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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 08-26-2010, 09:17 PM
albersj51 albersj51 is offline
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Vapor Barrier Fix

We had a nice heavy rain in SC today and I found moisture in my rear floors. Apparently its time for me to tear into the doors and redo the vapor barrier adhesive. Couple of questions.

1. I have the side airbags on mine (fairly sure they have been disabled due to PO's kids). Is this a concern when removing the panel? If so, how do I deal with the airbag?

2. Should I trash the current vapor barrier and pick some up from the hardware store or just clean the old adhesive, put on some new stuff, and replace with the original vapor barrier?

Thanks for the help!

J

2002 530i Sport
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  #2  
Old 08-27-2010, 07:23 AM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Dunno but maybe these links from the bestlinks thread help:
- (1) (2) (3)
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  #3  
Old 08-27-2010, 07:31 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Best is to go to BMW dealer and ask a tech re:

1. Airbag issue. Very often the tech will know where the airbag is etc.

2. Vapor Barrier is just generic plastic.
- Go to hardware store and get the thick vapor barrier (the stuff construction people lay down before pouring concrete floor in the house basement.
- The Butyl material: go to any autoglass shop (place that replaces windshield glass) and buy a roll of butyl "rope" the size of your pinky.
This stuff is sticky.
About $1/foot.
Measure the circumference of the metal door and buy appropriate length.
You prob. need about 10 feet or $10.

PS: BTW the reason BMW E39 leaks is because of body contour.
Stand behind the E39 and look, the door slants inward as you go from bottom to top.
The allows rain water to drip down the glass and onto the vapor barrier and out the bottom of the door.
(OK if vapor barrier is fine, not OK when it breaks)

Honda Accord does not have this problem because the door is kind of vertical.
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  #4  
Old 08-27-2010, 07:50 AM
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mmm635 mmm635 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by albersj51 View Post
We had a nice heavy rain in SC today and I found moisture in my rear floors. Apparently its time for me to tear into the doors and redo the vapor barrier adhesive. Couple of questions.

1. I have the side airbags on mine (fairly sure they have been disabled due to PO's kids). Is this a concern when removing the panel? If so, how do I deal with the airbag?

2. Should I trash the current vapor barrier and pick some up from the hardware store or just clean the old adhesive, put on some new stuff, and replace with the original vapor barrier?

Thanks for the help!

J

2002 530i Sport

Read this thread: http://forums.bimmerforums.com/forum...ighlight=vapor

Do not get rid of your oem vapor barrier.

Airbag...no big deal. Just make sure to disconnect the negative battery terminal. Unplug the airbag, do your work, plug it back in, and then hook your negative back up. When you pull back the door panel you will have enough room to look and see what is going in there if it has been rigged. I would imagine the PO disabled it at the dealer through the computer in order to avoid any errors. So, this would lead me to believe that the airbag is still plugged in the factory harness.
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  #5  
Old 08-27-2010, 07:52 AM
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mmm635 mmm635 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cn90 View Post
Best is to go to BMW dealer and ask a tech re:

1. Airbag issue. Very often the tech will know where the airbag is etc.

2. Vapor Barrier is just generic plastic.
- Go to hardware store and get the thick vapor barrier (the stuff construction people lay down before pouring concrete floor in the house basement.
- The Butyl material: go to any autoglass shop (place that replaces windshield glass) and buy a roll of butyl "rope" the size of your pinky.
This stuff is sticky.
About $1/foot.
Measure the circumference of the metal door and buy appropriate length.
You prob. need about 10 feet or $10.

PS: BTW the reason BMW E39 leaks is because of body contour.
Stand behind the E39 and look, the door slants inward as you go from bottom to top.
The allows rain water to drip down the glass and onto the vapor barrier and out the bottom of the door.
(OK if vapor barrier is fine, not OK when it breaks)

Honda Accord does not have this problem because the door is kind of vertical.
The vapor barrier is actually high quality. The problem is what BMW specified as a sealant to bond it to the door.
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  #6  
Old 08-27-2010, 08:12 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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The problem is the v.b. may be damaged during repair so be prepared to run to hardware store.
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  #7  
Old 08-27-2010, 01:29 PM
albersj51 albersj51 is offline
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Thanks everyone! I'll disconnect the battery to prevent airbag deployment. Good point on VP. I'll try with the original and if I see damage I'll pick some up at lowes.
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  #8  
Old 08-27-2010, 06:21 PM
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Johnny Canada Johnny Canada is offline
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I'm not so sure about the hardware store route. There appears to be more going on with the barrier design than just a sheet of foam. Once you have the panel removed, you may agree. New replacements are about $30 each (E39 with airbags have a specific part number). I agree with mmm635, the problem is bonding the barrier to the door. I had to do mine twice, and I'm still not crazy about the effectiveness of the Butyl to bond the barrier to the door. Some members have mentioned a 3M product called Windo-Weld. If mine leak again, I'll buy new barriers and try the 3M product

Last edited by Johnny Canada; 08-27-2010 at 06:23 PM.
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  #9  
Old 08-27-2010, 08:52 PM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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The Plastic Vapor Barrier at Hardware store works fine. It is just a sheet of plastic.
Butyl "rope" is basically the same as BMW stuff, but cheaper than BMW junk.
I just used the Butyl "rope" on my skylight on the roof, wonderful sticky stuff.
Many cars windshield uses Butyl "rope".

All you care is a tight seal.
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  #10  
Old 08-27-2010, 10:00 PM
Solo12 Solo12 is offline
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+1 for new vapor barriers and new sealant. I think I might lean towards something other than butyl as well. Maybe also take the extra time to scrap off all the old butyl as it could create problems for a good new seal.

My independent BMW shop resealed the original barriers and that lasted a few months. Then they ordered new barriers and installed those and that lasted a month or two. But the passenger side leaked again and they resealed that side again. We will see if it holds this time. I am not confident based on past experiences. I think I might do it myself if they leak again and definitely look into a better sealant.

My carpets would get wet after heavy downpours. Now I know to open the door and look at the doorsills and underside of the door for water. See Bluebee’s 3rd link to bimmerforms for a more detailed description.

Re: “Vapor Barrier is just generic plastic”.
The actual vapor barrier BMW used for the e39 is a different material. The plastic fix may work just as well or better I am not sure, but if you want an idea of what the BMW vapor barrier looks like go to link #2 that Bluebee posted. Once you are on that website the last picture on page 4 of that website shows what the vapor barrier looks like and also the airbag.

Wood trim removal necessary?
One note on the door panel removal is the removal of the wood trim may be optional. My independent BMW shop said the wood door trim does not need to be removed to remove the door panel I think someone’s post on one of the forums said that as well. I am not sure if this is correct that the wood trim does not need to be removed, as I have not removed my door panel myself so I will leave that to others who know, to verify.

Possibility of other causes?

You said your carpets were moist are you 100% sure it is the vapor barriers. My guess is that is the issue, but what do other more experienced people think about other causes (clogged sunroof drain/door drain)? I thought I read somewhere that there is an a/c drain or vent that can get clogged and get the rear carpet wet?
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  #11  
Old 08-28-2010, 01:22 AM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Solo12 View Post
I thought I read somewhere that there is an a/c drain or vent that can get clogged and get the rear carpet wet?
It has been said (see this thread) ... if the two A/C undercarriage drain pipes clog, there's no evaporator coil drop "pan", so, the water would have to build up just under the evaporator coils.

But, these coils are in the front ... and, anyway, nobody has clearly shown their undercarriage drain hoses to be clogged (with what would they clog?) ... so methinks the chance of a leak from the outside in is greater (much greater) than water building up from the inside out.

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  #12  
Old 08-28-2010, 03:19 AM
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gtxragtop gtxragtop is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cn90 View Post
The Plastic Vapor Barrier at Hardware store works fine. It is just a sheet of plastic.
Butyl "rope" is basically the same as BMW stuff, but cheaper than BMW junk.
I just used the Butyl "rope" on my skylight on the roof, wonderful sticky stuff.
Many cars windshield uses Butyl "rope".

All you care is a tight seal.
The vapor barrier on my 03 is far from a sheet of plastic. It is a complex foam based molding. Perhaps plastic sheet is used on the older models?
I after trying to seal my OE versions twice, bought new ones, carefully removed the old Butyl and all is well. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Stupid dumb ass design.

Here is what mine looks like:
http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=...1t:429,r:0,s:0

And here is where they always open up on the corner.

http://t0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:A...F9HgWDPYoW1Ac=
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Last edited by gtxragtop; 08-28-2010 at 03:22 AM.
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  #13  
Old 08-28-2010, 08:54 AM
pj- pj- is offline
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The butyl on mine was in pretty rough shape so I just left everything in place and siliconed the bejesus out of it. It's going to suck if anyone ever has to get behind the vapor barrier to work on something, but at least my floors are dry.
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  #14  
Old 08-28-2010, 10:21 AM
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mmm635 mmm635 is offline
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Here are more pics: http://picasaweb.google.com/mmm635/DoorPanelRear#


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  #15  
Old 08-28-2010, 12:54 PM
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CoreyMNK CoreyMNK is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gtxragtop View Post
The vapor barrier on my 03 is far from a sheet of plastic. It is a complex foam based molding. Perhaps plastic sheet is used on the older models?
I after trying to seal my OE versions twice, bought new ones, carefully removed the old Butyl and all is well. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Stupid dumb ass design.

Here is what mine looks like:
http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=...1t:429,r:0,s:0

And here is where they always open up on the corner.

http://t0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:A...F9HgWDPYoW1Ac=
That's what mine look like. My E39 is a 2000. Also OP, roofing tar/ glue works great! It's held for over a year now with absolutely no leaks. I just left the BMW crap on the door and sealed the whole vapor barrier again. Worked great. The door panel is really easy to get off, but I dont have the rear airbags so I'm not too sure how that works.
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  #16  
Old 10-07-2010, 11:37 PM
pleiades pleiades is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Solo12 View Post
Wood trim removal necessary?
One note on the door panel removal is the removal of the wood trim may be optional. My independent BMW shop said the wood door trim does not need to be removed to remove the door panel I think someone’s post on one of the forums said that as well. I am not sure if this is correct that the wood trim does not need to be removed, as I have not removed my door panel myself so I will leave that to others who know, to verify.
I just re-bonded (with 3M Windo-Weld "tape") the rear door vapor seals ("sound insulation") on my 1999 528i. As I found with the first door, the wood trim on the rear doors comes off very easily but unlike certain other e39s (the M5?), there were no screws embedded underneath that needed to be removed. So, when I did the other rear door, I left the trim on.

This was one of the easiest DIY jobs I've done on my car so far.... Hope the 3M stuff will work; my barriers were coming off in the usual lower back corners and upper forward corners where the thin wiring for the tweeter speaker, window switch, and courtesy light all come together....

The 3M tube tape stretches easily, allowing you to adjust the thickness as necessary. I used a heat gun to heat the door metal and soften the stuff after initially applying it, then pressed the plastic-foam barrier over with my fingers to even out the stuff underneath and ensure there weren't any gaps. Easy task but if it doesn't last I'll buy new barriers (got enough 3M tape left over to do it all again anyway....).
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  #17  
Old 10-08-2010, 02:42 AM
chaps_525i chaps_525i is offline
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I have the same problem with my car, I change my plates fr ny to Florida and when I try to warm up my car its all water on the floor so I'll fix it today hopefully everything goes well.

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  #18  
Old 10-08-2010, 05:49 AM
sidneyj sidneyj is offline
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Originally Posted by pleiades View Post
"As I found with the first door, the wood trim on the rear doors comes off very easily" "So, when I did the other rear door, I left the trim on."
You didn't do your homework young man and had to learn the hard way! You don't have to touch the trim.
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Old 10-08-2010, 06:35 AM
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I did mine (both rear doors) in the early summer and after the latest hard rain, the rear floor was wet on both sides. It hasn't been wet at all during light rain.
Looks like I'll be doing it again. I used 3M window weld material and it seemed to work fine. Maybe I'll try taping the edges down this time.
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Old 10-08-2010, 07:20 AM
pleiades pleiades is offline
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You didn't do your homework young man and had to learn the hard way! You don't have to touch the trim.
Yes ma'am, but honestly I'd read more than one DIY, and they had pics.....
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  #21  
Old 10-08-2010, 10:44 AM
five.two.five five.two.five is offline
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When I did mine, I cleaned the door and about 1 inch in on the vapor barrier with mineral spirits. Then I sprayed 3M Super 77 on the area where the vapor barrier and door meet and allowed it to tack up for a minute or two. Then I applied Gorilla 1-inch wide duct tape to the seam where the door and vapor barrier meet. And I put a little bit of silicon in the holes where the door panel clips into. I haven't had a problem since.
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