DIY: Convertible hydraulic cylinders and lines
This is the first convertible I have owned, and the first hydraulic system I have worked on. When I learned my convertible top was not working I thought I'd have to take it to a specialist. The convertible top at first seems daunting, especially at the mention of hydraulics is enough for most to shy away from DIY. Since I am a weekend warrior comfortable with most DIYs I thought I'd at least investigate first. I found the hydraulic system is simple and straight forward. Most of the hydraulic system is visible and can be easily worked on. No special tools are required.
The best thing to do is familiarize yourself with the top. Read the Service Manuals and/or poke around the top with a flashlight. Manipulate the top manually (read your Owners Manual for details of manual operation) into various positions and note where the components are and how they interact. Pull back the headliner or fabric top to see more detail. Inspect the storage area with the lid and rear window raised. ...
The most common failure on the e46 convertible top is that the hydraulic cylinders leak. The OEM seals are made of a material that decays over time:
Thankfully Top Hydraulics is now a sponsor and offers a service to rebuild these hydraulic cylinders for a fraction of the cost of new OEM parts using materials that should, as Klaus says, "outlast your vehicle"!
Top Hydraulics also makes new hydraulic lines and rebuilds the hydraulic pump if your issue is not a leaking hydraulic cylinder.
This thread will cover how to replace all 6 of the hydraulic cylinders, as well as one of the hydraulic lines that commonly leaks. I'm hoping these DIYs will convince more e46 owners that they can service their convertible. A shop is going to replace failed OEM parts with expensive new OEM parts that will fail again. DIY allows using upgraded parts from Top Hydraulics for a fraction of the cost of new OEM parts. Win, win!
I'm going to cover the Storage Lid Cylinders, Main Lift Cylinders Part 1 and Part 2, and Line #23
raichean tackled the BowTension Cylinders.
I performed all repairs with the help of the Service Manuals.
I performed all repairs using the services of Top Hydraulics
Storage compartment lid hydraulic cylinders removal
Lets first start with the storage lid cylinders. Took me about an hour documenting everything as I went.
NOTE: some of the tools pictured are for the other DIYs. Consult the list below.
- 13mm socket and ratchet
- small flat head screw driver
- mini pry bar
Step 1: Remove the trunk trim
- Remove the cover from the bottom of the trunk. You'll notice I've already dismantled the driver's side of my trunk (as part of replacing the main lift cylinders). I'll cover dismantling the passenger side as they are nearly identical.
- Remove the battery cover (passenger side) by turning the push pins 90 degrees and pulling them out. The storage tray on the drivers side is secured with push pins.
- Remove the trunk light on both sides. Pull the grey tab to release.
- Remove the push pins holding the carpet on both sides. The passenger side had an extra green push pin with a fuel symbol on it. If anyone knows what it is for please let us know.
- The carpet on the passenger side can be pulled back above the battery. The carpet on the drivers side must be completely removed to access the hydraulic pump. To remove the carpet: PULL!
Step 2: Remove the passenger side storage lid cylinder
- Unbolt the carrier. The top 2 are grey nuts, the bottom is a brass bolt. All 3 are 13mm and tightened to 10 Nm or 7 ftlbs (or mechanic tight).
- Remove the pin holding the hydraulic cylinder to the carrier. Pry up the clip to remove it.
- Remove the ball socket end of the hydraulic cylinder. The trick is to get a small flat head screw driver under the retaining clip and pry it away. The ball socket has a flat spot which you can find by feel (since its hard to see unless you have a mirror). This was by far the longest and more difficult part of the removal. Installation will be a breeze as they just snap back on! :)
- Unclip the hydraulic lines back to the pump. The lines are tied together near the pump, cut the ties. The official instructions mention you have to remove the trim along the top of the trunk. I found you could just pull it back to expose the lines and clips.
Step 3: Remove the driver side storage lid cylinder
- Repeat step 2 on the drivers side. There is an extra sensor that must be disconnected.
- Remove the sensor and white holder from the cylinder (especially if Klaus starts offering up front shipping! you don't want to ship him your sensor cause the repaired cylinders you'll get won't have the sensor).
Step 4: Remove the hydraulic lines from the pump.
- Pull fuse 35 in the glove box. It is a big red 50 amp fuse that supplies power to most of the convertible system.
- Disconnect the pump just to be safe, especially if you plan to drive while waiting to get the cylinders back. The connector is above the pump.
- Free the pump by loosening the 13mm nut (no need to remove, just loosen) and pulling off the sound insulation.
- The lines are numbered and the metal retaining plate stamped with the number and an arrow indicating where the line is installed. Thank you to Klaus for pointing this out, I would have never noticed the small '11' and arrow marked on the plate 2 pictures below.
Note: The hydraulic pump DIYs mention marking the lines, yet I bet they did not know the plates are stamped. I would check your plates are stamped and lines numbered, if not then use some tape and marker to mark the lines.
- Disconnect the hydraulic lines. They will leak so have rags handy! I wrapped the ends in rags then secured the rags with tape. Pry up the black retainer. Turn the metal retainer. Pull the lines out.
Step 5: Send to Top Hydraulics to be rebuilt!
- Top hydraulics is now a sponsor, woohoo! http://www.tophydraulicsinc.com/en/9-bmw
Main lift hydraulic cylinders removal
Took ~3 hrs to remove the cylinders, longer to install since I ran into trouble installing the gas strut.
Note: Some tools not pictured. Consult the list below.
Note: This is a minimum 2 person job.
- a strong friend (or 2 strong friends if you're not comfortable lifting 150lbs)
- silver sharpie (any hardware store has them)
- ratchet plus short and long extensions
- 7, 8, 10 and 13mm sockets
- 3mm and 5mm allen key
- small allen key (I have a set, forget the size)
- small flat head screw driver
- mini pry bar
The manual lists step 1 as "remove convertible top" and the manual for that lists step 1 as "remove rear interior". Those are not steps! They are several steps! WTF!
Step 1: Remove the rear seat.
- Open the pass through hole.
- Unclip the rear seat from the pass through hole.
- Pull the rear seat bottom up and forward to remove. It is only held in with 2 clips.
- Unbolt the bottom of the rear seat back
- Lift the rear headrests, move the seat belts out of the way, then pull the rear seat back up to remove.
Step 2: Lower the convertible top manually.
- Expose the manual latch control by removing this cover. The cover has clips on top or bottom, so if it won't come off one direction, try the other.
- Retrieve the allen key from the motor under the rear seat bottom:
- Ensure the storage compartment lid is unlocked. Open the motor cover, if the cables are not in this position push the button and use the allen key to turn the motor to the correct position.
- Manually unlatch the top. Keep turning while gently pushing up until the first bend moves freely. The first bend has a latch as well.
Note: You can see my wire harness has been repaired at the bend.
- Fold the top into the storage area.
Step 3: Remove the storage compartment lid.
- Disconnect this. I assume its some sort of radio antenna.
- Mark the position of the 13mm nuts and protect the trunk with a towel (incase you drop the lid). remove the top nut and loosen the lower nut. Lift the storage compartment lid and the lower nut should slide out through the hole.
- Store it somewhere safe (unlike what I did, and now I have to have it repaired :()
Step 4: Remove the rear interior panels.
- What the panels look like together:
- What the rear interior looks like with everything removed. Mounting points and connections for panels circled in red.
- Remove the centre (I'm Canadian, its centre not center!) panel by removing the 2 8mm bolts and pulling the bottom clip out. The top is held in with tabs. Disconnect the speaker.
Note: Buy a few panel clips, you'll break a few removing them. Pn: 51 41 8 224 781
- Disconnect the movable panel on the top panel by reaching under and disconnecting the spring.
- Remove the top panel by removing the 3 7mm bolts and pulling up.
- Remove the lower panel on the drivers side (passenger side can be left installed, and yes I know the picture is of the passenger side! :p) by pulling the 2 clips out. The top should be free after the 7mm bolts were removed.
Step 5: Remove the hardtop install kit, if installed.
- I do not have this kit installed. Here are the locations of the mounting points:
Step 6: Remove the storage compartment lid latches.
- Mark the location of the 5mm allen key bolts then remove them. Be careful not to drop them, or invest in a bendable magnet retrieval tool.
- Unclip the cable. The clip is attached to the cable. Pull it back, its not going to go flying.
- Unclip the cable holder. Press the 2 tabs on either side to release. Sorry for the terrible pics!
- Unclip the cable and pull it into the interior. It needs to be out of the way to remove the top.
Step 7: Remove the top!
- Pull fuse 35 in the glove box, especially if you plan to drive while waiting to get the cylinders back. It is a big red 50 amp fuse that supplies power to most of the convertible system.
- Disconnect the hydraulic lines and unclip them from the body. They will leak so have rags handy! I wrapped the ends in rags then secured the rags with tape.
- Disconnect the electrical connections. The CVM (convertible top module) is on the drivers side, thus why the lower interior panel was removed. Push the black lever to disconnect.
- Remove the 8 13mm nuts. DO NOT REMOVE ANY OTHER NUTS! They are set at the factory!
- Lift! Protect the exterior if you're not sure you can handle the weight. This step requires 2 people (at least, a 3rd is handy).
Main lift cylinders continued...
Note: From this step forward I don't have the best photos cause I have already completed this repair. If anyone has better photos please post them and I'll update the steps.
Step 8: Remove the passenger side main lift cylinder
- Remove the gas strut. Slide the retaining clips off.
WARNING: This strut will be under 100s of lbs of pressure, so its best removed with the top extended.
NOTE: Installing the gas strut is a PITA! Mine was 0.5" too long with the top fully extended. Thus as good Canadians we fashioned a clamping mechanism out of a big-@$$ F-clamp and a drilled out hockey puck. See this post for details: http://www.e46fanatics.com/forum/sho...7&postcount=12
- Remove the pins holding the cylinder. Remove the 2 c-clamps holding the pins in. Slide them out and the cylinder will be free.
- Disconnect the hydraulic lines. They will leak so have rags handy! I wrapped the ends in rags then secured the rags with tape. The lower line is held in with a small hex bolt (use the small allen key, someone please update with the size!). The upper line is held in with a clip, push the remove the clip.
- The cylinder should be free!
Step 9: Remove the driver side main lift cylinder
- Repeat step 8 on the drivers side. There is no gas strut on the driver side (thankfully!). The valve body needs to be unscrewed (3mm hex) to make enough room to work and to remove the lower pin.
Step 10: Send to Top Hydraulics to be rebuilt!
- Top hydraulics is now a sponsor, woohoo! http://www.tophydraulicsinc.com/en/9-bmw
Bow Tension hydraulic cylinders removal and installation
Thanks to raichean for putting together the bow tension cylinders DIY:
Top Hydraulics bow tension cyclinder rebuild and upgrade: http://www.tophydraulicsinc.com/en/b...nsion-e46.html
It seems like line #23 leaking is a common problem. At least 3 members have reported it, so I am going to document how to replace it. The instructions are virtually the same for line #24 as they run side-by-side.
Line #23 runs from the valve block on the driver's side, over one of the tension bars on the top, to the passenger side main lift cylinder. On my vehicle line #23 had no slack between the valve block and the lowest joint (I'll call this the "first bend") nearest the drivers side main lift cylinder. This causes line #23 to be stressed when the rear window is lifted, eventually causing the line to split.
Note: Line #24 had lots of slack on the drivers side, and both line #23 and #24 have lots of slack on the passenger side. This issue seems isolated to line #23 on the drivers side.
How to check line #23:
With the top down pull back this panel on the drivers side (the storage compartment lid does not need to be raised):
Look in this area for a crease in the line. You may have to raise the storage compartment lid (read the main lift cylinder DIY for manual operation of the top) and remove the protective cover (Step 4 of this DIY) to see it clearly. In this photo my line #23 has already been replaced (thus no crease):
Here is line #23 with the protective cover removed. Note the crease and the split on the side.
Replacing the line #23 is straight forward except for 1 issue. The line is routed under 2 plates on each top corner of the tension bar (circled in red).
Note: You do NOT have to dismantle the top as shown in the picture below. The picture is for clarification only.
These plates have a channel that holds the lines securely between the plate and the tension bar. The channel is not wide enough to accommodate the fittings on the ends of the lines. The old line can be removed by cutting one of the fittings off, yet the new line cannot be routed under this plate with the fittings attached.
The plates are attached from the top with 2 rivets. To access these rivets requires removing/loosening the fabric from the top, which requires drilling out many rivets. This is not a solution I'd like to pursue.
My proposed solution is to reroute line #23 around these plates. This requires a longer line to reroute, as well to provide extra slack at the "first bend". Thankfully Top Hydraulics is able to produce a custom extended line #23!
Line #23 replacement
A shop would easily charge 10+ hrs as the proper way to perform this repair involves removing the top from the car and the outer fabric from the top. This took me about 2 hrs and did not have to remove the top from the car, nor the outer fabric from the top, nor the headliner. Some of the steps work in tight spaces, so plan for 3-4 hrs.
Attempt these steps at your own risk. I have done a lot of research on how to reroute line #23 to ensure it does not get pinched and leak. Your results may vary.
- stubby #20 torx screw driver (or small ratchet with bit)
- long bent nose pliers (http://www.canadiantire.ca/AST/brows....jsp?locale=en)
- long flat head screw driver
- rags and tape
- small and medium tiewraps
- fabric tape
- a very bright light
- a friend
I have emphasized a friend as this a 2 person job. One person to hold the top in various positions and the light, while the other removes and replaces the line. While you might be inclined to attempt this on your own and find makeshift ways to support the top in various positions, you risk damaging the top/lines/harness if it moves while you are working.
Step 1: Order an extended line #23
Contact Top Hydraulics to order an extended line #23. It can be ordered here: http://www.tophydraulicsinc.com/en/b...number-23.html
The longer line is needed to reroute the line around the tension bar and provide some slack where the line was crushed and split. The price of the line is $200 (contact Top Hydraulics for current pricing).
Line #23 is #12, part number 54347025598, in this diagram. It comes with Line #24 and runs ~$275
Win, win, win. Saving $75, not having an extra useless line (#24), and the extended line solves the issue.
Note: The line is 5 cm longer. 1 cm to provide extra slack at the "first bend" and 2x 2 cm to allow the line to be rerouted at the corners of the tension bar.
Step 2: Remove the rear interior trim
Follow Step 2 and 4 from this DIY to lower the top manually and remove the rear interior trim.
Note: The lower portion of the rear interior trim does NOT have to be removed.
Note: The rear seat does NOT have to be removed. It does help to remove the seat to reinstall the top rear trim.
Step 3: Disconnect line #23 from the valve block.
The lines are held in with a metal retainer which turns to lock the lines in. A black plastic tab locks the metal retainer in place. Using the long bent needle nose pliers pry up the black retainer, turn the metal retainer, and pull line #23 out. They will leak so have rags handy! I wrapped the ends in rags then secured the rags with tape. Access the valve block with the pliers here:
In the next photo I have removed the top from the car and removed the valve block from the top (you do not need to do this) so I could show how and where the lines connect. I've already removed the black plastic retainer and turned the metal retainer.
Reinstallation note: Reinstalling line #23 will test your patience. It is possible to insert line #23 into the valve block and attach the black plastic retainer without removing the top. It is much easier with the top removed from the car if you run out of patience (follow the steps in the Main Lift Cylinder DIY to remove the top from the car).
How it looks with the top and valve block installed in the car:
Step 4: Remove the protective cover at the first bend.
Remove the 4 #20 torx screws holding down the plate. Note: one screw may be shorter than the rest.
Pull line #23 out as far as possible and hold to the side. Reinstall the plate to protect line #24 and the harness before proceeding.
Reinstallation note: When reinstalling this cover after installing the new line #23 be sure to leave some extra slack to the valve block.
Step 5: Cut the zip ties up the C-pillar
Note: A member reported that he was able to remove line #23 without cutting these zipties. On my vehicle the zipties were so tight the line would not budge. Please review Step 6 before deciding if these zipties need to be cut.
Move the top into this position. Note the red circle, you will be working in that area in step 6.
Note: Do NOT rest the storage lid against the top as pictured. Have a friend hold it and the top, otherwise you risk damaging the top if it moves when performing steps 5 and 6.
Note: This is the position that worked best for me. Adjust the position to what works best for you to see the area being worked on. This is where having a friend is beneficial.
Inspect the back of the C-pillar to see how the lines run. In this photo I have removed line #23, the line pictured is line #24:
Find these 2 zipties on the front of the C-pillar and cut them.
Reinstallation note: The first ziptie will probably be impossible to reinstall, the second is just above my finger in the photo of the back of the C-pillar.
Step 6: Deal with the "issue"
Find this area on the inside where the red circle was in step 5. Note the line will not fit through this channel with the fitting attached. Cut the fitting off and pull the line through.
The line clips on 4 spots along the top tension bar. Unclip the line and pull through the passenger side. Be careful of dripping hydraulic fluid with the fitting cut off.
If you need more room to work you can loosen the headliner and the strings that hold the batwings. The headliner and batwing strings are held in with various #20 torx screws, here are 2 good ones to remove to gain more space:
Reinstallation note: To reinstall line #23 it must be rerouted around the protective plate. First review how the line is routed (this is the passenger side, repeat on both sides):
Start with the clips on the top of the tension bar and route the new line #23 down rather than across:
Next route the line along the back edge of the protective plate. The line should cross a small hole in a cross member.
Note: The cross member is welded to the tension bar, so it does not move and should be safe to secure the line to.
Note: The cross member supports a joint. The hole is positioned far enough away from the joint that the new route for line #23 should not interfere with the joint.
Use fabric tape to protect the line from the cross member, and a small tiewrap to secure the line at the hole.
Use a medium tiewrap to secure line #23 to line #24 where the other red circle is. Reach around this area and feel for line #24. The protective rubber sleeve is anchored at this location, so it is safe to tiewrap line #23 and 24 to this.
Note: Only pull the tiewraps "snug", don't squish the lines.
Done! The line is rerouted! Move the top manually and double check that the line does not interfere or get stretched.
Step 7: Repeat steps 5 then 4 on the passenger side.
Step 8: Disconnect Line #23 from the passenger side main lift cylinder
Use the long flat screwdriver to push off this clip. If the clip is facing the other way just spin it. Then pull up the line to remove. The line will leak so have rags handy!
Reinstall line #23:
To reinstall line #23 follow steps 3-8 and the reinstallation notes. Start from the drivers side so that if you need any more/less line it can be sacrificed from the passenger side. The line on the passenger side from the "first bend" to the main lift cylinder has lots of room to leave extra slack, or take some slack away.
When I reinstalled the drivers side main lift cylinder I made the mistake of attaching the lines, shoving the cylinder into place, inserting the pins, then not double checking the lines. Line #21 got pinched between the cylinder and the frame of the top causing a fitting to bend. Surprisingly the line is still 100% functional, no leaks. I replaced it as a precaution.
Lesson learned, double check everything!
Here's some pics of how line #21 and #22 route. They look very complex in the parts diagram(#11: http://www.realoem.com/bmw/showparts...76&hg=54&fg=10) yet they are just a small loop from the valve block to the main lift cylinder.
I could probably string some pics together and maybe raid shop pics for pointers and write up a DIY. It is startlingly easy actually.
Is that something you would want?
I took all the photos for the main lift cylinders post repair. I'm sure pics while reinstalling the bow tension cylinders will be great for a DIY.
Sent from my Nexus 7 using Bimmer App
This is amazing... Thank you for documenting it...
Mods: this thread should be stickied or *******-ed :)
Got my bow cylinders back yesterday from Klause and they are installed and everything is working GREAT! I have like 45 pics of the reinstallation process and will be building out the DIY removal guide in the next couple of days. Pretty much a complete cake walk!
Hey guys.. question:
I have completed the first draft of my DIY guide for the bow cylinders in a Word Doc format, and getting it reviewed by Klaus and a couple of other folks for content. Its formatted out pretty well in a document form and I would have to do a lot of cut n paste, image web hosting and the like to get it here? Is it better to post the link to the doc, post the guide here in replies, or both? I can and will do both if that is what folks want but the doc is pretty solid.
If someone could make my DIYs into PDFs that would be awesome too!
Sounds good, I want to get it reviewed to make sure it all makes sense or I didn't miss anything obvious. Actually, Taylor, you want to read the draft given your experience with the other pieces? help review? Shoot me a message and I will email it to you.
co-hosting the DIY instructions on Top Hydraulics' website
thank you in the first place for the instructions you have already prepared - you are a real blessing for this forum!
raichean has sent me a copy of his draft already, and he did an awesome job - entertaining to read and very detailed.
raichean has graciously agreed that Top Hydraulics can host his DIYs on their website's DIY section http://www.tophydraulicsinc.com/en/c...y-instructions - we will post them shortly. It would be great if you could allow us to do the same with your portion. :)
Once raichean's DIY has been added to this thread, I will add some comments about hydraulic fluid and the seal decay process, just to round off the thread.
Happy to help and will keep tweaking the guide to make it more clear. First suggestion is format the pics a little bigger, which will take some reformatting, but can do that. Waiting on feedback from a couple of other folks and then hopefully it will be good to post!
We really should get this thread stickied! My guide is done and sent off to Klaus for hosting! Thanks again to the help from everyone on this as I literally couldn't have done it without them!
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