How to Replace the Armrest Cover for a BMW E46

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E46 is BMW’s internal designation for the fourth generation 3 Series. The E46 3 Series has proven to be one of the most popular iterations of the 3 Series, with impressive performance across the range. Though BMWs generally are considered high quality, durable automobiles, like any vehicle they become worn over time. One area that sees a lot of use is the arm rest cover, which at some point may need to be replaced to look its best.

Remove the plastic, triangular shaped piece of trim located on the interior side of the rear view mirror. Pull the top of it straight out with your fingers. When the pin is released, pull the piece straight up and out.

Remove the door panel by removing the star shaped screws that hold it on. There are three in the door handle, which can simply be unscrewed. The other two are concealed, one of which is behind a small circular cap located behind the door handle. Push on the edge of the cap to left one edge and pull it out. The other is located behind the piece that says “AIRBAG.” Pry this piece up with a small flat head screwdriver.

Pull the door panel off the door, starting at the corner where the plastic triangular piece was removed. Pull the top edge off, then the bottom edge. Pull the panel up over the door lock knob and disconnect the speaker wiring harnesses and the cable that goes to the door panel. Disconnect the controller for the rear view mirror on the driver’s side.

Remove the six Torx screws that hold the armrest to the door panel. Note the screws that have white paint on them. If you have torque wrench, determine how much force it takes to remove them and tighten them to the same setting during reinstallation. If you don't have a torque wrench, line the paint marks up during reinstallation.

Remove the leatherette pad on top of the door handle by pulling up from the front of it. It must be pulled up from the front because of the small tab located at the back. Work your way to the back of the armrest and remove the six pins that hold it on as you go. Slide it forward to release the tab when all the pins are out, to remove the armrest.

Install the new leatherette pad on the armrest by transferring the clips for the pins that were located on the old trim onto the new leatherette pad. Screw the armrest back onto the door panel with the Torx screws.

Reconnect all the speaker wires, the controller for the door handle and the door handle cable. Snap the door panel back onto the door. Screw the five Torx screws back on, and replace the trim that says “AIRBAG” and the round plastic cover that conceals the screws.

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