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Resetting the Convertible Top

This is the procedure to reset the E36 convertible top in case you have used the emergency release handle that's located under the rear seat.  This works on my '97 328iC, which has the fully-automatic top.  It may also work on other E36 models and years (caveat emptor).  The owner's manual says to take the car to a dealer for service, but why do that when the procedure is so easy?
The owner's manual describes the method for closing the top manually, presumably in case you have a dead battery with the top down and it starts to rain.  The top mechanism is driven by two electric motors that are located in the trunk -- one for the lid of the storage bin and one for the top itself.   Closing the top manually requires (1) releasing the two motors from their transmission drives (using the afore-mentioned lever, which through a cable release mechanism causes the motors to pop away from their drives), pulling the top out of its storage bin, and then using an Allen wrench (from the tool kit in the trunk) to fully close and lock the top to the windshield.  The allen wrench gets inserted into a socket that's hidden behind a plastic cover at the leading edge of the top, and then you turn it many many times to simulate the action of the electric motor.  Note - there are interlocks between the storage bin lid and the trunk that prevent you from opening both at the same time.
Once the  two motors have  been disengaged, the top can only be operated manually -- the LED in the control switch blinks, and the owners manual says you have to take the car to the dealer to reset the correct operation of the top.  The reason is that the two electric motors have to be re-engaged with their drive mechanisms and also re-synchronized with each other (you wouldn't want the top to crash into the lid of the storage bin).

Never fear, there is a fairly easy way to reset all of this yourself.  The following is courtesy of
Brett Anderson, who came to my rescue on this topic. I was having a new subwoofer and amplifier installed in the car, and the installer had the rear seat out when he decided to pull on the release handle to see what would happen (it has a red tag on it that just seems to scream "pull me" -- who could resist?).
  1. First, manually open the top as described above (the motors must first be disengaged - so if the red hadle hasn't been pulled, now is the time to do so).  Place the top back into its storage bin, and then close the lid of the bin as far as it will go.
  2. Open the trunk so you can get access to the motors.  You may need to push down on the storage bin lid so that it closes far enough to allow you to open the trunk - there's a safety interlock that prevents the trunk from being opened if the lid is open at the same time.
  3. Working inside the trunk, remove the carpet liner from the left side (driver's side) of the trunk. There are two plastic clips that hold the liner in place -- you can pry them out with a screwdriver.
  4. Behind the liner are the two motors that work the top mechanism -- one drives the top and the other is for the lid. Each motor is mounted on a spring-loaded pivot mechanism. The gears on the motors normally engage the gears for their respective transmission mechanisms, but when the release lever is pulled the motors pop away and disengage. So you have to push the motors back into their original positions so that the gears re-engage. When you do this the spring-loaded catch mechanism will firmly latch in place.  Be sure that the motors arefirmly seated into the drive, and not just partially engaged.
  5. Once both motors are re-engaged, get into the car, and with the ignition key in the off position press and hold the top control switch in the up (for closing) position.  Continuing to hold this switch, turn the key to the "accessory" position (without starting the car) and hold it there. After about twelve seconds the lid will be sucked down into the locked position, and then after a few more seconds the top will start its normal closing procedure.
  6. The motors are now re-synched, and should be all set. Work the system a few times to ensure that both motors are properly engaged and all is well.