Z4 (E85) windshield molding replacement – do it yourself!


November 14, 2017 by quirkyuncle@gmail.com

If the windshield molding on your Z4 (E85) dries out and cracks, you can easily replace it in less than an hour for about $50.

Newer BMWs use an organic compound for rubber moldings and weather strips. While these moldings are great for the environment, they do dry out more quickly than synthetic compounds and require more frequent replacement. Failure of my molding was very fast. It looked fine when I washed the car over the weekend and was crumbling three days later.

If you take your Z4 to the dealer to have the windshield molding replaced, they might tell you that the windshield needs to be removed to replace the molding. This is not true and drives up the cost of the repair significantly – I’ve heard reports of charges in excess of $800. Fortunately, the windshield molding itself is relatively inexpensive and the replacement requires minimal skills, tools, and time. It took me less than an hour to replace mine.

As a temporary fix, I ran a piece of electrical tape across the top of the molding to hold the pieces in place while waiting for my parts to arrive.

Z4 taped windshield molding

This topic contains:

Tools and Time

  • Tools: Non-scratch plastic pry tools, razor blade (using a razor blade holder is recommended)
  • Parts: Windshield molding for your car, rubber protectant (optional)
  • Time: 1 hour or less
  • Difficulty: Easy

Ordering a windshield molding and tools

The only special items I needed to purchase were the windshield molding and a set of plastic pry tools.

  • You can purchase a Z4 (E85) windshield molding from Amazon.com. Verify molding compatibility with your specific vehicle before placing the order.
  • Using plastic pry tools is important so that you don’t scratch your paint, exposing bare metal that will rust.These are the plastic pry tools I used to replace my windshield molding.
    Non-scratch pry tools

    You can purchase a set of plastic pry tools from Amazon.com.

You can purchase a razor-blade holder from Amazon.com to make scraping the windshield much safer.

Rubber protectant shields rubber weatherstrips and vinyl trim from UV rays, keeping the material moist and flexible so that it lasts longer. I’ve had good success with 303 Aerospace protectant – a little goes a long way.

Rubber protectant

You can purchase a 303 Aerospace protectant from Amazon.com. It is available in several sizes.

Replacing the windshield molding

Note: While this procedure describes windshield molding replacement for a 2007 BMW Z4 3.0i (E85), the same process is applicable to other BMW models.

Before you begin

Moldings are sometimes folded for shipping. Lie the molding on a flat surface and make it as straight as possible before installation. Straighten the molding as soon as you receive it and leave it lying flat for a few days, if possible, so it retains the correct shape.

Z4 molding - lie flat

The sides and top corners of the molding might have an aluminum or hard -plastic channel that fits around the windshield glass. (The end of a molding side with an aluminum channel is shown below.)

Z4 molding - aluminum channel

Replacement steps

Complete the following steps to replace the windshield molding:

  1. Remove the loose pieces of molding with your fingers.
    Z4 remove windshield molding loose pieces
  2. Remove the sides of the windshield molding:
    1. Run a plastic pry tool under the rubber on the inside (glass side) edge of the molding to break the seal.
      Z4 molding - break side seal
    2. Using a plastic pry tool, push the molding outward, away from the glass, along the side.
      Z4 molding - pull side away from glass
    3. Starting at the top or bottom of the molding side, work the aluminum channel past the glass. Mine broke free from the corner at the top, making it easier to remove.
      Z4 molding - unhook molding channel from glass
    4. Grab the molding and pull it out and away.
      Z4 molding - remove side of molding
    5. Once the side of the molding is out, lay it on the windshield or cut it off. If you intend to reinstall the molding, do not cut it.
    6. Repeat the same process to remove the other side of the molding.
  3. Remove the top of the windshield molding:
    1. Using a plastic pry tool, push the molding backwards, away from the glass, along the top.
      Z4 molding - Release molding top
    2. Using a plastic pry tool, lift the end of the molding top past the glass
      Z4 molding - lift end of molding
    3. Grab the molding and pull it out and away.
      Z4 molding - remove molding top
  4. Inspect the groove between the glass and the metal window frame.
    • If you notice any rust, it should be repaired (all rust removed, with the area primed and painted).
    • Check for scratches in the paint and touch them up with automotive paint to seal them and prevent rust.
    • Carefully remove any excess windshield adhesive in the groove with a plastic tool.
      Z4 molding - clean old windshioeld adhesive

      This old adhesive will prevent the new molding from lying flat in the groove and seating fully. (The original molding was installed while this adhesive was still wet and pliable.) I neglected to clean all of the old adhesive from my groove and had to remove my new molding to clean the groove and then reinstall it.

  5. Clean the perimeter of the glass:
    • Carefully scrape off any hard and gummy grime with a razor blade.
      Z4 molding - scrape area with razor blade
    • Wipe the area clean with alcohol.
      Z4 molding - clean area with alcohol
    • The cleaned glass should look like this.
      Z4 molding - cleaned glass
  6. (Optional) Apply protectant to the rubber weatherstrip for the convertible top, along the top edge of the windshield, to help extend its life.
    Z4 molding - apply rubber protectant to weatherstrip
  7. Set the upper corners of the molding.
    Z4 molding - set upper left corner
    Z4 molding - set upper right corner

    The hard corner channels of the molding fit around the glass, positioned evenly on both sides of the glass, before pressing the molding downward toward the front of the car. It is important that both corners are set correctly so that the molding lies flat.

    Z4 molding - push top forward

  8. Install the top of the molding:
    1. Push the molding down into the groove along the top of the windshield.
      Z4 molding - insert top of molding in groove
    2. Press the molding lightly into place first, so it is evenly distributed; then, press the molding firmly into the groove along its entire length.
      Z4 molding - seat top of molding
  9. Install the sides of the molding:
    1. Carefully slide the end the moulding side under the rubber fascia at the bottom of the windshield.
      Z4 molding - insert lower end of side under fascia
    2. Starting at the top, insert the molding into the groove along the side of the glass. It might help to rotate the outer edge of the molding upward to help fit the channel of the molding onto the glass. Pull the molding downward toward the front of the car as you fit it into the groove so that it remains tight at the top of the glass.
      Z4 molding - insert side
    3. Press the side molding fully into the groove and toward the glass along its entire length.
      Z4 molding - press side into groove
    4. Insert the end of a plastic pry tool in the groove of the molding and press the molding toward the glass, sliding the tool and pressing the molding along the entire length of the side.
      Z4 molding - seat side of molding
    5. Repeat the same process to install the other side of the molding.
  10. Check that the molding fits well, without gaps, along its entire length at the top, corners, and both sides. If there are any issues, attempt to fix them while the molding is in place. If you can’t eliminate all the gaps, you might need to pull some or all of the molding out and start over.

    Examples of a molding side and top that fit correctly.

    Z4 molding - side good
    Z4 molding - top good

    I had two fit issues:

    • At the upper left corner of my molding, the weatherstrip for the convertible top had become permanently compressed by the old molding and there was a significant gap.
      Z4 molding - gap due to compressed weatherstrip

      To correct this issue, I removed the molding and placed a small amount of rubberized windshield sealant beneath the weatherstrip to puff it up and restore the original contour.

    • At the top of my molding, there was some old adhesive in the gap that prevented the molding from fully seating.
      Z4 molding - old adhesive
      Z4 molding - gap due to adhesive

      To correct this issue, I removed the molding and removed the old adhesive from the gap, allowing the molding to seat.

    • When I reinstalled the windshield molding it fit fine.
      Z4 molding - fit corrected
  11. (Optional) Apply rubber protectant to the new molding, to help extend its life.
    Z4 molding - apply rubber protectant to molding
  12. Done!

    Z4 molding - fully installed


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