So LonelyAt this past weekend’s Cars & Coffee of the Upstate, I was that guy. You know, the guy whose car broke down in the parking lot. The guy who drove in but was trailered off.  Yeah, that guy.

I was debating back and forth on whether or not to take the M Coupe, as I had done during the last event.  I wanted to spend a little time after the show, just to drive around the Greenville area and check out some of the companies I was looking at working for.  That swayed my decision, not wanting to abuse the fresh paint job on the M Coupe any more than I had to.  It had recently left the body shop, where it had spent quite a while getting hail damage repair.  So I opted to take the M3 sedan, not nearly as interesting as the Clown Shoe but still an M Car.

The drive up from Lexington to Greenville (about 1.5 hours) was uneventful, other than being passed by a pack of Corvettes at well over 100mph.  The car performed admirably, just as it had during its long venture from Texas to SC a month ago.  But just as I was pulling into the Michelin HQ parking lot, I started to hear some strange noises and feel some vibrations in the wheel.  It occurred at low speed and high steering angle, uh oh… looks like the pump is going out.  I muscled it into a parking spot, having fully lost power assist by the time I came to a stop.

Hitching a RideI was greeted by a small trail of power steering fluid, dribbled along my path.  I popped the hood to find fluid sprayed under the airbox.  A quick inspection from underneath revealed the culprit: the return line (“Return Pipe with Cooling Coil” in BMW parlance).  The rubber line was kinked and not pressed all the way into the crimp at the end of the coil.  Not good, but maybe I could limp it home.  Just in luck, an AMSOILsalesman had setup a booth in the lot.  I purchased a few bottles of power steering fluid and topped off the reservoir.  I ran the engine, sawed the wheel, and then checked the level again.  Nope, this wasn’t going to work.  I was losing fluid at much too fast a rate.  The return line might as well have been dumping overboard.  This was going to require a tow.  Fortunately my truck and trailer were at the house, and after a call, and a short wait I had my father pulling into the parking lot to retrieve the broken Bimmer.  And being the good stewards of the environment that we are, laid down some kitty litter to sop up the oil.

Leaking Return PipeOnce back home I dug through my stockpile of parts to find a brand new hose, what luck!  I also had a new Bimmerworld AN-fitting hose setup, which I briefly considered, but would require running an aftermarket Moroso reservoir.  I decided this must have been a fluke material failure and to just stick with OEM.  These lines are notorious for seeping fluid at the reservoir connection but this premature blow-out was not the norm.

Changing the line is a fairly simple task, just get the left side of the car slightly in the air for access to the working area.  I also removed the left front wheel for more room, also allowing me to wash all the sprayed fluid out from the wheel well, brakes, wheel, and other parts.  The line must have begun to leak somewhere along my I-26 travels, as it had migrated rearward, thoroughly coating the transmission tunnel.

Jacked Up and Ready to WorkI also scrounged up new aluminum crush washers for a proper fix.  Strange that Real-OEM claims a ’98 M3 requires no washers, yet the PS pump has a recess at the banjo fitting in the exact diameter of said washer.  I elected to install the washers on both sides of the banjo fitting.

Blown Power Steering LineWith the new pipe in place and torqued up, I commenced with the undercarriage bath.  Using some POR-15 Marine Clean, I gave everything a good spray and soak.  I followed that up with the hose and then some time to let it drip dry, aided by a bit of compressed air for under the hood.

Back on went the front wheel and back down on the ground went the car.  With the airbox out of the way I topped off the worst positioned reservoir known to man.  I then cranked her up and cycled the rack back and forth to work the air out.  Everything sounded and felt good, hopefully I dodged a bullet and the pump didn’t eat itself while running low on fluid.  Worst case scenario is that it did disintegrate and then FOD’d the rack in the process.

In more interesting news, here’s a totally awesome E38 740i sporting an E39 M5′s S62 V8 and transmission:

S62 in a 7 Series M5 Powered E38

Chad Morehead has an excellent blog on track day tinkering and driving called Eat, Sleep, Tinker.  This is reprinted with his permission. Visit his blog at www.eatsleeptinker.com