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Old 09-27-2008, 11:24 PM
PersonaNonGrata's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: SoCal
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E53 Broken Outside Door Handle Fix

Several weeks ago my driver's outside door handle stopped working. It would pull up but the door would not unlatch. Things got busy and I wasn't able to get around to fixing it until now. I lived with either having my wife open the door from the inside or holding the unlock button and rolling down the windows and reaching in. Luckily, the X5 is not a daily driver nowadays so this exercise was infrequent.

I did some research here and discovered that it was a fairly common problem. Thank goodness because I had pretty good information to follow. I bet that the cause of my problem was the same as it was for others and I ordered the part. I've got to give credit to X5 in AK and gregwx5 for their prior write ups. They were a huge help. gregwx5's instructions

Thread discussing this issue

I wanted to post some pictures and a few tips from my experience.

The part number is 51218243615. I got it from Morristown BMW for $73 including shipping to CA. They are a great dealership to buy from and a board sponsor. The part is pretty substantial and area that failed seems to be a hinged and spring part that comes apart. Nothing seem broken but it did not seem repairable, at least not to the point where I'd keep it. A new one is worth it.

The instructions to remove the door panel are on the home page. They are very good. A few notes:

  • Snap-On trim removal tool (A wide flat bladed screwdriver could work too.)
  • Torx T20 head screwdriver for door panel screws
  • 10mm socket for airbag screws
  • 8mm socket for one bolt that holds the door handle on
  • Small hex head screwdriver to unbolt the carrier. (I can't remember the size.)
  • Medium Phillips head screwdriver to unscrew carrier


The window switches need to come out. They pry out easily. There are three things plugged in. The white and smaller black plugs are released by swinging the basket handle over. That pops the plug out. The larger black plug has a slide out lock. Once slid out fully it will pop the plug out.

Don't forget to remove the puddle light on the underside of the door.

Once you have all the necessary screws removed and you're ready to pop the door panel off, go around the edge of the panel and gently pry it out. You will feel where the plastic fasteners are. Don't yank the panel off because there is one more thing to unhook before the panel will come free. There is a stiff cable attached to the inside door handle. That has a plastic piece that snaps into the inside door handle. There is a small tab that can be depressed from the inside door handle area. It should release easily. You can see the cable in the last photo. It is wrapped in foam.

In order to get the old carrier out you have to complete several steps.
  • Unbolt airbag. I did not unplug the battery nor did I unplug the airbag. I hung it with a bungee cord to keep it out of the way.
  • Peel back the foam on the inside of the door. Beware of sticky tar-like adhesive.
  • The black plastic plug that is on the side of the door is a pain to remove. There is an inner plug and an outer ring. The inner plug can be cut around with a razor blade and then pryed out. The out ring then prys out easily. I fought it a bit. See the the photo below.
  • Once the black plastic plug is out, you can access the hex head bolt that holds the carrier. It is on an angle. The picture attached will show where it is.
  • The plastic cover that surrounds the door lock needs to come off. Be careful you don't break one of the two tabs that are on the top and bottom. I started prying from the bottom and gently worked my way around and even pried from the keyhole.

To remove the old carrier:
  • Once that is off there you can unscrew the hex head bolt. The lock assembly will simply slide out.
  • To remove the door handle you have to remove the 8mm bolt. The handle needs to pull up and the right side where the 8mm bolt was slides downward out of where it is attached. Once that is out the front part can pivot out. The photo shows how it attaches to the carrier.
  • Remove rubber trim.
  • Unscrew small Phillips screw on the outside of the door handle.
  • Reach inside the door and pop the ball joint off. There is also a white collar that is snapped into a bracket. Pop that out too. You can now remove the old carrier.

Installing the new carrier is the reverse. Some tips for that:
  • The new carrier should come with the hex head bolt and Phillips screw attached.
  • It will take some patience and fiddling to get the new carrier in.
  • The ball joint snaps in easily but the white collar is a bit tougher since it's hard to get your hand into the door cavity. I used my Snap-On trim tool that is sort of U shaped to push it in. It takes a bit of pressure so press hard.
  • Re-attaching the door handle is fairly simple but it will be much easier if you push the carrier from behind. That will cant the handle up so you can insert the black end on the left and have clearance to twist it into place. I used the handle of a screwdriver to push on the carrier.
  • Putting on the door panel is quite easy. All wiring needs to be fed through and the inside door handle cable needs to be snapped back into place. You might want to order some new plastic fasteners. I broke two of them. Over time and with heat, these plastic bits become brittle and break easily. I broke one off after a light knock as I picked up the door panel. It is worth it to have a few handy.

One other thing to watch out for:
  • For some reason my lock was acting funny afterwards. I could lock and unlock it but it would not unlock the other doors. I fiddled with it by manipulating the lock pin and while lifting the outside door handle. I don't know what was wrong but doing this seemed to fix it.

That's about it. It was a moderately difficult job but very satisfying. You really take the act of opening your door for granted.

See the pictures attached.

Thanks again to X5world and the guys who have written about this before.
Attached Images

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