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      09-22-2020, 01:44 AM   #1
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DIY: BMW Seat Cover Replacement - Making Sense Of Hog-rings

I recently swapped front seat covers as part of an interior color change. My car has non-power seats, and I didn't want to go through the shenanigans involved in retrofitting my E91 to use the power seats that I got from the donor car. There's almost no useful guidance online to help teach the task of replacing BMW seat-covers, so I decided to make these notes available in order to help whomever may attempt this task in the future.

SEAT DISASSEMBLY: The seat covers are attached via hog rings to steel wires in the foam cushions, which are molded to fit the metal seat shells. Seat bottom covers are not left/right specific, so if you're installing used covers, you can swap the bottoms during re-assembly so that you get a "fresh" cover on the driver's side once you're finished (just don't forget to keep the occupancy sensor in place on the passenger side). The seat-back covers ARE left/right specific however, and installing them on the wrong sides will prevent the airbag from functioning in an accident. I would recommend labelling all the parts as you remove them. Once you're looking at a pile of upholstery, it will be almost impossible to remember what came from where.
In order to remove the seat covers, you will first need to remove the plastic trims at the base of the seat, as well as the upper seat-back covers. Remove the lower trims carefully - there are release tabs which can be depressed with a screwdriver in some places. In any event, try to get a flashlight, and look behind the plastics to see where they are attached before trying to force them off. The seat-back covers have two tree-fasteners at the bottom, and once those are pried out, the covers slide straight down and off.
From this point, release the seat bottom by working off the plastic rim and straps. The rear flap can be fed out as you pull the cushion forward off of the seat pan. If this is the passenger seat, be sure to unplug and carefully feed out the wire for the occupancy sensor mat.
The seat-back cover has a mix of hooked and interlocking edge strips which must be separated. I would also recommend removing the headrest support tubes; these have spring tabs on their left side which are located deep below the seat cover. A flat blade screwdriver can reach it without damaging the cover opening. Once the cover is loose, unbolt the side airbag from the seat frame, and pull it out far enough to release the mylar-looking flap that is attached to the seat cover. Now the seat-back cover is ready for removal.
You will need dykes to cut the hog rings that secure the covers to the foam. Start by flipping up the edges of the seat covers as if you were going to turn them inside out - this will reveal the location of the hog rings, so that you can cut them more easily. You will have to pull the covers up away from the foam cushions as you go - but be careful not to pull too hard or strain the cushions in the process. The setback cushions are very fragile near the top, so use extreme caution when lifting them off of the seat frame - they will stick, so work them off very slowly so they don't tear.
Now that you've cut all the hog rings and separated the covers from the foam, take the time to remove all the pieces of hog rings from the seats, and vacuum up the floor in your work area. Trust me, the sharp fragments will find your bare foot very quickly if you don't.

SUPPLIES: In addition to hog ring pliers, you'll need 3/4" sized hog rings for this job; they're sold in packs of 100, and one pack will be plenty for both front seats. Don't bother looking for these supplies at your hardware store, because you won't find them. You'll need to order the 3/4" hog rings online, and you'll have to make your own hog ring pliers, because the ones you'll find for sale are completely incapable of working in tight spaces. Make your own pliers by carving out a crescent-shaped hollow in the ends of a set of long needle-nose pliers with a Dremel cutoff wheel. You will also need a set of locking needle-nose pliers, and a hook-shaped pick.

SEAT REASSEMBLY AND HOG-RING TECHNIQUE: This process is the reverse order of disassembly, but the method for attaching the seat covers is probably the most challenging part of the whole process. Start by turning the seat-cover inside-out, and aligning the anchor strips into their grooves in the foam cushions. You'll hog-ring the inner ribs first, working your way out to the side ribs - placing a ring in all of the same locations where one was removed during disassembly. The technique is as follows:
Take the hook, and push it all the way through the fabric rib sleeve on the seat-cover behind the anchor wire, in exactly the spot where you want to place a hog ring. Then plunge it down into the foam cushion to hook onto the cushion's anchor wire at the corresponding location. Pull the cushion's wire up far enough to draw it up against the anchor wire on the seat cover. With your free hand, use the locking needle-nose pliers to clasp both of the wires together. Now, you can withdraw the hook, and let the locking pliers hold the anchor wires still while you hog-ring them together. As you work your way outwards, the task will get more challenging, but it is doable if you take your time. Once all the rings are in place, flip the cover edges right-side out, around the edges of the foam, and tuck it all back into place to fill out the shape of the cushion. The cushions will then slide back over the seat frames with a bit of wiggling, and then you can put the whole assembly back together.

Take your time, keep your parts organized, be patient. Your results will be very rewarding. A set of new seat covers from BMW will cost you approximately $5,500.00 (ridiculous). An excellent seat of used ones will cost you next to nothing, and this procedure will enable you to do the swap on your own.

Good luck!
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Last edited by DragonWagon; 09-24-2020 at 12:50 PM.. Reason: corrections, photos added
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      09-22-2020, 10:04 PM   #2
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I replaced the seat cover on my E30 a long time ago. Instead of hog rings, I just used zip-ties. They worked great.
A manual transmission can be set to "comfort", "sport", and "track" modes simply by the technique and speed at which you shift it; it doesn't need "modes", modes are for manumatics that try to behave like a real 3-pedal manual transmission. If you can money-shift it, it's a manual transmission. "Yeah, but NO ONE puts an automatic trans shift knob on a manual transmission."
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