Aftermarket seat heaters - 540i

Ladies & Gents,
I have a 1999 M3 convertible that's currently in the shop getting a new head gasket and needs some other work done as well. I'm mulling
trading her in and getting a low-mileage 2002 540i that is priced pretty fairly. The only thing the car doesn't have is heated seats and I've gotten very used to them in the M3, as has my wife.
In the interests of continued domestic tranquility I'll probably want to install aftermarket seat heaters. Is there any reason to think that the multi-adjustable seats in the 540i won't be able to be retrofitted? Any particular brand of aftermarket heaters you'd recommend? And is there any reason I couldn't buy an OEM switch to use to control the seat heaters in keeping with the car's interior styling?
Thanks!
Rancho Bob
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BobP wrote:

Actually - yes. The stock seat heaters have holes in them in strategic spots and gaps in the heating elements to allow the hog-ring retainers to pass through them. The hog-ring retainers hook up to little metal rods sewn into the leather cover that make it have the nice pleats and tucks. Chances of matching up gaps in your aftermarket seat heaters is about slim to none.
And the stock seat heater is also designed to be used with the pressure mat in the passengers seat for the air-bags. Aftermarket? Nah.. ain't gonna work.

I'd recommend finding a different 540 that comes with the BMW brand seat heaters.

The switch is a low current toggling switch that connects to the seat-heater control circuitry. It doesn't take the full current of the heated seats - a control module does that. No way to use the stock buttons/switches with aftermarket.
BMW used to sell kits to retrofit cars with the heated seats.. problem was - after buying the kit and paying to have it installed it was cheaper to sell the car and buy one with the heated seats.
Even the best upholstery shop is going to take 2-3 hours PER seat to disassemble them, install heating elements and reassemble them. Figure that x the rate of labor in your area + parts + paying someone to wire the whole thing up.
Be LOTS easier and cheaper to just find a car equipped like you want. It's not like E39/540s are in short supply..

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You might be surprised. I checked BMWUSA.com and they show 3 manual tranny CPO 540i available. Autotrader.com shows 7 of 'em in the USA with less than 30,000 miles. Three of those are within 50 miles of me and the rest are on the East Coast.
Which isn't to be snotty at all--I really appreciate the time and thought put into your reply. I'll clearly have to look deeper into this before I plunge. It *shouldn't* be that difficult. That it is is simply an annoyance, eh?
Rancho Bob
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Just keep a look out for some heated seats on ebay or elsewhere. I mean, you're going to have a little while before you need them.
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They can also be retrofitted.
R / John
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BobP wrote:

Ah - manual tranny and very low miles = rare. The three that are within 50 miles of you - none of them have heated seats (actually find it surprising that heated seats aren't on every 540 - they came really loaded up from what I saw..)?

OK.. if you go to: http://www.realoem.com/bmw/showparts.do?model=DN53&mospidG588&btnrR_2923&hgR&fg
You'll see some of the kit that BMW sells to retrofit the heated seats to a non-heated-seat car. They mention it's sold only with the cover and switching center.. the cover may be the leather covers for the seats, which are REALLY expensive. Dunno if these are absolutely needed or not. And this doesn't include the switching center. $122*/seat to start + whatever else is needed + installation.
It might be worth your while to talk to a BMW dealer and see if any in your area have experience installing the heated-seat retrofit.. or at least have them look it up on the BMW computer and see how many hours labor is involved.
* = cost on RealOEM is frequently wrong - you'd have to call a dealer and get the actual parts price using the PN..

HTH..
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Yeah, I'm kinda surprised too. You'd think it'd almost be standard on that kind of model.

It does indeed and sadly this is starting to look like a more pressing item. My M3 is in the shop for a blown head gasket. Good news: The gasket is now fixed. Bad news: She is now randomly misfiring. *sigh*
I don't mind having a car shipped to me after it's inspected by an independent third party. I did that for the M--bought it from a dealer in Washington state and drove it down Highway 1 to SoCal. The only 540i's that I see are a long ways away.
I've printed that page and I'll take it to my friendly dealer to see what they have to say. The '02 local might be the right answer if it can be done for a reasonable cost. Or even if I can get the seller to do the install.
*mull, mull, mull*
Thanks a ton for your help!
Rancho "It's only money" Bob
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BobP wrote:

I would think that would be a major PITA. I'd either ditch the domestic unit or find a car that has the heaters already.
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-Fred W

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wrote:

    Fitting aftermarket kits to look like OEM isn't likely. For that, your best options are to buy used seats with the heaters in them. You'll still need the wiring harness and a new switch box with the buttons for the new seats added.     You can also get a retrofit kit from BMW with all the necessary parts for ~$500 and put them in your original seats. You can do this yourself if you're handy - it's a PITA, but it's one weekend out of your life and you'll save a chunk of money - and you'll have the car you want.     epbrown
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