Brake line replacement on the e30

Rear of e30

Rear of e30

The ’85 has been a Maryland car all its life which means it has seen a lot of exposure to salted, snowy roads. The brake lines are exposed under the chassis and made of rolled steel steel dipped in aluminum for corrosion resistance. I had previously inspected the lines and found them to be in decent condition, but what I didn’t see was the seriously rusted line located above the rear differential.

After installing the new turbo engine, a new engine map had to be developed. The only way to properly tune the engine is by running it through every load and speed combination seen on the road; naturally this meant that the high load, high speed portions of the engine map were only encountered at high road speeds and high roads speeds go hand-in-hand with hard stops. It was during a 70+ mph third gear pull (first and second gear spin the tires) that the brake lines decided to let go.

I was under the impression that modern cars with dual circuit brakes were supposed to stop when one line develops a leak. Let me tell you – the car did NOT stop in any normal fashion with the hydraulic brakes! I confirmed that the e30, like all modern cars, does in fact have dual circuit brakes. On my ’85 that is not equipped with ABS, the front brakes are independent from the rear. In theory, my front brakes should have operated as normal while the rears lost pressure.

It is hard to remember exactly how it felt when the brake line burst, but I do remember trying to stop hard after the third gear pull in an attempt to make a U-turn at the entrance to a small road that was convenient at the time. I remember remember the car beginning to stop then the pedal dropping to the floor. There was a downhill section of road with a tight turn ahead and continuing at my current speed was not an option; I almost certainly would have slid off the road, crossing the center line and entering the opposing lane that was currently hidden by the top of the hill, and eventually hitting a guard rail. With this in mind, I immediately downshifted then carefully pulled the emergency brake. I also attempted to pump the brakes, but I don’t remember it helping. Thankfully the e-brake did work and I came to a safe stop just before the hill.


After I returned home, an inspection revealed the rear brake lines to be in terrible condition. The rust could have been a consequence of either internal or external corrosion. Failing to replace the brake fluid at regular intervals is one explanation for internal corrosion. It is hygroscopic, meaning brake fluid absorbs water. Over time, water contained in brake fluid well beyond its useful life can rust brake lines from the inside out. The previous owner of my car was never one for maintenance, making this a likely explanation. Regular brake fluid changes are a must for safe driving. Not only will it keep your brake line from rusting out, it will also keep the fluid from boiling during hard stops.


Refer to your owners manual for the brake fluid that should be used in your car. BMWs typically specify Synthetic DOT 4 brake fluid; I use Valvoline Synthetic DOT 3/4 in my cars. Now for some basic brake fluid rules: DOT 4 can always be used or added to cars calling for DOT 3; new DOT 3 is better than used DOT 4 and can generally be used as substitute in street cars; DOT 5 can never be used in a system with DOT 3 or 4. Replace your brake fluid at least every two years.


I repaired my car by replacing the rear brake lines with new copper nickel brake line, also known as cunifer. This brake line will not rust or corrode, and is easier to work with than traditional steel line. In fact, it can be hand bent without special tools making it cheaper for me to buy the cunifer brake like and skip the tubing bender. I’ll post a how-to article on replacing brake lines at later date.

HTC Thunderbolt battery update

I ordered this replacement battery from Amazon advertised to fit the MyTouch 4G, which is basically the same phone as the Thunderbolt. It was advertised as an OEM battery, but it was so cheap I suspected it to be a clone; boy was I surprised when it arrived the next day (Amazon Prime is the bomb!). The battery was, in fact, a genuine HTC battery. It popped right into my Thunderbolt with one minor difference – the logo faces in, towards the screen of the phone, vs out, towards the battery cover. It is functionally perfect and the battery life is outstanding – I forgot my battery life was actually good at one time! The random resets have also vanished. All in all, this was a great buy and I might buy another for a backup; you should too!

UMBC and Inclement Weather

During my tenure at UMBC, I have come to notice that UMBC seldom closes or delays campus opening during inclement weather. Surrounding campuses such as CCBC (literally next door) and Towson will be closed while UMBC remains open. I am still on the UMD alert system and even they close well before UMBC – and they’re 30 miles south where snow seldom lays. This is inexcusable and dangerous behavior on UMBC’s part, particularly given their large commuter population.

I can immediately think of three distinct days UMBC should have at least opened with a delay and failed to do so. Once was in 2010 following a snow storm – the surrounding local roads were still covered with snow & ice, but UMBC remained open during exam week. I feel the correct course of action would have been to remain open in these extenuating circumstances but to offer a free pass for a makeup exam for those unwilling or unable to make it to campus. This winter semester, there were several mild snows. One resulted in treacherous road conditions and came with advance notice; CCBC notified their students they were opening with a two hour delay, UMBC did nothing. That morning, I drove to UMBC and was nearly rear ended twice, but thankfully did not have any incidents. The parking lot and the sidewalks at UMBC were covered in snow and made just the walk to class dangerous, yet UMBC remained open. Unfortunately one of my classmates was not so lucky and he was involved in a collision on I-695 during his commute to school. This is an all too real example of the consequences felt by students when UMBC throws caution to the wind.

The third example occurred yesterday and is the subject of this post. Maryland experienced an unusual snow storm late in the season, but both Weather Underground and The Weather Channel forecast significant snowfall, with The Weather Channel calling for 6-10″ during the day. Even NOAA, traditionally conservative, forecast 2-5″ for the area in total. By 3:30 AM yesterday morning it had begun to snow and the snow was laying on the ground. I set my alarm for 5:15 AM to wake up for work, looked outside, and saw at least 3″ of snow on the ground with moderate snow continuing to fall. With that much snow so early and with a forecast calling for it to continue throughout the day, I thought UMBC would at least open with a delay.

A couple weeks ago, the area was burnt by a similar storm. The Weather Channel was calling for up to 18″ of snow at one point, but it never materialized. My house did see up to 6″ of snow but it quickly melted away as the temperature rose above freezing. UMBC, along with every other Baltimore area business and school, closed for what turned out to be nothing more than a rain storm. The roads were fantastic all the way into Pennsylvania. Because of this, businesses and schools were understandably reluctant to close for round two.

Moving back to yesterday, most waited to call in a delay, but even CCBC gave notice of two hour delay by 6 AM and Carroll County schools were closed. UMBC failed to send a notice at all, neither acknowledging they would remain open nor sending out a delay. I have an 8:30 AM history class so I fired up my car, cleaned it off, and attempted to leave for the morning despite the danger. I reached the end of my driveway and found the public road, a designated snow route, untouched; it was not salted or plowed at all. I made the choice to stay home but my car would not reverse up the driveway. Initially I was going to turn around in the road, but a car came sliding sideways down the road towards me so I didn’t feel it would be a wise to pull into the road and risk getting stuck, and subsequently hit by another sliding car. Thankfully the first snowplow of the morning came by and cleared the road well enough to turn around.

After I returned home, I snapped a picture of the current snowfall outside.UMBC Snow on March 25 2013

That picture was at about 6:50 AM while UMBC was still open with absolutely no mention of a delay! At this point, students started to become upset by UMBC’s lack of action and posted a thread on the MyUMBC discussion board.

MyUMBC Snow Discussion

Discussion on MyUMBC Message Boards

Clearly UMBC’s decision to remain open was unpopular by 7 AM. At 8:28 AM, I was notified that UMBC was closed effective 8:30 AM. Had I driven in that morning, I would have wasted my time, money, and gas only to have my class cancelled. Then there would be the decision of where to go from there because I cannot teleport to my work or home (although that would be cool!). Obviously I was not the only one upset about this debacle.

MyUMBC Snow Discussion

MyUMBC Snow Discussion

Then at  “Mon, Mar 25, 2013 at 11:47 AM” according to the time stamp, UMBC sent out an apology regarding the timing of the closure. The apology was necessary, but the timing of the apology was a bit tardy and likely in response to uproar generated by the students and professors UMBC had needlessly drive out to campus in downright terrible weather conditions.

UMBC Snow Apology

UMBC Snow Apology

The best part is “We based our initial decision to open campus on the best forecasts available early this morning, and unfortunately, conditions continued to change throughout the morning. ” “Best forecasts available!?” I guess they missed the part where they could look out a window. My history professor (who had just arrived from the airport in time for class), several students, and a guest lecturer (who drove in from Frederick) all made it to class just in time to be notified by UMBC that they needed to return home.

An appropriate weather policy would have UMBC err on the side of caution and call two hour delays when necessary. This gives them time to evaluate conditions make the final call to close campus if needed. With the large student commuter population at the university, UMBC should be the first to close, not the last. I sincerely hope, for the sake of the students, that these situations do not arise again.

18×9 ASA AR1s on my 540 :-D

Since it is now Spring, meaning the snow *should* be done for the year, I ordered new 235/40ZR-18 Continental ExtremeContact DW XL tires from the good guys at Tire Rack, intending to install them on my 18×8″ M-Parallel reps. Little did I know that my horrible history with wheels and tires was only to continue… I had Barnes Service Center in Westminster mount & road force balance the tires only to receive a phone call. They put the rims on their very nice Hunter balancer only to find they were bent. To their credit, they marked every single bend despite the fact the rims were effectively unusable. This left me with a set of rather worthless, albeit nice looking, reproduction rims and a very expensive stack of new 18″ tires. Unfortunately, I had ordered tires with the silly notion they were going on 8″ rims which are rather skinny for my car. Since I was going with new rims, I needed a set that would both fit the already ordered tires and be wide enough to be sporty, so I settled on 9″ rims.

I was worried that the 235s were going to show some serious stretch, which I am not a fan of, on the 9″ rims but they’re really not bad. If the car was lower *hint hint* I think my new setup would look fantastic! I’m pleased with the build quality of ASAs – they’re certainly not a $4k set of rims, and they’re single piece, but they looks great both from a distance and up close. Best of all, they balance smoothly. Lets just hope they don’t bend on Baltimore/DC area roads!

1997 BMW 540i with ASA AR1 rims

1997 BMW 540i with ASA AR1 rims

1997 BMW 540i with ASA AR1 rims

1997 BMW 540i with ASA AR1 rims

Yes, my headlights do need a polish 🙁