Work on the ’98 M3 is finally approaching an end… well at least as far as correcting outstanding issues is concerned.  A couple of blatant detractors to the car were the sagging headliner and a broken door pocket.  As you might expect, the headliner is no simple task, and recovering it is not something I would care to do myself.  I treat upholstery like I do paint work, both are better left to the professionals.  That didn’t stop me from saving some time and money by removing and installing it myself.

Removing Trim for Headliner Dropped Headliner

There are multiple DIYs out on the web on how to remove the headliner, but it’s really just a matter of removing everything that’s holding it in place.  That means: the A, B, and C pillars, the map lights, the visors, the sunroof motor cover, the sunroof inner trim rubber, and pulling away the top parts of all four doors’ weather stripping.

Pulling Headliner out of Car

It’s not glued or fastened in any way, so with all those bits removed it will simply drop.  Now you have to position the seats in such a way as to finagle the fiber-reinforced headliner card out of the back door.  This took a bit of trial and error, but eventually it came out without having to bend, or worse break, the headliner.  That’s good, because a new one is over $500.

Sunroof Motor CoverI then dropped the headliner off at a local upholstery shop for a full recovering.  I also requested some extra material so that I could do the A & C pillars later, though they are still presentable for the time being.  While you can attempt to do this yourself, you better have lots of patience and enough clean garage table space, and a second set of hands.  I was lacking all those requirements.  I did, however, recover the sunroof motor cover myself.  Even that was a hassle.  The main reason the headliner begins to fail is due the deterioration of the foam backing, rather than the glue.  It simply falls apart, and it must be completely removed before the new material goes on.  The issue is that when left with the old glue, it starts to ball up and turns into quite a mess.  Even on the small cover it took a lot of effort to remove all the residue and foam.

I didn’t get many photos of the process, as I was either trying to keep spray glue from getting everywhere or balancing the headliner on my head as I installed the various pieces previously removed.  In the end the headliner came out looking damn near factory in texture and color.  So much so that I didn’t bother with recovering the pillars, well more so due to my hatred of removing that foam and the spray glue.

Broken Door Pocket Now for some work more in line with my skill-set, replacing the broken plastic map pocket on the left rear passenger door.  This is a fairly common issue with these cars, as the pockets are merely held in place with small plastic prongs and little locking washers.  The prongs break when unruly passengers aren’t careful entering and exiting the car.  Fortunately the previous owner had already purchased all the required parts for the job, which came in a box with the car.
Door Card ToolsFirst off you must remove the door card.  Remember when doing this in the front you have door airbags to contend with, so disconnect the battery first.  There aren’t any truly special tools required for this job, but some trim removal tools do make it easier and help prevent you from breaking the plastic clips holding the panel in place.  I particularly like the wedge shaped tool with the metal handle, I’ve found it to be the best at popping BMW door cards.  You will also need a Torx T25 driver for the two screws and the plastic pries to get the plugs and switches out of the way.

Speaking of switches, lets start there.  The window switch is just held into place by the plastic tongues molded onto it, easily removed with the plastic interior tools as shown.  You must also remove the door lock plunger at the top of the door, which simply unscrews.  Now remove the plastic trim ring that surrounds the door latch, pushing it forward to unhook it.

Door Window Switch Door Handle Surround

There are two screws which hold the card to the door panel, which are hidden behind plastic plugs, directly behind the door grab handle.  Once again using the plastic pry, remove the plugs to access the screws.  These are Torx T25, though there is some variation across the BMW line and I’ve seen where some may have Phillips head.

Removing Plastic Plugs Removing Torx Screws

Now using the wedge shaped tool, I worked my way around the perimeter of the door, popping the white plastic clips from their holes.  The door card is now free to come completely off.  With access to the backside of the card I could now remove the old broken pocket.  Since it’s already damaged, I just used a set of flat-bill wire dykes to clip off the remaining plastic prongs.  The photos below show how these prongs push through holes in the door card and are secured using little metal washers which only slide on in one direction.

New Door Pocket Prong Clip Washer

With the new pocket installed, be sure to replace any of the little white clips on the door card that may have been damaged during removal.  Everything goes back on the door in reverse order, pretty simple.

Old Center ConsoleOne last thing that didn’t absolutely need addressing, but bugged me enough to take action, was the center console.  BMW offered several different variants of the center console on the E36’s, to include the E36/7/8 Roadsters and Coupes.  The type that came on this car was a modular design that included an ashtray, coin holder, and two flimsy cup holders.  Of course all BMW cup-holders of this era were pretty flimsy, but this particular design is damn near worthless.  I also had no need for an ashtray (thankfully none of the previous owners did either), so I opted to swap in a newer style console.

iPod 20-pin ConnectorThe one I went with is actually the exact part that is found in my M Coupe.  Rather than an ashtray, it has a large storage pocket, which works perfectly for an iPod or cellphone.  This pocket has a small, removable panel that allows you to fish the older 20-pin iPod connector through.  I did the exact same to my M Coupe when installing the GROM kit.  This car already had a US Spec iPod adapter, but it had the newer Thunderbolt connector, which wasn’t compatible with my iPod Classic.  Thankfully, after removing the old console, I discovered that this was just an adapter plugged into a 20-pin plug.  So I was able to snake the cable to the new console’s rear compartment, pulling enough slack to actually allow you to control the iPod while it was still plugged in.  Final shot of the new console installed:

New Console Installed

Rogue Engineering vs. OEM Clutch StopOne last item to address, though this isn’t so much an interior mod as it is a drivetrain mod; the clutch stop.  The clutch pedals on these cars are plastic, as are the bushings on which they pivot, which leads to some flex during their operation.  The OEM clutch stop is a small, half-dollar sized rubber ring, which makes it easy to miss when the pedal flexes to the left of it.  It also doesn’t allow for much upward adjustment, so you can (and are) in fact going beyond the necessary clutch disengagement point when pressing to the floor.  This is added time when trying to speedily change gears and can overextend the flexplate’s spring fingers.

The simple and cheap solution is an aftermarket clutch stop.  I happened to have a Rogue Engineering version on hand, which I no longer needed.  In essence this part is nothing more than a furniture leveling foot, but finding one with the proper metric threads is the difficult part.  Rather than being made completely of rubber like the stock one, the RE version has a steel cup on the backside with a stud and lock nut.  To install, unscrew the factory one and thread in the new one.  Adjust the height so that there is no drag on the clutch disc when the pedal is resting against it.  I added an extra bit of buffer by running it slightly lower than the exact threshold, just for peace of mind.

You’ll need to adjust your clutch pedal engagement (especially on downshifts) to ensure you go completely down to the stop, whereas before you were sometimes not going completely to the floor but still disengaging the clutch.  It becomes unconscious action after hundred miles or so, and I certainly like having my pedal not completely miss the stop as before.


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