An honest guide to fixing loose BMW Z3 seats

First up, I don’t have the patience for anything that involves tools. I want the job done NOW, so anything that isn’t a two minute job with a screwdriver or a hammer is beyond me.

Anyway, this post should really be titled ‘how to ruin a Monday evening in a few simple steps’ because that’s exactly what happened. Here’s the background….

I bought a BMW Z3, and on the initial test drive, noticed that the drivers seat was rocking back and forth, mostly under braking.

The seller claimed they ‘never drove the car hard enough to notice’, and bless the old dear, she was probably telling the truth.

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Anyway, a week later and the seat has gotten worse (and the Z3 is being driven properly for the first time in it’s life)

So I did what any decent person would do, and googled it. Turns out the bushings in the seat mechanism go awol after a little while. These are available to buy here, so after plenty googling, I purchased them.

Right, once your bushings arrive, make sure you read EVERY article there is on replacing them. There are a lot. And YouTube videos.

Done that? Brilliant. Now here’s a guide for how to actually do it.

  1. Spend a good hour cursing the person who invented electric seats
  2. Spend even longer cursing the person who decided to put electric seats in a BMW Z3, a simple, back to basics roadster
  3. Do the job after work, on a day when you have other things planned. Budget an hour, but tell yourself you’ll have it done in 20 minutes or so, you know, so you can crack on with the evening. Try to manage your own expectations
  4. When removing the seats, try and scrape at least one of the runners down the side of the car. Really badly. The deeper the scratch, the better the feeling of satisfaction when you sell it for less than you bought it for.
  5. Once the seat is out, ignore all the advice about counting the turns and screws on the ‘kebabs’. Just disassemble the entire thing before reading the advice about counting the turns and being meticulous with removing them… Either way you’ll get the same result – total confusion.

    2015-09-07 19.28.17 HDR

    Can you see the original bushings? No, me neither. There’s virtually nothing left of them. Well BMW, that didn’t work did it?! What did you make those out of at the factory, sauerkraut?!

  6. Don’t bother with any grease, or realise that you don’t have any right at the point when:
    1. the shops are closing
    2. even if the shops were still open, your drivers seat is in the kitchen
  7. When you’ve got the new bushings out of the packet, you’ll need to sand them down. This is the easy bit. Get a piece of sandpaper, and rub the bushing on the paper until you’ve lost all the skin on your thumb and a good portion of the skin on your forefinger. Once most of your skin is on the sandpaper, you’re ready to put them in place.2015-09-07 19.55.54
  8. If the bushings don’t quite fit, use a hammer. Then go and read all of the advice, which tells you NOT to use a hammer.
  9. Right, now that you’ve got the bushings to fit (thanks to the hammer that you shouldn’t have used), you can put them back into the carriers… Now would be a REALLY good time to realise that ONE of the carriers has an L on it for Left. Which is completely indistinguishable from the other side, and it’s now impossible to tell which is which because you’ve already removed them both.2015-09-07 19.39.03 HDR
  10. Now for the easy bit. All the guides make this bit sound like a piece of cake, and do you know what? It freaking isn’t! You need to get the carrier onto the kebab, and get the entire assembly down into the seat runner… What the guide’s DON’T tell you, is that the stick part of the kebab at the bottom needs to accept the square part of the motor arm, AND that the outside of the kebab needs to push down into the recess on that piece of metal at the end. Otherwise, you’ll never be able to get the torx screw in place. Do you know how many hours it took me to work this out?! ALL OF THE HOURS!2015-09-07 20.03.17
  11. OK, now for a serious bit of advice. If, like me, you DIDN’T bother measuring or counting the turns or the condition of your kebabs before you removed them, you CAN get away with guessing it…. Look at the first picture on this blog of the kebabs as they came out the car, the one with the long caption, and try to get yours into roughly the same position when you put them back in place… Jobs a good ‘unqqh00
  12. Finally, put the seats back in. By now, it should be dark outside, and cold.

If the seats don’t fit at this stage, you have a choice of four options:

Four options for if you’ve really ballsed up your Z3 seat bushing replacement:

  1. Repeat steps 1-12 until you’ve got it right
  2. Buy a MANUAL seat from a scrapyard that works the way a proper car seat should work and fit it without all that fancy electric bollocks that you didn’t need in the first place
  3. Phone a friend who can weld, sit on the seat, get it in the right position, and pay him to weld it there
  4. Replace the seat with something you have in the house, like a plastic garden chair
  5. Set fire to the car

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