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E46 Convertible
The E46 vert forum. Talk about dropping your E46 top here.

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Old 03-03-2013, 08:15 PM   #1
raichean
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Convertible top leaking something? oil?

Hey guys.. I bought an e46 M3 roughly three weeks ago now, 2004, 41k miles and in nearly perfect condition.

I noticed something odd though the first time I had the top down. There was this drip spot on the back cover, looked kinda oily. *shrug* I cleaned it off and ignored it. Top down a few days later.. hmm.. drop spot is back, cleaned it, and started paying attention.

Its definitely dripping something.. but what, where, how, I don't know. This is the 3rd BMW convertible I have owned and the two previous didn't ever have this issue.

I have included pics below showing location, and the color on my fingers.. really odd.

Suggestions?

WP_20130303_003

WP_20130303_002

WP_20130303_001
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Old 03-03-2013, 11:45 PM   #2
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The e46 top is hydraulic, what you're seeing is hydraulic fluid leaking from the bow tension cylinders onto the top compartment lid.

The hydraulic fluid will ruin the vinyl top compartment lid when up, or ruin the convertible top material if down. I suggest you learn how to manually operate the top and pull the 50 amp fuse for the top. The top self presurizes when you start the car, even when the top is up, and this will cause fluid to continue to leak. Pulling the fuse prevents this.

Next manually open the top enough that the back window folds forward and you'll see the bow tension cylinders on either side of the window. Wrap the leaking one with towels until you decide how to fix it, then close the top manually.

There's a few threads on fixing the bow tension cylinders. There are 2 types, figure out which you have and the course of action to fix.

This should be enough for you to search and find everything else you'll need in this forum. Please search, there's more great info than we can hope to cover in a few replies.

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Old 03-04-2013, 08:31 AM   #3
raichean
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Thank you so much for the info! I will start digging and see what I can find out as it is something I would love to repair ASAP then.
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Old 03-04-2013, 10:31 AM   #4
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Yup.. here is the problem child. The oil appears to be leaking from the upper joint in these pics (so lower then the top is in place) There is little to no oil on the other end of the armature. I am *sincerely* hoping this piece will come off easily and will read up all of the guides and PDFs I found in the other threads.

-update- reading now.. oh please oh please tell me I don't have to take the whole top off!? Looks like simple clips holding that arm on, unhook then it comes off, but what is unclear is if the whole top needs to come off?


appears to be leaking from the arrow on the armature and then dropping down the frame piece to that joint (the upper arrow) where it drops to the cover below.

WP_20130304_001



Closeup of the leak.

WP_20130304_002


WP_20130304_003

Last edited by raichean; 03-04-2013 at 10:56 AM.
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Old 03-04-2013, 11:31 AM   #5
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Unfortunately I don't think the lines are removable from that cylinder, so you'll have to tackle removing the cylinder and lines together.

Unfortunately that probably means removing the top from the car to remove the lines from the valve block. It seems more daunting than it is. 2 people with decent automotive knowledge can have the entire top removed in 2 hours. I replaced my main hydraulic lift cylinders, so I feel your pain yet its not that bad once you get into it.
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Old 03-04-2013, 11:34 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by taylor192 View Post
Unfortunately I don't think the lines are removable from that cylinder, so you'll have to tackle removing the cylinder and lines together.

Unfortunately that probably means removing the top from the car to remove the lines from the valve block. It seems more daunting than it is. 2 people with decent automotive knowledge can have the entire top removed in 2 hours. I replaced my main hydraulic lift cylinders, so I feel your pain yet its not that bad once you get into it.
*shudder*

I hope not.. this is my DD, so really hoping to not have it down for that long though with the weather getting better, I could tear it apart and use my sport bike until its repaired.
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Old 03-04-2013, 11:45 AM   #7
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What you're going to be looking for is BMW part number 54347025600, it's the hydraulic cylinder which is leaking, the lines which come attached, and fluid. I have it avaible HERE

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Old 03-04-2013, 11:57 AM   #8
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Holy $1k BATMAN! Looks like I should tear about both of them and send to rebuild!
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Old 03-04-2013, 12:19 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by raichean View Post
*shudder*

I hope not.. this is my DD, so really hoping to not have it down for that long though with the weather getting better, I could tear it apart and use my sport bike until its repaired.
The top is only held in with 8 nuts, 2 hydraulic connections, and 5 electrical connections. I removed my top, removed the hydraulic cylinders, then reinstalled the top (just the 8 nuts, not the hydraulic or electrical connections) and manually closed it. This allowed me to use my car while waiting for the cylinders to be rebuilt.

It only takes 30 mins to reinstall the top and manually close if it you don't reinstall everything (ie leave the rear interior out, or just reinstall the seat and leave the side panels off). So it cost me an extra hr, yet my car was driveable while waiting and only cost ~$250 to repair ($110 each plus shipping to rebuild).

Definitely pull the fuses if you do this.

Last edited by taylor192; 03-04-2013 at 12:20 PM.
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Old 03-04-2013, 01:19 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by taylor192 View Post
The top is only held in with 8 nuts, 2 hydraulic connections, and 5 electrical connections. I removed my top, removed the hydraulic cylinders, then reinstalled the top (just the 8 nuts, not the hydraulic or electrical connections) and manually closed it. This allowed me to use my car while waiting for the cylinders to be rebuilt.

It only takes 30 mins to reinstall the top and manually close if it you don't reinstall everything (ie leave the rear interior out, or just reinstall the seat and leave the side panels off). So it cost me an extra hr, yet my car was driveable while waiting and only cost ~$250 to repair ($110 each plus shipping to rebuild).

Definitely pull the fuses if you do this.
If the rear interior needs to come out as well, I gotta pull the back seat to repair a seatbelt clip (I broke after like 2 days gRRRRRRR) anyway, so could combine all of that in one shot.

If I can coordinate with my bike and good weather, I could take the top off and leave it off until the parts come back.

Dang it though.. SIGH.
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Old 03-04-2013, 01:51 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by raichean View Post
If the rear interior needs to come out as well, I gotta pull the back seat to repair a seatbelt clip (I broke after like 2 days gRRRRRRR) anyway, so could combine all of that in one shot.

If I can coordinate with my bike and good weather, I could take the top off and leave it off until the parts come back.

Dang it though.. SIGH.
Its only about a week for the parts to come back after being rebuilt.

The back seat is easy to remove. The bottom just pulls out, the back has 2 nuts holding the bottom then just pull up to release the back from the slots it fits into. I reinstalled the seats and left the side panels off since the rear seat is so easy to install/remove.
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Old 03-04-2013, 04:31 PM   #12
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More info based on your questions. I have a couple threads where I've been documenting everything, so check those too.

Rear seat, easy to remove.

Rear side panels, they come off in 3 pieces: middle, bottom, top. There's a Youtube video of installing speakers in a e46 vert that helps, yet essentially its:
- Manually lower top into storage compartment
- Remove screws from under armrest, pull middle section out
- Remove screws from along edge of top, they hold the top and bottom together.
- Remove weather stripping from top section.
- Remove springs that attach the covers (that move with the top) on the top section.
- Pull lower section up and away to remove (you can leave the passenger side lower section installed... I think)
- Pull upper section up to remove (top must be lowered, otherwise its in the way)
- Buy a bunch of interior clips, you'll break them removing these panels (typical when removing any interior panel)

Convertible top removal:
- Pull big ass 50 amp fuse 35 (I think, please double check)
- Manually unlatch top from windshield
- Fold up back window
- Fold up storage lid, disconnect sensor, mark location of 4 nuts. Loosen nuts and remove spacers (keep track of how many on each side). Remove nuts and set storage lid aside.
- Remove hardtop install kit (if installed). 2 bolts and 1 electrical connection per side.
- Remove storage lid latches. Mark the location and remove the 2 bolts. With the latch loose disconnect the cable (looks like bicycle brake/shifter cable) end by pulling back the metal end, then disconnect the square cable holder by pressing the sides of the black square together.
- Pull the cable into the interior so its not in the way when removing the top.
- Disconnect the hydraulic lines in the black box on drivers side in the storage compartment. Wrap with towels and tape so they don't leak fluid everywhere.
- Disconnect the electronics for the top. 1 connection per side, 1 main connect on drivers side near seat bottom.
- Mark the location then remove 4 nuts on each side of the top. 1 faces the front (under the top section of trim removed) the other 3 are in the storage compartment. It'll be obvious which ones NOT to remove. The top has metal brackets that attach to supports in the storage compartment. These supports are then attached to the cars with nuts that are set from the factory for alignment of the top. DO NOT REMOVE THESE!
- Fold the top into the storage compartment. Be careful that the supports for the storage lid don't get in the way.
- Lift the entire top out! This is a 2 or 3 person job, do NOT attempt by yourself as the top weighs ~150 lbs.

After fixing everything you'll probably need to top up the fluid in the reservoir in the trunk. Search, its easy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by raichean
Sorry for the million questions.. just trying to accurately determine if this is something I can do, or have partially done by a local shop.
You could definitely remove the interior yourself to save some time at the shop. Worst case if you cannot figure it out after getting into it, bolt the top down, manually close it and drive it to a shop with all the parts.
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Old 03-05-2013, 07:53 AM   #13
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Thank you so much for all of the information. I am building out documentation and this is the core of it to, I hope, do this work myself. None of the local shops are instilling any confidence in them doing the work, and also saying 7 hours of shop time.
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Old 03-05-2013, 10:11 AM   #14
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Thank you so much for all of the information. I am building out documentation and this is the core of it to, I hope, do this work myself. None of the local shops are instilling any confidence in them doing the work, and also saying 7 hours of shop time.
7 hrs of shop time would be fair. I have about that much time in and still need to reinstall the rear interior.
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Old 03-05-2013, 10:45 AM   #15
raichean
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Oh dude.. my friend of a friend, uber drifter and car guy, does all of his own work including welding just got maybe offered to help!! YEAH!
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Old 03-18-2013, 10:19 PM   #16
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Just a quick update.. based on conversations with several forum members, I was absolutely able to get both bow tension cylinders, plus the hoses from the right one, out WITHOUT having to take the top off entirely! The whole removal process actually took me about 45min, and that was because I was going super slowly and carefully. I could have probably done it in 15min!

But so they are out, boxed up and off to Klaus of Top Hydraulics tomorrow!
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Old 03-19-2013, 10:49 AM   #17
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Thumbs Up bow tension cylinder removal with the top in place

Quote:
Originally Posted by raichean View Post
Just a quick update.. based on conversations with several forum members, I was absolutely able to get both bow tension cylinders, plus the hoses from the right one, out WITHOUT having to take the top off entirely! The whole removal process actually took me about 45min, and that was because I was going super slowly and carefully. I could have probably done it in 15min!

But so they are out, boxed up and off to Klaus of Top Hydraulics tomorrow!
raichean,

that's great news about being able to remove the bow tension cylinders so easily! This forum is awesome - please keep in mind that a single, instructive post early in the game can help many hundreds (if not thousands) of convertible owners in saving lots of work or money.

You might be surprised at how many shops are reading these threads, and how some good DIYs can help in making shop labor more affordable. It's good for everyone!

With all of this in mind, do you think you could create a DIY for bow tension cylinder removal without having to take off the top?

Many thanks,

Klaus

P.S. BMW also calls the bow tension cylinder a "Rear Folding Top Cylinder", and it is sometimes referred to as the "Fifth Bow Cylinder".
Part numbers:
(Right side) 54 34 7 025 600 aka 54347025600
(Left side) 54 34 7 025 599 aka 54347025599

Current price for rebuild at Top Hydraulics Inc is $110/ea. plus $10 shipping per order (domestic Priority Mail). Our turn around time currently averages about a day. That's paying a fraction of new price for getting back a better part!

What goes bad in these cylinders are the cup-shaped rod seals made of polyurethane. Top Hydraulics replaces them with custom made cup seals of a far superior material, that will make your old, leaking cylinders far better than new ones. Top Hydraulics' seals are resistant to water and aging hydraulic fluid.

www.tophydraulicsinc.com
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Some BMW E46 hydraulic cylinders, pumps, and valves that we rebuild and upgrade at Top Hydraulics:
54347025593
54347025600
54347025599
54348236956
54348243269
5434-8234530 (hydro-unit)
54347025592 (control unit)
54347025598 (improved hoses manufactured at Top Hydraulics)
http://www.tophydraulicsinc.com/en/56-bmw-e46
www.tophydraulicsinc.com

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Old 03-19-2013, 10:52 AM   #18
raichean
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No problem in writing up even a simple DIY though to do it right I will need to take some pics of the process for it to make sense I bet. Honestly really simple and took probably 45min with me going VERY slowly, and could probably be 15min with a writeup.

I will try to get that going in the next couple of days, or as soon as I can coble some pics together.
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Old 03-19-2013, 10:53 AM   #19
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Wow again to the forum!

I got side tracked while I was writing the previous post, and raichean already posted a response to the aforementioned DIYs during that time. Excellent - thank you!

Klaus
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Some BMW E46 hydraulic cylinders, pumps, and valves that we rebuild and upgrade at Top Hydraulics:
54347025593
54347025600
54347025599
54348236956
54348243269
5434-8234530 (hydro-unit)
54347025592 (control unit)
54347025598 (improved hoses manufactured at Top Hydraulics)
http://www.tophydraulicsinc.com/en/56-bmw-e46
www.tophydraulicsinc.com

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Old 03-30-2013, 11:09 AM   #20
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Wow!! Great write up. Thank you for keeping the thread open and explaining in detail how you went about fixing your top. Mine as well has been leaking and was dreading the "stealers" cost of replacing the bow tensioners. I will be removing my tensioners and sending them out to TopHydraulics for rebuild.

@Klaus.... Do you have customers from Canada? Is there a problem with over border clients? I am from Montreal, Canada.

Thanks...

Mike
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