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DIY: Do It Yourself
Post here to share or improve your wrench turning skills! All BMW E46 DIY tips, tales, and projects discussed inside. Learn to work on your car and know the right BMW parts you will need!

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Old 12-01-2009, 02:45 AM   #1
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Smile Add BMW Console Cup Holders To Your E46 Rear Armrest! A Pictorial DIY

I did this DIY in under 30 minutes. Using only some kitchen knives, a box cutter and tape measure. It was so easy that I didn't even have to use glue as it was an entirely cut, plug in and play experience.

Total cost was about $40 for the BMW Cup Holder Unit. Results are OEM clean since I only used BMW parts and very functional since these cup holders actually grip and hold your all drinks in place!

Enjoy.





PROLOGUE:
This DIY is about 12 years late. Since 1998 BMW dropped the rear console /cup holders as they went from E36 to E46. Our E46 lack the rear seat amenities that I enjoyed as an E36 driver. As a driver I used the rear cup holders more than anyone else in my car for keeping extra supply of water or drinks on hand (or even using the rear cup holders for my drinks and reserving the front console cup holders for other things like cell phones and iPods.
Now after about a year of planning this DIY I finally figured out the best way to keep my car OEM fresh and install a rear functional armrest cup holder. I dropped the idea of using lots of aftermarket cup holders and console trays and went with a cup holder unit from another BMW. Note: The dealership have special console/cup holder armrest for the E46 sedans at about $600 to $700 a pop. Some E46 Premium Wagons also come with a rear console armrest.
So I went on eBay and found a curious little unit that original came with the E38 7 series. On the 7 series it is BMW Parts # 51168212131 (Rear Seat Can Holder aka Cup Holder) and it is inserted into the center of the lower seat cushion so that your right or left seated rear passengers can reach down and pop open this little holder and insert cups. This cup holder is very hi tech and actually holds cups from 12 oz coffee cups to 16 oz Poland Spring water bottles to 32 oz big gulps via springy rubber grips.




I picked mine up from eBay for around $40. There are lots of them in Grey and Tan on eBay ranging from $19-starting bid to $125-Buy It Now. Don't pay more than $50 on eBay and make sure the one you buy have functioning holders as the springy grips can be broken off or loose on used units. The dealership also sells them for around $180.


DIY:
This DIY took me about 1 year to plan and build up the courage to cut into my car's fine leather and about 20 minutes to complete from start to finish.
Tools needed;
Box cutter or similar style blade: For cutting leather (don't use a serrated knife or kitchen knife)
Serrated Knife or Kitchen knife: For gouging out the inner foam.
Tape measure (get one with centimeters) and Sharpie marker to setting up your cut outline
Cheap scotch tape: The ones from the 99 Cents store that don't really stick to anything but have a dry thin cloudy skin that you can mark on with the sharpie pen
Index card or paper: For your test pattern if you care to test out your cut pattern before cutting the leather.
Enjoy.
ImageShack -

PART ONE: Removing and taking a close look at the Armrest








PART TWO: Cutting the leather











Last edited by delmarco; 12-01-2009 at 02:51 AM.
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Old 12-01-2009, 02:45 AM   #2
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PART THREE: Scooping out the foam and fitting Cup Holder into cushion




[img] http://img31.imageshack.us/img31/6276/parttres4.jpg [/img]






PART FOUR: Finishing up










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Old 12-01-2009, 02:56 AM   #3
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sweet man. thats awesome! im gonna do this
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Old 12-01-2009, 03:25 AM   #4
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Nice
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Old 12-01-2009, 05:18 AM   #5
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too bad this is only applicable to those with the fat armrests. mines like half the size of yours
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Old 12-01-2009, 06:16 AM   #6
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fantastic writeup!
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Old 12-01-2009, 07:51 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sna77 View Post
fantastic writeup!
Thanks. the write up took longer to do than the actual DIY (I think this is a first for me). I went into this DIY after a year of contemplating and building up my courage to cut the leather and after 30 minutes I was done and I was like "that was easy".

I'm getting PMs about the glue.

1. I got a heavy duty fabric/automotive glue called Beacon's Multi-Grip ($10 for a 2oz bottle) but I haven't used it yet so I can't fully recommend it but it was recommended to me by the hardware shop clerk. Whatever glue you use make sure it can glue soft fabric (leather) to hard surface (plastic/metal).

2. The glue will not function to hold the cup holder in place at the foam part. The glue's MAIN job in the case of this DIY will be to keep the leather flushed and sealed against the unit's lip. The inner foam is such high quality it literally grips and holds the unit firmly in place. All the glue will do is keep the leather part of the armrest sealed up tightly against the lip of the unit so the leather doesn't stretch or leave gaps. Gluing will also help keep the corners where you cut the leather from expanding overtime.

3. I have not applied glue at the time of this writing so I can swap out my unit and put another unit in it's place (say if I wanted to use a different color cup holder for example). Gluing would most likely make the DIY permanent for the cup holder you decide to glue down unless you can figure out how to safely un-glue the cup holder's metal frame from the leather.
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Last edited by delmarco; 12-01-2009 at 07:55 AM.
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Old 12-01-2009, 07:57 AM   #8
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Just checked my armrest... it is noticeably thinner... ?

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Old 12-01-2009, 08:03 AM   #9
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Great DIY

I allready have cupholders in the back armrest , Premium Wagon owner
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Old 12-01-2009, 08:13 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by sna77 View Post
Just checked my armrest... it is noticeably thinner... ?



Mine is thin as well. I believe it is because we have the ski pass through, and Delmarco does not. I'm definitely tired of hearing passengers bi**ing about no cup holders...maybe there's a lower profile solution that we can dig up.
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Old 12-01-2009, 08:26 AM   #11
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Thats an awesome diy! great write-up!!
I will definately be needing extra cup-holders since I will be "deleting" one of the front ones to install 3d SpaceNavigator.
Thanks for more ideas
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Old 12-01-2009, 08:38 AM   #12
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Great write up!
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Old 12-01-2009, 08:48 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sna77 View Post
Just checked my armrest... it is noticeably thinner... ?

what is that black thing?
looks like a medieval torture device.

EDIT: nevamind I see it is a baby seat
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Old 12-01-2009, 08:52 AM   #14
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nice write up and it looks clean!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrews2nd3 View Post
Mine is thin as well. I believe it is because we have the ski pass through, and Delmarco does not. I'm definitely tired of hearing passengers bi**ing about no cup holders...maybe there's a lower profile solution that we can dig up.
they're lucky enough to ride in our cars
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Old 12-01-2009, 09:50 AM   #15
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what is that black thing?
looks like a medieval torture device.

EDIT: nevamind I see it is a baby seat


Yup... welcome to a backseat for an infant:

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Old 12-01-2009, 10:28 AM   #16
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About time! JJ Great writeup and DIY, Del! Have you tried to put a fully loaded Big Gulp into the holder? I'm wondering if there is any sagging of the holder due to the weight of the cup and drink. It would be great if you reported back with that experiment.
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Old 12-01-2009, 01:22 PM   #17
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Quote:
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About time! JJ Great writeup and DIY, Del! Have you tried to put a fully loaded Big Gulp into the holder? I'm wondering if there is any sagging of the holder due to the weight of the cup and drink. It would be great if you reported back with that experiment.
Yes. I don't make a habit of carrying loaded Big Gulps anywhere with me
but I can understand the need for that haunt my fellow Americans this so I loaded the Big Gulp with water and ice and tested. Here are the results of that test.

POSITIVES: The holder rubber fingers grip the cup well even even though condensation formed on the outside making the cup plastic surface slippery. The holder by itself is made of some sort of cast iron steel so it is pretty heavy (about 1.5 - 2 lbs) and sturdy on it's own. In fact, it probably doubles the weight of the armrest when added to the armrest.

There was no sagging on the holder off the armrest either. My DIY application pretty much mimics the OEM application of the cup holder unit. So expect it to perform in your car as it originally did in a BMW E38 740il. Again this is not a cheap or shoddy plastic holder that you find on other cars. It is all metal/rubber with little plastic and very sturdy.

NEGATIVES: The low profile of the finger grips does indeed have a low center of gravity grip on the Big Gulp. The diameter of the bottom portion of the Big Gulp is about 50% narrower than the diameter of top rim so the weight and volume distribution of the liquid in a fully loaded Big Gulp will reflect this contrast. As a result the top heaviness of a full Big Gulp will strain the rubber grip and with condensation on the outer surface of the Big Gulp making the surface slippery the Big Gulp will become extremely unstable during rough driving and harsh breaking. It will be fine in normal driving conditions.

However your rear passenger sitting there can easily reach and secure the Big Gulp and rest their arm comfortably on the armrest body at the same time.

Hence a fully loaded Big Gulp should not be left unattended in the rear seat console cup holder during rough and harsh driving.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sna77 View Post
Yup... welcome to a backseat for an infant:

You have kids SNA77? Cool. You must be excited to have the little hands at your disposal for future DIYs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sna77 View Post
Just checked my armrest... it is noticeably thinner... ?
You been driving your car all these years and just now opened down the rear armrest?
Say it isn't so. lol.
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Old 12-01-2009, 02:53 PM   #18
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Daytime pictures:

EPILOGUE: I'm very happy with this DIY modification. It does exactly what I need it to and allow me to carry extra bottle water in my car whiles reserving my front cup holder for my mobile phone, iPod, morning coffee or even a permanent euro tray. I still need to glue the front lip onto the leather, but it works 100% fine as is. This DIY basically imitates the original function that this cup holder did in the E38 740il. It functioned well in a 7 series and it functions well in my 3 series.











http://img205.imageshack.us/g/xdscn9020x.jpg/
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Old 12-01-2009, 03:02 PM   #19
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Wow, nice detailed thread. You're huge asset to this forum.
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Old 12-01-2009, 04:23 PM   #20
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Did you explore the possibility of adding it into the seat, like it was on the 740? This might be a viable option for those of us with the ski pass through. The only problem I'd foresee is a possible interference with the seat frame or springs...
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