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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 01-18-2005, 09:07 PM
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Scott ZHP Scott ZHP is offline
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Thumbs up LeatherZ E46 Gauge Panel Install w/photos

My wife bought me the 3 gauge set from LeatherZ.com for Christmas and I finally got around to installing it last weekend. The instructions say this is a fairly difficult mod and are laced with various disclaimers. I found it was more tedious than difficult. I'd guess it took me about 6hours in total to mount the senders, fish the wiring, wire/install the panel and reassemble the interior. Photos/comments below for anyone interested:

1. Photo of the kit and the tools I used to install it. Practically everything you need to install the gauges is included in the box including very detailed instructions. I needed a few other minor things - wire ties, shrink tubing, etc. The gauge panel itself is custom made and fits perfectly in the opening. I asked John at LeatherZ.com to cover mine in Alcantara to match the rest of the ZHP package trim. It is a perfect match. The gauges are VDO. They are supplied with orange bulb covers to match the rest of the instruments.

http://home.att.net/~howersl/bmw/gauges/P1.jpg
http://home.att.net/~howersl/bmw/gauges/P12.jpg

2. First task is to remove the idiot light sender and mount the oil distribution block. This block is a custom made piece and is nicely machined. You need to remove the airbox and the MAF sensor to gain access. It is easy to install the block so that it won't sit flush against the mounting boss. Make sure it is flat against the boss with a copper crush washer sandwiched in-between and another under the banjo bolt head. Wrap the first 3 or 4 threads of the banjo bolt with teflon tape or antisieze paste - DO NOT BLOCK THE OIL FEED HOLES. Crush washer in place, carefully thread the bolt into the boss taking care not to crossthread it. No torque spec was given, but I'd guess it's about 10-15 ftlbs. The threaded housing is aluminum so donít get carried away and hamfist/overtighten it. Stripping this part would pretty much ruin your day/week and put a nice dent in your bank account.

http://home.att.net/~howersl/bmw/gauges/P3.jpg

3. Next, connect the senders and route the wiring from the senders around the engine bay. The kit includes crimp connectors, but the instructions say to solder the connectors for the sender wiring. As these live in the engine bay and are subject to heat/vibration/weather, I opted to solder/shrinktube the terminals instead. YMMV. Connecting them to the senders is a breeze - assuming you have the hands of a 5 year old child. The rest of us may just offer up a choice word or two. Take your time. I wire-tied the sender wires to each other and then to convenient things in the engine bay. I covered them with plastic corrugated wirewrap to protect/disguise them. Fish/route/wiretie as needed. When they emerge near the relay box, unclip the crossover raceway and route the wires into it and over the engine bay, underneath the wiper washer tank and into the weed/DSC compartment. I taped them together to match the factory harness.

http://home.att.net/~howersl/bmw/gauges/P4.jpg
http://home.att.net/~howersl/bmw/gauges/P5.jpg
http://home.att.net/~howersl/bmw/gauges/P6.jpg

4. Wiring/installing the panel. You need to make a little harness to connect the gauges/lights. I created an extra pigtail on each harness lead to connect/remove the panel easily. I had some extra (heavier) wire left over from another project, so I opted to use that instead of what was supplied. The panel has 14 separate connections - donít use great gobs of wire, as the gauges are a tight fit. Back under the hood in the weed/DSC compartment, snip off the tip of one of the rubber nipples and fish the wires behind the dash. You need to remove the glovebox. The instructions suggested hardwiring the gauges directly into the fusebox by wrapping wire around the tang of an existing fuse. Instead I used a piggyback ACS fuseholder from Buss (2 circuits, 1 fusebox slot). I used the starter interlock 5amp fuse slot. Route the sender and power wires over toward the center stack and out where the oddments box used to live - I used some MIG welding wire to assist with the fishing process, but a coathanger would suffice. Remove the ashtray and the shift surround. Cut wires to length, add connectors and connect to the panel. The final two connections are for the grounds and the gauge lights. The instructions suggest either Scotchlok connectors or splice/solder joints. I've had really bad luck getting a reliable connection with those Scotchloc things. So bad, in fact, that I truly despise these little devils. Instead, I spliced the ground/lighting feeds and soldered them. Did I mention I hate these connectors?

http://home.att.net/~howersl/bmw/gauges/P8.jpg
http://home.att.net/~howersl/bmw/gauges/P7.jpg

5. Test the gauges and reinstall. Before you tidy everything up, now is the time to test the gauge operation and check for leaks. You need to fully reinstall the airbox/MAF or the car will run very rough. I speak from experience. Have a helper start the engine while you IMMEDIATELY check for leaks. It will be obvious if, heaven forbid, you have one. If you have a leak, SHUT THE ENGINE OFF RIGHT NOW and doublecheck your senders to determine the cause. Assuming all is well, install the panel and the rest of the interior bits. Oh, and the oil temp pointer takes a few mins to move, donít be alarmed if it doesnít seem to work.

http://home.att.net/~howersl/bmw/gauges/P9.jpg
http://home.att.net/~howersl/bmw/gauges/P10.jpg
http://home.att.net/~howersl/bmw/gauges/P11.jpg

Thatís it. Overall it is a very high quality kit and I highly recommend it.

http://home.att.net/~howersl/bmw/gauges/P13.jpg
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Last edited by Scott ZHP; 01-18-2005 at 09:23 PM.
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  #2  
Old 01-18-2005, 09:11 PM
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Sweet!!

I wish they would make a gauge cluster to fit in the ashtray area (for those of us with NAV).
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Old 01-18-2005, 09:13 PM
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Awesome write-up! Can we put a link up to this thread on our site?
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Old 01-18-2005, 09:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KrisL
Sweet!!

I wish they would make a gauge cluster to fit in the ashtray area (for those of us with NAV).
Send me a cardboard template of the area where it would mount (or if you have the PN for the ashtray I will buy one) and I will make one for you. Guinea pigs always get good pricing too...
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Old 01-18-2005, 09:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AndyM
Send me a cardboard template of the area where it would mount (or if you have the PN for the ashtray I will buy one) and I will make one for you. Guinea pigs always get good pricing too...


Rad! I'll look up the P/N and email it to you.

-Kris
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Old 01-18-2005, 09:18 PM
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Originally Posted by AndyM
Awesome write-up! Can we put a link up to this thread on our site?
Andy-

Sure, go for it. Thanks for the kit!

--Scott
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  #7  
Old 01-18-2005, 09:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KrisL
Sweet!!

I wish they would make a gauge cluster to fit in the ashtray area (for those of us with NAV).
Ditto that. I have no need for the ashtray, but I do keep my sunglasses in the other compartment. A kit for the ashtray area would be great!

Scott ZHP, Nice write up and nice job. It looks great!
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Last edited by wag-zhp; 01-18-2005 at 09:28 PM.
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Old 01-18-2005, 09:26 PM
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Hmm, might have a tough time getting it into the ashtray area. The first thing would be grinding off the door and everything underneath it. And even then there might not be enough depth to hold the VDO gauges. I recall investigating this in the past and it just didn't look practical.

I wired doeboy's panel a few days ago. Did it the same way I did mine (now Raffi's) a couple years ago, with a 6-pin connector behind the panel to make it easier to remove.
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Old 01-18-2005, 10:19 PM
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nice job . I've been having the same dilemma, deciding whether I should get these and bring the hvac up and get a single din screen.
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Old 01-18-2005, 11:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott ZHP
Nice job!

Just curious... what do you have your dash illumination level set at? I'm wondering if they remain visible in the dark if the illumination is set on the lowest level since that's how I run my dash lights.
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Old 01-19-2005, 01:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doeboy
Nice job!

Just curious... what do you have your dash illumination level set at? I'm wondering if they remain visible in the dark if the illumination is set on the lowest level since that's how I run my dash lights.
At the lowest setting, the gauges are barely visible. You just have to run the lights a tad bit brighter.

I love my LeatherZ gauge kit, and can't imagine driving my car without it.
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Old 01-19-2005, 01:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kaz

I wired doeboy's panel a few days ago.
When did that happen? TS 14?
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Old 01-19-2005, 06:17 AM
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Scott, awesome write-up! It looks like it's covered in Alcantara. How do you like that, as far as color match and overall aesthetic value that high on the dash? That is what I had hoped to get one covered in, probably during the next LeatherZ sale.
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Old 01-19-2005, 06:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RSPDiver
Scott, awesome write-up! It looks like it's covered in Alcantara. How do you like that, as far as color match and overall aesthetic value that high on the dash? That is what I had hoped to get one covered in, probably during the next LeatherZ sale.
The alcantara on the panel matches perfectly and the aesthetics are great. The panel actually sits pretty low on the dash - the photos make it look higher than it is.
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Old 01-19-2005, 06:52 AM
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Scott ZHP Scott ZHP is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raffi
At the lowest setting, the gauges are barely visible. You just have to run the lights a tad bit brighter.

I love my LeatherZ gauge kit, and can't imagine driving my car without it.
What he said.

On the lowest setting, the lighting circuit to the gauges measured about 3 volts; at this voltage they are barely visible. The solution, as mentioned by Raffi, is to just turn the dimmer up a bit.
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Old 01-19-2005, 09:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raffi
When did that happen? TS 14?
No, it was at my house the day before the TS.
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Old 01-19-2005, 10:03 AM
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No, it was at my house the day before the TS.
Cool. Congrats doeboy.
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Old 01-19-2005, 10:19 AM
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Pretty sweet install Scott. Me likey
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Old 01-19-2005, 11:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raffi
At the lowest setting, the gauges are barely visible. You just have to run the lights a tad bit brighter.

I love my LeatherZ gauge kit, and can't imagine driving my car without it.
Just wondering because I've seen some E46s seem brighter overall than others. I drove a friend's E46 M3 once and I swear even with the lighting all the way dim, the dash looked like mine at 3/4 power.
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Old 01-19-2005, 11:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raffi
Cool. Congrats doeboy.
Thanks! We're not finished yet though.. still have to install the senders and wire the rest of it into the car. (and fix a few other things while we have the glove box out... )
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Old 11-12-2007, 04:06 PM
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Thread is dead

None of these photos are still available
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Old 11-12-2007, 04:08 PM
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I was just thinking to myself the other day if it would be possible to put gauges there...I know what I'm gettin for Christmas....!
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Old 11-12-2007, 04:22 PM
VenkatV VenkatV is offline
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What a coincidence, I am getting the same kit but for E36 around Christmas time.
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Old 05-20-2008, 06:12 AM
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I'm loving this kit but am a little 'scared' to undertake the job myself. Is it a difficult install, say compared to installing angel eyes - I just did those a few weeks ago? If it's harder than AE, anyone know places that this kit can be installed professionally for a good price, preferable around MI or OH?
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Old 05-20-2008, 07:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mawana View Post
I'm loving this kit but am a little 'scared' to undertake the job myself. Is it a difficult install, say compared to installing angel eyes - I just did those a few weeks ago? If it's harder than AE, anyone know places that this kit can be installed professionally for a good price, preferable around MI or OH?

I'd say it's equal to angel eyes, especially if you did the remote inside light trigger wire install.
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