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X3 E83 (2004 - 2010)
Talk about the E83 BMW X3 in this forum!

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  #1  
Old 05-13-2011, 01:14 PM
gtomek gtomek is offline
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Mein Auto: 1999 M3
Exclamation X3 Door Leaks DIY

So I too have found wet carpets after a hard rain. I went through the below procedures to determine the source and fix the issues.

First I checked the sunroof drain holes. To do this you need to open your sunroof all the way and pour water (about a 1/2 cup will do it) into each corner of the roof near the drain holes. You should see the water drain out near each respective wheel for each drain hole. On my 04 all drained fine.

I then checked the doors for leaks. To do this you need to roll all windows down fully. Then pour water into the crack between the seals that the window normally rests between. Do this for all four doors and only about a 1/2 cup of water is needed. The water should drain out of each door at two weep holes per door in near the bottom edge of the door (in the sheet metal). You should not see water ANYWHERE but out of these holes.

What I found:

1. A very small amount of water had accumulated between the seal and the trim at the door opening on three of the four doors. This is on the car main door seal, and not on the door itself. The ONLY way water can end up in this location is if it leaked between the door trim and door itself at the bottom. This indicates a leaking vapor barrier inside the door.

2. I also noticed that on the three doors that showed water in this location on the seal, that the bottom of the door trim was slightly discolored/dirty/etc. The one door that did not leak into the car had no discoloration or marks on the bottom of the door trim. Since this discoloration and dirt corresponded to the leaky door location I was sure this was from the leak in the door.

How i fixed it:

1. I first ran a sprinkler on the suspect door with the windows up. I ran this for 5 minutes. I then opened the door to confirm that the water had entered the car in the same way as when I poured it in previously. I found that all three doors exhibited the same leaky results.

2. I then pulled the door panel for each door that had been leaking. Be careful when doing this on any door that has an airbag. Disconnect the negative battery cable first and don't turn on the car. If not you will end up with an airbag light or worse, an exploded airbag. My rear doors have no airbags so they were less critical.

3. When pulling each panel I realized that each door that had been leaking had been previously worked on. I could tell this because new snap pins or screws of a non-matching color or style were in some locations. This is key. Apparently if the door had work done and the vapor barrier isn't perfectly sealed, you will get a leak.

4. Once you have the suspect door panels off, check the vapor barrier to see if you can stick your hand between it and the sheet metal. I did this and found all leaky doors had a gap somewhere between the two.

5. I then ran another water leak check by running the sprinkler on the car. Sitting inside of the car it only took a minute for me to see the water streaming in the doors where the vapor barrier was not sealed.

6. The solution was simple once I decided how to do it. I purchased two items. One was a generic butyl rubber seal from AutoZone or similar, and the other is some high end all weather, all temperature duct tape. The butyl rubber seal is of a similar material that was put in between the vapor barrier and door originally. It is soft, tacky, and flexible and stays this way pretty much forever. The stuff I bought was made for a windshield but works the same anywhere. With these two items in hand I cut strips as needed to replace anywhere that the original seal had been broken. This is easy to find because the vapor barrier will pull away easily wherever the original was broken. Once applying this in all areas needed I simply mashed it down multiple times with my hands to get a good bond to the vapor barrier. I then duct taped the vapor barrier all around, starting at the top and working my way down to get the proper shingling effect in case any water made it past the butyl.

7. After sealing all, but before re-installing the door trim, I re-ran the water leak test with the sprinkler for 5 minutes. Any quick leak will be revealed in this time. All was fixed! So now I put it all back together. Each door should take less than 2 hours and can be faster or slower depending on your skill level.

8. One last thing I did to fix this issue- One problem is that once water makes it past the vapor barrier it has nowhere to go but in your car. I decided to poke/cut a small hole in each seal that goes around the door opening at the very bottom. You have to put this hole in the top and bottom of the seal for this to work. This provides a drainage path for the water if it does get in this location. It also provides a small air/noise path but I haven't noticed a difference in sound quality in the vehicle. If you decide to do this I would make it about 1/16" in diameter. I used an awl and my fingers to make this hole.

Sorry that I don't have pictures for this but feel free to contact me with any questions. This is quite a frustrating issue on X3's.
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  #2  
Old 05-13-2011, 02:31 PM
Supercourse Supercourse is offline
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Mein Auto: 2004 X3 2.5i
Thanks for a very thorough and helpful DIY.

Your observation (in #3 of the fix) that each leaking door showed signs of having been worked on before is interesting.
That would include quite a number of circumstances (glass breakage, regulator repair, door handle/lock repair, speaker replacement, ding repairs, major accident repair, previous unsuccessful attempt to fix a water leak, etc.).

Some owners have theorized that the factory seal can fail over time just through age.
Not sure if they were original owners that knew their car's history, but it certainly seems plausible that previous work is by far the most common cause.
If we can identify that the undisturbed factory seal does have a lifespan it would help owners prepare.

Your extended test with the sprinkler (in #7) is something I doubt most dealerships would do,
and takes some guts and a bit of patience I would think.

Being thus assured, I am surprised you went with the failsafe mod. in #8.
I'd have called it a day at #7, but I'm an optimist.
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  #3  
Old 11-29-2011, 01:00 PM
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Dominic49 Dominic49 is offline
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good writeup

my local dealer will water test the car before and after in a car sized shower
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  #4  
Old 11-29-2011, 07:31 PM
F10ster F10ster is offline
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Mein Auto: 528
Just had my body shop fix one of mine yesterday

I have a 99 BMW that had this problem which the dealer worked on several times. Had to take it to a good body shop for final resolution which has not failed in 10 years. The X3 has had the dealer work on it several times, unsuccessfully. Skip the dealer if you don't want to mess with it yourself and go straight to a good body shop and be done with it. Why BMW can't make doors and sunroofs that don't leak (or break) is beyond me.
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