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BMW DIY Video – E46 Door Panel Removal & Replacing Window Regulator or Motor

October 4, 2010

One of the most common (and frustrating) faults on later model BMWs is the failure of the window regulator mechanisms.  The window regulator is the actual mechanism that converts the window motor’s output into raising and lowering the window.  As with many late model cars, BMW has been using a cable operated window regulator design since the later ‘90s, on most models.  These cable operated regulator assemblies typically fail by the cables fraying and breaking or the plastic guide pulleys breaking.  Symptoms can range from slow or jerky window operation to complete failure.

Replacement of these cable operated window regulators is relatively straight forward and does not require any specialized tools.  In this video, we’ll replace a slow/jerky regulator assembly on the front passenger door of a 2000 323i wagon.   If you need to replace a window motor, the regulator must be removed and then the motor removed from the regulator.

NOTE:  If the vehicle has side air bags (in the door), as this example does, disconnect the battery and wait a few minutes before removing the airbag.  However, since we will need to move the window in order to access the regulator to window mounting brackets, we’ll need to temporarily reconnect the air bag and the battery in order to move the window, after the vapor barrier panel is removed (as noted in the video). 

Click below for BMW window regulators and motors:

Non-Marring pry tools:

Door panel securing clips:

Bavarian Autosport

  1. cavell scott permalink

    I was happy when i got your newletter, and i saw removing door panels and replacing window regulars, but my problem is my two rear door. I have a 2001 740il (E-38) and my window give a cracking sound and does’nt go up all the way it also have a sun shade.Sometime i use my hand to help the window go completly up. Any D.I.Y on my problem. THANK YOU

  2. Layne the Token Gimp permalink

    My driver window has come loose on my 1999 528it wagon E39. It happened after a heavy snowstorm, but I thought my car had thawed in the garage. As I went to roll it down it was stuck. I didn’t keep fussing with it, but checked all other windows and they worked fine. I can hear the inside operating, but
    the window could easily be lifted out.

    Is it time for a new regulator? Or is it likely to have just come out of the groves holding the window in place?
    I have the Bentley Manuals.
    I really want to open the door panel just once.

    • If you can hear the motor running, the regulator is likely at fault …. especially if you can manually move the window. The window guides (one or both) have likely broken free of the operation cable. The replacement procedure for your E39 model (5-series 97-03) is a bit different from the E46 3-series shown in this video. Your Bentley manual will guide you through the replacement.

      Click HERE for window regulators (ID your model after clicking)

  3. Jason permalink

    I have a 2004 330i and I will be replacing the window regulator on the drivers side front. My window will go down about half way before it starts sounding like a bowl of rice krispies, and then it struggles to get back up. Does the window need to be all the way down to begin the procedure or can I leave it up? I noticed in your video that it is down, but it isn’t clear if it has to be.



    • The window needs to be about 5″ up (from the full down position) in order to access the two securing bolts (as noted in the video). As long as you can get it to go down to this position …. just once …. you should be all set.

  4. Adam permalink

    The newsletter mentioned that the white plugs that secure the door trim to the door sometimes break when the door trim is pulled off. What is the part # for these plugs, and are there any other tiny little parts that you would recommend having handy in the event we destroy them. I want to make sure I have all the parts I might need before I start this project. Thanks!

    • See the original post, we’ve added the link for the door panel clips (thanks for reminding us). You really should not need any other extra parts. Just be careful with the airbag connection plug. We have talked to a couple customers who have broken the locking clip on the harness plug. A repair harness (with the harness plug/clip) is available by special order.

      Click HERE for E46 door side airbag repair harness & plug

  5. Robert Davis permalink

    i have a 1991 bmw 5351 the rear driver side door will not open i can rolldown the window but the door will not unlick , not from the central lock or by me pulling up on the knob or door handle help.

    • Otto permalink

      If the door cannot be opened at all, you will have to try to remove the inner door trim panel in order to access the latch mechanism. In this case, we would recommend removing the rear seat bottom and backrest first, then work on removing the door trim panel. You may, or may not, be able to remove the panel without damaging it. Once you’re into the door, you can work on manually releasing the lock and latch. This may require disconnecting the electric lock motor/actuator first. Once the door is opened, you can further determine where the actual fault lies.

      The Bentley repair manual will be of assistance in removing the door panel as well as diagnosing the fault.

      Click HERE for Bentley repair manuals

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