There cannot be many BMW E36 owners who haven’t suffered the disheartening ‘clunk’ of an electric window runner letting go, the glass dropping down at an angle and the resulting drive home with the glass half open – if you’re lucky you can manhandle the window shut but you still have to fix it. This repair is more about time than money.
We got a box of new white plastic runners from febi Bilstein, (part number 23749) – there are ten in a box. Alternatively you can buy the parts from BMW – you need two per side but a pair is still $4-$5 so you may as well buy a box as you’re going to need two for the other side one day in the future.
Fixing these is easy enough if you follow our tips and buy a twin tube of Araldite Rapid to repair the door trim clip posts as these will break off – on that you have my word – and nothing but nothing repairs them as well as Araldite Rapid.
Once you have fixed the window, do yourself another favour and regularly lubricate the vertical felt channels, a once a month shot of WD40 will see them glide up and down with ease. The only reason the runners break or pull out is because the glass becomes stiff in the channels and the regulator arms bend and pop out. Note that this guide is for Saloon, Compact and Touring models, though Coupés aren’t too dissimilar. Also, you may find your car had (rare) door airbags, in which case you should first disconnect the battery for about an hour to let them fully discharge.
You can unbolt them and tie wrap them out of the way or disconnect them but this will require the resetting of the airbag warning light on the dashboard.
Compact, Saloon and Touring regulators are the same but Coupé/Convertible ones are longer and the adjustment procedure is different. On these you need to remove the exterior door trim strip and access the regulator bolts via holes in the door skin behind the strip – there are also adjuster screws visible from inside the door. Only fit genuine BMW regulators if buying new, I’ve never seen an aftermarket one that is much use. In fact, I would rather use a good used genuine BMW regulator than a new aftermarket version to be frank, just ensure it is in pretty good condition – straight and free from any cracks.
Here we go to repair electric windows of BMW E36 problems.
1. Start by removing the door trim cards via two long Torx screws that fit up into the armrest, beneath plastic caps on non-Compact models. On non-Compact models, tighten the door handle screw in the door card.
2. Now slide this door handle trim surround forward and out. Refitting can be fun so make sure the door card is in the correct position before you attempt to refit it.
3. Remove the mirror switch on the drivers side door and use something like a wooden lolly stick to avoid marking the armrest/handle. There’s another Torx screw up here to remove as well.
4. The door card can now come off – use a trim removal tool or a long thin flat blade screwdriver to unclip the door card ‘posts’, some will break off. Disconnect the speaker wire and you’re away.
5. This is a door card post that stayed on the door. They were never very well bonded at the factory and to be honest, I’d recommend breaking off any iffy ones and rebonding them. Replace any damaged popper clips as well.
6. Araldite Ultra is the only glue I have found that does the job. Everything else just fails so save yourself time and effort by using the right stuff from the outset. They will be ready in two hours, one pack just about does one door – two packs is better.
7. Consider replacing this small plastic captive nut, it’s what the screw behind the mirror switch fits to. They can round out inside if the door card has been off a few times – likely the case with most E36s.
8. This box of febi window sliders is priced at £8.00 or so and is a good buy for any E36 owner – you’ll use these up in time. They are the same type as the ones that BMW supply.
9. Here, the slider clips have survived but the stress of a stiff window channel has caused the steel ball on the regulator arm to pop out – it was a cold morning, always a good time for this happen. We’ll fit new ones anyway
10. Remove the old sliders from the regulator ball ends by hooking the steel clip out like this, then carefully lever the regulator ball end out of the slider with a screwdriver to release the window.
11. We’d advise removing the glass so you can clean it properly, as well as the alloy slider rails. To remove the glass use a screwdriver to release the inner weather seal from the door. On Saloon/Touring models the door cards fit into the prongs.
12. This is a rivet that secures the regulator to the door. They’re drilled out and the new unit fitted with nuts and bolts – the bolts face outwards and use washers and Nyloc nuts. Regulators crack around the rivet areas.
13. With the glass out, clean up the alloy slider rails – these can sometimes pull off so use Araldite to refit them. The plastic sliders need to move along here really easily with a bit of grease in the rails so take time here.
14. With the regulator refitted (if it needed replacement), carefully lower the glass into the front and rear channels – spray these with WD40 and make sure the glass slides up and down easily with minimal resistance
15. Power the motor into the right place so that the glass (ideally held in place by an assistant) can be aligned with the regulator ball ends and sliders. Use angle pliers to snap the ball ends in – you will feel them snap into place.
16. Press the steel retaining clips into place and lubricate the ball end/slider socket. Carefully power the window up and down – if it pops out again then chances are the regulator arm is bent and needs straightening. The glass must stay in the channels as well.
17. Chances are the regulator is worn and the top rear corner of the glass is not tight enough in the door – undo this 10mm bolt and push the adjuster arm down as far as possible. Elongate the arm hole with a file for extra adjustment if it’s well worn.