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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
This write up is basically tommiexboi's write up and all the people that contributed to tommiexboi's write up, but with a few more pictures. This is a very doable DIY. It is not a quick DIY, but it is not a hard DIY. I am a female who has never worked on a car before (I have never changed a light bulb) and I have now done two of these repairs (driver's side window and front passenger's side window). There are so many reasons why you should do this repair yourself. First, is the cost. A repair shop will charge you anywhere from $250 to $400. Second, if you read through all the window regulator posts you will read enough horror stories that should convince you to do this yourself. Things do not get reconnected properly, vapor barriers are carelessly torn, etc. Having said all this, let me also say that if you follow this DIY and mess something up, I cannot be held responsible.

Let me start by saying, don't run out and buy a new regulator. Save yourself the $75. The first time I did the driver's side window, I bought the new part and then I came across this website and realized that I didn't need to. A simple zip tie modification would have made my old regulator as good as new:

http://www.skene.org/bmw/window/

The caveat to this is that the zip tie modification is not going to work for everyone and the problem is that you will not know if it will work for you until you open up the door, pull out the regulator and look at it. On the regulator there is a small metal cylinder that is connected to metal wire. This cylinder sits in a metal and plastic bracket. Over time, the plastic starts to chip away and the cylinder will pop out. Once this happens, your window will either move up or down very slowly or not move at all. In addition to the slow moving window, you will hear very scary grinding and clicking. There are several places where the regulator can fail. But, if I had to guess, I would say the most of regulators fail around the small metal cylinder. In my situation, both my regulators were failing in this spot. If the failure occurs around the small metal cylinder, then the zip tie modification will work for you. Here is what one of my metal and plastic brackets looked like. The cylinder sits in the space that I labeled "cylinder". You can see where the plastic broke off exposing the metal underneath:

<img src="http://www.E46Fanatics.com/images/forum/regulator19.jpg">

Now onto the actual repair. Before you start this is what you will need. Do not attempt to start this repair without having these tools:

<li>1/4" drive ratchet
<li> 1/4" drive ratchet extension (there is one step where you will need a very narrow 8mm socket. A 3/8" drive size will not allow the 8mm socket to fit through the hole.)
<li>Torx t-20
<li>Torx t-30
<li>8mm socket
<li>10mm socket
<li>Screwdriver
<li>At least one ziptie, possibly more</li>

Now let's begin:

1. If you can, roll down the window half way. If the window doesn't move at all don't worry about it. No matter where it is, it will inevitably need to be moved later on.

2. Use your 10mm socket to disconnect the negative battery terminal. On my car the battery is in the trunk on the right side:

<img src="http://www.E46Fanatics.com/images/forum/regulator1.jpg">

3. Use a screw driver to gently pry away the wood trim. Put the trim in a safe spot:

<img src="http://www.E46Fanatics.com/images/forum/regulator2.jpg">

4. Underneath the armrest are 2 plastic caps. Pull them out and put them in a safe spot:

<img src="http://www.E46Fanatics.com/images/forum/regulator3.jpg">

5. On the armrest you will either have a window control, a side mirror control, or a blank plug. (On my passenger side I have a blank plug). This will need to be removed. On the driver's side I was able to use a screwdriver with a very thin tip to remove it without any problems. On the passenger side, this blank plug was very deep in the hole and the screwdriver was not working. I could see that if I really forced the screwdriver in there it would have damaged the leather. Not really knowing what to do, I started looking around the house for something I could use to get this plug out. I tried this Wustoff carrot peeler and it worked great! No damage to the leather. I think any peeler in this basic shape should do the trick. You might also want to try removing the plug at the other end if you are having trouble. Sometimes removing the plug on the side that is higher up the arm is a little easier. If you have a window control or a mirror control in this spot, once you get it out disconnect the wires that are attached to it. Put the control in a safe spot:

<img src="http://www.E46Fanatics.com/images/forum/regulator4.jpg">

6. Remove the 5 torx t-20 screws that are circled in red:

<img src="http://www.E46Fanatics.com/images/forum/regulator5.jpg">

7. You are now ready to pry off the door panel. There are these white plastic protrusions on the door panel that snap into the door. You can't see them at this point, but these protrusions are holding the door panel to the door. They are spaced all around the door panel except for the top of the door. There are also a few around the large speaker. The best place to start prying is where the screwdriver is pictured. Gently wedge your fingers or a screwdriver into this spot and gently pry that corner of the door panel away from the door. If you can use your fingers it will be better than using a screwdriver because it is less likely that you will damage the leather. Once you hear the first pop, stop prying so that you can readjust your fingers. If you used a screwdriver to start prying off the door panel, put it down, you will not need it anymore. At this point you have created enough space for your fingers to pry the rest of the door off. I found the best way to finish prying the door panel off the door is to move clockwise down the door:

<img src="http://www.E46Fanatics.com/images/forum/regulator6.jpg">

8. Once you get the door panel off, hold onto it and keep it relatively close to the door. Don't let it drop to the floor. There are wires and things attached to the door panel that you will need to disconnect. You will need to disconnect the 3 items circled below. The white piece that is circled is already disconnected in the picture. It is part of door handle and needs to be unhooked. The other two circled items are speaker wires that need to be unplugged. The arrows point to these small plastic pieces that hold the wires and plug into the door panel. Gently pull them out to free the wires from the door panel. Once everything is unplugged, let the wires hang and put the door panel in a clean safe spot:

<img src="http://www.E46Fanatics.com/images/forum/regulator7.jpg">

9. It's now time to remove the airbag. Use the 10mm socket to remove the 3 bolts:

<img src="http://www.E46Fanatics.com/images/forum/regulator8.jpg">

10. Hang the airbag up and out of the way. The best thing to use is a ziptie, but I didn't have one that was long enough, so I just used some strong twine:

<img src="http://www.E46Fanatics.com/images/forum/regulator9.jpg">
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
11. Remove this object (not sure what it is). It is connected with 2 torx t-20 screws. Let it hang:

<img src="http://www.E46Fanatics.com/images/forum/regulator10.jpg">

12. Now for the really fun part. Removing the vapor barrier. Just do it gently and slowly so that it doesn't rip. I found it helpful to use scissors to help cut through the sticky stuff. Only do this if you are careful not to cut the vapor barrier. The first time I did this I removed the whole barrier the second time I did this I left part of the barrier attached to the door- the part on the left side of the door (see picture).

<img src="http://www.E46Fanatics.com/images/forum/regulator11.jpg">

13. Disconnect the window regulator motor. It is held by 3 torx t-30 screws. Once the screws are removed you will need to twist out the motor to remove it. Let it hang:

<img src="http://www.E46Fanatics.com/images/forum/regulator15.jpg">

14. The glass window sits in red colored brackets. These brackets are bolted to the regulator. You need to loosen these bolts. In order to loosen the bolts you need to see them and you will only be able to see them when the window is at the right level. Hopefully when you lowered the window in the beginning you were close. You will need to push the window so that it is at the right level for you to access the bolts. There are holes in the arms of the regulator and holes in the door. All of these holes need to be aligned for you to access the bolts. On the left side it will look like this:

<img src="http://www.E46Fanatics.com/images/forum/regulator12.jpg">
And on the right side it will look like this:

<img src="http://www.E46Fanatics.com/images/forum/regulator13.jpg">

Before you loosen the bolts you might want to have someone hold onto the window if you are worried about it falling. I didn't have anyone help me. As I loosened each bolt I kept one hand on the bottom of the window to make sure it didn't fall. Even with the bolts loosened my window didn't move that easily, and in fact I really had to push on it to get it to move. But that could be particular to my car. You might not have the same experience. I know other people have had the experience where the window fell down into the door when they were attempting this step. Use a 8mm socket with your socket extension to loosen the bolts.

15. Lift the glass all the way up and tape it. If you are worried that the tape is not enough, have an assistant hold onto it to make sure that it stays up:

<img src="http://www.E46Fanatics.com/images/forum/regulator14.jpg">

16. Remove the 5 bolts that hold the regulator to the door. You will either need a 10mm socket or an 8mm socket to do this:

<img src="http://www.E46Fanatics.com/images/forum/regulator16.jpg">

There is a ziptie that holds one of the window regulator wires to the door. Cut this ziptie with a razor blade. But use a razor blade with a safety edge. Don't use a razor like the one in the picture. It is not very safe:

<img src="http://www.E46Fanatics.com/images/forum/regulator17.jpg">

17. You can now pull out the regulator. Just pull it out one arm at a time. It should be pretty intuitive. If you are putting in a new regulator, transfer this plastic clip from your old regulator to your new one:

<img src="http://www.E46Fanatics.com/images/forum/regulator18.jpg">
18. At this point either modify your old regulator and put it back in or put in your new regulator. After you put the regulator back into the door you should ziptie that wire on the regulator back to the door.

19. At this point instead of working backwards to put everything back together I did something a little different. I could not reassemble everything without testing it first. I would hate to do all that work only to find out that there was something still wrong with the regulator. And after all that work I wanted to be certain that everything was perfect.

20. With the regulator back in the door, I lowered the window back into the bracket and tighten the bolts. I reattached the window regulator motor. I then reattached the airbag. I did this because I didn't want to leave the airbag hanging while I was doing my testing. I then connected the negative terminal of the battery and powered the window up and down a few times just to make sure it was moving properly. Once I felt comfortable that everything was ok, I disconnected the negative terminal again. I waited 10 minutes or so and removed the airbag and tied it back up. Some people might express concern that this was unsafe to do, but I really didn't feel that the airbag was going to explode and it didn't.

21. At this point you can work backwards to put everything back together. Put the vapor barrier back on the door. Someone in tommiexboi's thread recommended using a hair dryer to heat up the sticky stuff that holds the vapor barrier to the door. I found this to be helpful. Reattach the object on the lower left side of the door. Reattach the airbag. Reattach the speaker wires and the door handle clip. Snap the wires back into the door panel. Also, reattach the window control wires to the switch. Snap the door panel back onto the door. Secure the door panel with the 5 torx-t20 screws. Push the window control, side mirror control, or blank plug back into the armrest. Push in the 2 plastic caps that go under the armrest. Pop in the wood trim. Reconnect your negative battery terminal. Done!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
eth700 said:
So I decided to remove my front passenger regulator tonight. I've been putting up with the cracking for some time now...I was hoping it was just the broken clips which could be fixed with the zipties but it appears the clips are still in tact. What do you guys think? If it's not the broken clips, what's making the cracking noise? Tomorrow I'm going to the stealership to pick up a new regulator. Also, could someone clarify just how to attatch the zipties to the cable? How do you secure them? THANKS.

eth700, I agree, these look good to me. Since I can't see the rest of the regulator, I don't really know where it is failing. But, I think you are right to buy a new regulator. If it was me, I would ziptie your new regulator just for added reinforcement. When you use the zipties, you basically thread them through the existing holes on either side of the cylinder to secure the wires so that that little cylinder has no way of popping out. I just really studied the pictures on this website and was able to figure it out:

http://www.skene.org/bmw/window/
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Hi Jim,
I am sorry this happened. I never disconnected the airbag so I didn't have the same experience. Did this happen even though the battery was unplugged? In other words, was there anytime the airbag was unplugged and the battery was connected. I am just curious, because Ritchie unplugged his airbag and didn't seem to have a problem. I have seen threads where people have talked about the reset tool. You should be able to find one.
 

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Discussion Starter · #21 · (Edited)
Lobo said:
Yes, I powered the car back up to test the window, but hadn't reconnected the airbag. That has to be why the SRS sensed a problem.
Ah, yes, that would be a problem.

Lobo said:
The regulator was a fun project, though. On mine, the cable was all knotted up round the pulley at the motor, meaning the pulley had broken down. I bought a new regulator, and it went in without any problems.
Yes, you definitely need a new regulator in that situation.

Lobo said:
Another consequence of disconnecting the battery was that I had to figure out how to reset the clock! What a pain that would have been without some help here. This forum is awsome.
Yeah, I probably should have mentioned that the clock would need to be reset. The directions on how to do this are probably in the BMW user manual in addition to here in the forums.

Glad everything worked out!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #35 · (Edited)
Don't worry. Get a new bolt from a BMW dealership. It should cost less than 50 cents. Then you should drive the car to your local BMW indy shop and ask them to loosen it for you. Before you go you don't need to put the whole door back together. Just drive the car with the door the way it is. But it is very important that you don't drive off with the airbag hanging. Make sure you bolt the airbag back on the door. Also before you drive off, put a towel in the well below the window. The window shouldn't fall, but just in case it does it will fall onto something soft. Depending how bad it was stripped they shouldn't have a problem getting it off for you. It should take them 2 seconds and they probably won't even charge you for it. They usually have better tools than the average home mechanic. If they can't get it off then ask them for suggestions on what you can do. I think Sears might sell a special tool to get off stripped bolts. If they do manage to loosen it you will need to drive home very carefully. You should keep one hand on the bottom of the window. If you have a thick enough towel in the well you should be ok. The window probably won't move but you need to be extra careful just in case it does. If you don't feel comfortable driving with the bracket loose like that you can have them put in the new bolt but make sure they don't tighten it too much so that you have the same problem when you get home.

These things happen.
 

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Discussion Starter · #49 ·
What's worse is that the pressure had the screw that holds the window brackets freeze in so tight, I stripped it, trying to unhook the window from the brackets. Spent the next hour carefully drilling the screw out.
These screws seem very easy to strip. The are very shallow and seem to be made out of a soft aluminum. When I am trying to undo these screws I put my other hand behind the window and push the window towards me to give some added leverage. Nevertheless, if they are too tight they are easy to strip.
 

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Discussion Starter · #56 · (Edited)
I follow the DIY and was able to replace the window regulator, and it is working great. But now, I can't open the door. I can unlock the lock, meaning when it is depress, and I pull the door handle, it will pop back up, but when I pull the door handle a second time, it will not open the door.

Does anyone have any ideas on how I can fix this? Also, I think I stripped the t-20 bolt under the arm rest handle, what can I use to remove it now?
It sounds like the white piece that controls the door handle might not have been reconnected properly. You definitely need to get that t-20 bolt out to remove the door. If the t-20 size doesn't work, try going up a size (t-25). That might work. And get a new bolt. It will cost you about 30 cents at the BMW dealership.
 

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Discussion Starter · #60 ·
Is it possible that something came loose? Could I possibly fix this without replacing the whole thing (considering that it goes down normally)??

Thanks!
It's most likely the regulator again. You would have to open up the door to see if the regulator can be salvaged with the zip tie method. These regulators are really crappy. Even if you put in a new one zip tie it. If you don't want to do it yourself make the mechanic do it. Bring him 2 zip ties and print out the picture of how it should look. You will find it here:

http://www.skene.org/bmw/window/
 

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Discussion Starter · #63 ·
I just called the mechanic shop that replaced it previously, and they said that the regulator itself has a 1 year warranty, and the shop has 6 months warranty on labor. And I checked my receipt last night, and it has been exactly 34 days since the new regulator was put in (regular window use, as far as I'm concerned)! :banghead:

So either way, I should be covered for this one... But I just might bring along a couple of zip ties, too!

By the way, an FYI for all... Both times this window regulator has failed (which, I cannot stress enough, has been within little over a month), it has been without any warning signs. Window seemed to work flawlessly until a big CHKGINKG-kinda sound happened, and poof... no more window work up for you...

Sometimes I wish I still had the good old window cranks... :tsk: But ONLY sometimes...
I am glad they are going to cover it. 34 days is ridiculous. Not the shop's fault, but still.
 

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Discussion Starter · #64 ·
Can the zip tie fix be used on the rear regulators? When my right rear regulator failed, the wire got mangled around the spool. I had to buy a new regulator, but I didn't see how the zip ties would apply as it didn't resemble the pictured one in the link.
I don't think the zip ties would work on the rears. I have not had to change a rear regulator yet so I don't know what they look like, but from what other people have written about it I don't think the rears can be zip tied. But I could be wrong.
 

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Discussion Starter · #65 ·
Ah, I just re-read his post and his problem was with a rear window not a front window. I missed that! So, I was wrong about bringing the mechanic 2 zip ties. From what I have read the zip ties don't work on the rears. But again, I could be wrong.
 

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Discussion Starter · #69 ·
Hi Jiveman,
Even if the regulator itself is not the problem, the recent repair made to your regulator most likely caused this plastic piece to break - which is why they fixed it for free. I love how they said that "technically" they are not responsible and make you feel like they are doing you a huge favor by fixing it for free. In my opinion they are 100% responsible. My guess is that they over torqued the bolt that secures the regulator to the window or somehow didn't align things properly before they tightened the bolt. It was probably the red bracket that broke. This is a small piece of plastic that costs 29 cents according to realoem.com.

I have to say, I don't like the way the did this repair. Gluing together a piece of plastic that costs 29 cents is not a good way to fix things. A few hot days and I can see this fix coming apart very easily. I am curious to see how long this holds together. Keep us posted. In the future, I wouldn't go back to that shop. They are wasting your time. If they fixed the regulator properly the first time, you wouldn't have had to take it back 34 days later. And now with their most recent repair, it looks like you are going to have to go back again in the near future.

This is why I encourage people to fix this themselves. I know most people don't have the time to do something like this or are not mechanically inclined, but sometimes it is worth it to take the time and do repairs like this yourself.
 

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Discussion Starter · #92 · (Edited)
If both clips of the regulator are zip tied and it is still making a noise I would suggest getting a new regulator. Start there and if it still persists then maybe someone more skilled than myself could give you some insight.
 

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Discussion Starter · #103 ·
I'm so glad I found this thread...my passenger side window seems like its showing signs of going out, so I emailed a guy on Craigslist to see what it would cost to fix ( I'm not really handy myself ) and this is what he said:




Whew ! Thanks Elbee...you just saved me about $250 !
The part shouldn't be that high. I would ask him why the part cost is so much when you are seeing prices in the $70-$100 range for a new regulator. Also keep in mind that the zip tie method might not work. In that case you will need to get a new one. If you need a new one I would supply it yourself to this guy to use and pay him for his labor.
 

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Discussion Starter · #105 ·
how do you remove stripped bolts? the bolts that hold the regulator to the window is hard to remove, any ideas?
I recently learned that 12 point sockets are sometimes good at removing stripped bolts. You might want to try a few 12 point sockets close to the same size of the bolt that needs to be removed.
 
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