Leather Covered Z3 Console Valet with Universal Transmitter

Pros: Convenient, Looks Great
Cons: Wired to switched power, so it doesn’t work when the car is off.
Cost: The retail BMW price of part number 82-11-1-470-399 is $179.00. This does not include a “base” which retails for $25.00. The LeatherZ version starts at $300

Ever since Alan posted an article detailing his James Bond-ish garage door opener I’ve been wanting to add the same functionality to my Z3. Like a lot of projects I never got around to doing it, but this time procrastination rewarded me. BMW released a new accessory, BMW Part number 82-11-1-470-399 is a console valet universal transmitter. It replaces the rear lid on the (optional) Z3 center console and provides three programmable buttons. Jon Maddux of LeatherZ worked his magic on the plastic BMW part and covered it in matching gray leather so the new rear section would match my custom LeatherZ armrest. Once that was done, it was time to install this new armrest. The BMW instructions were pretty good. My only real complaint with the BMW instructions was that the text instructions were difficult to match up with their drawings. The rest of this article will contain those original BMW instructions (in black) with my additional comments in red and my own original pictures. You can click on any of the pictures in this article to see a closeup view.

The Z3 Console Valet must be removed to allow for drilling of wiring access holes and the routing of the wiring harness. When you order BMW part 82 11 1 470 399 the following parts are included with the kit. 1 Z3 Console Valet rear lid with Universal Transmitter Assembly. 1 Z3 Console Valet forward lid. 1 Universal Transmitter wiring harness. 1 White two position socket (female) terminal housing. 1 White two position pin (male) terminal housing. 2 Cord clip with self adhesive mount.

1. Removal of the Console Valet Remove trim cap located in small rectangular well at the rear of the console valet.

2. Detach hand brake “boot” to gain access to console valet fastener located under console.

3. Remove socket head cap screw and locknut.

4. Carefully lift rear of console valet upward and pull rearward to dismount forward position tabs of the console valet.

These instruction assume the console valet is installed via BMW’s latest instructions. I’ve seen two other methods dealers have used to install the console valet. Sometimes the rear bolt is just a screw. Sometimes screws and bolts are not used at all and the valet is held in place via velcro. It’s rare but some have a second screw in the bottom of the storage area

1. Preparing the Console Valet Remove rear console valet lid by “slipping” the two O-rings off of the stanchions located to the rear left and right of the lid. Pull the rear lid clear of the hinge rod.

2. Locate the position where the top hole is to be drilled. Drill a 17/64″ (7mm) diameter hole.

3. Turn over the console valet and drill a 17/64 (7mm) diameter hole through the inner support rib. For ease of installation, a larger diameter hole may be drilled through the inner support rib since it will not be visible.

4. Remove debris from the previous drilling procedures.

5. Remove the forward console valet lid by “slipping” the two O-rings off of the stanchions located on the lateral left and right of the lid. Pull the forward lid clear of the hinge rod.

6. Install the kit supplied replacement forward console valet lid in reverse order of the previous step.

You can see the location of the hole I drilled in the picture below. I did not replace the forward lid since my current forward lid was already leather covered by www.leatherz.com

1. Installing the Console Valet Universal Transmitter Lid Remove the three self tapping screws that secure the inner cover to the Universal Transmitter lid.

2. Feed the pin (male) and socket (female) terminated wires (one wire terminal at a time) from the top to bottom through the upper hole until the heat shrink portion of the wire harness is centered in the top hole.

3. Insert the 3-position connector into the Universal Transmitter module connector.

4. Affix a self adhesive cord clip to the underside of the Universal Transmitter rear lid.

5. Position the harness neatly from the Universal Transmitter module connection and running adjacent to the Universal Transmitter module through the cord clip feeding all excess wire harness down through the upper hole.

6. Reinstall the three self tapping screws that secure the inner cover of the Universal Transmitter to the lid.

7. Feed the pin (male) and socket (female) terminated wires (one wire terminal at a time) through the lower hole until most of the excess wire harness is positioned forward of the lower hole.

8. Affix a self adhesive cord clip to the underside of the console valet.

9. Attach the Universal Transmitter lid to the hinge rod and reattach the O-rings over the stanchions. Note: Care should be used not to cur or score the O-rings during this step

10. Gently pull any excess insulated wire down through the upper hole leaving sufficient length of heat shrink covered harness sufficient length above the hole for the Universal Transmitter lid to open and close easily without binding the wire harness.

1. Wiring Locate the factory installed cellular telephone (provisions) connector X400 in the area adjacent to the hand brake. This connector is a black AMP 8-position connector with five socket (female) terminated wires occupying the housing of this connector. Note: Disconnect the X400 connector if currently connected to the cellular telephone connector.

2. Using the BMW special tool #61 1110 2.5mm electrical contact extraction tool (found in BMW Electrical Repair Kit III) extract socket (female) terminated violet/black wire from position #5 of the connector X400

3. Insert the white wire socket (female) terminal of the Universal Transmitter into position #5 of the connector X400

4. Insert the socket (female) terminal of the violet/black wire into position #1 of the 2-position white AMP socket housing connector.

5. Using the BMW 2.5mm electrical contact extraction tool extract socket (female) terminated brown wire from position #2 of the connector X400

6. Insert the black wire socket (female) terminal of the Universal Transmitter into position #2 of connector X400

7. Inert the socket (female) terminal of the brown wire into position #2 of the 2-position white AMP pin (male terminal housing connector.

8. Insert the Universal Transmitter white wire pin (male) terminal into position #1 of the 2-position white AMP pin (male) terminal housing connector.

9. Insert the Universal Transmitter black wire pin (male) terminal into position #2 of the 2-position white AMP pin (male) terminal housing connector.

10. Connect the white AMP 2-position socket (female) and pin (male) terminal housing connectors together to complete the electrical connection of the Universal Transmitter.

11. Reconnect the X400 connector to the cellular telephone connector if previously disconnected

1. Reinstalling the Console Valet Re-install the console valet by positioning the two forward positioning tabs of the console valet into the two slots located in the forward edge of the center console. Ensure that excess wire is neatly positioned underneath the console valet and are not pinched.

2. Reattach the socket head cap screw and locknut and tighten securely.

3. Reinstall trim cap.

Conforti OBDII Performance Reprogram

Pros: Smoother, quicker, new hard-edged sound
Cons: So-so documentation, four days downtime
Cost: $399 from Turner Motorsport

There may be little that the participants in the web’s BMW bulletin boards agree on, but one product which seems to receive almost unanimous approval is Jim Conforti’s line of Landshark chips and OBDII programs, so I decided to give Jim’s reprogram a try on my M Roadster. Jim’s Bonneville Motor Werkes doesn’t deal directly with the public, but he has appointed several national retailers to handle his products. Because of their excellent web page, I decided to order from Turner Motorsport. Though I could have ordered on line, I chose to call their 800 number so I could ask some questions about the process. The idea of sending my expensive DME off to be tinkered with filled me with dread! The customer representative I spoke to was very helpful and I was happy with the answers I received, so I placed my order. Two days later I received my shipping kit; DME removal instructions, an upgrade checklist, a shipping label and a static-free bag. Note that the DME is shipped direct to Jim in Utah not to Turner Motorsport in Massachusetts. When I placed my order, I was told to insure my shipment for the replacement value of the DME, $1200, but the shipping documents made no mention of this. Also, Turner’s web site says that shipments must arrive in Utah on Tuesday so that Jim can reprogram Tuesday night and return ship on Wednesday. This restriction was not mentioned either. Considering that your car won’t run until you get the DME back, I think that both these considerations should be clearly stated in the documents which accompany the shipping kit.

The removal instructions provided were, frankly, not very impressive; a simple line drawing and three brief steps of instruction. Fortunately, the job is relatively easy and I was able to remove the DME in minutes. The only hangup was a two prong plug just behind the DME, not mentioned in the instruction sheet, which needed to be unplugged before I could get enough slack in the wiring harness to fully remove the DME from it’s enclosure. The process is as follows:

Locate DME enclosure just in front of the passenger side fire wall Loosen cover by unscrewing three cross point screws.

Remove cover, then unplug small two prong connector behind DME Carefully lift wiring harness high enough to lift DME

Remove DME completely from enclosure Extend metal lock tab and remove connector

Once the connector is removed from the side of the DME, place the DME in the provided static free bag and prepare for shipment. The DME should be accompanied by your copy of the sales receipt and the completed upgrade checklist. The DME is well protected by it’s metal enclosure so only minimal padding is required for safe shipment. I sent my overnight shipment out on Monday and, as promised, received it back on Thursday. Installation is just the opposite of the removal, and the car fired up at the first turn if the key. Whew!! My first brief drive, down to the corner and back, immediately impressed me with the new hard-edged authority of the engine sound. After rechecking that the wiring harness was properly installed, I replaced and tightened the cover on the DME enclosure, then took the car out for a longer run.

Once the engine was thoroughly warmed up, I let it fly on a local back road. Response was immediate, almost as if the accelerator pedal was wired direct to the tach. Crisp, clean response with no flat spots or hesitations right up to the new 7000 rpm limit. In deference to my life and my license I didn’t check the top speed limiter, but I’m sure the M-ster will now come close to pegging its 160 mph speedometer. Popping smooth shifts is child’s play because the revs drop off more readily when the accelerator is released and, if you indulge, heel and toeing is much easier because the engine revs up so much more freely with the clutch disengaged. And all the while this electric wail from engine! I can’t swear it’s really quicker, but who cares? It feels positively supercharged. The car is so much more fun to drive that it’s hard to understand why BMW doesn’t tune it this way to begin with. After all of my fears, the process turned out to be quite painless and the result is worth far more than the cost. The only downside I can see is the incomplete documentation…and, of course, you can’t drive your bimmer for four days. Do it!!

UPDATE: April 15, 2000

Just two days after this article was first published on the MZ3.Net, I received an e-mail from a reader, Tom Leath, to let me know that Turner Motorsport is now performing the reprogramming at their facility and are promising that your DME will be returned on the same day it is received. The result is a three day turnaround rather than the four days I mentioned in my original article. Tom later let me know that he had sent his DME to Turner and that it was returned in three days, as promised. More recently, Turner has announced the May release of Jim Conforti’s “Shark Injector,” a handheld reprogramming device which will permit late model Bimmer owners to reprogram their own cars without removing the DME, and may be used again later to reload the performance reprogram if your dealer should return your DME to the factory program. Amazingly, this device will cost the same as the reprogram, $399. This thing sounds like the real deal! Check the Turner Motorsport web page for information and ordering instructions.

Rear View Mirror Adapter

There is something you just have to love about Z3 owners. We drive one of the best roadsters on the market yet it seems that dozens of owners have come up with ways of making the car ever closer to being ‘perfect.’ Does the car make them creative or does it draw creative people to it? It doesn’t matter really, either way we all benefit.

A very common owner complaint is that the rear view mirror blocks a large portion of your forward vision out to the right side. It is caused by two things. The mirror itself is positioned to low and it is rather large. On the ‘M’s the mirror is even larger and presents more of a problem. After taking delivery of my car in ’96 I quickly learned to duck down and look under the mirror for right hand turns. This was annoying but what could I do? Nothing… at least for a while.

Early in 1999 Gary Hansel bought his M-Roadster. Like many owners before him he was annoyed with the rear view mirror. Unlike everyone else he decided to tackle this problem and see what could be done. He came up with an elegant solution.

The result is Gary’s ///Mirror Adapters. http://www.z3mirrors.com/

Gary’s adapter lets you mount a GM, Chrysler or Ford mirror, depending upon the adapter used, to the BMW lug that is glued to your windshield. Unlike BMW mirrors GM mirrors are adjustable vertically, you can move the entire mirrors face up and down to suit you. We want the mirror up high near the windshield header to improve visibility. With Gary’s adapter and a GM mirror you can position the mirror so its top edge is hitting the header just to the front of the dome light. This gives you the best forward view possible.

GM manufactures many different mirrors, with Gary’s adapter you have a choice of an assortment of mirrors that you can install. Gary typically sells four different styles of mirrors to go with his adapters.

A rectangular compact mirror (8 5/16″ x 2 1/2″) This is the mirror you want if you are only interested in getting the best forward visibility possible.

A medium rectangular mirror (9 1/2″ x 2 1/2″) Just a little larger version of the mirror above. The extra length to the mirror adds a little more vision to the rear.

A dual reading lamp mirror (10 1/4″ x 2 1/2″) This mirror isn’t quite a rectangle. Its sides are slightly curved and the upper edge has a very slight curve as well. It has more depth to its body. On the underside it has two toggle switches to turn on/off each of the lights built into the base of the mirror. If you were looking to add map lights to your car this is the way to go. The lights on the GM version of this mirror will also illuminate when you open the doors. This mirror is wider than the mirror that came on my Z3 but not quite as tall. Since you can position it higher you still get a nice increase in forward visibility. The mirror needs to be wired into the car.

The last is the electrochromatic (EC) self dimming mirror. (10 1/2″ x 2 3/4″) This mirror’s sides angle in similar to the factory BMW mirror. It also has a small projection on the bottom with a “Off/Lo/Hi” switch that illuminates in green when power is applied to the mirror. On the upper right hand side of the mirrors face there is a small circle for the rear facing light sensor. The body on this mirror is the largest of all. The mirror needs to be wired into the car. This is the mirror I have had installed in my car for over 6 months.

Most mirrors have two surfaces that reflect light for the day/night positions of the mirror. In the day position you will always see faint ghost images caused from the night surface. When you put the mirror into the night position bright lights above the mirror will reflect full brightness at you. The result is when you drive under a street lamp at night with the top down you are going to be blinded.

The EC mirror is totally different. It is a normal mirror in that it has a single reflecting surface. There are no ghost images seen in this mirror and driving under street lights no longer blind you. The surface of the mirror literally dims itself as needed to reduce the amount of light reflecting off it. It constantly adjusts the tint based on the amount of light to the front and rear sensors built into the mirror. The switch on the bottom controls the amount of dimming. I leave mine on ‘HI’ all the time and the mirror does the rest.

I installed all of these mirrors in my car and measured their positions to see how they compared to stock. I measured from the top inside edge of the windshield down to the bottom edge of the mirror to see how much higher each mirror was.

* Stock: 4.5″

* Small: 3.25″

* Medium: 3.25″

* Map light: 3.25″

* EC: 3.75″

All the replacement mirrors lower edges were closer to the top of the windshield. In all cases the replacement mirrors face was about 3 – 3 1/2″ closer to you then the stock mirror as well. The EC mirror’s bottom sits lower than the others for two reasons. The mirror itself is taller but also the pivot on the mirror is more in the center of the mirror. On the other mirrors the pivot is right on top. So for the EC mirror to clear the top of the windshield header you need to adjust the mirror somewhat lower. Even so it still gives you a nice increase in forward visibility but not quite to the same degree as the other mirrors.

The different pivot position of the EC mirror can cause a problem for taller drivers. When I received my EC mirror and adapter from Gary months ago I quickly ran into a problem. I am 6’5″ and I wasn’t able to tilt the mirror up enough to see straight back out of the car. The two pivots on the mirror were at the edge of their adjustments. I mentioned this to Gary then modified my mirror to let me adjust it as needed. This worked fine and I promptly forgot about it.

Gary didn’t. At Homecoming I stopped by the ‘Owner Solution’ tent to meet everyone and check out their products. Gary showed me a ‘tall guy’ version of his adapter to correct the problem I had run into. This adapter is a little different then his others. Instead of being a flat disc it actually is an angled spacer that changes the orientation of the mount on the GM mirror. This ‘tall guy’ adapter lets the EC mirror adjust properly for a taller driver. Another elegant solution to a problem!

The ‘tall guy’ adapter is not needed on any of the other mirrors, just the EC. If you are over 6’2″ or so you probably will need the ‘tall guy’ adapter if you want to install the EC mirror.


How difficult the install is depends upon the mirror you choose. For the first two mirrors they install will take a minute or two. With the second two mirrors (map light and EC) the installation is more involved.

To remove the factory mirror just grab the stalk that attaches to the windshield. Twist the stalk clockwise about a ¬ turn and the mirror will be released from the lug that is glued to the windshield.

If you are installing the non-powered mirrors you just line up the new mirror, with adapter already attached, at the same angle the factory mirror released at. You will feel the adapter fit over the lug when you have it correct. Then just rotate it counterclockwise about ¬ turn and it will lock into place. Adjust the mirror as needed and you are done. Don’t forget you can now move the mirror up and down as you desire.

If you are installing the reading lamp equipped mirror Gary has full instructions. Basically you need to tap into the existing wiring for the dome light to power the map lights. When you are done you mount the mirror and connect the plug into it.

For the EC mirror things are a little more complex then the map light wiring. You need to supply switched 12v power to the mirror. You can not use the dome light wiring as it is unswitched and the mirror could drain your battery over time. You need to decide where you want to get a source of switched power. I used the switched power that runs to the radio you could also use the connector for the cellular phone setup or any other switched source of 12v power.

Start out by disconnecting the battery. Assuming you use the radio power you will need to remove it. Depending upon the radio it may be held in place with an Allen key or it may use a special BMW 5 sided tool. If your radio needs the 5 sided tool you might be able to get it out using a 2 mm Allen wrench if you are lucky. Take the radio out so you have some room to work.

You need to run a power wire for the mirror from the radio up to the mirror. I ran the wire around the passenger side footwell and up the A-pillar then across the header so that the wire ends behind the dome light. You will want to tuck the wire away as much as possible. Pop the dome light out so you can make the electrical connections easier. Slide the cut end of the mirrors wire harness behind the trim panel in front of the dome light. Solder the power wire you ran up from the radio to the 12v input on the mirrors wiring harness. Insulate it well. For a ground there is a torx screw behind the dome light, take it out. You need to mar the surface on the bottom of the screw head to get a good electrical contact from it. Do that then reinstall the hex screw with the ground wire for the mirror under it. You can reinstall the dome light now.

Now you need to tap into the 12v switched power to the radio. On my car it was pin 5 on the radio connector and the wire was violet with black. Use a sharp razor to peel back the insulation on the wire without cutting the copper itself. Then solder the wire for the EC mirror to that. Be sure to insulate it well when you are finished. Reinstall your radio and install the EC mirror and adapter into your car. Plug the mirrors wiring harness into the mirror then reconnect your battery.

When you turn on your ignition the switch on the mirror should illuminate. If it does your electrical connections are fine and you should be all set, if it doesn’t you need to recheck your wiring. Most likely the ground isn’t good. You can double check the power wire and the ground with a multi-tester.

Gary’s ///Mirror adapter let me kill two birds with one stone. I reduced the blind spot caused by the factory mirror and as a side bonus it let me convert to the EC mirror that I really love.

This mod is highly recommended! I could not imagine going back to the factory mirror.

Z-Roof Cover With Built-In Door Ding Protection

Pros: Easy to Install, Good Protection, Lessons the Chance of Door Dings
Cons: Harder to fold and store because of the extra door padding
Cost: $79.99 from Z3 Solution

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the BMW boot cover. I would like to use it because it helps keep the inside of the top clean (and I like the looks of it). But it is such a pain to put on and take off I rarely use it except on long trips. On those rare occasions when I do use the boot cover I find myself wanting to leave the top down rather than hassle with uninstalling the boot cover and putting the top up when I park. I’m not comfortable leaving the top down all day while the car is parked, not so much for security reasons just don’t want to leave the interior exposed (birds, bright sun, rain, etc).

Z3 Solution (the same company that makes the magnetic stone guards) has a new car cover. Its kind of a mini car cover, specially designed for the Z3. It can be used with the top up or down, and works on Z3s with or without rollhoops, rollbars, windscreens etc. I first saw this new cover at the 1999 Z3 homecoming and recognized that it could be just the solution I was looking for. With this new cover I could put my top down, install the boot cover and use this cover rather than have to remove the boot cover and put the top back up when the car was parked. But the big advantage of using the Z3 Solution cover was the built in door ding protection. The lower portion of the cover that covers the doors has foam padding inserts that (at least in theory) would lesson your chance of getting a door ding. It doesn’t cover the entire door, but it does cover the portion of the door most likely to receive a door ding.

It takes me a couple minutes to install the cover in the morning, and about half that time to remove it. It attaches to the vehicle in 10 separate locations so it is very secure. One benefit of living in Oklahoma is that I can report the cover stays in place even after 8 hours of thirty plus mile per hour winds. However installing, uninstalling and/or folding a car cover in that kind of wind is not necessarily fun. Which leads me to my only negative point of this car cover. Because of the anti-door-ding foam padding, folding and rolling up the car cover is more difficult than I expected. However I have become more adept at it so it hasn’t been that big of an problem. Z3 Solution has a simular car cover without the anti-door-ding foam padding which should be easier to fold but then you give up the door ding protection (which at least to me is a very good feature).

Unintentionally, I tested this covers ability in the rain. A short-lived surprise afternoon shower left some standing water on the cover. But after careful removal of the cover (so not to dump the standing water in the cockpit) I was relieved to see that the interior had remained protected. I’m not sure you would want to rely on the covers ability to defend your car from rain all the time, but its nice to know that it can handle it.

Z3 Solutions CoverI don’t use this cover every day, but if the weatherman is forecasting several consecutive top-down days in a row I’ll use this cover and the BMW boot cover. Considering my parking situation at work I should probably use the Z3 Solution cover every day (to help protect myself from door dings). But so far I’ve really only used the cover on “top-down” days. The cover is designed to be used even when the Z3 top is up, which has some interesting possibilities. In the summer the use of this cover should repel some of the heat and keep the Z3 interior cooler. Look for a long term update to this article in the late summer of 2000 in regard to this.

When you consider all the potential benefits this cover has to offer, I think it is well worth the $79.99 price, but only if you really intend to use it. Z3 Solution also offers an optional bag that holds the rolled up cover. I find the bag to be useful since it limits the amount of space the cover takes up in your trunk.

Titanium 130R Shift Knob

Pros: Increased shift feel, great looks
Cons: Cold/hot to the touch depending on the season
Cost: $139 from Titanium Cavallino

Titanium 130R

Short shift kits have become a popular upgrade for Z3 owners, but the good kits can be quite expensive. The popular UUC short shift kit, reviewed elsewhere on the ///MZ3.net, is $300 and the imported AC Schnitzer shifter—try that five times real fast—is an eye watering $1000+. Richard Carlson’s ///MZ3.net article on short shifters, ‘The Short End of the Stick’, offers a clear overview of the concepts and techniques involved in designing an effective short shift kit, and touches briefly on a low-cost approach to improved shift feel—a shorter shift knob. Richard experimented with an inexpensive round plastic ball, which he admits didn’t enhance the appearance of the cockpit, but which did result in snappier shifts.

Compare Stock vs 130R

Titanium Cavallino offers an attractive shift knob which they call the 130R knob. Styled along the lines of the classic Ferrari round knob, the 130R is beautifully presented in polished titanium, and is 9/16″ shorter than the stock BMW knob. If you’re wondering whether a 9/16″ shorter knob will make any difference, refer again to Richard Carlson’s article. He presents a table which indicates that a 3/4″ shorter shifter on an M Roadster would result in a 12% reduction in throw. I figure that the 130R will shorten throw by 8-10%. Additionally, the 130R weighs 9 ounces—5.5 ounces more than the stock knob. That extra heft should further improve the new short-shift feel.

Unlike many aftermarket knobs, the 130R is designed expressly for the BMW. This means that, rather than being installed using set screws, the 130R is fixed to the shift lever in the same way that BMW engineers have designed for the stock knob; a snap ring arrangement to hold the knob on the shaft and, to prevent turning, a pin inside the knob which engages a notch in the top of the shaft. Once properly installed the knob cannot rotate, and it would take 80 pounds of vertical pull to remove. If you worry about the knob coming off in your hand in the middle of a fast sweeper, this is the only way to go.

Installation is quite easy. Remove the stock knob by grasping it firmly with two hands and giving it a strong upward yank. Careful that your chin isn’t in the way! Knobs with internal lighting have a long enough wire that breaking the wire shouldn’t be a problem, but take care. If the knob is wired then lift the edges of the shift boot, locate the connector at the end of the wire, unplug it, then thread the wire and connector through the shaft hole in the boot. Installation of the new knob is just the reverse. Slide the knob down over the shaft, insuring that the internal pin is aligned with the notch in the top of the shaft, then press down until the snap ring engages. Done!

Road test time! So, what does it feel like? As expected, it doesn’t change the feel in any revolutionary way. The throw is tightened up, and the extra weight of the knob adds some inertia which helps the shifter across the gate. To my eye the looks are wonderful, but don’t leave the car outside with the top down or you may burn your hand. At the other end of the temperature spectrum, the knob is unpleasantly cold to the touch until it picks up warmth from your hand. I particularly like the standard BMW mounting method and, on balance, I consider this a worthwhile addition to my M Roadster—at least until Santa brings me a UUC shifter.

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.

ECIS – Evolution Air Intake System

Pros: Measurable performance improvement and great sound
Cons: I can’t think of any
Cost: $225 plus shipping from East Coast Intake Systems

I monitor the M3 bulletin boards regularly for news and opinions on performance modifications which might apply to my M Roadster, and there I saw quite a bit of favorable comment on the ECIS cold air intake system. ECIS stands for East Coast Intake Systems, and their product is called the Evolution Air Intake System. Common unshielded open air intakes seek to increase air flow by providing a larger air filter, but often produce less power than the factory air box because of the twin problems of turbulent fan wash and underhood heat. ECIS insures that the larger filter receives only cool, non-turbulent air by constructing a shield which completely isolates the filter from the engine compartment, receiving air from the same source as the factory filter box. They offer both their complete Evolution Air Intake System; consisting of their custom heat shield, mandrel bent inlet tube, 6″ K&N cone filter, brackets, silicone connection hose, clamps and detailed instructions for $225; or the heat shield alone for $70. The heat shield can be used with a number of aftermarket open filter systems available from BMP Design, Bavarian Autosport, and Turner Motorsport, as well as other aftermarket suppliers.

At the time I first read about ECIS they offered only systems for the M3, but I e-mailed them and quickly received a return message from Sean Cain at ECIS informing me that the M Roadster system was in the design stage and due out soon. Then, 45 days later, I got another message from Kenny Bernatsky of ECIS to let me know that the M Roadster system was now complete, with details available on the ECIS web page. Their web page provides just about all the info you need; photos, dyno runs, testimonials, an FAQ, and ordering information. The web page does not support on-line product ordering, but they have a handy order form which you can fill out and print, then mail with your check. I sent my order in that day and several days later received an e-mail from Kenny citing a delivery date and Airborne Express tracking number. My shipment arrived as promised, neatly packed. My relations with ECIS couldn’t have been better. Sean and Kenny answer inquiries promptly and keep in touch, qualities often absent with other web merchants. As I was writing this, I got a Christmas card from them. How’s that for customer service?

When I unpacked my carton from ECIS, I found the ECIS custom shield, the K&N filter, still packed in its original box, the various bits and pieces to attach the filter to the air flow meter, and a colorfully illustrated set of installation instructions. I was impressed to find that the silicone connection hose was in place on the inlet tube, held on by the loosely tightened hose clamps. No possibility that this amateur mechanic won’t know where the parts fit. More impressive still, a bolt which is required to attach the inlet tube support to a bracket on the inner fender of the car was carefully taped to the end of the support. For sure, this bolt isn’t going to be thrown out in the trash! The shield itself is a really neat piece. Constructed from lightweight, slightly flexible material which I believe is sheet fiberglass. The fiberglass was obviously cut from a single sheet, then folded and riveted into its final shape. The outside is finished with insulation which matches the car’s underhood finish, and the inside is sprayed with undercoating. The top edge of the shield is weather stripped to seal against the underside of the closed hood, fully enclosing the filter. Three holes are provided in the shield at the points where the shield mates to the air flow meter, the air inlet flange, and the car’s rubber air box support grommet. No holes need be drilled in the car in order to install the ECIS system. I had expected to provide a step-by-step installation guide, but ECIS’s instruction sheet is so well presented, and the installation so easy that I’m going to dive right into my driving impressions and performance testing.

On my first drive, my admittedly inexperienced butt dyno couldn’t detect any obvious performance improvement, but the engine seems to run smoother and, though not loud, the intake makes a low, pleasant moan which sure makes the car sound more powerful. My wife—she of the exquisitely sensitive hearing—approved of the new sound. More driving convinced me that, though not dramatic, the car did accelerate more forcefully, especially as it approached redline. I decided then to go back and perform before and after objective tests to validate the performance improvement my butt told me I had achieved.

The almost trivial installation procedure made returning the stock air box to the car a matter of, perhaps, ten minutes. Not wanting to torture the clutch, skin the rear tires, or invite the unwanted attention of the sheriff, standing start tests wouldn’t do. I decided to perform acceleration tests in second gear, timing from 1000 rpm to 6500 rpm. This test had the advantage of testing almost the entire rpm range, without having to exceed the speed limit. I drove the car hard for about 100 miles to insure that the ECU had readapted to the stock air box, then took the car out to a straight, flat section of country road nearby. I let the car settle at 1000 rpm in second, then started my watch as I floorboarded the accelerator, stopping my watch as the tach reached 6500 rpm. I timed eight runs, four in each direction, discarded the fastest and slowest times, then averaged the remaining six times. My average time for this series of tests was 5.71 seconds. I then reinstalled the ECIS intake, another ten minute job, and again drove the car hard for 100 miles to readapt the ECU. Another trip to the country road, using the same timing techniques as before, yielded an average time of 5.55 seconds, an improvement of .16 seconds.

So is the ECIS Evolution Air Intake System a worthwhile performance modification? For my money, the sound alone is worth the price of admission. Dealing with Sean and Kenny made the purchase really pleasant and I’m particularly impressed with the clarity of the instructions they provide. The system itself is well designed, with high quality construction. That it provably provides a small but measurable performance improvement is icing on a very large cake.

Philips Bluevision and Allweather Bulbs

I replaced the stock bulbs in my 1999 M Roadster with Philips Bluevision and Allweather bulbs. The entire process took about 15 minutes.

The part numbers are:

Philips 9006 55W Bluevision (low beam) $34.95 per pair

Philips 9005 65W Allweather (high beam) $34.95 per pair

I recommended the Allweather for the high beams for mixed weather driving.

AC Schnitzer Roll Hoops

Pros: Look Really Good, Easy to Install
Cons: Very Expensive
Cost: $1086 (list)

Comparing the Schnitzer polished stainless steel roll hoops to the stock BMW roll hoops the there are several differences. The most obvious difference is the chrome finish instead of the flat black rubberized finish. The Schnitzer hoops have a black pad on the top front of the hoops. And while the overall shape is nearly identical the profile of the Schnitzer hoops is round where the stock hoops have a arrow or triangle shaped profile.

On closer inspection there is one other difference that does affect the installation. The BMW hoops are held in place with three torx bolts. Where each of these bolts comes on contact with the stock roll hoops there is a shallow bored out indentation. The Schnitzer roll hoops do not have these. (Note: You can click on any of the pictures in this article to see a larger image).

When I started this project I was expecting a complicated installation procedure. I had installed an HMS roll bar on my previous 1.9 Z3 and while the installation went smoothly with the HMS roll bar, it took most of the day. I wasn’t expecting this installation to take all day, but I figured it would take at least a couple hours. To my surprise the installation was over before I knew it.

The only special tool you will need for this installation is a torx 40 driver. I had to start with a visit to the local hardware store. I had a set of torx heads for my cordless screw driver, but the largest one was a torx 30 (too small). In addition to the torx 40, I also used a phillips head and a flat blade screw driver.

Each roll hoop is held in place with three torx bolts (that act like set screws). The first step of the installation is to gain access to two of the set screws by removing the access panel at the base of the roll hoop. Use caution to make sure you don’t damage the plastic edges when you pop off the access panel.

Once the panel is removed you can see the two torx 40 bolts (I’m calling them set screws). Remove both of these but hold on to them because we will be reinstalling them later. These two torx bolts are shorter than the third bolt we will be removing in the next step so don’t mix them up.

Note: the pictures in this article show the removal of the drivers side roll hoop. You can duplicate the steps for the passenger side at the same or do the passenger side after the drivers side is complete.

The other set screw we need to remove is holding the inside of the roll hoop in place. To gain access to this bolt you will need to remove the HK subwoofer (or storage compartment). Rather than duplicate those instructions read the H&K Sub Dissected article.

Once the subwoofer is removed you will see the one remaining torx 40 bolt. Remove this bolt but hold on to it because we will be reinstalling it later.

Once the three torx 40 bolts are removed you can pull straight up on the roll hoop and it will slide out. There are rubber gaskets between the stock roll hoop and the plastic of the rear console. When I pulled the roll hoop out one of the plastic sections came loose because the gasket was stuck to it. Don’t be concerned if this happens to you, the plastic can be snapped back on.

Installing the Schnitzer roll hoop is the direct reverse of the steps we’ve done so far. The Schnitzer hoops come with their own rubber gaskets so make sure you have them on both the inner and the outer bars before sliding the new Schnitzer hoop down into place.

Earlier I told you that the Schnitzer hoops didn’t have the small indentations for the torx bolts. Because of this the torx bolts will not go back in as far as the stock bolts did. This initially concerned me so once I tightened the bolts to 22 nm (as the included instructions stated). I then removed the Schnitzer roll hoop and inspected it.

I was happy to see that each of the torx bolts had left slight indentations in the bar. So I was confident that the new Schnitzer roll hoops were just as secure as the old BMW ones.

Once I had one of the Schnitzer roll hoops installed I compared the two. The Schnitzer roll hoop appeared to lean slightly more forward than the BMW hoop (the picture at the right shows this). The two hoops appeared to be the same height, however it’s possible that the Schnitzer one was slightly taller.

I’m not sure what to think of the black pad on the front of the roll hoop. Visually it doesn’t do anything for me and I was considering removing it. But then there was a story on the message board about an individual that was driving a Z3 and during an accident hit his head on the BMW roll hoop. After reading that story I decided to leave the pad.

Right after installing the Schnitzer roll hoops I wondered if it was “too much”. But that thought faded as I continued staring at them. The ultimate test came when I asked my wife to come to the garage and give her opinion. She took a look at them and her first comment was “WOW”, and with that one word I knew I had done the right thing. I know the chrome look isn’t something that everybody is going to like, but I REALLY like it.

If there is a downside to these roll hoops, it is that I don’t want to cover them up with a wind screen. The BMW roll hoop wind screen still works with the Schnitzer hoops, but the pad on the front of the hoop stretches the material pretty tight. I’m okay with that but more importantly the BMW wind screen hides the chrome.

At the 1999 Z3 Homecoming I showed the Schnitzer roll hoops to JD (the maker of the clear windscreen). He measured the Schnitzer hoops and made a slightly modified version of his windscreen that works with the Schnitzer hoops. Turns out all he had to do was cut out a couple notches for the black pads since the Schnitzer hoops have the same curve, height and mounting points as the BMW hoops.

Dinan Strut Brace

Pros: Better Handling Characteristics, Keeps The Z3 Tighter In The Long Run
Cons: Need To Be Careful During Installation
Cost: $399

During the 1998 Z3 Homecoming I was walking around looking at all the vendor exhibits with Larry Nissen (BMW Tech). After we had seen most of the aftermarket products available I asked Larry “so what should I buy”. He replied “I would start with a good Strut Brace, it may help the handling a little now but where you will get your money back is three years down the road when your car is still as tight as it is now”. That sounded like good advice so we went back to the Dinan tent and as luck would have it I got the very last Dinan Strut Brace they had. I handed them my credit card and they installed it on sight (a process that took about 10 minutes).

My main concern with any strut brace was the low clearance available under the Z3 hood. I’ve heard of a few individuals denting their hood after installing a strut brace. The Dinan design has the lowest profile of the ones I have seen, but even with this low profile I still see some indications that it slightly rubs. There are some adjustments to the Z3 hood stops to slightly raise or lower the hood if you need additional clearance. I have not made any adjustments to the hood stops on my vehicle, I see that it is rubbing but this is after a year of use so I’m not concerned. But with ANY strut brace I would suggest being really cautious the first couple times you lower the hood to make sure you have enough clearance. One real good way to do this is to put silly putty or something similar on top of the brace and then lower the hood slowly until the hood latches or until you feel the brace contacting the hood. Then you can raise the hood, and see how much the silly putty got squished. Raise the hood stops if you need more clearance.

The strut brace attaches via three nuts and bolts that are part of the stock strut tower. Notice that the Dinan brace I received in 1998 has a notch that fits around the grounding plug. It appears Dinan has since redesigned the strut brace, I have seen pictures of a 1999 Dinan Strut Brace that has a different looking strut tower mount. The new design has a flat side instead of a complete circle. The newer design also appears to have a better black power coating on the strut tower mounts, where mine seems to just be painted.

One of the things I really like about the Dinan design is how the underside of the strut tower mount has machined groves that match the ridges in the strut tower. Before owning the M roadster I had a 1.9 Z3 and had installed a strut brace on it. That Strut Brace didn’t have the groves on it, instead it was a softer aluminum and the torque of the bolts would bend the strut tower mount around the strut tower ridges.

The brace itself is aluminum with the Dinan logo etched/engraved in the center. On either side of the Dinan logo are carbon fiber inserts which I assume are only there for cosmetic reasons. Overall the strut brace is very attractive.

The brace attaches to the strut mounts via some allen bolts that act like hinges. Once the Strut Brace is installed if you need to get access to the engine you can remove one of the allen bolts and raise the Strut Brace. (This had to be done when BMW needed to replace a crank sensor)

This is optional: BMW makes Strut Tower Caps that can be installed to keep dust and dirt from getting to the top of the strut tower. The part number is 31-33-1-133-729 they list for $3.75 each and you will need two of them. Installation was difficult, I had to soap the edges of the caps and push really hard to get them to snap down. A Z3 owner sent in a great tip that aided in his installation of these caps. He heated the caps with a hairdryer (which I’m assuming made the rubber temporarly softer) and used a rubber hammer to tap the caps down into place.

Since purchasing and installing these Strut Tower Caps I have been told that BMW makes another cap part number 31-33-1-129-512 that lists for $1.52 (remember to order 2). I’ve heard conflicting reports but it appears these strut tower caps might be even more difficult to install. Visually there is a difference in that this other cap is smooth on top.

Performance: I remember right after installing the brace taking a spirited test drive and I could notice a difference when I was pushing it really hard in a turn. The car felt more solid and stable but only during really hard cornering. During everyday driving I can not notice any difference. But I did not buy the brace for its performance characteristics. While I appreciate what the brace has done to the handling performance, what I really purchased the brace for is in an attempt to keep the car tight and solid in the future.