Breathing new life into my M3 this spring.
Spring is always an exciting time for car enthusiasts, when we all look forward to getting our rides out of winter hibernation and back out on the road. Last year, after extensive searching, I was able to find one of my favourite childhood poster cars – the revered BMW E46 M3. This generation of M3 is known for being nimble and plenty quick, with a potent naturally-aspirated inline-6 that revs to 8,000 rpm. The subtle yet aggressive BMW M styling of this vehicle, with lines that age gracefully had me hooked. After a lengthy search, I found a low-kilometre example in my favourite colour: Titanium Silver on Black Nappa Leather, with a 6-speed manual and in June of 2015, it found its new home in my garage.
Given that the last two cars that I’ve owned have been non-M BMW’s, I was able to drive them year-round. The M3 is lowered on Bilstein coilovers, and being in as good shape as it is, I knew I wouldn’t be driving it during the winter.
I stored the car properly in the winter by following these 5 simple tips and tricks, and had no issues when it was ready to come out of storage last week.
1. If you’re not able to use your own garage, spend the extra money on a climate-controlled, warm storage unit. Barns or outdoor storage can lead to issues with animals getting in the vehicle and chewing on wires, making nests, etc. I’ve seen some horror stories!
2. Invest in a battery tender. Especially with a vehicle as complex as an M3, you want to make sure you have a steady trickle of power ensuring your battery doesn’t deplete itself, resulting in a no-start in the spring, or worse yet, replacement. BMW sells a great unit for $170 that you simply plug into a wall outlet and hook up to your battery. I did this for the winter and it started up with zero issues – and this is a 14+ year old car.
3. Clean your vehicle properly before it goes away. Dust, dirt, oils from the road, etc. should all be washed off before it sits all winter in order to keep your paint in as good condition as possible. Getting a cover is advised as well. Even in the garage dust will accumulate on every possible surface.
4. Fuel stabilizer – add it if you wish, but not necessary. What is important is filling up your gas tank completely to the top when it goes away for storage. This prevents condensation from forming in an empty tank, which leads to rough-running, misfires, or other problems in the spring.
5. Park your wheels on 4 pieces of Styrofoam or other such soft material. This prevents moisture from affecting the rubber, but more importantly prevents the tires from getting flat spots from sitting so long. If you don’t have any Styrofoam laying around, your best bet is to slightly over-inflate the tires. You can expect they will lose some pressure over the winter season, and if they get too soft, flat spots are more likely to occur.
Now, I didn’t actually follow step #5 myself because of a major issue that needed to be addressed on the M3 in the spring – tires. The ones that came on it were worn down and hardened with near-minimum tread left. They were safe enough to get through the summer, but I knew in order to make the car perform how it was designed to perform, that I’d need to do this before the start of the next season.
The tires that came on the car were a Hankook set, and as you can see from the photos, they were in pretty rough shape. Not a bad tire when new, but these ones were getting weathered and their old age was showing. The M3 is running a staggered wheel setup (LB Forged 3-piece rims) 19” wheels with 9” wide in the front and an incredible 11” in the rear. The tires rode harshly on bumps, wouldn’t hook well when turning, skated under moderate to hard acceleration in dry weather – and were positively scary in the rain. Due to the width and the flat stretched surface of the tire, I was worried about running these tires in the rain and hydroplaning at higher speeds. Most days with heavy weather, the M3 would avoid the roads, even in the summertime. Another issue that persisted was a slight front-end vibration (noticed as ‘shake’ in the steering wheel) from 100 – 110 km/h, which would then go away. Because the car was aligned properly, this was likely due to wheel balance issues, bent rims, or flat-spotting in the old tires. And so the decision was inevitable – it was time to put on new shoes.
I turned to our partners at Pirelli, who were very helpful when it came to selecting a new set of rubber for the M3. Given the nature of the car, we decided to go with the absolute best of the street performance line – the Pirelli P Zeros. I wanted to keep the same sizing from the current staggered setup. Front: 245/35ZR19 93Y; rear: 275/30ZR19 96Y.
The Pirelli P Zero has been king of its segment for a few years, and is specifically developed for the most performance-oriented vehicles on the road. With an asymmetric tread pattern, it is ideal for high performance applications as well as daily driving. The P Zero has a special silica and carbon black tread compound that allows confident and spirited driving even during the first few kilometres in the morning when the tires are still cold. The asymmetric tread pattern blends ultra-responsive handling, hydroplaning resistance, with top notch wet and dry performance and low road noise. I was excited when the set arrived a few days later and couldn’t wait to get them on the car.
The team at Pfaff Tuning did a fantastic job fitting the P Zeros on the car. The tires fit perfectly, and they carefully re-balanced the wheels which, after a quick run on the highway, completely eliminated any of the previous front-end vibration. What a difference! Here are a few photos of the M3 with its new shoes on at the BMW TrueNorth season opener, hosted at Pfaff BMW.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog, which will include a road test and first impression of the difference between the old tires and the P Zeros.