Pimping My Ride – A Remote Control Power Door Lock System

We don’t own a “modern” car, that is to say, one that is less than 10 years old. Our newest car is the Alfa Romeo Alfetta Sprint Veloce, which reached its 27th birthday this year. The BMW is seven years older than the Alfa – a 1972 Bavaria.

Not that I haven’t driven modern cars. We’ve recently driven (rented) a Volvo S40, Land Rover LR3, Ford Escape and a Dodge Charger (with an anemic 2.7L V6) among others. One of the features that Chris misses when she drives the Bavaria are the remote power door locks that cars have these days.

I’d seen a US $99.99 J. C. Whitney remote control power four-door lock system that looked sufficiently crappy, so I bought it, but it’s NLA. (Amazon has a pretty crappy looking one)

I knew the installation would be straightforward but labor intensive, so I put it off for 8 months. I started by removing the front door interior panel and plastic water barrier. The instructions are not very specific so I had to figure out where to put the actuators.

The actuator is basically a solenoid that is fed a positive or negative voltage to pull or push a rod. It has to be located parallel but slightly off axis from the lock rod because the installation instructions have the lock rod bent in a loose “Z” shape so there is some “give,” I guess.

It took me a few tries to bend the actuator rod into the right shape. It’s basically like a bicycle spoke (with less flex) with a nipple at the end where it goes through the hole at the end of the actuator arm.

I actually broke one of the rods so I ended buying two more actuators on eBay, which include the bracket, rod and rod connector. I tried a DT Swiss double-butted spoke (2.0/1.8/2.0) that I use on my bike but it was way too flexible.

The actuator installation on the front doors was actually straightforward because there was room for the actuator and the rod to connect to the existing door lock rod.

An included rod adapter connects the actuator’s rod to the door lock rod. Two setscrews hold the door lock rod and one setscrew holds the actuator rod.

I used some thread locker on the setscrews. This view shows what the rod adapter connections look like (though it is actually mounted behind the door panel). The rear door’s lock rod location didn’t really offer a good place to mount the actuator. The manual window crank mechanism was close to the lock rod. There wasn’t enough room for the rod adapter either. Since the door lock button is located toward the front of the car, there is an aluminum u channel “connecting rod” and various mechanisms that translate the up and down motion of the door lock button to the rear of the door where the catch is located.

I used the bracket that was included in the kit to mount the actuator across a gap in the door. Since I couldn’t use the rod adapter, I drilled a hole in the existing connecting rod for the actuator rod. I also put a rubber grommet in the hole at the end of the actuator to reduce the backlash on the rod when it moved in and out.

The wiring for each actuator is just two wires.

I drilled holes in the door and pillars for the wires. Running the wires from the rear involved removing the front shoulder belt mount from the center door pillar, the center pillar cover, front door sill and assorted sections of carpet. I put shrink tubing over the wires where they would be exposed to the door opening and closing and grommets in the holes. I made the one hole larger than the other so the wire would slide back into the door. Sometimes it kinks. A professional would know how to do this.

I mounted the control box next to the fuse box because there was a perfect space for it. The pair of wires from each door makes a home run to the mounting location of the control box. There are two wiring plugs on the box. They each have about 200 wires coming from them. The actuator harness has two +12v lines, two ground wires and the blue and green wire from the actuators.

I removed the fuse box and relays so I could hook up wires from the rear of the fuse box. This also involved tracing all those stupid lines in the Haynes wiring diagrams, which I don’t even know if they are for my car.

I also removed the flexible left air vent tube that goes over the steering column for easier access when pulling the wires from the passenger side. I removed a bunch of wires from the control harness that I wasn’t going to use – like I said, there were 200 wires. I zip tied and stuffed the rest of the wires that I hooked up behind the control box.

Since this is really like a modern cars’ remote locking system, there are connections to flash the parking lights, a timer for the interior light, the horn, a remote starter and a control for a trunk actuator (which I didn’t install). I only connected the parking light flashers and the interior light. There is also an option to lock the doors when the ignition switch is turned on and to unlock the doors when it’s turned off. I didn’t connect the horn because it’s always annoying when locking the door and the horn blips. But I’m reconsidering after forgetting where I parked the car at the airport a few weeks ago.

There were a couple of problems during installation. First, I had to clean and lubricate all the door locks because the 34 years of grease on the fittings was hard. There was a lot of friction even when pulling and pushing the door locks by hand. After cleaning and lubricating, they worked a lot more easily.

After I had everything wired up, the four-button remote worked OK for a while. Then it started blowing the 8 amp fuses in the actuator’s +12v lines every time I pushed the lock and unlock button. There was a factory reset that worked for a while but then they started blowing again. I thought about using 15 amp fuses and the manufacturer’s installation support guy confirmed that. With four doors, you need 15 or 20 amp fuses. (I had to be very persistent trying to get questions answered – it took four calls to the manufacturer).

It was basically a straightforward installation, but it took me about a week because it took me a long time to figure out where and how to do things. The documentation basically tells you how to wire it. Since it’s a generic kit, there’s no specific hardware installation information. The manufacturer says it should take 4-6 hours to install. All for a more modern car.

I don’t think Xzibit will be saying, “Oh, snap!”

$20,000 Paint Job

I was in the muffler shop trying to get the down pipes for my Shankle headers straightened. The shop is a one-man operation, and over the years, Robert, the owner, had been working on a Cobra replica. The last time I was there, the car hadn’t been painted. Now it had a beautiful deep, dark metallic silver paint job. He told me he got it painted across the street. I didn’t ask him how much it cost.

1972 BMW Bavaria

Since acquiring it 3 years ago, the paint on our 1972 BMW Bavaria was starting to go.

I bought a Makita 9227C 7-inch polisher, went to the local paint shop, bought a bunch of Meguiars’ medium and fine cut cleaners, glazes, etc. It was labor intensive. I don’t really have it in me. It looked pretty good after I finished but it lasted for about 2 weeks. The paint starts to look dull, like there are cloudy patches in it. I decided to drive over to the restoration shop and see how much it would cost to get it painted.

I guess I should have known as soon as I walked in, being one of the non-moneyed subscribers to Sports Car Market and watching the Barrett-Jackson auctions on Speedvision. I’ve seen the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. I had become inured to seeing a $324,000 1968 Hemi Dodge Dart or a $621,000 1956 Mercedes Benz 300 SL Gullwing.

I parked in the driveway and walked over to the garage doors. There must have been 10 or 15 cars in various states of disassembly. Some guys were working on an XK-120. There was a pontoon Mercedes Benz 220S convertible, the pale yellow color of my ’59 190 that I had in high school. There was silver 300 SL Gullwing up on jack stands. Further back there was something that looked like a ’30’s Rolls-Royce Phantom III.

I told the shop owner that I wanted to see how much it would cost to paint the car. He walked around the car looking at everything – opening the doors, feeling the drip rails, rockers, the spot welds under the hood. He was doing the math in his head, fabricating metal here and there for rusty panels, describing the process of stripping it to bare metal (it already had a respray), the masking process, primer, paint and everything. The bottom line was $20,000. When he said it, I had to ask him again, twice. What an ignoramus I was.

He went on to explain the work involved in this paint job but showing me an example made it clear. I didn?t even notice what kind of car it was. It was up on a lift covered in paint masking, so the bottom of the rear quarter panel was above my head. All I saw was a deep red fender, an immaculate wheel well and suspension parts that looked brand new.

He complimented me on the job that I had done on the seats; I didn’t say I’d done it with $99 leather World Upholstery covers I bought on eBay. He also said I did a good job on the engine compartment.

Weber 32/36 DGAV Carburetors – Carter 4070 Fuel pump

I asked him about the paint that was on the car. He said that kind of repaint lasts two years. I told him I used Meguiars Medium Cut, glaze, wax, etc. He said you could do that and it was last for about three hours, given the condition of the paint.

He went in to his office and looked up the value of a Bavaria in the Sports Car Market price guide. I told him that even if they were perfect, they weren’t worth that much. He said the coupes were more desirable. I thought KooPe.

His advice was to sell my car and get another one at an estate sale with decent paint. He had just spent 45 minutes with me, giving me an evaluation and advice. I mumbled about having to ask the missus. I thanked him.

While he was finishing up with me, an immaculate black ’53 Corvette drove in. The owner looked like one of those old rich guys. He lifted the hood and I did a double take and walked over and asked him, “Is that an LS1?” He nodded. The manager said they had built the car; some guy down south had done the chassis, basically ’97 Corvette running gear with the ’53 body. He told me that every year when the guy parks at the Pebble Beach Concours, he gets $500,000 offers for the car. They can build them, but rich guys don’t want to wait for them.