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E46 (1999 - 2006)
The fourth generation 3 Series (E46 chassis) was introduced in 1999 and set the standard for engineering and performance during it's years of production including being named to Car & Driver's 10 best list every one of those years! ! -- View the E46 Wiki

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Old 10-13-2012, 10:27 AM
Troubled1 Troubled1 is offline
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Location: Oregon Valley
Join Date: Oct 2012
Posts: 20
Mein Auto: 2001 330xi
Not So New Water Leak Found

So I spent the better part of yesterday searching bimmerfest to find all the causes of water leaking into the cabin of the E46... Why??? Might you ask... Because it started raining here in Oregon yesterday. Now, I am not talking about a little drizzle. It flat out poured while my new to me car (330xi) started showing me it's hidden secrets. I was able to identify that both front doors will require repaired/replaced vapor barriers. But there were 2 other location that I thought "for sure" was the front drain tube for the sunroof.... WRONG! Below are the symptoms and steps I took to trouble1 shoot these leaks. This is my first real posted DIY so be gentle. Also, I am not you or your mechanic, if you follow any of these steps, you do so at your own risk. Take your time, be gentle and everything will work out just fine....probably.


Leak A) water running down driverside A-Pillar and dripping onto the dash.
{easy right... the sunroof drain is disconnected...Nope}

Leak B) water dripping from the outboard glovebox hinge
{not so easy... How does water get there without wetting something else along the way?}


Leak A & B assuming it is the sunroof drains

1) Disconnected battery
2) Removed hardware trim from the driver side A-Pillar airbag cover
3) Removed hardware (T20 bit 3ea) from the A-Pillar airbag cover and removed cover
4) Follow the stream of water up to the corner of the glass...Hmmmm
5) Briefly opened the sunroof to see how much water is in the catch tray
6) Closed sunroof (cause it's still pouring) after noting very little water in the two corners.
{this is what got me thinking that it might not be the sunroof drains. there was not enough water to account for how fast it was filling my floorboards, but how could soooo many people be wrong! Right!}
7) Removed Snap covers (2ea) From the OH-$&^@ handle to expose the hardware (#2 Cross tip 2ea)
8) Removed the OH-$&^@ handle hardware and handle (did I mention you should always keep hardware and parts together... sandwich bags work great!)
9) Remove the back Visor screw (#2 Cross tip) then pull the visor out of the clip and remove the front screw (same size)
10) Gently lower the visor to expose the electrical connector and disconnect
11) Use a flat tip or pick to flip the flaps open(more fun to say then type) of the visor clip {part that's still attached to the headliner}
12) Remove the screws holding the visor clip in (#2 cross tip 2ea)
13) Using a plastic pry tool, pop the back side of the sunroof motor cover down and remove.
14) Press the the spring clips (2ea) on the back side of the map light switch assembly and rotate down and forward
15) Remove the screw exposed by completing steps 13 &14 (#2 cross tip 1ea){center}
16) Complete steps 1 through 12 for the passenger side
17) Remove molding trim from around the sunroof

Installation is the reverse
work time is about 1hr-1.5hr total

BAM!!!! You can now gently lower the front part of your headline to inspect the front 2 drains.... not the problem in my case!

It was at this point that I realized the windshield was not factory!!!! The windshield had been replaced..... could it be????

Troubleshooting {this is much easier and less time consuming)

1) Pour (not spray) soapy water around the windshield seal
2) Blow low pressure (20psi-25psi max) air from inside the car toward the edges of the windshield {bubbles on the outside = leak}

This can be joyous and unfortunate. My windshield was leaking in both upper corners and running down the A-Pillars. Both side took slightly different paths to get to the same place... my floorboards.
But I found the leaks!

So the lessoned learned here is: if your windshield has been replaced and you have a mystery leak when it rains... make this one of you first checks... it's easy and less time consuming, but more expensive, $250 installed

I have an appointment to have my windshield replaced monday, so my car will remain indoors until then. Thanks for reading along and I hope this might help someone else. Corrections or additions are always welcome.
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Old 10-13-2012, 04:46 PM
catso's Avatar
catso catso is offline
Location: Chicago
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 3,112
Mein Auto: 2000 323i, 1988 528e
Good info but couldn't you just reseal the areas where the leakage is occuring or is the glass itself defective?
Don't be gormless; get some gorm!
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Old 10-13-2012, 06:25 PM
Troubled1 Troubled1 is offline
Registered User
Location: Oregon Valley
Join Date: Oct 2012
Posts: 20
Mein Auto: 2001 330xi
The Glass is Fine, but I have a 4 inch gap on one side and a 1 inch gap on the other. I could pull out the rubber seal and try to inject a sealant into the space, but odds are that the dirt and grime in there will prevent the sealant from bonding properly. Long story short; I would most likely end up with a slower leak. I just bought the car a week ago, so I am sure I will find other gremlins, but thats part of the fun. I have always enjoyed DIY projects, so bring it on!
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