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E46 Touring
The E46 touring forum. Talk about your sport wagon E46 here.

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Old 10-08-2011, 10:51 AM   #1
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Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: New Rochelle, NY
Posts: 1,010
My Ride: 2011 328iT 3 pedals
DIY: Touring Luggage Rack Removal (Detailed)

I removed the luggage rack from my 2005 325iT. The standard luggage rack roof rails have three open rectangular slots where the luggage rack hardware goes through to be screwed to the roof. With the rack and mounting hardware removed, you can either cover those with electrical tape or by some other means, or you can remove them entirely and buy the roof rails designed by BMW for European wagons without a luggage rack, which look very similar to BMW sedan roof rails except they are made for the longer roof of the wagon.

I bought my European roof rails from Patrick Casey at BMWPartsSource.com for a low price when his parts department was moving to a new building.

Here’s what I bought:
51-13-8-208-775 ROOF MOLDING PRIME-COATED LEFT 1 $69.70
51-13-8-208-776 ROOF MOLDING PRIME-COATED RIGHT 1 $69.70

The shipping for these two parts plus another lightweight and small unrelated part I ordered was $20 total, so this modification costs less than $160 to remove about 10 pounds of unneeded wind-resisting weight from the car. You will need at least a box cutter or blade, a T40 and T30 Torx driver, preferably with a T handle, a small and large flat head screwdriver, and a step to enable you to stand comfortably on the side of your car working on the luggage rack.

Steps 1 to 6 took me at least an hour. Steps 7 to 18 took about 3 hours, including the 1 hour to wash the car, but I am very careful and slow at this type of work, and I took some pictures, unfortunately not for every step. The steps I took to complete this modification are as follows:

1. On the inside of the luggage rack rails on each side are three rubber flaps covering one T40 Torx screw each. Open the rubber flap on the top side with a fingernail or small flat head screwdriver to gain access to the Torx screw. Carefully remove the Torx screw, preferably with a T handle Torx T40 driver. I found the heads very easy to slip, so be very careful not to let the driver slip and strip the Torx screw head.

2. Remove the luggage rack rails by lifting straight up. They come off very easily.

3. Next you will see the hardware mounting the T40 screws above the roof rails sticking out like small ears. You will have to pry the roof rails off by pulling them straight up. I used a large flat head screwdriver to pry near the luggage rear rack mount first, then just continued down the rail lifting them straight up with my hands.

4. With the roof rails off, there are two T30 Tork screws exposed on each hardware mount that need to be removed. Again, use a T handle or socket wrench with a good grip to avoid striping any Tork heads.

5. Remove the hardware mounts and the gaskets and rubber underneath them. I stored all of the mounting hardware in a bag in case I want to remount the luggage rack again someday.

6. Next, remove the new rails and all hardware onto an area where they can be assembled. I used a carpeted floor. There are no instructions for assembly, but I laid one of my old rails next to the new one as a guide.

7. Using the old rail as a guide, press the new plastic mounting clips into the new rails in approximately the same position on the rail as the old one. Most of the clips are white and one or two are black. I duplicated the position and color of the original.

8. The old rails had a large cushioned pad taped to the rear end of the rail. There were two double sided and thinner pads included for each rail, which I stacked to duplicate a thinner cushion for the new rails.

9. There are rubber “L” shaped seals that need to be pressed into each side of the new rails. Start by aligning the toothed part of the seal with the slots in the end of one side of the rail and work from the end to the front by pressing each seal into the rail slot. Look at the old rail to get an idea of the proper mounting of the seal so that one side of the seal slides into the rail slot and the other part faces upward, sort of like a soffit fitting under your house roof, only the rail is not going to cover the top of the seal.

10. When you finish pressing the seals into the rails, make sure the seal reaches each end of the rail, and pull or push the seal as necessary to reach both ends. The seal probably will be much longer than the rail, so trim the excess off to be slightly longer than the rail, but no more than than 1/8th inch or so, than equal to the entire length of the rail. You can also leave the excess there and trim it with a blade once the rails are mounted, but I think it is easier to trim before mounting.

11. The new rails have two rectangular slots which are very fragile and were slightly bent on mine. I straighten those out as best as I could. Those rectangles are to be covered by small hinged doors included in the kit. There are straight wire pins for each door which need to be threaded through the hole on one long side of each door. Push the pins through until nothing is visible on one end of the door.

12. Next, mount the door in the rectangular rail opening by placing the door and pin through the opening with the hinge pin on the side of the rail with a slot that holds the pin. This is the side of the rail which is thickest and if you look closely, only one side has a slot for the pin. Slide the door and pin in place and then push the pin so that it is mounted with the door in the middle of the pin, and press the pin against the rail slot firmly.

13. Next you will find mounting clips which fit over the rectangular doors. One side of the clip is very thin, so I aligned that side with the opening side of the doors. I positioned the clips to fit more or less the same way the neighboring clips fit, but centered over the door opening. After this step, the rails are ready to be mounted on the car.

14. I washed my car once the old rails were removed. You will probably find years of dirt and dust in those rails, so now is the time to get that area clean. While I was at it, I also washed the whole car and even the old rails, so that I could put them away as clean parts.

15. Take each rail and position it over the roof rail slot. You probably mixed them up like I did, but just position them gently over the roof and see if it fits, otherwise move it to the other side. The fat side of the rail is at the rear of the roof.

16. Take each rail and tilt it enough to see if the plastic mounting clips are over the body mounts in the roof. If not, then slide the clips until they look like they are centered on the body mounts.

17. With each rail mounted gently in place, press straight down where the clips are and it should clip into place.

18. Take pictures of your new roof. These rails are advertised as “prime coated”. I did not paint mine, but I will probably remove them for painting later, either in flat black trim paint or the color of the roof paint. I might take it to a body shop for that if the price is reasonable.

19. Last step will be to pack up and store the old luggage rack and hardware, or sell them. The door flaps on the new rails expose mounting points for removable rails which can probably be purchased at Thule or BMW. I have not looked into that so far.

Hope this helps someone else who wants to do this.
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Old 10-10-2011, 10:19 AM   #2
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Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: USA - GA
Posts: 1,993
My Ride: '04 330i 6mt ZSP ZPP
Very nice. Roof rails on a wagon are one of those things I never thought about removing. Did they come standard on all E46 wagons?
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Old 10-10-2011, 10:25 AM   #3
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Location: New Rochelle, NY
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My Ride: 2011 328iT 3 pedals
Thanks for the compliments!

It is my understanding that the luggage rack was standard on US Tourings. I speculate that the rack was an option outside the US, otherwise I doubt that these parts would ever have been engineered and offered to the US BMW parts departments. We are lucky that they were offered.
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Old 10-23-2011, 04:38 PM   #4
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Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: New Rochelle, NY
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My Ride: 2011 328iT 3 pedals
Here's an added benefit:

Last three tanks urban MPG before rack removal: 19.3
Last three tanks urban MPG after rack removal: 20.3

Previous three highest MPG of any highway tanks before rack removal: 24.1 (highest was 25.1)

Current three highest MPG of any highway tanks after rack removal: 27.1 MPG (highest was 28.0 MPG).

I am pleased with the increased MPG!
BMWCCA member since 1990

Last edited by tootall; 10-23-2011 at 04:39 PM.
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Old 10-28-2011, 11:34 PM   #5
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Chicago
Posts: 232
My Ride: 325it ESS TX-2
Originally Posted by LeMansteve View Post
Very nice. Roof rails on a wagon are one of those things I never thought about removing. Did they come standard on all E46 wagons?
Yepp, standard on wagons
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