be in my mind...

AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter)
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/22/23 12:20 p.m.

in for more N52 goodness

roninsoldier83 GRM+ Memberand Reader
9/22/23 12:20 p.m.

With how twitchy the car was, it took me a while to be able to articulate the problem to a greater degree, to help me figure out what was going on. I discovered that the car would wander on the road, to the point where it was borderline terrifying to drive. The car was seemingly unresponsive immediately off of center and would make a noise as though something was loose if you shook the wheel back and forth quickly (at a stop). While shaking the wheel back and forth at a stop, there seemed to be a massive deadspot in the center of the wheel. Because of this, if I turned the wheel just a hair, the car wouldn't seemingly do anything, which required me to turn it further; to which, when it responded, it would turn far more sharply than I anticipated, making it very difficult to keep the car in it's lane, feeling extremely darty to say the least.

After hearing the noise when turning the steering wheel, I was convinced the problem had nothing to do with the rear of the car (you can only hear it if you're turning the wheel back and forth quickly while at a stop or very low speed). I got underneath the car with a mechanics stethoscope and had my son turn the wheel back and forth... the noise was loudest on the rack and pinion, right where it's connected to the steering shaft.

I tried tightening the bolt on the rack to see if that would help... all that did was cause a creaking/resistance when turning the wheel and decrease self-centering. I don't recommend anyone try to "solve" this problem with this method, but I tried it out just as an experiment.

I also found a previous thread on E90Post/1Addicts talking about the steering shaft bolt(s) coming loose, so I tried tightening them. The top bolt was ever so slightly loose, but the bottom bolt was tight. Either way, no change in driving behavior.

I then replaced the steering rack and pinion and while I was in there, I figured I would replace the steering shaft as well (good Lord, that steering shaft is expensive!), along with new hardware/bolts... the problem was IMMEDIATELY solved. Even with the car out of alignment, taking it for a quick test drive, it felt like an entirely different car and the wandering/dartiness was completely gone!

While I was in there, I removed the OEM accordian intake hose, replacing it with a silicone hose from Turner Motorsports and I cut out the OEM charcoal filter, using a dremel and sand paper to smooth the transition in the airbox. I figured I might pick up a couple of ponies! 

I took the car back to my garage and did a string alignment, rather than paying some grease monkey who was too lazy to touch the adjustable rear toe arms... I was able to get the rear right toe into spec with just a few turns of the toe arms... imagine that. It was a stark reminder as to why I typically never pay anyone to work on my cars and would rather just do it myself to ensure it's done right, or at least if it's not, the only person I have to blame is myself.

I took the car to a different shop just to verify my string alignment was all good and the toe is bang on! On an unrelated note: those 1M/M3 front control arms added almost a full degree of negative camber to the front of the car!

The car now drives great- straight as an arrow! All wandering/dartiness is completely gone and she is now a blast to drive! The rear subframe looks fine, as did the control arms/hub and appeared to have nothing to do with the issue.

I will likely replace the rear subframe anyway at some point, just because it was in an accident previously, just in case. I figure I'm going to drop it anyway to upgrade to stiffer rear subframe bushings, a 3.73 rear diff and LSD, so I might as well just pickup a used subframe from a car that hasn't been in a rear end accident while I'm at it. I'll likely pick up a used subframe and swap new upgraded bushings and the new (used) diff into it prior to dropping my stock subframe, just to break up the job a bit and help it go smoother.

roninsoldier83 GRM+ Memberand Reader
9/22/23 12:24 p.m.

I had read on the interwebs that these cars are known to high VANOS solenoids go out at higher mileage... mine seemed to be fine, but with 133k miles on the clock, I figured it couldn't hurt to avoid issues in the future. They're a little pricey for the OEM solenoids, but again, this is mostly for peace of mind. I also threw in a new OE timing chain tensioner for good measure. All of these things were easily accessible and done in just a few short minutes. Easy stuff. 

roninsoldier83 GRM+ Memberand Reader
9/22/23 12:33 p.m.

I now ran into a problem: I love this car! I thought I would think of at as disposable, so I wouldn't feel bad about building it into a NASA TT5 track car... but after fixing all the things, this is just about the perfect street car! It's just the right size. Easy to park, easy to drive, smooth as butter but still playful. I bought this car to save my DC2 GS-R from becoming a full blown track car... but after fixing everything, I found the little 128i is actually better to drive on the street. 

So, I changed my mind. My 128i will remain a street car and the DC2 will get the track treatment. She cleaned up pretty nice: 

I can't hardly believe this is the same car that I bought just a few short months ago. I picked up some used interior carpets (the ones that came with the car were trashed) and a Condor Speed tall shift knob to freshen the interior. This was only after the OEM shift knob popped off while I was driving and I couldnt' get it planted properly again.

One note about the tall Condor Speed knob: I didn't like the feel of it. It made the shifter even more rubbery than it already was and made for less precise shifting. I've since replaced it with an OEM ZHP "tall" knob, which was absolutely perfect! I'll snap a pic of it one of these days and share. 

AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter)
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/22/23 12:33 p.m.

so was it the rack, or the steering shaft, or a little of both?

roninsoldier83 GRM+ Memberand Reader
9/22/23 12:39 p.m.

Now that the car drives great and has no real issues, I figured it was time to mess it up a little bit, in the form of MORE POWER! I made a trip to my local junkyard and picked up a 3-stage DISA intake manifold from a BMW X5 3.0si. For the uninitiated, the 28i N52 cars and the 30i N52 cars have the EXACT same engine (at least in the States)- they're all 3.0L motors with the same compression, cams, etc. The only difference is the intake manifold. The 28i cars have a single stage intake manifold that doesn't flow as well and is rated at 230hp... the 30i powered cars have a 3-stage DISA manifold that bumps power up to 255hp. 

A ~25hp bump for the cost of a $100 junkyard manifold and a quick Bimmerlabs reflash? Count me in. 

While I was there, I also picked up an OEM oil cooler/warmer, because for $17, why not? 

I'll likely replace the DISA valves while the manifold is out. They're pricey, but only having to do this job once sounds good to me. 

roninsoldier83 GRM+ Memberand Reader
9/22/23 12:42 p.m.
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) said:

so was it the rack, or the steering shaft, or a little of both?

When I used the mechanics stethoscope, it sounded like the rack. It was loudest at the junction point where the actual gear is. I replaced the steering shaft mostly because I didn't want to do the job twice, just in case. 

The OEM rack is unbelievably expensive. So, I picked up a rebuilt rack from Rock Auto for a small fraction of the price and it's worked great ever since. 

roninsoldier83 GRM+ Memberand Reader
9/22/23 12:45 p.m.

I also removed the "blacked out" 128i badge that the previous owner thought was a good idea. It was peeling/chipping and gave the car a look I didn't particularly care for: 

Much cleaner in my eyes. 

docwyte PowerDork
9/22/23 1:02 p.m.

Didn't realize you're in Colorado.  I'm 10 minutes west of the Park Meadows Mall, where are you?

roninsoldier83 GRM+ Memberand Reader
9/22/23 1:13 p.m.

In reply to docwyte :

I'm on the east side of the Park Meadows mall, in Parker. 

dyintorace GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
9/22/23 1:38 p.m.

What a great resuscitation! If of interest, I have a set of these 17" M-Sport wheels that I need to sell.  

roninsoldier83 GRM+ Memberand Reader
9/22/23 1:58 p.m.

In reply to dyintorace :

I appreciate the offer! When it comes time to pick up some new wheels, I have my eyes on a set of Apex 17x9's... just in case I ever change my mind about tracking the car lol. 

dyintorace GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
9/22/23 2:04 p.m.

Here's how it looks with 18" Apex wheels.

dyintorace GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
9/22/23 2:07 p.m.

And 17" BBS.

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