Streaming Audio

I see a lot of questions on the various E39 groups asking about what people do to attach their phone to the sound system. This really depends on the sound system you have in the car. I have the C53 Business Stereo cassette player with the 6 CD changer in the boot.

My C53 is the flat pin connector type. The older versions have a round pin connector.

When I was looking around based on my stereo, the options I seemed to have were Intravee, an AUX cable, Cassette with a 3.5mm jack, Bluetooth adapter or buy a new stereo head unit.

I won’t go in to the DSP (Digital Sound Processor) sound systems as I don’t have one so not sure how these work.

Intravee / Intravee II

I’ve taken a look around at the various websites about the Intravee and I am still not sure exactly what it does. It looks like it allows iPod to connect to the stereo unit and you can do various programming of the car through it. It seems to work with various stereo configurations and depending on which set up you have you have different abilities.

You can find more information about the Intravee at http://www.toysinyourcar.com/acatalog/intravee.html

AUX Cable

A quick look on eBay and you can find various AUX cables fairly cheaply. These replace the CD changer. On the back of the stereo unit you unplug the cable for the CD changer and plug in the AUX cable.

The AUX cable wire needs to be available somewhere in the car and people seem to have fed the cable from the back of the stereo to various places. Some put it in the glove box, some have fed it though the centre console and out behind the handbrake, some have it coming out via the cigarette lighter.

Using the AUX cable involves plugging the cable in to your phone or other media device and then switching the stereo to the CD changer source and away you go.

Cassette with 3.5mm jack

This is the option I went with originally. Looking around on eBay I found a cheap and cheerful adapter for about £2.50. It didn’t work. When I put it in to the cassette player it just kept switching from side A to side B and just didn’t work.

I then went for the more expensive Belkin adapter. This cost around £12 but did work and  produced some good quality sound. I moved away from this though as it required something to be hard plugged in and I hate having cables hanging around. It also meant if the kids wanted their device plugged in, the device is in the front with me and they can’t reach to change tracks or search for other music.

A good solution but not one I kept with for long.

Bluetooth Adapter

The Bluetooth adapters are a step up from the old wired adapters that send out a radio signal from the device which you can then pick up on the stereo radio. The old wired devices plugged in to your device with a 3.5mm jack and were powered via battery or plug in to the cigarette lighter. These were quite naff quality based on the ones I tried years ago. The sound quality was usually pretty dire and quite a bit of interference.

The Bluetooth adapters perform the same function, they connect to your device and then transmit a signal that you pick up on a radio station. The device is connected to the adapter via Bluetooth which means no wires and is powered from the cigarette lighter.

I searched around for quite a bit for one of these and the one I ended up with has been really good.

This device not only allows you to stream audio but it also acts as a hands free unit for the phone. I have to say that I haven’t actually used it hands free at all (not popular enough for anyone to call me) so can’t comment  on how well it works for this task.

The device allows you to pick different radio frequencies to transmit on, has a volume control and allows you to skip tracks.

The kids love this as they have a game to see who can connect to the device first when they get in the car. It plays really well. I say that, there is just one band it seems to have a problem with. Avenged Sevenfold. My eldest loves this band but whenever she plays some tracks there is some kind of hiss or distortion on some tracks. What we found here was that if we turn down the volume on the device and turn up the volume on the stereo it goes away. This must be something in their tracks which the sound processing unit can’t handle properly. Apart from that it works great. We use it all the time.

The cigarette lighter in the E39 is always on even when there is no key in the car so I always disconnect the device and throw it in the door pocket when not in the car.

Replacement Head Unit

The last option I have for you is a replacement head unit. A lot of people swap out the OEM stereo and go for Eonon or some other Android based head unit or you can get adapters for single or double din head units. There are plenty of these adapters available on eBay which opens up the standard head unit market. The only thing I am aware of for the double din units is that there is some butchering needed behind where the unit will sit to make it fit. The single din and Eonon units don’t require this hacking.

I really like the idea of the Android head units as you get some great functionality like GPS, reversing cameras, DAB (which you could get with single and double DIN units), plug in a SIM card and get a wireless hotspot in the car as well as being able to connect to the OBDII and use some software like Torque to read the car ecu and display dashboards. I just don’t think I would use all the functionality once the initial excitement had worn off and at > £260 for one of these units, my £15 Bluetooth adapter looks a lot more affordable to my wife who thinks I would be made to spend that on the car stereo.

I keep thinking that I would like a Eonon unit, I find myself looking around the site at lunchtimes,  but I have to admit that I like keeping the car as standard as it was when it was delivered and we do use the cassette units. Being of a certain age we have a few cassettes still lying around that we didn’t think we would get to play again (remember making those mix tapes and recording the Top 40 on a Sunday evening?)

That’s my run through of the different audio options that I looked at. Of course there are many more and I have seen some great set-ups with HUGE sub woofers mounted in the boot, etc.

 

Angel Eye LED

The first modification I made to the car after I bought it was to change the Angel Eyes to LED. The first ones I put in were the 3w cheap models from eBay. The first lot worked for about three or four months and then one went so I bought a second set. Again, these did not last long and so I started to mix and match to get two working lights. After I ran out of available bulbs I decided I needed to go brighter. The 3w just aren’t cutting it, you can hardly see them in the daylight.

I started to look around at what other people were using and had a chat with Stefan from E39 Zone whilst we were waiting at the motorway services for the convoy for the BMW Show at Santa Pod.

Some people have gone really fancy and fitted colour changing angel eyes which are controlled through a remote control device or from an app on a smart phone.  These are quite fancy and come in at around £58 upwards on eBay.

I decided I needed some bright white 40w LED. The search began.

In all fairness you can find 40w LED quite easily on eBay and I settled on a set which duly arrived a few days later.

In the pictures above, the 40w is the silver unit. The two black units were the ones I took out. These are the orange bulbs that came with the car when I bought it.

The silver bulbs have a slightly larger diameter to the previous LED that I had installed and I wasn’t sure the new ones would fit, they are also longer. They do in fact fit and they are so much brighter, especially in the dark.

I don’t think they come up to the brightness of the LED on the new BMW and other cars on the road that have the daylight running lights but they are pretty close.

The 40w bulbs come with a ballast each which means when fitting I taped the wires up as there was  a lot of lose cable now hanging around under the bonnet. I also didn’t want the ballast being battered around in there whilst I am driving.

Now to see how long these will last compared to the cheap 3w LED that I have used so far.

Regardless of how long they last, I don’t think I can ever go back to the 3w LED, not now I have seen the light. (see what I did there?)

Alloy Wheel Refurb

The wheels on the car are actually in pretty good condition but the spare wheel had seen better days as you can see.

After watching hours of Wheeler Dealers I have seen how easy it can be to have your wheels refurbished and can cost as little as £60 per wheel. This is much cheaper than buying a new set of wheels but still a bit more than I wanted to pay out at this time and thanks to Google and YouTube I gained the confidence to have a go at refurbishing the wheel myself.

The first thing to do was to spend some time watching the many, many, videos on YouTube of people showing you how to refurbish alloy wheels. It all seemed pretty straight forward, clean the wheel, sand the wheel, prime the wheel, paint the wheel and finally lacquer the wheel. All the videos showed the different methods for doing this. Some would say that you need the tyre off the wheel, others say working with the tyre in place is OK to do. The same with sanding, everyone has the different grades that they use. Whether you should sand between sprays or whether just to leave the paint or lacquer with no sanding in between. Whether to spray the whole wheel or just the part that needs the work is also of consideration. There are many things to think about and knowing the best way forward would only come with trial and error.

So, armed with my newly found knowledge and experience from YouTube it was time to look at getting together all the items I would need to perform the refurbishment. The shopping list looked something like this.

  • 80 grit sand paper (to get the worst of the kerb rash out)
  • 2500 grit paper (to smooth down the sanding)
  • Rubbing Alcohol (to clean the wheel and make sure no grease or contaminants are left on the surface)
  • Masking Tape
  • Etch Grey Primer. (I understood that Etch primer is the best to use as it will fill in the fine scratches from the sanding)
  • Silver Alloy Paint. (I got some standard Silver Alloy spray from eBay but I understand Halfords do a a close match to the silver used by BMW. I would like to try a gun metal silver in the future).
  • Clear Coat Lacquer

After cleaning down the wheel I set about removing the kerb-rash from around the rim and the bubbling paint work. I started with the 80 grit sandpaper which removed it more easily than I expected. This did leave some scratching in the alloy so the 2500 grit sandpaper was then used to smooth this down. I could have really done with having a more medium 1000 grit in between. This is something to note for next time.

After sanding down the wheel and getting it as smooth as I could I masked up the wheel and gave it a good clean with the rubbing alcohol.

A useful tip I found when refurbishing whilst the wheel is still in place is to get some thin card, like playing cards, and insert these between the rim and the tyre. You can bend them back and tape them down and they give a really good divider between the wheel and the tyre. I used a cereal packet cut up in to 2.5 inch squares which worked just as well and was going in the recycling anyway. Another type of card I found useful was those dividers you get for folders.

It was then onto the primer. I used the Etch Primer as I understand that this will fill in some of the finer scratches from the sanding to make a better finish. I gave it three coats of primer, leaving it for 5 minutes between each coat.

After letting the primer dry it felt pretty rough to the touch so a sanding with the 2500 grit wet and dry paper to get the finish smooth. Once again, after sanding and washing down, a clean with the rubbing alcohol and on to the silver alloy paint. Three coats again followed by a light sanding and then the lacquer.

Overall I was very pleased with the outcome for a first bash at this. I learnt a lot from the experience and there was a great sense of satisfaction knowing that even though it is the spare wheel and no one would see it, it looked really good. It is by no means going to look as good as having it refurbished professionally. The cost of all the items came to about £30 in the end and I have so far managed to refurnish two wheels with these products. This is a lot cheaper than having the wheels professionally refurbished but is not to the same standard.