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E36 M3 (1992-1999) {Euro - S50 B32 321hp @ 7400 rpm} {U.S. - S52 B32 240 hp @ 6000 rpm}
Total Produced: 71,212 - Years Produced: 1992 to 1999

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Old Mon, Jun-26-2017, 03:28:32 AM   #1
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Default Roof Rack Installation Questions

I just found a set of nice set of oem roof rails for my E36. great shape and I got to Bicycle attachments with it.

Only problem is they didn't come with instructions. I think I have them dry mounted on there correctly but I have a few questions.

1. Do you tighten the 8 bolts in the body that the feet of the rails slide into? They appear to have torx inserts. I would imagine that you would but that seems like a very tough angle to try to get a torx head in there.

2. What's that skinny little screw for that screws down at an angle? That appears to have a weird head on it and I'm guessing that it is a security. And how do you get the thing to tighten it?

Thanks everyone.
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Old Thu, Jul-06-2017, 04:30:52 AM   #2
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Default Re: Roof Rack Installation Questions

I don't have an OEM rack, but I believe the OEM rack was made my Thule. My Thule rack has rubber feet that sit on the roof, that have a clip that you screw in that hooks onto the body above the windows.
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1999 BMW M3
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Old Mon, Jul-10-2017, 02:56:44 AM   #3
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Default Re: Roof Rack Installation Questions

Here is the link to the diagram of the racks I have. I think this was the only OEM one designed for the E36 sedan and I don't think it was made by Thule.

Judging what I've seen on YouTube And what you say, the Thule mounts very differently. The BMW one is simpler.

Anyway, I figured out how to get them on there . I've tested them on the highway and with a racing bike on top at 70 mph and no issues or rattles or noises. And they are just as tight now as when I put them on. Here are a few tips that may help someone who gets their hands on a set of these rare NLA racks:

1. Loosen up! The "pads" (the black solid metal feet) bolt to the roof rails and slide left and right along the rail when loosened. So do that before mounting so you can freely move the pads to fit onto the body mounts underneath your weatherstripping. If you do not it will be an unholy pain in the ass to try to get them on there.

Once you've got them on there properly and everything looks good, then tighten up. I did not have to re-remove them to do this but did need to be careful with my paint when using the metal spanner wrench. Take your time and put a towel underneath.

2. Watch your paint. The pads are solid metal so you will scratch your paint if you just casually flip the bars on there. Either put a towel down or, better yet, a foam pad over the feet on the opposite side of where you start. Having a buddy on the other side would also be helpful.

3. Don't cut your weather stripping. This will be pretty obvious but once the pads slide into the body mounts, the weather stripping just flaps right over neatly. On some cars, like the Volvo 850, you have to cut the weather stripping in the channel to get the racks on. Here you do not.

4. Watch your orientation! The front and rear bars are different and there are eight ways you can mount them on the car. One is correct.

The way you find that magical one way is you look at the stickers on the inside of the pads. These have a convenient little diagram of a car on them. That car has a hood, a trunk, and a little arrow showing you which bar goes goes on the front and which bar goes on the rear.

You want the front of the car on the sticker facing towards the front of your car. If you do that and follow the arrows you will get them on correctly. Those Germans :-)

5. Tighten up. The little M7x25 diagonal bolt that is mounted between the claws inside the pad is how you tighten them to the car. This confused me initially as indicated above because the body mounts (2 per side per rack) have little Torx slots on the ends. And the little M7 bolt looks too small to do much of anything. It looks more like a screw. So you might be tempted to try to tighten down the Torx bolts on the body.

Don't. First of all you will not be able to get a Torx head wrench in there without hurting your weather stripping. The Torx holes are half way inside the roof channel and you will be grinding against the weather stripping even if you can shove the wrench in there. Secondly, I have been told on another forum that if you do somehow get the wrench in there, odds are the body bolts will just strip and spin around. They are only there to hook the pads feet into.

The wrench to tighten the M7 screw is no longer available from BMW but if you have an inner hex spanner set you should find one that works. One from my ancient Sears set worked perfectly.

Once you tighten it down, you will see the logic. That little screw pushes up against the back mount and leverages everything together. You don't need to be Hercules when tightening it. Just tighten it until it touches the back bolt and stops and then give it a little scooch to snug it down. I've yanked, pulled and tugged on mine to test and it won't budge at all.

I hope that helps somebody. If anyone has any input or corrections feel free!
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Discussing Roof Rack Installation Questions in the E36 M3 (1992-1999) Forum - {Euro - S50 B32 321hp @ 7400 rpm} {U.S. - S52 B32 240 hp @ 6000 rpm}
Total Produced: 71,212 - Years Produced: 1992 to 1999 at BMW M3 (E30 M3 | E36 M3 | E46 M3 | E92 M3 | F80/X)