BMW Z3 Droopy Glovebox

The factory installed glove box on my 1997 1.9 Z3 was definitely not an area that BMW decided to spend a lot of time on. After a few years the stamped plastic box began to sag in the middle under the weight of the glove box door and its contents. And who wants droopy drawers in their sports car? Here is an easy fix that will cost you about $5 and take around an hour to complete. The basic premise is to brace the top area of the glove box with a metal support, and insert sheet metal screws into the support from inside the glove box to eliminate the sagging.

You will need a stubby phillips screw driver, an awl, a drill and the use of a grinder. All of the following items were purchased from Ace Hardware:

* 2 3/16 washers

* 2 3/8 washers

* 2 number 8 x 32 1 1/4″ sheet metal screws with nuts

* 2 vinyl bushings cut to about 3/8″ in height

* 2 flip cap screw covers (many colors to choose from)

* 1 10″ x 1″ metal brace

* Loctite

It is important that you purchase the 10″ x 1″ brace at Ace Hardware unless you want to do some serious drilling. The pre-drilled holes at the ends of the brace fit over the existing screws that protrude from the bottom of the glove box. The next set of holes provide a great place to drill the holes into the glove box.

Folow the instructions in the MZ3.net article “Stopping Glovebox Rattles” to remvoe the glovebox from the car. Turn the glove box over and place the metal brace over the two existing screws coming out of the glove box. Use the awl to mark the centers of the holes that you will be drilling into the glove box. Note that the holes are offset, so use your judgement as to where to mark the centers for drilling.

Refer to the picture at right and the metal brace above. You will need to notch the brace in the center to allow for the latch of the glovebox to close. With the metal brace resting on top of the existing screws (A), outline the area to be removed from the brace for the glovebox latch (C) using a black marker. Remove the metal brace and use the grinder to remove the area you have marked. Place the brace back on the glove box and trim the notched area until the glovebox latches closed easily.

Now you are ready to drill. To avoid drilling into the glove box drawer, hold a wooden block inside the compartment near the latch where the drill bit will come through. Using a 3/16 bit, drill the marked holes into the glove box. After you finish drilling, take this opportunity to give the glovebox a thorough cleaning.

Attach the metal brace to the glove box by assembling as illustrated below.

After you have attached the metal brace and tightened the nuts firmly, add a drop of Loctite where the bolt leaves the nut. This will prevent the nut from vibrating loose. Close the caps over the screw heads and reinstall the glovebox into the car. Again refer to the the MZ3.net article “Stopping Glovebox Rattles” for instructions on reinstalling the glovebox.

BMW Strong-Strut Tower Brace

Pros: Price, quality, strength, breathtaking finish
Cons: Careless installation could “ding” your hood
Cost: $315 and up from Strong Strut

Not surprisingly, my M Roadster displays a subtle cacophony of assorted squeaks and rattles which seem to be standard equipment on even the stoutest of convertibles. MZ3 Netmeister Robert Leidy’s review of the Dinan Strut Brace suggested that a tower brace could provide help. Meantime, I had been seeing quite a few posts on the Z3 message board discussing the new Strong-Strut tower brace. Strong-Strut’s own web page made their strut seem particularly attractive so, as I’m always eager to try out the latest wrinkle, I ordered a Strong-Strut for my car.

The Strong-Strut arrived in a long triangular USPS Priority Mail box. Weighing in at 12 1/2 pounds, the all steel structure is clearly up to restraining errant movements of the strut towers. More, the Strong-Strut is absolutely beautiful to see. The flawless powder coat and deep chrome will look wonderful under my hood. I chose black powder coated tower rings with a chrome strut, but Strong-Strut offers a wide choice of attractive sounding finishes with prices ranging from $315 for an all black powder coated assembly to $365 for all chrome finish. Other, more expensive, special finishes are also available and Strong-Strut is even prepared to provide custom finishes to the buyer’s specs. How about candy-apple purple rings with a gold plated strut?

Strong-Strut provides six pages of instructions, most of which are concerned with insuring adequate under hood clearance. The penalty for failing to carefully follow these instructions would be two dings in your hood when you slam it closed on the Strong-Strut. Happily, the procedure is clearly explained, and Strong-Strut even includes two cubes of modeling clay to check under hood clearance. Once proper clearance is insured, the installation is a matter of ten minutes or so, using common hand tools. Take your time as you bolt it in and admire the lovely weld beads and precision stainless steel hardware. Note, too, how the tower rings are contoured to exactly mate with the complex curvature of the top of the strut tower.

Not only does the Strong-Strut look great under my hood, it works! I don’t track or autocross my car so I can’t comment on its handling benefits, but I noticed immediately on my road test that a persistent rattle from the dash area was gone. Problem is that some rattles from the back are now more obvious, but Strong-Strut is working on a rear brace and I’ve told them to put me first on their waiting list. I had thoroughly surveyed the list of available strut braces before I bought my Strong-Strut and I’m convinced that it provides an unbeatable combination of price,strength, quality, and under hood good looks. So, whether you’re looking for useful strengthening of the front end, or just eye candy, the Strong-Strut is hard to beat.

Stopping BMW Glovebox Rattles

Start under the glovebox, remove the three rotary plastic clips in the back under the glovebox. If you haven’t encountered these clips before you need to rotate them 90 degrees and then you should be able to pull them loose. The picture to the right points out the three rotary clips that need to be removed. Once they have been removed you can remove this entire section of plastic.

If you have footwell lights you will need to either disconnect the wiring or leave this section laying on the floor (assuming the wiring has enough slack).

Note: You can click on any of the pictures in this article to see a larger view.

Open the glove compartment and remove the two screws on the front edge. Then remove the other four screws that are pointed out in the picture to the right. There are trim caps over the six screws that need to be removed. Every time I mess with these trim caps I usually end up tearing them up. Because of this I usually have a supply of extra caps on hand. BMW part number (51-16-1-949-793 black) lists for $0.38 each I usually tack an order of 10 of them on to some other order whenever I’m running low. If your interior is tan use BMW part number (51-16-8-398-920). You can try and pry the caps off with a thin edge or pick. I’ve heard that there is a way to pop them off with the curved side of a paper clip but I’ve never tried it. When you are removing the glovebox be careful and gentle, the design of the glovebox is fragile and some of these mounting points are very fragile.

Once the screws are out you can remove the glove box by pulling it down and towards the passenger door. The drivers side will catch on the center console trim panel, you will have to work this free so go slow. There isn’t much room to work it free, so it will be a little frustrating at first but it will work free (try working it down first, and then out).

Once the glovebox is removed take a look at it and how it is built, not very impressive is it? My theory is that the thin sheet of moulded plastic the comprises the entire backside of the glove box is the cause of the buzzing-rattles that a lot of us are hearing. You can see that the thin plastic layer is hot stamped on the sides of the glovebox in an attempt to secure it to the rest of the glovebox. On my glovebox two of these hot stamps had broken loose, and all the screws that hold the metal latch in place were loose. The goal of this upgrade is to secure this thin plastic piece tightly against the rest of the glovebox to eliminate some of the buzzing rattles.

Once the glovebox is removed you can move this project indoors. I spent an evening sitting on the living room floor working on the glovebox while watching TV.

While you are inspecting the glovebox notice that BMW hot stamped the sides of the glovebox but they did nothing to secure the plastic around the lock and handle. You can easily move this section of thin plastic around since it is not secured to anything. It’s easy to picture this part vibrating against the metal frame while your driving. Besides the normal road vibrations there are a lot of wires and harnesses directly behind the glovebox. So anything that is not secured tight can be susceptible to vibration rattles. As a simple approach you could place a few drops of superglue on the underside of the front edge of this plastic and glue it in place (get the gel-type superglue). Besides this loose side around the lock, look around and secure any other loose areas that could vibrate and cause noise. And check the screws that are securing the metal latch to the glovebox.

If glue alone isn’t doing the job, you may want to consider drilling small holes and using nuts and bolts to hold the plastic down firmly. This is what I decided to do. You will need four #4-40 x 3/4″ machine screws, four #4-40 nuts, eight #6 zinc washers and eight #6 rubber washers (cost was under $2). You can use #4-40 1/2″ machine screws but it will be a more difficult to get the bolt started (it’s just barely long enough). In addition to this hardware you will need a screwdriver, 1/4″ wrench and a drill with a 3/32 drill bit.

Let me forewarn you that the heads of the screws will be visible when the glovebox is open, but not when the glovebox is closed. You may want to consider painting the zinc washers and screw heads black (or tan) to match your glovebox. I secured the front of the glove box with two bolts and each side with a bolt. The sides were probably overkill but this is where I had one of the hot-stamps break loose so I wanted to make sure I got this done right the first time.

In each of the locations that I decided needed to be secured I drilled a 3/32 hole, then used the #4-40 screw with a zinc washer and rubber washer on each side. I decided to use the rubber washers because this glovebox plastic is thin and brittle (didn’t want the zinc washers cutting it). Besides this hardware is so cheap why not take the extra precaution. So the bolt head is on the glovebox side the nut is on the back side. Each side has a rubber washer against the glovebox and a zinc washer on top of it (so the bolt head and/or nut doesn’t cut the rubber washer).

Reinstalling the glovebox takes about as much effort as getting it out. You start by working the glovebox back into place remembering that there are tabs that go behind the side of the center console. Pay attention to the wiring behind the glovebox as well. If you see any loose wiring harness or anything else that may be rattling against the back side of the glovebox find a way to secure them. Once you have everything worked back into place reinstall the six screws (see the second picture in this article). Be sure that all the screws get threaded back into the speed clips and the entire glovebox is held firmly in place. Lastly reinstall the lower panel.

Beating the Buzz

After taking delivery and listening to the “upgraded” HK stereo I was very let down. The rear subwoofer rattled and buzzed whenever it got loud enough to actually be heard. To me it almost sounded like the speaker was blown. When I finally got to compare my stereo to Alan’s HK I knew something was not right.

Turns out a rubber, snorkel-tube that is designed to port the sound to a lower position had come loose and was vibrating. The vibrating rubber tube sounded just like what a blown speaker sounds like.

The good news is it was really easy to fix. The speaker grill just pops off, start with the lower corners then the upper corners. With the grill removed you can see this silly little rubber tube thing. The tube just sticks into the open hole in the subwoofer, a couple raised rings try and hold it in there. To me it seemed like it would only be a matter of time before it worked its way loose again. I was considering putting a couple drops of glue on it to help hold the tube in place.

On a whim I tried listening to the stereo with out the tube in at all. Honestly I could not tell a difference with and without the tube so I decided just to leave it off. It’s a piece of cake to reinstall it later if someone convinces me to do so, but for now the rubber tube is tossed onto the pile of other BMW parts in the corner of my garage.

UPDATE 5/10: The subwoofer sounded good at low volume with the tube removed, but with the top down and the stereo at high volume the subwoofer started to sound muddy. After a little experimentation (this time with the volume turned up high) I found that the rubber tube does make the subwoofer sound tighter at high volume. So the rubber tube came back off the pile of parts in the corner of my garage and is now back with the sub woofer. I was tempted to put a couple drops of super glue on it so it would stay, but decided to give it a try without glue first. If the tube works its way loose then I’ll glue it back in.