The BMW E46 has its fair share of commonly found issues; it’s even more typical given that these cars are at least two decades old now. An extremely common issue that I will be addressing in this post is the sunroof shade getting stuck inside of the roof. This issue can present itself in a number of ways.
For me specifically, the shade would get stuck when I operated the sunroof, causing the sunroof to jam and stop moving. Other times, the sunroof itself would work fine, but the sunroof shade would not close all the way when the sunroof was closed. You can immediately tell there is something wrong with the shade when you close it manually and see that it is obviously off of the track.
I want to make clear that this post doesn’t address issues with the sunroof itself. If your sunroof doesn’t work properly, this post won’t address that issue. This guide will go through the removal of the sunroof glass and fixing the sunroof shade so that it opens and closes properly again. It’s actually quite easy to remove the sunroof glass. Once you remove it, you will be more easily able to see the issue with the sunroof shade.
Tools & Materials
Some tools you’ll need are a T20 Torx bit to remove the hardware holding the sunroof glass, a T10 Torx bit to remove the sunroof shade clips, a magnetic pick-up tool to help with dropped bolts (and to help with reinstallation of the bolts), and finally a sunroof lubricant spray to re-lubrciate the tracks. You will also need a 1/4″-drive and 3/8″-drive rachet for the different Torx bits as the smaller T10 Torx bit will usually require a smaller 1/4″-drive rachet.
Torx Bit Set: LEXIVON Torx Bit Socket Set, 13-Piece Star (T8 – T60 Set)
Ratchet Set: Neiko Ratchet-Wrench Set, 1/4″, 3/8″, 1/2″ Drive (3-pc)
Magnetic Pickup Tool: Performance Tool Magnetic Pick-Up Tool
Lubricant for the Sunroof: Super Lube Aerosol Lubricant | BMW Sunroof Lubricant
Sunroof Shade Slider Left
Production date up to 09/2003 (Part #54138246027) | After 09/2003 (Part #54137134516)
Sunroof Shade Slider – Right
All production dates: BMW Part #(54138246025) | URO Brand (Part #54138246025)
How to Fix a Stuck Sunroof Shade on a BMW E46
As you can see from these photos, my sunroof shade is off the track which is apparent because it doesn’t close all the way and is slightly crooked. It also gets stuck when you operate the sunroof, causing the sunroof motor to stall and cease to completely close or open the sunroof.
The stuck sunroof shade issue is an extremely common issue on the BMW E46. A ton of them that I’ve seen in person including ones I find at the junk yard have this problem. The reason why the sunroof shade gets stuck is because of a combination of various broken clips, which cause the sunroof to no longer glide along the tracks.
To gain access to the Torx bolts for the sunroof shade, you must access it from above. In order to do that, you will have to first remove the sunroof glass itself. Removing the sunroof glass is quite easy.
First slide the sunroof shade all the way back so you can get at the bolts holding the sunroof in place. Use a T20 Torx bit and remove the (6 qty) Torx bolts; there are three bolts on each side. Sometimes when you remove these, they fall and get trapped just below the sunroof. This is where a magnetic pickup tool comes in handy as you don’t have to waste time trying to grab the fallen bolts in a tight area.
When the bolts are removed, the sunroof glass can be taken off. From inside the cabin, push up on the glass with both hands like you’re doing a shoulder press and move it over to the side. Then from outside, carry it away to a safe location while you work on the sunroof shade.
If you manually slide the sunroof shade back to the closed position, you can now see the way the sunroof shade runs along its tracks. Take note that the driver’s side has two tabs that are secured to the shade and the passenger side has two non-removal compression tabs that run along a track.
Whenever you you operate the sunroof’s open/close button, the driver’s side has a tab that pushes the shade’s driver’s side tabs. The compression tabs on the passenger side of the shade run along the track. You will see more close-up photos on this post, which will give you a better idea of how these components work.
Inspect the tabs on the driver’s side of the sunroof shade. Each of the two tabs on the driver’s side can be removed via the (2 qty) T10 Torx bolts.
Once they are removed, you can get a closer look at the part. Sometimes these driver’s side tabs get bent, become broken, or have some other issue that causes it to no longer look and operate as if they were in their original condition. If they are damaged, you may want to change them out with new parts.
Now, take a look at the sunroof shade’s passenger’s side. On this side of the sunroof shade, there are two of these U-shaped compression tabs that are affixed to the shade. These U-shaped tabs are supposed to have these long plastic covers that fit over them, which help to guide the shade on this side along the track.
A lot of times, these plastic covers break off or come off the U-shaped tabs. If they simply have come off and are still intact, put them back onto the U-shaped compression tabs. Then, compress the tabs and press them back into the sunroof track.
Back to the driver’s side. Replace the (2 qty) driver’s side tabs as needed. Just like the passenger’s side tabs, the driver’s side tabs also need to fit onto the sunroof track.
One thing to note is that you need to install the tabs in the correct position. Otherwise the sunroof shade won’t operate properly. The tab that is located closer to the back of the car needs to be installed so that the sunroof tab pushes against the sunroof shade tab while it is opening..
When you press the open button on the sunroof, the shade will automatically open while the sunroof tab pushes against the tab of the sunroof shade. Then when you press the close button, the sunroof will close on its own until a certain point at which the tab will start pushing against the second tab of the sunroof shade. As a result, the sunroof shade will close slightly and expose its handle. You will then be able to close the shade manually by hand.
Something I recommend doing before putting the sunroof glass back on is to clean and lubricate the sunroof tracks. Since you have access at this time, it’s easy to use a degreaser or all-purpose cleaner to clean the tracks. Clean all of the tracks of the dirt and old grease that has accumulated.
With everything clean and dry, use some lubricant that can be used for sunroof tracks. I used silicone lubricant which worked really well. BMW also has their own brand of sunroof track lubricant. I lubricated the tracks, then opened and closed the sunroof multiple times. Even without the sunroof glass, the sunroof mechanism will still run and help you work the lubricant through the moving parts.
I then opened it and closed it, and wiped away any residual lubricant. I repeated this process several times until the sunroof operated very smoothly.
You can then put the sunroof glass back on and secure it via the (6 qty) T20 Torx bolts, tightening them snug. If you have a hard time because the bolts keep falling off your Torx bit while you’re installing them, try using that magnetic pickup tool to magnetically hold the bolt onto your bit while getting it back into the bolt hole.
If the sunroof was re-assembled properly and re-lubricated sufficiently, it will glide along the tracks smoothly. It should also operate properly and allow you to manually open and close the sunroof shade without it getting stuck. Sometimes, you might still have issues, which you’ll consequently have to disassemble and re-examine for the cause of the issue.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the stuck sunroof shade issue an extremely common one on the BMW E46. I believe the sunroof shade has a poor design, which leaves several weak points that are just waiting to fail. Pair that along with plastic and rubber parts in the sunroof’s moving mechanism and you have a recipe for disaster. It’s no wonder most of the E46’s I’ve encountered have this very issue.