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E36 (1991 - 1999)
The E36 chassis 3-Series BMW was a huge hit among driving enthusiasts from the first moment the car hit the pavement. The E36 won numerous awards over the years it was produced and is still a favorite of many BMW enthusiasts to this day! -- View the E36 Wiki

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Old 04-10-2012, 07:16 PM
Turbo_Prop Turbo_Prop is offline
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E36 Convert Top is Completely Dead, Nead Help

Ok, so I think I have read every thread on this forum on others that pertain to convertible tops, done everything suggested (short of taking it to a dealer) and yet my top doesn't move.

The roof worked fine up until a few weeks ago, just seemed to quit. I have tried the resync'd process dozens of times and the same results, nothing moves. I can easily raise and lower the top manually and lock it in, (semi-auto roof). The motors engage easily, fuses all check out, and nothing seems amiss.

My knee jerk reaction is to start replacing stuff, starting with the lower cost items, like the switch on the console. Or maybe taking it to a dealer and having it scanned.

Was hoping someone here could point me in the direction of something else to check or do.
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  #2  
Old 04-10-2012, 08:01 PM
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Here's the BMW trouble shooting guide. I suspect a microswitch issue, likely the one for the trunk lid.
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Old 04-10-2012, 08:04 PM
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Here's the guide....
Attached Files
File Type: pdf E36%20Convertible%20Adjust.pdf (878.8 KB, 216 views)
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Old 04-10-2012, 09:24 PM
Turbo_Prop Turbo_Prop is offline
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Thanks DC. I have read that guide many times, it has been very helpful but I do not think it is the trunk switch. My reason for thinking this is with the cover open I am able to zip tie the switch closed and still open the trunk. When I remove the zip tie and let the switch lever up the trunk release button remains inop. So it appears to me that the switch is working and I did not see anyway to adjust it. Can it be adjusted?
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Old 04-11-2012, 05:05 AM
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Sounds like you've elminated the trunk lid switch. The next one I'd check is microswitch 4. When you've released your front bow and lifted it up past the tension point you should be able to hear switch 4 click. You need to be in a quiet place with the engine and radio off but as you move the front of the top up and down past the tension point you should be able to hear the click. Switch 4 tells the top controller it's OK to start the top motor and the top lowering process. After switch 4 the next one I'd check is the switch that senses if the storage compartment cover is closed, switch 6. It's at the front of the cover on the passenger side. If it's telling the top controller the tonneau cover isn't closed the controller won't start the top motor.
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Old 04-11-2012, 07:53 PM
Turbo_Prop Turbo_Prop is offline
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I think I may have mixed up the trunk sensor with the one that senses if the cover is open. Will check that trunk sensor in the morning.

I am going to need some help listening for the sensor when the topis moved past the tension point. My hearing is no good. Right is legally deaf and left ear is slightly better.

I really appreciate the help with this.
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Old 04-11-2012, 08:03 PM
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Just happy to help a fellow "verter". Not many of us around the 'Fest.
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Old 04-16-2012, 06:56 PM
Turbo_Prop Turbo_Prop is offline
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Ok, so I checked every sensor for operation and everyone of them is working but top is still dead. I hated making the appointment, but am dropping the car off at the dealership to have the computer scanned. Will provide update when I have a clear picture of the fault.
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Old 04-16-2012, 08:26 PM
enzo_the_baker enzo_the_baker is offline
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Last year I bought a vert with exactly the same problem. It turned out to be the top up/down rocker switch in the center console. It's a typically-German, overcomplicated mechanism that can get dirty/sticky over time. Rather than spend the 60+ bucks for a new one, I popped it out, opened it up and sprayed it out with contact cleaner, then put it back together and reinstalled it. It's worked perfectly ever since.
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Old 04-16-2012, 10:21 PM
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I will laugh (sorry OP) if it's the switch...
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hornhospital View Post
Jared, why don't you just put "It's Giubo" in your sig? Save a lot of typing.
Quote:
Originally Posted by e36 miguel View Post
this jared guy sounds intimidating lol.
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Old 04-17-2012, 08:45 PM
Turbo_Prop Turbo_Prop is offline
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Why thank you petriej, you are so kind and helpful.

I did pull the console switch. The leads on my DVM are able to penetrate the shielding on wires and measure voltage. Did not have a schematic or pin-outs in front of me at the time, but am pretty sure there was switched voltage coming out of the switch. Might be the switch, but I don't think so. Right now I am guessing the control box or a bad connection someplace. Will see. Sort of anxious to get the top working as this is the best time of the year in NC for a convertible. In a few months it is going to be crazy hot and humid.
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Old 04-18-2012, 10:08 AM
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I came to this thread with the intention of helping, but everyone has already offered the advice I would have given. I wouldn't have suspected the switch either. Good luck.

I hear you on the weather. I used to live in Lynchburg, VA and this time of year is perfect, but it gets HHH (hazy hot humid) pretty soon.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hornhospital View Post
Jared, why don't you just put "It's Giubo" in your sig? Save a lot of typing.
Quote:
Originally Posted by e36 miguel View Post
this jared guy sounds intimidating lol.
2005 X5 4.8is Le Mans/Black/6spd Steptragic
1999 M3 Cabrio TiAg Metallic/Dove Grey/Black 5 Speed Manual
-------------------------------------------------------------------
1997 328iC Schwarz II/K/K 5MT SOLD 5/2012
2004 645Ci Mineral Silver Metallic/Black 6MT RIP 04/2011
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Old 04-18-2012, 07:50 PM
Turbo_Prop Turbo_Prop is offline
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The service manager called me today. The regular tech looked at my roof today and could not figure it out. The master tech (I assume some old German guy named Hans) is getting involved tomorrow. Not sure how I should feel about this. I did check every sensor, and seems as the tech sort of validates my work. I suspect I am getting ready to be BOHICA'd. Will see.
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Old 04-19-2012, 10:17 AM
john kaminski john kaminski is offline
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When I get the spare time I will enjoy the challenge of tracing the problem with my top, and in these posts there are some good proceedures to follow. BUT as you say it's top down time so go to the old posts and you will find hopefully my quick and dirty way of converting to a manual plus system to up & down the top manually - and to electically to operate the hard cover so you have a secure closure. Been doing it this way for a couple of years now with no problems and as it's so quick and easy there is no big push other than pride to set all straight.
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Old 04-19-2012, 10:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Turbo_Prop View Post
The service manager called me today. The regular tech looked at my roof today and could not figure it out. The master tech (I assume some old German guy named Hans) is getting involved tomorrow. Not sure how I should feel about this. I did check every sensor, and seems as the tech sort of validates my work. I suspect I am getting ready to be BOHICA'd. Will see.
Ha! I haven't heard that term in a while!

Good luck.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hornhospital View Post
Jared, why don't you just put "It's Giubo" in your sig? Save a lot of typing.
Quote:
Originally Posted by e36 miguel View Post
this jared guy sounds intimidating lol.
2005 X5 4.8is Le Mans/Black/6spd Steptragic
1999 M3 Cabrio TiAg Metallic/Dove Grey/Black 5 Speed Manual
-------------------------------------------------------------------
1997 328iC Schwarz II/K/K 5MT SOLD 5/2012
2004 645Ci Mineral Silver Metallic/Black 6MT RIP 04/2011
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Old 04-19-2012, 10:34 AM
tdd tdd is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Turbo_Prop View Post
The service manager called me today. The regular tech looked at my roof today and could not figure it out. The master tech (I assume some old German guy named Hans) is getting involved tomorrow. Not sure how I should feel about this. I did check every sensor, and seems as the tech sort of validates my work. I suspect I am getting ready to be BOHICA'd. Will see.
If the E36 top operates something like the E46 top, there are electrical wires that run from front to rear (or rear to front) along the sides of the soft top. Could be that a wire is frayed or broken. This happens over time from numerous cyclings of the top. I've had it happen to mine...motors worked fine, no fluid leaks, etc., but the top would not operate. My indy diagnosed it and fixed for around $75.
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  #17  
Old 04-19-2012, 04:59 PM
Turbo_Prop Turbo_Prop is offline
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Talked with the service rep at the dealership today. Wasn't very helpful, imagine that. The senior tech that looked at my roof diagnosed the entire roof as being bad, said the entire roof had to be replaced, would cost $2,400 which was more than the car and I should just use my car as a down payment on a new car. Funny. I asked the service tech if it made sense to him that the entire roof, canvas and all had to be replaced when the roof worked a few weeks ago. I even suggested that it could possibly be some sensor or connection, maybe a scan would reveale something, but all I got was the tech says the entire roof needs to be replaced. Still laughing.

I asked if the senior tech had hooked up a computer and used the BMW software to read the computer that controls the convertible roof. Service rep did not know. Amazing. But why am I not surprised.

@tdd - will definately trace the wires. Thanks.

@ John K - I saw your write up and if I do not locate the source of the problem I will probably tap out and just wire in a DPDT switch like you have done. May even be able to use the OEM roof switch.
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Old 04-19-2012, 05:57 PM
john kaminski john kaminski is offline
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Let me know if the roof switch can be used TP. I never bothered to look at it. However I am now thinking it would not be too hard to just wire up a switch for the top motor similar to what I did for the hard cover and by pass all the micro - window etc. switches and positioners. So then you would have two switches to operate and would have to pay attention to following the right sequence, but you would look good just sitting there while all those things move up / down and all around with out the out of sync/adjustment gremlins bitting you in the a**.
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Old 04-19-2012, 06:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by john kaminski View Post
Let me know if the roof switch can be used TP. I never bothered to look at it. However I am now thinking it would not be too hard to just wire up a switch for the top motor similar to what I did for the hard cover and by pass all the micro - window etc. switches and positioners. So then you would have two switches to operate and would have to pay attention to following the right sequence, but you would look good just sitting there while all those things move up / down and all around with out the out of sync/adjustment gremlins bitting you in the a**.
Until an unseen collision takes place and you're stuck with a half open top!


Reminds me of my E28. The reverse light switch didn't work on the gear selection (manual) so I wired my own switch and used it when I wanted to go in reverse. The fun part was turning it on at highway speed and watching the people behind me change lanes!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hornhospital View Post
Jared, why don't you just put "It's Giubo" in your sig? Save a lot of typing.
Quote:
Originally Posted by e36 miguel View Post
this jared guy sounds intimidating lol.
2005 X5 4.8is Le Mans/Black/6spd Steptragic
1999 M3 Cabrio TiAg Metallic/Dove Grey/Black 5 Speed Manual
-------------------------------------------------------------------
1997 328iC Schwarz II/K/K 5MT SOLD 5/2012
2004 645Ci Mineral Silver Metallic/Black 6MT RIP 04/2011
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Old 04-19-2012, 06:15 PM
john kaminski john kaminski is offline
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That's about as much fun as pulling the hand brake on a tailgating road rager
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Old 04-20-2012, 06:23 AM
Turbo_Prop Turbo_Prop is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by john kaminski View Post
When I get the spare time I will enjoy the challenge of tracing the problem with my top, and in these posts there are some good proceedures to follow. BUT as you say it's top down time so go to the old posts and you will find hopefully my quick and dirty way of converting to a manual plus system to up & down the top manually - and to electically to operate the hard cover so you have a secure closure. Been doing it this way for a couple of years now with no problems and as it's so quick and easy there is no big push other than pride to set all straight.
Help me understand how this works. I get the electrical part and know how to manually release, lower and raise the top.

What I do not understand is how to do all this while sitting in the car and pressing the button.

The way I envision this happening is the roof gets unlatched, folded back and then forward. At that point the switch has to be engaged to raise the cover. Then back out of the car to put the roof into the storage compartment. And finally back into the car to press the button to close the lid.

Is this correct or am I missing something here?
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Old 04-20-2012, 05:38 PM
Turbo_Prop Turbo_Prop is offline
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And the plot thinkens. I spoke with the service manager this afternoon. The foreman did a diagnostic scan of the convertible roof system, both motors are shorted. Parts and labor to fix is $2,300 -ish. One motor was $850 other was $675 and labor was like $575. Motor prices don't seem that far off but not sure on the labor. It is dealership rates, so maybe. What say you?
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Old 04-20-2012, 07:39 PM
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Sounds fishy to me that the top was working and now two motors are shorted? Sounds more like a wiring issue.......
I'm looking at the electrical diagram in the Bentley manual and it indicates fuses 7, 27, 35, 42, and 43 are all associated with the top operation. Have you checked these five fuses?
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Old 04-20-2012, 08:14 PM
Turbo_Prop Turbo_Prop is offline
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You know, this may have been self induced. Not 100% certain, but I may have used a higher rated fuse in at least one of the four fuses that are under the hood. Top got stuck, sort of, a couple times and a blew a fuse. Had to replace a couple of fuses a couple of times. Not certain, but maybe.

This is the email I received today from the service manager at the local dealership:

"Talked with Kenny Faircloth (Shop Foreman) about your convertible top. This is your diagnosis. You have a short in both convertible top motors. The cost for the motors, tax and labor is $2244.46. Once we replace both motors we will be able to see if the control unit needs replacing. Unfortunately we will not know this until the motors are replaced. If the control unit needs replacing the cost will be $283.45. Total bill will be $2527.91.

Motor 1: $850.48
Motor 2: $677.73
$1528.21
Tax: 122.25
$1650.46
Labor: $594.00
$2244.46

If Control Unit is needed:

Control Unit: $283.45
Tax: $20.99
Total: $2527.91"

My research indicates these prices might be a little high but not that far off from what I see for new parts online. Not sure about the labor. Now, the $2,244.46 question, is it worth it?
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Old 04-20-2012, 09:29 PM
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You have the same semiauto top as I do, and there are only two motors in the system. One that drives the storage compartment cover and one that drives the top movement. They're saying that both of those motors are bad? It just seems out of the ordinary for them to both go bad at the same time. The common element is the top control module. I think I'd try prowling the salvage yards for a used top controller and try that, then next I'd be checking wiring, then I'd look at motors and I'd see if I could snag those from a salvage yard too. The top motors don't see a lot of useage and even motors from a salvage yard car should have some years of life left in them.
What the dealer is quoting for the work proposed isn't out of line for that job at the dealer. I do think it can be diagnosed and repaired for a lot less money and with a more precise approach than replacing ALL of the electrical parts.
As to the question of is it worth it? It depends on the condition of the car and how long you plan to keep it. You'll never get that $2500 back in resale pricing, but if you plan to keep the car for a long period of time then you look at it in place of what it would cost you to get a replacement vehicle.
I've put about $6K into mine beyond the original purchase price (tranny, top, and some other refurbishments like cooling system, suspension refresh, brakes) but mine only has 103K miles. The only typical refurbishment I haven.t done yet is the RTABs and they fortunately are still in pretty good shape. I'm hoping to get another 100K without any major repairs and if that happens the $6K will be a low expense for a good car for the next 8-10 years.
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