Stories, how-to, and reviews from my personal tuner shop... my garage.

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Specs, history, pros/cons, and stories about my own 330i.

BMW places on the Internet that I find useful.

Completed 7/2/2002

INSTALL UPDATE: Clear Digital Sound! Read below!

Install an XM Satellite Radio system. XM Satellite Radio is a U.S.-based nationwide radio service providing over 100 channels of music, news, entertainment, and sports. Since the service is delivered by two geostationary satellites in orbit (the satellites themselves are aptly named "Rock" and "Roll"), the digital quality sound can be received almost anywhere in the country. For large urban city areas, XM employs terrestial (surface) transmitters to delivery the signal around buildings and into parking garages, tunnels, etc. The service is $9.99 a month and has a one-time $9.99 activation fee over the Internet.

This model uses an FM modulator to insert FM signals into your radio antenna feed. You tune your radio to an unused FM channel on your factory BMW stereo and set the XM receiver to the same. Instant XM Radio. The quality is not pure digital as going with an aftermarket XM-ready deck, but I wanted to keep my factory look inside the car.
*** I have since switched to a digital signal adapter which sends the XM digital signal straight into my BMW factory deck, read below for the UPDATE.

1 - Pioneer XM Receiver/FM Modulator
     (CRUTCHFIELD $199.99 part #GEX-FM903XM)
1 - Terk XM Antenna
     (CRUTCHFIELD $79.95 part #TRK-SR2)
1 - European Antenna Adapter - Male
     (BEST BUY $10.99 part #4594362 40-VW20) *
1 - European Antenna Adapter - Female
     (BEST BUY $10.99 part #347333 40-VW10) *
* You won't need these adapters if you choose to use the BlitzSafe adapter. Read the UPDATE.

10 & 13mm sockets
Ratchet Wrench
Flat Head Screwdriver
Phillips Head Screwdriver
Electrical Tape
Coat Hangar or similiar object
Electric Drill
1/8" Drill Bit for Metal
Dremel Tool (optional)
Sandpaper (optional)

I took a photo of the parts I started with (Photo A). Also, if you have the NAV system, disassembly of the dashboard will be a bit different.

1. First, as always, disconnect the negative battery cable in the trunk with a 10mm socket (Photo B).

3. We will need to remove the back seat. Simply pull up firmly on the front of the lower seat cushion and it will pop right out. The rear seat cushion is much the same. Pull firmly on the cushion from the top and it will pop out from under the headrests. Take both cushions out and put them someplace where they won't be damaged (Photo C).

2. Let's mount the antenna first. I found a great place for it which still receives excellent signal no matter where I go. In the center of the rear deck, there is a tie-down for children's safety seats. Most people don't use them, and since I have no children anyway, I popped the cap off the center one and used a 13mm socket to remove the tie-down (Photo D).

4. I cleaned the plastic tie-down plate, removed the adhesive tape from the antenna, and attached it right to the rear deck. Run the tail forward and over the edge towards the front of the car. I found that the antenna fits perfectly here and still has a great view of the sky through the back window glass (Photo E).

5. On the driver's side of the rear seat panel, there is a large bundle of wires going through the bulkhead. Pull out the large foam grommet. We will feed the wires through here (Photo F).

6. Using a undone coat hangar or similiar object (I used an aluminum rod), tape the antenna, control unit, and switching unit wires to one end of the object. Make sure you tape the correct cable ends that will attach to the XM-receiver hide-away tuner unit.

7. Open the trunk, pop out the two carpet rivets on the driver's side and pull the carpeting away from the trunk wall (Photo G). You can now use the hangar or similiar object to feed the cables into the trunk area (Photo H). Pull enough cable through to reach the location where you plan to mount the hide-away tuner unit. I chose to mount my receiver up underneath the rear deck between my HK subwoofers.

8. Once you know how much wire you need in the trunk, the rest will be used up front except for the antenna leads. I pulled the antenna wire slack into the trunk and zip-tied it into a coil. You do not want to bend the antenna wires sharply, they are very thin. I also taped the antenna leads to the rear seat bulkhead to keep them safe and secure.

9. Take the control and antenna switching unit cables and run them under the driver's side door sills and trim to the front of the car. You do not need to remove the trim pieces to do this, just tuck the wires under the edge.

10. Using a phillips-head screwdriver, remove the 3 screws holding the driver's side footwell cover. There is also one pop-rivet on the center console and two clips under the steering column (Photo I). As you are removing it, unplug the chime, lamp, and the ODB-II connector (slide the gray clip forward and the plug assembly will come out).

11. Run the wires behind the dead pedal and up into the dashboard. I chose to loop them around a piece of the existing wiring harness to keep the XM wires from dangling or interfering with pedal operation.

Now, we start on disassembling the dashboard!

12. Remove the shifter boot from the center console by pressing it in from the sides. You do not need to remove the boot or shift knob, just lift it up off the trim.

13. Remove the two screws under the boot and pull up on the center console trim (Photo J). You will need to disconnect the two electrical harness connectors from the window switches. Put the trim aside. This reveals the 2 lower ashtray screws (Photo K - notice that I found $0.26 during this mod hehehe).

14. Open the oddments compartment (above your DSC/seat heaters/audio switches). Reach in and apply pressure to the roof of the compartment while pulling out. It will just pop out. This reveals the 2 upper ashtray screws (Photo L).

15. Remove these 4 screws and pull the ashtray assembly out. You will need to disconnect the 2 cigarette lighter wires, the harness connector for the ashtray lamp, and whatever connectors you have going into your DSC/Seat/Audo etc switches. Set the ashtray assembly aside for later.

16. Now, you can continue feeding your controller and modulator wires underneath the center console and into the area behind the ashtray. If you haven't done so, now is a good time to attach the antenna adapters to the XM antenna switching unit.

17. The climate control unit will pop out by reaching up behind it and pushing out. You do not need to disconnect this unit.

18. Time to remove trim. Using a protected screwdriver or trim remover, gently pull the right side trim panel out from the gap. The dashboard trim pieces are held in place using rubber grommets and long pins built into the trim. They should come out fairly easily. You will also need to remove the center trim piece in the same manner after the right side is removed.

19. There are now 2 screws revealed on either side of the radio (Photo M - red circles). Remove these 2 screws and pull the radio out. You can disconnect the two antenna leads and the wiring harness if you need to. The wiring harness block is released by prying up under the tab on the connect with a flathead screwdriver. There should be a small graphic on the connector to illustrate this.

20. We want to tap into the larger of the two antenna connectors (Photo N). Remove the big antenna connector and pull it down through the dash to the area behind the ashtray where the XM antenna switch unit now is. Attach it to the new antenna adapter and run the other antenna adapter back up to the radio. If you are having difficulty routing the antenna wires behind the dash, remove the 4 screws (Photo M - blue circles) to release the plastic radio/climate control mount. You can pull the center vents out of the dash with a upward twisting motion, then pull out the mount and run your antenna wires (Photo O - radio in place for illustration).

21. Connect everything back up and slide the radio back into place and fasten the 2 radio screws back into place.

22. Replace the trim pieces and A/C control unit.

Here, you may have to become creative to mount the control unit (Photo P). I chose to mount the controller unit inside the ashtray I never use. You may chose to use the supplied velcro to attach the controller unit wherever you like. I wanted to be able to hide it when needed and it stays out of my way (plus it looks damn cool there).

23. If you choose the velcro, find a spot, clean it, attach the velcro, attach the controller unit, and connect the controller wires. You are done. If you chose my way, then be prepared to do some custom grinding and finishing.

24. Using my Dremel Tool, Greg sanded and grinded the ashtray cup until the controller unit sat flush and level in the cup (Photo Q). He then drilled a hole through the back of the cup and ashtray assembly for the controller cable. When finished, he cleaned the surfaces, and used a black marker for touchup. It came out great and props go to Greg for the work.

25. Whichever way you chose to go, you can now put your dashboard back together, reconnect all wiring, and fasten all screws.

POWER WIRING: Please read the update below. If you choose to hardwire the XM tuner anyway, read on...

A few months back, I was looking to drop my stereo system from my old Maxima into my BMW. A pair of RF 12" subs, Linear amps, x-overs, the whole bit. It was fun for all of about 1 day, and I yanked it out (there is a LOT of sound insulation in a BMW). During that process, I ran a trigger turn-on wire from the amps from the steering column. It was still there and I used this wire to connect to my XM-radio red ACC wire. You may need to find a switched 12V source and run the wire back to your XM receiver. I personally tapped into the large purple wire coming down the steering column from the ignition switch (this is powered from the 1st key position forward). This choice is up to you.

26. Connect your switched 12V source to your the red ACC wire, run the yellow fused wire to the positive battery terminal (Photo R), and ground the black wire to the metal vehicle body. I sanded the contact points where I was going to mount the XM receiver to the rear deck and it works just fine as a ground.

27. Connect your power, controller, antenna, and modulator plugs into your XM receiver and turn on your ignition. Check for power to make sure everything is working.

28. If you haven't done so, now would be a good time to get on
XM RADIO'S WEBSITE and activate your service. It can take up to 10 minutes from activation to get the receiver to pick up anything other than Channel 1 (the Preview Channel). When it does, you are good to go.

29. Decide where you want to mount the reciever, attach the angled brackets to the unit, and attach it to the desired location. I chose to hang it under the rear deck to stay out of the way (Photo S & T). ***Please note the TWO seperate power cords. Read the UPDATE below... I used a 1/8" drill bit to make 4 holes in my rear deck and used the supplied sheet metal screws to fasten the receiver to the rear deck surface (using one screw to fasten my ground wire).

30. Now zip-tie the extra cabling, tuck it behind your trunk carpeting and go for a drive!
Here is my finished product (Photo U).
And this is the result at night (Photo V).


Photo A

Photo B

Photo C

Photo D

Photo E

Photo F

Photo G

Photo H

Photo I

Photo J

Photo K

Photo L

Photo M

Photo N

Photo O

Photo P

Photo Q

Photo R

Photo S

Photo T

Photo U

Photo V

Photo W

UPDATE (8-26-2002) 1 of 2:
After the initial install, I received an informative email from one of our visitors, Mr. Rui Vieira, about the existence of an XM/CD adapter for our cars. He then introduced me to the gracious Ann Marie Fischer over at WWW.CDADAPTER.COM. She carries the BlitzSafe XM Satellite Digital Tuner Interface. The model number is BMW/XM DMX PIO V.1 (or V.2 if you have an Alpine CD Changer installed, that one lets you use both XM and your CD changer). I do not know if it works with the BMW CD Changer (as I don't have one), so someone buy this adapter and try it out and let me know! Ann Marie retails it for $70 plus S&H and it is worth EVERY PENNY! It installs in under 3 minutes and connects the IP-BUS out of the Pioneer GEX-FM903XM tuner directly to the BMW factory CD Changer harness already in the trunk of every E46 (Photo W). It also powers the Pioneer XM unit eliminating the need to run power and trigger wiring (which I have now removed). I wish I would have known about this piece of hardware before installing the entire system, it would have simplified the whole process immensely.

As for sound quality, WOW! It is about 100% better than the FM modulator as it keeps the XM signal digital all the way up to the head unit. And, boy, does it make a major difference! There is better treble response with higher range and crisper sound. The bass is also faithfully reproduced without being lost in the FM modulator while being powerful and smooth. All in all, it is like going from cassette tape to a compact disc. Going back is *NOT* an option.

I cannot say enough about this product, I HIGHLY recommend it!

UPDATE (3-4-2003) 2 of 2:
It appears that Ann Marie over at no longer carries the Blitzsafe XM adapter. I checked with BlitzSafe at
WWW.BLITZSAFE.COM and it looks like they still carry the Pinoeer XM adapter directly. There are many online suppliers, you can find a listing at their site. I so highly recommend this unit that I wouldn't even bother installing the FM modulator at all!


This has to be the coolest thing I have experienced in a long time. The sound quality is GREAT, the selections are numerous, and the reception is flawless! My particular receiver has 18 presets, which is more than enough. I never listened to normal radio before and now I have even more reason not to. I can finally stop wearing out those CDs I made months ago!

I have had no problems so far at all. The installation was straightforward and I really like the fact the the Terk XM antenna works from the rear deck. It was designed to be outside the car on the trunk lid or roof. I have had no problems with reception at all, but I would check to see if it works under metallic-based window tint if you have the tint.

My only minor complaints are the random commercials (but they are far and few between), and the fact that this Pioneer reciever unit does not scroll the artist/title/album information if it is longer than the display is designed to handle. However, these are again minor compared to the fun this little modification provides!
UPDATE (2-1-2004): XM is now commercial-free on all music channels!

By the way, I did look into Sirius (the competeing Satellite Radio Service), but decided the XM channel lineup was more for me.

I have one thing to say, GET XM SATELLITE RADIO!!

  © MarvelPhx