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X3 E83 (2004 - 2010)
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  #1  
Old 11-09-2011, 09:28 AM
uboat uboat is offline
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X3 Sunroof failure

My advice for X3 owners is DO NOT OPERATE THE SUNROOF. My 2007 was two months out of warranty when the sunroof ground to a locked-up failure. The vehicle was garaged its entire life in So. Calif. and the sunroof was seldomly used. On a nice sunny September day I pushed the button to fully open the sunroof and it made a grinding noise and locked-up. I took it in to the dealer who replaced the entire cassette mechanism for around $3,300 (net of a 15% discount). I wrote a letter to BMW of N.A. and was told there would be no adjustment from them.

Based on the limited use of my sunroof, I can only conclude they look good, but don't hold up very well. I figure my sunroof cost me about $165 each time I used it. Bottom line DO NOT OPERATE THE SUNROOF.

Last edited by uboat; 12-07-2011 at 10:14 AM.
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  #2  
Old 11-09-2011, 10:07 AM
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timfitz63 timfitz63 is offline
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Sorry to hear this -- especially since the frequency of this problem seems to be creeping forward as each model year ages, and I also own a 2007... I'm sure I would be equally unhappy as you are if this happened to me, since I also enjoy opening the panorama roof on my X3 when the weather is conducive.

But I am curious if there's a correlation between the failure of the roof mechanism and the amount of 'upkeep maintenance' that owners perform. My question is not an indictment of you; but how often do folks inspect the roof mechanism for debris and possible wear, and lubricate it? The only seemingly-recommended lubricant that I can find for this application is a MINI part number (83 22 0 397 761, "Kluberplex adhesive grease") -- which I'm willing to bet is basically lithium grease; I don't know what the corresponding BMW part number is, but I'll also bet it comes in the same can...

Anyway, I'm postulating that these roof mechanisms may be failing due to (and please pardon the term) neglect by owners. In fairness to owners, BMW doesn't provide any guidance about how frequently these complicated roof mechanisms need periodic 'upkeep maintenance' (i.e., inspection and lubrication), or even where the lubrication points actually are. In fact, when I inquired about whether BMW would lubricate the roof mechanism as part of their Free Maintenance Plan, I was essentially told "no," although I managed to get them to do mine this past July when I complained about a squeak associated with roof operation.

So I'm curious: does anyone take it upon themselves to lubricate these roof mechanisms, and if so, have you experienced any problems/failures...?
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  #3  
Old 11-09-2011, 10:34 AM
swapsafari swapsafari is offline
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Sorry to hear about the sunroof. Reading all the bad things about its mechanism on the forum, every time I open it I am afraid as if I am committing a crime or something. Who knows when it would start to act up. I have a 2007 X3 too so I hear you very well. BTW, I have read in some posts about people doing regular maintenance on their roof like greasing components and cleaning the gutter, etc. I haven't done it on my car yet from the time I have had it (which is few months) and don't know if the previous owner has done it. Do we have any DIY for that process here on the forum? I mean, is it like a time consuming process even to maintain it? Anything leads on it would be very helpful.

Coz if that's the case, I am taking your advice of not opening it again. I would rather buy a old convertible for that price (3.5K) and take it out as and when I feel like brining some sun into my car.
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  #4  
Old 11-09-2011, 11:00 AM
uboat uboat is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by timfitz63 View Post
Sorry to hear this -- especially since the frequency of this problem seems to be creeping forward as each model year ages, and I also own a 2007... I'm sure I would be equally unhappy as you are if this happened to me, since I also enjoy opening the panorama roof on my X3 when the weather is conducive.

But I am curious if there's a correlation between the failure of the roof mechanism and the amount of 'upkeep maintenance' that owners perform. My question is not an indictment of you; but how often do folks inspect the roof mechanism for debris and possible wear, and lubricate it? The only seemingly-recommended lubricant that I can find for this application is a MINI part number (83 22 0 397 761, "Kluberplex adhesive grease") -- which I'm willing to bet is basically lithium grease; I don't know what the corresponding BMW part number is, but I'll also bet it comes in the same can...

Anyway, I'm postulating that these roof mechanisms may be failing due to (and please pardon the term) neglect by owners. In fairness to owners, BMW doesn't provide any guidance about how frequently these complicated roof mechanisms need periodic 'upkeep maintenance' (i.e., inspection and lubrication), or even where the lubrication points actually are. In fact, when I inquired about whether BMW would lubricate the roof mechanism as part of their Free Maintenance Plan, I was essentially told "no," although I managed to get them to do mine this past July when I complained about a squeak associated with roof operation.

So I'm curious: does anyone take it upon themselves to lubricate these roof mechanisms, and if so, have you experienced any problems/failures...?
I took the vehicle to the dealer for all the recommended maintenance. I never saw anything listed for the sunroof. As I mentioned in my post, the vehicle was garaged most of the day and every night. It was not exposed to extreme heat or cold. I inspected the failed unit at the dealer and the problem seems to be the use of cheap plastic parts. The mechanism seems prone to component failure because of the flimsy parts.
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  #5  
Old 11-09-2011, 11:20 AM
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timfitz63 timfitz63 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by swapsafari View Post
... I have read in some posts about people doing regular maintenance on their roof like greasing components and cleaning the gutter, etc. I haven't done it on my car yet from the time I have had it (which is few months) and don't know if the previous owner has done it. Do we have any DIY for that process here on the forum? I mean, is it like a time consuming process even to maintain it? Anything leads on it would be very helpful...
I've not seen a DIY for lubrication, and I'd like to get a good bead on this as well. In fact, I've posed the question on the forum before, and was essentially instructed to "slather lithium grease all over everything and call it good..." While that may work, it's a waste of material (lubricant); and being somewhat familiar with the German attitude toward such things, success may require specific application points. Perhaps someone can get their hands on the BMW procedure for lubricating the panorama roof? I know one exists for the MINI roof mechanism...

As a rule, I will clean (as necessary) the roof cassette gutters and drain hole openings every time I wash my X3. Doing so isn't particularly time-consuming, although you do need to budget the additional time to operate the roof to different positions (you can't actually get to all the necessary spots with the roof positioned in one spot), and will probably need a step stool or some other way to easily see and reach over top of the roofline (if you, like me, are not fond of using the seats or rocker panels to do such things). I don't get particularly involved with the cleaning process; just a clean, damp rag seems to work fine. I am, however, careful not to wipe away any exposed lubricant from the mechanism; mainly, I'm just aiming to get any obvious pieces of debris (dirt, dust, leaves, etc.) out of the roof mechanism.

Quote:
Originally Posted by uboat View Post
I took the vehicle to the dealer for all the recommended maintenance. I never saw anything listed for the sunroof. As I mentioned in my post, the vehicle was garaged most of the day and every night. It was not exposed to extreme heat or cold. I inspected the failed unit at the dealer and the problem seems to be the use of cheap plastic parts. The mechanism seems prone to component failure because of the flimsy parts.
Well, that was part of my point: BMW doesn't seem to do anything -- include instruct owners -- with respect to the upkeep of this component. They give you other maintenance points (oil, tires, even cleaning the exterior), but nothing about this roof mechanism. And it clearly needs something.

I agree with that assessment as well: cheap plastic components. I'm willing to speculate that part of the issue is that these plastic roof parts do not tolerate intense sunlight (in particular, UV) very well; I wonder what the proportion of failures is in the southern parts of the U.S. compared to the northern parts and Canada...? But again, if the plastic is kept well-lubricated, the lubricant will act a bit like a sunscreen and keep the part protected. Well, at least, better protected...

I'm just speculating at this stage that the lubrication is not surviving well on the parts -- for whatever reason -- and plastic parts rubbing against other plastic parts is a recipe for failure...
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  #6  
Old 11-09-2011, 11:30 AM
bdunn bdunn is offline
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Had to have mine replaced under CPO after I had it for about 2 months, so that's been about 3 years ago. Since then I will check it out every month or so right before I wash the car. I have found leaves, sticks and other small debris in the vacinity of the tracks that could very easily get into the plastic gears and cause issues. I typically pull the stuff out or vacuum it out. I will also spray the gear tracks and any other parts that look like they may need lubrication with a silicone based lubricant once or twice a year. I use that because it's non staining and has good water resistance. Don't know if that's the right stuff to use, but so far so good.
May want to consider that infreaquent use could also result in failure. Window seals can almost adhear to windows if not used used for long periods of time. The extra pressure caused by a stuck panel could result in additioanl stress on the mechanism. I wipe down the rubber seals with protectant a couple times a year to keep the rubber plyable and from drying out.
However BMW must have some concerns or why else would they include an allen wrench to manually close the roof with the tool kit, and instructions on how to do it manually in the owners manual?
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  #7  
Old 11-09-2011, 12:01 PM
spokelizard spokelizard is online now
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My indie mechanic (who I stopped using for reasons unrelated to the sunroof) lubed it. When I asked what he was using, it turns out it was vaseline. That's fine with me if it works. I also use the sunroof regularly, based on the "use it or lose it" principle, and am careful that if I have to close it while driving I have the windows cracked open to avoid any unusual air pressure. I still haven't done any inspection (relied on the mechanic for that).

I have a 2007 too, sorry to hear about your exorbitant replacement cost, hoping to avoid that! (Knock wood!)
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  #8  
Old 11-09-2011, 01:46 PM
swapsafari swapsafari is offline
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Thanks timfitz63. I can do what you have been doing for minimum if not anything more. I guess that'll atleast make me feel good that I did my part if at all anything goes bad in the future.
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  #9  
Old 11-09-2011, 01:48 PM
ncord ncord is offline
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I have an 06 with the same problem.I checked with the dealer both in Canada & USA and they would not admit to any design problem.
My own indi.mechanic found the broken part and it was PLASTIC on metal...I am hoping to get the part when I return to Florida next month.It is the
front passenger side slide rail and costs approx.$250.
With all the complaints I have read about with these roofs,it really burns my ass the way BMW is handling it. I will let you know how it works out for me.
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  #10  
Old 11-09-2011, 02:00 PM
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Evlengr Evlengr is offline
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Nothing surprises me after the way they handled the whole transmission issues which at times were life threatening.

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  #11  
Old 11-09-2011, 02:01 PM
swapsafari swapsafari is offline
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Sorry to sound dumb here but does indie/indi mechanic means "Independent Mechanic?"
That's another issue for me here living in small town that the closest BMW dealership is 4 hrs drive from my home so I will have to rely on a local mechanic here putting all my trust in him.
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  #12  
Old 11-09-2011, 02:23 PM
spokelizard spokelizard is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by swapsafari View Post
Sorry to sound dumb here but does indie/indi mechanic means "Independent Mechanic?"
That's another issue for me here living in small town that the closest BMW dealership is 4 hrs drive from my home so I will have to rely on a local mechanic here putting all my trust in him.
Yep, indie = independent.

Here in the Bay Area, where BMW is the "California Ford", there are numerous independent garages, some with excellent reputations, that specialize in BMW. Good choice for a car out of warranty. In New Mexico from what you say I imagine you're going to find someone who's more of a generalist, so you'll want someone experienced, patient, and humble enough to ask questions rather than bull through things.
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Old 11-09-2011, 02:24 PM
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Dominic49 Dominic49 is offline
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after having a sunroof failure and seeing that actual weak part of the system, would there be any interest in an aluminum replacement part? it would cost around 400$ or so to get i machined
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Old 11-09-2011, 02:27 PM
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timfitz63 timfitz63 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bdunn View Post
... May want to consider that infreaquent use could also result in failure. Window seals can almost adhear to windows if not used used for long periods of time. The extra pressure caused by a stuck panel could result in additioanl stress on the mechanism. I wipe down the rubber seals with protectant a couple times a year to keep the rubber plyable and from drying out...
That's a good point as well. When cleaning the cassette gutters/drains, I also wipe around the seals and the edges of the roof panels with the rag (which I rinse out as necessary, so I'm not just moving dirt around).

Quote:
Originally Posted by bdunn View Post
... I will also spray the gear tracks and any other parts that look like they may need lubrication with a silicone based lubricant once or twice a year. I use that because it's non staining and has good water resistance. Don't know if that's the right stuff to use, but so far so good...
Quote:
Originally Posted by spokelizard View Post
My indie mechanic (who I stopped using for reasons unrelated to the sunroof) lubed it. When I asked what he was using, it turns out it was vaseline...
I don't know if either of those products are good, bad, or indifferent. But I do know that when dealing with plastic components, you've got to take care not to use lubricants that will react with the plastic. My plan is to try to get some of that Kluberplex adhesive grease that MINI (which is BMW, after all) calls out, and use it. My main question is: where do I apply it...?

Quote:
Originally Posted by swapsafari View Post
Sorry to sound dumb here but does indie/indi mechanic means "Independent Mechanic...?"
That's it exactly!
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  #15  
Old 11-09-2011, 02:30 PM
swapsafari swapsafari is offline
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In New Mexico from what you say I imagine you're going to find someone who's more of a generalist, so you'll want someone experienced, patient, and humble enough to ask questions rather than bull through things.
You are right! The mechanics here are expert in repairing trucks than anything else. I can see a truck in every four cars or even more at times. But I have found a guy who has worked with a BMW dealership for 6 years in his career so hopefully I won't have have to take his BS. Will see how it goes.
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Old 11-09-2011, 02:45 PM
codog2 codog2 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spokelizard View Post
My indie mechanic (who I stopped using for reasons unrelated to the sunroof) lubed it. When I asked what he was using, it turns out it was vaseline. That's fine with me if it works. I also use the sunroof regularly, based on the "use it or lose it" principle, and am careful that if I have to close it while driving I have the windows cracked open to avoid any unusual air pressure. I still haven't done any inspection (relied on the mechanic for that).

I have a 2007 too, sorry to hear about your exorbitant replacement cost, hoping to avoid that! (Knock wood!)
Isn't petroleum based lubricants such as Vaseline bad for plastic? Sort of like baby oil and rubbers. Perhaps the roof failed due to lack of use? Window regulators are known to fail from lack of use

Last edited by codog2; 11-09-2011 at 02:46 PM.
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Old 11-09-2011, 02:53 PM
uboat uboat is offline
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Mine failed on the front passenger side as well.
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  #18  
Old 11-09-2011, 08:09 PM
spokelizard spokelizard is online now
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Isn't petroleum based lubricants such as Vaseline bad for plastic? Sort of like baby oil and rubbers. Perhaps the roof failed due to lack of use? Window regulators are known to fail from lack of use
Don't know, maybe I'll try something else, like the Kluberplex adhesive recommended by timfitz63.

Coincidentally (or maybe not) I stopped using this mechanic when he used the wrong lubricant in the differential. Maybe it's not coincidence, maybe he's just consistent.
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Old 11-09-2011, 09:54 PM
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Terry J. Harris Terry J. Harris is offline
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Mine failed on my 2008 at just over 14 months or so, under warranty of course. I rarely use it since. It's a piece of ****, in my opinion. Sorry yours went too.
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Old 11-10-2011, 04:26 AM
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jman103099 jman103099 is online now
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Does anyone know where we can get the Kluberplex? I tried a 30 second google search but didnt come up with much. Anyone else have thoughts on another type of lube for the sunroof (keeping in mind the plastic parts)?
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  #21  
Old 11-10-2011, 07:31 AM
UncleJ UncleJ is offline
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Swap, you might want to go over to the regional boards here and post there for Indy recommendations in your area of New Mexico. You might find a diamond in the rough close by -- or not. Worth a chance anyway. I stopped using my sunroof as soon as I noted the startling frequency of failures here on the board. I don't like them anyway (prone to leaks etc.) and would never buy one on its own but it was included as "standard equipment" so I had to take it.
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  #22  
Old 11-10-2011, 07:44 AM
swapsafari swapsafari is offline
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Quote:
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Swap, you might want to go over to the regional boards here and post there for Indy recommendations in your area of New Mexico. You might find a diamond in the rough close by -- or not. Worth a chance anyway. I stopped using my sunroof as soon as I noted the startling frequency of failures here on the board. I don't like them anyway (prone to leaks etc.) and would never buy one on its own but it was included as "standard equipment" so I had to take it.
Thanks UncleJ. Sounds like a good idea.
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  #23  
Old 11-10-2011, 12:43 PM
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timfitz63 timfitz63 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spokelizard View Post
Don't know, maybe I'll try something else, like the Kluberplex adhesive recommended by timfitz63...
Some more details on that lubricant:
  • I haven't tried getting it from a BMW or MINI dealer yet; and in fact, they may not want to sell it...?
  • The information I found online regarding the lubrication procedure for the panorama roof on the MINI (obviously a different mechanism entirely) showed a photo of the can, which was labeled "Kluberplex BE 11-462." I managed to track that to a couple of places:
  • In reviewing the information presented on their web site by AL&MS, it would appear that the BE 11-462 lubricant is for metal (not plastic) applications, but that would need to be verified through the manufacturer or AL&MS. So, this may not be the correct stuff for the X3 roof mechanism... The Kluber Lubrication web site offers this interactive guide for automotive lubrication solutions, including window lifters and sunroofs, but the BE 11-462 lubricant does not appear to be listed...

I'll research more when I have some time; or anyone else is welcome to take the baton and run with it for a while...
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Old 11-10-2011, 01:30 PM
al_macaroni al_macaroni is offline
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Sil-Glyde might be a good alternative lubricant.

It was recommended as a non-hardening, plastic friendly lubricant on a Full Size Jeep website. It was specified in a DIY to lubricate replacement plastic flex-track for old Grand Wagoneer "Woody" power windows. When I replaced the flex track, I also removed the hardened lithium grease from the power lock mechanism and applied the Sil-Glyde. Both the power window and door locks have been working well for 2 years.
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Old 11-10-2011, 02:35 PM
F10ster F10ster is offline
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BMW sunroof issues have been around for a long time. Normally the grease from the factory is adequate. I have an E39 that is 12 years old and the grease still seems fine. I don't use the sunroof but do try to cycle through full slide open and then closed in the summer when the grease is thinner just to keep everything lubed. I never NEVER use the vent position any more due to the age of the arms that lift the rear portion into the vented position being the parts most prone to breakage.

Historically what fails are the arms breaking that lift the rear of the panel into the "vent" position. Pieces get into the track and then next cycle sliding the roof open you get the grinding noise and additional issues. However, I have seen many post on non pano roofs with step by step repair procedures. The parts are available to fix a broken roof and the ones that break are not that expensive. The dealer always opts for the replace cassette for two reasons, one it is easy and two they make more plus they don't have any liability if something else breaks.
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