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Life As A Car Guy, Episode 5: The M3 Needs Some TLC, Starting With the Engine

When someone says the words “tuning,” what’s the first thing that pops into your head? High flow intakes? Free flow exhausts? Fat wheels and tires? Forced induction? Once thing that tends to be forgotten is basic maintenance.

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The beating heart of the M3

The importance of proper maintenance CANNOT be overstated. So before we even toy around with the M3, the first priority is to address our BMW’s basic maintenance jobs. This will cover a huge variety of activities, from the engine, suspension, brakes, and much more. The car will get a thorough once-over from front to back, and to help us out, we have Manolet Ramos and Alvin Caragay, the big bosses over at ARC Automotive.

Before we do anything to the car, the first thing is to take the car for a test drive.

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Manolet Ramos, owner and manager of ARC Automotive, takes the M3 out for a test drive

When asked about his feedback of the car, Mano says the car drives well enough, but the steering feels a bit off-center. There are also several issues to attend to, like the broken rearview mirror and power windows that clunk when actuated. But for now, we are going to work on the basic mechanical issues first.

The car is then handed over to Alvin, who is ARC Automotive’s head technical man. A quick inspection of the engine bay reveals a leak in the valve cover gasket. The car was then lifted up and inspected from below, revealing the likely cause of the steering issue. The 1995 M3 uses a solid front control arm bushing, with an offset hole. The drivers’ side bushing is in good shape, but it looks like sometime in the near past the other side was replaced. It looks like whoever repaired this car previously went about the job haphazardly, because a standard E36 bushing was installed, which has a center hole and is not a solid rubber item. This throws the front suspension geometry off and contributes to the car’s odd steering habits. Since I’ll will be replacing the bushings anyway, I’ve decided to go with polyurethane bushings, which will have to be ordered. Guess I’ll have to get back to the suspension issues later on.

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The correct CAB for the 1995 M3 is a solid rubber item with an offset hole.

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A standard E36 CAB was installed, throwing the suspension geometry out of whack

Despite not being able to immediately address the car’s underchassis, there’s still a lot to be done. To further ensure that the M3 doesn’t have any hidden surprises, Alvin plugs the car into a diagnostic computer, which is specific to BMWs. A quick scan reveals a few minor issues (including the faults related to our window motor problems), but for the most part our M3 is in good shape.

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Plugging the M3 into a BMW-specific diagnostic computer

One of the advantages that the US-spec M3 has over its more powerful European counterpart is that it shares a lot of components with the standard VANOS-equipped E36 M50s. One of those components is the valve cover gasket, so parts are always available and it’s relatively inexpensive part. The kit comes in two parts – one of the valve cover itself, and an inner seal for the spark plugs. It’s a straightforward job, and the boys at ARC Automotive make quick work of it.

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With the inner seals installed, the outer gasket is now put on

While ARC Automotive was giving the engine some attention anyway, an oil service was done. Alvin noted that “the oil was moderately dirty. It could have probably gone a bit longer before an oil change, but since we have no history or knowledge of what oil was used we found it best to replace the oil at this time with a known-good oil so we can at least start building our own ‘service history’ for the car.” So for the M3, we called up the good people of Liqui Moly Philippines and they sent us LM TopTec 4100 5-W40 oil. “Our products have been thoroughly developed in Germany to cater to the demanding needs of motorists all over the world,” explains Benjamin Ong of Liqui Moly Philippines. German engineered engine, meet German engineered lubricant. Makes sense.

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An oil change with Liqui Moly TopTec 4100 5W-40

Now the engine is feeling fresh, and the car is ready for more! Drive safe everyone!

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  • istonene

    lol ricer! check your grammar dude! trying hard? lmao!