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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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  #1  
Old 03-27-2010, 10:17 PM
ElwoodBlues ElwoodBlues is offline
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Another seat twist thread

Ok, I've read endless threads on seat twist repair, and thought "no problem I can do that".

Problem is, the cable that needs repairing is the one going to height adjust on the right side of the driver's seat, and it seems nearly impossible to get to all the screws to undo the cable from the motor. My preference (method "A") is to remove the metal cable sheath end, shorten the plastic, and re-attach the end. Method "B", which I'd rather not do, involves cutting out a section in the middle and patching together with tubing and hose clamps.

Has anyone successfully done method "A" on Sport seats for the height adjust motor?

Has any actually replaced the entire cable (or the motor) for the height adjust?

Do I have to remove the entire bottom seat cover and cushion (if I remain determined to fix it this way) in order to actual remove the cable end from the motor?

I'll try to post pics tomorrow if that will help.
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  #2  
Old 03-27-2010, 10:24 PM
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aca84 aca84 is offline
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Thus far, I've had seat twist issue plaguing the backrest on both seats. Both times, I resorted to Method "B" and has proved a successful fix. It really doesn't take much time with the latter method. Any particular reason you're intent on the method A?
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  #3  
Old 03-28-2010, 09:12 AM
ElwoodBlues ElwoodBlues is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aca84 View Post
Any particular reason you're intent on the method A?
"A" sounds more permanent for some reason, but I guess if eveyone is having good results with "B", I can't really argue with that.

Seems like "A" would involve tightening the little hose clamps just tight enough to not allow the two sections of the cable sheath to seperate, but not tight enough to squeeze the cable and put extra drag on the motor.

Method "B", you would actually get a chance to inspect then end of the shaft to see if it has any issues as well.

After looking at it fresh this morning, the screws might be more accessible if I extend the thigh support, so I may try that.

Also, for anyone else who's tackling this for the first time, here's general layout below.
This is the drivers sport seat from a 2002, as viewed from underneath. Bottom of pic would be towards the front of the car.

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  #4  
Old 03-28-2010, 10:23 AM
mujjuman mujjuman is offline
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Great info. Thanks for the pic!
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  #5  
Old 03-28-2010, 09:00 PM
ElwoodBlues ElwoodBlues is offline
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Seat is now fixed!!! (Method "A"!)

Managed to figure out how to remove the dual motor assembly and then I could access the screws holding the cable into the motor. I'll try to post pics tomorrow for the next person crazy enough to want to do it this way.
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  #6  
Old 03-29-2010, 01:19 AM
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chiefwej chiefwej is offline
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I just used method "C". After I loosened the seat bolts and tilted the seat back, I just heated the metal ferrule on the motor end with a lighter, then pulled the cable out. Then I used a utility knife to cut about 1/2 inch off of the plastic sheath. Heated it up again and shoved it back in. It has been about a year now, and it still works perfectly. The whole repair took about 20 min.
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Last edited by Ågent99; 10-04-2010 at 11:01 AM.
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  #7  
Old 03-29-2010, 06:56 AM
ElwoodBlues ElwoodBlues is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chiefwej View Post
...I just heated the metal ferrule on the motor end with a lighter, then pulled the cable out...
Definitely quicker than what I did. I thought about trying something like that, but I was afraid I would burn or melt some other part of the seat or the wiring.
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  #8  
Old 03-30-2010, 08:00 AM
ElwoodBlues ElwoodBlues is offline
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As mentioned before in this thread, this is not the only way, or necessarily the best way, but I had plenty of time and curiousity about how the seats work in general, so I kept digging deeper.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a professional mechanic, and have really only been studying the E39 for a few months. Use all this at your own risk.

PROBLEM & POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS:
My original problem was not seat back twist, but seat bottom tilt when using height adjust. In other words, one side of the height adjust was working and one was not, resulting in the seat leaning you towards the center console. All the general tips on seat cable repair apply, but accessing the motor/cable mounting screws on the sport seats appears to be more difficult than the comfort seats or other BMW models as referenced in many of the other online DIYs. (Several referenced here:
http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...01&postcount=1 )

If you are reading this early on in your search for seat twist solutions, consider all the options:
1. Live with it. (When I first bought my car, the only position where the seat was level was all the way down, which seemed pretty comfortable anyhow.)
2. Get someone else to fix it (dealer,indy, friend, etc.)
3. Shorten cable sheath by cutting out mid section and rejoining with a piece of tubing and two small hoseclamps (seems to work for most, probably the easiest and quickest, method "B" from above)
4. Shorten cable sheath at motor end using heat technique without removing from motor (possible risk of heating something you didn't intend to? method "C" above) also mentioned here:
http://www.m5board.com/vbulletin/e39...rienced-3.html
5. Remove cable end at remote mechanism and repair with heat technicque (may be possible for seat recline, but seat height cable connection seems inaccessable with out full seat cushion removal?)
6. Remove cable end at motor and repair with heat technique (method "A" above). This appears to be easier on other seat styles or other BMW models. See Photo 3 here: http://www.nmia.com/~dgnrg/page_11.htm Several of the other techniques are mentioned here also.

The problem with E39 sport seats is the bracket design and generally tight working space around the motors. Mostly this is due to fixed obstructions, but in the case of height adjust failure you may also have the issue of the seat being adjusted all the way down, putting additional seat mechanisms in close proximity. One pair of brackets attaches both the motor for seat height adjustment and the motor for seat recline to the seat frame. To remove one of the cables from a motor, you must either:
a) entirely dismount the motor (2 screws at each end) and slide it out, or
b) entirely remove the bracket on one side of both motors (4 screws, 2 per motor).
So this bring some additional considerations....

6A. Dismount entire motor assembly from seat, enough to pull away from seat slightly to access all 4 screws at one end of the motor pair, and remove the cable you are after.
6B. Bend obstructions to access enough screws (either one side or one motor) Also mentioned here:
http://www.m5board.com/vbulletin/e39...rienced-3.html
6C. Cut/Drill to remove obstructions or create access holes (just a brief thought, didn't really take it very far)

7. Supposedly some people have also fixed this by welding extensions on to the actual shaft rather than shortening the sheath, but I'm no welder, and you still have all the same access issues.

In my insanity, I kept chasing 6A, so if you read this far, and didn't want to do #3, this is where the procedure actually starts:


DIY PROCEDURE:
(Keep in mind my issue was a height adjust failure on the right side of the drivers seat, but this could probably be adapted for seat back twist, passenger seat, etc.)

A) Remove headrest, unmount seat, seatbelt, and should belt height adjustment cable. (plenty of other threads on this)

B) Adjust the seat for best access to the repair: 1) get as much height from front tilt to give better access to motors, 2) extend thigh support enough to access torx screw under center of it, 3) adjust malfunctioning height until even, 4), adjust seat angle back slightly for easier access to the screw under the leather near the hinge point that secures the rear of plastic switch housing, and 5) don't adjust seat angle so far back that it's difficult to get it out of the car.

C) Disconnect battery (if car brain can't see seatbelt status and pretensioner, it will set error code - see other threads for details)

D) Unplug seat wiring harness (pull/pry lever sideway, connect should pop out)

E) Remove seat from car (better with two people if possible), place on workbench laying on its back

F) Remove switch panel (sorry, not much detail, but check other threads on switch repair for this)

G) Remove connector cover (one nut, one torx screw, plastic hook around bar) and tape back out of the way (wiring harness is still connected) You may need a flex shaft, u-joint, combination of 1/4" drive socket extensions to get to the torx.




H) Remove torx from bottom of thigh support, slide all the way out and fold back onto seat cushion



I) Partially remove leather from front left (opposite on passenger side maybe?) seat corner. It's not as scary as you might think; just compress the cushion and keep pulling the leather towards the barb until you have enough slack to unhook the leather from the frame. You will need to do the first 4 - 6 barbs or so, starting at the edge of the thigh support opening and working your way out.


J) Open/Unhook the upholstery rings (2 or 3 as needed) along front edge of main seat cushion.



K) Remove two motor bracket screws from top of seat frame


L) Remove two motor bracket screws from front of seat frame


M) Partially slide motor assembly out enough to access bracket screws and remove the problem cable end


N) Repair cable using heat & trim method (documented elsewhere, but this was my variation)
N1) Remove shaft
N2) Carefully pluck out padding / seal at cable end

N3) Heat metal sleeve (maybe ten seconds or so with a heat gun)
N4) Pull sleeve off with pliers
N5) Clean melted plastic from metal sleeve
N6) Push metal the 4 barbs back from inside sleeve to ease re-instalation
N7) Trim about desired amount off the cable with utility knife (I trimmed 3/8" because shaft appeared long enough at the motor end, but by giving it a quarter turn, it dropped back into the sheath about 3/8" when it re-engaged the mechanism at the far end of the cable.)
N8) Insert cable in metal sleeve
N9) Reset barbs into cable (I used a spring loaded centering punch while resting the cable in the end of a scrap of 2x4, but there's probably a better way?)

N10) Heat again / push on slightly with pliers (in theory helping it all stick together better?)
N11) Let cool and re-install padded end seal
N12) Lube shaft if desired and insert
O) Reinstall cable in to motor (some twisting may be need to align square shaft inside motor), and re attach bracket to motors

P) Install motor assembly into seat

Q) Test your repair. I did this by temporarily connecting the seat and main seat control switch box, and resting it upside down on the door sill. (Protect seat and door frame as needed)


R) If good, remove battery again, disconnect seat, return to workbench to reassemble remainder of seat

CONCLUSION:
No, this is not the quickest method. Can't really say how long because I spent a lot of time figuring out how to do it, and I also removed parts that were un-related because I was doing a lot of cleaning where the previous owner had spilled a sticky drink or two. Maybe a couple of hours? Is it the best method? Hard to say. Why did I bother documenting it? Well, I've really enjoyed all the help and information her as I've gotten to know my car better, and I wanted to actually contribute a little. Maybe not the easiest cable repair method, but this would also be useful for someone who needs to replace their seat adjust motor, or swap a good one from the passenger side to replace a failed one on the driver side. Anyhow, hopefully it will help someone.
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  #9  
Old 03-30-2010, 12:15 PM
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chiefwej chiefwej is offline
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This is a good write-up, but I think you forgot the most important step of all. The very first thing you must do is adjust the seat to whatever position will have no twist. If someone forgets that before disconnecting power, they're screwed.
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  #10  
Old 03-30-2010, 01:35 PM
ElwoodBlues ElwoodBlues is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chiefwej View Post
This is a good write-up, but I think you forgot the most important step of all. The very first thing you must do is adjust the seat to whatever position will have no twist. If someone forgets that before disconnecting power, they're screwed.
Thanks. I tried to call it out here, although it was worded more around the height adjust twist than seatback twist:

Quote:
Originally Posted by ElwoodBlues View Post
... B) Adjust the seat for best access to the repair: 1) get as much height from front tilt to give better access to motors, 2) extend thigh support enough to access torx screw under center of it, 3) adjust malfunctioning height until even, 4), adjust seat angle back slightly for easier access to the screw under the leather near the hinge point that secures the rear of plastic switch housing, and 5) don't adjust seat angle so far back that it's difficult to get it out of the car.
Your point is a good one though. If you don't get it straight beforehand, it's gonna be a longer repair. You either have to:
a) re-connect to the car and adjust the seat
b) connect a cordless drill to one of the shafts?
c) figure out a way to hook 12 volts to the correct pins to directly operate the motor?

Not sure if b & c are safe or will actually work, but I thought I'd seen some threads somewhere on both of those ideas.
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  #11  
Old 03-30-2010, 03:34 PM
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chiefwej chiefwej is offline
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I never removed the seat from the car or even disconnected the power to it. You just have to be certain you don't turn up the ignition with the sensor is unpluged. I just unbolted the seat and tipped it back to access the bottom. That's part of the reason I was able to do the repair in about 20 min.
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  #12  
Old 03-30-2010, 03:38 PM
frhsfootball80 frhsfootball80 is offline
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id you are going to try to lengthen one of the metal wires, i suggest you take a utility knife, and cut half an inch on the covering of the lines. and just remove a piece of the cover with everything still in the car.

much easier that way then removing bolts and etc.
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  #13  
Old 03-30-2010, 08:43 PM
ElwoodBlues ElwoodBlues is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chiefwej View Post
I never removed the seat from the car or even disconnected the power to it. You just have to be certain you don't turn up the ignition with the sensor is unpluged. I just unbolted the seat and tipped it back to access the bottom. That's part of the reason I was able to do the repair in about 20 min.
Yeah, not sure if I'd do it the same way again. I needed the seat out anyhow to clean the nasty carpet under the seat.
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  #14  
Old 04-26-2010, 08:09 PM
Brandon540/6M Brandon540/6M is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chiefwej View Post
I never removed the seat from the car or even disconnected the power to it. You just have to be certain you don't turn up the ignition with the sensor is unpluged. I just unbolted the seat and tipped it back to access the bottom. That's part of the reason I was able to do the repair in about 20 min.
Well I am now a victim of this myself.. so did you use the procedure listed in this thread for your repair minus the taking of the seat out.. this is the first thread I have read and havent even gotten into the seat yet to see what it looks like in there so I am lost.. but I want to try your method first since it seems the easiest! I may pm you for more info if i need.. so watch out! hah..
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  #15  
Old 06-26-2010, 11:38 AM
lake balboa 525 lake balboa 525 is offline
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chief and Elwood.. you are two brave individuals. THANK YOU, for the DIYs and pics. It is soooo much easier to understand the DIY A-B-C with the pics to find the parts. Haven't tried it yet but getting closer
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  #16  
Old 06-26-2010, 02:20 PM
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Stone Roots Stone Roots is offline
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I recently had mycoolant system repaired and my gf picked up the car when it was ready. When I got home to inspect it my drivers side seat was twisted and of course I became furious because my girl didn't say anything to the shop and when I called they said claims have to be made on premises...

I ended up playing with the seat for a few hours and tilted the seat all the wayback andaimlessly jiggled the seat. When I brought the seat back up it came back up in it's original setting.

I don't know if this will help you but it's certainly worth a try. Saved me money and a possible assault charge for whiipin some mechanic ass....
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  #17  
Old 06-26-2010, 04:52 PM
bowtie bowtie is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chiefwej View Post
I just used method "C". After I loosened the seat bolts and tilted the seat back, I just heated the metal ferrule on the motor end with a lighter, then pulled the cable out. Then I used a utility knife to cut about !/2 inch off of the plastic sheath. Heated it up again and shoved it back in. It has been about a year now, and it still works perfectly. The whole repair took about 20 min.


I did this as well, and have had the same results....no problems.
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  #18  
Old 06-27-2010, 10:16 AM
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EddieNYC EddieNYC is offline
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I purchased....

Thanks everyone for their help. I purchased a set of cables from Pelican Parts... ($65.00)

I started to photograph the project, but ended up concentrating on it. But here are some more pics...

I also added more foam to the underside of the seat and now it is more comfy than ever!

As an novice when it comes to repairing parts, ELWOODBLUES instructions were great. It would be nice to know how long an actual BMW Service Center would take on doing this repair. It took me about 4 hours and an easy and slow pace.

(But if I can do it, many (if not all), can also do the repair).

-EDDIE
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  #19  
Old 07-06-2010, 01:37 PM
Westlotorn Westlotorn is offline
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Well I had a bad weekend with my 530i, just loaded the car for a family trip, started the car and it reset the seat to my settings but it did not actually reset, for the first time the seat went into full twist and really had me thinking I needed many new parts, this forum has helped ease the pain. Thank You.
BTW, this was our first real heat wave of 100 degree's this year and the car was outside as I worked on another project. Drivers seat back twisted on Saturday, Passenger Seat bottom twisted on Monday. Now I get to do both. I am thinking of shortening all the cables while in there to avoid this in the future. Anyone else do it this way?????????
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Old 07-12-2010, 07:49 PM
ElwoodBlues ElwoodBlues is offline
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I tend to flip flop around on my repair philosophy depending on the topic, but for the seats I say "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". However, for me this is my "extra" vehicle that I bought with the idea that I would tinker on it, so if something goes wrong, I'm not under the gun to get it driveable right away. I can just park it in the garage and jump back in my "old" Avalanche until I get time to fix the issue.

If this is your primary/only vehicle, then your strategy make sense. You just need some cooler weather first.
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Old 07-12-2010, 07:50 PM
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fixin seats cAN be a PITA!
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  #22  
Old 09-27-2010, 12:03 PM
rkksterbigd rkksterbigd is offline
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Will this work for a 1994 740i? First BMW (project car) so not to sure about these things. Thanks.
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  #23  
Old 09-27-2010, 12:21 PM
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chiefwej chiefwej is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rkksterbigd View Post
Will this work for a 1994 740i? First BMW (project car) so not to sure about these things. Thanks.
Yep, it uses the same seat adjustment system.
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  #24  
Old 09-28-2010, 07:21 AM
rkksterbigd rkksterbigd is offline
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Mein Auto: 1994 BMW 740i
2nd Question

Quote:
Originally Posted by chiefwej View Post
Yep, it uses the same seat adjustment system.
So I notice the motor has a cable at each end. If the right side is hanging up does that mean I need to do this procedure to the cable entering the right side and leave the left side cable entering the motor alone?
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  #25  
Old 09-28-2010, 07:21 AM
rkksterbigd rkksterbigd is offline
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Mein Auto: 1994 BMW 740i
So I notice the motor has a cable at each end. If the right side is hanging up does that mean I need to do this procedure to the cable entering the right side and leave the left side cable entering the motor alone?
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