For some reason, the supposed-to-be-quick 30-minute repairs seem to result in hours of blood, sweat, and tears for me. A bolt breaks, a nut won’t come loose, or access is terrible. It makes me question my own sanity. I’ve grown to accept it. It’s part of my process now.

However, in the last month I’ve been fortunate enough to knock out two relatively simple repairs without issue. As if that wasn’t “winning” enough, these repairs fixed other seemingly unrelated issues, further feeding my inner satisfaction junky.

The first series of fortunate events came after reading Rob Siegel’s two-part piece about replacing ignition coils on his E39. While replacing the head gasket on my 1998 M3 sedan (E36) earlier this year, I noticed there were three different types of ignition coils. They were all spec’d for the M3’s S52 engine, but different nonetheless. They appeared to be operational, so no need to poke the proverbial bear and start replacing things unnecessarily. In the past, that has resulted in sadness.

In addition to Siegel’s story, a Black Friday sale on Dinan S52 ignition coils prompted me to take the plunge and perform a “reset” with six matching coils, replacing the last of the ignition parts since reinstalling the S52’s head. Installation was a breeze. The beauty cover came off easily and only two small bolts held each ignition coil in place. The old ones came out, the new ones went in. Less than twenty minutes later, the M3’s 3.2-liter inline-six fired up nicely and I was putting tools away.

Brand new Dinan ignition coils installed without issue.

Taking a closer look at the old ignition coils, about half the boots were cracked and some showed cracks in the heads as well. Startup and idle were a bit smoother with the new coils installed, too. And after properly warming up this M3, there was no longer a cloud of black smoke coming out of the exhaust during second and third-gear pulls. In retrospect, the black smoke and “running rich” behavior should have clued me into the fact that combustion wasn’t optimal, and given the fact that I had already replaced the spark plugs and some other items, the ignition coils were a likely culprit. While I do like Dinan parts, it was clear the old coils were past it. A number of good-quality replacement options would’ve also cleared up these issues. But, these came in red, so…

The next item on my list was to address recently erratic coolant temps in my 1991 318is. It was running a bit cooler than normal. Because the entire cooling system (save for the fan clutch) was replaced about eight years ago, I was fairly sure that it wasn’t a stuck open thermostatbeen there, done that, have the coolant-soaked t-shirt.

A new fan clutch AND tools to install it!

After performing the “newspaper test” by trying to stop the fan with a rolled up newspaper, I was convinced the fan clutch was the issue. I headed over to FCP Euro, clicked, and bought. A few days later a new Behr fan clutch arrived at my door. I also sprung for a proper set of tools to make the job easier. And, similar to the ignition coils on my M3, the job was easy and without a hiccup! In less than twenty minutes, I had the fan shroud off, the old fan clutch removed, the blades installed on the new fan clutch, the new fan clutch installed on the water pump, and the fan shroud reinstalled.

I started the E30’s 1.8-liter inline-four M42 engine and right off the bat noticed the garage was much quieter as the fan wasn’t constantly engaged. I also noticed the idle was a bit smoother where it had occasionally exhibited the wandering signs of a small vacuum leak in the past. After a proper warm up and test drive, it also felt a bit more peppy. Those couldn’t all be a result of a fan clutch replacement, could they? After a bit of post-op internet research, it turns out those symptoms could be attributed to a failed fan clutch (or broken fan blade in some cases). The more you know (*shooting star*).

I’ll admit, after these two quick and successful garage sessions, I’ve learned a few new things and I’m feeling pretty fortunate about the results. The car Gods have smiled upon me. Based on how these small jobs always seem to snowball out of proportion, it might be time to buy a lottery ticket.Mike Bevels



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