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.

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.

Z Rated Tire Patch-Plug

Z Rated Patch/PlugNot soon after recovering from the expense of new M roadster tires I discover a nail embedded in the tread. I immediatly remembered previous debates of patching vs plugging damaged tires. Both solutions appeared to work but in either case you technically lost the Z rating on the tires. If you’ve got a lead foot this loss of rating can be concerning to say the least.

When I brought my problem and concern to the attention of a tire repair shop, I was happy to find a solution. Pictured to the right is a Z Rated Patch-Plug. I have no idea who makes it or any other details, but the tire shop made it sound like a fairly common item they use whenever repairing a Z rated tire.

The tire tech broke down the tire and removed the nail. The patch-plug and area around the hole inside the tire were cleaned and then coated with what I assume to be a thick glue substance. The pointy end of this patch-plug is threaded through the hole the nail left, until the patch (round part at the bottom of the picture) makes contact with the inside of the tire. You end up with what appears to be a nail sticking out of your tire. The tire tech snipped off the protruding section, put the tire back together and then rebalanced it. I was told to take it easy on the tire for a day and then consider the tire “good as new”.

Note: I did not ask permission to publish the name of the tire repair shop. Previous experience in publishing information on ///MZ3.Net has taught me to error on the side of caution, so the actual name is withheld but your local BMW dealership should be able to repair the tire or find someone who can.

Update: It’s been three months and the tire has preformed well. While I don’t want to incriminate myself, lets just say that I have full confidence in the Z Rating of the patch/plug 🙂

Reader’s Comment: Good article on correctly repairing your tire. The repair you used is the only one that is recognized by the major tire manufacturers. It is made in Johnstown, Ohio by Tech International. You’ve probably seen the red Tech logo in lots of tire stores, gas stations, etc. Their web site is www.techtirerepairs.com They don’t sell to the general public and as you noted, this particular repair takes some skill and equipment to install.

HMS Window Blanket for BMW Convertibles

Pros: Provides additional protection for the delicate and expensive rear plastic window.
Cons: Harder to fold and store because of the bulkier design
Cost: 39.95

BMW created a device we owners quickly named the “window blanket”, it was a simple yet functional blanket that draped across the rear window and protected the window from scratches when the top was folded down. But the one thing the BMW blanket didn’t do was stop the window from creasing when the rear window folded incorrectly (with a wrinkle). HMS improved the BMW design and took it one step further by adding a bulky area to middle of the blanket which makes the window fold in a more rounded way in order to keep the window from creasing. It also appears HMS used a heavier fabric so there is some additional padding associated for the entire area that the blanket covers.

The bulky area appears to be filled with beans or something similar. The added weight from this bulky area forces the top to fold correctly and keeps it from folding to sharply (which can cause creasing). The improved design works better than the original design in protecting the top from these creases but there are some trade-offs. The HMS design is harder to fold and store because of the extra padding. The padded area is divided into three sections so folding it width wise is limited to three three sections. With the original BMW blanket I kept it tightly folded up and stored in one of the pockets of the trunk organizer. However with the bulkier HMS design this was no longer possible. I end up rolling it lengthwise and laying it in the area behind the center console. This might actually be a better location since it helps remind me to use the blanket when I want to put the top down.

I’m trying to get in the habit of using the boot cover and HMS blanket more often since I was starting to see some wear and tear on the plastic window. For this reason I like the HMS blanket more so than the BMW blanket. It keeps the top folded correctly and provides additional protection for the delicate and expensive rear plastic window.

Sold By:

HMS Motorsport

www.hms-motorsport.com

(888) HMS-3BMW

PIAA Replacement Headlight Bulbs

Pros: Fairly easy to replace, same wattage, brighter light, whiter light
Cons: Can’t see more any more road, same coverage area as stock bulbs
Cost: $70

I’ve always been unhappy with the headlight performance on my 1998 M roadster. The brightness of the headlights was okay but the light coverage area was terrible. BMW has apparently designed the headlights with more concern for oncoming traffic than the Z3 driver. There is a dead space (I call it the black hole) that is just left of center. The problem is that if I was driving on a road that was turning to the left (like in the picture above) the black hole ended up being RIGHT in the middle of the lane I was trying to drive in. I’ve never been comfortable driving my car at night because of this. Even after repeated attempts to adjust the aiming of the headlights I still wasn’t comfortable with the results. Not knowing what else to do, I decided to start throwing money at the problem and see if that would fix it.

PIAA makes replacement headlight bulbs (model number 9006) that are the same wattage (51 watts) as the stock Sulvania bulbs, but claim to produce brighter, whiter light without producing additional heat. The pair of bulbs cost a hefty $70 but my frustration with the stock headlights made the purchasing decision easier to swallow. I waited until after dark and then drove the roadster to a dark road so I could take before and after pictures. Replacing the bulbs wasn’t simple, but only took about 10 minutes for each side (picture to the right was taken after upgrading only the left side). It would have been a lot easier if I had tiny hands, but the PIAA instructions repeatedly warned about not letting anything touch the bulb so it was difficult to maneuver everything in the tight space. (I’m sure working on a dark road also made it more difficult but it was necessary for this article.

After getting both headlight bulbs replaced my first reaction was “Wow”. But then I took a longer look and went back to my before and after pictures to confirm my suspicions. I think everyone will agree that the PIAA bulbs are whiter and brighter, but if you look at the pictures closely you will notice that the PIAA bulbs don’t light up any additional area, which is what I really intended to do with this upgrade. So now I have brighter and whiter headlights, but my roadster really isn’t any safer to drive at night.

Servicing the Z3 Battery

The battery in the BMW Z3 is NOT a maintenance free battery; it needs occasional servicing. The leading cause of battery failure in the Z3 is from a lower water level. Fortunately it’s pretty easy to check the level and add more water.

The first step is getting access to the battery. For all but very early 1996 models the battery is in the trunk. You will have to raise the trunk liner and remove the plastic cover over the battery but then you will looking at the top of the battery.

Along the top of the battery are six plugs that unscrew from the battery. Remove the plugs but take care since you’ve just exposed corrosive liquid. You can look down into the battery, but don’t get to close (the water vapor can’t be very good for your eyes).

When you look down into the battery, you will see a little metal tab in each hole. The water level in the battery should be just over this metal tab. In the picture above, the battery needs water.

BMW Techs have a special water can that makes filling the battery easy and accurate, but there really isn’t anything fancy about this procedure. Richard Carlson suggested that the perfect substitute is a turkey baster. Just gradually add water and keep rechecking the water level until it covers the metal tabs. It’s best to use distilled water so no mineral deposits will be left from the evaporation of ordinary tap water.

When the battery is properly filled, the tab will still be visible, but obviously under water. Regular checking of the water level should greatly extended the life of the battery, especially during the hot summer months when the water will evaporate at a faster rate.

Update: Ron Styger reports that his 9-1-1999 build date M Coupe has a different battery. Not sure when BMW actually made the change but it is nice to see that they have a different battery now (maybe the new one will have a longer average life span).

Update: Tom Bilken sent me this note regarding the new battery (pictured above)…

I have a 1999 2.3 (build date of 3/99). I read a lot about the battery problems (low water) on the MB, and your article. When I looked at mine, it was the same as the added updated picture on the Mz3 site for Ron Stygers battery. But, under the decals on the top were the battery plugs. If you look in the picture that you posted of Rons battery, you can see the outline of one of the plugs. Mine has the “eye”, but after I peeled back the decals, and opened up the plugs, I had to add a lot of water. I just wanted you to know (and maybe you already do) that these batteries still have the plug caps, and my levels were still low.

Z3 Solution Cupholder

Pros: Very convenient location, holds 12oz cans and slim 20oz bottles, flexibly material so its easy to install and uninstall
Cons: Condensation can drip into door pocket
Cost: $24.95 (from Z3 Solution)

“Here I am driving one of the most fun automobiles in the world, yet I can’t find a good place to put this can of coke while I shift into 5th gear.” This has been a common statement ever since the introduction of the Z3. The BMW roadster is an amazing automobile, a near perfect balance of modern day technology and classic “retro” styling, but it doesn’t have a cup holder. This is where Z3 Solution enters into the story. Pictured below is a cupholder that Z3 Solution makes that snaps into the side door pocket.

This design is simple and functional, its a single piece of molded plastic/rubber material that was custom made for the Z3. The flexible material lets the unit snap into place in the door pocket. Once installed the cupholder holds standard 12oz cans and the newer styled slim 20oz plastic soda bottles. It sticks out from the door slightly more than the door pocket, so there is a slight loss of leg room. However the positioning doesn’t affect the driver, on long drives I even find myself resting the side of my knee on the soft rubber since its more comfortable than the door pocket.

I find myself using the cupholder to also hold my sunglasses and other items when I don’t have a drink in there. I needed to come up with some “cons” for this article, so I got really picky and found one. Condensation from the can ends up dripping down into the door pocket since there is no bottom to the cupholder. If you keep items other than the cup holder in the plastic door pocket they could get water dripped on them (so its not a good place to keep paper). I’ve learned to keep something like a napkin under the cupholder so this isn’t much of a problem.

X-Pel’s Invisible Bra for the Z3

Pros: Protects the fragile paint on the Z3. Hard to detect from a distance of 4 or more feet.
Cons: Moderately hard installation
Cost: Contact XPel at http://www.xpel.com/ or 800-447-9928
The Days Events

  • Gathering at Rory’s
  • Fixing Paint Chips
  • X-Pel
  • Swapping Mirrors
  • Boot Cover Swap
  • Chrome Front Grill
  • The BMW Z3 is painted with EPA backed “environmentally friendly” paint. The makers claim that the new paint is less susceptible to fading and oxidation, but an apparent downside is that the new paint is much more brittle. While BMW has never openly admitted this, the evidence is overwelming. Rock chips are appearing on nearly all BMW Z3s and there really isn’t a solution to stopping them. While owners can’t win the war in the long run they can protect themselves and prolong the life of their paint using a product developed by 3M.

    3M makes a thin clear layer of protective film which can be applied directly over the paint. With this protective layer of clear skin the Z3 has additional protection against rock chips. It appears 3M decided to not market this new product directly to consumers but rather they offered the product to vendors that could make custom kits specifically made for certain vehicles. This is where X-Pel enterers the picture.

    X-Pel has kits made for the Z3 and M roadster that fit over the more vulnerable areas on the Z3. The front bumper and front 1/3 section of the hood are the most frequent places where the chips occur. The X-Pel kit covers all this area. In addition X-Pel also offers additional (optional) kits for the headlights, foglights, rearview mirrors and rear fender flares.

    Installing the kit requires patients and lots of water. The Z3 is watered down with soapy water so the thin layer can me float and move easily during the fitting process. A Squeegee is then used to press the film against the paint and remove the water from under the film. With the film in direct contact with the paint it adheres to the surface and stays in place. The film itself is not water tight so any remaining water trapped under the film eventually evaporates.

    Once installed, the thin layer can be seen on close inspection, but its difficult (you have to be looking for it). From a distance of four or more feet the kit can not be seen. On closer distances it is possible if you look for the edges. Occasionally you can catch it at the right angle and see the difference in refection. I stood over Larry’s car for several minutes trying to find that “just right” angle to show this to you in a picture. In the picture on the right you can see a flatter and slightly more yellow tint from the covered area. The yellow tint is really more of trick of the camera than an actual trait of the X-Pel kit. To the naked eye I never saw this yellow tint (sometimes cameras see things we don’t).

    X-Pel said that once applied, wax and wash the car the same as you usual. Except you should take a little more caution around the edges so you don’t get wax buildup on the leading edge of the kit. The expected life of the kit is four to five years.

    The Z3 club in Texas had a gathering in Dallas that didn’t involve driving but rather car care. The club invited X-Pel to come along and demonstrate the kit. By the time the event was over X-Pel had installed their kits on several Z3s and M roadster and each owner was pleased with their purchase.

    Swapping Mirrors

    Paint Chip Fixing Day at Rory’s House

    The Days Events

  • Gathering at Rory’s
  • Fixing Paint Chips
  • X-Pel
  • Swapping Mirrors
  • Boot Cover Swap
  • Chrome Front Grill
  • It all started with a casual conversation at the conclusion of the Texas River Run drive. I made a comment to Rory that we should have a non-driving Z3 get-together, maybe a Z3 fix-it day or something. One thing led to another and eventually we came up with a paint chip fixing day. We contacted a paint touch-up guy that Moritz BMW recommended, and a company that sells and installs invisible bras. Unfortunately, we had to limit the guest list because we could only handle so many Z3s at Rory’s house. Priority was given to Z3 owners that live in Dallas, however I bet there will be future events similar to this one so others can attend.

    This has got to be a record. Click on the picture to the right for a larger view of 11 BMW Z3s parked in one Z3 owner’s driveway. There were actually 12 Z3s at the event but Phil left in his Boston green Z3 before we took the picture. For fun, the Texas Z3 group would like to challenge other Z3 groups to take a picture with more Z3s in a residential (Z3 owner’s) driveway.

    Fixing Paint Chips

    Swapping Z3 and M Roadster Rearview Mirrors

    Pros: Easy to uninstall and reinstall
    Cons: Expensive to purchase from BMW
    Cost: unknown (possibly free if you can find someone to swap with)
    The Days Events

  • Gathering at Rory’s
  • Fixing Paint Chips
  • X-Pel
  • Swapping Mirrors
  • Boot Cover Swap
  • Chrome Front Grill

  • The Z3 and the M roadster have different rear view mirrors. The M roadster mirror is bigger and sometimes gets in the way of taller drivers. The Z3 mirror is smaller but maybe isn’t as attractive as the M roadster mirror. The question was, could the two mirrors be swapped between cars.

    Turns out that all you need to do to remove the mirror as a counter clockwise, quarter turn (turn the entire mirror and its mount). We removed a Z3 and M roadster mirror and installed them in opposite vehicles in just a couple minutes.

    Boot Cover Swap