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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
tl;dr: drivers side top latch stuck/frozen closed regardless of manual crank. how can i force it to unlock/open to replace broken latch/motor?

hey all,

So a couple months ago, on a beautiful partly cloudy SoCal summer day, I left a store to a slight drizzling sun shower -- and found that the top on my 04 330 stopped working. :banghead:

I figured it was the motor dying in the back seat but i didn't hear any clicking so i figured i'd deal with it later, but in the meantime i needed the top closed. i unlocked the top, pulled it up out and down and got it in position to latch to the windshield. once in position, i decided to see if it was the motor in back or latch motors and pressed the close button. it wouldn't pull down and latch after 10-15 seconds or so of whirring, so i manually closed it with the crank while pulling it down, however the light was still blinking and i needed in my trunk.

I pressed the close button again thinking it just needed to initialize the sensor and detect the closed state. it whirred and sounded like it was about to finish latching. Just as the red light went out, a loud *SNAP* rang across the land. my hear sank, but the top was closed and sealed and thinking a long string of expletives to myself, i again figured i would be able to figure it out once i got home.:censor:

Well, I got home and started trying to figure out what went wrong. I've googled like a madman and researched the topic and have figured what needs to be replaced and how, at least as far as i can without being able see the latch motors.

And therein lies the problem. since that snap, the driver side latch will not unlatch. the passenger side works just fine, latching and unlatching and pulling itself down with the button and crank, but no matter what I've done so far, the drivers side remains sealed tight. from what I've read, in order to get the trim off to get to the latch, the top has to be part way up. so, the main question is, Does anyone have any ideas on how to unlatch a stuck/broken top latch?

It's been a few months and i remember finding something that looked promising about a screw on the side under the weather trim, but i cant find the bookmark and am not sure if I'm remembering it correctly. the last option i see is using a drill and needless to say i want to avoid that path. the stealership is not a viable option as i don't have the money to deal with that now (after a recent drive shaft replacement) and honestly i want to put as little into my car as possible since i want to upgrade.

help me, e46fanatics; you're my only hope! (/nerd)

Thanks in advance!
 

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I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you are in for a bit of work. The snapping sound you describe doesn't bode well. There is a flexible rod that goes between your top latch motor and the top latch. The motor has a splined gear that the flexible shaft slides on to. When the splined gear on the motor turns, it turns the flexible shaft, which then spins and opens or closes the latch. The flexible shaft is just a thick cable shrouded in plastic. The cable part of the shaft can twist, or the ends can twist off the cable, especially if you manually closed the top and kept spinning the the allen wrench after the latch was in the full closed position. Unfortunately, if the flexible shaft is shot, and from the sound you describe indicated that, then there is no easy way to open the latch. I spent countless hours doing web searches and trying anything with the top I could to free up the latch (do a search on my ID on this site, I have a few posts related to this). The unfortunate part of this is that the only way you can open the latch if it is the flexible shaft that is broken, you have to actually cut into the windshield frame cover, which is the black cover that runs the length (right to left) of the front edge of your top (p/n 54348263820). You have to cut a long hole into it and pull the cut edges back to get at the latch, You will see the shaft that way was well. I suggest you purchase the shaft before you start (p/n 54347042479), that way once you cut into the cover sufficiently, you can pull of the broken shaft, slide on the new one, and manually turn the end of the shaft to open the latch. Once you open the latch you can finally take off the cover you just cut into. That, of course, will have to be replaced. Cost new is approx $230. I paid $100 for a used one.
One last bit of info. When I first brought the car in to the dealer to find out what needed to be done to fix the top, they researched it and came back and told me they would have to cut the cover off to get to the latches. I left thinking they were scamming me. 2 months of research and I came to the same conclusion.
 

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Sorry to hear that . If you have to cut your cover off, I might have one (not in perfect condition but better than a cut) I can sell you. Bit of a long story, but PM me if you get to that point.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you are in for a bit of work. The snapping sound you describe doesn't bode well. There is a flexible rod that goes between your top latch motor and the top latch. The motor has a splined gear that the flexible shaft slides on to. When the splined gear on the motor turns, it turns the flexible shaft, which then spins and opens or closes the latch. The flexible shaft is just a thick cable shrouded in plastic. The cable part of the shaft can twist, or the ends can twist off the cable, especially if you manually closed the top and kept spinning the the allen wrench after the latch was in the full closed position. Unfortunately, if the flexible shaft is shot, and from the sound you describe indicated that, then there is no easy way to open the latch. I spent countless hours doing web searches and trying anything with the top I could to free up the latch (do a search on my ID on this site, I have a few posts related to this). The unfortunate part of this is that the only way you can open the latch if it is the flexible shaft that is broken, you have to actually cut into the windshield frame cover, which is the black cover that runs the length (right to left) of the front edge of your top (p/n 54348263820). You have to cut a long hole into it and pull the cut edges back to get at the latch, You will see the shaft that way was well. I suggest you purchase the shaft before you start (p/n 54347042479), that way once you cut into the cover sufficiently, you can pull of the broken shaft, slide on the new one, and manually turn the end of the shaft to open the latch. Once you open the latch you can finally take off the cover you just cut into. That, of course, will have to be replaced. Cost new is approx $230. I paid $100 for a used one.
One last bit of info. When I first brought the car in to the dealer to find out what needed to be done to fix the top, they researched it and came back and told me they would have to cut the cover off to get to the latches. I left thinking they were scamming me. 2 months of research and I came to the same conclusion.
thanks for the info. yeah i was afraid thats what was going to be said. /sigh. ill need to find a bmw scrap shop in my area. i need the lid motor too i think... among other things. all kinds of crap has happened to my car in the last 6 moths. its like a divine sigh to jump ship lmao. the things thats killing me is the cost of the trim parts. theyre crazy imo! used it is. i wanna sell out and upgrade soon. thanks again!
 

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A little late, but responded. Hope things go well with yours.
 
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