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BMW Technical Article

BMW E36 Manual Seat Removal
Jared Fenton
Wayne R. Dempsey

Difficulty Level: 3
Difficulty scale: Adding air to your tires is level one
Rebuilding a BMW Motor is level ten

     Are you considering re-covering your seats? Want to collect all that loose change under the seats? Do you have to repair the reclining mechanism? Well the first step to all of these is removing the front seats. In this article we will discuss removal of the front seats in the E36 3 Series BMW. Keep in mind that this tech article applies only to the manual style front seats in the BMW E36 3 Series cars from 1992-99. (Power seat removal article is coming soon)

     Before you begin keep in mind we will be working around explosives in the case of 1997 and later cars, (no joke!) These later cars use a pyrotechnic charge to automatically retract the seat belts in case of an accident.

     The front seats are held to the guide rails with two nuts and two bolts. Basically all you have to do is unbolt it. The first step is to move the seat as far forward as it will go and also move the seat as far upward as possible Now look down at the seat rails. You will see amounting bolt at the end of each seat rail. Remove these bolts.

     Now, keep the seat upward and slide the seat back as far as it will go. You will see two plastic caps covering the front of the seat rails. Remove these and directly below you will see a mounting nut on the front of each seat rail. Remove these.

     Now comes the part where we start disarming high explosives. Well, not really, but we do have to disarm the seat belt tensioners on the 97 and later cars. In order to do this, look at the side of the seat with the seat belt receptacles you will see a panel with a display and a screw. This screw will disarm the tensioner. Simply turn the screw clockwise until the display changes from green to red. Once it is red, the tensioner is disarmed. When re-installing, turn the screw counter-clockwise to re-arm the tensioner. Just remember, green is armed, red is disarmed.

     In the case of the 96 and earlier cars, they use a mechanical style tensioner. We will need to disarm these as well, however they do not use an explosive charge, but rather a mechanical assembly. To disarm it, look down at the seat near the seat belt receptacles. You will see the mechanical spring tensioner on the side. Out of the front of the tensioner, you will notice a cable that comes out and loops around. Midway on the cable is a handle. First, cut the wire tie next to the tab on the cable. Now, VERY CAREFULLY, turn the handle 90 degrees lift the tab to disengage the cable from the seat bracket. Now remove the cable end from the seat lever. Keep in mind that when you re-install cable to correctly install the cable end onto the seat lever and use a new zip-tie to hold it in place.

     Now, on 2-door cars, you will need to unhook the seat belt from the guide on the seat back. On 4-door cars you will need to unbolt the seat belt from the seat frame. Now, tilt the whole seat assembly back to access the electrical connectors. Disconnect these connectors and mark them so you know how to hook them back together.

     Installation is the reverse of removal, however make sure you re-connect all electrical connections correctly and re-install all covers, mounts and cables. Itís also a good idea to place a liberal amount of grease on all moving parts, especially the seat rails, this will ensure that the seats move freely on the rails.

     Well, there you have it - it's really not too difficult at all.  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.

Comments and Suggestions:
ugeeks Comments: Thanks Nick...not that simple in the wiring diagram does not tie the function to the leads. I guess I am going to try a small power source direct to motor. Its difficult to reach if at all. Even thought of cutting the rear bolts off...none are ez or simple solutions. I was hoping for a way to connect my drill to the track screw drive...but I cannot see how to make that work either. IF you see a diagram that goes from the Seat Module for each motor, that might be helpful. I cant get the module out because the connectors have it locked and cannot reach them. MB if I can get the seat lift motor to raise it then I could reach the cannectors. The real problem is I think the motors are frozen from flood so connecting power directly to them is a 50/50 deal anyway. Any other thoughts? Thanks again.
November 30, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The wiring diagram will show seat wiring, which should help you determine the control circuit. The control circuit will switch polarity depending on seat direction. it will be trial and error.- Nick at Pelican Parts  
ugeeks Comments: any ideas on how to manage this when the motor is dead and you cannot move the seat to access the other bolts??
November 28, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You will have to use a wiring diagram for your specific vehicle with a set of fused jumper leads and manually activate the seat motors to move it. Then remove fasteners. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Herne Comments: I have a 1998 323i convertible with significant wear and a split DS bolster. May be able to purchase interior from 328is coupe that was reupholstered a year ago. Are the bolsters, pads, covers interchangeable for the front seats? I know back seats are different.
November 19, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I am sure you can swap the seat covers and cushions over. Not sure about individual pieces, but the whole piece, yes. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
BimmerJay Comments: What is the compatibility of using the pyrotechnical seat belt tensioner receptacle from say a 97+ M3 when they changed to that style on a car that had the mechanical tensioner receptacle? What would prevent the later model receptacle from working in the earlier model car that had the mechanical style? What sorts of problems would you run into if trying to put the later model seatbelt in the earlier car or what would prevent it from fitting?
May 9, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If you replace an active buckle with older mechanical style, you will have a fault in the SRS system and no airbag function. If you put an active buckle in a non-active buckle vehicle, it may not fit, the pretensioner will not work, but mechanically it should work. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
s Comments: What are the bolt sizes on the seatbelt receiver for the e36 318i manual seats? One of the bolts in my car is missing a nut, and I cannot find one which is the right size.
March 30, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Give our parts specialists a call. 888-280-7799
- Casey at Pelican Parts
Thelionprez Comments: I drive a 98", 328ic convertible, the seat is stuck all the way back on the tracks; I cannot get to the rear bolt.
Also, I cannot find the "display and bolt" to disarm the seatbelt tensioner.
July 22, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: With the battery disconnected, locate the seat motors, remove them, then use a hand tool (ie: square drive) to rotate the drive unit to move the seat.- Nick at Pelican Parts  
Whitty Comments: Have just fitted USA E36 M3 front seats to my Australian E36 318is. Due to the USA seats being designed for LHD ,the seat backs need to be swapped over from one base to the other .This will put the seat back with 2 handles onto the left hand side of the car and allow passengers to alight from the left hand side. Is this possible?
May 27, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Not sure if the backs can be swapped. It depends on the mounting bracket on the seat bottom. I would remove one back and compare it to the other side. Maybe do this on the seats you are removing, to figure out before hand if it can be done.

I opened a post in our forums. A Pelican community member may be able to answer your question.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Dhee Comments: Hello there Pelican. I have a 1995 328i, manual seats and im wanting to swap with a leather set. Do i have to disconnect the battery and wait for some time to discharge the SRS system like some people say or can i just remove the seats and disconnect the electrical connectors?
October 25, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You can disconnect the seat with the key off, and you will be ok.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Levi Comments: My passenger seat does not tilt all the way foward, but slides back and forth i have to remove the whole se. at from the car to try repair it. The car is a bmw 1992 e36 coupe
October 2, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No but it may make it easier. You need to get the the sides of the seat and the B pillar and transmission tunnel will probably get in the way - Nick at Pelican Parts  
LawDog Comments: I was unable to locate the disarming mechanism for my electric seats so I skipped that procedure. Now, when driving the seat belt light in the dash stays on. Any idea how to turn it off?

1998 328iS
June 1, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Check to see the wire going to the seat belt buckle is not disconnected under the seat - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Shorty Comments: Is it possible to add some spacers to raise the seat height, I am very short to a BMW 1998 323i touring
September 28, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The seats are just bolted down to the rails, so I see no reason why you couldn't simply add some spacers like you suggested? - Wayne at Pelican Parts  

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