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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 08-23-2009, 08:13 AM
jallen jallen is offline
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Seat Twist Repair E39 2002 530i - DIY

Seat Twist Repair – E39 2002 530i

There are several write ups on this topic. But having just done it (successfully), I thought I would write up my experience. I apologize for not taking pictures during the process, but I was pressed for time (had to run to my daughter’s soccer tournament). Note: the entire repair process took 1.5 hours and would be faster next time now that I have done it.

Problem:

Passenger seat outside seat bottom tilt and seat back recline stopped working at the same time. Inside seat bottom tilt an recline worked fine, so seat bottom and seat back would begin to twist and wrinkle when those controls were used. Front/back control worked fine and no problems on driver’s seat.

Solutions:

Several potential solutions/repairs were identified by searching these forums for “seat twist” and I recommend that you search for this topic and read the various write ups on “seat twist” and “seat removal” before starting (more knowledge is a good thing).

In my case, since the same motors control both sides of these seat adjustments, I made that decision that the motors and fuses and control switches were not the problem and that the “shortening” of the cables that spin and drive the gears were the likely culprits.

The issue is that the metal (very thick) wire housed within these cables shortens over time. This shortening causes the cable to not “stick out” from the ends of the plastic sheathing as far as required to engage at either the motor end or the gear end and therefore no longer turn the gears that control the seat movement. The repair is to shorten the heavy black plastic sheathing that covers the metal cable so that the metal cable will stick out further and thus be long enough to engage the motor and gears again.

In doing my searches on this repair, I uncovered two solutions: #1, shorten the sheathing at the end of the cable by cutting the plastic sheathing at the end or, #2, removing a section of the sheathing in the middle and sliding the two halves together (defacto shortening the ends). Since #2 didn’t involve removing the motors (a real PITA because the small mounting screws are difficult to get to), I chose the #2 repair.

The two motors that control the seat bottom tilt and seat back recline are side by side and mounted on the seat frame near the front of the seat. (Number #13 in the parts diagram shown below.)

The controlling cables are sheathed in heavy black plastic covering and run from each side of the motors to connections on each side of the seat towards the rear of the seat. In the parts diagram (below), the cables from one side of the motors are labeled #14, but the unmarked cables running from the left side of the motors were the two that were involved in my case (I guessed right, since that was the side of my seat that wasn’t working.)




General Steps:

1. Remove the seat from the floorboard to gain access.
2. Cut a section from the middle of the black plastic sheathing (a little less than ˝ inch).
3. Slide the two halves of the sheathing together along the inner cable.
4. Cover the spliced section with fuel line hose and secure the covering fuel line hose with small hose clamps.
5. Re-attach the seat

If you have not done this before, definitely look as the various write ups that have more pictures to get a feel for how things “look”, but I will try to address some of the details that I learned.

See Finished Product Picture:

Sorry for the blurred picture, but you get the idea of what the end result will look like:


Seat Removal:

I did not remove the seat from the car. I just unbolted it from the floorboard and then tilted it up and rested it on the rear seat so that I could get at the underside of the seat. To make it easier to work on, I supported the bottom of the seat with a plastic footstool on the floorboard (a plastic tackle box or tool box would work just as well).

Three components attach the seat frame to the floorboard:

1. Four Torx style mounting bolts (two in front and two in rear) – Torx size 50 in my case. I have included a picture of one of the front bolts.
2. One large wiring harness connection (pictures included)
3. Seat belt tension-er (thin metal cable attached to the bottom of the seat frame with a small pin (picture included, but hard to see).

Based on the write ups that I read, you will ultimately need to disconnect the negative battery cable before removing the wiring harness or tilting the seat up to work on it (otherwise it triggers some air bag warning light), but do NOT do that before removing the four Torx bolts because you will need to use the power to move the seat forwards and backwards to get at the front and rear floorboard bolts.

Step 1: Before you remove anything or disconnect the power, if you can, use the seat controls to get the seat untwisted and straight, so that after the repair, the seat starts in a good “untwisted” position. Otherwise you will have to try to adjust one side of the seat using a power drill attached to the cable or some other method.

Step 2: Slide the seat front and back to remove the four Torx bolts. To remove the rear bolts, you will have to remove the plastic pieces that cover access to the two rear bolts. These plastic pieces slide on and off towards the rear of the car.

See Picture of Front Torx Bolt


See Picture of Rear Cover that must be removed to get at rear Torx bolts


Step 3: Disconnect the negative battery cable.

Step 4: Tilt the seat up slightly and disconnect the wiring harness. I have included a few pictures of that connection. Note: In my case the wiring connection doesn’t just “pull out”, the connection is undone by simultaneously pulling out a small black tab on the right side of the connection box frame and pulling on the front wiring connection. In one of the pictures my finger is pointing to the black tab that slides out to the right at the same time as you pull the wiring out towards the front (took me a few minutes to figure that out).

See Picture of Wiring Harness Connection with “Flap Up”

See Picture of Wiring Harness Connection with “Flap Down”

See Picture of Wiring Harness Connection “Tab” that must be pulled to out “to the right” at the same time the connector is pulled out to the front:


Step 5: Remove the seat belt tension-er from the seat frame, by removing the pin and releasing the small wire cable. I included a picture, but it is a little hard to see. Not complicated.


Step 6: Tilt the seat back onto the rear seat and support it, so that you can work on the under side.


Sheathing Shortening:

In my case, both tilt and recline the left side of the seat weren’t working, so I assumed that both of the cables running to that side from motor #13 were the problems.

I repaired both cables on that side with the following steps:

Step 1: In a middle section of the cable that was most accessible, use a box cutter or some other sharp strong blade to slice the black plastic sheathing that covers the metal cable. Slice the sheathing all the way around the metal cable. (Note: The inner metal cable is very heavy, so be somewhat cautious, but you don’t have to worry about inadvertently cutting through it.)

Once that is done, you will be able to easily pull one end of the inner metal cable completely out of one side the sheathing (in my case, I pulled it out from the motor side). This will leave the cable hanging out of one side of the plastic sheathing and an empty sheathing on the other.

Step 2: From the empty sheathing side, trim off a small amount of the sheathing. I cut off a little less than ˝ inch.

Step 3: Slide about 2-3 inches of fuel line hose and two of the hose clamps onto the sheathing and re-insert the inner metal cable into the other half. (Note: 3/8 inch fuel line hose was perfect for mine). “Fiddle” with the two halves of the sheathing until they full meet together and the inner metal cable seems to be full inserted back into the motor. Then slide the covering fuel line hose over the splice section and tighten the clamps on each end to secure (Taking care to make sure that the spliced sections stay fully together inside the fuel line hose.) See the picture of the finished product. Repeat this process for all cables to be repaired.

Final:

Re-attach the wiring harness.
Re-attach the seat belt tension-er
Re attach the seat to the floorboard.
Re-attach the battery cable.
Test the seat.

In my case, I started the car, turned up the AC full blast and sat in my newly repaired seat (its frickin’ hot in Houston in August).
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Last edited by jallen; 08-23-2009 at 08:24 AM.
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  #2  
Old 08-23-2009, 08:18 AM
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bmw_n00b13 bmw_n00b13 is offline
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I bet it's hot!

Good write up. Thanks.
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Old 08-23-2009, 08:31 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Great write-up!!!

After reading this DIY, I am determined to leave my seat in the same position for the next 10 years hehe...
The less I mess with the reclining seat features, the less likely this will be a problem during the life of the car!
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Old 08-23-2009, 09:10 AM
jallen jallen is offline
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I was determined to fix it, because my daughter took to only riding in the rear seat and began giving me instructions like "Driving Miss Daisy"!
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  #5  
Old 11-26-2009, 03:00 AM
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aca84 aca84 is offline
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Indeed a great write-up! The hardest part for me was actually removing the pre-tensioner cable...I found it difficult due to the sports seats and not knowing the mechanics of it all.

Must stop reclining the seats too much now
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  #6  
Old 07-03-2010, 11:13 PM
Westlotorn Westlotorn is offline
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Thanks for the tips, my 70,000 530i 2002 just started twisting today, bad timing as I was leaving on a trip in this car. I will attempt the repair soon.
Great write up.
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Old 10-02-2010, 06:25 AM
THenig THenig is offline
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Thanks for the great write up. I followed it precisely and it worked like a charm! Unfortunately, even though I disconnected the battery before disconnecting the seat belt tensioner my air bag light still came on. Now I have to figure out the best way to get that fixed. Does anyone know if the light means the airbag won't work or does it just mean there was some fault at some time?
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Old 10-02-2010, 02:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by THenig View Post
air bag light still came on. Now I have to figure out the best way to get that fixed.
AFAIK, the airbag will work just fine ... the light will just annoy you to death ...
More information in the bestlinks thread ...
- How to reset the airbag light with carsoft or peake or ebay (1)

And, to link the most useful seat-twist threads together:
- seat cables that fall out causing seat twist (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8)(9) (10)

Last edited by bluebee; 10-02-2010 at 02:03 PM.
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Old 10-02-2010, 07:31 PM
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Good info, thanks. My passenger seat started to twist after an idiot windshield installer decided the best way to install the rear view mirror cover was to lay prone across my passenger seat (before lowering it flat to the floor)... his 225lb. f^t a@s did something to my seat! Anyways, had my BMW dealer investigate (as the windshield company said they would pay for the repair)... the BMW dealer said my seat motor was "bound" up... what the heck does that mean? Wondering if you guys can hear your motor whirring before the fix? I hear a motor going but cant tell if it is just one or both or however many are under the seat... anyways, pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the BMW estimate was $1350 which the windshield company paid and I promptly put it into a set of 9Jx18 style 42s with conti DWS 265/35ZR18's on them : ) Now still have to fix my seat!!!
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Old 11-10-2010, 11:49 AM
rmuthuku rmuthuku is offline
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Excellent write up. Both driver and passenger seats of my '03 530i had this problem and I followed the instructions step by step outlined here. The entire job took me about 4hrs to complete.
The seat twist problem is fixed !
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  #11  
Old 05-10-2011, 11:46 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phlyers8 View Post
Anyone in the Southern California area, I will fix your seat twist for $300 per seat (depending on location). I have done a number of them now and have a solution that has yet to fail. E-mail me @ rjkidder32@msn.com
Wow,

Interesting you charge $300 for something that people can fix for free at home!
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Old 05-10-2011, 11:48 AM
thecushion thecushion is offline
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Originally Posted by Phlyers8 View Post
Anyone in the Southern California area, I will fix your seat twist for $300 per seat (depending on location). I have done a number of them now and have a solution that has yet to fail. E-mail me @ rjkidder32@msn.com
Dude stop trolling
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  #13  
Old 06-21-2011, 07:55 AM
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This may be a stupid question, but does anyone know where I can purchase the 3/4" fuel line / hose to use in the seat twist repair?
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Old 06-21-2011, 08:41 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joebox View Post
This may be a stupid question, but does anyone know where I can purchase the 3/4" fuel line / hose to use in the seat twist repair?
Local autoparts store, sold by the foot.
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  #15  
Old 06-21-2011, 10:06 PM
taxman522 taxman522 is offline
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I'm glad I found this great write-up. I have this exact problem. Will try to fix it this weekend. I had the same question as to where to buy fuel line hose. Thanks for the answer. Will the local Autozone have this fuel line hose?

thanks a bunch
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Old 07-21-2011, 03:59 PM
vetaldj vetaldj is offline
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Ok, I also started to have this (or maybe I broke cn90 rule - do not touch seat control if you are comfortable but this thing was broken for years... who knows).
When I remove cable from motor I was able easily take metal cable from the plastic sheathing all way out. When I insert it back it went all the way into sheathing and no end outside...

Question - should I remove as much sheathing as needed to have enough metal cable outside it? Just don't want to screw it and buy whole cable... In all post just small piece of sheathing was removed, in my case it can be up to 2 inches...

Thanks!
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Last edited by vetaldj; 07-21-2011 at 04:29 PM.
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  #17  
Old 07-21-2011, 04:21 PM
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Great write-up but wish it had pics. FYI my Indy charges $300 for this also. Granted, that isn't "cheap" but I think it's a fairly reasonable price for this most $hitty of must-do repairs. I can't express how much this crap annoys me.
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Old 08-04-2011, 03:51 PM
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For the cross linked record, there are a few good links for DIYs for seat twist posted in this thread today ...
- E39 (1997 - 2003) > driver seat back uneven????

For example ...
Quote:
Originally Posted by cn90 View Post
Mack,

This is from M5 forum but has all the pictures you need.
The idea is to "freshen" the cable:

http://www.m5board.com/vbulletin/e39...at-repair.html
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  #19  
Old 10-11-2011, 11:27 AM
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aa240sx aa240sx is offline
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I just performed this repair last night and wanted to share my advice to this thread.

1 - If you're lucky, If you're lucky, the issues you have will only require you to modify the cable housing to the inboard (towards center console) affected portions of the seat. In other words, if the seat height and seat back of the driver's seat do not move, hopefully, it's the right side of the seat that is affected and not the left. Why? Because the wires that control the seat back and height of the left side are impossible to access without completely removing the two motors (they're next to each other). And if you decide to tackle that job, I can guarantee you'll have to dissamble the seat bottom which is a PITA!! I turned out to be lucky in this case as my driver seat was affected only on the right side (right side seat bottom wouldn't raise up or down and right side seat back wouldn't raise or lower). All I had to do was loosen the 2 retaining bolts that hold each of the respective motors, prise them up slightly, free the cable from the motor and perform the fix.

2 - Most DIY threads suggest using a blow torch or lighter, but a heat gun is just as effective.

3 - If you have sport seats, there is no way you can do this work with the seat in the car, especially if your seat height is malfunctioning and stopped working with the seat at it's lowest height. There's simply no room to work even with the seat tilted away from the steering wheel.

4 - I chose to perform the method where you pull the wire assembly away from the motor, remove the metal housing, and cut the plastic housing. To me, it seems more of an effective and permanent fix.

As of now my driver's side is 100% perfect again. After having driven it for 9 months with a busted seat, it's just a joy to not only know I DIY'd the fix, but that I really muscled through some tenuous moments during the operation where I almost just said, 'eefff it!'. That said, my passenger seat is also experiencing the dreaded seat twist. Sadly, the seat height is no longer functioning on the right side of that seat and it's bottomed out, so I know the work will be more involved to fix it...
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Last edited by aa240sx; 10-11-2011 at 11:32 AM.
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  #20  
Old 10-19-2011, 09:07 PM
nicolas1311 nicolas1311 is offline
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Hi guys i;m having problem with my seat. its twisting but the problem is not the cables connecting the motor and the hinge its the GEAR inside the hinge the its rounded off.

here is the scoop this morning i got in the car i move the back and boom the right side of the seat when back and the other side stayed put i took the seat out this afternoon and saw my cables and attempted to fix it like the DIY but nothing seemed to work so i decided to take the bottom of the seat apart to figure it out what i was not pretty the gear inside is made out of plastic with a metal gear the plastic piece is rounded. i want to know if any body has found a place that sells that gear or the entire part

if you have any information please let me know thanks for the time
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  #21  
Old 10-19-2011, 09:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nicolas1311 View Post
if you have any information please let me know thanks for the time
Here are some references ...

- How to identify seat twist & fix twisted seats (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12) (13)
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Old 10-20-2011, 10:33 AM
nicolas1311 nicolas1311 is offline
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[QUOTE=bluebee;6390767]Here are some references ...

hey i looked through the all the references that you posted and they all refer to the cable that goes from the motor to the Gear here

http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/showthread.php?t=405839&highlight=[/IMG]

its the second pic that black box has a plastic gear that the one i need to replace.
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  #23  
Old 10-20-2011, 12:45 PM
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I'm getting racing seats. Eff this crap!
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Old 10-20-2011, 12:47 PM
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BigCo540i BigCo540i is offline
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For $300 I would shop around for an aftermarket seat.
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Old 10-20-2011, 10:11 PM
nicolas1311 nicolas1311 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigCo540i View Post
For $300 I would shop around for an aftermarket seat.
i would but its my wife's car i;m not about the do that to her plus i have good news i found the piece on ebay so i bought it its used but it has warranty ill check it before i put it on thanks for the help
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