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porksoda 05-29-2009 05:19 PM

DIY - Fresh Air Grille / Centre Air Vent Replacement (E39)
MODS: Feel Free to add it in the DIY forum/section.

This diy is fairly easy and should not take more than 30 mins. I know many of e39ers have the centre vent that gets damaged and would like to replace it the cost of it is anywhere from 30 for used and 60 for a new one. I ordered mine from Tischer for 65 bucks or so.

Tools Needed:

- 10mm Socket or wrench
- Phillips Screwdriver
- Flathead Screwdriver
- Interior Panel Removal Tool (OPTIONAL)
- Patience

- Fresh Air Grille Part # Dependant on interior colour mine was black also note that my grille came with the bowden cable attached and

this diy assumes the bowden comes attached with the grille.


To install the grill you have to remove the glove box completely and a panel next to it... also you have to release the bowden cable and and remove the grill itself from the body. I started with the glove box and wandered as this was my first time doing this.

You have to remove the lower cover which is underneath the glove box... to remove it all you have to do is pull the panel towards you.

You can see the white part circled is where the panel snuggly secures onto.

There are four clips on the panel itself that fit inside the white parts in step 2.

On the left side of the glove compartment you can see the hinge is secured by a tab.

Closeup of the hinge on the left side. To remove this you can pry it gently with a flathead screwdriver or Interior Panel removal tool.

On the right side of the Glove there is a gas strut which makes the Glove box door come down gradually, to remove it use the same method as in step 5.

Leave the Glove box closed and you can see underneath there are two 10mm socket/wrench nuts w/washer. Remove them. (Left side shown)

This is what it looks like after the nut has been removed.

After you have remove both nuts open the glove box door and slide the box towards you slowly. While the box is released hold the glovebox (May need to rest on something so it does not fall) and squeeze the tab on the flashlight charger terminal.

After the terminal is removed the glove box is free and can be placed safely in the backseat or some other place where it wont get dirty. Below is the picture of the Flash Light charger terminal, note the male part can only go in one way.

Looking at the glove box where the nuts were removed you can see the plastic has a shape with a circular depression which bites onto the rail when its installed.

The circular rail where the part in step 11 bites onto..

Glove box upside down looking at the two circular plastic pieces that bite onto the rail.

After the glove box is completely removed you can see on the right hand side a plastic piece this is what needs to be removed for the bowden cable to be visible. In my car they were two phillips screws remove then and the part will easily slide out.

Now you can see the bowden cable attached to a mechanical part which controls hot vs cold air to be ciruculated inside the cabin.

The white tab needs to be pulled towards you for the latch to be released (this requires a bit of force but it should be done by hand), please remember how this is installed as this took me a long while to figure out on how this is installed.

After the latch has been released you can easily pull the ciruclar piece off.

The mechanical piece where the bowden cable attaches to (white) and the plastic part where the latch locks onto (black). You can see the black piece chipped as i did not inspect how the latch was installed and the marks show my various failed attempts to lock the latch.

Now we can remove the Fresh Air Grille/Centre Air Vent from the car, I did not take any pictures while i was removing it as mine was a bit warped. You can see the four tabs that hold the piece in place, below you can see the bottom of the grill with the tabs circled.

Top of the grill with the tabs circled.

To remove the Grill when its installed basicaly slide four credit cards in place of each tab so the grille can be easily be pulled out, it takes a bit of force as the back of vent is inserted in the vents (see below the vents after the grille has been removed). You can pull the vent out as the cable has been released already.

On the new vent make sure you have set the dial to cool air (three blue dots) as you will have most slack of cable in this position.

23. - Final Assembly
- Slide the new vent in but do not press it in all the way yet.
- Fish the bowden cable down and install it, if you inspected before removing the latch and cable this should be fairly easy.
- Test to see the fresh air grille works and the bowden operates and there are no problems (here you can see the mechanism in action while you rotate the selector).
- After the cable is installed push the vent in, you will need to push it firmly and slowly and making sure it is aligned to the vents. You will hear clicks when it is secure.
- Put the plastic piece back. Install the flashlight plug into the glove box and install the glove box.
- Install the spring loaded cylinder and the hinge... those caps slide right on you should be able to figure those out.
- Here you may need to tweak the position (left to right) of the glove box to ensure smooth operation. It took me a few mins to allign this so i had a smooth close and open.
- All done have a beer or coke or whatever floats your boat and hope you don't break the grille again anytime soon.

TheStig 05-29-2009 05:20 PM

Nice DIY!

Good job.:thumbup::thumbup:

porksoda 05-29-2009 08:16 PM


Originally Posted by TheStig (Post 4223701)
Nice DIY!

Good job.:thumbup::thumbup:

thanks.. it took me longer than i would like to admit mostly because i did not know where the bowden cable was attached to and i almost removed the wrong cable... Then secondly when i did find the right one i did not pay attention before removing the latch and spent a good 30ish mins on it and sweating all over the gravel... but now its done and hopefully others will only take 15-20 mins doing this.

Hopefully i have plans for exterior rusty b pillars next.

eshiii 10-31-2011 10:29 AM

Additional info
I performed this on my 2003 525i. Great post, but I would add that it can be a bit difficult to get the credit cards in, particularly on the bottom of the vent. There is a small lip in the dash that required some force and finesse to get the cards past. They have to go in quite a distance. Pay careful attention to the photo of where the tabs are - or check the new unit. I did significant damage to the old unit upon removal. Though, I was not being particularly careful as I was replacing it. All in all, a pretty easy repair. Good luck.

briantx 04-27-2012 01:30 PM

Awesome DIY
Nice, excellent detail. You took nothing for granted. My replacement took 15 minutes...

I couldn't seem to get the vent out using the credit card trick. Kind of a weird feeling to have to rip the vent out piece by piece... but in the end, the replacement looks factory :thumbup:

EconoBox 04-28-2012 06:44 AM

This is exactly how a DIY should be written.
No step glossed over. Perfect.

ccrawley75 09-26-2012 11:34 AM

Can the existing blue cable be used? Can it be unplugged from the vent to use with the replacement to avoid removing the glove box?


briantx 10-25-2012 08:12 AM

I don't think there is enough slack in the cable to bring the vent out of the dash without disconnecting the cable from the bottom. So you kinda have to remove the glove box...

doru 03-19-2013 02:44 PM

Bumped for Bluebee to post it in the bestlinks, if it isn't posted yet........

Ågent99 05-08-2013 11:00 AM

Nice...I just literally ripped out my old vent but since I'm replacing it, I didn't care. I'm glad I searched on this as the manuals weren't too clear on the whole thing.

Ågent99 05-09-2013 08:17 PM

So I have a few things to add to this install. If you have it, remove your NAV module. It is very easy and you'll gain a lot more access. There is another clip that the blue cable attaches to that you cannot reach unless you remove the NAV or your radio, I think.

To remove the cable at the white clip point, I simply pressed up on the large white cylinder just in front of the clip and popped it free. See Pic 17 above. Study the clip on your new module for a few seconds and you'll get it.

To install the new cable, it helps to "roll" it into place. If you study the attachment point, you'll see that it is designed to accept the roundness of the cable. See Pic 18. So start with putting the cable into this spot and then "roll" the whole thing to snap the tab back into place. Push on the tab "handle" to do this and it snaps in relatively easily.

Finally, make DAMN sure the vent snaps back into the vent tubes. I snapped mine home without checking this and had to pull the damn thing back out. This is where having access from BELOW the vent/tubes (i.e. why I suggest removing radio/NAV) can help a lot.

JDeGraff89 05-15-2013 05:18 PM

very nice post and great pics. Has anyone done the left and right side yet? the ones housed in the door along with a speaker? both of mine are broken and unadjustable

mifesto 10-02-2013 10:10 AM

is there any alternative trick to removing the old grill? I slide the 4 credit cards fairly deeply and confirmed it should have "activated" the tabs based on my replacement part. the grill refuses to budge!

Ågent99 10-02-2013 12:33 PM

You shouldn't have to go too deep with the credit cards. If you are replacing the grill, just rip it out and don't worry about messing it up. Mine came out in pieces. :)

If you just need to remove it and replace it again, try banging on it a little bit to help "loosen" it up in case it has kind of "glued" itself around the periphery. Also, if you remove your NAV or radio, you can give it a push from that direction and it might help some.

mifesto 10-02-2013 01:02 PM

yeah I didn't mind destroying it as I have replacement already in hand. I already destroyed all the 'slits' in process of pulling; still the center grill body itself refuses to move. I've been using my hands so far and it's fruitless (and painful), I'll manhandle it with a wrench next.

Arkum 12-04-2014 05:02 PM

I spent 15 minutes trying to get mine out without breaking it then another 15 breaking it until it was finally out

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