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Pelican Technical Article:

BMW Convertible Rear
 Window Replacement

Difficulty Level: 6
Difficulty scale: Adding air to your tires is level one
Rebuilding a BMW Motor is level ten

  This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Wayne's new book, 101 Performance Projects for Your BMW 3 Series. The book contains 272 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to timing the camshafts. With more than 650+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any 3 Series owner's collection. The book was released in August 2006, and is available for ordering now. See The Official Book Website for more details.
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[click to enlarge]

     One of the most common complaints of convertible owners is the condition of the rear window. It’s manufactured out of a clear plastic, and as such, it does not have the longevity of a clear glass window. With time and exposure to the elements, the window can become scratched, damaged, or faded.

     The good news is the rear window is zipped into place and is relatively easy to replace. I say “relatively” with a note of caution: Although it may seem like a simple process of zipping the window in and out of the convertible top, the actual process is much more difficult and takes quite a bit of patience. The procedure for replacing the window is documented in the sequence of photos accompanying this project.

     With your new window in place, you’ll want to keep it pristine and unscratched. To minimize creases and scratches when the top is down, use some terry cloth towels to cover the window whenever the roof is lowered. BMW also has a factory rear window cover you can use to protect the window at all times. For cleaning the rear window, I recommend 3M Plastic Polish or the poly/glass rear window cleaner from Porsche (recommended for the Boxsters).

     BMW has its own brand of cleaner (BMW part number 81-22-9-407-666), and BMW factory literature recommends Meguiar’s plastic cleaner #17 (BMW part number 82-14-1-467-128) and Meguiar’s plastic polish #10 (BMW part number 82-14-1-467-129) for heavier cleaning. All of these cleaners will do a good job of keeping your window clean and clear.

     If you would like to see more technical articles like this one, please continue to support Pelican Parts with all your parts needs.  If you like what you see here, then please visit our online BMW catalog and help support the collection and creating of new and informative technical articles like this one.  Your continued support directly affects the expansion and existence of this site and technical articles like this one.  As always, if you have any questions or comments about this helpful article, please drop us a line.

Figure 1
Shown here is a brand-new aftermarket window replacement kit. The kit includes the pre-sewn window, a bottle of contact cement, and a starter zipper. Both aftermarket and OEM replacement windows may not fit as tight as the originals, depending upon the age and condition of your convertible roof.
Figure 2
Begin the process by popping open the roof to relieve tension on the rear window.
Figure 3
Removal of the rear window is straightforward. A: Using a plastic butter knife, or a plastic mechanical pencil, gently separate the roof fabric from the rubber trim. This rubber trim is sewn to the window and will be removed when the window is taken out of the car. B: From the inside of the car, locate and remove the zipper ties from the bottom center of the window. These two were added by an aftermarket installer and don’t necessarily reflect the original factory installation. Carefully pry back the tabs on these clips, and remove them from the window. C: Using your finger, gently separate the window zipper. D: Pull gently on the window, and the zipper should separate, allowing you to remove it from the car.
Figure 4
Insert the new window in place and mate the starter zipper. This is by far the most difficult part of the process. There are no end caps on the zipper teeth, so you may have to use a pair of needle-nose pliers to help get the starter zipper started. Begin by lining up and installing the starter zipper onto the two ends of the zipper teeth that point toward the left, if you’re sitting inside the car facing the rear. The starter zipper should easily make its way clockwise (from the inside of the car) around the edge of the window, using minimal effort (make sure that the fabric and/or window material doesn’t interfere with the starter zipper). The BMW factory manuals say that these teeth should be offset by no more than one in either direction, but in reality you may have to vary them by several teeth in one direction. If the zipper snags or is difficult to move, you may have to realign the zipper teeth on the start one or two teeth in the opposite direction. This was the most time-consuming part of the installation. I ended up varying the zipper teeth about seven teeth to the right in order to install the window with no wrinkles. When you are happy that the window fits properly, use the factory clamps (inset photo) to constrain and lock the zipper (BMW part numbers 54-31-8-134-598 and 54-31-8-134-599).
Figure 5
I found the most frustrating part of the whole process to be the actual zipping in of the window. You have to use a trial-and-error approach to get the window installed properly (it took about 35 tries for me). If the window isn’t lined up perfectly, you will get diagonal creases in the window when the top is up. To eliminate these, you need to release the zipper, then increase or decrease the zipper teeth offset. Moving in one direction or another will allow you to observe if the creases are getting worse or better. If the zipper won’t close without separating, you’re probably way off of the mark—the zipper should very easily make its way around the entire window.
Figure 6
As added protection against the zipper separating, I used two factory clamping plates to sandwich both zippers together. In this regard, I think that the BMW single-clamp design is not sufficiently strong to prevent the zipper from separating. Place one clamp on the outside and one on the inside, and tie them together with thin wire that you can push through the thread surrounding the zipper teeth. With the window properly zipped and installed, peel back the roof fabric and apply a thin bead of contact cement. Wait about five minutes for the cement to harden slightly—and be especially careful not to spill this on your newly installed window. Using a small awl, run it around the inside of the rubber seal, fitting the cloth fabric inside. Press down on the cloth to adhere it to the contact adhesive. The cement is very easy to clean up with a paper towel after it starts to become gooey.
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Comments and Suggestions:
Juan Comments: Hi there, do you know if the process is the same for a 1989 320i E30 Baur? Do you have available the rear window for a TC2 Baur cabriolet? I am in Europe.
Great site!
July 30, 2014
April 16, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799 and they can help figure out which part or repair kit you need.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Rorschach Comments: The left side of my e36 window has come unzipped popped open, and I'm not sure how to get it back together. I tried unzipping the window completely, but the zipper toggle is firmly stuck at the base of the window. Any suggestions? Is there something I'm overlooking?
March 25, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The rear window? if the zipper failed, it may not zip back together. You may have to replace it. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Sante Comments: Could an e46 back window fit a e36 back window
February 4, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No it will not. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Ruth Comments: I have a 2000 BMW Z3 my rear window is scratched and hazy but now have noticed that the little rubber around the plastic is coming loose, I have less than 50,000 miles on this and would like to get fixed can they do this a dealer or do I take somewhere special?
September 18, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The rear window is replaceable, you can take it to the dealer or you can try it yourself, check out the article on our tech page.Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799 and they can help figure out which part or repair kit you need
- Nick at Pelican Parts
RoLoNoPoMoCoMD Comments: My brother and I replaced the zippered-in plastic rear window of my 1997 328i last weekend. There's really nothing to it - except getting over your fear of peeling back the piping and a layer of canvas to expose the zipper. It took is only 2 - maybe 3 - tries of aligning the zipper so as to get the window installed with no diagonal creases. Here's a tip - after your first try, before unzipping the window to try again, make a vertical mark across both sets of teeth window teeth and convertible top with a piece of chalk. That will give you a starting point from which to move right or left depending on the direction of the diagonal creases you see. More information and the aftermarket window itself is available here: I think I paid $120 or $130 plus $10 or so in shipping. My only comment about my experience is that I ran out of the small tube of contact cement provided by emiata so I suggest you have some extra on hand before you start the project. The BMW part is between $400 and $500. Insane.
September 5, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the Info. We appreciate it.

i>- Nick at Pelican Parts
July 23, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If there is no zipper you will have to replace the top. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Luke Comments: Please help me! I have a 99 Z3, and the rear window is hazy, and the stitching is coming undone. Every replacement I can find has a zipper, and I don't think mine does.
January 24, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The factory tops have a zipper. It is hidden under the top fabric. It is a well hidden. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
bogs Comments: i have 1997 r reg 328 b m w convertible need new back window clear plasic can you tell me the cost of replace ment maybe e46?
November 27, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I don't think E46 models had a replaceable rear window. Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can help you figure out what your options are. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
paris Comments: Awesome instructions by the ay thanks!
October 29, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Paris Comments: So do you leave the zipper pull on the top of zip it off completely and then seal the zipper ends with thread, sandwich clamps and/or contact cement?
October 29, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The zipper pull does not stay on the window. It comes off. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
lawford1 Comments: Hi I own a BMW Z3 1997 1.9Ltr Last 7 of the VIN LB82028 Hope you can halp me out. I am trying to find the passenger side tension cable for the top as the spring busted but the one's I am finding are totally different from the one that is on the car. Are there two differnt types
April 22, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799 and they can help figure out which part or repair kit you need.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
pilotmike Comments: i have a 1995 BMW 318is with sewn in factory plastic rear window. is there a replacement kit for it that i can install myself ? my convertable roof is in great shape but my window is shot. will a zipper replacement roof on a 325 work ?
February 19, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799 and they can help figure out which part or repair kit you need.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
joel Comments: is there a way to convert the saw window to a zippered window? I actually just want to zip it out unless its raining.
November 5, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The rear windows do not zip in and out easily.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
rambo Comments: 325i 1988 rear window replacement ... no zipper. Now what. all your instructions work with zippers Can you help?
May 31, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If there is no sipper, it may be an aftermarket top. The rear window may not be serviceable. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Brian Comments: I'm looking at the replacement convertible window for a '99 3 series e36. I'm interested to know if your kit includes the zipper pull to install it. In another comment Wayne says he does not konw where to get one. Is that for someon who did not buy the window from you...or do your kits not include them?
May 25, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799 and they can help figure out which part or repair kit you need. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Comments: I Need instructions on removing and replacing front right Window regulator on a 2000 740i BMW,pictures will help tremendously, Thanks in advance. "Cleat"
January 23, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I don't have one specifically on the 7-Series, but this article on the 3-Series regulator replacement should be almost identical for your car: - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
leoklim Comments: Where can I buy the rubber trim that goes around the canvas opening of the window? Mine is brittle and cracked.
November 29, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I'm not sure if that is available separately, or whether that's actually part of the whole roof. If memory serves me correct, I think that's part of the roof, unfortunately. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
alex2008x Comments: hi i have bmw e36 318 and i bought new rear window but doesnt have the zip puller and where can i find it or buy it thank u
September 25, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I'm not sure, this may be a special BMW tool available from the dealer? - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
BimmerLover Comments: I have a 1987 BMW 325i convertible. I just replaced the roof and all the seals thanks Pelican. In gluing the roof to the bows, I got some contact cement on the interior of the roof. How can I remove this safely without risking the German canvas top or its waterproofability is that a word??
September 13, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Hmm, I would just try to gently remove it using a brush or a nail file, or something like that. If the color is bothering you, then get some black permanent marker and color out the glue (if it's the yellow super weatherstrip glue). Usually, when this happens to me, I just tend to leave it and disguise it, as you can do more damage sometimes trying to remove it. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
joe325 Comments: Are all rear windows on the 1995 a zipper or are some sewn in?
If they are two varieties what is the easy way to check with out damaging the seals if it is sewn in?
August 8, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I think they are all zippered, but you can easily check from inside the car just by looking at the inside of the window where it mates to the top (from the back seat with the top raised). - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Bimmerkid Comments: Could someone please tell me the part # for the retaining clips used to reclamp the window? I threw mine away.
February 25, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799 and they can help figure out which part or repair kit you need. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
boogie Comments: you are the first web site that even had my part after 30min. and to boot you had instruction god bless every one of you.its a convertable top plastic window a extremly comon replacement part and nobody had it much less instructio we will msee how it goes
February 23, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
fred Comments: hi, im after a e36 - 325 cinvertable rear window.. $how much are they ?? and will you ship to australia
February 3, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799 and they can help figure out which part or repair kit you need.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Art Comments: I have a 1988 BMW 325i convertible. The rear window has come down [the stitching appears to have rotted]. Can it be repaired or replaced? Where can I get a replacement window? Is there anyone in the Viriginia/DC/Maryland area who does these replacements?
December 14, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I don't know about your local market, but if the actual roof has deteriorated, then you need to probably replace the roof. If not, then follow the instructions in the article here. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Sean Comments: I have a 1998 BMW 328 convertible. The outside window trim rubber is pulling away form the canvas top where the window bends. I understand that part of the reason for this is that the width of the rubber trim was a little too short. Do you have replacement rubber trim for the back plastic window?
September 10, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799 and they can help figure out which part or repair kit you need.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Larry Comments: I need to re-cement my original window along top edge where it has come loose on its own. Is there a special BMW product I must use or can I use regular old Weldwood Contact Cement?
August 9, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I don't know of any BMW factory cement for fixing this. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Bobby Comments: If the stitching that connects the top to the zipper has broken apart and the window starts to fall down, do you recommend restitching or simply gluing it in place?
July 6, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Hmm, if the fabric is torn, there may not be too much that you can do to save it. Maybe an iron-on patch from the inside of the car, carefully placed over the edge of the zipper? - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
lotek Comments: the window for my e30conv is not a zipper window instead its the one that u actually have to saw. I wonder if theres a diy for the windows like that.thanks
June 7, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No DIY as I know it, but the Boxster window is similar and we're probably going to be doing an article on that one in the very near future. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  

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