BMW E36, E34 and E32 door handle seals are notorious for cracking as they age. After this seal cracks, water can get behind the door handle and cause corrosion to the handle itself as well as collect in the bottom of your door. Collection of trapped moisture will ultimately lead to rust. It is important to replace these seals to prevent these threats. Luckily, the replacement process is not as hard as you may think.
Contrary to popular belief, one does not need to remove the inner door panel to perform the replacement procedure. This is a good thing since the E36 door cards are incredibly fragile and seem to break if you look at them wrong. There are some tricks to this replacement procedure we will highlight below to make the process go smoother.
It is important to know, BMW does not offer the seal alone as a replacement part. Rather, BMW forces you to buy a new seal along with a new plastic cover together. So if you are trying to find the part number for the seal itself, stop looking. We recommend replacing this seal with OEM BMW parts to provide maximum longevity before cracking again. We have tried aftermarket seals and they ended up cracking within weeks. The OEM BMW parts are more pricey, but you get what you pay for. So save up and get the proper OEM BMW parts for your vehicle.
What are the OEM BMW part numbers?
- 51218122441 Driver Door Handle (fits E36 and E34)
- 51218122442 Passenger Door Handle (fits E36 and E34)
- 51228119076 Left / Right Rear Door Handle (fits E36 and E34)
- 51211938285 Driver Door Handle (fits E32)
- 51211938286 Passenger Door Handle (fits E32)
- 51221938280 Left / Right Rear Door Handle (fits E32)
What is the cost?
OEM BMW door handle and seal replacement can be found online for around $26 (PER DOOR).
What tools are needed?
- Hook tool
- Small flat head screwdriver
About 5 min per door (once you know what you are doing).
What is the process?
** NOTE THE PICTURES BELOW TO FURTHER CLARIFY THIS PROCEDURE **
The pictures shown are from the driver side door handle assembly. The left rear passenger is the same procedure and the right-hand side is mirrored from this procedure.
Open the door and peel back the rubber flap on the back side of the door as shown below. Once peeled back, there is an oval opening where you will stick the appropriate tool and activate a slider which then unlocks and locks the door handle trim. Use your flashlight to look inside the oval opening to get an idea of what is all inside. What you are looking for is a brass slider. See the pictures below for more clarification. It can be difficult to find but once you look at the entire assembly below, you can get a better layout of the door handle assembly and know where to look.
To remove the old handle you need to use a small flat head screwdriver and push the brass slider forward, towards the front of the car. It is important to use a SMALL screwdriver such as the one shown. This allows for maximum maneuverability within the small opening. You need this maneuverability to access the slider. Using a thicker screwdriver will limit your control and reach the point where you cannot access the end of slider.
Study the pictures below and really get your bearings, there is a lot going in that small area and it is easy to get confused. Do not get frustrated and start stabbing at things, you could damage the door handle assembly. Take your time. Once you find the brass slider, pushing it forward should be effortless. The slider movement is approximately a half an inch forward. Once pushed forward, you can simply pull the outer handle cover and seal off together as one.
Install the new handle and seal together as one in the reverse order of removal. Now comes for the tricky slider part. Take the hook tool and pull that slider back towards you to lock the new handle and seal in place. We recommend keeping firm pressure on the new handle and seal from the outside as you move the slider back towards you. This makes sure the locking tabs are trapped by the slider. Once you moved the slider confirm the new handle and seal are locked in place by trying to pull it off. It should be snug and secure.
Push the rubber seal on the back of the door over the oval tool opening to make sure it is watertight. This is the end of the procedure. It can be frustrating at first but once you do one door, the rest go easily. Study the pictures carefully and you should not have a problem replacing these seals.