Sunday 16 March 2014

E60: Bumper damage + fix!

Calamity! As I was reversing out of where I was parked at work on Thursday, the edge of the front bumper caught the corner of a kerb I didn't even know was there. Parking at work has become mental lately, with a big influx of new drivers who start at 7am, so those of us in at 8 are being forced to park further and further up the lane and now into a gravel clearing that belongs to the Woodland Trust. During a short phase of image-adjustment my company lined the lane with brand new kerb-stones, but as it doesn't own the clearing the kerb ends suddenly at the exact boundary point. This has now been well overgrown with long grass and, although the kerb is barely 6-inches on our side, a dip makes it about 10-inches on the far side. That's the side my front-bumper hit as I reversed round to drive out.

I was only doing 5mph and it only sounded like a bad scrape, but I didn't realise the full extent of the damage I'd done until I got home. The front-bumper was hanging off, the plastic under-tray has broken, the headlamp-washer cover and tow-hook flap were missing and a reverse-sensor had broken off. I returned to find the absent parts, but couldn't find the reverse-sensor. It had dropped down into the bumper, luckily not falling out somewhere while driving and best of all it still works, because buying another sensor so soon would be a tough pill to swallow. The rest of the damage is bad enough, but today I have re-fitted the bumper flush and glued the sensor back in. The only lasting scars from the accident is some cracked gel-coat on the bumper, pictured. It can't be rubbed-in with T-cut and would need re-painting, so I think when I can afford to do so I will buy an M-sport front-bumper, as long as I can find one already in silver.

This will teach me to be more cautious when driving over grass!

First, I took the 10mm screw out from the corner of the bumper, just inside the wheel-arch and pulled the bumper right out to get to the reverse-sensor. The plastic mount had snapped off with the sensor and superglue just wasn't doing the trick, so I headed to Halfords and bought an Areldite 'syringe', £5.49. It's pricey, but does the job every time. Next was to remove any snapped off bits of bumper from the wing. The bottom edge of the wing, where it meets the bumper shut-line, had bent round the threaded-clip and created a high-spot underneath that needed beating in with a hammer and chisel before the bumper could be re-seated flush and the screw replaced to hold things tight. Finally, another blob of Areldite sorted the headlamp-washer cover-flap, as the clips had sheared clean off the back of it. I would have gotten away with it being unnoticeable if it wasn't for that pesky gel-coat cracking! 

Saturday 15 March 2014

E60 Audio: Getting a Bass RCA (Audio) feed from the Stock-Subs.

If you want an aftermarket amp + subs in the boot then you need an RCA-feed and tapping into the rear speaker-wires does not work on the E60 and other iDrive BMWs as it does on the E39, E46 etc. All US E60s and others with factory-upgraded sound-systems have two subs under the front seats run by a stock-amp in the boot, on the left-hand suspension turret behind the panel. If you have this see this guide on //// to tap into the wires on the stock-amp.

Most non-US cars don't have a built-in amplifier in the boot, but they still have subwoofers under the front seats. These are driven by the head-unit and the EQ sends a different set of frequencies to each set of speakers. [See:]. The rear speakers are only 4" so they don't get much low-end at all. To get proper bass it's worth going the extra mile and running cables all the way to the stock-subs, which get the real low-range frequencies.

** NB: This is to fit subwoofers on a bass-only channel. If you are fitting component speakers or 6x9s then you will need a broader range of frequencies and are better to tap the rear speaker-wires, covered in THIS POST, which is a lot easier. **


Getting to the sub-wires is quite involved, but not difficult if you have the right tools. There is a + and - wire to each sub, so two new speaker-wires will need running either side. I used one length of twin-core 1.5mm wire on each sub, about 6 feet of wire is plenty.

1. Slide the seat all the way back and remove the plastic caps from the front of the runners.

2. Remove the two bolts from the front of the runners using a T50 Torx-head wrench.

3. Slide the seat all the way forward and remove the two bolts holding the rear of the runners using a T50 Torx-head wrench.

4. Lift the seat up. tilt it back out of the way and prop it up.

5. Remove the four crosshead screws from the plastic-grille above the sub and lift it off.

6. Move the carpet on the door-sill out of the way and cut the fabric-tape binding the wires going to the sub together so they can be pulled apart.

7. Splice your new speaker-wires into the wires going to the sub as pictured below. O/S - Red/Blue for [+] and White/Brown for [-]. N/S - Red/White [+] and Brown/Yellow [-]. [Soldering would be the best way, but I just went for the quick and easy Scotch-lock way again].

8. Run the new speaker-wires out from under the carpet and
along underneath the door-sill trim, up the side of the back seat and along the top of the back seat to the middle.

9. Lower the centre arm-rest and remove the plastic-trim panel from behind it by pulling out the two push-clips from the lower edge and working it off.

10. Thread the new speaker-wires down behind the back-seat at the centre. Be sure to thread the wires just behind the seat-back, but not down against the parcel-shelf, which ends at an annoying ledge. If you see the wire passing down behind the small round hole near the top of the seat-back behind the arm-rest then your on the right route.

11. Inside the boot the new speaker-wires should be seen poking down into the boot, or if it isn't you should be able to reach under the lip at the back of the boot and pull it down.

12. Install the four wires to your amplifier either directly by adding red/white RCA-type connectors to them, or via a crossover-box, which is the better method. Fitting a crossover is covered in THIS POST.

Friday 14 March 2014

E60 Audio: RCA Feed from Rear Speakers - quick n dirty guide.

**Caution: This guide is for fitting extra component/coaxial speakers and is NOT suitable for fitting subs as the rear-speakers receive no low-end frequencies. If you are fitting subs then see THIS GUIDE on getting bass-RCA from the stock-subs.

This guide covers a very quick and easy way to get an RCA-feed into the boot on your BMW E60 and other iDrive models. This method is only suitable if you are fitting extra component or coaxial speakers [inc. 6x9s etc.] where the range of frequencies handled by the rear speaker-EQ are required.


** If you are fitting extra component/coaxial speakers then adding a crossover-box to the RCA-feed before the amp should not be necessary. If you intend to use a crossover, substitute the 4 wires of the Red/White RCA-cable in this guide for 4 lengths of normal wire and see THIS GUIDE on how to install it.

1. Take a normal Red/White stereo RCA-cable, cut both plugs off from one end and separate the two wires down most of its length. An RCA-cable of about 4 feet should be plenty to reach up to both rear-speakers.

2. Carefully unwind the earth-wire from around each coated-wire and twist them off, so each of the coaxial RCA-wires is now split into two, as shown.

3. Bend each of the four wires over about 5mm from the end and completely sheathe the two bare earth-wires up to here, so they are well separated from the red/white live wires, as shown.

4. Gently prise off each rear-speaker grille using a flathead screwdriver, starting at the front edge.

5. Remove the 3 screws holding each rear-speaker using a T20 Torx-head wrench/driver, then lift out and unplug both speakers.

6. From inside the boot, light can be seen coming in through the empty speaker-recesses. Route one cut end of the RCA-cable up into each speaker-recess. They should easily be reached now from the parcel-shelf.

7. Splice the coated live-wire of the RCA-cable to the + speaker-wire on each side and the bare earth-wire to the - speaker-wires. The colours are as follows:

O/S - Yellow/Black +, Yellow/Brown -.
N/S - Black/Red +, Black/Purple -.

8. Push the wires down into the parcel-shelf and replace the speakers/grilles.

Done in 5 minutes!

Sunday 9 March 2014

Another subs/amp issue - not enough low-end getting through.

The plot thickens with my aftermarket subs and amp install. Following the addition of a crossover between the rear-speakers and amp RCA-input I'm definitely getting cleaner bass, but the really low-end frequencies don't seem to be present at all. I doubt the crossover can't handle the frequencies and I know the amp can, so this leads to me think the frequencies are being cut out before getting to the rear-speakers.

One US forum says low-end frequencies are cut from all but the stock amp in the boot and subs under the front-seats. Today I got 2 screws out of the plastic-grille under the passenger seat and bent it back to see a flat type subwoofer under it with the magnet facing upwards. Still, there is no stock amp present at either side of my boot. To get a definitive answer I started a thread on BMW-Land -

Turns out all E60s do have the stock subs under the front-seats, but if you don't have the amp they are controlled from the head-unit as well. Patching into the wiring to these could be the solution to getting the proper bass I'm after, but it will involve undoing the rear speaker splice and running the wires through to under the front-seat, so will have to wait for the time being. - yep, seems to be the case, rear-speakers are EQ'd to high and mid frequencies only. - here is a good guide on how to tap into the sub-woofer wires, but it involved removing the front seats.

E60 Audio: TSK TD-22 Speaker Level Converter (X-Over) - How to fit.

If you're running an external amp using the audio feed from your rear speakers then you will be getting the full range of frequencies through your subs. An after-market head-unit with an RCA output, or some amps, will have a x-over built in that can be set to only allow bass frequencies through. If your amp doesn't have one and you don't want the subs to sound awful with your BMW's stock system, an external x-over block is what you need.

In my case, the Alpine V12 1kW amp I'm now using has no Gain (volume) control either, so the addition of a x-over means I can turn down the booming subs without affecting bass going to the stock speakers. The cheaper Toxic 1kW amp I was using in the E39 had both gain control and a built-in x-over, so I could run the subs in balance with my system. Sadly, the 4-chan Toxic amp was never loud enough and any attempt to turn it up would cause the car's whole sound system to trip-out, which I cover in this post, and this really doesn't work in an E60 so it's high time I got around to sorting the matched Alpine amp.

X-over blocks used to be large, expensive things used only by pro's and had more controls than the head-unit itself. Now however, there are loads of smaller blocks available, many designed just to convert a speaker-feed into low-freq RCA. I went for the most popular unit amongst the BMW forum guys, a T.S.K TD-22. Not sure if they're all made by one supplier, but these same looking kits can be bought almost anywhere - I got mine off eBay of course, a snip at £5.95 delivered. 

The instructions are a little vague to say the least and mainly in Chinese and broken English, I have written them out in THIS POST on Panabloga, but here is a better version:

Red: 12v Switched - The x-over needs its own power that turns off with the ignition.

Blue: Remote on/off - Tells the x-over to turn on only when the amp is powered up.

Black: Ground - Connect to earth.

Grey: Right speaker + wire.
Grey / Black: Right speaker - wire.

White: Left speaker + wire.
White / Black: Left speaker - wire.

I joined the red and blue wires together and crimped them both into the amp remote wire coming from the cigar lighter, which is 12v anyway. I cover fitting that in THIS POST. I extended the Ground wire and earthed it to the same place on the body as the amp, rather than into the GND socket on the amp itself as suggested. The speaker wires are pretty short and the only place a +/- audio-feed can be drawn from is where the wires go to the speakers themselves at either side of the parcel-shelf, so I extended both of these into the boot and mounted the x-over block next to the amp on the sub-box.

Saturday 8 March 2014

E60 Audio: Fitting an On/Off Switch for the Amp/Subs.

Even though my amp and subs turn off with the ignition I like to have a separate switch somewhere so they can be turned off manually when I don't want them on.

I fitted it at the back of the coin-tray in the centre of the dash so it's invisible and causes the least damage to the fascia, plus I plan to fit an aux. in there at some point too. This also keeps the extra-wiring needed to a minimum - I just snipped the remote-wire coming from the cigar-lighter and connected it to the back of the switch with two female-spade crimp-connectors.

I did this while the trim and fascia were removed during the remote-wire fitting in THIS POST.

E60 Audio: Getting A Remote On/Off Signal from the 12v adapter.

The amp and subs need a remote-signal to tell them to switch off with the ignition. BMWs fitted with iDrive have a 16-minute shutdown sequence on most of the car's electrical equipment. This means that a 5-12v remote-signal cannot be taken from any of the wires at the rear of the car, such as the parking-sensors on the E39 or E46. With iDrive they will keep the amp turned on and draining the battery for quarter of an hour every time you turn the key.

The only viable option and the most popular online is to take the remote-signal from the 12v adapter / cigar-lighter in the dash, which shuts down straight away. It's a fiddly setup with a spring, so to avoid wrecking the sliding ash-tray mechanism it's best to remove the whole centre-console as one piece and quite a bit of dash and trim has to be removed to do this. With the battery and audio-feed already in the boot, this is the longest and most involved part of the whole job, but a lot less difficult than I imagined.

You will need a good length of wire to reach from the cigar-lighter, over the dash, under the sills and into the boot. The blue remote-wire that comes with

1. Removing the Trim to get to the Cigar-lighter wires:

1.1 Pull forward the trim-strip that holds the passenger and centre air-vents on the dash, starting at the passenger side edge [door-open], working it gently up with a flat screwdriver and moving along to the centre.

1.2 From behind the trim-strip, press out the hazard-light and lock switch-panel out of the trim-strip and unplug the wiring-connector. The trim-strip can now be removed.

1.3 Remove the 2 crosshead screws from the top corners of the radio/climate-control fascia and pull that forward top first.

1.4 Unplug the 2 wiring-connectors from the climate-control fascia and pull it further forward.

1.5 Unplug the 3 or 4 wiring-connectors from the bottom of the fascia [ASC/PDC/heated-seats etc.] and completely remove it.

1.6 Gently prise up the gear-stick gaiter and lift it up out of the way.

1.7 Remove the iDrive knob by pulling it vertically upwards.

1.8 Remove the 2 screws under the gearstick-gaiter holding the centre-console trim panel using a T20 Torx-head driver.

1.9 Use a flat-screwdriver to gently prise up the centre-console trim panel, being careful of the 2 push-studs at the rear, unplug the 'Menu' button wiring-connector and remove the panel.

1.10 Remove the 4 screws holding the ash-tray using a T20 Torx-head driver and lift the ash-try out. It is not necessary to unplug the wiring-connector as it should reach out enough to splice the wire.

2. Splicing / Running the Remote Wire:

2.1 Pull down the plastic trim-panel directly under the steering-column. It has a push clip at either side.

2.2 Run the remote-wire in through the open trim-panel and round to the bottom of the dashboard and under the ash-tray surround so it comes out with the cigar-lighter wiring.

2.3 Splice the remote-wire into the Red live-wire for the cigar-lighter. Solder/heat-shrink is best, but I went with the quick and easy Scotch-lock method.

2.3 Re-fit the centre-console and dash/fascia trim, or if you wish to add a switch so the subs/amp can also be turned off manually then follow THIS POST first.

2.4 Remove the coin-tray from under the steering-column by undoing the 2 crosshead-screws.

2.5 Pull back the door-seal from the lower front-corner of the driver's door.

2.6 Run the other end of the remote-wire through the opposite side of the open trim-panel under the steering-column [towards the driver's door] to where it can be reached from the coin-tray aperture.

2.7 Reach into the coin-tray aperture with the end of the remote-wire and feed it through the edge of the dashboard until it can be seen in the gap behind the door-seal.

2.8 Pull the rest of the remote-wire out of the door-seal and re-fit the trim-panel / coin-tray.

2.9 Feed the remote-wire down behind the trim-panel at the low front corner of the driver's door and lift up the door-sill trim until the wire can be reached and pulled through from below into the footwell.

2.10 Re-fit the door-seal.

2.11 Remove the rear seat-squab by pulling it up sharply at the either side.

2.12 Run the remote-wire through into the rear footwell and up the side of the rear seat, tucking it under the door-sill and B-pillar trim as you do so.

2.13 Locate a gap along the top of the seat-back / parcel-shelf for the remote-wire to run through into the boot, the easiest place is the driver's side about halfway to the centre, and feed the wire down about 6 inches. From side the boot the wire should be coming through at the far edge of the parcel-shelf, so pull a good length through to avoid it getting yanked back up.

2.14 Run the remote-wire under the trim at the side of the seat-squab, tuck it up behind the side of the seat-back and along the parcel-shelf, then pull the remaining wire through into the boot.

2.15 Re-fit the rear seat-squab.

Sunday 2 March 2014

E21: Seat Fitment Guide:

Swapping seats round in a BMW E21 3-series is a nightmare, thanks to the floor-mounts being two different heights. To fit level-based seats from another car requires chopping out the welded floor-mounts and once this is done there is no going back.

1. Check if your floor-mounts have been chopped:

Check the outer floor-mounts on either side, spot-welded in place just inside the door-sill. They should look the one in the left photo below.

If they don't, and they look more like the right photo [with or without the wood], then you have chopped mounts and seats not originally from an E21. You also won't be going back to E21 seats very easily, so to preserve the style and make the ride a lot better, throw in seats from a newer BMW.

2.1 Fitting stock BMW seats from E30, E36 etc. :

This makes sense. E21 seats are sprung and uncomfortable and were dropped in almost every succeeding model. Other BMW seats are easier to come by and cheaper. E30 seats preserve the look almost identically and are far superior in construct. They also fit the inner seat mounts on the E21, the ones against the trans.-tunnel, so only the only outer ones need adapting. I am sure this is the case with seats from other 80s BMWs, possibly the E36 and E46 as I've seen it done, but need confirmation.
Modifying the outer floor-mounts, the ones against the door sills, is impossible as they just sit that much higher than the inner ones, the E21 of course having a crazy odd-height sub-frame design, so they need cutting out. Putting in new ones is pretty straight forward though, you can fabricate them with steel or alloy C-channel, wooden blocks, improvised stilts - these are all popular methods. Tilt-forward seats don't tend to be very strong anyway, so the new mounts don't have to be rock solid as long as they're bolted or welded securely to the floor-pan. Mine used the stock inner floor-mounts and a wooden block on the outer side to get the height - this presented no problem to the UK MOT (roadworthiness-test).

Check out my guide here:

Or check out HSVTurbo's guide HERE [where I got my idea] in THIS THREAD on bimmerforums.

2.2 Fitting rigid Racing bucket-seats:

If you're building a track car then it's obviously best to keep things as stiff and secure as possible. The neatest and most weight-saving method is to cut some steel cross-beams to fit and weld them across the floor-pan, from the trans.-tunnel to the door-sill. This could be done with or without removing the outer floor-mount, but you will probably have to do this to get the seat low enough. Two cross-beams under each seat would probably be best, but it is most often done with just reasonably thick one.

More info. HERE on bimmerforums.

2.3 Fitting non-BMW stock seats (VW, Ford Recaro etc.) :

To get the right height and a central-position with stock seats from non-BMWs there is a lot of modification to the mounts - these seats will always have the bolt-holes in the wrong place. The tidiest way would probably be to weld in rigid cross-beams like in the above guide [2.2], otherwise you will need to fabricate custom mounts. [I used a combination of wood-block and steel cross-beam to fit Ford RS Recaros to mine in THIS POST].

3. Re-fitting stock E21 seats:

I have never seen anyone online do this. If you have level floor-mounts then I see no reason to switch back to E21 seats. All but the Recaros are uncomfortable, sprung nightmares. They give a truly bouncy and uncertain ride - only the most restoration mad would want it. The Recaros are super-rare and overpriced to fit the E21s mounts. E30 Recaros are a fraction of the price, have level mounts and are better anyway. If you are so desperate to restore your E21 dutifully, then I would consider it having cut floor-mounts a deal-breaker and to find one with stock seats, because the car will never be the same again.

There are 3 ways I see to achieve refitting stock seats:

1. Build custom outer mounts using a combination of the methods above, building them back up to the original and rather tall height for the stock seat-frames. [].

2. Locate a pair of original outer floor-mounts that have been cut out of another E21 and refit them to yours. These would first need to have been cut out carefully from the donor car and preserved by someone. Whether they would advertise them for sale is another matter, but asking on the forums can't hurt. Otherwise, you'll need to find someone with a scrap / breaking E21 and ask to neatly cut out its floor-mounts for a few quid. Either way, obtaining a useable pair is going to be tough.
Once you do though, they would just need to be measured up to where yours were cut off and welded into place. How neat a job you do will determine whether they fit or if it's unnoticeable.

3. Fabricate new outer mounts from the ground up out of steel and weld those in. I will endeavour to make a note of the dimensions of my cut one before passing it on and do a quick CAD design to fab-up a simple one.

**Also, I still have the passenger-side (N/S, Euro/US Driver-side) floor-mount [above], so if anyone wants it to try and weld back in message me! [Sadly, I cut the driver-side one out more severely and this is probably going to be the case if yours are chopped as it gives the wood or whatever more to grab on to.]

E60 Audio: New Amp sound cut-off issues.

This is common with BMW stock sound-systems. Something to do with taking an audio-feed from the rear speakers causes the entire sound-system to stop audio altogether. This happens in E39 and E46 models, but they can be reset straightaway with the ignition. The E60 and other iDrive models need a 16-minute cool down before audio can be restarted and this just won't do.
The problem did not occur in my E39 using an Alpine V12 1kW amp, only with a cheaper 'Toxic Audio' 1kW amp I was given at some point. This has its own volume control and the Alpine is just too loud, but with the long cut-out in the E60 I may simply have to revert back to it and turn bass all the way down on the head-unit. Having said that, there's no guarantee the Alpine will not still cut out audio and I have now found similar cases from people who have bought brand-new, good quality amps, so it looks like that rules out a fault with the Toxic. Worse still, my stereo suffered the audio cut out this week while the amp was plugged in to the speakers but not even turned on [no remote-signal], so this would back up my original fears that the cut-out is to do with too much current being drawn through the rear speaker cables, causing the head-unit to shut down all audio until the system is reset [fully powered-off and back on].

Here is a thread about it on , I cannot say if the power of the amp versus the subs has anything to do with it though -


After fitting the Alpine V12 amp I have not had any sound cut off issues, just as it was in the E39, but it is still way too loud and overpowering the system, even with bass turned all the way down on the head-unit / iDrive.

To finally get this Alpine amp in balance with the stock system I've bought a crossover-box off eBay, which is a slight extra power-drain, but at least it has a Gain control for each channel so I can turn the subs down and the bass on the stock speakers back to normal. It also cuts out the high frequencies and lets only the low ones through for the subs, though I'm not sure if this will do a great deal for sound quality. I cover fitting that in THIS POST.