How-To: Sunroof Repair - Bimmerfest - BMW Forums

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E39 (1997 - 2003)
The BMW 5-Series (E39 chassis) was introduced in the United States as a 1997 model year car and lasted until the 2004 when the E60 chassis was released. The United States saw several variations including the 525i, 528i, 530i and 540i. -- View the E39 Wiki

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Old 02-07-2008, 05:59 PM
uniter uniter is offline
Location: PA
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 227
Mein Auto: 97 e39 540i. 07 e90 335i
How-To: Sunroof Repair

After removing the sunroof by detaching the rubber seals with it in the tilt position (3 torx on each).

Diagnosis of this issue:

Broken gator (rail retainer) clips.
--The 'rail' mentioned here is the one that moves with your sunroof glass, not the two parallel rails that contain the two wires being moved by your sunroof motor.

Right cart (controls the position of the rail, directly behind the gator clips on the wire-rails) was out of alignment with the left one, that is a bit forward, so that the gator clip smashed against the front tilting rail and broke.
--The front tilting rail moves with the sunroof glass, and is at the front of the sunroof wire-rail on both sides, it's connected to the sunroof with one torx screw and controls the deployment of an 'airfoil' when your sunroof gets retracted.

I ordered two kits from my dealer, apparently they only sell a 35$ kit that consists of the plastic gator clips (only thing I needed), the cart, the rail, the rail-sunroof-platform retaining bar & screw. I grabbed a new assembly, right and left.

On to the repair.
Drop the sunroof motor, it's located behind your vanity lights, mic & sunroof switch plate.

These steps on both sides.
Carefully remove the left and right metal bars that hold the airfoil down, this can be accomplished by pushing them down towards the ground and pushing. There's a plastic clip that holds it into place there which may come out, save it in a safe place until we're ready to continue. Remove the front tilting rail's metal retainer piece via the torx screw, now forcefully push the front tilting rail out the front of the wire-rail, I did this with a piece of metal and hand pressure, when it's far enough out it actually has a cutout so it can pivot out. Next unscrew the sunroof retainer platform from the rail, remove the bolt and store the retainer platform and bolt in a safe place, inspect closely the tilting arm, but be careful not to touch it as it is a pain to repair (mine was such a pain that multiple pieces broke, so the left side is held together with wire, ahem.)
Push the rail forward the cart should come out the back of the rail and the gator clip out the front of the wire-rail assembly.
Now attach the new gator clip and rotate into position don't worry if the rail seems to bite into the plastic of the gator clip, this is normal. Insert the gator clip and rail back into the wire-rail assembly but backwards, make sure the plastic clips on the cart are facing forward.
Carefully position the cart so that the holes on the tilt-arm match up to those on the rail and that the tilt arm is at it's highest possible position. Attach the sunroof-retainer-platform insert bolt and screw tight. Important notice: the bolt that's provided with the kit for the right side may have a new bend that apparently is intended to keep the sunroof from going too low, in my vehicle this would hit the rail that the rubber seal travels on and not close properly, leading me to believe that BMW changed the design and didn't let me in on it.
In this case re-use your old bolt.
Re-insert the tilt-rail (it's difficult) by using the same pivot that got it out. Be patient, don't get the hammer out. Re-attach the metal retainer.
After you've completed both sides, make sure that the gator clips, and carts are in the same positions along the wire-rail. Also make sure that the tilt-rail is snug against the retainer. Re-attach the airfoil arms. Make sure the tilt-arm assembly is still in its highest position, make sure the rubber seal / wipe is still attached properly to the 'metal thing behind the cart' and the tilt-arm.
Re-attach the sunroof motor, hit the tilt button & hold, it will tilt or not, and then after 15+ seconds tilt more, then hit the close button, then the retract button, retract fully then hold the tilt button until the assembly moves forward and tilts and then does its second tilt.
Now re-attach the sunroof glass, make sure that the front rail 'button' is in the corresponding hole on the sunroof glass (the hole in front of the torx screw hole) this takes some swedeng but you'll get it. Re-attach the rubber seals & repeat the alignment procedure above!

If all goes well you've just avoided the 2,000+ cost from the dealer to replace your cart.
(There is however the problem of how the rails got out of alignment in the first place, perhaps a wire is stretched, if so the cart -> will <- have to be replaced or you're going to be doing a motor drop & alignment after using the sunroof a few times.)

Pics if there's interest, they're on my digital cam waiting to be split up (just of parts though.)
07 335i 6mt/premium/sport/cold/navi/l7

97 540i 6mt/premium/sport/cold/dsp 192k - GONE.
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