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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 12-27-2009, 06:48 PM
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G. P. Burdell G. P. Burdell is offline
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Window Regulator Notes: Things Not Mentioned in the DIY Articles

I replaced my sedan's right (passenger) front window regulator today. While researching the task over the past couple of days, I noticed that the popular online DIY articles leave out a few things that are included in the Bentley Publishers E46 repair manual instructions and BMW's TIS software.

Here are my notes on the work I did. You may consider them addenda to the DIY articles.


Access to Window Bolts: How Far to Lower the Window
The DIY articles I've read only say to lower the window until you can see the two 8mm hex head bolts that attach the window regulator to the window. Both Bentley and TIS take the guesswork out of it by specifying the window height at which you can access these bolts.

For the sedan front windows, you lower the glass to a height of 5.5 inches, measured at the rear of the window. (Note: The specified height for the rear window regulator is different; check the Bentley manual.) I found it convenient to lower the window at the start of the work, just before I disconnected the battery.


Removal of Existing Butyl Rubber
I chose to replace the existing butyl rubber vapor barrier adhesive with a fresh bead of butyl rubber. Getting the old stuff off the door looked like a PITA, but I found a great tip posted by Ron Stygar. Press a piece of sticky tape to the butyl rubber you want to remove from the door, then pull firmly. Most of the rubber will come up with the tape, and any residue cleans up easily with 3M Adhesive Remover. See photo.

Also, I didn't take the vapor barrier off entirely, because I didn't want to have to deal with re-sealing around the wires below the mirror. I left it attached on the inner edge. Doing so eliminated the need to line up the bolt holes when re-sealing the vapor barrier.


Window Adjustment (Sedan Front Window Only)
Both Bentley and TIS list window adjustment as the last step in replacement of the sedan front window regulators, but none of the DIY articles include it. It's incredibly simple; just before you begin replacing the vapor barrier, loosen the two nuts securing the rear rail of the window regulator. Using the window switch, lower the window all the way into the door. This step apparently "sets" the proper position of that rear rail in its slotted holes. Re-torque the nuts to spec, and you're done.


Applying a New Bead of Butyl Rubber
I bought a roll of 1.5" wide x 0.125" thick butyl rubber sealing tape from McMaster-Carr. TIS specifies a single bead of 6mm diameter butyl rubber or two rows of the 3mm diameter stuff, so I folded the tape and shaped it to suit. I wound up laying down a wider bead than is required, but the extra width should help ensure a waterproof seal. The roll I bought is 16 yards long, and it should be enough to re-seal several more vapor barriers.

It pays to take your time when re-sealing the vapor barrier. A heat gun is very handy. I worked in sections, heating up the new bead of butyl rubber and pressing the vapor barrier back on. A roller might have made this work a bit less labor-intensive, but hand pressure is fine.

By the way, the vapor barrier doesn't like being heated to the same temperatures that make the butyl rubber more pliable and stickier. It makes smoke at temperature setting "3" on my heat gun.


Airbag Bolts
Bentley and TIS also say to replace the three hex head bolts that attach the side airbag to the door. The bolts have a red threadlocker compound on them. Since I didn't have replacement bolts handy, I chose instead to spread some threadlocker on the bolt threads before reinstalling the airbag.


Door Panel Clips
After doing some reading on door water leaks, I've learned that it's also good practice to replace the door panel clips when reassembling the door. This is because the clips have a foam gasket that prevents water from leaking through the holes for the clips. These gaskets become flattened over time, and they often fall off the clips.

The only way to get new gaskets is to get completely new clips. There are gray clips and white clips for each door panel. Refer to this thread for further information.



This exercise was a good reminder of the importance of verifying the information you find on the Internet, either by speaking to a knowledgeable person or by checking a reliable printed source, such as the Bentley manual or TIS.

Lastly, as I was preparing to loosen the window bolts and remove the old regulator, I noticed that the rear bolt was very loose. This loose bolt might have been the actual cause of the clunking/popping noises I heard whenever I operated the window. I went ahead and replaced the regulator with the new one I'd already purchased, because the plastic sliders on the front rail showed signs of cracking, and I'd already invested the effort to get into the door.
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Last edited by G. P. Burdell; 01-16-2010 at 03:11 PM. Reason: Added notes on door panel clips.
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  #2  
Old 12-27-2009, 08:56 PM
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golforcars325i golforcars325i is offline
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Thanks for the added insight! My drivers side regulator needs replacing, but I'm putting it on the back burner until I get a couple of more engine related repairs done. I'll definitely bookmark this post for future reference.
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  #3  
Old 12-27-2009, 09:08 PM
Starless Starless is offline
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Great notes!

Nice tip on removing the old vapor barrier adhesive. Never knew about the proper window adjustment procedure either.

Although most steps in the window regulator replacement can be figured out as you go, these notes will help to ensure the job is done 100% properly.
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  #4  
Old 12-28-2009, 06:01 AM
KeithS KeithS is offline
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Good write up. A few items I did not know about or think of, and I've changed about 6 of these.

The new window regulators come set at the proper height to get to the glass mounting bolts (as long as you did not move them), I just used those as my guideline.

I always have been able to reuse the Butyl rubber seal. The trick is getting the vapor barrier off without destroying it or the butyl. I pull on the barrier while cutting the rubber with a single edge razor blade at the same time. In this manner the rubber is still remains on both the door and the vapor barrier. If it's unusually cold, I'll heat up the rubber with a hair dryer before putting things back together (makes it real sticky).

Didn't know about replacing the airbag bolts, but then BMW often suggests replacing bolts that I would not think to (I was shocked when the dealer charged by nearly $50 to replace all the auto transmission pan bolts when I had a fluid change). For the airbag they do not hold anything heavy are not installed in a manner as to stretch the bolts. There was no locking compound on mine, thus I did not put any back. In my case this may be because the 1st set of regulators were replaced by the dealer under warranty.
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  #5  
Old 08-26-2010, 03:53 PM
CPBIII CPBIII is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KeithS View Post
(I was shocked when the dealer charged by nearly $50 to replace all the auto transmission pan bolts when I had a fluid change).
Having worked for a dealer in the distant pass, let me ask...Do you think they acutally replaced those bolts??
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  #6  
Old 08-26-2010, 03:56 PM
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Awesome information and write up. Thanks!
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  #7  
Old 09-03-2010, 10:54 AM
Scottro Scottro is offline
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Can't find the bolts?

Great write up. I am in the middle of replacing my regulater on 2002 325ci front window. I cna't seem to find the bolts. My mechanic mentioned there might be pop rivets instead. Any thoughts on which way I should go? Also this is my first DIY repair on a BMW. Any difference between official parts and after market?
Thanks, Scottro
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  #8  
Old 09-03-2010, 11:58 AM
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G. P. Burdell G. P. Burdell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scottro View Post
I cna't seem to find the bolts. My mechanic mentioned there might be pop rivets instead. Any thoughts on which way I should go?
To which bolts are you referring?
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  #9  
Old 09-03-2010, 12:14 PM
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Thanks for adding these, I'm sure they will prove invaluable when it comes time for me to replace my regulator(s). So far just over 90 K and no failures but I'm sure it will eventually happen, just hope it isn't raining out at the time.
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  #10  
Old 09-11-2013, 09:30 PM
Edwagon Edwagon is offline
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Found this thread with a google search, Great info. I need to do this , sorry for bringing this back from the dead but just ordered drivers side regulator and will tackle this in the next week or so. Will provide feedback.
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  #11  
Old 09-11-2013, 10:01 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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In addition, if anyone ever needs to reseat the cable onto the pulleys, we found out the trick to eliminating the astronomical tension in these threads (which contain over 100 photos, and show every single bolt on the E39 and every single step), almost all of which is the same on the E46:

FRONT:
- One user's effort to diagnose, rebuild, and replace a BMW E39 front driver side door window regulator (1) and how to remove a BMW E39 front passenger side door window regulator (1) (2) & the unintuitive trick to effortlessly loosen and tighten the astronomical cable tension without damaging the front door window regulator (1) & how to rebuild and restring your current E39 front door window regulator (1) & scores of pictures showing how NOT to remove & repair your front door window regulators (1) & how to replace just the rollers (1) (2) & a survey of all available brands and prices and suppliers for front window regulators (1) (2) & how to replace just the plastic pulleys with machined stainless steel rollers (1) & things not mentioned in most window regulator DIYs (1)


REAR:
- BMW E39 rear window regulator replacement DIY (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) & McGyver fixes on the road (1) (2) & rear window regulator repair kits (1) (2) (3) (4) & what brand rear window regulators should I get (1) & where to get salvaged parts (1) & how to remove the rear window (1) (2) & how to adjust the windows after the repair (1) (2) (3) & how to temporarily keep the window up (1) & how to rewind the transmission case windup spool (1) (2) & how to slip the cable wires back onto the pulleys (1) (2) (3) & how to replace just the rollers (1) (2)
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Each repair should invariably add to our knowledge base by the process of inexorable incrementalism.
Your job, in return, is to read the suggested threads, where the best people will 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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  #12  
Old 09-14-2013, 10:29 AM
Edwagon Edwagon is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by G. P. Burdell View Post
I replaced my sedan's right (passenger) front window regulator today. While researching the task over the past couple of days, I noticed that the popular online DIY articles leave out a few things that are included in the Bentley Publishers E46 repair manual instructions and BMW's TIS software.

Here are my notes on the work I did. You may consider them addenda to the DIY articles.


Access to Window Bolts: How Far to Lower the Window
The DIY articles I've read only say to lower the window until you can see the two 8mm hex head bolts that attach the window regulator to the window. Both Bentley and TIS take the guesswork out of it by specifying the window height at which you can access these bolts.

For the sedan front windows, you lower the glass to a height of 5.5 inches, measured at the rear of the window. (Note: The specified height for the rear window regulator is different; check the Bentley manual.) I found it convenient to lower the window at the start of the work, just before I disconnected the battery.


Removal of Existing Butyl Rubber
I chose to replace the existing butyl rubber vapor barrier adhesive with a fresh bead of butyl rubber. Getting the old stuff off the door looked like a PITA, but I found a great tip posted by Ron Stygar. Press a piece of sticky tape to the butyl rubber you want to remove from the door, then pull firmly. Most of the rubber will come up with the tape, and any residue cleans up easily with 3M Adhesive Remover. See photo.

Also, I didn't take the vapor barrier off entirely, because I didn't want to have to deal with re-sealing around the wires below the mirror. I left it attached on the inner edge. Doing so eliminated the need to line up the bolt holes when re-sealing the vapor barrier.


Window Adjustment (Sedan Front Window Only)
Both Bentley and TIS list window adjustment as the last step in replacement of the sedan front window regulators, but none of the DIY articles include it. It's incredibly simple; just before you begin replacing the vapor barrier, loosen the two nuts securing the rear rail of the window regulator. Using the window switch, lower the window all the way into the door. This step apparently "sets" the proper position of that rear rail in its slotted holes. Re-torque the nuts to spec, and you're done.


Applying a New Bead of Butyl Rubber
I bought a roll of 1.5" wide x 0.125" thick butyl rubber sealing tape from McMaster-Carr. TIS specifies a single bead of 6mm diameter butyl rubber or two rows of the 3mm diameter stuff, so I folded the tape and shaped it to suit. I wound up laying down a wider bead than is required, but the extra width should help ensure a waterproof seal. The roll I bought is 16 yards long, and it should be enough to re-seal several more vapor barriers.

It pays to take your time when re-sealing the vapor barrier. A heat gun is very handy. I worked in sections, heating up the new bead of butyl rubber and pressing the vapor barrier back on. A roller might have made this work a bit less labor-intensive, but hand pressure is fine.

By the way, the vapor barrier doesn't like being heated to the same temperatures that make the butyl rubber more pliable and stickier. It makes smoke at temperature setting "3" on my heat gun.


Airbag Bolts
Bentley and TIS also say to replace the three hex head bolts that attach the side airbag to the door. The bolts have a red threadlocker compound on them. Since I didn't have replacement bolts handy, I chose instead to spread some threadlocker on the bolt threads before reinstalling the airbag.


Door Panel Clips
After doing some reading on door water leaks, I've learned that it's also good practice to replace the door panel clips when reassembling the door. This is because the clips have a foam gasket that prevents water from leaking through the holes for the clips. These gaskets become flattened over time, and they often fall off the clips.

The only way to get new gaskets is to get completely new clips. There are gray clips and white clips for each door panel. Refer to this thread for further information.



This exercise was a good reminder of the importance of verifying the information you find on the Internet, either by speaking to a knowledgeable person or by checking a reliable printed source, such as the Bentley manual or TIS.

Lastly, as I was preparing to loosen the window bolts and remove the old regulator, I noticed that the rear bolt was very loose. This loose bolt might have been the actual cause of the clunking/popping noises I heard whenever I operated the window. I went ahead and replaced the regulator with the new one I'd already purchased, because the plastic sliders on the front rail showed signs of cracking, and I'd already invested the effort to get into the door.
Thank you for this additional info , I did drivers side regulator replaced with OEM only. I need to buy a new vapor barrier some INDY ripped it up it seems. Great info !
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  #13  
Old 03-13-2014, 11:47 AM
affordlux affordlux is offline
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2005 325i Driver Side Three NEW Regulators - Same Problem

G.P - Hi my son an I started fixing his driver side that was stuck in the down position first by using the plastic ties temporary fix to secure the mechanism that rides up and down the window regulator rails that we learned of on this site and that worked great for about 6 months. Eventually the tie broke we tried new ties and they broke so we decided to buy a new regulator.

We have now replaced it 3 times in the last year. It always works well for 2 - 3 months and then the cable comes off the pulley and we have no idea why. We had been purchasing after market regulators for about $50 bucks. Today (same problem again) we decided that we will break the bank and go buy an OEM regulator. BMW Freehold NJ wanted $203.00. BMW Edison NJ wanted $152.00. It broke our hearts, but we bought the $152.00 regulator.

Now we get a good look at it when we get it home AND IT DOESN'T LOOK ANY DIFFERENT THEN THE $50 ONES! Now we dont know if we should put the cable back in the pulley and re-install the old after market regulator and take the OEM one back for a refund or go ahead with the OEM. We learned how to loosen the tension on the cables by reading various posts so we were able to FIX the broken after market regulator. But WE HAVE to be doing something wrong to have this happening over and over again.

In your "Items not Mentioned Window Regulator" post you speak of the final adjustment step. "Loosen the nuts on the rear rail" I think is what you said. Do you mean the nuts that hold the rear regulator to the door? What position is the window in when you do this? Is it at the point where the regulator nuts that hold the window are visible within the regulator rails to attach the window regulator to the window ? This window position would be roughly 60% down. Is that where you loosen the nuts and using the power window switch, lower the window all the way down?

Another thought. We never used a torque wrench in tightening the regulator rails to the door. Could this be the problem causing the cable to come off the pulleys?

This just seems to us to be impossible to get right and BMW wanted close to $1000 to fix it for us!

Please help! Thanks, AL & Mike
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  #14  
Old 03-13-2014, 05:17 PM
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G. P. Burdell G. P. Burdell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by affordlux View Post
In your "Items not Mentioned Window Regulator" post you speak of the final adjustment step. "Loosen the nuts on the rear rail" I think is what you said. Do you mean the nuts that hold the rear regulator to the door? What position is the window in when you do this?
Yes, I was referring to the nuts that fasten the rear rail of the front window regulator to the door. The window height doesn't seem to matter, since the Bentley manual references the adjustment procedure when the window is all the way up or rolled down to the point where the window retaining screws are accessible.

Quote:
Originally Posted by affordlux View Post
Another thought. We never used a torque wrench in tightening the regulator rails to the door. Could this be the problem causing the cable to come off the pulleys?
If you torqued the nuts to a reasonable hand tightness, I don't see why it would be the problem.
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  #15  
Old 03-13-2014, 06:31 PM
affordlux affordlux is offline
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2005 325i Driver Window Regulator

Thanks G.P. We returned the OEM regulator and got our $150.00 refund. We will install the after market regulator AGAIN, use the window adjustment step you mentioned and tighten the regulator a bit above hand-tightened and let you know how it all turns out.
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  #16  
Old 04-29-2014, 01:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by affordlux View Post
Thanks G.P. We returned the OEM regulator and got our $150.00 refund. We will install the after market regulator AGAIN, use the window adjustment step you mentioned and tighten the regulator a bit above hand-tightened and let you know how it all turns out.
I am planning on replacing a regulator on a 2004 330XI this coming week and would like to hear about your experience - especially the part of loosening the nuts. Just what does it mean to "loosen" them? How loose?
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  #17  
Old 04-29-2014, 08:08 PM
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crowz crowz is offline
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One piece of info never mentioned. Keep the rubber window trim from sticking to the glass. I use gumifledge or something like that. Has an aplicator on the end of it like a shoe polish tip that makes it easy to apply to the seals. Ive never had one fail when using the stuff. I have had them fail when forgetting to re-apply the stuff

Basically what happens is the window sticks in the upright position. When you go to roll it down and it sticks and then releases 2 things can happen.

1. The cables jump off the pully and get mangled.
or
2. The clip holding the window to the cable breaks.

Eithers bad.
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  #18  
Old 04-30-2014, 04:39 PM
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G. P. Burdell G. P. Burdell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by riff View Post
I am planning on replacing a regulator on a 2004 330XI this coming week and would like to hear about your experience - especially the part of loosening the nuts. Just what does it mean to "loosen" them? How loose?
Loosen the nuts enough to let the studs move freely in the holes.
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  #19  
Old 05-01-2014, 04:48 PM
riff riff is online now
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Did the job today on my 2002 745i and managed to get it done without a crisis. A few things to note:
1. The connections on the bottom of the rail require E sockets ( female to the Torx head). This was a PITA as I was not aware that the connectors did not go thru a hole - its a slot. Simply loosening the connector will do the job. Loosen and lift up the rail don't try to remove the connector entirely. Taking them all the way out cost me about 45 minutes for something that should have taken 5 minutes.
2. My window was stuck down and the cable was hosed. So I had to remove the window at its lowest point - another PITA. It requires a 30 torx. Didn't have one so I used a T25 screw driver bit ( luckily close enough) and vice grips to get the connections off. Not pretty but it worked.

Other than that a piece of cake.

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Last edited by riff; 05-01-2014 at 04:56 PM.
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  #20  
Old 07-11-2014, 12:40 PM
QuercusE36 QuercusE36 is offline
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Additional info the DIYs haven't mentioned yet (to my knowledge):
An issue I came across today and I hope this helps anyone who may also be seeing this problem, is after I reinstalled the 10mm bolts that came with my regulator from BavAuto, the arms were getting hung up and stopping the window from rolling down all the way. It took me a while to find the problem because it was acting like the gear teeth weren't staying in place, but once I saw that the after market bolts were too long, I just pulled the one out that was hanging things up and cut it in half. Badda bing. Add some more white lithium grease and it's like butta
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  #21  
Old 07-11-2014, 05:59 PM
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G. P. Burdell G. P. Burdell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by QuercusE36 View Post
Additional info the DIYs haven't mentioned yet (to my knowledge):
An issue I came across today and I hope this helps anyone who may also be seeing this problem, is after I reinstalled the 10mm bolts that came with my regulator from BavAuto, the arms were getting hung up and stopping the window from rolling down all the way. It took me a while to find the problem because it was acting like the gear teeth weren't staying in place, but once I saw that the after market bolts were too long, I just pulled the one out that was hanging things up and cut it in half. Badda bing. Add some more white lithium grease and it's like butta
Thanks for providing your input. On which car did you replace the window regulator, and was it a front or rear regulator?
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  #22  
Old 07-11-2014, 06:13 PM
QuercusE36 QuercusE36 is offline
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It was on a '97 e36. Front passenger.
More updates: don't forget to reconnect the airbag before reconnecting the battery. I connected the battery so I could fiddle with the regulator a bit so I could reach my hand in the door to hold the fastening nuts, and later found out my SRS light is now lit up. Now I have to buy the Peake reset tool or find an Indy who is willing to do it for free.
Always disconnect battery, disconnect airbag, reconnect airbag, reconnect battery. In that order. This was a very simple yet costly mistake.
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