I’d hoped to launch into Part II of last week’s “Giving The E39 Some Love,” but the parts I’ve ordered haven’t arrived yet, so it’s on to more trivial and embarrassing matters.
I’d wager that we’ve all made stupid mistakes moving cars around at slow speeds—you know, backing them out of the garage or up the driveway and into something you didn’t see. These events are in their own category of embarrassment precisely because the speed is so slow; the event is completely avoidable, unfolds in slow motion, and happens anyway. My big #1 was the time I put the ’82 Porsche 911SC into neutral on my sloping driveway and hit the clutch instead of the brake; it began to roll and didn’t slow down no matter how many times I hit the clutch instead of the brake, and the nose of the car submarined beneath the bumper of the Suburban, putting a big, ugly scar in the hood and instantly changing my sneer at anyone who’d committed “pedal error” into the strongest empathy.
Part of the appeal of my 2004 triple-unicorn X5 is that it doesn’t show its 270,000 miles. Inside and outside, the thing is remarkably clean. While I’m not one who details cars (hell, I barely even wash them), its pristine nature was part of the vibe that attracted me, a stark contrast to the scarred, patinaed vehicles I usually buy, then continue to, if not actively trash them out, at least resonate with their place on the tail end of the condition curve.
For the past several weeks, there’s been construction on my street; a gas line is being replaced. This has had them digging a large hole directly in front of my driveway. They’ve moved a barrier into position that requires me to immediately hook the back of the car to the right while backing out.
I park the X5 where you see it on the right side of the driveway, but to make it easier to hook the back of the car to the right while backing out (and to leave my wife room to open the passenger door), I’ve taken to leaving myself a few feet of room from the fence. But with this unseasonably warm, dry, salt-free weather we’ve been having, I’ve actually been using the ’73 3.0CSi every chance I can get, so I don’t want the X5 too far left lest I not leave enough room to back the E9 out of the garage easily.
So a few days ago, I hopped into the X5, began backing it up the driveway, and got nearly to the top when I saw that I was alarmingly close to the fence, perhaps two or three inches away. I stopped, looked in the right-hand mirror, saw that the back of the car had already cleared the top of the fence, judged that I was thus okay, continued backing up while hooking the back of the car to the right, and then heard the sickening sound of the splintering of plastic. I stopped and found that the right-side mirror had caught on one of the metal posts holding the fence.
I realized that I’d only looked for how far the side of the car was from the fence; I hadn’t checked the clearance from the mirror and the posts, both of which stick out further.
Fortunately, the mirror glass didn’t shatter, and the assembly’s bend-back mechanism did exactly what it was supposed to. Unfortunately, the black plastic section of the mirror housing broke into pieces.
I did what anyone would do. First I swore at myself: “You bloody freaking idiot!” Then I carefully picked up the pieces and got the super glue.
While adhesives do wonderful things, the pieces never seem to go back together seamlessly on multiple breaks like this. Misalignment at one seam causes a larger gap in another, and here it was likely to be exacerbated by the bending and twisting of the plastic that was still attached to the mirror assembly. “Gel” super glue is helpful in these instances; it’s messier, but it can fill in the gaps caused by misalignment, which was very much the case here.
So it’s back together, but it’s not pretty. It bugs me every time I look at it.
I checked on realoem and found that the “mirror trim ring” is a separately replaceable piece. For my sport-package car with the black “shadowline” trim, it appears to be part # 51167002319, about $55. That’s low enough that I may actually order it (and hopefully I didn’t accidentally super-glue the broken pieces to the rest of the mirror assembly). But there are so many more pressing needs on so many other cars.
Fortunately, the utility company appears to have finished the gas-pipe replacement; the hole is filled in and the barriers are gone. So I can now back straight out again. But the damage is done.
As they say, the first cut is the deepest. I’ll try not to use this as an excuse to trash out the X5. I’d hate to have the rest of the car looking like the broken mirror piece in three months.—Rob Siegel
Rob’s new book, Resurrecting Bertha: Buying Back Our Wedding Car After 26 Years In Storage, is available on Amazon here. His other books, including his recent Just Needs a Recharge: The Hack MechanicTM Guide to Vintage Air Conditioning, are available here on Amazon. Or you can order personally-inscribed copies of all of his books through Rob’s website: www.robsiegel.com.