8 How To - Vechicle Trim

Quick links:  Rearview Mirror   Outside mirrors     Front bumper     Air duct   Windshield Cowl     

Overview and text will come.

Rearview Mirror

Over time the rearview mirror may go bad. The dim function is based on a fluid inside the mirror. This fluid may lose its properties or even leak out. If it leaks please be aware that it can stain the interior of the car.

If the mirror goes bad You have some alternatives.
- Buy a new original complete mirror (part 51 16 7 892 264) which costs app.
  EUR 600 (base version). BMW does not sell individual spare parts.   
- Buy a used mirror (about EUR 2-300) and hope it is not about to go bad.
- Replace the mirror glass with a simple not-dimming mirror.
- Replace the faulty (glass) mirror with an aftermarket part with same function.
  It’s a relatively cheap option costing app GBP 100.

There may be other suppliers of aftermarket auto-dim mirrors for E46 M3, but
Mirror John is has good reputation for good quality replace mirrors. He also
provides good DIY installation instructions. Find him here.   


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Outside mirrors

Broken / tainted mirror glass

Over time the mirror glass is likely to be tainted at the edges. This is common for all cars – for mirrors generally for that sake.
It’s rather easy to replace the mirror glass – the greatest hurdle is that an original mirror glass ir pretty expensive.
It seems as the original glass – apart from the bayonet lock – is fastened with some adhesive. Prying with caution the mirror glass will come off. In my opinion the adhesive is not needed when you fit the new glass.

Mirror John - he’s based in Southampton – offers new mirrors of his own make. From reputation the quality is fine and the prices are attractive. Further his web site has comprehensive DIY instructions to replace the mirrors. Find him here


Loose mirror

The outside mirrors may come loose over time.

This may be caused by one of two reasons (or both):

1: The two bolts (M6, socket 10 mm) holding the mirror to the door may have come loose.
2: The screws holding the mirror to its base may have come loose.

In the first case you only need to remove the triangular cover inside the door and tighten the bolts.

In the second case you need to unscrew the two M6 bolts to get access to the loose screws. This normally implies that you need to take off the door card to provide sufficient wire slag to access the screws.

Link to taking off door card.

To get sufficient slag (wire) don’t
hesitate to push the grommet out.
It’s easy to get into place again since
there is a flap you can pull it through
the hole.
If you try to pull the wire through the
grommet, you will likely damage the
wire wrapping.  

To get rid of the play, tighten the
two torx screws.

Tilt function

If you lose the tilt function (or it malfunctions) so you
cannot adjust the mirror position to suit your rear view,
it may be the switch, the wiring or the tilt motor.

If it is the tilt motor, it can rather easily be replaced
without taking off the whole mirror unit.
First step is to remove the mirror glass as described
above. Next step is to unscrew the 3 pcs torx screws as
shown. From there it’s straight forward to replace the tilt
motor (part left 51 16 7 895 275; part right 51 16 7 895 276).



Power fold

If the outside mirror loses the power fold function it’s probably due to the small electric motor inside the mirror has stopped working OR that a tooth or two have broken off the small gears located in the end of the electrical motor. Before coming to that conclusion check other potential issues such as broken wires etc.

If it is the motor or gears you have two options:

1: Buy a complete new mirror. The individual parts are not available from BMW or
2: Buying a repair kit available on eBay

I have tried both options. I was not able to make the eBay solution (Chinese product) work the first time, but when I had to repair the other mirror it succeeded.

Buying a new original complete mirror presents 2 challenges: It’s pretty expensive and it’s only primed, so it may even require a paint job.  My mirror on the car, however, was fine on the outside, so I decided to move the motors/mechanisms over from the new mirror.

To get started the mirror needs to get off the car; see "Lose Mirror" above. 

If your plan is to use the new power fold unit in
your old mirror shell, you need to detach it from
the new shell. For that you need to get the wiring
through the mirror base, and that requires the
connector to be taken apart (easy) and get the
grommet through the mirror base. I will not
recommend disconnecting the wires from the
inner connector – it is sufficient to take the inner
connector out of the outer shell (with the locking
devise). To get the grommet through the mirror
base is tedious work – but it is quite possible.  
Take your time – perhaps use a little lubricant.

Assembly follows reverse order.

The heating wires may turn out too short since
some versions of mirror glass have the connection
near the door – others away from the door.
Two simple extension wires will fix the problem.

If you wish so, you can install the mirror housing,
tilt motor and mirror after you have installed the
other parts on the door.  

To repair the power fold mechanism you need to get some parts first.
You can buy repair sets with electric motor or without. If you can hear
the motor running you can probably do with a set w/o motor. If you
can’t hear the motor active it may be finished or perhaps not. The
motor is not so expensive, so to be sure chose a set with motor.

There are also different sets of spare parts ranging from only 3 pcs
gear wheels to a “full package” with 8 or more components. Since a
common issue is a broken dowel on the bell housing for the electric
motor, be sure the bell housing is included.

If the mirror goes on clicking (rattling)  in one end position it is likely
a broken dowel.

You will find the parts on ebay. Search “BMW E46 M3 mirror gear
motor” or like.

My first attempt to repair the power fold mechanism was only partially
successful. The mirror turned a bit slow but now and then it stopped
“half way”. I noticed that after the motor had stopped a “click” came
from the unit after some time. I hadn’t really thought of it before, but
that “click” told me, that the electronics sitting at the end of the motor
has a thermal switch and that the registration of the mirror reaching
an end position is by increased current and heating up the thermal
switch. This mechanism, therefore, is sensitive to friction in the turning
movement. If friction is too high the thermal switch “thinks” it has
reached an end stop and cuts the current. This led me to believe, that
I had been too “generous” with the grease when I assembled the unit.
Further, the grease I had used was perhaps too “thick” to allow free
movement especially between the cylindrical surfaces.
I took it apart again, cleaned all shown surfaces and applied some “thin”
lithium grease. It worked!      

This video explains the procedure:
BMW e46 M3 electric power folding mirror disassembly for folding motor replacement

This link deals with adding power fold mirror to cars born without it :
E46 Fanatics    Turning manual folding mirrors into power folding mirrors   

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Mirror tilt screws

Front bumper

The M3 front bumper is different from the standard E46 front bumper.

The M3 bumper has a lightweight composite
“backbone” which is bolted on the chassis in a
different way (with 2 x 3 pcs bolts).

The outer bumper cover is attached to the
composite carrier by 4 pcs knobs and further
by 6 pcs screws (2 pcs in each wheel arc and
2 pcs under the bumper cover. In addition to
that the left and right ends are hold in place by
a bracket in each side. These brackets are
fastened to the chassis by 2 pcs bolts each.
These latter bolts are accessible when the
directional lights are removed.

Having unscrewed the 6 screws and loosened
the brackets, the bumper cover is taken off by
pulling forward (freeing the 4 pcs knobs from
their rubber seats).

OBSERVE: At the bottom of the washer tank
there is a screw. This screw is unusual short and
may not be replaced by a longer screw, since a
longer screw will puncture the washer tank.

If you need to replace the lightweight composite carrier, you will have to disconnect tubing to the washer system and the wires attached to the backside of the carrier.

If you does not need to replace the carrier, you may just unscrew the bolts holding the carrier and move it somewhat away from the car supporting it at the ends (not to stretch water tubing or wires).

Back to Air Duct    

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Air duct

To change the air duct you need to take off the
bumper first. Actually I’ll recommend detaching
the bumper but only moving it app. 20 cm away
from the front and support it at the left and right
end. The reason for this is that in this way you
can avoid to detach the washer tank and the
tubing to this as well as some wiring.

See Front bumper

In my case I needed to replace the air duct since
some of it had been cut away. This was probably
because the pull-wire to the bonnet locks had
broken at some instant. When that happens, the
only way to open the bonnet is to remove the
kidneys in the bonnet and cut away some of the
air duct to gain access to the locks by hand or

Removing the air duct is straight forward. Take
out the expanding rivets holding it – and that’s it.
4 pcs of the expanding rivets (51 71 8 229 003)
are different from the others and may “resist”
removing. Actually they consist of a plastic screw (Phillips) and an outer expanding part.  If the Phillips head “go south” just drill off the head and push the rest away. In other words it’s a good idea to have 4 pcs spare before you start the work. 

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Windshield Cowl

If the windshield cowl is damaged – which eventually
will happen over time especially in extreme climates –
it’s a really good idea to renew it. Its primary function
is to keep water and dirt to accumulate.
The cowl part 51 71 8 232 894 is not expensive and
very easy to replace.

In order to take out the cowl the wiper arms need to
be taken off. Before doing that mark the wiper blades
positions – that will avoid later issues.

Pop off the plastic cover over the wiper arm nuts on
the axels, screw off the nuts (15 mm) and use a small
puller to pull off the arms.

Remove cover for cabin air filter (twist 3 pcs locking
devices) and the filter.

The cowl itself sits with 7 pcs clips. Pry the cowl from
either end (left/right) and it comes out easily. In some
cases one or two of the clips separate and the rest
comes out in both parts. This doesn’t matter since the
part 51 71 8 232 894 includes new clips. (Loose clip
part no is 51 71 8 234 698).

Clean the area under the cowl. In some severe cases
there may be a lot of dirt, leaves and other stuff.

Check the left and right covers right under the bonnet
hinges. Clean or renew if needed.

It may be recommended to give the exposed areas
some protection (vax) and/or remove any rust plus
protect if needed.

Unless damaged you can reuse the sealing from the
old cowl. Put it on the new cowl – there is a center
mark on both the cowl and the sealing.

I recommend giving the clips a little silicone to make
them pop in easier (and not damage paint).


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