BMW Aftermarket Apple CarPlay 1 Year Review

Hey guys and welcome back to the SimpleCarGuy channel. About 9 months ago I posted a video where I installed an aftermarket Apple CarPlay and Android Auto module in my 2014 BMW 550i. Since then, I have answered many questions in the comments, emails and on my Instagram, but it seems that I’m answering the same questions over and over again and now that I have used it for many months, I figured I’d put it all in one place. So, in this video, I will talk about the Pros and Cons, missing functionality, extra features, compatibility and answer all of your questions as well.

I’m making this video so that you can make an informed decision and not waste your money, so hit that like button if you like the video and leave your comments down below with any additional questions.

When I first installed this aftermarket Apple CarPlay on my BMW, I got lots of people asking about the quality and all of the features. Of course, at that time I have only used the system for a day or two and couldn’t give all the answers, but now I’m ready to tackle this one.

The most common concern for people was whether it would fit their specific year and model car. Well, to answer this, you have to understand BMW’s iDrive systems a little bit. The earliest system you can install Apple CarPlay using this method and without replacing parts is the iDrive CCC which came out on some BMWs in as early as 2004 model year. This system was in use until about 2010 model years on some cars. So, if your car has THIS screen, you need CCC version of the device.

The next system was Car Information Computer or CiC and it looked like THIS. If your screen looks like this, you will need an aftermarket unit made for CiC iDrive. You cannot interchange these unless the unit you get is made to work with different versions. This iDrive version was on BMWs between 2009 and 2014. I will post a list of different models in the description or comments for your reference.

BMW introduced a further update to the iDrive System in early 2012 and called it the NextBestThing also known as the NBT, which is what I have in my car and what I showed in the video. This is for 2013-2018 model years, but once again, it varies depending on the model. As an example, on the BMW 5 series F10, it’s from 2014-2016 model years.

The last system you can update using this method is the iDrive NBT EVO which of course replaced the original NBT iDrive system and is still being used on many models today and it looks like THIS.

I hope it clears up some of the questions as to what unit you need for your car. Please do your research, refer to the list I the description and make sure you understand which iDrive you have before you order. If you are more adventurous, you can also remove the screen in the car and take a look at the connector on the back. On F10 5 series, if the connector has 4 pins, it’s the CiC version and if it has 6 pins, it’s the NBT system. If you are having trouble with this, leave a comment down below and I’ll do my best to help you.

Alright, so you know which unit you need, but you have some questions. Let’s see if we can clear some of those questions up.

I know my biggest concern before installing this unit was how fast and how accurately it would connect to my phone. Well, it connects perfectly about 98% of the time. What do I mean by that? Well, if you don’t have your Bluetooth or WiFi on on your phone, it will sometimes connect half way and you are just stuck at THIS screen (show screen). You then would have to manually connect to the correct system in Bluetooth or WiFi Settings. Now, that’s not the only way it can mess up the connection. I have had times where it just refused to connect and I had to restart the unit by holding the back button for 3 seconds. This has happened about 10 times in the 9 months I’ve been using this. That’s actually a very small number in my opinion and I’ve been very happy with how fast and reliable it has been overall.

My second biggest concern installing an aftermarket Apple CarPlay unit was audio quality. Most BMWs have a wonderfully balanced and great sounding system, so I was worried it would ruin the experience. Once again, it’s not perfect by any means. It sounds great at almost any sound level, but as soon as you turn it up past a certain point, there is a hissing noise that becomes very apparent. Of course, the volume has to be very loud at this point and there has to be a silent moment in whatever you are listening to. I think this is my main concern, but not a deal breaker since it’s only at very high levels. To reduce this as much as possible, go to the settings and make sure your volume is set to the max.

Now let’s do some rapid fire questions and then finish the video with my final thoughts.

We have already answered what cars it can be installed in and the different options, but does it use the original camera or do you have to get an aftermarket one? You can switch between Aftermarket and Original in the settings. So, if your car doesn’t have one, you can install an aftermarket one and use it.

How does the camera work when you are using CarPlay? It quickly switches back to the OEM system and it works as normal, including the curving lines and sensors.

Nice, right? So, what about the radio? This device does NOT have a radio built in and you cannot mix the two audio sources together. The best solution for using Google Maps and listening to the radio at the same that I found was to play the radio station you want, or save it on one of the memory buttons, go to Apple CarPlay, but do not switch the audio source to AUX and use it without any sound.

Speaking of switching back and forth, how easy is it to switch between the systems? This system starts up when you unlock the car and the phone connects automatically, so to switch back to the BMW system, you just have to hold the BACK button for 3 seconds. This as far as I understand shuts down the unit, so when you hold BACK again for 3 seconds, it starts up again and your phone reconnects. There is no sleep mode type of function.

Cool, so we can switch between systems, but does it use the original BMW microphones or do you have to wire the one that came with the unit? Luckily, the answer on this one is YES, it does use the original microphones in the car. If your car didn’t have one or it’s broken, you can use the one that came with it as well, but you’ll have to route it the proper position. These are used for both Siri commands as well as voice calls.

Speaking of voice calls, how is the sound quality? The quality coming in sounds absolutely perfect; however, I have had a complaint from someone on the other line saying that I sounded like I’m on speaker, so I went and played with the options. Enabling this feature made it sound much better in my car, but I think it depends on your car set up. It still does not sound as good as original BMW as echo does happen on some occasions. Overall, it’s pretty good, but not amazing. Luckily, there is an option to allow phone calls to be handled by the original BMW system.

What about playing music, how is that experience? When used wirelessly, there is a slight delay in audio. Of course, this isn’t a problem if you are listening to music, but can be noticeable when watching a video. It also isn’t nearly as bad as it is on the original BMW Bluetooth audio. This problem can be easily fixed by plugging in the phone via USB. You can also use AirPlay, which is wireless and has no delay whatsoever. It clones everything on your phone to the screen, including videos, movies, apps etc. One feature I miss from the original system is volume based on your speed. The volume does not adjust automatically as you go faster or slower.

Now let’s talk a little bit on how well it integrates into the car. The iDrive controller and buttons around it works as you would expect. All of the buttons on the steering wheel work great as well and you can even use the little scroll wheel here on the steering wheel as the secondary controller. I use this most of all as I can keep my hands on the wheel and perform most of the functions.

One item that I wish would have been integrated is the Heads-Up-Display. While it still displays your speed and other BMW items, it does not show any music or navigation information. So, if you rely on the arrows and instructions being up on your windshield while using GPS, this might not be for you. I did a little bit of research on this and it looks like this display is basically ran by a different computer/module and since this device is just sitting between the head unit and the display, it cannot control it.

The last item is more related to Apple CarPlay in general. I’ve had a few questions on what apps are available and can you install stuff like Netflix or YouTube? Apple CarPlay allows you to basically install only Navigation and Audio related apps. So, you can have Google or Apple Maps and Waze for your navigation. Spotify, Apple Music or even radio apps like the TuneIn radio or iHeartradio for audio and even podcast and audio book apps. Besides those, WhatsApp and standard messaging apps are available, but mostly only work through Siri. You cannot type in a message directly as an example. There are of course some other ones, like the SpotHero app to find and pay for parking or PlugShare to find local charging stations if you have an electric car.

Well guys, this video turned out much longer than I expected, but I really wanted to answer as many common questions as possible and make the decisions easier for you. So, what do I think of it and would I do it again? Well, this may not be as good as an OEM installation of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but it damn sure is 10 times better and easier to use than the original BMW navigation and media player. I also love that my fiancé can easily use her phone with the car without an hour set up.

BMW N55 Engine Rebuild Project Part 9 – Engine Install and Assembly

It has been over a month and if you are following my BMW N55 Engine rebuild project, you might be wondering what the heck happened and why haven’t I posted a video on the rest of the assembly, install of the engine and of course the engine running! This isn’t because I haven’t been working on it or the lack of trying, but mostly because I ran into a very major, what I assume to be electrical issue that I am not equipped or knowledgeable enough to fix. I wanted my last video in the rebuild series to be where I start the engine at the very end, but unfortunately, it will not be this video. The video where I explain what I have tried and my results is coming up shortly, but in this video, I will go over the remaining assembly and installation of the engine.

But before I continue, check out the BMW N55 engine rebuild playlist from the beginning if this is your first video here and hit that like button for the YouTube algorithm to help out the channel, it’s free!

In the last couple videos in this series, I installed the front and rear crankshaft seals, the valve and oil pan gaskets and the injectors. Now, of course there is still plenty left to do at this point, so I installed the high-pressure fuel pump. I’ve decided not a get a new one and reused the one that came on the original engine. Of course, I got a new O ring installed on it to make sure there were no leaks in the future. With the fuel pump installed, I could then install the oil filter housing, once again, renewing the gaskets as this is a very common spot for oil to leak from on these engines. I then torqued the bolts to spec as I mention in the video.

Some of you will no doubt comment below asking why haven’t I replaced this or that or upgraded certain parts and it’s an easy guess , it all comes to down to cost. Just like with any other project, there is a budget limitation and I have set myself a limited budget for the engine and car. If you don’t like the sound of that, don’t worry! I’ll be looking for my next project in a few short months and I’ll be modifying and upgrading at the same time of the rebuild on that one. Or least that’s my plan. This project was proving to myself that I can rebuild an engine without anyone’s help. Anyway, as you can see, I have also reused the VANOS solenoid. These tested just fine and I gave them a good clean right before installing.

At this point, things started moving a little faster. I installed the high-pressure fuel lines from the fuel pump to the injectors. You want to use a crowfoot wrenches to torque these down and prevent fuel leaks in the future.

With this side of the engine looking a little more complete, it was time to switch to the other side and install the exhaust manifold with the turbocharger.

I scraped remnants of the old gaskets out, cleaned the area and then installed them one by one. They should fit on there snuggly and will be crushed when the assembly is installed and torqued down. The O rings on the oil lines are a quick swap for a set of new ones and it’s time to marry it to the engine. I suggest angling the engine a little more or have someone help you as it can be a little awkward to get it in there and put the first couple bolts in at the same time. A cordless drill makes a quick work of getting the flange nuts finger tight and then it’s time for the torque wrench to get these up to spec. It’s important not to retighten them after the first or second round and follow the procedure exactly if you don’t want to have exhaust leaks in the future. Off camera, I also attached and torqued down the turbo oil lines as well as the bracket below the turbo housing itself and after some more plumbing, this side of the engine is done for now.

I then switched to the front of the engine and the first item on my list was to switch over the belt tensioner from the old block to the newly built engine. This is one of those items I didn’t really think about at the time of building the engine, but I would definitely recommend switching out the idler pulley for a new one. This might be a future DIY I will tackle with the engine in the car. In the meantime, I install the vibration damper, which now I have learned would have benefited from a front crank seal guard plate, you live and you learn! If any of you think of doing something like this at home, it’s honestly worth it just for the amount of engine knowledge you will get in the return, not to mention the patience! Anyway, I drop the front differential in place and torque it to spec. Next on the list is the water pump, this sucker just goes in and with a help of a couple bolts it’s in place.

Most of the big items are now installed, so I install the engine support that will attach to the engine mount and then the heatshield above the exhaust manifold that holds the vacuum regulator. I then position the spark plug and injector wires in their place, torque down the spark plugs and then install the ignition coils. The top of the engine is pretty much done at this stage and I can proceed to installing the wiring loom on the front of the engine. There are lots of small little wires going everywhere here, but luckily, they all seem to just be long enough to plug into the sensor or part that it’s supposed to. The plugs are different between them most of the time as well. One important item here is to not forget the ground wire on the bottom left corner of the engine. The same goes for the intake side of the engine, the bird nest of wires slides onto the engine and then I start sorting them out and plugging in what I can. The rest will be plugged in once the ECU and the rest of the intake sensors are close by.

Look at this beauty now! It’s starting to look more and more like a real engine and at this point I’m getting really excited to get this finished and put it back in the car, but before I get too excited, we still have to install a couple of parts. If you are wondering why am I struggling with this on the engine hoist, well.. it was impossible to do while on the engine stand as the engine stand was in the way of the bolts for the flywheel and I couldn’t think of any other way of doing this at the time.

And now for one of my favorite shots of this video, I love how after weeks of working on this engine and replacing most of the parts on the inside, it slides into the engine bay and is ready to be connected to its life lines. One of the struggles I had here is getting the AC compressor to go around the engine. I chose not to disconnect it as I don’t’ have the equipment to draw off the refrigerant in the system and having to call someone in sounded like a hassle.

THE END:

Well, this part was filmed over a month ago and OH how I wish it went to plan. The engine was supposed to fire up at that point and after some finishing touches, I would be enjoying my BMW 335i and all the work I have put into it. Unfortunately, it did not go to plan from this point on and the engine wouldn’t start. It would crank for as long as the battery would allow, but would not fire or even sputter. With that in mind, it’s time to end this video as it’s already far longer than I wanted it to be, but I wanted to show each step. Subscribe to the channel to stay tuned and to find out what I have tried so far to get the engine started. The list is long and I think you will find it interesting where my head was going troubleshooting this engine. That’s all for now, thank you so much for watching and I will see you in the next one!

BMW N55 Engine Rebuild Project Part 3 – BMW Rod Bearing Replacement

Hey guys and welcome back to the BMW N55 engine rebuild project. In this video, I go through the process of replacing the rod bearings with the engine out, but the process is exactly the same once you have access, although maybe not nearly as comfortable. Rod bearings fail for many reasons; mostly, due to oil starvation which causes them to overheat and spin on the journal of the crankshaft. If you catch it in time, you can simply replace the rod bearings and you are done. However, if it’s not caught in time or the rod bearing has already welded itself to the crankshaft (show n20), you’ll have to replace the crankshaft as well, just like what I’m doing with this engine. If you hear a knocking coming from the bottom of the engine, the most likely culprit is the rod bearing. This is why some people choose to do this as a preventative maintenance on their hard driven or high mileage BMWs. If you are interested in those steps, check out my previous video where I go through the process of installing a piston, replacing the crankshaft, installing new main bearings and sealing the bed plate. Before we start, make sure to hit that LIKE button for the YouTube algorithms and future DIYs.

In this video I will not be showing you a step by step on how to get to the bearings as it’s different on every car and may be harder or easier depending on the model. As an example, it would be much easier on a BMW Z4 that is rear wheel drive and has tons of space to work with, but it’s much harder on a BMW 335i e92 like this one as space is very much limited and you have to deal with the all-wheel drive system. In any case, to get to the bearings without removing the engine in this car, you’d have to remove all of the reinforcement plates and covers under the car, lower the front axle, remove the front axles and differential and remove the bearing support. ((maybe show video with engine already out ‘for clearance of what to do’). All that work has to be done just to allow you access to the Oil pan. Now, this isn’t necessarily a very complicated part of the job, but it’s important to keep safety in mind, have the engine supported at the top in the installation position and use plenty of jack stands. When I did this on my BMW Z4 with the N20 engine, I used jack stands, wood blocks, 2 jacks and some muscle to lower it. The jacks would allow me to lower and raise the subframe as needed to squeeze the oil pan out. Like I said, a little different on each car and you don’t have to deal with a differential on a rear-wheel-drive car, but you get the idea.

Once you have sufficient access, Removing the oil sump is fairly easy, you just remove the connector for the oil sensor and unbolt all of the bolts. Then, muscle it out of space and watch out for oil dripping down on you.  Once the oil sump is removed, you will see the oil pump and the plastic pick up tube. Strangely, the workshop manual does not mention removing the oil pump, but obviously if you need to replace the bearings on cylinder 1, you’d have to remove it as well. That’s a process of its own, but mostly you just unscrew some bolts and you can remove the oil pump without removing the chain modules.

Clearly this video is more about the correct procedure of changing the rod bearings rather than all the preliminary work, but I hope I helped you get an idea of what it would take to get to this step. Since I had the crankshaft out on my engine, I took that opportunity to install the bearings on 5 of the 6 cylinders for convenience, but I will show you how you’d do it if the crankshaft was still installed on the 6th cylinder. The very first step would be to remove the connecting rod cap and be VERY careful not to mismatch it with another connecting rod. It’s best to do these one by one if you are worried. As mismatching connecting rods and connecting rod caps can cause rod knock or even damage. Now would be a good time to inspect the journal on the crankshaft and after removing the bearings, see how good of a condition both of the surfaces are in. You can clean them with a non-metal sponge. I used a very fine scotch-brite here to clean the surfaces and then wiped them down with some break cleaner and a lint free paper towel.

I decided to go with Calico Coated KING rod bearings instead of BMWs color coded bearings for a couple of reasons. As you may know, technically, you are supposed to look at the crankshaft marking to determine which bearing shells you are supposed to install on which cylinder and each one would be slightly different to make a perfect fit. These aftermarket bearings are more or less the average of all those values and should fit all bearing colors and provide longer life with the Calico coating and not as tight of tolerance, allowing for more oil flow.  It’s important to get standard sizing as these come in the oversized spec as well and you do not want those unless you have had your crankshaft resurfaced. Standard sizing is indicated by the STD letters on the bearing itself, check every single one to make sure there was no mix up.

Now that the surface is clean, the bearing should go in very easily. The trick here is to put the end with the key in first, squeeze it just a little bit as you are putting in the other side and it should just pop in there.

I repeat the same process for the rod caps. I clean them with scotch-brite, some brake cleaner and a clean paper towel and then install the bearings exactly the same as on the connecting rod. Here you can see exactly what I meant as far as the installation goes. Very easy!

Now that we have all of our pieces ready to go, it’s time to check the clearance between the crankshaft and the bearing. It’s vital that the clearance falls within spec if you want your engine to last. Essentially, what I do here is place a small piece of Plastigage on the journal and then install the connecting rod cap on top using the old bolts. Of course, I will be installing new bolts on final assembly, but these are just fine to use for testing. Before torquing them down, double check that you have the correcting connecting rod cap. When installed, it should look like once piece, even with finger pressure on the cap. The torque specs here are 20 Nm with additional 70 degrees of angle rotation and the 70 degrees of angle rotation again. Once everything is torqued up, the cap can be removed and clearances checked. You are looking for clearance between .025 and 0.76 mm just like on the scale. Since I’m going with aftermarket bearings, I should expect a slightly looser clearance than from factory, but that’s to be expected. If you’d like to learn more about Plastigage, check out the video in the top right corner.

Now that I know the clearance is perfect on this engine, it’s time to do it for real!  I repeat the steps, but this time I’m are not doing it dry and adding some assembly lube to the bearings after cleaning off the Plastigage. With the new bolts in, it’s time to torque it to spec the same as before. We are still doing 20 NM and 70 degrees of rotation, twice.

That’s all it takes to correctly replace the rod bearings on a BMW N55 engine and many other BMW engines of this era. Now, all that’s left to do is to do it 5 more times. As you are checking the clearance on each bearing, you don’t’ want to see too much deviation between the cylinders. They should all be more or less within the same range if done correctly.

Now put the car back together and enjoy another 100 thousand on your BMW. I hope you guys enjoyed this video or at least found it helpful. I put a lot of effort into these videos knowing they won’t be popular, so hitting that like button really does keep me motivated. Anyway, check out the rest of the channel for more DIY video and other car related content and I’ll see you in the next one!