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BMW Seat Removal and Sport Seat Installation

Pelican Technical Article:

BMW Seat Removal and Sport Seat Installation


4 hours4 hrs






13mm socket and driver, 16mm socket, 16mm wrench, set of Torx drivers, T20 Torx, T25 Torx

Applicable Models:

BMW E30 3-Series (1984-93)
BMW E36 3-Series (1992-99)
BMW E46 3-Series (1999-06)

Parts Required:

Sport seats and possibly seat brackets

Performance Gain:

Seats that provide great looks and lumbar perfomance

Complementary Modification:

Replace the seat belts with five-point racing safety harnesses
101 Performance Projects for Your BMW 3 Series

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.

The stock seats installed in the BMW 3 Series have never been bad, but they certainly are nothing to rave about to your friends at parties. Most BMW owners who perform seat upgrades opt to replace their stock seats with stock M3 seats. There are a few reasons for this. The M3 seats are an easy, bolt-in replacement for the stock seats, and there's no need to mess with seat rails or fit issues. In addition, the belt buckle and latching mechanisms are the same, so replacing them will not result in problems or warnings from the air bag system.

If you do decide to go with an aftermarket seat, I have a few suggestions. First, you'll want to make sure the brand and style of seat you choose will fit well in your car. I suggest you purchase the seat from a reputable dealer that sells many of them and has sold that particular seat for your model of 3 Series BMW. Seats are very difficult to fit, and if you don't have the proper brackets, and haven't tested the configuration, you may be stuck with an undesirable installation. The seat may ride too high, or it may interfere with the center console; a host of problems can occur. One of the best things you can do is head to one of the Internet chat boards (like the one at and ask other BMW owners which aftermarket seats they installed in their cars. I would list some combinations here, but manufacturers change styles and configurations so often the information would soon be outdated. The best bet is to perform your own research.

If you do install aftermarket seats, I suggest you try your best to keep the stock BMW seatbelt mechanisms in place. These systems are integrated with the air bag controller, and keeping them will reduce the difficulty involved in modifying the air bag system to accept a new belt system. If you remove the stock seatbelts, you will need to have resistors installed across the seatbelt receptacles and also the passenger-side seat sensor (see Project 80). This will help eliminate any errors from the airbag system that may result because of the missing components.

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Figure 1

I couldn't resist snapping a photo of this interior at a recent show. The sport seats installed here, coupled with the custom-matched interior, really add a great look to the car. The seats are tastefully trimmed with matching red leather on the bolsters. Be careful, though--an interior with too much red can really make you yearn for dark sunglasses. However, it's important to note that the harness in this case is attached to a harness bar, extending across the length of the car. This is not the best method of running the harness. Although the bar is attached to the two very strong seatbelt attachment points in the car, these points are not typically designed to withstand the bending and torque that may be placed upon them with a harness bar. The preferred solution is to mount the harness to the floor or rear subframe of the car and run it up over the harness bar. If you install a roll cage in your car, the strength of the cage is typically not an issue, and you can mount belts directly to the cage.

Figure 2

This is a photo of a seat setup I hadn't seen before. The owner of this M3 convertible apparently purchased a set of Sparco sport seats, then removed all of the cloth fabric and had them recovered in leather to match the rest of the car. I thought this was a clever solution to the age-old problem of how to install sport seats in your car without making it look like a track car. To the untrained eye, these seats look like they were a factory option!

Comments and Suggestions:
Sk8er913 Comments: I have a 1/1995 325is and I'm converting from a power seat to a manual seat. What faults would I have to worry about when starting the car? and how do I avoid them?
November 17, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Only way to avoid would be to re-code as a manual seat vehicle. You won't have warning lights either way. Unless you tamper with the airbag. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
littleob Comments: I have a bentley manual and it doesn't say anything about seat wiring. Thanks for your help
April 14, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: OK, then you will have to get it from BMW. I don't have the wiring to share. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
littleob Comments: I am instaling sport seats from a 98 e36 bmw coupe into my 99 convertible e36. There are 2 plugs on my 99 that don't have a please to be plugged into on the 98 seats. Any ideas what they are for?
April 14, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Likely the seat components are wired differently, so there are extra connectors. I would suggest you grab a repair manual, you should own one. It will have the wiring and connector info.

Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. - Nick at Pelican Parts
February 7, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It all depends on how you plan to do the swap, if you plan to buy a set of used seats already equipped with the heaters installed it is relatively simple and there are DIY's out there on Bimmerforums. A quick Google will provide multiple results. You will need the relay and harnesses, which could probably be sourced from a dismantler. - Casey at Pelican Parts  
kevinocall Comments: I asked if I could install e46 seats into my e36, you answered yes but the electronics wont work. I dont care about that. But will the e46 seats Bolt right in? Using their brackets? using my e36 brackets? Thanks.
June 11, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The will not bolt right in. You will have to make modifications to get it to work. Either making adapters or somehow piecing the two seats together. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
kevinocall Comments: Can I install e46 seats into my '98 e36 ?
January 20, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Sure. But the electronics won't work. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Rangergress Comments: Harness bars. An issue that didn't get explained in a previous comment is harness bars vs. harness guide bars. A harness bar is a fairly elaborate and robust piece of hardware that "anchors" the harness straps. A harness guide bar, which seems to be what the other comment was discussing, isn't nearlly as robust and often just consists of a bar fastened at the seatbelt anchor on each B pillar. That is to say, a bar that extends from approx the driver's right ear to the passenger's left ear.

A harness guide bar does not anchor the shoulder harnesses, therefore it does not need to be designed to sustain as much load as a real harness bar. The purpose of the harness guide bar is to create the right harness angle behind the driver's shoulders.....which is to say ~horiz. The shoulder straps then go over the harness guide bar and then go down either to the floor or to the rear seat seatbelt anchor points.
February 7, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the Info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Grub Gott Comments: The parts diagrams for e36 seats list seat generations as 'up to 1/92', '1/92 - 9/93', '9/93-9/94', and then '9/94 on'. Do you know if there are actually fitment issues between those dates, or if it's just a matter of minor color changes or something? I found a good deal on a set of seats from a '97 M3 and I would be really bummed to get them home and find out that they don't fit my '94.
June 14, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The seats should bolt in to the floor,
- Nick at Pelican Parts

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Page last updated: Fri 2/16/2018 02:10:49 AM