Struggling to Remove the Front Seat from a BMW E30

The passenger seat on my personal E30 has long since been a pain in the butt, literally, for its occupants. One of the springs is poking through the upholstery and so whoever sits on the seat will get scraped or gouged unless they cover the area with some thick fabric such as a towel.  Since I used to have passengers approximately 0.001% of the time, replacing the seat hasn’t been a priority but the seat is, or I am, becoming more popular so perhaps it’s time to do something about it.

And so off I went to the local junkyards, and I found a nice seat with matching colors in a 2-door BMW E30 like mine. Yay!

The previous owner had allocated a significant amount of money and effort to his sound system, judging by the modifications to the car. I sometimes wonder if, had that money been diverted to preventative maintenance instead, the car might not still be on the road instead of languishing in a junk yard.  Choosing to neglect the timing belt is a classic mistake that E30 owners make, as one example.

Anyway, this car had some expensive-looking aftermarket sound system cable running from the passenger front seat down the center and under the back seat into the trunk. Under the passenger front seat was also a massive speaker box.  I tried to remove it from under the seat, either from the front or the back, and … no go.  I gather the installer had removed some or all of the seat anchor points, shoved the speaker under the seat and then bolted the seat down again.  Not that the speaker was attached to anything; it was loosely lying around under the seat.  Odd.

Anyway, when the time came to remove the seat, the seat slide was already all the way back, and this allowed open access to the two forward plastic covers over the 17 mm fasteners, and to the fasteners themselves. I removed them, quickly and easily. The next step was to slide the seat forward so as to enable access to the rearmost two 17 mm fasteners, but … the seat refused to slide forward.

My assistant pointed out that there was a problem with the rod that connects the master side slide clutch, the side where the  lever is, to the passive side.

I presume that the sound system installer had disabled the rod so as to make room for the hug speaker bouncing around the seat … not the sort of trade-off in functionality that I’d have chosen. Anyway, to each his own.

As a consequence of the disabled rod, only one side’s slide disengaged when I pulled the lever up.  This meant that I needed to reach under the seat to the passive side and manually work the little side clutch while with my other hand pulling the lever up on the other slide, and then with my third hand I’d push the seat forward. Not a perfect plan but it seemed worth a try. My assistant had already removed the driver seat, so I looked at its slide mechanism to see how the mechanism worked, and where I needed to push.

The problem is that I couldn’t easily reach under the seat; it was down very low.  I remembered that E30 seats have a height control, so I activated that with one hand, and with the other hand I pushed the seat bottom upwards. The problem is that my finger was at the time in an opening where two pieces of metal form a gap that closes as the seat rises, and my finger got squashed. Oweee.  The two pieces of metal had sharp enough edges that, had I done this more vigorously I might have crushed the bone or cut the finger clear off. Fortunately I had reacted quickly and had stopped the upwards pulling motion just in time.

Not feeling very happy any more, I reach underneath to the slide clutch and found that the area has some sharp metal pieces that rubbed and scratched the skin off my upper arm. I kept going and finally got the job done well enough to where the seat could slide forward, but I wasn’t all too happy with the extra fee I’d ended up paying in personal pain.

Even so, I am now the proud owner of an entire set of front and rear E30 seats.  And, for the record, these all could fit onto the existing back seat of m E30, after removal of a headrest or two, and protecting the seat face from damage from the slides of the other seat.  Success!

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