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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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  #1  
Old 10-15-2009, 07:58 AM
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CarlsonTheFlyer CarlsonTheFlyer is offline
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Mystery water leak

I have a mystery leak in my car. When it rains, which has been doing almost every day here for the last month, if my car is parked on my sloped driveway with the front of the car pointing up slope and leaning a little to the right, rear passenger floorboard gets wet. If the rain is strong or lasts long, it gets really wet.

I was sure the culprit was damaged or missing water barrier inside the door, caused by someone fixing a window regulator before I bought the car. So yesterday I pulled the door trim panel and realized that it was the first time that panel was pulled since the car came off the assembly floor. The water barrier panel is in pristine shape, completely adhering to the door around the entire perimeter of the panel. There was absolutely no water on the outside of the water barrier panel. But the floor is wet. I am stumped.

There are absolutely no other leaks anywhere, even in the front where I did change both front window regulators. No windows or windshields were ever replaced either. Also, if I park the car on the slope pointing down and leaning a little to the left, it doesn't leak.

Any ideas where might be the source of the leak? Anyone? Please?
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Last edited by CarlsonTheFlyer; 10-15-2009 at 08:17 AM.
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  #2  
Old 10-15-2009, 08:23 AM
Starless Starless is offline
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Not 100% sure it's related, just an idea though: rear sunroof drains. They drain somewhere under the rear wheels. If the outlets or tubes are clogged, may be there is a possibility of water infiltrating somehow to the rear footwells?

The way to check: when it's not raining pore a glass of water in the rear 2 drain holes on the sunroof while your car is parked at a slope and you should see water coming out from under rear wheels well area. Google "BMW rear sunroof drain tubes" you'll get a good idea and pictures.

Is your trunk dry? Cause, there also drains there...

Oh...Are the rear doors seals in good shape?

Also my sill drains were once clogged and accumulated tons of water inside of them untill I figured out where the drain holes where. Might check it out as well.

Good luck.

Last edited by Starless; 10-15-2009 at 09:57 AM.
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  #3  
Old 10-15-2009, 08:31 AM
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Maybe a sunroof drain tube? They can get clogged, sometimes need to be cleaned out by pushing some weed-wacker string down through them. RealOEM shows 2 "water outlet hose rear" items on the ETK. The rear ones do look tough to get to, you might start underneath and see if you can snake them from the bottom?

There have been times that I see my car taking a little tinkle during a rain shower, seems to come out just in front of the rear wheels.... This thread focuses on the front drains, yours sounds like a rear drainage problem.....

http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=675150
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  #4  
Old 10-15-2009, 10:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Starless View Post
Not sure it's related, just an idea though: rear sunroof drains. They drain somewhere under the rear wheels. If the outlets are clogged, may be there is a possibility of water infiltrating somehow to the rear footwells?

The way to check: when it's not raining pore a glass of water in the rear 2 drain holes on the sunroof while your car is parked at a slope and you should see water coming out from under rear wheels area.

Is your trunk dry? Cause, there also drains there...

Oh...Are the rear doors seals in good shape?

Also my sill drains were once clogged and accumulated tons of water inside of them untill I figured out where the drain holes where. Might check it out as well.

Good luck.
Quote:
Originally Posted by MicahO View Post
Maybe a sunroof drain tube? They can get clogged, sometimes need to be cleaned out by pushing some weed-wacker string down through them. RealOEM shows 2 "water outlet hose rear" items on the ETK. The rear ones do look tough to get to, you might start underneath and see if you can snake them from the bottom?

There have been times that I see my car taking a little tinkle during a rain shower, seems to come out just in front of the rear wheels.... This thread focuses on the front drains, yours sounds like a rear drainage problem.....

http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=675150
Thanks for the replies, guys. I didn't realize there were rear drains for the sunroof. I checked both front drains and they were clear. I'll check the rears when it stops raining, if ever. Trunk is completely dry, door seals are in good shape. Doesn't seem like the previous (original) owner ever had any passengers in the back. The door drains, slits in the bottom of the outer door shell, are also clear.

I'll check the rear sunroof drains first. I will be wrapping all pillars in CF fabric very soon, so I'll have a chance to check the drain tubes too. Not today though. It's raining again and will be all day and night, til tomorrow.
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  #5  
Old 10-18-2009, 09:06 AM
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This is an update to my water leak situation.

All 4 sunroof drains are working fine. I poured water into the sunroof channels, both rear corners, and water drains out fine from behind the rear wheels. I actually poured 1 liter of water in there and it all drained out, and the rear floorboard is dry. That means there are no leaks in the drainage systems, right? Or could there still be a leak in it?

Just to recap, the door doesn't leak. The water barrier in the door has never been removed. I sprayed water from a high pressure hose at the door for 20 minutes to simulate hard rain, and none of it got through the water barrier. The windshield had been replaced in the car a few years ago. And just to be sure it wasn't leaking through that, I had a specialist come out here a couple of weeks ago and inject some more resin around the windshield. I also tested it with the same high pressure water hose and no leaks. Besides, if the front windshield was leaking, it would be wet in the front somewhere, not rear floorboard.

I am really stumped.

I need to get this fixed. I own a condo without a garage. My car lives outside. If I can't figure it out, as a last resort, I may have to take it to a certified BMW body shop. Ugh!
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  #6  
Old 10-18-2009, 12:00 PM
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That's a stumper. You are sure that the wetness occurs when the car is sitting overnight and not when driving?

Other possibilities mentioned in some of those sunroof posts - maybe a missing rubber grommet or plug in one of the holes in the floor? I seem to remember there are a couple back there in the area of the diffy carrier.

Do you see any pathway that the water weems to follow to get to the floor, perhaps it's sneaking behind the seatback, some sort of leak at the trunk or rear window glass that gets in front of the trunk and into the passenger compartment? Something exotic.....
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  #7  
Old 10-18-2009, 01:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MicahO View Post
That's a stumper. You are sure that the wetness occurs when the car is sitting overnight and not when driving?

Other possibilities mentioned in some of those sunroof posts - maybe a missing rubber grommet or plug in one of the holes in the floor? I seem to remember there are a couple back there in the area of the diffy carrier.

Do you see any pathway that the water weems to follow to get to the floor, perhaps it's sneaking behind the seatback, some sort of leak at the trunk or rear window glass that gets in front of the trunk and into the passenger compartment? Something exotic.....
Yeah, I am sure it happens when the car sits, and only when it's on an up slope, with the front of the car pointing up. If I back into my parking spot so the front of the car is lower than the rear, the floor stays dry. That's why I thought the problem was with the rear sunroof drain, but it doesn't seem to be. I checked the trunk on rainy days and it was dry. I peeled the material back and checked.

I'll put my car up on the lift and check floor plugs in the rear, but if it's not the problem, I guess I'll be going to the BMW body shop. Time for a second mortgage, I guess.
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  #8  
Old 10-18-2009, 02:46 PM
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  #9  
Old 10-18-2009, 02:50 PM
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Check these 2 drains in your sill(s). One is in the middle, on the bottom of the sill, right in the middle. The other one is the hole in the sill in front of the rear wheel well area. You'll see it. these 2 drains drain water from sills.

It's not likely the cause of your leak but I'd check it anyways. If that second one is clogged, may be the water can somehow infiltrate into the rear footwell area. In my case the one in the middle was clogged and I had water sloshing like crazy to and fro. I was like WTF??? that was very interesting: bimmer with sloshing water.

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  #10  
Old 10-18-2009, 03:03 PM
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this is also a picture of how I sealed my vapor barrier. the tape all around.

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  #11  
Old 10-18-2009, 03:35 PM
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Thanks for the replies, guys.

Delmarco, The water barrier in the door in question has not been touched since the assembly floor. It's in new condition. I did replace the front passenger water barrier panel because the old one got ripped when I fixed the window regulator.

Starless, I did check the drains at the bottom of the door. There were no obstructions. I checked it with toothpick, and also blew some compressed air into the holes, so it's not it.

I tried the metallic duct tape solution in the front passenger door, but the panel was torn pretty severely so it didn't really work. Got a new water barrier from the dealer for $50 and 3 tubes of black RTV sealant from Autozone and installed it today. Took a few hours for the sealant to start curing. Now need to wait for rain to see if I did a good job. Should know some time next week when it rains.

But the rear door is still a mystery to me.
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  #12  
Old 10-18-2009, 03:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CarlsonTheFlyer View Post
Thanks for the replies, guys.


Starless, I did check the drains at the bottom of the door. There were no obstructions. I checked it with toothpick, and also blew some compressed air into the holes, so it's not it.
I was not talking about the door drains but about car sill drains - 2 different things. See picture. check them.
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  #13  
Old 10-18-2009, 03:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Starless View Post
I was not talking about the door drains but about car sill drains - 2 different things. See picture. check them.
Hmmm... Ok, I'll check them tomorrow. It's starting to get dark outside and hard to see. Thanks for the advise.
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  #14  
Old 10-19-2009, 07:15 PM
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Re: mystery water leak

I have a theory. See attached pic. I have found water just behind the base of the front passenger seat of my 2004 325i. My theory is that item 13 (horizontal moulding over doors) shifted forward ~1 inch from where its glued lap joint to the plastic vertical moulding behind the rear window, detaching the several lines of thin weatherstripping, revealing holes where item 10 (expanding nut) penetrates the body, allowing water to enter the body and run down to the interior, finally wetting the carpet. I can't find the individual weatherstripping for sale, and am considering buying replacement mouldings ($125 each, ouch!) to solve this problem. I haven't decided how to improve the glued joint between the horizontal and vertical mouldings. Maybe RTV?
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Old 10-19-2009, 08:33 PM
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jetblackbimmer jetblackbimmer is offline
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My theory is that the water is coming from under the car. I have found the carpets are wet after driving over deep puddles.
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Old 10-20-2009, 05:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jetblackbimmer View Post
My theory is that the water is coming from under the car. I have found the carpets are wet after driving over deep puddles.
come on dudes...it's the vapour barrier. Water doesn't defy gravity and move upwards into the car from the ground!

stop being noobs and look at the DIY...
it's not rocket science!

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Old 10-20-2009, 07:06 AM
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In my case, it is not the water barrier. If it were the water barrier, there would be water on the bottom of the door right below where the interior door panel is attached to the metal door frame. That's what was happening in my front passenger door, where the water barrier was torn in several places when the window regulator was fixed. I replaced the torn water barrier with a new one and used generous amounts of RTV sealant to attach it to the door frame. We have rain in the forecast for Thursday night and I'll find out whether I did a good job.

The water barrier in the door in question (driver's side rear) has never been touched and is not leaking. I need to wait for rain to figure out if the door sill drains are clogged up, which is possible.
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  #18  
Old 10-20-2009, 08:01 AM
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I've also seen water dripping down from the top of the windshield during a hard rain, so I don't think my issue is related to the water barrier either.
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Old 10-21-2009, 11:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by delmarco View Post
come on dudes...it's the vapour barrier. Water doesn't defy gravity and move upwards into the car from the ground!

stop being noobs and look at the DIY...
it's not rocket science!

DEEP puddles I said.....
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Old 10-22-2009, 07:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CarlsonTheFlyer View Post
In my case, it is not the water barrier. If it were the water barrier, there would be water on the bottom of the door right below where the interior door panel is attached to the metal door frame. That's what was happening in my front passenger door, where the water barrier was torn in several places when the window regulator was fixed. I replaced the torn water barrier with a new one and used generous amounts of RTV sealant to attach it to the door frame. We have rain in the forecast for Thursday night and I'll find out whether I did a good job.

The water barrier in the door in question (driver's side rear) has never been touched and is not leaking. I need to wait for rain to figure out if the door sill drains are clogged up, which is possible.
All right, CarlsonTheFlyer, we are in the same boat now...after a day of rain my rear passender footwell is wet again , the same side where I taped the vapor barrier. I'm going to extract the water with my shop vac right now and then I'll start thinking hard what it could be. All the drains seem to drain ok. So, your mystery is my mystery now. I'll let you know if I find out.

Update: water extracted. I think I got it...took pictures. will post later.

Last edited by Starless; 10-22-2009 at 08:23 PM.
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Old 10-22-2009, 09:27 PM
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Ok. I found the the cause of my rear passanger footwell being wet after rain. It's neither the vapor barrier nor the sunroof drain tube. It turns out to be the bad door seal of the front! door. The seal damage is not huge but apparently enough for the water to infiltrate through and get to the rear footwell (the car floor slopes down to the back)

First picture: wet area of the front door frame.
Second picture: damaged seal of the front door.

Now I need to figure out what to use to fix the seal...some kind of putty or glue.
I'll post the update after I fix it.

P.S CarlsonTheFlyer, examine your door seals really carefully, including front doors. It's not very apparent at first. You might have the same thing.



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  #22  
Old 10-23-2009, 07:49 AM
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Thanks for that, Starless. I will go check it carefully right now. That's a possibility I didn't consider. It's going to rain here again today, so I am gonna have a few opportunities to see for myself.

UPDATE: Just went outside and closely inspected all the rubber seals around all 4 doors. All the rubber seals, on the doors and the door frames, are in perfect condition. There are a few scuff marks in the center of the bottom of the driver's door frame rubber seal, caused by my left shoe, I am sure. But it's too far forward of the rear floorboard, so if it were leaking, at least some of the front floorboard would be wet or moist, but it's not.

And to answer a previous question about the door sill drains, they seem fine and unobstructed.

So the mystery continues. Calling Sherlock Holmes...
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Last edited by CarlsonTheFlyer; 10-23-2009 at 08:05 AM.
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  #23  
Old 10-25-2009, 07:20 PM
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I am having the same problem with my car, water on the passenger's floor. One heavy rainstorm I had water in all four footwells (!) but yesterday it poured almost all day and there was only water in the front passenger's side footwell. I'll try the suggestions listed above and report back... it sounds like there are several of us in the same boat, so to speak. I just can't believe that my first bmw leaks in the rain and I have NEVER had a car that leaked EVER, wtf!
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Old 10-25-2009, 07:44 PM
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Originally Posted by 1972ford View Post
I am having the same problem with my car, water on the passenger's floor. One heavy rainstorm I had water in all four footwells (!) but yesterday it poured almost all day and there was only water in the front passenger's side footwell. I'll try the suggestions listed above and report back... it sounds like there are several of us in the same boat, so to speak. I just can't believe that my first bmw leaks in the rain and I have NEVER had a car that leaked EVER, wtf!
My VW golf was even worse in terms of leaking. It was a lemon and a total piece of junk.
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Old 10-25-2009, 09:32 PM
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Pick a starting point on your door....take a crisp dollar bill, insert it halfway in, between the door jamb and the rubber seal, then close the door on it. Try pulling the bill out, you should feel some resistance. Work your way around the door, checking the entire perimeter. If you find a loose spot, that could be the culprit.
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