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Thread: cwise12's Interior/Exterior Door Handle Illumination DIY Guide (with TONS of pics!!)

  1. #1
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    cwise12's Interior/Exterior Door Handle Illumination DIY Guide (with TONS of pics!!)

    cwise12’s e39 Illuminated Door Handles DIY Guide (Interior AND Exterior)
    This guide is meant for entertainment purposes only, and its author is not responsible for whatever you may do to your vehicle or any other harm caused by the guide’s instructions.

    I've used numerous DIY's to fix things on this car, so I guess it's my time to contribute. Go easy on me- this is my dad's car, and I'm only 19 years old. I'd say it came out pretty well though!

    The car: 2001 525iAT, 191,000 miles





    Required tools:
    Flat, Phillips screw drivers
    Tiny flat screwdriver (or straightened paperclip)
    Hot Glue Gun
    Soldering Iron + lead free, rosin core solder
    Wire strippers capable of at least 24AWG wire
    Wire cutters
    Black Electrical tape
    Needle-nose pliers
    Electric drill with drill bit set
    150 grit sandpaper
    Torx T-20 screw driver or equivalent


    Optional (but recommended) tools:

    12v power supply to test things
    Heat Shrink Tubing (+ hair dryer or hot air gun)
    Digital Multimeter
    Kneeling pad
    Alligator-clip test leads

    Required parts
    4x Waterproof, flexible LED strips (your choice of color, not more than 2” long). I purchased mine from ebay user ‘cortse’. His strips were PERFECT for the job. I got the ‘xenon white’ ones.
    4x (or more) wide angle LED with resistors for 12v input (your choice of color). I purchased 100x LED’s from ebay user ‘auspicious.e’, described as 605-610nm. This color is a PERFECT match for BMW orange. These LED’s are wide angle straw-hat shaped LED’s, which was perfect for this application.

    Edit - Seller has changed his name to 'auspiciousmall'. Here is a link to the LEDs: http://www.ebay.com/itm/5mm-short-pr...item53f2f4368a

    Wire, 22 or 24AWG, two colors if possible
    Replacement body panel clips (I purchased 10, only used 5 or so)


    Part One: Removal of door panel



    Make sure you have a well-lit workplace!





    Before we touch anything electrical, it’s good practice to unplug the battery. This is especially important for the front doors, considering we will be messing with the airbag and we certainly do NOT want it to fire.
    Remove the cover over the screw inside the interior handle and remove the screw. Use a T-20 bit to remove it. Next, remove the Phillips screw inside the air vent. To do this, close the vent 90% so you can get the screw driver in there. These are the only screws to remove for the front doors. Use a flat head screw driver to remove the courtesy light at the bottom of the door. Unplug the light and set it aside. For the front doors, there is no need to remove the wood-grain trim piece. For the rear doors, there are two Phillips screws to remove behind it.





    NOTE: My car has manual sunshades in the rear doors. For me, I had to unscrew one Phillips screw at the very top of the interior panel near the hinge side of the door. It was necessary for me to gently pry the door panel out to reach this screw. I have no idea if your car will have this screw or not… take your time with this, and be gentle!

    Now, insert a flat screwdriver between the door’s metal and the interior door panel near the door latch. I found this to be the easiest place to start. Push the handle of the screw driver towards the outside of the car, releasing the clips nearest the screw driver. You’ll hear a loud pop, but don’t be afraid. The clips probably won’t break, but if they do they’re super cheap and if worse comes to worse, the door will still be fine without one or two. Move along the bottom of the door and up the side by the hinges,popping out the clips one by one. This will leave the door panel ‘hanging’ from the top clips by where the window glass meets the chrome strip. Grab the door panel and pull out and upwards gently to release those clips. Keep a firm grasp on the panel, as it will now be 90% free from the door. Take the interior handle and slide it sideways through the hole in the door panel.





    Unplug the speaker wire from its box on the door, as well as the seat memory button if on the driver’s side. On the rear, there is one free-floating connector (not physically attached to anything other than its wires), the window button wires, and the courtesy light. Reach into the hole where the wires for the window buttons go and unplug them from the button. There may be a foam insert around these wires, so just pull it out and set it aside. On the driver’s side: Push the window button assembly out from behind and unplug the wires from the ‘inside’ side of the door panel. Each connector requires a different motion to remove it. The one with large wires requires you to slide a slider out perpendicular to the axis of the plugs motion. The other two have those circle pieces that you have to release and spin to remove the connector. Pull the courtesy light wire through the hole in the door panel and let the wire hang. You should be able to pull the panel free from the door now. Congrats! Felt destructive, didn’t it?






    Part Two: Exterior Lights
    Now comes the fun part. Getting that stupid $2 LED strip in place and wired up. This is MUCH easier on the rear doors than on the front doors because of the fact that the window glass interferes in the front. From my research, I have found that it is a pain in the butt to actually remove the exterior handle. So, I found a way to get the wire routed without removing or drilling into the handle. First, remove the airbag from its location. There are three 10mm bolts with washers to remove. I didn’t want to unplug the airbag, so I used electrical tape to let it hang from the door without stress on the wires (see pictures). Next, peel back the foam layer in the corner of the door near the handle. Don’t worry; it will adhere again when you re-assemble the door. Peel it back far enough that it won’t get in the way. Now, if you reach inside the door at the back of the handle, you’ll feel a foam layer similar to the one you just peeled back. We’re going to peel this one back, too, to get the wire through the handle. On the front doors, I peeled back the side towards the rear of the car because that’s how the wires must be routed. I did the opposite on the rear doors- I peeled it back on the side towards the front of the car. Peel it back a little ways, then move to the other side of the door. Open the handle and shove something under it (I used the roll of electrical tape) to hold the handle ‘open’ while you’re working. Now, take the wires of the LED strip and shove them in the gap between the part that moves and the part that doesn’t. Now, put your other hand on the inside of the handle and try to feel around for the wires while manipulating them with your other hand. If all goes well, you should be able to pull the wires through. If not, peel the foam back a bit more and try again.












    Note- on the front doors, it helps immensely to displace the cable that goes to the interior handle. There is a yellow square clip that you just need to slide off of the metal. This will let you get your hand in there to work. See picture above.

    On the rear doors: splice extra wire onto the ends you just pulled through. Solder and insulate with either electrical tape or heat shrink tubing! Let the wires come out through the big foam layer (I punched a small hole with my needle nose pliers) and close the foam up. You can now actually stick the LED strip to the underside of the door handle after thoroughly cleaning the area. See picture for where I put mine. Edit: After almost 10k miles with these installed, it seems like it's a good idea to also tape the wire to the door handle to eliminate movement between the wire and the strip itself. I had the connection between the wire and strip fail on a few of the lights now. To remedy this, I used some 3M mounting tape (double sided) to just stick the wire to the handle so there isn't any force on the joint as the handle moves.
    On the front doors: splice a LOT of extra wire onto the ends you just pulled through. Enough to go down to the bottom of the door and all the way across the bottom. Better to have a bit too much than too little! Ok, here comes the ‘fun’ part. We can’t run the wires in the same way as on the rear doors because they would interfere with the glass’ motion. So, start by sticking the LED strip to the handle (after cleaning the area!) so we don’t pull the wire too tight. Next, reach in the door while holding the wire. Stick it behind anything you can back there to keep it in place. I ran the wires behind one of the diagonal cross-members inside the door. Basically, the goal is to have the wire somewhat stationary and 100% out of the way of the glass. Once you run it to the bottom of the door, you can have it come out of the foam like on the rear doors. Then run it along the bottom of the foam towards the hinge side of the door. I pushed mine in far enough to allow it to adhere to the adhesive between the foam and the metal... see picture above.

    OK, that was the hard part! Good work! Now, just wire those wires into the ones for the courtesy light. The brown wire is ground, or negative, and the other wire is the positive. There are only two, so this part is hard to screw up! Make sure you get the polarity right, however, because LED’s won’t work if you wire them backwards. This is where I used a 12v power source to check the polarity for the actual LED strip, as it was not marked on the ones I bought. To splice the wires in, I clamped my wire strippers onto the BMW wiring, spun them around, then just pulled in one direction. This makes the insulation slide up a bit, exposing some bare wire that you can solder to (see pictures). Insulate the connection with electrical tape (it’s impossible to get the heat shrink tubing on this wire).
    This concludes the procedure for the exterior handles!










    Part Three: Interior Light
    Start by removing the actual handle assembly from the car. Pull on the cable casing to slide it out of the holder in the handle, then rotate the handle to remove it from the hook that attaches it to the cable.
    Drill a hole in the handle wherever you want the LED to be. I tried to hide it behind the handle, which worked quite nicely: you can’t see the LED, however it glows well inside the handle. See pictures for location. On my car, I used three resistors instead of one to dim the LED down a bit. You don’t want this light to be super bright. Use heat shrink tubing to insulate the leads of the LED once you have soldered on the resistors and about 15 inches of wire. On my car, I used 150 grit sandpaper to sand the end of the LED. This diffuses the light more than normal, creating a more ‘smooth’ glow from the handle. After sanding, simply hot glue the LED into the handle. In my car, I covered the half of the LED closest to the occupant with black electrical tape. This keeps the LED from shining up on the headliner of the vehicle.










    Part Four: Door Pocket Lights
    When I had my doors apart, I decided to add LEDs to the door pockets too. This was super simple… I prepared the LEDs as described above and hot glued them into holes I drilled in the middle of each pocket (see pictures). They provide a nice accent to the doors without being too distracting. They were wired along with the inner handle light, so they come on with the running lights.





    Part Five:
    Wiring the interior lights to the car
    Solder all of the LEDs on the door panel together along with extra 10” wires that we will splice into the car’s power. The easiest power to get in the doors is 12v that is switched with the running lights. This power comes from the wires leading to the window up/down button that lights up when you turn the headlights on. Use the brown ground for ’–‘and the gray/red stripe wire for ‘+’. On the 3 non-driver’s doors, the ‘+’ wire will be the one right next to ground. Splice into this wire as described above. For the driver’s door, grab the large brown wire for ground and look for the gray/red stripe wire here:






    Driver's door:

    All other doors:






    Insulate all your connections, and you should be done! Assemble the door again, and make sure you plug all the speakers/ lights/buttons back in before you close up the door. For the inner door handle we just modified, make SURE you put the plastic cable guard (that surrounds the cable) back into its holder on the handle. Otherwise the inner door handles will not work properly!! Run the courtesy light wire back through the hole in the door so it doesn’t get pinched in the wrong spot. When putting the door panel back on, I found it the easiest to start at the top and line up the panel along the chrome strip. A good whack will get it to snap into the clips up there. Then move around the perimeter hitting the clips back in. Sometimes they don’t align with the door holes perfectly…. Look in there and wiggle them into place before whacking the door. Install all screws you removed and you should be good to go.

    Good luck!










    All these pictures... and a few more.. can be found at http://photobucket.com/e39doorhandleillumination
    Last edited by cwise12; 01-29-2013 at 12:36 PM.


    03 540i/6 M-Sport (#166 out of 1,265)
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    01 525iAT
    01 530i
    M62/TU crank holder tool, fan clutch tools, and rear ball joint removal press available for New England members who need them!

  2. #2
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    Question: when you look at the door handles at night can you see the reflection of the led's in the paint.
    I have black car and I really hate to see the led reflection. It screams out DIY job

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by carlos1212 View Post
    Question: when you look at the door handles at night can you see the reflection of the led's in the paint.
    I have black car and I really hate to see the led reflection. It screams out DIY job
    Not on my car. The led's are wide angle. so the light spreads out very well. If you're really concerned about it, spend the $4.35 to grab a set of LED strips and just hold one under there and see how it looks.

    On my car, the light fills the entire door handle evenly. You cannot see the strip at all, nor can you tell that it's only in the very middle of the handle. It really looks awesome. It even fades in and out when the car turns the lights on/off. When it's dark, the lights do shine on the ground a bit. I was expecting them not to, but they do. The pattern starts about 1 foot away from the car, and makes a very sharp, straight line. It looks great. If people are interested, I can try to take some better night pictures of the lights.

    EDIT: you can see this line in the second to last picture

    Note: for the interior lights, I just determined that the interior brightness control DOES properly adjust the additional LEDs. Since the LCU uses pulse-width modulation to control the brightness, the LEDs fade right along with all the other interior lights
    Last edited by cwise12; 06-24-2012 at 12:20 AM.


    03 540i/6 M-Sport (#166 out of 1,265)
    01 540i/6
    01 525iAT
    01 530i
    M62/TU crank holder tool, fan clutch tools, and rear ball joint removal press available for New England members who need them!

  4. #4
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    Well I already have them installed and have the same led strips that u have.
    It's probably because u have a silver car and can't see a reflection.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by carlos1212 View Post
    Well I already have them installed and have the same led strips that u have.
    It's probably because u have a silver car and can't see a reflection.
    Took some time to look more closely at mine. If I look at exactly the right angle, i can see a reflection of the three LEDs. This doesn't bother me one bit, however. From any other angle it looks 100% perfect: a totally even glow inside the handle. I would assume that the black paint on your car makes the LEDs appear dimmer, therefore drawing your attention to the point sources of light. Maybe you could put some sort of a diffuser over the LEDs to spread the light out more?

    As far as that 'screaming DIY', however, I don't see why. How else would the handles be illuminated, had they come from the factory like that? I'd say for $8, this is a pretty successful mod. Infinitely easier than trying to retrofit an incandescent, fiber optic OEM setup from an e38.

    Just my two cents on the matter.


    03 540i/6 M-Sport (#166 out of 1,265)
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    01 525iAT
    01 530i
    M62/TU crank holder tool, fan clutch tools, and rear ball joint removal press available for New England members who need them!

  6. #6
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    I don't like the outer door handle lights. But I do like the interior door handle and door storage lights. Might have to do the interior door light mod you got here. Good job op.

  7. #7
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    Very nice work....just added this to my project list. Modernizes the exterior of the car greatly. I have always loved this feature on my e90.
    Albo's Official Upgrade Thread:
    http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=532572

    2003 530i (Alpine White/Sand Beige w/ Retrofitted Black Plug Sport Seats) - 18x8.5 & 18x9.5 AC Schnitzer Type II Wheels w/ 245/40/18 Tires - BC Racing Coilovers - Eibach Front & Rear Sway Bars - Beastpower Rear Sway Bar Brackets - M-Technic Replica Bumpers - Slimmbones CSL-Style Spltters - Magnaflow 14816 Muffler - Dinan Cold Air Intake - TopSpeed Performance Strut Brace - Carbon Fiber Valve Cover Fascias - Zionsville Autosport Radiator/Fan Kit - EMP Stewart Water Pump - ECS Tuning Aluminum Water Pump Pulley - Revmax Stage II Torque Converter - AMG Paddle Shifters - E90 Shift Knob + More to Come!!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by jetblackE39
    I don't like the outer door handle lights. But I do like the interior door handle and door storage lights. Might have to do the interior door light mod you got here. Good job op.
    Just out of curiosity, why don't you like the exterior lights? They're only on when the puddle lights are on. Not constantly! That would scream rice and be illegal haha.


    03 540i/6 M-Sport (#166 out of 1,265)
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    M62/TU crank holder tool, fan clutch tools, and rear ball joint removal press available for New England members who need them!

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by senoralbo View Post
    Very nice work....just added this to my project list. Modernizes the exterior of the car greatly. I have always loved this feature on my e90.
    agree

    1970 Morris Cooper * 1973 Mini Clubman 1275GT * 2008 BMW 135i Coupe 2008 BMW 128i Cabriolet * 1995 BMW M3

  10. #10
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    hi there just wanted to know as you seem to know more than me about leds and so forth

    is it not possible to un solder the leds that are in the roof/ceiling light and use those? as they will already have the correct resistors? or ar they too bright?
    also will they not be the exact colour match to the rest of the interior lights?

    or is it not possible to use these?
    if possible i intend to buy them from my local scrappy who sell them at less than 5 each.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by 520itouring View Post
    hi there just wanted to know as you seem to know more than me about leds and so forth

    is it not possible to un solder the leds that are in the roof/ceiling light and use those? as they will already have the correct resistors? or ar they too bright?
    also will they not be the exact colour match to the rest of the interior lights?

    or is it not possible to use these?
    if possible i intend to buy them from my local scrappy who sell them at less than 5 each.

    Sorry, I didn't see your post until just now.

    Yeah, I suppose you could do that for the interior handles. Why would you, though? You'll need four LEDs, and there are only two per car up there. It seems to me to be much easier to buy 100x of the wide-angle LEDs on eBay. They are an EXACT color match and come with the right resistors for 12v already! There's some info in my post about the seller and correct wavelength of the LEDs needed.


    03 540i/6 M-Sport (#166 out of 1,265)
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    01 525iAT
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    M62/TU crank holder tool, fan clutch tools, and rear ball joint removal press available for New England members who need them!

  12. #12
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    Some install pics from this job on my 540i/6...















    03 540i/6 M-Sport (#166 out of 1,265)
    01 540i/6
    01 525iAT
    01 530i
    M62/TU crank holder tool, fan clutch tools, and rear ball joint removal press available for New England members who need them!

  13. #13
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    This is awesome. Nice work!
    I need to do the interior & exterior door handles on my car.
    How well do the LEDs match with the rest of the stock orange-ish interior lights? Looks spot on in the pictures.
    Last edited by guttershark; 01-28-2013 at 06:08 PM.
    2002 540i | 6 speed | (892) Titanium Gray | BC Coilovers |E60 SSK - ZHP Knob | CDV Delete | M5 RSB | Muffler Delete - 2.75" Turndown | Dice Duo | Spec Dock | Running log -> http://forums.bimmerforums.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1713303

  14. #14
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    Sweeeeeet!!! as soon as i figure out howw to get my car started, im doing this..

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by guttershark View Post
    This is awesome. Nice work!
    I need to do the interior & exterior door handles on my car.
    How well do the LEDs match with the rest of the stock orange-ish interior lights? Looks spot on in the pictures.
    It's practically 100%. I cannot tell a difference. I bought something like 5 different seller's orange LEDs (all of which were a bit off) until I found these that matched perfectly. These are also wide-angle 'straw hat' LEDs, which is perfect for this application. Nobody wants a 30 degree LED in a spot like this... I bought 100 at first, but I just bought 200 more to make sure I never run out. Hmm, maybe some BMW colored mood lighting for the garage is in order...


    03 540i/6 M-Sport (#166 out of 1,265)
    01 540i/6
    01 525iAT
    01 530i
    M62/TU crank holder tool, fan clutch tools, and rear ball joint removal press available for New England members who need them!

  16. #16
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    Very nice. I did this awhile back, but most of my interior LEDs are not working anymore due to loose connections at the back of the 5mm LED. OP, by any chance do you have the link of the eBay auction/seller for the orange LEDs that you used?

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by GreenTiger View Post
    Very nice. I did this awhile back, but most of my interior LEDs are not working anymore due to loose connections at the back of the 5mm LED. OP, by any chance do you have the link of the eBay auction/seller for the orange LEDs that you used?
    Sure thing.

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/5mm-short-pr...item53f6202ddb


    03 540i/6 M-Sport (#166 out of 1,265)
    01 540i/6
    01 525iAT
    01 530i
    M62/TU crank holder tool, fan clutch tools, and rear ball joint removal press available for New England members who need them!

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