From the “M” badge with its three racing stripes to BMW's own roundel logo, the emblems on your car don't just identify what you drive, they're an integral part of its styling. Years of salt air, Texas sun, and the odd fender bender can break or remove these signature pieces of your car. Here's what you need to know when replacing missing emblems on your 3 Series, including installation and identification.
The Source of the Roundel Logo
Any discussion about BMW emblems eventually turns toward their famous roundel badge, but its true source is often mistaken with an urban legend.
“Rappe” means “black horse” in German, so aircraft manufacturer Rapp Motor Works decided to use a roundel logo with a black horse in the center. Under the Versailles Armistice Treaty that ended WWI, the company had to stop making planes. They reformed under a new name, Bayerische Motoren Werke, which is German for “Bavarian Motor Works,” the BMW we know today. The company shifted their business to motorcycles and eventually cars.
With this new name came a new logo. The roundel was retained, but the horse was replaced by a blue and white checkerboard pattern. Around the same time, BMW released a manual detailing maintenance on their aircraft motors that had a blue and white drawing of an airplane with “BMW” over its spinning propeller. There have long been claims that the blue and white at the center of the roundel represents a spinning propeller, hearkening back to the company's aeronautical heritage. However, just as Rapp Motor Works used a horse logo, Bavarian Motor Works based their logo on their name, copying the blue and white pattern of the Bavarian flag.
Understanding BMW's Confusing Model Names
Knowing what the numbers and letters on the back of your vehicle signify can be confusing, especially if you need to replace a missing emblem. Here's what the combination of letters and numbers on the back of your vehicle mean.
If you have an M model, there will be an “M” badge before the model designation, followed by the series number. If you have the track-ready GTS, the series number will be followed by “GTS” in small lettering. Have an Active Hybrid? The back will say “Active Hybrid 3” and nothing else. For everything else, the naming is a lot more complicated.
The first number is the series. Older BMWs covered coupes and sedans under a single number, but newer models split designations with sedans getting odd numbers and coupes getting even numbers. Confusingly, this means that a 4 Series is actually a 3 Series, just with a coupe body. Gran Coupes get the coupe designation, despite having four doors. Crossover-like Gran Tursimo (GT) models get sedan designations along with a large “GT” emblem on the left side of the trunk lid.
Next to the series number, there's the performance index. On older cars, this was simply the engine size: if you have a 3 Series with a 3.0 liter straight 6, it would be a 330. Now that BMW offers both naturally aspirated and turbo engines across the lineup, turbos get a number reflecting their equivalent output if they were naturally aspirated. That means the current 3 Series with a 2.0 liter turbo is called a 330.
Finally, there will be a letter identifying the car's equipment. If you have BMW's xDrive AWD system, there will be an “x.” On older convertibles, there will be a “c.” BMW still uses an “i” to identify fuel injected gas engines, even though fuel injection has been standard for decades. If you have a diesel, then the “i” will be replaced by a “d.” Sport models add an “s” to the end, while plug-in hybrids have an “e.” That means the complete model name for a 3 Series with a 2.0l turbo and xDrive is “330xi.”
To lower the chance of scratching the surrounding paint, it's a good idea to lay down some painter's tape around the area you're going to work. Taping over plastic components like headlight and taillight lenses will protect them from solvents that may need to be used to completely remove the emblem.
The roundel emblems clip to grommets that fit in the body panels. These panels are recessed for these emblems, which can make them difficult to remove. A credit card can slip between the badge and the panel, helping you pry it off of the vehicle. The grommets can be removed using a set of needle nose pliers.
Other emblems are attached using double sided tape. If they're loose, they can be pried off, but in most cases you'll need to use a length of dental floss to get between the emblem and the body panel. If you need to apply more force, a nylon spudger is far less likely to scratch the paint than a metal tool like a flathead screwdriver.
Once the old emblem has been removed, there will be some residue left on the body panel from the tape, especially if your BMW has survived a few Texan summers. This can be taken off using an adhesive remover that is designed for use on cars. Foam left over from the tape can be removed by gently wiping the surface with a terrycloth towel after it has been soaked with the adhesive remover. Depending on the age of your car, the paint beneath the old badge may have a significantly richer color than the surrounding panel since it hasn't been exposed to weather or sunlight. This can be left as is to help you locate the new badge, or it can be blended into the surrounding paint using a polish followed by a light coating of wax.
The tape on the new emblems will bond instantly with the panel surface. However, they will eventually fall off if you didn't fully clean the panel surface, or you allowed dirt to make contact with the tape surface before application. To keep this from happening, don't remove the protective strip from the tape until you're ready to apply the emblem.
Where Can I Get New Emblems for My BMW?
BMWMidTownParts.com is your source for Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts for your BMW. Everything we sell including emblems is made and warrantied by BMW, so you'll get a replacement that looks exactly like the badges that came with your car. Our site can search by part descriptions and part numbers as well as your model. Not quite sure what model designation you have? Our site can identify it by your BMW's VIN. Still have questions? Contact us to talk to our staff of parts professionals.