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      08-29-2018, 04:55 PM   #1
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E93 convertible A-pillar leak

Moral: If you're out of warranty and are somewhat mechanically inclined, don't necessarily be afraid of the convertible top seals

2011 E93 M3

I developed a leak at what appeared to be the A-pillar/front roof tray joint. In the rain, there would be a slow but constant stream of drops onto the passenger seat. Driver side didn't have the issue. Many people have reported this type of problem.

I have read that decayed seals, plugged drains or even an improper window height adjustment could cause this problem. My drains were not plugged. My front seal had no cracks or distortion and the rubber seemed supple. Krytox treatment had no effect, neither did 'resetting' the front window closing position using INPA.

With great trepidation i took the car to Norwood BMW gallery to have a 'trained professional' examine it and give me a diagnosis. $307 later, the technician showed me a small deformation in the center roof panel seal and concluded that the center seal needed to be replaced. Service Manager said $2400 and no guarantee i.e. if it still leaked they were not going to give me back the payment or apply it to the next possible intervention.

Since the deformation was so local, I filled/glued it with Lexel sealant then subjected it to a leak test consisting of a sprinkler nozzle suspended from a ladder. Directing the spray on the rear seal or the center seal (either at the left, middle or right aspects of the seals) did not result in leaks. Directing the spray at the front seal at the right A-pillar area caused the leak.

So my best guess was that the technician was spouting bullshit and just didn't take the time to 'diagnose' this correctly.

To get a better view of exactly where the water entry point was, I removed the front headliner (there's a trick to it - just ask if you want to try). Then I could clearly see that the water was entering behind the seal, not from the seal-to-seal surface. So the seal was actually not faulty.

The seal is 'sealed' to the metal of the roof panel mostly by the placement of a butyl cord in strategic locations. I decided to try renewing the butyl mostly by following the directions specified by BMW here:

https://www.newtis.info/tisv2/a/en/e...-roof/Cr6Ky8zV

BMW specifies three different types of sealing material which add up to $250 with discounts from on-line vendors. I decided to use 1/4" 3M Window-Weld which is $14 on Amazon or any auto body shop supplier. I just formed the 1/4" material to the sizes specified. Also they specify that the bolts/screws attaching the seal to the roof panel should not be reused. I didn't feel like spending $30 on 5 screws so i coated them with Permatex 2B before re-installation.

It is a messy process - butyl is very sticky stuff. I cleaned both the roof panel and seal itself using xylene from Home Depot paint department. It has no effect on the seal rubber but will strip your wax job and possibly affect the paint if exposure is prolonged. I installed the new butyl and re-installed the old seal according to the BMWTIS.

NO MORE LEAK

So if I had pursued the the dealer solution, they'd have charged me $2400 for the center seal, which would not have accomplished anything then another $2400 for the front seal or a total of over $5000 including diagnosis.

Don't be afraid of this. It is not rocket science. The critical part is determining the true path of the water and that only needs a little disassembly, some patience and a good flashlight. The major work is placing the butyl - a full seal replacement (part costs ~$1000) would actually have been easier because I would not have had to clean the old one. One asshole insisted to me that the roof panel needed to be removed from the car to replace the seals. Not true for any of the three!

Don't know where this post should be (if anywhere) so I'm putting it in 'general'. Just felt that I am probably not the only one to be in the position of have leaks and having no recourse but the usurious and incompetent dealer. To be fair, if I had any confidence in a dealer I'd have paid the $2400. But they prove time and time again that they are not competent and/or careful, or at least not uniformly so.

Last edited by dpaul; 08-29-2018 at 05:02 PM..
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      08-29-2018, 06:46 PM   #2
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Thanks for taking the time to help us out.
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      08-29-2018, 08:29 PM   #3
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Wow..awesome job and thanks for sharing. How many miles on ur car, but that's not a good idea is how much roof was used

So far I'm doing good at $128k miles.
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      08-29-2018, 08:31 PM   #4
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      08-29-2018, 10:29 PM   #5
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77K miles on my vehicle

Someone asked about releasing the headliner, so here's what I did:

There are 6 black plugs - 4 in the front and 2 on the sides near the front. Those plugs are quite easy to remove without breaking anything. They pull straight out using a plastic pry or even a screwdriver

Then there are two metal clips, one for each side, located on the sides near the rear edge of the panel. You don't see them when the headliner is fully installed but they can be released simply by pulling down at each rear corner. One part clips on the roof panel and one part clips onto a plastic ledge. Careful, they can pop off of both mounting points, skitter away and get lost.

The hard part are 4 more snap fasteners in a line across the rear of the roof panel. One end of these snap into holes in the roof panel . The other end is round and flat like a washer and slides into a slot in a plastic retainer that is glued to the headliner. I corresponded with mxchris727 who got these to release by just pulling straight down at the rear of the panel. For him, the end snapped into the hole pulled out without damage.

That did not happen for me. The flat round part just broke off on one and I was afraid to repeat for the others. But once I could see the damn thing, I realized that the orientation of the slots in the plastic retainer were such that the open end of the two on the driver side face out to the left while the open end of the two on the passenger side face out to the right. So after the two metal clips are released you can push in on each side of the headliner at the rear and slide the round flat part of the fastener out of the slot. Voila!

There is also one more oddball snap-in fastener in the center of the panel (this one is yellow for some mysterious BMW reason). I had no trouble with this one once the others was done.

If you break one (or more) of the fasteners they are not available separately. You have to buy a kit with the 6 plugs, the 2 metal clips, the 4 snap fasteners and the odd yellow thing. Part number 54377175574 - $18.60 at ECS Tuning

Thanks to mxchris727 for the part number and advice!

Last edited by dpaul; 08-30-2018 at 12:16 PM..
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      08-30-2018, 12:09 AM   #6
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Nice work! Really appreciate you posting this.

I'm so used to leaks in my ragtop cars however that I've just ignored the drips in my E93.
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      08-30-2018, 09:15 AM   #7
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Thanks for the great information. I have a slight amount of leaking, at each front corner, and I will be using this information to check it out.

I thought an image of the fastener kit might be useful, to help understand the headliner removal process. I'll probably just order one before I even attempt to take the headliner off.
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      08-30-2018, 12:18 PM   #8
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The picture is helpful although it doesn't show the bottom of the four snap fasteners, only the top part that seats in a hole in the roof panel. The bottom has a washer-like disc that slips into a slot in a plastic holder glued to the headliner. If I could have seen that before I started yanking I might have gotten away without breaking anything. Maybe.

Also, damned if I know what those 4 screws are for
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      08-30-2018, 12:30 PM   #9
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Great post. Thank you for sharing. I've noticed, well my girlfriend noticed, the last time I went to wash my car and she was sitting inside that there were drops of water coming through on the driver side A pillar. I'll check this out this weekend.
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      08-31-2018, 11:43 AM   #10
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Great job!

Sorry for the bad advice causing the clips to snap! My headliner has been off once before while a micro-switch recall at the dealer was performed; maybe they were compromised allowing them to disengage easier. I have found that the 2011 model year E93's are prone to A-pillar seal issues due to too much butyl applied from the factory. Very interesting that you had witnessed it separating from the metal! Great reference to Windo-Weld as well; that stuff is pretty much the same sealant used in production.
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      11-12-2019, 10:21 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dpaul View Post
Moral: If you're out of warranty and are somewhat mechanically inclined, don't necessarily be afraid of the convertible top seals

2011 E93 M3

I developed a leak at what appeared to be the A-pillar/front roof tray joint. In the rain, there would be a slow but constant stream of drops onto the passenger seat. Driver side didn't have the issue. Many people have reported this type of problem.

I have read that decayed seals, plugged drains or even an improper window height adjustment could cause this problem. My drains were not plugged. My front seal had no cracks or distortion and the rubber seemed supple. Krytox treatment had no effect, neither did 'resetting' the front window closing position using INPA.

With great trepidation i took the car to Norwood BMW gallery to have a 'trained professional' examine it and give me a diagnosis. $307 later, the technician showed me a small deformation in the center roof panel seal and concluded that the center seal needed to be replaced. Service Manager said $2400 and no guarantee i.e. if it still leaked they were not going to give me back the payment or apply it to the next possible intervention.

Since the deformation was so local, I filled/glued it with Lexel sealant then subjected it to a leak test consisting of a sprinkler nozzle suspended from a ladder. Directing the spray on the rear seal or the center seal (either at the left, middle or right aspects of the seals) did not result in leaks. Directing the spray at the front seal at the right A-pillar area caused the leak.

So my best guess was that the technician was spouting bullshit and just didn't take the time to 'diagnose' this correctly.

To get a better view of exactly where the water entry point was, I removed the front headliner (there's a trick to it - just ask if you want to try). Then I could clearly see that the water was entering behind the seal, not from the seal-to-seal surface. So the seal was actually not faulty.

The seal is 'sealed' to the metal of the roof panel mostly by the placement of a butyl cord in strategic locations. I decided to try renewing the butyl mostly by following the directions specified by BMW here:

https://www.newtis.info/tisv2/a/en/e...-roof/Cr6Ky8zV

BMW specifies three different types of sealing material which add up to $250 with discounts from on-line vendors. I decided to use 1/4" 3M Window-Weld which is $14 on Amazon or any auto body shop supplier. I just formed the 1/4" material to the sizes specified. Also they specify that the bolts/screws attaching the seal to the roof panel should not be reused. I didn't feel like spending $30 on 5 screws so i coated them with Permatex 2B before re-installation.

It is a messy process - butyl is very sticky stuff. I cleaned both the roof panel and seal itself using xylene from Home Depot paint department. It has no effect on the seal rubber but will strip your wax job and possibly affect the paint if exposure is prolonged. I installed the new butyl and re-installed the old seal according to the BMWTIS.

NO MORE LEAK

So if I had pursued the the dealer solution, they'd have charged me $2400 for the center seal, which would not have accomplished anything then another $2400 for the front seal or a total of over $5000 including diagnosis.

Don't be afraid of this. It is not rocket science. The critical part is determining the true path of the water and that only needs a little disassembly, some patience and a good flashlight. The major work is placing the butyl - a full seal replacement (part costs ~$1000) would actually have been easier because I would not have had to clean the old one. One asshole insisted to me that the roof panel needed to be removed from the car to replace the seals. Not true for any of the three!

Don't know where this post should be (if anywhere) so I'm putting it in 'general'. Just felt that I am probably not the only one to be in the position of have leaks and having no recourse but the usurious and incompetent dealer. To be fair, if I had any confidence in a dealer I'd have paid the $2400. But they prove time and time again that they are not competent and/or careful, or at least not uniformly so.
Hey, I also have a leak on the driver side where the roof meets the pillar.Name:  IMG_2865.JPG
Views: 182
Size:  646.6 KB

I cannot figure out why and how it is leaking. Do you think replacing the butyl will help? Is this what and where your leak was as well?
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      11-13-2019, 06:27 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nate93 View Post
Hey, I also have a leak on the driver side where the roof meets the pillar.Attachment 2178561

I cannot figure out why and how it is leaking. Do you think replacing the butyl will help? Is this what and where your leak was as well?
Sorry, maybe it's my computer but I cannot even tell from this picture if the leak is in the front or the back. It's too dark and too close, mostly too dark
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      11-13-2019, 10:47 AM   #13
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Thanks for this. I just picked up a E93 Vert last week.
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      11-13-2019, 02:34 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dpaul View Post
Sorry, maybe it's my computer but I cannot even tell from this picture if the leak is in the front or the back. It's too dark and too close, mostly too dark
That was my fault. I took a bad image while water was leaking in.

I've taken a new one and circled in red where water leak is when it's outside, and, the area usually gets wet and then slowly dripping. Is this where your leak was also? My car is also 2011 E93.
Name:  IMG_5158.jpg
Views: 163
Size:  132.2 KB

I also have a few more questions to clarify some of the points you mentioned. These will help me greatly in carrying out this repair.

"To get a better view of exactly where the water entry point was, I removed the front headliner (there's a trick to it - just ask if you want to try). Then I could clearly see that the water was entering behind the seal, not from the seal-to-seal surface. So the seal was actually not faulty."

1. What do you mean by entering behind the seal, like the side where the seal is supposed to be glued to the roof panel or the seal to the windshield panel? Also what do you mean by seal-to-seal?
2. was removing the headliners just for the inspection/diagnosis or a necessary step in replacing the butyl?
3. Did you have to replace the entire butyl or just the affected area like indicate in the picture below?
Name:  DUYwyira.png
Views: 163
Size:  39.3 KB
4. Did you have the get that measuring tool shown in the picture below or nah? What is the point of the measurement anyways?
Name:  1KgKOlB3.png
Views: 163
Size:  37.5 KB

I know that's alot of questions, but I hope these will help others E93 in repairing these leaks. Thank you very much for making this post, without you, my E93's roof will be forever leaking, NOW it has a chance of getting fixed!!
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      11-13-2019, 03:01 PM   #15
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I've taken a new one and circled in red where water leak is when it's outside, and, the area usually gets wet and then slowly dripping. Is this where your leak was also? My car is also 2011 E93.
Yes, that is the location of my leak

"To get a better view of exactly where the water entry point was, I removed the front headliner (there's a trick to it - just ask if you want to try). Then I could clearly see that the water was entering behind the seal, not from the seal-to-seal surface. So the seal was actually not faulty."

1. What do you mean by entering behind the seal, like the side where the seal is supposed to be glued to the roof panel or the seal to the windshield panel? Also what do you mean by seal-to-seal?
The seal is a piece of rubber affixed to a metal strip which is in turn affixed to the roof panel with butyl caulk and screws. The rubber is the "seal" that interacts in the front with the rubber that runs around the windshield cowling, on the sides with the windows and in the back with it's counterpart on the middle roof panel. The latter example is what I meant by "seal-to-seal". Not very clear but it's hard to accurately describe all this.

The butyl caulk is another kind of seal but one you don't see, preventing water from creeping between the metal strip backing of the rubber seal and the roof panel frame.


2. was removing the headliners just for the inspection/diagnosis or a necessary step in replacing the butyl?

Honestly I don't know if you could replace/renovate the seal without removing the headliner but for sure I would not have been able to figure out where the leak was coming from without removing the headliner.

3. Did you have to replace the entire butyl or just the affected area like indicate in the picture below?

I completely removed the seal and cleaned all the old butyl off of both the metal backing strip and the roof panel. I replaced all of the old butyl with new stuff. Whether that was necessary or not I could not say but it seemed prudent

4. Did you have the get that measuring tool shown in the picture below or nah? What is the point of the measurement anyways?
I did not bother with the measuring tool - it's pretty easy to verify the dimensions with a simple ruler. In fact there is no way to adjust the gap because the holes are already drilled in the seal backing and the roof panel so the relationship is fixed. I don't really know what the point of the measurement would be.


I know that's alot of questions, but I hope these will help others E93 in repairing these leaks. Thank you very much for making this post, without you, my E93's roof will be forever leaking, NOW it has a chance of getting fixed!!

I'm glad to help and don't hesitate to post or PM if you think I can be of any further assistance.

But word of warning - I think there are many ways for these roof seals to fail and what worked for me may not address the cause of your leak. So proceed with caution.
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      11-15-2019, 01:00 AM   #16
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dpaul

Your description for the rubber and seal is very good! Thank you very much for the clarifications and answers

I checked out my roof last night, yup, it looks like the butyl is bad because I know for sure water is not creeping in through the rubber seal and windshield cowl otherwise I would see it on my windshield cowl and sunvisors. Also, I can pull the rubber seal out a bit with ease, and there is a ton of dirt and debris in there. It has to be the butyl that is bad and water is going through that creek. I really want to avoid removing the headliners because it sounds like a PITA (unless I have to in order to replace the butyl), so I am getting one of those endoscopic cameras for like $10-15 and stick it up there while splashing water around that area to see how it's getting in.

I am getting the 3M windo-weld butyl that you mentioned. I will try to replace it without removing the headliners. I will report back and hopefully take some pictures so we can put this into like a DIY because it seems like a common problem for E93.

By the way, how did you have your roof while doing the butyl replacement for least damage? All three pieces are folded to where they are on top of each other right before the trunk opens? or a second or two after the first piece is disconnected from the windshield cowl?

Did you have to unfold or fold them during the process?
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      11-15-2019, 05:51 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nate93 View Post
dpaul

Your description for the rubber and seal is very good! Thank you very much for the clarifications and answers

I checked out my roof last night, yup, it looks like the butyl is bad because I know for sure water is not creeping in through the rubber seal and windshield cowl otherwise I would see it on my windshield cowl and sunvisors. Also, I can pull the rubber seal out a bit with ease, and there is a ton of dirt and debris in there. It has to be the butyl that is bad and water is going through that creek. I really want to avoid removing the headliners because it sounds like a PITA (unless I have to in order to replace the butyl), so I am getting one of those endoscopic cameras for like $10-15 and stick it up there while splashing water around that area to see how it's getting in.

I am getting the 3M windo-weld butyl that you mentioned. I will try to replace it without removing the headliners. I will report back and hopefully take some pictures so we can put this into like a DIY because it seems like a common problem for E93.

By the way, how did you have your roof while doing the butyl replacement for least damage? All three pieces are folded to where they are on top of each other right before the trunk opens? or a second or two after the first piece is disconnected from the windshield cowl?

Did you have to unfold or fold them during the process?
Sorry I don't remember the precise position but I think it was just whatever gave the best access. I may have moved the relative positions of the panels a little during the process but not much.

I do wish I'd taken pictures during the process.

Removing the headliner is not so difficult if you don't try to preserve the fasteners. I was just constitutionally unwilling to spend $18.25 plus shipping for 25 cents worth of plastic.

https://www.ecstuning.com/b-genuine-...g/54377175574/

The plastic plugs come out easily but the T-top plastic fasteners are more difficult. If you just pull down smartly on the headliner (after removing the metal clips and plastic plugs) either the T-top fasteners will pop out (as they have for other posters like ChrisMX) or they'll break (as they did for me) and you replace them. A trick is that the T-top ones slot into a plastic retainer glued to the headliner from the side and the liner can be flexed enough to move them out of their slot. BMW TIS provides astoundingly poor instruction on the headliner removal. But I suppose they don't expect their technicians to try and preserve anything. Just throw parts at it until it's done and bill the customer.

I think I've described the fastener system accurately but it's been a while so I hope I'm not misremembering something

Last edited by dpaul; 11-15-2019 at 06:07 AM..
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      11-18-2019, 05:17 PM   #18
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is there any possibility you can provide some pictures of where you put the butyl caulk or what exactly it is that you did? im really sorry but im having a hard time understanding where to get started with my E93's A pillar leak. It's leaking in the passenger side and a tiny bit on the driver side for me.

thank you in advance...
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      11-18-2019, 07:59 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by E93madness View Post
is there any possibility you can provide some pictures of where you put the butyl caulk or what exactly it is that you did? im really sorry but im having a hard time understanding where to get started with my E93's A pillar leak. It's leaking in the passenger side and a tiny bit on the driver side for me.

thank you in advance...
I'm sorry I did not take any pictures during the procedure. But for the placement of the butyl I more or less followed the description in BMW TIS:

https://www.newtis.info/tisv2/a/en/e...-roof/Cr6Ky8zV

Remember, you'll have to verify that the problem is not the rubber seal itself before expecting this procedure to solve your problem. There are a lot of ways for this roof to leak.
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