BMW E30 3-Series Glove Compartment Informal Technical Story

If you like, you can skip directly to where you can buy this part.

This story is based on some embarrassing real-life events. [At the time of this writing] I’m in the process of re-installing an engine and transmission into a 1987 BMW 325 (a.k.a. E30). I’m not doing this alone; someone else is doing the “heavy lifting.” Me, I’m reinstalling the glove compartment a.k.a. “glove box.”

I feel sort of silly wrestling with this thing while someone else is wrestling with the far-more-important task of attaching the steering column. Still, the glove compartment is part of the project. And, it has become, for me, an amazingly complex part.

An acquaintance of mine had a similar 325 and her glove compartment had some or other problem that irked her. I recall selling a glove compartment or two to customers with similar concerns. I also recall reading someone else having glove compartment problems with both of his E30 cars.

The glove compartment units come with a lock, and I typically don’t have the key, so if you buy a glove compartment from me, you’ll have to swap the lock from your own, old, presumably damaged glove compartment. If you don’t like that idea, you can buy a non-lockable latch (not an original BMW part, but hey) from Pelican Parts for barely less than $25. You can also buy from them a lockable latch (with matching key, yay) for just less than $60 if you want the original BMW part, or just less than $40 if you want a non-original BMW part.

I’d sell a used lock and latch (without key, sorry) for $10.

The glove compartment units I offer don’t come with the cool little rechargeable flashlight that the car came with. These seem to no longer be available from Pelican Parts or the dealer.

A few owners have posted threads of where to still find these, used, and how other models’ flashlights also fit. A few threads cover how to replace the batteries with modern ones, and some others yet cover how to upgrade these flashlights to bright, modern LEDs. One cynical owner, whose thought process I like, vowed to go yank the fuse that enables the rechargeable flashlight because he didn’t want to have one more thing that drains the main battery when he parks the car for long periods of time. I am secretly hoping that this circuit is powered on only when the ignition key is “on” but if not, he has a point. Several owners expressed disappointment at how lame the battery is after a few years’ use, i.e., even when charged, for how short a period of time the flashlight has power.

This is one example where new tech is really better. I’m tempted to go buy a used, dead glove compartment flashlight from a junkyard, and a $5 LED flashlight from Walgreens and then dismantle both and make a hybrid solution. The batteries on LED flashlights last for so long that the entire recharging premise might be a moot point too.

If you break or lose the fasteners or straps you can buy them from Pelican Parts at, respectively, prices of just less than $2 and just less than $10 each.

The straps both happen to be identical; the inboard and outboard ones. If you do remove them, it’s a bit tricky. Where they attach to car, i.e., by the top of the strap, there’s a plastic anchor. Grab it and twist it 90 degrees. Then, pull the entire strap up, through the hole into which the anchor fits.

The irony of the matter is that, for this project, I did not even need to remove the glove compartment to unlatch the wiring from the fuel injection computer. Just opening the glove compartment and unhooking the straps, at the bottom, would have given me enough access.

With the cosmetic cover plate installed, it’s a lot easier since that helps push the fuel injection wiring up.

* * *

By now it’s a few months after I wrote the main article, and I’m about to send to a customer a glove box that I pulled out of a 1987 BMW 325i. The problem was that the glove box had … spots on it: light gray spots that would not wash out.  I tried and tried, with Simple Green — no effect.  My clever mechanic suggested I use starting fluid to get the spots out.  To my surprise, that worked: starting fluid following by Simple Green followed by Armor All Cleaning Wipes (not the make-it-shiny-stuff, the make-it-really-clean stuff).