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Hello everyone! I am looking for some help for my very specific case. I tried looking for existing threads about this but couldn't find one.

So here is my problem. I bought this 2003 m3 vert, and one of the issues is that the soft top won't open. I've owned convertible e46's before and I am familiar with their issues. However the symptoms on this one are messing with my brain. When I press the top open button (windows down, trunk compartment down) the red light comes on, and I can hear the motor at the windshield turning. However, it is not unlatching at all. When I try to use the allen key to manually open it, I can only do a couple of turns before the whole cylinder comes out, not unlatching anything. I have no idea of what the problem is, and why the motor is making a noise, and the allen key is not doing anything but unscrewing the cylinder completely.
If you think a video would help I can record one and upload it. Any help is appreciated!
 

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I remember reading about this problem here. Keep searching, the solution is here someplace. I'm not going to take the time to search for you.
Your problem is most likely broken gears in the front latch motor. The problem is how do you get to it to fix or replace. Some people cut a hole to access it, but I seem to remember somebody finding another way in. Probably your top was manually closed. The way it was designed doing this almost guarantees the gears will be broken. If I remember correctly, one manual closing basically turns it into a coupe.
Have you read the sticky threads at the top of this forum? Your answer might be in one of them.
Good luck. Please follow up with what you did so others searching can find your solution
 

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Auto part Automotive engine part Gauge

This is where your issue is. This is the latch drive motor. Sounds like the mechanism is stripped out. The only way to deal with this is to cut through the cover to access the motor for replacement.
 

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View attachment 719497

This is where your issue is. This is the latch drive motor. Sounds like the mechanism is stripped out. The only way to deal with this is to cut through the cover to access the motor for replacement.


Same thing happened to my car. The plastic gears broke and the 2 black plastic blocks on both sides got cracked too. The symptoms were you just hear a mechanical whirring sound but basically no progressive movement of the top. I just manually folded it and took it to my bmw indy shop. They replaced the entire motor including gears and also the latches. Cost me $1500 all up. They said dealer will charge more than double that just for supply only, extra for labour too.


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