Armrest removal

This webpage is an update to my original posting of how to install the so-called “Euro Armrest.” I’ve gathered a lot of information on the armrest(s) since and thought I would post it all in one place for everyone to access. If you find any errors or inaccuracies, please do not hesitate to contact me and I’ll be happy to work with you to correct them. Also, I am always on the look out for supporting pictures so feel free to send them my way. The information contained here is geared toward the US market only as this is the only one I can speak intelligently about….

Some Background Info! For starters, in the US, all BMW 5-series (E39) recieve a vinyl armrest with a plastic tray to accept a BMW phone–a “phone tray”, if you will. The M5, I believe, is the exception and receives a leather one instead. The base this “US armrest” sits on/bolts to slides to and fro but does not tilt or open up in any fashion. This unit is shown at the right in black.

Armrests come in many colors: black, grey, and sand are all we need to worry about for the most part in the United States

Armrests come in 2 materials: leather (Montana, Smooth, Nappa, Connolly, etc.) and vinyl (or leatherette)

Armrests come in 2 styles: one with a phone tray and one with a continuous top (no phone tray)

Bases, the part the armrest bolts to, come in 4 styles:

(a) non-tiliting and slides (so-called “US” style, see pic on the right)
(b) tilts and slides (so-called “Euro” style)
(c) tilts and non-sliding
(d) non-tilting and non sliding

Note: not necessarily all armrests bolt to all bases…easily!

I’ve received lots of inquiries wondering if the tilting/sliding base will easily mate to the US spec, vinyl, phone tray armrest. The answer is: IT DEPENDS! With a little bit of cutting to the phone tray, the armrest can be made to bolt to the tiliting/sliding base. I went far enough to at least determine this but didn’t chop up my phone tray so I cannot offer any information beyond that. If you go this route, PLEASE TAKE PICTURES AND LET ME/US KNOW ABOUT IT!

Part Numbers!

Armrest Only
Montana Leather Vinyl
Phone Tray Continuous Phone Tray Continuous
Black 51 16 8 213 881 51 16 8 190 199 51 16 8 213 868 51 16 8 196 951
Grey 51 16 8 213 882 51 16 8 190 200 51 16 8 213 869 51 16 8 196 952
Sand 51 16 8 213 884 51 16 8 190 202 51 16 8 213 871 51 16 8 196 954
Base Only
tilting/sliding 51 16 8 196 965
non-tilting/sliding 51 16 8 213 874
non-tilting/non-sliding 51 16 8 xxx xxx
tilting/non-sliding 51 16 8 xxx xxx
Additional Accessories
Storage Tray* 51 16 8 196 967
Phone Tray 51 16 8 215 943
Rear Storage Bin 51 16 8 159 701
Rear Can Holder 51 16 8 184 520

*Note: the storage tray is only meant
for bases that tilt or open

Package Deal #1There are some “package deals” available as well and they are normally cheaper overall than buying all the parts separately. Included is the tilting/sliding base, continuous (no phone tray) Smooth leather (not Montana) armrest, and a storage tray.
Black 51 16 2 427 367
Grey 51 16 2 428 353
Sand 51 16 2 xxx xxx

Package Deal #2This package deal includes a vinyl, continuous (no phone tray) armrest, tilting/non-sliding base, and a storage tray.
Black 51 16 8 196 936
Grey 51 16 8 196 937
Sand 51 16 8 196 939

A few more notes:

The leather seats and door panels in the US-Spec E39 BMW 5-series is called Montana leather. It refers to the specific texturing and type of leather used. If you want to PERFECTLY match the armrest leather to the other leather in your car, be sure and order the Montana armrest and not the “package deal(s)” listed above. Next, order the base (tilting/sliding, for example) and the storage tray (if ordering a base that tilts open).

It is my personal opinion that the Smooth leather is not distracting at all from the Montana leather. If you wish to save ~$50 and aren’t incredibly picky, you will be happy ordering the “package deal,” in my opinion. Frankly, I can’t tell the difference in my car.

Suggestions of Places to Purchase

Pacific BMW 1.800.909.PART Pacific BMW Parts
Nick Alexander BMW 1.800.800.NICK Nick Alexander BMW Parts
Circle BMW 1.877.859.3123 Circle BMW Parts

The above are mearly suggestions of places to buy. I have had good experiences with Pacific BMW but there are others who have not. Both Pacific/Nick are in the LA area and Circle is on the East Coast. For the best price, call all three and don’t forget about tax and shipping and be sure and inquire about returning items if necessary. I am not associated in any shape or form with any of these BMW parts retailers so order at your own risk.

Pictures of Various Armrests & Components!

The two pics here are different views of the same part: 51 16 2 427 367 from “package deal #1″

Curious about the size of the storage tray?

The two pics here are different views of the same part: 51 16 8 196 937 from “package deal #2″

Two different views of the same part: 51 16 8 196 937 from “package deal #2″; the pic on the right is a bottom shot of the base that tilts but doesn’t slide (51 16 8 xxx xxx)

This is a grey, vinyl, phone slot, non-tilting/slider that all E39s save the M5 get standard: armrest is 51 16 8 213 869 and base is 51 16 8 213 874


This installation is performed on a 2001 BMW 530i and so your car may be slightly different although not tremendously so.
The part installed is the black unit from “package deal #1″, part number 51 16 2 427 367.

The first step is to pull out the rear storage bin. It can be very tough but basically insert fingers all the way in and use fingers to press upwards while pulling out. This should be enough to either pop it completely free or pull out an edge where one can carefully insert a screwdriver to gently pop it free. Cup holders from the 1997-2000 E39s work in a similar way: open the holder and start to gently pry it free.
Here is a view of what is behind the rear storage tray or rear cup holders
Gently pull down on the rear air vent to free it and pull out of the way. Careful! There are wires connected but they should be long enough that you don’t need to disconnect them.
Here is a view of what is behind the air vent. That cable is connected to the air vent.
Get your #2 Phillips screwdriver and remove those two screws you see. Save them to reattach your new armrest/base later.
Pull the old armrest unit off and here is what is left. The wiring harness you see is for the BMW phone. You will need to disconnect this and stuff it back through the hole otherwise the storage tray will not fit.
A close-up of the phone harness. It will disappear back into that square hole “from whence it came.” That black cable holder needs removed as well. Incidentally, I haven’t “buzzed” the wires there but I am sure there is power there–could be useful for some future install of something.
Okay! So basically, you plop the new armrest back on and secure it back down with the screws that were removed earlier. Note, for those who ordered the Montana armrest and tilting/sliding base as separate pieces, push down on the base as if it were closing and then slide it. This can be a bit of a circus act and a partner helps a lot. This will reveal two additional screw holes that need securing.
Notice these two threaded bolts portruding through. Yep, the armrest doesn’t come with the needed nuts/washers but I am 100% positive they exist under some unknown BMW part number! These two threaded posts support the armrest when it is open.
Here is what I recommend you get to secure the armrest. The locknut has a small ring of white plastic embedded into it to prevent the screw from loosening…I figured “what the hey!”
Secured nuts and washers…ready to reinstall the vent and storage bin.
Here is a view without the storage tray installed.
Install the storage tray.
A job well done! In case you are wondering, my seat color is Stone Green…I have the two-tone interior Stone Green/Black.
Here is an unfortunate gap but it IS the way it is supposed to be…I have confirmed this.
Seems to work fine! Enjoy! :^)

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