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-   -   Z4 Soft Top Removal and Motor Replacement Procedures (

shipkiller 04-03-2009 07:08 AM

Z4 Soft Top Removal and Motor Replacement Procedures
Over on, in the How-To section are two How-To's. One for the Soft Top removal and the other is for the motor replacement.

Soft Top removal:

Motor replacement:

caseysc1 04-03-2009 07:22 AM

Wow! Nice writeups and GREAT pics. These could help a lot of folks!!

drclark 06-20-2010 02:00 PM


Thanks for your postings on removing the top and changing the motor. Using your posts, I was able to remove the top and and change out the motor. It works great now. I did create a new problem however, not as serious as the top motor. I disconnected the battery prior to changing the motor. After putting everything back, my radio says "disabled." I think there is a procedure to get this thing to play again. I'd appeciate the solution if you have it.

Thanks again for your postings.


da_bikeman 07-07-2010 07:45 AM

Like so many before me, a sincere and grateful THANK YOU! to Shipkiller for providing wonderful instructions and photos.

I do want to point out something I ran into, which may save others some time. The hyro line markings on my new pump were REVERSED from the original. I laid the old and new pumps side by side and moved the hydro lines one at a time. The aluminum block on the pump has numbers embossed to correspond with the hydro lines, which are also numbered. With the reservoir pointing up, the old pump was embossed 11, 13 on the left, and 12, 14 on the right. The new pump was embossed 12, 14 left and 11, 13 right. I decided to match the numbered hydro lines with the embossed numbers on the pump, which affectively reversed the lines. That was a mistake!

I reinstalled the top in the car, but fortunately, I tested it before completely buttoning it down. The "close top" button on the console caused the top to move backwards briefly, then stall. The "open top" cause it to move towards the windsheld. Operation was backwards, even though it would not complete the cycle. I had to remove the top a second time, disassemble the pump shroud, and swap the hydro lines. This put the lines back in their original orientation, even though the embossed numbers no longer matched. Once reinstalled, everything worked perfectly.

The pump I bought is BMW OEM, made by Hoerbiger. It looked identical to the original, except for the number embossing. You can tell that the numbers are hand stamped, so I have to assume this was simply an error by someone at the Hoerbiger factory. Regardless, the lesson is, match the orientation of the lines when moving from the old pump to the new!


rsharp 05-05-2011 01:00 PM

Z4 Soft Top Motor Replacement
Shipkiller and others,

Thanks again for the great write-ups.
It definitely helped with Dis-assembly and installation.

Dis-assembly went well.
As noted, the numbers on the new motor doesn''t match the original motor, so just tape your hydraulic lines left/right when facing the motor and you won't have any problems.

Also the original writeup I believe had one pin per side my Z4 model had two pins each side.
(One was hidden behind a plastic cap lower down the support column, 4 post pins total).

The only other caution I would mention is; I tested the operation with all of the plastics removed on the back panel and head-rests, since I had to troubleshoot my 6 pack CD changer in the rear. (easier to work on)

The top came up very fast after I pushed the button and the inside liner caught on the sharp plastic piece just aft of the head-rests. It Ripped the inside liner and created a little hole on each side. (Bummer)
I would recommend installing all of the plastic pieces before testing the operation of the top.

Other than that, the job was easy.
New motor $330, and new insulation with plastic case $80.
My motor and insulation case were so corroded I needed to replace both.
I also sealed the case as mentioned to prevent this from happening again.
I did check my drains and they were not clogged.
The previous owner had the Hard Top installed and from the condition of the soft-top it looked like he probably never used the soft-top. (Looks new)
I do like the hard-top on occasions, it keeps the road noise down and wx out.
Now it's in the 70s-90s in CA so the soft top is used continuously.

Thanks again for the posting, it makes a DIY projects much more manageable.

jodale 05-05-2011 07:07 PM

I used all of Shipkillers instructions that I found on the Z4-forum and the job went well. It is a difficult job and you will need help to do it all. The only thing I would add is that it was very difficult to get the top hoop to break free so we could pull it out. As was mentioned in some of the other posts - my drains were not plugged. When I got the top off I found the drains flowed freely without anything clogging them up. I did find the motor box in my 2004 Z4 was completely unsealed. I think BMW failed to seal some of the early Z4's and over time water will seep into the motor box regardless of the drains.

I also would like to give Shipkiller a big Thanks for his detailed instructions on this and many other HowTo's on his website.

It's up to him if he wants to post that link but - ask him :thumbup: :thumbup: :thumbup:[/I]

shipkiller 05-05-2011 07:11 PM

What link?

Mikey48 05-06-2011 03:29 AM

Thank you for the info Shipkiller we are gonna need it !!!

sambo3rd 05-28-2011 07:54 AM

Z4 Top Motor Replacement
Thanks, Shipkiller. My motor went out on my 2003 Z4.
My mechanic and I did some troubleshooting to make sure the motor was bad
before we removed the top. The pics and procedures helped immensely.
Like others had a hard time getting the band out of the clips, but managed to get it out.
The new pump was about $400 from BMW Atlanta.
It was a newer part number and I had instructions that said to swap hydro and gave
guide for the electrical connections. Both were reversed for this new motor and my model.

Everything went back together pretty smoothly. Only problem was that the electrical connnections were backwards. Wasn't planning to pull the top out again, so I got an extractor tool and swapped the pins on the connector at the harness by the driver's door.

Tricky getting the band back in the clips, getting the screws back in the band, and getting the little clips back into the "floor" under the top, but with some contortions was able to do it.

Thanks for saving me a boatload of cash and downtime having to go to a dealer.
Sam Richardson

magicman1180 09-23-2011 03:48 AM

Firstly I like to thank Shipkiller for his amazingly detailed guide on how to do this repair.

I started to do this repair and am stuck trying to free up the roof from the clip at the end of the hoop. I tried to pry it free with a screwdriver while in the trunk and was hesitant to try to pry it out from outside the car as it was difficult to get around the weather stripping. Has anyone got anytips for this. I've spent a few hours on this stage and have given up for today. How much force is required to free it up? Im afraid of damaging the outside of the trunk if i use a lever of some sort...

Thanks again Shipkiller for your great website and taking time to carefully detail your work. Cheers.

kroddy1414 10-06-2011 09:48 AM

Fellow Bimmers,

I just completed the replacement of my soft top hydraulic/motor! Shipkiller's detailed instructions were spot on and extremely helpful, Thanks!!!!!!!
It took me a little longer than I has expected, I had a difficult time reinstalling the hoop into its clips. I realized that putting the top in the extended/covered position made it easier. Additionally I had been trying to engage the clips from inside the trunk it works much better from standing outside the car, lining it up, and pushing down quite strongly.

ATTENTION: My new pump (same part number as the old one) came with the hydraulic line connections reversed! Lines 11 and 13 (clearly marked) that were originally on the left side were now on the right side. If this is the case, one MUST reverse the two wires as well. Yes the motor will work in the opposite direction but the locking clips on the windshield strut will not engage!

Thank you all for your invaluable info and if any one needs assistance I will be glad to share.

Bimmerfest saved me $2100. and good feelings for my favorite auto.


kroddy1414 10-06-2011 09:52 AM

Reply to Magiman 1180 and others who may face the clip problem.

The design of the clip requires one to push towards the interior of the vehicle while angling up. It does not release by pushing/pulling straight up.

Push towards the interior and then up.

Russell Grace 03-22-2012 01:18 PM

Thanks for your instructions, I changed my soft top hydraulic motor today (5 hours) on my 2006 Z4 and cleaned the drains out, saved a fortune, thanks again.


Deros50 04-04-2012 10:29 AM

Has anyone attempted to fix with top fully extended. I can not get my hydraulics to disengage to retract roof. I did get an estimate from a local garage that has replaced a few z4 tops. They want $1600.00 for pump and labour. Still too much but I live in Ontario, Canada and tax is 13% on parts and labour. Weather is getting nice here so it's time to get it done. Also would be willing to drive to Michigan to get it done if any one knows of any good BMW shops.

Russell Grace 04-04-2012 11:53 AM

replacing roof hydraulic motor
Hi Deros 50,
When you press the roof down button do the screen securing latches unlock, if they do in your boot (truck) you should find a red plastic ring pull on the left at the top of the opening. Pull this ring pull out by about 1/4"and turn it through 90 degrees and this will lock the hydraulic bypass valve in the open position, this will then let you lower the roof by hand.
If the screen latches do not unlock from the down switch you can remove the plastic cover at the top of the windscreen to open the latches using an Allen key.

Hope this helps


Deros50 04-04-2012 06:04 PM

Thanks Russell. I have tried several times to lower the top with bypass ring pulled out. I was not sure how far to pull. It seems everything in the top system is seized. I do not want to force it as I might bend the whole frame system and add to the bill. Even the mechanic said that if they repair it they will have to take the top of fully extended.

AndrewF 04-04-2012 06:51 PM

Having recently purchased my Z4 and living in Thailand, I find that the information I have been reading on this forum, including this top replacement, is invaluable, especially as the BMW dealership is hours away and there are not too many Z4's around anyway.
Thanks to all you guys (non sexist! :)) for sharing your information and solutions to the problems, it really does make you feel part of the Bimmer Z3/4 family

ThereIsNoMafia 04-04-2012 09:56 PM

This needs to be a sticky PERIOD ! ! !

kroddy1414 04-05-2012 08:56 AM

Deros 50, The hydraulic bypass can be a little difficult at first. It doesn't get much use. After repeated attempts and using vise grips to pull on the cable, I was able to get it to release. If you feel uncomfortable with the amount of stress you put on it there is another option. As long as the top "unlatches" (see Russell Grace post) you can put constant- even pressure on the top and it will slowly retract. You are just giving the hydraulic fluid the time and pressure to move through the hydraulic pump. I did this several times with no adverse problems.
It is also possible to remove the top fully closed, but a definite pita.

shipkiller 04-05-2012 09:26 AM


the top will NOT 'unlatch/unlock' from the window frame unless the 'compartment floor' down switch is made in the trunk.

bajoobie 04-08-2012 09:16 PM

buttons backwards!

Originally Posted by shipkiller (Post 4059404)
Over on, in the How-To section are two How-To's. One for the Soft Top removal and the other is for the motor replacement.

Soft Top removal:

Motor replacement:

So first off that you very much for the tutorial. Used it this weekend and it was very details and straightforward. I am having one problem though. My convertible top down button makes the top go up and vice versa. Now I have been reading and it seems like i must have connected the hydraulic motor up backwards. My question to you is: Do I reverse the hydro lines or the motor power lines? or both? Either way the joy of taking the top off seems to be never ending.

Thank you for the help!

Deros50 04-08-2012 11:09 PM

That sucks, but I am sure it's nice to have the top working again.(reversed or not). I am thinking of doing the repair myself as well. Did you have problems lowering the top manually? Mine does not want to fold even with the bypass ring engaged. I don't want to force it with the risk of bending the frame.

bajoobie 04-09-2012 04:51 AM


Originally Posted by Deros50 (Post 6758802)
That sucks, but I am sure it's nice to have the top working again.(reversed or not). I am thinking of doing the repair myself as well. Did you have problems lowering the top manually? Mine does not want to fold even with the bypass ring engaged. I don't want to force it with the risk of bending the frame.

It's almost nice considering the top is still unusable because the latches still work in the correct direction. This causes the top to malfunction in very interesting ways. I did have some truble with the bypass ring on mine before I did the repair. I ended up taking it to the shop and having them put my top back up for mme until I could pull the motor. It is possible your bowden cable assembly is incorrectly fitted to your motor or the little button it presses to let fluid flow is stuck.

With all of this being said you can apply prettydecent pressure to the top without the risk of bending, but if your top is up I would probably leave it that way in case of rain. It rains a lot this time of year in Florida...

Living Dead 04-10-2012 07:19 AM


Originally Posted by Deros50 (Post 6758802)
That sucks, but I am sure it's nice to have the top working again.(reversed or not). I am thinking of doing the repair myself as well. Did you have problems lowering the top manually? Mine does not want to fold even with the bypass ring engaged. I don't want to force it with the risk of bending the frame.

I had the same problem with my top, the ring actually had to be pulled a little further than the tube will hold it, have you tried to have someone pull the ring and keep pressure on it while you tried to fold the roof? Once it is released it moves very freely and actually went up and down faster than with the motor and I used it this way all last summer until I finally got approval from BMW for the fix under the warranty. If it ever dies again I don't think I'll bother getting it fixed since it was so easy to move it manually.

Deros50 04-10-2012 03:13 PM

Thanks L Dead; I could live with that, since I really don't want to drive the car if it rains. There is alot of encouraging posts from people replacing the motor on their own. Talked to a local shop today about the repair. He recomended taking it to BMW for the repair as he has heard that if you replace just the motor, it throws the hydraulics out of whack and you will have the same issue in a couple of years. He said its better to change the whole hydraulic system ($1,100 part not $400). Has anyone who has changed the motor has had do to it more than once. Plus local shop will only give 3 month warranty on labor and one year on part. BMW will give 2 years on both.

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