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Thread: Touring Roof Rail Delete

  1. #1
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    Touring Roof Rail Delete

    In my (not so) humble opinion, the E39 5-Series Touring is one of the best looking modern Bimmers. It's a close second to the E34 Touring in looks, but I think the E39 is a better car in just about every other way. Except for the tacked-on roof rails. To me, they really detract from the looks of the car and make it look taller and narrower than it actually is. Not to mention that they are very heavy. If somebody will spend $1,000 to save 15 pounds in the exhaust system, what is it worth to get about 20 pounds off the roof? In my case, it cost $9 and a couple hours of my time

    Each rail is held in place by three 13mm nuts. One is located at the base of each vertical support. The green arrows in the photo below show the approximate location of each nut. This DIY will explain how to gain access to them in order to remove the rails, and what to do about the holes left behind.



    To remove the roof rails is actually pretty simple and doesn't really require a DIY. But, there are a few gotchas that would be helpful to know in advance. There are four basic steps that I will outline first, and then go into more detail. But first, here are the obligatory "Before" photos:








    E39 Roof Rail Delete Mod DIY:

    Step 1: Lower headliner

    Step 2: Remove 13mm nuts from rails (3 per rail, 6 total)

    Step 3: Pull off rails

    Step 4: Plug holes

    Tools Needed:
    Small flat blade screwdriver
    Medium phillips screwdriver
    T-8 Torx driver
    T-10 Torx driver (not sure exactly on that size. I will confirm and update if needed)
    6mm Hex Driver (Allen key)
    13mm deep socket
    3/8 or 1/4 rachet
    Short 3/8 or 1/4 extension
    Trim removal tools - not absolutely required, but very helpful

    STEP 1: Headliner Removal

    In order to gain access to the nuts securing the roof rails, the headliner must be lowered. It isn't necessary to actually remove it from the car. You just have to lower it enough to get to the nuts. The first step is to remove the A-pillar trim. A word of caution: Your car is likely to be at least 10 years old and this piece of trim takes a beating from the sun. As a result, the plastic is going to be very brittle. So use caution when removing this trim piece. I managed to break a tab off one of mine, but carefully epoxied it back on. Maybe it will hold.


    Using a small flat blade screwdriver or trim removal tool, pop off the "HPS" plastic cap at the top of the A-pillar. Remove the Torx bolt underneath the plastic cap. Using a trim removal tool, gently pry out the top edge of the trim. There is a clip about in the middle. Slowly pull the trim out until that clip releases (or breaks). The bottom edge of the trim is just tucked in at the edge of the dashboard.

    Next, remove the sun visors. Pry off the plastic cap at the base of the visor. Once it's off, remove the 2 T-8 torx bolts and pull the visor off - unplug the electrical connector. Next, remove the clips that secure the other end of the visor. To get them off, carefully pry up the covers on either side of the clips and remove the T-8 torx bolts. On mine, a couple of the covers broke when I pried them off. But I was able to clip them back when I put it back together. If you damage them badly, replacements are only a couple of bucks.


    With the visors removed, just work your way down the side of the car removing the grab handles and garment hooks.

    The B-pillar trim can be left in place. The headliner can be worked around it.

    The C-pillar trim is removed by prying it from the top. There is only one clip holding it on. When the clip releases just angle the trim toward the center of the car and pull it out.


    It's possible that the headliner may crease when pushing it out of the way. See green arrows. But when it's put back, the creases will flatten out and not be visible.

    From inside the cargo area, remove the D-pillar trim. To remove it, open the panel to access the CD changer on the driver side and the battery on the passenger side (and swing the subwoofer out of the way). There is one screw hidden inside the hook that holds the cargo cover and another directly below the rear edge of the back window (directly under the Hoffmeister Kink). Then, pry the trim off starting at the top. There are 3 plastic clips holding it on.

    With the trim removed, pry off the weatherstripping at the top of the tailgate opening. There are 3 clips at the rear edge of the headliner. They are easily popped out by just pulling down on its rear edge. This will loosen the rear edge of the headliner. Next, remove the speaker grilles. They are held on by 2 plastic clips. If you are laying in the car with your feet toward the front, looking up at the ceiling, the clips are located at the 3:00 and 9:00 o'clock positions of each grille. The easiest way to remove them is to reach inside the roof (above the headliner) and with your hand flat, and push down on the headliner. This will pop both speaker grilles right out.


    STEP 2: Remove 13mm Nuts

    The nuts are recessed inside an access hole which is covered with a black rubber plug. With the headliner lowered, you can see the plugs on the inside of the roof. The ones at the back are the easiest to access, increasing somewhat in difficulty as you work forward. The ones in front are the trickiest. The headliner only drops a couple of inches and the HPS airbag is directly in front of the plug and access hole. But the airbag is flexible and can be gently pushed out of the way.


    This is the access hole for the 13mm nut at the rear. There are actually two plugs and two holes. The nut is in the hole furthest forward. But if you remove both plugs, it is easier to see what you're doing.


    The arrow is pointing to the hole for the center nut. Sorry for the flare. I was working outside and the sun was beating down on me! The white object in the lower right corner is part of the sunroof cassette.


    Use a deep socket to access the nuts. This is the forward nut. You can see the HPS airbag being pushed to the side. The arrow is pointing to the edge of the access hole.

    It is possible to easily see the nuts by just looking up into the roof. So they are pretty easy to find.

    With each of the three nuts removed on each rail, proceed to Step 3.


    STEP 3: Remove Rails

    This is the easy one! At this point, the rails will simply lift off. They may be stuck to the roof and take a little persuading, but they'll easily come off. It's possible (likely, actually) that when the rails come off, they will take the rain gutter trim with them. This is okay. It just clips in, and has to be removed anyway.




    This is what you'll see with the rails removed. The green arrow points the hole left by removing the rails.


    STEP 4: Plug Holes

    By removing the rails, you have opened up 6 holes in the roof of your car. You have to do something to fill in the holes or you will have leaks. The solution I came up with is certainly not the only one. An alternative could be to get some small rubber plugs. But considering this is the roof of the car and the rubber plugs will eventually break down and need replacement, I wanted something a little more sturdy.

    I went to my local Ace Hardware and bought six M8x20 cap head bolts. These will thread onto the nuts removed in Step 2.


    The green arrow shows the M8x20 bolt purchased at Ace. The blue arrow is the 13mm nut removed from the rails. Total purchase price for M8 bolts: $9.00


    IMPORTANT: When you remove the rails, there is a small rectangular gasket that seals the bottom of the rail to the roof. DO NOT lose these. You will need them to seal the holes. If you think you lost one, check to see if it is stuck to the bottom of the rail, or the roof. You should have 6 in all. The green arrow points to the gasket seal.

    Using a 13mm socket on the bottom, and a 6mm allen driver on the top, tighten the bolts. I also put a bead of black RTV silicone under the head of the bolt. It's probably not necessary, but why not?


    The M8 cap head bolt in place with the rubber sealing gasket. In this photo, the gutter cover is also removed. Leave them off until you're done - it's easier to tighten the bolts with them out of the way.


    That's it for removing the rails and plugging the holes. Now, just replace the gutter trim and put the headliner back in and you're done. As they say, installation is the reverse of removal!

    If you want to replace the gutter trim with new ones that don't have the holes in them, they are available. They can be ordered from somebody like Tischer (getBMWparts dot com). They are a special order item and have to come from the Fatherland, so you'll have to be patient. The part numbers are:

    51138214113 - Left
    51138214114 - Right

    They are unpainted and Tischer will sell them to you for $94.18 each.

    Here are some "After" photos:





    Last edited by BimmerM3inGA; 06-28-2011 at 05:02 PM.

    1998 ///M3/4/5 | 1999 528iT | 2003 Z4 3.0i

  2. #2
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    And..



    What a fantastic write up! top marks to you for this! saved in my subscribed threads so I can easily reference it when the question will inevitably come up again !

    Cheers, Dennis!

  3. #3
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    Sweet, thanks!

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  4. #4
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    Excellent work! Thank you.
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  5. #5
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    Great write up! Thanks!

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    Great job!

  7. #7
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    Wow. Made a huge difference in the look of the car - much cleaner without the rails. Nice job with the write-up.

    |dg

  8. #8
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    Thumbs up

    Looks great. Nice job.
    Let me or one of the other moderators know when you'd like it towed into the DIY section.

  9. #9
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    Thanks, guys! I'm working on a couple of ideas to deal with the holes in the rain gutter trim. They don't cause a problem with leaks, it's just for aesthetics. I'll post them when I come up with something that works.

    Quote Originally Posted by jamesdc4
    Let me or one of the other moderators know when you'd like it towed into the DIY section.
    Hook 'er up!

    1998 ///M3/4/5 | 1999 528iT | 2003 Z4 3.0i

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by BimmerM3inGA View Post
    Thanks, guys! I'm working on a couple of ideas to deal with the holes in the rain gutter trim. They don't cause a problem with leaks, it's just for aesthetics. I'll post them when I come up with something that works.


    Hook 'er up!
    Done.

  11. #11
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    So US spec cars don't come with the plugs to fill the holes?
    When I Bought the wifeys the rails were off with plugs in. the Guy said they were in the glovebox so he took the rack off.

  12. #12
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    So US spec cars don't come with the plugs to fill the holes?
    I've had two E39 Tourings, and neither of them did.

    1998 ///M3/4/5 | 1999 528iT | 2003 Z4 3.0i

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by BimmerM3inGA View Post
    I've had two E39 Tourings, and neither of them did.
    After further inspection the guy was high or something. the covers for the holes are hinged, spring loaded closed and can't be taken off. they just flip up and the roof rack has captive allen screws and it crews right on.




  14. #14
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    Interesting, is that just a crossbar rack? Or the same rack that runs the length of the car.

    Can you take a pic from further back?

    Also Bimmer3 can you take a photo of what the roof looks like with the trim holes exposed?
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  15. #15
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    sfgearhead

    Is this what you mean? Yes, I know my car is filthy!

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  16. #16
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    Yes. And mine's worse right now!

    I like this mod, it's basically free. Until you need to buy new trim. Ugh.
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  17. #17
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    By the time I buy the trim and have it painted, it most definitely won't be a free mod. But it's worth it!

    1998 ///M3/4/5 | 1999 528iT | 2003 Z4 3.0i

  18. #18
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    Very good write up. Thanks!

    I just ordered the moldings that cover the holes after the rails are removed. There is one here in the states while the other is in Germany. 10 days business days till I see them and thats with priority shipping. there are a couple of other part numbers for these as well depending on the car.

    51138214113 - Left
    51138214114 - Right

    as BimmerM3inGA says.

    51 13 8 193 207 Left
    51 13 8 193 208 Right

    is what the ETK shows for a 2002 540i Touring.

    Great write up!
    Last edited by apexbmw; 01-26-2012 at 08:30 PM. Reason: Automerged Doublepost

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by BimmerM3inGA View Post
    By the time I buy the trim and have it painted, it most definitely won't be a free mod. But it's worth it!

    I just ran electrical tape down the length of the tim strip as temporary fix, as I was eventually just going to fill the holes from behind if I liked how the car looked rail-less, turns out I didn't.

    But you could easily do it, find some strips of a thermoset plastic, epoxy them from behind the holes, and then use a sandable epoxy/flexible bumper repair material to level out the tops, sand and paint.



  20. #20
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    I just searched for this as I thought I would prefer the delete but after seeing the photos, I actually prefer the rack.

  21. #21
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    Yeah I prefer the rack too
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  22. #22
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    Great write up here. I am determined to do this delete on my '00 Touring, but I'll pass on the factory fillers. Too much $$$ for something that could easily be fabricated from the existing rails by use of a sawzall or some other brutally effective, but dangerous method to cut the rails where they are flush with the roofline, after removal, of course. Fill in any holes in the cut & paint. Put the pieces back in the holes & get a good seal.
    This is all just theory at this point and we all know how quick theories can go to shit.

  23. #23
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    Give it a try. I'm sure that with a little creativity, a solution can be found. The worst case scenario is that you end up having to buy the trim pieces after all.

    1998 ///M3/4/5 | 1999 528iT | 2003 Z4 3.0i

  24. #24
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    I removed the racks this morning, my theory of using the bottom part of the rail to fill the holes is out the window. They are not construced in such a way to make it viable. I can easily cut some black plastic strips to go under the trim piece making it look almost flush. That will be "good enough for who it's for", this isn't a show car. I'll see if I can get some pics up later.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by apexbmw View Post
    Very good write up. Thanks!there are a couple of other part numbers for these as well depending on the car.

    51138214113 - Left
    51138214114 - Right


    as BimmerM3inGA says.

    51 13 8 193 207 Left
    51 13 8 193 208 Right


    is what the ETK shows for a 2002 540i Touring.
    Dead thread resurrection I know but I was just looking at this and dug into the part numbers.

    To be clear the above post is a bit confusing - the 207/208 numbers are NOT what you want for the roof rack delete as they are indicated as the OEM NorAM trims for cars WITH a roof rack. Aka it should be what you have already.


    There are also 2 numbers for pre-painted trims but I'm guessing those aren't available, and, will be so much more expensive as to be not worth the cost vs having them sprayed yourself.

    51139070537 51139070538

    Just wanted to get that clear in case other people pop in and try to order the wrong thing since the post above was potentially misleading...
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