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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 Sun, May-24-2009, 05:07:32 AM   #1
Anubis
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Talking Epic retrofitting action: 18-button OBC, headlight aim control, & power vent windows.

Disclaimer: This thread is not a DIY. I do not plan to make a DIY for any of these projects - they are well-documented on various forums as well as through BMW's own Aftermarket Sales Assistance Portal instructions (ask your dealer to e-mail the instructions, you just need to give them the EBA # that you can find in the ETK on realoem.com).

This thread is a story, an epic tale, with a few tips and tricks along the way for those who might find themselves doing these projects. These retrofits are well-documented but as is the case with any DIY/instruction manual, not everything is well-discussed/explained.

The background/beginnings:

When I first bought my M3, I noticed that it had a few faults, including a few dead pixels on my 11-button OBC - notorious for having screen faults. I then purchased an 18-button OBC and pigtail harness with the intent of retrofitting it in the summer of 2008 but that never happened (I was lazy).

Around the same time I decided to pick up the OEM BMW headlight aim control/adjustment retrofit kit - there's some law in Germany apparently that all headlights after a certain date MUST have a system by which the driver can lower the beam if the car becomes heavily loaded. I like buttons and switches and cool OEM things, so I picked up that kit. For those who are interested, the part numbers are 67169402052 and 61129410627 - you need both (one is the kit, one is the wiring harness). I was planning on doing that retrofit last summer as well, but since it requires pulling the fusebox and running wires through the firewall, I shied away from doing it and let the kit sit in my garage.

Then, after a full winter of doing basically nothing, I decided that I wanted power rear vent windows. I bought the OEM BMW kit this spring (part numbers necessary: 51369402689, 61129402660, and 61129404366 - 51368151845 and 51368151846 are trim pieces that are optional and make the area where the drive arms come through the rear "door" panels look nicer - I didn't bother with these).

I decided upon an epic mod weekend - Kevin and Andrew would come down and we would take out my interior, clean the seats nicely and retrofit all three things. It began this past Thursday.

The 18-button OBC:

So, since I knew that we would not be able to finish all three projects in one day, I decided to retrofit the 18-button OBC on Thursday. This is not a terribly challenging task, especially when you make a wiring harness ahead of time. I used a very good DIY I found online along with diagrams from various DIYs (I used this one and this one) - I can't locate the excellent DIY but if you search long enough I'm sure you'll find it - it's extraordinarily meticulous.

The 18-button OBC retrofit is startlingly easy if you spend the time making a wiring harness ahead of time, if you use different color wire and buy OEM BMW pins for the two places you'll need to insert pins into, and if you TAKE YOUR TIME. A fair amount of trim needs to come out for the 18-button OBC, and it's very very easy to just leave screws lying around or break trim if you're not careful.

Anyway, the wiring harness for the OBC took me about two hours to make, and it took me about one hour to remove all the various trim, and another hour or so to lay all the wiring nicely, hook it up / splice, and test the OBC's functions. So all in all, I spent about four hours on the 18-button OBC retrofit. Everything worked, and I was stoked.

Friday - fusebox day:

I'll warn you right now - running wires through the driver's side of the firewall is a horrible, horrible task. Once you remove the ridiculously hard-to-get-to tiny Torx screws holding the top of the fusebox in, you have to remove just about everything under the driver's side dash to access four inaccessible screws that hold the fusebox to the firewall from the inside. If you don't remove those screws you will not be able to remove the grommet that holds the wiring together tightly and creates a moisture seal in the fusebox.

I only managed to run the wiring for the aim control from the headlights to the fusebox (the top came off, but I gave up on trying to get the inside screws out). I only had a few hours to spend, so I replaced my cabin microfilter (I suspect that the filter in there already was either original or replaced 30,000 miles ago - gross). This is an easy job with the glovebox out (although it is not necessary for it to be out). Contrary to what anyone may say, you MUST break the four tabs on the microfilter to get it in properly. This does not affect the filtration of the filter at all. It even says on the instructions in the OEM filter box that you must break those tabs to get the filter in.

I spent about two hours on the car on Friday - an hour and a half on the fusebox lid (ugh) and about 30 minutes on the microfilter because I couldn't get the big distribution box next to the ZKE/EWS/etc. off in order to get the filter out.

Saturday - an epic eleven-hour day of power rear vent windows and swearing every fifteen seconds:

At 10AM, I headed outside and began working on tidying up the garage, getting various tools ready and together, and planning out the retrofit process. Kevin (KWorker17) arrived shortly and we began removing the interior. Kevin had done this a few times before, so he made quick work of the rear seat bench/seat/bolster removal, along with the C-pillars, the rear "door" panels, and the driver's seat. We decided to leave the passenger seat in the car for a few reasons - it doesn't really need to be removed, and there isn't much space to the right of my car when parked in the garage.

We also removed my armrest, storage partition/center console, and driver's door sill trim strip (which ended up begin unnecessary - more on that to come). Kevin and I then began working on getting the fusebox separated from the firewall.

Around this time, Andrew (camdinans3) arrived and started cleaning my seats and various interior trim that was dirty and needed some rejuvenating. We didn't get around to replacing my cargo nets today - we were way too busy. Andrew is extremely meticulous when it comes to cleaning the interior and spent way more time on it than I could have - I'm far too impatient.

After Kevin and I managed to get the four almost impossibly inaccessible screws off the inside side of the firewall, we pulled the fusebox back, cut a zip-tie at the grommet, and pulled off the plastic trim piece that squeezed the grommet together tightly. We ran the wiring for the headlight aim control through the firewall, connected the switch, and tested the motors. One of the wires going to the passenger side was not getting power, so after we figured that out and did some splicing, the headlight aim control motors worked perfectly.

On to the power rear vent windows. At this point just about everything in the interior that needed to be removed was removed, so we familiarized ourselves with the harness and set about running the necessary wires through the firewall and to the fusebox, and connected the necessary wiring to the massive distribution panel under the driver's side dash and also to the ZKE (central body electronics module). Instead of running the wires along the driver's door-sill, we chose to run them through the center console area to the rear. This is because the retrofit kit for some ridiculous reason has the window switches going UNDER the carpet under the seat and to the center console/shift boot area. It is essentially impossible to get anything fished through there, so we gave up.

We ran the wiring through the center console, to the window switch area, and then to the rear seats. One of the plugs for the vent window didn't have enough wiring length (due to our re-routing) so we had to extend it just a bit.

We removed the manual vent window latches and replaced them with the latches which accept the drive arms. At this point we threaded the drive arms through the holes/guides in the sheet metal and in the sound insulation and connected them to the latches. This was a pain in the ass due to the rigidity of the somewhat flexible drive arms and the location of the essentially hidden motors (they sit behind the sheet metal between the outside of the car and the inside sheet metal). We mounted the motors (only two of the three mounting screws were at all do-able, as you will see when you try it yourself) and tested them out.

Amazingly - they worked.

We started putting the interior back together, and of course, this was a nightmare. We didn't do a good enough job of labeling/separating our screws/nuts/etc. so we ended up with extras or things that didn't fit or whatever. Anyway, as the clock struck almost 9:00PM, the driver's seat went back into the car and everything was finally complete.

Total time spent:
Thursday - 4 hours
Friday - 2 hours
Saturday - 11 hours
Total: ~17 hours.

The power rear vent windows of course took the longest just due to the sheer amount of stuff that needed to be removed in order for them to be installed. In the end though it was definitely worth it. I'm so happy to have a full OBC and to have the aim control system working and finally to have power rear vent windows. Words cannot describe how happy I am.

I also owe everything of this project to Kevin and Andrew. They helped me so much that it would not have been possible for me to complete it on my own. Even if I were somehow able to finish it, it would have taken me three to four times as long. I am so grateful to them both for coming and spending essentially the ENTIRE day with me, cleaning, sweating, and swearing.

I took the car for a test drive afterwards and I was thrilled to find out that everything felt and worked just like it did before (almost) although with a few added perks.

It was definitely worth it. If anyone is planning on tackling any of these projects soon and has questions, I will be more than glad to answer them for you via PM.

Pictures of the completed project:

New window switches (I messed up one little spot on the passenger's side - not very noticeable in person but I'll probably end up buying a new center console with cutouts for everything from the factory):





OBC functions:









Cleaned interior:









Aim control switch:



Animated .gif of the power vent windows in action:

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Last edited by Anubis; Tue, Jun-02-2009 at 10:28:57 PM.
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Old Sun, May-24-2009, 05:17:06 AM   #2
Roland H
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Dang Jeff, glad to see that you finally got this done. I'll be hitting you up on the headlight aim control for sure.

and of course...

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Old Sun, May-24-2009, 05:18:40 AM   #3
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great job Jeff, and nice write up
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Old Sun, May-24-2009, 06:26:39 AM   #4
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Looking forward to pictures!
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Old Sun, May-24-2009, 07:52:20 AM   #5
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waiting on the pics
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Old Sun, May-24-2009, 11:22:47 AM   #6
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I'd say the fusebox was the WORST part of anything I ever did to my car...

The power vents were actually pretty easy for me. All 3 bolts for the motors and ran the harness under the drivers seat too The trick is to remove the drivers' seatbelt and door sill. The foot vent was a little tricky but if you have another set of hands to hold the carpet it's a life-saver!

I recm'd anyone doing the headlight aim controls to simply cut the wires for the adjustment switch and re-solder them once you sneak the bare ends through the firewall. Oh yeah and replace those (stripped) torx screws with some phillips head screws.

OBC retrofit was actually easy. Jeremy's PDF writeup is actually TOO good. I used it, along with the same bits & pieces I gathered from filtering through all the other writeups and basically got it down to 2 pages. Longest part is making the harness, in which sourcing the pieces necessary are the 'hardest' part.
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Old Sun, May-24-2009, 04:28:11 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jvit27 View Post
I'd say the fusebox was the WORST part of anything I ever did to my car...

The power vents were actually pretty easy for me. All 3 bolts for the motors and ran the harness under the drivers seat too The trick is to remove the drivers' seatbelt and door sill. The foot vent was a little tricky but if you have another set of hands to hold the carpet it's a life-saver!

I recm'd anyone doing the headlight aim controls to simply cut the wires for the adjustment switch and re-solder them once you sneak the bare ends through the firewall. Oh yeah and replace those (stripped) torx screws with some phillips head screws.

OBC retrofit was actually easy. Jeremy's PDF writeup is actually TOO good. I used it, along with the same bits & pieces I gathered from filtering through all the other writeups and basically got it down to 2 pages. Longest part is making the harness, in which sourcing the pieces necessary are the 'hardest' part.
We didn't have a Torx head big enough for the seat belt guide screw so that was out of the question. We only needed to lengthen two wires to get the wire to get to the driver's side window motor, so it was a no-brainer IMO.

We didn't have much trouble at all getting wires through the firewall once the fusebox was detached and the grommet removed - doing those two things was near impossible but with the combination of my small hands and Kevin's ratchet-extension-expertise, we got it.

As far as all three bolts for the motors - one hole was just completely inaccessible so we said screw it and only put in two - they're in there just fine. I'd like to see how someone gets the third one in...anferny?

Pics coming later this afternoon.
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Old Sun, May-24-2009, 04:48:33 PM   #8
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cool jeffy........ i feel your pain bro with all these little headaches. especially getting the fuse box out...... that was / is a *****, and dont plan on doing that again. i will thurally read your post after a few chores.
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Old Sun, May-24-2009, 04:52:22 PM   #9
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Glad to see that your OBC is finished. I totally agree that the prep work for the conversion is clutch.

Also for anyone doing this retrofit later, I made a sort of step by step non pictured DIY with tricks.
---------------
And fusebox removal does suck. I attempted to take it out and actually did but biatched out to install my city lights.
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Old Sun, May-24-2009, 06:18:41 PM   #10
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Pictures added. Enjoy.
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Discussing Epic retrofitting action: 18-button OBC, headlight aim control, & power vent windows. 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 Forum.com (E30 M3 | E36 M3 | E46 M3 | E92 M3 | F80/X)