Fitting a Westfalia detachable swan neck towbar and dedicated wiring loom to a 2003 E53 X5
Words and Pictures by Urbanflow.
303 207 600 001 (Complete Westfalia Towbar)
303 137 300 113 (Westfalia Dedicated Wiring Kit)PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS INTENDED AS A GUIDE TO USE ALONGSIDE THE MANUFACTURER'S INSTRUCTIONS (Which in my opinion are not detailed enough!)
Hello fellow X drivers. If you're considering fitting a towbar to your X5 you are probably going through the same pain that I did. Researching, getting prices and basically almost passing out when you hear how much the dealer wants to fit one. Even a mobile fitter or dedicated towbar centre charge between Â£150 and Â£200 to fit.
I'm only going to be carrying a 4 bike towbar mounted rack - but I still wanted good kit capable of pulling anything up to a big caravan (Just in case!). Good build quality, good fit and strength are essential. The Westfalia detachable hits all of those. It has a vertical carrying weight of 150KG and a pulling weight of 3500KG! And best of all - BMW fit it as OEM optional extra kit.
I also wanted a dedicated wiring module that plugs straight into the existing BMW loom. I didn't want to have to start tapping into wires.
As I mentioned, BMW fit Westfalia. Your BMW X5 has been built ready to accept this bit of kit and trust me, it fits like a glove.
Your X5 E53 already has all the holes, captive nuts, wiring loom connectors and even a place to store the detachable swan neck towball in the boot.
With this Towbar you don't have to make any cuts into the bumper or bodywork and you don't even have to drill any holes to mount the electrics plug as it comes with a mount attached to the towbar frame.
So save yourself a fortune and fit it yourself.
Before and after:COST
I bought the Westfalia detachable towbar including all parts for fitting and the dedicated 13pin wiring kit from PFJones near Manchester for Â£369.00 including courier to my house.
In addition I spent Â£17 on tools as I didn't have any Torx head bits. That's it. (BMW quoted me just shy of Â£1700 for all the kit fitted!)TIME
People who say they fitted it in a couple of hours have either done it before or are mechanics. I'm no mechanic, but I can handle a spanner when required and the idea of taking my X apart was daunting, yes, but fun too.
It took me the best part 7 and a half hours. Yes I stopped to take photos for this article every five minutes and had a long lunch break (Motorsport on the telly!) - but I did meet one problem and lost 1 hour to two seized bolts holding on the exhaust heat shields - more on that later.
Without those time wasting elements I reckon 5 hours is about right. Fitting it a second time I could do it in four.TIPS:
Get all your tools ready up front (see below). Read the Westfalia instructions through first then print this and other guides from other X forums to cross reference. Start first thing in the morning unless you can afford to have the car in bits for longer. Don't attempt to do it on a hot day! I did it in 30 degrees heat in direct sunlight and was on the verge of heat exhaustion and my limbs ached for two damn days afterwards!FITTING
Start by getting all the bits out of the box and checking it's all there. Seriously. Count every last nut and bolt.
Then set out all your tools. Here's a shot of all the tools I used for the job. They include: A phillips screwdriver and flat ended screwdriver, an electrical screwdriver, a decent socket wrench with different length extension bars. Sockets of size 16mm, 13mm and 10mm. Spanners, ring plus open ended in 16mm, 13mm and 10mm. Torx bits T45 and T55. Snipe nosed pliers. Hammer. Torque Wrench (you could do it without but I recommend one for piece of mind as you can tighten up exactly to the manufacturers spec and they are only Â£20). In addition I recommend a whole bunch of latex gloves to keep your hands clean when working underneath the car and to stop cuts! Also, WD-40 to make your life easier slackening off (More on that later). I also needed Mole grips - but you shouldn't (unless you find seized nuts - like me).TIP:
Wash down the back of the X5 if it's filthy. It'll make the job cleaner and you'll be less likely to rub grit into the paint work and cause scratches.1. START
by clearing your boot/cargo area. Remove the the cargo floor. Just lift it up and pull forward
Remove the spare wheel and flip the natty spare wheel removal strap up out of the way.
Remove the wheel chocks and tool kit.
Remove the black plastic trays on the left and the right and also remove the wheel chocks holder for easier access. They are held in place by plastic nuts.
Now you need to gain access to the battery and electronics modules under the self levelling suspension dome. If you are going to fit electrics then you might as well do all this now whilst you're in the cargo area/boot.
Remove the 2 nuts and 2 bolts that hold the self levelling dome in place (see pic) and very carefully lift it slowly up and lean it back against the rear seats taking care not to trap any cables or wires.
Remove the 3 screws that hold the black plastic battery cover on and remove the cover.
Disconnect the battery by removing the BLACK negative cable and push it out of the way so it cannot return itself to its original position and touch the contact.
NOTE: Disconnecting the battery will not cause you any problems with the On Board Computer (OBC) but if you close the lower tailgate you will need to slip the battery connection back on to open it again.
Now - move to the right hand rear corner of the cargo area as you stand looking into the boot.
Tucked up in the corner and fastened to the metal of the car you will find the rear Parking Distance Control (PDC) connector.
Twist is gently and it unlocks from the body of the car so you can see it better - (See pic) - disconnect it by gently pushing the blade of a screwdriver on the retaining clip to release the bar. Push the bar to the side and it separates the connectors for you.
Now push out the sealing grommit towards the bumper and gently feed the connector end that will come off with the bumper bar through the hole.2. REMOVE THE PLASTIC WIRING LOOM PROTECTIVE COVER
Inside the well of the cargo area right behind the bumper bar you find a black plastic plate (pic below) protecting the wiring loom.
Remove the 4 fasteners by gently prising up the centre column with a small electrical screwdriver. Once slightly out use snipe noe pliers and a screwdriver as leverage (see pic) to lift them out without snapping or breaking them.
Once the centre has been removed, gently prise out the second part of the fastener. Keep all parts.
Now is a good time to hoover all the dust and crap out of the boot well.3. REMOVE THE BUMPER BAR
Firstly remove the lower 8mm hexbolt in each rear wheel arch - if you want slightly easier access remove both.
Now remove the black plastic cover in the bumper where the towbar will come out. It just pulls forward.
Do the same with the black trims around the exhaust pipes if you have them or blanking panels for the diesel model.
Now, look up into the holes around the exhaust and you will see a large brass coloured Torx bolt.
With your hand in the hole where the exhaust protrudes gently pull the plastic of the surround away from the car and insert your T55 torx head socket and remove the bolts x2 (one in each exhaust area).
With the bolts removed look under the car and release the four plastic clips that attach the boottom of the bumper bar trim to the car. get a helpful assistant to take one corner whilst you take the other.
With one hand in the exhaust hole and the other hand in the wheel arch gently ease straight back and away rom the car. Take care - as soon as the bumper releases it may want to drop forward and you could end up with scratches at the sides.
Put the bumper bar face down on a rug or blanket out of the way. Marvel at the mud and filth behind it and have a quick look at those Parking sensors. Now is the time to change any defective ones.
Image below shows bumper removed and Parking Sensor (PDC) hole.4. REMOVE THE EXISTING BUMPER BRACKETS AND SUPPORT
Now remove the two bumper support brackets. Access to the 3 nuts each side is tight inside the boot area...
Once removed it looks like this...
With the bumper support brackets removed take a look inside where the bolt that holds the bumper bar on goes.
You will notice a rubber sleeve in each one - YOU NEED THESE.
Soak them with WD-40 for 10 minutes and then gently tap them out using the shaft of a narrow screwdriver as shown below.
Now remove all the fiddly T45 Torx bolts and the 2 hex bolts underneath. You should now be able to remove the support bracket.5. LOWER THE EXHAUSTS
Firstly, get under the car and spray WD-40 onto the 8 (4 each side) exhaust bracket nuts.
Give it a few minutes and then remove the bracket nearest the front of the car first.
With the muffler supported (see pic) remove the rearmost bracket and allow it to rest on the support. Then, slowly lower down so it is supported approximately 4-5 inches - just enough to allow access underneath.
Do the same with the other side.
With both exhausts lowered, spray the fasteners/nuts that hold the aluminium heat shields in place with WD-40. There are 4 on each shield.
Take care when removing these as the aluminium may have perished around the head and will crumble.
NOTE: I lost a lot of time here as I had a real problem removing the two fasteners on either side behind the wheels as the road grime had corroded the threads and seized them on - also - the fasteners are slightly rounded and all my sockets slipped off. Access with a ring spanner or open ended spanner is limited - so I resorted to Mole grips used vertically and twisted - as seen in the pic below. Just be careful not to crush the soft fasteners.
Once removed you can lower the heat shields down onto the exhaust/muffler boxes. Some people remove them completely, but I found I was bending them every easily, so worked around them.6. FITTING THE TOWING ELECTRICS
Now is the time to get your hands cleaned up and get busy with the electrics.
The Westfalia kit supplied is top notch and very easy to fit.
Contents of the box can be seen below.
The great thing about the Westaflia OEM electrics is that everything is pre cut to length - even the water sealing rubber gromit is pre positioned in the exact spot along the cable.
START by removing the seal/gromit in the middle of the car behind where the bumper was fitted.
Then, feed the cable through from the back and pull the rubber seal gently through.
Fit the seal making sure it sits snug all round.
Inside the cargo area and to the right just beside the black plastic trim plate you removed earlier you will find the plug where you need to connect the towing electrics.
IMPORTANT: IT ALREADY HAS A BLANKING PLATE PLUG IN IT - SO YOU WILL NEED TO REMOVE THIS FIRST!
Lots of people try to connect them without pulling the blanking plug out and end up thinking they've been supplied with the wrong wiring kit.
With the plug removed the electrics connect together easily.7. FIT THE NEW BUMPER SUPPORT BRACKETS
Slide in the two Pentagon shaped bumper brackets making sure you fit the Left one on the LEFT and Right one on the RIGHT. They are stickered up but if you're confused the LEFT one has a bolt hole in the bottom left corner and the RIGHT one has a bolt hole in the bottom right corner.
Now fit the 2 bolts from under the car. There are 2 each side. A M10x30 and a M10x85 - both need washers.
For the moment do not tighten right up - leave it a little loose.
Now assemble the bumper support frame - off the car - on a thick rug or blanket.
Firstly insert the four bolts (M10x40) into the main bar and tap over the metal lugs to hold them in place.
Now fit the 2 mounting brackets and pass the four bolts (M10X120) through the main bar, again, tap over the metal lugs with a small hammer to secure them in place.
Having completed this, offer up the bar to the car, ensuring all bolts slip into the holes straight.
Inside the car fit the captive nuts (lots of fiddling around here as the access is limited!). Tighten them with a socket but do not tighten them fully just yet.
Now is a good time to make sure the electrics are pushed down behind the bar - otherwise they can get trapped by the lower tailgate when opening and closing. I fixed mine behind the bar with a small piece of duct tape. See below...
Now take a craft knife and remove the gooey black seal from the 4 holes (2 each side) where 4 securing bolts (M10x30) will go in. Without moving some of the goo you will find it tricky to get the bolts in sweet as the goo will foul the threads. Working on a cold day you might find this sealant stuff is much harder. It was 30 degrees when I did it and almost liquid!
Insert the four bolts and leave a little loose.8. TIGHTENING UP
Follow the instructions in the Westfalia guide and you'll find you end up having to slacken four off the align the bumper bar once fitted.
So here's what I did - it's almost the same sequence - with a minor adjustment.
Tighten the top bolts in the Pentagonal brackets to 55Nm first.
Now Tighten the Bottom left bolt and the bottom right bolt in the Pentagonal brackets to 55Nm.
Inside the cargo area tighten up the 4 bolts that you had to cut the black sealant goo out to make way for - to 55Nm.
Tighten up the 4 bolts under the car in the exhaust shield areas to the specified 55Nm.
You are effectively leaving the 2 horizontal bolts either side of both the bumper support brackets for now.
Stand back and check alignment of the bar against the tailgate and body work visually - just to make sure nothing looks way out.
Final alignment comes shortly when you fit the bumper and tighten up the last four bolts.9. WIRE UP THE ELECTRICS TO THE SOCKET.
Take your time here - rush this bit and you'll have headaches later. Sit down with a cup of tea and read the wiring diagram again.
Pass the cable behind the bracket where the electrical socket will fit and slide the rubber seal onto the cable making sure it is the right way round!
Now wire up the socket. Separate the socket innards from the outer as shown.
Follow the instructions supplied with the wiring kit - it's very straightforward - starting in the centre and working outwards to make access easier.
Make sure each wire is nice and tight.
Join the inner with the outer and fit onto the mounting bracket making sure the rubber seal is positioned for the screws correctly.
The brackets has captive nuts so just use the three long bolts supplied to secure it.
Inside the car where you plugged in the other end of the cable, make a space alongside the existing wiring along the back of the cargo area and push it in, secure it with a couple of the cable ties supplied.
Refit the black plastic trim and four fixings. You may have to fiddle about with the cables until you get them to run flat without putting undue pressure on the rubber seal in the back of the car or on the plug connector.
To fix the black plastic trim plate push the large plugs in first and then push in the centre plugs.
TIP: You could leave this till later - once you have tested the electrics all work - but I was confident I'd wired it all up good and proper!10. FITTING THE TOWING MODULEYou must complete this section with the battery disconnected.
This clever box of tricks tells your car you are towing and adjusts all manner of things like switching of the parking sensors etc.
Briefly reconnect the battery and open the lower tailgate if you have closed it. Then disconnect
Remove the three screws holding the electronics station in your cargo area below the spare wheel.
Now remove the cable clip on the right to give yourself a little more room for movement by pinching the clip at each side.
Now very gently lift the entire 'L' shaped mass of electronics out and rest diagonally across the hole it came from. Take care not to put anything across the battery terminals.
Now, take a moment to behold the Spaghetti Junction of wires and boxes and be sure to remind yourself to never to carry lots of water in the cargo area which could fall over and fill the bottom of the car up - as my friend did (3k damage!).
Connect the Towing Module to the cable by aligning the pins to the holes. It appears to be off centre put as you slide to the right and push down the cables come together and connect. See picture.
With the module connected to the wiring loom, fit the module onto the panel in the spare space on the right. It just clips on.
Now gently lower the electronics back into the boot well and re fix in place with the three screws that hold it securely in place.
Refit the black plastic cover.11. REFIT THE EXHAUST HEAT SHIELDS AND EXHAUSTS
Refit the heat shields.
Raise one exhaust up to it's mounting bracket and support it on something to save you straining. Fasten bothe brackets starting with the one nearest the front of the car first. Remove the supports.
Do the same for the other side.12. REFIT THE BUMPER
Firstly insert the two rubber mounting tubes you removed earlier from the old brackets. Make sure they are pulled back away from the car and inserted straight.
With the help of a friend, lift the bumper into place slowly - making sure the two connectors at each side of the bumper slide into the corresponding brackets. Be careful the sides of the bumper don't flip up and scratch the car.
Push the bumper ONLY PART WAY INTO PLACE so that it is supported but not pushed fully home.
Whilst one person holds the bumper, the other gets underneath and lines up the plastic clips that fasten the bottom of the bumper trim to the underside of the car.
Now push the bumper fully home.
Check the clips under the car have fastened correctly.
Now refit the 2 brass coloured T55 bolts into the bumper bracket and tighten right up.
Refit the 8mm hex bolts in each wheel arch.13. ALIGNMENT.
Close the lower and upper boot lids and step back - look at the visual alignment.
If the bumper does not align correctly with the lower edge of the tailgate get a friend to lift and move it around until you are happy.
Once positioned - open the tailgate and tighten up the 4 captive nuts (two nuts at each side) from inside the cargo area - check alignment one more time before final tightening of all 4 nuts to 55Nm with the torque wrench. (Access is tough with a long handled Torque Wrench)
Refit the plastic trims around the exhausts.14. FIT THE DETACHABLE TOWBALL
The Towball may not have been delivered 'pre-loaded' in the ready to insert position.
Preload it by inserting the red key and making sure it is unlocked.
Then pull the knob to the left and turn so that the green marker is in the rad area and the knob is locked out away from the towball.
Simply reach up and remove the weatherproof red plug in the towbar and insert the towbar. It should click and lock into place. The green marker is now in the green area.15. RECONNECT THE BATTERY
Now reconnect the battery properly and remember to tighten up the 10mm bolt.
Replace the battery cover plate.16. REFIT THE SELF LEVELLING SUPSENSION DOME
Gently lower the suspension dome back into place over the battery and refit the 2 bolts and 2 nuts. Tighten up.17. TEST DRIVE.
Now before you refit all the cargo area trim and replace the spare wheel etc I suggest you test drive.DO NOT CONNECT ANY TRAILER OR ELECTRICS YET
Firstly, start the vehicle up.
You will notice three warning lights on the dashboard - DO NOT PANIC!
Drive the vehicle around the block and back. All good? Yep.
Turn the vehicle off and lock the car for a few minutes giving time for the alarm etc to set.
Now open the car up and start it again - the lights should all be off now.18. LIGHT TEST
Now is a good time to test the bike rack, trailer or whatever you plan to tow.
Hook up the electrics and test them out.
Make sure all your indicator signals and brake lights/side lights work correctly.19. REFIT THE CARGO AREA TRIM
Once happy, refit all the cargo area trim and the spare wheel.
Then fit the velcro towball mounting strap in the boot so you can secure the swan neck towball in place when not in use.
Replace the wheel chocks and tool kit.
Replace the floor and the side access panels.20. TEA AND MEDALS
Stand back and get someone to give you a big fat slap on the back! You've saved Â£Â£'s on fitting costs and given yourself a workout in the process. If you don't ache the next day you haven't been doing it right!
Enjoy - and any questions, just send me a PM through the Xdrivers forum.