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Windshield/windscreen replacement

Written by the backyard hack mechanic Sean750
Document history:
# 30 January 2004 initial version

Problem : A bird smashed into my windscreen doing about 170 kmh/110 mph and the impact scared the bejezes out of me. Although it cracked severely, the inside layer of the laminated windscreen kept things together and I drove it for several months until I decided to replace it. This gave me time to think things over. Can I do this myself or should I bring it to a shop? Should I buy a used windscreen from a salvaged 7 or should I buy a new one? How could I remove the old windscreen from the car without breaking the window and let thousands of pieces of glass fall into the car and ventilation system?

I called several shops to inquire for prices and the differences where great. The prices where varying from 240 euro/USdollar to 400 euro/USdollar, that's labour and a new windscreen. Just a new windscreen, to install it myself, was about 190 euro/USdollar. A used windscreen was about 80-90 euro incl. shipping.

I still couldn't make a decision...but I never replaced a windscreen before, and several people told me this was not a do it yourself job. But I just hate the fact that other people are working on my car. Most of the time they are gorilla's doing the job in a rush, damaging parts, f*cking things up, working much to crude and giving me the overall idea that I just should do things myself, so I know the job is done good. I don't have much confidence in other people, lots of people nowadays don't have the slightest clue about what they are doing and aren't interested in doing a good job.

Anyway, somebody pointed me to a certain shop where he had replaced his windscreen and had good experiences with it. And they could do the job for about 200 euro/USdollar (labor and new windscreen!), which is an absolute bargain. It isn't likely you can do it yourself for less, so I decided to bite the bullet and let them to the job.

So again: I didn't do it myself, but I took some photographs while they did the job, so you can learn from it. Maybe then you can take the decision to do it yourself. But when the windscreen was replaced and the job was almost done, something happened which gave me confidence that I had taken the right decision to let other people to this job. Read on.

Background: The E32 has a green (later years could have different colors) tinted, laminated windscreen, which is cemented with the body. This makes it hard to remove, you have to find a way to cut the adhesive sealant holding the windscreen to the body. And it's though sealant, those German engineers used not supermarket stuff.

The windscreen is heated at the bottom (yes...every E32 has this feature), to prevent windshield wipers freezing to the glass. For that purpose, it has 2 electrical terminals, 1 at each side. The anti-glare strip above is a factory option, but it's hard to find a windscreen without it.

The ornamental strips are mounted to the windscreen with plastic clips. These clips stick to the glass with adhesive strips.. You can reuse these clips or use new ones. It is strongly suggested that you first mount the strips and clips to the new window and install window with strips as in 1 piece. The photo's are showing this procedure.

Let's start unbolting and removing parts:
First, the ornamental strips where removed. Do this very carefully, as these strips costs a small fortune at the BMW dealer (really, this isn't a joke. 2 strips are more expensive than a new windshield):

Removal of the windscreen wipers, which was quite difficult:

Clips and lower covers removed, and of course some clips where damaged while doing that and later one, some clips mysteriously disappeared:

Removal of the several clips by prying them out sideways:

Close-up of the removed clips:

This is the most interesting part. To cut the sealant, they used some sort of special tool. The blade cuts the adhesive caulking compound around the windscreen. This isn't an expensive tool, costs about 12 Euro/USdollar:


At the bottom of the window this device couldn't be used. So they used some special wire with 2 handles and sawed the windscreen loose by pulling the wire back and forth (2 people needed for this job):


Notice a third person at the right was lifting the partially loose windshield a bit up to give enough clearance:

And the windshield could easily be removed:

Discarding it:

Removing the old sealant with some sort of chisel:

And unfortunately...AAAAAAARRRRGGHHHHHH....RUST!!!!!!!

Notice that the factory spot-welds where rusting..I was not amused..at all. Also the paint and primer where damaged during the sealant removal, that is almost inevitable. The factory manual says about this: Touch up paint finish damage with zinc dust paint and enamel:

The rust was sanded away (well, as good as possible), and the damaged paint slightly sanded:

Applying paint primer:

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If you would like to add any comments, remarks and/or corrections to this procedure, feel free to email Mike Oswald and we'll put it on our site. Share your experiencies with us so others may benefit from it.