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Technical_   Interior_  Dashboard Removal

Dashboard Removal
Jim Hodson

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So your old dashboard is worn out, and you're thinking about getting some type of cover for it. They don't look that bad, do they? I had one, and it was okay, but there's nothing like the real thing. I did some research and found out I could get a nice used dash for less than $100. It's a fair amount of work, but if you keep track of what you're doing, it's not so bad.

Chris Tsang actually wrote me these directions first, and I've sort of elaborated on them. Without his help, I never could've done the replacement. Thanks Chris!


  • Replacement dashboard in good condition from any year E30, though if hardtops and cabrios may have different ones. Mine cost me $85 from a local guy with a parts car.
  • Lots of little Ziploc style sandwich bags and a permanent marker to label all the little screws and fittings that will have to come out.
  • screwdrivers (standard #2 Phillips, standard flathead, stubby #2 Phillips, and tiny head Phillips and flathead)
  • socket wrench w/8mm, 10mm, 12mm, and 23mm sockets with various extensions
  • wire wraps
  • pliers
  • foam window insulation (for the vent duct joints)
  • Bentley manual (the pictures can be helpful)
  • A friend to do all the dash wiggling and help you remember how to put it all back together. Some people did this alone (Chris did so), and I'd tip my hat to them if I was wearing one.
  • Ability to resist burning the car when you have trouble getting the dash in.


I was able to find a nice dash foor $85 from a local guy parting out a car. I saw his ad in the Roundel. I've seen others go for as little as $35 and as much as $200, but that's about the max. Everything else was less than $10 total, and I got it all at Home Depot (except for the tools themselves).


1.) Remove the rear center console first by removing the rear ashtray and nut that attaches the console to the chassis. Not too bad, right?

2.) Remove the glovebox by doing the following:
a.) Open the glovebox and remove the 4 or so screws from the front panel of the dashboard.

b.) Remove the three screws from behind the glovebox. The bolts are attached to a metal clip that wedges the hinge to the rear glovebox.

c.) Pop out the little pins on the two straps attached to the glovebox.

d.) Remove the two clips holding the wire to the flashlight charger, then take the charger out - I used a little screwdriver to loosen the tabs.

e.) Remove the black panels with the glovebox light. There are plastic plug twist screws that turn 90 degrees and pop out.

f.) Remove the straps, with the two more twist screws, and take out the glovebox.
3.) Remove the front center console (where the power window switches are) by doing the following:
a.) Detach the shifter boot from the console; if it's a 5-speed then the boot pops out. If it's an automatic transmission, remove the panel on the right and then the two screws holding the trim ring to the console. Remove the foam insert if there is one.

b.) Remove the one or two nuts that attach the console to the undercarraige and remove the two screws that hold in the ashtray.

c.) Remove the large size half-turn plugs (one on each side) at the forward end of the console (closer to the firewall).
4.) Remove the A/C panel console parts by doing the following:
a.) Remove the two screws under the climate control panel.

b.) Remove the row of switches - hazard, fader, blank panel, defroster, etc. Be sure to note the order (some cars are different), and which wires go with which switch.

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c.) Remove the radio. Mine is aftermarket, but I've heard that if it's stock, you flip the two little panels on the side of the radio and use a 5/16 allen wrench to loosen.

d.) Remove all the knobs from the climate control and slider switches by pulling them out.

e.) Remove the panel that covers the slider switch by carefully prying it off with a tiny flathead screwdriver, then remove the four screws that hold the climate control system to the front console.

f.) Remove the fan speed switch by unscrewing the large nut on the front side of the switch.

g.) Remove the two tiny screws that hold the panel into the dashboard. They should be under the second and fourth hole (from the left) where the hazard/ defrost switches are located.

h.) If you have a clock, unscrew the mounting screws and remove the clock panel.

i.) If you have an OBC, pull the panel forward and remove the four screws that hold it to the panel. It should fall right out.
5.) Remove the right side dash bolts - these are the bolts holding the glovebox strap bracket, the ECU, and the bracket that the glovebox light switch is attached to.

6.) If there are any more brackets or things like that, take those out too.

7.) Remove the steering wheel by prying off the center cap with a small flathead screwdriver, using the 23mm socket to remove the bolt. Remember to mark a line on the wheel and steering column so that you know how to recenter it later.

8.) Remove the instrument cluster by doing the following:
a.) Remove the panel that is under the steering wheel. There should be 3 black screws that only get turned 90 degrees and one black plastic screw plug above the brake pedal.

b.) Remove the panel below the cluster. There are two round nuts holding it in. Reach behind the panel to get them (one on the right side, the other near the foglight switch).

c.) Remove the foglight and headlight switch. The nut closest to the door does not come off, it just loosens. The other nut just comes off normally. Wiggle it out.

d.) Remove the two upper screws on the cluster bezel.

e.) Remove the two screws on the lower bezel and the two screws behind it. There may be four right under the steering wheel panel.

f.) Remove the two screws that hold the cluster. NOTE: Before you take the cluster out, take a good look at how it sits (a pic might help). This will help you when you put it back together.

g.) Pull down on (but do not break) the tabs. The cluster comes out top first.

h.) Disconnect all the wiring plugs in the back of the cluster.
9.) Remove the cruise control module. I don't have cruise on my car so I didn't do this, but Chris said that there should be 2 bolts holding the module. I don't remember anything else on the right side near the center console.

10.) Remove the two bolts holding the dash to the A-pillar.

11.) Remove all of the wire wraps that hold the wiring harness to the underside of the dash. If any break, get the tie wraps and that stick pad thing that the tie wraps attach to and adhere to the new dashboard.

NOTE: Be careful as you start moving the dash! The sides of the A-pillar panels have a groove that points downward and slides into a clip that points up, located on the side of the dashboard. You have to push down on the dash first to get that clip out from behind the A-pillar. Then you constantly have to watch that clip so it doesn't carve up the vinyl covering on the pillar itself while you work. See pics below:

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12.) Remove the dashboard. (I slid the dash out through the passenger side):
a.) Pull upward to loosen from the vent ducts, and start wiggling).

b.) If it looks really stuck, search for screws or bolts thatI may have forgotten to tell you about. It'll take some work to get the POS out.

c.) As you get the passenger end out (be careful of the A-pillar!), get under the dash and detach any remaining vents. This includes the defroster vents at the windshield edge of the dash, which are attached with 3 screws each.

d.) With all the vents detached, wiggle the dash out the passenger end. This is sort of a puzzle here, so just work slowly, and watch the contact of the metal clips on the end of the dash with the vinyl on the A-pillars. It's really easy to accidentally carve up the vinyl.
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13.) Switch the VIN tags so the new dash has the correct one. The VIN tag is held in place by two plastic tabs. Each one is put together sort of like a drywall screw with a sleeve, but no threads. What you see in the pic below is the head of the center part (like a screw), that you can gently pry up out of the outer sleeve (which you cannot see until you take it apart). You'll only need two good ones, so if you break the first one, you'll still have 3 more, and at least you'll know how it's put together.

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NOTE: I don't know if there are any legal implications about this in your state! My opinion is that all should be cool as long as the car displays the correct VIN, but then again, what do I know?

14.) Use the new foam window insulation to augment the existing insulation on the vent ducts when you put the new dash in so there is a good seal. I left the stuff that was intact and added the new stuff where the old foam looked rotten or missing.

15.) Install the new dash. There is definitely a trick to this:
a.) Be careful again of the A-pillars. Begin by sliding the dash from the pass- enger side, so the driver's end goes in first. At first it may seem that you cannot get the dash over the plastic steering column cover. This is where the trick comes in.

b.) To get the dash around the plastic steering column, bring the dash in by moving it sideways (from right to left), BEHIND the the plastic steering column piece (by "behind" I mean between the plastic piece and the wind- shield.

c.) As the dash gets closer to center, push the driver's end downward into place, then bring the passenger end down into place, all the time watching the A-pillars.

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16.) After the dash is roughly in place, begin to reattach any vent screws that you will not be able to get to once it's fully installed.

17.) Reassembly is opposite of removal. Hopefully you have all the screws in little baggies so you know what goes where. I highly recommend using a camera to snap photos of the way each piece goes together. The good news is that you get this when you're done:

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It is a PITA, but it really is worth the end result! Good luck!

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: Here's the standard procedure (have to do it). I am not responsible for any problems that may arise following this procedure. This information is just that - information. Any work you do is at your own risk.


This site has no affiliation with BMW North America, BMW AG, BMW M GmBH, the BMWCCA, or Chris Bangle. Just so you know.
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