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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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  #26  
Old 10-21-2011, 05:02 PM
BMW4RE BMW4RE is offline
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Great write-up on this apparently imminent problem. I guess I should study up on it. The old E28 5 (Oh, that 535is is a great car. If only I had the room to have kept mine....) series had a similar problem with the automatic headrests on the sport seats. The fix was putting a small piece of a wire hanger between the cable and the motor which effectively elongated the inner cable. What does this tell me? Well, for one thing, that BMW doesn't learn from such mistakes. I mean really...shrinking cables?! What's with that? What the hell do they make it out of, 100% cotton?
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  #27  
Old 10-26-2011, 12:48 PM
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I' must have been the lucky one then. Saturday I tackled the job (which I was dreading for few months) . I was looking for a whole day, surprisingly it took me just 70 min, only because I did not place the cable back in properly and after testing it seemed it had no made any difference. I had done the job by just removing the 4 50T torque bolt and tilting the seat, and I was considering removing the seat out, but i look at the other motor ( the upper one) thinking maybe it was that cable and I noticed the cable was in firmly. So I gave it another shoot and I realized the cable was not set properly. So I replace it and voila' Worked like a charm. I guess next time it would only take me 40 min at best.
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  #28  
Old 10-26-2011, 01:42 PM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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On the same topic, after reading this thread, I did not want to deal with:
a. Seat Twist Repair.
b. Steering Wheel Motor repair.

The solution ---> For the last year I removed Fuse 13, which controls both a) and b) above.
I adjusted the SW and the seat the way I wanted, pulled Fuse #13 and never miss it.
This is because in 99% of the time, I am the driver of the car.

PS: I placed a label near the door jamb saying "Fuse 13 pulled" just to remind me.
If I ever need to adjust the SW and Seat, re-installing the Fuse 13 in glovebox takes 1 minute.

I am happy I removed Fuse #13.
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  #29  
Old 11-19-2011, 02:13 PM
Ratbones2002 Ratbones2002 is offline
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I fixed my passenger seat twist and driver bottom cushion height twist. It was a very simple job! I was dreading it for a while. I also removed tho small clip on the driver seat rail. This gave me about 1 1/2 more inches of the seat going back!
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  #30  
Old 11-20-2011, 02:44 PM
crazy4trains crazy4trains is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ratbones2002 View Post
I fixed my passenger seat twist and driver bottom cushion height twist. It was a very simple job! I was dreading it for a while. I also removed tho small clip on the driver seat rail. This gave me about 1 1/2 more inches of the seat going back!
How did you do this. Tell us what worked well for you (and what didn't).
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  #31  
Old 12-30-2011, 09:36 PM
meatetarian meatetarian is offline
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Fixed both seats - it was easy!

I have been riding with twisted seats for a year. I swear I started to have back pain, but refused to pay my indy $300 per seat to fix.

I dreaded doing this repair for some reason, but finally carved off several hours to take care of it today. It turned out to be so easy that I am laughing at myself for driving around like a bum for a year.

Like others have said, this is what I did:

Driver's seat - this seat back was frozen on one side, so unless I was waaaay back it was twisted.
-slid seat all the way back, and unbolted 2 front screws that go into floorboard (Torx 50 bit, bought for $3)
- slid seat all the way forward, and unbolted 2 back screws (note, had to take off plastic covers, which just pulled off)
- unplugged the battery, because I was paranoid about the airbag light
-leaned the seat back onto the back seat, and put a small bucket under it to hold it up
-found the cable that was on the 'dead' side of the seat, and cut through the plastic sheathing about 4" away from where it goes into the motor. Used a combination of wire cutters and a serrated steak knife to make a clean cut
-pulled the metal wire out of the motor (so now i have about 4" of bare cable hanging out, and 4" of sheathing still connected to the motor
-snipped about 1/2" from the empty sheathing
- fed the cable back into the sheathing, and jiggled it until i felt it go into the motor. Note that the sheathing pieces touched, indicating that the cable was too short
-wrapped some black electrical tape around the cut to hold together
- bolted the seat back down (had to plug the battery in to do this)

Passenger seat - this seat was functioning but was stuck twisted. Must have come out and then gone back in. Here I did all the same stuff, but when the cable was pulled out, I reclined the seat to get it straight again, and then reattached the cable

In all, it took me about an hour for both seats. That includes the 10 minutes I spent trying to reconnect the seatbelt tensioner that has been disconnected for who knows how long, and the 10 minutes I spent looking for the nut I dropped from the battery cable into the spare tire compartment.

Now I'm ridin' straight ... so easy.

Thanks to the original posters here for saving me $600!
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  #32  
Old 03-10-2012, 11:43 AM
10 year owner 10 year owner is offline
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Indeed a great write up. Thank you!

Thank you for taking the time to include so many details.

As I was ready to undertake the repair, and thanks to your detailed explanation, I undestood what the issue was, so I proceeded to manipulate the cable, straightening out the casing to try and shorten it. Indeed, I was able to re-engage the inner cable and was able to bring my seat back to a normal position. While this is not the permanent solution described in your write up, it was a lot less work, as I didn't remove anything. For me, that's sufficient for now. Again, thank you!
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  #33  
Old 07-07-2013, 11:54 AM
RLJett RLJett is offline
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Thanks for the guidance

I picked up a 2002 525i the other week and both front seats had issues. Neither would recline and both had the same issue with the bottom cushion tilt tipping you to one side. I could hear the motors running but was not sure if the issue was with the flex cables or the gearboxes. I decided to try the splicing method and was hoping to perform the repair without having to remove the seats but the was no way to access the cables on the left side of the seat. So they had to come out.

I had a few issues with this that others might come up against too. I'll describe how I got around this. The first issue was I could not raise the seat enough to disconnect the seat belt. To resolve this I cut the uter sheath of the cable running to the front motor, connected my cordless drill, and used the drill to raise the seat.

For the driver's seat, the front bolt on the right side is covered by a plastic cover that is attached with a screw. I could not raise the seat enough to access the scream so used the same method as on the passenger's side for the seat belt removal.

Once both seats were out, I laid them, wood strips, cut all four cable sheaths of each seat, and used my cordless drill to realign everything. Then I reinserted the cables, secured the sheath with duct tape and reinstalled the seats.

Everything worked perfectly. I'm so thrilled. Thanks for all the tips here.

Last edited by RLJett; 07-07-2013 at 11:56 AM. Reason: Typos
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  #34  
Old 07-07-2013, 02:32 PM
tinius tinius is offline
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Temporary fix to re-align seat with twist

Just want to mention this tip:

I have a 2003 E39 with Comfort seats and the seatback for driver's right shoulder will not move fore or aft. The previous owner had adjusted the seatback too far aft for my driving position.

Using the fore-aft seatback switch, I first adjusted the left shoulder of the setback to be parallel to the right side, i.e. positioned with no twist. Then I reached under the seat and looking with a mirror, identified the black cable which controls the right shoulder of the seatback. By grabbing that cable and simply pushing it toward the motor with some force, I was able to engage it enough to move the seatback (both sides) back and forth until an appropriate position was set. As long as I don't need to change the angle of the seatback, I'm set.

Of course, if one of the seat bottom cables is not functioning, you may not be able to keep your hand under the seat while adjusting. Whatever you do, please watch out that your hand will not be pinched or caught in the moving mechanism. Be careful!!

This is a short-term fix to get the seat into a comfortable position for driving.

Regards,
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  #35  
Old 08-18-2013, 06:24 PM
beoch beoch is offline
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Wink Be careful to NOT cut it too short

I was originally going to do the splicing in the middle, which for simplicity would have been easier. The only drawback it just doesn't look as good (I know that sounds silly considering you can't see the splicing under the seat).

So I went for it at the end and took the screws out at the motors. Since the right part of the seat (as sitting on it) wasn't moving and or going up and down, I only messed with those four screws on the left side of the two motors (left being if you're facing the motors). I know the YouTube videos recommend doing all 4 lines for preventive maintenance, but I didn't want to tear the switch panel apart.

My only hiccup was I cut both lines too much and thus the metal shield would not fit inside where the lip has to be between the motor and the metal bracket. One I had to really force it to push it inside the bracket and the other I had to reheat and stretch the metal shield back out. Fortunately, I was able to get them both in. The only thing is the seat bottom movement isn't as fluid and I'm assuming that's from where i cut too much off. No more twisted seat!!

As a side note, I didn't have to disconnect the negative terminal. I believe the trick there is to make sure you DO NOT turn the ignition when the wiring hardness isn't plugged in.
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  #36  
Old 08-19-2013, 02:12 PM
EconoBox EconoBox is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cn90 View Post
Wow,

Interesting you charge $300 for something that people can fix for free at home!
To be realistic, for the vast majority of people, $300 is a flat out bargain when the other option is spending 800 hours / 2 years / 1000+ posts learning how to DIY from some online forum in order to save $300.
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  #37  
Old 08-19-2013, 02:15 PM
EconoBox EconoBox is offline
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My driver's seat base has an issue where it grinds and might only slide on 1 side.
The back reclines up and down just fine. It's the sliding the entire seat forward/backwards that might be broken.
I just never move the seat. Ever. Sometimes I accidentally bump the seat adjustment knob and recoil at that sound grinding.
I might pull fuse 1 just like CNN just to prevent the problem from escalating.
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  #38  
Old 08-21-2013, 05:59 PM
White Falcon White Falcon is offline
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Thanks for posting this! It cost a grand total of $3.96 for the piece of fuel line at the local hardware store. Seat works fine again. Thanks!
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  #39  
Old 08-28-2013, 06:45 PM
cncmastr cncmastr is offline
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Hi fellas, I just posted this twisted seat repair for my E39.

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  #40  
Old 08-30-2013, 04:21 AM
EconoBox EconoBox is offline
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cncmastr , is your method of shortening the sheathing the standard method of fixing all seat twist issues?
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  #41  
Old 09-21-2013, 07:34 PM
cncmastr cncmastr is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EconoBox View Post
cncmastr , is your method of shortening the sheathing the standard method of fixing all seat twist issues?
Sorry for the delay. I don't know if it is the standard. It is the easiest and fastest to achieve the result of no more twisting seats.
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  #42  
Old 10-14-2013, 09:43 PM
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Gian Gian is offline
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I just finished this repair myself and, let me start by saying, it was a major pain. The #1 thing you will need is patience. If you don't have it, forget it. My passenger side seat had a problem when trying to recline and when trying to elevate. Therefore, both motors were affected. I decided to do it the "harder way", by removing both of the motors and cutting the sheath back on ALL FOUR connections. (IMO, You do not want to go back in there! Trust me. Do them all now! Even the sides that work! Eventually they may fail.)

I used this DIY guide
bellsouthpwp.net/m/i/miales/seatcablesfix.htm
Many thanks to the poster of this guide

Tools that I used...
Needle nose pliers
Socket wrench w/T-50 bit
Box cutter/razor blade
Reversible Flat 8mm built in socket wrench (A must have)
Bic Lighter
LED flash light (not pictured)



After careful consideration, I decided not to remove the seat from the car or disconnect the power. I ended up placing the twisted seat up against the back seat to get a good look underneath. I then placed a board underneath the twisted seat to brace it so that it wouldn't fall back forward.

Tips

-The smaller your hands are the better. It is really tight under there. Also you might want to wear some sort of gloves. There is a lot of rough metal parts and you can get your hands cut up easily. (I did, live and learn)

-There was a metal bracket that I had to bend in order to get to one or two of the bolts. It had some plastic housing attached to it with wires. I had to remove the plastic housing so that I could bend the metal. You'll know it when you see it. I just bent it back after I was finished.

-Take note of the location of the Bosch label on the motor so you can put it back in correctly.

-If you remove both motors at the same time, make sure you mark which cords go to each motor.

-Before finishing, make sure you bring both sides of the seat up in order to even them out. Once you put the cords back in you will not be able to do it. (After cutting the sheath and replacing the connector, put one cord in at a time and bring each side all the way up. This will even out both sides of the seat)

-Make sure you apply enough heat to the metal connector on each cord. It must be hot enough so that it can be put all the way back onto the sheath. That connector has teeth that cut into the sheath in order to stay in place. If you don't get it back on fully, then shortening the sheath did nothing. The cord will not stick out enough to engage the motor.

-One thing I wish that I had was a magnet of some kind. Putting the screws back in would have been so much easier.

That's all for now. I will add other tips if I can remember them.

Last edited by Gian; 10-14-2013 at 09:44 PM.
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  #43  
Old 10-14-2013, 10:22 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gian View Post
That's all for now. I will add other tips if I can remember them.
Thank you for posting your experiences as it will help many others in the future.

A couple of questions:
Q1: How close was the E34 procedure to the E39?
Q2: Did you have the memory seats? (Did it matter?)

See also:
- How to identify seat twist & fix twisted seats (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12) (13)
Attached Files
File Type: pdf BMW_E34_seat_twist_repair_diy.pdf (6.83 MB, 76 views)
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Please read the suggested threads, where the best always add value to those threads, either by pictures or by descriptions, so the next person with the same problem stands on your shoulders.
See also: E39 Bestlinks & How to easily find what you need
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  #44  
Old 10-15-2013, 10:02 AM
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Gian Gian is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
A couple of questions:
Q1: How close was the E34 procedure to the E39?
It was almost exact. I did not do the headrest. However, there was that metal bracket that blocked access to a couple of the bolts. I had to bend that back. About 80-90% of my time was spent removing and replacing the 8mm screws that were holding a bracket onto the motor. That bracket also kept the cable from coming out of the motor, so the screws had to be removed. Warning: The location of the screws is not ideal. You must have patience or you will go nuts. lol The flat, reversible 8mm socket wrench will be your best friend in this situation.

If you want a quicker method, then there is the fix posted above by cncmastr where you can cut and remove some of the sheath from the middle without removing the screws or the motor. However, you will have to apply electrical tape to cover the gap left by cutting the sheath in the center. I am a perfectionist at heart and I chose to do it the harder way. I also like a challenge. lol
Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
Q2: Did you have the memory seats? (Did it matter?)
I think that I have the sport seats with memory. I have buttons on the driver's side door labeled M 1 2 & 3. I have never used them. Also, I didn't see the "counter" that the author was talking about. Therefore, it didn't matter that I had the memory seats. If, in fact, I do have them.

Another tip. When I initially took the cable out of the motor it was sticking out about 1/2 inch from the metal housing. That is exactly what you want. I thought to myself, "So what's the problem?" lol You need to push the cable back all the way into the housing. Then you will see that just a little is truly exposed. This will also give you an idea of how much of the sheath to cut off.

After doing this DIY, I felt the need to have a beer in order to celebrate the accomplishment. LOL

Last edited by Gian; 10-18-2013 at 11:26 AM.
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  #45  
Old 10-17-2013, 01:37 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gian View Post
The flat, reversible 8mm socket wrench will be your best friend in this situation.
This is great to know for me and for others who contemplate this repair.

For the record, here's a thread today of someone asking if it's better to just remove the seats, and how to remove them ...
> E39 (1997 - 2003) > seat removal
Quote:
Originally Posted by gibo58 View Post
Hi everyone,

I have read quite a few posts and watched videos on removing the front drivers seat, mostly to do with the dreaded 'twisted seat' problem

I couldn't see anyone who has actually removed the whole seat from the vehicle though. From what I have gathered the process goes like this:

1. Remove the rail trims by moving the seat forward and aft, remove the 4 seat bolts using the same method.
2. Disconnect battery
3. Disconnect the wiring harness connector after dropping a plastic flap.
4. Remove seat from vehicle

Is it that simple?

I need to get the padding in the seat replaced on one side, it's been flattened due to getting in and out of the vehicle.


Cheers
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Please read the suggested threads, where the best always add value to those threads, either by pictures or by descriptions, so the next person with the same problem stands on your shoulders.
See also: E39 Bestlinks & How to easily find what you need
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  #46  
Old 10-18-2013, 11:26 AM
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There are 2 videos on youtube which sum up the job pretty well. (1 for the passenger and 1 for the drivers side) This is one of them. I want to give a huge thank you to The50calKiller1 who was the original poster of this video. I hope I am able to post it here. If not, then please let me know.



Another useful video from youtube by BMW E39 528I Beamer Fanatics.


Like I said earlier, I did not remove the seat. Therefore, I did not need to cut the power to the seat. If you have the power, then you do not have to even out the 2 sides of the chair until you get the motor out. With the motor out you can play with the 2 cables to get the chair to the all the way up or all the way down position. This ensures that the chair is even. Like the video, I did bend the brackets to get to some of those pesky screws. The brackets are very easy to bend back after you are done.

Last edited by Gian; 10-18-2013 at 12:10 PM.
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  #47  
Old 12-03-2013, 09:58 AM
Ultimated Ultimated is offline
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Just did this to my driver's seat recline cable this morning. It took two of us 45 minutes (I need help lifting due to a bad back) and worked like magic. Since it was still 10 am, we cracked an imaginary beer in celebration.
Thanks for the great DIY!
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  #48  
Old 03-23-2014, 11:04 PM
bauerkraut bauerkraut is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by meatetarian View Post
I have been riding with twisted seats for a year. I swear I started to have back pain, but refused to pay my indy $300 per seat to fix.

I dreaded doing this repair for some reason, but finally carved off several hours to take care of it today. It turned out to be so easy that I am laughing at myself for driving around like a bum for a year.

Like others have said, this is what I did:

Driver's seat - this seat back was frozen on one side, so unless I was waaaay back it was twisted.
-slid seat all the way back, and unbolted 2 front screws that go into floorboard (Torx 50 bit, bought for $3)
- slid seat all the way forward, and unbolted 2 back screws (note, had to take off plastic covers, which just pulled off)
- unplugged the battery, because I was paranoid about the airbag light
-leaned the seat back onto the back seat, and put a small bucket under it to hold it up
-found the cable that was on the 'dead' side of the seat, and cut through the plastic sheathing about 4" away from where it goes into the motor. Used a combination of wire cutters and a serrated steak knife to make a clean cut
-pulled the metal wire out of the motor (so now i have about 4" of bare cable hanging out, and 4" of sheathing still connected to the motor
-snipped about 1/2" from the empty sheathing
- fed the cable back into the sheathing, and jiggled it until i felt it go into the motor. Note that the sheathing pieces touched, indicating that the cable was too short
-wrapped some black electrical tape around the cut to hold together
- bolted the seat back down (had to plug the battery in to do this)

Passenger seat - this seat was functioning but was stuck twisted. Must have come out and then gone back in. Here I did all the same stuff, but when the cable was pulled out, I reclined the seat to get it straight again, and then reattached the cable

In all, it took me about an hour for both seats. That includes the 10 minutes I spent trying to reconnect the seatbelt tensioner that has been disconnected for who knows how long, and the 10 minutes I spent looking for the nut I dropped from the battery cable into the spare tire compartment.

Now I'm ridin' straight ... so easy.

Thanks to the original posters here for saving me $600!
Thanks a bunch for this simple description. I followed the exact same process last weekend and fixed the problem on my 2002 530i. I was fortunate that the problem cable on mine was the door side passenger seat cable only (at least for now), which is pretty easy to get to in this process. Only took about 30 minutes including vacuuming and cleaning out from under the seat. Let's see how it holds up.
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  #49  
Old 03-25-2014, 06:58 PM
EconoBox EconoBox is offline
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I watched the video in post #46.
Is that how to do the job?
There seemed to be a ton of steps.

bauerkraut, just talk me through this slowly.
the goal is just to shorten the sheath, right?
You do not cut the wire
You cut the sheath.
You then yank the cable away from the sheath cut.
Cut down the sheath.
How does the cable stay in the motor?
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  #50  
Old 03-26-2014, 01:29 AM
bauerkraut bauerkraut is offline
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Hi EconoBox,

I didn't watch any videos, I just followed the steps i had quoted in my post, originally posted by @meatetarian. I didn't even remove the seat from the car, just leaned it back as described. And I didn't unhook that cable that runs under the seat either, just leaned it back. You will see what i mean when you have the seat loose.

Yes, the goal is just to shorten the sheath, you do *not* cut the wire that is inside the sheath. Start about 4-6 inches away from where the sheath goes into the motor. Use a utility knife and just gently cut through the black plastic outer sheath. The wire inside is pretty thick and tough but use some caution cutting the sheath and don't go crazy.

Once you get the sheath cut, pull the long side of the sheath away from the motor. The 4-6 inches of wire from the motor side will now be exposed. The wire is round but flattened square on the ends. The wire can slide back and forth inside the sheath, so make sure you keep it engaged on the gear end when you are putting things back together. Don't panic if it starts sliding out of the sheath, just push it back in and turn / jiggle it to engage it back with the gears. You will feel when it is engaged or not by by how far the wire will go in.

Once the wire is exposed and pulled out of the motor, cut about a half inch off of the empty sheath still attached to the motor. I used pruning shears Then feed the wire back into the motor sheath, and kind of jiggle and turn until the squared end of the wire fits fully back into the motor. You will know it when it is mated correctly as the two halves of the sheath should now mate up flush together again. The sheath being the correct length is all that is needed to keep the wire cable engaged in the motor and the gear side.

If you feel like there is still slack / slop even after you cut it down, pull the wire out again and cut a little more of the sheath off from the motor side, no more than an 1/8 of an inch at a time. I had to do that for mine. I have just a tiny gap in the sheath when everything is mated back together, which I covered with tape.

I used black hockey tape that you can get at any sports store and spiral wrapped it around in two layers to hold everything together. The main thing is keeping the halves together and keeping dirt out. Should be no problem!

My side of the seat back that wasn't moving was the door side. I expect the same process will work for the interior side sheath, but you might have a lot harder time getting to it from the looks of things under the seat. The door side sheath is pretty accessible. I repaired the passenger seat in mine, drivers side is still working, and I'm not going to fix what isn't broken Good luck!
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